So far 1995 has been one of the least available vintages of GlenDronach. The Whisky Agency recently selected cask #4408, an Oloroso puncheon.
GlenDronach 18 yo 1995
(52,2%, OB for The Whisky Agency 2014, Oloroso puncheon #4408, 740 btl.)
Nose: different in the sense that it seems drier, oakier in a way than comparable expressions. Wet leaves and hints of a damp, plastered cellar. Nice enough though. A few citrusy side and lots of berries. Raspberry sweets in the background. Mint. Mouth: much sweeter and definitely more candied now. Raspberry and strawberry candy, a little pink grapefruit and potpourri even. Lighter sherry, more ‘modern’ if that makes sense. Some blood oranges, leather and subtle vanilla. If the normal GlenDronach is red, then this is pink. More spicy notes towards the end. Finish: long, candied, with subtle pepper.
This GlenDronach 1995 is a tad different from what we’ve come to expect. Different influences, maybe a re-racked whisky or a different cask seasoning? Nice. Around € 130. Still available in most places.
Michter’s is a brand name owned by Joe Magliocco of Chatham Imports.
They’re a “non-distiller”, which means they buy bulk whiskey produced at an undisclosed distillery (some say Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or Brown-Forman, maybe others as well) and bottle it under the Michter’s label.
Original Michter’s vs. New Michter’s
Mind that the Michter’s brand is much older. The famous bourbon A.H. Hirsch 16 Years (the best bourbon ever, according to some, distilled in the Spring of 1974) was also produced by a distillery named Michter’s. It was founded in 1753 (as Bomberger’s) in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania and it closed down in 1989. The trademark on the name expired – it was picked up in 1997 by Joe Magliocco, but except for the name, they’re entirely unrelated. What they’re selling now was not produced at the old Michter’s distillery, not even by the same team or with the same equipment.
It is strange for a new (virtual) distillery to take over an old name, as well as their logo and other elements. The new brand is even claiming the entire history of the old brand which is simply none of its merits in any way. Nonetheless they seem to get away with being extremely vague, making consumers think they are a resurrection of the old company and acting like a proper distillery. I’m not sure this is ethical marketing. The acquisition of someone else’s history even led to a 2012 Distiller of the Year award by Wine Enthusiast. How can you be the best distiller if you’re not actually distilling?
It should be noted that they are now setting up their own micro-distillery. Brand-new stills were installed in October 2014 but there hasn’t been any news about actual operations so far.
At the same time, Michter’s whiskey has a loyal following and is getting excellent reviews, so we should definitely give it an honest chance. Michter’s 10 year-old bourbon is always bottled as a single cask whiskey, matured in fire-charred new American white oak.
They also have sour mash whiskey and straight rye. The base range is called US*1 – the rest is limited production from 10 to 25 years old.
Michter’s 10 yo bourbon (47,2%, OB 2014)
Nose: a very candied, sweet nose. A lot of vanilla cream and sweet molasses. Hints of maple syrup and sugar coated dried fruits. Some nail polish and pretty fragrant oak (a little potpourri). There’s also something rummy about it, a coconutty aroma. Although the sweetness is prevalent, the charred oak, cocoa and leather add some dryness. Mouth: thick, with an impressive combination of flavour intensity and smoothness. Raisins, toffee and chocolate. Also a minty dryness and hints of fresh oak – think pencil shavings. Sandalwood, a slightly perfumy touch again. A soft herbal bitterness (dried herbs), nutmeg and cinnamon. Fades on coffee and roasted nuts. Finish: a bit short maybe, but again balancing nicely between dry oaky notes and a lingering sweetness.
If you don’t mind the fake pedigree and the mist around this whiskey, then you will find a very nice bourbon in your glass. In fact one of the nicest I know. Around € 115 – pretty expensive for what’s basically a white label 10 year-old.
The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve is the first release from this distillery to be matured entirely in first-fill sherry casks - predominantly European oak. Unlike most of the others, it doesn’t have a vintage indication, nor an age statement.
Glenrothes, and the rest of the Edrington distilleries like The Macallan and Highland Park, have more or less a monopoly on new European oak casks, produced to their standards in Jerez from oak that is being cut in Galicia in the North of Spain.
Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve (40%, OB 2014)
Nose: raisins and plenty of all-spice / gingerbread notes. Oranges with cloves. Cinnamon. Some nutty notes too (hazelnut, almond). Honey in the background. Mouth: woody in the sense that it revolves around ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices. Toasted oak, roasted nuts and a big sugary side, mainly caramelized sugar. Lacks a bit of a sparkle maybe. Finish: not too long with very similar flavours.
To me this should have been called European Oak Reserve. It does show the spicy side of these casks, but not the true glory of first-fill sherry in my opinion – it’s pretty flat. A missed opportunity. Around € 50.
James MacArthur is a Scottish independent bottler established in 1982. Although the original aim of the Old Masters series was to present casks from little-known or lost distilleries, this concept has been widened a little.
We’re trying a Macallan 1980 bottled in 2001. Although the label doesn’t mention the cask type, a sister cask #16447 was bottled by Jack Wiebers in 2010 and that was said to be a sherry butt.
Macallan 1980 (57,8%, James Mac Arthur Old Master’s 2001, cask #16457)
Nose: lots of yellow (slightly overripe) apples, mixed with dusty grains and old books. Quite some nutty notes (walnut husks) as well as hay and a little shoe polish (could be the time spent in glass). A vague sweetness underneath. Not the typical Macallan sherry profile in any case. Mouth: strange one. There’s a grainy harshness, walnuts again and this undefined sweetness (I’d still pick apple if you made me choose). Liquorice and damp wood. Something in between paraffin and shoe polish again. Finish: long, but slightly sharp, grassy and bitter. Ginger and grapefruit zest.
This is an interesting Macallan, but not something you associate with the classic profile. Not the most attractive profile either. Maybe these casks didn’t meet the official standards? Auction material. Thanks Joeri!
In April 2014 Diageo relaunched Mortlach. Until then, official bottlings were quite rare but that changed with the release of four new expressions at once: Mortlach Rare Old, a travel retail exclusive Special Strength, Mortlach 18 Years and Mortlach 25 Years.
In marketing terms, Mortlach is positioned as a luxury brand, but not super-premium. That is reflected in nice, uncommonly shaped bottles. Mind that they are only 50 cl, which makes prices seem 40% more reasonable than they actually are.
The distillery, noted for its unusual almost-triple distillation style and meaty character, will also be doubled in size, with a new still house due to be operational in November 2015.
Mortlach 18 Years is a vatting of first-fill European oak sherry casks, American oak hogsheads and refill European oak casks.
Mortlach 18 yo (43,4%, OB 2014, 50 cl.)
Nose: earthy and nutty sherry notes up front, with a bit of cooked potato and wet leaves behind them. I’m usually not too fond of this side of Mortlach, but here it’s quite alright because there are also vibrant hints of sour apple, orange peel and ginger. A little leather. A few blossomy notes too. Mouth: dried fruits, raisins and orange peel again, with plenty of spices now. Gingerbread, soft pepper. Brown sugar and milk chocolate. Some roasted nuts as well. Finish: long, still showing roasted notes, chocolate and spices.
I find this quite interesting. Not all elements are entirely up my alley but it’s a multi-faceted dram I’d happily spend an evening with. As soon as you add the price to the equation, that feeling disappears though. Around € 250 and remember it’s only 50 cl.
Although it is not mentioned on the website (yet), this is said to replace the old Benromach Traditional which was roughly the same age. So far I’ve only seen it on sale in Germany and The Netherlands, maybe other markets will follow?
Like its older brother, Benromach 5 Year Old is a mix of 80% bourbon and 20% sherry casks.
It would be interesting to find out how the market reacts to such a young whisky. These days even premium releases are NAS, so Benromach is certainly going against the flow by mentioning the age in this case. I guess most distilleries would be scared because it’s uncommonly young? It reminds us of the Glen Grant 5yo that used to be famous in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Benromach 5 yo (40%, OB 2014)
Nose: light and lemony, but with the same interesting old-style notes as the 10yo. Some dusty grains and hay. Very soft mineral / earthy / ashy notes. Hints of honey and bright white fruits as well. A light touch of peat in the background. Mouth: light but not exactly underpowered. Fairly sweet at first, really malty with lots of oily notes. Again a nice hint of peat smoke. Liquorice, some peppery wood, soft grassy notes. Soft nutty notes ans vanilla. Young but certainly not without character. Hints of roasted coffee in the aftertaste. Finish: long, dry, with almonds and very soft herbal notes. Echoes of charred oak.
It’s easy to notice the similarities between the Benromach 5yo and the 10yo. This is the same style of unconventional Speyside whisky. Very interesting, but the 10yo is only a few euros extra. Around € 30.
So, here’s the slightly controversial Clynelish… Controversial because it takes the NAS concept to a higher level, literally. You’re paying € 650-750 for a whisky that doesn’t have an age statement.
We know that Clynelish Select Reserve is made from five vintages (the youngest being 1999) and five types of casks: first-fill + refill American oak, rejuvenated casks, refill European oak and bodega sherry casks.
Clynelish Select Reserve (54,9%, OB 2014, Special Release, 2964 btl.)
Nose: pretty great. Unsurprisingly you get a mixture of all things that Clynelish is famous for. Big fruity notes: mirabelles, grapefruit, lemon and lime. Tiny hints of tropical fruits like passion fruits – as if it had Irish ancestors, if you know what I mean. Haribo sweets and marshmallow in the background. Strong beehive notes and paraffin. Ginger lemonade with mint leaves. Fairly mundane grainy notes as well, which seem to grow stronger over time. Mouth: high strength, very creamy and rounded. Lemon, grapefruit, peach, pear. Zesty and zingy with a salty edge. Quite compact, the nice tropical notes are gone. The waxy notes return with a bit of water, and this also brings chlorophyll and a wider array of fruits. Shows typical peppery / mustardy notes towards the end. Finish: long, with lemon, ginger and hints of green tea, very much in line with the taste.
Clynelish Select Reserve is complex and entertaining, especially with a few drops of water. Yet it seems to offer little more than a slightly above-average, medium-aged Clynelish. Around € 650, in stock pretty much everywhere…
21 Drams is a Belgian collective of 21 whisky lovers. They are based in the area around the Sonian Forest, the biggest green lung in our country. In Dutch, the name of the forest sounds a bit like Zionwood, hence the name.
At the end of 2014, they decided to bottle their own whisky, from a selection made by The Whiskyman. A single cask Ardmore 2000.
Some of the 21 Drams members are running a web building company called Wieni, and they decided to take 40 more bottles from the casks as a gift for their clients. They’ve labeled it Wiensky.
Ardmore Zionwood 14 yo 2000 (53,3%, The Whiskyman for 21 Drams 2014, 25 btl.)
Nose: not as peaty as some other Ardmore. It’s mostly ashy, close to Caol Ila in that respect, especially when you add the fresh lemony notes. Some rounder notes: honey, a little candy sugar. Earthy notes, as well as some very subtle medicinal touches. Not too complex but nicely balanced. Mouth: fairly dry, earthy peat with a fierce peppery kick at first. Soot, grassy notes and some bitter grapefruit skin before it settles down and becomes much sweeter. Honey, citrus sweets and vanilla. Finish: medium long, peppery and zesty, with the earthy, peaty notes underneath and a hint of agave.
A nice Ardmore that’s better balanced than similar expressions that I’ve tried before. Around € 90, only available to club members if I’m not mistaken. They’re hoping to present wider (public) releases in the future. Thanks, Ike.