Nose: slightly sharp, with a lemon marmalade / rhubarb note and some floral notes on top. Sour plums. Lots of Seville oranges. Some oily / waxy notes, eucalyptus and spices (pepper, cardamom). Fruit cake and cherry biscuits underneath as well as some pencil shavings. Mouth: oily, medium sweet, with honey and berries. Litchi liqueur. Some grapey notes and locum. Citrus again. Becomes fairly herbal towards the end, alongside an oaky dryness. Finish: medium long, slightly winey and oaky, with raisins, pepper and oak until the very end.
Very flavoursome considering its age. Rich, oily, waxy but also a tad winey and acidic. Slightly uncommon but classy spirit in any case. Around € 90.
Gouden Carolus is a highly respected beer from brewery Het Anker in Mechelen, Belgium. Besides a family brewing tradition spanning five generations, the family also distilled genever in a nearby village (actually almost in the backyard of my home).
This mill and later distillery called De Molenberg was renovated and in 2010 two pot stills were installed, custom made by Forsyths in Rothes. At that time it was the first pot still distillery in Belgium following Scottish traditions. Scotsmen Harry Cockburn (former manager of Bowmore) and Dr. James Swan (who helped to design whiskies for Penderyn and Kavalan among others) helped to define the processes.
I’ve had a quick chat with Charles Leclef, the owner of the brewery, and he stresses the fact that he wants to reach a wide audience of different experience levels, not just connoisseurs. Also he doesn’t want to be bound by Scottish maturation traditions. For now there are no plans for a range of a 5yo, 10yo etc. New expressions are possible but long maturation is not a must.
You may remember another Gouden Carolus single malt released in 2009. That was a totally different whisky, made in column stills at the Filliers genever distillery and matured in Jim Beam casks. A slightly quirky whisky.
The new one is produced in their own pot stills, from a better mash and matured in first fill bourbon barrels with a finish in recharred (virgin) casks. It’s just over three years old and bottled unchill-filtered and natural colour. The 50 cl bottles are only available at the brewery for now, but they will appear in select shops in a few weeks. A small visitors centre is planned to open in May 2014.
(46%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon + Het Anker cask finish, 50 cl.)
Nose: attractive nose, despite the obvious youth. Fruity notes (apricot jam and apples), moving to fruit gums and eventually also nice Guimauve / marshmallow notes. There’s a slight Irishness to it. Quite some vanilla. Scented wax candles. Hints of fresh oak shavings as well. Slightly ahead of its age, good. Mouth: full-flavoured, very malty, still quite fruity although there is also a slightly harsh grainy note (which may disappear with some extra years). Vanilla, soft ginger and pepper. Finish: medium long, drying with the oak moving forward. Nutmeg and vanilla.
This new Gouden Carolus single malt is better than I expected. The obvious beer notes of the previous release are gone and replaced by classic malty notes and spiced fresh oak influence. Promising. Around € 37.
So far there has only been one ‘black label’ from The Whiskyman, a Caperdonich 1972. It is reserved for extraordinary releases, old whisky that is hard to come by.
Last Friday, at the start of the Lindores festival, a second black label was presented, this Bunnahabhain 1973. Four members of the Lindores whisky club (Dirk, Geert, Christophe and Dominiek a.k.a. ‘The Whiskyman’) have turned 40 years old this year and they selected this cask as their private birthday dram.
The fab four asked me to design the label, and their heads are on the label. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent hours removing the wrinkles, pimples and double chins, it’s now suited for the front row of any whisky cabinet. Just kidding guys, congratulations!
Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1973 (48,5%, The Whiskyman ‘Birthday dram’ 2013, 155 btl.)
Nose: utterly fruity. Ripe bananas, almost a trademark of Bunnahabhain 1968 vintages. Juicy pears, mango, apricot and pineapple. Light hints of coconut and Moscatel wine. Honey. Less mineral than the Bunnahabhain 1973 in the Archives series, although the nose is nicely coated with waxy notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity again, much in line with the nose. Full cases of bananas! Oranges, peaches. Stays very sweet and juicy all the way, again less herbal and zesty development than the Archives sibling. Some marzipan and honey. Well balanced oak. Finish: long, elegant and fruity.
This is a great old Bunna, with a similar jammy profile to most of the 1968’s. Although I’ll give it the same score as the Archives release (we don’t do halves), I’d pick this one if I could only choose one. Not officially available in stores – start stalking your closest Lindores friend if you want a bottle. Or head over to the Lindores lounge in Oostende to have a dram. Around € 250.
Nose: quite ponderous, with a lot of hay and heather honey. Roasted almonds. Not entirely fresh at first, there’s an overripe apple and something of wet cloth or wet leaves, which is not an asset in this case. Some melon and citrus. Buttered toast. A bit of a strange ensemble in my opinion. Mouth: quite a different story. Sweet and fruity, candied and creamy. Honey and caramelized peanuts. Pears in syrup. Hints of gingerbread. Dried apricot. A bit of ginger / pepper from the oak as well. Mocha in the end. Finish: oranges, some chocolate and spices. Medium long.
Entertaining whisky, but not entirely up my alley. It’s meant to be a bang-for-your-buck whisky anyway, so you might as well grab a bottle to see whether it fits your profile. Around € 50.
It turns out The Whisky Agency selected a whole set of GlenDronach casks lately. We’ve already reviewed an excellent 2002 cask #710 and 1993 cask #4 earlier and now there’s a 2002 cask #712 and this GlenDronach 1993 cask #13. A double pair!
Too bad we can’t try them head-to-head, it will be a memory game then.
GlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(52,6%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2013, oloroso sherry butt #13, 668 btl.)
Nose: big notes of dried figs. Walnut cake and sticky toffee, a tad ponderous maybe but very intense. Freshly cut herbs. Similar exotic spices. Cinnamon. Lots of leathery notes. Something of grenadine. Rum & raisins. Mouth: sweet but quite savoury as well (as these herbs and spices). Roasted notes and dates. Coffee and tobacco. Again really heavy and full. A light oaky bitterness. Finish: long, fairly dry with dark chocolate, nutmeg and liquorice.
I can’t stop thinking I liked cask #4 better, but then again it may be more of a memory issue. Quality is high anyway. Around € 150, probably gone soon enough.
This Glen Scotia 1991 was bottled for the Spirits in the Sky Festival 2013, just a few days ago in Leuven. It’s a joint bottling by The Whisky Agency and festival organiser The Nectar. Like the other releases in the trio, the label features a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
Glen Scotia 22 yo 1991
(50,4%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2013, refill hogshead, 279 btl.)
Nose: quite attractive yet not easy-going. Clean, waxy and mineral at first, with some charcoal smoke and tiny farmy notes. Pipe tobacco, cigar boxes. Old fabrics and leather. Hints of flax. Not too austere though, it also shows vanilla and oranges, pink grapefruit and even something of women’s powder. Mint and thyme. It’s quirky and I like it. Mouth: a tad sharper now, with ginger and herbs, as well as some resin. Gentian. Lemon zest. Similar tobacco notes and some earthy notes. Soft vanilla. Paper? Salty and bitter around the edges. Funny hints of tequila añejo. Finish: medium long, herbal and zesty.
An unusual dram, although reading this again could make you think it’s typical. I really like this layered, anti-modern profile, with all its ups and downs. Around € 115.
Nose: very natural, a bit malty, a bit grassy. Underneath is a nice layer of honey sweetness and peach preserve. Grows sweeter and sweeter. Apple syrup, muesli, candied ginger, some pineapple after a while. Hints of butter cream. Some fresh garden herbs. Mouth: a malty core again, with a general fruity sweetness. Cake. Vanilla. Almond cream. Then more herbal notes again. Herbal honey. Liquorice and pepper. Finish: quite long, slightly hot with plenty of spices and sweet oranges in the very end.
A pleasant Blair Athol, combining a malty sweetness with a spicy kick from the cask. Be sure to give the nose some time. Around € 95.
The guys from De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden, a whisky club in the Eastern part of Belgium, hunted down this cask of Laphroaig 1997 in the stocks of Signatory Vintage. The remaining part of the sherry hogshead went to Vinothek Massen in Luxemburg.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1997
(55,4%, Signatory Vintage for De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden & Vinothek Massen 2013, refill sherry hogshead #3369, 292 btl.)
Nose: the higher sweetness points to sherry, but other than that, it’s not a sherry bomb like some 1989’s or 1991’s for example. Obvious peat, some red apples and walnuts. Classic Laphroaig medicinal notes. Olive juice and seaweed. Grows more coastal over time. Maybe some plums in the back. Mouth: thick, again fairly sweet. Enters on coffee, mocha, praline, these kind of flavours, before it turns the heat up. Pepper and liquorice. Tingling ginger as well. More peat and earthy elements than on the nose. Some menthol in the aftertaste. Finish: medium long, losing some of its sweetness and going back towards olive juice, liquorice and lemon zest.
This is just a refill sherry, so what you get is still pretty classic Laphroaig with an added sweetness. Good like most Laphroaig. Around € 100.