Black Bull 30 Years old was a terrific blend. Now it has been surpassed by an older brother, Black Bull 40yo. It is made up of 90% malt whisky and 10% grain (a lot more malt than other blends). It contains whiskies from nine distilleries: Glenfarclas, Bunnahabhain, Glenlivet, Highland Park and Springbank among others.
Black Bull 40 yo (40,2%,
Duncan Taylor 2010, batch #1)
Nose: starts fresh on vanilla and grapefruit. A complete fruit basket unfolds: zesty orange, pineapple, apple. Quite a lot of beeswax and honey. Lovely hints of peppermint / eucalyptus which really lift this dram. Nice integration of oak. Incredibly refined. Mouth: a creamy texture with loads of vanilla again. More hints of dried fruits now (raisins, dry apricots). More spicy oak as well, but perfectly acceptable. Hints of liquorice. Feeling very mild, even slightly weak maybe, it doesn’t seem to linger long. Finish: medium length. There’s a faint grassiness mixed with vanilla and coconut. Returns to grapefruit. Very clean.
This is a delicious piece of blending art at an amazingly low price compared to 40 year-old single malts or other premium blends such as White & Mackay 40yo. Still I had the feeling it’s a bit on the tame side. I prefer the 30 year old version for having more punch and more sherry influence. Around € 170.
The Caol Ila distillery underwent a major renovation and upgrade between 1972 and 1974 and reopened with an increased number of stills (six instead of two). Pre-1974 Caol Ila is a must-try if you ever have the chance.
I had the chance to compare this with the Caol Ila 1969/1984 (G&M for Intertrade) (WF96) and although I agree that one is better, I don’t think the difference is very big.
Caol Ila 1969 (54,6%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregalli 1986, Celtic label)
Nose: a sharp kickoff with quite a lot of alcohol. It takes some time before it’s tamed. Rather mineral. High on wet carton and wet dogs. Distant smoke. Lemon juice. Oysters. Very medicinal as well, with iodine and disinfectant. With a few drops of water it becomes slightly flowery and when warmed up it even shows hints of white chocolate and thyme. Impressive complexity. Mouth: first there’s a wave of lemon juice. A second wave brings loads of smoke and ashes. A third wave is much sweeter with marzipan and marmalades. Some coffee. Really excellent and superbly balanced. Finish: sweet with salty notes, smoked tea and cloves, Very long.
I won’t say much more about this bottle. It’s simply a great old Caol Ila.
Glen Keith is a very young distillery (1957) that has been mothballed in 1999. All the equipment is still in place, so maybe one day Chivas will restart production. Releases are rare.
About a year ago a similar Glen Keith distilled in March 1990 was bottled by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series.
Glen Keith 19 yo 1990 (52,1%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 13678, 232 btl.)
Nose: mild and fruity with mostly white fruits: pear, nectarine, white grapes. Some lime. Reminds me of vinho verde, very fresh with a mineral touch. Quite some beeswax. Marmalade. Develops on green notes (grass and sage maybe?) Hints of chamomile and wheat flour as well. The whole has a slightly bubblegummy fruit profile – quite uncommon but very attractive, and it keeps developing over time. Lovely. Mouth: honeyed attack. The same fruits show up (+ apple and pineapple) and they’re backed by spices from the bourbon cask. Hints of ginger and pepper, some cinnamon. Hints of mocha in the aftertaste. Finish: medium length, round with milk chocolate and spices.
The name Glen Keith does not have much fame, but this will open your eyes (and mouth). Fresh and mature at the same time. Dangerous stuff because it drinks like lemonade. Around € 75. Recommended.
Hey, didn’t we have a Glengoyne 1998 by Malts of Scotland yesterday? Yep, but that was the cask next to this one (and next to the #1130 and #1133 Glengoyne casks released in 2009).
Glengoyne 11 yo 1998 (55,2%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 1132, 272 btl.)
Nose: totally different from the #1131 cask. Much more dirty, with notes of mushrooms and beef stock. Hints of soy sauce and moss. I’m afraid this isn’t free from sulphur. I know a lot of people like this kind of profile, and it seems to be filtered out after some breathing, so let’s move on. There are hints of walnuts but the red fruits are much more subdued here, although there are hints of candied fruit and water helps to bring out fragrant raspberry. Mouth: interesting and very much in line with the old Macallan 18’s. No sulphur, just beautiful chocolate, coffee, figs and dried orange skin. Raisins. A touch of menthol. Not as dry as its sister. Cloves and cinnamon. It also shows hints of dusty oak with light whiffs of smoke. Finish: long, drier now, and very chocolaty. Some spicy notes.
At the beginning of my tasting, I smelled both whiskies side-by-side and because of the sulphury notes, I never thought this #1132 cask would come close to #1131. But once you’ve tasted them, and once you add water, it becomes clear that the palate of this cask is really interesting and makes you forget about the nose. In the end they both have their qualities. Same price: around € 60.
Malts of Scotland is releasing Glengoyne casks at a high pace. So far, there have been two 1972 casks, a 1973 cask, a 1997 cask and two 1998 heavily sherried casks. All of this in just over six months, and remember independent Glengoyne bottlings are very rare (Whiskyfun reviewed 34 official Glengoynes and only 3 independent bottlings).
A few weeks ago, two new casks were bottled, both sister casks of the former Glengoyne 1998’s. Their colour is again quite remarkable.
Glengoyne 11 yo 1998 (54,8%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 1131, 295 btl.)
Nose: very much on dried apricots, tangerine liqueur and toffee. Some raspberry candy. Overripe cherries and plums. Nutty notes. Hints of coffee and mint. Very soft vanilla as well. Very big with the oloroso in the front row. Adding water makes it fresher and fruitier. Mouth: again some heavy sherry but perfectly palatable without water. Starts rather fresh and dry with plum cake, red fruits and dark chocolate. The dryness gets in overdrive after a while, with the kind of mouth-feel you get from eating walnut skins. A bit of water helps to make it rounder. Finish: dry and persistent, with notes of chocolate, oak, tangerine and spices.
You need to love heavy sherry influence to appreciate this, and even then some people will probably find this slightly overdone. I think it’s really good, especially if you add a bit of water. Around € 60.
Glen Elgin is considered to be top class whisky by blenders and is part of the White Horse blend. Together with Linkwood, Glenlossie and Mannochmore it forms the Elgin group. The distillery is relatively active and released an official 12 Years old, a 16 Years old and a few limited editions. There’s also a Glen Elgin 1998 in Diageo’s recent Managers Choice range.
Nose: elegant and fruity. Lots of sweet honey and juicy melon with mellow spices (mostly cinnamon). A bit of dusty, warm oak – works really well. Hints of tangerine, beeswax and pollen. The lightest whiff of smoke. Heather. A real treat with a lot of depth. Mouth: notes of roasted grains. Quite some fruits again, but dried, candied fruits and sultanas this time. Kiwi. Hints of liquorice and vanilla. Gets surprisingly smokey with woody undertones and spices. Slightly tannic and salty. Finish: long and pretty complex. Oily, fruity and drying. Almonds and hints of leather.
This is an unusual Speysider (elegantly fruity but with hints of smoke), very dynamic despite the age. Obviously from two great casks. I’ve bought the last bottle I could find so good luck if you want one (try LMdW if you’re in France). Around € 125.
Although Cardhu is one of the most popular brands in France and Spain, there’s not much interest from connoisseurs. Part of this is due to the controversy about the ‘pure malt’ name on Cardhu bottles around 8 years ago. Cardhu was mixed with whisky from other distilleries to meet the high demand. Most single malt fans saw this as an effort to mislead whisky drinkers and sell a vatted malt as a single malt.
Anyway, the slightly compromised fame didn’t keep LT from selecting this bottle at his birthday tasting. This Cardhu 12 Years old was bottled for the Italian market before 1974.
Cardhu 12 yo (43%, OB 1970’s, Wax & Vitale, white rounded label, cork stop)
Nose: very smooth and gentle. The malty centre is mixed with some caramel sweetness, a touch of honey, apricots and quite some citrus. A few floral elements. Hints of paint thinner (I personally love that). Marzipan. Very nice. Mouth: oily / waxy texture. Again rather malty with lots of sweet grains and hints of roasted nuts. Very light smoke. A bit of toffee. Grapefruit. Almonds. Not extremely complex but very pleasant. Finish: first sweet, then drying with hints of peat.
A very good Cardhu which shows that old standard bottlings tend to be a lot better than current ones. Occasionally it shows up at auctions – prices vary from € 100 to 150.
Aultmore was founded in 1897 by Alexander Edward who also owned Benrinnes and Oban. It is now part of the Bacardi empire and most of the output is used for the Dewar’s blends. The Aultmore 12 years old is currently the only official bottling.
Bristol Brandy was an independent bottler with a few legendary releases at the beginning of the 1990’s. This Aultmore 1976 is one of them.
Aultmore 15 yo 1976 (43%, OB 1992 for Bristol Brandy Company Ltd)
Nose: hmm great sherry nose. Very much on tobacco and cigar boxes. Milk chocolate and coffee. Hints of oak polish and leather. A bit of library dust. Dried fruits of course, mostly apricots and figs. Elegant and not too overpowering, which is an advantage but also a disadvantage because it’s not very punchy. Mouth: sourish attack, soon overtaken by an avalanche of spices and wood resin. Very woody and rather tannic. Bitter oranges. Pine trees. Again not very big nor very complex. The flavours struggle to fight the wood. Finish: spicy (cloves, pepper) with hints of chocolate.
Lovely sherry influence on the nose, but the woody palate more or less spoils the overall experience. I expected more of this.