This one simply has Ireland written on the label. It’s a single malt whiskey, so it could be Bushmills or Cooley. We had a similar one from the same stable a few months ago, the Irish Malt 1991 Liquid Library. We think it’s Bushmills alright.
Irish Single Malt Whiskey 22 yo 1991 (49,2%, The Whisky Fair 2014, Bourbon barrel, 184 btl.)
Nose: oh this typical Irish fruit basket, even brighter than in other expressions, just lovely. Passion fruits, ripe banana and mango sherbet. Hints of mint and lime leaves. Some vanilla. Mouth: same, same. Very tropical, full of maracuja, pink grapefruit and sweet banana puree. A lot of sweetness, but bright sour hints as well. Shows some eucalyptus and a leafy note in the end. Finish: long, fruity, with a tad more oak and vanilla now.
Irish malt whiskey can be easy-going and fairly simple but so damn seductive! Sure, it’s expensive, but remember such old Irish whiskey is very rare. And most Scotches need even longer to develop this kind of profile. Around € 170.
Royal Lochnagar is part of the Classic malts since 2005 (part of the second wave that also included Caol Ila, Cardhu and Clynelish) and the Distillers Edition was introduced in 2008. It is finished in old Muscat wine casks.
Lochnagar is the training distillery of the Diageo group, a lot of distillery managers are trained there before being transferred. Maybe this is why it’s not being promoted very much, nor released often.
Royal Lochnagar 2000 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (40%, OB 2012, Muscat finish, RL/00-12W)
Nose: a floral nose that starts on bergamot and evolves towards leather and fruits. Yellow plums, grapes. Growing sweeter on apricot jam. Nice interaction of grassy and fruity notes. Very light toasted oak. Mouth: quite mild and fruity again, very sweet and relatively oily. Vanilla cake, malty sweetness and sugared cereals. Soft pepper and the return of floral citrus notes. Hints of honeyed Arizona green tea. Finish: rather short, with the same leafy tea notes and sweet grassy notes.
Classic spirit, quite a wide range of aromas, from floral notes to toasted ones. A relatively gentle finishing and a light dram altogether. Around € 45.
This new Arran 1996 from Malts of Scotland was matured in a sherry butt for almost 18 years, but its colour indicates it’s not the usual Oloroso / PX influence. The same bottler already released a similar cask last year (ref. 13002).
Arran 17 yo 1996
(54,9%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry butt, ref. 14029, 612 btl.)
Nose: fresh but quite discreet at first, in the sense that you get grains and acacia honey at first, not much more. After a while there’s a lot of apple, some vanilla and soft spices. The best part is a nice grapefruit / mint combo. Pretty naked, with a chalky / waxy edge. A Fino butt? Mouth: more intense: fruitier (lemon, grapefruit, apple peel) and spicier at the same time (ginger, pepper, clove). Lemon sherbet and green tea. Bittersweet but also a little dry at some point (sawdust). Finish: long, surprisingly floral, with the omnipresent apples, a little honey and lemon zest.
A fairly neutral Arran, a bit of a Lowlands version. Is it me, or are the best Arrans bottled by the distillery these days? Around € 75.
Try to look for Jura 1972 and you’ll probably only find two casks distilled December 1972 and bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in March and August 1991. That’s about all there is. This is SMWS 31.4, the latter of the two. Rare Jura bottlings, hardly ever seen in auctions or collections.
Nose: starts like a 1960’s-1970’s Islay whisky, with almost no peat but a camphory note, tobacco, cigar boxes and minty dental floss. Leafy notes. A superb fruitiness too, with mainly cavaillon, papaya and apricots that stand out. Half tropical, half maritime. Light toasted oak and soft spices. Mouth: hints of the wonderful 1960’s Bowmore fruitiness but with more complexity as there’s also an earthy sharpness and plenty of tiny nuances. Peppercorns, coriander seeds, liquorice. Cedar oak, soft resinous hints. Peat smoke and tiny medicinal notes. Amazing combination. Finish: long, again this fruity side with the Jura sharpness. Liquorice root and green pepper.
Delightful whisky really – easy to see that Jura is so close to Islay. And remarkable how it developed this kind of complexity – this is just 18 years old. A pretty unique find. Thanks Carsten.
Bowmore Tempest, the 10 years old cask strength expression,is a hit. A big part of this success was due to the excellent first batch released in 2009. There seemed a general consensus that subsequent batches were less cracking, though still really good.
Today we’re placing two batches head-to-head. In our left corner, there is Bowmore Tempest Batch 4, in the right corner is the latest Batch 5. Both of them were the first to be composed by master blender Rachel Barrie. While you’ll still find Batch 4 in most stores in Europe and the US, Batch 5 has just started to appear in stores, especially in the UK. Around € 60.
Bowmore 10yo Tempest (55,1%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon casks, Batch #4)
Nose: medium entry, with sea air and brine. Even a slight spirity prickle. Lemon. Grows wider and sweeter: butter biscuits, vanilla cream, coconut flakes and the same fragrant strawberry notes I picked up in the first batch. Hints of canvas and oak dust. Mouth: a straightforward mix of citrus (lemon juice, grapefruit zest), spices (ginger and pepper) and brine. Slightly stormy indeed. Hints of leather. Great glimpses of tangerine and some vanilla in between, but everything seems to happen at the same time. Finish: still some fruity sweetness, alongside growing sooty notes and tobacco.
Slightly fierce in some places, but also one that shows the nice strawberry and mandarin fruitiness that I really like.
Bowmore 10yo Tempest (55,9%, OB 2014, first fill bourbon casks, Batch #5)
Nose: starts a little more direct, with some added menthol on top of the briny notes. Soft aniseed, white grape juice and lime. The same biscuity sweetness and vanilla, but less of the interesting strawberry – more towards sweet oranges this time. Overall a little rounder, showing less of the dusty dryness. Mouth: a more gradual evolution, slightly rounder at first (mild vanilla, sugared corn flakes), then slowly going towards zesty bitterness and gingery sharpness. Also a floral note that comes out. Finish: long, sweeter than batch 4, with some honey but less smoke.
Batch 5 seems less full-bodied than batch 4, showing a little less complexity. I liked this one less, but keep in mind this is my personal preference, both are really nice whiskies.
The Abhainn Dearg distillery, founded by Mark Tayburn in 2008, is located on the the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, one of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
Since 2011 they are selling a 3 years old Special Edition whisky (at a whopping £ 150), but this is their new make, a single malt spirit (not yet whisky) which is aged in sherry casks for just a few months before it’s bottled.
Abhainn Dearg ‘The Spirit of Lewis’ (46%, OB 2014, 50 cl.)
Nose: strange. Huge rubber and plastic comes out. Burning plastic. Pear syrup and honey pops. Burnt grasses and hay. Hints of grappa. Mouth: quite acidic and bitter, a kind of planky bitterness. Hints of burnt herbs. Rubber and gravel. Brrr… Again a berry / pear sweetness behind it. Finish: invasive, dry and bitter with some metallic notes.
Oh boy, oh boy, it has been a while since I tried something this bad. It’s maybe even the worst thing I ever tried that was labelled ‘whisky in progress’. Very disappointing, really off-track. Around € 50 for 50 cl.
This Kavalan Solist is a sister cask of the one bottled for TastToe. Both sherry casks were filled on the same day, 21st of August 2006 and bottled one day earlier in 2013.
Kavalan Solist Sherry (57,8%, OB for La Maison du Whisky 2013, sherry cask #S060821047, 497 btl.)
Nose: really profound, big yet elegant sherry. Prunes, dates, lots of cherries and raspberries. Toasted nuts and cinnamon. A big fruitiness covered with layers of turpentine, camphor and varnished oak. Chocolate and Balsamico. Mouth: big and powerful again. There’s still a fruity side (plum jam, blackcurrants, some exotic hints like baked banana) but also a dry and slightly bitter side. Dark chocolate with fleur de sel, cocoa powder and cloves. Pepper and liquorice roots. Very intense. Finish: long, slightly tannic, with coffee powder, cassis and tobacco.
Quite excellent, just like its sister cask. Slightly engineered and very overpowering but highly attractive. Around € 150. Still available from LMdW, although it’s unclear whether it’s actually the same cask.
Highland Park Dark Origins is a new addition to the core range. It refers to the origins of the distillery, a time when the founder Magnus Eunson had to pull ‘dark’ tricks to smuggle his illicit products and stay two steps ahead of the exciseman.
Dark Origins has no age statement, but it’s said to be a teenager which uses twice as much first fill sherry casks than the 12 years old (i.e. 80%, of which two thirds was European oak), hence with supposedly darker flavours.
Highland Park Dark Origins
(46.8%, OB 2014)
Dark doesn’t really refer to its colour, in any case. Mind that it’s a natural colour. Nose: sherry alright. Almonds and hazelnuts, soaked raisins and baked apple. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Some butterscotch. Oranges. A big smoked / charred note as well. A slightly fuller nose than the other youngster in the core range. Mouth: medium-sweet. Quite tarry and smoky for a HP expression, which means limited complexity and some rubber. Slightly woody as well, with hints of mint, pepper and a bitterish edge. Earthy notes, liquorice and dark cocoa. Finish: long, smoky and oaky. Sweet cereals and herbal notes in the background.
This is a peatier, smokier kind of Highland Park. Darker indeed. The dark side works well with the sherry notes on the nose, but it’s a little harsh and oaky on the palate. Around € 75 – available from stores around Europe and the US later this month.