Cooley started distilling whiskey (both grain and malt whiskey) in copper pot stills in 1989, after having bought a distillery that produced wodka and other spirits in column stills. Since 1996, they have a peated brand named Connemara.
The 10 years old Cooley whiskey we’re reviewing now, is an independent single cask bottling of peated Connemara matured in a bourbon barrel. A bunch of similar versions by Cadenhead is available – there seems to be one release each year.
Cooley 10 yo 1992 (59,3%, Cadenhead 2003, bourbon, 234 btl.)
Nose: great peatiness, with tar and lovely farmy notes (wet dogs, sheep stable – not unlike some Broras). My favourite kind of peat I would say. Slightly medicinal as well. Nicely integrated with young, sweeter notes (candy, yellow apple). Mouth: powerful attack on citrus and peat. Grassy barley. Vanilla cream. Oak. Hints of caramel. Finish: medium length. Peat smoke and oranges. Getting drier and marginally bitter in the end.
Cooley is making good no-nonsense stuff. Complexity is not the major goal here, but the Irish peat is really unique and the end result has a lot of qualities. The recent bottlings by Cadenhead (14-16yo) cost around € 75.
This 14 years old Clynelish 1995 is part of the new The Nectar of the Daily Drams range.
Clynelish 14 yo 1995 (46%, Daily Dram 2010)
Nose: typical violet candy and waxy notes. Lemon juice. It shows a few youngish elements, with notes of marshmallow and pear drops. A bit of orange marmalade and tropical fruits. Flinty hints of chalk and limestone. Also some ginger lemonade. Not too complex but very expressive. Mouth: fat and oily attack, again very fruity and sweet. Yellow apples, grapefruit. Very much on fruit candy now. Lemon balm. Almonds. On a second level, there are spicy notes (pepper, hints of curry maybe?), cashew nuts and hints of mocha. Paraffin in the aftertaste. Finish: half sweet, half spicy. Quite long.
A fine dram, that’s for sure. Highly drinkable as well. Around € 60.
ps/ As often these days, a higher strength version (53%) of the same cask is available from The Whisky Agency. These bottlers are sharing most of their casks lately, even though they don’t mention it.
This Macallan 12 Years old was distilled in the first half of the 1970’s and sold exclusively at the Hong Kong airport. That’s why the label mentions HKDNP (Hong Kong Duty Not Paid).
Macallan 12 yo ‘HKDNP’ (43%, OB 1980’s, 1 litre)
Nose: not as fresh as I had hoped. There are big notes of mothballs (naphtalene) that are very hard to get over. Musty and stale with traces of mushrooms and sulphur. Let’s wait for another half hour and try again…
Nose: better now, but really old-style (probably still coal-fired?). Notes of red fruits, some raisins. A little tar and ashes. Coffee. Overall quite fat. Slightly disappointing (I had heard a lot about this Macallan) but interesting as an antiquity. Mouth: much better. Very creamy with hints of leather and nice fruits with crystallized oranges and prunes. Sherried but not too much. Sultanas. Cinnamon. A little praline. Kind of an artificial sugary aftertaste. A smoky / ashy hint as well. Finish: medium length, on cherry candy and orange marmalade.
The nose was a bit difficult to appreciate but the palate is very balanced and truly classic, which for the most part made up for the lower score of the nose. I’m glad I tasted it (Marc Segers had a bottle on offer during the latest whisky festival in Ghent).
This Hakushu 1981/2003 was the first cask of Hakushu ever to be bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a Japanese oak cask.
Hakushu 21 yo 1981 (60,7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 2003, SMWS 120.1, 373 btl.)
Nose: where do I start… the nutmeg maybe, which is quite big. A lot of sawdust as well, and cigar boxes. Roasted nuts and coffee beans. Quite a toasted profile overall. Damp moss and ferns. A bit of caramel. After a while, there are hints of fruits and ginger. Very unique but not for beginners. Mouth: very woody. Very powerful of course, and a tad alcoholic. Let’s add water right away. Still very oaky with added notes of mint. Roasted almonds? A hint of burnt vanilla. Coriander. Getting spicy with pepper and ginger. A bit extreme. Finish: spicy and oaky.
You’ll love this one or simply hate it because of the heavy oak and the toasted / burnt notes. I like it, but it’s not an everyday dram. Anyway, very uncommon and ‘intellectual’. Around € 250 but I’m afraid you won’t find this one any more.
ps/ I’m suffering from a cold which makes it impossible to taste new whisky. I’ll publish a few older notes but I’m going to take it easy for a few days.
This Linkwood 1989 was matured for over 20 years in an ex-bourbon cask. It was bottled by Malts of Scotland in January 2010.
Linkwood 20 yo 1989 (53,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 1826, 263 btl.)
Nose: quite sharp and alcoholic at first. Rather neutral flavours to be honest (malt, cereals, freshly sawn wood). Hints of rosewater (quite typical for Linkwood – more noticeable with a few drops of water). Some vanilla. Apples. Mouth: more or less the same remarks. Strong but not very complex. Pepper. Green apples. Citrus tea. After a while, it gets tannic and really gingery. Grains. Hints of tonic with a slice of lemon. Quite dry. Water doesn’t help to improve, it even becomes slightly perfumy. Finish: long, spicy. The bitter tonic is quite dominant.
This Linkwood is not my favourite bottling among the new releases by Malts of Scotland. Not bad, but overshadowed by the other new bottles on offer. The overall quality of this bottler is still very high. Around € 90.
I’m not a big fan of young Springbank, but the fact that Springbank 10 Years old picked up an award at the recent World Whisky Awards 2010 made me want to review it in depth. I’ll do a direct comparison between the 2008 batch and the restyled 2009 batch.
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB 2009, batch 09/434)
Nose: a classic Springbank profile with a wide range of aromas. Starts on tangerine, with added notes of lemon peel, green apples and pears. Dry oak. Maritime notes with a bit of ‘wet dog’. Hints of sharp, earthy peat as well. After a while, the fruitiness becomes bigger and rounder. Mouth: very oily and extremely coating. Very peaty as well, much more peat than I expected. Rather spicy, with mostly pepper and nutmeg coming out. Roasted nuts in the background. A faint hint of sour notes (vinegar?) in the aftertaste. Becomes a bit perfumed with water, so I recommend it straight. Finish: long, peaty and briney.
This is a surprisingly complex dram. A very consistent opener of the range! Around € 35.
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB 2008, batch 08/82, 35cl)
Nose: this version clearly shares the same basic elements, but the end result is less appealing. Still some tangerine, but it misses the sparkling freshness. Lots of strawberries with cream, quite spectacular. A bit more wine influence I would say, with dried fruits and even a few dirty traces. Hints of sesame oil (I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this in a whisky before but it’s clearly there). Mouth: maybe a tad less fat and a tad less peaty. More spices though. Less different than on the nose, but still it misses the balance of the 2009 version. Hints of heather honey that I didn’t find in the newer version. Finish: medium length, less briney and more malty. Very dry.
This Springbank 10yo is less complex and a bit rougher. Let’s be glad the current version is definitely the better choice.
Afterwards, I found out it won in the category “Best Campbeltown under 12 years” which probably limits the number of contenders to.. two? three maybe? Never take whisky competitions too seriously!
The new Daily Dram bottlings are now called The Nectar of the Daily Drams which is a nifty word play with the old name and the name of the bottler (The Nectar). I’m not sure why they did this, maybe because they are now bottled exclusively for Belgium and the previous range was a co-production with the Dutch importers Bresser & Timmer?
The label design has changed as well, for the better I think. The new labels use modern colour combos, interesting pictures and a clean typography.
I know a lot of people are looking out for this 27 years old Port Ellen 1982 so let’s try this one first.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1982 (53%, Daily Dram 2010)
Nose: peaty and coastal. Seems to hold the middle between a briney, mineral profile and a more warm profile. There’s praline, marzipan, pears and vanilla but also sharper grassy notes, boat ropes and hints of citrus. Smoked bacon. After a while, there’s lovely cider apple. The complexity is quite excellent, and on the nose this is more elegant than most other 1980’s Port Ellens I’ve tried. Water amplifies the sour notes and adds a few candied, fruity notes. Mouth: rather creamy, with enough lemon marmalade to counterbalance the peat. Sugared lemon. A bit of ginger and oak. Again hints of marzipan. Water brings out cardamom, leather and lemon desserts. Mouth: long, smokey and rounded.
I’m sure this Port Ellen will be difficult to find in a couple of days. Around € 200. Totally worth it.