Barolo wine finishes are not very common. Edradour, Bruichladdich and Longrow had some (with varying success), but interestingly enough, BenRiach released two Barolo casks at once this year. We’ve already had the BenRiach 1988 Gaja Barolo cask 4424 and now the 31 years old Benriach 1978 cask #4414.
BenRiach 31 yo 1978 (51,2%, OB 2009, Gaja Barolo finish, cask #4414, 245 btl.)
Nose: starts on bags of nutmeg. The red fruits (raspberry jam), the tangerines, the figs, the (dark) chocolate… from the 1988 Gaja Barolo are still here, but there’s more weight to it. Delicious fruit cake with cinnamon. Rose water. There’s also a distinct toasted aspect and a hint of fresh matchsticks which disappears after some airing. Very good. Mouth: full on. Grapes, all sorts of marmalades and a hint of smoke (tar even?). Very spicy, with pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Finish: long and coating. There’s an oaky dryness to it, but perfectly acceptable for its age.
Very good. Like a spicy sherry bottling, although the Barolo brings typical red fruits and floral elements as well. Available at around € 160.
The Benriach 1988 cask #4424 had a Gaja Barolo finish. Barolo is an Italian wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, one of many to claim the title “Wine of the Kings”. Gaja is a family of Spanish immigrants who revolutionized winemaking in Italy.
BenRiach 20 yo 1988 (54,3%, OB 2009, Gaja Barolo finish, cask #4424, 322 btl.)
Nose: red fruit marmalade. Nice hints of tangerine. Milk chocolate and toffee. Figs. Hints of old roses and honeysuckle. Very fragrant and fresh. The finish works surprisingly well here. Mouth: the fruits and the chocolate keep lingering. Toffee and natural caramel. Underneath, there’s a slightly sweet / sour vinosity and a toasted edge. Slightly drying finish. Not very long. The grapes stay strong.
The nose was a positive surprise with a successful wine treatment. On the palate, it’s a little too straightforward and slightly vinous. Still available at around € 85.
The Benriach 1990 cask #970 is 19 years old and matured in a bourbon barrel without an extra finish. It’s made in “classic Speyside” style which means it’s unpeated.
BenRiach 19 yo 1990
(57,1%, OB 2009, cask #970, 195 btl.)
Nose: indeed classic BenRiach style: pears, oranges and subtle honey. Clear notes of barley. Quite fruity and floral with hints of pinapples. Toffee. Vanilla as well. Reminds me of the Benriach 20 yo which is not a bad thing of course. Mouth: punchy attack, mostly the sawdusty oak that’s talking now. The creamy vanilla has grown bigger. Acacia honey. Lemon zest. Spicy notes: cinnamon, some ginger and liquorice. Slightly rummy aftertaste. Finish: not too long, on grapefruit and oak tannins.
A solid, classic BenRiach. No surprises here. Somewhat reminiscent of the 20yo but at cask strength with punchier oak spices. Still available at around € 80.
BenRiach 1994 14 yo – cask #105100 (Bourbon Barrel) – around € 60
(*) These are finishes. The others had a full maturation in their oak type.
They were launched in September, together with the GlenDronach single casks, but reviews are still very scarce. Let’s change that. I’ll be reviewing seven of these BenRiach single casks over the next 10 days.
To celebrate the anniversary, 50 new samples will be released in November which will increase the total number of samples from 200 to 250. Great! In the meantime, Whiskysamples released 60 relabeled bottles of the excellent Glenfarclas 1968 / 2009 Family Cask #699.
The latest bottling by Daily Dram is this 18 years old Glen Garioch. The distillery is currently in the news for the rebranding of their range (after Auchentoshan and Bowmore – part of the same group – did the same).
Glen Garioch ‘Glaring Echo’ 18yo 1991
(46%, Daily Dram 2009)
Nose: starts on apple cider and lemon balm. Orange peel. Hints of eucalyptus and a few resinous notes. A nice waxiness as well. Very clean and elegant. I like it. Mouth: soft, velvety delivery but growing stronger over time. Lots of apples again with some liquorice. Quite peppery. Slightly spirity but that’s okay. Nice oak. Some spearmint. Finish: long – the pepper keeps going. Getting drier with a faint grassiness in the end.
A good Glen Garioch with a nice highland style. A rather modern product: absolutely no flaws but maybe not the most unique either. Around € 80.
Last week, I attended the presentation of the new Glenrothes 1998 vintage in Madrid. Spain is the first country after Taiwan, Singapore and China to get this bottling. The rest of the world will have to wait a little longer.
It is the first bottling to carry the signature of Gordon Motion, the new Malt Master, after the retirement of John Ramsay. It is also the first available vintage that was specifically laid down to become a vintage. Previous releases were selected out of the existing cask stock in the warehouses. Note that the 1995 vintage was the first to be designed as a vintage, but that year’s production is not ready to be bottled yet.
Around a third of the selected casks were seasoned with oloroso sherry by three bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera. The other casks were ex-bourbon.
Glenrothes 1998 (43%, OB 2009)
Nose: initially hints of dry flowers, cereals and butter caramel / toffee. Easy to see this is a sibling of the Glenrothes Select Reserve, but with a more refined character. Quite fresh with a slight nuttiness. Notes of vanilla and citrus fruits. Lemon grass. Sweet honey. Mouth: starts gently on honey, fruity marmalade and apple. Quite sweet and vanillated. Some coconut. More depth when the spices kick in (mostly cinnamon). Finish: medium length with a lovely spicy profile (nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla).
This Glenrothes 1998 has more depth than you would expect from a 10 year-old. Not overly complex but fresh and well-made! Around € 42.
Nose: a few musty / meaty notes at first. I’m not a big fan of that, but with some time, a bit of hand warmth and a drop of water, it’s much better. Much more oak now (wood as well as varnish). Chocolate and red berries. Nice tobacco and old balsamic vinegar / sweet & sour combination. Hints of tandoori even. With water, an awesome nuttiness appears. Mouth: mostly raspberries that shine through. Raisins and dried plums as well. Big oak again, a bit of spicy toffee and chocolate. Faint whiffs of roasted coffee beans. Finish: quite long, sherry with cloves and a touch of pepper.
The heavy sherry on this Glenglassaugh 1984 needs some tweaking to get it right. Different flavours come out when you gradually add water. Take your time to discover it. Around € 120.
ps/ I was able to taste some of the forthcoming releases by Malts of Scotland (Aberlour 1990, Glen Spey 1977…) and they are remarkable! Something to look forward to.