Balblair 2003 is a recent release, launched at the end of 2013 together with the 1990 (2nd release) and 1983 (1st release) vintages. It was composed from 18 bourbon casks.
Balblair 2003 (46%, OB 2013, first release)
Nose: really young and a tad undescriptive. The usual pear drops and apples, mixed with a bit of vanilla. Soft lemon. Meadow flowers, say buttercups. Hints of orange blossom. Very light honey. Mouth: smooth, decent body, still largely characterized by the barley. A young profile again. Slightly less sweet than expected, with more grassy notes, pepper and heathery notes. Muesli. Oranges and zingy lemons. Finish: not too long, fading on the same elements. Sparkles of ginger.
Too young for me, too naked. Even the new-make notes aren’t completely gone. I think the early young vintages (Balblair 2000) were a bit better. Around € 40.
Bowmore 10 yo 2003 (50,2%, Whisky-Fässle 2013, bourbon hogshead)
Nose: chiselled, modern Bowmore which means moderate but ultra-clean peat, seaweed and lots of briney notes. Quite some nice leafy notes, wet ferns and damp cellars. Some wet chalk and olives. But also fresh citrus and traces of sweetness and pepper in the background. Impeccable spirit. Mouth: briny, lemony. Perfect strength, with lots of punch but also a nice silkiness. More peat than on the nose, though still no peat blast. Again a chalky note and crystallized lemons. Ginger and a zesty bitter touch. Sandy beaches. A little pepper. Finish: smoky and zesty, with some sweet herbs showing up.
Recent production at Bowmore was of high standards. At just 10 years old, the result is fairly simple (much more so than 1990’s production) but very difficult not to like. Around € 80.
Nose: big notes of yellow apple and pear. Some hay and buttercups. Chalky notes and lots of plain barley notes too. Settles mainly on the fruity notes: plums and peaches. Fairly neutral spirit, not my style. Mouth: similar. Slightly harsh fruit spirit. Barley juice meets grain vodka meets grappa meets plum liquor. Just hints of vanilla and pepper. Not very wide. Finish: rough, short to medium long, with grains and a pinch of salt.
Not the most interesting dram in the recent Liquid Library series. A lot of the Auchroisk production goes to the J&B blend. Around € 80.
It’s clear that independent bottlers are running short of available Littlemill casks. Douglas Laing now classifies them in the Director’s Cut series that are usually fairly expensive.
This one was distilled in February 1992 and bottled in September 2013 at cask strength.
Littlemill 21 yo 1992 (55,2%, Douglas Laing Director’s Cut 2013, hogshead ref. 9970, 113 btl.)
Nose: less overtly fruity than some other Littlemills. I mean not that many lemons and tangerines, it’s focusing more on oily / waxy notes, minerals and grasses. A big malty core. Also walnuts and gooseberries. In the background a nice hint of strawberries and cream. Mouth: quite sweet, malty and creamy at first. Caramel sweets (Mokatine). Some pink grapefruit but again not very loud, more zesty than fruity. Waxy notes and some oak. Sugared green tea. Quite spicy towards the finish. Finish: long, zesty and peppery with a hint of heather honey.
Maybe not the typical Littlemill citrus bomb, but an interesting whisky nonetheless. Expensive: around € 160.
This is a 14 years old single cask Springbank 1998, bottled for the Belgian importer The Nectar. One of the new releases presented at the 2013 Spirits in the Sky festival.
Springbank 14 yo 1998 (58,2%, OB for The Nectar 2013, fresh bourbon cask, 132 btl.)
Nose: a complex nose. It’s peaty and coastal, with some wet dogs and the typical Springbank chalkiness, but also plenty of fruity notes. Tangerine, lemon, grilled pineapple, even some strawberries. Surprisingly tropical. A bit of vanilla. Subtle floral notes. Quite some hidden depths. Mouth: punchy, again very complex. Very fruity (pineapple, coconut, maybe mango), nicely balancing the smokiness and peat. A big pinch of pepper as well as some sweet liquorice. Finish: long, fruity with echoes of coconut and oak.
Excellent Springbank, with a boost of fruity notes alongside the typical peaty and maritime aromas. I’m not an unconditional fan of the modern Springbank output but I sure love this one. Around € 90, but sold out as far as I know.
Master of Malt is presenting quite a tour de force with a 60 years old single malt distilled and matured at an undisclosed Speyside distillery. They already had a line-up of 30yo, 40yo and 50yo expressions.
It costs £ 1000, which seems fair in a climate of premium whiskies of this age being sold for anything from £ 8000 to £ 100.000. It’s still expensive, but at least here you don’t pay for crystal bottles, wooden cases or fancy marketing (besides a sample for a couple of bloggers). They don’t even stress how limited it is, how cool is that?
Undisclosed Speyside distillery 60 yo
(42,5%, Master of Malt 2014, 1st Edition)
Nose: quite beautiful, mellow, with a gentle profile of sweet apple, oranges and white grape. Nice waxy touches of old candles. A mint and lemon combo. There’s also a buttery quality to it, like soft vanilla cake. Behind this there is a floral note and refined oak. Delicate but surprisingly complex, after a while I picked up apricot jam, musty books and a soft toasted note / roasted nuts. Mouth: again very smooth and subtly fruity at first. Coconut oils, a bit of the candle wax again. Tobacco leaves and cinnamon. Then it becomes herbal, with a funny note keeping the middle between balloons and marihuana (someone told me how this tastes *cough*). Master of Malt calls it tomato stems in their notes. Slightly potpourri-ish, with a sour oaky edge, but well within limits. Finish: not too long, which is understandable, but totally graceful. Herbs (mint) and tobacco juice.
This is a class of malt on its own, and few of us will be able to compare. It’s pleasantly fruity and waxy, remarkably elegant and nicely oaky without being tannic. Around € 1200, available from Master of Malt (samples as well).
Cù Bòcan is the name of a legendary dog-like creature that has stalked residents of the remote Highland village of Tomatin for centuries. It gave its name to the recent Tomatin Cù Bòcan, a lightly peated whisky (15 ppm) matured in a combination of bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks.
Tomatin distillery only produces peated spirit during one week of the year, good for about 60.000 litres. The peated part of the whisky is aged 8 years, but the whole composition doesn’t have an age statement).
Tomatin Cù Bòcan (46%, OB 2013, 18.000 btl.)
Nose: sweet and citrusy. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, both sweet juice and slightly tangy zesty notes. Some biscuity notes – that’s the younger spirit talking. Hints of ginger and grasses. Smoke is only found in the background. Mouth: a little more smoke now, with slightly sharpish grains and quite a big emphasis on new oak. Youngish and unbalanced. Chilli pepper. Ginger, cloves and aniseed. Finish: quite long, but a tad harsh and spicy.
I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s peaty but in a summery way that doesn’t fit the image of a haunting creature. The regular Tomatin fruits are drowned in pepper and virgin oak. A missed opportunity for Tomatin. Around € 50.
Angus Dundee started as a blending company in London but in recent years they’ve acquired distilleries like Tomintoul and Glencadam, and they launched labels like Old Ballantruan. They also sell independent bottlings under the names Mackillop’s Choice and Montgomerie’s Rare Select.
Today’s dram is a 27 years old Dalmore 1986. Sister casks #3090 and #3096 have been bottled in the Mackillop’s series. What’s interesting is that you rarely see independent Dalmore. Most blenders tend to exchange new spirit though, so this may have been an exchanged parcel.
Nose: fairly neutral with lots of sweet cereals. Some apples, fresh oranges and orange blossom. Nutmeg and wet sawdust as well. Hints of hay. Mouth: quite punchy, with lots of citrus notes (both sweet orange and slighty sharper grapefruit zest) but also plenty of oak now. Pepper, ginger, some vanilla. Very faint hints of coconut and pineapple, but hidden behind the grainy facade. Finish: medium long, compact and malty with a lingering sweetness.
It’s not a bad whisky, with nice orange notes, but overall too malty and neutral for my taste. Not worth the asking price of around € 145 in my opinion.