An independent Macallan, where do you find that nowadays? Especially from an ex-bourbon cask. It was bottled by The Whisky Agency in 2013 as a Formosa exclusive (that’s the name of Taiwan when it was in Dutch hands). Just 36 bottles…
Nose: very much on apples and pears, fairly neutral. Hints of sweet beer and Calvados. Ginger biscuits and almonds. Develops some damp leafy notes after a while and hints of porridge. After a long wait also nice orange blossom water. Mouth: very sweet, with plenty of pears and apples again, as well as berries and breakfast cereals. A funny mix of maturity and new-make. A nice waxiness as well. Honey. Thick spirit with little external influences. Finish: long, jammy, picking up both grassy notes and a little vanilla latte.
I can’t say I was hugely impressed by this kind of naked Macallan, but it’s flawless spirit. And I believe the name alone works wonders in Asia.
Tomatin Cask Strength is a limited release, launched a couple of weeks ago alongside the Tomatin Cù Bòcan Virgin Oak.
It was matured in a combination of bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks.
Tomatin Cask Strength (57,5%, OB 2015, Batch #1, 15.000 btl.)
Nose: starts a bit closed, in the sense that it’s mostly malt, vanilla and vague stewed fruits. Yellow raisins and golden syrup. Quite some milky toffee as well. There’s a bit of an alcohol prickle, which doesn’t help. Not bad, but youngish and I’m missing some of the Tomatin sparkle. Mouth: good body, malty sweetness again, with some marzipan and orange candy. Baked apple. Hints of leather. Plenty of pepper, grasses and ginger now. Evolves on nutty notes and nutmeg. Finish: long, spicy, with lingering vanilla and zests.
I’m afraid I don’t really see an added value in having this one at cask strength. Actually it seems to block some of the flavours and doesn’t manage to hide its youth. Around € 50.
I believe Malts of Scotland is one of the biggest sources of independent Glengoyne. While other indies can’t seem to get them, this German bottler keeps a steady stream of releases.
(52,9%, Malts of Scotland 2015, sherry butt, Mos 15012, 482 btl.)
Nose: bags of oranges and tangerines, mixed with a few dusty grains and hints of brown sugar. Hints of Dutch stroopwafels and latte. Toffee. Apples and plums as well. Mouth: while the nose showed a big sweetness, on the palate it’s fairly dry and spicy, with a bitter edge. Not as thick as I suspected. Seville oranges. Orangettes with dark chocolate. Soft pepper, hints of liquorice. Roasted coffee beans and grapefruit. Some burnt almonds. Finish: not too long. No new elements either. Herbs, oranges and cocoa.
While I enjoyed the nose, I found this one slightly thin and mono-dimensional on the palate. Relatively close to the official profile, with its oranges, chocolate and European oak spices. Around € 80.
The other day I realized how long it had been since I last tried a Banff. I know there was a Banff by Duncan Taylor (Tantalus) fairly recently, but that was outrageously priced, which proves how rare this distillery has become.
Nose: hay and dried flowers, with lots of metallic notes and greasy touches. Almost phenolic. Wet chalk and gravel. Hints of cooked apple and a faint honeyed note. Quite odd when you read this description, but that’s Banff. Very old-fashioned. Mouth: a bit funny again. Mustardy and peppery, with an apple / lemon sweetness to make it rounder. Lots of herbs and grasses. Heather. Quite beautiful if you appreciate some mineral sharpness. Grapefruit zest and leather. Something metallic again. Strange floral touches. Finish: medium. It takes the bittersweet notes a little further and becomes slightly bitter in the very end.
I know Banff is technically a Speyside distillery, but I find this such an old-style Highlands profile… Difficult and unsexy, but very intriguing. Given its age, not extremely expensive in auctions.
Although it has been available since mid-2014 in some markets, the Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask (quite a mouth full) is still fairly new in this part of Europe. The old 15yo Single Barrel has been replaced by a Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (bourbon cask) and this 15 Year Old Sherry Cask (from European oak Oloroso butts actually).
Fully sherry matured Balvenies have been rare so it’s nice to see they will be readily available.
Balvenie 15 yo Single Barrel ‘Sherry Cask’ (47,8%, OB 2015, cask #12093, max. 650 btl.)
Nose: I like. Fruity, elegant sherry. Bags of blood oranges and apricots. Vibrant citrus and candied citrus peel. Vanilla cake. Cinnamon and raisins. A hint of nougat. Rummy notes as well. Highly aromatic whisky. Mouth: again not an overdone, thick sherry character but a balanced, elegant profile. Some leathery touches but also toffee and candied fruits. Molasses and touches of honey. Peaches on syrup. Toasted oak, with subtle pepper and nutmeg. Finish: medium long, still fruity. Almonds, cinnamon and orange (oil).
I have a sweet spot for this kind of ‘designer’ whiskies that succeed in bringing out the aromatics of the sherry without becoming cloying or bloated. Pretty great. Around € 85.
As you know, Malts of Scotland is distributed in Belgium by Dominiek Bouckaert who is also running his own label The Whiskyman. Now they’ve released a Malts of Scotland bottling for The Whiskyman, a Coal Ila 2000.
Islay whisky is so rare these days, that only the bigger independent bottlers have access to it – and want to keep it under their own label.
Caol Ila 2000 (55,6%, Malts of Scotland for The Famous Whiskyman 2015, bourbon hogshead, MoS 15008, 198 btl.)
Nose: pretty much ticking all the boxes we’d expect from good Caol Ila. Iodine, creosote, lots of bitumen, mixed with bright citrus and sweet grains. Soaked grains in mash tun really. Green apple peelings. Lemon candy. And just a hint of almonds and vanilla. Textbook Caol Ila. Mouth: pleasantly sweet with a pretty big peaty kick. Waxy texture. Lemons again, medicinal notes, pepper and more lemons. Hints of ginger and wood spices. Smoother towards the end, warmer and ashier. Finish: long, on sweet lemons, liquorice and a hint of roasted coffee beans.
Who said Islay whisky is all about fierce peat? This Caol Ila finds an excellent balance of sharpness and roundness, with an above-average complexity. Around € 90.
The festival Whisky in Leiden 2015 is coming up in under two weeks, so it’s time to have a look at the festival bottling, an Arran Private Cask distilled in 2000 and bottled from a sherry cask.
Arran 14 yo 2000 ‘Private Cask’
(55,7%, OB for Whisky in Leiden 2015, sherry hogshead #128, 202 btl.)
Nose: starts in a dusty / waxy way. Quickly followed by lots of candied apples and hints of apricots. Honey. A rather subtle, fragrant and very jammy profile. Actually it reminds me of Balvenie in a way. Spicy notes (pepper) with some oak shavings. The juicy fruits are lovely but they struggle a little to stay on top. Mouth: bright, with some bright (slightly tropical) fruits in the fore. Apricot jam, oranges, hints of tinned pineapple and mandarin even. Honey and beeswax. A growing spiciness again, mainly pepper and nutmeg. Modern, but nicely so. Finish: medium long, drier now, on oranges and wood spices.
This one shows a profile that I haven’t seen before from Arran, with a nice fruitiness alongside firm oak spices. Good stuff and well priced: € 60. I believe the sales are temporarily on hold but the remaining bottles will be sold after the festival.
Last night I attended a Twitter tasting, which featured three expressions from the core range of anCnoc: the entry-level 12 Year Old, the recent anCnoc 2000 vintage and the really new anCnoc 18 Year Old.
anCnoc 12 Year Old is mostly matured in ex-bourbon wood, with a bit of ex-sherry casks mixed in, and therefore a classic example of anCnoc’s house style, with lots of barley sweetness, honey and citrus.
anCnoc 12 yo (40%, OB 2015)
Nose: a rather typical, bright and juicy fruitiness. Honeysuckle, sweet and sour (green) apples and plenty of floral honeys. Lemon meringue. Some berries too. Fairly light and naked but very attractive. Mouth: same idea, though maybe a tad sweeter than expected, with much more weight to it. Sweet banana, hints of vanilla custard and a little caramel sweetness. A faint beer-like malty note too. Light spices (cinnamon), hints of mocha. Apples, but more like apple pie, without the bright top notes. Finish: medium long, a mix of caramel, honey and subtle liquorice.
I’ve said it before, but I think this is a rather cracking entry-level whisky. Fairly light, but not weak. Very well made, with a price/quality ratio that’s almost impossible to beat. Usually € 35, sometimes as low as € 25 if you look around.
anCnoc 2000 was launched in September 2014 and it’s currently the only vintage alongside the premium 1975 vintage. Here the focus was more on Spanish oak ex-sherry butts (first-fill Oloroso) than on the American oak ex-bourbon barrels.
anCnoc 2000 (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: much darker and much more sherry influence indeed. Toffee and plum compote, with a cocoa dusting. Hints of nougat and crème brûlée. Just a light citrusy tingle on top. Some grassy notes / dried hay as well. Mouth: a sweet mix of vanilla and nutty notes (almonds, hazelnuts). Cocoa again. Hints of blackberries. Still a hint of citrus, as well as some pepper and nutmeg from the oak. Finish: medium long, with lingering toffee and spices.
Good whisky again. None of the dirty notes that sometimes come with sherry maturation (e.g. in the anCnoc 1996). Around € 65.
anCnoc 18 Year Old is again a combination of European oak Oloroso casks and American oak ex-bourbon casks, all of which were second-fill.
anCnoc 18 yo (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: the honey is more pronounced here, and the whole is more jammy and rounder, with some lovely blood oranges and kirsch. There’s cinnamon, sultanas and apricots, all a bit more subtle and elegant than the anCnoc 2000. A light leathery touch as well. Pretty complex. Mouth: same feeling of elegance. Oily texture. Stewed fruits, including some gooseberries. Honey glazing and vanilla pastry. Fig jam. Becomes more spicy towards the end, with subtle exotic touches. Finish: medium long, with peppery notes alongside the fruity sweetness.
Definitely my favourite in this line-up, up there with my favourite expression so far, the anCnoc 22 Year Old. Around € 85.