Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter No.36 July 2009
Whisky Intelligence has decided to reproduce here (with permission) The Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter from July 2009. While this may seem a tad dated it is actually quite current considering the lag time between the UK release of whiskies and the release of the same whiskies into the North American and world wide markets. Additionally the author, Chris Goodrum, has some excellent insights into the whiskies being commented on. Sunday reading! Enjoy!
Dear Whisky Customers
Welcome to the latest newsletter and to start I’d like to tell you a story……………
The Scotch Whisky Association and the ‘Traditional Tale’
There are a number of imponderable questions which have probably been discussed over a pint or two, such as why do premier league footballers roll around on the ground like they have been shot when tackled, why the Germans don’t seem to understand toilet humour (see Blackadder Goes forth!) and why exotic meats are always described as tasting like chicken. However in whisky circles the current imponderable question is ‘what does traditional mean’.
Last month the SWA in conjunction with DEFRA decreed that the production of a whisky made from a wash of malted barley in a continuous still could not be marketed as a ‘single malt whisky’ because the production process was (according to them) ‘not traditional’. They have been quoted as saying that “Traditionally two types of Scotch Whisky have been produced, Malt Scotch Whisky produced by a distillation of a mash of malted barley in pot stills, and Grain Scotch Whisky produced by distillation of different cereals, including malted barley, in patent stills.
So what I hear you say, no-one markets a single malt made in that way, apart from Nikka, and not being Scottish they are not bound by the preaching of the SWA. But, it would appear that the Lowland distillery of Loch Lomond, does indeed produce a single malt like this (although it has yet to be marketed) as well as a single malt produced in a column still funnily enough called a ‘Lomond still’, however this type of still has been deemed ‘traditional’ by the SWA.
Funnily enough the distillery isn’t exactly over the moon with this pronouncement and according to the distillery this ‘single malt’ is “more consistent to produce and indistinguishable in character from a light Speyside style. We’re delighted with the quality of the spirit,” they say “but the proposed new regulations will defeat our efforts at innovation that offer a ‘greener’ process with substantial savings of both energy and water. It’s a matter of regret that the SWA and DEFRA can’t accept our product as single malt within the new regulations.”
Now where have we heard that accusation before that the SWA stifles innovation?
Now what baffles me is the use of the term ‘traditional’. Now the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines it as: following or belonging to the customs or ways of behaving that have continued in a group of people or society for a long time without changing.
Taking the Cameronbridge distillery, for example, according to the Mitchell Beasley Pocket Guide to Scotch Whisky the first owner Robert Haig installed a continuous still invented by his cousin Robert Stein, sometime around 1827. Now as the Corn Laws were not repealed until the 1840’s, (which made grain cheaper than barley) one can assume that a wash of malted barley was distilled in this continuous still. In fact according to the website http://www.whisky-distilleries.info/ the distillery did produce such a product from 1880 to 1929, which was called a ‘silent malt’. As the bulk of the distilleries output was and still is used for blending I would imagine that this so called silent malt was used in the same way.
It is also believed that this ‘silent malt’ was produced at the Yoker distillery in Glasgow (1780 to 1927) but I have been unable to find any information to support this claim. However it was produced at the Glenmavis distillery which was located in Bathgate of West Lothian about 20 miles from Edinburgh from 1800 to 1910. In 1855 the then owner John McNabb replaced the Pot Still with a Coffey still and continued producing a single malt, which was sold as ‘McNab’s Celebrated Glenmavis Dew’.
Now in my opinion the Loch Lomond distillery are continuing a style of whisky production that has been produced off and on for the last 129 years, so how can the SWA decree that it is not traditional? If I was a cynic I might proffer the opinion that it has more to do with the Loch Lomond distillery not being a member of the SWA than on any ‘quality’ or ‘historical’ issues. Why do I say that? Well if you look at the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 and the Scotch Whisky Order 1990 it does not state that the whisky must be distilled in a Pot Still. In fact the legal definition of ‘Scotch Whisky’ is a spirit:
(a) which has been produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been—
(i) processed at that distillery into a mash;
(ii) converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and
(iii) fermented only by the addition of yeast;
(b) which has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8 per cent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;
(c) which has been matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres, the period of that maturation being not less than 3 years;
(d) which retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation; and
(e) to which no substance other than water and spirit caramel has been added.
Now unless the Government intends to amend the act again the SWA are ‘legally’ on dodgy ground. Wether the Loch Lomond distillery feel that strongly about the decision that they mount some legal challenge then only time will tell.
Further comment on the subject can be viewed at(WI):
Ok, enough of that. Let’s taste some whisky!
New Releases from Duncan Taylor
Whisky Galore Auchtentoshan 9 year old 46% Bourbon
A sweet, floral, candied marc-like nose with rose petals, a touch of citrus and burnt toffee. Over time it becomes quiet sickly with a clotted cream sweetness. The palate follows the nose in being quiet sweet and candied with the marc-like rose petals upfront. The alcohol and spices bite agreeably on the middle, but it is too Turkish delight sweet and vanillery and like the nose it develops a sickly, clotted cream character.
I really have issues with young Bourbon casked Auchtentoshan and I have still yet to encounter a bottling that I would class as agreeable, let alone superb.
Battlehill Miltonduff 9 year old 43% £25.95
A lovely nose of deep, and rich orange fruit and liquid honey. There are hints of heather, candied almonds and vanilla. The palate is soft and honeyed with flesh apricot fruit, heather and a very subtle hint of peat. The restless spices build on the middle and it finishes with a delightful vanilla note and a suggestion of herbalness on the aftertaste. Smooth, harmonious, maybe not as heathery as previous bottlings but still very drinkable and good value for money.
Caperdonich 1972 (37 year old) 54.8% Cask 7422
Wow! A deep and mature nose of slightly tropical fruit, honeycomb and dusty spices. A huge violet note comes out of left field as does some decaying rose petals. All wrapped up in the most delightful moist honey. For all it’s age it has a sublime crispness.
After that wonderful nose the palate is somewhat disappointing. It open with aged honey and coffee, yet there is a lacking in the complexity stakes that the nose leads you to believe. The middle is laden down with wood tannins yet a decaying rose petal note breaks through before descending into a rum like, dried fruit and peppery finish.
A drop of water emphasises the luxurious orange fruit and the wood spices, however the palate finally creaks and falls over into a sticky, candied watery morass with a dried out finish. Not even a late spice burst saves it. Shame!
Caperdonich 1972 (37 year old) 42.3% Cask 4376
Deep, oily and petroly. It reminds me of a Guyana rum. Gorgeously soft spicy, orange fruit liberally sprinkled with caster sugar follows, as do hints of rose petals, light honey and vanilla. It takes awhile to really open and never quiet reaches the depth of the cask 7422, yet I think it has a better balance. There is less of the marc-like character and the orange fruit has a delightful liquid silkiness to it. The palate is soft and delicately oily with light honey and a coffee/ cream note. It seems quiet reserved and there is no shortage of wood spices on the middle along with a touch of marc. It’s a bit short and the alcohol even at this strength is intrusive and leaves a spirity/ vodka like finish.
A drop of water emphasises the floral orange fruit and spices on the nose. On the palate it becomes watery and all traces of fruit have definitely gone south. It is a shame that it wasn’t bottled a few years ago.
Highland Park 1991 (17 year old) 54.6% £68.95 Cask 8089
Elusive yet intense. Quiet briny with a touch of iodine and wonderfully brittle apricot fruit and honeyed barley. Restless and windswept, time accentuates its fishy character. There’s a suggestion of candied fruit and a wisp of peat. Unencumbered by its usual heathery/ smoky tones it could well be mistaken for an Islay. Oily and dry on the palate with light white fruits and white liquorice. Like the nose, quiet briny and fishy supplemented with a dollop of wood tannins and alcohol. Lovely complexity with hints of peat, smoke, iodine and rubber on the finish. The after taste has a Caol Ila –like freshness and is reminiscent of a crisp Sauvignon .
Ooooh add a splash of water and you are rewarded with the most sensationally gorgeous orange fruit (where was that hiding?), honey and floral vanilla. On the palate it homogenises and emphasises the vanilla oils, and finally there’s a touch of heather. It becomes sweeter, yet not too sweet and coats the mouth delicate peat and chocolate notes and finishing with that briny Caol Ila freshness. Superb! Duncan Taylor
Cameronbridge 1979 (30 year old) 57.2% £77.95 Cask 3586
A lovely, deep, earthy nose of almost peaty manure followed by mature honey and crisp bourbon notes. The oak builds in intensity as does the sumptuous honey. Wood spices start flying and it’s all topped off by a delightful violet top note. Damn it’s stunning, there are layers of honey to die for here!
Quiet oily initially, there is an explosion of wood tannins and alcohol. Once the palate has adjusted the complexity of flavours that remain are marvellous. There’s vanilla oak, spices by the bucketful, rich fruit, mature honey, coffee and liquorice. The grain bites nicely and there is a distinct vodka-like spirit finish, accompanied by dry, unsugared Turkish delight. Excellent length. Mature yet kicking!
A drop of water brings out oodles of wood notes – coffee, liquorice, spices, a touch of toffee and burnt toast from the charring. Yet it is not one dimension, the glorious orange fruit lurks in the background. On the palate it softens and sweetens, again bringing out the charring and offsetting the alcohol. It certainly has become more vodka-like with a lovely floral note appearing. It lengthens and adds a breath taking (not too sweet) cream soda finish.
Imperial 1990 (19 year old) 53.7% £59.95 Cask 446
The nose is deeply honeyed, similar to cask 448, which I reviewed in April. Yet it has a distinct grassy/ Sauvignon like edge to it along with fresh citrus fruit and balanced vanilla. It opens to display a lovely perfumed orange blossom and lime with a nod in the direction of tropical-ness! Oooh this is good!
The palate is smooth and creamy, full of mature honey, gentle liquid orange and that fresh grass note from the nose. The vanillins from the oak balance it well as does the piquant alcohol. Maybe it’s not quiet as deep and sweet as 448 and it’s probably missing the wood note complexity, but it makes up for that in it’s freshness.
A drop of water emphasises the pure honey aromas on the nose and a smidgen of wood spice is detectable. The palate is wonderfully fruity, gloriously so I might add! There’s a slight spirity-ness on the after taste, but as cask 448 has sold out this is a good replacement.
NC2 Bowmore 1998 (10 year old) 46% (retail £30.95)
Quiet an oily/ rubbery nose with a touch of diesel, peat and coastal notes. A bit of a classic really. Pleasant depth with earthy spice, coffee and a restrained sherry influence.
The palate is soft and juicy, slightly honeyed, with herbal fruit and gentle coastal notes. A smidgen of peat and smoke arrives with the deluge of wood tannins on the middle. The peat continues to expand and it finishes with a briny/ fishy/ coffee coated finish. It’s ok, a bit straightforward, but enjoyable. However for an extra pound you can have the distillery 12 year old.
Bowmore 1982 (27 year old) 53.5% Cask 85057
A deep and exceedingly woody nose, followed by honeyed fruit and hints of peat. It’s reticent and really overly wood dominated. However the honey is gorgeous. And the layers of buttery vanilla are appealing if you like that sort of thing.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!! What’s going on here? – Parma violet overload! I mean where did that all come from, there is no indication of that on the nose! You can just discern some honey, but that’s about it!
A drop of water brings out some cinnamon coated orange fruit and a coastal bonfire note drifts in, but there’s no mitigating the wood notes and strangely still no parma violet aromas! On the palate the parma violets have been negated to a certain extent and it allows the dusty peat and honey to show through. Pleasanty mellow and a bit so-so. Hang on parma violets on the finish!
Bowmore 1982 (27 year old) 54.9% Cask 85064
Considerably fresher on the nose than Cask 85057. It has a Caol Ila-like coastal/ rubbery character. A brief scent of lusciously perfumed orange passes before the brittle honey, bog myrtle and a hint of smoky peat take over. Over time a violet/ heather note emerges and the honey thicken and deepens. The palate open with a swathe of vanilla oils and succulent honey. There’s a lot of tannins and drying alcohol. When that passes the middle palate is delightful with soft heather and a touch of orange fruit to be found amid the rampaging honey. Coastal and parma violet notes emerge (although that might be because of the over load from the previous sample!). Pleasant length.
Water emphasises the wood spices, which are distinctly elderly. The palate has become homogenised and oh look some parma violets. Personally I’d stick with cask 85068 (reviewed in the last newsletter) with it’s fishy/ coastal drama.
Glen Grant 1974 (35 year old) 54.4% Cask 16577
A deep, luscious nose with enormous dollops of rich honey and juicy, slightly perfumed fruit. There’s a hint of decaying rose petals and sugar candy (I’ve never noticed those marc like notes on Glen Grant before). Amazingly fruity, the aromas are fathomless. The palate is somewhat disappointing. It’s very woody and mouth puckeringly drying. There a touch of liquid honey, fruit and rose petals before the alcohol wades in and wipes out the palate. Damn it’s woody!
A drop of water brings out linseed oil and a turpentine note. It’s creaking here and beginning to break down. The palate confirms this; it’s flat, unexciting and lifeless. Need I go on.
More From Whyte & Mackay
Whyte & Mackay 19 year old ‘Old Luxury’ 40%
A deep, pungent and mature nose. Wet dunnage floors, delicate sherry and juicy malt fight with the spices and mountainous honey. More weighty than the 13, with a slight violet top note. Like the 13 the grain is almost imperceptible, but it’s there on the edges adding bite. The palate is glossy and ultr smmoth with gentle honey, polished floors and varnished oak notes. Very classy, the grain nips on the middle and the soft wood tannins add grip. However the fruit dies too quickly and leaves a rather spirity finish. It seems an odd age to bottle it at as it is obviously going through an odd phase, between 13 and 22 years.
Whyte & Mackay 22 year old ‘Supreme’ 43% £59.95
Although older it has a fresher character than the 19. There’s a lovely crispness to the malt and grain along with a slight smokiness. (If I was nosing this blind I’d swear it was younger). The barley has a wonderfully soft transulent sheen, the honey is heavenly and practically no grain is noticeable. It could almost be a maturing Spey. Glenrothes comes to mind. Over time a beguiling perfumed orange, coffee and linseed oil note emerges and only after some considerable time is the grain discernable. Superb nose – ever changing and evolving! Has a touch of Islay crept into the mix?
The palate is oily and soft with sweetly spiced orange fruit, and just a soupcon of sherry. The higher level of alcohol is noticeable and gives the palate some bite. Wow! What a middle! Luxurious honeycoats the mouth but the barley retains a lovely crisp, freshness in order to balance it. The grain spirit is so swamped it barley fights through the honey. Lovely length with grippy, soft tannins and wood-spice notes to finish . Beats the 19 hands down. No contest!
Whyte & Mackay 30 year old 40%
Oh my this nose is deep! No plumb line will reach the bottom of the wonderfully nature honey morass. It’s all about the mature sherry wood with hints of walnuts, cinnamon, coriander powder, coffee liquorice and dried fruit. Marvellous orange fruit with a delicate perfume and smoky nuances finally breaks through. Hints of lavender, violets and Highland park-esque heather follow. Refine and elegant. Incredibly complex, it’s like old Glen Grant with a sprinkling of Highland Park and Bowmore. Once again the grain is masterfully hidden
The palate is viscous and oily, with the mature wood notes leading off – coffee, cinnamon, clove and toffee’d honey. But then……….. Horror of horrors! The fruit dies, like a shutter has come down. The finish is very grainy although note as spirity as the 19. Damn! One minute glorious malt and then bang it’s all over. What a disappointment after that nose!
Whyte & Mackay 40 year old 45% £651.95 70% Malt, 30% Grain
Very dark in colour. Oh yes it’s an old sherry monster, but a damn fine one though! Hugely spicy with cinnamon, clove, walnuts, seriously mature honey along with toffee and coffee notes. Then out of the sherried morass comes a tantalising, perfumed orange note, more honey, beeswax and old floor polish. It screams age. A rich after dinner dram with hints of tobacco smoke, moist Dundee cake and dried fruit with a crystalised sheen. A truly divine nose to loose ones self in.
The palate is mature honey heaven, coating the tongue with its mellow, aged viscous-ness. This graceful dram gradually unfolds a complex array of flavours – elderly sherry wood, spices, cinnamon, old leather, and a slight earthy/ dunnage floor coated toffee. A sublime, juicy middle awaits, yet the elevated level of alcohol bites and stops it from being too mellow and flabby, ably abetted by the grain. The finish lasts for ages, leaving a nutty, fruitcake and cinnamon biscuit finish. The finest blend I have tasted, utterly divine. Moist and sensuous. It’s so amazingly complex that sometimes you just have to stop analysing and just sip and enjoy!
Dalmore Gran Reserva 40%
40% American oak, 60% Oloroso Sherry
Malts aged 10-15yrs
A lot more reserved than the 12year old. It seems almost dumb in comparison. There’s some slightly perfumed orange conserve, honey, sherry wood and spices with a late vanilla note. Nothing to get excited about. The palate is soft and juicy, quiet mellow and homogenous with obvious sherry fruit and hints of dried fruitcake, spices and orange rind. Reasonable length but it all just expires is intimately quiet unexciting.
Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III 40%
Aged in a combination of Oloroso, Madeira, American oak, Masala and Cabernet Sauvignon casks.
Deep and again reserved. You really have to work at this nose. Initially wuiet winey with the Cabernet and Masala holding sway, followed by rich, moist fruitcake soaked in sherry, wonderfully mature honey and balanced by it’s vanilla oak. Quiet understated. Over time deep Seville orange aromas emerge as do plums, red berries, ginger, aromatic ginger root all coated by the delightful, dry, powdery spices.
The palate is oily and leads with the sherry wood spices, followed by moist fruitcake, malt and mellow honey. The alcohol keeps it lively but only the berry and vanilla flavours linger with a plumy finish.
I have to say that I really liked the nose when it finally got going but the palate was nowhere near as complex and exciting.
Dalmore 1974 45% £711.95
Aged in Gonzales Byass Mathusalem Sherry butts.
Although it’s immense and sherried, it’s incredibly polished and complex. There’s a Jamaican rum like quality to the aromas (strangely!) with lashings of clove punched orange fruit and spices. Rich and fruity, veritably dripping in mature honey, cinnamon, spiced dates, walnuts, stewed apples, figs and dark chocolate. It keeps unfolding it’s secrets in unhurried brilliance. A fleeting briny note passes, as do hints of mint leaf and bracken. Stunning!
Viscous, thick and substantial. Huge globs of silky sherry and again that Jamaican rum note. Like the nose it supremely complex with cinnamon dusted Seville orange, bitter dark chocolate and wood tannins, opening into a seductive cognac-esque dried fruit and walnut middle. This is stunning. Piquant, yet integrated alcohol keeps it lively and the finish is………….. monumental with that leafy/ bracken note remaining. Mouth coating and decadent, it makes an ideal companion for moist xmas pudding and a big fat Cuban (cigar that is) Bolivar!
Dalmore 40 year old 40% £1480.95
Filled into cask on 13th February 1965
Oh my god! This takes the 1974 and turns it up to 11! The depth is unbelievable, I’m almost speechless, well almost……… it wouldn’t make much of a tasting note if I was!!
Right where was I? It’s like hitting a Seville marmalade wall head on. There are buckets of aged honey to die for, brittle toffee, fruitcake, walnuts, bitter toffee and oodles of earthy sherry spice. Over time the orange fruit develops a wonderful perfumed crystallised character. Maybe it’s not as complex (on the nose) as the 1974 but by god the depth sure makes up for it.
The palate is so, so, mellow, it glides and seeps into every corner of the mouth. Soft and luxurious, and aged to perfection! Delicious mature honey and sherry wood combine with robust spices, dried cognac-esque fruit and hints of bitter chocolate. Magnificent doesn’t come close to describing this experience. Mouthfilling and creamy, the alcohol gently nips at the edges of the tongue. As it slowly winds its way down there’s a faint waft of smoke and tropical banana along with a hint of violets and mint. The finish is almost timeless with the dried fruits holding out until the bitter end. One word……… Monumental!
Yet More Blends!
Duncan Taylor Black Bull Blended Whisky 30 year old 50%
Full on and pungent. Big, leafy, perfumed, mature sherried fruit with hints of liquorice, fisherman’s friends, crumbly spice and a honeyed Guyana rum note. Lovely complexity with moist fruitcake, clove oil, menthol and eucalyptus. Over time the fisherman’s friend’s aroma become more prevalent and a touch of rose petals and grain spirit become apparent.
On the palate it is intense with the rich sherry fruit and spices opening the proceedings, followed by dark chocolate and liquorice. The intensity builds pleasantly and leads into a mature honey soaked dried fruit middle. Suddenly a very perfumed rose petal note appears, only to disappear back into the rich, malty/ liquorice sweet morass. It’s piquant and lively, the alcohol holding the sweetness in check, however it does mask the finish somewhat.
With the addition of a drop of water it all goes horribly wrong. A sulphur blemish now becomes apparent on the nose and likewise the palate. It all becomes a bit flabby and homogenous and that wonderful complexity has well and truly headed south! I imagine that is why it was bottled at 50% as opposed to 46%. Personally I would go for the W&M 22year old.
Bushmills Black Bush 40% £26.95
Quiet a floral and grainy nose, but it is backed by some wonderful sweet orange and sherry fruit with a hint of coffee. There’s a touch of Sauvignon blanc-esque grassiness, which the sherry supports not swamps, and a beguiling ‘garden’ perfume of apricot, cloves, spice and a touch of burnt toffee and raisin. The palate is soft and subtle, opening with juicy sherry fruit and tannins, followed by the floral grain and a late perfumed orange note. Great piquant character with a lovely spice burst and that burnt toffee and cinnamon note to finish. This is a classy Irish blend, the malt and grain components are balanced and integrated.
Black Bottle 40% £18.95
A pleasant distinctly Islay nose. There’s an abundance of ‘fresh’ Caol Ila with a soupcon of rich, sherried Bowmore/ Bunnahbhain in the background. Gentle peat and smoke meld with hints of Bog Myrtle, Bowmore-violets and the wonderfully integrated grain nipping at the edges. The palate is youthful and oily with young Bruichladdich cereal notes and hints of marc-like rose petals. The grain bites first followed by the briny Islay fruits and garden herbs. A pleasant depth and length with delicate peat and smoke and a sea salt finish. You don’t get much for under £20 these days, so this is a real bargain.
New Bottlings from Raymond Armstrong
Bladnoch 7 year old Lightly Peated 56.4% £40.95 Cask 331
The nose has deepened up really well. Initially it resembles Raymond’s Invergordon with, lovely creamy vanilla oak and light grassy notes. The youthful rose petal character is fading with age but there’s still a hint of it amongst the light honeyed fruit and the high-toned peat notes. This is developing very well!
The palate is quiet oily like the 6 year old was but the deep rich fruit character is evolving wonderfully so that the creamy oak is not too dominant. There’s still a touch of youthful cereal, spice and peat, however the intense alcohol masks the finish.
A drop of water really thickens up the nose. It seems weightier and emphasises the purity of the vanilla oils. Over time the peat reek increases with a suggestion of bog myrtle. It seems a lot more rounded than the 6 year old and the rose petal marc like note has practically disappeared. The palate likewise fees weightier, with a delightful depth of apricot and fleshy yellow fruit along with light, dry spice and a touch of gristy cereal. The alcohol still bites on the middle but its controlled now and the fruit is really beginning to shine. The peat has taken on a magnificent crumbly, light herbal/ grassy quality and although only light it has a purity and intensity. It finishes quiet dry with a suggestion of salt and an almost floral note.
If this spirit keeps evolving like this by the time it reaches 10 it is going to be stunning. It goes to show that you don’t need vast quantities of peat to make an interesting young peated malt, but what you do need is a depth of fruit and oak. Hat’s off to Raymond as he’s definitely onto a winner with this one!
Bladnoch 16 year old 46%
A classic Bladnoch nose, albeit a bit straightforward. Quiet oily and reminiscent of the 18 year old with less grass and more straw/ hay notes and a slight spirity-perfume. The fruit has gone a bit south on the palate leaving behind not much apart from old wood and alcohol, which is a bit spirity.
Bladnoch 16 year old 55% £47.95
A deeper nose, which displays a greater complexity of vanilla oils, luscious honeycomb, apricot, maturing honey, lemon, white pear and a lovely hint of pepper, dusty spice and perfumed white flowers. That’s more like it! Gentle and oily on the palate with mouth filling honeyed fruit, citrus and a light grassy note. Intense yet delicate. The mid palate explodes with an array of peppery, rose petal marc-like notes, Turkish delight, rose and peppermint oil – like a fight in a florists!. Amazing length. It oozes class. A drop of water doesn’t change the palate and the palate is a lot less fun with the marc-like rose petal notes becoming more prominent. Ideally I would drink neat.
Bladnoch 16 year old Sherry Cask 55% £47.95 Sherry Butt 2607
A deep, leafy, nutty, sherry monster. Amazingly pure with Amontillado-esque green nuts and salt. Somewhere beneath the casks aromas some deep honey, walnuts, dates and stewed figs can be detected. Excellent, clean sherry butt. I can even detect a smidgen of perfumed Bladnoch spirt. The palate pretty much mirrors the nose. There is quiet a bit of wood tannins as expected and a hint of candied rose petal marc on the middle. The finish is masked by its piquant alcohol. A drop of water brings out a lovely orange note on the nose and softens the palate. It is now so juicy and honeyed with a lovely seam of barley and the sweetness offsets the bitter tannins. Great balance and length with a slight candied finish.
A superb sherry cask with just enough distillery character poking through, as long as you know where to look.
Invergordon 36 year old 42.7% £51.95 Cask 85110
Sumptuous, silky, creamy aromas of pure toffee-oak, beeswax, mature honey, brittle caramel, nuts, peanut oil, all dripping in luscious vanillins and divine spices and a violet top note. Exceptionally clean Bourbon cask with even hints of the light charring evident. The grain just about pokes its head through the oak. This whisky glides over the palate. Soft and silky, opening with the rich, nutty, toffee-oak and mature honey, but balanced by the arrival of the crisp, sharp grains. Lovely intensity and creaminess. Excellent length. A drop of water bring out a coffee note on the nose, whilst on the palate it allows the grassy, citrus, nettle/leaves/grass/Sauvignon-esque character of the spirit to show.
Ok, this may not appeal to everyone in the way that overt sherry cask whisky don’t often appeal, but if you love, sublime, clean, bourbon oaked whiskies then this is your man!
Glen Grant 28 year old 52.2 £66.95 Bourbon Hogshead 20293
A lovely, soft, spicy and floral nose with light, mature honey, earthy orange/ apricot fruit with hints of dunnage floors and wood spices. Over time it develops an exquisite liquid hone character. Light and oily on the palate. A typical light, floral Spey with mature honey, earth, light coffee, wood spices and a touch of citrus and grass on the middle. The intense alcohol masks the finish.
With water it emphasises the oily honey and mature straw-fruit aromas. It also brings out a whiff of diesel oil or paraffin along with the vanillins and white liquorice. It softens the palate bringing out its light and juicy character along with a grassy dryness and peppery spice note. Lovely length – A classic light/ floral Glen Grant.
Caol Ila 25 year old 52.7%
Quiet a reserved nose, yet full of dusty spices and orange liquor. There’s a candied note along with wood, brine and peat. It takes awhile to open up and the wood is very dominant and that candied note is quiet intrusive. However some rubber, fish oil develops along with a perfumed orange note. On the palate it opens with lovely liquid orange fruit but that candied note is evident. Light peat briquettes, crumbly spice, fish oils and rubber arrive as does a slight perfumed note on the middle. Very intense, crisp, saline finish with hints of violets and a bit of a woody after taste.
A drop of water makes the nose very rubbery and brings out the sugar coated crystalised orange fruit. The palate has now lost some of its depth, its lighter and overtly candied – like a mix of sugar water and brine! Again the finish is very dry. For me personally it is too sweet and candied for my liking.
And finally – Too Young?
How many times have I lamented the profusion of whiskies that are released before their time? Well here are a few of those that I tasted recently.
Benriach Birnie Moss 48%
Very fishy aromas – cod liver oil and huge dollops of brine along with a veritable bucket load of pure peat and some vanilla oak. Raw! The palate is extremely young and cereally – not out of its nappy (5 years old, if that?) yet there is no fruit. It’s just raw and peaty. A light Spey with shed loads of coal dust. It really lacks the inherent fruit of say Ardbeg, which is how it can get away with bottling the ‘very young’ for example.
I’m sorry, but gobbins of peat may be a fun for ‘peat freaks’ but what I would like is more complexity or even remote sense of it come to that. Also when the 10 year old Curiositas on the other hand, is almost perfect in that sense – why bottle this?
The answer is because it is five years since a consortium led by Billy Walker bought the distillery from Chivas Brothers and it this is the first release of new spirit. I can understand the desire to bottle your first distillate and the sense of pride it engenders but would it have hurt to have waited a few more years and release something really good?
Cadenheads Peated Cooley (Irish) 13 year old 60.2%
Intense, youthful, briny and rubbery aromas with hints of bog myrtle and fish. Very heavily peated. It could almost be a young Laphraoig. The palate is dry and completely overwhelmed by the peat and alcohol. With water the nose becomes even younger with cereal, shortcake biscuit notes coming to the fore. That sense of immaturity is echoed on the palate. Yes there is a bit rich apricot fruit and some oils but it’s a one trick peat-pony and the alcohol is still far too overpowering.
Douglas Laing Provenance Laphraoig 8 year old 46%
A pungent, rubbery nose. Classic medicinal, bog myrtle and iodine encased peat. The palate is a bit immature. Opening with vanilla oak and followed by the usual – medicinal peat, grass, bog myrtle, iodine, rubber, seaweed and an alcohol content that seems a lot higher than 46%. A bit short with a coal dust finish. Water mutes the nose somewhat, accentuating its fish oil character. The palate now has a distinctly charred character. Maybe it was a re-charred cask and frankly it’s not one of their best, maybe that’s why it was sold? In saying that there is a semblance of fruit.
The question that was posed after tasting these three was. What would you repeat buy? On this evidence – None!
A General Round Up
Auchentoshan 12year old 40% £32.95
Quiet a deep, oily nose of nutty sherry wood. It develops a touch of marc-like straw (obvious distillery character). The sherry is spotless and has a pleasant degree of fruit, cereal, earth and dunnage floor notes. The palate is soft and quiet juicy, opening with the sherry wood. Again there’s a hint of marc-spirit, which follows through to the finish. It’s a bit short and kind of one dimensional. A pleasant nose if you like a sherried dram but nothing to get excited about on the palate.
Craggenmore Distillers Edition 1988 (14year old) 40% Port finished.
A deep, earthy and rich and honeyed nose. Surprisingly attractive and not dull! There a hint of sweet red fruit – berries and cherries, rum soaked raisins and hints of smoke and brine. It’s very rich for a Craggenmore and you would almost believe that some sherry is at work here. The palate is soft and juicy with the red fruit port finish being very well integrated. It’s subtle and earthy with soft spices, but the middle is really tannic and where’s the finish? Far too woody! If only the 12year old showed the richness character which was evident on the nose.
Springbank 10 year old (Current Bottling – 2009) 46% £35.95
A crisp and coastal influenced nose. Light, yet rich honeyed apricot and orange fruit leads into hints of earthy peat, mocha, bog myrtle and a lovely firm barley nuance along with a slightly perfumed top note. Quiet an elegant palate. Slightly spicy with crisp barley and hints of rich fruit and honey. The mid palate is awash with the Campbeltown salts and it leaves behind a touch of light peat and rubber.
Bunnahabhain ‘Darach Ur’ 46.3%
Darach Ur means ‘New Oak’ and it does exactly what it says on the tin! Clean, unfettered aromas of caramel and toffee from the toasting along with rum soaked raisins, a touch of cedar and a soupcon of grainy coastalness. On the palate there’s a hint of peat briquettes, brine and fish amongst the rampaging oak. The alcohol is quiet piquant too.
With water the oak is pushed back a bit to reveal smoke, peat and violets. Even some rich Bunnah fruit can now be detected. Likewise the palate. After the initial oak rush the fruit, soft peat, violets and fish appear before the vanillins return and dry out the finish. The violet note hangs around though as does a late peppery note. In conclusion it is a nice try and I quiet enjoyed it, and although I believe Bunnahbhain takes too sherry amazingly well I don’t think it has quiet the depth to deal with new oak.
I now have stocks of the Springbank 18 year old (£65.95) and the 11 year old Madeira Wood Expression 55.1% (£39.95). I also have some of the Kilkerran single malt from the Mitchell’s Glengyle distillery, which is called ‘work in progress’ and retails for £35.95. I have been promised samples!
Also just in is the new Laphroaig 18 year old 48% (£73.95), hopefully I will have a review of all of those in the next newsletter.
Until next time.
Please visit Gauntleys at http://www.gauntley-wine.co.uk/