Glenburgie is a strange distillery. It was demolished in 2003 and a new, highly efficient production plant was built just behind it. The four stills were brought in from the old distillery.
Glenburgie is rarely seen as a single malt because most of the production goes to the Ballentine’s blend (the same goes for Miltonduff). This made the 26 years old bottling highly anticipated among the recent The Nectar of the Daily Drams releases.
Glenburgie 26 yo 1983
(48,5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2010)
Nose: first there are notes of paraffin that are quite remarkable. Lots of apples and pears. Soft grassy notes. Walnuts. Fresh profile with orange blossom water and a slight minerality. Very natural as well, with a pleasantly dusty side to it. Mouth: sweet attack with ripe pear, butter cream and vanilla. Malt. Marzipan and a touch of mocha. Orange marmalade. Apple. Gets drier and a lot spicier, mostly on ginger and pepper. Rather bitter towards the end, and water amplifies this bitter side, so I like it better undiluted. Finish: long with hints of tonic and marzipan.
An interesting dram that balances between fruity and bitter notes. Not really easy-going. Around € 100.
A few months later, there was a similar hype around this Clynelish 1982 by Malts of Scotland. Let’s find out…
Clynelish 27 yo 1982 (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #5895, 263 btl.)
Nose: even more beeswax than already expected in Clynelish. Also much more tropical fruit notes (tangerine, melon, peaches on syrup) and honey. Hints of biscuits. Baked apples. A hint of lemon grass. Marzipan. Overall quite sweet but with just enough oak and spices to… well… spice it up a little. What an exceptional profile. Mouth: an extension to the nose, fruity and still quite waxy but it’s less sweet. There’s a bit more oak now and a few flinty notes. Gets drier over time, with a salty edge and hints of tea and ginger. Finish: honeyed and waxy. The spiciness is still growing.
This Clynelish 1982 has all the typical distillery elements and is less austere and ‘warmer’ than the release by Whisky Agency / Daily Dram. Especially the nose is extremely attractive which makes it one of the better Clynelish I’ve tried. Around € 100. It was sold out in no-time, but recently the sister cask has been released (cask #5894), and I’ve heard it’s very very similar, so make sure you don’t miss it.
This Isle of Jura 1999 is part of a series of three Boutique Barrels. The first remarkable thing is that it’s a single cask – there’s only a handful of official single cask bottlings from this distillery. The label states ‘heavy peat’ (30ppm) and a Kentucky bourbon cask maturation. Not sure what XU means.
Isle of Jura 11 yo 1999 Boutique Barrels (55%, OB 2010, Bourbon XU cask finish)
Nose: nice profile with obvious peat but also orange skin and lemon grass. Very enticing. A bit of camphor. Flowers and a hint of vanilla. A few sharp cider notes. Water brings out more lemon grass and citrus with a candied edge. Interesting variation on the peat theme. Mouth: a mineral start with apples, quickly taken over by a big wave of pepper, peat and deep smoke. A faint nuttiness in the background. Oranges again. Lemon cake. Some sweet vanilla and liquorice. Interesting wood (pine tree), bigger than I expected it to be at 11 years. Takes water well. Finish: ashes, sweet almond milk and vanilla, slowly getting drier. It takes a while before it has faded completely.
I especially liked the nose, which shows a nice balance between the oak influence and the fresh lemon grass. On the palate it’s a little less spectacular but still really nice. Modern and well crafted. Around € 60.
A couple of months ago I picked up the plans of Glenfarclas to bottle a 40 year-old at a price level well below the market standard. Glenfarclas has a huge stock of old casks, some of which are quickly losing strength. This bottling is not just a solution for this problem, it’s also a welcome evolution on the market because most other 40 year olds are sold as collector’s items with fancy boxes and a lot of blah blah. This is clearly a no-nonsese drinker’s whisky!
Highland Park 40yo is valued € 900. Glenglassaugh 40yo and The Dalmore 40yo cost around € 1600. Glengoyne 40yo will set you back € 4000. This Glenfarclas 40yo costs around € 330… Even an independent release from a lesser known distillery would be difficult to find for this amount of money.
This 40yo mainly contains casks from the late 1960’s. When I tasted it as a work-in-progress, I felt it still needed some tweaking, so I’m eager to find out what the end result is like.
Glenfarclas 40 yo (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: rich sherry with big hints of prunes and oak polish. Quite sweet and deeply fruity, with just some hints of pine needles and resin to make it drier. Lush notes of blackcurrant marmalade, tobacco and cigar boxes. Roasted moccha. A wonderful whiff of mint and eucalyptus. An old gentleman: very elegant. Mouth: starts on dried fruits with resinous notes. Evolves in a more herbal and more winey / tannic way. Orange liqueur. Chocolate. Some black olives. Maybe missing a bit of round creaminess here. Finish: long, resinous but not too oaky. A bit of balsamic vinegar and hints of chocolate. Getting drier.
This Glenfarclas 40yo has an excellent nose and it’s certainly one of the best opportunities to try such an old whisky. An example of a great vatting, but a tad more creamy fruit on the palate could have lifted it even higher. Around € 330.
A direct comparison between similar casks is always fun. In this case, we have another Port Charlotte 2001 by Malts of Scotland, this time bottled from a sherry hogshead.
Port Charlotte 9 yo 2001 (61,6%, Malts of Scotland 2010, sherry cask #833)
Nose: after the bourbon version, this seems less peaty but more smokey, with soot and ashes . Quite winey at first. It takes some time and especially some hand warmth to balance it. It has meaty elements, rubbery elements, dried fruits and marmalade… Balsamic vinegar as well. This one seems more mature than its bourbon sibling, and the complexity is excellent. It’s certainly less clean (even faint hints of cow stable). Mouth: now the peat kicks in and counters the sherry. Big notes of chocolate and pepper. Plums. Liquorice. Water adds a bittersweet note, like black tea with a bit of sugar. Finish: sweet with tobacco and nutmeg.
I really enjoyed comparing them, it’s quite spectacular how both profiles seem to deconstruct each other completely. Once you’re used to one version and compare it to the other, you notice new things and vice versa. This sherried Port Charlotte is quite explosive, rougher and more complex than the bourbon cask. Around € 65 (nice!).
Port Charlotte is a name we don’t see too often, but releases always tend to attract the interest of peatheads. As you know, this peated spirit is distilled at Bruichladdich distillery.
Malts of Scotland released a first Port Charlotte 2001 (sherry cask #829) in March 2009 and now there are two new versions: a bourbon barrel (cask #967) and a sherry hogshead (cask #833).
Port Charlotte 9 yo 2001 (60,2%, Malts of Scotland 2010, bourbon cask #967)
Nose: very peaty. The smokiness is quite fragrant with whiffs of lemon. There’s kind of a synthetic fruitiness to it as well (banana, lovely tangerine). Rather oily. Some grassy notes. The marine side is quite distinct, with boat rope and dry kelp. Clean and relatively complex, especially after you add a few drops of water. It then shows almonds and vanilla and I’m even more surprised how fragrant and “feminine” the peat is. Mouth: quite hot. An overdose of peat with sugar candy, engine oil and desinfectant. Gets drier and quite bitter after a while (hints of tonic). Water helps to add fruitiness and overcome the bitter notes. Finish: very long, very ashy and quite sweet.
Don’t try this if you don’t like deep peat. But if you do, this is very clean and focused with excellent complexity. Play around with water to get the most out of it. Around € 65.
Bernheim Original is the only straight wheat American whiskey available. It is made by Heaven Hill and uses 51% soft winter wheat in its recipe to deliver a smooth, sweet taste.
Bernheim Original (45%, OB 2010)
Nose: butter croissant and other types of sweet pastry. Brown sugar. It shows more fruit than other Americans (apple, banana). Some spices. Light leather. Vanilla cake. Hints of mint. Very smooth and appealing. Mouth: starts very gentle, with the same buttered bread, caramel and menthol flavours. After that, the oak becomes more prominent with slightly bitter notes. Overall not as sweet as you would expect from the nose. Finish: rather short and oaky, not very smooth.
This Bernheim Original does not show a lot of complexity but it’s dangerously smooth and drinkable. Only the oaky bitterness towards the end was a bit of an off-note for me.
Ben Nevis whisky is very popular in Japan, where it ranks seventh among the single malt sales. This is not surprising as it is part of the Nikka concern. In Europe, it is popular in Germany and the Nordic countries, but releases are not very common.
I’m not sure what to think of Ben Nevis, I’ve had some great drams but also quite weird stuff. Let’s see how it works out for this 13 year-old Ben Nevis bottled by Malts of Scotland.
Ben Nevis 13 yo 1996 (57,1%, OB 2010, sherry cask #1466, 258 btl.)
Nose: interesting nose. Dark muscovado sugar and caramel. Burnt cake. Roasted chestnut. Very dense, it takes a while before other flavours become noticeable. Strawberries and cherries! Nice. Some liquorice allsorts. A buttery note that reminds me of old lipstick and toffee. Water makes it a bit fruitier but also slightly yeasty. Mouth: quite spicy with notes of ginger. Orange liqueur. Not as dark as the nose, but still lots of caramel notes. A bit rubbery as well. Walnuts. More accessible and less spicy with a few drops of water. Coffee in the aftertaste. Finish: nutty with a gingery finale.
The least you can say is that this Ben Nevis 1996 is an unusual, challenging dram with a bit of an outsider profile. Bonus points for being so unique.