Lagavulin 1986/2002 “Distillers Edition” (43%, OB, lgv. 4/490)

Lagavulin is one of my all time favorite distilleries. It’s almost impossible to encounter a bad Lagavulin. I can’t believe this is just the third review of Lagavulin on these pages the other two being the other two from the current standard range. The 16yo and the 12yo. The 16yo is the modern classic (It used to be the 12yo with the cream label) and right at the time there was a rumour the 16yo would be quite scarce, the new cask strength 12yo was released. As I said, the current standard range is the 16yo, this distillers edition I’m about to review, and the 12yo cask strength version. The latter two come to us as “annual releases”. Just like Springbank, this means that there is some batch variation. A wanted batch variation, to buy more of the same and compare them to other releases, identified by  bottling year.

Just like NAS today, batch variation was always a dirty phrase, it’s not a word isn’t it. But marketing turned that around, just as they are trying with NAS. For me NAS means younger, less matured Whisky, so less contact with wood and as Gordon & MacPhail so aptly put it: “The wood makes the Whisky”. I’m not really happy about NAS, but I never disliked batch variations (again, look at Springbank), unless if the only way seemed to be down. There always has been a lot of discussion about our very Lagavulin 16yo, losing power, balance and character, but I hear the latest batches are becoming better and better again. Today Laphroaig seems to suffer from that…

This is the fifth Lagavulin Distillers Edition (DE). The first was distilled in 1979, the second in 1980, the third in 1981, and the fourth in 1984. Just like all the other distillers Editions, this Lagavulin has undergone a second maturation (a finish) in Pedro Ximénez (PX) casks.

Lagavulin DE 2002Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Fantastic peat. Lagavulins from the eighties can have this excellent peat, I never get tired of. Peat, tar, seashore, you name anything maritime and its in here. Sure the more recent DE’s are still pretty good, but they don’t smell like this. That’s why Whisky lovers still pay a great deal of money for these older bottlings. Smoke comes next and it smells a bit electrical. It has vanilla and a slight fruity nose. You know it’s there, but so hard to distinguish what it is. Ahhh lots of smoked (dry) sausage and slightly dried out onions and pear. Excellent, what a combination. Where have you smelled that last in a Whisky? This Lagavulin is all about balance (again some kind of dirty word for some). The whole is so fantastic, and goes on and on. Wonderful. Hard to put down. With time the fruit, still distant, finds it’s place in the whole and adds a more fresh and fruity part to the whole. Just smelling it is quite the experience, and still getting better. Lagavulin is such a big aroma, that even the thick and sweet PX can’t overpower it, just add a little something. I guess the finish was done intelligently. I’m putting off tasting it for just a while longer to put on my fisherman’s sweater…

Taste: …in the end it would be a shame not to taste this, so here goes. Well somewhat less special than the nose is the first thing that comes to mind. The PX is more upfront as well. It starts out chewy. Nice licorice, black and white powder and a thick sweet Sherry without most of its sweetness. Does that even make sense? Waxy and again very coastal and raw. Masculine. Puffer’s smoke. Burning hay. Fishy, as it should be. Smoked fish of course. Smearing tar on the hull of a boat. Get yourself something like this, because modern peated Whiskies are nowhere near this profile. I wouldn’t add water to it, because reducing it to 43% shortened the finish already. Big body, with only a medium finish. In the aftertaste the balance is slightly gone. It could have been even better than it already is! Wow.

It’s been a while, but I do understand why Whisky lovers in general pay lots of money for Whiskies like this. This is great and they sure can’t make them like this anymore. Drinking this put you in a different place and time altogether. It changes you as a person (for a while). Sure it puts you back a few hundred euro’s pounds or dollars, but try to imagine what a trip to Islay in 1986 would cost you now. It’s a time-machine and time-bomb in one. A must have.

Points: 91

The Macallan 18yo 1986 “Sherry” (43%, OB, 2004)

Macallan 1986 18yo (old)In 2004 Macallan officially released two Sherried 18yo’s. The one on the right, we know very well, that was the one with the old labels that have been used for decades. (For reasons science cannot wholly explain…). Around 2004 Macallan also started to release a new bottle design we all know from the Fine Oak series and later bottlings. Here we’ll review the 2004 18yo with the new design. The label states that this is Whisky distilled in 1986 and earlier years. We know the “other 18yo” to be very good, now lets see if this is any better or maybe it’s the same stuff…

Macallan 18yo 1986 Sherry (43%, OB, 2004)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Pretty laid back and toned down nose. Sweetish Sherry. Hints of wood, dust and cardboard. Not a full on sherry we know from the other 18yo’s. Very floral and even some orange fruitiness. Some whiffs of this even smell like someones bad breath. Strange hints of cooked vegetables. So bad breath, cooked vegetables, but a moment later also a breath of fresh air emerges. Very strange indeed.

Taste: Sweetish (sugar water) and thin. Fruity and slightly waxy, but the wax comes through as fruity and it’s only a hint. So definitely and older cask found its way into this. Hints of sweet apples and pears come through, which makes me think this is not from Olroso Butts. Fino maybe? This also lacks complexity, and the sweetness somehow stays on top. I expected more development from this. Well, it’s nice, pretty simple and easily drinkable, but this is not a Macallan as we knew it. This could have been anything.

This bottling really marks the end of an era. The era that was dominated by the Sherried Macallans with the old labels. I Always thought the beginning of the end for Macallan was with the release of the Fine Oak series, but would I have tasted this one back then, this would be it. Who would have known that almost never again we would get a Macallan like we used to. In hindsight the Fine oak’s may have not been that bad, since after that the likes of Macallan Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby, to name but a few, were released. Costs a lot of money these days. bit tastes like a good standard bottling that you can get for 40 or 50 euro’s…

Points: 81

Highland Park 16yo 1986/2002 (57,9%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #2288, 273 bottles)

Together with the Cadenheads Glen Scotia I reviewed earlier I found this Adelphi Highland Park in the back of my lectern. Highland Park is no newbie on these pages and this will be the third independent bottling of Highland Park, as I have earlier reviewed Highland Parks from Douglas Laing and a heavily sherried one by Gordon & MacPhail. Adelphi is new to these pages. Adelphi once was a distillery, but it closed already in 1907. The name though was bought and used for this independent bottler since 1993. Funny that the people who are behind Adelphi Distillery now, are building themselves a new distillery not called Adelphi Distillery yet, but for the time being is called: Ardnamurchan. Another claim to fame is that Charles “Rory” MacLean does some if not all of the cask selections.

Color: Dull light gold.

Nose: Creamy, heathery and slightly soapy. Candied yellow fruits. Dried apricots. Very powdery and appetizing. A breath of fresh (sea) air. Very clean smelling, but also has a dirty edge to it. Only a small hint of dry wood and toasted oak. The nose somehow seems sweet, and sweaty, already, and the sweetness blends right in with the cream that’s very up front. It changes with air, so let it breathe. Classy smelling Whisky.

Taste: Smoked heather, honey sweetness and a peppery bite. It keeps it together right through to the finish, it (it being the balance) seems a bit flimsy towards the end, but the balance does manage to stay. A sign of quality. It has a tad of soapy woodiness to it. The sweetness develops from honey into toffee and caramel, but it never dominates. It seems to me the sweetness is somehow balanced with some hidden acidity. Quite nice.

A pretty good, easily recognizable Highland Park. The Heather and honey are definitely there, but the real bonus is the Talisker-like peppery bite. Since there isn’t a lot of bitterness or toast in this, and there seems to be a lot of potential, I wouldn’t have bottled this yet. It’s good, but it could have been slightly better. Of all the independent Highland Parks I have reviewed here, I guess this particular expression matches the profile of Highland Park the best. But do allow for some breathing. It needs air. Well done Rory, I mean Charlie!

Points: 86

Ben Nevis 1986/2012 (58.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, CM 188, 111 bottles)

Here are a few firsts, and on paper a quite interesting one to boot. This is the first Ben Nevis on these pages. It’s also the first time I’m reviewing a Whisky that was bottled by The House of MacDuff. Now for the interesting part. Some of you might have read “Wort, worms & washbacks” The memoirs of John McDougall written by Gavin D. Smith. By the way, Gavin was “reviewed” once before, so he’s no first. The House of MacDuff is a venture of Jane MacDuff ánd John McDougall. John also picks the casks for bottling under the Golden Cask brand. For those of you who haven’t read this book, well it’s utterly entertaining and very funny. Recommended. John has worked at a lot of very interesting distilleries in all Scottish regions, so I’m assuming that all picks by John just have to be great. I got a few samples from the series, and I’ll start with this Ben Nevis from 1986.

Color: Pinkish gold

Nose: Fresh, sharp and fruity sweet. Black tea (dry leaves). Nice bourbon cask not dissimilar from the Cadenhead offerings (Bourbon Barrels). Warm apple sauce and quite thick. Condensed sweet apple. Not a lot of wood, but there seems to be enough vanillin going around in this. Sawdust. Slightly vegetal too. Hints only of ethanol.

Taste: Sweet, vegetal and slightly woody (multiplex). Quite full and round (sweet) mouthfeel. This is not bad, not very complex but very likeable. Taste is pretty balanced, for me it just goes a bit wrong in the finish. Slightly acidic and the vegetal part (fern) starts to play a larger role. Also, but very late, comes in some bitterness from the wood. Fern with the sweetness, and the slight bitterness, is maybe a strange combination, but hey it’s only part of the finish, so don’t worry.

The Golden Cask don’t disclose all the facts of the cask, but this is probably a Bourbon Barrel. This bottling has yielded 111 bottles, so I’m guessing the cask was shared and this is only half the output from the cask. The second half was probably bottled for the Whiskymesse Rüsselsheim. That bottling yielded 100 bottles. 100 bottles of whisky on the wall, was probably the original order with The Golden Cask buying the rest of barrel #133. Therefore this Ben Nevis should also be 26yo.

Points: 84

Glengoyne Week – Day 4: Glengoyne 20yo 1986/2006 ‘Peter’s Choice’ (51%, OB, PX Butt #433, 603 bottles)

Well here you go, day four and here is the third and last of the Mashman’s choices from Glengoyne. Hardly a surprise after the last two days, isn’t it? This time a Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt. Pedro Ximénez or PX for short, is a very sweet dessert Sherry. Oloroso Sherry were always considered to be the best for maturing Whisky, but it turns out that PX Casks are very good too. Let’s see how this PX-Glengoyne will do.

This is wat Peter had to say about his choice: “sweet, rich, wonderful and moves beautifully when shoogled*, just the way I like my whisky and my women!” So Peter shoogles his women? I mush have a go and shoogle my granny then!

Color: Sparkling copper brown, almost with a red tinge.

Nose: Quite fresh and light, but also raisins and alcohol. Dusty powdery wood. Utterly balanced, but not very outspoken. Charlie’s choice was definitely more ‘heavy’, this is friendlier. Dry meaty and slightly woody. Very slick and elegant yet again. Not a sherry monster. Honey sweetness and leafy.

Taste: Again very elegant, and sweet, easily recognizable as a PX Sherry. There is wood, but not very much, also something hoppy, with a hint of soap. The body is firm enough to withstand the soap, so don’t see that as a problem. The whole is thinner than Charlie’s choice though. The finish here is again beer-like and a bit sour. If that had stayed more fatty and sweet, that this would have been a score into the 90’s.

A very nice pick by Mashman Peter, may the shoogle be with you! This is the last of the Choices from personnel of the Glengoyne distillery, tomorrow the choice is mine again! Nosing the three Mashman’s choices, I would say the best nose is on Charlie. Tastewise it is a tie between Charlie and Peter, where Charlie is more brutal, or sporty, and Peter is more dressed to the occasion, so to speak. Both score the same and which one is better is dependent on how you feel. So two ties here, one between Charlie and Peter and a second between Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Points: 88

* Shoogle is a Scottish word which means to gently shake or agitate.

Bruichladdich 17yo 1986/2004 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Hogshead, 270 bottles)

This Bruichladdich was my entry for the September Genietschap session. I bought this some time ago after a tasting and rather liked it then. At the Genietschap this bottle actually didn’t do so well at our Bruichladdich tasting (we tasted it outside). It was compared to another Cadenhead Bruichladdich that was from a Bourbon Hoggie as well. Also from 1986 but several years younger, a 13yo to be precise. Even though it was younger, this bottle showed more character to it. The 13yo was almost empty and maybe these Bruichladdich’s need a lot of air. Let’s have a look in my controlled environment and using my glass of choice, how this Bruichladdich really is. (This bottle, just open).

Color: White wine.

Nose: Sweet and grassy. Butter and green malts. Little hint of oak. Clean. Crushed bugs with dry black tea. Even though it’s from a Bourbon hoggie, it does have some characteristics of a Fino Sherry cask. Lemons (as in lemonade) with a hint of smoke. Not a lot of evolution in the nose. Rather easy and simple. Unoffending.

Taste: Sweet. Licorice (as in the twigs you can chew, probably something we only have here in The Netherlands). Spices from the oak. Ear wax. Green and beer like. Great half-long finish though, where the finish tends to turn sour, but luckily it doesn’t.

This may not be very complex, but it does have nice balance, and I do still like it. Still I can understand why it didn’t do well. It may be simple, and maybe a bit of a whisky lemonade. Very easy drinkable.

Points: 85

Bruichladdich 13yo 1986/2000 (57.9%, Bourbon Hogshead, Cadenhead, 270 bottles), scored 86 points