Released earlier this Spring, the Arran 16 years is the oldest official release yet from this distillery and a limited releases of 9000 bottles. It is part of a trilogy: it will be followed by a limited 17 years in 2014, leading up to the release of a core range 18 year old expression in 2015.
Arran 16 is a selection of 70% American Oak bourbon casks and 30% Spanish Oak sherry hogsheads.
Arran 16 years
(46%, OB 2013, 9000 btl.)
Nose: very bright and fruity. Banana, oranges, raspberries and tinned pineapple to name a few. Lots of honey notes and vanilla. Sweet but nicely balanced with soft ginger and grassy notes. There’s also a perfumed edge but it doesn’t harm the overall feel. Medium complexity but quite big in terms of fresh appeal. Mouth: sweet and candied. Starts on the bright side of the spectrum (oranges, apples, floral notes) and evolves to dried fruits, almonds and milk chocolate. Hints of crème brûlée and Café Latte. Some oak and spices like cloves and ginger around the edges. Finish: quite long, creamy, with the chocolate and spices keeping strong.
There’s a nice evolution in these Arran editions. I like this one better than then Arran 14 years so let’s keep our eyes open for the 18 years. Around € 70.
Nose: a big, fruity nose. Yellow apple, ripe banana, papaya and pineapple cubes. Thick honey and vanilla. Pollen and beeswax. Lots of butter pastry notes. Almond paste. Cinnamon and mint. Very bourbonny, so much that at a certain point it seems a crossover of Scotch malt, grain whisky and American whiskey, with leathery notes and maple syrup. Hints of dried coconut. Faint grassy notes as well. Very complex actually, yet direct and seductive at the same time. Mouth: creamy, warm fruity notes (dried banana, pineapple, apple) merge with brighter citrus notes. A bigger grassy nervousness now. Beeswax. Gentle oak (nutmeg, pepper and soft herbs). Even better with a few drops of water. Finish: long, sweet with herbal touches.
If you know Strathmill 1974, it’s easy to see where this is coming from (or going to). If you don’t count the BenRiach selections, this is my favourite Asta Morris release so far. Around € 80. Still available in the shops of The Nectar, I’ve heard.
Nose: youthful with a sweet and sour fruitiness. Gooseberries, apples, unripe plums and lemons. Honeydew melon. Pretty big flowery notes. Hints of vanilla and honey. Faint grassy notes and mint. Mouth: starts sweet and remains very close to the barley. The same kind of fruits, but this time coupled to a peppery heat and a bold zestiness (grapefruit skin, lemon oils). A little aspirin and sour wood as well. Quite some heat but a few drops of water make it slightly rounder. Finish: not very long, with apples alongside grassy and gingery notes.
Another summery dram. Bright fruits and nervous spices, as found in lots of modern drams. Honestly made and simply good. Around € 75, only available from Tasting Fellows directly.
Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several Port Ellen 1969 expressions. It started with 10 years old releases in the Connoisseurs Choice series (famous black label with red letters), then three or four 15 and 16 years old releases (CC gradient brown labels as well as Sestante labels), plus two cask strength 1969/1985 versions with cream labels (including a legendary one for Intertrade).
Actually we can’t say with 100% certainty which one we’re reviewing here. I recently bought this miniature with a gradient brown label but contrary to full bottles that display the age in a light circle towards the top of the label, G&M CC miniatures of that era mention the year of distillation in that spot. Based on the font used for ‘Distilled 1969’ though, which is different in both labels, I am quite confident this is the 16 years old version. Whiskyfun has a review of the same miniature.
Remember Port Ellen distillery was reopened in April 1967 after it had been silent since 1929 and rebuilt in 1966. A 1969 distillation is not something you get to try every week and we probably can’t go further back in time than this.
Port Ellen 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs’ Choice +/- 1985)
Nose: far better than I was expecting (after all it’s young and PE was meant to be a blender’s whisky). Very expressive given the low alcohol volume, and very balanced as well. Very maritime (Caol Ila style) with kelp and oysters, but quite fruity at the same time. Lots of cut apples, lime and tangerine. Hints of metal polish. Some marzipan. Mint. Soft medicinal notes and warm tar. Clean young Port Ellen, but the subtlety and the balance with the fruits is just excellent. Mouth: rather light, yes, but expressive. Again much sweeter and fruitier than expected. Sweetened grapefruit juice, lime and kumquats. Mixed with grassy peat and liquorice, a bit of smoke and plenty of kippers. Hints of moss. Hints of Yunnan pu-erh. Such a brilliant combination. Finish: long, half ashy and half coastal (smoked fish).
I’m sure the cask strength versions of these casks are even more stellar, but this is a highly drinkable Port Ellen with an outstanding balance. I like these fruitier versions a lot. Rarely seen in auctions, but TWE has a bottle of the 15yo for around € 1000.
In March 2013, Tullibardine announced a total makeover of its single malt range – a logical move after the distillery had been sold to the French Picard company. In line with the state of the whisky market, most of them are NAS (no age statement) versions.
Tullibardine Sovereign is the new entry level expression. This is a first fill bourbon barrel matured version. There’s also an aged 20 and 25 year old, as well as three ‘core’ finishes: 225 Sauternes, 228 Burgundy and 500 Sherry. The numbers relate to the size of the casks in this case.
Tullibardine Sovereign (43%, OB 2013)
Nose: malty nose with pear drops and creamy white chocolate. Fresh cereal notes. Vanilla custard. Very soft gristy and mineral notes. Undemanding, modern whisky. Mouth: still very malty. Lots of apples and pears. Quite a lot of spicy notes now: cinnamon, pepper, mint and ginger. A faint potpourri edge as well. Finish: medium long, more malt and ginger, with soft nutty notes.
Even though it’s slightly uninspired, this is not an entry level whisky to be ashamed of. It’s a fresh and properly made spirit, which was not always the case for previous distillery bottlings. Around € 35.
After the split of Douglas Laing in May 2013, with both brothers going their own way, there are now two companies Douglas Laing (Fred + daughter) and Hunter Laing (Stewart + sons). The popular Old Malt Cask range is part of the Hunter Laing portfolio.
This Aberlour 2000 was actually bottled before the breakup.
Aberlour 12 yo 2000
(50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’ 2013, refill hogshead, ref. 9340, 312 btl.)
Nose: juicy barley, with a few gristy and mineral notes and plenty of apples and pears. Sweet cereals. Light heather honey. Yellow raisins. Hints of vanilla cream. A pretty standard, fresh and modern nose for a young and bourbon matured Speysider. Mouth: really sweet, lots of marzipan and cooked fruits at first. Melon and honey. Quickly joined by café latte notes and brown candy sugar. A little toffee. Hints of coffee sweets. Still some mineral / waxy notes. Fades on citrus zest and herbs, with a peppery edge. Finish: quite long, zesty, with a slight herbal bitterness and liquorice.
I think the switch from bright, fruity notes on the nose to sweet latte and coffee sweets on the palate was really nice. Overall youngish but quite enjoyable. Around € 60.
Tamdhu distillery had a rebirth at the latest Speyside festival, after being bought by Glengoyne. The first two releases are this new Tamdhu 10 years and a limited edition Tamdhu 10yo 100% first fill sherry. Sandy Couts, the previous distillery manager at Glenrothes, is now running the distillery.
It’s a slight disappointment to see range makeovers and still end up with alcohol volumes of 40%. I thought we had evolved to 43% or rather 46% by now, even for standard releases?
The new Tamdhu 10 years was assembled using sherry wood, a combination of European and American oak casks, with quite some first fill barrels in the mix.
Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB 2013)
Nose: there’s a nice smoothness to this nose, with quite some vanilla cake and raisin notes to it. Latte notes and honey coated almonds. Some juicy apples. Closely related to Glenrothes, or so it seems. Unfortunately there’s also a significant amount of rubber. It comes and goes but it’s hard to miss. A bit sad for an otherwise very attractive nose. Mouth: medium weight (better than the 40% suggested I must say), with a lot of caramel and citrus notes now, both oranges and lime. Vanilla and soft ginger. Quite a big malty core as well. Cocoa. Finish: medium long, playing the spicy card now. Pepper and grassy notes with a nice berry note in the aftertaste.
Definitely a nice entry-level malt and a good rebirth of the brand. Though blemished by some rubber and a slight lack of punch on the nose, it’s an elegant composition of first fill and refill sherry. Around € 35.
I remember the Port Charlotte 2001 released in 2011 by Malts of Scotland (ref. 11017) said white Rioja on its label. Now there’s only Rioja hogshead so I wonder whether that means it’s red or simply undisclosed? Maybe it’s irrelevant anyway.
This bottle was presented at the 2013 Limburg Festival, but due to a printing error (“bourbon barrel”) the label had to be redone.
Port Charlotte 11 yo 2001 (57,5%, Malts of Scotland 2013, rioja hogshead, MoS 13027, 358 btl.)
Nose: lots of capers with salted butter. Smoked fish, classic smoked salmon with a honey / mustard dressing. Sandy beaches. Some flax rope. Behind this Islay front are plenty of candied notes, marzipan and berries which make it more playful than the official releases. Quite some waxy notes as well. Mouth: very peaty, clean and coastal. Brine, the smoked fish again, hints of oysters. Not as sweet as the nose suggested, although there is some sweet citrus and a slight toffee note. Picks up a lot of salt and liquorice along the way. Finish: long, slightly candied again and still very smoky.
It’s difficult to fault one of these recent Port Charlottes (the price maybe). They are simply very well-made and they withstand even the most uncommon kinds of casks. Around € 105.