Tomatin 40yo 1967/2007 (42.9%, OB, Seven Bourbon Hogsheads, 1614 bottles)

As can be read on these pages, Tomatin rarely disappoints. There is always room on my lectern for a tropical Tomatin. Especially older Tomatins quite hit the mark with fabulous aroma’s of tropical and citrus fruits for which it is known. Tomatin has a high reputation with bourbon cask only bottlings like the 15yo that has been discontinued to be replaced with the 14yo port finish. The 25yo has been discontinued too, which also was made with Bourbon casks only. Now, here we have a 40yo Tomatin formed from seven Bourbon Hogsheads with distillate from 1967. You may have heard of The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper? Yes 1967. And this is still available. How is that possible? Is this bottling a dud of some sorts? Time to find out…

Tomatin 40yo 1967/2007 (42.9%, OB, Seven Bourbon Hogsheads, 1614 bottles)Color: Copper brown gold.

Nose: Sweet and fruity, quite typical for older Tomatins. Lots of vanilla and quite thick. Highly aromatic. Quite syrupy too. Hints of mint and black coal and even some tar and sweets. Complex with lots of development. Give it time. Almonds are coming through after a while. Great nuttiness, rarely seen in Tomatin. Fruity, dusty and dirty at times. Great.

Taste: Fruity again, but also some bitter hops, waxy bitter wood. Elegant. Sweet and brittle at the same time. Lovely waxy stewed and candied fruits towards the finish. Lovely vanilla, with memories of old wood in the back. Apricot and vanilla pudding with fresh and acidic red berry sauce on top. Hints of mint are here in the taste as well. Fabulous development built up in layers and a lovely finish to boot. At the end of the finish the expected woody bitterness (and pencil shavings with almonds) appear or stay behind when the momentarily overpowering waxy fruitiness dissipates. Sweet almond cookies are all over this Malt. The taste is less complex than the nose and shows a surprising fruity freshness and youthfulness.

Malts like this were reasonably expensive when they came out and prices have been rising ever since. However, modern malts can never be like this anymore. So why dish out 300 euro’s for a modern 12yo generic special edition when you can pay a measly 100 more and get yourself a museum-piece still readily available on the market today. This is history in a bottle. Isn’t that worth something?

Points: 89

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

Macduff 38yo 1967/2005 (50.8%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Old Train Line Collection, Sherry Cask #619, 204 bottles)

The Old Train Line series is probably the series with the most beautiful labels I know. The series is bottled by German bottler Jack Wieber based in Berlin.

Macduff itself is not thát old, just founded in 1962, with production starting just one year later. Macduff started out with only two stills. Sometimes a still was added, and today, Macduff has five. Since Martini was once an owner of Macduff, the malt is popular in Italy and the rest of southern Europe.

Color: Brown

Nose: Meaty and minty. Gravy with tar and old wood. Very perfumy too. It’s a meaty tea, that shifts a bit into coffee territory. Hard pressed powder candies. Very distinct, not to say unique. Also the wood plays a very unique role here. Mens cologne.

Taste: Minty wood. laurel licorice combined with the powder from the candies. Not sweet, but there is a lot of sourness from the oak. Mocha coffee with honeylike wood spice and black coal. Wow, this has a very heavy beerlike finish. After giving it some time, some black fruits emerge in the finish. Dry.

Try to imagine a Macduff with a lot of color from a sherry cask. Now try to imagine how it would smell and taste like. Do you have it? Well, this is nothing like that! This will surprise you. That’s nice. Still the balance isn’t quite there. And the finish is strange, soap, spice and a lot of beer, and rather short too. It’s definitively not a big sherry monster, but it does come across as a very old whisky. Dying to know what kind of Sherry this cask held before.

It does need a lot of time to open up, tastewise, for the nose the oxidations does nothing. Give it time and you’ll be rewarded.

Points: 88

Glenfarclas 42yo 1967/2010 ‘Probably Speysides Finest Distillery’ (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Sherry Butt, DL REF 6245, 385 bottles)

And here’s yet another Speysider and not just any Speysider but an example of Speyside’s finest distillery…probably. Just consider the statement for a moment (maybe not if you’re called Luc). There’s also Macallan, Longmorn and Strathisla in Speyside. I know there are others, but I didn’t want to make this list too long. Glenfarclas isn’t mentioned on the label, but let me tell you this is a Glenfarclas, and a very old one too. I have tasted several very old Glenfarclas, and sometimes they tend to be very woody, but that’s also because there are a lot of very old Glenfarclas around, and 42yo is a long time to spend in a cask. I’m 42 now and I wouldn’t want to spend my whole life in a cask.

To the whisky then. Glenfarclas is still a family owned operation that started legally in 1836. In 1965 it was bought by John and George Grant. Since then there were a lot of Georges and John Grants. Very popular names indeed in that family (and The Beatles for that matter). Sometimes they have extra letters for identification purposes. Next time I’ll be up at Glenfarclas, I’m dying to meet Ringo S. Grant! Good to see a still family owned distillery surviving competing with the big conglomerates like Diageo. There are several more like Bladnoch for instance. Power to them!

Color: Orange Copper

Nose: Musty and leafy. Fruity, spicy and maybe some acetone. The odd combination of gravy with honey. Thick. Body, yet not too heavy. Then a coffee note: something like mocha and cappuccino, maybe a whiff out of the old fireplace in winter. It’s a treat to smell this, but it doesn’t smell so old as you might expect.

Taste: Dry and spicy wood. Slightly fruity with paint, and even a bit hot, which in this case is great! Honeyed licorice. When freshly opened it had a strange finish, but after a month or so that’s completely gone. So time was on its side. It has some bitterness in the finish but that doesn’t mean the whole is woody or even overly woody, no, the wood is fine here.

To sum it up, it doesn’t seem so old, it sure is balanced, but misses some complexity you might want if you buy such an old whisky from the sixties. Still it’s not bad though, not bad at all. And oooh, I like the heat in this, definitively a big plus.

Points: 88

Note: When this was distilled in November 1967, The Beatles were at Abbey Road Studios doing mixes for their Magical Mystery Tour album, and recorded their Christmas disk for the fanclub…so now you know.