Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (56.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt #1561, 611 bottles)

600Post number 600, so lets break out something special. Special for me is Brora. Sure Port Ellen, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, they all are Cohiba’s, but Brora is Trinidad. Brora is extra special (to me). 600 is a round number but it’s not 1.000, 10.000 or even a million. It’s 600, so I won’t be reviewing a 1972 Brora, which for me is the pinnacle of them all. The 30yo OB from 2004 contains lots of 1972 Brora, so look at that review how great 1972 Brora can be. Back to this Signatory bottling from 1981. In 1981 Brora was in production, obviously, but were all over the place. Some expressions are full of peat and some are not. I wonder if this one has some peat to it…

Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (56.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt #1561, 611 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Fresh and vivid. Definitely Sherry, but in no way funky. Quickly a fresh creamy and toffee note develops and only a mere hint of peat, just inhale vigorously. Needs to breathe a bit. Nice soft woody note, which sometimes take a turn towards old paper turned yellow. A bit dusty as well, (with whiffs of white peach). In no way dry. Quite spicy. I tickles the nose, and again toffee mixed with wax. Chewy would be the word. Mild yellow fruit notes appear, adding some acidity and yet more freshness to the nose. It’s not typically peach, white or other, but some whiffs come across as peach in semi-sweet yoghurt. The wood stays soft and is part of the fruity and creamy mix, instead of giving it a spine. Its nice overall, and does develop al lot, where initially it didn’t seem very complex. Hardly any peat at all and just a splash of smoke.

Taste: Thick, waxy and fruity. Definitely a profile we get from fruity Speysiders from the seventies. Nice soft wood. Toffee, without being very sweet. It has some fruity sweetness, but just the right amount. It has more than 56% ABV, but it’s still friendly. Not hot, nor burning my throat. Very drinkable. To my amazement, a lot disappears towards the finish and the finish itself is medium at best. Only in the aftertaste it starts to come apart a bit, fading out. Just the right moment to take another sip.

This one isn’t about the peat and the smoke, and the ruggedness of highlands, and sea storms after which you need warming. This one is for those moment you need an old Speysider, Bourbon matured, with lots of fruit and wax. Remember this isn’t from a Bourbon cask, but is from a Sherry butt. It has hints of peat and smoke. It’s a bit like the profile Benromach is going for today with the new 10yo and 15yo.

Points: 89

Cognac Week – Day 4: Château Montifaud XO (40%, OB, 1981/2011)

Cognac Week LogoJust like I promised yesterday, Today we’ll return to Château Montifaud, and this time we will have a look at their XO expression. (Extra Old). By law an XO should be at least 6yo, but again we see that Montifaud age their Cognacs longer than necessary. This XO is 30yo! In 2016 however law will be changed, and an XO should be 10yo, but I don’t think Montifaud will age their 30yo XO Cognac even longer, now the law will change. Just like the VS, this is made with grapes from the Petite Champagne region. It maybe a “lesser” region than the Grande Champagne Region, but Montifaud will know what to do with these “inferior” grapes, if the VS is anything to go by.

Chateau Montifaud XOColor: Orange copper gold (ever so slightly lighter than the VS.)

Nose: Winey and with some added acidity, which smells as “age”. Deeper and more brooding. Old bottle effect and powdery. It’s different from the VS which already had a beautiful nose. This XO is really a fantastic Spirit to smell. It’s so nice, that I completely forgot to take notes when I was nosing this!

Taste: Winey and sweet. It’s even more winey than the VS and lacks the licorice, its younger brother has. Honey and green apple skins. Fragile old age. This one has more depth, (but not as much as I’ve come to expect from a 30yo Cognac). It does have much more staying power compared to the VS The finish has a well hidden burnt wood note that’s hardly there. When that dissipates it shows a slightly translucent acidic note that also quickly dissipates. The sweetness is less of a honey quality and more of plain sugar, and it’s always present. If the sweetness would be more refined, it would have been an even better Cognac.

Coming from a Whisk(e)y background, I find these Cognacs to be very…lovely and light. Even these old blended stuff of 25yo like the Jean Fillioux, and this 30yo Montifaud come across as a bit too simple in the taste, and I do believe the lowest possible ABV. for a Cognac is hurting the wealth of aroma’s these kinds of Cognac should have. So age isn’t everything when you start adding a lot of water. In fact I don’t want to write about this again. With this one I want to sit back and enjoy.

Points: 86

St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)

If you thought both Cragganmores were bottled a long time ago, then you must have a look at this St. Magdalene. This one was bottled one century ago. The 20th century to be precise. Nope its not antique yet since this was only bottled in 1999. Remember Prince? St. Magdalene itself is alas no more. Closed in 1983, it’s buildings now housing people ins stead of casks. An eternal shame led by economics of the eighties. In those days we had a Whisky loch (lots of unsold Whisky), and today almost a shortage. Big disappointment here, since St. Magdalene is my favorite Lowland distillery. Just have a look at my review of the legendary 1979 Rare Malt edition. By the way, bottles of this 1981 Gordon & MacPhail that were sold in Germany had stickers on the back that informed the public about caramel coloring…

St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)Color: Gold.

Nose: Nice, grassy and citrussy. Quite nice and elegant after all those heavy hitters I reviewed before. Waxy and fruity, again in sugared and dried apricots. Quite grainy too, it’s almost like an old blend from the sixties. Vegetal, less grassy actually but more like fern and almost flowery. Sweetish and waxy apple skins. Marmalade. With some air mare grassy and vegetal. Dry grass and hints of hay, making this an easily recognizable Lowlander. Distant white pepper and some slightly rotting wet wood or bad breath. (not bad here). Not un-complex, and very pleasant to smell. A shame this style is almost disappearing. Do cherish your old Magdalenes and Rosebanks people!

Taste: Sweet (paper) and fruity. Pleasant stuff. Yes, quite light and fragile, but that is helped along by the sweetness. After the sweetness comes wax, paper and cardboard, still quickly overthrown by a delicious fruitiness. Warm apple juice with apricots, Short peak of prickly black pepper. Hidden behind the fruity (not sugary) sweetness a hint of black coal. Highly drinkable. Decent finish with a nice fruity aftertaste.

I thought this would be killed by reduction and caramel coloring, but no. It still has a lot of life in it, just like the ancient Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 30yo I have on my lectern. That’s also elegant, brittle and light, but still giving a lot. I feel old malts could “take” a lot more than today’s modern Malts.

Points: 87

Caol Ila 21yo 1981/2002 (58.2%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #465, 364 bottles)

Just recently I reviewed a 21yo Caol Ila from Signatory Vintage Cask #467. When rummaging through some sample bottles I collected over the years one of its sister casks popped up. This time it is Cask #465. How’s that for luck. And as luck would have it, I still have a wee bit of cask #467 left, so a comparison can’t be avoided. Again no picture available for this particular cask, seems to me this is very obscure stuff. I’ll use the ol’ picture of cask #470 again. So without further ado…

Caol Ila 22yo 1981/2004 (59.0%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #470, 281 bottles)Color: Light gold. The color of this one is ever so slightly lighter than cask #467.

Nose: Grassy and vegetal. Citrussy. Fresh and actually young smelling. Even the wood smells sappy. Powdery. Hints of soft, fatty, and creamy smoke. Appetizing. Milk chocolate (with sugared citrus in it) and a tiny hint of latte. All very friendly smelling, and although this is not a heavily peated Caol Ila it is very attractive. Good balance.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. prickly smoke with some late development in the licorice department. Light licorice. also a tiny hint of cannabis, so probably a lot was allocated to the Netherlands. Alcohol and again a small hint of coffee and fern. Milk chocolate again. Small amount of woody bitterness starts the finish and lingers on the back of my tongue. Not the most expressive of Caol Ila’s but quite nice in its own way. Not a very long finish. The high strength is obvious on the tongue, but not a lot of aroma is left in my throat. It’s not what you would expect from a Caol Ila like this, but when you let that go, it’s pretty rewarding.

Comparing the two, the noses of the two are obviously pretty similar. Cask #465 has the better nose, more balance to it. Aroma’s seem to fit together better and has more depth and complexity. Still the difference is not great. The taste is very similar too. Cask #467 seems to be somewhat more raw at first, and less balanced.After a while it is also softer and sweeter in the finish. Cask #465 is for me the better pick of the two, with even a slightly better finish, so overall it performs better. Still they are really twins and the differences are in the details and easier to pick up on when doing a H2H.

Points: 86

Thanks go out to my mate Michel for providing this sample (a long time ago).

Caol Ila 21yo 1981/2002 (58.2%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #467, 361 bottles)

Ahhh, a dumpy Signatory Vintage bottle, nice! Maybe not thát long ago that this was bottled, but an oldy in today’s market nevertheless. This is Whisky I grew up with. Can you imagine, shops full of bottles like this. Today a fairly rare site. I couldn’t find a picture though of the reviewed bottle (cask #467). Pictured here is a similar bottle drawn from cask #470. The right bottle should look similar, maybe the box had a different colour.

Caol Ila 22yo 1981/2004 (59.0%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #470, 281 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fatty old peat. Toned down, laid back and elegant. Quite light. Notes of fern and dry grass. This doesn’t leap out of the glass as your regular Sauvignon Blanc. One to savor right from the start though. Typical Caol Ila coffee I always tend to smell in late 70’s early 80’s Caol Ila distillates. No heavy peat, no heavy smoke. Quite an a-typical Islay Whisky.

Taste: Sweet, herbal and grassy. Short fresh attack, clean at first but not for long. After a few seconds a wave of licorice root and primarily loads of ashes. Crushed beetle. Not so much peaty yet. Extremely warming. This is what you want in your hip flask standing on the beach in a storm. (Apart from a young and feisty Islay Whisky that is).

For a 1981 Caol Ila it ís lacking a bit of complexity. I know examples which had some more fatty and funky peat in them. Good but not as good as Caol Ila from these days can be.

Points: 85

Thanks go out to my mate André for providing this sample.

Brora 23yo 1981/2004 (48.6%, Ian MacLeod, Dun Bheagan, Sherry Butt #1513, 336 bottles)

Hello November! Looking outside, this month seems to bring us damn close to winter. Here we have a bottle of Brora 1981 bottled by indie bottlers Ian Macleod in their Dun Bheagan range. Ian MacLeod have a few other brands you might know. The Chieftains Range or “As we get it” for instance. The company is also the owner of the Glengoyne distillery, which is one of my favourites. Go!

Color: Orangey Gold

Nose: Green. Sweet, a type of lemonade sweetness. Musty and wet tea leaves. Slightly sherried and a hint of plain oak. Green apples. Vanilla ice cream. Perfumy. Some more wet cold black tea leaves and dried grass.

Taste: Thick and sweet. There are the tea leaves again. Syrupy. Sherry. Nicely round and precisely the right amount of wood to give it some body. Nice warming and the sweetness remains for the finish. Chewy plywood. Not overly complex and dangerously easily drinkable.

Brora is my number one Single Malt Whisky. It’s fabulous stuff and when it’s bad, like this one, it’s still a whole lot better than many others. Once there was a time there weren’t a lot of 1981 casks around, but today the market is swarmed by these, and some are better than others. The casks from this range 15xx are all pretty different. Butts, Puncheons and even some Hogsheads. So there should be some difference. I’ve tasted about four of those, one of them a cask sample of an unbottled cask, and all are comparable in quality. Nice, easy drinking whiskies. Not very complex though.

Points: 87

Lochside 28yo 1981/2009 (56%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Cask #617, 202 bottles)

One from the (in)famous Raw Cask series. A lot of ‘stories’ are told about this one. For instance that Blackadder just throw any toasted cask trash they can get their hands on in there during bottling.  That would be a shame wouldn’t it? Blackadder are also the people who bring us bottlings from the Aberdeen Distillers series and the Clydesdale series in the dumpy bottles.

The whisky in the bottles was distilled on the 23rd of February 1981 and was bottled in june 2009. Why do we know the day of distilling, but not the day of bottling? And why does anyone bother to put ‘Oak Cask’ on the label? What else is there? Plastic, Japanese Fig? Still, Blackadder gives us more information than a lot of others…

Lochside Distillery commenced as a Whisky Distillery in 1957, but before that is was a brewery. The side was mothballed in 1992 and demolished twelve years later. Most bottles that are around today are from 1981 and 1991 and come from all kinds of casks, no, not plastic and Japanese Fig, but Bourbon and Sherry. Barrels, hogsheads and butts.

Color: Gold with a slight greenish hue.

Nose: Fresh, spicy, but not very woody. Fat make-up powder. Vanilla with old paint. Licorice. Hints of a damp cellar. Flowery and you would expect it to be dry in the taste. After a while it develops in the glass. Sweat and dry construction wood or sawdust. If you give it some time and work it a bit, than it can be a very rewarding smell. In a laid back or introvert way. Again vanilla ice cream. Nice balance.

Taste: Wow, full body and spicy, Vanilla with apricot sauce. Nice! Yeah, this is it. Slightly beer like bitterness in the finish ánd black pepper. Alcoholic cherry bon-bon. Blueberry juice and creamy vanilla. Yes this has it all. When the bottle was opened at the Genietschap Lochside tasting, this was very closed and hard to score, but it has now opened shop. Very good. Like the nose, you have to work it a bit and give it a chance, but when you focus on the details, this is a gem!

Points: 91