Whisky Intelligence has reproduced (with permission) The Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter for February 2005; a small sample of scotch whisky archeology. The author, Chris Goodrum, has some excellent insights of whisky, which makes for excellent reading on a Sunday. Enjoy!
Dear Whisky Customer
Welcome to the latest issue of the newsletter. So what do I have in store for you, well after the positive feedback about my comments on the Compass Box range I have decided to instigate a paragraph or to of musings (outspoken moi!). As I mentioned in my last email I had a pleasant tasting of the core Murray McDavid range, plus as you may know that they have released the lastest bottlings in their Misson range and Celtic Heartlands. While on the subject of Jim McEwan I have news on some new bottlings from Bruichladdich. On the updated whisky list which you should find attached you will notice that I have added to the Blackadder and Duncan Taylor range. Oh yes and I almost forgot ? I?ve been tasting some Bladnoch too!
So what is the current buzz word in the whisky industry? Youth. We all know that the biggest problem with making money from whisky is that you have to have wait, and so for years whisky makers have been trying all sorts of ways to get around this problem, whether it is through two and a half, or triple distillation, purification, maturing in small casks, or other such wizardry. At the end of the day if it is sat there in a barrel, it aint making any money.
So what is my point? Well it?s a rather obvious one. You shouldn?t bottle it until it is ready, and I fear that the need for making money and the fact that bottlers like Murray McDavid are putting their older spirits into their premium ranges means that the core range suffers because frankly they are bottling their whiskies too young.
I don’t wish to seem harsh, and I am a huge fan of Murray McDavids whiskies, but my allegiance isn’t blind. For example about four or five years ago the average age of their bottlings was 12 to 15 years old. Now it is 8 to 11 years. The quality of their malts is still very good, the problem for me was that some of them were bottled far too soon, and would have benefited immeasurably from another year or two in barrel. You could see the quality in the spirit, but its immaturity was obvious from the ?off the still? aromas, and it seems to me that maybe their attention is being focused on their luxury bottlings and not on their core range.
So my final point is, before I get to my review, is that to get customers to part with the big bucks for the luxury bottlings, you have to hook them first with the starting range, and if the quality is not there, then it doesn?t take a genius to figure the rest out.
MURRAY McDAVID TASTING
Towards the end of last year, those very nice people at Bruichladdich sent me some samples of the current core Murray McDavid range, and I have pondered about how to lay out this report, because as I said above I am a big fan of their range and believe that they were pioneers of the 46% strength bottling, but I will not add a whisky to our list unless it merits a place there. This is the same criteria we set for our wines, so spirits should be judged likewise.
Enough waffling, here are my findings. First off I’ll quickly go through those I wasn’t keen on and provide more in depth notes on those I intend to stock.
First up the 1993 (11 year old) Glenlossie ‘Far too young, off the still’, a quite unremarkable palate which lacked any real depth. Next the 1993 Glen Garioch (11 year old) ? Too youthful, although this would be rather good in a couple more years time. Good length with charcoal and ash on the palate which certainly wasn?t on the nose. 1993 Auchroisk (11 year old) ? I think this was a port wood finished bottling, quite a pleasant nose of orange tea and blossom, but yet again marred by the ?off the still? character. The final bottling certainly didn?t suffer from youth, as it was a 1989 Highland Park (15 year old) ? Murray McDavid have bottled some superb Highland Park?s in their time, unfortunately this isn?t one of them, the palate was incredibly evanescent and had no depth or power that you would expect from this distillery.
Now to the one which made it onto the list.
Dufftown 1993 (11 year old)
Speyside – Bourbon/ Syrah finished
Another in a long line of superb bottlings from this distillery, proving that youth can be exceptionally good. The nose is unctuous and oily with rich almost sherried fruit, alcohol soaked fruit cake, nuts and a hint of earth. In the mouth it is a delight, full of orange and peach fruit and a touch of cream. Medium bodied and full of the Syrah enhanced spicy fruit coming through on the middle. Very long with the bourbon oak coming back on the finish.
Glen Elgin 1991 (13 year old) £31.95
Speyside Refill Sherry
A powerful, rich and fruity nose with earthy, sherry and vegetal overtones. A touch of menthol, creamy oak and sugar coated fruits. Soft on the palate, full of rich, smooth, sherried fruit. Deep, viscous and balanced, surprisingly smoky (no hint of that on the nose!), a touch of peat, charcoal, earth and salt. Very long and very good.
Mortlach 1993 (11 year old) £28.95
Speyside Bourbon/ Port finished
Very different from the previous sherry casked 1990 Mortlach. Youthful with the bourbon oak initially apparent, then come a wave of rich, slightly winey, spicy fruit, oily orange and citrus. Medium bodied, dry and spicy with a delicate hint of wine and dried fruit, cloves and cinnamon. Good tangy length.
Clynelish 1990 (14 year old) £35.95
A lovely nose. Ice cream fruits, vanilla and earth followed by aromatic apples with a touch of tropical fruit. Intense on the palate with vanilla ice cream, gentle spice and apple. Tangy and mouth filling with smoky hints.
Glen Moray 1982 (12 year old) £28.95
Clean, aromatic and youthful with all that bourbon cask elegance. White fruit, nuts, a suggestion of wine, and a touch of salt. Dry on the palate with an initial sweetness. Pure tangy white fruit, slightly nutty, sugar snap peas and a fleeting hint of gardens. Nice length leaving a dry, nutty finish.
Longmorn 1990 (14 year old) £31.95
Soft, clean aromas of fruit, oak and salt with a touch of liquorice/ aniseed. The palate is delicate with an intensity that builds nicely to a floral/ fruity finish with that hint of salt.
Caol Ila 1993 (11 year old) £37.95
Islay Bourbon/ White wine finished
Unmistakably Islay on the nose, pure and full of sea air tinged with sweet orange and citrus fruit, a touch of freshly cut peat and oily fishermans wellies! Superb on the palate, dry, medium bodied, oily with peat enhanced fruit. The smoke, Iodine and tar comes trough in waves on the middle leaving with an oily/ saline flourish. I think the wine finishing has tamed the wildness of the nose and given the fruit a roundness, but isn?t especially noticeable on the palate. Never the less this has bags of character.
Isle of Jura 1989 (13 year old) £32.95
A very heavy, intense nose of oil and peat with a lovely, soft, rich, fruity roundness. Hints of sea air washes over an underlying depth of rich fudge, toffee, waxy fruit. In the mouth it is super smooth with a gradual build up of fruit and peat flavours. Lovely rich malty sweet middle with some brine and toffee notes. A long honeyed finish.
In conclusion, the bulk of their range is still exceptionally good, and with the success of the use of ex Mourvedre casks for the Bruichladdie second edition 20 year old, the experimentation with different finishes, outside of the usual is for some of these malts a definite success.
MISSON 4, CELTIC HEARTLANDS SERIES 2 & AN OLD LADDIE!
Building upon the success of the previous bottlings, Jim McEwan continues to find some extraordinary casks of whisky. So although they may be expensive they are just so good. Some of you may remember awhile ago when I visited the distillery I was given the opportunity to taste some fantastic old casks of whisky not a lot of arm twisting was needed I can tell you. Well it’s nice to see that some of those have finally been released, including that magnificent cask of 1964 Briuchladdich more on that later.
(Tasting notes from Jim McEwan)
Glen Spey 1974 (30 year old) 46% £91.95
Christmas pudding with scoops of warm toffee. Pink meringues, banana split, banoffee pie, hints of blackcurrant and cranberry, strawberries and black pepper and a pinch of pine and juniper. The fruit aromas are amazing plus the mellowness of the oak provides the combination to completely seduce and mesmerize the senses.
On the palate it is welcome to Oakville. What an incredible taste experience as the heat of the spirit and the concentrated mellow sweetness combine in blowing you right out of the chair. Delicious! Add to that the good old fashioned malt whisky taste that is becoming rarer by the day and you are in serious dramland. The fruity/vanilla creamy flavours all show up just a little later and it develops into a vivacious bountiful spiritual experience. What a great, great whisky., full, concentrated and wonderfully warming with a syrupy smooth texture that clings to the palate.
Tomintoul 1973 (31 year old) 46% £91.95
A beautiful wild heather note greets you immediately. Bracken and fern with a little note of drying peat followed by a touch of Highland spiciness, then wild fruits, blackberry, hawthorn, redcurrant. The oak surrounds but never dominates the proceedings. Like all Highlanders, the aromas take a little time to show their strengths.
It’s fairly robust. Tightly layered and just a little shy, the spicy sweet fruit and heather flavours emerge slowly behind the initial heat of the spirit and a bitter chocolate and smoky twigs flavours follows them in turn. Beautiful, deep and remarkably fresh for such a mature malt. Obviously the snow covered mountain air plays a large part in its development. Take a walk on the wild side.
Clynelish 1975 (28 year old) 46% £91.95
Amazing nose! Like a river bursting its banks. The aromas flood the senses with harmonious waves of Sherry, dried fruit, marzipan, rich dark sweet oak, ginger and raisin cake, a smidge of smoke and a sailful of sea air. Treacle toffee, marine pitch, Turkish delight, wax polish, soft demerara sugar, walnut, nutella and a late sensation of Cranberry.
No let up on flavour and now the power of 28 years maturity is turned on and there is no way back. Enjoy the ride, a taste time bomb that rates as one of the best from one of the best. Full, well endowed with great depth of character. Incredibly long, the rich majestic Sherry/ Oak/ spirit just does not wish to leave.
Glendronach 1976 (28 year old) 46% £91.95
A soft meadly of melon and apricot jam opens the door and precedes sweet pea, pink roses and honeysuckle. It’s an alluring mix of fruit and flowers. Lovely ripe fruits continue – peach melba/pineapple followed by the traditional notes of hand made malt and quality bourbon casks which are what it’s all about and can only be experienced in a malt of this vintage. Vanilla wafers and amaretto biscuits are evident and inviting – a voluptuous generous dram.
On entry the softness and depth of spirit is a masterpiece, all due to fine casks and coal fired stills, the skills of both Cooper and Stillman shining through. The sweet esters caressing and stimulating encourage a hint of dried tropical fruit to tiptoe its way gently over the palate teasing and tantalising. It’s a tease pulling you back time after time until suddenly the bottle is empty. A beautiful balance of power intensity and finesse.
Highland Park 1976 (28 year old) 46% £91.95
The nose opens on a superb Mandarin/vanilla note, other fruity, zesty aromas quickly follow, including cantaloupe melon and papaya with a squeeze of lime and lemon and its olfactory heaven. Add a dash of candy floss sweetness plus warm honey all enwrapped by rich oak, a drift of peat and soft sea breezes and you are transported to Orkney on this unbelievably concentrated graceful spirit.
An unexpected freshness is immediately experienced on the palate, it may be 25 years old but it shows no signs of slowing down. The flavours flow serenely like an incoming tide, endlessly fruity together with the light smoky notes and sweet malted barley tantalising the taste buds. The complete single malt spectrum can be discovered in this treasure chest. A most magnificent spirit.
Linlithgow/ St Magdalen 1975 (29 year old) 46% £91.95
Lowland American Oak
An exhilarating nose. Fields of ripe sun- warmed barley, butterkist, brown sugar on breakfast cereal, Madeira cake batter, oak vanilla syrup, butterscotch, nougat, ginger snaps, poached pear, kiwi fruit and a sensation of summer flowers.
Sweet and Viscous with all the wonderful tastes you should expect from a beautifully distilled spirit. The aromatics experienced earlier are offered freely on the palate. Clean and understated with a silkiness of texture. The highlight is the bourbon sweet richness of Oak which is unctuous and syrupy and seals the other flavours in mellow concentrated harmony. Superb finish, with the Oak holding the Standard proudly when all the other combatants have fled the field.
CELTIC HEARTLANDS SERIES 2
Another series of casks I had the good fortune to taste from, with the exception of the 1969 Macallan (I tasted the 1968 from Series 1). And what can I say, expensive? yes, worth it ? absolutely!
Bunnahabhain 1966 (37 year old) 40.1% £222.95
Oloroso Sherry Butt
Smooth and rich on the nose. An incredible depth of honeyed dried fruit, raisins and saltanas, all wrapped up in a creamy, nutty, toffee and oloroso sherry blanket. Somewhere underneath there is a touch of peaty malt. The palate follows the nose. It has an incredible depth and complexity. It is probably the most interesting Bunnahabhain I have ever tasted. Rich, mellow and full of decadently honeyed fruits, heather, wild flowers, lots and lots of sherry with a touch of salt and peat emerging on the finish. If you love sherry matured malts then this is one for you.
Glenlivet 1968 (36 year old) 41.2% £222.95
A clean, toasty, biscuity nose with soft delicate aromas of marzipan, peach and pear. Followed by lots and lots of toasty creamy fudge aromas, with hints of angelica, sherry and salt. The palate was soft and clean with layer upon layer of sweet toasted cereal, apricot fruit, intermingled with angelica, toffee and citrus fruits. A very tangy, almost floral finish, which seems to linger endlessly.
Macallan 1969 (35 year old) 40.3% ?£222.95
The nose opens with orange marmalade with a twist of ceder, buttery lanolin and crispy wafer biscuits. Then it bends a little towards warm, fresh cut barley with other Speyside-in-Summer notes appearing before returning to the honey glazed fruits characteristic of this region. This is the text book example of how well distilled malt whisky, that?s been matured for over 35 years should taste. It’s just wave upon wave of full bodied beautifully balanced, absolutely delicious, honest to goodness flavours that simply blow you away.
BRUICHLADDICH 40 YEAR OLD
In December last year the distillery finally bottled that cask of Laddie that I had the very good fortune to taste from when I visited the distillery. Bottled at its natural strength of 43.1% it yielded 500 bottles worldwide. So ladies and gentlemen I present the oldest and most expensive Laddie to date.
Bruichladdich 40 year old 43.1% £1107.95
The nose is stunning, rich, very complex, ephemeral and floral. Apricot, digestive biscuits and rich creamy butterscotch aromas dominate, with a touch of light oil and sea air. The palate is incredibly complex, soft and full with an ethereal balance. Honeyed apricots seeped in a harmonious, slightly smoky Islay liquor. The finish is absolutely delicious, very long, very smooth and very pure
This newsletter is not all Bruichladdich and Murray McDavid you know. My good friend at Duncan Taylor phoned me up the other day to let me know of some new bottlings they had just done for the Whisky Galore range. ?Would you like me to send you some samples? he said. Hmm, guess what my reply was?
Aultmore 1989 (15 year old) 46% £30.95
Speyside Refill Sherry
Smooth and earthy on the nose. Dry, nutty with vanilla oak and sweet refill sherry coming through. It opens up to display a perfumed note. Smooth, light and dry on the palate with nutty sherried fruit. Very salty on the middle with a suggestion of spice. Lovely length with a slight floral note. Not so cerealy in character as some bottlings but with bags of charm and flavour.
Pulteney 1989 (15 year old) 46% £31.95
A big wave of briney sea air greets the nose, followed by a lovely creamy, fruity aromas of orange, lemon, a touch of peat, barley and a mere whiff of vanilla. Dry and distinctly maritime. The malt gently builds on the palate (and I mean builds!) showing garden flowers, peas, citrus fruit, a touch of peat and coastal smoke. Very intense and tangy, a fleeting finish leaving behind a salty residue.
Bowmore 1987 (16 year old) 46% £33.95
A lovely colour Deep, golden/ bronze. The aromas have a superb depth. Rich and very complex with lots of smoke/ soot, blood orange, citrus fruit, peat and oily, mellow, oloroso sherry. Very soft and rounded with classic Bowmore smoky/ sooty character, plus plenty of seaweed and sherry fruit. The smoke intensity builds on the palate and point blank refuses to leave. Very long lasting with a suggestion of violets on the finish.
BLACKADDER RAW CASK
As these whiskies are single cask bottlings, they do tend to come and go rather quickly, and we have waved goodbye to the superb bottlings of Auchroisk, Pultney and Bruichladdich. So as by way of replacement I’ve added the following bottlings to the list.
Linkwood 1989 (13 year old) 59.3% £45.95
Sherry Cask Cask No 5624
As expected an exciting, very warm, sherried, spirity nose. Very sweet on the palate, full of luscious chocolate fruit cake. Very yummy! Great complexity, peppery and honeyed. Very sweet and lingering with the peat coming through on the finish. Definitely one for sherry cask aficionados.
Mortlach 1989 (13 year old) 59.9% £47.95
Sherry Cask – Cask No 5149
Spirity and quite closed on the nose without the addition of a drop of water. Yet on the palate it opens up rather nicely, the water bringing out its honeyed character. Very sweet with huge dollops of rich sherried fruit cake and bitter chocolate orange. Very long and very good.
Aberlour 1990 (12 year old) 60% £45.95
Highland Cask No 3319
Quite floral and youthful on the nose with a perfumed malty character and an apple blossom note. Light-Medium bodied, quite soft and a bit winey. Very different from the distillery bottling. Soft and sweet on the palate with a lovely roundness and those floral notes. Long finish with a touch of rich, dark chocolate and a lingering hint of peat.
As you probably know Bladnock, like Bruichladdich is another distillery that has come back from the dead. It’s current owner Raymond Armstrong, an Irish ex rugby player was looking for a holiday home in Scotland when he took a wrong turn and came across the distillery buildings, and decided to buy them with the promise that he wouldn?t start distilling again. Hmm? buying a distillery and not distilling whisky. That wasn?t going to last long. Anyway he persuaded the previous owners to let him run the stills for a few weeks each year and has since been scouring the market to find mature casks. And I have to say that they are bottling some of the best lowland malts I have ever tasted.
Bladnoch 13 year old 46% £31.95
A delightfully crisp, youthful nose with the creamy Bourbon oak dominating. This is followed by a delicate touch of soft, citrus orange and tangerine. Light bodied with a lovely balance of soft citrus fruit, earth and granite. The middle opens up to display a very intense spicy character. Great length and finish,
Bladnock 13 year old 55% £36.95
Less Bourbon oak on the nose. It has a greater elegance with a more typical grassy, straw, hay and earthy citrus nose. Very youthful and intense. The palate is softer with more white fruit and noticeable alcohol. It is more earthy than spicy with orange fruit notes. The addition of water softens it too much and it tends to loose its character, therefore I would recommend you drink it neat.
Bladnoch 16 year old 55% £41.95
A storming nose, absolutely superb. This is definitely my favourite. It is deeper and richer, with more of everything. The palate is stunning, sweet, luscious and full of juicy fruit. Quite soft alcohol is followed by straw, deried grass and reed flavours. Finishing with a return of the juicy fruit and earthy nuances.
AND FINALLY??????.GAUNTLEYS TOP 10 SELLING MALTS OF 2004
1. Pendryn Madiera Cask Welsh Whisky
2. Springbank 10 year old
3. Bruichladdich 10 year old
4. Magilligans 1991 Sherry Cask Irish Whisky
5. Bruichladdich 17 year old
6. Bruichladdich 15 year old
7. Locke’s 8 year old Irish Whisky
8. Lagavulin 16 year old
9. Oban 14 year old
10. Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1990
AND VERY FINALLY
Each year I think it is around April time the Whisky Magazine has its annual awards. The format is that readers tell them who they would like nominate and they draw up a short list, from which a panel of experts chooses a winner. The winner of ‘Retailer of the year (one outlet only)’ last year was Loch Fyne Whiskies.Now I don’t expect to knock them off the top spot, but I would like to make it onto the shortlist, as I think that Gauntleys deserves some recognition for its services to Whisky.
So if you have enjoyed the newsletters over the last year or do, or if you have liked the service and the whiskies we offer, please send an email to the Whisky Magazines editor Dominic Roskrow (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know. Dominic is long gone-WI- however he is correct; they do deserve some recognition….
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