Hakushu (written 白州 and pronounced Hak-shoo) is part of the Suntory group and was built in 1973 in the Southern Japanese Alps. It’s high above sea level, twice as high as Scotland’s highest distillery (Dalwhinnie).
This Hakushu 1989 single cask comes from a sherry butt, which is very rare (it’s probably the second single cask sherry release ever). It has a very dark, mahogany colour.
Hakushu 20 yo 1989 (62%, OB 2009 for The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt #9O 50021)
Nose: a bit restrained at first, but it opens up with big sherry notes of course. Excellent plums and raisins but also lovely fresh, sweet/sour notes of tangerines and bramble liqueur. Fragrant honey. Balanced wood influence: it’s certainly there but it never overpowers. Water brings out a hint of smoked wood. Mouth: hot and woody at cask strength but very rich. Spicy cake (some cinnamon and ginger). Plums again. Definitely from a clean sherry cask (why do the Japanese always seem to pick perfect casks?). The sandalwood gives it a dry and tannic edge, maybe even a few rubbery hints. Finish: quite long and smooth. Warming sherry with a sweet aftertaste.
A perfectly balanced sherry bomb – a Japanese Macallan, as it were. On the other hand, I still prefer the Longmorn 1969, which is just as sherried but less dry and more complex (although it’s older). This Hakushu 1989 is one of the Gold Medal winners that is still available from TWE (around € 200).
After the first Inaugural release of Kilchoman, this new version was released a couple of weeks ago.
It has been matured for three years in first fill and refill bourbon casks bought from Buffalo Trace. After that, it was finished in oloroso butts for two and a half months and vatted with non-finished (ex-bourbon) Kilchoman. Kudos to the distillery for explaining precisely what’s in the bottle.
Nose: starts in a similar way as the first release, but it doesn’t take long before this one shows more fruit. Another (small) step away from the new-make notes. Firm peat and extinguished cigarette notes, but also more maritime hints this time. More pepper as well. Hints of black olives. Faint whiffs of cinnamon and caramelized ginger – the start of spicy notes developed by the wood! Interesting how it constantly switches from sweet to savoury flavours while swirling the glass. Mouth: fat, oily peat. It doesn’t seem to get much grip though, the attack of the Inaugural release seems stronger to me. Some sweeter notes, fading quickly and making way for a very dry bitterness that evolves to soapy notes in the aftertaste. A bit strange and not entirely my taste. Finish: rather earthy peat with hints of nutmeg.
Kornog is the peated version of the Glann ar Mor whisky. This French distillery is located in Brittany, a region which has quite a lot of Celtic influence.
This is the first cask ever bottled of the peated spirit. Their (Scottish) malt has been peated to 35 ppm and matured in ex-bourbon barrels for three years. It’s very limited and hard to find with prices ranging from € 35 to € 75 for the same bottle!
Glann ar Mor ‘Kornog Taouarc’h Kentan’ (57,1%, OB 2008, first release)
Nose: very fresh, citrusy peat with light smoke and big notes of marzipan. A nice fruitiness as well (pears on syrup, pineapple sweets), slightly bubblegummy but very nicely so. There’s also a noticeable medicinal side (iodine, bandages) which gives it kind of a young Ardbeg profile. Hints of seaweed, rather faint but I hope this will become stronger after a couple of extra years in the maritime Breton climate. Give this dram some time and you’ll even notice some farmy notes and some garage smells. Mouth: interesting flavours of marzipan again, with some pear and kiwi. Definitely more smokey than on the nose. Lemon. Hints of vanilla. Growing saltier towards the end. Finish: very ashy with a big woody kick. Lots of peat.
Compared to other young peat bottlings like Kilchoman 3yo, this is more balanced (read: less peaty), more complex and surprisingly mature. Very enjoyable.
Berry Brothers & Rudd (BBR) is one of the oldest wine importers in the UK. They are the official distributor of The Glenrothes, and they have their own range of “Berry’s own Selection” bottlings. They’re all single cask releases (or at least very small batches).
This Longmorn is rather legendary, especially in Belgium. Some of our Malt Maniacs discovered this in Paris and advised the Belgian importer to make it available. A wise decision, as we will see.
Nose: very fragrant nose. Peach, grapefruit, strawberry. Fresh lemon. Cooked apple. Sweet and fruity, but there’s a lot more going on. Some vanilla. Mint. Milk chocolate with nuts. Dried flowers. A delicate layer of smoke. Hints of wax. What a wonderful complexity! Mouth: sweet and direct. Quite floral as well. Notes of herbal tea and citrus. Vanilla custard. Grapefruit again. Almonds. Light smoke. Banana. Finish: the same beat keeps going: vanilla, grapefruit and almonds, mixed with light peat smoke. Rather light in the end.
The nose is to die for. The mouth and finish keep developing the same flavours in endless variations. Around € 50 at the time. Now impossible to find. Damn!
If your name is Jean-Pierre, Veerle, Rowin, Bert or Arnaut, then you can expect an e-mail from me soon. You’re probably on the guest list for the upcoming Whisky Festival in Gent. See you on Sunday maybe?
The Connemara samples go to Pavlos (Greece), André (France) and three Belgians: Walter, Hans and Geert. You’ll have to be patient, because I will only be able to send them out after the festival.
Congratulations to the winners, and thanks everyone for taking part.
Bruichladdich is known for its extensive range of bottlings. Links is a series of limited edition bottlings, launched in 2003 and chosen by Jim McEwan, celebrating Scotland’s two major passions: whisky and golf. All of the Links series have been bottled deliberately at 14 years, providing an interesting comparison of different cask types and finishes.
The first release in the Links series was this ‘Old Course – St. Andrews’, matured in Spanish Oak casks. Later releases are Augusta, Turnberry, Troon, Torrey Pines, K Club, Hoylake, Carnoustie… There’s also a miniature version that is included in some Bruichladdich 3×5 cl tasting packs.
Bruichladdich Links 14y
‘The Old Course, St. Andrews – 17th hole’ (46%, OB 2003, 1st release)
Nose: very fragrant. Interesting combination of sweet exotic fruit and a salty whiff of sea air. Peach, kumquat, apple candy. Passion fruit. Mango. Fruit syrup and orange marmalade. A touch of mint and a hint of smoke. Very good. Mouth: oily delivery. The fruit is more subdued now, but still candied with some orange peel and apple. More smoke. Rather short, but warm finish.
I was really impressed by the nose but the palate didn’t deliver in the same way. Overall nice balance. A few stores around the world still sell this one. Around € 35 (50 cl).
Last night I was at a tasting with an interesting concept named Battle of the Stunners. Two challengers (Malt Maniac Bert Bruyneel and The Bonding Dram owner Jeroen Moernaut) select one bottle for each of 5 categories (blends, non-Scotch, peated…) with a maximum retail price of € 50 per bottle. The audience evaluates each combo blind and singles out one of the two bottles. The challenger with the best set of bottles wins the battle.
The choices of the public are in bold, although I have to say I had a different opinion on the second and third combo. Jeroen, who selected the first bottle of each combo, won 4-1. Congratulations!
It was an entertaining evening. My personal conclusion would be that malts from outside of Scotland offer great value for money, certainly in this price range. Also, it seemed to me a general public prefers bottles that have common (easy) flavours rather than complex (more difficult, but for me more interesting) profiles. Anyway, I swooped a couple of samples and will revisit some of these whiskies over the next few weeks.