Another Sea Life release by The Whisky Agency. Plenty of Littlemill to be found these days, distilled between 1988 and 1991. But not many refill sherry butts, as far as I know.
Littlemill 22 yo 1990 (52,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Sea Life’ 2012, refill sherry butt, 719 btl.)
Nose: one of the grassy and varnished Littlemills, with minerals and a little wool up front. Mint as well. Less of the dried fruits or tobacco that we found in other, slightly more sherried Littlemills. Maybe this was a Fino? Hints of dry wood smoke in the background, as well as classic citrus fruits, almonds and some vanilla. Mouth: starts fairly dry and spicy (mint, ginger). Evolves on a beautiful wave of trademark grapefruit, lemon zest, apple and soft vanilla. Again less of a fruit burst here. A few leafy notes. Then back to pepper and liquorice. Cloves. Finish: medium long, half fruity, half grassy. A herbal end, rather dry.
Maybe not my favourite among the many Littlemills, for being grassier and a little shy on the fruits – more typically Lowlands maybe – but still a very good and rather complex whisky. Around € 120.
The Whisky Agency already bottled a Caol Ila 1984 in their premium Private Stock series. Now there’s one in the recent Sea Life series. Same alcohol volume (coincidental I suppose).
Caol Ila 28 yo 1984 (53,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Sea Life’ 2012, bourbon hogshead, 254 btl.)
Nose: curiously sweet and bubblegummy for a while. The classic (medium) peat and lemon are there, with some lovely coastal character of iodine and sea water, but it’s backed by generous amounts of vanilla, tinned pineapple and strawberry candy. Slightly unusual for Caol Ila but very attractive. A little mint and grasses. Leathery notes and smoke. Mouth: briny and lemony. More classic and a tad sharper I’d say, although there’s still some sweet almonds and vanilla custard. A good dose of peat and charcoal, with a faint medicinal hint before it fades on fruitier marmalade. Secondary hints of walnut skin and kippers. Finish: long, balancing between medicinal notes and fruity sweetness.
A great Caol Ila, with the typical coastalness coupled to a bigger fruitiness than usual. I always like that combination. Recommended. Around € 150.
While Glenglassaugh distillery is picking up its pace under the new management, with its first new ‘Revival’ bottling, we’ll try an older expression from the Mo Òr Collection.
Glenglassaugh 26 yo 1983
(50,4%, Mo Òr Collection 2010, oloroso sherry butt #171, 885 btl.)
Nose: a fragrant kind of sherry, with lots of raisins and fig jam. Dried apricots. Cinnamon. Very rounded, reminded me of Glenmorangie Sonnalta at times. Grows slightly leathery and slightly earthy. Some tobacco and chocolate. Mouth: juicy sherry, with orange gums, red fruit jam, berries and blood oranges. Balanced spices: a little pepper, ginger and liquorice. A hint of toasted oak and smoke in the background. Nutty hints in the aftertaste. Finish: long, slowly drying with soft herbs and nuts.
This is a very pleasant Glenglassaugh from a top notch cask. One of the beauties in this collection. Around € 140 for a 50cl bottle.
Compass Box will always come up with original ideas. As of November 23rd 2011, SWA made it illegal to use the term ‘vatted malt’ which had to be replaced with ‘blended malt’. To mark the occasion, or to mock it, John Glaser created this limited edition bottling, a marriage of two single malts:
Nose: rich and sweet, with brown sugar and beautiful notes of jams and fresh tropical fruits (melon, mango). Behind it is a soft smoky layer, not a dominating kind of peatiness but more like a tobacco / sweet mossy element. Some caramelized apple and roasted almonds. Very subtle coal and tar in the background, but it’s creamy and vanilla’d at the same time. A very successful marriage. Mouth: more Coal Ila now than on the nose, with a leathery, slightly sourish tobacco note up front, as well as some wood spice. Soft peat. Islay is now the stronger part, the fruity sweetness is much more in the background now. Fruit tea rather than sweet fruits. A little wax. Oranges and cloves, a little bitter coffee in the end. Finish: long, dry, again plenty of tobacco.
The last vatted malt has an exceptional nose, where 1+1 is definitely more than 2. On the palate though, 1+1 is still mostly Coal Ila, if you know what I mean. Well done, even with the heavy price tag of around € 190.
Nose: fragrant and fruity. A slightly synthetic, solventy fruitiness at first, but very pleasant. A whole bunch of gummi bears, as well as tinned peaches, pineapple cubes and melon. Vanilla. A little strawberry milkshake. A fresh herbal side too, and a nice hint of paraffin. Mouth: again showing a certain cotton candy feel, or fruit tea with honey. Green banana. Then more prominently on oak, both the wood itself and the spices (pepper, ginger) up to the point where the fruits get drowned for a second. Malt. A few grassy notes and liquorice, aniseed. Back to oranges and something of bergamot oil. Finish: long, still fruity sweet with a little mint and nutty notes.
This is a rather special oldie again (seems to become a trademark feature for Maltbarn), with both a sweet character and older components. I quite like the combination of bubblegummy fruitiness and oak spices. Available soon, around € 170.
Clynelish 1997 (55,7%, The Bonding Dram 2012, hogshead #5733)
Nose: typical Clynelish. It starts on graphite and pencil shavings, with a generous amount of candle wax and paraffin. It then grows sweeter and fruitier, with honeydew melon, pears and pineapples. A little vanilla and almond paste too, in a creamy, rounded way that reminds us of much older Clynelish (1982 in particular). Whiffs of guimauves. Beautiful evolution from sharper, mineral notes towards juicy roundness. Mouth: again this balance of zesty notes, a soft bitterness, ginger and a briney coastal edge together with sweet fruity notes. Grapefruit, lime and the right amount of fruit gums. Wax obviously. A little oak as well. Finish: long, clean, citrusy with a faint oaky bitterness.
An excellent Clynelish, I’d even say the best young Clynelish I’ve had so far. A great pick, recommended. Available just now, € 65.
Another Belgian source of whisky: Asta Morris. The latest release is a nearly 13 years old Coal Ila distilled in August 1999 and matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Its cask number is quite close to the Caol Ila 1999 released for Feis Ile 2010.
Caol Ila 1999 (50%, G&M for Asta Morris 2012, refill sherry hogshead #305341, 350 btl.)
Nose: starts on apple juice with antiseptic. Oyster water and tarry ropes. Peat and tobacco. Shows some nice sweet & sour fruit candy notes (lemon / green apple), especially with a few drops of water. Even a hint of tropical fruits in the background. Mouth: good strength, overall sweet again, almost completely on peated apple juice. Oily texture. Then a salty twist, a faint hint of green olives, some tobacco leaves, and back to apple juice. A little coconut oil too. Quite an impressive sweetness. Finish: medium long, half sweet, half earthy with a herbal edge.
Interestingly, this Caol Ila keeps the middle between strong medicinal notes and an apple sweetness. Caol Ila can be clean and simple, but this is more complex and entertaining than expected. Just arrived in stores. Around € 65.
Our next “Belgian whisky” is not a new one, it was released last June. Whisky club Fulldram tends to release a club bottling once a year or so, but this time a Tomatin 1976 came quickly after the Bowmore 1999. They said it was too good to let go.
Tomatin 36 yo 1976 “Full metal dram” (49,3%, The Whiskyman for Fulldram 2012, 103 btl.)
Nose: alright! An excellent nose, full of juicy citrus with a good dose of sherry (I’d say a tiny bit more than usual). There’s tangerine, blood orange, pink grapefruit, apricot, banana and guava. Nice vanilla cake and honey. A little almond cream. There seem to be more mint and grasses than in similar releases, as well as a hint of silver polish (the metallic hint they’re referring to in the epitheton). A little oak polish too, but oak itself is hardly to be found. Superb. Mouth: very sweet at first, with red fruit jam, cooked peaches, half-dried prunes and then a brighter, very beautiful wave of typical Tomatin goodness: pink grapefruit, passion fruits, tangerine. Lovely depth and complexity. There’s a secondary theme of sweet oak, soft herbs and fruit tea. A nice touch of mocha glaze in the aftertaste. Finish: very long, softly drying on fresh herbs, with a lot of sweetness still.
An excellent example of Tomatin 1976, probably the best one we’ve had so far. Around € 185 at the time, but all 103 bottles have found a new home already. Not mine, unfortunately, as I wasn’t an official member of the club yet. I’m willing to adopt!