Glen Elgin 19yo 1991/2010 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt #2324, 412 bottles)

After the amazement of the Glendronach I recently reviewed, here is another shock (at least for me it is). I’m actually baffled I didn’t throw in Glen Elgin earlier on these pages, since it is one of my secret loves. Every Single Malt aficionado knows which Malts are just the best, but one always has a secondary, more personal, list of Single Malts. Everybody just loves Brora, or at least knows its one of the best around. However, not a lot of people would pick f.i. Teaninch as such, which is one of my other favorites. Usually it is a Malt with a less “easy” profile that somehow manages to tickle one’s fancy. It’s personal.

Glen Elgin. I love it. Many times it just floats my boat, and this one is no different. I brought it with me as a favorite to my Whiskyclubs gathering in Hamburg, where it failed to get the applause, I thought, it deserves. Yes, again, my opinion. The same club presented me a while back with a sister cask of this one, bottled something around the 61% ABV mark, and since then, I was looking out for a bottle of my own. This cask #2324, in Hamburg, was deemed too extreme and hot by many, but after a 1990 Family Cask of Glenfarclas, the Elgin was retried and deemed more accessible and creamy. So, remember, when tasting a lot of Malts in short succession, it is important where it is placed in the line-up, what you had to eat, how tired you are, and understand how your palate works. It all depends…

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Sherry, nutty, creamy with lots of soft vanilla notes. Soft wood fiber, but right from the start, not the usual oak aromas. I get hints of Rhum Agricole. Storm by the waterfront. Waterfront organics. Reed. Old air-dried oak (the outside of the cask). Vanilla, cream and wood, but not very fruity yet. Spicy and slightly grassy (wet). Sometimes hints of licorice (wood). Otherwise thick and syrupy with the sugar smell you get from a freshly opened sugar packet. The Rhum Agricole notes stay around, rendering the smell more dry. Add to this another layer of an acidic red berry smell (and some gravy) for complexity. Greek yoghurt? Only hints of sugared and dried yellow fruits now, but I couldn’t tell you which ones (dried papaya and pineapple come to mind).

Taste: Short attack. Big. Starts with some vanilla sweetness mixed with paper or cardboard. Wood, nuts and fruit. Fresh almonds (chewed). Creamy and dusty. Nutty and a medium wax aroma. Altogether a medium and very pleasurable body. The big start soon gets smaller. Fruity acidity on top, from red fruits. Berries. The acidity is quite unexpected and doesn’t fit the nose all that well, or the Whisky as a whole for that matter. Hints of Beer. Finishes (long) on the fruity acidity adding some light bitterness for the first time. The bitterness makes up the aftertaste as well.

I have to be honest. I don’t like it as much now as I did in the beginning. It is definitely one you have to work with, but you also need to forgive some minor flaws (like the acidic top note). I also fear this suffers a bit from oxidation. This is a bottle I often grab when I want a few cask strength Sherry expressions, so it is already 2/3 down, lots of air to play with.

Points: 85

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Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

This Caol Ila is one I just cracked open, literally. It is an oldie I bought some 15 years ago. Sure it is a reduced independent bottling, and it didn’t cost much, but its a Caol Ila and its bottled by Wilson & Morgan, who have bottled a lot of good Caol Ila’s, just have a look at this 24yo expression distilled in 1975, to name but one. The cork broke on this one. This time it didn’t only just break off, it seemed to disintegrate completely. Vaporized into thin air, so to speak. Luckily most of the crumbs were easy to fish out of the bottle and hardly anything sank to the bottom. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an ode to the screw cap, now you know why… Karma strikes again.

Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Ahhh, right after pouring the room filled with the smell of beautiful peat. Nothing harsh and rough, but smooth and refined. Nice, clean and soft and aromatic peat. Helped along with a citrussy fruitiness. Well-balanced and much nicer to smell than the Kilchoman Spring I reviewed (much) earlier. Smells quite sweet. Leafy and chewy. Dry vanilla powder, maybe even some powdered coffee-creamer. Some hidden tar, but also an expansion on the fruits. We have hints of sweet, ripe pineapple, mango and banana, mixed with vanilla from the wood, and the wood itself somehow didn’t make it. Crushed beetle and some distant dried basil in the background. Remarkable. Ohhh yes, and some bonfire smoke. I nearly forgot to write that down! I have to say it again, well-balanced stuff and remember, this isn’t even ten years old, which today has become standard.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Sugar water. Syrup. Very fruity and a little hoppy bitterness. Big and chewy. Sweet, funky and nutty peat. Not at all earthy. Nice touch of smoke, but not much. It’s like all the aromas are fighting over front row seats. As mentioned, there is a lot of sweetness, that exerts itself right from the start, but these is a lot of fruitiness as well. The Whisky is also nuts. I mean, full of nuttiness. All big and all upfront. I always get some coffee in good Caol Ila’s, and this time is no exception. Sweet coffee, with a tad of toffee in the coffee. It’s not stong black coffee but rather a sweet Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato. Underneath a nice, herbal and lightly bitter undertone (from oak). Long finish and similar aftertaste. Leaves me behind with salty lips. Good Whisky! I hope todays young Caol Ila’s are just as good and affordable.

Ohhh these were the days, where young Whisky seemed better than it is these days, or maybe I’m biased.  This is a very tasty Caol Ila, not overly complex and one I’ll come back to again and again. This will not take years to empty, which it usually takes me, since there are lots of open bottles around the place…

Today there is much ado about young Whiskies, especially NAS Whiskies. It seems NAS isn’t really accepted by everybody. It sometimes is viewed as a devilish plan selling us inferior and immature Whisky (sometimes at a premium price). On the other hand, when distilleries and independent bottlers alike, just mention an age statement of a young whisky there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore, since you know what you’re getting. Just look at the recently released Lagavulin 8yo and compare that to the plethora of NAS Taliskers (also owned by Diageo) and NAS Laphroaigs (not owned by Diageo), which seem to be under par and the fantasy names do not help the acceptance process of the (educated) public, or those who have seen different times buying Single Malt Whiskies.

For the fun of it, let’s compare this “9yo” Caol Ila to the NAS Talisker ‘Neist Point’. Smelling the Talisker after the Caol Ila, it is remarkable how much the Talisker smells of grainy immature Whisky and even shows some whiffs of new make! Much more than when smelled by itself alone. Although having new make in the mix is illegal, since Whisky must be at least 3 years old, there must be a big component of very young Whisky in the Talisker. The Caol Ila behaves like a 9yo, nice, well made, good cask, but lacking some of the complexity often brought to a Whisky by extensive maturation. In the taste it is noticeable that the Talisker has some more happening than just the new make, and young Whisky, alone. Thank God almighty. The Talisker needs some air to get the new make out, after that it is not bad, not bad at all. Sweet as well and buttery. The taste of the Talisker grows on you, even though the new make never really leaves the scene. A draw, or is it? Considering the amount of money Diageo wants for the Talisker (in some markets), the jury made a unanimous decision in favour of the Caol Ila. [sound of judge’s hammer on wood]

Points: 85

Bushmills Irish Single Malt 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary, for Whiskysite.nl and The Single Malt Whisky Shop)

Usually, independently released Irish Malts are sourced from Cooley, especially the peated ones. This time it’s not. Many 1991 peated Irish Malts that were released independently in 2015 were from a batch of peated Bushmills, although you won’t find the name Bushmills anywhere on the label. This particular bottling was done for the Dutch Whisky-shop Whiskysite.nl and Belgian outfit The Single Malt Whisky Shop. let’s see what Jürgen offers us now…

The Whisky Mercenary IrishColor: Gold.

Nose: Nice elegant peat, which rules out Cooley right of the bat. Cooley has a more fatty and rough kind of peat. This smells more refined and a bit sweet. Fruity (yellow). Sure there is this clay element in the peat, that is also present in Cooley, but it still is different. Hardly any smoke although the first sniff was quite sharp. If it’s there it’s already gone. This is a wonderful smelling Malt. The wood shows itself next and it reminds me of pencil-shavings combined with some fresh oak. Again, all kept very much in check. Vanilla is present but again, not in a big way. Deep underneath the hints of red fruit, is also a sweaty element. Animalesk and organic, which only adds to the complexity of this Malt. Well integrated. On top a more heavy aroma emerges, fresh butter. So we have some peat, some wood, some vanilla and some butter and all is nicely held together with a very appetizing fruitiness. If this will taste anything like it smells we’ll have a winner here.

Taste: Ahh my favorite red berry flavour is there. I also find it, and love it, in the 2005 batches of Redbreast. Quite funny since Redbreast isn’t produced at Bushmills, but rather at Midleton. Maybe its Irish. The fruit combines really well with a warming, but still fresh peat. Creamy and with some vanilla, but also a slight hint of burned kerosene, mixed it with the toffee. Pencil-shavings are in here as well. The peat is again light and elegant. Great. Almonds and some wax are next. Almond-milk, mixed with latex,quickly followed by red fruit juice. What a wonderful Malt this is. It smells great, tastes great, up ’till now this is so good that I would even forgive a short finish. Short it is not, but it is of medium length. The aroma’s leave my mouth one by one. The aftertaste is about fruity wax and, a little bit of peat and the memory of red fruit and a light bitter edge to hold it all up.

This is wonderful stuff and yes, Jürgen has done it again. What a wonderful selection. By now long gone, but can be found at different auctions across Europe. Just be ready to dish out quite some money for this, since most aficionado’s know this is excellent. It was quite expensive to boot, and even more now, but it also is quite excellent, so this time you will get what you pay for, and in today’s market, notwithstanding the origin of the Malt, you get more quality out of this for this kind of money, than most other Malts. So a no brainer for me (and I don’t sit on heaps of money)…

Points: 90

I had to do a H2H with a 2005 batch of Redbreast. The Redbreast smells oilier and somewhat less fresh. I would almost say, more Rum-like. It seems to smell a bit of petrol and exhaust and overall seems less complex. Caroni anyone? Don’t underestimate the power of H2H’s. The Bushmills smells more organic and definitely fruitier. Although the difference in ABV is only slightly more than 6%, it makes the Redbreast much softer than it actually is. Again in comparison, the Redbreast has some gout de petrol (like you can find in excellent Rieslings). I scored the excellent Redbreast, 86 points, but today I would score it higher…(but not 90).

Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 “Port Wood Finish” (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #99/48 1.2, 2600 bottles)

Back to some Whisky. This time around we’ll have a look at a distillery not only closed, but also torn down and already replaced. That happened quickly. In 2012 Imperial ceased to exist and just a few years later a new distillery was finished occupying the same very site. Many have thought that the new distillery would be called Imperial as well, when in fact it is called Dalmunach after a nearby pool of the river Spey. Imperial wasn’t hugely popular as a Whisky hence the new name maybe, but Pernod Ricard (the owners) never ceases to amaze us, by installing new stills replicating those of Imperial. Well in some time we can taste the replicated taste of Imperial, but for the time being let’s taste the original, shall we?

Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #9948 1.2, 2600 bottles)Color: Full gold with a slight pinkish hue.

Nose: Winey and candied red fruits. Easily recognizable as a Port finish. Barley, paper. New oak and some pencil shavings. Fresh-air notes, with some sugary sweetness following suit. Nice creamy vanilla mixed with fruity acidity. Typical American oak (the cask it was in before it was finished) but also some sandal wood. The Port integrated well and is used well. In those days experiments with Port finishes often went wrong since the Whisky was left in the Port cask for too long. The whole however is pretty simple and young. What you smell is what you get. Don’t expect a lot of development, if any, but keep in mind that even with the Finish, this Whisky is only 9 years old. Fruity Whisky. Smells nice. ’nuff said.

Taste: Creamy vanilla and candy sweetness. Hard raspberry candy and sugar. A chunk of toffee, molten ice-cream and nice toasted cask that gives it a back bone. Milk-chocolate. Actually pretty tasty. You can taste the potential harshness of the Port. Winey yes, a bit. The slightly burnt note from the Port cask stays around. If this was finished much longer it would have been over the top. It was arrested in its development just in time, which was quite unusual in those days, but I may have said that already didn’t I? Tasty young stuff with a pronounced weakness in the finish-department.

Simple yet well tasting stuff. If only the finish would have been stronger. I mean the finish of the Whisky itself, not the Port finish. Still, even for a Port finish from the start of the new millennium, there is nothing wrong with this. Buy a bottle of this and expect it to be empty quickly. This time also nothing wrong with the low ABV of 40%. A higher ABV may have lengthened the finish a bit, but I’m OK with it as is…

Points: 81

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)

After two more Wheated Bourbon’s it’s only a short hop across the pond to land in the west of Scotland. Campbeltown to be precise. Today we’ll spend some time with a Whisky from the “other” distillery from Campbeltown Glen Scotia. Well. it used to be the “other one”, But today Springbank isn’t just Springbank anymore, with their Glengyle distillery producing the excellent Kilkerran. Here we have an almost 15 year Single Malt Whisky that managed to stay at 61.6% ABV, quite a feat. Let’s see where this will take us…

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)Color: Very light gold.

Nose: Spicy, smoky, grassy and extremely fruity. Warm in its appearance, maybe because of the cookie dough? Lots of barley and a hint of rubber. Not your ordinary Bourbon matured Whisky. Very nutty and waxy, but again a kind of industrial waxy rubber. Rubber bands mixed with gravy. Next is a lemony fresh fruitiness wich in turn mixes with the smell of a freshly printed newspaper, warmed up a bit on the radiator. Hints of warm water you used to cook mussels in. Dis I say this was a bit unusual? I did? All right. Salty and sweet barley I imagine with a snuff of white pepper, ashes, and smoke. Warm custard, but very restrained. Quite complex and special.

Taste: Lemony paper. Warm Chivas Lemon Curd. Lots of sweet barley and here too a whiff of rubber passes by. Band aid I would say. The taste is definitely less unique that the nose was, but still not your usual suspect from a Bourbon Hoggie. Hints of nuts and lemon, and a little bit of cookie dough. Hints of rettich and a tiny, tiny amount of woody bitterness in the aftertaste.

An excellent nose you almost never come across. It’s easily understood, why this Glen Scotia got selected by Adelphi. Especially the nose is quite complex. Balanced stuff, the nose matches the taste. They belong together although the nose was more complex. Not everything from the nose was to be found in the taste. The beauty lies in the detail with this one. And I’ve said this before, give this time to breathe.

Points: 86

Linkwood 18yo 1991/2010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)

Another Linkwood then. Linkwood is quite a difficult distillery for me. Somehow I don’t seem to like Linkwood that much, and I don’t buy any of Linkwood without tasting it first. This one I did buy blind. First of all I like Raymond Armstrong (the former owner of Bladnoch Distillery) and just like Dutch independent bottlers The Ultimate were/are able to bottle some great Whisky at very fair prices. Luckily a lot of my tasting is done blind, so it’s not the name that makes for a lower score. Don’t get me wrong, I did come across some good Linkwoods as well. So with an open mind let’s have a got at this 18yo Linkwood.

Linkwood 18yo 19912010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Acetone, unmistakable. Nail polish remover. Lots of sappy leaves too. Quite nutty as well. Well not dull isn’t it. This spirit jumps right out of my glass. The acetone seems to “remove” itself, but it’s just me not smelling it anymore since it tries to anesthetize me. Put it away for a minute and smell it again, and you’ll be hit in the head again. Even though some might like it, it most definitely is flawed. Nice wood underneath it all. Coffee, cloves and some mocha-cream. Hazelnut pastry. Vanilla, hints of lemon and even a bit perfumy after a while. If you factor out the solvent, this is quite a bold body from a highly active and spicy cask. Quite nice but with a rather unusual defect. No I don’t hate it. Maybe this needs to oxidize a bit?

Taste: For a brief moment there is a solvent. It is quite hot, but the solvent (not ethanol) is quickly replaced by a more woody and leafy aroma. Woody and nutty. Sweet, with a lot of vanilla. Even though the solvent part seems to dissipate for a while, the whole stays quite hot and overpowering, just as it did with the nose. Freshly painted wood and freshly sawn, not entirely dry, oak. The feeling something other than Whisky is going down my throat. Medium finish.

In a way this was difficult to score (but not really). First of all I liked it maybe a bit more than I scored it, but I don’t think this isn’t one to finish quickly. Quality wise this couldn’t score very high since it has some obvious flaws, not exactly from the middle cut maybe? (although hard to imagine).

Points: 79

Braeval 21yo 1991/2013 (47.7%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Some of you may have already noticed, but as of yesterday I finally managed to get MASTERQUILL.COM. Not long after I started publishing my tasting notes, someone was very quick to snap up this domain. Once I had a look around, what buying this domain would cost, but I thought the $1.800 was a bit too steep, I’d rather buy me some Whisky for that, thank you very much. Yesterday I had another look around and it was available! This time I was quick to snap it up myself, and anyone of you who have registered their own domain (that is available), know that this doesn’t break the bank. Great! Back to Whisky now, and back to Jürgen…

Time for a Whisky that hasn’t been featured before on these pages. A new name on my new domain so to speak. Braeval as it is called today, Braes of Glenlivet was its old name. Not an old distillery though, but more on that next time…

Braeval 21yoColor: Gold.

Nose: Clean buttery vanilla, caramel and lots of toffee. Promises a lot of sweetness. Dry vegetal notes. Nutty but also slightly perfumy. Sinaspril (a Paracetamol tablet for children, with a powdery orange flavour). This reminds me a lot of Sinaspril from the seventies. Somehow I don’t use it a lot today anymore. Got older you know, need veterinary strength Paracetamol now. Let’s get back to the Braeval shall we. Very creamy and dry, but not a lot of wood yet. Definitely some laid back fruity notes and cookie dough and almond paste. Orange obviously, just not the freshly pressed kind, but also succulent and with hints of over ripe kiwi. Yes that’s a first. Behind the fruits also a meaty component is present. In the end it’s all about fruit and cream. Quite complex, there seems to be happening more that I have mentioned. For instance, it takes the wood quite a long time to assert itself.

Taste: Sweet and again very fruity. Thinner than I thought with an ABV of 47.7%. Very fruity (cherry bon-bon) and nutty and yes, quite sweet, but also a nice touch of acidity to prevent this one from being overly sweet or cloying. Creamy vanilla and cheap milk chocolate is present. Definitely a woody backbone now. Unpolished edges of oak. Watch out for splinters! Oaky sourness in the finish, and speaking of the finish, the big body this Whisky has, does fall apart a bit in the finish, where the oak starts to dominate. A shorter finish than expected, so you want your next sip quite soon after the previous one, but you wouldn’t mind because you already developed a craving for the great fruitiness of this malt. Prominent oak though.

Actually this could have been better, because towards the finish the oak plays and ever-growing role. You do need to like your oak with this one. Luckily this Breaval has a nice nose and a body full of thick toffee and fruit. In the end, this is a very enjoyable dram and thus rightly picked by Mr. V. Not the best of the bunch though.

Points: 84