A new independent bottler was born a couple of months ago: Malts of Scotland. In March 2009, they released a first range of 11 single cask whiskies (cask strength, no colouring, no chill-filtration) with prices between 40 and 140 euro. They claim to have several hundreds of casks from more than 60 distilleries ageing in their warehouses.
The brand was founded by Thomas Ewers, who has been acquiring interesting casks over the last couple of years and is now releasing them.
I’ll be reviewing most of their current products soon. Some of the highlights in the range:
By now you should know the Daily Dram anagrams, and High Dark Plan is an easy one if you ask me.
Highland Park is one of the two distilleries on Orkney (together with Scapa). The island is located at the northern edge of Scotland, at the same latitude as Stockholm, Sweden or Anchorage, Alaska. Because of the rather extreme climate, there are very few trees to be found and the peat is very gentle (just soil, no wood).
Highland Park ‘High Dark Plan’ 10yo 1998
(46%, Daily Dram 2009)
Nose: taking off on estery notes. Peach, pear candy, grapefruit. Fruity honey and vanilla. Yellow apple. Very sensual in a way. Developing on more grassy / mineral notes, with delicate peat after a while, but still quite sophisticated. Whiffs of heather as well. Hardly any smoke. Mouth: punchy and just as fruity. Some syrup and vanilla, but soon to be replaced by growing peat. More smoke towards the finish. Spices emerge as well (cloves, ginger). Vibrant. Finish: Smokey, rather sweet and spicy (some peppery notes even). Hints of coffee beans. Slightly metallic.
This is very good stuff, and again it proves the all-round qualities of Highland Park, even at young ages. A fruity nose, growing more powerful on the palate with spicy wood influence in the finish. Around € 45.
This is the sister cask of the Ardbeg 1998 cask 1190 that I reviewed yesterday. Both are matured for 10 years in new, toasted oak hogsheads that are usually reserved for American whiskey. Both were distilled 11 May 1998 and bottled 10 December 2008.
Nose: the cigar boxes from Cask 1190 are here as well, but there’s more pine tree and resinous notes in this cask. Polished furniture. A lot of wood, but absolutely georgeous. I think Ikea should dedicate more time to the smell of their stuff, this is what it should be like. Vanilla ice cream. Berries and cream. Menthol and delicate herbal notes (eucalyptus, herbal tea). Tobacco. Some pepper. Again no prominent peat but a very complex and integrated ensemble. Mouth: very sweet, creamy vanilla with a roasted / salty edge. Some liquorice. Cigars. The lightest of tars. Sweet moccha and chocolate towards the end. Finish: not too long on spicy smoke and rather sweet toffee. Roasted coffee beans. Dry oak in the end.
Excellent results. If this was really a one-time experiment, then that’s a big shame. Both Ardbeg casks are fetching unethical prices on eBay but they are stunning casks. I don’t see much differences between the two, but this one was a little bit more complex.
Ardbeg released two experimental casks for Feis Ile. Both were filled in toasted oak. This is usually American white oak that has been processed and toasted by burning a fire inside of the cask. This can be minutes or hours depending on the temperature. Different temperatures highlight different flavours in the end result.
Nose: pencil shavings, cigar boxes. Tobacco. Reminds me of old bourbons. Really delicious. Quite some vanilla, orange and peppermint. Coconut and red berries even. Mouth: salty attack, hints of peat but very subtle compared to Ardbegs house style. Very sweet and round development. Milk chocolate with some cinnamon topping. Toffee. Truckloads of cocoa. Roasted coffee towards the end. Very balanced. Finish: oak, vanilla and caramel.
Now I have to say I enjoy a decent bourbon from time to time (unlike the majority of single malt afficionados, or so it seems). This Ardbeg combines relatively docile Islay flavours with some of the typical bourbon notes. It does not contain much peat and is completely different from every other Ardbeg. One to try for sure.
Bunnahabhain released a peated expression for Feis Ile 2009, chosen by Master Distiller Ian MacMillan. It’s a 2003 vintage (although there’s no age statement on the bottle), finished in oloroso sherry butts for three months in sea-facing warehouse n°7.
Mòine means “peat” in Gaelic. There was
a similar bottling for Feis Ile 2004.
Bunnahabhain ‘Mòine’ (58,4%,
OB 2009, Feis Isle 2009, 642 btl.)
Nose: starts off with a coastal kick. Salty and slightly sharp. Peaty with big roasted undertones (cocoa, espresso, bread crust). Sweet coal smoke with a delicate lemony edge. Hints of paint. Reminiscent of new-make. Rather weird and slightly off-key. The Lindores guys thought it was immature, which is correct, but I still appreciate it for being different and for having this “dark” side. Mouth: very sweet. Sugar coated peanuts. Salty notes as well (liquorice). The liquid version of the nose really (dark roast, yeast, close to new-make). Finish: sweet at first but getting ashier and drier. Roasted nuts again.
This may not have been the highlight of Feis Ile for some people, but I think Bunnahabhain proposed something unique here. Not new-make but not mature whisky either. Love it or hate it. By far the worst value for money of this year’s festival though (€ 120 for a 6 year-old?).
Don’t worry, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Oirthir Gàidheal means “Coast of the Gael” indicating the gaelic roots of Islay people (together with Basques and Catalans).
It’s a 16 years old Bruichladdich, distilled on the 22nd of April 1993 and filled into a refill sherry butt. It’s a valinch, which means it’s bottled directly from the cask by the customer. The actual outturn is therefore probably lower than the predicted 1000 bottles.
Nose: quite a malty start, but it opens up on fruity notes (peach, honey, berries covered in white chocolate) with (false) hints of peat (see below). Some fresh mint and grapefruit. Mouth: a lot punchier, quite some barley and still a few peaty associations (or so it seems), some sour notes, a bit of yeast and baked bread. Walnuts. Finish: nutty again (macadamia), peaty and again quite sour. Getting really dry in the end.
Enjoyable enough but not the best Feis Ile 2009 bottling nor the best Bruichladdich.
Update/ The reply from Bruichladdich’s Mark Renier made me want to taste it again. It turns out the sharp barley together with some false information about the dram’s properties (here and here) tricked me into thinking it was peated while it’s not. Apologies. It proves that the learning process never ends and that the power of suggestion should not be underestimated.
ps/ The second release of the Octomore has been bottled. It’s peatier than the first release (now 140ppm) and it will be presented in a box (I think I liked the tin better). There will be 15.000 bottles. Check the Laddie Blog for pictures. Oh, and PC8 will be the last in the PC… Port Charlotte series (30.000 bottles).
The Bowmore offering for Feis Ile 2009 had a limited availability of just 900 bottles (minus 12 that are kept in the Bowmore vaults for archive). It was distilled on the 14th of June 1999 and had a complex maturation in three types of wood: ex-sherry cask, ex-bourbon cask and a red wine finish.
Nose: big influence of the grapes. Harbour stuff as well: seaweed, boat rope. Some smoke. Hints of prunes, espresso and orange skin. Rhubarb. Soft balsamic vinegar. Somewhat reminiscent of the Bowmore Dusk (Bordeaux finish – which I didn’t like) but this is much better. Stronger and more complex. After adding some water: more orange notes. Too bad the typical lavender / perfume smell also grows stronger when diluted. Mouth: really powerful, the alcohol is a tad too strong. With water: tobacco and leather, blueberries… I would have sworn this was older than 9 years. Some cinnamon. The oak and cedar wood appears towards the end. Finish: spices, oak, berries.
I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to taste a Bowmore with a wine finish, but the result is in fact really nice and different. The wine is not at all overpowering and the sherry notes help to lift this dram.
It’s Sunday so let’s have a break from the Feis Ile bottlings and give you some news.
In celebration of their sixtieth anniversary since the launch in 1949, independent bottler Douglas Laing is releasing a series of 6 limited edition bottlings, one for each decade. They are single casks in a special retro version of the Old Malt Cask bottle design. This is the line-up:
• Macallan 30yo (rum finish)
• Laphroaig 21yo (refill sherry)
• Speyside Finest 40yo (Glenfarclas)
• Port Ellen 30yo (gimme gimme!)
• Glen Grant 30yo (sherry matured)
• Macallan 20yo (sherry finish)
Douglas Laing will release one bottling a month, from June until November 2009.