It’s clear that independent bottlers are running short of available Littlemill casks. Douglas Laing now classifies them in the Director’s Cut series that are usually fairly expensive.
This one was distilled in February 1992 and bottled in September 2013 at cask strength.
Littlemill 21 yo 1992 (55,2%, Douglas Laing Director’s Cut 2013, hogshead ref. 9970, 113 btl.)
Nose: less overtly fruity than some other Littlemills. I mean not that many lemons and tangerines, it’s focusing more on oily / waxy notes, minerals and grasses. A big malty core. Also walnuts and gooseberries. In the background a nice hint of strawberries and cream. Mouth: quite sweet, malty and creamy at first. Caramel sweets (Mokatine). Some pink grapefruit but again not very loud, more zesty than fruity. Waxy notes and some oak. Sugared green tea. Quite spicy towards the finish. Finish: long, zesty and peppery with a hint of heather honey.
Maybe not the typical Littlemill citrus bomb, but an interesting whisky nonetheless. Expensive: around € 160.
This is a 14 years old single cask Springbank 1998, bottled for the Belgian importer The Nectar. One of the new releases presented at the 2013 Spirits in the Sky festival.
Springbank 14 yo 1998 (58,2%, OB for The Nectar 2013, fresh bourbon cask, 132 btl.)
Nose: a complex nose. It’s peaty and coastal, with some wet dogs and the typical Springbank chalkiness, but also plenty of fruity notes. Tangerine, lemon, grilled pineapple, even some strawberries. Surprisingly tropical. A bit of vanilla. Subtle floral notes. Quite some hidden depths. Mouth: punchy, again very complex. Very fruity (pineapple, coconut, maybe mango), nicely balancing the smokiness and peat. A big pinch of pepper as well as some sweet liquorice. Finish: long, fruity with echoes of coconut and oak.
Excellent Springbank, with a boost of fruity notes alongside the typical peaty and maritime aromas. I’m not an unconditional fan of the modern Springbank output but I sure love this one. Around € 90, but sold out as far as I know.
Master of Malt is presenting quite a tour de force with a 60 years old single malt distilled and matured at an undisclosed Speyside distillery. They already had a line-up of 30yo, 40yo and 50yo expressions.
It costs £ 1000, which seems fair in a climate of premium whiskies of this age being sold for anything from £ 8000 to £ 100.000. It’s still expensive, but at least here you don’t pay for crystal bottles, wooden cases or fancy marketing (besides a sample for a couple of bloggers). They don’t even stress how limited it is, how cool is that?
Undisclosed Speyside distillery 60 yo
(42,5%, Master of Malt 2014, 1st Edition)
Nose: quite beautiful, mellow, with a gentle profile of sweet apple, oranges and white grape. Nice waxy touches of old candles. A mint and lemon combo. There’s also a buttery quality to it, like soft vanilla cake. Behind this there is a floral note and refined oak. Delicate but surprisingly complex, after a while I picked up apricot jam, musty books and a soft toasted note / roasted nuts. Mouth: again very smooth and subtly fruity at first. Coconut oils, a bit of the candle wax again. Tobacco leaves and cinnamon. Then it becomes herbal, with a funny note keeping the middle between balloons and marihuana (someone told me how this tastes *cough*). Master of Malt calls it tomato stems in their notes. Slightly potpourri-ish, with a sour oaky edge, but well within limits. Finish: not too long, which is understandable, but totally graceful. Herbs (mint) and tobacco juice.
This is a class of malt on its own, and few of us will be able to compare. It’s pleasantly fruity and waxy, remarkably elegant and nicely oaky without being tannic. Around € 1200, available from Master of Malt (samples as well).
Cù Bòcan is the name of a legendary dog-like creature that has stalked residents of the remote Highland village of Tomatin for centuries. It gave its name to the recent Tomatin Cù Bòcan, a lightly peated whisky (15 ppm) matured in a combination of bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks.
Tomatin distillery only produces peated spirit during one week of the year, good for about 60.000 litres. The peated part of the whisky is aged 8 years, but the whole composition doesn’t have an age statement).
Tomatin Cù Bòcan (46%, OB 2013, 18.000 btl.)
Nose: sweet and citrusy. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, both sweet juice and slightly tangy zesty notes. Some biscuity notes – that’s the younger spirit talking. Hints of ginger and grasses. Smoke is only found in the background. Mouth: a little more smoke now, with slightly sharpish grains and quite a big emphasis on new oak. Youngish and unbalanced. Chilli pepper. Ginger, cloves and aniseed. Finish: quite long, but a tad harsh and spicy.
I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s peaty but in a summery way that doesn’t fit the image of a haunting creature. The regular Tomatin fruits are drowned in pepper and virgin oak. A missed opportunity for Tomatin. Around € 50.
Angus Dundee started as a blending company in London but in recent years they’ve acquired distilleries like Tomintoul and Glencadam, and they launched labels like Old Ballantruan. They also sell independent bottlings under the names Mackillop’s Choice and Montgomerie’s Rare Select.
Today’s dram is a 27 years old Dalmore 1986. Sister casks #3090 and #3096 have been bottled in the Mackillop’s series. What’s interesting is that you rarely see independent Dalmore. Most blenders tend to exchange new spirit though, so this may have been an exchanged parcel.
Nose: fairly neutral with lots of sweet cereals. Some apples, fresh oranges and orange blossom. Nutmeg and wet sawdust as well. Hints of hay. Mouth: quite punchy, with lots of citrus notes (both sweet orange and slighty sharper grapefruit zest) but also plenty of oak now. Pepper, ginger, some vanilla. Very faint hints of coconut and pineapple, but hidden behind the grainy facade. Finish: medium long, compact and malty with a lingering sweetness.
It’s not a bad whisky, with nice orange notes, but overall too malty and neutral for my taste. Not worth the asking price of around € 145 in my opinion.
The eighth release of the hugely successful Balvenie Tun 1401 found its way to Belgium at the end of 2013.
Batch 8 brings together the largest number of casks in the series so far, 9 American oak bourbon casks and 3 European oak sherry butts. One of them was filled in 1991, two in 1981 and 1982, but all the rest is 1970’s whisky. It’s the darkest Tun 1401 I’ve come across, a first hint of its character?
Balvenie Tun 1401 (50,2%, OB 2013, batch 8, 2.700 btl.)
Nose: it seems immediately different from the others. Rather more overtly sherried. But stunning notes of American whiskey as well. I would say it’s fuller and warmer than the ones I’ve tried before. Mirabelles on syrup, black cherries, ripe banana and candy apples. Plenty of acacia honey and beeswax. Creamy vanilla. Cinnamon sticks and leather. Faint mocha. Excellent. Mouth: richly sherried again. There’s more cinnamon, dried fruits and strawberries, as well as top notes of orange peel and ginger cake. Vanilla pods and chocolate. Some woody spices, wax and pine resin in the end. Finish: long, leathery. Still some plums alongside the oaky touches. A tad too tannic to be truly heavenly.
Excellent Tun 1401, slightly different from the others, with a slightly ‘darker’ sherry influence, and my favourite batch so far (although batch 5 comes close). I believe the official price was around € 200 but as always with these kind of whiskies, some shops are not afraid to ask € 300 or more.
The last whisky I’ll review from the GlenDronach single casks batch 9. The 1991 and 1992 were not very convincing, let’s hope the 1993 cask #5 can fulfil its promises.
GlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(53%, OB 2013, oloroso cask #5, 645 btl.)
Nose: excellent. Lots of fresh figs and juicy plums, with a bright top note of orange blossom and rose petals. A slightly rummy / brandy-like aroma as well. Soaked raisins. Lovely pipe tobacco and cigar boxes. Hints of incense. Almonds and vanilla cake. Soft hints of those chocolate-covered coffee beans. Mouth: rich, initially sweet but growing drier and spicier in a nice evolution. Figs and dates again, raisins and chocolate. Cinnamon and cloves. Lacking a tad of body in the middle, but still very good. Ginger and herbal notes (mint). Finish: long, quite dry and rather ‘darker’, with hints of dried fruits, dark chocolate and mild oak.
I’ve said it before, but those GlenDronach butts filled on the 15th of January 1993 are just great (casks #1-#35 more or less). Around € 130.
The Yamazaki Puncheon is matured in American oak puncheons (large 480 litre casks, often even larger). Larger casks, so slower ageing and supposedly elegant and spirit-driven. While puncheons are usually seasoned with sherry or rum, apparently the ones Yamazaki used had previously contained bourbon whiskey. I hadn’t heard of bourbon puncheons before.
It has been released in 2011 and 2012 already, and the 2013 version is said to be the final release.
(48%, OB 2013)
Nose: fresh and fruity, with lots of American oak influences indeed. Pears, peaches and vanilla, with nice hints of pineapple and banana. A little bubblegum. Hints of floral honey. Quite some fresh oak as well. Overall it’s bright but also a little youngish. Mouth: bright, malty and fruity again. Yellow plum, peach and orange. Pear drops and lime. Coconut. Vanilla ice cream. Becoming fragrant, a tad too floral maybe. Exemplary for American oak, very predictable as well. Finish: medium long, sweet and slightly gingery.
Well made, clean and fruity whisky that’s easy to like. On the other hand its ambition doesn’t reach beyond showcasing the wood it was matured in. Between € 105 and 125.