This was one of the drams we tried at the latest Fulldram tasting. It is the previous version of Highland Park 25 Year Old, released early 2000s. It didn’t live long because it was replace by the current oval bottles around 2006. It contains 50% first-fill sherry casks.
Highland Park 25 yo
(50,7%, OB 2004)
Nose: starts a little musty and meaty, with damp leaves and a floral kind of peat. Hints of caramel. I expected bolder sherry notes from its colour. Herbal notes (eucalyptus, heather) and coastal touches. Hints of red berries and a little vanilla. Very complex. Mouth: slightly sharp. Herbal wood and heathery peat, with big chocolate notes and spices. Roasted notes, including coffee. Tobacco leaves and leather. Tart oranges and lemon. Fades on all kinds of spices (pepper, eucalyptus, nutmeg). Missing a bit of sherry roundness maybe, but again complexity is very high. Finish: long, on toffee, walnuts and orange peel.
Technically an entertaining and complex whisky, yet somehow it didn’t impress me entirely because of the relative sharpness. Auction value around € 350.
I reviewed the GlenDronach 15 Yearsback in 2009 when it had just been relaunched by its new owners. I wasn’t entirely convinced because of some sulphury notes so now I’m keen to see what the recent batches are like, five years later.
As you may know, GlenDronach was mothballed from 1996 until May 2002. This production gap forces the distillery to use much older casks for certain expressions. I bought this 15 Year Old a few weeks ago and was bottled May 2014, which means the whisky inside must be at least 18-19 years old. Bargain alert!
Unfortunately this is also why this bottling has become a bit more expensive lately and – more importantly – really hard to find. The biggest UK retailers are out of stock. I’m not even sure if there were any bottlings in 2015? In any case GlenDronach is phasing it out until it can use proper 15yo casks again, some time in 2017-2018.
GlenDronach 15 yo ‘Revival’
(46%, OB 2014)
Nose: really nice! Intense sherry notes, with prunes, raisins and dried apricots, as well as some blackberry jam. Light chocolate notes. Hints of tobacco. Some nice hints of raspberry ganache. Cherries. Also nutty notes (honey-coated pecans) and oranges with cloves. Mouth: dried fruits again, mixed with loads of milk chocolate. Figs and dates. Hints of coffee. Cinnamon and pepper. Maybe lacking a bit of the compact power that most single casks do have, but nonetheless a clean, balanced sherried whisky. Finish: long, with a spicy sweetness, chocolate and red fruits.
A big improvement. Once again this proves that popular whiskies can have significant batch variation. Now you’re disappointed, in a year or so you might love it. Good stuff and undeniable value for money. Grab it if you can. Around € 50-60.
A recent Glenlossie 1993 in the Cadenhead Small Batch series. This sort of Glenlossie is popping up from different bottlers these days and they all seem to offer pretty good quality.
Glenlossie 21 yo 1993
(56,1%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2015, bourbon hogsheads, 492 btl.)
Nose: a green fruitiness, lemons, gooseberries, with grassy notes and some paraffin. Underneath this is a relatively neutral, malty body. Hints of honeycomb. There’s a slightly dusty side as well. Mouth: punchy, pleasantly tart and citrusy. Oranges and apples. Gets more body after a while, with some almond paste and whitecurrant. Picks up some oak spices along the way, as well as some green tea. Finish: medium long, with green tea, rhubarb and lemon zest. Hints of nutmeg.
Pretty much in line with other Glenlossie expressions we’ve tried. Chiseled, with decent complexity. But I can’t deny I hoped for a little extra. Around € 110.
Nose: a very pure version of the typical Springbank character. Chalk, candle wax, a few metallic notes… Aspirin as well. Underneath there are some oranges, lychees, mint and ginger. Some floral top notes as well (fresh laundry). Mouth: rather sweet and very waxy now, with a surprising fruitiness. Lemon liqueur, grapefruits, kumquats. Mid-palate it turns towards half-bubblegummy, half-soapy notes (think jawbreakers or violet sweets). And still a mineral base and plenty of salty notes. Fun. Finish: long, sweet and salty. Leathery notes and eucalyptus too.
I can see this would have been a difficult cask for Springbank to work with in official releases, but this is exactly where independent bottlers step in. A highly entertaining but rather anti-classical cask. Around € 240.
This is the latest version of Port Askaig 30 Year Old. The first release in 2009 adopted the classic (Talisker) 45.8% strength, followed by a cask strength edition in 2012.
The 2015 release returns to the Talisker strength and now comes in a wooden box, the same as its brand-new sister Port Askaig 45 Year Old. It is matured in American oak casks.
While the first Port Askaig releases where always firmly hinting towards Caol Ila, this is now questioned, especially for the oldest expression. The profile seems to have changed a little and it is indeed unlikely that Caol Ila casks filled in 1970 or before can still be found. Actually Bunnahabhain is probably the only Islay distillery with stocks from that era. For the 30 Year Old, I don’t think changes were necessary. However recent messages from TWE have indicated there is whisky from three different Islay distilleries in the current line-up, so you never know…
Port Askaig 30 yo (45,8%, Speciality Drinks 2015)
Nose: maybe things are different for the 45yo, but this still seems Coal Ila to me. A subtle, elegant version, with all the classic elements like lime, pear and banana bread. Soft coastal notes, paint, hints of camphor. Minty notes and embering wood logs. Mouth: fairly gentle again, but with more medicinal notes and minerals. Linseed oil, kippers, kelp and lemon. Hints of waxed paper and apple peelings. Soft chili and a drier, oaky note. Just a hint of honey in the background. Finish: dry, rather long, with lingering smoke, liquorice and a vague sweetness.
Very good stuff. Still a refined, complex and extremely consistent example of old Port Askaig. Above € 500.
Nose: very mineral, but just enough fruitiness to keep it away from absolute austerity. Lemons and oranges. Hints of wet gravel and wax candles, mint and cut grasses. Make that lemon grass. Almost as lemony as freshly washed laundry (add water to make this worse). A wee hint of soot in the background too. Mouth: sharp and zesty, lemon, lemon and lemon. And grapefruit. Green tea with just a hint of honey. Lemongrass again. Gooseberries. Soft hints of pepper and aspirin but it stays extremely focused. Finish: medium long, mineral with something that holds the middle between herbal notes and plastics.
This is a slightly peculiar profile (but one often found in Glen Garioch). It’s good but not entirely my style and the slightly soapy sidesteps don’t exactly make it better. Around € 120.
Another new Golden Cask release: Glendullan 1999. It caught my interest because it’s such a low-profile distillery. The last time I reviewed one was back in 2011.
Glendullan 15 yo 1999
(59,8%, Golden Cask 2015)
Nose: young and bright. Lemons, lots of apples and grapes. Gooseberries and hints of rhubarb. Blossomy notes. Light vanilla. Powder sugar and just a little white pepper. Mouth: lots of green apple notes at first, slightly acrid. Lemon juice. Green spices. Icing sugar again. Almost a light Portuguese wine at higher strength. Quite faultless and summery but also quite uninspired. Finish: medium long, half fruity, half spicy, almost with a tingling zestiness. Wiskho verde?
Pleasant enough, very youngish and summery. This should make an excellent highball (please don’t shoot). Around € 100.
One of the Dream Drams at The Whisky Show 2015 was a new, yet to be released Karuizawa 1980 Vintage. I suppose it’s called ‘Vintage’ because it contains multiple casks? Update: it’s a single cask alright. No cask reference or anything though.
It wasn’t sold at The Whisky Show to avoid the stress that normally goes with Karuizawa sales, but I’ve heard visitors will be contacted to take part in a ballot.
Karuizawa 1980 (61,6%, OB for Speciality Drinks 2015)
Nose: starts quite musty and medicinal. Lots of incense and wet pipe tobacco. Cedar oak, old wardrobes and sweet liquorice. Hints of cough syrup, Melissa and tiger balm. Thyme. After that it also shows big hints of polished oak and old Amontillado with whiffs of chocolate, a little raspberry vinegar and subtle floral notes. Very savoury and rather unique. Mouth: really spicy, minty and oaky, with the same high levels of tobacco notes and cigar leaves. A big powerhouse. With water it shows complex herbal notes, cough syrup and resin sweets. Not tannic per se, but the herbal, mentholated, oaky side isn’t exactly balanced with fruity notes. Finish: long, on liquorice, Seville oranges, menthol and more wood extract.
This is a powerful, extremely medicinal Karuizawa. It showcases an essential element in the distillery character but I prefer expressions where it’s coupled to more fruity sherry. Not sure what the price will be.