Bottling different batches under the same name is something we’re seeing a lot in recent years. These limited run batches are chosen to share the same flavour profile while at the same time allowing (sometimes significant) variations. The Aberlour a’bunadh is one of the famous whiskies following this strategy. A’bunadh was first released in 1997 and is matured in oloroso sherry casks.
Nowadays, batch n°25 is being sold, but I’m reviewing batch n°19 which is highly regarded and generally gets some of the highest scores of the series. There’s no age statement.
(59,9%, OB 2007, batch n°19)
Nose: big sherry, which is surprisingly integrated with the malty flavours. Raisins in rum, dry figs. Spicy chocolate. A bit of furniture polish as well. Mouth: this is what they call a ‘sherry bomb’: strong of course, but still drinkable without dilution. The same oloroso influence: raisins, cherries, a bit of balsamico. Coffee and toffee flavours. Gets more herbal if you add a bit of water. Finish: long. Warm and spicy (ginger), with a bit of cocoa and a distant touch of smoke.
Very good if you like big sherried malts. I do. If I compare this to my other sherry love, the Glenfarclas 105, then this shows less chocolate and more barley. I’m not sure which one I prefer, but I think this one is a bit more complex.
Last year, I met Susan Webster at a Dewar Rattray tasting in TastToe. As you may know, her father is working at the Glenrothes distillery. I have a decent Glenrothes collection, and she told me the 1979 vintage was one of her favourites. It was also one of the favourites of John Sutherland, the distillery manager until 2007.
The 1979 is special in the history of The Glenrothes because it was their first vintage ever to be launched, back in 1994. It was also by coincidence the centenary year of the first spirit distilled there.
It’s also special because in 1979, Glenrothes converted the old malt barn into a new, computerized still house and added a new pair of stills. In a way, it’s true that the vintages of 1979 and earlier are more hand-crafted. Around 50.000 bottles were made of the first batch (there were new releases of the 1979 in 2002, 2004 and 2005).
Glenrothes 14 yo 1979
(43%, OB 1994)
Nose: the label is right: this one is delicately peated which makes it a rather unique Glenrothes (in the 70’s, they still used some peat smoke to dry the malted barley). Really pleasant and complex. Fruity as well: cooked apples, moscatel, citrus, light honey. Some spicy notes (cinnamon, cloves). Marzipan. Mouth: very rich. Sweet and fruity (oranges). Honey. Some toasted flavours as well, and the smoke is still present. Finish: gets a bit drier but soon the candy takes over again. Roasted nuts. Fades away on vanilla, chocolate and smoked wood.
A real gem and a multi-layered Speysider. In fact, it’s a shame that they’ve lost this delicate, smokey profile in later years. The smoke makes it powerful and adds to the complexity of the dram.
Bruichladdich posted the line-up for this year on its blog.
We can expect a multi-vintage sherry bottling, the mature X4 (which can now be called true whisky), a new Octomore with even more peat than the current release (140ppm), the new Port Charlotte PC8 (in a black tin again), a new XVII, Infinity III and a new Renegade series of rum.
Our Angel is Single Malt Irish whiskey from the Cooley distillery. Daily Dram released a whole array of Cooley casks over the last two years: The Dark Angel, An Angel’s port(al), The Mad(eira) Angel… and now Our Angel.
The story behind the bottle: at the Spirits in the Sky festival (Leuven, november 2008), anyone who attended Aiofe O’Sullivan’s masterclass could taste different Cooley samples at different strenghts. They voted which of the samples would be bottled. The signatures of the members of the jury are on the back label.
Our Angel – Cooley 9y 1999
(46%, Daily Dram 2009)
Nose: lots of sweet (exotic) fruits (mango, apricot, pear). Reminds me of a fruity milkshake. Some waxy / solventy notes as well (paint remover) but that’s not a bad thing here. Some frangipane and bubblegum. Wonderful. Mouth: similar impressions as on the nose. Whenever I taste this, I think of guimauves (similar to marshmallows, but more gummy and firm – sold in the form of the Holy Virgin). Candied, with a complete fruit basket again. Some banana. A bit of vanilla and cinnamon. Finish: sweet and spicy. Faint notes of cloves.
Very young, lively and simply wonderful. Not just excellent Cooley, but excellent whiskey. A bargain as well: € 42.
Triple Wood, is that a nice way of saying the whisky has been matured in triplex (plywood)? Just kidding, this release is basically a Laphroaig Quarter Cask with an extra finish. It is aged in bourbon oak, then in smaller casks, which speed up the maturation (1/4 cask = +/- 120 litres – originally used to transport whisky on horseback). And now this Triple Wood is getting a third maturation in European oak, oloroso sherry butts.
At the moment this Laphroaig Triple Wood is only available in travel retail. I’ve paid € 65 at Brussels airport (1 litre bottle).
Laphroaig Triple Wood (48%, OB 2008)
Nose: lots of camomile and a bit of butter. Smoky with a sweet edge. A bit of coconut, banana and apple. Basically the same flavours as the Quarter Cask, but maybe a tad less “barbecued”, more musty and with an additional layer of balanced sweetness. Less peat smoke than a regular Laphroaig, but just as medicinal (iodine). Mouth: full-bodied and pretty fruity. Again lots of camomile and camphor, like peated camomile tea. Not immediately smoky and quite a gentle, velvety impact. Toffee and vanilla. Liquorice. Woodsmoke. Finish: cigarettes in yesterday’s ashtray. Creamy aftertaste, rather sweet with hints of coffee and chocolate.
It seems that most people are not impressed by the Triple Wood. It’s true that this may be a small step away from the normal, powerful Laphroaig profile, but I think the sherry softness makes it richer. I prefer the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition over the regular 16y, and in the same way I really like the additional treatment of this Laphroaig. Really good.
Cutty Sark is a blend of around 20 Scotch whiskies, with Glenrothes being the major component (both brands are owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd).
Cutty Sark 18y (43%, OB, blend)
Nose: fruity (peach, orange) and honeyed. A bit of sherry, vanilla, cereals and very light hints of smoke. Mouth: soft and sweet. Toffee, caramel, lots of oranges (Cointreau) and other fruit. Spicy edge and something vaguely chemical. Rather weak attack, but it grows bolder, to a sweet, warm and smokey finish.
It’s quite elegant and smooth, very drinkable and more complex than you would expect from a blend. But for its price (€ 50-60), you could also buy a good single malt.
It’s not easy to live in Spain if you’re into whisky. Prices tend to be high here due to higher taxes, and although Spain is one of the biggest whisky markets in the world, they drink blends with Coke most of the time. Even in Madrid, there are only 2 or 3 stores with a decent collection of single malts and they only survive because they also sell wine.
I was delighted when I read about the Glenfarclas 1990 in this year’s Whisky Bible. It scores a whopping 95,5 and… it’s only available in Spain! At last, a previlege for me and my amigos! I tracked this bottle down and went out to get it…
Glenfarclas 1990 – The Family Malt Collection
(43%, OB 2006)
Nose: classic oloroso nose on dried oranges and raisins. Slightly smoked as well. Some pine wood, vanilla and honey. Figs. Hints of balsamico. A bit of mint. Mouth: full-bodied, quite oily. Lots of sherry again (prunes, dates…), with waves of sweeter flavours and vanilla. Chocolate and hints of coffee. The finish is quite dry and nutty, with a wonderfully warm aftertaste on milk chocolate and fruit jam. Some smoke and spices as well.
Does it deserve such a high score? I’m afraid it doesn’t, but it depends on your scoring system. In any case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s a perfectly balanced sherry bottling that contains all the classic flavours in the right amount, I’m sure it will appeal to every sherry lover. Considering the price (+/- € 50 which is € 10 less than the standard Glenfarclas 15y here), this is an absolute bargain.
ps/ If you want to buy this one, and you happen to be in Madrid, visit the excellent Bodega Santa Cecilia