Master of Malt must be the king of creative bottling. Leftovers, distillation experiments, rebottlings… they’ll pop a label on it and hit the market.
The Lost Distilleries Blend is a blended whisky exclusively made up of whiskies from distilleries that have sadly closed over the years. In this case Rosebank, Littlemill, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Keith and Port Ellen, with a splash of Port Dundas grain.
Batch 4 is the lightest in colour so far. It recently captured the ‘Best Blended Whisky’ award at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards – an award that is won by a Suntory Hibiki blend more often than not. What I don’t understand, is that it won ‘Best Blended Whisky’ while there’s also a specific category for blended malts, and this is supposed to be a blended malt. Update: it includes Port Dundas.
The Lost Distilleries Blend
(50,9%, Master of Malt 2014, 97 btl.)
Nose: starts quite fruity, mostly garden fruits but with a faint tropical edge that comes and goes. Vanilla pods. Then there’s an unmistakable hint of Port Ellen – mineral notes, hints of plaster and leather. Quite some lemon notes as well – not surprising with these components. Mouth: just as elegant as the nose. The minerals are still there but the whole is very creamy as well. Sweet, juicy flavours. Apples, faint hints of guava. Very subtle peat in the background. Almond paste. Some exotic woods and soft pepper. A very nice combination of styles, with both austere elements and luscious roundness. Finish: long, warming, with plenty of sweetness (brown sugar), baked apple and very light smoke.
Around € 420. For what’s essentially a NAS blended whisky, that’s quite heavy considering Port Ellen and Rosebank are the only whiskies that you can’t find as a single malt for less than € 200 a bottle. But the quality is very high and the elegance quite stunning.
Nose: very coastal but quite fruity at the same time. Sweet grapefruit, apple peel, hints of peaches. The some walnuts and lemon, as well as faint verbena and linseed oil. Maybe a Fino butt. Some leafy notes. Gets fruitier (slightly tropical) with water. Mouth: relatively fruity again, gooseberries, apples and lemon sweets. Mid-palate there is a big boost of brine and mineral notes, accompanied by ginger and peppery oak, even some curry. Comes down nicely on vanilla custard with lingering fruits. Again a slight earthy touch. Finish: long, fairly neutral, with cereal notes, soft cinnamon and banana.
A complex Bunna, fruity and coastal at the same time. It looks like most of these 1987 casks have a relatively low sherry influence (not the usual Oloroso type in any case). Around € 150.
Nose: pretty great after some breathing. Lots of marzipan and oranges, coupled to pretty huge notes of warm, polished oak. Some waxed leather. Dried coconut. Apricots in the background and warmer fruity notes. A dusty element. Some eucalyptus as well. Really nice. Mouth: starts with the same kind of old-style fruitiness that we found on the nose, but it quickly turns upside down. Becomes quite hot and very bitter / herbal, even slightly chemical. Orange skin, tonic, wormwood… Hints of nasty cough syrup. Growing astringency with airing, I didn’t see that coming! Finish: long, medicinal and bitter.
A really nice nose (90) and a palate that’s way too bitter to be enjoyable (75) which always results in a rather meaningless final score. Educational whisky. Long gone of course, but the Whiskybase shop has a bottle on offer for around € 400.
The Glenlivet 18 Years sits in the middle of the Glenlivet core range, in between the 12/15 and the 21/25 yo. It is a combination of first fill American and second fill European oak casks.
The Glenlivet 18 yo
(43%, OB +/- 2013)
Nose: quite a robust nose with fruits (yellow apples, oranges, golden raisins, plums) and a good dose of sherry. Also honey and a minty overtone. Some blossomy notes and subtle oak spices. Something vaguely tropical comes out after a while. Mouth: more punchy now, more oak-driven as well. Malty notes, honey and lots of sweet apples. Oranges and raisins. Toffee. The oak brings cinnamon, ginger and liquorice. Maybe a tad too grainy / harsh towards the end, with some tannins. Finish: not too long, quite dry but clean, with some toasted oak and grains.
A solid all-rounder. The nose is elegant, relatively complex and with the typical floral touch of Glenlivet. After that it goes downhill, with a harsher palate and a short finish. Between € 50 and € 70.
Dreadlocks: check, ganja: check, dub riddim playlist: check. Ya man, all set to crack this lil’ beauty. Rasta Morris is the rum division of Asta Morris. Bert Bruyneel selected a 15 years old single cask rum distilled in Barbados and finished in a sherry cask.
Barbados 15 yo rum
(42%, Plantation for Rasta Morris 2013, single cask #115, sherry finish, 450 btl.)
Nose: fairly dry and leathery. There’s a pleasant reminder of dusty books before it shows sweeter oranges and caramel. Baking spice. After a while some dried banana comes out. Mouth: very smooth and sweet – much sweeter than the nose suggested, now displaying more common flavours. Baked bananas, vanilla cream and coconut. Heavy molasses, hints of sticky dates as well. Cinnamon and caramelized nuts. Sweet butter pastry and treacle. Honey. Finish: still very sweet, a bit cloying now. Warm spicy echoes alongside the caramel.
A very smooth rum. It seems the sherry finish gave it an extra boost of date sweetness and sticky toffee. A dessert rum. Around € 65.
Longmorn 1992 is another one of these whiskies that we’ve seen very often lately. On Whiskybase there are +/- 30 expressions bottled in 2013 alone. I’m sorry but I won’t bother to try every sample I have as there are very little deviations.
Nose: rather typical Speyside / ex-bourbon combination. Garden fruits (apples, gooseberries, greengages) mixed with vanilla and touches of coconut. Hints of strawberry marshmallows after a while. A little mint as well. Mouth: full-bodied, fruity (oranges, apples, peaches) with the expected pepper / ginger combination of the white oak to muffle the sweetness a little. Faint grassy notes. Finish: medium long, still fruity (a little more on the zesty side now) with some citrus green tea.
Honest, well-made whisky. Maybe its only problem is that there are so many similar casks to be found so it’s difficult to understand why Ronny chose this particular version. Around € 80.
I have to admit I didn’t have William Grant’s blended whisky before. Their ambassador Ludo Ducrocq was kind enough to let me try the whole range but I didn’t go for the basic expressions right away – let’s start at a decent level with the Grant’s 18 Year Old. It used to be nicknamed ‘Classic Reserve’.
As a reminder, William Grant & Sons is a top-5 producer of Scotch whisky. They own Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie and Alisa Bay malt distilleries and the grain distillery Girvan. They also produce Hendrick’s Gin among other drinks.
After a separate maturation, the malt and grain whiskies for this 18 Year Old are brought together and finished in Port casks.
Grant’s 18 yo (40%, OB +/- 2013)
Nose: a rich nose, very honeyed, with figs and red berries. Raisins. Orange zest and fresh lemon. A nice Port influence, a little on the winey side but it works well here, with some intriguing grape notes. Toasted almonds and soft earthy notes as well. Mouth: again a dried fruits / sherried kind of dram, with caramelized pear and citrus zest before a light bittersweetness sets in. Nice hints of smoke and toasted nuts. Raisins and heather honey. Vanilla and warm spices. Finish: decent length, quite elegant, with oaky notes, chocolate sweetness and pepper.
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Some would say the Port influence makes it winey, but on the other hand I prefer this to the grainy harshness of other blends. It’s thick, honeyed, and well composed. It doesn’t seem to be widely available, but worth a try. Around € 65.
Kintra has three new bottlings: a 6 years old Aultmore, a 15 years old Auchentoshan and this Inchgower 1990. Nice to see they’re going against the flow: these expressions don’t seem to be very popular among bottlers these days.
Nose: starts creamy with hints of almond milk. Or coconut water? Moves towards nougat and soft vanilla. Then green tea with citrus. Overall quite subdued, you need to work in order to get the flavours out. Mouth: creamy and very sweet, as if someone added powder sugar. Other than that, a bit silent again. Malty flavours, sweet lemon and pear. Some vanilla. Goes on with marzipan and a kind of vague fruitiness. In the end a bitter edge from the oak sets in. Finish: medium long, sweet like lemonade, with pepper and other spices from the oak.
A mixed bag. The hints of tropical sweetness are charming, but it lacks focus and depth. The nose was the best part. Kudos to Kintra for presenting something different. Around € 105.