Ciao All, as you all know, is the Italian sister distillery of Caol Ila. It’s 12 years old so let’s pour a dram of the official Caol Ila 12 years as well and compare…
Caol Ila ‘Ciao All’ 12yo 1996
(46%, Daily Dram 2009)
Nose: initially a coastal impression. Iodine mixed with rather sweet peat smoke. Hints of toffee and motor oil. Sweeter, rounder, less austere than the original bottling. More biscuity as well. Lemon as usual, with a hint of vanilla. Less apple. Slight hints of tobacco. Mouth: oily and rather sweet again, peaty but still quite delicate. Some pepper and nutmeg. Growing intensly salty towards the finish. Overall much smoother than the regular version, despite the extra 3% alcohol. Finish: balanced smokey/sweet, with some peat and milk chocolate.
This ragazzo takes the original profile and adds a certain creamy smoothness. It’s tasty, powerful enough and extremely drinkable. The price level of around € 50 is probably a tad too expensive , compared to the quality of the distillery bottling (around € 35).
Macduff distillery is one of the younger plants in Scotland. It was built during the whisky boom of the 1960’s, specifically to produce malt for blends. It’s rarely released as a single malt. There is one official release (10yo) with the name Glen Deveron (from the name of the founding company) but independent releases are usually named Macduff. It’s currently owned by Bacardi / Dewar’s.
This 18 year-old Macduff 1990 was bottled in March 2009 by the new German brand Malts of Scotland. It was matured in a sherry hogshead.
Nose: obviously from an active cask, probably first-fill. It’s a mix of raisins, dry figs, oranges, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, caramel… Hints of sweet & sour sauce. A bit dusty as well, with a few organic notes. Maybe not completely free of rubbery notes, but they disappear. Mouth: heavy sherry impact with chocolate, coffee, pear syrup. Raisins. Minty edge. Finish: not too long, on dark cherries and dark chocolate. Drying oak.
This one is for sherry lovers only, but in its genre it’s really nice. You don’t seem to find many good Macduffs recently, but here you have one. Available on the German market for around € 70.
The Glenrothes recently announced two new expressions, a 20 year-old Glenrothes 1988 and a 10 year-old Glenrothes 1998. Both will be released in the Far East first, so no need to rush to your local supplier.
This is the official character description on the label of the 1988 vintage: “Rich candied orange peel, fruit compote”. And for the 1998 vintage: “Lemon citrus, rich vanilla, cinnamon hints”.
By the way, The Glenrothes’ Master Distiller, John Ramsey, is retiring after 43 years in the industry. The 1988 is his last creation and the 1998 will be the first for his successor Gordon Motion.
ps/ John Ramsey’s favourite Glenrothes of all times is still the Glenrothes 1979.
ps/ Check Stefan Hennig’s website if you’re interested in The Glenrothes.
Ardbeg sure knows how to pick unpronounceable names. It’s funny to hear what people make of this… The name refers to the second lake down from Uigeadail and means ‘place of the beast’.
Ardbeg 1990 ‘Airigh nam beist’
(46%, OB 2006)
Nose: starts surprisingly floral and fresh. Over time, with a bit of hand warmth, it changes to a more powerful, medicinal profile. Some lemon, peach, even vanilla ice cream. A few salty notes. Overall nicely integrated with the peat smoke. Mouth: creamy impact. Less fruity than on the nose. Lemon again. Seaweed, pepper and more extravert peat. Smoked bacon. Some chocolate. Finish: long with predominant liquorice and smoke. Sweet coffee as well.
Ardbeg at its (affordable) best, I would say. Strong and sharp but balanced with a good foundation of sweet malt. Still available (newer batches). Around € 65.
Auchroisk is a relatively young Speyside distillery built in 1974 by J&B. It still produces mostly for blending purposes, but there’s an official 10yo in the Flora & Fauna series and there were a few “Singleton” bottlings.
As far as I know, this is one of the oldest Auchroisks ever to be bottled, apart from the 28yo 1974 Rare Malts release. With an out-turn of just 97 bottles, it’s very limited.
Nose: very appealing, fruity / floral start, punchy enough considering the low alcohol volume. Peaches and orange marmelade. Pink grapefruit. Hints of strawberry candy. Vanilla cake. Marzipan / almonds. Faint notes of nail polish remover as well. Some subtle wood. With water: more citrus. Mouth: still fruity but with more wood with soft spices. Liquorice as well. Some resinous notes, slightly bitter towards the end. Not overly complex, and not a good swimmer either. Finish: rather long and drying. Some spicy cake again.
Interesting Auchroisk with a great nose, but on the palate it doesn’t stand up to some other 30+ year-old whisky. I expected a bit more. Around € 135.
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.