Oban distillery is small, low-profile and there aren’t many releases. Independent bottlings are also hard to find. It is well respected and maybe slightly underrated.
This Oban is currently the ‘distillery exclusive’. Most distilleries have these kind of limited editions that are not distributed to shops and usually well priced. It’s a mixture of different casks that were 16 to 19 years old.
Oban NAS (55,2%, OB 2010,
‘only available at the distillery’, 8999 btl.)
Nose: oily, with malt and zesty citrus and apple. A few coastal notes. Hay. Hints of peat in the background. After a while, it gets sweeter and more floral / candied notes show up. Oranges and grapefruit. Nice Highlands nose, albeit a little shy. Mouth: peaty, malty and quite spicy (cloves, pepper). A little chamomile. Sweet pears. Nice smoky ending. Finish: oaky and sugary. Medium length.
This Oban needs some time to unfold. A very firm dram with typical Highlands elements and a nice coastal touch.
This is a Springbank limited release, distilled in May of 1997. It was matured in refill bourbon barrels, then finished in fresh claret (Bordeaux) casks for
3 years and then another 2 years in re-charred casks (to smooth out the wine influence).
Springbank 12 yo ‘Claret Wood’
(54,4%, OB 2010, 9360 btl.)
Nose: immediately different. Rich, sirupy with a fresh, fruity side (redcurrant, raspberry, melon) but also a nice musty / coastal side. It even shows hints of coal smoke. Honey and figs. A little bit of mint. Hot sand? Reminiscent of the old Springbanks but in a modernized version. Very good and complex. Mouth: sweet and earthy at the same time. Orange liqueur and herbs. Old leather. A little ginger and pine resin. Again it seems to be a mixture of different styles, but it works very well. It seems to become less expressive when you add water though. Finish: long, slightly peppery with lingering fruits and a salty edge.
This is a big dram, with many layers and without any disturbing wine flavours. One of the best modern Springbank so far. Giving whisky a third maturation after a wine cask is not a bad idea!Recommended. Around € 45.
It’s good to see some sister casks and it would be very interesting to taste them side-by-side with the single cask releases of last year. In the meantime, have a look at the reviews of the first batch (2009) with the wonderful cask #719.
This August, four new GlenDronach releases will see the light of day. They’ve all received an additional finish in different types of casks, similar to what has been done at BenRiach over the last six years. The focus of GlenDronach will always be on sherry maturation though.
These are the wood finishes:
GlenDronach 14 years Sauternes
GlenDronach 14 years Virgin Oak
GlenDronach 15 years Moscatel
GlenDronach 20 years Tawny Port
The Tawny Port and Moscatel versions were matured in European oak sherry casks before their 18 month finish, the other two were bourbon matured (American oak).
Although they were available at the Wild West Whisky Fest, I waited until their charming sales rep James Cowan presented them in a tasting at TastToe.
Please note that we’ve tasted samples at cask strength.
I’ve manually tried to dilute them to bottling strength (46%).
GlenDronach 14 yo Sauternes (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: typical Sauternes influence: figs and melon with a buttery touch. Also a distinct hint of noble rot (botrytis) and flour. Apples with cinnamon. Honeysuckle. Mouth: sweet and honeyed with lots of barley sugar. Hints of vanilla and white chocolate. Finish: sweet, creamy and spicy.
This shares a lot of qualities with BenRiach 16yo Sauternes and should be a interesting alternative for Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or. Around € 50.
GlenDronach 14 yo Virgin Oak (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: this has striking hints of freshly sawn plywood. You know, the edge of the wood that is slightly burnt by the saw blade. It’s toasted, quite dry, with lots of vanilla and faint hints of glue. Nougat. Green banana. Actually quite pleasant. Mouth: spicy with hints of vanilla biscuits. Roasted peanuts. Nutmeg. Freshly sawn wood again. Finish: medium length and dry.
A peculiar profile with obvious woody notes. Not as good as the BenRiach Virgin Oak releases, but a nice introduction to the style. Around € 50.
GlenDronach 15 yo Moscatel (46%, OB 2010)
This sample was remarkably hazy. Nose: rather citric. Fruity but in a vibrant, slightly sourish way. Think of rhubarb. Stewed fruits. Apple compote. Yellow raisins. Apple crumble with whipped cream. Old roses. Mouth: more or less the same combo of garden fruits and brown sugar. Cinnamon. Marmalade. Some tangerine and lots of toffee. Finish: grows more woody, malty and spicy. Nice evolution.
Well made, sweet, fruity and very zippy. Around € 55.
GlenDronach 20 yo Tawny Port (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: much closer to the original GlenDronach style. Slightly vegetal sherry with mixed spices. Some honey. Blackcurrants. A light hint of smoke? Mouth: rich, with darker port notes but a nice acidity of sour cherries as well. Sultanas. Chocolate. Toffee. Slightly herbal towards the end. Finish: long, herbal and spicy.
This wood finish is a little closer to the common sherry releases with the port adding a deep fruitiness. Around € 80.
As a general remark, all of the wood finishes were pretty well made. None of them were too winey or cloying (none of them were exceptional either). GlenDronach has a kick start for these finishes thanks to the BenRiach experience.
It’s interesting to note that the 15yo ‘Revival’ was a new batch which seemed less sulphury and less dirty than how I remember the first batch, with a bit more fresh fruits. I think they’ve done some nice tweaking.
On the other hand I’ve always preferred the 18yo ‘Allardice’ and this is still the case. It’s fresher, polished and more fragrant, with lovely raspberry and hints of tobacco. I need to review this in depth one day.
GlenDronach Grandeur was the winner of the evening according to the tasting public. I agree. For me, the 18yo came in second and the Moscatel was my favourite of the finishes. Most people preferred the Port finish though.
This Glen Scotia is one of the two Malts of Scotland bottlings that were bottled exclusively for Belgium (the other one being a Glengoyne 1973). A sister cask #1931 (45,7%) is available in other countries.
Glen Scotia is rare, and a 37 years old Glen Scotia is even rarer. It was matured in a bourbon hogshead.
Glen Scotia 37 yo 1972 (45,1%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #1926, 197 btl.)
Nose: great start on nice notes of dried fruits (figs especially, also apricots) and gentle waxy / beehive notes. Yellow apples. Old white wine. There’s also a mustiness but a very nice one, kind of an old library smell. Old roses. Warm polished oak. A very light ashy undertone and faint hints of menthol. Ginger tea. This could have been the nose of an old-style Springbank. Really good. Mouth: a slightly bitter attack, perfect strength, with dried fruits, a bit of sour wood and hints of tequila. Walnut skin. Resin. Liquorice. It fades with a soft honeyed touch. Finish: a bit short and surprisingly coastal, with hints of salt water.
This Glen Scotia is definitely from another universe than the Glen Scotia 1992 but they share the attribute of not being a beginners whisky.
The nose is really high-class and probably the closest we can get to the old Campbeltown style nowadays. The palate had to grow on me: at first I thought it was a little austere and harsh (I scored it 88) but after a second tasting it became clear this is quite special and more complex. This should have been in my WWWF 2010 highlights. Around € 190.
I’ve had a nice day again. The Wild West Whisky Fest is a festival with a perfect mix of old and new bottlings, which makes it suited for whisky fans with different experience levels. Moreover, you didn’t need to wait long nor use your elbows to talk to your favourite bottlers.
Congratulations to the organisers! Now let’s hope the next editions don’t grow over their heads and get too crowded, because the festival is quite perfect as it is.
A few of the highlights for me:
Port Ellen 26yo 1983 (54,6%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare 2010, cask #674) – a good sherried Port Ellen with lots of sweet smoke, some meaty notes, chocolate and a dry finish. Around € 200.
Dallas Dhu 28yo 1981 (55,8%, Riverstown 2010) – Riverstown is a new label by Robin ‘Blackadder’ Tucek. This Dallas Dhu was quite oily, with a bit of coal smoke and big hints of oranges / Grand Marnier. A bit unusual but very good. Ugly labeling! Around € 160.
GlenDronach 8yo (45,4%, OB 1972, dumpy green 75cl) – unsherried, very fruity and fresh. Long gone.
Highland Park 13yo 1996 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, ref. 5732) – easy, very candied and honeyed, full of wine gums, a rather atypical Highland Park but very enjoyable.
Laphroaig 13yo 1996 (57,3%, Malts of Scotland ‘Clubs’ 2010, cask #7313) – bottled exclusively for The Bonding Dram. Soft nose on smoked ham, with a relatively explosive palate. Very good. Around € 60.
I’ve specifically avoided other interesting things. The new Arrans were there (14yo and sherry cask for Belgium) and are said to be quite good. We could also taste most of the Feis Ile bottlings and my beloved Longmorn 1972/2010 by The Whisky Agency was present at multiple stands. The new finished GlenDronachs were available, but I’ll taste them in depth shortly. I’ve also filled a few sample bottles with whiskies that I’ll present in the next few weeks. Stay stuned.
Douglas Laing manages a large series of Glenfarclas casks, but since Glenfarclas doesn’t allow independent bottlers to use that name, Douglas Laing bottles them as Speyside’s Finest.
They’re all very old (most of them were distilled in the 1960’s) and matured in sherry casks. This one was bottled for The Whisky Show in London in November 2009.
Speyside’s Finest 43 yo 1966 (48,2%, Douglas Laing OMC 2009, cask #5525, 197 btl.)
Nose: full blown sherry, with lovely notes of tobacco and cocoa. Chocolate. Quite dry with a nice savoury / herbal touch (parsley and mint). Balsamic syrup. Excellent. Water adds some raspberry liqueur. Mouth: the usual raisins, chocolate and orange liqueur. Drying towards the finish (hints of dark tea), with some liquorice. Mint again. Finish: very long, spicy and really dry.
It’s safe to say these Speyside’s Finest bottlings are all very good, and some are quite excellent. Around € 145 and still available from TWE.
Wild West Whisky Fest is probably the youngest whisky festival in Belgium, but after its first edition it already has a solid reputation. The 2009 edition was relatively small but all the major distributors and brands were present. The unique experiment in which the same whisky could be tasted blind with and without added caramel or chill-filtration, was a big hit as well.
The second edition will be held this weekend – June 5 and 6 in Kortrijk Xpo (1 to 6 pm).
Expect to find the new releases by Thosop, The Nectar, Malts of Scotland and other distributors (including those who were absent in Gent or Liège), but also expect a whole range of rare antiquities that you won’t find in stores (Lindores & Max Righi will be there). See you on Sunday?