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.

Monday, 30 May 2016

STRATHISLA 1967 - GORDON & MACPHAIL RARE VINTAGE

The months of May has seen a couple of review of old sherry matured whiskies already, so why not continue with this one, a grand old Strathisla bottled by Gordon & Macphail of Elgin.

Strathisla is also know as Home of Chivas Regal as some of the malt that goes into the Chivas Regal blends comes from Strathisla Distillery. This time, however, I'll be focusing on a grand old malt from this distillery, matured for at least a good 47 years before being bottled in January 2015.

This one is bottled in Gordon & Macphail's Rare Vintage-series and is a beautiful example of how the first fill sherry butts have interacted with the Strathisla spirit - or as they say at G&M 'The wood makes the whisky'... you can read more about their wood policy here www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood

Strathisla Distillery in Keith, May 1st 2015 © The Malt Desk

Strathisla 1967 (bottled 26.01.2015) 43%, 1st fill sherry butts, Rare Vintage, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is light mahogany

Picture by G&M
Nose:
Strong whiff of strawberries, furniture polish, milk chocolate, prunes, mint/menthol - like tiger balm muscle warmer

Taste:
You get the obvious dark fruit sherry, yes - but there's more in here. There's cloves, orange peel, hint of cinnamon and then an amazing fruitiness mid-palate rushes in with vanilla baked apple, blood orange finished by rum/raisin ice cream notes and sweetened cough syrup.

This is brilliant stuff! It never feels tired in any way in spite of its age. Again, obviously a bottle from some great sherry casks of yesteryear, like the ones I talk about in this review.

91/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

GLEN GRANT 1970 35YO - DUNCAN TAYLOR RARE AULD

It's always something special to try whisky distilled the year you were born. (Darn, now I gave away that I'm an old fart!). This one, however, is just that bit more special to me as I just love, love, love old sherry matured whiskies. It wasn't that long ago that I had the chance to try a 1968 40yo sherry matured Longmorn, which was absolutely stellar - and as with the Longmorn, my expectations for this Glen Grant were quite high.

So what makes these super delicious old sherry matured whiskies?
Well, besides a good base spirit there's the obvious sherry cask... and in these cases just not any sherry casks. IMO, we just don't see sherry casks of that quality these days. 40-60 years ago, people were drinking a lot more sherry than they are today and as a result good sherry casks are hard to come by these days, which is not only reflected in the quality of the casks but also in the price... An ex-bourbon cask these days goes for around £100 where as a sherry cask is about £1000. You can read more abut the decline in the sale of sherry in this article by The Drinks Business from 2015.

As the sale of sherry drops, the need for long term storage of the wine is also declining and you don't get the wine transported in their original casks either as e.g modern bottling halls now does most of the work with the bit of sherry that does get bottled - so there's a few factors to consider when you look at the number sherry casks going in the whisky industry today... Many sherry casks have for a good number of years now also been American oak  sherry casks (typically sherry hogsheads) and not of European oak like they traditionally were - like 40 or 50 years ago with these glorious single casks used to mature e.g. the Longmorn and this Glen Grant

The decline in available sherry casks have for decades now made some whisky companies to broker exclusive deals with sherry bodegas in Spain. As with all business models this is both good and bad as some casks are filled with low quality sherry wine and then infused into the wood under high pressure. When the wood then has been 'sufficiently influenced' the casks are emptied and the 'sherry/wine' is just poured away or is sent away to be distilled into brandy as the quality of the wine often isn't good enough for it to be sold as sherry on its own... I'm not saying this happens with all the sherry casks in the whisky industry today - I'm just saying it happens - and from what I'm told, more often than we would like...

There are still some good sherry matured whiskies out there, make no mistake about that, but I'm yet to be convinced that we'll see a quality of both casks and bottlings like the ones that hit the market just a decade ago...

Glen Grant Stillhouse, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1970 35yo Cask#812, 120 bottles, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Raisins, strong cold coffee, dark chocolate, soy sauce, polished oak, blackcurrants, cooked apple, burnt sugar, dark old rum, licorice and cigar humidor. There's tonnes of Xmas notes in here too... cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a slight herbal note followed by a bit of refreshing menthol and musty bung cloth

Taste:
Quite vinous at first, old squeaky clean oloroso sherry giving away to prune juice, alcohol soaked raisins, wet tobacco leaves, cocoa, more blackcurrant but also unsweetened strawberries jam, ancient Port wine, oak spices. There's also some fruity notes coming through if you let it sit for a while (it's hard, I'll tell you that!!) overripe plums and apple are kept at bay by drying notes of cinnamon and clove. Eventually, the quite intense flavors gives away to some salivating malt and drying wood notes...

Another stunning old malt !!

93/100!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

LAPHROAIG 'LORE' NAS - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A good whisky friend of mine offered me a sample of the Laphroaig 'Lore' - and who am I to say no to that - So thank you, A! :-)

My initial thoughts were that the 'Lore' is a whisky I wouldn't go out and spend my money, at least not until I've tried it so here was a golden opportunity to do just that.

Regular readers will know that I'm not a big fan of NAS (No Age Statement) whisky as I often find that the price and quality don't match. At the moment we're seeing more and more distillers moving towards NAS and to me that's a slippery slope as a consumer as I want to know what both what I'm drinking and last but not least, paying for...

OK, enough on the NAS issue - let's if this one is compatible with my taste buds

Stainless steel washbacks at Laphroaig, June 12th 2007 © The Malt Desk

Laphroaig 'Lore' 48%, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
Immediate hit of cigar ash, some vanilla, cooking with ginger, overripe banana, fresh flowers, layer cake sweetness and only then some sweet peat. The peat seem quite restrained to me as if its not what you want as a driving force in this whisky - which too bad when its Laphroaig we're talking about. Water releases some more kiln smoke and quite some earthy notes in this one...

Taste:
OK, there's a bit more Laphroaig here. Sweet peat lands right away.
Sweetness seems to be the theme going all the way through here with vanilla, banana, lots of barley sugar (wort). More fruit notes peaks through after a little while, mainly apple and hints of citrus. Those are wrapped in more gingery notes and a bit of oak spices for a quite short finish leaving only a bit of peat...

Like the Laphroaig Quarter Cask I also felt that in this one, there's been some smaller casks involved and looking up information online confirmed my suspicion - it contains quarter casks and adds that bit too much non integrated oak notes and sweetness but no depth.

To me, it seems the profile of Laphroaig these days is one that caters for drinkers with a sweet tooth. That said, its not a bad whisky, by no means, but it just lacks both punch and character. I like my Laphroaig more rough around the edges, which is why I go for the 10yo Cask Strength edition or indie bottlings as cask strength.

Finally, is it worth around the £80 they're charging for it?
No, not in my book, its not! The problem with NAS bottlings are often that the price doesn't match the quality of the whisky and this is a good example of just that.

Will I drink this again if offered?
Yes, I didn't say it was bad, did I?

Is it good?
It's good, but frankly I've had better...

Will I be buying a bottle?
No, I'd go for an indie bottling with an age statement and at full cask strength instead!

Again, as with many official bottlings these days, its made for the large consumer group and not the whisky anorak. We need to remember that official bottlings like this are the bread and butter for the distilleries - it's where they make their money... and we need people to buy bottlings like this - if they don't, anoraks wouldn't be getting what we like ;-)

Again, thanks to AC for the sample!

83/100!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

LONGMORN 1968 40YO 7.55 LIQUID HEAVEN - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Longmorn has long been a favourite with many  malt heads, incl. myself...
Why? it just has a bit of everything and it seems to be very consistent, making it a whisky blenders favourite. It also matures very well, both in ex-bourbon and sherry casks.The production is clearly minded for blended whisky and the main part of the production ends up in owners Chivas Bros. (Pernod Ricard) blends such as Chivas Regal and Royal Salute. This, of course also reflects on the availability of Longmorn as a Single Malt.

In 2012 the distillery was expanded to a capacity of 4,5 million liter annually but it still remains to be seen if we're to be blessed with more official bottlings from Chivas Bros. At this moment you can get a NAS Distillers Choice, a 16yo and a 50cl Cask Strength version, available at the Chivas Distilleries that has a visitors center, e.g. Glenlivet, Aberlour and Strathisla.

There does seem to be escaping a fair number of casks to the indie bottlers so it shouldn't be all that hard to track down one down, indie or official bottling, if you browse the big online whisky retailers... and speaking of indie bottlers - lets move ahead to this review...

The Longmorn Still House, picture with permission from Gorm N. Jensen

Longmorn 1968 7.55 40yo 'Liquid Heaven' 54,9%, 1st fill sherry butt, 451 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Nose:
Super nice, lots of old school sherry notes, cocoa/bitter chocolates, espresso, cool chocolate sponge cake, tangerines soaked in alcohol, brown sugar, strawberry and kirsch and old polished book shelves.

Taste:
Lots of malt wrapped in sulphur free old school sherry. There's crunchy chocolate orange sweets, roasted coffee beans and brown caramels. There's a wood presence here, yes, but everything is perfectly wrapped in layers of other stuff like figs and cinnamon, figs, nutmeg - sometimes its like sipping orange liquer spiced up with a dark old rhum. The whole thing ends with a tiny hint of woods spice and mint - Brilliant, just brilliant!

This is some of the best whisky I've had in a long time!

93/100!