The Macallan is probably the most famous name of Speyside. Most of that fame is based on the older (sherried) bottlings like the yearly Macallan 18 years old. This Macallan 25yo can be seen as its older brother and used to be the oldest official bottling at the time.
Macallan 25yo 1968 ‘Anniversary Malt’ (43%, OB 1994)
Nose: nicely sherried. Notes of plums and dried apricots. Some toffee and a wonderful (slightly dusty) smokiness. Hints of peppermint and molasses. Chocolate covered raisins. Balsamic vinegar. Very nice notes of Christmas cake and cinnamon rolls. Smoke pork loin even (“filet de saxe”). Old sherried Speyside, just the way we like it. Very impressive. Mouth: hmm, very silky but a bit weaker too. Chocolate and oranges. Still some hints of smoke. More balsamic vinegar, but becoming quite winey and tannic. Too soft and most flavours disappear quickly, which is a shame. Getting slightly salty towards the finish. Finish: rather short I’m afraid. Not very expressive here and slightly dry in the end.
This Macallan 25yo has a near-perfect nose in a luxurious old sherry style. I expected this to be a 90+ but after the nose it falls short. Long gone of course. Worth around € 500.
Karuizawa is distributed in Europe by the Number One Drinks company, which also represents the Hanyu and Chichiby distilleries. Karuizawa focused on traditional Scottish traditions and small-scale production.
(59,8%, OB 2006, cask #3397)
Nose: reminds me of dead treas covered with moss. Oaky but in a rather un-fresh way, I love that! Rather bourbonny in that sense. Sherried fruitiness as well (raspberry, spicy apple cake), very mature nose. Mouth: quite hot without water. Meaty sherry. Ginger, apple cake again, a bit of cinnamon. Maltier and sweeter towards the end. Finish: medium length, spicy (cloves) and dry.
Interesting how the Japanese know how to pick some of the best sherry casks. The nose would make you think it’s a bit older, but then it shows the powerful freshness on the palate. Very good. Around € 100 if you can still find it.
Bladnoch is the southernmost distillery in Scotland. It had a history of closures and re-starts and used to be operated by UDV – United Distilleries (now Diageo) until June 1993. In October 1994, it is bought by Raymond Armstrong (with the idea to turn it into a hotel) but plans change and whisky production recommences in 2000.
This 16 year-old is the first Bladnoch to be bottled in the Single Malts of Scotland series by The Whisky Exchange.
Bladnoch 16yo 1992 (46%, Single Malts of Scotland 2009, bourbon hogshead, cask #2694, 375 btl.)
Nose: holds the middle between grassy, floral and fruity (in that order). The freshly cut grass comes first, but after being warmed up there are hints of heather and lavender and quite some fruits (lemon of course, grapefruit but also peaches on syrup). Very subtle vanilla. More complex than you would initially think. Mouth: sweet lemon juice with more grapefruit now. Quite citrusy, gentle and delicately fresh (yet not lightweight). Orange peel with a slightly bitter edge (grapefruit tea). A pinch of white pepper. Finish: medium length, on citrus mostly. Some flower honey as well.
There is a thread about this bottling on the Bladnoch forum. A good though maybe not exceptional Bladnoch expression. It has a very interesting nose (give it some time though), it’s easily drinkable and well-balanced. A good summer dram. Around € 55.
Cadenhead’s is Scotland’s oldest independent bottler. Some of their ‘dumpy’ bottlings (in strangely shaped, dark-coloured glass) from the 1970’s and 1980’s are legendary. Nowadays, they’re still a very respected bottler.
In March 2009, for the seventh time already, Cadenhead’s launched its yearly Single Malt Nosing Challenge.
The concept is simple: in return for
€ 15, you get a sample pack (4×5 cl) of undisclosed whisky. You have to name the region, distillery, age and wood type of each of the samples.
I decided to join the contest. Just for fun, I’m not pretending to have a chance at all. Yesterday, I tried them and made a guess (I found two of them pretty recognizable – or at least those were distilleries I’m quite familiar with, the other two are a guess really). Whatever they may be, they were good quality anyway and I hope they get bottled afterwards.
The winner will be announced on the 7th of September.
About a year ago, The Dalmore revised its core range. The Dalmore ‘Cigar Malt’ was replaced by this ‘Gran Reserva’. It is a combination of Gonzalez Byass sherry matured spirit (60%) and bourbon matured spirit (40%). There’s no age statement, but it is said to be between 10 and 15 years. As a possible partner for a good Havana, it should be robust, rich and aromatic. Now where did I leave those Montecristo’s…
The Dalmore ‘Gran Reserva’
(40%, OB 2008)
Nose: heather and dark chocolate. Rather malty. Orange marmelade. Cake. Hints of sherry and oak. Roasted coffee beans. Mouth: slightly weakish but rich enough. Heather again. Orange notes. Caramel as well (too bad). Vague smoke. Finish: mixture of coffee, dry oloroso sherry and hints of vanilla.
This Dalmore has a nicely roasted, sherried and robust character but it could gain extra points with a higher strength. A point of criticism that’s not new, but still valid in times when other distilleries are switching to 43 and 46% for standard bottlings. Around € 40.
Balblair, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, renewed its complete range in February 2007, with a new branding and bottle design. The age statements were replace by vintages (1975, 1979, 1986 (duty free), 1989 and 1997). Around 15% of the production is bottled as single malt.
This Balblair 1997 is a mixture of mostly ex-bourbon barrels with a few 2nd fill sherry butts.
Balblair 1997 (43%, OB 2008)
Nose: clean barley with soft vanilla. Really fresh and minty, with quite a lot of fruity notes (apple, orange, lemon, pineapple). Honey. Also spicy notes (cinnamon) from the oak. I quite like the nose. Mouth: sweet attack, again really fruity (pineapple, apricot, grapefruit). Vanilla. Subtle oak. Very light hints of peat. Evolving on spices and liquorice. Finish: a bit too simple and maybe a tad too bitter (ginger).
Well, I have to say this dram exceeded my expectations. Good introduction malt. Around € 40.
Glenfarclas 39 yo 1970 (54,4%, The Perfect Dram 2009, first fill oloroso butt, 240 btl.)
Beautiful oloroso colour! Nose: classic sherry influence. 1+1 is definitely more than 2 here. Very big, dark chocolate smell with raisins, oranges and dry figs. Some toasted flavours (coffee, roasted nuts). Hints of matches but far away from the sulphur alarm. Just terrific. You might argue this is closer to sherry than whisky though. Mouth: very powerful and still very sherried, developing on dry fruits (figs, prunes, cherries) and going towards balsamic syrup. Slightly bitter hints (cafe cortado or over-infused tea) with a faint salty edge. Really mouth-coating and very concentrated. Finish: medium long and very elegant.
Amazing how sherry maturation can result in such an integrated dram (like only Glenfarclas can produce). A real sherry bomb. Actually, when diluted, this is getting really close to some of my best sherry bottles… Price unknown.
This Balvenie Roasted Malt is made from malt that has been germinating for only 1 day (instead of 5) and dried a bit heavier than usual (at 200°C). Roasting is measured in EBC (European Brewing Colour) units, and this malt reached up to 1800 EBC whereas normal malt reaches 30 EBC. Roasted malt is commonly used for the production of stout beer but not for whisky.
This is a limited edition, made from a batch of 43 casks, but it’s still available.
Balvenie 14y ‘Roasted Malt’
(47,1%, OB 2006)
Nose: Surprisingly dusty, like wet cardboard or even some church with some lingering incense. Hints of smoke and toasted bread. A bit prickly and spirity as well. After a while, hints of apple. Uncommon for a Balvenie, although there are more common notes of honey and vanilla as well, but more on a second level. Mouth: ah, much more typically Balvenie: marmalade, vanilla sweetness, crême brulée. Lots of oak influence. Slightly peppered. A bit harsh though. Finish: rather dry and nutty. A tad bitter. Subtle hints of coffee.
I’m afraid this is one of the lesser Balvenies I’ve had. Not bad, but I prefer the usual, gentle profile. Around € 70.