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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Bunnahabhain 35yo 1976/2012 (48.8%, The Whisky Mercenary, 80 bottles)

500I almost missed it, but this is already the 500th post on masterquill.com. Three and a half years have passed since the moment I wanted to see with my own eyes how a blog was made, so I never intended to continue after the first few reviews. The next few months no new posts were written, but after a while I picked it up again, never to let it go again. It’s too much fun to do, and it still is. It is a never-ending quest for the nicest of drinks that are available on the planet. So much more to discover.

I don’t have to post every day, but I try to have something up every other day. Once in a while I let it be, due to sickness (a.k.a. the nose doesn’t work properly), WiFi-less vacation or other reasons, and I don’t feel bad about it, so it doesn’t feel like something I must do. I have no plans of getting bored with it, or plans to retire after a while. There are so much more drinks around, and so much more to explore and learn, that I fear I will never get bored with it at all. Still, you never know, there have been others I loved to read that have stopped (and some have continued after a while). Here’s to the next 500. Let’s take it one step at a time.

Bunnahabhain 35yo 1976/2012 (48.8%, The Whisky Mercenary, 80 bottles)Time for the 500th post then. I had to pick something special, so why not a nice and old Bunnahabhain. Islay is hot, and so are the picks of Jürgen Vromans. Our beloved Belgian independent bottler. Nothing wrong with his nose, so I have high hopes for this 35yo Bunna. Cheers!

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Soft vanilla and wood, Definitely slowly matured on a slightly active cask. Some sweetness and a tiny hint of what seems to be a sort of waxy peat. light old elegant wood. Hints of chalk and a nice restrained fruitiness (yellow fruits). Old dried out paint dust and a great deep vegetal note. Excellent wood, creamy wood almost. Nothings really sticks out. It all is light and elegant and held back. Tread tenderly with this one. Old skool with excellent balance. Lovely. Should have come with a label in Paisley motif.

Taste: Quite spicy with a burst of sweetness coming from a dried licorice twig. Otherwise the Whisky has a great dry/sweet balance to it. Dry on the nose and dry on the mouth too, with some nice sweet and fatty touches to it. Creamy wax. Vanilla and half-dried pudding. Again a delicious fruity taste, again yellow fruit, mixed with a hint of sweetish black tea. Well integrated woody notes with just a small amount of woody bitterness.

This is a lovely old Whisky, well worth its initial Retail price. Jürgen picked a wonderful old and delicate or even fragile Bunnahabhain. Wonderful stuff. No heavy hitter and lots of nice details. Good balance with decent complexity. I should have gotten me one of these when I had the chance…

Points: 90

Benromach 1976/2012 (46%, OB, First Fill & Refill Sherry Hogsheads)

This is a 1976 Benromach, bottled in 2012. So it’s either 35 or 36 years old. Said to be from First fill and refill Sherry hogsheads. Just compare it to the 1969 vintage, which is from refill Sherry hogsheads only. The 1969 is much darker in color. So what kind of Sherry was this from? Sherries exist in lots of different styles, and just like a “normal” wine, Sherry has lots of different colors, and aroma’s, too.

Benromach 1976-2012Color: Gold with a slight reddish glow.

Nose: Oak and vanilla. Spicy, dry and vegetal. The smell you get when you break a fresh twig. Slightly burnt wood and a tiny hint of peppermint. It smells younger than it actually is and despite the 100% Sherry statement it is not far away from an older Bourbon matured Whisky (at first). The isolated oak flavour is there, but when this is not from American oak, there is less vanilla to go around. That seems to be the case. So European oak it is. Lovely wood notes, elegant and fine. The wood seems to hold some bitter orange skins in its aroma. Also noticeable is a slight (white) winey note, but also some nuttiness which leads me to believe these casks also held some Fino’s and/or oxidized white Sherries. Not a lot of fruitiness which sets it apart from the famous Tomatin’s from the same vintage.

Taste: Well hello there. This starts with the fruits the nose lacks, but also the wood plays a nice role in here too. Even at 46% ABV, this is quite hot and peppery. Dark chocolate. Nice. The initial fruits quickly disperse which leaves more room for the wood. Not a lot of sweetness, and the wood brings a slight bitterness that suits this exercise in wood (and the nuttiness of dry white Sherries) well.  The finish carries hidden notes of flor. This one needs lots of air to settle and to get the balance right (Depeche Mode), but when it does, it shows you its high quality. Still not an easy one and this one will only reward you if you keep an open mind and work at it a bit.

The contrast between this lighter Sherry bottling and the darker 1969 Sherry bottling probably isn’t a coincidence. They go together like the Glengoyne Summer (dark) and Winter (light). Sure this is high quality stuff, and you have moments in your life when you really need a Whisky like this. The aforementioned Glengoyne Winter is a similar Whisky. (The only differences being that the Winter is more funky and less elegant, but slightly sweeter and much higher in ABV). Having said that, in my case, there just aren’t a lot of days like that, so a Whisky like this lasts very long. Every time I need it, I thoroughly enjoy it, but when I have it at the wrong moment, it’s a difficult Whisky. So choose wisely, first when you buy it, it’s quite expensive, and second when to sip it. One thing for sure, or actually two, its great stuff and it will last long.

Points: 87

Tomatin 34yo 1976/2011 (46%, Mo Òr, Sherry Butt #4, 954 bottles, 500 ml)

I had a craving for a nice fruit bomb, so I pulled this Tomatin by indie bottlers Mo Òr out of its hidingplace. As many of you might know. 1976 is a pretty famous year for Tomatin. Lots of (Independent) bottlings from this year are considered amongst the best around. Bottles from this year by The Whisky Agency or by Duncan Taylor fetch amazing prices when sold at auctions. Just not a lot of Tomatin 1976 around at shops anymore…

Color: Copper Gold.

Nose: Yeah! is the first word that comes to mind, nosing this. Waxy and fruity, but also a nice kind of old dustiness. Chocolate, mocha and old laid back Sherry, more of the Fino kind if you ask me. Very structured and refined. Probably a refill cask. A little bit creamy. Distinguished, but not the famous 70’s (exotic) fruits in this, like we know from the 30yo. Very elegant wood, combined with an acidic kind of smell. Mocha again and a little hint of vanilla.

Taste: Nice peppery and woody attack at first and then yes, a mouth coating layer of tropical fruit cocktail, that pushes everything aside for a while. The pepper stays, but the wood vanishes for a moment, but returns. Great effect! Papaya, pineapple and passionfruit. Maybe some mango (maybe not). What a nice cloying finish of fruits, wood, paper and chocolate. The pepper is gone by now, but an added note of Gewürztraminer finishes the whole off. Nice.

This is again a perfect example of how great Tomatin’s from 1976 are. It may not be the most over-complex distillate around, but the way the fruits shines through is truly amazing. This is sooo nice. I love this!

Points: 91

Thanks go out to Henk for the Sample.

The Benriach 29yo 1976/2006 (56%, OB, Batch 3, Hogshead #8084, 194 bottles)

And yes another Benriach and another one from Batch 3. After the 1968 Hoggie that scored 89 points and the 1984 peated Butt that scored 88 Points, let’s see if this 1976 peated Hoggie can finally break the barrier and score (well) into the 90’s.

Color: Full Gold

Nose: Fruity and half waxy (it’s not Caperdonich 1972). The fruits would be Apricots, some peach again and strawberry jam. Creamy and spicy oak, malt and sawdust. A rather calm powdery nose. You know those hard candies made of compressed powder? Cold wet tea leaves. Distant sweets and very fruity. Again the yellow fruits. Apricots and peach minus the perfumy side of peach. There could be peat in this, but left in very minute amounts. After some time, smoke and banana. Peat?

Taste: Thick, spicy and waxy. Distant smoke and hints of black fruits. Sweet, nice balance. Work for it and you’ll be rewarded. Again a great sweet fruity malt. Peat maybe, but not as we know it. It’s not from Islay and this is not heavily peated. Just the right amount of wood (the 1968 had more wood).

Of the three I tried from this third batch, I like this best. Some would say the 1968, but for me this has more of everything. Rounder and better balance. OK, maybe simpler, but much bolder. This time the seventies over the sixties. It all just fits snugly, and the peat is so great in this!

Points: 91