Ardbeg Kildalton is the latest release from this Islay distillery. The name refers to the famous 1200 year-old cross and Ardbeg already used it for 1980/1981 vintage expressions released first in 2004. It was known for having an unusually low peat level.
The Kildalton 2014 release follows the same rules as most distilleries lately: no age statement, fancy packaging and a lot of story-telling to support it. It is created from bourbon and sherry casks.
Ardbeg Kildalton (46%, OB 2014)
Nose: quite rounded. There’s clean soot and earthy smoke, but also honeyed notes and a slight vanilla edge to make it more gentle. Hints of dried apricot. A menthol / lemon combo in the back. Warm leather. Very subtle floral notes too. Definitely peatier than the original Kildalton, but you could say they share an idea of smoothness. Mouth: fairly gentle and creamy, with the same biscuity sweetness. Then quickly more smoky and peaty, with some coal tar soap and earthy notes. Smoked pork. A few herbal notes before it is taken over by a big sweetness: caramel and latte with vanilla syrup. It does make it a bit flat and too sweet. Finish: drier, with kippery notes, liquorice and soft medicinal notes.
I really like these smoother, gentler Ardbeg expressions, especially when they bring a hint of sherry to the mix. This new Kildalton has a great nose but looses some points on the palate. Originally around € 160. Not cheap at all for something that’s probably fairly young. Of course you could pay a lot more if you were trying to buy it a bit later. Now around € 250 in auctions.
After the success of the GlenDronach 1993 cask #33, a shop bottling for Abbey Whisky, they were looking for a successor. This was found in a cask from the next vintage: GlenDronach 1994 cask #3400 which was a large PX puncheon.
GlenDronach 20 yo 1994 (54,8%, OB for Abbey Whisky 2014, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #3400, 672 btl.)
Nose: slightly winey but very forthcoming. Baked apples, fig syrup, rum & raisins (tons of raisins really). Hints of vanilla – American oak sherry cask. Sticky toffee pudding. Hints of strawberries with milk chocolate. Soft oriental spices underneath: cinnamon and cardamom, as well as a fragrant touch that holds the middle between potpourri and metal polish. Very similar to cask #3397 that was part of the official releases, but without the dirty edge. Mouth: big, with plenty of spices now (well, pepper mainly). Also dates, demerara sugar and plum compote. Evolves on the darker side of things, with dark chocolate, hints of coffee and roasted nuts. Leather. A little plain oak with a bitterish edge. Finish: very long, very dry, with herbal notes, cloves and maple syrup.
A really good GlenDronach, better than its sister cask which was released by GlenDronach itself. Around € 130 from Abbey Whisky.
If you ever have a chance to try a Spanish Brandy de Jerez, please do so and think of this bottling. Brandy de Jerez is a cognac-style spirit, made from distilled grape juice that is matured in casks that previously held sherry wines, often Pedro Ximénez sherry. Contrary to actual sherry wines, which are matured in inactive old casks (sometimes in use for 100 years or more), their brandies are matured in fairly new casks that are specially prepared for the maturation of brandy. The aim is to impose sherry flavours as quickly as possible.
When trying this Glendronach, it immediately reminded of some brandies matured in PX casks. The kind of sherry influence is strikingly similar, the whisky is almost a higher strength version of the brandy. In fact these brandies are made in the same bodegas that also provide casks for the whisky industry so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. What we now call a “sherry cask” is simply the type of cask they had been preparing for brandy for ages.
Whisky Troef is a whisky club from the north of Belgium, which also happens to be the region of Jürgen Vromans who is behind The Whisky Mercenary. Their latest club bottling is this Ben Nevis 1996.
Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996 (50,9%, The Whisky Mercenary for Whisky Troef 2014, 100 btl.)
Nose: fairly light, but quite a lot happening right away. Starts on subtle grainy / grassy notes and youthful citrus, but evolves nicely towards slightly tropical fruits. Hints of guava and banana. Kiwi. Some rummy touches as well, nice. Typical waxy overtones. Mouth: immediately lemony, with both the juice and the zesty notes. Creamy and sweet at first, then adding spices. Green banana, peach, quite some ginger and grapefruit. Oranges with cloves. A bit of honey underneath. Finish: medium long, reminds me of a gin & tonic for its combination of spices, lemon and balanced bitterness.
This is quite a zesty Ben Nevis, flirting with a Littlemill profile at times and showing a great overall freshness and complexity. A big part of the allocation was reserved for club members but I’ve heard a couple of bottles are still available to outsiders. Around € 95.
Cardhu 18 Years is different from the 12 Year Old in the fact that it was partly matured in sherry casks. Its price is relatively low compared to the limited edition Cardhu 21 Year Old released last year.
Cardhu 18 yo (40%, OB 2014)
Nose: in line with other Cardhu expressions. Pretty neutral that is. Vanilla fudge, sweet malt, apples and oranges. Hay. This time also nice roasted pineapple (the highlight of this dram) and dried flowers. Mouth: sweet and spicy, but in a slightly disjointed way. Fairly underpowered as well. Plenty of honey. Toffee and caramel. Vanilla biscuits. Chocolate, mocha and soft earthy notes. Hints of dusty oak too. Finish: rather short, bittersweet with a firm spiciness from the oak.
Not exactly a highflyer, there’s much better whisky to be found for this amount. In fact I’d rather have a good NAS whisky than a bland 18 year-old. Around € 60.
Glenmorangie likes to call The Taghta a ‘crowd-sourced’ whisky. Almost all of its characteristics (name, cask type, graphic identity…) were decided by its fans in online polls. An interesting concept, although you could ask how reliable it is for the general public to decide on things like a cask type – most will not have tasted the different options beforehand.
Glenmorange The Taghta is finished in Manzanilla sherry casks – an unusual choice for whisky maturation in general, and an unusual choice when coming from such a large panel. By the way it seems Glenmorangie has been experimenting with different styles of sherry. The new Glenmorangie Dornoch was finished in Amontillado casks – quite rare as well.
The Taghta means The Chosen.
Glenmorangie The Taghta
(46%, OB 2014, 12.000 btl.)
Nose: surprisingly sweet at first, but on a second level there are certainly elements of Manzanilla. Salted almonds, zesty citrus and a buttery touch. Golden raisins, soft hints of honey. Maybe dates. Fairly light overall. Mouth: spicy and quite acidic and zingy (lemon sherbet), although there’s still a raisiny sweetness too. A little caramel. Pepper and ginger. A ‘green’ briney note as well, maybe echoes of the olive juice that’s so typical of Manzanilla. Finish: not too long, with some oak and salty notes coming through.
This Taghta is an interesting dram, not exactly the easy-going whisky I would expect from a big crowd. It has the typical Glenmorangie sweetness but puts it against salty and zingy notes that are a little overpowering. Around € 85.
Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase / Archives were already related in the sense that both bottlers / retailers were selling each other’s whiskies. They are regularly releasing similar casks and now they’ve even shared one, a 23 years old Auchentoshan 1990.
I really like the way they also ‘exchanged’ animals on the labels. The Archives bottle features a duck while the Whisky-Fässle version now has an exotic fish. The duck of Samoa, is it? Really nice guys.
Nose: light and inviting but not just clean or dull. There’s a nice fruity side of oranges and sweet pear, with hints of pineapple syrup. Soft hints of vanilla. On the other hand there are also notes of linseed oil and dusty wood. Hints of lime blossom. Quite fragrant after a while. Mouth: sweet and creamy at first (vanilla cake) but these flavours quickly make place for zesty (grapefruit skin) and grassy notes. Herbal teas. Clove, a bit of aniseed. A few salty touches too. A little austere maybe. Finish: not too long, still on the herbal and bittersweet side. Some pepper as well.
Auchentoshan… still hit and miss for me. I liked the nose, but the palate is less my style. Not bad, but these bottlers have better stuff to discover. Around € 135.
The youngest member of the Early Flying series from The Whisky Agency is this Bunnahabhain 1990.
Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1990
(48,3%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 190 btl.)
Nose: pine needles and mint, as well as some flinty notes and wet sand. Apple peelings. Sunflower oil and waxy notes. Hints of cigar boxes as well. Less honeyed than we would expect. Maybe a few dried mushrooms in the background. Mouth: plenty of apple peelings again, hints of cider apples too. A slightly earthy profile, very natural with less fruity or rounded notes, just a little honey. Hay. Green spices and liquorice. Some leafy notes and grapefruit tea. Finish: takes the herbal notes a bit further. Tobacco, a little ginger and green oak.
This Bunnahabhain 1990 is not showing my preferred side of this distillery, but it’s an interesting dram nonetheless. Around € 140.
This Springbank 12 Years Old is nicknamed Green. It is made from naturally farmed barley, but as the distillery itself doesn’t have the right certificates, the resulting whisky can’t officially be called organic. Hence green.
It’s matured entirely in bourbon casks. Springbank is preparing a 13 yo Green for next year, matured in sherry casks.
Springbank 12 yo ‘Green’ (46%, OB 2014, batch 14/488, 9000 btl.)
Nose: a true Springer, fresh, aromatic, with coastal and earthy undertones. Maybe a little more peat than usual. Also white peaches, citrus and freshly cut green apple. Sweet vanilla cake. Soft pepper. Hints of wet stones. Not too austere though, it’s rather creamy and easy to like. Mouth: starts bright and citrusy, then some creamy barley and vanilla biscuits. Honey. Becomes oilier and ashier. On to some grapefruit zest, walnuts and youngish cereal notes. Hints of peat as well as pepper. Just a slight bitter tang. Finish: medium long, with grainy notes, a lemon and salt combo and liquorice.
I haven’t been a huge fan of recent entry-level Springbanks, but I liked this one almost immediately. I’ve tried it a few times already and it’s a nice treat. Around € 70 – in stores now.