Irish single malts from independent bottlers are currently selling like hotcakes. We’ve seen old 1988 and 1989 expressions, the wonderful (peated) 1991s and several younger examples distilled early 2000s. All good to outstanding.
Also on a more global scale, Irish distilleries achieved some excellent results and are growing at a much faster rate than their Scottish neighbours.
For me a good reason to focus on Irish whiskey for a while, but not the independent European bottlers this time. Over the next couple of days, I’ll present a couple of interesting drams from different categories (blends, malts, pot still).
Well, officially the label says for The Netherlands and Japan but they nicknamed themselves Whisky Nerds. We know they are actually Bram Van Glabbeek and Floris Kooistra who are linked to the Dutch Usquebaugh Society, together with the Japanese distributor Whisky.E.
GlenDronach 19 yo 1995 (55,1%, OB for The Netherlands and Japan 2015, Oloroso butt #2380, 628 btl.)
Nose: good, heavy sherry. Dried figs and dates, Black Forest gateau, with some coffee liqueur and leather in the background. Red berry jam (or make that blackberry). Waxed furniture and subtle hints of pipe tobacco. Chocolate too, of course. Mouth: high pressure sherry again, with a dry, leathery and quite a tannic attack. Coffee powder and a little cough syrup. Walnuts and spices like pepper and clove. Becomes sweeter after that, with plums and black cherries. Cinnamon pastry. Rounder, richer and fruitier with a few drops of water. Finish: long and warm, mainly on spiced chocolate and tobacco.
A classic GlenDronach cask with a perfect sherry influence. Water is obligatory to drink it comfortably though (not for the alcohol but for the dryness). Around € 135 but I think most bottles are gone – at least in The Netherlands.
On the occasion of 200 years of the Ardbeg distillery, they launched Perpetuum. It’s a mix of “very old” and young Ardbeg, from both bourbon barrels and sherry casks.
There has been a Distillery release at 49,2% but we’re trying the wider release at 47,4%.
Ardbeg Perpetuum ∞
(47,4%, OB 2015)
Nose: quite warm, with deep sooty notes and some simmering ashes. Hints of wet tarmac. On the other side there is enough honey, vanilla and chocolate to make it rounder. Some candied lemon, as well as a few floral notes. It’s not very complex and seemingly less intense than the standard 10, but I love its balance. Mouth: oily but less elegant, it comes through instantly, showing raw peat smoke, chili pepper and oak. Ginger. Settles down after a while. Still a chocolate coating and some youngish pear drops underneath. Hints of grapefruit and dried seaweed towards the end. Finish: long, full of saltwater, herbal notes and tequila.
It’s good. Not eternally good, but one of the better Ardbeg Day releases, I think. It combines a balanced nose and plenty of strong smoke on the palate. Between € 95 and € 150, depending on the greediness of your retailer.
We’ve had some excellent independent Littlemill expressions in the past few years, but the official bottlings don’t have the same reputation. While the indy early 90’s versions are expressive fruit bombs, the older officials tend to be shy, dusty and cereally.
In our glass we have the Littlemill 1975, released in 1999 in the typical green dumpy bottle.
Littlemill 1975 (40%, OB 1999)
Nose: a lot of apple skin with hay. Cider apples. Apple seeds as well. A vague sweetness of berries. Some buttery tones. Some musty wood and a bit of wet newspaper. Very old-fashioned. Mouth: sweeter than expected, fruity but in a totally different way than these 1990’s bottlings. Syrupy orange, melons and candy apples. Sugared tea. Again some hay and sweet herbs, with a light metallic edge. Finish: medium long, mostly on sweet grains.
Like most official Littlemills, this is fairly simple and certainly not superb. But it’s not bad either and there’s something about it that won my sympathy. Around € 400 in auctions, but rarely seen on the market.
Italian bottler Samaroli released two sister casks of Jura 1997 in 2014, cask 9119 at 50% and cask 9118 at 43% (which says II release on the label). There also seems to be a blend of both – a bit confusing.
Nose: a coastal profile, slightly austere. Minerals and grassy notes. Green tea and mint. Dried seaweed and a fresh sea breeze. Underneath is a layer of sweet cake batter and buttercups. Subtle cooked apples as well. Rather discrete but not unpleasant. Mouth: again a mix of sweet and salty. Grasses and salted almonds. A surprisingly fruity wave of honeydew melon and bright oranges. Nice waxy notes towards the end. Finish: long, with a malty sweetness and salted nuts.
In general I’m not the biggest fan of naked Islanders, but I must say this one surprised me. It’s complex, balanced and full-flavoured. Around € 110.
GlenDronach The Hielan is 8 years old and relies on both bourbon casks and sherry casks (less than in other bottlings, hence the colour).
It’s a global trend to release younger expressions and to lower the influence of sherry maturation in the mix. Usually this also means dropping the age statement, but luckily not in this case. Any age statement is better than no age statement.
GlenDronach 8 yo ‘The Hielan’ (46%, OB 2015)
Nose: starts very buttery, with lots of toffee and caramel notes. Reminds me of certain Glenrothes expressions, including the big maltiness and the slightly ‘bloated’ feeling. Picking up sweetness, with plenty of golden raisins and yellow plums. Buttercups. Mouth: very malty, very sweet. Pepper and cereal / vanilla biscuits. The texture is nice, but I find this much too malty, even beer-like at some point. Porridge and gingerbread. Some almonds and walnuts, with a gingery and slightly bitter aftertaste. Finish: medium long, moving towards greener, grassier notes and oak spices.
I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. It lacks some brightness – and it lacks some sherry, probably. It does have character, but I’m personally not too fond of these malty / toffee / porridge kind of drams. Around € 35-50, arriving in stores as we speak.
Signatory Vintage bought a whole series of casks filled with Glenburgie 1995, all in the #644x – #647x range. We’ve seen at least 10 bottlings in the Vintage Collection and Un-Chillfiltered ranges and some casks have found their ways to other bottlers.
Asta Morris picked cask #6475 from the Signatory warehouses, bottled in the typical Ibisco decanter.
Glenburgie 19 yo 1995 (50,5%, Signatory Vintage for Asta Morris 2015, hogshead #6475, 287 btl.)
Nose: malty, seemingly naked at first, but it develops a very nice fruitiness. Yellow plums, peaches, tarte tine, golden raisins and a hint of pineapple. Elegant and rounded, with a soft hint of vanilla marshmallows. Marzipan. A fine mature Speysider. Mouth: starts creamy and malty, with some vanilla fudge and apple pie. The second wave brings this bright, honeyed fruitiness back. Berries, citrus. Very smooth and round, with an oily character. Also mild oak spices and just a light, salty touch.
Fruity, elegant and dangerously drinkable whisky. Balanced with an above average complexity. Bert has a nose for this kind of stuff. Around € 90, on its way to stores as we speak.
A fifth release for Liquid Art already. The artist on duty is Chreet Dexters, father of the founding member Bert. He will provide three labels under the theme Distilling is an art.
Glentauchers 1996 (51,9%, Liquid Art ‘Distilling is an art’ 2014, 131 btl.)
Nose: a very fruity profile: liquid jelly beans. I commented on another Glentauchers 1996 “something in between tropical bubblegum and fruity rum” and I still think it’s appropriate. This one is even more tropical. Redcurrant, mango, bananas, ripe apples, tinned pineapple. Soft vanilla. Just a whiff of oak polish and beeswax, as well as a light minty note. Very easy, but highly likeable. Mouth: fruity again, and rather thick. Lemon drops, pineapple, tangerine and banana cake. Marzipan and big vanilla. Fruit candy all around, with a little more spices to give it more character. Finish: medium long, sweet, creamy and malty.
The ease of the fruits and the creamy texture are impressive. Perfect drinker’s whisky. It will be available tomorrow through the Liquid Art webshop, € 95.