Whisky Intelligence has reproduced (with permission) The Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter for January 2009. The author, Chris Goodrum, has some excellent insights into the whiskies being commented on which makes for excellent reading on a Sunday. Enjoy!
Dear Whisky Customers
Welcome to the first newsletter of the year. As is the case in January there is very little to report on other than those whiskies that I was fortunate enough to taste over the Christmas period, after the December newsletter had been dispatched to you. So coming up in this issue there is a ‘flight’ of Bruichladdich’s, a ‘badling’ of Arran’s, a ‘dissimulation’ of Classic Malt’s and a ‘murder’ (literally!) of Tullibrdine’s! – Ok enough of the collective nouns for birds. I mean did you realise that you can have a ‘desert’ of Lapwings, an ‘exulting’ of larks, and an ‘unkidness’ of ravens? No neither did I!! And no I’ve not come over all twitchery, although after those Tullibardines!!!!
Enough of the frivolity and down to the serious business.
GAUNTLEYS TOP 20 BEST SELLING WHISKIES OF 2008
(Last years position in brackets)
(14) Dewar Rattray Stronachie 12 year old
(-) An Cnoc 12 year old
(6) Benromach Traditional
(1) Penderyn Welsh Whisky
(3) Bruichladdich 12 year old ‘Second Edition’
(-) Edradour 10 year old
(-) Buffalo Trace Bourbon
(-) Arran 10 year old
(-) Ardbeg 10 year old
(16) Caol Ila 12 year old
(5) Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC6
(9) Bunnahabhain 12 year old
(7) Compass Box Asayla
(-) Springbank 10 year old
(15) Lagavulin 16 year old
(19) Benromach Organic
(-) Penderyn Welsh Sherrywood
(-) Longrow CV
(12) Bruichladdich 15 year old ‘Second Edition’
(-) Longrow 7 year old ‘Gaja Barolo Finish’
Well, it has finally come to pass. The mighty welsh has been knocked off its perch! (Sorry couldn’t help that!) Why? Well that’s an easy one, because they decided to release two new bottling, the peated and the sherrywood, thus customers that would have bought the standard bottling opted to try one or both of the new expressions. Even so it still sold well enough to stay in the top 5. So congratulations to the Stronachie! Which even though the price increased by almost £3.00 a bottle still sold well. The interesting fact about the top three is that they all retail for under £30, and this sums up the post credit-crunch 2008. Customers were still buying whisky, but where once they would be prepared to spend in the £30 to £50 bracket, the majority were now setting a ceiling of £30, but still looking for quality, and you definitely can’t knock the Stronachie, An Cnoc and Benromach Traditional for that. It’s good to see the Buffalo Trace Bourbon make an appearance, as I don’t think you’ll find a better Bourbon, again for less than £30.
Sales of both the Ardbeg 10 and the PC6 received a welcome boost from a certain Mr Murray! Another surprise was the rise of the Springbank 10 which had fallen out of the top 20 last year, as the last time that I tasted it I wasn’t exactly smitten by the quality. Maybe it’s time to re-taste it. No surprise is to see the Longrow CV and Barolo finish making an appearance, both being stonking malts and maybe sales were swayed by my effusive tasting notes? Who know, but the Barolo finish is definitely an experience!
Perennial favourites the Bruichladdich 12 and 15 continued to stay in the top twenty despite of the raft of new bottlings that the distillery released throughout the year, and it would appear that the ‘sweet-toothed’ drinkers were out in force with the Edradour 10 storming up the charts!
GAUNTLEYS TOP 10 BEST SELLING INDEPENDENT BOTTLINGS
Dewar Rattray Stronachie 12 year old
Dewar Rattray Craigellachie 1991 (16 year old) 60.7%
Murray McDavid Macallan 1990 (16 year old) ‘Madeira Finish’
Dewar Rattray Craggenmore 1993 (14 year old) 59.8%
Duncan Taylor Auld Reekie 10 year old
Raymond Armstrong’s Craggenmore 14 year old 60.6%
Dewar Rattray Laphroaig 1990 (18 year old)
Duncan Taylor Battlehill Imperial 9 year old
James McArthur Glenturret 14 year old 56.9%
James McArthur Ledaig 11 year old 56.1%
Well what can you say about Dewar Rattray? As you can see they released some blindingly good bottlings in 2008. Top of their list for me was the 25 year old Port Ellen, which I awarded 9.1 out of 10 in the Independent Bottlers challenge, and how that didn’t win the gold or even a medal at all is a mystery! They also bottled some stinkers as well. But which Independent didn’t? Well James McArthur actually!
Anyway I think I’ve said enough about dodgy independent bottlings in the past and well today I’m here to praise Caesar not to bury him!
So this is Christmas (or was at the time of tasting) and that must mean a ‘flourish’ of activity and bottlings from the guys at Bruichladdich. Not only has the highly successful 7 year old ‘Waves’ been replaced by a new multi-vintage edition, they have released their ‘First Growth Sixteen’s’, the ‘Resurrection’ to celebrate the re-birth of the distillery, the PC7, the ‘Perilous’ X4 and the mighty Octomore.
On the subject of the Octomore draw I would like to thank everyone that entered and say congratulations to Julian Jones and Robin Howat who were first and second out of the hat and are now proud owners of a bottle. My commiserations to all those who were not so lucky and I hope that you will understand that this was the fairest way of ‘allocating’ those two bottles.
So on with the tasting!
Bruichladdich ‘New Waves’ 46% £31.95
Quiet delicate aromas. Although the peating level is relatively light the aromas are quiet dominant. Behind lurks some youthful coastal fruit, oil, bog myrtle and fisherman’s sowesters. It actually reminds me of Caol Ila with that fresh, garden like herbaceous quality. Over time some ripe apricot, apple and a perfumed top note become apparent. On the palate it is delicately oily, and more broader than the nose would suggest. Definitely more Laddie in character, opening with slightly creamy apricot and cereal, followed by coastal spray and light herbal-peat. Youthful but with a lovely intensity and piquancy on the middle with a peat smoke and coal dust finish.
Bruichladdich 2001 ‘Resurrection’ 7 year old 46% £39.95
Bourbon – Limited Release of 24000 Bottles to celebrate the first distillation by Jim McEwan. Peated to 10ppm.
Crisp, classic, floral aromas of citrus and honey. However it seems to display a greater roundness of character than the pre-Jim era. More polished and succulent. A lovely waft of juicy orange greets the nose and is all set against a delicate, earthy-peat and coastal background. The palate follows the nose, with a gloriously polished depth of crisp, honeyed barley, malt, honeysuckle, apples and yet more honey. There’s some joyful, crumbly peat, cinnamon and dried spices on the mid palate it finishes with a coastal flourish.
Bruichladdich ‘X4’ 50% 43.95
The perilous, quadruple distilled whisky has finally been bottled. Wonderfully crisp and rounded aromas of cereal, herbal honey and a slight floral, rose petal marc-like note all set against the ever present cereal background. Magnificently clean with a pleasant touch of sweetness and spice. The palate has a greater sensation of sweetness. Seductively oily, opening with the malty/ biscuity goodness followed by cereal, marc and light spice. The sweetness builds on the middle to a sugared candy quality and finishes with a piquant liquorice-spiciness and a coastal flourish. You will either love or hate this!
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Yquem Finish’ 49.95
Whoa! Is this really Laddie? The aromas are more akin to an old Glenrothes, full of rich, mature honey, old leather armchairs and dusty libraries. In fact it’s immensely honeyed, as my notes say honey to die for. A late touch of rich, orange fruit attempts to add a layer of complexity. The palate is luxurious and pretty much like the palate, although a greater degree of distillery character is discernable. A lovely sliver of crisp barley keeps it from being overtly sweet and flabby. Lovely depth of … er… mature honey! Finishes with that distinctive coastal conclusion.
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Lafleur Finish
Stylishly sweet on the nose with strawberries, redcurrants and a hint of peat. These chunky yet subtle aromas float over a bedrock of rich, honeyed, mature, coastal Laddie. The impression is that it is older then 16 years. The palate opens with red wine notes, yet they are well integrated with the crisp, salty honey and spices. Delicate and not as expansive as the nose and where the nose gave an impression of age the palate is quiet youthful. Lovely length with a soft spicy finish.
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Haut Brion’ Finish
Subtle to the point of non-existence. There’s a suggestion of spicy red cherries but the mature Laddie aromas are in the ascendancy. The palate is like the nose, subtle and unforgivingly tannic. The tannins come crashing down like a portcullis and that’s about it, well apart from the slight hessian note on the finish.
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Lafite Finish’ 49.95
Initially the very subtle wine cask notes are evident with some strawberry and redcurrant with a soupcon of dry spices. This is followed by the wonderfully mature honey and barley with a dusting of vanilla. The palate opens with a subtle, playful hint of rose oil and petals with a slight gristy cereal note. The drying tannins come in quiet forcibly but this time they are balanced to perfection the onrushing tidal wave of spice red fruits. The length is superb and the delightful mature honey flavours return to caress the tongue and exit with the usual coastal conclusion.
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Margaux Finish’ 49.95
This must be the best red wine finish I have ever tasted. Pretty much perfection. It’s aromatic and feminine aromas stoke the senses like a silk glove! Perfumed aromas of cherries and pomegranates rise from the glass, deftly floating over the base of mature Laddie. A truly magical blend of cask and spirit. The palate is a mirror of the nose. Feminine, succulent and full of pure maraschino cherries, strawberries, which float delightful upon a wave of coastal, biscuity rich Laddie. The integration is stunning, as is the length.
Bruichladdich 16 year old 46% ‘Chateau Latour Finish’
Subtle, yet possibly not as subtle as the Haut Brion finish. Probably the creamiest nose of all the finishes but one is left a bit underwhelmed. Very earthy on the palate with hard red fruits and hints of sweet strawberries. Like the Haut Brion it is very tannic and drying yet it does have a bit of a coastal length and a spicy, piquant finish.
The Bruichladdich tasting was swiftly followed by the newest ‘finishes’ from the Arran distillery. I must say the 20cl bottles sold really well over Christmas as they made ideal stocking fillers!
The Arran ‘St Emilion Finish’ 50% 20cl £16.95 70cl 44.95
Very dark in colour and extremely coastal on the nose. Like the 10 year old it is richly honeyed and has a monstrous depth of barley fruit. The wine finish is barley noticeable and maybe adds a slight spicy red fruit note. The palate is gorgeous. Full of dark chocolate laced fruit, sprinkled with milk chocolate buttons. Through this chocolate madness the honeyed barley creeps. The piquant alcohol balances it nicely and stops it becoming cloying. The finish is a bit tannic with oodles of wood cinnamon spices. Superb!
The Arran ‘Madiera Finish’ 50% 20cl 16.95
Big and buscuity as you would expect on the nose! Again it’s monstrously honeyed, however the honey seems a lot more mature. More coastally than the ‘St Emilion’ with buckets of coffee and dusty spices. The palate pretty much mirrors the nose. Big and biscuity with a lovely creamy quality to the honey and barley. Then suddenly it goes all herbal with rosemary, heather, lavender and thyme – Bizarre! Totally unexpected! Stunning length though, it really lingers for ages. Amazing!
DIAGEO CLASSIC MALTS DISTILLERS EDITIONS TASTING
Just before Christmas I had a visit from the ‘Big Bad’ Diageo rep, who pointed out that he wasn’t a rep as he wasn’t trying to sell me anything. Fair enough. So I guess that he’d be preferred to be known as Brand Awareness and Support Manager. Or BDSM for short!!!! As the nice company that they are he left me some samples from their Distillers Edition range for me to try. The range was launched back in 1997, with a limited amount of each expression being bottled. Each bottle carries a batch number, the year of distillation and the year of Bottling. After their usual maturation in American or European Oak casks, the whiskies are finished in a variety of ‘finishing’ casks. The aim, like most ‘finishes’ is to enhance the character of each of the individual malts.
According to Diageo the objective was to retain the core character of each malt. For example, you would always recognise the distillers Edition Oban as Oban, because it retains the ‘classic’ Oban flavour, likewise the Glenkinchie. The choice of finishing cask and the length of time that it remains is paramount in order to retain the distillery character and not to swamp the distillery character completely. By and large I think that this is true. The finishes seem to be pretty sympathetic to the individual malt, maybe with the exception of the Clynelish, but I’m probably being a bit picky here. The biggest surprise had to be the Glenkinchie, which worked really well, and the biggest disappointment had to be the Talisker, which didn’t seem to be quiet altogether there, as you will see from my tasting notes. As for the Caol Ila, it must have taken me three or four tasting before I finally got my head around it. Sometimes it just takes awhile to ‘tune into’ a specific malt. Initially it appeared to be all too much ‘sweet’ cask finish and no trousers, but something in the back of my mind encouraged me to go back to it afresh the next day and I’m glad that I didn’t dismiss it out of hand because it really has grown on me.
Oban 1992 (15 year old) 43% Distillers Edition £46.95
Montilla Fino Finish
It’s pretty much all distillery character on the nose – Rich, sweet mature honey, heather and oodles of herbal barley. The finish adds an extra level of sweetness and a hint of grape. Over time a late vanilla, smoke and coastal note appears. On the palate it is drier, with the grape being more assertive to begin with. It has sort of bound up the wonderful herbal-honey and barley and only lets them loose on the middle where they are joined by a touch of heather and smoke. The barley continues to temper the sweetness and finally lets out some malt and vanilla, by which time the sweetness has returned. I have always found Oban agreeable but possibly just a tad too sweet for my tastebuds, and this is exactly the same.
Glenkinchie 1992 (15 year old) 43% Distillers Edition £42.95
A classic Glenkinchie nose, full and fruity with juicy, sweet oranges. Very rich but kept in check by the crisp barley notes. It glides smoothly into some crème brulee, vanilla malt and some divine coffee-spices. The finishing cask adds a lovely nuttiness and the balance is pretty much spot on. The palate is soft and viscous. Like the nose the distillery character of rose oil and orange blossom leads the way followed by malt and a touch of honey. The middle is a touch tannic but the amontillado supplies a wonderful nutty piquancy which rescues it. A sugary candied almond note appears on the finish along with a slight coffee/ tobacco note. Actually its quiet enjoyable and the biggest surprise of all the six I tasted.
Clynelish 1991 (15 year old) 43% Distillers Edition
Oloroso Seco Finish
Definitely a sherry finish. Big and quiet floral with that sherry-leafyness and coffee notes. The spicy orange fruit and crisp barley is well and truly hidden by the cask finish. The palate is very much like the nose, all upfront sherry. It’s quiet sugary-sweet, almost like boiled sweets. There’s some malty fruit on the middle but the finish is a bit spirity and sharp. Another disappointing Clynelish.
Dalwhinnie 1990 (15 year old) 43% Distillers Edition £43.95
Surprisingly the distillery character holds sway, at least to begin with. It’s crisp and has an almost coastal sharpness along with lovely citrus fruit and a suggestion of peat. The oloroso rides in the background, yet it unleashes a wave of huge orange/ tangerine and liquid orange infused honey aromas. Lush and juicy with a hint of earth and leafy herbs developing over time. The palate pretty much mirrors the nose. The distillery character restrains the oloroso-sweetness so that it is pleasant and mouth filling but never becomes cloying and finish quiet dry.
Talisker 1992 (13 year old) 43% Distillers Edition
An intense and peaty, peppery nose. Quiet woody with oodles of bog myrtle and coastal peat and wonderfully sweet orange and herbal honey. The aromas broaden given time and the sweetness increases. The palate opens with a very sweet entry, again quiet woody with liquid honey, flecked with dry, sooty peat. Coastal notes flood the mid palate and the peat and barley cut the sweetness off. Very long with a heathery/ herbal finish. The sweetness creeps back eventually. My only gripe with this is that it doesn’t seem to flow; the flavours are delivered in an almost staccato way and seems rather choppy. Does that make sense?
Caol Ila 1995 (12 year old) 43% Distillers Edition £44.95
The initial aromas are all coffee-caramel, followed by leafy bog myrtle peat, a touch of peat smoke and a crisp salinity, which cuts through the sweetness, never allowing the finish to get out of control and thus adding a lovely silky sheen. On the palate the distillery character show’s its head first with the brusque coastal and leafy peat flavours leading. The grape notes develop on the middle with hints of coffee-caramel. Like the nose the sweetness is well balanced and never gets out of hand. Lovely length with a sooty, coal dust finish.
A bit of an odd one to say the least. It took me several tastings to get my head around this whisky, but I persevered and I think it works quiet well.
Nothing like saving the worst until last! So Tullibardine huh! Another one of those malts that you could lump into the same category as Dufftown and Deanston I think. The Industrial malts!! Now I hear you saying, because you have put it into that category you’re just going to be biased and unfairly criticise their bottlings!
Now hand on heart this was the first time that I have tasted any distillery bottling of Tullibardine, I think I tasted a pleasant Connoisseurs Choice bottling some years ago but that was about it. So I approached them with an open mind and yes I was aware of its somewhat unflattering reputation, but I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to give them the dubious honour of being unceremoniously dispatched to room 101.!!! But in there they went!!!
Strangely enough in the latest issue of the Whisky Mag (Issue 77) Martine Nouet and the Editor Rob Allanson have review eight different malts finished in Sauternes casks, and the Tullibardine was amongst them. They awarded it 8 out of 10 and 7.8 out of 10. If it was me I’d say it would have barley merited a 5!
I’m mystified! I find it hard to believe that they were tasting the same whisky as I had. I mean Martine says of the palate thus: “Crisp, lively. A burst of spices sweeps away cooked plums and raisins. Chocolate but as the Aztec would drink it: mixed with chilli.” Rob remarks “Great for a desert whisky especially with a dark chocolate pudding. Sauternes is still here but not that dominant.”
I’m at a loss for words, surprisingly! Here are two well respected Whisky journalists and their experience is completely diametrically apposed to mine. I don’t feel that I was being unduly harsh, especially judging by the quality, (or lack of) of the other samples. Am I wrong? Have I misjudged it so badly?
Ah, whisky! Wonderful stuff isn’t it!
Tullibardine 1993 (15 year old) ‘Moscatel Finish’ 46%
Aromas of bung cloth and old hessian sack greet the nose. It’s brash and somewhat charmless with hints of mature honey. A raw beastie! The palate is much like the nose and there is so much tannin it’s like sucking on wood splinters. Finishes with hints of manure and rose petal. Not pleasant and one just had to spit!
Tullibardine 1993 (15 year old) ‘Sauternes Finish’ 46%
Aromas of wool fat and lanolin with a touch of earth, dirty marc-like rose petals and honey. The honey is its only redeeming feature but it still reminds me of paint stripper! The palate is flat, earthy, and cloyingly sweet with lanolin notes. The cloying sweetness is punctuated by its harsh tannins. Messy and stinky, but not in a pleasant way!
Tullibardine 1993 (15 year old) ‘Sherry Finish’ 46%
Overpowering aromas of Oloroso Sherry. Again there is that hessian note, yet it is mitigated somewhat by the mature honey. You could say the Sherry masks the distillery character, and on the evidence of this tasting that is not a bad thing. However after awhile the wool fat aroma become evident. The palate is a bit sticky-sweet and confected. The honey flavours are quiet dirty and there is a huge amount of dry tannins. All told it has a complete and utter lack of elegance.
Tullibardine 1993 (15 year old) ‘Port Finish’ 46%
Stinky, hessian, wool fat this time with added red wine notes. It’s crude and rude on the palate – flavours as above! Possibly the worst of all their wood finishes
GENERAL ROUND UP
Triibe Liqueur 20%
The advertising blurb goes like this – “Triibe is a new whisky liqueur made by infusing charcoal filtered Irish Malt Whiskey with honey and royal jelly. What makes Triibe different is that it’s totally clear but maintains the same taste and mouthfeel as premium cream liqueurs – and it’s completely dairy and lactose free.”
The tasting notes however read thus: Urgh! It’s weird Creamy, earthy and stinky. Just like chocolate infused cow-pats! On the palate it’s thick and viscous, milky/ creamy and cloying. There’s a touch of the chocolate manure and finishes with a coconut note. Absolutely horrid!
Compass Box ‘New’ Orangerie 40% £TBC
A definite improvement on the first bottling. It’s cleaner on the nose with crisp barley underpinning the sweet orange liquor. It displays a greater degree of subtly and delicacy with a slight perfumed note. Dry on the palate with a gorgeous depth of soft orange liquor fruit but balanced by the beautiful sharp barley grains. Slightly gristy with the vanilla and sweet spices coming through. A lovely piquant finish with the orange fruit returning.
Murray McDavid Bowmore 2000 (7 year old) 46%
A pleasant nose of rich, juicy, dried fruit from the cask. There a waft of gentle smoke, a touch of peat and youthful coastal notes. On the palate it is soft and somewhat homogeneous with no one flavour standing out or developing. There is no real progression of the flavours; they are, well, just there! – sherry wood, charcoal, smoke, fruit and salt. Like a lot of young Islay’s the nose offers more than the palate delivers.
Green Spot 40% £43.95
I was quiet surprised at how darkly amber this malt is. The nose is very intense with absolutely oodles of big, juicy, earthy apricot fruit and liquid honey. It has a sort of restless energy, almost a buzzy graininess! It’s certainly not a shy and retiring malt, it’s bold and boisterous, yet balanced by a lovely crispness. On the palate it is definitely full bodied with a gentle creamy begging, followed by a lovely depth of honeyed barley, malt, earth and apricot. A few high toned, grassy notes appear through the thickness in the finish and there an almost rye like grainy note as well. Definitely not your run of the mill irish!
So there you have it for another edition. Finally I would like to thank you all for your custom through out 2008 and for those of you that dropped into the shop it was good to speak with you and hear your comments about my humble scribbling (or typing as the case may be!) and to wish you a pleasant 2009 and hopefully I’ll be able to tempt you with some goodies throughout the year!