Benriach 36yo 1976/2013 (40.1%, OB, for Whiskysite.nl, Refill Hogshead #3012, 118 bottles)

After reviewing the Arran, a more recent Whiskysite bottling, I remembered I have already reviewed some other Whiskysite bottlings, like this Bushmills and this Port Ellen, but there are still more out there, even a Karuizawa! However, I have yet another one up my sleeve to review, and since I found out in the previous review I’m getting old, there is no better time than now for yet another Whiskysite bottling. Not just any other bottling I might add. Nope this time a 1976 Benriach. This was bottled for the boys from Leiden way back in 2013, and even then, sold out quite fast. Why? Because Benriach from 1976 have some sort of reputation, just like Tomatin’s from the same year. When we talked to Douglas Campbell (Master Distiller at Tomatin), he told us there was nothing special going on at the time, just a lot of distilling being done, as in the years before and after 1976. Any cask they could get a hold of was filled and later, when money was needed, a lot of that particular vintage was sold off, which might explain why a lot of 1976 Tomatin’s exist. However we also heard some compelling stories about fruity yeast strains and an exceptional summer making for super fruity barley.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Ahhh funky, old Whisky funkiness. Heaps of fruit with and edge of vanilla, more than an edge actually, giving it a creamy texture you can smell. You’ll never get this out of a NAS or otherwise young distillate. Sugared pineapple, dried and sugared papaya, lychee combined with refined creamy vanilla. Definitely a Hoggie remade with (mostly) American oak staves. Back then they didn’t care about 100% correctness, so when remaking the Hogshead, and if it would fit, the occasional European oak stave would find its way into a cask like this very easily. The wood note in this is very soft, not spicy. More about nuttiness than the wood-notes themselves. Uber-fruity with nice vegetal notes. Some less obvious notes emerge as well, hints of cardboard, lavas, coffee with lots of milk, mocha and latex-paint come to mind, but mind you, they only add to the complexity and do no harm to the whole. So don’t be alarmed. By the way, for all it’s fruitiness, this is not the most fruity smelling 1976 single cask Benriach, by far.

Taste: Oh my God this is good! Starts out with short bursts of the sugared and/or the dried yellow fruits I mentioned in the nose. When the body moves, rather quickly, through the cavity of your mouth it starts to develop black fruits in large amounts. Wonderful. This is what you look for in a 1960’s or 70’s Malt. The holy grail, at least for me it is! Also quite unexpected, since the blackcurrant and super-ripe blackberries are nowhere to be found in the nose. What a wonderful surprise.

I mentioned that the body moves rather quickly, What I mean is that it seems to have a start and a finish, but the body itself is very short-lived. It’s a bit thin and fragile, which can be attributed to the low ABV, but not only. The fragility of this malt has something to do with this specific single cask offering, since it is not always like this with older Malts or even sister casks. Luckily the black fruit thing is what makes up the finish, which is of medium length at best and should have lasted forever. Excellent! In the end a wonderful Malt, with alas a weak side. It should have had a little more oomph and staying power. It could have done with a bigger body, but in the end it is a remarkable, yet thin, Whisky. The aroma’s are wonderful and that also is worth the price of admission, although there are obviously better examples to be found. Don’t take too long since otherwise most of these Whiskies will end up in collections only, and therefore will cost more by the day.

Sure Whiskies like this will cost you a pretty penny (at auction), but its history in a bottle. More recent Whiskies will never smell and taste like this, it simply cannot be achieved, and if something like this would be marketed today in today’s market, it will be over 40yo old, and it will cost you 40 cars at least, and I don’t mean Dinky Toys! You have to taste something like this to be whole I guess.

Points: 92

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Bowmore Week – Day 6: Bowmore 16yo 1997/2013 (53.2%, OB, Hand Filled at the Distillery, Sherry Cask #1215)

Bowmore WeekRecently I was invited to attend a master class or presentation (depends how you look at it) for The Devil’s Casks. The Devil’s Casks were already sold out at the time, so the focus was shifted more to the 23yo matured wholly in Port. I was a bit sceptical at first, since finishing in port usually makes for a harsh Whisky. This one was fully matured in Port, still it was good. I’m guessing the usual Port Pipes that are being used, hold vintage Red Port, but I think maybe these pipes were used to mature Colheita’s or Tawny Port, because the Whisky was very smooth and far from being harsh.

I only had a few sample bottles with me, so I had to make some choices. I didn’t bring the 23yo Port-Bowmore, but I did bring me a sample of this hand filled 1997 Sherry-Bowmore. This sample was used in the presentation to show (off) Bowmore matured in Oloroso Sherry Butt. Hmmm, I thought The Devil’s Casks were to show (off) Sherried-Bowmore. Strange Islay-er-landers!

Bowmore 16yo 1997/2013 (53.2%, OB, Hand Filled at the Distillery, Sherry Cask #1215)Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Nice dusty and dry, thick Oloroso Sherry. Meaty and full. Plenty of everything. What a fabulous Butt this must have been. Haagsche Hopjes (a Dutch coffee bon-bon). Dark chocolate (but not the extremely bitter kind from Equador). Tar and extremely nice and mellow woody notes. I wish it had some more steam locomotive essence to it, then it would have been perfect. Hints of sour wood and saw-dust. The more it breathes, the less meaty and the dryer it gets.

Taste: Yeah, forget about The Devil’s Casks (for a now) and have a look at this! Full, sweet Sherry with a little woody bite. Burned wood from a bonfire, lots of sweet tar and only a small hint of ashes. Maybe not even very complex, but a nice heavy Sherry Whisky. No sulphur and no other funny business going on here. Even the bitterness is nice in this one. Let it breathe for a while.

Since The Devil’s Casks are fetching something in the range of 300 Euro’s and this does about the same at auctions, it would be a no brainer for me which one to take. I’ve heard Bowmore had another Sherry cask that could be hand filled and that one is said to be even better!!! (Cask #23). I should go over and fill “me” own bottle of Bowmore!

Points: 92

Thanks to Gordon for bringing this to The Hague, but also Rachel for putting it in his suitcase 😉

Bruichladdich 32yo 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB, First Fill American Oak Casks, 4200 bottles)

Let’s step things up a bit with this legendary Bruichladdich. Bruichladdich was founded in 1881, and the distillery was built by Barnett Harvey with money the family got from an inheritance from his brother. It is not the Barnett family’s first distillery though. In 1881 they also own the well-known distilleries: Yoker and Dundashill. Between 1929 and 1936 the distillery is closed. Much later in 1983 the distillery was closed as many others were, but fortunately it was saved (in the same year) and didn’t get demolished. Next the distillery was again closed between 1995 and 2000. In 2000 the distillery was bought for £6.5 million, by a group of investors. Quite a good investment since this group sold the distillery again for £58 million in 2012. The new owner being Rémy Cointreau.

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Old bottle. Waxy and very full and heaps of character. Vanilla with some nice acidity. There is also a fantastic woody note. Smells a lot like a 1972 Caperdonich (from a Bourbon cask), but fresher, less heavy, but don’t make the mistake thinking this is a light nose. Very drying nose, dusty and powdery and full of fresh air. All written here isn’t released by the Whisky in one go, it is released in layers. This nose alone would score sky-high. Absolutely stunning.

Taste: Fruity vanilla which is transported by a fabulous bed of wood. Sugared yellow fruits, again apricots (I get that a lot lately), but also a nutty part, almonds, but nothing bitter. A hint of toasted cask (sweet wood). Perfect big bold body with a mouthfeel to match. Good finish, it leaves a taste in your mouth that should have gone on forever.

This is a Whisky that fetches a pretty penny at auctions today. I should have bought this when it got out. In today’s market, Whiskies like this would be put in some sort of crystal decanter or another polished over the top packaging and would go for 1000 or 2000  Euro’s easily. Having said that, it’s probably worth the 500 Euro’s it costs today. Go and get it, I’ll vouch for it. I had this at 91 up untill now, but that was a grave error on my part. The new score is…

Points: 92

Port Ellen 31yo 1982/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, DL REF 9964, 286 bottles)

Next up, yet another Port Ellen, yes, Master Quill gets spoiled again! This time by Cara Laing ehhh Leggat (daughter of…) and Chris Leggat (now the son-in-law of…). Yes in the time between me receiving this Port Ellen, and reviewing it now, these two got married! Congratulations (again) guys! So let’s call this Port Ellen their wedding dram, shall we?

For those of you who didn’t know already, there have been some changes within Douglas Laing company. Brothers Fred (father of… & father in law of…) and Stewart Laing parted ways and divided the old Douglas Laing firm between themselves. Fred retained the ‘Douglas Laing’ name, ‘The Provenance’ series and ‘Big Peat’ and last but not least acquired the help of daughter Cara, who had to be bought back from Bowmore.

Stewart had to think up a new name: ‘Hunter Laing’ (also a family name) and has the highly succesful ranges of the ‘Old Malt Cask’ (OMC) and the ‘Old and Rare’ (O&R) series. Although OMC is probably the most impressive series the brothers had together, Fred created the new series of Old Particular, not wholly different from the OMC (and O&R lettering, if you ask me). So the loss of OMC and O&R are almost painlessly intercepted with The ‘Old Particular’ range and the ‘Directors’ Cask’ range. The future is looking great for the Laing’s and Leggats!

Color: Almost copper gold.

Nose: Lovely old and mellow peat, not very smoky, although there is some wood-smoke in here. Swamp-like plants (although this sounds horrible, it’s quite the opposite). The swamp also contained some lavas. Small hints of licorice and tar (worn down tarred rope). Under this all, some yellow sugared fruits want to emerge. Old dried apricots. (No I’m not mad). unusually mellow Port Ellen, but therefore absolutely lovely. Great balance too.

Taste: Sweeeeeeet, sweet and chewy at first. Fruity sweetness with ash and licorice again. Again old peat, very mellow. Small hints of mint (the mint stays in the back of my throat after the finish, it’s absolutely there), almonds and clove. A little bit of wood, but nowhere near the amount to be expected considering the age, also no bitterness. Quite a lively and full-bodied Port Ellen, but not a lot of legs in my glass. Medium finish but that fits the profile, it’s in no way an extreme Islay Whisky, but a more introvert and stylish Whisky. I love it!

Nothing to complain then? Not really, life is great, still having these Whiskies around, although more and more expensive. I was a bit surprised the finish wasn’t longer considering it’s a Port Ellen at 51.5% ABV, and comparing this to DL REF 4112, but really, who cares. The Whisky is great, the packaging looks great, Cara and Chris look great, and at the time of writing, the sun is shining, what more can we ask for. Ehhh, so more Port Ellen maybe…?

Points: 92

Thanks go out to Cara & Chris for providing the sample!

Glenfarclas 35yo 1971/2006 (51.4%, The Whisky Fair, Oloroso Sherry Butt, 534 bottles)

Well why not, why not try another Glenfarclas from a bottle without the distillery’s name on the label. This time a Glenfarclas again, but now from 1971, especially bottled for The Whisky Fair in Limburg Germany. For many the mother of all Whisky festivals on the planet. This Glenfarclas is definitely darker in colour than the previous one I reviewed. I’m guessing the 1965 should be from a Fino Sherry Butt, and we know this 1971 is from a new and fresh Oloroso Sherry Butt.

KnipselColor: Copper Brown.

Nose: Wow, perfect dry Sherry nose, with mint and a lot of elegant wood. Lacquered mahogany furniture. You always get this from old dark Sherry casks. Dried meat, bacon and chocolate, lovely. Extremely spicy, licorice and old shelved books. For the die-hards of old dry Sherry, a stunning nose. Exactly what I like. Menthol in the finish, including its cooling effect in the nose.

Taste: Again heavy Sherry. Fruity and the promise there once was more sweetness to this. Like cold tea, drying with a lot of wood influence. Still its so “firm” the woodiness doesn’t deter me. Whiskies like this should have this elegant wood. It’s a distinguished old gentleman. Coal and steam, not a lot of tar, maybe the smallest of hints of tar. The finish is dry, very dry and the wood shows it’s acidity here, but hey, it’s not bitter. Now it does show its lack of sweetness, or roundness if you like. This usually hides this woody acidity. So yes its fabulous but has it’s flaws. If this would have been perfect this would have been an 1971 Longmorn (Scott’s Selection).

Although Fino’s are quite different from Oloroso Sherries (and PX Sherries), both works very well as a cask to age Whisky in. Both have different characters and both will have a large following. In this case I wish I could have tasted this alongside a 1971 Scott’s Selection Longmorn (the dark ones), that should have been a blast. Not having that, I still wish I had a bottle of this Glenfarclas too.

Points: 92

Glengoyne Week – Day 7: Glengoyne 37yo 1972/2010 (52%, The Nectar of the Daily Dram, The Nectar and Bresser & Timmer)

Oh no, we’re already at the end of the Glengoyne week, quelle misère! This is always the moment with a little bit of melancholy. That moment when you’ve been with a good friend for a week and you know he or she has to leave. Waving goodbye at the train station or the airport. Going home alone with a little tear in the corner of your eye.

We are going to see our friend from Scotland off with the only independent bottling of Glengoyne in this Glengoyne week, and the only distillate from the seventies, the rest being eighties and one fairly new Glengoyne on day one. Here we have also the only Glengoyne that was bottled by The Nectar from Belgium together with Bresser & Timmer from The Netherlands.

Glengoyne 37yo 1972/2010 (52%, The Nectar of the Daily Dram, The Nectar and Bresser & Timmer)Color: Sparkling gold.

Nose: Waxy and fruity, like an old Duncan Taylor Caperdonich from the same year. Honeysuckle, and lots of it. This is so good, it can be worn as a perfume, amongst Whisky drinkers that is. Floral. Given some time the Whisky noses more elegant. After the initial weight of the wax and yellow fruit (that dissipates), it becomes more fresh, like walking on the beach in fall. Clean, maybe. The wood kicks in too, I mean the wood is noticeable, also a slight toast to it. Spicy. This one has utter balance. Caperdonichs and Glengoynes from 1972, I you haven’t tried them already, do it! In a short while they’ll get extinct or priceless, and you’ll be the poorer for it, not having had the experience…

Taste: Sweet, fruity and full, I already don’t want to write more notes now, I want to enjoy my dram! Somebody has to do the job, so I’ll sacrifice myself yet again. Bugger! The syrupy sweetness goes smoothly into the spiciness of the wood. Lemon sherbet and more yellow fruits, some peaches, dried apricots? Cardboard and vanilla ice-cream. Just a slight imbalance in the finish, but who cares, putting this in your mouth again makes up for that, you’ll only finish the bottle a little sooner than you meant to do. The finish in fact is not that heavy too, a tiny flaw.

It is a great dram. I was only surprised that the waxiness together with the fruitiness are here in the beginning, just not here to stay in the nose. tastewise it does stay. Well picked by Mario Groteklaes.

So that’s it, we are done for the moment with Glengoyne, and we are done with the fourth ‘week’ on Master Quill. In the end this independently bottle of Glengoyne got the highest score, with an almost equally briljant and newer ‘summer’ edition in the runner-up position. Actually the odds were a bit uneven since this Glengoyne is from the seventies and therefore well older than the rest of the contenders, but who said it was a contest? Through the rest of the offerings reviewed in this Glengoyne week, it can be clearly seen that Glengoyne makes a high quality whisky with multiple facets to it. Keep up the good work!

Points: 92

Thanks go out to Nico for providing the sample!

Glen Keith 38yo 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, for La Maison Du Whisky, Refill Sherry Butt #3876, 215 bottles)

And then there is Glen Keith. Glen Keith lies a stone’s throw away from Strathisla. The spirit from Strathisla was pumped to Glen Keith for filling into casks, but also the boiler at Glen Keith warms water for Glen Keith’s production. Glen Keith’s production started in 1958 with three stills (triple distillation). In 1970 the first two stills in Scotland that are heated by gas were installed. Soon after that, the distillery stopped the triple distillation. In 1983 a sixth still is installed. The distillery is mothballed since 1999, but plans are to restart the distillery next month (April 2013).

Chivas Brothers (owned by Pernod Ricard) already opened two of their mothballed distilleries. Allt a-Bhainne in May 2005 and Braeval (a.k.a. Braes of Glenlivet) in July 2008. If memory serves me well, Chivas Brothers also have Imperial. Alas, Imperial was considered not economically viable for reopening. (It was “old” and had the ‘wrong’ capacity, to small for a company like Chivas), so Chivas presented plans in 2012 for a new distillery to be built at the site of the old Imperial distillery. So the demolition of Imperial started around december 2012 and is now also gone for good.

Color: Copper, cloudy.

Nose: Musty Sherry with a lot of wood. Dried oranges, and sugared orange skin. Crushed dead insects, well they really don’t make them like this anymore! Cloves which fits the orange skin perfectly. Mocha with orange cordial. A forest in the rain. Oak planks. A Whisky with character.

Taste: Old bottle effect. Very spicy oak but not over oaked. It’s heavy on the wood but that not a bad thing here. A lot of wood and paper. Along comes wood spice and some bitterness. It is so clearly a Whisky from another time, that this one needs it. Luckily the rest of the body is quite ‘heavy’ too, but not in your face. It’s a rather quiet malt. Hot butter, sugared oranges and some coal. It actually is pretty sweet, but the sweetness is hidden well behind the wood and oranges. A bottled antiques shop with a long warming finish.

This is now my favorite Christmas malt. Just smell that dried Orange in combination with the cloves. It’s not a perfect old bottle though, but it’s so clearly a time capsule. It’s impossible to not love this. I was always a big fan of Strathisla of the sixties and seventies and this Glen Keith is therefore really no surprise at all. Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 92