Another dram from the new Old Particular range by Douglas Laing: Glen Scotia 1992 from a refill barrel.
Glen Scotia 21 yo 1992 (51,5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill barrel)
Nose: quite a balanced, elegant Glen Scotia. Far away from the rubbery sherry casks. Sweetish pastry notes. Raisins and nuts. Peaches. Nice blackcurrants and pink grapefruit (volatile though). Not at all ‘in your face’ – it’s gently balanced with subtle cigar leaves and leather as well as some sea spray. Mouth: anything but subtle now. Punchy, dry, leathery again and very herbal. Gingerbread. Plenty of mint liqueur and pepper. Quite some salty notes. Aniseed. Liquorice and strong herbal teas. Chocolate. A bit on the dry side. Finish: medium long, herbal, with nutty and salty notes.
I haven’t been impressed by previous Glen Scotia 1992 releases, but this one I like. Expect a particularly punchy, extractive whisky balanced by some sweeter notes. Around € 100.
Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength was launched in 2010. For its maturation they use sherry hogsheads (60%) and refill sherry butts (40%). The fifth batch was released at the beginning of 2013.
Springbank 12 yo ‘Cask Strength’
(53,1%, OB 2013, Batch 5)
Nose: very mineral, with lots of graphite. A little austere, with some garage smells and dusty grains. Light peat. Wild flowers and hay. Hints of ginger. After time it makes place for a few rounder notes like sugared corn flakes and vanilla. Mouth: spicy and oily, still the typical Springbank austerity with soft resinous notes but definitely more roundness now as well. Oranges and vanilla. Sweet peat and liquorice. Grain biscuits. Hints of toffee and fruits. Finish: long, dry and spicy with some lemon zest and maybe a hint of aspirin.
I didn’t find much sherry in this batch, and as you may know, I’m not a big fan of the flinty, austere Springbank profile. It’s well made but I prefer their rounder sherry releases. Around € 50.
Number One Drinks released a series of outstanding Karuizawa with Geisha labels, as an homage to these Japanese young girls / artists who are professionals in music, singing, dancing and social networking. Geisha are well respected in Japan and seen as safeguards to Japanese traditional art.
This Karuizawa 1977 cask #3584 was bottled for Taiwan.
Karuizawa 34 yo 1977 (64,1%, OB for Taiwan 2011, sherry butt #3584, 169 btl.)
A very brown colour – much less reddish than we’re used to see. Nose: huge notes of dried prunes and blackberry jam. Lots of different berries actually. Dark chocolate. Tobacco leaves and cigar boxes. Mint and eucalyptus, giving it quite a medicinal, almost ethereal profile. Burnt sugar. Cedar oak. Hints of oil paint. Also a pungency of balsamic vinegar or brandy. Fresh herbs. Mouth: raisins and berries again. Big peppery notes and some tannins (grape skin). Again a clear earthy side. Complexity is a lot lower here, as if it closed down. Water makes it a little more fruity but still not particularly wide. Finish: not too long, on oak and slightly bitter, leafy notes.
A heavyweight, high strength Karuizawa that’s very condensed as well, which makes it a little difficult to fully enjoy. Intriguing though, and a highly rewarding nose.
As with all Distillers Edition whiskies from the Classic Malts Selection, this should be more or less the standard Cragganmore 12yo, just double matured in wine casks. That would be Port pipes (Ruby Port) in this case.
A new Cragganmore Distillers Edition is available every year, we’re trying the 1998/2012 version.
Cragganmore Distillers Edition 1998 (40%, OB 2012, Port pipe finish)
Nose: medium fruity. Plenty of yellow apples and nice strawberries. Oranges and lots of bright honey. Also a sweet malty side. Hints of vanilla and marzipan. Quite bright. Mouth: buttery and sweet, a bit too malty for my taste but Cragganmore is never extreme anyway. Tinned pears and peaches, some fruit candy as well. Develops some grassy notes and ginger after a while, and a fruit tea dryness. Finish: medium long, on apricots and pepper.
There’s no obvious wine in this Cragganmore, which is a good thing. None of the rubbery notes that I read in reviews of older editions either. The Port added extra sweetness and candied notes, and quite nicely so. Around € 45.
Among Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases, this Highland Park 1988 was probably most talked about. After Serge’s 92/100, they sold like hotcakes. The Cadenhead shop also sold smaller 20cl ‘cask ends’ bottles of this whisky.
Highland Park 25 yo 1988
(55,7%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry butts, 1086 btl.)
Nose: alright then. Really excellent. Blackberry jam, cherries, heather honey and quite some smoke for starters. Spanish fig bread. Roasted nuts and hints of coffee beans. Leather. A little library dust. Very light coastal touches too. Water brings out cigar leaves and hints of cedar oak. Especially the juiciness of the red fruits and the subtle smoke are really beautiful. Mouth: quite powerful. The fruits are still there, Christmas cake and Mon Cherie. Rum & raisins. Soon taken over by spices (pepper, clove) and a little resin. Gets herbal before calming down on caramelized nuts and a leathery dryness. Overall quite dry, but water helps and amplifies tobacco, coffee and honey. Finish: long, with all the sherry goodness fading slowly.
A lovely nose full of juicy sherry – no one will deny that. Some will find the palate too dry, but for me it’s not out of bounds. I hesitated to go beyond 90 points, eventually I did it because it takes water pretty well. Originally around € 110, now sold out.
Johnnie Walker Red Label is the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky. It’s sold in almost every country, with yearly sales of over 130 million bottles. That’s almost 10% of the entire whisky industry.
In 1865 Alexander Walker, the son of John ‘Johnnie’ Walker, created Walker’s Old Highland, a house blend for his grocery store. The iconic square bottle was introduced in 1870, with a label angled at precisely 24 degrees.
In 1906 a black version of the bottle appeared, although it wasn’t until 1909 that the words Red Label and Black Label were added. Being part of the multi national Diageo group, the original Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock, closed its doors in 2012 and production is now at different Diageo plants like Roseisle.
Johnnie Walker Red Label is a blend of grain and malt whiskies from around 40 different distilleries: Cardhu, Aberfeldy, Cragganmore, Linkwood, Glen Elgin and Royal Lochnagar among others. Black Label also relies on Talisker, Caol Ila and Lagavulin.
As the best-selling whisky, Johnnie Walker deserves a review on this blog. We’ll compare Red Label and Black Label side-by-side. Update: I’ve compared it to Johnnie Walker Double Black as well.
Johnnie Walker Red Label
(40%, OB +/- 2013)
Nose: not bad actually, quite lively. Most prominent are a vague fruity sweetness with honey and herbal, heathery overtones. On the other hand the majority of the body is taken by malty notes and a slight alcoholic tang. Mouth: again quite pungent, more artificial and industrial than the nose. Young sugary malt. Lots of ginger and pepper. Faint hints of potpourri. Quite harsh. Finish: short, most of the flavours are gone but a tangy herbalness remains, alongside a subtle hint of smoke.
It’s too easy to say cheap blends are no good; Johnnie Walker Red Label is not all bad. It just doesn’t provide the complexity and smoothness in order to be savoured on its own. Only get this if you’re into a cheap Coke combo. Around € 15 in my local supermarket.
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
(40%, OB +/- 2013)
Nose: immediately nicer, the fruity aspect is rounder and jammier. Some brighter citrus as well. Talisker provides a peppery note. Aniseed. Sweet vanilla biscuits. Maybe not as smoky as I expected. Less alcoholic. Nice enough. Mouth: quite some toasted / roasted flavours now. Maybe not real peat, but ashes, liquorice and toasted bread. Nice sourish fruits. Again a peppery kick. Some creamy toffee. Finish: medium long, rather sweet / caramelly again with some mixed spices.
Johnnie Walker Black Label is a decent step up from Red, a step worth taking at any time, even with the added cost. Provided you’re looking for a sipping whisky rather than a simple mixer and you’re not expecting too much of the promised smoke. Around € 25 in my local supermarket.
Douglas Laing recently presented a new series called Old Particular. It is said to contain particularly interesting whiskies, all bottled as single casks, without colouring and chill filtration.
No less than 21 expressions have been announced already, but they will arrive at different stages. Initial releases include Auchroisk 18 Years, Blair Athol 20 Years, Glen Scotia 21 Years, Glen Garioch 21 Years and Bowmore 25 Years (oh no!). A few older expressions coming up: Teaninch 30 Years, Port Ellen 31 Years and Glencadam 35 Years.
There’s a specific choice when it comes to alcohol strengths. Some rarities will be bottled at natural strength. Whiskies aged 19 years or more are bottled at 51,5% and everything up to 18 years at 48,4%. The idea is that older whiskies become more mellow over time so they often benefit from a little more oomph.
This Auchentoshan 1997 was bottled from a refill hogshead in August 2013 and should arrive in stores pretty soon.
Auchentoshan 15 yo 1997
(48,4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, refill hogshead, 336 btl.)
Nose: starts on typical lemon sherbet and grapefruit – rather zesty fruits with a mineral, chalky edge. Tiny hints of vanilla. Wine gums. Some grainy biscuits. Also notes that keep the middle between flowers and grasses. A fresh Lowlands style. Mouth: quite spicy now, even a little fizzy at first. A big peppery kick and a malty centre. Very citrusy again, with a little apple and banana. Some greenish oak. Again faint vanilla, but it’s certainly not one of these modern vanilla whiskies. Crushed coriander seeds? Finish: medium long, all on pepper and citrus zest.
This is a citrusy Auchentoshan, not too sweet and definitely spicier than most officials. More than alright. Around € 60.
This BenRiach 2005 is an 8 year-old – the youngest in the 10th batch of single cask releases presented in July 2013. It’s a slightly odd one, being a peated expression finished in a virgin American oak cask.
BenRiach 8 yo 2005
(58,1%, OB 2013, virgin American oak hogshead #3782, 310 btl.)
Nose: sharp, youngish peat (Kilchoman style), with plenty of burnt heather. Underneath is a bubble gum sweetness and some lacquered barbecue meat. Pepper and cinnamon. Also a slight pungency of jalapeño sauce and lemon. Water highlights the (drier) heather smoke. Mouth: hot – very peaty and very peppery. Not much more actually, although a vague apple sweetness appears towards the end. Water shows a little vanilla, but still hardly any fruits. Finish: very long, peaty and peppery.
This is straightforward peat and pepper juice. A fierce dram with little to offer – not sure why BenRiach insists on making this kind of style. Around € 60.