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.

Friday, 30 November 2018

HIGHLAND PARK 1989 29YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL CONNOISSEURS CHOICE

After a detour to Speyside during my last review, we're now back on Orkney with that very highly marketed Viking Pride/Honour/Raven/Axe wielding distillery, Highland Park.

For this review we're staying with Gordon & MacPhails revamped Connoisseurs Choice series, relaunched as a part of the 50th anniversary of the first release of the series.

Highland Park has long been a favourite of mine and was one of the first whisky with just a little peat I started drinking back in my baby whisky years just after the turn of the Millenia. The distillery's got a very dedicated following on Facebook in the group 'Highland Park Appreciation Society' and now seems to be releasing single cask expression every other week. - How dare you? Think of how you're ruining the economy of those poor collectors!!??!! ;-)

Releasing single casks on a regular basis is one thing that has changed, but I also think something else has changed, sadly... and thats the casks they're using at HP - and probably also at Macallan, another Edrington great that uses predominantly sherry casks.

Now, I'm very sensitive to sulphur and seem to, in all the single casks I've tried since they started to come out, detected a variating degree of sulphury notes as well an vinegary edge to the sherry and to be honest I'm very sad to see this. This is probably due to a shortage of proper sherry casks these days, but still I feel its taking a wrong turn...

I know Edrington has long term contracts with a cooperage in Spain and promotes their wood policy (Highland Park - Spanish Wood Story on Youtube) and this is just me (and a few other critical voices) and many others doesn't seem to pick up on this. Whether they just can't taste it or they don't want to alienate themselves with the brand. I think the question here is if the cooperage is cutting corners with the quality of the sherry used for the maturation or if the sherry used for seasoning doesn't manage to draw out the unwanted very woody notes that comes from the fresh cask?? Certainly, the HP devotees in the before mentioned Facebook group doesn't seem to either mind or be able to taste this - some even praises this style :-O

Now, before you flame me for this statement, mind you, this is my taste (and a few others I've seen mentions of online) so lets leave it at that - I just feel sad that HP as I know it has pretty much disappeared over the last decade or so - as even the 12 and 18 standard bottlings are now showing traces of this, IMO...

In February 2019, I'll be revisiting Highland Park after a tasting I've put together with Distillery bottlings vs. Independent bottling, much more on how I think Highland Park is doing after that.

Right, rant over...

Let's get back to speaking of independent Highland Parks and this one from Gordon & MacPhail, who by the way, usually supply their own casks to be filled with new make spirit.

Stills at Highland Park, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 1989 29yo 57% (07.03.1989/18.09.2018) Refill sherry butt#1087, 611 bottles, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

Nose:
Quite a sweet sherry coating dominates this, I think... Underneath though, there's plenty of charred oak, some mushroom earthy notes, honey glazed meat, dark overripe fruit and a floral note trying to come through... Pretty much standard Highland Park, right? Maybe expect for the heavily charred oak.

Taste:
The no-water experience on the palate was a bit of a let-down! However... Just Add Water!

This one comes alive indeed with water. I getting into the territory of the old Original Bottling of HP 25, just amplified a bit due to the higher alcohol strength - We are, however, not quite there...

I get most of the classic HP traits as we did on the nose - the honey, the floral and dark fruit notes, charred and peaty notes, but the cask both the sherry and oak here is taking this one over a bit - especially the charred note reminds me a bit much of a BBQ event where the BBQ master is more busy drinking beer than tending to the grill ;-)

Like I said, give this one a teaspoon of water if you've poured yourself a 25-30ml dram and watch a little magic happen! Everything is amplified and your sherried Highland Park comes out - proper sherry - not the vinegar sherry style the newer Original Highland Parks carry these days! it'll lift not only the spirit in the glass but also your own experience of this HP!

87/100!

Friday, 23 November 2018

INVERLEVEN 1985 33YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION

I've must not have tried much more about a handful of Inverlevens in the 20 years, I been drinking whisky. This means that my references for Inverleven is stretched thin by far. On the other hand, its pretty much like discovering a new whisky which isn't that bad, is it? :-)

Inverleven, however, are rarer than hens' teeth these days and the chance to try the below expression is a welcome opportunity to expand ones whisky knowledge - and with a rather exclusive bottling too.

Inverlevens scarcity these days are very much a result it being decommissioned in 1991, but up until then there were bottlings to be had - notably again from indie bottlers such as Gordon & MacPhail but also Duncan Taylor and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Gordon & MacPhail Sample Room - © G&M Media Library

Inverleven 1985 33yo 57,4% (22.01.1985/06.07.2018) Refill bourbon barrel#33, 130 bottles, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection


Nose:
Delicate, sweet with vanilla, apples, honey and grassy notes. There's also some gingery and hint of something flowery in there. Some Muscato dessert wine peaks through giving this its hint of old as it rightly should. Very well chiseled but its also very straight forward and doesn't stray far from its path.


Taste:
Love sweet arrival on stewed pears, candies lemons, fresh grass and vanilla. Its then taken over by a little oak, baked and flinty notes but the fruit is ever still present. Its again very delicate Only downside is that the finish comes across short for such an old whisky, IMO

Like I mentioned above, I've not had that many Inverlevens and this is, by memory, one of, if not the best of them... and even though its good, I still feel its missing something a little something - the short finish maybe?

Also, this was a very small sample and I would have loved to spend more time with this, but sadly this wasn't the case this time around...

88/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon&MacPhail

Monday, 19 November 2018

GLENROTHES 1974 43YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION

I've always had a bit of a strange relationship with Glenrothes up through my whisky drinking year and its actually not that many years ago that I started to understand  the distillery and its often very, to me at the time, kind of 'middle-of-the-road' where you had to go to the indies to get something a bit of of the ordinary.

Working my way through more than bit of indie bottlings, many from Cadenheads and the SMWS, I started to see why this seemingly 'boring' (again, at least to me) distillery might just appeal to someone, still...

Its just a great base spirit and I certainly see why it has been a part of blending recipies. Its also a malt that takes time to mature, IMO - so grabbing a bottle of the Select Reserve disappointed me greatly. However, this indie release also a part of Gordon & MacPhails revamping of their bottling series - this time the Private Collection series - does carry quite a bit of age so I am expecting this one to deliver a nice experience.


Approaching Glenrothes distillery, May 5th 2012 © The Malt Desk


Glenrothes 1974 43yo 49,5% (02.12.1974/06.07.2018) refill sherry puncheon#18440, 276 bottles Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Nose:
Bit of sweet/sour note at first pour it its gone after just under 1 minute.
The sherry cask comes through immediately, not at all accompanies by invasive oak of any kind, but just mellow honey and gingerbread, dried fruit and hints of polished leather upholstery, 'Old Dublin' sweet pipe tobacco and faint eucalyptus.


Taste:

Ultra clean sherry sherry influence here - you seldom see sherry cask quality like this today unless it contains old whisky like this. This is just about the right drinking strength, IMO although maybe 1-2% more might have taken this even further... There's alcohol soaked fruits, plum cake, cinnamon and and orange peel and brown sugar. On the finish, some Haribo sweet licorices comes through with a
bit of nuts and mint.

Quite a lovely old dram, but I can't help thinking its missing a little something...

88/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Monday, 12 November 2018

SCAPA 1988 30YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL CONNOISSEURS CHOICE

As a part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 'Connoisseurs Choice'-range, Gordon & MacPhail has during 2018 released some bottlings out of the ordinary. I'm about to review another below - stay tuned!

The Connoisseurs Choice-series has had different looks over the years, but if you're an experienced whisky drinker -and probably also if you're not- there's a good chance you will have come across these bottlings at some point.

© G&M Media Kit

I've already reviewed some recent bottlings released as a part of the 50th Anniversary celebration, their reviews can be found here and here.

For this next review we'll head up to the Orkney Islands just off the north coast of Scotland.

Now, Scapa distillery has long been living in the shadow of that more prominent Orkney Distillery - you know the one branding Norse Mythology and Vikings Galore (read: Highland Park) but I remember when visiting the Islands almost 10 years ago, locals telling me that they actually drank Scapa - not Highland Park... or they probably just collect Highland Park, but still drink Scapa ;-) 

This may have changed, of course, but I also have to admit I enjoy a good Scapa... There's not a lot of it out there - especially mature Scapa like the one I'm about to review...

Scapa Distillery seen from across the Scapa Flow, August 5th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Scapa 1988 30yo 53,8% (02.09.1988/13.09.2018) Refill bourbon barrel#10585, 148 bottles, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

Nose:
Quite an oily feel to this one...
Butter cream caramel and loads of vanilla, a dash of wet chipped wood, mineral notes, bit of chalk maybe? buttercups and freshly squeezed olive oil and a bit of salt/ozone as well. A couple of drops of water reveals oranges, sweet melon and a very honeyed side to this. Love this nose!

Taste:
Thick creamy malt vanilla custard on a sweet bread sponge bed with lemons and orange marmelade on top and raspberries on top. A malt for The Great Bake Off! The malt is a driving force here, yes, but it comes along with a just a little oak influence to keep all the sweetness at bay.

It also still maintains its salty and mineral traits through to the palate as well.

I have a serious week spot for well balanced bourbon cask matured whiskies like this one and this really hits the spot for me!

Finally, before I'm flooded with questions on where to get this magnificent beast then -to the best of my knowledge- this hasn't been released yet.

90/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail