Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cadenheads and OMC Dalmores

I have a sample of the previous Dalmore from Cadenheads from Mark which I can’t find anywhere!  When I dig it out I’ll post it up.

I don’t share the general hatred of Dalmore due to premiumisation.  I also don’t share the general bad will towards Macallan, which I’m quite enjoying of late (more on that another time).  I would challenge you to taste these two blind and tell me you don’t like them.

Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask, Dalmore 1996, 16 years old, 50% A⊕

Refill hogshead 9816, October 1996 to May 2013, 371 bottles.

October 1996 to May 2013.  Thanks to Mark Newton for the sample.

dalmore-16-year-old-1996-cask-9816-old-malt-cask-hunter-laing-whiskyNose - Do you know what… this is much classier than I was expecting. Great old school cask (musky, floral, sour and slightly funky, but really sweet vanilla) with a big whack of toffee behind it. Enormous toffee in fact, with mint bonbons (those chalky ones). What I love about this nose is the balance between mineral, oak, musk, mint and toffee - it's quite sublime.

Body - Quite fiesty, as promised by the nose, more floral toffee and after eights. Big, beautiful, balanced malt here though, extremely drinkable.

Finish - Long, chocolatey with colgate toothpaste. Ripe and slightly dirty at the end.

Just an excellent whisky. Highly recommended.

Cadenheads Small Batch April 2016, Dalmore 25 years old, 56.3% A+

1990-2016, Sherry Butt, 474 bottles

20160412_202008Nose - White wine, deodorant, a touch of sushi (white rice, sugar and vinegar) and smouldering oak on exhale. Quite masculine, very mature, but that white wine freshness picks it up and balances it out. Complex and lovely. Better with water, it opens up with candle wax, peach, celery and white flowers balancing out the mature brown sugar and leather tones.

Body - Tighter than the nose would suggest, although maybe the whisky just needs some time to open up… sweet but slightly cardboardy neat. Much better with water - more white wine, more funk, darker brown sugar and some burnt pastry.

Finish - Very long, fruity and sour, Christmas cake (royal icing).

A complicated, mature and structured whisky that I think will develop with time in the open bottle. Already it has a fantastic, mature nose, but the delivery needs to open up a little.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Ancient Bunnas

The inspiration from this flight came from Cadenhead’s recent 39 year old sherried Bunnahabhain, from the amazing 35 year old XOP the other week, and from the rest of the big guns sitting in bottle shares in my whisky collection.  The youngest whisky in this flight is 28!  Why are there so many ancient, indie Bunnahabhains out there?

Whisky Agency, Bunnahabhain 28 years old, 55% A⊕+

1987-2015, refill hogshead.

whiskyagencybunnaNose - Classically, instantly recognisable old Bunna; waxed window frames, red berries, jelly snakes and ice cream with wafers. Dark red wine, fruity hot toffee. Fruitier with water, with fresh mango and green apple next to pritt stick and freshly sanded, varnished pine.

Body - Dirty, spicy and lots of waxy wood. Wood oils and wine. Oil paints. Fruitier again with water, kiwi?

Finish - Very long, numbing with a balancing, but almost acrid bitterness. Don't get me wrong, this isn't out of place under the intensity of wax and wood oils. After about 4-5 minutes, sweet vanilla pastry remains, almost apologetically. Sawdust in the empty glass.

Played with all the stops out, this is big, oily and numbing - what a massive whisky. Tiring on the palate but the only way to live up to the nose.

Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, Bunnahabhain, 38 years old, 43% A⊕+'

1968-2006. Not the oldest whisky but the earliest distilled whisky in this ludicrously old lineup.

rareoldNose - So deeply sweet and dirty it's almost stilton. Hot amber and glacé cherries, bakewell tart and old school marker pens. Rich cake, candy cigarettes and there's an alien Islay thing without the peat. Epic.

Body - A masterclass in perfectly soft, fruity structured sulphur. Just beautiful, almost a red wine balance of tannins, fruit and structure. And an avalanche of oak. Softer but with sourer wood with water.

Finish - Long, very well poised. Very dry and tannic without being overbalanced, but there's almost touch too much wine? Tobacco with water. It's a beautiful thing.

The nose is intense - gravitas and even ruder than the 28. Distilled almost 20 years prior and held in cask 10 years longer, the delivery is still ridiculous but even better balanced. Glorious.

Cadenheads Small Batch, Bunnahabhain 39 years old, 49.4% A⊕+

1976, 3 sherry butts, 648 bottles. Just reviewed (like, 10 days ago!), but I have an open bottle so let's see how it stacks up to the previous bourbon casks.

image6Nose - Winier than the two before, and certainly more gentle. More poised, not the big 303s I’ve just had, rather it's chocolate malt, tannins and coffee.

Body - Even deeper and sweeter, and obviously sherried compared with the others (but it wasn’t so obvious compared to the Cadenheads outturn). Lots of stir fried nuts and a touch of caraway.

Finish - Completely different to the others. Coffee and cigarettes, tannic with plum skins and red wine.

The nose is very in keeping with the others, unmistakably old Bunna again, but the delivery is a completely different beast. Epic.

Douglas Laing XOP, Bunnahabhain 40 years old, 51% A⊕⊕

January 1975-February 2015, DL ref 10704, 258 bottles. This was born only a few days before I was.  And this is the third full marks XOP this year!  They’re nailing it every time (except that Bowmore).  This is still available.  Thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample.

bunnahabhain-40-year-old-1975-cask-10704-xtra-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - The intensity of the 38, the elegance of the 39? A touch of bonfire in here, it could just be the proximity to Douglas Laing's other stock for 40 years! Ok, so that familiar old Bunna plus toothpaste, dried poster paints, and brightly coloured Indian sweets (stale and milky, almondy, mainly sugar). And an old man in an old leather jacket (he hasn't smoked today but his jacket still smells of it). Intensely sweet with water, acrylic paint and neat mango squash. Definitely the most important whisky here.

Body - I've just been prevented from making notes for 120 seconds by the intensity of the delivery. It's still going on…. Hang on… I'm not sure how well I can document this delivery but I will try. Big, waxy, sweet and wood oil, but restrained… then Stagg levels of cakey oils, walnut, but more depth… then PX sherry, then old waxed wood and leather chair, red chilli… I think we're into the finish now.

Finish - Oak floorboards and caraway, croissants and butter, sandalwood, liquorice allsorts. Enormous levels of wood, Stagg but Scotched. Even better with water, the bitterness is rounded off... agh I give up.  I’ve run out of whisky anyway.

A (literally) awesome whisky.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

William Cadenhead, Speyside malt, 40 years old


An un-named 40 year old Speysider under the William Cadenhead label, this was released alongside the 31, 32 Caol Ila, 39 Bunna.  I bought a bottle of this to split and now regret not securing more than 10cl.  It’s seriously good.  And it was only £125.  I think the anonymous label, the low strength and the low price worried me slightly but Stephen at Cadenheads told me it was good, I should have listened to him and will from now on.

It’s Glenfarclas in here though (of course… it’s always Glenfarclas), it’s printed on the bottom of the bottle.  Oops.

William Cadenhead, Speyside malt, 40 years old, 40.2%, A⊕+

20160420_072135Nose - Intense, sweet, polished wood. Old school permanent markers (the metal ones) and turkish delight, quite solventy but so much floral sweetness. Leatherette and cologne, hot candle wax. But most of all, it's just so approachable - almost a tropical balance of sweet, sour and structure. Pretty groovy.

Body - Big and balanced, good structure late on with raisins and tobacco … almost at cigar level.

Finish - Medium, caramel and mango juice (more the texture than the flavour I guess). Slightly effervescent at the end.

A fun, balanced, well structured whisky with lots to offer.  I think the main thing this is, is approachable.  Crushable, even?  Dangerously drinkable anyway, what a gem!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Laddie 8, PC CC:01 and some Valinches

I’m a big fan of Bruichladdich.  A thorough range of releases from esoteric single casks and highly processed Octomores, to lakes of affordable NAS whisky.  Purposeful, high quality, consistently interesting, and always something new going on. 

Here’s the two new travel retail releases, plus a couple of Valinches.  The Valinches are casks that rotate in the distillery shop as hand bottlings, I’ve had quite a few of these and there’s a few duff notes in there but some are truly sublime, such as the Valinch 08 (Chrissie Angus, a 22 year old  Bruichladdich in bourbon cask and Spanish oak) and the PC Valinch (Cuan Ard) below.

The Laddie Eight, 50%, A⊕

New for travel retail, bearing an eight years age statement, that kind of confidence usually implies good things are coming.

laddie8Nose - Flinty, hard candy - super sweet and austere. Menthol tobacco and cappuccino on inhale, chalk on exhale. Waxy lipsalve and sun-bleached milk chocolate backs it up. There's a wine in here too - I'm tempted to say there's ghostly third fill PX and some white wine cask going on? Young but satisfying, and very Islay. Great cask complexity with water.

Body - Big and sweet, musky wood and slightly peated. It's bordering on fruity but more apple pips than the apple in the end. Water brings out sweet toffee and doesn't leave any holes in the midrange.

Finish - Quite long, winey, lots of rolling tobacco and very sweet and bitter. And therefore very moreish.

This is a superb whisky - it's not pretending to be old but it's so confident and balanced. 

The Laddie Valinch 17, Kate Hannet, 25 years old, 48.2% A⊕

Cask no.006 - 1990, sherry hogshead

20160301_124531Nose - It's soft, gently sweet, warm and slightly musky with a touch of the coastal to it. Woody herbs and a little stainless steel back up the classic Laddie character. It's restrained though, quite delicate, and nicely matured - I always love that waxy orchard and wood notes that remind me of when I was first getting into Scotch whisky. With water, much more berried.

Body - Spicy and toasted, ripe and honeyed with a lovely wood/sour/structural edge that is a little more confident than the nose. There's a white wine edge here too. Very good.

Finish - Medium but with sudden fruit and wax. Then stewed tea and fountain pen ink.

Seriously classy this one, quite polite but lovely stuff.

Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01, 57.8% A+

Travel retail, full term in French oak, previously eau de vie from Cognac.

x1004021503.jpg.pagespeed.ic.kn5uGhGzfuNose - Young PC. Confident, sour plum, moderate cereal and zesty (lemon and orange). Marlboro light tobacco and window putty. Fresh and enticing, with lots of carpentry going on. Sechuan peppercorns with water, dirtier peat.

Body - There must be virgin oak casks in here. Bright, blonde oak, more tobacco, sour and numbing peat, lemon juice. Much better with water - the integration takes a massive leap forward.

Finish - Lemon most of the way down, zest and curd. Numbing wood at the end, sour tannins in the back of the tongue and liquorice imps.

Port Charlotte is so challenging, much more so, in some ways, than Octomore. This doesn't disappoint, but I prefer the Islay Barley.

Port Charlotte Valinch, Cask Exploration 06, Cuan Árd, 10 years old, 58.6% A⊕+

Grenache Blanc cask.

20160301_124523Nose - Sharp, sour, intense and complete. Permanent marker, white wine, some chocolate, red wine cask, but not too dirty. Hints at the ash of an Octomore. Lots of ozone too.

Body - But the delivery is intensely sweet but dusty, just like a gobstopper. This is sherry bomb transformed into something bizarre, just like 30+ years in cask transforms Islay peat into something alien. I've just realised how incredible Octomore 17.5 could be in Grenache Blanc…. Give me a minute….

Finish - Love hearts all the way to the end and a little parma violet. Very, very long. Remarkable for 10.

A seriously sexy and, frankly, epic single cask of joy. I believe this is still for sale at the distillery. Run, don't walk….

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Robert Graham, Treasurer's Selection Benrinnes 1995

Joe Ellis (Whisky Wednesday) picked this for his best whisky of 2015, he picked it while he was tasting\judging 85 whiskies!  It must be good to stand out in that crowd.  Thanks for the generous sample of this Joe!

Robert Graham, Treasurer's Selection Benrinnes 1995, 19 years old, 50.5% A⊕

Cask 9095

benrinnesNose - Fresh, mouth wateringly vibrant and fruity, like an opal fruit. Softly waxed like strawberry laces - or maybe raspberry glaze? Very fine. Most importantly there's a very, very classy deodorant and musk cask note laced with lemon sherbets. Intensely refreshing but very sweet. A little more grown up with water, more mature cask notes. Lovely stuff.

Body - Sweet, soapy and reasonably hot. Big citrus bitterness against the sugar, cut ruby grapefruit, but backed by big soapy wood tannins and chewed candles. Weirdly with water, blown out birthday cake candles. Honestly.

Finish - Medium to long, stewed tea and rolling tobacco in the mouth. Tropical lemon burps. Classy with water, very drying and lots of wood.

This is an exciting whisky. Weird and classy, effortless interesting and very drinkable.

Cadenheads April 2016 Small Batch outturn

Long anticipated this one, with some outrageous ages on the cards; Ardbeg 22, Bunnahabhain 39, Speyside 40, Caol Ila 31 and 32!

I showed up to pick up some bottles and ended up dallying with some tasters… micro notes only as I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity and had to burn through it. 

Notes for the Dalmore will come soon, when time permits.  Speyside 40 is here.

Some great whisky in here again this time.

Balmenach 11 years old, 46% A+

Balmenach%2011-750x1000Nose - Clean and fruity, flinty and lightly herbal. A well balanced, hard oak nose with plenty of fruit. A touch of hand cream, some candy cigarettes… beautiful cask.

Body - Sweet, more candy cigarettes, a little toast and honey

Finish - Medium, fresh and balanced, a little liquorice.

A lovely, fresh, clean whisky from a good cask, a great drinker.

Glenrothes 14 years old, 46% A-

Glenrothes%2014-750x1000Nose - Classic bourbon Glenrothes. Fresh and gently fruity with boiled sweets, pink wafers and polite funk. Ripe nectarine with water, lovely.

Body - Lightly spiced, a touch of tobacco, an oddly sour spice in delivery. Balanced out more with water, the sweetshop balances against the spice, but oddly hollow.

Finish - Quite hot and spicy, sour at the end.

A lovely nose on this one but too young, sour and hot on the delivery. I’d struggle with a bottle of this.

Mortlach 21 years old, 52.1% A⊕

The previous two Mortlachs (Authentic Collection) are two of the best whiskies I had last year, and amazingly still in stock.  This one’s gone now but you should pick up those others.

mortlachNose - More Mortlach heaven. Glace cherry, engine oil, milk tart and whipped cream on exhale. Some pistachio and pipe tobacco. Delicious.

Body - I would have called this for a Springbank… richly oily, big dirty fruit, caraway and mud. Spiced oak.

Finish - Long, numbing wood oils, quite bitter and astringent.

Fabulous nose on this, beautiful delivery, a little bitter at the end but another fantastic whisky.

Linkwood 23 years old, 55.3% A⊕

linkwoodNose - Classy… fresh and mineral behind the middle aged Linkwood cask sweetness. A little deodorant, a touch of lip salve. Jelly babies?

Body – No austerity in the delivery though, big, ripe and important. A touch of tobacco too, delicious.

Finish - Long with lots of structure, lingering sulphur, a touch of spice.

A delicious and well structured Linkwood well on its way to being enormous.

Bunnahabhain 39 years old, 49.4% A⊕+

39 years old, Sherrywood.  Eek!

imageNose - Big, ripe and waxy, real gravitas.  Red berries, burnt toast and toasted wood. Complex sour notes in here as well, coastal with cherry whistles. Very inviting. More toast and wax with water.

Body - A beautifully mature sherry bomb, where the waxy sweetness turns slightly to sour and Asian. Antique furniture, cranberries, candied peel and Marlboro lights. With water, birthday candles and ozone.

Finish - Very long, very ripe, balanced with spikes of chilli and tobacco.

Lives up to the billing. No more sherry wood Islays at Cadenheads for at least 6 months.

Caol Ila 31 years old, 52.1% A⊕+

imageNose - Dreamy. dusty and fruity, very gentle peat with lapsang souchong tea and coconut shell.

Body - So gentle… so sweet. Mille-feuille, charred oak, a recently extinguished candle, but quite a spike of dirty peat in there too.

Finish - Spicy, pink wafers again, but very marked on this one.  Biscuity, vanilla, polite.

Everything you want from an old Caol Ila.  Dreamy, gentle and then roughs you up a bit.

Ardbeg 22 years old, 55.3% A⊕+

Nose - Clean, fruity and gentle on inhale, floor polish and funk on exhale. Berries and mescal, germolene and privet hedge. Quite a lot of gunpowder. Rather strange, very interesting.

Body - Massive. Robust, fruity, sweet and delicious… dusty alien Islay and bandages. More Laphroaig than Ardbeg! Not that I've tasted much Ardbeg this old.

Finish - Long, balanced and remarkably drinkable. Very drying too.

Pretty epic. The nose is weirdly agave (interesting, weird but good) but the delivery is seriously delicious. I didn't get a chance  to try it with water, it was all gone…

The Authentic Collection will be out next with some interesting stuff including a “foreign” whisky, then the next really big guns are due in July.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Benromach TT

Since the relaunch and critical acclaim of the Benromach 10 I’ve been keen to get my head round this range.  I’ve had a few drams at whisky festivals but nothing as indepth and relaxed as a Tweet Tasting (this one was #Benromach35 with the Whisky Wire). 

All these are first fill casks of various types, and the younger bottlings all use a lightly peated malt to produce a more “old fashioned” style of Speyside whisky.

Benromach 10 years old, 43% A+

Made with 80% Bourbon barrels, 20% Sherry hogshead. Final year spent in first fill Oloroso casks.

brmob.10yoNose - Ripe green apple, cherry lip salve and warm wood. Soft liquorice? Cocoa nibs and slightly burnt buttered toast. Sugared almonds and mini-eggs. A little peat is used and this comes through in a slightly less integrated way than in HP, say, although it very well appreciated.

Body - Soft and warm, a touch of charred wood in the delivery, with cigarette tar and burning leaves. Wet cardboard and accidentally chewed birthday candles.

Finish - Orange zest, orange wax and wooden school desks at the end. Lasting cigarette tar.

This is a very interest take on a peated whisky, like a very mild Octomore. Well balanced and just a little challenging. A tumbler drammer. Recommended.

Benromach 15 years old, 43% A+

benromach-15-year-old-whiskyNose - Classier (sweeter, waxier, winier and a bit more complex). Orange lacquer, strawberry laces, and cigar tobacco now. Fresh earth and fried raisins. But with a little digging there's a really deep, elegant, smoked sweetness, with glacé cherries on exhale. Marmalade, cigar smoke, a little Pritt stick and toffee apple. Lovely.

Body - Sweeter, spicier and more toasted than the 10 with orange zest and oak. The Liquorice allsort covered in tiny blue balls against the sweet sherry wood. Orange icing and sooty birthday candle wax.

Finish - Tannic and very drying. BBQed oranges, lots of grapefruit and chewed cinnamon stick

Bigger and more bruising than the 10 but with the intensity and class to back it up. Delicious.

Benromach 35 years old, 43% A+

20 years earlier, and from a previous set of stills, no peat. First fill sherry casks.

benromach-35-year-old-whiskyNose - Ripe, dusty chocolate orange, white wine and candy cigarettes. There's a deep, lacquered orange nose, like old shellac and leather. Sauvignon Blanc and stale milk chocolate.

Body - Fresh lime juice, a touch of spice, sweetly intense charred wood and black pepper. Hand soap. Very classy with wood wax and retronasally tropical, white wine all the way down.

Finish - Very long, numbing wood oils - splints and cloves.

A complex and fascinating whisky. But not as good as the Cadenheads 38 year old I brought to my 40th birthday party.