The Whisky Mercenary seems to have reached a higher gear, with new bottlings coming out regularly. There has been a Clynelish 1997 for Beproefd.be, and the latest one, that will be available in stores in a few weeks, is this Dailuaine 1992. Almost certainly from a bourbon cask, if you ask me.
Dailuaine 21 yo 1992
(53,3%, The Whisky Mercenary 2013)
Nose: aromatic and very fruity. Truckloads of Granny Smith and peaches, some mirabelles and hints of banana. Estery, with some solventy notes as well. Marshmallows (love that). Lemon custard with soft vanilla. Seems more youthful than 21 years. Fennel seeds and gingerbread in the back. Hints of toasted oak as well. Quite easy, very entertaining. Mouth: oily, very sweet and rather feminine. Apple sweets, candied ginger, lemon syrup. Hints of coconut. Some floral / waxy notes as well. Grapefruit. White pepper and honey. The grassiness and firm spices hint towards freshly sawn oak, but again there’s a toasted element too. Finish: long, still fruity and spicy, with ginger and honey.
Simply very good whisky. I almost wrote: very good young whisky. Modern and not very demanding, but a lovely bright drinking whisky with a few uncommon touches.
Big Peat is a regular amongst the heavily peated blends. This cask strength Islay blended malt includes Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen – I suppose this last distillery still helps it fly off the shelves although it may be a very limited amount. It also includes two other malts from the south side of the island (Laphroaig and Lagavulin).
Like last year, Douglas Laing created a Big Peat Christmas Edition. It’s supposed to be an even more wintery version.
Big Peat ‘Christmas Edition’ 2013 (54,9%, Douglas Laing 2013)
Nose: surprisingly youthful. Young peated malt, full of pear drops and smoked grains. Heathery peat, porridge, big phenols and some antiseptic. Briny Caol Ila up front, maybe some 2000’s Bowmore in the middle and young Ardbeg sweetness underneath. Clean, bold, but with some new-makeish notes. Mouth: very peaty again. Pepper. A similarly young (synthetic) pear fruitiness. Some rubbery notes and tar. Quite some medicinal notes as well, and a hint of black coffee and cocoa towards the end. Rather straightforward. Finish: long, with some liquorice and ashes.
It didn’t impress me as much as the original Big Peat, but it’s still a nice Islay vatting, just a little youngish. Around € 60.
Another one of these Karuizawa releases that went directly to Taiwan. Cask #6568 distilled in 1980.
Karuizawa 31 yo 1980
(56,4%, OB 2011, sherry butt #6568)
Nose: one of those burnt sugar / dark honey / tarry noses. Overripe – not to say rotting – melons. Quite some wet leaves and moss in there. Fungi. Undeniable gunpowder and sulphury spent matches as well. Raisins. Roasted nuts. Over time it develops some acidity, sour red fruits compote with overtones of raspberry vinegar. Not the best start. Mouth: big and dark, smoky and again not without gunpowder / sulphur notes. Dates. Coffee and liquorice. A woody astringency as well, tannins and the acid sherry notes again. A nice honey / plum liqueur theme in the background though, too bad it doesn’t get a chance. Allspice and incense towards the end. Finish: powerful and spicy. Lots of liquorice.
Firecrackers, rotting organics and highly acidic sherry… Too bad for the nicer red fruits and honeys that are buried underneath. This is definitely the bad side of Karuizawa, maybe even the worst I’ve tried. Originally around € 360.
The Sovereign is one of the ranges of Hunter Laing, the company of Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott, since Douglas Laing was split between the two brothers in February 2013. Some of their better known ranges are Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare Platinum.
Cameronbridge is a grain distillery which was established in 1824 as the Haig distillery. In 1826 it became the first distillery to produce grain whisky using the column still concept. For some time it produced both grain and malt whisky, until it shifted exclusively towards grain in 1929. The current still house is much younger, it was expanded and reopened in 2000.
Nowadays Cameronbridge is owned by Diageo and it’s the largest grain distillery in Scotland. Their grain production is a key element in the Johnnie Walker blends, but they produce other spirits like Pimm’s, Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Gordon’s gin as well.
Nose: grainy and oaky at first. Vanilla, quite some oak varnish and a whole warehouse full of freshly sawn wood. Pencil shavings. White pepper. Underneath is some icing sugar. Also typical coconut notes. Mouth: sweet and spicy, with a big alcohol / wood kick. It’s simply too hot. With some water, fruity notes come out (slightly synthetic pineapple and banana, also lemon sweets and tinned peach). Vanilla and coconut cream. The oak stays pretty loud: clove, pepper and an oaky bitterness. Finish: medium, warm, sweet with some zesty grapefruit.
Slightly difficult to assess. Some nice grain whisky notes, but the palate needs water. At the same time this makes the nose a little tame. Also the oak is hard to filter out. Around € 100.
Maltbarn has a new agreement for Belgium. Bottlings are now available through Dram242. Of course you can also contact Maltbarn directly or Whiskybase in Holland.
This Caol Ila 1979 is 33 years old and part of the recent batch by Maltbarn.
Caol Ila 33 yo 1979 (52,7%, Maltbarn 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 55 btl.)
Nose: starts in an assertive way, with lots of seaweed, hessian and camphor. Oysters and walnuts. Hints of mercurochrome. Quite bold. Some wet stones. Some embering hay. Linseed oil. It may seem really austere, but in fact it is very attractive in all its power. Mouth: oily, salty, zesty and medicinal. Again a bold example of this style. Some antiseptic and iodine. Quite peaty for Coal Ila as well, hints of tar and soot. Liquorice. Hints of bitter grapefruit and aspirin in the background. Evolves on herbal liqueur. Alive and kicking. Finish: long, clean, with liquorice and citrus zest.
We love gentle old Coal Ila but this is great as well. Coastal, punchy, pleasantly austere. Around € 220. Available since yesterday.
An official Balmenach. I’ve never come across one so far. This 27 year-old 1973 vintage was released in 2000, a couple of years after Inver House bought the distillery from Diageo.
Nowadays it seems most of the production is used for blends. A significant part of their focus is on the Caorunn gin by the way.
Balmenach 27 yo 1973
(46%, OB 2000, 2150 btl.)
Nose: lots of polished oak, furniture wax and tobacco. Dusty cellar. Underneath is a sweet fruity layer (berries and oranges) as well as some honey. A big malty core. A few leafy / vegetal notes, moss and hay. Not an easy nose, but certainly enjoyable. Mouth: vivid and oily, with more sweet fruit now (apricot, orange, banana) and a dollop of caramel. Vanilla toffee. Cake. A whole series of herbs and spices: mint, cinnamon, soft pepper. All this held together with nice oak. Finish: medium long, still a combination of sweetness (marzipan) and herbal notes.
A complex Balmenach, that’s quite wide and rather gentle at the same time. Needs some time to unfold, but certainly a nice dram. Nowadays around € 200.
Remember the Teelings, who started the Cooley company, sold it and now started their own company again. I already wrote about the excellent Teeling Whiskey 21 Years a couple of months ago.
This one is the base offer, a blended Teeling Whiskey with a high malt content and no age statement. Note that it has been ‘rum married’, i.e. finished in Flor de Caña rum barrels after blending.
Teeling Whiskey (46%, OB 2013)
Nose: lots of apple notes, freshly cut green ones but also baked apple with a dash of white rum. Some spices, a grassy prickle and rhubarb. Orange peel. Nice enough for a blend, although the grainy notes are pretty loud. Mouth: a very nice, typically Irish fruitiness and creamy vanilla. Apple and grapefruit. Quickly taken over by grains, some alcohol heat and finally dried herbs with some bitter tonic. Pepper and clove. Something of pine wood as well. Finish: grainy and peppery. Not too long.
I real like some parts of this Teeling blend. There’s no denying Irish whiskey like this is very attractive and offers great value for money. But in other parts the sharpish grain takes over, which masks some of the nice fruits. Undecided. Around € 40.
Nose: hmm, certainly not what I expected. Very dusty, with lots of hay and old oak (with most of its polish gone). Hints of mint and minerals, maybe metallics. Wet newspaper. Hints of grapefruit, if we dig very deep, but it’s far from the citrusy profile that we love in the 1988-1992 bottlings. Mouth: again a bit dull and uninspired. More citrus, sure, but not the brightest kind. More on nutmeg and liquorice. Herbal notes. Finish: medium long, a slight disappointment.
This is the kind of whisky Littlemill’s so-and-so reputation was based upon, until the wave of wonderful citrus bombs was discovered a couple of years ago. A mediocre oldie.