Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 “Warehouse No 1” (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)

That’s not all! There is more. I hope you didn’t think I would have only hand-filled Aberlours from ex-Bourbon casks now didn’t you? This is a case of saving the best for last, at least so I hope. Experience showed me that the Aberlour spirit fares well in Sherry casks, and often something wonderful emerges. Just take a look at one of the best NAS bottlings in the Marketplace: The Aberlour A’bunadh. Up ’till now I reviewed two batches on Master Quill: #13 and #33 and calling both pretty good would be an understatement. Here we have a sort of A’bunadh only older and coming from a single cask. So who knows, maybe it’s even better!

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 Warehouse No 1 (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)Color: Warm and dark orange brown.

Nose: Wonderfully sherried. Toffee and cherries. Slightly tarry and very reminiscent of A’bunadh, so I would go with Oloroso Sherry for this one. Nice soft oak. Slightly burnt caramel and the whole comes across with nice toffee notes, without its sweetness though. Well balanced and definitely older than A’bunadh. With some air more rubbery notes appear and more dry wood. Very dusty actually. Tiny hint of cola sweetness and even a hint of florality? Where A’bunadh sometimes can smell a bit harsh, this oozes softness. Excellent stuff.

Taste: Yes more A’bunadh. Starts with a high note of acidity, that quickly moves into cherries and a tarry woody depth. Nice liquid toffee temporary sweetness. Mocha and cream. Latte Macchiato (with a wee bit too much milk). Sticky toffee pudding. Schwarzwalder kirsch trifle, all again without their usual sweetness. Dusty. Extremely drinkable. Lovely.

Even though its twice the age of A’bunadh, it’s very similar in its initial profile. Forgetting the smoothness and softness brought to this Whisky by ageing, you can see this as a single cask A’bunadh. Both share a lot. Having said that, and more or less claiming this is (easily) recognizable as an A’bunadh, I have to say that it also reminds me a lot of the 1996 Ultimate (and Signatory) Longmorns. Earlier I reviewed three of those: cask 72315, cask #72319 and cask #105091.

Points: 89

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Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 “Warehouse No 1” (52.2%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #8959)

Aberlour was one of the first Single Malts I’ve ever tried. Back in 2000 or 2001 I got the 10yo for my birthday (thanks Arthur!). Nice stuff. Especially for the novice I was back then, and maybe still am, since there remains an awful lot to learn. For me Aberlour was always more about the Sherried Whiskies than the ones aged in Bourbon barrels or hogsheads. The character of the Aberlour distillate is definitely easier to “get” when trying Aberlours from (refill) Bourbon casks, but this hand filled Aberlour from first fill bourbon will do just nicely too. However, I’ve never came across a Bourbon cask aged Aberlour that knocked me off my feet. Maybe this is the one, since it came directly off the distillery. Distilleries hold the best for themselves don’t they?

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 "Warehouse No 1" (52.2%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #8959)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Floral and leafy vanilla powder with some funky organics going on. Extremely fresh and fruity. Canned concentrated fresh air. Combinations of pineapple, dried peaches, peaches in light syrup. Sweet white grapes and cherry liqueur bon-bon. Very aromatic and dusty as well. You don’t get a lot of sweet and dusty, but here it is an evolution going on in the glass. It starts sweeter than it ends. It’s fresh and lively and I’m actually surprised this is already 16 years old. I expected a darker Whisky coming from a first fill Bourbon cask. Fresh and minty with small hints of lime. It has everything you can have from an ex Bourbon cask. Florality, vanilla and lots of fruit. In the background typical wet oak and slightly meaty. Sawdust and paper, and sometimes I smell the Bourbon itself. Reminds me a lot of the 1994 Golden Cask expression I reviewed earlier.

Taste: Soft and spicy and quite sweet right from the start. Almonds and very nice creamy vanilla and fruit, peach it is again. Wow, great Bourbon cask. A lot of the elements fall in its place. For me Whiskies with this profile need to be a bit sweeter (especially when the whole lacks a bit of complexity). Creamy toffee and fine powdered sawdust. Vanilla and fudge. Well you get the picture don’t you? Soft wet wood, like snapping off a branch. Hints of latex paint and sweet wood (with a walnut skin, bitter edge to it).

I like the sweetness and the softness of this Malt. Dry, cask strength Bourbon cask Malts can be quite sharp and hot. For instance. The 1997 Tomatin that was aged in a Refill Bourbon barrel is less sweet, and therefore drier but also a bit hotter and harsher. Again a decent Bourbon Aberlour, as I’ve come to expect by now

Points: 85

Ledaig 16yo 1997/2013 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead #465)

Third of October and right now the doors are opening for the 2015 Whisky Show in London, England. As many years before I’m attending this wonderful Whisky fest, the best few days of the year. Maybe not even the Whisky, but the people. I really can’t wait for it to begin. For those of you that are not there I’ll have a go here at a Ledaig (a.k.a. peated Tobermory) that was picked by The Whisky Exchange. This was a Whisky that was bottled a few weeks after the Whisky Show 2013, but luckily I got a chance to try from Gordon & MacPhail, before it was bottled. People from the Netherlands will know its sister cask #464 which was also excellent but much, much lighter in color.

Ledaig 16yo 1997/2013 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead #465)Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Fatty peat and candy sweetness. Animalesk and organic. Wild stuff. Hints of burnt cable. Unlit tobacco and dark chocolate powder. Very vegetal. Thick and full of itself. Big. Hints of vanilla and cream. Some dried grass and yes some wet grass from a muddy field in October as well. Funky fresh fungi. This never stops giving. Great peat that is balanced out nicely by the Sherry, but the former is the more dominant in this bottling.

Taste: Excellent entry. Sweet, mixed perfectly with licorice and lots of almonds. Even the wood is almondy. Utter and perfect balance. What a great integration of flavours. Red fruits and berries and hints of Gin. Fresh at times. Sea spray and hints of blobs of fresh fatty tar. Remember Lightning McQueen? Hints of stable (cow) and a bit of wood, but not much. Strange enough, with this amount of aroma and at almost 57% ABV., this only  has a medium finish, it gone sooner that you would want. Great aftertaste though. Almonds and red fruit. Salty lips!

If this would be older (tasting), had a longer finish and had even more added depth it would score well into the nineties. If it had more notes of curry and red peppers you could eat this dram. What a near-perfect modern dram this is. Excellent stuff can still be made. I’m happy I had some prior knowledge to snap this up when it was released.

Points: 90

Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Double Cask Matured, Circa 2003)

Here is another oldie from the archives. This time another big well-known brand with one of their succesful numbers. This bottling still exists, although it went through a few newly designed labels. As far as I know this was the first edition of this particular bottling. Double cask matured. Slap Double Wood on the label and you have a law-suit on your hands, but essentially it’s the same thing. Bourbon cask matured Single Malt Whisky with a finish in Sherry casks. Aberlour are well-known for heavy usage of Oloroso Sherry casks, but we already know from the 1988 bottling, that other Sherry casks are also used, and since this isn’t a highly priced expression I do suspect other than Oloroso casks may have been used with this one too. And why not?

Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Double Cask Matured, Circa 2003)Color: Copper gold

Nose: Sweet Sherry, and vanilla, which would already suggest maturation in Sherry and American oak casks. Sweet and slightly winey. Some hints of powder and dust and hardly any (tannic) wood, so definitely longer maturation in American oak than European oak. Just smell those vanilla and pudding notes. After a while more floral notes emerge. I’m not very good with flowers so I can’t tell you which flowers yet, but believe me it is floral right now. Together with the floral bit, elegant polished wood comes to the fore with some bad breath too. The Sherry part is getting less and less pronounced, so most definitely a finished Whisky all right.

Taste:  Sweet and again a combination of vanilla, pudding and a more winey note than a typical Oloroso Sherry note. Sweet and simple would sum this up just nicely. Creamy with a hint of bitter plain white oak, so at least the sweet vanilla body is given some backbone with wood. Slightly cardboardy finish as well as waxed milk chocolate. You know the shiny stuff. Leaving this in the glass even longer, a more candied fruit note emerges. Dried apricots and some honeyed almonds. It picks up more of a bite too. Not a very complex malt yet very likeable. Highly drinkable, but it wouldn’t be my first pick for a daily drinker, since it lacks some complexity and the finish seems to be not as well-integrated as should. Having said that, giving this some air to let it settle some more, does do wonders for this Malt and adds some nutty bitterness too.

In effect this does remind me of Bourbon matured Aberlours I’ve tasted in the past, but also the 1988 I reviewed earlier. When I come to think of it, it does also remind me a bit of Highland Park 12yo. Quite good, but also quite simple with a less than perfect finish. I haven’t tried them yet, but I expect later batches of this Whisky to be better in this respect, with hopefully more Oloroso casks used for finishing, but also a slightly longer finish in those casks will help it along as well.

Points: 85

Laphroaig Week – Day 7: Laphroaig 16yo 1988/2004 (52.5%, Douglas Laing, for The Whisky Shop, 614 bottles)

Laphroaig SignWell, weeks are only seven days so they are bound to be over very quickly over. Today is the seventh day so I hope to finish this Laphroaig Week over with a bang, but you never know. This particular Laphroaig was selected by the Whisky Shop from the stocks of Douglas Laing in the dumpy green bottle, Whisky geeks love so much. In the early days it was a mark of excellent quality, or maybe they just bottled it like this because it was bottled at cask strength. Obviously this Laphroaig is from a cask that once held SHerry, just look at the sheer amount of bottles yielded at cask strength. Great! I love the combination of (extreme) Laphroaig and Sherry…

Laphroaig 16yo 1988/2004 (52.5%, Douglas Laing, for The Whisky Shop, 614 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Tar, salty licorice and raisins. Extremely brooding. Thickly clad Sherry, musty and funky. Intertwined some red berries and other aromatic red fruits like ripe little forest strawberries. This kind of Sherry-ness we’ve encountered before in a bottle of Scapa I have. Whiffs of freshly cut oak planks and oriental spices. Cardamom and saffron spring to mind. Nice whiffs of dusty dryness and sawdust from very old dry wood as opposed to fresh sappy oak. White pepper and dried out Marmite with black coal. The tar reminds me of a warm road. It’s not a thick tarry note, but just enough to add to the wonderful complexity of this Malt. The peat shines towards the end. What wonderful stuff this is. One of great complexity and balance.

Taste: Tarry with the typical ashes and licorice I also found in the Laphroaig I reviewed on day 5. Hefty Sherry, big body. Sweet and creamy, but not as fruity as the nose suggested. Noticeable is a slight fruity acidic undercurrent, that is almost hidden away. This is something I usually get from very old bottles, so its more than welcome here. This fruity undercurrent doesn’t show itself after a fresh pour. This needs time to develop, so this Whisky comes with an operating manual. Tar and coal. Steam locomotive. The Sherry plays a big role and gives of some nice subdued fruity notes, but the Laphroaig underneath is doing well too, with some great peat. This comes together nicely!

Laphroaig came through and never disappointed. Some conclusions you might ask? Well all in all Laphroaig is a pretty good Whisky. It is still one of the greats, but not as good as it once was, but which distillery truly is? None of these seven reminded me of the stellar old 10yo’s of yesteryear. Neither the 10yo @ 43% ABV nor the Cask Strength versions, but then again I didn’t review any 10yo in the Laphroaig Week now did I? The 15yo was a great malt from its day, different from the 10yo’s. The 18yo is decent but for me not as good as the 15yo. Simpler I would say. The An Cuan Mòr was is a well crafted surprise, which I can heartily recommend from the modern range of Laphroaigs. The independents did manage to get their hands on some great sherried Laphroaigs, although very good sometimes it is Obvious why some casks did find their way on the open market. Sulphur! Still I liked the Kintra expression. Douglas Laing also were represented here with some nice Sherried versions and an odd one that had all its aces up its sleeve. You had to work for gratification. The Laphroaig Week is over. A sad moment, but I hope to review a lot more Laphroaigs on these pages. Hope you liked it.

Points: 90

Laphroaig Week – Day 5: Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL REF 814, 276 bottles)

Laphroaig SignThe dark side of the moon. We are now most definitely on the other side of our Laphroaig Week. It started with the highly visible and upfront official bottlings, pivoted around yesterday’s Kintra Laphroaig (sunset Sherry) and now the final stretch home. This final trio starts with this more obscure Whisky, hiding in green glass aswell, but not released by its maker, but sold of for blending purposes, I guess, but rescued from mediocrity by focussing on its single cask traits. Today we’ll be looking at a Laphroaig bottled by Independent bottler Douglas Laing. Douglas Laing started bottling two Laphroaigs under the alias ‘Laudable’ in 2000. Both were 15yo and 1985 distillates. Using the Laphroaig name three further 1985 distillates saw the light of day as 17 year olds. Next up were a large amount of bottles distilled in 1987 and our DL REF 814 is one of them.

By the way, the picture here depicts sister bottling DL REF 745, bottled 4 months later. The reviewed bottle should look similar.

Laphroaig 1987 Douglas LaingColor: Light gold, almost white wine.

Nose: Extremely closed. Quite light and friendly in the nose. Citrus fruits and smoked cold citrus flavored tea, yes Lapsang Souchong comes to mind. Also a promise of sweetness. Not your heavy hitting peat and smoke emitting monster. Nope, nothing like that at all! Very light end vegetal. Pot plants and warm dried out flowerpot dirt. Slightly meaty and quite a buttery smell which occasionally emits a fruity acidic smell. Pear is added to the citrus. Vanilla with a tiny hint of cigarette smoke. Sweaty and even some tropical fruits like pineapple. Didn’t see this coming! Given some air, a slight dab of smoke emerges as well as some peat. It’s almost like the liquid is holding back the aroma’s from emanating. Nice to see how well all these aroma’s fit together.

Taste: Half sweet and slightly buttery again. Lightly smoked almonds. Fruit syrup. Lots and lots of licorice, ashes and a bitterness that seems to come from smoke. Lightly toasted almonds now with hints of lemon. The acidic citrus note is a great counterpart to the smoke, butter and vanilla. The almond taste stays on for a long time. Altogether half-sweet with toffee throughout. Little hint of mocha-coffee and milk chocolate and even some whipped cream enters the fold occasionally. How is that for complexity? No heavy peat nor a nice garden bonfire so get that out of your system before tasting. Warming.

Quite a strange Laphroaig this is. At first hand it’s not very open and invites you to work it out of the glass. In the end it ís willing to show itself and slowly it emerges out of the glass. Forget for a while this is a Laphroaig, just imagine an old Islay Whisky. The beauty here lies in the details, in the frail and brittle aroma’s, in the great balance and nice complexity. Granted not an easy malt, but if you have the right mind-set it will reward you big-time. So very, very different from regular releases and the profile Laphroaig normally is known for.

Points: 88

Glenfarclas 16yo 1995/2011 (53.9%, Kintra, Confidential Cask, Sherry Butt #5, 120 bottles)

In the depths of my ever-growing amount of samples, I found this sample of an undisclosed distillery named Glenfarclas. Actually, Glenfarclas isn’t stated on the label, but it has somehow become common knowledge that this Whisky was made by Glenfarclas and hand-picked by Erik Molenaar of Kintra from the Netherlands. Erik as well as Glenfarclas have been featured before on these pages, so why not continue immediately with this undisclosed Glenfarclas…

Glenfarclas 16yo 1995/2011 (53.9%, Kintra, Confidential Cask, Sherry Butt #5, 120 bottles)

Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry there! Velvety but also a lot of sulphur. Licorice, dry air and wood. Black and white powder and cookie dough. Lots of aromas and all are on full volume. Meaty (cold raw meat), creamy, vanilla but also some mint and flint. Lot of aroma from wood, without being overpowering. Like the wood of an old door which has just been stripped of its thick layer of cracked paint (and cooled off) (no, I’m not on LSD, it’s an association).

Taste: Full on funky sherry, thick. Coal. Watered down red berry juice with (bitter and sweet) licorice (The Whisky is not watered down, mind you, nor tastes like it’s watered down). Quite sweet at first but quickly taking a turn towards the drier side. Sulphur here again, but all very tasty if you like your heavy hitters. Sometimes a whiff comes across like a rum (heavy on wood). Towards the finish some nice red fruits come to the front. Strawberries (not fresh ones, but ones that have been frozen). Spicy and prickly wood.

Definitely not your daily drinker type of malt, but a nice, albeit flawed expression of a nice Sherry bomb (hello NSA, it’s me again). I like this pick by Erik. It is a Whisky which is far from boring. A lot is happening in this, and not even all at the same time. However, a word of caution. This malt loses a bit of its balance when it gets enough time to breathe. The aromas start to unravel a bit, the wood gets weaker and even worse, a soapy component rears its ugly head, so no slacking with this one!

Points: 88