About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

GLENDRONACH 1991 20YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Glendronach releases it single cask bottlings in batches - like the Cask Strength version reviewed last and specialises in the heavy sherry style of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez (PX) casks.
Anyone who took their time will know that PX sherry is one of the sweetest drinks around - the sweetest one yet contains just under 440 grams of sugar per liter !!! yes - 440 grams !!

I recommend you read this document on sherry production to get more insights into what its all about - you can use this link here

Moving on to one of the single cask bottlings from last batch released - that being batch 7... both Oloroso and PX casks were released in that batch and I'll be reviewing both one of each from that batch and later also a UK exclusive and a DK exclusive. Stay tuned!

Glendronach Distillery Yard & Old cart, © The Malt Desk May 2011

Glendronach 1991, 20yo, 51,3%, PX cask#3183, batch 7, 600 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is Mahogany

Nose:
Raisins and creamy milk chocolates and coffee. An incredible sweetness accompanied malt, toffee, dried fruits and rum-raisin ice cream

Taste:
Heavy dark fruity sweetness, oily, nutmeg, plums, vanilla and hint of cloves. Goes slightly bitter only to return on milk chocolate, spices, apples and honey

What a cracker, if you're into sherry whisky!

90/100!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

GLENDRONACH CASK STRENGTH BATCH 1 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Now for something completely different for the next 5 reviews... Sherried whisky - from what you would regular sherry matured to almost pitch black and completely sherry broken.

Where do we go for that? and also get a more than average heavy spirit character as well?
Glendronach, of course!

I asked at a recent tasting why many people prefer dark sherried bottling, a topic I've mentioned before on the blog, but from a buying perspective. At this tasting I tried to make people take a stand on either, but almost all said they liked both even though the sherried bottlings seemed to be more popular - once again I got confirmed that many people also 'drink with their eyes...'

Now the very few ex-bourbon cask lovers there - or at least the one who spoke up (you know who you are - and thanks, K for doing so) :-)

You're wondering what the explanation for preferring ex-bourbon cask matured whisky is?

'When maturing in an ex-bourbon cask, you get much more natural spirit character coming through, where as when sherry matured, or at least heavily sherry matured, you mask the spirit behind a think layer of sherry...'

Does that sound plausible? I think it does and I personally like bourbon matured whisky as much as sherry matured myself, so it was also a pleasure for me (and oh, such a tough job *sigh* - irony may have been used here) to review these next 5 ones from Glendronach Distillery outside Huntly (Forgue, East Highlands) over the next few posts.

Glendronach Stills, May 2012, © The Malt Desk May 2012
Glendronach Cask Strength NAS Batch 1, 54,8%, 12000 bottles, Distillery Bottling

Colour is dark amber

Nose:
Vanilla, sultanas, oranges, tobacco, some milk chocolate and an hint of mashy/grainy character

Taste:
Chocolates for sure, bitter sweet crisp malt, candied apples, some nuts, ginger and honey cake, drying and mashy with a herbal note on the finish

Very good, but I'm not quite convinced here...
Batch 2 should be on its way to the shops late April 2013...

86/100!

Friday, 26 April 2013

GLENLIVET 1993 2.82 'CANDY STORES AND CAROUSELS' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Final Glenlivet review this time around will be a bottling only half the age of the previous 2... a 19yo. Now, I've reviewed a good range of bottlings from the SMWS in January and February this year and most have been ranging from good to excellent, so expectations are up a bit with this one as well.

But back to Glenlivet itself... or at least I will be in just over a weeks time for the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival... and hopefully touring the distillery again this time - it's been a while since I've been around the distillery, even though I've been at the visitors centre a couple of times since my last tour. New this year is a chance to 'bottle your own' at Glenlivet - an 18yo if I remember correctly - but it sure sounds interesting - I just wonder what the price will be - and will it be cask strength? Guess I'll have to wait a little to find that out :-)

Now onto the review...

Glenlivet 1993 2.82 (18.05.1993) 19yo 'Candy stores and Carousels' 54,9%, Refill hogshead, 165 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

Similar bottle shown

Nose:
Flowery, fresh baking, marzipan, apples and pear, blackberries (not the phone!!) and toffee

Taste:
Brown sugar, tropical fruit - pineapple and coconut as in the 2 previous reviews as well, nutty, toffee, hint of dessert chocolates (After Eights?). Finishes on honey notes and spicy oak and that baked note again.

A delicious expression as well - this one!

87/100!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

GLENLIVET 1970 40YO - DUNCAN TAYLOR

I'd better follow the old Berry Bros 'Livet with another one about the same age, but this time from bottler Duncan Taylor.

Duncan Taylor used to be one of my favourite bottlers, but I'm sad to say these days, that I find their releases and quality dropping over that past couple of years... My guess is their stock is dwindling too... Think I've mentioned this before in another post as well.

This bottling though, is from just before I feel the quality dropped... and a bottle that was acquired with the help of a very special person (Thank you, U)

Glenlivet 1970 40yo (26.02.1970/03.05.2010) 49,9%, cask#2015, 210 bottles, Duncan Taylor Peerless (tall bottle)

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Initially medium heavy oak pops out, then mango, pineapple, clove and licorice, honeyed and flowery too. A a dram that takes its time to open up, but it sure benefits from it ...

Taste:
Once it has had time to open up it deliverers buckets of tropical fruits, citrus too - mainly oranges, ginger and a peppery nip. Finishes on sugar sprinkled fruits and 'green' herbal note and oaky edge.

Another lovely old Glenlivet once it has had some time to open up.

89/100!

Monday, 22 April 2013

GLENLIVET 1973 38YO - BERRY BROS & RUDD

Like I mentioned in the last post, the Glenlivet 12 used as a benchmark whisky comes up against these next expressions... starting with this one - a 38yo expression from London based bottlers and wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd.

Glenlivet is one of those malts that seems to have been around forever which also shows when bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin suddenly pops out a 70yo expression a couple of years back... and also a series of other bottling in their private collection series. One can only wonder how much other great stuff they have tucked away...

Some old casks of Glenlivet tucked away at an undisclosed location © The Malt Desk May 2012
This was an expression bottled by Berry Bros for The Whisky Show 2012 - a weekend event hosted by the large (online) retailer The Whisky Exchange.

Reports says the bottling was received very well at the show and since there was only 120 bottles available of it, it had to disappear very quickly - and it did!

Lets see if there was a reason for that...

Glenlivet 1973 38yo 48,6%, cask#10644, Berry Bros for The Whisky Show 2012, 120 bottles

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Crisp barley, hint of varnish, honey, tropical fruits - especially coconut and pineapple, orange marmalade and some nipping salt even

Taste:
Very nice arrival on flowery malt, melon, candied apples, confectionery's sugar, almonds, very lively and not tired at all. A little oak pops up somewhere mid palate but gets flushed in orange sweets drops and juicy malt. Finish is long on, spices, ginger, toffee, fruits and sweet malt.

What a lovely old 'Livet this is...

90/100!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

GLENLIVET 12YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Gonna do a quartet of Glenlivet reviews here, 1 distillery bottling as a...well - benchmark, but it can hardly compare with the next 3 as they're all from indie bottlers and at higher strength and NCF and E150 free... Am I being biased? yes, I am... but that's what you get here sometimes :-)

Anyway, my benchmark malt is one of the biggest sellers on the US market and to many - along with Glenfiddich - what malt whisky is really about... I'm of course talking about the 12yo Glenlivet!

Let's dive right in...

Glenlivet 12yo 40%, Distillery bottling (2012/06/12/1321 LF30746)

Colour is gold (E150 added)

Nose:
Apple, toffee, a little spice, honey and mild flowers

Taste:
Bit of a weak arrival, honey again, vanilla, some fruit and bitter burnt caramel
Water brings out a more spicy edge.

I must admit, I found this too bitter and very weak and not at all up to what I remember Glenlivet 12yo as... used to be better than this!

77/100!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

BRORA 1981 - DUN BHEAGAN

It's time for a review from the fabled Brora distillery... Now, where as the 70's bottlings were heavily peated, the bottlings up to the distillery's closure around march 1983 were more or less unpeated or atleast lighty peated, much like todays Clynelish across the road, which was the reason they shut the distillery in the first place.

This doesn't make it any less iconic, though ... and prices of Brora have risen steadily over the years, some to absolutely ridiculous levels for certain bottlings.

Other than being closed and having produced some heavily peated malt during a periode in the 70's - what then makes Brora special? I mean, the new Clynelish distillery was made to fairly the same specs as  the old one... and even there some -at least- peated batches were produced. Is it the combination of the heavy peat and the its incredible fruitness? The glorious periode in the 70's where incredible whisky were made at quite a few distilleries? Or simply people's collectors gene that strikes again? IMHO, its very good - and can be even incredible drinking whisky, so it should be drunk... but prices these days makes it hard for people to crack a bottle open - I've heard this statement from quite a few people now :-O

Your thoughts on this, please... you can post them below or on The Malt Desk's Facebook page.


Brora Distillery, August 4th 2009 © The Malt Desk
Its been a while since I tried this particular bottling from the bottler Ian Macleod sub series 'Dun Bheagan' so my notes are a couple of years old, but now is just as good a time as ever to post them, so here it goes... This one is also interesting as its from a Fino sherry butt, which should give it a more drying edge.

Brora 1981 24yo (xx.12.1981/xx.xx.2006) 48,5%, Fino sherry butt#1524, 726 bottles, Dun Bheagan

Colour is amber

Nose:
Starting off slightly dirty in style, ash, hint of wet horse, earthy, dried tobacco leaves and a sour note. After a while it gets more fruity as in ordinary garden fruits and it even produces that long sought after whiff of smoke.

Taste:
Arrival is on a peppery sweetness and still with a little dirty mouthfeel that adds to the experience here. Gets very fruity for a few seconds mid palate, most on oranges and dark chocolate with a smoky edge. Finishes on a slight nutty bitterness, more fruit and toffee with a hint of nipping oak.

A very good Brora that was -up until about a year ago- available at a 'resonable' price (£150/€180 or so).

Again, very good whisky!

89/100!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

LONGMORN 1992 - ADELPHI

Longmorn Distillery just next to BenRiach is a stonker of a malt. So much that owners, Chivas Bros/Pernod Ricard is trying (but failing) to keep Longmorn a hidden secret - it's just too good for that.

Longmorn itself isn't open to the public and to get in there, you have to visit -as I've mentioned before- the Spirit of Speyside Festival and again this Spring 2013 its has opened its door for a few events for a lucky few.

Now, you don't see many official bottlings from Longmorn, only a 16yo and a 50cl Cask Strength usually only sold at the Chivas Group Distilleries that has a visitors centre and its very good value and quality - usually around £40 for a 50cl at cask strength and relative small batch. I have to say this, but forget about the 16yo distillery bottling - its just too bland! Go for the Cask Strength version if you can get it - otherwise look to the independants for Longmorn! ... like the one, I'm about to review...

Longmorn 1992/2010 17yo 53,9% 1st fill bourbon barrel#48430, Adelphi

Colour is amber

Nose:
Huge of plesant oak and malt, vanilla and spice, tropical fruits and floral hints, coconut, honey, sweet mash and white chocolate

Taste:
Fruit and malt arrival, Longmorm trademarks, green banana style dryness,  peppery, orange marmalade on toast, some wood sourness, again very malt driven mid palate which I love. Finish is on dry oak and some wood shavings - all very sweet.

88/100!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

SPRINGBANK 12YO CASK STRENGTH - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Ahh, that little manual labour distillery down to the south west on the Kintyre Peninsula... The Springbank Distillery has an almost fanatic crowd of followers, much like Ardbeg on Islay, but you don't see the Springbank make alot of fuzz about themselves. They pride themselves in being a little excentric and just concentrate on making whisky, including still doing the traditional floor maltings...

Traditional, though empty, floor maltings at Springbank Distillery, May 10th 2011 © The Malt Desk

When I reviewed some BenRiachs a short while ago, I mentioned finishes... you either love or hate them, but as I also mentioned Springbank does more than that - they rarely just 'finish' they almost double mature instead to give a better spirit/cask finish integration... oh, and they also full mature in cask types, usually just used for finishing - like port casks.

But its not cask finishes that Springbank has built its reputation on... it bourbon and sherry cask matured whisky and their core range still consists of such.

One of those releases is the 12yo Cask Strength that has now seen its 6th batch and consists of up to 60% first fill sherry hogsheads. Let's try it...

Springbank 12yo Cask Strength batch 2, 58,5%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Unmistakingly Springbank, oily (diesel even), light peat, honey and warm brown sugar, briny and leathery, sweet malt and sugared wort and nutmeg

Taste:
Very mouthfilling, again with the dirty oil feel, toffee, dried fruits, nutty, some vanilla, earthy, tobacco, fairly peated on the finish with some spicy oak too

A very good dram from Campbeltown indeed!

87/100!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

OFFICIAL DANISH LAUNCH OF HIGHLAND PARK 'LOKI' IN COPENHAGEN

An old saying goes something like 'Whisky is liquid sunshine' and if this is true, I had my first whisky early this morning. The sky was clear and the sun was shining bright when I left home, bound for Copenhagen, to participate in the Danish launch of the latest in Highland Park's Valhalla Collection - the 'Loki'.

The very skill full Highland Park crew has certainly, as with 'Loki's predecessor 'Thor', made a promise of something even more special than with the 'Thor' - a whisky to reflect 'Loki' - a changeling, a shape shifter and manipulative and devious character - but is he good? or bad? He's certainly an ever changing character according to the mythology that surrounds him.

Senior Danish Brand Ambassador for Highland Park - Martin Markvardsen welcomed us at 'Den Holmske Gaard' in downtown Copenhagen - a building from the same year as Highland Park Distillery was established on Orkney - 1798. Tables were beautiffully set with peat, malted barley, cask staves and heather.

Table is set for a tasting experience

A duo of whisky was poured... a Highland Park 18yo to accompany a starter of smoked salmon and cheddar mixed with roast beef with rustic bread on the side - a lovely combo with the 18yo expression and no further comments needed as the Highland Park 18yo is a classic dram!

'Thor' was next and its natural cask strength of 52,1% abv made it go very nicely with the potato base, white cod and lumpfish roe. This dram still packs a mighty punch and notes on it can be found in the report from last years launch of it here.

A third and final glass was left empty when the first 2 were poured...this last one, of course being for the 'Loki' - but before we give this new expression a taste - let's find out what kind of guy Loki really was... and to help us find that out 2 external speakers - Flemming Kaul from the Danish National Museum and Morten Warmind from Copenhagen University.

Morten Warmind (left) Copenhagen University & Flemming Kaul from the Danish National Museum (right)


Where Thor is the God of the Heavens and Thunder and Odin is God of Wisdom, nobody can really place Loki in any realm although he's been know to shapeshift into almost any form of creature... but the main thing Loki always is associated with is fire - so is it possible -if anything- he's a God of Fire?

Nobody seems to be sure about Loki and -at least according to the old Norse Chronicles- he's once been dressed up as a bridesmaid, shifted in both birds and salmon and into a mare to give birth to Odin's horse 'Sleipnir' and at other times fathered both the wolf 'Fenrir' and the Midgard Serpent (World Serpent). Loki was also the main force behind the killing of Odin's favourite son - the God Balder. It was certainly exiting times back in Midgard...

Again with the 'Loki'-release, Highland Park aims to have the whisky reflect the character of the God... but how do you do this with a guy like Loki? This was, according to Martin, quite an extra challenge this time for Max Mcfarlane - the Highland Park whiskymaker as they wanted a whisky that would be multi faceted


Martin Markvardsen introducing the 'Loki'



Let's debunk the 'Loki' whisky with a bit of important -and not revealed before- info...

Highland Park 'Loki' 15yo 48,7%, 21000 bottles, Distillery Bottling

Made up of all refill sherry casks and malt was dried with mainland peat only giving it a bit more edge, not the usual more aromatic Orkney style peat.

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Citrus and a thin layer of peat, spices, hint of cumin and aniseed, very fresh with salt and ozone- but with a certain depth to it as well. Also a lovely sweetness to it, like honey and oranges.

Taste:
First a sweet mid tongue arrival on honey and fresh citrus fruits. Then a rush of spice, mainly peppery in style and then a return again of the lovely citrus fruits and then fades on creamy malt and soft yet noticeable smoke.

This is a great follow-up to the 'Thor' from last year... even better! ...and certainly a whisky that challenges your palate somewhat with its facets.

Tastings notes done from sample on fresh palate as the 'Loki' was served a piece of lamb and tartar and capers and roasted rye bread.

90/100!

SKÅL!


Finally, thank you to Martin Markvardsen for the invitation to the launch!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

LAUDALE 12YO - ADELPHI

Following up the Macallan from the other day with another bottling by Adelphi.
This particular bottling was fairly cheap when it first came out, but apparently its flavour profile has made people silly or maybe people just want to try an -what has been revealed to be- independent bottling of Glenfarclas. Anyway, this bottling that was around £40/€48 euro when it came out is now fetching up and around £115/€140!! in auctions. Pretty steep for a 12yo undisclosed (well, almost) whisky.

What are the mechanisms around this?
Does people really drink with their eyesn and just dont want to admit it? Whisky preachers and bottlers advocate that the colour of a whisky isn't important and that almost colourless whiskies are just as good as darker ones?... Still the first ones of the shelves at the retailers are the dark sherried expressions.

I too indulge myself in sherry matured bottlings, even heavily sherried ones - but that's because I like the taste, but I just refuse to believe that there are that many people out there crazy for sherry matured whisky...
Are investors picking up these bottlings or are people just hoarding them for other reasons... but then again... are there any other reasons for picking up a bottle than either drinking or investing?

Before I get a huge rant started I'd better review the Laudale...

Laudale 12yo 46%, batch 1, 3458 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Thick rich dried grapes, very bitter/sweet, balsamico, strong coffee and blackcurrant

Taste:
Creamy rich chocolate, cinnamon, high quality raisins, more coffee (espresso style). cherry and blackberry. Also like chewing a coffee bean.

Not overly complex, the sherry has taken over completely, what I tend to call 'sherry broken' but what it does, it does very well. Sherry heads won't be disappointed!

86/100! for its extreme sherry style...

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

MACALLAN 1993 - ADELPHI

Macallan - The 'Rolls Royce' of Distilleries... James Bond drinks Macallan 50yo, Macallan and Oakley design makes an indestructible hip flask...

We all know Macallan in association with these adjectives and lately we've also seen them remove the age statement from most of their bottlings. There were public outcries across the whisky world when owners Edrington announced this...

I must admit that an age statement on the bottle suits me the best... BUT that said I do get its easier for the distillers to put together bottlings when they're not limited to using stock of a certain minimum age. The NAS (No age statement) quickly became NAS (No aged stock) on media like Facebook when this was announced... and honestly this is probably what this is all about - the distillers can't keep up with demand anymore. You see this across several brands these days - likes of Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig and Talisker have also been doing this for a while now, so it can hardly come as a surprise markets are still surging outside the Euro-zone.

I've yet to try the new Macallans now labelled the '1824'-series... but is this all bad? for the whisky drinker? well, maybe - you don't know how old the whisky you're drinking is anymore, but if it tastes is ok, do you mind? do you see the age statement on the bottle as a stamp of quality assurance or can you do without as long as it tastes good? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this below...

We're of course heading into a Macallan review here... and a Macallan from one of my favourite bottlers, Adelphi...

It's a refill sherry hogshead and I wrote this review when I was 3/4 down the bottle and I'm thinking this is what the -now to be discontinued- Fine Oak series might taste like at full strength...

Macallan 1993 17yo 53,7%, refill sherry hogshead#11641, Adelphi

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Stewed apples, hints of white chocolate, thick malt, a little spicy oak nip and an almost floral sweetness to it, heathery and buttery

Taste:
Creamy malt and spice arrival, then a light sherry sweetness along with warm apples, huge malt presence, more fruits, toffee, oily, nuts and spices.

Great stuff, this one!

88/100!