It has taken a while but now the Elements of Islay series finally includes an Octomore Oc1, the highly peated spirit distilled at Bruichladdich. In fact this is one of the first independent Octomore releases ever.
Octomore Oc1 (65,4%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)
Nose: quite compact and dense, with initial aromas of eucalyptus and medicinal notes of antiseptics and iodine. Brine. Then some sour apples, becoming sweeter with hints of peach and marzipan. Lots of mineral notes, some sourdough as well. Mouth: really heavy peat. I’ve had Octomores that were surprisingly soft but this one is rather gobsmacking. Very ashy, barbecued and sharp, again with a slight yeasty side and lots of herbal notes, like gentian, ginger and burnt thyme. Salty notes too, bread crust and chili heat. Hints of lemon. Finish: long, thick, warm and smoky, with a sweet herbal edge.
This is a version of Octomore in which the peat is big and powerful, but it gets away with it by adding lots of sweetness and some herbal notes too. Very good but pretty expensive compared to the official bottlings (around € 250 for 50 cl). Available from TWE.
While the 10 Years had 80% bourbon and 20% sherry casks, the 15 Years was predominantly matured in sherry casks, some of which have been heavily charred. Longer maturation means the smokiness of the 10 should be muted a little, while the (sherry) wood brought out different aromas.
Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB 2015)
Nose: clearly the same family as the 10, just a bit more juicy and sherried. More Fino-style than Oloroso-style, with some walnut and chamomile notes. It also has the stewed fruitiness, the old-style dustiness and leathery notes. Tiny hints of earthy smoke. Some figs and candied ginger. Waxed paper too, although I find the 10 waxier (and that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much). Mouth: again a mix of austere elements (walnuts, apple skin, some bitterness) and roundness (plums, cocoa and subtle dried fruits). A mentholated freshness, some vanilla and pepper. Finish: long, with orange zest, cocoa and pepper.
This is excellent, highly singular whisky again. Its takes the 1960s style of the 10yo into sherry territories. When I’m forced to choose, I still think Benromach 10 is hard to beat, especially at half the price. Around € 80.
Islay’s smallest distillery released this Kilchoman Sanaig which is a composition of 50% bourbon casks and 50% Oloroso sherry, matured for around 4-5 years. It is named after a creek close to the distillery and it will be a permanent member of the core range.
(46%, OB 2015)
Nose: a fairly friendly, balanced expression. The peat smoke is not as offensive as in some other expressions. Instead there is some fruit compote in the fore (pineapple, red apple) with vanilla. Grilled lacquered meat. Toffee. Also a little marshmallow. Soft mineral notes and sea spray in the background. Mouth: peppery attack, quickly joined by some toffee and fruit candy. Sweet lemon. Caramelized apple. Some new-make notes underneath, but well balanced. Some medicinal, peaty notes towards the end. Finish: long, still very sweet but with some brine and drier, ashy hints as it fades.
Maybe a tad youngish, and maybe a little too sweet for some, but other than that, a fine Kilchoman. Around € 55-60.
Auchentoshan has two expressions named Springwood and Heartwood, both exclusive to travel retail (at least they once were). While Springwood is a bourbon-matured release, Heartwood uses deeply charred bourbon casks and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. The term refers to the rich core heart of the tree.
Auchentoshan Heartwood is said to be around 7 years of age. Unfortunately it’s also coloured with E-150.
Auchentoshan Heartwood (43%, OB 2015)
Nose: a rather dry, almost grassy kind of sherry. Hints of wood chips, giving it a green touch. Orange oils and lime zest, yellow raisins and toffee. Apple peel and hints of cocoa. Mouth: starts sweet, with raisins and a little caramel, but it quickly picks up peppery notes and some resinous oak, making it bittersweet. Some toasted (burnt) nuts and a biting grainy note. Finish: not too long, with zesty citrus and the bitterness of dark chocolate.
I’m not so sure. It’s rather complex for a NAS composition, but there’s an astringency on the palate and throughout the finish that I found a bit unpleasant. Nonetheless a full-bodied Lowlander. Around € 40-50 for a 1-litre bottle.
The Whisky Exchange already bottle a Glenlivet 1981 cask #9460 in 2014, selected from the Signatory Vintage warehouses. This year they’re releasing sister cask #9464. Lots of other casks from the same batch have been bottled in the past three years or so.
Glenlivet 33 yo 1981 (51%, Signatory Vintage for TWE 2015, refill sherry hogshead #9464, 175 btl.)
Nose: a very nice profile with lots of juicy oak, library dust and moist tobacco. Big hints of leather saddles. Also walnuts and a rather elegant hint of sherry, closer to very old Amontillado than to Oloroso. Then there are rich fruity notes like dried apricots and sour cherries. Subtle herbal teas, with some bergamot and oh-so-light potpourri in the background. Mint and subtle camphor too. Mouth: a lot of old-style oranges and blackberries, with some grape-like touches before becoming drier, spicy and slightly tannic. Cloves, pepper and mint. The apricots return, as well as the walnuts and leather. Hints of pink grapefruit. Surely it’s oaky but luckily the sweetness and fruitiness balances it out. Finish: long, peppery, with herbal teas and bitter oranges.
This is an interesting dram. It’s a refill cask with a rather refined sherry influence. On the other hand it’s also rather oaky, making it a rather active refill cask. In any case it’s a very tasty, old whisky. Around € 260 – soon available from The Whisky Exchange.
This Bunnahabhain 1980 was released by Eiling Lim in early 2015, alongside a Littlemill 1990. It’s her first Islay release.
Both are sold out and I’ve heard a big part of the yield was shipped to Lim’s birth country Malaysia, which is a good thing as this proves original concept (introducing high-quality independent bottlings there) is successful.
Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980
(46,2%, Eiling Lim 2014, 50 btl.)
Nose: a hugely elegant, pleasantly discreet profile, which needs some time. Leathery notes and a hint of eucalyptus and menthol. Also subtle fruity notes underneath, light jams, figs, ripe gooseberries and meadow flowers. Nice waxy touches and honey. All this with some subtle sea spray. Pretty great but you have to be patient. Mouth: apricots and oranges at first, light honey again, with some greenish, sappy oak moving in. Light heather honey. Hints of green tea. mooth and old-fashioned. Also a light herbal touch, getting close to hoppy or marihuana-like flavours. Really. Finish: long, with some bitterness from the oak and the return of the orange (peel) and green tea.
It was the right time to bottle this while the mature oakiness is not yet a problem. Now it’s just a lovely old-fashioned Bunna. Around € 250.
This is a Clynelish expression at cask strength that was only for sale at the distillery. It is believed to be a version of the standard Clynelish 14 Year Old at natural strength. It was a one-off bottling, I don’t think the concept of ‘distillery only’ bottlings has been repeated.
Clynelish ‘available only at the distillery’ (57,3%, OB 2008)
Nose: very naked, with lemon, yellow apple, dried grass and a lot of waxy notes. Wax candles, buttery notes. Mineral and sharp, but it becomes more aromatic after a while, with subtle but impressive lime and raspberry notes in the background. Candied ginger. Mouth: oily and creamy, with vanilla custard and apples / apple pie. Pineapple. Then peppery notes, ginger and more wax. Becomes coastal and frankly salty as well, but the candied side never goes away. Finish: long, waxy, on grapefruit skin and salty liquorice.
A really nice dram. The typical elements of the Clynelish 14 are preserved but the whole is more powerful – a little wild even. Originally priced £ 80, and for £ 5 extra you could have it signed by all thirteen distillery managers and operators.
Glen Mhor, Millburn, Pittyvaich, Brackla, North Port… those are the five distilleries I have the least experience with (except for completely lost ones of course). Here’s a rare opportunity to try the Glen Mhor 1966 in the Old Malt Cask series.
Glen Mhor 34 yo 1966 (50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’ 2000, 396 btl.)
Nose: high octane sherry. I get some rich forest fruit jam, raspberry coulis and Heering Cherry liqueur, but also less expected things like bananas and apricots. Then a big herbal side (liquorice, mint) with tobacco, moving towards polished furniture and big hints of cigar boxes. Also a slightly oriental twist (something like incense or smoky temples). Pretty glorious. Mouth: even more herbal now, coating and drying your mouth entirely. Still some figs, but mostly chestnuts, earthy notes, eucalyptus, ginger and liquorice. High on tannins and herbs. Dark roast coffee. Not unlike the heaviest Karuizawa expressions. Finish: long, dry, herbal, peppery, you get it.
This Glen Mhor has a glorious nose, showing very aromatic sherry. However on the palate you would say it spent too much time in the cask, becoming an oak infusion. Therefore hard to score.