Antique Lions of Spirits – Birds (part 1)

Italian bottlers were importing some of the most glorious whisky to Italy before the world realized the real potential of single malts. They’ve also been at the forefront of innovative ideas like single cask bottlings and cask strength whisky.

Italian whisky traders Lion’s Whisky and Whisky Antique teamed up with Jens Drewitz of Sansibar to create a tribute to the legendary 1980s-1990s Moon Import series. These featured beautiful animals, birds, sea creatures, etc. The first series from the new Antique Lions of Spirits brand is The Birds.



Glen Moray 1988 - Birds - Antique Lions of WhiskyGlen Moray 28 yo 1988 (45,1%, Antique Lions of Spirits ‘Bird label’ 2016, 216 btl.)

Nose: more punch than you’d expect from the strength. Fairly neutral aromas, say yellow apples and pears, malty note and a hint of aromatic ginger. Hints of greengages. A subtle oily note too. All highly integrated, nothing stands out too much.

Mouth: similar comments. Apples, melon, with notes of hay and spices. Lemon zest. Lots of barley notes and grassy touches. Green tea. A little tobacco.

Finish: medium long, malty with a bit more citrus now. Some grassy oak.

Not really exceptional. Very neutral flavours. Good whisky, mind you, but very close to the raw materials, not my style. It seems we chose the right intro.

Score: 84/100




Mannochmore 1988 - Birds - Antique Lions of WhiskyMannochmore 28 yo 1988 (47,9%, Antique Lions of Spirits ‘Bird label’ 2016, 267 btl.)

Nose: this one seems more oily, more old-style. Hints of old varnish, even a slightly farmy, mineral touch and exotic spice. Underneath there is some lime, kiwi, apple and dried pineapple. A slight heathery note. Dried flowers. 

Mouth: old-style whisky. Apples, lemon balm. Old roses and other dried flowers. Slightly fragrant. Just a hint of lemony, green oak and pepper.

Finish: long, subtle fruity notes and old old.

Certainly more unique than the Glen Moray, with something that reminds me of 1950s-1960s whisky. It really fits a tribute series like this.

Score: 88/100



Tormore 1988 - Birds - Antique Lions of WhiskyTormore 28 yo 1988 (50,4%, Antique Lions of Spirits ‘Bird label’ 2016, 254 btl.)

Nose: another example of a fairly neutral, slightly silent style. Cooked apples and baked pears, peaches, with some spices and caramelized nuts. Hints of bread and malty notes. Perhaps a little bung cloth, giving it an old-style side again. Do we sense a common theme for the entire series already?

Mouth: nicely thick, same feeling of old-style, warm spirit and relatively low cask influence. Stewed apples, oranges, a bit of raisin sweetness and honey, cinnamon and something of cask char.

Finish: long, with fruity traces and some oak spices and a hint of walnuts and milk chocolate.

Similar to the Mannochmore in the sense that it combines a fruity / malty body with some old-style elements. I like it.

Score: 87/100




After this trio, I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed, most importantly because the same people released more spectacular whiskies lately, including my n°1 highlight of last year. Of course these are good and interesting whiskies, with some old-style touches, giving them a common theme, but in terms of flavour profile, they’re also rather neutral, not knocking you over if you know what I mean. I must say I had high expectations based on the packaging and the reference to Moon Import. Mind that there are three more expressions coming up. I simply started with the lowest alcohol volumes, I’m confident we’ll find the real gems among the other three.

As a final note, the price is high (€ 265 each) but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Compared to other well-known bottlers, which are releasing similar casks, you’ll pay around 15-35% more. A collector’s premium, and understandable given the concept and the most classy packaging I’ve seen in a long time.

Stay tuned for part 2.