Cutty Sark is a blend of around 20 Scotch whiskies, with Glenrothes being the major component (both brands are owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd).
Cutty Sark 18y (43%, OB, blend)
Nose: fruity (peach, orange) and honeyed. A bit of sherry, vanilla, cereals and very light hints of smoke. Mouth: soft and sweet. Toffee, caramel, lots of oranges (Cointreau) and other fruit. Spicy edge and something vaguely chemical. Rather weak attack, but it grows bolder, to a sweet, warm and smokey finish.
It’s quite elegant and smooth, very drinkable and more complex than you would expect from a blend. But for its price (€ 50-60), you could also buy a good single malt.
It’s not easy to live in Spain if you’re into whisky. Prices tend to be high here due to higher taxes, and although Spain is one of the biggest whisky markets in the world, they drink blends with Coke most of the time. Even in Madrid, there are only 2 or 3 stores with a decent collection of single malts and they only survive because they also sell wine.
I was delighted when I read about the Glenfarclas 1990 in this year’s Whisky Bible. It scores a whopping 95,5 and… it’s only available in Spain! At last, a previlege for me and my amigos! I tracked this bottle down and went out to get it…
Glenfarclas 1990 – The Family Malt Collection
(43%, OB 2006)
Nose: classic oloroso nose on dried oranges and raisins. Slightly smoked as well. Some pine wood, vanilla and honey. Figs. Hints of balsamico. A bit of mint. Mouth: full-bodied, quite oily. Lots of sherry again (prunes, dates…), with waves of sweeter flavours and vanilla. Chocolate and hints of coffee. The finish is quite dry and nutty, with a wonderfully warm aftertaste on milk chocolate and fruit jam. Some smoke and spices as well.
Does it deserve such a high score? I’m afraid it doesn’t, but it depends on your scoring system. In any case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s a perfectly balanced sherry bottling that contains all the classic flavours in the right amount, I’m sure it will appeal to every sherry lover. Considering the price (+/- € 50 which is € 10 less than the standard Glenfarclas 15y here), this is an absolute bargain.
ps/ If you want to buy this one, and you happen to be in Madrid, visit the excellent Bodega Santa Cecilia
Longrow is the peated whisky brand from Springbank distillery. This Longrow CV (curriculum vitae) is made of 3 vintages, matured in 4 different oak types: 6 years old whisky from bourbon casks, 10 years old from port and rum casks, and 14 years old from sherry casks. This was blended to showcase the different Longrow characters.
Longrow CV (46%, OB 2008)
Nose: wet stones, tobacco. Subtle smoke and soft peat. Some fruity notes (orange, yellow apple, lemon) and mint. Mouth: assertive, quite oily and spicy. Peppered peat. Citrus again. Finish: smokey at first, develops on vanilla with tobacco leafs in the end.
A young dram, smooth and easily drinkable with different flavour dimensions.
At the whisky festival in Gent, a lot of attention went to the new Undercover bottlings of The Nectar. Although the distillery names are undisclosed, some hints on the labels (and extra hints from Mario) make it pretty easy to guess…
Typical Lagavulin, big and punchy, a tad farmy, whiffs of sea air. Really smokey. An instant classic, better than other independent Lagavulin bottlings. It will cost around € 100 though, which I think is a little pricey compared to a standard 16y or the recent 1995 release for Friends of Classic Malts (both around half the price). Is this Laga twice as good?
Very fruity, with a great, peppery attack and a lingering finish. Some lemons, maybe less smokey than most official bottlings (or was this the influence of the other Undercovers which I nosed / tasted simultaneously?). Really good. I had the feeling this one deserved better conditions to taste it properly. Hopefully some other time. Again, not cheap: € 150.
This is a vatting of 3 Islay malts (according to new laws, we should say ‘blended malt’ now instead of ‘vatted malt’). You can easily tell that the main part is Ardbeg. Lots of peat smoke, quite dry. Some acid notes (lemon). Good balance and very powerful. A vatting which brings out the typical flavours of the ingredients. Price: around € 75.
What can I say? Quality-wise: excellent bottlings, only positive feedback and thumbs up for buying casks from distilleries which are a bit harder to find in independent bottlings. I just fear that they may be a little over-priced. Financial crisis, you know… I hope this is not a permanent evolution in the Daily Dram series.
A second set of impressions from the whisky festival in Gent last weekend.
Long Red – Glen Ord 12y 1996
(46%, Daily Dram 2008, 184 btl.)
Young and fruity. At first it’s more a ‘green’ whisky than a red one, if you ask me. Grassy notes, citrus. On the palate, it seems sweeter but the grassy notes are still showing up. The cherries that are promised on the label are present in the finish, if you have some imagination. I expected something more candy-like, but not bad at all.
Auchentoshan Three Wood (43%, OB 2008)
Triple distilled and finished in three types of wood: bourbon, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Notes of caramel, stables. Rather sweet, floral notes as well. Also clear P.X. sherry influence (raisins, dry fruit, syrup). Not entirely balanced but better than expected.
Towards the end of the festival, I’ve had the pleasure to meet Gunter from 100° proof, the winners of this year’s Whisky Award for best whisky club. Congratulations! He wanted to show some stunners and took me and my brother in law from one stand to another where he let us taste some great stuff. Thanks again, Gunter.
No real tasting notes because it was getting late and the Bunnahabhain bottle was practically empty. Still, there was enough to know these are wonderful bottlings.
In the end, we’ve had a sip of the heavily peated 1992 Connemara cask that 100° proof bought for their club bottling. Really impressive and beautifully different. Lots of peat smoke, banana, tar, liquorice… with vanilla to ease it down a bit. Without any doubt the best thing I was able to taste that day! We made plans to rob Gunter. It was not succesful.
This year’s whisky festival in Gent was a success. There was definitely a lot more people than last year, which was not always a good thing. It was hard to reach the stands and there was not always the opportunity to get into details with the people behind the desk.
The whiskies were interesting. Let’s list some of the things I’ve tasted. No actual tasting notes, the situation is just not ideal. Sorry for having some incomplete references.
Amrut Single Cask (46%, Blackadder 2008, ref. BA 2/2008, 279 btl.)
This one must be a sister cask of the one that won a gold medal in the “non-plus-ultra daily drams” category of the 2008 Malt Maniacs Awards (ref. 1/2008). Very good, huge fruitiness (peach, oranges, pineapple) with vanilla. Rather weak attack but quickly regains its strength, with a long finish. Quite complex, very balanced and nicely ‘different’ in style.
BenRiach 20y (43%, OB 2008)
Fresh and fruity. Vanilla. Some ‘dirty’ notes as well, hints of smoke and cow stable. Good Speyside whisky. I would like to taste this again some day, it looked like I didn’t get the full complexity. At € 65, excellent value for money.
BenRiach 13y Maderensis Fumosus
(46%, OB 2008, Madeira finish)
Heavily peated, but the sweet wine finish works well here and adds some fruity notes. Citrus flavours, coal, some salty liquorice. Smokey finish with hints of sweet candy. Nice, could be an interesting replacement for my bottle of BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus which is almost empty.
On Valentine’s day, what could possibly be better than a whisky named Ladyburn… one of the mythical names in the world of whisky. The distillery opened in 1966 and closed just nine years later. Now the distillery plant produces vodka for Richard Branson, among other spirits. Only a handful of bottlings have been released, and this 27 years old 1973 was one of the last, although there are rumours about a few more casks in William Grant’s cellars. For most old whiskies, there is a risk of intrusive oak influence, and this Ladyburn was said to be on the edge. It was matured in bourbon oak and only 3000 bottles were made available.
They are highly sought-after, and most owners don’t bother opening their bottle because it’s so rare and expensive (over € 500).
Ladyburn 27y 1973 (50,4%, OB 2000, Cask 3233)
Nose: starts rather earthy and grassy. Quite sharp and rather ‘unwelcoming’. Some grainy notes: cereals, mashed potatoes. Walnuts. After a while, it develops floral and fruity notes. Very nice smell of apricots and apples. Mint. This one needed time to open up, but it was worth the wait. Mouth: really soft delivery. First impressions are very mellow, with sweet vanilla. But then, hello! An avalanche of fruit: grapefruit (the pink, sweeter variety), lovely strawberry, peach, orange, apple, blackcurrant. Common fruits, but also fruit flavours that you don’t find often, really interesting. Something of a dessert wine as well. The finish is on dry oak and liquorice, with some pear flavour. Not very long though.
Quite unique lowlands style. It’s not highly regarded for its taste but I liked it a lot!