Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (56.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 164, 318 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (56.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 164, 318 bottles)Another House of MacDuff bottling and yes, another Bunnahabhain from this independent bottler. The one I reviewed earlier was distilled in 1972 and bottled at 40 years of age! This again is a fairly light-colored malt, so it seems like a not so active cask. Still, knowing who picks the casks I still have high hopes for this one. It can’t be bad. It seems to me that Bunnahabhain is a very popular distillery for this independent bottler since they have managed to bottle already five Bunnhabhains, this one from 1997 was their first.

Color: Light gold

Nose: Lots of fatty peat. Crushed beetle. Dark black tea. Spicy and very nice woody notes. Tarred rope. The whole smells like a fishing boat, maybe without the fish. Citrus. Bonfire on the beach, but not salty. It doesn’t smell of sea wind that is. Hint of dried orange peel and some ginger. In the back some dried meat and old paint (from the fishing boat). A very romantic peated malt.

Taste: Lemon, cream and licorice. A stick of licorice “zoethout”. A very nice and laid back Islay malt. Lightly sweet icing Sugar underneath. Toffee, vanilla and smoke, even some ashes. Light fatty peat if given some time to breathe. Dries the lips. Salty. Smoked meat and a return of the dried orange peel.

yes another peated Bunnahabhain. It may surprise you so much peated Whisky is released from Bunnahabhain, but truth be told, Bunnahabhain have something of a shortage of unpeated Whisky on their hands, so expect a lot more peated stuff from this distillery. Beware, because not every bottler mentions on their labels that their Bunnahabhain is peated…

Points: 86

Dailuaine 1999/2012 (59.3%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask #CM172, 270 bottles)

Almost another year has passed since reviewing my last Dailuaine, bottled by Jürgen a.k.a. The Whisky Mercenary. This time a younger version, distilled in 1999, with a fairly light color, so probably not a very active cask.

Dailuaine 199920/12 (59.3%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask #CM172, 270 bottles)Jürgen’s version was quite strong and with a cask picked by John McDougall I again have some high hopes for this Dailuaine. Let’s see if this light Dailuaine packs some punch, and does it also have some cannabis I picked up in several other Dailuaines?

Color: Light citrussy gold.

Nose: Vegetal, fern and high on malt. High alcohol too, sweet. Thin honey, toffee and hard caramel. Pretty anonymous. This cask didn’t do a lot for the spirit. One use too many I guess. Tine hint of soapy foam. A very “green” Malt, and actually not very interesting. Dull.

Taste: Malty and powdery and yes, some wood. Pretty powerful and sweet. Rustic. A Malt from the country so to speak. Lots of marzipan and very fresh and likeable. Strangely enough there is a citrussy soury note that only shows itself in the finish. I know it s the oil from orange skins! Although likeable, something is not quite right here. (The strange soury note?).

Typical high strength Whisky where the cask didn’t impair a lot, or so it seems. There maybe something wrong with this one, but nothing to worry about too much, yet this one doesn’t speak to me. Good enough for bottling it is as single cask, but personally I wouldn’t have. Tasted blind I would have thought this was a Cadenheads bottling, since they have released lots of Whiskies like this in the recent past, but they bottle a lot. The House of MacDuff bottle considerably less, so you could expect only nice picks in their range. If so, why was this one picked? Probably for its malty sweetness I guess (or the orange?). No cannabis this time though.

Points: 81

Macduff 32yo 1980/2012 (50.0%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 180, 155 bottles)

Macduff 32yo 1980/2012 (50.0%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 180, 155 bottles)Third Macduff on these pages and just like the other two, this is again an oldie. The oldest one was from the sixties, 1967 to be precise, just their fifth year of distillation. The second one came from the seventies, 1972, now we have one from the eighties (1980). So will the next one be from the nineties? At the rate (and prices) old Whisky is selling these days it probably will…

Color: Gold

Nose: Waxy and very fruity. Powdered yet not dusty. Slight hint of pepper with lots of vanilla in the mix. Some yellow fruits, white grapes, apricots and peach. Next some mocha, toffee and caramel are in there, giving balance. Later on, in the nose emerges a slight whiff of wood with dry roadside plants. Overall fruity and sweet-smelling. Good balance and very appetizing.

Taste: Strong and fatty. Cardboard and the taste is also pretty fruity. Vanilla with some sugary sweetness. Licorice and slightly bitter, the wood plays its part. Pretty hefty stuff. Not as complex as I would have hoped, but still pretty decent stuff altogether. The Whisky has a good start and a very nice body, the finish has a lot of staying power (toffee) and is quite warm.

This is a pretty good Whisky. It has a pair of balls and some nice sweet yellow fruits throughout. The finish is also decent, but for such and old Whisky I would have expected some more complexity.

Points: 87

Thanks Erik for the sample!

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)

Back to core-business! To finish off the month of March, here is a review about an indie Aberlour. Aberlour is a very interesting distillery that in my opinion keeps on producing good malts, correction, good Sherried malts at affordable prices. Just have a look at my review of the excellent A’bunadh. This here is the first independently released Aberlour, and as with most Aberlours that are released by independent bottlers this is from an Ex-Bourbon cask, they probably need all the Sherry casks for themselves.

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fresh at first, creamy and very fruity. Biscuits and slight hints of mint. It smells somehow sweet, caramel and toffee in a good (not added) way. Pencil shavings. It seems like a good spirit with quite a nice full on sweet, cookie dough, and funky, body. In the distance it does remind me of White Wine (Barrel aged and buttery Chardonnay).

Taste: Spicy wood and not as sweet as the nose suggested. Wood, pears and a little bit of vanilla. Although not the most complex Whisky, the cask gave off more woody notes (all in check), and less of the Bourbon notes the cask could have given off. Having said that, the Whisky is actually quite nice in a toned down sort of way. It’s almost a shy Aberlour, not confident about itself,  because it didn’t come from a Sherry Butt, quite unneccessary so. It’s nice but only a little bit quiet and introvert in character. The high-proof matches the sweetness, the creaminess and the cookie dough perfectly. Not hot at all. Finishes off with oak, again toned down.

A very interesting malt. Without the independents we would hardly have a real clue about the quality of the Aberlour spirit, since most Aberlours that are released by the owners themselves have a huge amount of Sherry cask thrown in. This is more a naked version of Aberlour. It reveals a lot that the spirit behaves well in an ex-Bourbon cask. It would be quite nice to compare this to an independently bottled Oloroso Sherry cask at cask strength.

Points: 85

Bunnahabhain 40yo 1972/2012 (44.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, CM 184, 346 bottles)

Recently I reviewed an anonymous Bunnahabhain by David Stirk. That expression was heavy on Sherry. Here we have another Bunnahabhain, much older, and much lighter. As with all Golden Casks, this is again a cask that was picked by John McDougall. John has a big, big history in Whisky, so in the time when it is pretty hard for independent bottlers to find an exceptional cask, John still might be able to find one. Let’s see how this oldie he picked is holding up.

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Waxy and old smelling (old bottle effect). Fatty wood, with hints of licorice and maybe even some lavas. The profile is also fruitier with pineapple, and dried apricots. It doesn’t have any apparent peat. I do detect, however, some smoke, some chalk and butter. Hints of latex wall paint and custard. Quite a list of funny aroma’s for this Bunnahabhain if you ask me. The most striking aroma of them all is the very special waxy oldness it oozes.

Taste: Interesting, at first a combination of white wine, wood and slightly bitter beer. Licorice again with toffee, but the whole is quite dry and light. The initial attack is there, but the body is already light and the finish is not very long. The more this Whisky gets a chance to breathe, for instance in the glass, the more bitter it gets. It’s still easy within limits, so not to worry. Lacks a bit of power though if you ask me. This cask strength Whisky was bottled at 44.6%, so the angels particularly liked it!

At first, it even shows some similarities to 1972 Caperdonichs, with this exceptionally waxyness, but soon it gets much simpler or should I say lighter. Especially the body of those 1972 Caperdonichs are quite full, whereas this Bunnahabhain has a more lighter style to it. A bit brittle or fragile, but this Bunnahabhain does have the old wax and wood, that Whisky these day just don’t have and with modern techniques, will never be made like this again. So treat this Bunna gently and see it as a time capsule of some sorts.

Points: 86

Ben Nevis 1986/2012 (58.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, CM 188, 111 bottles)

Here are a few firsts, and on paper a quite interesting one to boot. This is the first Ben Nevis on these pages. It’s also the first time I’m reviewing a Whisky that was bottled by The House of MacDuff. Now for the interesting part. Some of you might have read “Wort, worms & washbacks” The memoirs of John McDougall written by Gavin D. Smith. By the way, Gavin was “reviewed” once before, so he’s no first. The House of MacDuff is a venture of Jane MacDuff ánd John McDougall. John also picks the casks for bottling under the Golden Cask brand. For those of you who haven’t read this book, well it’s utterly entertaining and very funny. Recommended. John has worked at a lot of very interesting distilleries in all Scottish regions, so I’m assuming that all picks by John just have to be great. I got a few samples from the series, and I’ll start with this Ben Nevis from 1986.

Color: Pinkish gold

Nose: Fresh, sharp and fruity sweet. Black tea (dry leaves). Nice bourbon cask not dissimilar from the Cadenhead offerings (Bourbon Barrels). Warm apple sauce and quite thick. Condensed sweet apple. Not a lot of wood, but there seems to be enough vanillin going around in this. Sawdust. Slightly vegetal too. Hints only of ethanol.

Taste: Sweet, vegetal and slightly woody (multiplex). Quite full and round (sweet) mouthfeel. This is not bad, not very complex but very likeable. Taste is pretty balanced, for me it just goes a bit wrong in the finish. Slightly acidic and the vegetal part (fern) starts to play a larger role. Also, but very late, comes in some bitterness from the wood. Fern with the sweetness, and the slight bitterness, is maybe a strange combination, but hey it’s only part of the finish, so don’t worry.

The Golden Cask don’t disclose all the facts of the cask, but this is probably a Bourbon Barrel. This bottling has yielded 111 bottles, so I’m guessing the cask was shared and this is only half the output from the cask. The second half was probably bottled for the Whiskymesse Rüsselsheim. That bottling yielded 100 bottles. 100 bottles of whisky on the wall, was probably the original order with The Golden Cask buying the rest of barrel #133. Therefore this Ben Nevis should also be 26yo.

Points: 84