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

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

Glentauchers 16yo 1997/2013 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Cask #5580)

Yes, another first on these pages. Glentauchers. A favorite amongst connoisseurs! Independently of each other, I hear a lot of people who work in the Whisky-business, that this is somewhat of a guilty pleasure for them, so worth to check one out. I got a chance to try this Glentauchers bottled by Gordon & MacPhail just before it was bottled, and although it was bottled some months ago, finally it is now officially released.

Glentauchers 16yo 1997/2013 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Cask #5580)Color: Copper Brown.

Nose: Raisins, butter and pretty winey. Quite floral. Fresh Sherry. Ashy and great wood. Bourbon honey and perfectly creamy. Looking deeper, it’s more leafy and paper-like, more dry. This doesn’t seem very complex at first. The distillery character is still there underneath and the Sherry is like a blanket on top. Smallest hint of salty smoke and even less of dried fish. Little bit of licorice and citrussy acidity. Bonfire (but not the smoke of it, more the presence, does that make any sense?). Nice balance.

Taste: Ha! great stuff. Full on Sherry, not to sweet, not too dry. Creamy and chewy with spicy wood. Wow. The middle drops quite a bit, but picks up near the end. Warming caramel and sweet and woody finish, with some bitterness. Licorice and a little bit of soap even, the floral bit returns. Again nicely balanced stuff. Bit of a rollercoaster. Salty lips.

This new Glentauchers just goes to show that the route taken by Gordon & MacPhail is the best way of doing business. Most other independent bottlers fish out of the same pond, and mind you the pond is drying out, like the Aral sea. Less and less (good) aged casks are finding their way onto the market, and with that also the quality drops. In the end a lot of independent bottlers will have to fold. Gordon & MacPhail have a strategy of clever cask management. They send their privately owned high quality casks up to the distillery, have them filled, and store them at their own humongous warehouse facility. This way they have good casks, and by that, control over quality.

Points: 88

Many thanks go out to Stan Reid for pulling this one out from under the counter.

Clynelish 16yo 1995/2012 (53.7%, Kintra, Refill Sherry Butt #2156, 90 bottles)

It’s funny how a big company like Diageo works. For instance, There are almost no independent bottlings available by Diageo owned Lagavulin whereas the is a vast amount available from fellow Diageo and Islay distillery Caol Ila. There are almost no independent bottlings available from Oban, but a huge amount from fellow Diageo Distillery Clynelish. Here is another independently released Clynelish from the massively popular 1995 vintage. Although vintages belong more to Wine, vintages also became popular in Whisky.

Clynelish 16yo (Kintra)This Clynelish, of which only 90 bottles were released (a Butt shared with others, and Butts are large casks), is marketed by Kintra from the Netherlands. A small outfit, but from a nice guy and with good looks (both the bottle and the guy). As the label states, this is from a Refill Sherry Butt, but even if its from a Fino cask, is doesn’t have a lot of colour. A somewhat inactive Butt?

Color: White wine.

Nose: Somewhat acidic malt. Vegetal. Drying. Does fit the Fino Sherry profile, it’s smells like flor. Herbal and dusty. Milk chocolate with distant hints of vanilla. A little bit dry grass and freshly cut, sappy oak. Freshly peeled almonds. Typical Fino Sherry Butt.

Taste: Again very malty and very Fino Sherry. Wood upfront, and after that some glue and toned down vanilla. There is some sugary sweetness in this Whisky, but that is “hidden” by the Fino and the active wood. No wax! Salty lips. Malt returns in the finish. Otherwise a little bit hot, and spicy.

This is absolutely a pre dinner dram. Tasting this I want to eat! Typical Fino Sherry Butt, playing with wood and grassy, nutty tones. Not as waxy as we are used to from Clynelish. Don’t let the colour fool you, the Sherry did its job here, as did the wood, without being dominant. If you like your whiskies Fino, than this will be no disappointment.

Points: 85

Get well soon Erik.

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 😉

Highland Park 16yo 1986/2002 (57,9%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #2288, 273 bottles)

Together with the Cadenheads Glen Scotia I reviewed earlier I found this Adelphi Highland Park in the back of my lectern. Highland Park is no newbie on these pages and this will be the third independent bottling of Highland Park, as I have earlier reviewed Highland Parks from Douglas Laing and a heavily sherried one by Gordon & MacPhail. Adelphi is new to these pages. Adelphi once was a distillery, but it closed already in 1907. The name though was bought and used for this independent bottler since 1993. Funny that the people who are behind Adelphi Distillery now, are building themselves a new distillery not called Adelphi Distillery yet, but for the time being is called: Ardnamurchan. Another claim to fame is that Charles “Rory” MacLean does some if not all of the cask selections.

Color: Dull light gold.

Nose: Creamy, heathery and slightly soapy. Candied yellow fruits. Dried apricots. Very powdery and appetizing. A breath of fresh (sea) air. Very clean smelling, but also has a dirty edge to it. Only a small hint of dry wood and toasted oak. The nose somehow seems sweet, and sweaty, already, and the sweetness blends right in with the cream that’s very up front. It changes with air, so let it breathe. Classy smelling Whisky.

Taste: Smoked heather, honey sweetness and a peppery bite. It keeps it together right through to the finish, it (it being the balance) seems a bit flimsy towards the end, but the balance does manage to stay. A sign of quality. It has a tad of soapy woodiness to it. The sweetness develops from honey into toffee and caramel, but it never dominates. It seems to me the sweetness is somehow balanced with some hidden acidity. Quite nice.

A pretty good, easily recognizable Highland Park. The Heather and honey are definitely there, but the real bonus is the Talisker-like peppery bite. Since there isn’t a lot of bitterness or toast in this, and there seems to be a lot of potential, I wouldn’t have bottled this yet. It’s good, but it could have been slightly better. Of all the independent Highland Parks I have reviewed here, I guess this particular expression matches the profile of Highland Park the best. But do allow for some breathing. It needs air. Well done Rory, I mean Charlie!

Points: 86

Arran 16yo (46%, OB, Bourbon & Sherry Casks, 9000 bottles, 2013)

I always have mixed feelings considering Arran. It’s fairly new and I really like new enterprises like this. Mostly nice people with a lot of passion who start a distillery like this. Mice malt and so forth. A whisky I love to like. Just when it comes to tasting, and this sometimes happens, Arran usually does not gel with this taster. A Cask of Arran Single MaltLinkwood is another example. Luckily this also happens the other way around. For most people Teaninich is nothing out of the ordinary, but I really do like my Teaninichs… This will be my 18th Arran and I hope this is a good one. There were a couple of good ones in the past. It’s not all bad for me, you know. I remember a 1er Cru Bourgogne Cask Finish from 2006, and two different Single Casks from 2004. There are obviously more, but I have to admit, I haven tried a lot of the newer expressions for a while. Time to reacquaint myself with Arran and hopefully find out they got pretty good by now, I really would like that, no I would really love that! Color: Light gold. Nose: Wow that’s more like it! A nice clean and slightly spicy woody attack. Ginger. New carpets on the floor. After that a full sweetish nose that also is pretty floral. Flowers that is, not perfume. Very elegant. Some acetone, mocha and toffee in the nose, but powdery as well. Not a bad start… Taste: Sweet and perfectly woody. The sweetness drops off a bit, to show some slight hints of acidity, but the sweetness never relents, it keeps the whole in perfect balance. What a nice short sharp shock of spicy, maybe white peppery attack. And the wood is also very nice. The balance keeps up, but fades a bit in the finish, but who’s complaining! The finish is half long, and the wood aromas turn a bit into cardboard, not a lot, just a bit. Still a pretty good Arran. I love that. This is a nice Arran, and considering it’s age and the distillate being from the early years, I’m guessing the 16yo, if they keep making it, it will only get better and better. Not being posh, it’s already very good, but I would like to see Arran to be stellar. I would love to like that a lot. Points: 87 Thanks Richard for the sample!