Another new release from Malts of Scotland: a Tullibardine 1980.
Tullibardine 34 yo 1980 (48,3%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry hogshead, ref. MoS 14023, 146 btl.)
Nose: a bit robust at first, but it unfolds slowly. Varnish and paraffin at first. Hay, a little chalk and flinty notes. Quite some floral notes as well. Spicy oak shavings and eucalyptus. In between there are restrained gusts of fruitiness that are hard to define. Mouth: oily, starts spicy and slightly herbal again. Mint and pepper. Waxy notes. Nutmeg. The nicest part is the shot of pink grapefruits and apricots that comes towards the end, as well as a trace of smoke. Oh, and the floral notes are still present. Finish: long, fairly dry, with mint and liquorice, herbs and oak.
Sure, there’s a fair bit of oak in this old Tullibardine, but it’s quality oak. Really multi-faceted, with ups and downs. Around € 200.
This is not the legendary Ardbeg 1972 ‘Ardbeggeddon’ for the Plowed society, but a similar release by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series, bottled a couple of months earlier in August 2001. It was finished in a sherry cask for six months before being bottled.
Ardbeg 29 yo 1972 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 2001, sherry finish, 432 btl.)
Nose: marvellous, a great mix of gentle old peat, spearmint, asphalt and a Brora-esk farminess (stables) in the background, although this fades away. Constantly balancing between a fat (vanilla) creaminess and maritime sharpness. Tarry ropes and sweet seaweed. Smoked bacon. Some diesel. Very rich and classy, and certainly lifted by the sherry notes. Mouth: a marriage of peat and sweet sherry again. Honey, some brown sugar and toast. Apples again. Then back to seaweed and saltwater. Hints of coal tar soap and sweet rubber. Candied liquorice. Lime and lemon candy, slowly fading to sugared grapefruit juice. Very subtle oak. Finish: very long, smoky and slowly drying.
Wonderful whisky, like most Ardbeg 1972’s in fact. I swallowed the last drop more than half an hour ago and I’m still vividly enjoying the aftertaste. In stock at The Whisky Exchange, around € 1500.
The last time this blog featured the independent bottler Malts of Scotland was exactly one year ago. Somehow they weren’t brought to my attention, but I’m happy to have tasted a couple of new releases again.
Images is a relatively new series. The distilleries aren’t mentioned on the label because most casks were intended for the blending industry. However each bottle bears a characteristic image of the production region and this is sometimes enough to narrow down the possibilities.
Ayrshire doesn’t have a lot of active distilleries and the link with Ailsa Bay was easily made. It’s a recent distillery, owned by William Grant, operational since September 2007 and housed within the Girvan site. The distillery produces unpeated, mildly peated and heavily peated whisky, all used for blending. This Images of Ayrshire may well be the first single malt release from Ailsa Bay!
Images releases are usually bottled at 53,2% but this time it’s kept at cask strength, a whopping 68,3%. It is said to be just 3 years old.
Images of Ayrshire ‘Dalrymple Bridge’ 3 yo (68,3%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry hogshead, 328 btl.)
Nose: aromatic, young, raisiny sherry. Pretty fierce at first, even with some water, but nice. Raisins, candied apple, oranges, raspberry and a few winey / rummy undertones. Fresh red plums. Pecan nuts and hints of tobacco in the background. Mouth: sweet and highly oak-driven. Juicy fruits but also loads of spices (pepper, vanilla, clove). Kirsch and marinated raisins. Underneath seems to be a heavy, slightly meaty spirit. Mexican chocolate and toffee. Dry tannins as well. Finish: long, with chocolate, raisins and a spicy heat.
It’s easy to see similarities with young Glenfarclas, sherried Arran or Glenmorangie Sonnalta. In fact, it reminds me of any clean spirit in a great sherry cask, if not for the added weight on the palate. Relatively low complexity but an intense, interesting dram. Definitely ahead of its age. Around € 80.
After the excellent surprise that was the Benromach 10 Year Old, we’re now trying another release from the same distillery (Speyside’s smallest operational distillery by the way). It’s the Benromach 1976, part of the Heritage collection which also includes the 30 Year Old and a 1969 vintage.
Benromach vintage 1976 was matured in first fill and refill sherry hogsheads. Obviously it was produced by the previous owners and even made with different equipment – Gordon & MacPhail installed new stills when they reopened the distillery.
Benromach 1976 (46%, OB 2012)
Nose: creamy start. Tinned peaches and oranges, with quite some sourish kiwi and subtle hints of passion fruits. Very fruity, in a rather candied way. Honey pops. Polished wood. Traces of vanilla, coconut and menthol. Some gentle sherry influence in the background (fresh figs). Mouth: a bit soft but still quite fruity, not unlike some Longmorn or BenRiach from the same era. Apricot, pink grapefruit, passion fruit and plenty of oranges. Gains weight after a while, with some milk chocolate, ginger and pepper, as well as some leather and tobacco. A few floral notes. Coriander. Nutty sherry. More oak now, but still refined. Finish: quite long, beautiful tobacco notes and still lots of lingering fruits and spices.
Pretty great again, a complex Benromach with the fruity smoothness of old Speysiders but also extra sophistication. Benromach 10 still wins the value for money award though, this one costs around € 550.
Liquid Art is a project that originated in Mol, Belgium. Although their mission statement also includes beer and regional specialties, the first three releases are whisky bottlings.
The first one is this single cask Glen Elgin 1995, selected by Bert Dexters and Serge Reijnders of whisky club Cask Six. The label is designed by Raymond Minnen and features a stag beetle, a native of the Lowlands but a nice hint towards Scotland as well.
Glen Elgin is not a big name – it’s mostly known as the base malt for the legendary White Horse blend. By the way, did you know the distillery was powered and lit by a kerosene engine until the 1950’s? Not the best choice: this engine alone cost them one full-time employee…
Glen Elgin 19 yo 1995
(49,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 94 btl.)
Nose: sweet and fruity. Lots of apples, pears, stone fruits and orange. Candy sugar and plenty of honey. Fresh and creamy. Moving to more ‘modern’ marshmallow, vanilla and hints of tropical fruits (tinned pineapple, hints of pomegranate). Sweet corn flakes. Hints of wax in the background, as well as light cardamom and cake dough. Mouth: very sweet again, almost lemonade. Barley sugar, vanilla custard and all kinds of fruit candy (pineapple cubes, lemon). Tropical notes again. Very honeyed, with a minty freshness on a second level. Finish: not too long, but nicely fruity. Light, creamy oak and some citrus zest.
A really nice Glen Elgin, easy to love especially if you have a sweeth tooth. Easy to drink, and the nose has a special something. Around € 75, already sold out.
Jura Origin is the base malt from this distillery. It is 10 years old and aged in ex-bourbon casks.
Jura 10 yo ‘Origin’
(40%, OB 2014)
Nose: a malty sweetness up front, with hints of caramel and baked apples. Some honey and toffee. Also drier notes, say dry leaves and hay, as well as a little musty oak. Relatively young but decent complexity already. After a while there’s a subtle orange blossom note coming through. Mouth: some fudge and sweet barley again. Quite creamy and pretty smooth. Oranges and other – hardly defined – fruits. Honey. A faint salty edge. Not bad, but the main problem is a lack of punch. With most competitors already at 46% ABV (or at least 43%), this comes across as a watered down whisky. Finish: not too long. Hints of honey and ginger. Also a slightly harsh, grainy note.
Although I didn’t publish notes, I tried this one before, in my early days of whisky discovery. I didn’t like it. Now either I’ve changed (probably, yes) or they’ve improved quite a bit (on which other people seem to agree). Either way this is now a decent entry-level single malt… which shoots itself in the foot by adding so much water. Around € 30.
A new Littlemill 1991, bottled by Eiling Lim. The fourth release in her series. Yes, a second Littlemill already, in just four bottlings, but it’s different enough from the previous one.
Littlemill 22 yo 1991
(47,2%, Eiling Lim 2013, 40 btl.)
Nose: all sorts of lemon really. Lemon juice, lemon candy, lemon balm, lemon yoghurt… Right, grapefruit as well. Some apple peelings and honey. Evolves to lemon marshmallow, nice. Hints of muesli and dried grass on a second level. Some gravel and dust after a while. Mouth: same story, lemon all over. Sharper zesty notes, crystallized lemons, grapefruits. Then some sweeter notes of tangerines and lemon candy too, maybe a few golden raisins. Verbena. The whole spectrum. Finish: medium long, stays on the candied side now, lemons and oranges.
Some whiskies are nice paintings, even though they only use one or two colours. Rich and nicely entertaining in all its variations, and extremely drinkable. Around € 190.
Benromach distillery – like many others – was mothballed in the whisky crisis of the early 1980’s. In 1993 it was picked up by one of the most renowned independent bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail. Production restarted some five years later. Since then they’ve been working hard on branding and promotion, with good-looking bottles.
While the distillery is still not running on its maximum capacity, there’s a clear progression and lots of expressions are available: a young Benromach Traditional, this Benromach 10 Years, a few oldies, a peated version, an organic version and several wine finishes.
Benromach 10 matures in a combination of 80% bourbon barrels and 20% sherry hoggies. It spends its final year in first fill Oloroso casks.
Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB 2014)
Nose: this is rather stunning for a 10 year-old. Very aromatic, with sweet fruits coming to the fore. Apples, peaches. It’s a stewed / baked kind of fruitiness, topped with cinnamon and chocolate fudge. Brown sugar. A little mint and liquorice. Malty biscuits. Excellent whiffs of waxed wood and leather, as well as subtle bonfire in the background. Very complex and pleasantly un-modern. Mouth: medium sweet, full-bodied, initially quite smoky and phenolic. Picks up fruitiness after that, with oranges, blackcurrant, raisins and honey. Hints of butter pastry. Soft nutty notes and soft spices. Complex and balanced again. Finish: quite long, warming, with soft wood, minerals and lingering sherry.
Gordon & MacPhail engineered this whisky to replicate a profile of pre-1960’s Speyside whisky, which I’m happy to confirm. One of the best widely available, standard whiskies around, in my opinion. A must, especially for people on a budget. Around € 40.