Springbank 12 Years Cask Strength is matured in a combination of 70% sherry and 30% bourbon casks. The latest batch n°10 was bottled at 53,2%.
Its malt is first dried over a peat fire and then over hot air.
Springbank 12 yo ‘Cask Strength’ (53,2%, OB 2014, Batch 10, ref. 14/532)
Nose: typical Springbank notes like leather and wet chalk, with some zesty grapefruit and brine. Hints of grass. Sharp lemon. Some medicinal notes and smoke. There is however a rounder side to it, a bit of vanilla and dried coconut flakes. Mouth: surprisingly honeyed now. Sweet mint and pepper. Bags of lemon peel. After a while the grassy bitterness takes over and you get gingery notes and juniper. Liquorice and hints of pickle brine. The peat level seems a bit lower than in previous batches. Finish: long, bittersweet, with ashes and a lemon / salt combo.
Springbank really masters this profile. I seemed to like this one more than other batches, maybe because the peat is less prominent. Around € 65.
Nose: very rich and highly aromatic. A true sherry bomb. Lots of black cherries, ginjingha, rum & raisins, moeilleux with bits of raspberry, all the usual suspects really. Cinnamon and clove. Hints of walnuts. Very nice touches of polished oak as well. On par with the best GlenDronach releases. Mouth: similar chocolate cake associations, with red fruits, dates, cassis and cinnamon rolls. Molasses. Very thick, but also fairly dry after a while, with mint, cloves and the kind of dry oakiness of high-strength bourbons. Finish: not as long as expected, but a tad rounder again. Figs and spices.
Pretty great Bunnahabhain if you’re into sherry bombs. You’ll also have to stand some oak, mid-palate. Bloody intense and definitely up there with GlenDronach. Around € 160. Thanks Wim.
Earlier this month, The BenRiach launched two new cask finishes: the BenRiach 15 years old Sauternes finish and this BenRiach 18 years old Albariza, which is a peated whisky finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.
Albariza is a white chalky soil, typical for Andalucia but similar to the soils of Champagne or Chablis. Nowadays around 90% of the vineyards in the sherry region are planted on Albariza (although mainly with Palomino grapes, not Pedro Ximénez).
The BenRiach Albariza is distilled from peated malt. It was first matured in American oak casks and then finished in PX casks.
BenRiach 18 yo Albariza (46%, OB 2015, peated – PX finish, 3886 btl.)
Nose: I picked up the sharpness of the peat first, but it mellows as the glass warms up. A very nice, jammy fruitiness as well. Vanilla ice cream with raspberry topping. Dried apricots. Fig syrup and Turkish delights. Big notes of honey. The peatiness is still there but the aromatic sweetness wins. Mouth: slightly thinner than expected maybe, and more focused on the peaty side now. Yellow raisins and subtle vanilla. Quite some peppery and gingery notes. Leafy notes and peat. Finish: medium long, drier and spicier, with hints of dark chocolate.
The luscious nose was very good, but the BenRiach Albariza looses a few points on the palate, where it becomes thinner and the oak is bigger than the PX. Around € 95.
Oddbins selected a whole series of Glen Garioch casks in the second half of the 1990’s. There was a 1966, 1967, 1971 and this 1972 vintage. All of them say ‘bottled from a single cask’ but no further information is given. No age, not even a bottling year…
There is very little Glen Garioch 1972 to be found. Remember the distillery was mothballed in 1968 due to chronic water shortages and sold to Stanley P. Morrison in 1970. In 1972, Joe Hughes was appointed as manager, and he found another water source that was more reliable. In that same year, a distillery expansion was started, with an increase from two to three (and then to four) stills.
It’s interesting how years of change and expansion often lead to excellent results, because they disrupt the normal processes. The whisky is produced in ways that were not considered to be most favourable (or most economic), but sometimes it takes a turn for the better. Bowmore 1993 is another great example of this.
Glen Garioch 1972 (43%, OB for Oddbins, single cask, 1990’s)
Nose: complex stuff. It starts on silver polish and mineral peat, with a delicate sootiness. Mint and eucalyptus. The sherry notes are old-style, think tobacco leaves, leather boots and blackberry jam. Chalky notes and hints of old books. There are whiffs of tropical fruits as well (grapefruits, dried mango) which grow stronger over time, but overall they are a little softer than in some other old Glen Garioch examples. Nonetheless pretty wonderful. Mouth: much more peaty now, and more wonderfully tropical as well. What a dram. Seville oranges, Earl Grey tea, deep soot and plenty of spices like cloves and cardamom. Minty notes and resinous wood. Delicate herbs. Something of mustard seed. Less sherried than I expected – this is a slightly thin style but a very complex one. Finish: long, with spicy fruit cake, a gentle bitterness, coastal notes and lingering smoke. Leaves your mouth full of tobacco.
Glen Garioch made some pretty exceptional whisky these days, close to Brora’s profile sometimes. Just wonderful. Heartfelt thanks, Carsten (who else?).
Translated as ‘big ocean’, Laphroaig An Cuan Mór has been matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and was then re-casked to European oak.
It is funny how Laphroaig says it is ‘aged in 18 year-old casks’. What is that supposed to mean? Are we counting the age of the wood now? It seems unclear whether the whisky has the same age as well. If that were the case, then why sell it as a NAS?
It is officially only available in travel retail and through Friends of Laphroaig, although that doesn’t mean you can’t find it in regular shops as well.
Laphroaig An Cuan Mór (48%, OB 2013, travel retail)
Nose: a very nice, fairly sweet and rounded nose (figs, honey, traces of vanilla) but also balanced by a thick, deep sooty side and dried seaweed. Leather. Hints of sweet almonds. Some peppery hints too. Mouth: not really thick, but very medicinal. Plenty of iodine, germolene, band aids, bonfires and burnt sugar. Subtle matchsticks. Earthy notes and plenty of spices like ginger and pepper, more so than in other Laphroaig expressions. A faint sweet edge again (honeyed nuts). Liquorice. Finish: long, lots of sweet peat, soot and louder oaky notes.
I really liked this An Cuan Mór. It has the deeply smoked and medicinal character of proper Laphroaig, but slightly rounded by the sweeter notes. Half a Distiller’s Edition, let’s say. Around € 90 (up to € 120 in some shops).
Whisky shop Massen and whisky clubs De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden (Belgium) and Dram Brothers (Luxemburg) are closely related and sometimes share an exclusive bottling.
This time they selected two casks from the stocks of Malts of Scotland: a Littlemill 1990 and this Highland Park 1994.
Highland Park 1994 (54,5%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers & De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden 2015, bourbon hogshead, ref. MoS 15007, 268 btl.)
Nose: fresh but fairly neutral. Barley with lemon and apple peelings. Herbal notes (fennel) as well as some heather honey. Becomes more complex, with mint and light waxy notes. A slightly bigger fruitiness as well after a while (greengages). Touches of lemon grass. Mouth: lemons again, or rather lemonade, alongside gooseberries and unripe mirabelles. Some touches of Littlemill, only with a creamier / oilier texture and more mineral notes. Almost metallic at times. Hints of peat and pepper. Finish: long, citrusy and slightly grassy. Green tea with lemon.
This Highland Park 1994 seems a little restrained at first, and in fact it never becomes exuberant, but it does get layered and entertaining. Very good. Around € 135.
Kilkerran is the whisky produced at Glengyle distillery, opened in 2004 and the latest in Campbeltown. Every year since 2009 they’re releasing a ‘Work In Progress’ bottling.
The 6th batch is 10 years old and comes in sherry wood and bourbon wood versions. This year’s labels are pink.
Kilkerran ‘Work In Progress’ 10 yo Sherry Wood (46%, OB 2014, Batch #6)
Nose: not extremely expressive, I would say, purely revolving around sugared cereals at first. It’s coastal and oily, so quite typically Campbeltown so far. A fairly light sherry influence of red berries and a caramelized nut sweetness. Subtle leafy notes. Some yeasty touches, something metallic too. Mouth: dry and quite austere. The leafy notes are back, together with some bitter oranges and grapefruit peel. Herbal notes and hints of rubbery peat. Oily notes and brine. Pepper. Just a delicate sweet edge to take away some harshness. Finish: medium long, on walnuts and ashes?
This Kilkerran has a pleasantly unmodern profile, but I think it’s still more on the interesting side, rather than being thoroughly pleasant. Around € 45.
While the legendary vintages of most distilleries appear to be in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Clynelish has recently earned a lot of praise for its 1997 production. Diageo seems to have sold off a large batch of casks which are now being shared / distributed among virtually all independent bottlers (my article about the hierarchy of independent whisky releases is still up-to-date in this respect). These middle-aged expressions are all very good and some are excellent, so let’s try three new versions head-to-head.
First up is the latest bottling in the Liquid Art series, released today. The label is designed by a highly respected artist, Jef Geys. His name may not ring a bell but he has worked with Jan Hoet, Panamarenko and the likes and he’s considered one of the greatest living Belgian artists. There’s a big retrospective coming up in the Ghent Museum for Modern art. I’m just saying this is world class and it’s interesting to see his work on a whisky label.
(53,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 132 btl.)
Nose: I picked up a slight farmy side at first, but it seemed to disappear really quickly. After that, a surprisingly zesty-fruity Clynelish, in which the typical waxy notes are on a lower level. Instead it has a big yoghurt-like side, something of butter milk even. Quinces, banana candy, oranges and even hints of pineapple. Sweet and sour, rather creamy and rounded, with a nice minty / grassy freshness on top. Huge notes of lemon meringue. There’s a delicate greasy note but a little different from others. Mouth: a big zesty fruitiness again, although there’s now a wider array starting with lemons and pink grapefruits going all the way to lime, almonds and passion fruits. A little green tea. Traces of vanilla, toffee and menthol. A slightly bigger mineral and salty side as well now. Finish: long, with a mineral twist.
Not entirely what we’ve come to expect from Clynelish 1997. It’s fruitier but also milkier, including some nicely different touches, which add another dimension. One of the most interesting Clynelish bottlings from this era. Good choice. And I love this label. Price: € 95.
Clynelish 1997 (50,9%, The Whisky Mercenary for Cask Six 10th Anniversary 2014)
Nose: maybe slightly warmer and definitely a notch waxier, but other than that, also one of the fruitier, rounder 1997’s. Pears, sweetened lemon juice and pink grapefruit. Touches of honey. A bit more mineral / earthy notes here as well. Mouth: a tad more classic, with more lemons and lemon peels, as well as some oranges and a faint hint of passion fruit. A little warmer than the Liquid Art release, but maybe slightly less complex as well. Finish: long, keeping an excellent balance of zestiness and fruity roundness.
A bit more typically Clynelish 1997, this one. The nose of the Liquid Art release definitely has something extra, but on the palate I may prefer this bottling. Both very high quality though. Sold out.
Nose: again quite a bit warmer and definitely more honeyed than the Liquid Art. Clementines, pears and peaches. The most jammy of the trio. Hints of pastry and beeswax. A faint hint of smoke as well. Mouth: starts sweet, with a tad more vanilla and more American oak influence. This also means a bigger spiciness (pepper, liquorice). After a while, the citrus zest comes rolling in and takes over the entire palate. Grapefruit skin, lemon peel. A bit of an oaky tang towards the end. Finish: long, zesty and spicy. Lemons and a pinch of salt.
Maltbarn selected the warmest, most luscious nose in my opinion, warmer than usual. On the other hand, it gets a little bitter on the palate. Price: € 90. Sold out.
I tried n°1 and n°2 head-to-head first. I thought the first one was more special and less conventional, and I liked it better for that. A couple of days later, I revisited both and added the third sample… On the nose alone, n°3 would be my favourite, but the palate is less convincing. It becomes hard to reflect these differences in a score.
Conclusion: Maltbarn has the nicest nose. Cask Six has the nicest palate. Liquid Art is nicely different and quite special. Whichever you can find, they’re worth the money!