I can’t remember other Irish whiskey from The Whisky Agency, but now they have two at the same time. It’s a single malt so either produced at Bushmills or Cooley. This one was distilled in 1988, the year Cooley started distilling, but that doesn’t tell us anything. Update: according to the Teeling brothers, Cooley distilled it first malt in 1989. Bushmills it is?
Irish single malt 25 yo 1988
(51,1%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, 212 btl.)
Nose: all the yellow fruits you can expect from Irish whiskey. Especially Maracuja sherbet. Also pink grapefruit (BenRiach 1976’s style), white apricots and hints of Charentais melon. Orange blossom. Bags of gummy bears. Very fresh, with a definite acidity, although there’s a warmer vanilla theme in the background. Soft notes of herbal honey. Mouth: sweet, still lots and lots of this passion fruit sherbet, simply lovely. There’s some oak and liquorice, as well as fresh herbs, but they don’t stand a chance, the tropical fruitiness is ten times bigger. Bananas, mandarins and a little coconut. Triple Sec. Truly a fruit bomb. Hints of cinnamon and mint. Finish: long, still sweet, slightly nuttier and more chocolaty now.
Just excellent Irish whiskey, it turns the fruity volume up to 11 but it wouldn’t be a Whisky Agency release if it didn’t show complexity as well. It doesn’t matter, but this time my guess would be Bushmills. Highly recommended, even at € 200.
The Glenrothes 2001 vintage is the latest vintage from this distillery. It has been selected from a variety of casks to deliver a “conversational style”. Try to meet the wonderful Ronnie Cox if you ever have a chance. He’ll tell you all about the different “moods” they’re trying to create, and how a new vintage replaces the previous while recreating the same style.
The Glenrothes 2001 is the youngest offering in their range, and the first vintage of the new millennium. This is the European version at 43%. Apparently the Asian version is 40%.
Glenrothes 2001 (43%, OB 2013)
Nose: bright, with juicy barley, vanilla and icing sugar. Stewed apples. Fresh oak and honey, with some lemon peel top notes. Just a little butterscotch in the background. Classic Glenrothes. Mouth: shy attack, it feels slightly underpowered at first, but it folds open nicely. First citrus notes (lemon pie, lemon zest), apples, then brazil nuts and heather honey. Orange peel. Growing spices from the wood, mainly cinnamon and nutmeg with a bittersweet edge. A hint of kirsch as well. Finish: medium long, slightly sweet, citrusy but mainly quite spicy.
A nice, clean dram that’s both light, citrusy and spicy at the same time. Around € 55.
I tried this Ben Nevis 1995 quickly but couldn’t detect anything special. I was in a hurry so I poured it back and tried it again three days later. Sometimes waiting long enough makes all the difference between a regular whisky and a special one.
Ben Nevis 18 yo 1995 (51,8%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, refill hogshead, 242 btl.)
Nose: starts surprisingly un-fruity compared to the rest of this series. Sweet cereals, mineral notes and some waxy / fatty notes. Meadow flowers. After some time and hand warmth it becomes warmer and unfolds its fruits: first grapefruit and lemon balm, then more exotic banana, maybe kiwi. Hints of vanilla. Quite a “Littlemillian” evolution in a way. Mouth: even more similarities to some Littlemill expressions: bright, slightly exotic fruits. Tangerines, lemon sweets, a little passion fruit and pink grapefruit. A good dose of fresh bourbon oak too, as well as a cirtusy zestiness, ginger and grassy notes. The waxy notes are still present. Finish: medium long, still fruity.
Fresh whisky with a fruitiness that starts shy and hits you on the palate. Typical Ben Nevis minerals as well. A nice surprise. Around € 95, arriving in stores as we speak.
Nose: a delicate nose, on dried flowers, soft honey and allspice. A subtle fruitiness of orange peel and lemon cake. Candied ginger. Overall rather dry and waxy. Some old-style oak and walnut husks. The lightest hint of sea breeze as well. All rather discreet, but pretty complex, it grows on you. Mouth: dry with lots of herbal notes, liquorice and a load of oak juice and nuts (without becoming astringent though). Yellow apples and orange peel again, mixed with soft pepper and a pinch of salt. A bit of bitter grassiness towards the end. Maybe Fino sherry? Finish: medium long, dry, with apple peel, liquorice root and nutmeg.
A herbal, oak-infused Bunnahabhain that steps out of the box at times but manages to keep you interested. It could be mistaken for an old-style, discreet Speysider. Around € 170.
GlenDronach 21 yo 1992 (59,8%, OB 2013, Oloroso butt #195, 566 btl.)
Nose: very dense, even a little closed at first. Dark chocolate and coffee liqueur. Some roasted chestnuts and toasted bread crust. Some oak spices (pepper, clove). It’s only after a while that brighter red fruits and kirsch gets noticeable. Also an earthy and rubbery side. If I remember correctly, cask #161 was more open and accessible. Mouth: quite fiery, with lots of black prunes, liquorice and roasted nuts. Plenty of herbs, cloves and walnut skin. Again a rubbery edge, pfff. Black coffee and dark chocolate. Slightly oaky and lacking a bit of brightness, although there are some oranges to be found. Finish: long, dry with prunes and lots of spicy notes.
I may have picked the wrong single casks this year. Although better than the 1991 cask #5405, it feels overweight and bulky again. Let’s hope the 1993 vintage can live up to its name. Around € 150.
Another Glentauchers 1996, this time in the Liquid Library series. The colour of this one is slightly lighter than the Glentauchers 1996 bottled by Tasting Fellows. Let’s see where the differences are.
Nose: lots of fresh barley again, but less candied and with less vanilla. More mineral notes (limestone). The fruity notes are still there, but they’re ‘greener’. Lemon and grapefruit, unripe gooseberries and green banana. Still slightly rummy in a way, but less tropical. Mouth: the fruity notes and sweet spirit come are louder here, they get more room as the oak is less obvious. Green banana again, lemon sweets, something bubblegummy, before the grassy notes set in and the whole gets a bitter edge. Finish: medium long, very close to the barley, with some grassy notes and fresh oak.
This one seem a tad younger than the Tasting Fellows cask (refill vs. first fill?), but mainly because the oak spices are less pronounced. This will come down to personal preferences. Around € 90.
There’s a new series of releases from Tasting Fellows, and there’s good news. The German shop Whisky-Fässle will distribute their bottlings, so this will make them available outside of Germany as well.
They seem to have a preference for fruity Speysiders. This time there’s Glen Keith 1992, Glenburgie 1992, Braeval 1994, Mortlach 1996 and Glentauchers 1996. All bourbon casks if I’m not mistaken.
Nose: sweet barley and plenty of vanilla at first, with some marzipan and latte notes. Apples and peaches. There’s a bubblegummy side to it, something between tropical bubblegum and fruity rum (soft coconut). Faint minty notes. Mouth: bold attack, sweet and very creamy. Still fruity, mainly fresh plums, but with a rapidly growing spiciness. Say pepper and nutmeg, evolving towards herbal notes and a slightly bitterness. Some leathery notes and faint hints of bourbon whiskey. It takes water quite well, in fact I recommend you add a few drops. Finish: long, still a tad bitter and oaky.
Well-made whisky, with a nice rummy fruitiness. Very powerful due to its alcohol volume. Be sure to play around with water. Around € 90.
This Arran Millennium Casks was distilled on the 31st of December 1999 and filled on both sides of the millennium switch (so technically a multi-vintage release). It is a composition of 45 casks: 35 ex-bourbon hogsheads and the rest ex-sherry. The label is decorated with a picture of Janus, the two-headed Roman God.
The release was intended for charity: £1 of each sale goes to the Arran Trust, which funds projects that deal with landscape preservation and environmental care on the Isle of Arran.
Arran Millennium Casks
(53,5%, OB 2013, 7.800 btl.)
Nose: classic apple notes and candied citrus, with sweet barley. Fruity, vibrant and clean, like most Arran these days. Some whitecurrant and vanilla cake. A growing hint of oak as well. Mouth: fresh, lots of oranges and apples again, maybe tangerine liqueur too. Sweet melons. Honey. Cinnamon. Quite sweet and creamy, faultless whisky really. I would say it’s mostly the bourbon casks doing the talking. Finish: medium long, still very pleasantly fruity, leaving an oaky warmth and toffee sweetness.
A very solid dram, very tasty and full-bodied. The Millennium thing may be a gimmick but at least you can’t fault the whisky. Around € 80.