Whisky-Fässle is a German online whisky retailer founded by Jens Unterweger. As they’re focusing on independent releases, they’re one of my starting points when looking for new releases from German bottlers like Whisky Agency, Malts of Scotland, Jack Wiebers, etc.
Occasionally they select a cask to bottle under their own name, like this Port Ellen 1982 from a bourbon cask.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1982
(57,3%, Whisky-Fässle 2010)
Nose: this one doesn’t need much time to convince you. It starts on wet gravel and dry seaweed. Fresh hints of lime. Excellent medicinal notes as well (antiseptic) in a refined way. Menthol. Tarry ropes. Garage aroma. Powerful yet smooth as silk. A winner. Mouth: very intense, high on lemon and pepper, high on tar again, high on smoke. Again quite antiseptic. All of this well dosed. Then getting a bit sharper and earthier. Finish: mouth-watering lemon and soot.
A powerful Port Ellen that’s not too austere nor too rounded. Impressive combination of strong flavours and an excellent balance. One of the best Port Ellens I’ve had recently. Around € 190, now sold out (does it surprise you?).
This is the peated Arran. Since 2004, the distillery produced some mildly peated spirit (14 ppm phenols) and now a limited release of 9000 bottles is made available.
Arran Machrie Moor
(46%, OB 2011, 9000 btl.)
Nose: the expected notes of a very young whisky: sweet malt, pear drops, some coconut. Artificial in its fruitiness. The peat comes second, it’s more of a mild grassy / smokey undertone. A few yeasty notes as well. Topped off by fresh citrus. Mouth: overly sour start (lemon), then some peat smoke, then back to sweeter notes like apple candy. Fades on a bitter (tonic) & salty (liquorice) combo. The palate has the same problem as the nose: it tries a lot of different tricks but none of them really work. Finish: now developing an enjoyable pastry-like quality alongside the peat smoke.
This Arran Machrie Moor is clearly not about heavy peat, it’s not about juicy fruits, it’s not about complexity, it’s not about balance… I fear this is simply a way to widen the range, like the wine finishes. I’d stick to the Arran Peacock or Arran 14yo. Around € 40.
Yesterday’s Lochside 1981 by The Whisky Agency is a perfect sparring partner for this recent Lochside 1981 released by the German shop Whisky-Doris. Both fino casks, probably sister casks.
Lochside 29 yo 1981 (58,8%, Whisky-Doris 2010, fino butt #960, 403 btl.)
Nose: very similar to the Whisky Agency cask, only slightly less austere. A tad more fruity notes and definitely more spices (white pepper, ginger, nutmeg). Still nicely coastal. Some pastry notes, fruits (whitecurrant), a bit of smoke. Walnuts. There’s an organic side to it as well (asparagus and other cooked vegetables) but luckily it’s subtle and it seems to come and go. Mouth: punchy and full-bodied, with plenty of spices backed up by fruit. Again a little less extreme than the Whisky Agency cask, which is a plus in my opinion. Lemon zest, hints of ginger. White chocolate and almonds. Finish: quite long and spicy with some liquorice and candied lemon zest.
Although this one is clearly related to the Whisky Agency release, it’s a bit more accessible and even more to my preference. Good news: still available from Whisky-Doris (for € 150).
Fino casks are uncommon for whisky maturation. This unoxidized style of sherry is usually bone-dry and not really suited for shipping so most of the production (and casks) stayed in Spain.
Occasionally, a fino matured whisky turns up, like this Lochside 1981 which is one of a whole series of Lochsides bottled by The Whisky Agency in Germany. We’ll compare it to a similar Lochside by Whisky-Doris tomorrow.
Lochside 29 yo 1981 (52,7%, Whisky Agency ‘Still Lifes’ 2010, fino hogshead, 275 btl.)
Nose: very peculiar mix of oil and gas, sourish butter, yeast, some hay and clay. Wet gravel and stone dust. A few metallic notes and graphite. It tends towards fruity notes at times (subtle gooseberry, lemon) but overall it’s mostly mineral and far from sensual. Some (clean) match heads as well. Mouth: an austere profile again (lemon peel, ginger, salt water). Quite punchy with some pepper and allspice. Hints of tonic. A tad sweeter when water is added, but it never really becomes smooth, until… the finish: not too long but surprisingly rounded compared to the palate.
Very complex whisky with a unique old-style profile.
As a consequence, it’s also quite challenging –
not everyone will like this (but I do). Around € 150. Sold out.
Creative Whisky Company is an independent bottler specialising in single casks, all picked by the owner David Stirk. He’s a former whisky writer for Whisky Magazine who also worked for Cadenhead. The names of the bottling ranges are easy to confuse: Exclusive Malts, Exclusive Range and Exclusive Cask.
We’re now tasting an exclusive Macduff 2000 bottled exclusively for our Belgian retailer The Exclusive Bonding Dram. It was chosen from a series of cask samples by founder Jeroen and a team of Bonding Dram enthusiasts. It’s bottled at cask strength and presented in a nicely designed box.
Macduff 10 yo 2000 (56,5%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Bonding Dram, sherry butt #3525, 200 btl.)
Nose: juicy start with cooked fruits and tinned fruits on syrup. Then slowly growing spicier (mainly cinnamon) with some Mexican chocolate disks. Gingerbread cake. Some nutty aromas and raisins. Baked apples. A lovely sherry profile. Water makes it slightly more fragrant and brings out oranges. Mouth: good attack, sweet, now with the same spices really up front. A light peppery prickle. Rum & raisins, figs, prunes. Also fresher fruits (berries and apples). Nice, and best without water. Finish: long and spicy with some Mon Cherie notes.
Available from The Bonding Dram for € 50. Great price / quality – recommended if you’re into fresh and juicy sherry. You can also buy a sample if you want to try it.
A 39 years old Macallan bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky. Here we go!
Macallan ‘Speymalt’ 1970 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW 2010, first fill sherry hogshead #10031)
Nose: (old) Macallan + sherry = magical richness. Apricot tartlets, prunes and dates. Some fresh red fruits. Mint, cinnamon and hints of sweet ginger. Some heather and fir-tree honey. Dusty books in the background – lovely. Mouth: vivid, with plenty of dry spices (cloves, cardamom). While initially rather rounded, it quickly becomes leathery and a lot oakier. Blackberry liqueur. Some resinous notes. Walnuts and liquorice. Roasted coffee. Very rich. Finish: medium length (only), with forest fruit, resin and spices.
In line with last year’s excellent cask although maybe a tad less sparkling. Not cheap, but acceptable for this age: around € 210. Now sold out.
Brackla was founded in 1812. In 1835, it was the first of three distilleries allowed to use “Royal” in its name. It was mothballed from 1985 to 1991 and is now refurbished under Dewar & Sons.
Royal Brackla 25 yo 1975 (55,4%, Signatory Vintage 2001, cask #5413)
Nose: quite waxy and oily. Paraffin. Lemon and flints. Alternating with waves of fruity notes and marmalade. Some hay and walnuts. Gravel and stone dust. Not the most exuberant nose, after all the prominent wax makes it a little subdued, but I love its ‘nakedness’ and sincere style. It’s old and it doesn’t try to disguise it, if you know what I mean. Mouth: strong attack, initially rather sweet but quickly drying. Extremely drying – very oaky and full of pine resin. Getting really bitter as well. Nutmeg, pepper, over-infused tea, grapefruit peel… Bonkers! As if the palate is suddenly flooded by oak. Finish: very bitter. Too long, I would say.
Wow, what a strange dram. I could score this high for a very nice nose and a palate that’s nothing like any other dram I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the bitter oak on the palate is completely over the top and deserves something like 50/100. Anyway you’re warned: the score is slightly arbitrary.