The Cocktail series is a range of four Karuizawa bottlings exclusively sold by La Maison du Whisky, featuring labels by the Japanese artists Hideyuki Katsumata. He was inspired by the link between single malts and cocktails that apparently exists in Japan. Also, bars are the 2013 theme for LMdW (check their catalogue).
There’s a 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984. This 30 years old 1981 is the darkest of the pack, even though the picture exaggerates its colour a little…
Karuizawa 30 yo 1981 (55,8%, N°1 Drinks for LMdW, sherry butt #162, 584 btl.)
Nose: not exactly the opening I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing here. It’s sweet and quite fruity. Black cherries, wild strawberries, lots of dates and a hint of passion fruits. Also notes of lacquered pork belly. Sweet pipe tobacco. Huge notes of polished oak, sandalwood I’d say, with some ‘good’ wood glue. And a whole array of tiny notes like cinnamon, lychee, incense, rum, eucalyptus and sugared nuts. Quite perfect. Mouth: more powerful now, and quite smoky. Earthy notes, a certain farminess as well. Lots of tobacco again. Then chocolate coated nuts and coffee beans. Cured ham. Bread crust. Sweetness of dates and figs too, as well as hints of fresher fruits (honeydew melon). A bit of sweet liquorice. Finish: almost as long as a trip to Japan, still quite sweet, showing coal, honey and polished oak. Even a slight medicinal herbalness in the end.
This was pretty much an instant favourite. The fruity sweetness is outstanding. No sulphur nonsense either. And great to see the roundness is coupled to a bit more earthy power on the palate. A gem. Around € 315. Still a few bottles available!
Still working our way through the latest batch of Master of Malt releases.
Arran 16 yo 1996 (55,4%, Master of Malt 2012, refill sherry hogshead, 218 btl.)
Nose: a lot of vanilla and honey. Banana milkshake. Some butter. Baked apple. A hint of pepper. Not bad at all. Mouth: very malty with a lot of ginger and pepper, up to the point where it gets too much. Liquorice. Grows really bitter, with lots of grapefruit, lemon zest and Seville oranges. A soapy edge as well (it’s a fine line between lemon and lemon soap sometimes). Finish: medium long, the grainy sharpness remains, with the bitterness, cloves and pepper.
This one shows too much pepper and grainy sharpness to make for a balanced dram. There’s better Arran to be found, maybe this one was chosen for showing an uncommon character. Around € 60. There’s a new Arran 16 yo by Master of Malt by the way (53,9%) which looks more promising.
Interesting times for anCnoc fans. After the 35 years old last year, there is now an anCnoc 22 year old. It was matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks but some casks seasoned with oloroso sherry for 2 years were used as well. The first batch consists of 5700 bottles.
anCnoc 22 yo
(46%, OB 2013, 5700 btl.)
Nose: enters on floral notes, bright barley and juicy pears. Sourish hints of lemon and apple peel, as well as tempting bergamot notes (bordering on potpourri, in a nice way). Then sweet honey, soft spices, mint and vanilla cake. Mouth: slow start maybe, but a nice profile, balancing between sweet malty notes and a citrus tingle (lemon sherbet?). Oranges, honey and almonds. Evolving to a more syrupy, liqueur-like and more sherried profile. Vanilla custard. Some leather notes and the right amount of polished oak. Finish: quite long, rounded and honeyed. Yellow raisins and a faint hint of toasted oak.
I don’t usually like anCnoc expressions with sherry in the lead, but in a support act like here it adds depth and some lovely flavours. My favourite anCnoc so far. Around € 110.
During the last months of 2012, four cask samples of BenRiach 1976 moved around Holland to find a buyer. Possibly the last casks of this vintage to be bottled for outsiders (i.e. not in the official yearly batch of single casks). I believe the Usquebaugh Society had the first pick, cask #3031 which is a sister cask of the great ones bottled for Whisky-E, Taiwan and Shinanoya.
BenRiach 36 yo 1976 (43,1%, OB for Usquebaugh Society 2012, refill bourbon cask #3031, 124 btl.)
Nose: nicely fruity as expected. Jammy, tropical fruits like mango, passion fruit, papaya and tangerine. Also a slightly brighter side of lemon. Quite some mint and hints of resin. Also some fresh herbal notes in the background and soft spices (a little nutmeg). Closer to #3032 than to #3029 which means it’s not the biggest fruitbomb among these wonderful 1976’s but one of the more complex versions. Mouth: the same fruitiness, a little more on the sour side now (passion fruits and tons of pink grapefruit). Cranberries maybe. Underneath is some obvious oak, mint and a little ginger. Finish: still on grapefruits and spices from the oak, slightly drying and fades rather quickly. Maybe a little more oomph could have taken it further.
This one is a few degrees below most other 1976’s (and some of the other Dutch releases will even be around 40%). It might be taking away some of the magic. Let’s repeat though that it’s very high quality and it does have the beautiful tropical fruits that we love so much. Around € 325 if you weren’t a member of the club – sold out now. Thanks for the sample, Bram.
A new batch of bottlings by Maltbarn is coming up. The selection is younger and more accessible – a willy-nilly trend among independent bottlers. Glenrothes 1990, Clynelish 1998, Littlemill 1992, Bowmore 2001 and this 23 years old Glenburgie 1989.
Nose: bright with sweet barley sugar and lots of summer fruits. Nectarine, pear, strawberries. There’s also a nervousness of fresh herbs, apple peel and gentle oak spices. Soft vanilla too. Mouth: sweet and fruity again. Unripe plums, lemon and rhubarb. Vanilla and coconut with rather obvious grainy notes of pure barley. A bigger grassiness now, with more oak, walnut skin and a slightly tangy / peppery kick before moving back to late milk chocolate. Finish: medium long, with fruits, grains and drying oak.
A Glenburgie with a bright fruity side but also a modern oak-driven part. Around € 105.
This year, Cutty Sark celebrates its 90th birthday and 80 years since the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The brand is closely related with Prohibition, actually it was created for the highly restricted but also very lucrative market in the US, and it was distributed by smugglers like Captain Bill McCoy at the time.
This Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition was aged in American oak casks and bottled at 50% (100 US proof). It seems there will be two other versions, a McCoy 23 Edition and McCoy 1923 Edition, all at this higher strength. Shortly available in the US, later also in other markets.
Cutty Sark ‘Prohibition Edition’
(50%, OB 2013)
Nose: almost completely on butter caramel, vanilla and sticky toffee, in a way that reminded me a lot of The Glenrothes Select Reserve (obviously Cutty Sark uses a lot of Glenrothes). Plenty of honey. Also a slightly musty sherry influence (overripe figs and oranges), again not uncommon for Glenrothes. Soft spices in the background. Mouth: malty and medium sweet. Again some honey, butterscotch and vanilla. Also a slightly winey / beer note. Overripe oranges. The grains only come out in the end with a slight harshness alongside a peppery note. Finish: medium long, sweet and grainy with more caramel.
Even though it’s nice to see such a “malt profile” in a blend, this particular expression is a tad too malty and heavy on the toffee / caramel flavours for my taste. I prefer the citrus freshness of the Cutty Sark Storm for example. No price information yet.
Let’s try a well-known standard Glengoyne. We’ve tried the Glengoyne 10 years before, we skip the 12 year-old and get to the 17 years which is still available in some shops, but recently replaced by a 15 years and 18 years in the revamped core range. I tried this a few years ago at the Hesperia whisky bar in Madrid – now I’m trying it head-to-head with the 10 years.
Glengoyne 17 yo (43%, OB 2009)
Nose: the same malty core that we found in the 10yo, now a tad more buttery. Toffee, some citrus peel. Baked apples. Hints of cedar wood. Mouth: a bit more sherried and a lot more oaky than the 10yo. A better mouthfeel as well (probably due to the extra 3% alcohol), slightly oily with richer flavours. Oranges. Creamy vanilla. Some pepper. Brazil nuts and raisins towards the end. Finish: medium long, with nuts, leather and drying oak.
Glengoyne 17 is a step up from the 10yo, but again I feel it’s a little understated and it hardly stands out. On the other hand it’s rather smooth and quite sophisticated. Around € 45 (or € 55 for a full litre).
This single malt Littlemill was distilled in July 1966 and bottled in October 1991 by Signatory Vintage.
It’s one of these typical dumpy bottles, but contrary to other releases which have a off-white / parchment coloured label, this one is almost fluorescent blue. Even the accompanying miniatures are blue. I can only find one other bottle like that, a Port Ellen 1979. Does anyone have an idea what the meaning could have been? Special series or just a print cartridge that’s almost empty?
Littlemill 25 yo 1966 (62,7%, Signatory Vintage 1991, cask #3909)
Nose: needs a lot of breathing, starts a bit metallic and quite waxy. Could be a little OBE. Lamp oil. Dusty books and leather as well. Almonds. After a while it grows grassy but also fruity, though in a very shy way. Maybe unripe banana. A lot of peppermint as well. Mouth: punchy, with quite a lot of wood. Orange peel, apple skin, different kinds of herbs and spices. A hint of wet cardboard as well. Showing some salt in the end. Finish: medium long, quite oaky and resinous with herbs and citrus zest.
An old-style malt, that’s not extremely expressive and may have suffered a bit from 20 years in glass. Very interesting but slightly disappointing in terms of enjoyment. Very hard to find. Thank you Carsten.