Every whisky deserves a second chance, so even though we’ve had a disappointing Deanston 1997 very recently, we’ll see if this one from the Archives / Fishes of Samoa series is more attractive.
Deanston 15 yo 1997 (55,8%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, hogshead #1959, 327 btl.)
Nose: grassy notes (wet hay) with overripe apples. A little dirty, with decomposing leaves, closely related to the Asta Morris cask in that respect. A lot of butter, some mashy / porridgy notes, some nutty notes too. Heather honey. A slightly sharp, spicy tingle as well. Mouth: sharp and grainy at first, slightly alcoholic, and kind of blend-like actually. A gingery / peppery heat to sharpen the edges even more. It is softened by a more creamy middle, with, vanilla and honey, and a slightly indefinite fruitiness, but it returns to green tea and liquorice. Finish: medium long, dry and spicy, with slightly peaty / salty overtones.
I didn’t really like the Asta Morris version, and this one is just as mashy on the nose and even sharper on the palate. Personally I would have labeled it as blending whisky. Around € 55.
This is a very rare bottling. The Whisky Connoisseur, from what I’ve found, was part of a whole series of mail order / web companies (Scotland Direct, Scottish Gourmet, The Home Gift Shop…) run by Arthur J.A. Bell in Thistle Mill, Biggar.
During the 1990’s they seem to have bottled quite a lot of single malts, mostly with concealed (but always consistent) names. My miniature says The Ellisland but the backlabel mentions ‘containing Old Pultney’ (sic). Here’s a list of their naming conventions in case you’re interested.
In 2009 the company was nominated for the award of best online outlet by Whisky Magazine but in the meantime they seem to have disappeared and their website redirects to another mail order company. I’ve read that the founder had to stop due to health problems.
Anyway back to our bottle. It’s a single cask Old Pulteney distilled in 1974. I couldn’t find references to a full bottle, so maybe this was just a miniature release.
Old Pulteney 18 yo 1974
‘The Ellisland’ (57,8%, The Whisky Connoisseur ‘The Robert Burns Collection’ 1993, cask #1132)
Nose: a big maritime character. Sea air and kelp. Some wet chalk. Also herbal teas, mint and a little chamomile. Buttercups too. I’m quite sure this was peated. Some buttery notes, hay and meadow flowers. Not entirely sexy but a nice surprise. Mouth: punchy, quite a bit sweeter than expected. Honeys and fruit jams. Tinned pineapple and oranges. Vanilla cake. Still a peaty base and these typical maritime notes, as well as some ginger and liquorice. Finish: long, half peaty, half fruity.
A pleasant surprise, both for its relatively peaty profile and for its pleasantly sweet fruitiness.
I tried a 3yo Glentauchers bottled for Càrn Mòrand I thought it was rather promising. Now a cask from the same period has been bottled in the Archives series, a Glentauchers 2005.
Glentauchers 7 yo 2005
(52,5%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, sherry butt #900392, 167 btl.)
Nose: gristy at first, but it becomes sweeter and fruitier over time. Oranges, raisins and tinned pineapple. Red apples. Still youngish (hints of cake, muesli and pear drops) but again quite nice. Rather creamy too, with some almond cream. Soft cinnamon and buttery fudge in the background. Mouth: malty and honeyed, slightly bigger than you would expect. Stewed fruits and apple pie. Light coconut. Soft peppery notes, as well as liquorice and herbal hints. Finish: medium long, sweet with some spices from the oak.
Quite good although it’s pretty mainstream. You get value for money though: around € 45 which is significantly less than what other bottlers are asking for similar casks.
Convalmore distillery is located in Dufftown and it has been mothballed since 1985. Although it was owned by DCL (later Diageo) until the end, the site is now part of William Grant & Sons, who use it as a warehouse for Glenfiddich and Balvenie whisky.
Diageo now released this European refill cask matured Convalmore 1977. It rounds off our series of reviews from the Diageo Special Releases 2013. Yes, they can keep the Port Ellen, thank you.
Convalmore 36 yo 1977
(58%, OB 2013, 2980 btl.)
Nose: fairly restrained, even a little quiet, considering its alcohol volume. It shows soft fruits (orange lemonade, apples, kiwi, maybe green mango). Some almonds and waxed oak. Honey. Big minty notes. In the background also a little moss and very soft herbs. Quite elegant, sure, but… Mouth: a similar (slightly unripe) fruitiness, with more grapefruit and lemons now. Blossom honey and a creamy, biscuity sweetness. A little paraffin. The first part of the palate is where this whisky really shines. Then it grows sharper and goes towards moss again, some earthy notes, liquorice. Mint. Heavy spices towards the end (pepper, ginger, nutmeg). Finish: long, with warming spices, apples and fresh lemons.
It’s not very fruity, it’s not very spicy, it’s not very sweet, each element comes in waves and changes quickly after. Overall a complex but subtle whisky that’s very tasty yet never blew my socks off. Very expensive: around € 800.
After the Kavalan, here’s another bottling for TastToe, this time a joint bottling with Drankenshop Broekmans, both shops related to The Nectar. It’s a Laphroaig 1998 from the Signatory stocks.
Laphroaig 15 yo 1998
(57,4%, Signatory Vintage for TastToe & Broekmans 2013, hogshead #5570, 300 btl.)
Nose: this nose achieves a very nice balance between peatiness, coastalness and roundness. It’s very warm, with soot and ambering ashes. A little vanilla, camhor, honey, hot sand… A little candy sugar and marzipan as well. Hints of leather. Round, complex, just excellent. Mouth: slightly hot, but very impressive again. Deep peat, sweet lemon and honey, hints of pears, limoncello… Great ashy notes, a bit of chocolate, liquorice. Medicinal notes. Marzipan again. Vanilla latte. Finish: long, rounded yet powerful.
Laphroaig is good anyway, but this one strikes the right chord. It’s firm and heavily peated but also candied and complex. They did a nice job selecting their bottlings at TastToe. Around € 120.
This Glen Grant is part of the 1959/1960 mini-series by Gordon & MacPhail to commemorate the marriage of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson. We’ve tried the matching GlenDronach a couple of weeks ago and there’s more to come from the same series.
Glen Grant 1959/1960
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1986, Royal Wedding)
Nose: great fruity notes alongside waxy notes (a combination that we love in Glen Grant). Oranges, mango, hints of pineapple and tangerine. Quite a bit of smoke (not peat smoke, but the kind of subtle hint of smoke that was common for that era). Some mint and subtle oak spices. Maple syrup and juicy raisins. Honey. Mouth: still really fruity. Mainly apricots, juicy pear and tangerine, with lots of honey glazing. Fruit cake. Almond cream. Pink grapefruit and melon. Wonderful, too bad this wasn’t bottled at a slightly higher strength. Surprisingly fresh and juicy. Finish: medium long, still a great fruitiness with a balanced dryness (hints of fruit tea).
Excellent stuff, much better than the marriage itself… It’s gentle, fruity and very lightly smoky. An old-style gem. Around € 350 in auctions.
The last Oban I’ve tried was like three years ago. It’s not a distillery which makes a lot of noise. This Oban 21 Years, a natural cask strength version, was matured in rejuvenated American Oak and second-fill ex-Bodega casks.
Oban 21 yo
(58,5%, OB 2013, 2860 btl.)
Nose: nice sweet toffee and buttery pastry notes at first. Honey. Maybe sugarcane. Then going towards waxy notes, grasses and finally also full-blown coastal notes like dried seaweed. Some leafy notes and mint. Hints of linseed oil and cinnamon as well. A great maritime nose, nicely balanced with sweetness. Mouth: again sweet and honeyed at the beginning, with some vanilla, but quickly turning spicy and surprisingly salty, while retaining its oily character. Mint chocolates. Dried citrus peel. Liquorice and ginger. Walnuts. Finish: long and slightly tangy. Salty and spicy, with brine but also nice echoes of fruits.
I really liked this one for its coastalness, sweetness and a special je-ne-sais-quoi that sets it apart from other coastal distilleries. One of the better value offerings in the 2013 selection. Around € 280.
When looking at last year’s statistics, it has been a good year for this little blog. An increase of 28% in terms of unique visitors and almost twice the number of page views (well over 2 million now).
Other popular pages were the overview of Diageo’s Special Releases and my article Whisky is dying that has been read by more than 6.000 people. I won’t be looking back at trends of the past year, as I feel I already summarized them in this article. 2013 was simply another year with prices rising out of proportion, declining stocks of old whisky, more No Age Statement whiskies and lowering individuality among modern drams. I fear these trends will dominate 2014 as well.
Here are my highlights of the whisky year that was 2013 (only counting new releases):
If you spend hundreds, even thousands of euros a bottle, quality is still available, but in my opinion the real problem is in the category just below: whiskies that are expensive but still accessible to regular people with ‘normal’ budgets. People that aren’t looking for wealth solutions…
Some figures to explain what I mean. The last couple of years, my personal maximum had been around € 200 a bottle, for truly exceptional whisky. This year, it was around € 250-300. I simply can’t justify paying more, no matter what the quality is like. The thing is, in 2011-2012 I could still buy my favourite whiskies of the year, scoring 95 points back then. In 2013 though, the best I could get for my (higher) budget was whisky of 91-92 points. I guess everyone will see this decline, no matter how you set your personal limits.
Let’s also mention my highlights of this ‘affordable premium’ category:
Other highlights are of course the ever expanding list of great (but easy to miss) Karuizawa expressions, the very good (and plentiful) GlenDronachs, the middle-aged Bowmores, and a few surprising outsiders like the Strathmill 22 yo 1991 from Asta Morris which probably gave you the best whisky for money this year. Let’s see what 2014 brings. Slàinte!