Benromach Organic is made from biological barley and matured in new American oak barrels from sustainable forests. It meets the rigorous UK Soil Association standards for growing the ingredients, distillation, maturation and bottling – hence Organic.
This concept was unique in 2006 when it was launched. Nowadays it’s still rare – few distilleries manage to certify entirely. We’re trying the latest Benromach Organic 2008 edition, matured in virgin American oak casks.
Benromach Organic 2008 (43%, OB 2014)
Nose: still clearly a member of the family, but less un-modern than the 10 yo. Malty sweetness, vanilla and citrus (oranges mainly). Banana. Just a hint of dust and peat. A little mint, clove and liquorice, as well as a clear green touch (wet grass). Mouth: grainy and surprisingly oaked (virgin oak!). Quite earthy and spicy: nutmeg, pepper, liquorice. Green tea. Some melon. Hints of peat again, but very subtle. Finish: long and earthy, pleasantly dry, with some medicinal notes, ginger and herbs.
A nicely ‘green’ whisky, slightly less unique than the 10yo or even the 5yo, but nonetheless a great style. The Ten still wins hands down, especially since you’re paying a premium for the certificates and all that. Around € 65.
Whiskymanufaktur is a small chain of whisky shops in and around Berlin, Germany. It was started by Lars Wiebers, also the founder of the independent bottler Jack Wiebers Whisky World (Jack is his nickname, thank you Herbert for confirming).
This Glendronach is a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks, which makes it kind of an independent version of the GlenDronach Octarine.
Nose: starts with light whiffs of sulphur, but it freshens up after a while. Lots of sticky toffee pudding and caramel notes, as well as (slightly overripe) oranges and yellow apples. Raisins. Nut cake. Stewed berries and hints of vanilla. Mouth: sweet, creamy and vanilla’d. Not very complex, but easy drinking at this strength. Baked apples and toffee again. Malty notes and spicy oak. I’m sure this would have been quite spicy with a bit more alcohol. Finish: rather long, still some fruity sweetness but also woody touches.
This Glendronach is not as exciting as official (full sherry) bottlings, but it’s a good value drinker’s whisky. Around € 45.
Bruichladdich makes different profiles – let’s dive right in and find out what this 2004 cask is all about.
(55,5%, Malts of Scotland 2015, bourbon barrel, MoS 15010, 312 btl.)
Nose: okay, so it’s peated. Very interesting actually, it’s no ‘in your face’ peat but instead a kind of farmy smell that I really like. Not quite a Brora farminess, but still. Wet forest soils and moss. Plastics. Mashed potatoes as well. Chives? A sea breeze. Old-style in a way. Hmm… Mouth: oily and peaty, with a weird side that holds the middle between fragrant herbs and lemon soap (but without the soapiness – does that make sense?). Hints of antiseptics. Lots of lemon peel and stem ginger. Earthy peat. Peppery heat. Finish: medium length, peppery and lemony.
Not sure what to write, except: try it yourself. It’s a bit of a weird thing with ups and downs, but definitely not a Laddie to avoid. Around € 80.
An independent Macallan, where do you find that nowadays? Especially from an ex-bourbon cask. It was bottled by The Whisky Agency in 2013 as a Formosa exclusive (that’s the name of Taiwan when it was in Dutch hands). Just 36 bottles…
Nose: very much on apples and pears, fairly neutral. Hints of sweet beer and Calvados. Ginger biscuits and almonds. Develops some damp leafy notes after a while and hints of porridge. After a long wait also nice orange blossom water. Mouth: very sweet, with plenty of pears and apples again, as well as berries and breakfast cereals. A funny mix of maturity and new-make. A nice waxiness as well. Honey. Thick spirit with little external influences. Finish: long, jammy, picking up both grassy notes and a little vanilla latte.
I can’t say I was hugely impressed by this kind of naked Macallan, but it’s flawless spirit. And I believe the name alone works wonders in Asia.
Tomatin Cask Strength is a limited release, launched a couple of weeks ago alongside the Tomatin Cù Bòcan Virgin Oak.
It was matured in a combination of bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks.
Tomatin Cask Strength (57,5%, OB 2015, Batch #1, 15.000 btl.)
Nose: starts a bit closed, in the sense that it’s mostly malt, vanilla and vague stewed fruits. Yellow raisins and golden syrup. Quite some milky toffee as well. There’s a bit of an alcohol prickle, which doesn’t help. Not bad, but youngish and I’m missing some of the Tomatin sparkle. Mouth: good body, malty sweetness again, with some marzipan and orange candy. Baked apple. Hints of leather. Plenty of pepper, grasses and ginger now. Evolves on nutty notes and nutmeg. Finish: long, spicy, with lingering vanilla and zests.
I’m afraid I don’t really see an added value in having this one at cask strength. Actually it seems to block some of the flavours and doesn’t manage to hide its youth. Around € 50.
I believe Malts of Scotland is one of the biggest sources of independent Glengoyne. While other indies can’t seem to get them, this German bottler keeps a steady stream of releases.
(52,9%, Malts of Scotland 2015, sherry butt, Mos 15012, 482 btl.)
Nose: bags of oranges and tangerines, mixed with a few dusty grains and hints of brown sugar. Hints of Dutch stroopwafels and latte. Toffee. Apples and plums as well. Mouth: while the nose showed a big sweetness, on the palate it’s fairly dry and spicy, with a bitter edge. Not as thick as I suspected. Seville oranges. Orangettes with dark chocolate. Soft pepper, hints of liquorice. Roasted coffee beans and grapefruit. Some burnt almonds. Finish: not too long. No new elements either. Herbs, oranges and cocoa.
While I enjoyed the nose, I found this one slightly thin and mono-dimensional on the palate. Relatively close to the official profile, with its oranges, chocolate and European oak spices. Around € 80.
The other day I realized how long it had been since I last tried a Banff. I know there was a Banff by Duncan Taylor (Tantalus) fairly recently, but that was outrageously priced, which proves how rare this distillery has become.
Nose: hay and dried flowers, with lots of metallic notes and greasy touches. Almost phenolic. Wet chalk and gravel. Hints of cooked apple and a faint honeyed note. Quite odd when you read this description, but that’s Banff. Very old-fashioned. Mouth: a bit funny again. Mustardy and peppery, with an apple / lemon sweetness to make it rounder. Lots of herbs and grasses. Heather. Quite beautiful if you appreciate some mineral sharpness. Grapefruit zest and leather. Something metallic again. Strange floral touches. Finish: medium. It takes the bittersweet notes a little further and becomes slightly bitter in the very end.
I know Banff is technically a Speyside distillery, but I find this such an old-style Highlands profile… Difficult and unsexy, but very intriguing. Given its age, not extremely expensive in auctions.
Although it has been available since mid-2014 in some markets, the Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask (quite a mouth full) is still fairly new in this part of Europe. The old 15yo Single Barrel has been replaced by a Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (bourbon cask) and this 15 Year Old Sherry Cask (from European oak Oloroso butts actually).
Fully sherry matured Balvenies have been rare so it’s nice to see they will be readily available.
Balvenie 15 yo Single Barrel ‘Sherry Cask’ (47,8%, OB 2015, cask #12093, max. 650 btl.)
Nose: I like. Fruity, elegant sherry. Bags of blood oranges and apricots. Vibrant citrus and candied citrus peel. Vanilla cake. Cinnamon and raisins. A hint of nougat. Rummy notes as well. Highly aromatic whisky. Mouth: again not an overdone, thick sherry character but a balanced, elegant profile. Some leathery touches but also toffee and candied fruits. Molasses and touches of honey. Peaches on syrup. Toasted oak, with subtle pepper and nutmeg. Finish: medium long, still fruity. Almonds, cinnamon and orange (oil).
I have a sweet spot for this kind of ‘designer’ whiskies that succeed in bringing out the aromatics of the sherry without becoming cloying or bloated. Pretty great. Around € 85.