Nowadays most of the Port Ellen releases are from 1978/1979 (e.g. official annual releases) or 1982/1983 (e.g. recent Signatory or Douglas Laing releases). Both periods share lots of common features but a few characteristic differences as well. Would be interesting to do a comparison one day…
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982 (56,4%, Old Bothwell 2009, cask #2545)
Nose: quite citrusy at first. Hints of lemon yoghurt. Not much peat, nor smoke, but loads of vanilla and a slight floweriness. Some farmy notes as well, which I think is great. Hints of plaster. Very nice. Mouth: a blast of peat smoke which you wouldn’t expect from the nose. Quite hot, very invading and peppery. Lots of salt water, getting really mineral and bitter towards the finish (tonic with lemon zest). High on aspirin. A tad too austere for me. Finish: very long, dry, still quite bitter.
This Port Ellen has a wonderful nose, but the aspirin on the palate wasn’t exactly what I expected. Still, if your looking for a flinty, austere Port Ellen, this surely deserves your attention.
Around € 150.
Old Bothwell is a rather young company in Scotland specializing in personalised spirits gifts and exclusively labeled malt whisky. Not exactly a source for high quality whisky, I hear you say, but they’re very interesting because they own a very large array of Port Ellen casks which they probably acquired before the hype.
La Maison du Whisky selected this Strathisla cask in 2007. In fact, this 1967 vintage is still well available from a large range of bottlers.
Strathisla 40yo 1967
(50%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky 2007, cask #6112, 400 btl.)
Nose: very different – fruity but more dried fruits than the Whisky Agency bottling. Dates, figs, some tangerine. Less sweet, much more resinous (fir needles) with a few earthy notes as well (forests, cellars). Reminds me of some kinds of toilet spray (sorry, I guess we have high-end sprays at home?). Leather. Mouth: very spicy, again lots of oak influence. Some pepper, ginger, liquorice. More fruit in the aftertaste (soft peach). Finish: sweet and fruity, apricots and pears.
The amount of oak in this Strathisla for LMdW is probably on the same level as in the Strathisla for Whisky Agency, but this one has a more interesting evolution and regains its fruitiness in the finish. Good complexity, but not the cracker I expected. Still available if you look around. Actual price: € 235.
I’ll be reviewing two 1967 Strathislas head-to-head. The first one is a 42 year-old Strathisla bottled earlier this year by the German Whisky Agency in their Fossils series. It was matured in a bourbon cask.
Nose: very elegant. A soft fruit salad (plums) with hints of almonds (marzipan). Walnuts and honey. Slightly leathery. After a while, it shows a ‘green’ edge, with hints of green pine cones or very unripe fruits. Fresh herbs. Impressive and uncommon at the same time. Mouth: big oakiness, over-infused tea, some spices and liquorice. A bit of menthol. The fruit is completely overtaken by the wood now, which is a shame. Finish: not too long, on spicy oak and tea again. A fairly dry end.
Although Strathisla is known to take age better than usual, 42 years is still a lot. If you don’t mind the obvious oak, go for it. A lot to say after so many years, but certainly not perfect. Around € 200.
It was difficult to make a selection from the Carn Mor vintage collection. There’s a bit of everything, so I decided to go for whiskies I didn’t know too well.
Although it’s one of the oldest distilleries in existence, Tobermory is not very popular. Sales decreased and production capacity is limited. Apart from unpeated whisky, they also make a peated version named Ledaig.
Nose: there’s sulphur and there’s sulphur. This is the eggy type. A few mashy and grainy notes with hints of a drain. Cereals with milk. Some pears. Hints of shoe polish. 15 years really? There’s a fruity side to it, but it doesn’t shine through. Mouth: a bit cardboardy, lots of liquorice. Some nougat and caramel. Pears again and oranges. Shampoo and cologne in the aftertaste. Finish: medium length, becoming surprisingly candied and caramelly with notes of lavender.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Weird anyway and not my idea of decent whisky, so let’s not try to examine it too far. Bad choice. I’m afraid a lot of the 2744 bottles will end up in the sink.
The Hesperia Madrid is one of the best known high quality 5* hotels in Madrid. Their Scotch Bar is quite a cosy place, though a little old-fashioned.
Location: Paseo de la Castellana 57 – 28046 Madrid (Spain) Range: +/- 50 single malts (menu available without descriptions, but lots of whiskies are mentioned in the wrong region, and lots of spelling mistakes) Price: € 12,50 to € 42
What I’ve had:Glengoyne 17 Price: € 15 (+/- 6cl) Glass: tumbler (eventually changed for a cognac glass) Extra: poured at the table, ice offered separately, different nuts
Pros: generous portions, professional staff, excellent cocktails as well Cons: no clients on a Saturday evening, expensive, menu full of mistakes
This Japanese Yamazaki 1990 won a silver medal in the 2008 Malt Maniacs award (best sherry cask). It has an extraordinary, deep brown colour. Yamazaki is part of the Suntory lineup.
Yamazaki 1990 (60%, OB 2008, sherry cask #0N70645, 471 btl.)
Nose: slightly dusty, smokey sherry. Big on cocoa. Chocolate. Intense red fruits (Mon Cherie, strawberry jam). Some aniseed. Quite some wood as well, big in every aspect. More fruity notes and some coffee if you add water. Cigar leafs. Mouth: a bit too strong. With water, it’s more accesible. Lots of spices now, mostly cinnamon and pepper. Some mocha and strawberries. Tobacco. Finish: quite dry, not very long. A bit winey, with big oak influence.
Phenomenal strength. If you remember to add water though, this is a very rewarding dram. I guess it could have been even better with a few extra years of softening, although the wood influence would probably make it undrinkable by then.
Pappy Van Winkle is Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was produced by the Stitzel-Weller Distillery which ceased operations in June 1992. It means there’s probably not much 20yo spirit left. It’s now part of the Buffalo Trace imperium.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 years old
Nose: expressive. Immediately mentholated. Slightly bubblegummy / cotton candy, some darker sugar, very big notes of varnish. Tobacco and old leather. Vanilla and other more powerful spices (white pepper). Much more oak than commonly found in bourbon, but still within the limits. Slightly dusty. Mouth: hmm interestingly weird. Not very complex, pretty much on burnt caramel and liquid wood extract (does that exist?). A bit too much oak I’m afraid. Pine trees with pepper and big hints of herbal cough syrup. Unique but rather flat, lacking richness that I do find in other bourbons. Finish: not very long, woody and resinous.
This Pappy Van Winkle 20 gained a bunch of awards but for me it’s not really worth the price (around € 110). I fear bourbon has more to say at younger ages.