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!
Good news: Daily Dram has three new bottlings named Undercover. The distilleries are undisclosed, but two of the whiskies are made on Islay (14y and 15y) and one on the Isle of Skye (24y – this should be Talisker because this is the only distillery on Skye).
As a fan of peated Speysiders, there’s no way around BenRiach. They’re one of the distilleries that have a tradition of making peated drams alongside the regular, typical style of the region.
In 2007, BenRiach launched a series of 3 peated expressions, matured in American oak casks and finished in sherry, port and rum barrels. The ‘Arumaticus Fumosus’ version that I’m reviewing was the Jamaican dark rum batch. Only 1740 bottles.
Benriach 12y Arumaticus Fumosus (46%, OB, 2007, Jamaican Dark Rum finish, 1740 btl.)
Nose: very original. A lot of peat, clean and very oily. Some “fresh” medicins as well (what’s that supposed to mean?) Anyway, this could have been made on Islay. The rum is on a second level. Hints of banana and heather, some earthy notes and dark sugar. Mouth: the peat seems to come and go now, alternating with softer spices. Quite dry. Finish: the spices develop further (ginger, eucalyptus, vanilla), sugared coffee notes as well. Long aftertaste, really dry.
This is one of my favourite peated ‘every day drams’. It had a fair price (€ 45) yet it offers a unique style that I didn’t find in other whiskies. Perfect for a tough winter like the current one. I’m trying to save what’s left in my bottle…
Being the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, Talisker opened in 1830, but most of it was rebuilt in 1960 after a fire. It never managed to be a first rate whisky in terms of interest and sales, but the ‘Classic Malts of Scotland‘ series helped it to become one of the most talked about distilleries. This bottling was only available at the distillery, alhough I didn’t buy it there. Some stores have access to it through Friends of Classic Malts Switzerland.
There’s no age statement but it is said to be between 8 and 10 years old. Not sure how limited this is. My bottle is number 2010. In 2007, they released an updated version at 53,9%.
Talisker NAS (59,2%, OB 2003, ‘for sale only at the distillery’)
Nose: starts on earthy smells, a forest after the rain and wet stones. Sharp peat with some lemon and a nice touch of cinnamon. A tad farmy. The usual pepper and sea air is here as well. Very good but on the downside, it’s a little clean and I’m missing a bit of the volcanic warmth of other Taliskers. Mouth: a powerful attack and oily delivery. Really peaty and peppery. More smoke than on the nose. Quite hot, not much else to taste after that. Gets slightly bittersweet in the aftertaste.
Not your average Talisker. Very good and punchy but still there seems to be an iron harness around this dram, which prevents it from breaking open and showing its true complexity. Otherwise it could easily have been a 90+. Water didn’t help much.
Linkwood distillery was established in 1821, but it was not very popular until the 20th century. Now it’s highly regarded in the blending industry. There is basically just one official bottling (in the Flora & Fauna series) but a few months ago, Diageo launched 3 new expressions of 26 year old, finished Linkwoods (rum, port and red wine finish).
Linkwood 23y 1974
(61,2%, Rare Malts, 1997)
Nose: starts pretty waxy and grassy. Mineral notes. You could think this was Clynelish. After some time, sweeter flavours become noticeable: tangerine, apple and papaya. Roses and other floral notes as well. Fresh mint leaves. Quite expressive although not too complex. Mouth: a bit alcoholic, starts on vanilla with oranges. Some melon and oak influence as well. Gets drier with spicy notes. Peppery finish. Good, especially the nose.
I’ve missed out on most of the Belgian whisky festivals last year, so I’m definitely going to Gent. Let’s hope there are lots of interesting things to discover: the new Daily Dram bottlings will be there (with a new Irish Our Angel), or the festival bottling maybe, a BenRiach single cask n°83038 (ex-bourbon). I’ve heard that Jim Murray won’t be there – no signed Bible this year.
Peaty, but not overwhelming. Very round, with even less smoke and iodine on the nose than the Cairdeas. Lemon and sweet apple. Vanilla. Nice coastal notes which grow stronger if you add a drop of water. Powerful mouth. I really like the fact that there are different waves of flavour that seem to come and go: lemon at first, then getting spicier and hotter, a small peat explosion with a pinch of salt and afterwards notes of Napoleon lemon sweets (without the sour centre that is) and lemon pie with distant ashes. A parade of typical Laphroaig notes. Long, sweet finish.
Not a cheap dram (almost € 100) but a Laphroaig cask with a lot to offer. Sold out according to The Nectar, but a few stores still seem to have stock.