Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (60.8%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #105091, 588 bottles)

Another year is almost over so this here is already the last post of 2014. What to review I asked myself? Maybe something incredibly special, something super premium or something outrageously expensive? Nothing like that. In the end I choose this Longmorn. Why? It seems like a good idea, to do none of the above, and I happened to have only one  open bottle left om my lectern that I hadn’t reviewed yet. Tying up loose ends. I hope this last year was a nice one and of course that the next one will be even better! Hope to see you back in the new year!

Dutch outfit Van Wees bottled eight heavy Sherry Longmorn’s distilled in 1996. These bottlings were rather popular, to put it mildly, since all didn’t need a lot of time to sell out. Highly collectible, but also good drinking Whiskies. Earlier, I already reviewed two casks from this series #72315 (the first release) and #72319 (the third release). Both were similar yet different, and both scored 88 points. This third review will focus on Sherry Butt #105091 (the seventh release). The first five were all sister casks #72315, #72318, #72319, #72323 and #72324 distilled on the first of May 1996. After that, three more Butts were bottled: #105092, #105091 and finally #105084. The latter was released during the Pot Still Festival 2014 in the Netherlands, making it the only one to be bottled in 2014, yet still at 17 years of age. Those last three butts were distilled on the 25th of June 1996 and yielded less bottles than the earlier butts but are higher in alcohol. There have been more butts bottled from the 723xx and 1050xx series, but those were bottled by Signatory Vintage for their own brand. Lets see if this will be another 88 points for Longmorn…

Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (60.8%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #105091, 588 bottles)Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Honey and quite vegetal. Especially the wood and honey make this Whisky not very distant from a very good Bourbon, although both Whiskies couldn’t be more different. Dry wood, old saw dust and dusty altogether. Burnt caramel and lots of sugared red fruits. Deep brooding and syrupy Sherry. Dark stuff from the gas light era. Elegant but more mysterious than the earlier bottlings.

Taste: Hot wood. Lots of wood and a sour note from fruit and Sherry. Coffee and dark chocolate with just the right amount of bitterness. Small hint of a sulphur compound, but the rest of the aroma’s are so powerful, Sulphur doesn’t stand a chance in dominating this Whisky. This Whisky also has a lighter side to it with paper and fern. Dark mahogany furniture with layers and layers of wax put on in its history to form this brittle woody and waxy nose.

Although I own both earlier reviewed Ultimate Longmorn’s, I haven’t opened the bottles. Both reviews were done from 6 cl samples. This bottle however, is one from my own collection I dared to open (curiosity killed the cat). The bottle is luckily still more than half full, but I had a fair chance in trying this without having to analyze it. In comparison, I do believe this #105091 is very drinkable and always leaves a good impression, but this time I won’t be giving another 88 points. The earlier releases, if memory serves me correctly, seemed to be more balanced, less dry and more fruity, than this one does. This time the added paper and fruity acidity do meddle with the balance of this Whisky, still good and I will not have any problem finishing this, but just not as good as the earlier one’s I have tried.

When compared to the Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park that also scored 87 points, the Highland Park has more raisins (dominant), coal and seems to be more accessible. It is less dry and sweeter on the palate. It is similar in quality, not higher in sulphur and actually quite nice. It is seems to me they are made for one another. I will only have to try them now in reversed order…

Points: 87

This one is for Cyril, great to hear you’re doing well!

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

After the excellent Dailuaine by Gordon & MacPhail why not try another one. This time one by dutch Indie bottlers The Ultimate. Gordon & MacPhail are known for controlling the whole process from acquiring the cask, storing the filled cask, right untill bottling of the Whisky. With this they hope to achieve the highest quality possible. The Ultimate have a slightly different approach, a very Dutch one.

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

First of all the final product cannot cost too much, having said that, they really try to get the highest quality they can get. No money is spent on designing a fancy label, nor on a fancy glass bottle.  A long time ago a picture of Bushmills distillery was found and placed on the label and never again was money spent on design. (By the way, Bushmills was never bottled in this series). If you want your bottle in a (simple, white) box, you’ll have to pay extra. The only money spent is on buying good Whisky. The Van Wees company has many contacts in Scotland dating back to the sixties. Most, if not all, of the recent casks are bought from Andrew Symington (Signatory Vintage). Just have a look at the casks from 1997. The Ultimate bottled #6012 and #6017, Signatory bottled #6015, #6016, #6018 and #6020. The Ultimate bottled #4229 and #4234. Signatory bottled #4228, #4230, #4231, #4232 and #4233.

Color: Light Gold

Nose: Fruity and buttery. Quite a strong aroma. Nice spicy and grassy wood. Just like it’s brother from Gordon & MacPhail, a nice sweet vanilla note. Eggnog. Lots of influence from the wood, without overpowering the distillate. Nice sappy oak and also a little bit of cardboard. With some air a more dry and powdery turn. A lot less apple, but still there. Somehow the alcohol is more upfront.

Taste: Sweeter than I imagined. Again a pretty nice aroma. Vanilla with candied apples and even some raspberry. Excellent stuff. A paper note, but also hints of burnt sugar mixes in with the toasted oak. Very nice and drinkable, with a sweet and warming, and dare I say, hoppy finish. The Whisky is pretty straightforward and nicely un-complex.

Dailuaine is a pretty nice distillate, will have to keep this one in mind and investigate further.

Points: 85

Fettercairn 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Bourbon Barrel #408, 226 bottles)

Careful readers of the last few reviews have noticed there are some entry-level malts there and the odd Irish stuff. Coincidence or not, there were some points given in the 70’s. Like for instance The Macallan 10yo and Inchmurrin 15yo. Through the wonderful medium of Facebook I got comments like “did you lose a bet?” or “got some imposition?” or “What’s next: Fettercairn?” I initially wasn’t planning on reviewing Fettercairn just yet, but with comments like that who could resist. I have to be honest, I don’t own a bottle of Fettercairn. I had no money left when I spent it all on Brora. Luckily in the ever-growing bank of samples I did have a sample of this Ultimate Fettercairn. Hurray! Yes, you read correctly between the lines. Fettercairn isn’t a very popular Whisky, but is that fair? When I look at my list of previously tasted Fettercairns, I actually haven’t scored one below 81 points, so it can’t be bad, right?

Fettercairn 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Bourbon Barrel #408, 226 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Creamy vanilla. Ice cream, but also small hints of a whiff of (burnt) garbage. What!?!?! Let’s put that particular smell away and move on. Spicy wood, dark chocolate, nice oak actually. With some air, pencil shavings and more floral and slightly soapy. Move the Whisky around in your glass and you’ll pick up the more floral bit. Wet flower-pot soil and half-dried grass. I’m thinking first refill (not first fill) Bourbon barrel. Apart from the little off-note I picked up earlier (I actually did just take the garbage out), there is nothing out of the ordinary here. It smells like a typical Whisky from a Bourbon barrel.

Taste: Somewhat sweeter initially than I expected. Creamy vanilla. Warming and quite some wood, less of the oak, but more of the pencil shaving that are there in the nose, but also cardboard. Pepper and a hint of acidity (also from oak, that reminds me again of garbage. What!?!?! No, I’ve never eaten garbage in case you’re wondering). Small amounts of the vanilla/caramel/toffee group are rightly detected. Warming finish that is a little bit hot (and woody).

So why does Fettercairn have such a bad reputation? I honestly couldn’t tell you, since I have only tasted a mere five expressions. I have tasted this independent bottling now and another one from Cadenhead’s (a 10yo from 1993, 81 points). The other three were the official 24yo (85 points) and 30yo (82 points), both from 2009, and the 30yo “Stillman’s Dram” from 2005 (83 points). It seems to me older is not always better with Fettercairn.

Points: 81

Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)

Here is another Ultimate bottling I tried recently. Dutch outfit Van Wees are getting some pretty good bottles released recently and there is a buzz going on about this 25yo Blair Athol. Blair Athol isn’t a very popular distillery, so when something like this is “buzzin'” we can’t ignore it now can’t we? This is from a refill Sherry Butt number 6918. More casks from this series are bottled this year by Van Wees: 6922, 6927 and 6928. All reduced to 46% ABV. Meanwhile in Scotland…

In 2014 Andrew Symington is releasing 25yo Blair Athol’s from 1988 too. Signatory Vintage, his company, is releasing some pretty good Cask Strength Blair Atholls with the following cask numbers: 6914, 6919, 6920+6924 and 6925. Seems like some sort of gentleman’s agreement doesn’t it? Well nothing wrong with having some good friends. I’ve tried one of these and it was very good. Now let’s see how Blair Athol behaves when Van Wees add some water to it…

Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Intense Sherry nose, and I don’t mean Fino people. Floral and perfumy. Nice and laid back. Funky wood and also some sulphur. Hard candy powder. Toffee and black fruit. Blackcurrant and blueberries. Nice fruity sherried Whisky. Well balanced nose. Dry and aromatic and with some hints of soap. No sight of raisins or cloying sweetness in this dark-colored malt. Otherwise a typically dark sherried nose, with some acidic oaky notes.

Taste: Toffeed Sherry, yet it doesn’t seem sweet. It does have its Sherry-sweetness but that is pushed back by the dryness of the wood. The taste is quite dry (the wood again) but all seems to be in check. Not a very sweet and cloying malt. In the distance some notes of coal and elements of old malts. The dark fruits return in the finish, which makes for an excellent finish. Still it’s not over the top. It’s not overly woody, and the fact it’s not sweet makes for an easier drinkable Sherry malt.

This is a pretty funky Whisky, if you ask me. The funkiness is there when it’s freshly opened, but also when it’s freshly poured into a glass. I hope you don’t drink your Whisky from the bottle now don’t you? This tells us the Whisky needs some air, and time, to breathe. The air gives it a more elegant feel, but also more balance, the aroma’s tend to fit better to each other. I must say, al be it from a sister cask, I like this one, way better at higher strength, but this reduced one is also pretty good by itself, uncompared. Recommended!

Points: 86

Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)

Next we’ll have a look at an indie Ben Nevis. I love Ben Nevis, it usually is a malt that strikes a chord with me. For me Ben Nevis is still a distillery working today that is able to churn out very good Whiskies, and for sure is one I’ll always keep an eye out for. That said I also am realistic. Not every indie Ben Nevis is good. It isn’t a distillery I would buy indie bottles from without tasting first. Although pretty good, The Golden Cask Ben Nevis I reviewed earlier, did have a strange, funky finish, which makes it, in my opinion, less of a daily drinker. The Ben Nevis we have at hand here was sourced from Signatory. Just have a look at the cask numbers The Ultimate and Signatory are putting out from 1992.

Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)Color: Light gold, with a slight pink hue

Nose: Yeah, now we’re talking. Fatty, buttery, vanilla and fruity. Lots happening and everything seems to fit together quite nicely. Fantastic fruitiness, all sorts of mixed up fruits, red, black and yellow fruits. Almost impossible to discern any of them. Caramel, mocha and strawberry combined with sweat. The wood shows itself here as nutty. Yes this is very special. Do I detect some old school Whisky here?

Taste: Sweet but also a little bit acidic. Very appetizing. Some burnt notes and quite spicy without it being woody. Marzipan and again lots of fruits with some nuts. Highly complex, and I’m imagining this amount of flavor and its complexity might not be for everyone. Hints of smoke, and it has a curiously hidden sweetness to it. Maybe its high in fruits that it only seems to be sweet. Pure enjoyment. Is it without flaws than? Yep this Whisky suffers a bit from a weak finish. Everything that is so well-balanced in this Whisky is absent from the finish. It has some power but after the big body, the finish is a bit weak, and missing some of the big flavors that were so apparent in the body. But hey, this to me is still a pretty good Whisky.

I have to admit, I love Ben Nevis. Most of the times I encounter one, albeit blind or not, I seem to like it. It has characteristics I do like personally. I rated a full bottle of this 86 Points. This review is written about the last drops from the bottle. It is excellent and since I’m going to score this even higher, I’d say this needs some air people.

Points: 88

Bunnahabhain “Moine” 5yo 2008/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Peated, Bourbon Barrel #800011, 341 bottles)

Just the other day, Jan from Best Shot Whisky Reviews reviewed a nice 5yo Islay peated whisky, so why shouldn’t we do just the same. Why? Because we can! Next up a Moine. A Moine say you, yes a Moine, the peated Bunnahabhain. This is bottled by dutch indie bottlers Van Wees under their Ultimate Label. Unchillfiltered and uncolored. Van Wees already bottled quite a few of these Moines, and if you are interested, get one quick since the latest expression bottled in 2014 costs a tenner (in Euro’s) more than the earlier bottlings…

Bunnahabhain Moine 5yo 2008/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Peated, Bourbon Barrel #800011, 341 bottles)Color: Very pale straw yellow and/or greenish. Almost colorless.

Nose: Fat and fruity peat. I certainly have smelled this before. Than more peat and after that even more peat. Although this has lots of peat, I wouldn’t call this “heavy”. It has some smoke obviously, but you never know, they don’t always come together. The smoke part is light, as is the wood and toast. The fruit plays a big role in this Whisky as does its youth. Sweet licorice and spice. Black tea leaves and green plants. Given some time, it becomes less fatty and gets more floral even (and soapy) and the peat gets more meaty. Little bit of bonfire and coal dust. Not bad, not bad at all.

Taste: Sweet with delicate smoke and peat. Cardboard, plywood and sugar. It’s an almost lovely peated whisky lemonade. Extremely appetizing. Fern and tree sap. After several sips, you get the (thin) sweet watery feel, with tasty peat, but it is highly un-complex. Finishes on citrussy peat and a little bit of bonfire with ashes.

These Ultimate Moines are dirt cheap and sell well, but are not very highly regarded. Yes, at first it is peat peat peat and it looks like a vodka that has aged for a week in stainless steel with a blade of grass thrown in for color. But just forget about your typical peated Islay Whisky. It’s not a heavy peated Whisky, with sea spray and Iodine. Nope, it’s a more easily drinkable, fruity and sometimes floral, modern Islay Whisky. It fits right in with the newer easy drinkable and easy accessible expressions of the big boys like Laphroaig Select, Bowmore Small Batch and many Caol Ila’s. Those are easy drinkable too, but this has more peat to it and still is like a peated lemonade. Don’t expect a lot of complexity. It didn’t do a lot in the cask except for marrying its flavours, and its only 5 years old. But who cares, this is to drink and lie back, it’s about enjoying life. Peat reinvented and very easy drinkable. No high marks here, but still I enjoyed it a lot, and isn’t that the most important?

Points: 82

For fun, I did a head to head of this Moine with the Kilchoman Spring 2010, and found the Kilchoman at 3yo to be more balanced, smokier, less sweet yet more interesting and funkier (the Oloroso Sherry finish probably did that). More happening, more flavor. It’s more of everything actually.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)

Craigellachie was founded in 1891 and designed by Charles Doig. The first spirit is distilled not earlier than in 1898. Smooth sailing from there, with some minor changes in ownership. In 1964 the distillery is hauled over and the stills are doubled taking them from two to four. In 1998 Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla are sold by UDV (now Diageo) to Bacardi (Martini). Its closest neighbour is The Macallan.

More than two years ago I reviewed one of my own bottles a Craigellachie that was distilled in 1982. Today we’ll have another go at Craigellachie and this time one that was distilled 20 odd years later. The Craigellachie at hand is a mere 8 years old, and was matured in a Sherry Butt.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Malty and quite sweet-smelling. Hot sugar solution. Toffee, caramel and most definitely some vanilla (American oak?). Also a hint of mint and some elegant (old) oak. Next to that some fresh air and herbal traits. Dried grass. The wood changes a little into the smell you get when you are sharpening a pencil, but also cask toast. Probably a Refill Butt that once held Fino Sherry. The sweetness that was there in the beginning dissipates a bit to let those woody and drier notes to display themselves some more. After a while a hint of licorice and lemon curd.

Taste: Malty again, and somehow it doesn’t taste ready, not as balanced as the nose is. It is underway yet not finished. Small bitterness and also some paint notes. The maltiness and oak hide the sweetness that is absolutely there. Butter cake and a touch of honey. Given some time the sweetness emerges better but the whole gets more balanced by a creamy note and milk chocolate. The finish is quite long and adds a bitter burnt note that wasn’t there before. It adds to the character and balances the (late) sweetness. Interesting.

I usually wine that a Whisky was reduced too much. This one yielded almost 900 bottles, so this must have been a Whisky that was high in alcohol. It was reduced to 46% ABV, yet it still carries a nice punch and I’m guessing the flavours are better displayed at this strength than it would have been at Cask Strength. Lovely and honest Whisky, easily drinkable and a nice addition to a lot of official bottlings you might own in the same price-range.

Points: 84