Aultmore 36yo 1974/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Bourbon Hogshead #3740, 264 bottles, 500ml)

Here we have an Aultmore from 1974. The one official bottling in the Rare Malts range was also from 1974. Three years ago Douglas Laing bottled a 1974, and even more recently, two bottlings from The Whisky Agency saw the light of day. There is one more by Adelphi, but more about that one later.

Aultmore was founded in 1896 by Alexander Edward who also founded the Craigellachie distillery with Peter Machie in 1891. In 1896, Mr. Edward also owned the Benrinnes distillery. Mr. Edward sold Aultmore to John Dewar’s and Sons in 1923. John Dewar’s and Sons naturally became part of what is today Diageo, but Diageo sold the whole of John Dewar’s and Sons to Bacardi in 1998. Aultmore was built with two stills and two more stills were added in 1971, so this 1974 Aultmore was already made with four stills.

Color: Full gold

Nose: Estery and full. Seems sweet and has a perfect woody touch. Powdery with vanilla, but also some vegetal sourness creeps in, but only in whiffs, it’s not always there. Malty freshness, and the slightest hint of cow-dung, great! This kind of organics in Whisky is the best, look at all those fantastic Brora’s. I really like the complete profile this nose shows me. A great, but toned down or laid back Whisky. It doesn’t shout from rooftops it’s great, but whispers. People who know, will hear it’s call.

Taste: Woody cannabis, and in this case that’s very nice. Sugary sweet, but the “wood” is the taste giver of this malt. Mind you this is not a woody malt. It’s like somehow there is some fruit in here but it isn’t allowed to get out. Medium, slightly disappointing finish, and probably the reduction could have been skipped, since the Whisky shows some laziness. Could have been fuller, if so I’m shure it would have scored in the 90’s. Nevertheless a great Whisky!

One of my favorite Aultmore’s is also from 1974, a bottling by Adelphi, Cask #3739, yes a sister cask! That one yielded only 101 bottles @ 49.6% ABV. Cask #3740 yielded 264 bottles reduced to 46%, so I’m guessing this was a lot higher in ABV (I can’t imagine Adelphi doing a cask share, but you never know). If memory serves me well, this sister cask also has a lot of yellow fruits, cask #3740 lacks. I have a bottle of Adelphi’s 1974 Aultmore, so in the future, that one will be reviewed on these pages too…

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Dirk for handing me this sample some time ago…


Clynelish 32yo 1974/2006 (58.6%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon Hogshead, 266 bottles)

After the 1994 Clynelish I reviewed last summer, it took me a lot of months to return to Clynelish. As we all know, Brora 1972 (from the old Clynelish distillery) might be the closest thing to whisky heaven, I know there are more, but bear with me. The distillery built next to the old Clynelish distillery is the current (new) Clynelish distillery, so in fact what we heave here is a whisky made very close to heaven, close in space and close in time. Luckily to keep the legend sort of burning, Clynelish managed to keep up the quality and still makes a pretty decent Whisky. The 1994 reviewed earlier, was above average, now let’s have a look at this 1974 Clynelish.

Clynelish 32yo 1974/2006 (58.6%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon Hogshead, 266 bottles)Color: Gold

Nose: Slightly farmy, leafy, clean and fruity. Old wax, but more wax off, than wax on. Rather fresh and lively. Dried apricots. Dusty paper, and  powdery. Vanilla. Bold (sour) wood, which is not up front. Naked oak, hence the sourness that sticks to it. It’s not particularly woody, but it ís the wood that keeps it together. Some grounded coffee. Cold cigar tobacco (Havana naturally). Musty clay and late vanilla. It’s not a Banff but I do ‘get’ some mustard here…

Taste: Wow! A nice attack of smoke, cannabis and hops. Creamy sweetness. Like true vanilla ice-cream with an apricot/mango syrup on top. Definitely a nice bite from the wood to accompany it all. The longer I keep it in my mouth the woodier it gets. It’s never too woody though. Quite strong, but it is almost 60% ABV. The finish lacks a bit of sweetness to round it all out. The wood makes it ‘pointier’ and dries out the lips. It does remind me a bit of the 1974 Rare Malts version, which was (also) no punishment to drink, but I liked that one a bit better.

This is one of many bottlings that are dedicated to one of earths finest Whisky festivals, or fairs, of all times. The Whisky Fair in Limburg Am Lahn in Germany that will be held at the end of this month. Of course this is long sold out, but new festival bottlings keep emerging as mushrooms on a wet forest floor, most of them pretty good, to say the least. It’s a very good Clynelish but the last part of the experience keeps it out of the 90 points range.

Points: 89

Caol Ila 26yo 1974/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 294 bottles)

Next up is this Douglas Laing bottling of a 1974 Caol Ila and most probably from a Hogshead, but you never know. 1974 is a pretty special year for Caol Ila because from 1972 through 1974 the whole of the distillery was rebuilt, completely! Everything, apart from the warehouses, was demolished and completely rebuilt. In 1974 six new stills were installed, so here we can have a taste of the first whisky that ran off the stills in 1974. This is the first of the “modern” Caol Ila as we know it today. Is it new and improved?

Color: Gold

Nose: A very refined yet fatty peat, quite sweet and floral. Fantastic organics! Grassy, lemongrass actually, in perfect harmony with excellent (fishy) peat. Do I detect some tarred rope? Pretty light for a Caol Ila, but so elegant and fresh, it does have some sea breeze to it. Oil spill on water. Beautiful bonfire smoke and leafy. Nice elegant wood. Bushes in summer in the rain. Nothing oomph or in your face, this a very refined Islay Whisky. I already like this very much, but the nose just keeps developing…

Taste: Again quite sweet, light peat and clay. A little bite from the smoke, than the wood and the smoke again (in that order), after that slightly sweet and a thin palate of yellow fruits. Very balanced. Lemonade fruitiness combined with fatty elegant peat (again) and nice smoke. The saltiness these old Caol Ila’s often have is absent from this 1974. medium finish that gets thinner, which underlines the brittleness of this malt. Old age. Still it is so good, the initial taste and the body are that nice, that I don’t care about the weaker, but not short finish. This is a lovely dram.

What a fantastic Caol Ila this is. Sure Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Laphroaig and Lagavulin all have fantastic old drams, and are big names, but those seventies and early eighties Caol Ila’s are right up there with them. How nice Douglas Laing had a 1974 Caol Ila, a shame only that it was only one cask… I would have wanted more.

Points: 91

Thanks Andries for the sample!

The Balvenie 25yo “Single Barrel” 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13285)

Well, actually the Balvenie 25yo I reviewed earlier, was quite a disappointment. I have another single barrel here, so let’s see if this one is any better… By the way, again I couldn’t find a picture of a Balvenie 25yo Cask #13285, so here is a picture of the similar looking cask #10139

Color: Gold.

Nose: Waxy, sweet white sherry. A nice old, dried leaves and wood combination in the nose. Again you sense this is an old bottle. Vanilla and lemon freshness. This nose is less complex than cask #13282. The vanilla that’s in here is similar to the vanilla notes I got from Angostura rum 1919. I guess cask #13282 has a more refined nose, but this is equally exciting. More raw and different from the other one. I think this one is better, it is less complex, but has more to it. Wood and almonds come out when you sniff this vigorously, still it is not bad wood. Hot butter and some funky farminess, how’s that for a Balvenie! Lovely oldness to it all.

Taste: Sweet and even slightly acidic, and no heavy wood attack like cask #13282, hurrah. Fatty and mouth coating wax. This one is immediately a lot better. The wood is here and very noticeable. The dry leaves are here too, but this doesn’t attack you with that unrelenting bitterness. This cask has also a lot of wood to it, but the bitterness is held in check. It does lack a bit of complexity though. There isn’t a lot more to it than this. Nice old Balvenie.

Great to try these Balvenies so close together. These are sister casks, but do show quite some difference. It’s not only the bitterness that is obvious. Comparing these two there is infinitely more. That goes to show, how big the differences can be between two similar bottles, and how buying without tasting is so tricky. I would also like to point out that the reduction that obviously took place here isn’t a problem, this Whisky holds the fort. Actually it’s the best Balvenie I had in a very long time. Still no 90’s score though…

Points: 88

The Balvenie 25yo “Single Barrel” 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13282)

A long time ago, between 2000 and 2004, The Balvenie issued a series of single barrel bottlings similar to the 15yo, these bottlings however were much older, these were matured a further 10 years to become the 25yo single casks. All from 1974 (most of them) or 1978. And all at the convenient strength of 46.9% ABV. Who came up with this number anyway? By the way, I couldn’t find a picture of a Balvenie 25yo Cask #13282, so here is a picture of the similar looking cask #10141, that was bottled two years earlier. Most of these 25yo’s were bottled in 2000.

Color: Gold

Nose: Light, buttery, and very accessible. A little old bottle waxiness, but not a lot. Let’s say it’s not a 1972 Caperdonich. Some sugared yellow fruits and hints of banana. Still it does smell like something they don’t make anymore. Also some seaside freshness to this. After some breathing, it does come around a bit, it opens up. More fruit and more dusty ol’ wood. Almost an old Alsatian Gewürztraminer. Nope, this doesn’t lack complexity. Some hints of vanilla (ice-cream). Quite good, but very restraint. This one would have been great to nose at a higher strength. I have to say, that the longer you wait, the better the nose develops and gets more and more character.

Taste: Fruity and old wood again. It has a small initial bite that comes mostly from the oak. Finish is medium body with enough saying power. Vanilla and creamy texture. The fattiness dissipates quickly and the whisky breaks down in towards the finish. Wood attack! put this in your mouth and you think is pretty good (not great alas), but the vanilla fat is stripped, and you get hit by more bitterness than expected. The palate does lack complexity and balance. Aiii.

This starts out pretty good, great nose (eventually) and a great initial taste, but it all turns on you a bit, when the bitterness hits you, and leaves you with an unbalanced finish. To be frank, let this slip and try to locate an old 15yo (50.4% ABV, you’ll get a better deal).

Points: 84

Glenfiddich 32yo 1974/2006 (47.3%, OB, Private Vintage, for La Maison Du Whisky, Cask #10260, 198 bottles)

Let’s continue with Glenfiddich. Known for their big out turn and fairly priced Whiskies. No cheap entry-level Glenfiddich this time, like the 12yo “Special Reserve” I reviewed earlier, but a super-duper premium Glenfiddich that costs a fortune these days. Cask number 10260 was bottled for the 50th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky. Who hasn’t visited one of their fabulous shops in Paris & Saint-Denis (France) or Singapore? There are a few pretty great 1974 Glenfiddich bottled, even one for Playboy (Cask #10245) and H.M. Queen Elizabeth II (of U.K. fame). So not a bad club to belong to. Here Majesty’s Cask was #2336 (not quite a sister cask of the Playboy one, I would say). Or maybe Glenfiddich filled a lot of casks in 1974. Who knows?

Color: Full and dull gold.

Nose: Old bottle. Oceanic and creamy. Wow. Musky and organic, with fatty old wood (not dry wood) mixed with newer plywood. Clay. Absolutely stunning wood smell. Smelling this you know you have something special on your hands. When smelling this for a prolonged time, you get in the territory of cardboard that has been added to the wood that is more upfront. Through the wood and the cardboard is also something clean, fresh and lively like lemongrass, cola, mint and old lemon skins, but also the more heavy shoe polish and clean wax. Great complexity and balance.

Taste: Again old bottle. Spicy toffee with clay. It’s sweet and has hardly any wood at first! Full mouth. Chewy and waxy. Fantastic. Slightly sour, somewhat thin and papery finish, and the wood came in late, but it is there. It’s more the spice from wood, than the wood itself. Clean and elegant.

Well, obviously you can’t really compare the über-standard 12yo to this, can you? Because all the time when I was trying this, you can clearly see where this is coming from, and it does have a big family resemblance. This definitely is the father of the 12yo.

Points: 91

Ladyburn ‘Rare Ayrshire’ 36yo 1974/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Bourbon Barrel #2608, 261 bottles, 500 ml)

As said before this distillery was briefly opened between 1966 and 1975. As far as vintages go not a lot were released. Officially a lot of 1973’s were released. This vintage was also released by Blackadder and Duncan Taylor. Signatory Vintage released a lot of 1975’s (and one 1974). Two of these 1975’s I have reviewed on these pages earlier. Last but not least in this case, Cadenheads had some releases from the opening year 1966, but that was a long time ago in 1979 and 1980. Besides these few ‘players” not a lot of Ladyburns are to be found. Now here pops up a 1974. As far as I know, there are three 1974’s released. Cask 2607 by Signatory @ 53.9% ABV (in 2011). Cask 2604 by Dutch bottler Van Wees @ 52.1% ABV, (also in 2011), and from 2010, Cask 2608 by fellow Dutch bottler Mo Òr @ 46% ABV. It’s not hard to guess how much (or how little) this got reduced. Rumour has it, these 1974 are pretty good.

Color: Light Gold

Nose: Very aromatic. Sweet and clean. Pops out of the glass. Fruity and lively. Great combination of farmyness and fruity sweetness. On the nose it’s already a lot better than the 1975 Ladyburns I tried before. Nice wood too. Great greenish notes with gravy. If the taste will be anything like the nose, we’ll have a winner on our hands. When this get’s time to breathe the lively fruits make room for something more dark and broody. Meaty and some perfume. Very interesting.

Taste: Fresh, fruity (pineapple) and in nothing you would say this is such an old malt. Not as complex as the nose is. The initial fruits are very quickly replaced by caramelized wood. Finish is good and slightly woody. But considering it’s age you would definitively expect more wood in this.

Very likeable Ladyburn. The nose is very much better than the 1975 Signatories I tried before. Taste wise, maybe not so complex, but less woody than the Signatories. Very nice Ladyburn, one of the best that’s still around, ánd reasonably priced as well!

Points: 86

Thanks again to Henk for this sample.