I’m not sure this 16 years old Irish single malt 1999 was produced in the same distillery. Probably not, actually. As you know indie casks are mostly sold in larger lots, and most 1999s point to Cooley.
Irish single malt 16 yo 1999 (53,5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2015, joint bottling with LMdW)
Nose: a slightly greener kind of fruitiness. Plenty of citrus, especially grapefruit. Hints of lemon (blossom) and white peach. Nice banana liqueur and banana bubblegum in the background, as well as white gummi bears and light spices (caraway). Also waxy hints (how far is Clynelish from Ireland)? Mouth: bananas aplenty. Grapefruits and lemonade. Fresh, green and gingery. Becomes fairly spicy with pepper and liquorice. The waxy notes are still present. Finish: medium long, same notes. Bright fruits and spices.
Maybe Cooley, yes. Really nice whisky again, the kind of profile that keeps you sipping all night long. Around € 85. Thank you, Angelo.
Nose: quite bright and fruity although a bit restrained as well. Some white grapes, lime, canary melon and white peach. Gummi bears. Freshly cut grass with a few white flowers. Something of lemon yoghurt and sugared green tea. Caraway seeds. A bit uncommon but far from unpleasant. Mouth: again very bright and citrusy, with lime and pear, hints of vanilla and some floral notes. Green apples. Some oily notes and a little pepper. Sweet, creamy malt. Some liquorice and oak towards the end. Finish: medium long, with lime and spices, including a light salty touch.
This Inchgower is a bit unconventional (aren’t they all?) but pretty good. Slightly winey in a (good) way and rather summery, I’d say. Around € 130.
With the recent boom of Japanese whisky and the direct connection of Bowmore with Japan (they are owned by Beam Suntory), we now welcome a new Bowmore Mizunara Cask finish.
Mizunara oak only grows in specific parts of Asia and although it grows slowly and it is a little difficult to work with, Mizunara casks have always been used in Japanese whisky production to induce some unique aromas. Suntory only produces around 100 casks per year and this is the first time an Islay whisky is finished in these casks (which are probably refill Yamazaki casks).
Bowmore Mizunara cask is officially NAS, but all the whisky is 1990s distillation – which makes it seem strange to avoid an age statement… It’s a mix of bourbon casks and some sherry casks which are then transferred to Mizunara for three years. Traditionally, Mizuanara oak needs quite a long time to make its unique profile noticeable, so we’re keen to find out how big the effect is after a relatively short finish.
Bowmore Mizunara Cask finish (53,9%, OB 2015, 2000 btl.)
Nose: bright and vibrant, with Bowmore’s trademark gentle peatiness and quite a big amount of fruits, including the lovely tropical notes (pineapple, mango, green banana) that are common in mid-1990s Bowmore. Also nice heathery / herbal notes. Some vanilla roundness as well as subtle flinty notes. The Mizunara influence seems small, maybe it shines through in the wealth of spices (cinnamon, clove) and a slight hint of sandalwood. Mouth: now I’m more impressed than on the nose. It starts coastal and briney, with a good dose of earthy peat before a burst of fruits appears. Lime, pink grapefruit, hints of passion fruit, maybe lychee. Still quite spicy (pepper, cinnamon). Back to eucalyptus honey and vanilla cream. Finish: long, slightly leathery with oriental spices and peat.
Sure, it’s expensive. Around € 1000 means you’re paying a considerable ‘investors supplement’ even when it’s a unique product. On the other hand it’s also very good, with a balanced combination of peat and tropical fruits and a (really subtle) oriental twist.
It seems the latest batch of Whisky Agency releases passed by with a little less fuss than we’ve come to expect. They’ve been on the market for a while, but I’ve only been able to try two or three. Here’s the Auchentoshan 1994 from the Circus series.
Auchentoshan 21 yo 1994 (54,8%, The Whisky Agency 2015, refill hogshead, 216 btl.)
Nose: rather naked, with some nice fruity notes (unripe pineapple, green banana, greengages) and light grassy notes. Slightly less common notes of menthol. Some flinty hints, as well as some waxy lipstick notes. Nice and simple. After some time I get some candy necklaces – do you remember these? Mouth: green and grassy at first, before moving to garden fruits (nectarine, apple) and light citrus (mainly grapefruit). The mentholated side became really big now and is amplified by some eucalyptus and herbal notes. A bit funny, but quite nice. Hints of bittersweet oak too. Finish: medium long, zesty, herbal and grassy.
This is dram that goes into the “interesting” category for me, more than in the “enjoyable” category. By no means a bad dram though. Around € 135 – still available in many places.
Any shopkeeper will tell you a lot of people are anxiously waiting for new independent Irish whiskey, especially these (officially undisclosed) Bushmills casks that seem to have been brought to the market by the Teeling brothers. This is a brand-new one, already sold out in most places.
Irish single malt 27 yo 1988 (49,5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2015, joint bottling with LMdW)
Nose: another generously exotic nose (guava, tinned pineapple, kiwi, passion fruits). Rather warm and honeyed, maybe a little less of the acidity that you find in other examples, but more redcurrant jam and nice hints of fresh cassis. Melon, apricot, strawberry candy (marshmallow). In the background there’s vanilla cream, cinnamon and hints of cedar wood. Light mint. Mouth: very, very exotic again. Mango, maracuja, litchi, quince, gradually joined by spicy notes (ginger, aniseed) and some grapefruit zest. Blackcurrants. Grand Marnier. Hints of salty oak towards the end. Finish: long, creamy but with more spices (nutmeg, ginger), zesty notes and a light hint of tobacco.
I’ve tried this one on three occasions now. The first time I was struck by the hints of red fruits (sherry?), which made it rather special for me. However these notes were softer the next time, showing a more classic, exotic profile. Anyway another excellent Irish malt. Around € 210.
The Whisky Mercenary selected his newest bottling from the Gordon & MacPhail stocks. Twenty years old indie Highland Park. We’re not complaining!
Highland Park 20 yo 1995
(50%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for The Whisky Mercenary 2015, refill bourbon hogshead #1485, 325 btl.)
Nose: sweet heather honey and zesty notes at the same time. Green apple, white peach and lemon candy. Slightly youngish banana and pear. Subtle coconut notes and a touch of mint / menthol. Very soft peat smoke and limestone. A rather summery version of Highland Park, thanks to the bourbon oak. Mouth: rich and fruity, with stewed fruits and a banana and pineapple combo. Candy sugar. Nice oranges and coriander seeds. The whisky translation of a Belgian triple beer, in a way. Some hay. Marzipan and honey sweetness. After that, light spices, hints of peat, creamy chocolate and quite some pepper. Finish: long, fruity with lemon, a touch of smoke and faint hints of cocoa.
Good stuff, very fruity and incredibly drinkable. Expensive but better than a lot of official releases. Arriving in stores as we speak. Around € 145.
Enough old treasures for a while. This week we’ll focus on more mundane new releases.
Elements of Islay Lp6 is a first-fill matured Laphroaig, the latest in the Elements of Islay series from The Whisky Exchange (or rather its sister company Specialty Drinks).
(51,3%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)
Nose: classic Laphroaig elements (profound smoke, dried kelp, iodine, eucalyptus) but also elegantly mixed with honey and vanilla. Nice hints of aromatic Szechuan pepper. Some peaches. A relatively mild nose. Mouth: again some tarry smoke but also plenty of rounder notes. Vanilla syrup, hints of roasted pineapple. Hints of black olives and Mediterranean herbs. Although initially rather sweet, it becomes drier and more savoury, with liquorice roots and cloves. Finish: long, on earthy smoke and liquorice, with just a hint of vanilla.
A big Laphroaig with two faces: a savoury, smoky side but also a rounder, fruitier character (especially if you add a bit of water). Around € 110. Available from TWE among others.
The best thing we had on our little tasting last week? Definitely this 30 years old Brora 1972 in the Old & Rare Platinum series from Douglas Laing.
It is from the legendary 1972 vintage (the one that shows the most farmy notes, including these specific sheep stable notes) and matured in sherry casks. Usually a great recipe for outstanding Brora.
Brora 30 yo 1972 (49,7%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum 2003, 222 btl.)
Nose: without doubt the farmiest nose I’ve ever experienced. There must have been sheep in the stillroom. It’s stunning. Manure and wet dogs, horse stables, nicely blended with heather smoke, warm leather, paraffin candles and medicinal balm. A lot of coffee notes as well, wet earth and tobacco leaves. Wonderfully rounded though, thanks to Spanish fig bread, caramel-coated pecans and maple syrup. Gianduja. Some honeyed / rummy notes. Mouth: a peaty, earthy start, which gradually becomes rounder. Quite some toffee, burnt cake, Pu-erh tea, some heather again. A short burst of grapefruit and mandarin. Back to herbal syrup and some sharper notes of ginseng and liquorice. Eucalyptus. Creamy tar (does that make sense?). Leather. Hints of dates and roasted nuts. Oh my, oh my. Finish: rather endless. Most of the sherry notes are gone though, it’s the herbal, waxy and coastal side that shines through now.
This is brilliant whisky and a benchmark bottling for sherried Brora. I know I’ve got a few other legendary expressions to review, but this is one of the best malts ever for me. Expect auction prices around € 2000. TWE is selling it for around € 5700. Many many thanks, Bert.