Highland Park Week – Day 6: Highland Park 17yo 1984/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 786 bottles)

Two more to go, so alas, we are near the end of yet another Master Quill Week. As we have seen the past few days, here is another independently bottled Highland Park, this time by Douglas Laing. Near the end of the nineties, Douglas Laing started bottling single cask Single Malts, with enormous success. It may very well have been the most successful independent bottler with stellar releases, time after time. Heaps of Brora and Port Ellen come to mind. I guess back then, they were a bigger name, temporarily, than Gordon & MacPhail and maybe Signatory Vintage. If the cask had enough ooomph, the Whisky was reduced to their preferred drinking strength of 50% ABV. It is a good strength. Nobody back then complained about reduction, or that it should have been cask strength only. I loved a lot of their bottlings and bought quite a few of them. Even though the bottle itself is pretty simple, I am a sucker for Whisky in green glass (remember Laphroaig?).

Here we have a 17yo Highland Park with hardly any color. The cask yielded a lot of bottles, so I’m guessing the original Whisky was pretty high in ABV, and came out of a Fino Sherry puncheon (or butt). I’ve tried quite a few Douglas Laing bottlings from Fino Sherry casks, so it shouldn’t be too hard to recognize.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Very restrained, but right from the start the unmistakable aroma’s of Fino Sherry maturation. As I said, if you had a few, it isn’t too hard to recognize. Fresh sea-spray with a laid back nuttiness. The more it breathes, the nuttier it becomes. Wonderfully elegant and not as big or raw, as Oloroso and PX sherry casks can be, especially in more recent bottlings. This Fino cask didn’t impair a lot of color to the Whisky, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t give off a lot of aroma as well. Well, one thing is for sure, this doesn’t smell like a Whisky from a Bourbon or even some other tired cask. So don’t be fooled. Added to the fresh sea-spray, are some lemony notes. Zesty lemon skins. Perfumy, and ever so slightly floral. Cookie dough. Almond cookies. Hints of toasted cask. Scorched heather maybe? Vegetal, with hints of garden bonfire (but not the smoke). Slightly dusty as well. Extremely balanced, but not hugely complex. Lovely.

Taste: Yeah. Sweet, much sweeter than expected. Lots of Vanilla and nicely creamy and vibrant. Lemons and the flesh of sweet apples, so not thick nor cloying. Where the nose was quite restrained, this isn’t, but on the other hand, the nose had more “Fino” to it. Ice-cream and hardly any wood. For a short while, towards the finish, it has aroma’s from a Belgian Trappist Triple Beer. Also a bit soapy, floral with a tad of bitterness. These three are kept in check rather well, so don’t be disturbed. High quality stuff, and tasting it now it is much nicer and better than I remembered. Last time I tasted this, I still had not acquired the taste for Fino Whiskies, but now I have and I love it! Long finish, as all Whiskies should have and a very nice and warming aftertaste. If I’m honest, this isn’t the most complex stuff around, even though there is enough development in the glass. It is, however, extremely balanced, and I consider this to be high quality stuff, but I might have said that before already.

When I smell this and my mind wanders off, I feel Whiskies today rarely ever have this profile anymore, so it seems Fino casks often end up somewhere else than in Independent bottlings. Maybe the Whisky is different because Sherry casks themselves are more often made from American oak (more vanilla aromas) than European oak (more tannins). American oak makes Sherry creamier and more accessible, friendlier, aiming at a larger consumer base.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Whiskies from Fino casks maybe are an acquired taste, as it was for me. I wasn’t too fond of the particularities of Fino cask maturation for a long time, but I got it in the end, and I have to say it works wonders with Whisky. I love it. Its like Bourbon cask matured Whisky with a twist, and sometimes quite a large twist, also the difference between Fino bottlings can be enormous.

A nice contrast to yesterdays Signatory offering. The differences couldn’t be greater, even though both come from a “Sherry-cask”. So now you know if you see: “Matured in a Sherry cask” on a label, you still know nothing and have no clue of what to expect…

Points: 87

Jura 30yo 1984/2014 (44%, OB, American White Oak, Amoroso & Apostoles Casks, 1984 bottles)

Well, this should prove to be an interesting review. First of all, not a lot of Jura’s are around with this kind of age behind its belt. Second, I do know what Amoroso is (Sweetened Oloroso Sherry, most definitely not the highest quality Sherry around), but Apostoles? George OrwellThird, unbelievable what this Malt costs. It has been reduced to 44% (I think) and for sure is colored, why? Is this typical caramel colour so much better than the colour of the original Whisky? Fourth, This malt has been “created to celebrate the famous George Orwell” what’s next, a 2011 Isle of Jura bottled at 50% ABV to celebrate E.L. James? She probably put up a tent of her own on the Island too some point in time. Fifth, in 2003 Jura already released a 1984 commemorative bottling for George Orwell. This time with a Palo Cortado Oloroso finish (I understand that one wasn’t so great). Sometimes I just don’t love marketing. Let’s concentrate on the Whisky then.

But first a word about Apostoles. Apostoles is a Palo Cortado Sherry, a 30yo from González Byass. From Wikipedia: “Palo Cortado is a rare variety of Sherry that is initially aged under flor to become a Fino or Amontillado, but inexplicably loses its veil of flor and begins aging oxidatively as an Oloroso. The result is a wine with some of the richness of Oloroso and some of the crispness of Amontillado”.

I told you it would be interesting.

Isle of Jura 30yo 1984/2014 (44%, OB, American White Oak, Amoroso & Apostoles Casks)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Extremely pleasant nose. Thick Sherry, but not your normal run-of-the-mill Sherry, but special Sherry coming from the black coal age. Thick but also fruity. Cherry syrup. Antiques, with a small hint of smoke and toast. Unusual but well crafted. The nose shows great balance. I don’t know how they crafted this, but is really smells awesome. To me it smells like something from the fifties or sixties. It has oldness, a backbone and nice fruits. So job well done.

Taste: Fruity again, but somehow not the same fruitiness as the nose promised. The coal returns but in a more creamy way. Vanilla pudding and orange skins. Again well-balanced. Great stuff, but. It’s a bit weak, it has been reduced too much. Why? Money? It’s already colored, and now it’s also reduced too much to fetch more? Ok forget about that for a minute. This is a wonderful malt, that probably was stellar before reduction. Now it’s still great, however it starts to go off a bit, halfway through the body. Although it breaks down in the middle of the body, the yielded parts are still nice and balanced. John Lennon and Paul McCartney did make good solo albums by themselves, but… The only flaw is the weakness of the finish and the shortness of it. I would have liked the creamy fruitiness to stay on a little while longer.

Reading through the intro, I may not be too happy with Jura’s marketing department, ok the packaging looks pretty nifty though. I am impressed with the people involved in crafting this Whisky, and that’s where it’s all about. I’m just a bit sad this great Whisky got reduced too much, albeit 2% higher than the former Orwellian bottle. If only it were somewhere in between 46 and 50% ABV. Maybe next time in 2024, when the Palo Cortado’s turn 40 we get a version bottled at 46% ABV. Watch the wood people.

Points: 90

Many thanks go out to Dave G. for providing the Whisky.

Glenlossie 27yo 1984/2012 (57.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection for Waldhaus am See, Sherry Butt #2532, 504 bottles)

Recently my Whisky club went on a trip to Switzerland (again), and this time on our journeys we visited Waldhaus am See, almost running over some white rabbits who live in the parking lot these days. The plan was to stop only for half an hour or so, to have a look at the famous (and large) Whisky bar, because we had plans to visit another place too. We entered the hotel and left more than half a day later. Spending some time in the bar, having lunch and having a look at Claudio’s private collection and the Hotel Whisky shop. We left with quite some bottles. We also had a look at the world’s second largest wine-collection. Wow! Never a dull day.

Glenlossie 27yo 1984/2012 (57.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection for Waldhaus am See, Cask #2532, 504 bottles)Color: Copper

Nose: Very musty right off the bat, but quickly settling. After a while it gets more winey. and dusty. Some hints of fireworks (toasted cask), but also hints of cardboard, and morning breath. Creamy with hints of smoke (toasted cask?) and fresh wood. Cream, vanilla and wine are the main markers of this nose, but also some after eight. Mint with chocolate. When completely settled it get even perfumy. Absolutely interesting whisky. Lots happening in this one.

Taste: Again winey, with lots of toasted cask. Charcoal and prickly smoke (yes in the taste!). Very appetizing stuff. Sweet and charcoal with some hidden vanilla. Very tasty and although this has a pretty high ABV, for me this is easily drinkable. Orange skins, some acidity and slightly bitter, again from the toasted cask.

Waldhaus am See has a tradition of bottling a lot of Whisky for their hotel, and a lot of those bottling sell out very quickly, even big Butts like this one. Nice Glenlossie this is.

Points: 86

Thanks go out to Michael for taking care of us for so long. Excellent! Thanx also to The Genietschap for letting me have a sample of this bottle to be able to write this review. Thanx guys!

Glengoyne Week – Day 5: Glengoyne 19yo 1984/2004 ‘Winter’ (58.2%, OB, Cask #1464, 576 bottles)

So, after three ‘Mashman’s choices’ from 2006, we now move into even (c)older bottlings. Next up is this Glengoyne “Winter” that was distilled in the winter of 1984, and bottled in 2004. This bottle is a limited edition of 576 bottles so most probably a Sherry Butt (or Puncheon). 1984 is also a year not a lot of official Glengoynes come from, I actually know of only one other, Sherry Cask #790, that was bottled already in 1998.

The label reads the following fabulous text: “Distilled in winter 1984, this limited edition has captured the essence of the season. A bouquet of snowdrops and pears. A frosty and clean palate that exudes honey and mellow spices reminiscent of a hot toddy”. A hot toddy is a hot drink made with rum, star anise or cloves, lemon and cinnamon. Well I can’t wait to try a Whisky that has all these ingredients in it!

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Very “Fino” Sherry. Clean. Little hint of smoke and hot butter. Salty bacon. The meaty component moves in and out of the picture. It’s also fresh, with a little bit of menthol. Give it some time and warm it up in your hand, some neat organics develop. A little bit of wood, but less than expected with a 19yo malt. Cold butter too, perfumy and elegant.

Taste: Sweet. Clay and a little bit hot (It’s almost 60% ABV.) Here some toasted wood and again that distinct saltiness. Bitter orange marmalade. There is a lot of sweetness to this, to counterpart the wood and it’s influences. Near the end quite a lot of spicy wood, with matching bitter and slightly soapy finish, with lots of malt. Still this Whisky has a lot of complexity to it and shows many faces. A quality work of art.

My first guess would have been Fino Sherry, but going further I would say Manzanilla Sherry. Manzanilla’s are also made in the Fino way, but have a salty touch, and due to the smoke and hints of saltiness in this Whisky, I would say Manzanilla. For me Fino or Manzanilla casks are pretty good casks for Whisky, but they never are easy. This one too, it’s not a you-like-it-immediately malt, but you have to work on it a bit, as opposed to, lets say, Oloroso cask. Work it, warm it, let it move a lot inside the glass and a wonderful complexity emerges. For me a sort of connoisseurs malt. I will score this the same as the last two choices I reviewed earlier, but no need to inform you again that this Sherry cask is way different from the two darker ones, but equally as good. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The fabulous list of ingredients: Rum? Nope. Star Anise? Nope. Lemon? Well, no. Cinnamon? Not really. Cloves? Again no. Snowdrops? I haven’t tried snowdrops yet, have you? Pears? Nope. Honey, nope it’s more sugary sweet. As I said, a wonderful piece of literature, by someone who obviously had a cold, or maybe I have a cold right now? I wish it was summer already.

Points: 87

Highland Park 19yo 1984/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Sherry, DL REF 406, 636 bottles)

I saw some prices for official Highland Parks the other day, and I just had to try this one. It wanted to be picked. It’s and eighties Highland Park by Douglas Laing. A sherried one that was released almost ten years ago, and the cost then was next to nothing. (around 50 Euro’s). Well a lot has changed in the Whiskyworld the last decade. So Highland Park 19yo. Alas I wasn’t able to recover a picture for this bottle so I will show here a brother of the 19yo, the 17yo that was released two years earlier (Also a 1984). The 19yo I’ll review here will more or less look the same.

Color: White wine.

Nose: Apple sauce, very clean, a little bit of wood and a little bit of spice. Dusty but overall fruity. Lot’s of toffee and again warm sweet apple sauce. Although pleasant, it doesn’t seem quite right. There is something like coal smoke in the distance, maybe even some sulphur. A slight hint of burnt wood and paper and cardboard. The longer this breathes the better it gets. The apple bit wears off.

Taste: Short attack that dissipates quickly and falls again into a fruity sweetness. Alongside the apple there also is some blackcurrant. It’s nice, it’s a lemonade at first, that drinks nicely away. Prickly smoke in the back of your mouth. The 50% ABV delivers good oomph.  Licorice and a hint of wood with a lighter acidic and slightly bitter finish, after the ‘full’ body. The finish is the weakest part.

Likeable, but nothing special. It has its merits, but if I had tasted this blind, I would have never guessed this was a Highland Park. It’s quite far from the official Highland Park’s. I’m guessing Fino Sherry, but also a tired cask. In almost 20 years the Whisky hardly picked up any color, a not a lot of character from the wood itself. No use to compare, but the other Whisky from Orkney, Scapa, I reviewed for Master Quill’s 1st Anniversary was a lot better!

Points: 86

By the way. The depicted 17yo scored 85 Points.

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 7: Yamazaki 1984/2005 (56%, OB)

Wow, how quickly a week passes by. Already the last day of the Japanese Whisky Week. The last entry will be another Vintage Malt Yamazaki. This time a 1985. Will this be the best? But before I start reviewing this one, first a little comment.

This Japanese Whisky Week was a little ‘narrow’ All entries were from just three distilleries. Nikka’s Yoichi (in the Taketsuru’s) and Miyagikyo, and Suntory’s Yamazaki. But there is so much more. So please have a look at the others. Hanyu is great, so is Karuizawa, and many others, like the new Chichibu that already shows great potential. So enough material for another Japanese Whisky Week I would say.

By the way, not a lot of good pictures available, so the picture is for another Yamazaki from the same series, just from other distillation and bottling years. Sorry.

Color: Dark mahogany

Nose: Sherry, probably Oloroso. Dry, powdery and woody. Nice soapy smell, that adds to the elegance of it. Typical oak. Pencil shavings. Sugar candy. Paper as in old books. The nose is very balanced.

Taste: Sweet (at first) and spicy wood. Syrupy, thick, with cough syrup and black fruits. The initial sweetness soon gives way to oak. Burnt sugar with some mint. This isn’t 25yo yet, but it’s already on the brink. This is already pretty woody, and ageing this any longer ,would have made this extremely woody. Now it’s elegant and quite bitter, but a bitterness that can still be handled. There is also some Beer, or hoppy bitterness to this. Altogether half sweet. Burnt sugar and it has a woody, hoppy, bitter finish. The other Yamazaki Vintage Malt didn’t oxidize to well, but this one can handle air with ease.

This goes into Yamazaki 25yo territory, but it isn’t there, its definitively younger, a lot younger. I guess there are much older components that go into Yamazaki 25yo, than only 25yo casks. There you have old wood that isn’t present in this Vintage Cask.

I like it. It is sort of extreme, but for me the best of the Japanese Whisky Week. Still, it’s not for the faint at heart. All in all I have to say that all seven Whiskies were pretty good. Just have a look at the amount I scored 87 points. So this is the best, but with 89 points it’s barely the best. It seems that mean quality is high and therefore Japanese Whiskies, If you choose wisely, are very good. Recommended.

Points: 89

Tormore 13yo 1984/1997 (63.9%, Cadenhead, 750 ml)

The other day, I reviewed a reduced Tormore by indie bottlers Mo Ór, that I called feminine. It was Floral and fruity, very easy accessible. I said other Tormores were more metallic and industrial. Luckily Master Quill has a vault where a whisky archive is kept, so I was able to find a Tormore fit for comparison. Here we’ll have a look at this Tormore bottled by Cadenhead. This particular offering was bottled for the good people of the U.S. of A. Hence the 750 ml bottle from 1997. 1997, that means this Tormore was bottled around the time previous reviewed Tormore was distilled (1996). Both Tormore’s are about the same age too. Let’s see if thís Tormore is any feminine.

Color: White wine.

Nose: Well this does start floral again. How consistent, but soon caramel and wood and yes, a metallic touch. Clean and very toffee like. Compared to the Mo Ór this isn’t all that fruity. Dry. Still very floral and sweaty maybe. Great stuff.

Taste: Well strong, it’s almost 64% ABV. Half-sweet, and the metallic part returns. Still that’s no bad thing here. Lots of caramel and toffee notes. This finishes a bit sour, from the oak, but no big problems here. Otherwise quite un-complex.

Tormore’s are definitively the odd ones out. Rather unpopular and who is surprised when you taste the official 12yo. But when you get your hands on a clean ex bourbon cask at cask strength, you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Even though they may not be the high scoring Whiskies, they do have something in them I particularly like. There’s a potential here that isn’t used. The stills have purifiers on them, that makes the spirit very clean. Most of the Tormore spirit is put in Refill Bourbon barrels and hogshead and most of it doesn’t even age on site. So you’re bound to have something ultra clean.

Still I consider myself lucky I got my hands on a second bottle of this. Great stuff.

Points: 86