The year 1976 has given us some excellent BenRiach, the best ones being probably those for The Nectar (BenRiach 1976/2007 cask #8080) and for La Maison du Whisky (BenRiach 1976/2006 cask #3557).
Recently, The Whisky Fair released two casks that are already legendary.
BenRiach 33yo 1976 (46,2%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2009, hogshead cask #3550, 103 btl.)
Nose: a fresh start on oak varnish and menthol which take a while to fade. In the meantime, notes of exotic fruits start growing stronger. Very fresh, quite citrusy. Pineapple, mango, passion fruits, tangerine… A lot of pink grapefruit as well and a light touch of star anise and nutmeg. A fruit basket with a slightly flowery edge. Not far away from a Bowmore 1968 Anniversary. Mouth: very fruity again, dominated by the grapefruit which gives it a slightly dry edge. Medium oakiness with hints of pepper in the end. Long finish on grapefruit, tangerine, oak and pepper.
You can only have respect for this kind of whisky. It’s wonderful how a 33 year-old kan be this fresh and fruity. The nose of this BenRiach is stunning, the rest is very very good. Around € 190 (sold out).
Arran is a very young distillery, it started production in June 1995 on the Isle of Arran. Their range is based around the Arran 10yo (of which the vatting was recently revised) and they have an extensive programme of wine cask finishes (Amarone, Chianti, Tokaji, Pomerol, Fino sherry among others).
This 1996 vintage named Peacock is the first in a new series called Icons of Arran. It’s a limited edition of 6000 bottles that came from 13 bourbon barrels and 7 sherry hogsheads. There has been a peacock called Albert running around the distillery since the opening.
Arran Peacock 12yo 1996
(46%, OB 2009, 6000 btl.)
Nose: totally in line with other Arran releases. Soft but sophisticated. Hints of sweet honey with lots of orange peel and some grapefruit. Vanilla and coconut. Mint. Sweet apples with cinnamon. Overall very fresh and candied, with a slightly flowery edge. Mouth: clean and malty start, again fruity with lots of oranges and hints of spices. Biscuits. Apple compote and banana. Vanilla cream. Nicely balanced wood influence. Not very complex but well made. Finish: not too long, sweet and fruity.
This Arran Peacock is very round and polished and I have to say it’s one of the first Arran that really convinced me. A nice feminine dram. Around € 45.
Nose: the aroma is “darker” than the 1971, with more toasted notes. It has a more nutty aroma with more wood influence as well. There are even some farmy / wild mushrooms notes in the background (nothing dirty though). On the whole this 1972 is a bit closer to old bourbon than the 1971, with hints of worn leather and resin. Huge hints of oak polish. Punchy fruit as well, but I would say blueberries and blackberry jam rather than red fruits. Some liquorice. Terrific complexity. Mouth: a lot of dried fruits (figs, apricots), strawberry jam and sultanas. Milk chocolate. Even a faint waxiness. Getting drier, much spicier and slightly tannic towards the finish, but the wood influence is still within the limits for me. Long finish, round and slightly tannic again. Chocolate and berries.
In my opinion, this GlenDronach 1972 is a lot bolder and more expressive than the 1971, and it really explodes when warmed up to body temperature. A very big and self-confident malt. Cheaper than the 1971 (wait, make that “less expensive”) around € 300.
Are the 1971 and 1972 worth the extra money over the 199x bottlings? For me, the 1971 isn’t. The 1972 sure can’t beat the others in an absolute price vs. quality comparison, but it does have a truly sublime profile that you can only experience at certain ages… I would choose the 1972 over the 1971 any time, even with the extra wood. If you want bang for your buck, I would suggest the 1992.
Nose: lovely notes of coffee beans, sultanas and leather. I picked up some hints of matchsticks as well, but they disappeared before I got the chance to dig a little deeper. Nothing to worry about anyway. Quite some sharper, fruitier notes as well, mainly raspberries and cherries. Red, fresh, lush fruit mixed with the sherry. Amazingly playful after so many years. Chocolate with hazelnuts. Mouth: again a very fresh and vibrant impression. Raisins covered in chocolate with a perfect bitter-sweet tone. Dry figs, some cinnamon. Tangerine. Very elegant. Finish: long, on chocolate again with a minty touch.
The GlenDronach 1971 is a rich and enticing whisky with only one downside: € 330 is a lot of money. Of course you pay a premium for the age and limited availability. Let’s find out how it compares to the 1972 tomorrow.
There are interesting rumours that whisky giant Diageo will soon announce a new series of exclusive bottlings named The Manager’s Choice Single Cask Selection. They’ve selected one single cask from each of the 27 distilleries in their portfolio and the first six will be released in October 2009. A new Rare Malts series is born.
I’m not sure which distilleries will be in the first batch, but the picture shows Oban, Teaninich and Mortlach.
Also, as part of their yearly special releases, there will be a Port Ellen 30yo and probably a new Brora 30yo this year.
It’s a common thread that Amrut whiskies are bottled at very young ages (usually 3 to 5 years). This can be explained by the hot Indian climate which causes an angel’s share of around 12% a year. The accelerated maturation makes it unnecessary to wait longer.
Amrut Fusion is a mixture of 25% peated Scottish barley and 75% unpeated Indian malt, both mashed and distilled independently. The result was matured in old and new American oak barrels at the distillery in Bangalore.
Amrut Fusion (50%, OB 2009, batch #01)
Nose: very all-round with clean barley, fruity notes (blood oranges), brown sugar, vanilla and very gentle peat. It has a biscuity quality and the peat gives it an extra dimension. Mouth: mostly oranges and vanilla at first. Reminds me of turkish delights and some kinds of bubblegum. Good oakiness. Some mocha. The peat is on a second level but it complements the profile quite well and grows stronger over time. Finish: long, rich, orangey. Very good balance between sweet, spicy and peaty.
After the independent Amrut 5/2009 by Blackadder and this official Amrut Fusion, it’s clear that India is a serious player with a bright future. They produce very enjoyable all-round whisky. Amrut Fusion is a steal at around € 35.
Craigellachie (meaning “Rocky Hill”) was associated with the White Horse blend until the distillery was sold to Bacardi Martini in 1998. Their whisky was available in Diageo’s Flora & Fauna line (now one of the rarest F&F bottlings) which was replaced by an official 14yo in 2004.
The village of Craigellachie is also home to the world famous Craigellachie Hotel, which has one of the largest single malt selections in the world.
Craigellachie 15yo 1994
(46%, Single Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #5901, 325 btl.)
Nose: holds the middle between orangey and buttery notes. Orange cake? Slight hints of shoe polish and a bit of vanilla. Yellow apples. Very fruity in a “warm”, biscuity kind of way. Mouth: malty / fruity, quite creamy with lots of vanilla fudge. Hints of fruit liqueurs. Dried pineapple cubes, some marmelade. Not very powerful but pleasantly drinkable. Spicy oak influence after a while, but nothing huge. Finish: long enough, basically on the same flavours. A few added hints of nutmeg.
Very pleasant stuff. It seems that few Craigellachies are spectacular but most of them are very enjoyable. A late summer whisky. Around € 52.
Duncan Taylor recently launched a premium blend, Black Bull, made up of 50% malt whisky and 50% grain, vatted in the 1970’s and matured for more than 30 years. This is highly unusual because blends are usually vatted after separate maturation. Its availability is rather limited.
Black Bull 30 yo (50%, Duncan Taylor 2009)
Nose: nicely integrated oloroso sherry with figs, chocolate and orange marmalade. Lots of raisins. Some cocoa and espresso. Cake. Hints of leather. The whole works very well with the grain, it really balances. Mouth: nice mouth-feel, nice spices (cinnamon, ginger) which give it the flavours of a christmas cake. Hints of “Mon chérie” (chocolate filled with a cherry and liqueur). Finish: roasted coffee beans, milk chocolate ganache, cinnamon and cherries again. A bit of tobacco.
This certainly is a blend that will appeal to many malt lovers (give it to them blind). Very smooth and gentle. It’s probably the best blend I’ve ever had. Around € 90.