Master of Malt bottlings proved to be very interesting in the past. While the Master of Malt 30yo 2nd release is still available, there’s a 3rd edition of this undisclosed Speysider. The former was clearly sherry matured, but the colour of its successor suggests bourbon maturation.
Undisclosed Speyside distillery 30 yo
(40%, Master of Malt 2009, 3rd edition)
Nose: a classic bourbon matured profile with truckloads of honey and some lovely fruits (melon, apricot, ripe banana, papaya). Big big vanilla (coming close to actual bourbon at times) and hints of cinnamon. Sugared almonds. Warm oaky notes and wax are easy to notice, but the nose is not tired at all. Great nose. Mouth: a spicy attack, but it seems to fall flat soon after the arrival. Much more oak now, a bit too much even. Pine resin and nutmeg. Hints of grapefruit but overall not nearly as fruity as the nose made me expect. Finish: a bit undefined, with dry oak and subtle fruits.
The glorious nose and the woody palate reminded me of another undisclosed Speysider by Thosop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came from the same distillery. Don’t get me wrong, I could sniff this all day and it’s certainly nice enough to justify the price tag (about € 125). Available from Master of Malt.
Glenury Royal could claim ‘royal’ in its name thanks to a friend of the founder, Captain Robert Barclay. The distillery was founded in 1825 and its license was cancelled in 1992. The site was sold for residential estate.
This 36 year old Glenury Royal was part of the Diageo Special Releases of 2005. Only 2100 bottles were made available at around € 600. It seems it has never been a great seller because recently they were offered in different shops for as low as € 200.
Glenury Royal 36 yo 1968
(51,2%, OB 2005, 2100 btl.)
Nose: scented and floral with a significant amount of oak polish and sawdust. A bit of vanilla. Mango. Hints of parma violets and lavender, but not really perfumy. Some peaches and apple compote. Gets quite leathery and chalky. Some peaty / farmy notes but they seem to disappear as soon as you pinpoint them. A complex and rewarding note. Fresh, fruity with a distinct ‘oldness’ to it at the same time. Quite lovely. Mouth: very juicy and fat, building up much more peat now. Lots of spices from the oak, sawdust and again a leathery foundation. Hints of smoke and roasted nuts. Some bitterness and herbal notes towards the finish. Finish: long, slightly bitter, with toasted oak, nuts and varnish.
A very complex malt with a unique but slightly difficult character. It seems to continuously switch between fruity notes, herbal notes, freshness, harshness and many other things… Still available with a nice discount.
There has been some debate about the high scores of these Ledaigs on Whiskyfun. As the price was reasonable, they sold out immediately (as often the case). Many people seem to forget our tastes are all different, so don’t get carried away and please, never trust reviewers (wink).
Nose: a typical young marriage of heavy peat and heavy sherry. Orangettes (orange filled chocolate), some tobacco. Whiffs of gouache. Lots of smoke and burnt biscuits rather than the plain earthy peat from yesterday’s Ledaig. Some briney notes. Sweet hints of red fruit marmalade and dark syrup. Some ginger. Water highlights soot, canvas fabric and a blackberry fruitiness. Mouth: again very peaty, this time with a bigger spicy component (pepper and ginger). Hints of toffee. Burnt pieces of meat. Coffee and bitter chocolate in the end. Water makes it slightly mentholated and even more sooty. Finish: long, smoky with a sweet edge.
Quite an aggressive malt – all of its dials are turned to maximum power. Indeed quite similar to the rapidly matured Port Charlottes of last year. Still not completely my taste (I’m quite a wuss you know…) but the sherry certainly adds depth and width compared to yesterday’s Ledaig. Around € 45.
Ledaig (pronounced Led-chick) is peated Tobermory, the only distillery on the Isle of Mull. The distillery has been closed more often than it was operational and production didn’t resume in a stable way until 1989. Half of their spirit output is unpeated, half is peated.
Ledaig 8 yo 2001
(61%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2010)
Nose: leathery peat with hints of seawater and tarry boat rope. Quite oily with a sweet background. Candied lemon peel. A hint of toffee. When compared to peated Islay whisky, it’s probably closest to Ardbeg or Kilchoman. Very clean but fairly mono-dimensional. Water makes it slightly fresher and adds hints of lemon. Mouth: straightforward peat (much more than expected), quite sweet and rounded, with a nice lemon/salt combination. Peated margarita? More candied with a few drops of water – hints of sweet tobacco in the aftertaste. Finish: peat, peat, sweet peat.
Well-made with a big peat blast and a coating sweetness. Promising for the future of the distillery but nothing exceptional and still quite youngish in character. Too focused on peat for my taste – a slightly lighter alternative for Kilchoman fans maybe? Around € 40 and readily available in this part of Europe.
Amrut blended two 7 year old casks for this release, filled in 2002 and 2003. These are the oldest casks that were ever bottled at Amrut distillery.
While it may seem young, Amrut says it’s unlikely that they will be able to produce such an aged whisky again in the Indian climate. The casks were filled with 360 liters of spirit and the end result was a mere 159 liters. Moreover, the strength went up from 62,5% to 69,8%. That’s the kind of evaporation they have to deal with.
Nose: a rich, honeyed profile with loads of vanilla pods and creamy cake. Also quite floral, mainly buttercups. There’s plenty of fruits: pineapple candy, pink grapefruit, banana, caramelized apples… Apple pie. Hints of sweet oak and barley sugar. Just excellent – it’s like a Speyside grandpa with the vivacity of a youngster. Mouth: more of the same (yay). A liquid fruit salad with papaya, kiwi, mango and pineapple, lifted by notes of lime. So much fruit, so much body, so much roundness. Again a coating of vanilla and powdered sugar. Subtle spices. Finish: long and fruity. Delicate oak with cinnamon and very light pepper.
The best Amrut so far for me, no doubt about that. But I’m afraid this is also where it stops: it’s probably impossible to gain more complexity in a natural way. In the end the effect of time can’t be beaten, even when your spirit is as perfect as this one. Sold in Europe and Canada only as far as I know, but now sold out in most places. Around € 75.
One remark: the packaging looks okay but feels like it’s made in a sweatshop. The folding of the box is anything but accurate, the glue doesn’t hold the sides together, the white cardboard is completely smudged on the inside, etc. I know the packaging is not the most important element, but please, some quality control would be appropriate for such a special bottling. After looking around, it’s clear that my own flimsy box is not a one-off.
This Mortlach 1998 is the first bottling by The Whisky Shop Dufftown, run by Mike Lord. It’s a refill sherry hogshead selected from the Gordon & MacPhail stocks.
With 6 active distilleries (Mortlach being one of them, and the Glenfiddich / Balvenie / Kinivie group being the best known) in a town of merely 1200 people, Dufftown is said to be the whisky capital of Scotland.
Mortlach 12 yo 1998 (59,1%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for Whisky Shop Dufftown 2010,
Nose: instead of the expected sherry notes, the first things I get are herbal tea and lots of mint and pine needles. In my opinion, Mortlach is often blemished by sulphury off-notes (not from bad sherry casks, but probably due to to a lack of copper contact during distillation and/or the usage of worm tubs), but this one is (almost) clean, with nice raisins and fruit marmalade. Burnt sugar and hints of bread crust. Water highlights red fruits. Mouth: again an unusually mentholated profile. On a second level there is strawberry jam and chocolate coated nuts. Well spiced. Rounder and fruitier with a few drops of water. Still rather herbal. Finish: quite long, peppery with a repetition of the herbal sherry theme.
Considering the fact that I’m not a big fan of Mortlach, this is definitely enjoyable and rather unique.
The Arran Malt recently announced some revisions of its range. First of all, there’s this new Arran 14 Years old which will take the place of the 12yo as the oldest whisky in the core range. Then there’s a limited 15th Anniversary Edition and a consolidation of the finishing experiments in three wine finishes at 50% (Port, Amarone and Sauternes – pictured to the right).
Establishing a new distillery is a tough job and the 14 Years old can be seen as a milestone for Arran. They’re now able to provide products in a slightly higher market segment and they can start making profit. On the long-term plan, the core range would be consist of a 10, 14 and 18 year old.
The 14 Year Old was re-racked into fresh bourbon barrels and fresh sherry hogsheads two years ago – two-thirds into American oak and one-third into European oak. They wanted the classic Arran sweet-fruity notes to shine through with the sherry very much in the background for depth and balance.
Arran 14 yo (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: starts malty and clean but quickly there’s a burst of fresh fruits: citrus, peaches, caramelized apples, some melon and berries. Nice hints of buttercups in the background. Hints of sweet oak with whiffs of vanilla and coconut as well. Cleaner than the 12yo, very rounded and really nice. There’s a nice interplay between sherry and bourbon influence (reminiscent of the Arran Peacock). It doesn’t need water, but a few drops make the citrus stand out. Mouth: creamy attack, initially less sweet than I thought it would be. Also more oak than expected. Malty centre with hints of citrus and pears. Obvious vanilla. Developing more spicy notes towards the end, nutmeg and light pepper. Finish: medium length, slightly biscuity with barley sugar and lingering spices.
The Arran 14yo is a balanced dram with a natural profile. It takes the distillery character to a higher level, and I’m sure we can expect even nicer results from this distillery as their spirit matures further. Around € 45 and arriving in shops as we speak.
This story starts a few months ago, when Glenfarclas collector and connoisseur Luc Timmermans poured me a dram from a sample bottle and told me it would be the successor of his rather legendary Glenfarclas 1968 cask #699, bottled last year. Luc is following the 1968 casks (his birth year) for a long time and it was clear that he had found another Glenfarclas gem, albeit with a rather heavy sherry influence. The former cask was very sensual and silky and to appreciate this new one you really had to be a sherry lover. Still I was looking forward to the bottling date.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received four mystery samples with no further information. “One of them will be my next bottling”, Luc said, “I’m considering different options again, let me know what you think”. So I tasted them all and had two clear favourites.
Afterwards, it turned out to be a nifty selection (left to right in the picture):
The first sample had lots of chocolate truffle, dried figs, forest fruits, mint and walnuts. Very intense but not really subtle. It reminded me of the one I had tasted before and indeed, it was the same cask #702, a first fill Cream sherry hogshead (February 1968).
Sample n°2 clearly had a different maturation. It showed old roses, wax, precious wood and a whole range of herbs and spices (sage, thyme, cloves). This was just as intense but in another direction, with more obvious woody notes. It was drawn from cask #5240, a first fill Fino cask (which is not very common). Distilled December 1968.
The third sample was the most vivid one. It showed dried fruits as well as fresh red fruits, mixed with nice touches of oak polish and spices. After half an hour in the glass, this one really stood out. It was clearly the most balanced so far. Afterwards it turned out to be a vatting of the two others. One and one is three, no… four!
Finally there was a placebo: it was last year’s cask #699. I didn’t recognize it, but I discovered some new elements, which proves that it surely was a complex whisky.
No need to tell you that I preferred n°3 and n°4 in the blind tasting. Another great Glenfarclas was ready to be bottled!
The casks will be bottled as we speak, on this very day, and we can expect the bottles to be available soon. It’s great to see that Glenfarclas was willing to modify the official Family Cask label and blend in the hand-written style of the other Thosop bottlings. Very clever!
Glenfarclas 41 yo 1968 (49,7%, OB 2010 for Thosop, cask #702 & 5240, 318 btl.)
Nose: the sweeter sherry is easy to notice, but it shows much more layers. There’s a fresh layer of sweet fruits (mirabelles, redcurrant marmalade, lovely ripe tangerine and even raspberry jelly) and a darker layer of dried fruits (dates, raisins), chocolate and toffee. And a third layer of spices, oak polish, cigar boxes and some mint and eucalyptus. Just a hint of dusty oak and old leather book covers in the background. After some time it gets more playful, the fruits becomes bigger and the masculine side of the sherry makes place for a feminine softness and sweetness. A thrilling nose with awesome complexity. Mouth: a firm attack. There are woody notes, prunes, lots of dark chocolate and some cold coffee. A few notes that remind me of a meat sauce with wine (must be the mix of sherry with the herbal elements). A little mint and soft pepper. Fig and blackcurrant jam. A tad less wide than on the nose but really impressive at this age. Finish: long, drying, with lingering fruits.
In a way, this is like a richer, more powerful version of the official Glenfarclas 40yo: it shows different types of Glenfarclas style (with just two casks!), mixed together to create an even better result. Not nearly as elegant as last year’s cask #699, but just as good in its own style. Now let’s stop typing and simply enjoy…