Bunnahabhain 30yo 1979/2009 (45.5%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, European Oak Sherry Butt #9622, 612 bottles)

Back to some wonderfully Sherried Bunnahabhain. Most of the last few bottles of Bunnahabhain I reviewed were younger and much paler (and peatier) than the bottle I’m about to review. Here we have an independently bottled Bunnahabhain from a highly active European oak Sherry butt. Even though this has aged for a respectable 30yo, and was bottled 10 years ago, I still feel 1979 is not that long ago. If you try this particular expression, it seems to come from another century, or another dimension altogether. I’ll keep it short here, because I feel a lot of words will be needed th describe the complexity of this Malt.

Color: Dark Brown.

Nose: Fresh sea air. We didn’t see that one coming now didn’t we? Remarkably fresh, mint, yup mint. The mint you get from those hard mint sweets, not freshly cut mint, you make tea of. I did think it would be a cloying heavily Sherried Malt, but it’s not. Hints of toasted oak, charcoal and tar. Creamy vanilla powder, milk-chocolate, or better, plums in chocolate and a little bit of honey as well. Old distinguished wood. Wood polish without the petroleum smell, although very far back this does seem to have some petrol fumes going on. Caramel, tar, and some bits from an ashtray. Lots of Sherried notes obviously. Soft burnt sugar and a whiff of french cheese. Sherry and tobacco. It smells like it’s from another century altogether. Doesn’t really smell like a Whisky anymore. This must have been a very active cask. Still, nicely balanced and very chic. Fruity and coal, reminding me of early seventies Longmorn mixed with well aged calvados, since it has this apply feel to it as well. Just this bit though, not the whole experience, reminds me of Longmorn. Lots and lots of aroma’s and quite complex. Log fire and hints of fatty soft smoke. You can smell this one for hours before even thinking of taking a sip. You need to be alone for this one, and certainly not rushing it. If you smell it vigorously, it becomes meaty (gravy) for a brief moment, and some unexpected citrussy notes emerge as well. Beautiful wood notes re-emerge. Hints of old warehouse with old cardboard boxes in it. Dusty, quickly masked by the toffeed fruit. Although it doesn’t seem like it at first, this is a very high quality nose, which is immensely complex and has a lot to give. Wonderful.

Taste: Quite dry and woody, but also very tasty. Slightly soapy on entry. With lots of spices and borderline bitterness. Again you’re in for a treat. I have smelled this for quite a bit now, and doing so, I warmed the glass up in my hand. Fruity, but not much. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of fruit it would be. This has been a long time in cask. Tar and tobacco and maybe some leather. Not very heavy due to the relatively low ABV. Dusty and deep. So definitely a Malt that shows the Whisky can be about the wood it matured in. The creamy vanilla from the nose is lacking here, but definitely here, is the dry tannic wood and slight bitterness. Definitely not a chewy Whisky. Old and distinguished. Like an old mens club. Phileas Fogg style. The body falls back a bit. Finishes great, which makes up for the dry start, with a nice warming aftertaste. I like it. It’s a choice. Sure this could have been bottled (much) earlier. I don’t know if it was chance or choice, this has been allowed to age further, drying out considerably, yet picking up in “style”. It will be remembered for its great finish and the fabulous nose.

If you just pick this up and drink it, and don’t give it the attention it needs, you won’t pick up half of what its got to offer. If you do give it attention and time, wow! The more air it gets though, makes this Whisky less fruity and more about the wood, so know what you’re in for when allowing it to breathe for a while. Still, this is a wonderful malt either way, that develops enormously in the glass, so I can forgive its dryness with ease.

Points: 91


Malecon Seleccion Esplendida 1979 (40%, Panama)

Why not make it a Malecon, double bill? In the previous review I had a look at the 25yo brother/sister of this Rum, called the Reserva Imperial, and was surprised by its youthful, vibrant quality, I somehow didn’t expect of a 25yo Rum. The label mentions: Rum made in the Cuban style (a light style), although hailing from Panama. For me the Rum also suffered a bit by its reduction to 40% ABV, where clearly this should have been a bit higher to “carry” the Rum. Today we’ll have a look at an Seleccion Esplendida from 1979, what should be an exceptional vintage Rum. This one was bottled in 2008, but I am not sure. I gather, Las Cabres de Pese wasn’t working in 1979 so I’m guessing this was distilled at Varela Hermanos S.A. as well. My only fear is again the 40% ABV…

Before I set off, if you are interested more about the Malecon brand and some of its history, I ask you to read the lengthy introduction to the previous review of the Malecon 25yo.

malecon-1979Color: Orange brown, slightly lighter than the 25yo.

Nose: Drier. Spicy and reeks of higher quality. After only smelling it once I already like it a lot better than both Malecons I reviewed earlier. Thus, we are going into the right direction. Nice fruity acidity, better balanced and integrated compared to the 25yo. Hints of Aspirin powder and nice dry oak. Again a meaty quality like the 25yo, but this time it makes my mouth water. Dry cured meat, beef jerky and some cold gravy. Vanilla is next and quite present. Oak driven vanilla. This smells so good, I’d almost wear it as a perfume.

Taste: Well this doesn’t seem so reduced as the 25yo. Alas the fruity acidity is present, but in a less integrated way as the nose. Fruity black tea? Quite some dry wood spiciness as well, and from the start you see this has some sweetness to it, but that is well overpowered by the dry aroma’s. I don’t think they sugared this one up, guys! If so, its masked rather well. it has some bitter notes as well, but they help the whole. Even the bitterness in the finish is not hurting the Rum at all. Apart from this, some nice toffee notes stay behind next to the woody and bitter notes. Again, just like the 25yo, the finish is short, and again, this was probably reduced too much. Bugger!

We are entering super premium territory now, since today this 1979 costs about tree times more than the 25yo. Is it worth that kind of money? It is definitely a step up from both other Malecons, but for a Rum in general, it lacks complexity. It’s basically a bit too simple, to be honest. The nose promised a lot, but the taste didn’t deliver what could have been. Stop diluting it so much! I feel both the 25yo and especially the 1979 are a bit overpriced for what you are getting. Nice just isn’t enough anymore, especially at these prices, so I can’t really recommend both of them.

Points: 84

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 (50.6%, OB, The Family Casks III, Plain Hogshead #2216, 171 bottles)

In 2006 Glenfarclas started with an ongoing series containing lots and lots of single cask bottlings called the Family Casks. From the beginning, almost every vintage thinkable was released in very nice looking wooden boxes including a nice booklet. After a while, some vintages were not available anymore in the warehouses, and the wooden boxes were replaced by something a lot simpler. For the time being 2014 was the last year any Family cask was released, since 2015 saw no release of a Family Cask bottling (yet). Although Glenfarclas has a name to uphold with heavily sherried malts, just like The Macallan once did, and Glendronach does today, what was nice about the Family Casks was that any type of cask was released. This 1979 expression from the third run of Family Casks is from a Plain Hogshead and was bottled on the 17th of July 2008. Plain Hogshead could mean a rebuilt cask from staves that once formed a Bourbon barrel.

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 Family Casks IIIColor: Copper

Nose: Lots of creamy vanilla and coconut, what immediately makes me think about American oak. Very creamy and firm. Extremely fruity. Apricots, pears and ripe green plums. Hints of not yet ripe banana-skin and sweet ripe apples. It does have notes of a high quality Calvados. Almonds with dry powdered coffee creamer. Amazing how strong the aroma’s are, this is in no way a closed Whisky, no, no, no! Spicy, the wood kicks in a bit. Hint of latex paint. Lurking in the depth is a strange note, which is hard to describe. Old dried out cucumber with a tiny speck of acetone. You know how a cucumber smells, tone that down a few notches, and that’s whats in here too, underneath all those heavy hitting aroma’s from the highly active cask. I wonder what Bourbon it came in contact with. Wonderful old Whisky, with a perfect and endless nose. A true gem to smell!

Taste: Again extremely creamy and full of aroma. The power. Wonderful. Perfect stuff. Quite sweet upon entry. Creamy sweet and following quickly is a much drier woody sensation with just the right amount of bitterness. More wood than the nose had, but when the wood takes a step aside, wonderful aroma’s of ginger with jam made with red and black forest fruits present themselves, but not a lot of the fruit I mentioned in the nose. Amazing! Small hints of cask toast, slightly burned bread and candied cinnamon. Cloves and Christmas cake. Of course not a perfect Whisky, that does not exist, but this does come close. Wow! Warming and luckily a super long finish.

Here we have another super fruity old Bourbon Hogshead Whisky from the seventies. Reminding us of the stellar Caperdonichs from 1972, to name but one. I can only hope I’ll find me one of these sometimes.

Points: 93

Braes of Glenlivet 19yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #9294, 658 bottles)

The day before yesterday I reviewed the first Braeval on Masterquill.com, the domain I was finally able to acquire. Today we’ll have another first, this time the first Braes of Glenlivet. Well not really since both are one and the same distillery.

Braes of Glenlivet was founded just in 1973, so it’s not thát old. At that time Seagram’s was a company with only two distilleries: Strathisla (I love Sherried Strathisla’s from the 60’s and 70’s) and Glen Keith (equally so). Both distilleries are next to one another by the way. Chivas needed more capacity, due to huge demand of the Chivas Regal 12yo blend in the States and was looking for a distillery to take over. When that didn’t work, plans were made to “build” five distilleries in the same amount of time. Braes of Glenlivet was the first in 1973 and Allt-a-Bhainne the second a year later. The next three distilleries were brought into the portfolio by acquisition in 1978: Glenlivet, Longmorn and Glen Grant (now owned by Campari since 2006). Other noteworthy facts are that the name of Braes of Glenlivet changed to Braeval in 1994 (to allow Glenlivet to be The Glenlivet, as in “there can be only one”). Breaval was mothballed between 2002 and 2008 and is the highest situated distillery in Scotland. 1665 feet.

Braes of Glenlivet 19yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #9294, 658 bottles)Color: Copper Gold.

Nose: Musty and a high quality Sherry note. Not a big heavily Sherried nose (hence the color). But dry and meaty. Slightly smoky (char) and vegetal (fern). Nicely oaky but also pencil shavings, which usually isn’t oak but cedar. Perfumy. This needs some air to balance itself out. Again the wood is playing a big role in this Braes/Braeval, just like the one I reviewed before. The vegetal part is developing into what I can only guess is a Japanese tea kind of note. Not floral, so it’s not the perfumy part of the nose, but very deep, profound, but also elegant and light. Having said that, next up is a hint of Velpon or Uhu (clear glue). Great herbal and earthy complexity (surely not only from the wood?), with a tiny hint of new make spirit. This is a very nice one to take deep breaths of. Stuff for connoisseurs I guess, so maybe not everybody’s cup of tea.

Taste: Strong, sweet and dry at the same time. Very nice. Lot’s of Beer and Hops, and not really Sherried for me. The hops doesn’t make this all that bitter. Quite some masked sweetness and again quite woody too. The bitterness is really a hoppy one. Interesting. Just like it’s younger brother, it’s coming undone a bit in the finish. The alcohol is really prominent, so most definitely a force to deal with. Finish with tea and wood, a hint of soap and rather drying. Beer and soap who would have guessed? The complexity of the nose isn’t really here in the taste. And I really miss the high quality Sherry I smelled initially. Beer and Sherry who would have guessed?

What really caught me by surprise were the similarities between the 1991 Braeval bottled by The Whisky Mercenary and this particular expression from 1979. Especially on the nose. One was distilled in 1991 and this one in 1979. Both have a similar full on smell and a woody part that plays a big role in the bigger picture. This Signatory has a more pronounced Sherry derived full and sweetish body, whereas the 1991 was more fruity.

Points: 85

Scapa 23yo 1979/2002 (54.7%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, Sherry Butt #6632, 567 bottles)

I broke the corkSo it’s time to celebrate the first anniversary of Master Quill and I’ve picked this bottle of 1979 Scapa, bottled in 2002. Well, things got off really good! Like I said, I would rip open this bottle and so I did accidentally. I broke off the cork! Bugger!

Like with the Dun Bheagan range these Chieftain’s bottles are by Ian MacLeod. A few years ago I tasted its sister cask (#6633) blind and liked that one a lot, since I scored it 92 Points. Reason enough to look for this one for quite some time and snap it up at an auction.

Scapa is the lesser known distillery from The Island of Orkney. The better known obviously being Highland Park. Well actually, Scapa is one of the lesser known distilleries from Scotland! Scapa was founded in 1885. The distillery was closed a few times. The first time between 1934 and 1936 and the second time between 1994 and 1997. From 1997 on Scapa distilled Whisky again for a few months per year using staff from the nearby Highland park distillery. In 2004 the distillery is refurbished, and one year later Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) buys the distillery. Scapa is now known for their 16yo that replaced the 14yo, that replaced the 12yo, that replaced the 10yo. Are you still following me?

Scapa 23yo 1979/2002 (54.7%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt #6632, 567 bottles)Color: Copper

Nose: Very musty Sherry, but already some black fruits are shining through. The initial musty smell wears off (a bit), and shows some spice and some coastalness (is there such a word?). Gets deeper and deeper, with a very balanced fruitiness. I guess this is one that needs to breathe for a while, but already is shows it’s potential. It does have some balls! What I like about this one that is has multiple facets, it changes on you if you give it time.

Taste: Yeah, this will be no punishment to drink all! Nice going. perfect combination of sweetness and fruits and in the mouth there is no hint of the sewer-like smell that was there in the beginning, (I may be exaggerating a bit). It has some wood, but the whole is so bold, it needs this spice and wood to pull it together. There is also some bitterness from the wood, but again this one needs it. At this point in time (freshly opened and needing to breathe) it’s not completely balanced, but it will get there in the end. Complex, well, not exactly. It shows some sourness from the oak, but after half an hour it is pulling together, and it has a great and long finish. This again is a stunner!

Well I can say this, because I love this whisky (and it’s sister cask). It sweet and fruity, has a nice finish and this is well counteracted by several effects from the wood. Like Frank Drebin said; “I love it” (He actually said it several times…)

Points: 91

Dufftown 17yo 1979/1997 (58%, Cadenhead, Sherrywood)

Belgium’s own, Bert B. came into the Cadenhead’s shop in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), with a tale of buying the ‘Winkeldochters’ in an old liquor store in a long forgotten town, near the coast. Howling wind and rolling bushes through the streets. Winkeldochters translates into shop’s daughters. It’s a great Flemish word for those items that are around for a long time in a shop which in fact never get sold.

Well one of these bottles he bought was this Dufftown from Cadenheads. He opened it in the shop and we tried this. He didn’t like it then and exchanged it with Andries (The Cadenhead’s Shop owner) for a wedge of cheese, a cup of coffee and a wooden clothes pin. Andries was kind enough to pour me a nice sample of this (100ml) to take home with me. Cleaning out the closet, I stumbled across this sample, so here it is…

Color: On the edge between copper gold and copper brown.

Nose: Very musty Sherry. Boiling vegetables with great spices like nutmeg immersed in the nicest oak. This is no plan oak you get on the nose, but this has the finest oak smell I’ve come across in a long time. Tarred toffee and a lot of dust. Dry with liquorice. Sawdust and gravy. The nose is actually pretty fabulous!

Taste: Thick musty Sherry. Tarry and again quite a bit of wood, but very nice. Lots of red and black berries followed by a nutty flavor. Very nice warming and very fruity finish with some stale toffee and quite a lit of tar, with a little complement of bitterness. Oxidation did wonders for this Whisky. Let it breathe. Wow.

First time around I scored this a measly 87 points, but that was from the freshly opened bottle. This time around, where the whisky was allowed to breathe, it definitely a lot better. I’ll have to revise my score…

Points: 92

Bert, aka Mr. BenRiach is also the man behind Asta Morris. Probably no coincidence Asta Morris never bottled a Dufftown. Bad call though, Bert, to leave this behind, but thanks a million bro! Thanks also to Andries for providing me with such a large sample. I will enjoy finishing this. Cheers!

Glenrothes 1979/2002 (43%, OB)

Glenrothes was founded in 1878 by James Stuart & Co. and some partners. James Stuart was the man who at that time also had The Macallan (since 1868). James soon developed some financial troubles, so he was thrown out of the partnership and returned, with his tail between his legs, to Macallan. The rest of the partners formed William Grant & Co. and finished the building of the distillery. The first spirit ran off the stills just one year after its foundation. The rest of the history seems rather volatile, having suffered several explosions and fires. (1897, 1903 and 1922). After this period of ruining the place, came the period of expansion. From the sixties through the eighties, consecutive pairs of stills were added. Now there are 10 in total. Today The Edrington group is the owner of Glenrothes, just as they do with The Macallan.

Color: Copper Gold

Nose: Sherried, Very round and sweetish. Toffee and caramel. Seaside freshness. A bit creamy and no off notes. Smells young like lots of other of these Glenrothes’ cannonballs. Dark chocolate. Reminds me of those cherry bonbons with liqueur. Distant hint of toasted wood.

Taste: Sweet and slightly sherried. The cherry bonbon is here too. Nice toffee flavour and syrupy texture. More character evolves in the glass after letting it breathe. Here come some hints of oak, bitterness and some woody spices. Menthol. Still it remains sweet and syrupy. Also, in my opinion, not a lot of development. Give it more time and the wood kicks in some more. More wood and bitterness that stay and define the finish. Quite unusual for a Glenrothes OB.

At 85 points this is the best OB I’ve tasted from Glenrothes, and look at this extra special luxury packaging!

Points: 85

St. Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, OB, Rare Malts Selection)

As mentioned before St. Magdalene is my favorite Lowland distillery. Compared to the others it seems St. Magdalene always was willing to show some muscle ánd being faithful to the Lowland style. I like lowlanders with a big body. A few days ago I reviewed a Douglas Laing Platinum Linlithgow from 1970, but for ages now this 19yo Rare Malts edition has been my favorite. I know this is only one style of St. Magdalene because there are also some really great St. Magdalenes from the 60’s bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Those bottles look completely different (dark) and are bottled at 40% ABV, and still can be fabulous. As some of you might know I’m a member of “Het Genietschap” and luckily there’s also a whisky madman there (come to think of it, they all are whisky madmen and women over there), who has the tendency bringing those 60’s St. Magdalenes quite often. André thanks! I hope he lets me take a little sample home someday, so I can review it here…

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet and full with hints of smoke and very nice wood. Caramel with a some cream and vanilla. Flowery quality, not so much grassy. Yellow fruit. Powder, slightly toasty and spicy again. Bonfire on a damp evening, after a drizzle. And after a while, a second wind. The is another explosion of aroma’s. This time more like sweet lemongrass vanilla yoghurt. The wood turns from spicy to sour. It’s a different ballgame now. More green components now. Plants after watering. Dry summer wind, laden with pollen. Vanilla Ice cream, clay. More smoke…It just goes on and on. One of the best lowlanders I know.

Taste: Sweet and here it is grassy, well more like hay. Big fruity body. Yeah this is my baby! it has some oak, but that’s far away and complements, transports the big bold body. Yellow fruit, hints of peach and a bit more than just a hint of pineapple. Like with the nose, this grows to. The body becomes even more big, with hints of rubber even, can you imagine that, in a Lowlander? The wood taste that emerges is just fabulous. Perfect sweetness that is kept on a leash by a new acidity. Fruity acidity, lime maybe? Not only the acidity, more and more a nice component from the wood makes this a three unity. Also, and this comes very late into the fold: a nutty component. Almonds and chestnuts. This whisky will never end…

I’ve had this lots of times and the fact everything happens in beautiful layers is what makes this whisky unique. Give it lots of time to let it all happen. Use a big copita they use for brandy or cognac. Forget about the strength and forget about water for the first hour you have this in the glass. Give it time, waltz it around in your glass, play with it, sniff it in tiers. Give it a chance and you’ll be rewarded. What a whisky, what an unusual great balance. WOW!

You know about those deserted islands questions? Well, I bring this and a Brora 1972 (and a glass), and worry about the rest later.

Points: 96

Port Ellen 26yo 1979/2005 (56.9%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Sherry Butt #2015, 497 bottles)

Again rummaging through my box with trophies collected on my travels, I found another Port Ellen. I like Port Ellen, so please forgive me, for yet another review. Port Ellen is the closed distillery from the immensely popular island of Islay, known for its peated whiskies. Always around in abundance, prices were ‘moderate’ for a closed distillery from Islay. Today stocks are depleting, and prices tend to rise sky-high, and it won’t be long untill there’s nothing left. Even if casks still lie around, Port Ellen isn’t getting better by ageing even longer. Maybe casks will be transferred into stainless steel holding tanks to stop ageing and fetching a lot of money when bottled is a few years’ time. Who knows. Since 2001 Diageo releases Port Ellen annually in their special release series. The first release fetching at least a 1000 Euro’s at auctions…

Port Ellen was founded in 1825, and was sadly closed like many others in 1983. Although the distillery is dismantled, the site is still there. Today it’s home to Port Ellen Maltings. Where barley is malted and all the other distilleries of the island are customers…

Color: Gold (with black cask sediments, floating around).

Nose: Thick and elegant or is it? Dry Fino Sherry and crushed beetle. Peat and kumquats. It smells like a bush, very vegetal. Black tea and flowery perfume. The citrussy wood is great in this one. When left to breathe for a while it’s wonderful altogether, and a mixture of hot tea, with dry black tea leaves comes even more to the fore. Stunning!

Taste: Thick, spicy, sweaty and sweet. Black and white powder. Very balanced. Alas no Port Ellen rubber. Again Fino Sherry. Bold, round body with distant peat and milk chocolate. Clean at first, and dry,with a very nice gritty and dirty bonfire finish that tends to be sweet and sour (green apples), but not bitter. Every sip is like a chameleon, different every time.

Ahhh, the Raw Cask series, a series where filtration got a new meaning. This is a series where the whisky is certainly not chill-filtered. It is probably filtered through a chicken wire fence. Some people even suggest, the stuff floating in these whiskies have sediment thrown in from anywhere and is not even from the original cask. Well I’d like to believe… It looks original and rustic and I don’t have a clue what it does for the taste. If you drink it all, you can imagine what it does for the mouthfeel, well not much really, the flakes just tend to cling to your palate and tickle. This is a very good Port Ellen and it deserves a well-earned…

Points: 91