Aberlour a’bunadh (59,6%, OB 2014, Oloroso sherry butts, batch n°50)
Nose: thick sherry, dried figs and dates, sultanas. Maybe just a tad more closed than batch #49, with seemingly a bit more oaky touches and less freshness. Waxed oak. Water opens it up a little. Chocolate and leather as well as some Seville oranges. Mouth: very big again – hot and flavoursome. Hints of cherries, rapsberry jam, nuts and nougat. Then dark caramel and coffee. Again a bit more oak and spices than previous editions? Ginger and dark chocolate. Finish: long, still quite hot and boasting a whole spice cabinet.
In a direct comparison, this one comes out a little rougher and oakier / spicier than #49, which also means less aromatic fruits. Still a very reliable, deeply sherried dram though. Around € 50 to € 65.
During the past weekend, the Belgian Molenberg distillery which produces the Gouden Carolus single malt had its first open doors event. You could try the Gouden Carolus beers, there were guided tours, presentations of local food products, music performances and the official release of a new product, the Gouden Carolus Pure Taste Bourbon 36. Actually Gouden Carolus is not mentioned on the label this time, they only mention Stokerij De Molenberg.
While the original Gouden Carolus single malt is matured in ex-bourbon casks for 30 months and then transferred to re-coopered (charred) casks for 6 months, this limited edition only had a first-fill American oak maturation for 36 months. It is the first release in a series called Pure Taste. It is only available at the visitor centre.
Gouden Carolus ‘Pure Taste Bourbon 36’ (50%, OB 2015, bourbon casks)
Nose: clean, simple and young, but definitely enjoyable. A lot of vanilla of course, with hints of marshmallows and pear drops. Light banana and tropical fruit bubble gum. A soft peppery kick as well. Pretty much what we would expect from a fine 3 year-old made by a Scottish distillery. Mouth: sweet and fruity (peach, apple), with the same vanilla. After that it gets more peppery and the oaky notes start to dominate the spirit. Ginger, plain oak, nutmeg. Finish: medium long, drying with plenty of vanilla.
On the nose this one is significantly more open and aromatic than the general release. In the mouth it’s oakier and less refined. Still not a must-have but certainly better (more classic) than many other European whiskies. It costs € 20 for a 20 cl bottle.
The 2014 hype of (independent) Irish single malts is still alive and the most peculiar drams are from the batch of peated spirit produced at Bushmills in 1991.
A lot of these casks have found their way to Belgian bottlers. The Whisky Mercenary now presents its own selection, exclusive to Whiskysite.nl in Leiden (NL) and The Single Malt Whisky Shop in Zammel (BE).
Irish single malt 1991 – peated (52,2%, The Whisky Mercenary for Whiskysite.nl & Fisser 2015)
Nose: a very short peaty impression, but then wham! A whole truck of grapefruit is dropped in, both the yellow ones and the pink ones. Also passion fruit sherbet and kiwi, hints of green banana skin, peaches and white grapes. Some waxy / resinous notes. A little mint, vanilla and subtle camphor. Mouth: spearmint at first, which stays strong throughout the whole dram. Sweet banana underneath, as well as mango and apricots in syrup, but the peaty notes are slowly taking over. A little green tea with grapefruit and camphor again. Though not a peat bomb, it may be the peatiest of the 1991’s I’ve tried. Finish: long, showing mild chili, nutmeg and a bit of minty dryness.
It’s funny how this one changes from robust to elegant and back. I’ve tried it three times in different glasses. Sometimes I thought there was too much peat on the palate, but on other occasions it seemed just right. Some people think these Irish are too fruity – they should try this one. Excellent stuff. Around € 200, on sale this Saturday.
Ledaig 42 Year Old is the rarest and oldest expression of Ledaig to date. The 1972 vintage malt is named Dùsgadh, meaning ‘awakening’ in Gaelic.
Ledaig distillery on the Isle of Mull was mothballed in 1930 due to lowering demands. It was reopened in 1972 and new stills were installed. The happy times didn’t last – after 1975 there were several problems and production never really took off. Burn Stewart (of Deanston) bought the distillery in 1991. The official name is now Tobermory.
This Ledaig 42 Year Old is made from inaugural spirits produced in the 1972 stills, which have been retired in 2014. Some of the aged copper has been used in the packaging, and the copper card that is included entitles you to a bottle of Ledaig Déanta, the last distillate of the retired stills, in ten years’ time.
The whisky was aged in several hogsheads and butts until master distiller Ian Macmillan transferred the liquid into González Byass oloroso sherry casks in 2001 to add a further layer of flavour. Only 500 bottles are produced.
Ledaig 42 yo Dùsgadh
(46,3%, OB 2015, 500 btl.)
Nose: close to very old, sherry matured Islay whisky, which is great. That means no in-your-face peat, but rather heaps of coal, cold ashes and tobacco leaves. Hints of freshly painted boats in the harbour. Seaweed. Big leathery notes. The sherry cask also brings some dried fruits (raisins, prunes) and baked apple. Hints of cedar, cinnamon and a menthol. Very classic. Mouth: much more smoky and sooty now, surprising for such an old whisky which usually looses a lot of these aromas. Cigars and hints of tar. Red fruit jams, hints of Ginjinha. Cinnamon cookies. Honey. Candied ginger. Leather and oak polish. Toffee with black pepper and some nice dark chocolate. Big and very balanced. Finish: long, drier, but still little signs of age. Peppery notes, with a salty twist now, cigar ashes and a toffee apple roundness.
Ledaig 42 Year Old is definitely a rare, old-fashioned treat. This profile of sherry and peat, at this age, is almost impossible to find. Impressive whisky, thanks for sharing, Jack. Around € 4800.
The Indian Paul John single malt has been in production since 1992 and their two base products are Paul John Brilliance and this Paul John Edited.
While the first is unpeated and made with Indian 6-row barley, the Edited version uses about 15% peated spirit, made with imported Scottish barley. It gives the malted barley a phenol level of about 20-25 ppm. Like Brilliance, it is matured in ex-bourbon casks.
Paul John Edited (46%, OB 2013)
Nose: sweet honey and juicy barley, oranges and peaches. Ripe banana. Some damp earthy notes, rather than a clear peat blast – this is quite subtle. Becomes lightly tropical, with some pink grapefruit and papaya. Vanilla cream too. Mouth: apples and peaches before it goes to rougher grainy notes, porridge and green, vegetal notes. Quite dusty and peppery. Again not the usual peat smoke but rather a medicinal overtone. Cinnamon. Not as pleasant as the nose, there’s something acrid and unbalanced about it. Finish: medium long, caramel with antiseptics and peat?
They’re not at the same level as Amrut’s whisky for instance, but it’s not bad either. I just think their Brilliance was… well… slightly more brilliant. Around € 60.
To be honest I lost track of all these Highland Park expressions named after Norse gods, so I had to look up the specific details of Highland Park Sigurd.
Below is a diagram of the Warrior series. While the first three releases (Svein, Einar, Harald) revolved around American oak casks, the most recent offerings (Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn) use an increased quantity of European oak sherry seasoned casks.
Highland Park Sigurd (43%, OB 2013)
Nose: a complex, very refined nose, with plenty of layers and no dominating aromas. Moss, dried grasses and eucalyptus oils. Ginger and cinnamon. Light fruity notes (apples, melons) and a soft smoky overtone. Mouth: oily texture and a salty attack. Dutch liquorice. Honey sweetness underneath, as well as a hint of vanilla custard. Plenty of spices: nutmeg, pepper and ginseng. Becomes oaky and sappy as time goes by, with a smoky edge. Finish: soft, with the oaky notes building and just vague shadows of the fruit. Honeyed tea.
I really liked the delicate, almost soft but nonetheless complex nose. The palate was a little less smooth and had some loud oak. Really nice but expensive, around € 150.
Like anCnoc 22 Years, this brand-new anCnoc 24 Year Old is a combination of ex-bourbon casks and sherry-seasoned casks.
anCnoc 24 yo
(46%, OB 2015)
Nose: aromatic, with a nice interplay of fruits (baked apple, grapefruit, orange marmalade) and honey with a bit of sherry influence (toffee and a Christmas cake kind of spiciness). After a while mint sets in and keeps growing. Dried flowers. Mouth: vanilla custard, raisins and toffee. Malty notes and candied orange. A light hint of popcorn. Quite some citrus again, as well as a hint of toasted, almost smoky oak. A nice leathery note too. Finish: medium long, with honey, pepper, raisins and a hint of cake.
A really nice dram, not necessarily a step up from the 22 Year Old, but good depth and maturity. Around € 160. Limited availability for now, it’s not even on the anCnoc website.
This is a late 1980’s bottling of Ardbeg 1974 in the Connoisseurs Choice series from Gordon & MacPhail. Many expressions from this legendary vintage have been bottled with a CC label, but this is probably the first (youngest) of them all, with the classic brown label.
Until 1974, Ardbeg relied almost entirely on its own maltings to produce peated malt. After that it started to use more external malt and the maltings were closed down entirely in 1977. Therefore 1974 is widely considered the end of a style era.
Ardbeg 13 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice +/- 1988)
Nose: typical raw tar and highly expressive maritime notes. Flax ropes, smoked fish, dried kelp… Also lots of tiny notes like eucalyptus, camphor, iodine, kippers, chamomile and wet hay. Classic lemon. Subtle hints of diesel and undertones of sweet pipe tobacco, which makes the whole very attractive and warm. Quite superb, I don’t like my Ardbeg too austere but this is just fine. Mouth: fairly sweet, again the pipe tobacco is really unique here. Cigar boxes. Sweet marzipan and maple syrup. Nice waxy notes. Plenty of sweet peat and Lapsang tea. Surprisingly flavoursome and smoky for this ABV. Fades on all kinds of herbal notes, a bit of Fernet-Branca and cough syrup. Finish: long, peaty and herbal, with smoked fish and tar.
The combination of a young age and the right vintage makes for a peaty, complex Ardbeg. Always a treat. Around € 600 in auctions.