A couple of weeks ago, I made a city trip to Valencia (Spain) and stayed in the Hilton Valencia (now Meliã Valencia). Their Podium bar had a decent range of +/- 40 single malt whiskies, the crown jewel being a Linkwood 1954 G&M (€ 58 for 4cl – quite outrageous but at least it’s excellent whisky – the others had a more reasonable price by the way). I decided to try a Millburn 1976, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in their Connoisseurs Choice range.
Millburn distillery was originally know as “Inverness distillery” and was mothballed in 1985. In 1988, it was destroyed and the site now houses a restaurant. There was an original bottling in the Rare Malts series, and a few releases from independent bottlers. This Millburn 1976 is from a refill sherry butt.
Millburn 27yo 1976
(46%, Gordon & MacPhail 2004)
Nose: very rich. Starts rather perfumy on white peach, lavender and dried apricots. Develops some dusty notes over time (incense, old books). Some very light smoke in the background. Linseed oil. Quite complex. Mouth: malty start. Very spicy and peppery development, rather hot. Some peat smoke. Dry walnuts. Charred oak. Finish: sweet start with spices (nutmeg). Getting drier in the end (cloves, sherry wood).
Interesting stuff. Not perfect, but very complex and rewarding, especially on the nose. On the palate, it’s not really dynamic. Not available any more.
Redbreast is not a single malt, but pure pot still whiskey. It’s made from a mixture of both malted and unmalted barley. It’s not strictly a blend either, because the mixture is distilled at once instead of blending them afterwards. Although it’s typically Irish, nowadays the tradition is taken over by malt whiskey.
Redbreast 12y (40%, OB 2008)
Nose: creamy and fruity. Pear, banana and peach, with a layer of sweet honey. A bit of marzipan. Very rich vanilla pudding. Fresh cake and hints of sherry. Slightly waxy. Some red pepper in the distance. Mouth: oily mouth-feel, fruity again (cassis, strawberry). Coconut with peach. Gingery notes as well. Finish: growing spicier with hints of liquorice. Pears and honey. Quite some nutmeg, and a slightly winey aftertaste.
The nose is very attractive. On the palate it slows down a bit, but it’s still a very decent Irish whiskey at a great price.
This 12 year-old Talisker was bottled in 2007 but it re-appeared in some FOTCM stores a few weeks ago. It seems they didn’t manage to sell all of their bottles? This release was matured in European Oak.
Talisker 12yo (45,8%, OB 2007, for Friends of Classic Malts, 21.500 btl.)
Nose: unmistakably Talisker. Grilled notes, freshly baked bread. Some peat. Hints of sherry, a wee bit of sulphur maybe. Some spices, mostly pepper and chilli. Slightly maritime (sea-weed, oily fish). Mouth: in the same league as the standard Talisker 10yo, but sweeter at first. Honey. Spices and toasted notes. Sugar coated nuts. White pepper. Hints of mustard. Finish: getting more salty. Slightly peaty and smokey. Some sweet oak influence.
Compared to the standard Talisker 10yo, this one is a little less spicy with a more generous dash of honey. Creamy but not really worth the extra cash.
Tomatin is an active Speyside distillery founded in 1897. It had a period of rapid expansion during the 1960’s and was working at full capacity between 1975 and 1980. After bankrupcy in 1985, it is currently owned by a Japanese group.
This 31 year-old Tomatin was distilled in November 1976 and matured in a refill sherry cask.
Tomatin 31y 1976 (49,6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle 2008, cask #19085, 336 btl.)
Nose: ooh, honeyed and tropically fruity like old Speysiders (let’s say Glenrothes or Linkwood) or even old Bowmore can be. Exotic fruits: mango, pineapple, tangerine marmelade. Demerara sugar. Banana. Strawberry. Hints of cigar box and lavender. Slight waxy notes and silky vanilla. Just marvellous. Mouth: still very fruity (banana, apple, berries) but a lot more wood now. Hints of kirsch / rum. Resinous notes. Slightly tannic and sourish. Fading towards grapefruit. Finish: rather long, more wood, half fruity / half spicy with a faint bitterness. Even a salty edge (liquorice).
The nose of this Tomatin is tropical perfection, but on the palate there are a few less gentle (out of tune?) notes that counter-balance the overall fruitiness. A real treat anyway. Around € 155.
This ArdbegBlasda caused a bit of a shockwave among afficionados. For the first time, the distillery would release a virtually unpeated whisky (8 parts per million instead of 24 ppm). The fans feared that it would be a light “Fanta” version (also because it is bottled at just 40% strength).
Ardbeg Blasda (40%, OB 2008)
Nose: light and very clean. Quite fruity with juicy apple, fresh lemon and some kiwi. Still noticeably peaty, more than you would expect, with notes of ashes. Slightly coastal as well. Mint. Mouth: again light and clean. Sweet peat, peaches on syrup, lemon. A bit too shy in my opinion. It’s probably too young to have a lot of character. Finish: spicy, peaty, lemony. The nose, the palate and the finish are really playing in the same field here. You could call that harmonious, or you could call that a bit boring.
Let’s try to evaluate this without Ardbegs tradition in mind, as a new brand so to speak. It’s decent whisky, but not exciting. Light and easy, a good choice for a hot summer day. All in all, I guess there are better examples of lightly peated drams, but I’d love to taste this after a few extra years in the cask. Around € 55.
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.