Glenrothes 1987/2002 (43%, OB)

Here is another vintage Glenrothes. After the 1992,  the 1989 and the 1979, this 1987 is the fourth of these vintage bottlings on Master Quill. All were nice, but never scoring very high. All were nice, with enough difference to warrant buying more than one, but also none of them blew me out of the water. Just look at both other Glenrothes I reviewed earlier. One bottled by Wilson & Morgan and one by Douglas Laing. Both managed to score higher than the official bottlings. By now I can say that I expect this one to be nice, but again I don’t think it will blow me out of the water.

Glenrothes 1987/2002 (43%, OB)Color: Gold.

Nose: Dusty, definitely Sherried. Spicy and tickles the nose. Also some burnt elements. Next some aroma’s you get from an old (dry) cellar or attic. Funky but not the funky damp notes you sometimes get from cellars. More like the odours of stored old stuff. Old paper, old cardboard and old wood. Old, worn out vanilla pods. Later a breath of rural fresh air, coming to you over water. Let it breathe some more, and it becomes more like a “normal” Whisky. Vanilla, wood, fruity Sherry notes and spicy oak and cask toast. Hints of butter and dry grass (not hay), and even some toffee.

Taste: Short attack of (fresh) oak and a more waxy note, quickly succeeded by cherries and sugared yellow fruits. Fruity sweet toffee, alas a bit diluted. Über-fruity sugar-water. Warming. Apart from the initial wood, this is quite a fruity expression of Glenrothes. Hints of soap and paper from the nose and a growing aroma of burnt wood. At best a medium finish with a note of Beer and burnt wood. Yes, a bit bitter, which adds to the character of the Whisky after the initial sweetness and fruitiness. The aftertaste matches the nose exactly.

Although the nose isn’t one of the most balanced expressions of Glenrothes, the taste is way better that way, helped along by the sweetness it has. It’s all right this one. It may be a bit simple, diluted and lacking complexity. It does some across as balanced and tastes nice. Maybe it’s time to up the strength a bit?

Points: 83

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Tamdhu 23yo 1987/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #3649, 656 bottles, 500ml)

Earlier I reviewed two young Tamdhu’s, a 2004 and a 2005 bottled by dutch indie bottlers The Ultimate (Van Wees) and both turned out to be pretty good. This time we’ll have a look at a much older 1987 bottling by another dutch outfit, this time Mo Òr (The Whisky Talker). Tamdhu’s are usually pretty good when matured in Oloroso, so I’m guessing this also wil not be too wonky.

Tamdhu 23yo 19872010 (46%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #3649, 656 bottles, 500ml)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Lovely creamy Sherry. Nice alcoholic nuttiness. Clay and cask toast. Not too cloying and can be even called fresh, like in a breath of fresh air (carrying a little bit of dust). Licorice mixed with a hint of burnt leaves. Very aromatic, just move it around in your glass and lots of aroma leaps out of the glass. Creamy vanilla and some good oak. Nice balance and highly aromatic. Medium complexity but very appetizing.

Taste: Creamy with licorice and cask toast. Warming, and half-sweet. Clotted cream. However, already from the start this has a “thin” quality to it, which is remarkable since the nose was so aromatic and full. In stead of the creamy and honeyed sweetness, it starts with a sharpish burnt note. Charcoal and in the background a tiny hint of sulphur. The vanilla cream comes later. Smoky toffee. Warming with good creamy sherry and although the start was thin, the finish does linger on a bit.

I’m guessing this was better at cask strength. Very appetizing. good stuff and the kind of Whisky you’ll want to have first when this is in your collection, so easily drinkable. A bottle that will be empty soon, also because it’s only 500ml. Yup, not wonky at all.

Points: 88

Laphroaig Week – Day 6: Laphroaig 21yo 1987/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Refill Hogshead, DL REF 4855, 439 bottles)

Laphroaig SignPenultimate day of Master Quill’s Laphroaig week and just as yesterday, another Douglas Laing Laphroaig. Seeing a pattern here? So which one will finish this series off tomorrow?

As luck would have it, we have another 1987 Douglas Laing today. Judging by the looks of it, probably a very different one. Yesterday’s Laphroaig was pretty pale at best, but this one boasts a nice and healthy colour. It’s like summer and winter, Jekyll and Hyde, night and day, Sherry and Bourbon. Still something strikes me as odd here. The label states this is from a Hogshead, but even with the slightest of reductions to 50%, this still yielded 439 bottles. Surely this was a Butt or a Puncheon, or was is a big hoggie?

Laphroaig 21yo 1987/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Refill Hogshead, DL REF 4855, 439 bottles)Color: Copper brown

Nose: Nice chocolaty Sherry. Sea wind at night, but in summer, so a chilly night after a warm Sunny day. Clay and very toned down peat. Sugared onion. Not very expressive. This one is a bit shy, even considering it’s heritage. It doesn’t leap out of the glass at you. Sherry influence is quite obvious, but it’s not very peaty just like yesterdays 1987. Smoke? Hardly. Cold black tea and some meaty notes, dried meat and almost cold gravy. Nice and restrained. All the aroma’s do fit well together. Not fruity.

Taste: Sweet with burnt sugar. Definitely a more bonfire aroma. Powdered sugar and some wood. Late licorice, just as yesterdays 1987 Laphroaig. Wood stripped of old paint, of which the dust is still flying in the air. The slightly burned note stays on throughout and makes it into the finish. When working on it, it does show some fruit, but not much. No fresh fruits, but something dried like dates and raisins. PX-Sherry? All in all elegant stuff, but with dirt under its fingernails. Not without flaws in its character too.

This is the second 1987 Douglas Laing Laphroaig and there are similarities and there are differences. Both expressions aren’t very expressive and are toned down. No heavy hitting peat and not much smoke (if any) a Laphroaig light so to speak. This 2009 bottling has the added Sherry, and by the taste of it, this wasn’t a top (PX) Sherry cask or it may have been a treated cask. I somehow can’t imagine this to have aged its whole life in the same cask. Having said that the combination of the two does work somehow.

Points: 87

Laphroaig Week – Day 5: Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL REF 814, 276 bottles)

Laphroaig SignThe dark side of the moon. We are now most definitely on the other side of our Laphroaig Week. It started with the highly visible and upfront official bottlings, pivoted around yesterday’s Kintra Laphroaig (sunset Sherry) and now the final stretch home. This final trio starts with this more obscure Whisky, hiding in green glass aswell, but not released by its maker, but sold of for blending purposes, I guess, but rescued from mediocrity by focussing on its single cask traits. Today we’ll be looking at a Laphroaig bottled by Independent bottler Douglas Laing. Douglas Laing started bottling two Laphroaigs under the alias ‘Laudable’ in 2000. Both were 15yo and 1985 distillates. Using the Laphroaig name three further 1985 distillates saw the light of day as 17 year olds. Next up were a large amount of bottles distilled in 1987 and our DL REF 814 is one of them.

By the way, the picture here depicts sister bottling DL REF 745, bottled 4 months later. The reviewed bottle should look similar.

Laphroaig 1987 Douglas LaingColor: Light gold, almost white wine.

Nose: Extremely closed. Quite light and friendly in the nose. Citrus fruits and smoked cold citrus flavored tea, yes Lapsang Souchong comes to mind. Also a promise of sweetness. Not your heavy hitting peat and smoke emitting monster. Nope, nothing like that at all! Very light end vegetal. Pot plants and warm dried out flowerpot dirt. Slightly meaty and quite a buttery smell which occasionally emits a fruity acidic smell. Pear is added to the citrus. Vanilla with a tiny hint of cigarette smoke. Sweaty and even some tropical fruits like pineapple. Didn’t see this coming! Given some air, a slight dab of smoke emerges as well as some peat. It’s almost like the liquid is holding back the aroma’s from emanating. Nice to see how well all these aroma’s fit together.

Taste: Half sweet and slightly buttery again. Lightly smoked almonds. Fruit syrup. Lots and lots of licorice, ashes and a bitterness that seems to come from smoke. Lightly toasted almonds now with hints of lemon. The acidic citrus note is a great counterpart to the smoke, butter and vanilla. The almond taste stays on for a long time. Altogether half-sweet with toffee throughout. Little hint of mocha-coffee and milk chocolate and even some whipped cream enters the fold occasionally. How is that for complexity? No heavy peat nor a nice garden bonfire so get that out of your system before tasting. Warming.

Quite a strange Laphroaig this is. At first hand it’s not very open and invites you to work it out of the glass. In the end it ís willing to show itself and slowly it emerges out of the glass. Forget for a while this is a Laphroaig, just imagine an old Islay Whisky. The beauty here lies in the details, in the frail and brittle aroma’s, in the great balance and nice complexity. Granted not an easy malt, but if you have the right mind-set it will reward you big-time. So very, very different from regular releases and the profile Laphroaig normally is known for.

Points: 88

Inverleven (Dumbarton) 18yo 1987/2006 (57.9%, Cadenhead, Closed Distilleries, Bourbon Hogshead, 276 bottles)

And here is another Cadenhead’s, from the same kind of cask, from the same year 1987, with three years more ageing. Cadenheads call this Distilled at Dumbarton, made with Inverleven stills. Everybody else calls this whisky just Inverleven. To clear things up. The Single malt whisky that was made this way, was called Inverleven. Inverleven was made untill 1991. This was made with the ‘normal’ type stills. In the same building was also a Lomond type still that was installed in 1959 at the Dumbarton distillery and ran untill 1985 (With the malt being called “Lomond”, not Loch Lomond). Loch Lomond lies close by to the north. Only a few kilometres away, still Loch Lomond is a Highland Whisky, and Inverleven a Lowlander.  To wrap things up. The Dumbarton Distillery was the spiritual home of the Ballantine’s Blend.

Color: Light gold. (Darker than the 15yo Cadenhead).

Nose: Grassy and clean. Balanced, fresh and citrussy. Not sharp fresh lemons, but more deepness to the citrus. It not quite grapefruit. Old very ripe lemons maybe? Toffee and syrup. Candied old lemons, that’s it! In the back some nice elegant wood. This nose is definitely nicer than the 15yo, it’s more mature and balanced. Still the nose of the G&M was even more elegant, and woody. If you look for it carefully, in the depths of this Whisky you can smell a little bit of ether and acetone.

Taste: Sweet and spicy. Ok, the wood plays a role, but in no way like that of the G&M. The sweetness is also a bit more laid back compared to the 15yo Cadenhead. Great balance, fantastic balance actually. There is this perfect balance between the sweetness, the caramel, (more caramel than toffee) and the spiciness of the wood. Also some austere waxiness. Having said this, it still seems to lack a bit of complexity. The G&M seems to have more of that, yet every time I return to this Whisky is get better and better. Allow this to breathe and you’ll be rewarded. It could have remain a bit thicker in the finish, but still this is a stunner.

This version is definitely better than the 15yo, so maybe the extra ageing did some wonders, but you’ll have to allow for cask variation. It’s also better than the Gordon & MacPhail version. But both definitively have earned their place on anybody’s shelf. All of these Inverleven’s are Whiskies like no other. Quite a unique nice Lowlander. Highly recommended.

Points: 88

Inverleven (Dumbarton) 15yo 1987/2003 (58.1%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Hogshead, 294 bottles)

I ended the last post about Gordon & MacPhail’s Inverleven with the hope that they wouldn’t reduce the next issue (so much). Frolicking around in my stash of samples I unearthed this unreduced Inverleven bottled by Cadenhead’s. It’s from another year, so this may have a different profile, but still worth checking out. Dumbarton was foremost a Grain Distillery. The distillery was built in 1938. In 2002 the distillery was closed and demolition commenced in 2005. I’ve added a picture here, because I have always liked the big red brick industrial complex on the river. By the way, after stopping the production of the Inverleven malt, the Stills went on to Islay to produce Port Charlotte at Bruichladdich.

Color: White wine.

Nose: Grassy and murky, like sitting next to a ditch in summer, not bad, but certainly not lovely as well. A lot of citrus fruits. Lemon, lime, tangerines, but over this a lot of dried grass and hot butter. A slightly meaty or gravy like component emerges from all this. Quite fresh and slightly estery. Hints of mint when nosed vigorously.

Taste: Sweet and fresh. Lively, leafy, slightly woody and again lemons. Some underlying caramel and this type of whisky at this strength makes this hot, but that’s not a bad thing. Caramels, vanilla and toffee, are the main markers here. Not very complex. After some breathing, the bite of the wood enters, but luckily not a lot of bitterness.

Compared to the 1991/2012 G&M, this has even less than half of the wood the G&M. So this is more grassy, lemony and much sweeter to boot. This one lacks complexity, and even though the G&M was on the brink of becoming a log of wood, that one was more complex and therefore more interesting. This Cadenheads is easier to drink (as long as you like cask strength whiskies), sweeter and fresher. Still I like this type of Lowlander profile. Sadly gone.

Points: 84

Glenkinchie 21yo 1987/2009 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage, Hogshead #2837, 147 bottles)

Glenkinchie, a rarely seen Lowland distillery within the ranges of independent bottlers. Founded in 1837, Glenkinchie is foremost known for the closure of Rosebank. When Diageo set up their range of classic malts they chose Glenkinchie over Rosebank. As you might know, Rosebank is known to have a huge following, so this decision wasn’t welcomed at all. Now Rosebank is no more, we’ll have to see if this Glenkinchie is worth your money. Instead of a regular Diageo bottling, let’s try an independent one.

Color: Gold

Nose: From a distance it already smells smoky. Close by, its not that smoky and the smoke dissipates very quickly. Syrupy, estery and announces a big bold body. Pineapple on syrup. Ever so slight hints of oak, toast, salty lemongrass and mocha. Very elegant and balanced. Nice.

Taste: Sweet and big bodied Lowlander. Again some smoke and a nice sourness from the wood that’s nicely counterparted by the initial sweetness. This also has some pepper and licorice. Yet it all balances out in a nice meaty, coffee like and dry finish. Also lightly roasted nuts and caramel in the finish.

To be frank, I’m a bit surprised by this Glenkinchie. I didn’t expect this to be so…ehhh good. I expected this much lighter, but its bold and the coffee and pepper are a great addition to what was already very nice. Yes there is some coffee in the middle part and in the finish and I read somewhere that the regular 12yo does well with coffee, worth to check this out. Brilliant Glenkinchie.

Points: 88