Nose: malty and fruity. Stewed fruits, ripe yellow plums, fresh apples and peaches. Citrus. Hints of dusty oak and dried flowers. Vanilla cake. Soft honey and mint as well. Not very complex but natural, nicely integrated and not too modern. Mouth: a surprisingly punchy attack, again fruity at first (grapes, apples, lemon), with hints of vanilla cream, but slowly drying and showing more bitter notes. Caramel and mocha, then some grapefruit zest and herbal notes. Ginger. A toasted, almost smoky hint in the background. Finish: medium, sweet but with a peppery edge.
A very natural Glenrothes, with good fruits and punchy spices. A stronger version of the official expressions, I’d say. Around € 90.
Strathmill 1988 as part of Diageo’s Special Releases 2014. It was the first year that the Strathmill distillery appeared in this series and the first official release in a very long time. It was matured for over 25 years in refill American oak.
Strathmill 25 yo 1988
(52,4%, OB 2014, 2.700 btl.)
Nose: very malty, with lots of grainy biscuits, plain gristy notes and sugar coated corn flakes. On a second level, there is soft vanilla, ginger and a nice dusty side that keeps the middle between hay and dried flowers. Honeysuckle and orange zest. Coffee with cream. Mouth: again sweet cereal bars, roasted oats, brown sugar and ginger cookies. Growing hints of latte and toffee. Not really fruity, but there’s some honey and maybe baked apple in the background. Faint floral notes and eucalyptus too. Finish: medium long, malty, with vanilla, milk chocolate and lingering spices.
This Strathmill is strangely neutral, almost an exercise in maltiness, yet it does have a nice weight to it, and a few less common touches. Good, but more ‘interesting’ than immediately charming, and too expensive anyway. Around € 350.
With just 59 bottles, this Littlemill 1992 in the Archives series was very limited and indeed already sold out. Cask #44 has also been bottled by them in 2012.
Littlemill 22 yo 1992 (46,7%, Archives ‘Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale 2014, hogshead #43, 59 btl.)
Nose: starts fairly malty sweet at first, with some dusty vanilla and plenty of paraffin. Linseed oil, bread dough. Hay and soft hints of hazelnut paste. Less fruity than some other Littlemills, but after a while it shows melons and grapefruits. Also the kind of coconutty aroma that you sometimes get from bourbon oak. Mouth: complex but again not as aromatic and fruity as we’d like. In no particular order: vanilla, caramel, waxy notes, grapefruit, a grassy / green tea bitterness, lemons and lots of grains. Zesty notes, some mineral and herbal touches as well. As I said, complex but maybe not an immediate charmer. Finish: long, zesty and mineral, with coconut oil and smooth oak.
In my opinion, similar to cask #44 with an above average complexity but a tad below the other ones in terms of fruitiness and overall attractiveness. We’re spoiled by all these Littlemills. Around € 160.
This is quite a rare Highland Park 1973 bottled by Mackillop’s Choice. Sister cask #8396 was bottled by Jack Wiebers in 2003.
Mackillop’s Choice was founded by Angus Dundee Distillers (Tomintoul, Glencadam) in 1996 and bottlings have been released since 1998. All releases are single casks selected by Lorne Mackillop – originally a Master of Wine – and bottled at 43% or 46%.
Highland Park 1973 (43%, Mackillop’s Choice 2007, cask #8395)
Nose: starts a little shy and mostly malty / nutty, but folds open so nicely. Juicy oranges, whiffs of mint and pine resin. Eucalyptus honey and nice beeswax. Subtle fruity notes, rhubarb and sourish pear. Some floral notes as well (orange blossom). Quite delicate, not extremely wide but very elegant. Mouth: oily and waxy, with resinous notes and some pepper at first. Sweet lemon and mint. Quinces jam. Hints of green banana too, a little pineapple, slightly surprising but nice. Then onto bags of (white) grapefruit and a little oak. Finish: long, fruity, oaky, still on grapefruit and mint.
Great old Highland Park, quite neutral in a way but showing plenty of complexity and delicacy. I liked this very much, but it doesn’t seem to show up in auctions regularly.
After my subtle hints while talking about the new Springbank 25 Year Old, some people have been waiting for my review of this one: Springbank 18 Year Old, a single cask version, distilled October 1996 and bottled for The Nectar.
It’s rare to see a bourbon cask version of a well-known dram that relies on sherry casks for around 80% of its composition.
Springbank 18 yo 1996
(58,7%, OB for The Nectar 2014, refill bourbon, single cask, 210 btl.)
Nose: starts with the typical dusty, grainy Springbank note, alongside coastal notes. Vague oily notes (wax candle). A little pepper and mint. Grated coconut. Walnut husks. Over time it becomes clearly fruitier, with lots of gooseberries and rhubarb, strawberries and the lightest tropical touch of papaya. A smoky side as well, not exactly peat smoke but more like toasted oak. Mouth: big and spicy, again quite oily and waxy with lots of briny notes. In a second wave, there are beautiful fruits – bright, lightly tropical again, say sweet oranges, mango and pineapple. Almonds. Green tea. Dusty, earthy smoke. Finish: rather long, on zesty notes, oak spices and that faint smoky edge.
The oily fruitiness works very well with the maritime character and the smoky notes in this Springbank 18. As I said before, an exquisite version of an already really good dram. Now that I think of it, it’s totally in line with last year’s 14 Year Old as well. Around € 140.
Not so long ago, I was very impressed with the new batch of Benromach 10 Year Old which was unveiled in April 2014.
Past October, the distillery also released a higher strength version: Benromach 10 Year Old ‘100° proof’, bottled at the old Imperial measure which equals 57% alcohol volume. It shares the cask distribution (80% bourbon, 20% sherry), the one-year Oloroso finish and the new style of packaging.
Benromach 10 yo ‘100° proof’
(57%, OB 2014)
Nose: this only confirms how good this spirit is, whatever the strength. This combination of baked apple, plum jam, vanilla, furniture polish and toasted wood is simply delicious. Maybe there’s a tad more prune / red berry aroma than in the standard edition, a tad more sherry if you like. Is that kiwi in the background? Anyway the old-school dusty / earthy notes, mint and leather are still present. Mouth: fairly dry, quite spicy and even more old-school. Library dust, pepper, light earthy peat smoke, hints of cough syrup and linseed oil. Becomes rounder as it shows hints of chocolate bars with banana filling and toffee. Finish: long, still smoky with echoes of sherry and chocolate.
Great to see its profile is very similar to that the original 10 Year Old. The added strength makes it seem slightly drier and even more inspired by a 1960’s profile. I think it’s better (by a small margin) but it’s a slightly more difficult whisky as well. Around € 60.
This Ledaig 2004 is the third bottling by Liquid Art. I’ve seen a lot of 2004-2005 releases from this distillery lately, but I haven’t reviewed many of them as they tend to be really similar.
Ledaig 10 yo 2004 (51,6%, Liquid Art ‘Pink Salmon’ 2014, 176 btl.)
Nose: somehow the peat is quite warm here, more so than in other Ledaigs, and despite the young age. Tar and charcoal, mixed with a bit of vanilla and lemonade sweetness. Maybe tinned peaches or pineapple in the back. Very light coastal notes, along with some mentholated hints, but it’s mostly the roundness that’s remarkable here. Mouth: slightly more fierce now, with a hot peaty kick. A little more olive brine as well. Then it returns to sweet soot, with a light syrupy, fruity undertone again. Nice. Sweetened lapsang tea. Finish: long, more towards kippery and herbal notes now, but always with this lingering sweetness.
Nice how this one mixes the deep peaty notes with a balancing sweetness. I don’t like roughly peated whisky so this is one of the nicest Ledaigs I’ve come across so far. Launched today, available from Liquid Art.
Let’s compare it to another Ledaig 2004 that was bottled earlier this year in the Liquid Treasures series.
Nose: this one is slightly cleaner and brighter. In this case this means less of the tinned fruits and vanilla. More minty notes, more sea spray, more mezcal-like notes as well. More towards the focus of young Coal Ila, if you like. There’s a nice buttery side to it as well, so it’s certainly not austere. Mouth: again slightly more focused on the peaty notes, the brine and the smoked fish. It also has a nice sweet side, but it’s less pronounced. Bright hints of sweetened lemon juice and candied ginger. Liquorice too. Finish: long, smoky, half briny, half sweet. Echoes of sweet coffee and chocolate in the very end.
Both are close together. If you prefer a pronounced peatiness and a slightly sharper profile, this one is for you. Around € 70, available from eSpirits among others.
This brand-new bottling in the Fishes of Samoa series from Archives says ‘distilled at a Kildalton distillery’ on the label. Those are the Southern distilleries on Islay (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Port Ellen).
Even though the distillery remains undisclosed, it’s mostly Ardbeg which often refers to the nearby Kildalton Cross (e.g. Ardbeg Kildalton). But there’s also a small chance of being Lagavulin.
Kildalton 7 yo 2007 (54,4%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2014, hogshead #9396, 170 btl.)
Nose: high-strength and quite medicinal. Tarry notes and wet wool. Burnt heather and hay. A little lemon skin and hints of apples. A bit of marzipan as well. Very clean, rough, quite simple. Mouth: sweet attack, quickly joined by some thick peat smoke, peppercorns and sweetened lemon juice. A tad youngish, but this is Ardbeg alright. Liquorice and earthy notes with touches of creamy mocha towards the end. Finish: long but a tad more gentle again. Some grapefruit, salted anchovies and an earthy / ashy end.
This Kildalton 2007 is fairly narrow on the nose, but has a wider and thicker body. A bold whisky, slightly overpowering but a nice chance to try a young Ardbeg at cask strength. Available from the Whiskybase shop for € 68.