It can be tricky to read “distillery X” and “year Y” and just assume you know what to expect, simply because you’ve tried a number of similar expressions. This Bowmore 1989 in the TWA Fights series is quite different from the ones I’ve had before.
Bowmore 23 yo 1989 (53,1%, The Whisky Agency ‘Fights’ 2012, ex-sherry butt, 341 btl.)
Nose: a sherried and slightly dirty version of Bowmore, nothing like the clean bourbon versions we’ve seen earlier. Buttery sherry, prunes, with farmy notes (manure, stables) and musty moss. Quite some pipe tobacco, leather and lots of cigar boxes. A bit of salt water and mint. Not much peat at all. Reminds me of the excellent Bowmore 1995 SMOS. Mouth: similar profile, plenty of sweet pipe tobacco notes. The sherry is more herbal and meaty now (hints of cough syrup) and there’s more peat to be found. Again not entirely clean but in a farmy way rather than a sulphury way if you ask me. Cinnamon and cloves. Coffee. Wet forest notes again. Finish: long, dry, with more sharpish oak now, faint echoes of sherry sweetness, salty liquorice and herbs.
This is not what we expect from Bowmore these days, it’s farmy (or dirty if you like) and a little rough but full of interesting flavours. Maybe not be totally balanced but I really like its unique tobacco character and power. Around € 135.
This is the oldest Auchroisk ever released by the distillers, bottled from a mix of re-fill bourbon and European sherry casks, all filled in 1982. It’s part of the Diageo Special Releases of 2012. In 2010 there already was a 20 years old sister.
Auchroisk 30 yo 1982
(54,7%, OB 2012, 2976 btl.)
Nose: stewed fruits (apricots, yellow plums and mango) and lots of figs and dates. Some vanilla and orange peel. Quite sweet, but there’s a nice lemon / mint note to freshen it up. Nice honey and beeswax, as well as some dusty libraries! There’s also a spicy / grassy undertone and roasted nuts. Elegant and nicely old, with plenty of little nuances. Mouth: suddenly much spicier (pepper, cloves, nutmeg) and drier with a hint of coffee powder. It shows quite an intense oaky side, leather and eucalyptus. Herbal tea and something burnt. Still some honey, vanilla and dried fruits to bring some roundness, but too little too late. Finish: long, spicy and dry with some tannins and umami notes.
Not sure about this one. It certainly shows some of the nice, mature Speyside elements, but it also twists and turns and isn’t able to hide the heavy wood influence. Around € 240.
Tomatin used to be a giant (in terms of product capacity) but relatively unknown distillery until it was discovered a couple of years ago as a beautiful single malt. Just like for BenRiach (another one of these “re-discovered” distilleries) the 1976 vintage helped to gain respect, alongside the great 1960’s expressions.
This MO ÒR Tomatin is 34 year old whisky distilled on the 31st of December in 1976, which is a rarity by itself.
Tomatin 34 yo 1976 (46%, Mo Òr Collection 2011, sherry butt #4, 954 btl.)
Nose: mirabelles on syrup, soaked raisins, ripe plums and red berries. That lovely Tomatin fruitiness topped with sandalwood and oak polish. Baked bananas in the background. Soft herbal and spicy notes (juniper, mint). Again this is one of the more heavy-body versions that have less tropical fruits and more classic sherry. Very good nonetheless. Mouth: sweet and fruity, great sherry character again and a great wave of pink grapefruit and – there they are – tropical fruits like mango and honeydew melon. Also hints of coconut cream, a really nice touch. Quickly after that though, it swings towards herbs and liquorice, with a woodiness and a peppery feeling that seems louder than in similar expressions. Finish: slightly shorter than expected. Still lots of mint and spicy notes.
This Tomatin 1976 combines a fruity core, a balanced amount of sherry and oak. I tried it quickly before (thanks Kris for sharing Marc’s bottle, heheh) and it seemed a tad too woody back then. After a proper tasting I think it’s certainly within limits and quite a rich version. Around € 150 for a 50cl bottle.
This is only the second bottling the Amazing Casks series by Malts of Scotland, after a Bowmore 1995/2010. It’s a range for exceptional casks selected by Thomas Ewers (Mr. Malts of Scotland) and Luc Timmermans (Mr. Glenfarclas / Thosop). This one is a Highland Park distilled in 1986.
Highland Park 26 yo 1986 (54,1%, Malts of Scotland ‘Amazing Casks’ 2012, bourbon hogshead, MoS 12053, 245 btl.)
Nose: a mixture of austere notes (flints, wet chalk and grasses), fruity notes (ripe gooseberries and apple compote) and spicy notes (ginger). Also wax, hay and heather. Hmmm, a little aspirin as well. Very clean and sharp, pretty mineral and coastal too. Mouth: straight on apples and lots of them. Then some grasses and heather again, now also floral notes. Grapefruit and gradually also other fruits like pear sweets. Loads of ginger, pepper and mint. Liquorice. Hints of pine resin and minerals as well. Slightly bitter and salty towards the end. Finish: long, peppery, suddenly gains sweetness now, and a smoky edge.
A nice Highland Park but there’s a distinctive anti-roundness that bothers me. Similar to the Highland Park 1986 bottled last year in that respect. Maybe not totally ‘amazing’ but I know many people loved it at Spirits in the Sky. Around € 160.
Girvan is a Lowlands grain distillery. It is said to be the most modern, industrialized distillery of Scotland. They are part of the William Grant group (Glenfiddich / Balvenie) and produce the grain whisky that is necessary for their blends. This 1964 expression was bottled in the latest Fights series by The Whisky Agency.
Girvan 48 yo 1964 (49,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Fights’ 2012, ex-sherry butt, 487 btl.)
Nose: a lot of freshly shaved oak and a hint of glue in this one. Baked bananas, coconut oil and vanilla. Toffee apple. A little grassiness and leather as well. Those are common aromas for a grain and in this case they’re nicely integrated with whiffs of medium-aged rum and bourbon. A little wood-driven overall, and there’s a slight pungency to it. Mouth: again very much like rum, with molasses, baked bananas, caramel, yellow raisins and a pineapple / coconut combo. A little toffee too, roasted almonds and then soft spices and liquorice. Finish: medium long, drier and gingery but not too oaky.
This Girvan grain whisky is fresh, not too oaky, and very classy. An intriguing crossover of rum, bourbon and grain whisky. Around € 220.
Last year’s Brora 32 years old introduced older expressions, after a series of 30 year-olds and one 25 year-old. The latest version contains whisky distilled during 1976 and 1977 – that’s 35 years and therefore the oldest Brora ever. It is made up of refill American oak casks.
Last year I wrote “it’s kinda worth € 350”, I’m not sure this can be repeated with this year’s inflated price tag of nearly € 600.
Brora 35 years old
(48,1%, OB 2012, refill American oak, 11th Annual release, 1566 btl.)
Nose: yes sir. Starts on white grape juice, evolving to pineapple juice, mixed with a peculiar waxiness that only Brora could produce. In between fat crayons, plasticine and Barbour grease I’d say. Hay. Luscious honeycomb aromas. There’s soot and petrol too, more so than last year’s release, but I wouldn’t call this really smoky. Plenty of coastal notes, especially after a while. Fresh eucalyptus and mint too. This shows more of the early 70s Brora profile than the last 30 year-olds, but on the other hand it doesn’t have their degree of farminess. You may say it’s closer to Clynelish than to Brora, but in that case you must have the best Clynelish in mind. Mouth: a little more peat and smoke now, more oak too, but it’s combined with a lovely medium tropical fruitiness (mango, passion fruits). Crystallized oranges. Lots of waxy notes again, some mineral flavours. Aniseed and soft liquorice. Faint hints of cough drops. A pinch of salt towards the end (seaweed?). Finish: fairly long, fairly dry, waxy and leathery. Just a hint of coal ashes.
A wonderful Brora again, quite extraordinary in terms of complexity and unique flavours. More minerals than last year, something in between old Clynelish and late 70s Brora. Most people seem to find this is slightly better than the 2011 release, I’m giving them the same score until I can do a proper head-to-head. Around € 500-600 – too expensive but nevertheless hard to find already.
This is third bottling by anCnoc with the cooperation of graphic designer Peter Arkle (launched at the same time with the second bottling which we’ll try later). Check my review of the anCnoc Peter Arkle first edition for background information.
It’s a travel tetail offering so you can pick it up at airports and on ferries. The packaging is inspired by an old-fashioned traveller’s leather suitcase. The whisky inside has been matured in first fill bourbon casks.
Nose: fresh citrus, lots of lemon and grapefruit. White peach and green apple. A little sawdust and hints of dough. Then some soft vanilla, honey and a marshmallow sweetness. Hints of ginger and touches of flowers. Perfect spring whisky I’d say. Mouth: more of the apples and pears, also a few cereal notes. Lemon again. Fresh oak shavings. It’s all about the bright side of the whisky spectrum, but it’s not too delicate or soft either. Finish: not as long as I hoped, with quite some bourbon wood left in the end. Still bright and citrusy though.
Probably the brightest, lightest anCnoc I’ve had. Very modern, easy-to-like whisky. Around € 50. Available in the near future.
There are three new releases in the Angel’s Choice series (35cl bottles) by Malts of Scotland: a misspelled Glenalaichie (Glenallachie) 1973, this Glen Grant 1972 and another one that’s only available in Germany.
Glen Grant 40 yo 1972 (54,2%, Malts of Scotland ‘Angel’s Choice’ 2012, sherry hogshead, MoS 12045, 136 btl., 35 cl.)
Nose: characteristic nose on honey, stewed plums and quite some wax and paraffin. Polished furniture. Hints of papaya and marzipan. A little mint and cinnamon. Bee pollen as well, and light hints of potpourri flowers. Mouth: beautiful combination of dried apricots, plum jam and figs. On the other hand there’s more oak now, considerably more, but still the nicely polished, minty type. Faint hints of bitter oranges. Aniseed and nutmeg, and a little fruit tea. Again a floral edge. Finish: medium long, with the oak up another notch. Still these oranges and spices.
A beautiful Glen Grant which received a lot of applause at the Spirits in the Sky festival. Not unlike some Caperdonich from the same year – that’s always good news. Too bad the price is considerably higher than the similar release bottled earlier this year. Around € 130.