For the past four decades, Glen Scotia distillery had an unstable production with slow periods and mothballing. The only official bottlings were a 12 year-old and a peated version. In November 2012 they announced a major investment plan to expand their global operations. This included the launch of five new expressions and a totally new packaging.
The new presentation was not particularly well received. Most reactions I’ve seen were somewhere in between ‘alcopop style’, slightly tacky and plain awful. De gustibus… In any case I’m quite sure it will catch your attention when sitting in a shelf, so it may have the desired effect in terms of sales.
The new range is pretty dense with 10, 12, 16, 18 and 21 years old versions not far from each other. With such intermittent production (e.g. none between 1994 and 1999), I wonder whether they have enough stock to differentiate so much. Anyway the good news is that the whole range is unchill-filtered and not coloured.
Glen Scotia 16 Year Old sits in the middle of the range. It’s bourbon matured. The Aurora Borealis on the label tells you it’s part of the older expressions, and the green hue sets it apart from all others.
Glen Scotia 16 yo (46%, OB 2013)
Nose: gristy barley notes, with hints of yeast and a vague fruity sweetness in the back. Oranges and honey. Becomes quite biscuity. There’s also a mineral side to it, with some briney coastal notes and a hint of smoke. Aniseed and pepper. Mouth: fairly grainy and slightly austere. Slightly alcoholic as well. Ginger and salty liquorice. Evolves towards big, nice notes of lemon and pink grapefruit. Hints of toasty oak, ashes and a growing bitterness. Finish: medium long, still some bitterness alongside a peppery heat.
I was pleasantly surprised by the nose, but the palate can’t hide the quirky style that is common for most of the other Glen Scotia expressions I’ve tried. Around € 60.
The Whisky Agency and The Nectar of the Daily Drams have brought us a wonderful Strathmill 1974 in 2001. A very warm, beehive- and butter pastry-driven profile that I liked very much. Now there’s a Strathmill 1976.
Strathmill 37 yo 1976
(47%, The Whisky Agency ‘Stamps’ 2013, refill hogshead, 216 btl.)
Nose: a dusty profile, less warm and less fruity than the 1974’s. Dried flowers, some ferns and grist. Leather. Potpourri that has lost most of its aroma. Some anise and dried coconut flakes. Faint metallic notes as well. Hints of cake underneath. Complex with a distinct feeling of oldness. Mouth: a very strange mix of flavours. There’s coconut again, and something of watermelon. Anise and vanilla syrup. All this mixed with a kind of bitter oak juice. Floral notes and resin. Porridge. Fermenting fruits. A weird combo, not sure what to make of it but I can’t say it’s really bad. Finish: medium long, spicy and oaky, but once again there’s a syrupy undertone. White mocha maybe?
This one you should try for yourself. It’s interestingly complex and at least four whiskies in one. I think I like two or three of them. Around € 220.
Cadenhead, Scotland’s oldest independent bottler, recently revised most of its packaging. They introduced a new dumpy bottle style, a Cadenhead Creations range (also dumpy) and a cask strength Small Batch range with rectangular bottles.
It seems they wanted to celebrate this small revival with a bang, releasing whiskies that have become thin on the ground these days (Banff 1976, Caperdonich 1977 and Littlemill 1977). Some of the new bottlings received quite some praise so we’re eager to try them.
We’ll start with the 35 year old Caperdonich 1977. Never tried this vintage, let’s hope it comes close to the legendary 1972.
Caperdonich 35 yo 1977 (50,2%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry butt, 384 btl.)
Nose: starts in a rather fierce way, with polished oak and an alcohol tingle blocking most of the nose. Underneath is some beeswax and mint. Oranges and spices (ginger). A few drops of water highlight citrus and some peach jam. Mouth: a similar fruity core (apricot, citrus) alongside heavy spicy notes (pepper, ginger, mint, eucalyptus). A few waxy notes. Herbal tea and plain oak as well. Water doesn’t change it much, it stays on the resinous / minty / tannic side. Finish: more oak and spices. Drier and less thick.
Funny how Caperdonich follows its sister Glen Grant when comparing vintages. This late 1970’s production has some loud oak and doesn’t have the same amount of jammy fruitiness and beehive notes as the 1972’s. Nonetheless it’s still attractive. Around € 300 - a heavy price.
Next in the Stamps series by The Whisky Agency: Bowmore 1998 from a refill sherry butt, featuring a stamp by the Hungarian Post.
Bowmore 15 yo 1998 (52,1%, The Whisky Agency ‘Stamps’ 2013, refill butt, 719 btl.)
Nose: earthy peat with firm smoke. Leather. Some iodine. Red fruits, raisins and oranges underneath. Technically very good, and most people will welcome the combination of big peat and sherry, but I feel it’s a tad simple. There’s not much evolution. Mouth: very intense. That means a lot of smoke and earthy peat again. Quite some honey sweetness as well, so everything stays balanced. Something lemony. Herbal hints (sweet liquorice) and sugar coated nuts. Tobacco leaves as well. Finish: long, fairly sweet, smoky and spicy.
All good – find a bottle if you’re into peat and sherry. In this case I especially liked the palate for its higher complexity. The nose is clean and balanced but lacks a tiny bit of complexity in my opinion. Around € 95.
Here they are, the latest Whisky Agency releases. The new series is nicknamed Stamps and features postage stamps from different countries like the Republic of Dahomey (never heard of that one actually).
Be sure to follow my Facebook profile to stay up-to-date. Announcement of new series, the latest Diageo Special Releases and other news will only be featured there, not on this site.
Littlemill 23 yo 1990 (52,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Stamps’ 2013, refill hogshead, 332 btl.)
Nose: grassy and mineral notes for starters. Apple peelings, some walnuts. Meadow flowers. But after a while it moves to sweeter notes. Big marzipan, eventually also a jammy, slightly tropical fruitiness. Tangerines, lemon candy, apricot jam. Buttercups as well. Vanilla cake. Some candy sugar syrup. The slightest whiff of smoky oak in the background. Excellent. Mouth: sweet entry, immediately joined by zesty notes. Lemon zest. Hints of ginger, grasses and liquorice. Grapefruit and tangerines again, maybe a little mango in the background. Becomes quite waxy towards the end. Finish: quite long, sweet and spicy.
Nicely complex and grassy Littlemill, with a citrusy sharpness that comes close to Rosebank, while showing some balancing candied fruitiness as well. Around € 130.
McGibbon’s Provenance is a series of the recently halved bottler Douglas Laing. Bottlings in this series are labeled according to the particular distillation seasons through Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter. I could be wrong, but I’ve always had the impression the Provenance series contained more accessible, less outstanding whiskies as their other ranges.
This Miltonduff 2005 was distilled November 2005 and bottled during the Autumn of 2012.
Miltonduff 7 yo 2005
(46%, Douglas Laing McGibbon’s Provenance 2012, sherry butt, ref. 9239)
Nose: seems older than the age would suggest. Medium sherried, with spices (chilli and clove) and aromatic oranges (both sweet juices and zesty orange peel). Sweet malt and caramelized peanuts underneath. Some honey as well. Mouth: quite rich again, with raisins and this chilli theme again. Return of the caramelized nuts, now also chocolates with orange filling. Hints of cinnamon sugar. Finish: medium long, suddenly drier. Oak, leather and dark chocolate.
Simply a very pleasant and relatively mature sherried youngster. I’ve seen few disappointing Miltonduffs and even at this very young age they can be convincing. Around € 50.
The oldest official bottling of Lagavulin whisky ever released, the Lagavulin 30yo. There are actually two different versions; the Lagavulin 30yo (52.6%, OB, 2340 Bts.) which is destined for the UK and Europe, as well as the Lagavulin 30yo (54.1%, OB) which was available in the USA and international markets.
Lagavulin 30 yo 1976
(52,6%, OB 2006, 2340 btl.)
Nose: very subtle, at first it doesn’t even seem to be peaty. Immediately waxy, with some shoe polish and lip balm. A little heather. Moving towards sweeter notes: almonds, passion fruits, pineapple, gooseberries… Almost a tropical fruitiness! No heat and probably only half of its power left, but so great. Just soft smoke in the background. Mouth: stronger and peatier, with lots of spices from the oak (pepper, ginger, cardamom). Lots of citrus fruits now (grapefruit, oranges). Almonds again. Finish: long, smoky, with a salty twist in the very end.
Great to see the Lagavulin smokiness coupled to a nice fruitiness, something you rarely see in Lagavulin. I remember to have bought a bottle for my brother in law, back in 2008. Around € 180 in Spain at the time, now around € 1500 from TWE. I guess he owes me a dram.
In the latest batch by Whisky-Fässle, there’s a new Bunnahabhain 1990. By the looks of it a similar cask to the previous one.
Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1990
(52%, Whisky-Fässle 2013, sherry cask)
Nose: quite a lot of toasted bread to start with. Leather and soy sauce. Big jammy notes (raspberry / strawberry / figs), fading into balsamic notes. Fudge and caramel. Wee hints of sulphur and plastics as well. Maybe a little incense. First fill, high power sherry. Mouth: a sourish kind of sherry, with cough syrup, liquorice and herbal essences. Hints of resin and cloves. Galangal and gentian. Bitter oranges. Over the top in my opinion, I can’t think of many sherry bottlings as invasive as this one. Finish: long, sour and bitter as well now. Fernet-Branca springs to mind.