The chaps at Master of Malt come up with some of the most refreshing ideas in the world of spirits. A classic for this time of the year are the Advent Calendars, available in different themes and price categories.
This Christmas, they’re promoting the Drinks by the Dram Dramcrackers. They’re sold in a package of six Christmas crackers (€ 48). You pull them apart, they generate a huge explosion (well, not quite…) and your reward is a 3cl sample of an interesting spirit or liqueur, with tasting notes. AND a paper party crown. AND a crap joke. Bring it on!
You can win 10 sets of these Dramcrackers! Master of Malt will be organizing a Cracker Pullin’ Tournament, starting December 1st. Keep an eye on the videos (like the one below) and participate by letting the guys know who will win each round via Twitter or Facebook.
Cadenhead’s Cask Ends is a series of leftover bottlings. In their Campbeltown store, they have small casks with taps from which you can hand-fill your own bottle. Sometimes in 70cl bottles, sometimes just 20cl if there’s not enough, they finish off casks this way.
This Dallas Dhu 1979 is one of these Cask Ends. The spirit was distilled 8th of June 1979 and filled into a bourbon hoggie. Mark Watt brought it to Spirits in the Sky in Brussels and it turned out to be the kind of dram everyone was talking about.
Nose: very fruity and aromatic. Lots of fruity notes like yellow plums, apricots, pineapples and papaya. Hints of meadow flowers (buttercups). Frosted cereals and vanilla ice cream. Behind this warm fruitiness there’s also a great waxy layer and soft grassy notes (hay, green tea). Walnut oil. Mouth: a bit drier, with more green tea, hints of grapefruit and hints of eucalyptus or chlorophyll. Tangerines. Becomes rather herbal and slightly bitter. Some sappy pine wood as well. Mouth: very long, showing mint, nutmeg, plain oak and green tea.
Have you ever tasted a really great Dallas Dhu? Right. So maybe this is one of the best expressions from this distillery ever to be bottled. It used to be available for € 185 in the store. Now for the frustrating part: the cask is empty… Thanks Danny!
In the seemingly endless stream of Kilchoman bottlings, there are two PX finished versions for Belgium.
One is the Kilchoman 2009 cask 576/2008 for TastToe & Broekmans. There must be some kind of error on the label because the cask reference (2008) and the vintage don’t match. I believe this is actually a 2008 vintage as casks #575 (for LMdW) and #577 (for Whisky Import Netherlands) are distilled on the same day in 2008.
The other one is Kilchoman 2009 cask 262/2009 for two whisky clubs (2009 for real this time). This is a 100% Islay version.
Kilchoman 5 yo 2009
(58,2%, OB for TastToe & Drankenshop, cask #576/2008, PX finish, 231 btl.)
Nose: deep smoke, soot and earthy notes first. Blackberries, roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate are on a second level here, contrary to some other PX finishes I’ve had from this distillery. Some After Eight and cigar leaves. Hazelnuts. Nice balance of dry peat, roasted notes and rounder sherry notes. Mouth: again very much focusing on its sooty side. Big peat smoke. Hints of chocolate coated cherries, dates and black tea. In a way this is like a young Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition. Then some caramelized nuts. The PX blends nicely with the peat. Finish: long, warm, more sugary notes now.
One of the best sherried Kilchomans I’ve come across. Make that one of the best Kilchomans.
Kilchoman 5 yo 2009 (55,2%, OB for De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden & Whiskyclub Luxembourg, cask #262/2009, 100% Islay cask PX finish)
Nose: although both profiles are obviously very similar, this one comes across slightly more oaky. Definitely more iodine / menthol. There’s also more rhubarb and lemon, and a slightly sharper hint of green chilies. Less of the rounder tobacco. But closely together. Mouth: again a slightly sharper version, more coastal and medicinal. Less Lagavulin, more Laphroaig? The chocolaty roundness is overtaken by a minty freshness. Finish: long, interesting balance of medicinal high notes and a sugared base.
Choosing one of these whiskies would come down to personal preferences, I guess. Both are two interpretations of the Islay style. Both are impressive five year-olds.
Nose: fairly neutral and spirity. Plenty of apple peelings, with some raw yeasty notes and light mineral touches. Soft vanilla marshmallow and honey. Citrus. Hints of overripe banana skins and other vegetal notes in the background. Not bad, just a little youthful. Mouth: oily and sweet, very malty. Apple pie, pineapple and whiffs of charcoal smoke. Shows more oak spices (ginger) and becomes herbal with a light bitterness and a young harsh note. Some spirit sulphur indeed. Finish: medium long, with some drying oak, liquorice and the same hint of smoke.
A young Speysider, fairly neutral but certainly not bland, thanks to the weight of the spirit. Nothing very special though. Around € 50.
Released exclusively for the Taiwanese market, this was the second oldest Karuizawa ever (at the time), and the only cask left of the 1967 vintage.
It was presented at Whisky Live 2012 in Taipei and then released to the market at the beginning of 2013.
I’m sure visiting Asia makes you understand this kind of whisky even better.
Karuizawa Vintage 45 yo 1967 (59,6%, OB for Taiwan 2012, Aqua of Life, sherry butt #2725, 310 btl.)
Nose: typical solventy ebony, cedar and sandalwood. Old leather. Mild ashes / incense. Reminds me of Asian temples (the dark Emperor Jade Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh comes to mind). Dried herbs (ginger, aniseed). Cigars. Also bramble, black cherries, figs, prune preserve. High-end Oloroso. Lacquered barbecue meat. Excellent. Mouth: strong and concentrated. Heavy oak, pine resin, fruit stems, very dark pu-erh tea. Dry alright, a bit tannic, but there’s also plenty of chocolate chips, liquorice candy, raisins and toffee to bring a little roundness. Sandalwood and leather again. Green tea. Mint and menthol. Hints of ponzu acidity. Walnuts and hazelnuts. Finish: very long, dry with toasted oak, dark dried fruits but this hint of acidity as well.
Up there with the best Karuizawas I’ve tried. It’s quite stunning how they can combine extreme complexity with such an amazing strength. I’ve seen different prices ranging from € 3500 to € 8000. Thanks my Taiwanese friend!
The Golden Cask is a single cask series bottled by Cumbrae Supply – House of Macduff (incidentally also the name of the distillery, but pure coincidence with the fact that the owners have this family name).
Until now they had a standard bottle with a fairly dull label, but apparently they’ve been given a recent makeover. They’re now sold in Compass Box-like bottles with a nice cardboard case. Of course it’s the contents that counts, but you can’t deny this is way more attractive.
We’re trying a new Macduff 1980. Note that there was another Macduff 1980 from the same bottlers in 2012 (at 50%).
Macduff 33 yo 1980
(47,5%, Golden Cask Reserve 2014, ref. CM210, 125 btl.)
Nose: this is a kind of profile that I really like and that’s rarely found on the market these days. Beautiful bananas with beeswax and coconut. Stewed fruits, apricots and mandarin. Hints of pineapple. A nice freshness of herbs and nice spearmint. Soft oak as well. A 1970’s profile really. Mouth: starts gentle, even though the resinous oak is on the foreground. Bags of mint and liquorice. In a second wave there are lovely hints of passion fruits and apricots, too bad they don’t last very long. Dried coconut again, as well as touches of Early Gray tea. Finish: long, with grapefruit, mint tea and cinnamon.
Nice stuff, although you have to like a bit of oak in your whisky. Not very surprising given the age of course. Around € 190. Sold through representatives in different countries, e.g. Kintra handles the distribution for The Netherlands.
Lindores Whisky Fest 2014 is taking place this weekend. There are two festival bottlings, both from the Malts of Scotland stocks.
The official one is a Laphroaig 1996 matured in a brandy (!) hogshead, the other one this Ardbeg 1991 from a sherry hogshead. While the label says bottled for Geert’s Whisky Bar @ Hotel Bero it is only for sale this weekend so you can call it a second festival bottling.
Ardbeg 23 yo 1991 (48,9%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2014, sherry hogshead, ref. MoS 14054, 185 btl.)
Nose: the sherry is less thick than last time, if I remember correctly. This usually means higher complexity. Lots of cold ashes and coal smoke, leather, hints of flax ropes and burnt chestnuts. A box of cigars, maybe two. Also a faint medicinal note, something like eucalyptus cream. Liquorice and soft brine. Oil lamps. Dark chocolate after a while, blackberries as well. Mouth: very oily and fairly dry, again much sootier and less sherried than its predecessor. Quite a lovely, old-school style – so far away from recent official Ardbegs and so much closer to old Port Ellen or 1970’s Ardbeg. Pipe tobacco. Little fruity notes, although there is a vague sweetness of (dark) chocolate. Leather and liquorice. Finish: very long, with liquorice, deep cigar smoke and smoked ham. Just enough chocolate roundness again.
Just excellent, even better than the previous cask. Good to see this style is still possible. Only for sale at Hotel Bero – € 345 a bottle and strictly one per person. This will be gone by Monday.
Balvenie Tun 1509 is the follow-up of the distillery’s success story Balvenie Tun 1401 which was released in nine batches between 2010 and early 2014. All of them were good whiskies, some of them even outstanding.
So now there’s this new 8000-liter marriage tun #1509 which is four times bigger than its predecessor. For Balvenie this is a way of upping the scale and reaching more people. Nothing wrong with that.
However not only did the scale change, the cask distribution is also clearly different. Tun 1509 batch 1 consists of 42 casks: 35 ex-bourbon casks and 7 sherry butts (all nicely listed on the label). Taking into account the different sizes of these casks, it means around 30-35% sherry matured whisky, whereas this was around 50-70% in the Tun 1401 releases. Wait a minute: slightly younger whisky, less sherry influence, larger scale and yet a considerably higher price…
Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (47,1%, OB 2014, batch 1, 11000 btl.)
Nose: honeyed, with elegant fruity notes. Oranges, apricot jam, some yellow raisins. A little unripe mango. Soft beeswax. Underneath is a subtle resin note, citrus blossom and old oak. Something vaguely earthy. Gentle but still in line with Tun 1401. Mouth: orange peel at first, then nutmeg and a clear oaky side. Warming cedar oak and tobacco leaves. Soft pepper, ginger and clove. Just enough grapefruit to make it brighter again, but on the whole it feels a little thin and (bourbonny) oaky. Finish: long, with a subtle bitterness of rhubarb and orange peel. Still some wood spices and waxy notes.
Really good whisky again, but it doesn’t fill the footsteps of its predecessor entirely. Whereas the old Tun 1401 batches always had these round sherry elements to balance the oak, the bourbonny side of Tun 1509 simply places more focus on the wood. Around € 300.