In December 2009 a new batch of the acclaimed Redbreast 15 Years old was launched. Four years earlier, the first edition was bottled to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of La Maison du Whisky.
The new release caused a lot of joy (and high expectations) among the fans of Irish whiskey. This inspired me to do a direct comparison between the old and the new edition. The 2009 release is already available from European retailers and the US will get it towards the end of the year.
Nose: very crisp grapefruit with sweeter notes of peach and honey. Fresh and playful. Whiffs of cut grass. Vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon. Coconut and pineapple. Papaya. A slight waxiness. Very Irish. Mouth: gentle and accessible. Again very much on grapefruit, growing spicier with hints of caramel. Some banana and citrus. A bit floral as well. Not the most complex but certainly very sippable. Finish: medium length. Delicate fruits with vanilla and hints of cocoa.
Redbreast 15 yo (46%, OB 2009)
Nose: starts in a flatter way, the fresh grapefruit and tropical fruitiness of the 2005 edition is almost gone. More cereals, more dust, more toffee. Camomile? Quite rubbery as well. Hints of nougat. After a while, fruit confit comes through, but very restrained. Mouth: basically the same differences: more spices (gingerbread, cardamom), less fruit (some bramble maybe). The stunning clarity of the 2005 release doesn’t repeat itself in this 2009 version. More green, vegetal notes. Finish: medium length with hints of gooseberry and hints of vanilla.
One thing I’ve learned is that the original Redbreast 15yo is a perfect example of a fruity and accesible Irish whiskey. The new 15yo – although still enjoyable – fails to live up to the standard set by the previous edition. Around € 65.
Redbreast 15yo (2005)
– tropical fruitiness
– fresh and delicate
– stunning clarity
Jason at Guid Scotch Drink asked me to write a guest post in his excellent ‘Say what?’ series. I tried to explain how some whiskies expose farmy notes (as you may know, I’m a big fan of subtle cow stable and manure in whisky). I wanted to publish an example of a farmy whisky and Brora 30 Years old is a perfect illustration.
Brora 30yo (55,7%, OB 2007,
6th Edition, 2958 btl.)
Nose: what did you expect? Farmy! Soft peat smoke and charcoal but also cows, manure and interesting notes of goat cheese. Horse saddle leather. Tobacco. Fresh sea breeze. Sharper notes of balm, hay, a bit of yeast… Fern forest. Camphor. Not very fruity, although I pick up soft yellow apple and citrus. Water makes it rounder and brings out a hint of vanilla sweetness. Truly unique. Mouth: very powerful and immediately maritime, with a briney hint of liquorice. Quite dry and oily. A sharp hint of mustard. Much more peated and smoked now. Takes water very well, with added notes of apple, lemon pie and ginger. Finish: long, hints of liquorice, bonfire smoke and pepper.
I can’t stop loving this one, and the 2004 edition is even better. A powerful peaty palate and a complex, balanced nose. If you’re serious about whisky, Brora 30yo is something you should have tasted. Still available, around € 275.
Craigellachie is a very active distillery, running at full capacity. It has recently opened a huge storage facility where eventually more than 10 warehouses will hold over half a million casks for the owner (Dewars) as well as for Diageo.
This Craigellachie 1984 (ex-bourbon cask) is part of the latest series by The Whisky Agency (Flowers theme). It’s a joint bottling with Daily Dram.
Craigellachie 25 yo 1984 (53,7%, The Whisky Agency Daily Dram 2009, Flowers series, 256 btl.)
Nose: starts fresh and fruity, on yellow plum, orange and grapefruit. Quite floral as well (pollen and nectar). Very creamy with notes of vanilla cream. Vanilla cupcakes and marshmallow. Latte Macchiato. Big notes of wood shavings and wax. A little leather. Some pineapple sweets after warming up. An excellent profile! Mouth: rather sweet, again lots of creamy notes mixed with vanilla and citrus tea. Yellow plums are back. Some ripe banana and apricot. Lemon. Kiwi. Frangipane. More spices now with a herbal development, really nice. Finish: spicy oak (pepper and resin), fading out on vanilla and moccha.
This Craigellachie is very fruity with a perfect amount of wood and spices. Warmly recommended, but almost sold out now. Around € 115.
Over the last few years, Tomatin had a makeover. A couple of years ago, there was just a standard 10 Year old, but nowadays they have a whole range of bottlings (12, 15, 18, 25, 30 and 40 Years old).
This single cask Tomatin 1980 was released in 2008.
(47,4%, OB 2008, cask #994, 172 btl.)
Nose: fresh start. Fruity notes (peaches, cherries) with marshmallow. Lovely passion fruits. Citrus. Some unripe banana and pineapple. Lots of vanilla. Gets a bit creamy after a while, absolutely delicious. Liquid dessert. Mouth: basically the same story with lots of fruits and notes of bubblegum and honey. Not far from some Irish profiles, but more complex I would say. Added hints of pink grapefruit. Unripe mango. Tropical but without the warmth or the sweetness that goes with it. Fresh, fruity, malty (hints of cereals) and slightly mineral. Finish: not too long. A bit more spicy notes (whiffs of ginger and cinnamon) and certainly sweeter.
A very nice Tomatin. Not cheap (around € 180) but really beautiful. Samples are available at Whiskysamples.eu
As you know, BenRiach is a Speyside distillery with a tradition of making peated batches as well. The Whisky Exchange bottled quite a few BenRiach from the 1980’s in their Single Malts of Scotland range, and most of them were really worthwhile.
This BenRiach 1984 won a silver award at the 2008 Malt Maniacs Awards.
Nose: clearly a peated version, even though it’s not at all monstrous. Nice dark ashes. Smoked ham. Surprisingly coastal for a BenRiach, with tarry ropes and whiffs of sea air. Nonetheless it’s beautifully balanced with marmalade and honey which makes this one very attractive. Hints of diesel oil. Waves of citrus. Very entertaining. Mouth: very thick and powerful. Much more peated. Really dark, almost like burnt whisky. Lots of pepper (red chilli even) but again there’s a sweet coating. Finish: a bit drier, with coal and diesel oil. Hints of liquorice.
A high quality peated Speysider, very muscular. I really loved the nose, too bad I find the peat a tad overpowering on the palate. Sold out (around € 75 at the time so great value for money).
The Glenrothes 1994 vintage has been around since 2006, at least in Europe. In the States, it was introduced at the beginning of this year and it will hit the shelves any moment now. I guess the US version is still the same batch because the label says “distilled Oct 94 – approved Apr 06”.
The 1994 vintage was composed as a lighter, stimulating and uplifting expression of The Glenrothes.
Glenrothes 1994 (43%, OB 2008)
Nose: the first few seconds are filled with buttery toffee which is typical for The Glenrothes. After that, a wave of zesty lemon shows up and make it a lot fresher. Its spring-character shows juicy pears and orange fruit gums with a touch of vanilla. Very citric. Lemon pie. Slightly flowery with hints of Cif (the cleaning cream). None of the spices that we see in older Glenrothes bottlings. Mouth: rather weak and watery. Quite malty with a fruity layer of fresh plums. Hints of hazelnuts in the aftertaste. Finish: not very long and quite soft. Pears. Light ginger and nuts.
On the nose, this is the closest to a Lowlander that The Glenrothes will probably ever get (although the trademark toffee is still there). Great to see such a variation on the distillery profile. Probably very teasing as a summer dram, although I prefer the spicier profile. A higher alcohol volume could make it more punchy as well. Around € 55.
After the standard Penderyn Madeira, let’s compare it to a sherried version. It was finished in dry oloroso sherry casks.
(46%, OB 2008, June 08 sample)
Nose: interestingly different. All sorts of fruits, from fresh mirabelle / damson and oranges to dried prunes. There’s also an artificial fruitiness to it, but it’s nicely integrated. Some green apples. Hints of freshly cut herbs and peppermint. Also a distinct butter-nuttiness (almond butter, praline, hazelnut). Pleasant. Mouth: sweet attack (banana and quite a lot of Spanish ‘membrillo’), but not very powerful. Slightly Irish in that respect. The oloroso sherry is not really noticeable as such. Quickly growing spicier (ginger, nutmeg, a little pepper). Finish: rather short on damp wood, powder sugar and honey.
Much more balanced than the standard version. Sweet and soft. Still youngish but the sherry helps to mask its age and adds depth. It would be difficult to compare this to Scotch whisky, because Penderyn has a profile of its own. Let’s see how this evolves in the following years. Around € 50.
Penderyn was founded in 1998 by four private individuals. It’s the one and only Welsh distillery and quite different from Scottish or Irish whisk(e)y because the complete process from wash to new make is done in a single still. Also, they buy their wash from a regional beer brewer instead of preparing it themselves.
At the moment there are three core expressions. This standard Penderyn is matured in bourbon barrels and finished in madeira casks. There’s also a sherried and a peated version, together with a few limited editions such as a “rich madeira” bottling.
Penderyn ‘Madeira finished’ (46%, OB 2008)
Nose: fruity and mildly perfumed. Big notes of white wine and oak. Some juicy vanilla as well. Slight apple and peach. Not bad. Stranger, dusty notes as well, mixed with hints of new-make (artificial banana). Let’s say it’s different. Mouth: malty with a few young bourbon notes: pine wood, sweet vanilla. Blood oranges. Also lokum (turkish delight) with rose water. Hints of bubble gum that are not really integrated. Gets spicier towards the finish. Finish: honeyed and sweet. Creamy toffee.
Well, I think this Penderyn would have been a lot worse without the Madeira finish, because underneath is basically immature whisky (probably around 4 or 5 years). With the wine, it’s more interesting but really focused on sweet notes and a bit mono-dimensional. Young whisky is already fruity-sweet and a Madeira cask exaggerates this. I’m sure a sherried version (reviewed tomorrow) will offer more flavour variation. Around € 40.
Please note that there seems to be a significant batch variation in Penderyn releases. Even though the bottles look identical (apart from a bottling code), Jim Murray scores the April 2007 batch 76/100 and the June 2007 batch 95/100 with everything in between. Maybe I had one of the lesser batches (my 5cl sample didn’t mention a batch code).