North British 50 yo 1962 (45,2%, Archives 2012, hogshead #29, 168 btl.)
Nose: not the usual coconut / vanilla combination. Surprisingly dry, with some earthy wood tones and a bourbonny hint of maple syrup and sultanas. Melon. A few hints of women’s powder too, quite nice. Then some leather and tobacco. Cardamom, cinnamon and mint. An interesting crossover of different genres of whisky. Mouth: smooth and not exactly punchy. Corn, grassy notes, mint, green wood… close to grain whisky but close to bourbon whiskey as well. Some vegetal notes and a hint of sweet tobacco, fading towards liquorice, nutmeg and herbs. A soft banana / dried coconut touch in the background. Finish: not too long, half sweet, half dry, with some darkened sugar and dry oaky note.
This North British 1962 is extremely old but you never get the excessive woodiness that usually goes with it. It’s a nicely delicate dram that plays around with different elements and different styles. Relatively affordable too. Around € 150.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably heard about it already (but be sure to keep reading…). I’m moving to a new house in a couple of months and I’m trying to make some space by selling part of my collection.
If you’ve had a look at the list before, you might want to check again. There are four new additions (green rows; three of which quite rare and interesting) and most of the other prices have come down a little.
I’m willing to discuss prices but I’m quite sure they’re more or less standard market values. In case you’re interested, contact me at info…whiskynotes.be. I’m willing to ship abroad – send me a message and I’ll look up the postal service fees.
Joel and Neil, the two guys running Caskstrength.net, are on a mission to bottle an A-Z of whisky. Their first bottling was an Arran 1998 and the second one, a BenRiach 1996, has just been released.
The spirit has been maturing in a bourbon hogshead until 2008, when it was transferred into a Pedro Ximénez cask. It’s bottled with a nice variation on the official label, and available exclusively from Master of Malt. They’ve sold almost half of the stock in less than a week so don’t wait too long if you’re interested.
BenRiach 16 yo 1996
(55,2%, OB for Caskstrength.net, PX sherry hogshead #5614, 296 btl.)
Nose: starts in a bourbonny way (I mean actual bourbon whiskey, not just the cask type) with fresh oak and Demerara sugar sweetness. Evolves on toffee and vanilla fudge. After a while lots of red currant, raisin and strawberry notes. Clearly finished, but in a very nice way. Soft spices. Mouth: easy-going and fruity (berries again, grape juice, oranges). A little candy sugar. Then the same fresh oak and spices from the nose. Toffee. Some leather and mint. Gets a little fragrant and vinous at times but it never crosses the line. Finish: medium long, drier, with some liquorice alongside some salted caramel.
It’s definitely finished, but it has been taken out of the cask at the right moment. A unique and very enjoyable mix of sherry and bourbon elements. Nice selection. Around € 70.
This Glen Garioch was distilled 16th of May 1990 and bottled in February 2012 by the chaps from Master of Malt.
Glen Garioch 21 yo 1990
(48,8%, Master of Malt 2012)
Nose: starts in an exceptionally creamy, buttery way, with some toasted elements and a toffee sweetness to balance it. A little sawdust and some varnish notes. A mix of slightly sour apple juice and lemon juice. Some tiny flinty notes in the background. Mouth: mostly the dry side at first and then a buttery, milky note again. Coconut cream, sweetened banana yoghurt. Unique but slightly strange. Marzipan sweetness, apple compute, café latte too. Balanced with some dry oaky feel and a little ginger. Finish: medium length, quite dry, hints of oranges and dry oak.
An interesting dram, with some nice quirky elements. Better than other recent Glen Garioch but be sure to try for yourself before you buy. Around € 75.
A new batch of Archives expressions has arrived. There’s one obvious hattrick: a 50 years old North British single grain distilled in 1962, but we’ll start with one of the affordable and reliable names: an Ardmore 1992.
Nose: the expected mix of elegant soot with lots of mineral notes and nice fruits. Hints of silver polish. and iodine. Damp charcoal ashes. Pears, gooseberries, but slightly shy and without the tropical notes that we found in other expressions. Mouth: surprisingly soft at first, it takes a few seconds before it opens up. More obvious peat now, pepper, some olive oil. After that, a nice wave of pink grapefruit, apricots and melon. Ashes and liquorice towards the end. Finish: long, earthy and slightly herbal.
Ardmore 1992 is one of the great finds of the last few months and whatever the cask number, they’re at a similar high level. This one has a little more peat and a little less tropical roundness. Around € 80. Sold by the Whiskybase shop.
While you may sharpen your senses when you hear Springbank 21 years old, this is from a single bourbon cask so it’ll probably be different from the official sherried ones.
Springbank 21 yo 1991 (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2012, bourbon hogshead, MoS 12036, 144 btl.)
Nose: a slightly peculiar nose. There’s a nice sweet side to it, showing peach jam, cooked yellow plums, apple compote and golden raisins. But it’s also showing a dusty side, something in between cement powder (I swear), chalk and leather. Some greasy notes. Roasted almonds too. Mouth: clearly more mineral and coastal now. Paraffin, lemon, brine. Goes back to almonds and faint notes of stewed fruits but it’s never quite rounded. Maybe even a hint of peat? Then also a faint bitterness from the oak. Ginger, a little green tea and nutmeg. Finish: long and clean, balancing between oak and fruit compote. Late pepper.
I like my Springbanks sherried and both the old ones and the new version are excellent examples. That being said, this is a very good Springbank and one of the more interesting releases in the recent batch by Malts of Scotland. Around € 110.
Maltman is a label of single cask releases by Meadowside Blending Co., a family firm based in Glasgow, run by father Donald Hart and son Andrew. Apart from these single malts, they also have a premium blend called The Royal Thistle.
Isle of Arran 14 yo 1997
(46%, Maltman 2012, cask #747)
Nose: rather classic and aromatic. Sweet malty notes, vanilla, toffee. Apples and gooseberries. Faint kiwi. Nougat. Fresh oak. On a second level there are soft grassy notes and hay. Modern and well-made. Mouth: quite sweet and malty, lots of apple flavours again, together with some lemon and vanilla. Lemon balm too. A little honey and toffee before it turns towards oak spices: ginger, cinnamon, and a faint salty touch in the end. Finish: medium long, growing drier, with ginger and lemon zest as well as some herbal tea.
A solid Arran, balanced and natural. You may say it’s hard to justify the price compared to the official 14 years old (also at 46%), but quality-wise I really liked it. Around € 70.
Long time since we’ve had a bourbon whiskey, and not just any bourbon – many people claim this is the pinnacle of American whiskey!
George T. Stagg is the flagship in Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (Buffalo Trace distillery used to be called George T. Stagg distillery until 1999). Like the other four members of the collection, it is released in small, yearly batches and it’s one of the strongest whiskies I’ve ever come across (young Port Charlotte comes close though).
I’m reviewing the latest release, Fall 2011. It was aged for 18 years and 5 months in a combination of 124 barrels. Nearly 58% of the whiskey was lost in evaporation during the maturation.
George T. Stagg (71,3%, OB 2011)
Nose: a powerful boost of sweet vanilla / leather at first. Soon pencil shavings take over. Maple syrup and corn. Mint and pepper. Quite fruity as well, with cherries and sultanas. Tobacco. Oak polish. It’s very much “bound together”, there are lots of aromas but it comes across as quite compact and elegant. Mouth: wow, like a fire in your mouth. Intense oak with charred flavours and lots of mint. Liquorice and pepper. Ginger and vanilla. Cocoa. A kind of bitter / sour combo. Plenty of oak really. Violet candy. Smoked cherries. Gets a little dry in the end. Takes water very well. Finish: very long, dry and tannic, with charred notes, cinnamon and mint.
This knocks your socks off, not only because of its mere alcohol volume but because of its intense oak influence. Too dry and tannic to get a higher score, I’m afraid, especially when neat – if this were a Scotch whisky I would have deducted much more points for this. Anyway great fun to see it evolve while adding drops of water. A legend. Around € 120.