Like Springbank, Benrinnes produces a 2,5 times distilled malt whisky (with 2x 3 stills). Most of it is used for blends like J&B and Johnnie Walker. Both official bottlings and independent releases are rare.
This Benrinnes 1988 was matured in a bourbon hogshead for 21 years.
Nose: sugared cereals (Frosties) and green apples. Temporary hints of new-make (artificial banana) although that’s quite odd for a 21 year-old… Hints of wet hay. Getting slightly fruitier over time (oranges, pears). Milk chocolate. Mouth: more depth now. The sweet fruits are still there, the peat is bigger and rounded off with some smoke. Sweet almonds. Quite spicy (mostly white pepper). Hints of ginger and tonic. Finish: drier, still hints of smoke and peat. Some bitter cloves.
This Benrinnes is an unusual malt and I find it difficult to pin down. It shares some characteristics with Lowlands whisky and there are hardly any flavours that clearly pop out of the malty centre. Not really my type of whisky but interesting to try. Around € 95.
Peated whisky is not only made on Islay these days, and many of the peated Speysiders are quite good. In the same way, Islay distilleries are now making unpeated version with great success.
If it’s just the alcohol you’re after, this Caol Ila 10yo unpeated style will be your favourite special release with a whopping 65,8% of acohol. It replaces last year’s unpeated Caol Ila 8yo.
Caol Ila 10yo ‘unpeated style’
(65,8%, OB 2009)
Nose: the first things I picked up were some peppermint, green melon, bubblegum and vanilla. After a few moments, these make place for big notes of cocoa butter (Mycryo), coffee with milk and white chocolate chips. With water, it becomes floral and more fruity with citrus and apples. Mouth: chocolate again, lemon biscuits, cereals. The vanilla / citrus combo is outstanding. With water: more typically Caol Ila if you ask me. A few grassy notes, more citrus. Ginger. Finish: warm, sweet vanilla cake with coffee and marshmallow. Not too long.
This unpeated Caol Ila is very enjoyable and maybe even better than their peated bottlings. The only downside is that it’s quite simple, there’s not much evolution in the flavour development. Around € 60.
It’s always nice to see releases from distilleries that are rarely bottled as a single malt. There were no official Mannochmore releases since 1997 (Manager’s Dram 18yo).
This Mannochmore 18yo 1990/2009 is a mix of re-charred sherry casks (European oak), re-charred bourbon casks and new American oak casks that were seasoned with sherry. Unusual scenario which makes me very curious.
Mannochmore 18 yo 1990
(54,9%, OB 2009, 2604 btl.)
Nose: very expressive with sweet sherry notes, fruit gums and tons of vanilla. Very warm and highly sensual. Fruit cake with candied orange bits. Raspberries. Hints of nougat and tobacco. Just enough oak polish. A whole range of spices and mint. Very complex, lots of different elements, but they join up perfectly. Mouth: smooth with dried fruits again and added nutty flavours. Apricots. Toffee. Toast with orange marmalade. The spices are still here: pepper, ginger, cinnamon. Quite herbal after a while. Finish: quite long. Spicy with some drying oak. Wonderful chocolate.
This Mannochmore 18yo made my day. Very attractive with big spicy notes and subtle sherry. The insider’s choice of this year’s special releases. I’m buying. Around € 100.
The Port Ellen 9th annual release is probably one of the most anticipated bottlings of the yearly Diageo special releases. This is the first official 30 years old Port Ellen. While some shops have already sold their complete allocation, you can still find some bottles. I’ve compared it to the 6th and 7th release (which will be posted in the near future).
Port Ellen 9th release 30yo 1979
(57,7%, OB 2009, 5916 btl.)
Nose: seems a bit more modest than most previous bottlings. The peat influence is rather soft and coated in a honeyed sweetness. Dried fruits and pears. More medicinal (antisepctic) and maritime notes than other official PE’s. Slightly mentholated and grassy. Lemons and a touch of vanilla. Almond. A confident 30yo gentleman really. Mouth: coating mouth-feel, sweet delivery with a coal smoke centre. Soon the spices kick in (pepper, nutmeg) and it gets drier. Hints of lemon biscuits and salty liquorice. Powerful and balanced. Finish: long, fading on smoke, spices and liquorice.
After an 8th release with seamingly disappointed comments, this is a rewarding high-class dram. Especially the nose is excellent. Around € 260.
This year’s Talisker 30 years old is a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks. It’s the fourth edition of the 30yo bottling. I’ve tasted it alongside the Talisker 25 yo.
Talisker 30yo (53,1%, OB 2009, 3000 btl.)
Nose: obviously the same family as the 25yo, but gentler and creamier. Less smoke, less maritime notes (still there, just muted). More fruity notes, added hints of vanilla and toffee. Hints of almond pie and apples. Very warm, rather sweet and simply lovely. Mouth: fruity again (candied oranges, lime) with some candle wax. Interesting how it starts very feminine (almond milk) but gets more turbulent over time (more peat, salt, strong tea) with a peppery tang. Finish: very long, citrus with pepper. Some salt and smoke.
Well, Talisker 30yo offers a few added levels over the 25yo. The sweet and fruity side is better developed and it balances all the typical Talisker elements very well. It’s richer and very refined. Around € 240.
This is the seventh edition of the Talisker 25 years old. It’s a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks and a true classic in the Diageo Special Releases range.
Talisker 25yo (54,8%, OB 2009, 5862 btl.)
Nose: very maritime start (seaweed, brine) with some lazy peat and smoke. After a while citrus grows stronger (lemon but oranges as well). Some trademark pepper. Quite some oak and cigar boxes. Linseed oil. Compared to the 30yo, punchier and slightly more grassy but still relatively shy. Mouth: a slap in your face. Very spicy with the pepper being the most important. More sweet peat now. Some liquorice towards the finish. Nice lemon-salt combo. Very oily and powerful. Medium finish. Slightly bitter / organic onset, then more salty. Coastal notes and more wood in the end.
Very intense and very Talisker although I don’t see a real premium over the 20 years old version. If money is not an issue, have a look at the 30 years old. Around € 170.
I’ve never published notes of Brora 30 years old although it has been one of my favourite drams ever. After a 25 year-old version in 2008, there was enough stock to release a 30 year-old version again.
Brora 30yo (53,2%, OB 2009, 8th Edition, 2652 btl.)
Nose: starts very fruity. Pears on syrup, even tinned lychee. Orange lemonade and vanilla. Quite refined – a big surprise if you’re expecting the goat stables of the previous releases. There’s also a coastal and slightly medicinal side to it, which makes it more punchy. I’m picking up a few green, vegetal notes but the farminess is nothing like before. Hints of mint. It evolves on wax, almonds and apples. Still quite clean. Whiffs of light coal smoke as well. Mouth: more smoke now, on par with the fruity notes. Lots of lemon. Getting more salty and oaky. Once again more wax, apples and smoke. Finish: long, well balanced between salt, pepper, oak and smoke.
I’m a huge fan of the farmy Brora profile. If you haven’t experienced it, you won’t understand, but I really adore the hints of goat cheese or cow stable. This new Brora 30yo goes in a slightly different direction (the Clynelish direction that is) but it’s still excellent. For me, less wickedly unique though than previous versions.
Around € 275.
The Lagavulin 12 yo is probably the most popular of the yearly Special Releases. It’s a powerful cask-strength dram with an accesible price tag. I’m tasting this year’s release together with the Lagavulin 12yo 2006 release.
Lagavulin 12yo Special Release
(57,9%, OB 2009, 9th release)
Nose: very ‘deep’ smoke, hints of burnt stuff. Some iodine, but initially less round and fresh than the 2006 version. It’s only after a few minutes that vanilla shows through with hints of chocolate, tobacco and apples. Some gypsum. More straightforward than the 2006. Mouth: again a strong base of peat smoke, burnt grass and roasted coffee beans. Very masculine. Not much fruit although there are hints of pear candy and almonds. Some sugared lemon juice. Vanilla. Spicy but not as salty as the 2006. Finish: smokey, not too long with the sweet peat having the last word.
This one needs some time, otherwise there’s not much else than peat smoke. Young, sharp and expressive. A small concern though: it seems Lagavulin is moving towards heavier peat, as clearly seen in recent Ardbegs or the Laphroaig 10yo CS as well. It’s a general trend, which makes it very Islay but also less complex and sophisticated than before. For me personally, that’s a small downturn.
Around € 70.
ps/ After I roughly rinsed my glasses with some water, the 2006 glass didn’t show much smoke. The 2009 on the other hand was pretty useless until it was cleaned thoroughly. I guess it shows the difference.