This was a special set bottled, one cask for each shop, to mark the 175th anniversary (on top of the monthly releases and the green label square bottles which were all incredible). Each shop blind tasted all the casks on offer and picked one. If two shops picked the same cask, the shop open the longest got first dibs (I think I’m remembering that right?) but in the end, every shop picked a different cask. I sort of ran the tasting in the London shop and we settled on the Glenburgie, which I reviewed here, which also has the shop to cask mapping if you’re interested.
They didn't pull any punches with the choice of casks for this lot and there are some very special bottles in here, including a proper Laphroaig and a really special sherry Springbank.
Arran 21 years old, 49.5% A+
1995, hogshead, 270 bottles.
Nose - Chalky but glazed, a touch of petrol and a deep fruited sweetness (verging on sweetshop - strawberry chews). But fresh too; clean wood, cold warehouse. Much waxier with water, the "good cask" thing I was feeling neat comes through more, slightly cheesey on exhale but it's beautifully fruity.
Body - Sweet but intensely mineral, the fuse on a firework. Strawberry tarts and black pepper. Much less interesting with water.
Finish - Short and slightly effervescent, strawberry laces and a little lemon sherbet.
Beautiful undiluted, gentle drinking but fresh and fruity. A little ordinary on the delivery with water.
Teaninich 23 years old, 52.3% A+'
1993, hogshead, 252 bottles
Body - Very sweet but balanced with that grapey minerality, quite refreshing with flashes of charred wood. It's woodier with water, and even more assertive.
Finish - Medium, oily and chalky, with Chardonnay tannins and ripe pear skin. Very refreshing.
This would be a perfect whisky for a hot Summer day, even slightly chilled. It has quite a young character (I'm more used to 30 year old Teaninich), but that's not a problem as it's so drinkable and delicious.
Bruichladdich 25 years old, 53.8% A
1992, hogshead, 216 bottles
Nose - This is the nose I'd hoped it would have; very light gun oil, a gentle coastal sweetness, hard green apples, split dandelion stalks and cold, Summer soil. Fruitier with water, some tobacco and vaguely sweet shoppy.
Body - Zesty and perfumed, chewed flower stalks, double cream and cigarette tar on the lips. There’s a coastal quality set against the completely “ordinary” character of this. Creamier and softer with water, quite chewable.
Finish - Long, peppery with gentle liquorice imps and lots of caramel. Almost completely white with water.
This is just a gentle, old, elegant Bruichladdich. No innovation or fireworks here, just honest drinking whisky, and it brings to mind the kind of thing you think when sipping on a younger whisky that has spent 30 years in bottle and you think “why don’t they make them like this anymore?”. It has experience where the Teaninich has confidence.
Tullibardine 23 years old, 48.6% A⊕
1993, hogshead, 252 bottles. Finished in Lafitte since 2009.
Nose - Dirty wine cask. Sherry vinegar at first, slightly rotten red apples, with dark chocolate and dried cherries, and seared beef fat. There's hints of nuts but they're drowned out by chocolate and vinegar. Behind the funk there's a really wonderful cask (red fruits and wax), chocolate vanilla sponge and ozone.
Body - Remarkable, intense, and it takes right to the end of the delivery to produce the nutty notes. Before that it's fruity, with a little coffee and waxes.
Finish - And then quite a lot of sulphur, just treading the line and veering into and out of cabbage, and then a very long finish - nutty and fruity right to the end. Cleaner with water, except in the nose.
Playing a very dangerous game with the sulphur this one, retronasally there's an almost disqualifiable amount of cabbage but it just holds the line. And those are the best ones. However this is a highly subjective thing and I would caution anyone who doesn't definitely enjoy sulphur in their whisky on this one, but I love it.
Pulteney 26 years old, 52.6% A⊕+
1990, barrel, 168 bottles.
Nose - Waxy, dank, a little funk, that salty, toasty, slightly burnt and slightly coastal Pulteney thing. Dried orange slices, milk chocolate, and a really wonderful black fruit and waxy cask. Even more berries with water, crushed mineral. Glorious.
Body - Soft, ripe and fizzing with pomander, refreshers and orange cream Quality Street. Dusty and charred with water.
Finish - Long and peppery, charred peat and sandalwood.
An enthralling Pulteney with real gravitas. Delicious.
Cooley 25 years old, 54.8% A+'
1992, barrel, 186 bottles.
Body - Ripe and dusty, with Ribena, gunpowder and Rennies. Cereal in front of the fruit though, sawdust off a power tool (charred wood and oil with it). More robustly peated with water.
Finish - Numbingly dusty, alka-seltzer - then blackcurrant Lemsip.
A quite heavily peated whisky where the fire does kind of get in the way of the huge amounts of fruit. Nevertheless this is chewy and delicious.
Springbank 13 years old, 57% A⊕+
2003, butt, 540 bottles.
Nose - Sweet, slightly sour and winey, this is either a funky sherry cask or a red wine cask (although I've still got the sandalwood from the Cooley in my palate). It has brown sauce, caramel glazed hazelnuts and cherry lip salve. Fruitier with water.
Body - Dirty, fizzing, very sweet and quite a lot of sulphur, I'm going with a red or white wine cask. There's a really grown up, rich fruit here too, a restrained sweetness and lots of refreshers. Dustier with water but the sulphur doesn't quite blend in so well. Phenomenally drinkable though.
Finish - Medium and fruity. The sulphur keeps popping up but it's not cabbagey and works very well. The wood seems absolutely ancient at the end, but dusty rather than glazed.
Absolutely delicious, a total blockbuster this one. I would have guessed a chardonnay Longrow for it, on balance. I will treasure my bottle of this.
Laphroaig 18 years old, 57.4% A⊕+
1998, hogshead, 246 bottles
Nose - Gloriously bright, mineral peat (although more coastal than medicinal, I suppose those days are gone) - fresh, cold and delicious, buttercream icing on top of carrot cake and a sort of rich, cereal funk. Crushed crab shells and refreshers. Laphroaig fans will be excited by this nose.
Body - Soft, creamy and coastal, ethereal vanilla and a little herbal - somewhere between marijuana and thyme.
Finish - Long and very gentle, with orange, lime and crushed blackcurrants, although catching a little cereal and charred wood peat at the back of the throat. But the delivery is extremely… considered. Balanced peat, sugar, fruits and wood all the way. Actually I suppose the empty glass does rather reek of old bandages.
After all that's been before, this is extremely "official" - the kind of delivery you'd expect in an OB. A truly fantastic whisky, a proper cask of Laphroaig.
Bowmore 16 years old, 54.8% A
2001, hogshead, 294 bottles.
Nose - Hard, green, but sweet and cold. Grapey I suppose? There's a proper warmth to this too, waxy and chalky, which bodes well for the delivery. Orange sorbet and birthday candles. Even better with water, green apple and washed apple skin, a little smouldering wood and CK One.
Body - Clean, white and waxy, very soft indeed, a lot softer than the Laphroaig and nowhere near as peated. Weaker with water.
Finish - Short and clean, some oils at the end and fizzing, sugary sweets. It feels watered down, neat, but more robust, watered.
Super soft and pillowy, this is of course very drinkable but not exactly what you were expecting from a 16 year old Bowmore.