The weather is currently too hot in Belgium for whisky. In 35°C, water seems to be a better option so let’s talk about adding water to your dram.
In recent years we’ve seen the rise of premium waters. There are water bars and stores specialized in waters from around the world. As I walked through a local supermarket with more than 70 different brands of water, I noticed that some of them were said to be great for diluting whisky. Among them, Gleneagles and this Duchy Royal Deeside.
Duchy is bottled from a source in Royal Deeside, Scotland. It makes sense to use Scottish water as distilleries also tend to use local, natural spring water during the distillation process, so we’re probably not adding foreign elements. Royal Deeside is low in minerals, so again we don’t add possible flavour elements like salts or chloride.
Duchy Royal Deeside (0,0%, OB 2010, still)
Some waters are practically tasteless but Royal Deeside has a taste. It’s difficult to describe but it seems a bit metallic which is surprising as the mineral levels are low. As a drinking water, I would prefer other types.
When diluting a whisky, I don’t notice anything special, which I suppose is exactly what we’re trying to achieve. On the other hand, I don’t think this water is special. I guess any brand of bottled water will do as long as they don’t contain excessive amounts of certain minerals. Or use filtered Brita water like I normally do.
I’ll try to compare with some other brands that claim to be ideal for whisky, but for the moment, I don’t see a reason to search for any kind of special “whisky water”.
If you have other experiences, let’s hear your comments.
Douglas Laing is well known for its Old Malt Cask series. Recently they’ve also introduced the Old Grain Cask. It’s a series of single cask bottlings from single grain distilleries.
Garnheath (also spelled Garneath) is so rare most people have never heard of it. The distillery was located in the Lowlands, established in 1965 and closed down in 1986. The number of releases can be counted on one hand. Douglas Laing seem to have a reasonable stock – recently they’ve also released a similar cask in the Clan Denny range at 47,9%.
Garnheath 40 yo 1969 (51,6%, Douglas Laing OGC 2009, 154 btl.)
Nose: very smooth and gentle. Typical old grain whisky (coconut and vanilla) but with very few glue notes and very few notes of varnish. Not at all harsh. Lots of white chocolate. Mashed banana. Hints of rum. Papaya. Mouth: the coconut goes on and on. Drier than most other grain whisky. Lots of cereals and oak. Cedar wood I would say. Nutmeg and mint. A very faint hint of burnt grass. Menthol in the aftertaste. Finish: rather short with the oak and vanilla having the last word.
A grain whisky that has a lot to say. The complexity is above par and the end result is better than many malt whiskies. One of the best grains I’ve had. Around € 120 but it seems to be sold out.
The Port Askaig range has recently been expanded with a 30 year old expression. Although officially undisclosed, Port Askaig is really close to the Coal Ila distillery so we can assume the name is pointing in that direction.
Port Askaig 30 yo
(45,8%, Specialty Drinks 2009)
Nose: nicely coastal, with wet sand and oyster, but quite fruity as well. A soft, liqueur-like fruitiness, rather exotic for a Coal Ila. Nice interplay of two characters. Lemon, honeysuckle, vanilla. A few medicinal notes in the background. Mouth: lemon at first, then some walnuts and almonds. Apricots. Peat as well, and a few salty notes, which make it sharper than on the nose. Again a nice showcase of older Coal Ila elements. Finish: long, with spicy smoke, hints of tea and salty fish.
I’m fond of older Coal Ila. Port Askaig 25yo was already my favourite of the range and now this place is taken by the 30yo (although the 25yo has quite a price advantage).
Very elegant while at the same time showing impressive power for a 30 year-old. Marketed by The Whisky Exchange – around € 150.
The Bonding Dram is one of the leading web retailers in Belgium. To celebrate its 3rd anniversary, there’s a bottling of Laphroaig 1996 in the Malts of Scotland Clubs range.
Laphroaig 13 yo 1996 (57,3%, Malts of Scotland 2010 for The Bonding Dram, cask #7313, 255 btl.)
Nose: classic young Laphroaig. Peaty with notes of bandages. Tar. A few coastal hints (iodine) and overtones of lemon grass. Sweet apples. Water makes it even better, with more fruit and lemon marmalade. Balanced and round, with everything you’d expect from a young Laphroaig in the right amount. Mouth: rich and ashy but again balanced by sweeter notes and a creamy texture. Tar again. Some salty liquorice in the aftertaste. Water doesn’t change it much, but brings out a nice toffee sweetness in the end. Finish: long, smoky and slightly salty.
A particularly solid Laphroaig with a great balance, congratulations to Jeroen. Available here, priced € 59 and you get a free 5cl mini.
Crombé is a wine and whisky supplier in Kortrijk, Belgium. Their whisky responsible (Bert Coorevits) and his Malt Maniac friend (Bert Bruyneel) selected this cask of Indian Amrut, filled in 2004 and bottled last year, a few days short of its fifth birthday.
Amrut 4 yo 2004 (52%, OB 2009 for Crombé,
bourbon cask #2930, 221 btl.)
Nose: full of apple pie and cinnamon. Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Lovely really. On a second level: spicy honey, pears, yellow flowers. Heather as well. Less candied than you would expect from Amrut. This is more like gingerbread than plain vanilla cake, if you know what I mean. It already shows the complexity of a much older Speysider (yes, at nearly 5 years old). Mouth: starts on Amrut’s trademark mix of vanilla and fruits (apricot and pear, melon maybe). It’s quite oily and slightly waxy. Again some ginger, cinnamon and white pepper, but the superiority over other Amruts is a little less evident here. Still very good. Finish: clean, sweet and spicy with added hints of liquorice.
Outstanding at this age, and the best Amrut I’ve had so far (although I’m eager to try the new Amrut Double Cask). I still don’t get why it didn’t win against the Compass Box Spice Tree in the Battle of the Stunners.
Glencraig was a single malt distilled at Glenburgie distillery, in separate Lomond stills (kind of a mixture between coffee stills and pot stills). A distillery in the distillery. The stills have been removed in 1981.
Glencraig 35 yo 1974 (42,4%, Duncan Taylor RotR 2009, cask #2922)
Nose: waxy and fruity. A combination that I like. Some oak polish. There’s also a faint hint of glue. Apples and orange flowers. Butter and oil. Some cedar wood. A few flinty notes as well. It seems younger than it actually is but it’s really nice and smooth. Mouth: very candied. Pear drops, pineapple candy. Yellow apples. Lemon juice with a lot of sugar. Some coconut. Sweet and attractive but not very complex. Many apples again. Some cinnamon and varnished oak. Finish: more or less the same. Medium length. Hints of sweet liquorice.
A whisky lemonade with a few notes that are more commonly found in old grain whisky. Interesting, pleasant and highly drinkable but lacking complexity for its age. Around € 150.
This year’s offering for Feis Ile was a Lagavulin 1994.
I’m wondering whether Lagavulin used a Pedro Ximénez or another type of sherry cask for the maturation. They only mention ‘European oak ex-sherry cask’ so I think it’s not a seasoned cask, but no information about the actual type of sherry.
Lagavulin 1994 (52,7%, OB for Feis Ile 2010, sherry cask #3210, 528 btl.)
Nose: almost the same as the ‘Distillery only’ bottling. Sweet and peaty. Maybe a few more coastal notes (boat rope, seaweed). The fruit is present, but it’s more complex and more on dried fruits and less focused on apple juice, I would say. A bit more toffee as well. White chocolate. At first I wasn’t too sure, but after a while I preferred this one. Differences are small though, and I think the NAS could be a bit younger as well. Mouth: very creamy again. Dark chocolate. More espresso notes than in the NAS. Roasted nuts. Slightly bitter / zesty as well. A very broad spectrum of flavours. Finish: long, with chocolate and toasted bread.
On the nose, the Feis Ile bottling has a slight advance over the NAS version, but on the palate I prefer the roundness of the NAS version (which is closer to a regular DE). The Feis Ile bottling is certainly more complex though. Original price: € 90.
This Lagavulin is exclusively available at the distillery for the moment. It’s a cask strength bottling without an age statement. It was extra matured in sherry seasoned American oak casks (i.e. casks that were simply treated with sherry for a short time – the sherry didn’t actually mature in them).
Some of the casks that were used, had been intented for bottling as a Distillers Edition, but they were found to be too good to be blended in such a large batch.
Lagavulin NAS ‘only available at the distillery’ (52,5%, OB 2010, 6000 btl.)
Nose: close to the Distillers Edition. Definitely sweeter than a regular 16yo but my DE is still sweeter. Like a peated apple juice, or peach syrup served in an ashtray. A very nice profile. Brown sugar. Lovely butter biscuits. Quite tarry. Some coal and liquorice. Seaweed. Mouth: quite sweet again. Creamy chocolate coating. Some coffee. Plums. Vanilla. After a while the peat and soot take over and the whole gets drier with hints of lapsang tea and tobacco. Mouth: long and smoky with a spicy edge.
I love the Lagavulin DE style, with its combination of peat and PX sherry. At cask strength, this combo is even more expressive. Round, sweet and balanced. Around € 85.