Glencraig was a single malt distilled at Glenburgie distillery, in separate Lomond stills (kind of a mixture between coffee stills and pot stills). A distillery in the distillery. The stills have been removed in 1981.
Glencraig 35 yo 1974 (42,4%, Duncan Taylor RotR 2009, cask #2922)
Nose: waxy and fruity. A combination that I like. Some oak polish. There’s also a faint hint of glue. Apples and orange flowers. Butter and oil. Some cedar wood. A few flinty notes as well. It seems younger than it actually is but it’s really nice and smooth. Mouth: very candied. Pear drops, pineapple candy. Yellow apples. Lemon juice with a lot of sugar. Some coconut. Sweet and attractive but not very complex. Many apples again. Some cinnamon and varnished oak. Finish: more or less the same. Medium length. Hints of sweet liquorice.
A whisky lemonade with a few notes that are more commonly found in old grain whisky. Interesting, pleasant and highly drinkable but lacking complexity for its age. Around € 150.
This year’s offering for Feis Ile was a Lagavulin 1994.
I’m wondering whether Lagavulin used a Pedro Ximénez or another type of sherry cask for the maturation. They only mention ‘European oak ex-sherry cask’ so I think it’s not a seasoned cask, but no information about the actual type of sherry.
Lagavulin 1994 (52,7%, OB for Feis Ile 2010, sherry cask #3210, 528 btl.)
Nose: almost the same as the ‘Distillery only’ bottling. Sweet and peaty. Maybe a few more coastal notes (boat rope, seaweed). The fruit is present, but it’s more complex and more on dried fruits and less focused on apple juice, I would say. A bit more toffee as well. White chocolate. At first I wasn’t too sure, but after a while I preferred this one. Differences are small though, and I think the NAS could be a bit younger as well. Mouth: very creamy again. Dark chocolate. More espresso notes than in the NAS. Roasted nuts. Slightly bitter / zesty as well. A very broad spectrum of flavours. Finish: long, with chocolate and toasted bread.
On the nose, the Feis Ile bottling has a slight advance over the NAS version, but on the palate I prefer the roundness of the NAS version (which is closer to a regular DE). The Feis Ile bottling is certainly more complex though. Original price: € 90.
This Lagavulin is exclusively available at the distillery for the moment. It’s a cask strength bottling without an age statement. It was extra matured in sherry seasoned American oak casks (i.e. casks that were simply treated with sherry for a short time – the sherry didn’t actually mature in them).
Some of the casks that were used, had been intented for bottling as a Distillers Edition, but they were found to be too good to be blended in such a large batch.
Lagavulin NAS ‘only available at the distillery’ (52,5%, OB 2010, 6000 btl.)
Nose: close to the Distillers Edition. Definitely sweeter than a regular 16yo but my DE is still sweeter. Like a peated apple juice, or peach syrup served in an ashtray. A very nice profile. Brown sugar. Lovely butter biscuits. Quite tarry. Some coal and liquorice. Seaweed. Mouth: quite sweet again. Creamy chocolate coating. Some coffee. Plums. Vanilla. After a while the peat and soot take over and the whole gets drier with hints of lapsang tea and tobacco. Mouth: long and smoky with a spicy edge.
I love the Lagavulin DE style, with its combination of peat and PX sherry. At cask strength, this combo is even more expressive. Round, sweet and balanced. Around € 85.
Every year, Laphroaig makes its Feis Ile bottling available for the Friends of Laphroaig. This year’s release is tagged “Master Edition” because it’s created by the Master blender Robert Hicks. The recipe is 50% of bourbon hogsheads
(11 years old) and 50% of first fill bourbon (15, 17 and 19 years old).
Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Edition (57,3%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, 5000 btl.)
Nose: in line with previous Cairdeas editions. The smoke and ashes seem a bit more prominent this time. Lemon and salt. Sweet marzipan notes and some banana again, but overall it seems quite a bit drier. The pencil shavings and soft vanilla that I found quite typical for the 2009 release seem to have diminished. On the other hand, the new edition is slightly more spicy and coastal. A hint of peppermint? Mouth: quite dry smoke with citrus. Powerful earthy peat. Iodine. Getting oily and slightly peppery. Overall quite dry and sharp, lacking a bit of sweet, rounder elements in my opinion. Finish: long and dry, evolving on salty almonds and some liquorice.
I find this year’s edition marginally more coastal and smoky, I think peat lovers will love it. It misses the smoothness and complexity of the 2009 version, but I prefer it over the 2008 version. Reasonably priced (as usual): £ 45.
I’ve tried to sum up the differences in a little diagram. Note that a triple + does not mean three times more than a single +. In reality the differences are much more subtle.
Glen Ord distillery is a giant in the Diageo family: it has a large capacity as well as a maltings plant that produces for other Diageo distilleries. Most of the distillation is blended into Johnnie Walker, although there is an official release named Singleton of Glen Ord and a few limited editions.
This 1999 single cask was bottled by Malts of Scotland from a bourbon hogshead.
Glen Ord 11 yo 1999 (54,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #31212, 289 btl.)
Nose: quite malty and neutral at first. Than a fruity side develops (peach, grapefruit, guava) together with a slightly waxy / flinty side. Linseed oil. A little Provence herbs (thyme and rosemary) and oak. Nothing exceptional and quite compact, I have the feeling I need to drag most of these flavours out of it. A bit of water makes it more fragrant and a bit easier though. Mouth: powerful but still a rather malty attack. Again a nice fruitiness (apple, even more tropical fruits like pineapple). Almonds and vanilla. Nutmeg. Honey. Some ginger. Overall a little rough and alcoholic maybe. Finish: medium length. Rather sweet and spicy but quite simple.
Not exactly my type of whisky but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it either. I’m sure I would have prefered this at an older age.
Slightly less than € 50.
Things are going fast. This is post n°400, and a very special one.
It’s safe to say this single cask Karuizawa 1967/2009 is the most legendary Japanese whisky to date (the oldest as well by the way). It was bottled in August 2009 and the cask was split between La Maison du Whisky and The Whisky Exchange (a total of around 450 bottles).
It wasn’t cheap (retail price around € 240-280) but it already fetches three times as much in auctions. An excellent investment, that is.
Karuizawa 42 yo 1967 (58,4%, OB 2009 for LMdW & TWE, cask #6426)
Nose: like walking into a high-end cigar store. Magnificent notes of pipe tobacco and cigars. Lots of polished oak, a few hints of solvents even. Amontillado sherry. Menthol. Musty earth. Fermented Pu-erh tea. Leather. It needs a bit of breathing, but it’s superbly complex, with an amazingly fresh side as well (whiffs of raspberry jam, strawberries and plums). Also a soft vanilla coating that I didn’t expect in a heavy sherry bottling. None of the matchsticks of the 1976/1977 releases though. Anyway you can really get lost in such a nose. Mouth: very powerful, dry and oaky at first (without being too resinous or tannic). Dark chocolate. Roasted coffee beans. Mint. Tobacco again. Toasted bread with dark forest fruits marmalade. Finish: very long, chocolaty with spicy dry oak.
No need for an elaborate conclusion… My favourite release of last year. Dark sherry maturation doesn’t get much better than this (unless you add some peat maybe?).
ps/ There have been rumours about an even older Karuizawa… I can’t wait.
Sometimes I have a good laugh at all those crazy whisky prices. Take the Glenfiddich 33 yo 1975 / 2009 for example. Until a few days ago, this Dutch web site tried to sell it for € 1499 (claiming in a newsletter that this is a bargain as it has recently been auctioned for € 2835). At the same time, this French website still had stock at the more reasonable price of € 398. Right…
This aside, it should be an interesting bottle. The 1975 vintage was selected for the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Glenfiddich visitor centre. It was drawn from cask #22000, a European oak sherry butt.
Glenfiddich 33 yo 1975
(53,7%, OB 2009, cask #22000, 520 btl.)
Nose: fruity and vibrant. Dried apricot, tangerine and quite some orange skin. Nicely balanced oak. Subtle vanilla. Dates. A rather subtle sherry cask, with slightly sour Mandarine Napoleon / orange oil notes which really lift the nose. Fruit cake. Nice old leather as well. Lovely. Mouth: develops on orange marmalade but it grows spicier, with cinnamon, a hint of pepper and nutmeg. Shows a good balance between the oak tannins (which are certainly present) and the fruity sweetness. Light vanilla again. Hints of liquorice in the end. Finish: oaky and spicy with some dark chocolate. Medium length.
A very good Glenfiddich with an individual nose and a palate with quite some oak, but nicely integrated with the rest of the flavours. Great subtle sherry influence. Thanks for the sample swap, Anthony!
ps/ Whiskysite.nl usually has good prices by the way, but this was just crazy. I just came back from vacation and I’ve noticed that both websites seem to have sold out very recently.
Edradour, part of the Signatory Vintage group since 2002, is famous for its finishes, so much that it’s almost impossible to say they have a house style.
This 1997 vintage has spent most of its time in regular hogsheads, but it received a second maturation in Sauternes casks. It’s bottled in the Straight from the Cask series, which means it’s single cask and cask strength.
Edradour 11 yo 1997 Sauternes finish (56,6%, OB 2009,
451 btl. 50 cl.)
Nose: starts malty with a background of sulphury organics and hints of rubber. After some breathing, it has some glorious moments in which the sweet wine sparkles and a lot of cinnamon emerges, together with some flowers. The more time you give it, the sweeter it gets, but it’s never really fresh. Water seems to help though, it enhances the flowery side and shows apricot notes. Mouth: fierce attack (duh). Now the fruitiness is nicer, with orange candy, peaches and hints of mint. Not as sweet as I had expected. Water is an improvement again – it brings a nice balance between honey and spices. Finish: dry, peppery and quite woody but still nicely candied as well.
A difficult one. It definitely needs water, but even then the organics are a bit disturbing. Around € 55.