John MacLellan, former distillery manager at Bunnahabhain (now Kilchoman), pioneered the idea of releasing special bottlings for Feis Ile. This year they offered an unpeated 18 years old single cask with a Pedro Ximenez finish.
Bunnahabhain 18 yo (51,4%, OB for
Feis Ile 2010, PX cask, 384 btl.)
Nose: a relatively light nose. Obvious PX influence, but less fresh and fruity than some previous experiments from other distilleries (this or this). Caramelized banana and a bit of cinnamon. Sweet nuts. Sourish berries. A little mint and ginger. Mildly maritime. Mouth: sweet, with dry fruits. Sweet but not too sugary. Hints of chocolate and kirsch. Balanced spices (pepper, clove) and dried herbs. Finish: medium length, drying, with the same flavours.
Recipe: 70% Bunnahabhain 18yo and 30% fortified wine. Although the wine is not subtle, the end result is quite good (but not exceptional). Sold for € 100 at the distillery.
While looking over my recent reviews, I realized that I hadn’t tasted anything exceptional in the last few weeks. So I looked up a sample of a Strathisla bottled for The Whisky Fair a couple of months ago and which was received very well.
Gordon & MacPhail have the largest collection of old Strathisla casks, no doubt about that. Most of them seem to be ex-sherry casks, but this is a bourbon matured Strathisla.
Strathisla 49 yo 1960 (53,2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Fair 2010, Book of Kells)
Nose: wow, great start packed with aromas. Sweet notes of honey, apricot marmalade and dates. Lovely. Almonds. Orange peel. Balsam and pollen. A bit of pine wood. There’s also a superb “un-freshness” to it: old cellars with whiffs of diesel. Works perfectly here. Outstanding complexity. Mouth: oily and oaky. Dried herbs. Bitter oranges and liquorice. Quite some resin again. Walnuts. Just enough fruit to stay interesting, but certainly less complex than on the nose. Also a faint phenolic / tarry edge which gets stronger when you add water. Its minty side is amplified as well. Finish: long with oak and oranges.
An excellent Strathisla that is worth discovering if you have a chance. The oakiness is pretty well controlled for a 50 year-old (well, almost 50…) and the dusty elements make it really worthwile. Sold out – worth around € 300.
Oban is the second smallest distillery in the Diageo portfolio, but also one of the oldest (1793). It was chosen to represent the Western Highlands in the Classic Malts of Scotland range.
The expressions in the Distiller’s Edition series are finished in different types of sherry casks, in this case Montilla casks. Montilla is a wine region in the Spanish province of Córdoba, and although it is not officially a part of the sherry region, they produce the same style of dry (fino) wine.
Oban 1992/2006 ‘Distiller’s Edition’
(43%, OB 2006, ref. OD 155.FR)
Nose: elegant. Malty start, alternating between sweet, fruity flavours (peaches on syrup, honey) and drier, more maritime associations (seaweed, manzanilla sherry). Hints of smoke. Palate: good attack, oily mouthfeel. Rather sweet. Rich nutty and malty flavours, with notes of tobacco, chocolate and spices (nutmeg). Finish: medium length, on chocolate, vanilla, pepper. Getting drier and slightly peaty in the end.
Nice interaction between sweet, fruity and dry, maritime notes. Much better than the regular Oban 14yo. Around € 60.
A Cragganmore distilled only a few days after my birth (September 1978) and bottled in November 1996.
It’s part of a batch of three sister casks that were distilled on the same day and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in their CASK series in 1996.
Cragganmore 18 yo 1978
(60,1%, G&M CASK 1996, cask #4959)
Nose: starts on flowery notes and subtle fruit (apples, soft peach, grapes). Hints of white wine. Whiffs of wax and what we call “hotel cake” around here. After a while, there’s interesting coal smoke and gas coming through, which is rather typical for really old whisky (let’s say 1940’s-1960’s) but less common in the late 1970’s. Some hints of latte. Very nice combination overall, even more so with a few drops of water. Mouth: powerful. Starts flowery again and slightly herbal. Too much lavender now, which brings out a soapy element that quite frankly I’ve noticed with Cragganmore a bit too often. Other than that: almonds and spices. Water highlights fruity notes (pears and apples mostly) but it’s never really convincing. Finish: slightly smoky, definitely spicy, and quite long.
Again a Cragganmore with a soapy edge. The old-style coal smoke and fruity/spicy body makes up for part of it though. A bottle was sold for € 107 at WhiskyAuction recently.
Last year, a cask of Glenfarclas 1968 was selected by collector Luc Timmermans to celebrate a couple of anniversaries (of his club Lindores, of his website whiskysamples.eu and of himself). This bottling got excellent reviews across the board.
Now there’s the announcement of a new cask from the same year. It is a vatting of two sherry casks, one oloroso and one fino cask. By mixing them, the specific aromas from both cask types were extracted and the result turned out to be exponentially better than the individual casks.
Interestingly, the Grant family agreed to have a special label, with elements of both the classic Family Cask labels and the specific hand-written labels of the Thosop bottlings.
It will be bottled on August 18th, with the first impressions published on WhiskyNotes that very same day!
In 1998 and 2000, Douglas Laing released several casks of Banff. They were all distilled in February or November 1966 and bottled in the Old Malt Cask series. I’ve recently bought a whole series of Banff samples and this one immediately got my attention because of its gorgeous smell.
Banff 34 yo 1966 (45,8%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 2000, 408 btl.)
Nose: obviously from a (great) sherry cask. It shows lovely shoe polish and precious wood, apples, prunes, rhubarb, apple pie… A bit of old roses and leather. Even faint smoke and gentle tarmac. Cigar box. Quite superb, it could have been one of the great Macallan 18yo’s or an old Strathisla. You may argue that it shows little distillery character but is that relevant when it’s top class? Mouth: much more woody now and a little straightforward. Not really drying, but rather sharp. Pine resin, varnish, a little grapefruit. Over-infused tea. Hints of mustard even. Slightly past its due date perhaps? Finish: still oaky. Getting drier now. Hints of balsamic vinegar.
A bit of a descrescendo: an excellent nose but excessive oak on the palate. Therefore hard to rate. It fetches around € 200 in auctions.
Although part of the Classic Malts, Cragganmore is not very common as an independent bottling. Among the Classic Malts, only Glenkinchie sells less bottles. The distillery has a good reputation for blending and most of the production goes to White Horse and Old Parr.
The Signatory Un-chillfiltered range is used for bottling slightly younger and less expensive whiskies, but still un-chillfiltered, with their natural colour and at a nice 46%.
Nose: punchy and quite sweet. Sirupy barley. A bit of citrus and some grassy notes as well. Yellow apples and ripe pears. Flowery honey. Faint hints of thyme, which become slightly soapy over time, but nicely integrated and certainly not worrying. Mouth: fresh fruits again (apples, pears). Spicy honey. Fairly low complexity. Again a little lavender soap towards the finish, less well hidden this time. Finish: medium length, quite pleasant with returning grass.
Honest whisky at a fair price (around € 45). Too bad the flowery / herbal notes are on the edge of becoming too soapy.
An undisclosed Speysider bottled by Luc Timmermans’ label Thosop… That can only mean it was distilled at… yes, you’ve guessed it.
Speyside 33 yo 1976
(53%, Thosop 2010, cask #1420)
Nose: a warm and enticing nose showing honey and almond milk. Natillas (kind of a Spanish custard)! Lovely vanilla cream with a hint of cinnamon. Melon and apricot marmalade. A hint of crushed mint leaves. Subtle wax and oak polish. Papaya. Very sweet and creamy, like a luscious dessert. I adore this kind of profile. Mouth: immediately resinous, with some liquorice, a hint of pepper. Grapefruit. Nutmeg. Peppermint. Most of the fruity notes are pushed aside by the oak influence. Some apricot in the aftertaste. Finish: medium length. Fruitier again, with grapefruit and tangerine. A hint of mint.
After the heavenly nose, which promised a 90+ mark, the invasive oak on the palate was slightly underwhelming. Still a very nice old Glenfarclas (whoops) with the oakiness on the edge. Around € 170.