Peaty, but not overwhelming. Very round, with even less smoke and iodine on the nose than the Cairdeas. Lemon and sweet apple. Vanilla. Nice coastal notes which grow stronger if you add a drop of water. Powerful mouth. I really like the fact that there are different waves of flavour that seem to come and go: lemon at first, then getting spicier and hotter, a small peat explosion with a pinch of salt and afterwards notes of Napoleon lemon sweets (without the sour centre that is) and lemon pie with distant ashes. A parade of typical Laphroaig notes. Long, sweet finish.
Not a cheap dram (almost € 100) but a Laphroaig cask with a lot to offer. Sold out according to The Nectar, but a few stores still seem to have stock.
Only 2% of the production of The Glenrothes is used for single malt bottlings. The majority is used in blends such as Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse. Interestingly, since 1993, they release vintage bottlings, each of a single year, instead of focusing on certain ages like most distilleries do. This is the result of Glenrothes being distributed by Berry Bros & Rudd, whose core business is selling wine.
I have a weak spot for The Glenrothes, especially because I think they have the nicest bottle design on the market (although Bruichladdich also realized that attractive design can boost sales).
The 1975 was launched in 2006 and is the rarest Glenrothes vintage ever. Only 3708 bottles were made available of this 31 year old whisky, and at the moment it’s almost extinct (expect to pay € 350 if you find one).
The Glenrothes 1975 31y
(43%, OB 2006)
Fruity nose (peach, orange), lots of vanilla. Hints of honey coated nuts as well. Really streamlined with a balanced wood influence. Mouth: big grapefruit coming through together with almonds and more vanilla. Soft finish on spices (lemongrass, pepper, cinnamon) with chocolate. It could have been more powerful (why not try 46% like other brands?) but it’s still very satisfying and harmonious. A showcase of Speyside.
John Hansell’s website announced a new range of Glenmorangie ”private expressions” today. The Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX will be the first release in this series. It will be finished in Pedro Ximenez casks, the darkest, richest type of sherry with intense notes of raisins and syrup (dessert wine of course).
It’s said to be fruity (raisins, coconut, banana, apple) and light, sort of an aperitif whisky.
Glenmorangie Sonnalta will be available in travel retail only for around € 70.
I will be reviewing most of the current Glenmorangie expressions (Original, Lasanta, Nectar d’Or, Quinta Ruban, Signet) in the next couple of weeks, by the way.
Let’s have another sample from my Advent Calendar. A very old blend, distilled during the reign of King George V: John Haig Gold Label, bottled in the 1940’s!
Haig Gold Label (40%, OB, 1940’s)
Quite a ‘dirty’ colour, hazelnut with a slight green hue. Nose: lots of roasted and burnt notes: really dark caramel, coffee, truffle, ‘beurre noisette’, buttered toast… you get it. Lots of toffee notes and a slight whiff of smoke. It gets ‘darker’ up to the point where a few off-notes become noticeable, like sulphur, dirt bin and some yeast. Special and interesting in its own way, but still a bit weird. Rather weak on the palate, with the same types of flavours. Coffee, burnt caramel, sweet almonds. Some bitter notes, like cloves. The aftertaste is short.
This dram had to grow on me. At first, I was overpowered by the burnt notes and it took me some time to appreciate its profile. Still, I’m grateful for having tasted a part of whisky history.
It would be unfair to score this one. I don’t have any references for this kind of whisky and it wouldn’t matter anyway because this whisky is almost gone. TWE is selling a few bottles (€ 200 – 250).
Glenfarclas has a big tradition of maturing whisky in sherry casks, and the Glenfarclas 105 is one of the current corner stones of this tradition. It was introduced in 1968 and the first commercially available cask strength bottling. 105 means 5 over proof which is 60% alcohol.
A limited, 40 years old version of the 105 is currently available as well. It scores 96 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and was chosen the single malt of the year in the 40+ category. Unfortunately the retail price is £ 550 so we’ll have to do with the regular 105.
Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB)
This looks like liquid bronze if you see the colour. Nose: intense oloroso sherry with some toffee flavours. Red fruits, apples and grapes. After warming up, it gets ‘darker’ and meatier. Mouth: the sherry again, honey and dark sugar. Raisins. Lots of spicy stuff as well (chili, ginger). There’s liquorice, pear and milk chocolate in the finish. Becomes oakier and much drier.
This whisky has some really intense flavours. Together with the alcohol volume, I’m sure it won’t be appreciated by everyone. For me though, this is a very satisfying and balanced. It’s one of the bottes that I take from the shelf most often.
I don’t have a clear-cut opinion on Bowmore. My first experiences were very bad (think of the Dusk, Dawn, Darkest bottlings). Independent releases were always clearly better though, and there seems to have been a turning point in the 1990’s which improved the OB’s as well.
This Single Malts of Scotland bottling is from a sherry butt which is not very common for Bowmore.
At first, the nose is closed with only some dusty mineral notes. After a few minutes at hand temperature, it really opens up: pipe tobacco, nice liquorice and old leather books. Also coffee, Oaxaca chocolate (Mexican chocolate, lighter and spicier than the product we know in Europe), pepper and an array of coastal hints. Really complex, no need to taste this too soon! Fantastic balance. Although both components are present, this is not a young peat or smoke bomb on the nose, and it seems older than it actually is. Mouth: really impressive. Instant wave of sweet peat and smoke. After that, a wave of sherry with rich spices (cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper again) and wet forest notes in the distance. Great how the sherry and the whisky keep fighting, with a nice draw in the end. Finish: slightly bitter notes, a bit salty as well. More chocolate and tobacco. Long aftertaste.
Impressive. Big whisky and magnificent value for money (at around € 60). Score: 91/100.
Laphroaig Cairdeas (pronounced more or less like ‘gorgeous’ and gaelic for ‘friendship’) was a limited edition for the 2008 Feis Ile (Islay festival). It’s a blend of quarter casks (up to 9y) with a few older sherry butts (17y).
Laphroaig Cairdeas (55%, OB 2008, 3600 btl.)
Nose: condensed, with relatively subdued peat and smoke. The fireplace is softened by vanilla, sweet barley and hints of marzipan. Lemon and salt as well. Mouth: barbecue, the usual medicinal and peaty notes but everything seems to be covered in a layer of toffee, caramelized almonds and lemon candy. The aftertaste is sweet as well but gets a lot drier after a while.
It’s a rich dram but in my opinion a little bit out of focus. The nose is nice but relatively shy, the taste is quite sweet, the finish quite dry. Some say this is one of the best Laphroaigs of the last couple of years. I’m not one of them, I’m afraid.
Investment tip: TWE still has stock (£ 50) while on eBay it is sold for more than 100 euro.
With the current rate of the British Pound, I decided to place an order at The Whisky Exchange, which has a huge choice of current as well as older bottlings. Not to forget their excellent range of Single Malts of Scotland releases.
TWE publishes delivery estimates on its website: 3-4 business days for Western Europe. After a few days, it was clear that they couldn’t keep that promise: the online order tracking kept telling me that my order was being printed and processed. After 5 business days I called the (very friendly) sales department and a few hours later everything was being shipped. I suppose it took them so long because some bottles were out of stock (why don’t they give any information on that?), or maybe the packaging guy fell asleep. Some detailed explanation (or simply stock indications on the site) would have been helpful.
The package was delivered within 48 hours after the shipping confirmation (7 days after placing the order). I’m not complaining; it was an example of careful handling, each bottle having its own compartment in the box. More than 20 whiskies are now waiting for a review…