A few weeks ago, Jean-Luc from Connosr told me about a new series in their online magazine Connosr Distilled. I was asked to present one of the lost distilleries.
While I have a few favourites among the closed / silent distilleries, most of them have quite a lot of fame and are well-known: Brora, Port Ellen, Caperdonich, St. Magdalene… So I decided to go for a lesser known distillery that is even rarer and surprised me a couple of times with its outstanding quality: Glenugie.
Old Pulteney is produced in the northernmost distillery on the mainland of Scotland. As a former herring port, the town of Wick is located by the sea and this affects the whisky of the Pulteney distillery.
This is an ex-bourbon single cask (brought in from Laphroaig distillery) that can only be acquired by hand-filling your bottle at the distillery. I’ve heard it’s still available. The cask was filled on 30/10/1990 so it will soon be a
Old Pulteney 19 yo 1990 (57,4%, OB 2010,
cask #5253, distillery only)
Nose: an elegant combination of maritime notes (sea air, salt flakes, wet beach) and honeyed citrus. It balances between dry aromas (manzanilla style) and a sweet, lovely fruitiness with hints of coconut. I also get some vanilla cake and whiffs of freshly sawn wood. A great combination really. Little or no signs of peat. Mouth: powerful attack, very dry and a little earthy now with notes of herbal tea. Quite some spicy notes (ginger, liquorice). A minimal fruity side (coconut and honey). Quite bitter. Definitely hints of peat now. Water rounds it off and makes it sweeter. Finish: dry and herbal with a salty edge. Medium long.
A dry and maritime malt – recommended if you like Manzanilla sherry, I’d say. Not very complex but it harmonizes nicely and has plenty of character. Around € 90.
ps/ Not really whisky-related, just sponsored by Old Pulteney “The genuine maritime malt”: the Row to the Pole expedition.
GlenDronachhas recently built a solid reputation with its new OB’s and yearly single casks. Independent releases are scarce under the new owners but Malts of Scotland has proven it knows how to acquire special casks.
A similar cask #197 was released shortly after as an official bottling – it was available at the distillery only.
GlenDronach 14 yo 1996 (57,2%, Malts of Scotland 2010, oloroso cask #195, 287 btl.)
Nose: very thick and heavy. Chocolate coated raisins. Toffee and balsamic syrup. Prune jam. Lots of nutty aromas (walnut, hazelnut butter, Nutella) and bread crust with honey. Milk chocolate. A few herbal (Maggi) notes as well. Mouth: also very heavy – sweet and sticky. Mocha. Roasted nuts. A little pepper. Stewed fruits and prunes. Dark chocolate. Dates and figs. Walnuts. Finish: Quite long, totally on dark cherries and chocolate sauce.
This is thicker than a’bunadh… thicker than other GlenDronach as well. It’s not bad (not at all) but I think it’s slightly over the top and too focused on the sherry. It is probably great as a sauce for vanilla ice cream, I will try that as soon as I have the chance. Around € 60.
This Allt-a-Bhainne (pronounced ‘Olt-er-Vane’) is from Murray McDavid, the independent bottler related to Bruichladdich. After the normal maturation in American oak, it was ACE’d in new French oak casks.
Allt-a-Bhainne was founded in 1975 under the Chivas Brothers flag and mothballed in 2002 with production re-starting in 2005.
Allt-a-Bhainne 12 yo 1996
(46%, Murray McDavid 2008, 1500 btl.)
Nose: a very cereal kind of nose. Notes of malt and bread. Biscuits. A few musty elements. With some hand warmth, brighter and slightly tropical fruity notes step forward, but they seem to disappear really soon. A bit disappointing, not much happening here besides the malty core. Mouth: again full of cereal notes. Now clearly fruity: pear, apple, kiwi… but a little flat as well and the same kind of dustiness. Moreover it’s too focused on the spicy flavours from the new oak. Finish: rather short, with a simple sugar cane sweetness.
Not exactly bad, but there are plenty of other 12yo drams to choose from, so don’t bother.
Available for € 40.
Glenrothes bottlings by Duncan Taylor from 1968/1969/1970 casks have proven to be solid choices. This Glenrothes 1970 is closely related to the one bottled for The Nectar (cask #10567) last year.
Glenrothes 35 yo 1970 (43,5%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2006, cask #10574, 162 btl.)
Nose: instant fruitiness, with banana, apricot, passion fruits and pineapple. Plenty of youth here. Some green notes (mint, herbs) and spices (cinnamon, vanilla). A little honey. Mouth: gentle attack but not too soft. I get some almonds and fruits, together with oak and spices. Pine resin. Faint hints of sweet gingerbread. Banana. Powdered sugar and a hint of cocoa. Less superb than on the nose, and a tad less complex than sister casks. Finish: long, with apricot marmalade and sweet lemonade.
These old Glenrothes are really recommended, although they are slowly reaching their limits. Keeping them in the cask much longer will cause some of them to drop below the minimum strength (like the Glenrothes 1969 in the Lonach series) or become too woody. Around € 125 at the time. Now difficult to find, but keep your eyes open for similar releases.
Port Ellen PE1 was talk of the town in 2009. It was highly sought after with exceptional prices in auctions. Its successor, Port Ellen PE2, was sold out in just around 24 hours, but the hype seemed a bit smaller afterwards.
With Port Ellen PE3 knocking on the door, it’s time to review PE2.
Port Ellen Pe2
(59,5%, Elements of Islay 2010, 50 cl.)
Nose: starts on very dark chocolate and gunpowder. Notes of burnt wood that seem less strong in PE1. There’s a sherried sweetness in the background, but it’s not extremely fruity (no apples or raspberry like in PE1). Instead there’s an organic / slightly dirty / damp side to it that I find a bit difficult to appreciate. Aged meat. A rather dominant smell of a tyre shop. Some tobacco and liquorice. Quite “dark” overall – PE1 seems fresher and more vibrant. Water highlights the sulphury matchsticks and mustiness. Mouth: intense with coal smoke, soot and tar. The peat is nicely countered by cocoa sweetness and spices but again the fruitiness is buried deep inside. Chili and ginger. Grows drier and spicier over time, with added notes of liquorice. Water doesn’t add much, it just gets less powerful. Finish: medium length, rather sweet with hints of pepper and savoury meat sauce.
Sometimes it’s a fine line… when tasting PE2 on its own, it seemed very similar to PE1, although I couldn’t put my finger on the differences. After a direct comparison, it’s clear that the successor is sweeter yet less fruity, with a slightly bigger focus on sulphury notes and rubber. Around € 140 at the time, now sold out (unless you want to pay much more).
Port Ellen PE3
(54%, Elements of Islay 2010, 50 cl.)
The third heir in the PE family – PE3 – has been announced. Judging by the colour, it will not be a sherry cask this time. It’s safe to expect a completely different profile.
It will be bottled at 54% and sold for € 215,
a significant step up from the previous editions
(i.e. € 300 for 70cl – probably not far from the official Port Ellen 10th release). Keep an eye on the TWE or LMdW websites if you want to get this.
Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries is a book wirtten by Gavin D. Smith with pictures by Graeme Wallace.
It’s a handy guide and probably the first true tourist’s companion focusing on distilleries. It’s well-written with concise information about the distilleries, with a big focus on their visitor facilities: a short description of what they provide, different tours, written guides, contact information, timetables, admission fees etc. The small space for the date of visit and the signature of the distillery manager is a nice idea!
The first 70 pages are about whisky trails, major cities and transportation between different regions.
Apart from the short distillery histories or the descriptions of the house styles, it’s not a book you’d want to read at bedtime. It’s really a guide with practical info for those planning a tour of Scotland. Therefore it relies on up-to-date information and will often need a revision (with the year of publishing on the cover maybe?).
A must-have when you’re going on a distillery trip.
Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries
GW Publishing 2010
This is post n°500. No need to thank me, thank YOU for visiting this blog so often. Most people suggested to celebrate with the Laphroaig 1964 / 1981, so here it is…
Remember that it’s only 16 or 17 years old, it spent much more time in the bottle than in the cask. It has a unique yellow-brown colour – almost none of the red hues that we find in other sherry casks.
Nose: okay, let’s take it step by step. First step: quiet, almost velvety sherry. I wouldn’t say this was an Islay whisky. Step two: it IS an Islay whisky. There’s deep tobacco, some smoke, cold ashes and precious types of wood (cedar). Step three is where it all comes together with beautiful fruits, prunes, dates, berries… Lovely mocha. Old leather, a bit of musk. Toasted bread. Subtle oak polish. Something minty and metallic. Also, the coastal elements are superb. It’s very complex and perfectly smooth. I’m especially fond of the tobacco / fruit mix. Mouth: very gentle and round, with some dates and sweet marmalade. Still a surprising amount of earthy smoke, although it turns out a bit weak and watered down. It keeps growing smokier with plain soot before turning slightly metallic and more briney, with liquorice and ashes and a cocoa edge. Finish: medium length, dry and faintly herbal / bitter. Still very ashy.
Impressive how there are so many flavours in a wonderful balance. I guess the 30 years in glass had some effect, but it’s still an excellent showcase of the qualities of old-style sherry matured Laphroaig.