Let’s try another member of the Glenfarclas Family Casks. While the Family Cask 1990 was obviously an excellent first fill sherry cask, this 1977 vintage (cask #61) was a refill butt – hence the lighter colour. It was bottled in November 2006.
Glenfarclas 1977 Family Cask
(59%, OB 2006, cask #61, 582 btl.)
Nose: the other side of Glenfarclas, more “naked” and true to the original spirit. Grains with a dash of honey. Heather and fresh herbs (marjoram?). Spicy as well, with some mint and soft pepper. After a while subtle fruits come out, like apricots and yellow raisins, but not enough to make this a balanced nose. Mouth: much sweeter and fruitier, but still rather grainy. Plenty of spices again (mainly pepper and cloves). Slightly waxy. Faint sherry influence with cocoa notes in the aftertaste. Finish: remarkably short, but warm and enjoyable. Hints of vanilla.
I’m not sure of this one. The heavy spices and strong malty notes are not entirely my style. A bigger fruitiness would have been welcome. Around € 260.
Glengoyne distillery is launching a very special bottling. Each Christmas from now until 2014, they will take 70 litres from a single cask of Glengoyne (oloroso cask #790 distilled in 2002) and make 100 bottles available in the distillery shop.
As the filling level of the Christmas Cask becomes lower, evaporation and maturation speed will increase. It’s an interesting experiment and a great chance to follow the maturation of one specific cask throughout the years.
Bottles will be available on 28th of December, priced £ 100.
Glenfarclas Family Casks is a collection of single casks from each year between 1952 and 1994. Since the launch in 2007, some vintages were released multiple times. This 1990 cask #5095 was part of release 5.
Glenfarclas 1990 Family Cask (56,5%, OB 2010, cask #5095, 459 btl.)
Nose: great sherry power. Plenty of thick sherry, dark rum & raisins, demerara sugar, cherry liqueur. Some toffee and nutty notes. Very juicy and much richer than I expected from a 1990 cask. Water makes it more fragrant with hints of polished wood and apples with cinnamon. Mouth: again juicy, lively and full of flavour. Loads of oranges, dried fruits and plums. The oak comes marching in as well, which makes it drier and a bit herbal towards the finish. Water hardly changes it – an extra hint of mocha maybe. Finish: long and drying on oranges, spices and tannins.
This one takes the intense profile of Glenfarclas 105 and develops it a bit further, with quite some added oak but still an impressive balance. Juicy oloroso and plenty of punch at cask strength. Be prepared
for a heavy price tag though: around € 170.
A special treat for the holidays?
For their 17 and 21 years old expressions, Old Pulteney uses a mixture of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. For the 17 this is mostly oloroso and PX sherry (European oak), while the Old Pulteney 21 years relies mostly on the drier, sharper fino sherry (American oak). The amount of sherry casks versus bourbon is around one third.
Old Pulteney 21 yo (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: on a first level, quite spicy (ginger, mint) while showing the coastal character of the distillery. On a second approach, it turns out to be more complex than younger expressions, with notes of cereal bars, some vanilla, leather, a little wax and faint phenols. Not exactly fruity, but there’s plenty of nice apple notes. Mouth: sweet start but again not a fruity sweetness – more like toffee and honey. The centre is full of malty flavours. Turning to dry flavours, spices and a little salt. Some ginger and orange peel. Finish: long and warming, with malt, pepper and smooth oak.
All the typical Old Pulteney elements are here, but they’re muted by the age. The emphasis is on the spices and sweet malt which makes me prefer the younger versions. Around € 110.
This Old Pulteney 21yo has just won the World Whisky of the Year award in the 2012 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Do I agree with his record-equaling 97.5 points? I’m afraid not. Although it’s definitely a fine whisky, and although Old Pulteney is taking big steps forward in terms of recognition, I’ve had better drams this year.
Ardmore, a sister distillery of Laphroaig in the Beam Global portfolio,is one of the non-Islay distilleries that produce peated spirit (around 14 ppm). This expression was distilled in February 1990 and matured in a “wine treated barrel” (a newish or revived cask that was quickly impregnated with (sherry) wine instead of actually holding the wine for maturation purposes – a practice that we often see with Signatory lately).
Signatory Vintage released a series of similar casks in the past. They seem to have a significant stock of Ardmore 1990 and 1992.
Nose: pungent, clean peat, without medicinal notes, as often with peated Speysiders. Earthy notes of dry hay, heather and chalk. Some vanilla and apple. A bit herbal as well. Mouth: starts quite salty and peaty with cereal notes and liquorice. A floral touch as well which clearly marks this as non-Islay again. Then gaining a bit of sweetness with almonds and heather honey. Hints of bread crust. Finish: clean, bittersweet with some iodine.
Heavily peated in a very clean way. An alternative to Islay whiskies that doesn’t make me wild –
I would have guessed it was much younger.
Around € 70.
Port Charlotte was revived by Bruichladdich in 2001. After having seen mostly 2001 bottlings (including all the Port Charlotte PC5, PC6, PC7… releases), Whisky-Doris has now bottled a 2002 bourbon cask.
Port Charlotte 7 yo 2002 (63,5%, Whisky-Doris 2010, cask #1171, 298 btl.)
Nose: a very strong, high density nose of ashes and soot. Some pencil shavings and graphite. Biting alcohol as well (oh really?). Also nice hints of cigars. Water adds a little vanilla, iodine and wet wool. Slightly farmy. Sweet grassy notes as well. Mouth: too aggressive for me, at least when undiluted. Very peaty, very raw – a throat burner. More accessible with water. Lemon and salt combo. A bit of sweetness as well (sugared cereals, grapes, a hint of vanilla). Very smokey. Finish: long, like an ashtray.
I’m not a big fan of whisky that’s so peaty that it becomes difficult to detect other aromas. Peatheads will be delighted though! Available for € 60.
Scottish Castles is a range of whiskies bottled for the German company Jack Wiebers Whisky World. Each expression features a famous Scottish castle on the label (Crathes castle in this case). This Longmorn 1974 was part of the 8th series.
Its sister cask #3494 was a bourbon hogshead bottled for The Whisky Fair in 2006, so it’s probably safe to think this was an ex-bourbon cask as well.
Longmorn 28 yo 1974 (46%, Jack Wiebers
Scottish Castles 2003, cask #3495, 132 btl.)
Nose: starts on varnish and a little turpentine. After fifteen minutes of breathing, it has developed an excellent fruity profile with ripe honeydew melon, peaches, and soft vanilla. Great hints of strawberries and cream! Pleasant resinous notes without being oaky. A little mint. Lovely nose. Mouth: good impact, rather oily and very smooth. Showing some pink grapefruit and sweeter marmalade fruits. Some heather honey. Then a cocoa note. A little mint again. It must have been superb at cask strength. Finish: long, with spices as the main ingredient. Not dry though. Plenty of vanilla in the end.
An elegant Longmorn. Both bourbon and sherry versions of this distillery can be great at such an age. Difficult to find now – around € 200.
Mara is a special place for whisky enthousiasts. Founders Roland Puhl and Carsten Ehrlich are whisky legends and walking encyclopaedias.
Their basement in the nice German town called Limburg an der Lahn is part whisky store (only classics, many of them not yet discovered by the whisky community), part “pilgrimage place” where whisky lovers from Germany (and further away) come to spend a nice evening. I was lucky enough to join Luc Timmermans (thanks again) so most of the time I was simply listening to what all these experienced connoisseurs had to say.
Most of the evening was filled with an extensive overview (and tasting) of Carsten’s recent bottlings in the Whisky Agency series. It’s amazing how many expressions he has released in the last couple of months. The tasting tempo was too high to take notes, but all I can say is they are all worth a try. Not one of them is below par, and some are absolutely stunning.
Here are just five of my personal highlights, in no particular order:
Glenallachie 39 yo 1971 (51,2%, Perfect Dram)
Not the most popular distillery. Very good albeit a little quirky. Fruity with old-style elements.
Brora 28 yo 1982 (52,3%, Perfect Dram)
All-round Brora with wax, smoke, citrus, herbs… Also available in a Daily Dram version.
BenRiach 34 yo 1975 (50,6%, cask 3061)
Classic 1970’s BenRiach fruits, quite tropical and honeyed. A good match for the renowned 1976’s.
Ben Nevis 42 yo 1968 (40%, Private Stock)
This can only come from Ben Nevis. Nougat, soft fruits, leather, wax… Stunning and very (very) limited.
Glen Scotia 38 yo 1972 (40,1%, Private Stock)
Old-style fruitiness, beehive notes and pleasant dust. A little soft on the palate maybe, but a unique expression.
All of these would score well into the 90’s. The downside of the eminent quality is clear: the demand is extremely high and most of the Whisky Agency releases are sold out in a couple of days. Some of them don’t even reach major retailers outside of Germany, and reviewing them doesn’t make much sense – the advice will be too late anyway.
After the recent stuff and a lovely pizza (tradition, you know), we went into the cellars to crack open a few oldies. No matter how broad your whisky knowledge, a large part of the collection is unknown to anyone, so there’s always some doubt about what to choose.
Port Ellen 11 yo 1981 Wilson & Morgan (stunning young Port Ellen, so different from current releases)
Longmorn 28 yo 1974 Scottish Castles (review coming soon)
Caperdonich 35yo 1972 for The Whisky Fair (excellent nose, very rich)
A head-to-head of two old Bowmore 8yo’s (although apparently similar, they showed major differences – only one of them was convincing to me)
a 1970’s bottling of Bunnahabhain 12yo
We ended the evening with an out-of-this-world dark sherry Islay whisky of which the name is top secret (sorry). It’s a very old bottle anyway and chances are very low that another one would show up. Too bad, but good Lord, what a magnificent whisky!
I was told there are plans to sell most of the collection and close the cellar down. That’s a logical decision given the time-consuming activities for Whisky Agency and The Whisky Fair, but it’s still a important chapter that will disappear from our whisky book. I’m glad I was able to experience it.