Auchentoshan is a lowland distillery, now part of the Japanese Suntory group. This 1991 vintage was finished in a red wine cask by Château Montrose, a winery in the Haut Médoc region (Bordeaux, France). They produce highly regarded wines with notes of cassis and vanilla. As a result of this, the whisky has a rather uncommon pink hue.
Nose: a lot of wine influence. The grapes are not well integrated with the whisky, so it seems. Quite dry and mono-dimensional. Also rather eggy, sulphury notes. Not attractive or simply not my cup of tea (although there are interesting notes of cassis and red berry jam). Mouth: starts off very sweet (raisins, sweet malt, muesli). Very hot as well (59,3%) but water immediately drowns the flavours. Too bad. Oranges maybe? Getting slightly tannic and bitter in the end (gin tonic, cloves). Finish: still bitter. Some chocolate.
Different, that’s for sure. But also one of the least appealing drams I’ve tasted lately. The delicate lowlands character is suffocated by the wine. Well, I guess not everything Malts of Scotland touches is gold. Around € 75.
It’s not a shame if you haven’t heard of Hillside. It’s another name for the Glenesk distillery (Highlands), closed and dismantled since 1985 and now used as maltings. It’s extremely difficult to find one of the three Rare Malts bottlings that Diageo released between 1995 and 1997.
Hillside 25y 1970 (60,1%, OB 1996)
Nose: malty and quite grassy. There’s some honey and grapes but they seem to be burried in the alcohol. Some solventy notes. Terpentine. With some water: better, more grape and some peach. Mouth: again rather strong on alcohol. Quite oaky, herbal and spicy (pepper). After a few moments, there is a wonderful wave of smoke, mixed with dark caramel. Water doesn’t add much, but it accentuates the smoke. Finish: slowly fading smoke. Rather sweet and fruity aftertaste, with the oak getting drier in the end.
Not all Rare Malts are excellent whiskies. This Hillside 1970 is very powerful but not entirely balanced. The bottle is worth around € 400 so better suited for collectors than drinkers. The smoke made it worth trying though.
Clynelish is a Diageo distillery that’s appreciated by many connoisseurs for its subtle, lighter style with lots of waxy notes and the usage of lightly peated malt. Clynelish (sister of the wonderful Brora) tends to be a bit unusual, but always rewarding. This 1996 distillation was from a sherry butt.
Nose: prickly nose but it opens up with some hand warmth, there’s lovely apricot captured by Clynelish’s typical wax. Hints of gin tonic and cut grass. Some oranges and almonds. Hints of violets. Lots of character really. Mouth: wonderful violet candy mixed with other fruity notes. Very sugary lemon juice. Sweet as marshmallows. So beautiful. Becoming oily and resinous. Oranges with nutmeg. Finish: medium length, balancing between waxiness, fruitiness and spiciness.
If you like vibrant, candied Clynelish, this is highly recommended. Around € 50 which makes it an absolute stunner! Thumbs up for Malts of Scotland. Find a shop in Germany that ships outside of the country.
Longmorn was founded by John Duff who also started the BenRiach and Glenlossie distilleries. It is one of the few distilleries who never stopped production during the 20th century. The spirit is seen as one of the better blending malts, and the heavily sherried independent releases from the 1970’s are brilliant. At the moment, there is one official bottling, the 16 years old which is just so-so.
Nose: fresh on citrus and barley. Also sweeter notes of honey. Hints of cake. Balanced oak influence (cigar box) with some spicy touches (vanilla, ginger, cinnamon). Mouth: very spicy (peppery) attack. As soon as this calms down, there’s a huge vanilla wave. Bitter oranges. Finish on vanilla with hints of cherries. Citrus and oak again. Quite sweet at first, gets more bitter towards the end. Apple cake.
Quite good, this Longmorn from a refill hogshead has character and a firm taste.
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.