There have been a couple of interesting Ben Nevis releases lately. There was the official 41yo Ben Nevis 1967 for Germany (cask #1281) and this Prestonfield release, bottled for La Maison du Whisky. It was matured in a bourbon cask and received a silver medal in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009.
Ben Nevis 34 yo 1975 (63%, Prestonfield for LMdW 2009, cask #7439, 146 btl.)
Nose: quite bubblegummy at first. There’s also a waxy side to it, but a rather sharp one (like hair spray) but this seems to evaporate very quickly. Excellent development on coconut milk, tropical fruits and honey. Lots of vanilla. Superb raspberry jam. Gooseberries. Intense and warming. Mouth: very powerful (duh) and spicy. Some citrus. Coconut and vanilla again. Raisins. Oranges with cloves in the aftertaste. A drop of water brings out herbal notes and something bourbonny (pine resin). Overall a tad too sharp maybe. Finish: long on vanilla, cloves and a touch of menthol.
A great Ben Nevis that combines elements of Scotch, Irish and American whisky and creates an interesting mix. This particular cask is sold out, but La Maison du Whisky now has a second cask that should be closely related (I’ll review that one head-to-head in the future). Price: € 180.
Glen Spey is the least common of the five distilleries in Rothes. It’s part of the Diageo portfolio and most of the production goes to the J&B blend. Apart from a mediocre 12 year old Fauna & Flora bottling and a recent 30yo by Single Malts of Scotland, Glen Spey releases are extremely rare. The sister cask #3655 was bottled by Adelphi three years ago.
Glen Spey 31 yo 1977 (55,8%, Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #3656, 210 btl.)
Nose: sweet profile with fragant aromas of flowers, peach marmalade and yellow raisins. Smooth vanilla, almonds. Fruit gums. Blueberries? Good balance with a warm oak smell (slightly reminiscent of New Oak bottlings with lots of resin and spices). Hints of freshly cut grass and wax. Some mint. Very nice! Mouth: firm, grassy and minty attack with other spices taking over after a while (ginger, cloves, a little white pepper). Quite herbal. The sweet honeyed oak is again on the foreground. Not too overpowering for me but I suppose some people may have difficulties with it. Rather candied. Some aniseed. Unusually drying finish on apples and spices. Long and woody.
It may not be a huge achievement but this is one of the best Glen Spey bottlings ever. A wonderful nose but beware if you don’t like heavy oak on the palate. Well priced: € 125.
The Whisky Exchange, one of the most important whisky resellers in the world, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. They’ve selected a couple of rare and interesting whiskies for this occasion. One of them is this cask strength 39 years old Longmorn 1969. One thing is certain: the refill sherry butt gave it a stunning colour.
Longmorn 39yo 1969 (57,7%, Gordon & MacPhail for TWE 2009, cask #5305)
Nose: very rich and intense. Excellent old sherry (chocolate, figs, rancio). Surprisingly fresh notes as well. Violets. Bramble. Black cherry. Furniture wax. Hints of blood oranges. Spicy christmas cake with notes of cinnamon and cardamom. Mint. Mouth: starting mostly on coffee. A bit sour at first and overall rather dry. Figs again with dark chocolate. Developing on spices and strawberry jam. Very intense. A drop of water helps to loose the alcohol and brings out hints of passion fruit. Finish: long with predominant cocoa / coffee. Strong fig notes.
A great Longmorn for intense sherry lovers. The sherry character is spot on and the power is impressive at such an age. It’s even better with a small drop of water. Around € 240, available from TWE of course but other shops as well.
Single cask Ardbegs are hugely popular, even though they are usually priced quite high. But old Ardbeg can be stunning so let’s investigate this 31 years old Ardbeg 1975 cask #1378, matured in a sherry butt and bottled at cask strength on the 8th of November 2006.
Ardbeg 31yo 1975
(53,7%, OB 2006, cask #1378, 453 btl)
Nose: great ‘old style’ Ardbeg with much less peat than we’re used to today. Big notes of camphor. A certain mellow sweetness from the sherry butt, with hints of cocoa and wonderful fruits (mainly berries and papaya). Some cinnamon and ashes. Slightly coastal as well, with hints of boat rope and wet sand. Great integration overall and very complex. Mouth: sweet start, perfect strength. Very chocolaty. More peat now than on the nose. Quite some oak too. Hints of salted nuts and raisins. Elegant and balanced. Getting drier and quite tannic towards the end. Finish: dry and very long, smokey, nutty and oaky. Waves of sherry and cocoa in the background.
If you want to try this one, you’ll have to pay over € 600. Too much for my wallet, but surely an Ardbeg masterpiece, complex with superb balance.
Exactly one year ago, the first whisky review was posted on this website, the Balvenie 30 Years Old. Since then, almost 200 other drams were published and more than 40 news item were covered. Let’s celebrate with a week of 90+ drams!
No need to introduce Karuizawa after the recent Malt Maniacs Awards. There were two of them and both obtained a medal. A few weeks ago, our Belgian bottler Daily Dram released its own Wait La Mazurka, a 31 year-old Karuizawa 1977 vintage. I was told this cask was selected in an impromptu tasting session in the back seat of a London cab…
Karuizawa ‘Wait La Mazurka’ 31 yo 1977
(62,7%, Daily Dram 2009, cask 6994, 200 btl)
Nose: sherry in overdrive. Starting on matchsticks (don’t worry, no sulphur involved) and barbecued meat, quickly overpowered by lots of dried fruits (figs, apricots) and coated with honey. Very beautiful. Reminds me of my grandmother’s red mirabelles on syrup. Some cinnamon and dark chocolate. Hints of pipe tobacco and delicate whiffs of roasted nuts. Delicious. Slightly mentholated. Hints of dill. Old leather! There’s a dusty side to it, but that’s just great, it adds to the complexity. The sherry is all over the place, but it’s absolutely high-class. Damn good! Mouth: quite strong without water of course. Very rich and fruity. Big notes of coffee and cherries. With water: roasted nuts, wonderful chocolate. Dry walnuts, plum jam again. Delicate hints of mint. Finish: long, slightly drying, on smoked almonds and still that beautiful sherried chocolate.
This Wait La Mazurka is one of the best Daily Dram bottlings ever and it confirms the qualities of Karuizawa (my favourite Japanese distillery). An instant collectors item. A nose to die for and a great palate. It deserves its place in the wonderful 1967 / 1971 / 1972 line-up.
One small remark: Karuizawa is usually too hot to be had neat, even at 30 years old it anaesthetises your tongue. I think that’s a downside, because you need to find the balance with water yourself which is difficult sometimes and changes the experience. I prefer cask strength bottlings under 60% that are perfect as they are, but hey, now we’re really nitpicking!
Another one I discovered at the recent Whisky Festival in Madrid. I had a chat with Willie Tait from Jura distillery and he offered me a dram of the latest “profoundly peated” Isle of Jura Prophecy. It’s a limited release of around 10.000 bottles with new batches expected every year.
It’s a mixture of casks with different peat levels and peat styles, finished off by a 1989 oloroso sherry butt from Gonzalez Byass. It’s non-chill-filtered but coloured with caramel, I’m afraid.
Isle of Jura Prophecy (46%, OB 2009)
Nose: good integration of the sherry and the peat. There’s smoke (burnt leaves) but it’s not as profoundly peated as I would have expected. Slightly tarry and even some medicinal notes. Everything’s rounded off by dried fruits, chocolate, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and oranges. A bit uncommon as a whole maybe, but very enjoyable. Mouth: much more peat now. Starting slightly sweet with fruity notes but soon getting (a lot) drier and spicier (pepper, cinnamon). A good deal of smoke. Overall punchy and clean. Finish: dry smoke coated with liquorice and spices. Medium length.
This new Jura Prophecy is a nice dram and although it’s typically Jura, it presents a new profile at the same time. Around € 55.
Woodford Reserve is a small batch bourbon from one of the oldest distilleries in Kentucky. It’s made in old-fashioned copper pot stills and matured in 100 year-old warehouses made from stone instead of the usual wood. This means temperature changes will occur less sudden as the stone buffers the heat and cold. Woodford Reserve is at least 6 years old.
(43,2%, OB 2009, batch 54)
Nose: tons of vanilla with beautiful undertones of cedar wood, varnish and peppermint. Almonds. Crême brûlée. Some pear and floral notes. There’s even a hint of charcoal. It’s very rich and certainly has an individual character, different from other bourbons. Mouth: immediately woody (maybe a tad too much, slightly tannic) and spicy. Mint again. Burnt caramel and maple syrup. Something metallic as well (like licking a battery). A little tobacco towards the finish. Finish: sweet and spicy. Echoes of vanilla. Medium length.
A very attractive and rather complex nose, but on the palate it doesn’t live up to the expectations. The wood kicks in a bit too hard. Well priced: around € 35.