The New Zealand Whisky Collection 18yo 1993/2012 (51.9%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, Cask #21)

After one blend and three reduced bottlings from their standard range, here is finally the first example of an “untouched” New Zealand Whisky. A 1993 expression bottled at cask strength and from single cask #21. That’s more like it. This way we can finally find out what the distiller intended. How did the spirit interact with the wood from the cask. No information about the cask itself has been given so we aren’t handicapped with information this time, and can just dig in…

The New Zealand Whisky Collection 18yo 19932012 (51.9%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, Cask #21)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fruity and dusty, carried with an undertone of fresh wood. I would say this came from a Bourbon cask. Not hard to tell since the wood impaired quite a lot of vanilla-flavours. One with green fingers too, since it has more traits from the kingdom of plants, than the wood alone. It’s easy to admit, this one is driven by wood. Even the spices are wood related, and what about the whiff of pencil-shavings and the aroma of freshly broken off twig? Does this mean this one is dominated by wood? Not at all. The wood gave of various elements of itself, without overpowering it. All in good measure. It has a promise of sweetness (toffee) and the big wood-vanilla synergy makes this a fruity and creamy nose with some backbone and character given by the wood. Slightly oriental (Indian) and floral. Restrained, elegant and wonderful.

Taste: Nice spicy, prickly and woody entry. It starts out with fresh oak and a quite big, nice vegetal sweetness. Tiny hint of bitterness. Right from the start it is obvious this one is carried by the cask strength. Good this wasn’t reduced. It doesn’t seem to have as many woody traits as the nose. Definitely simpler in design than the nose. The fruity bit I taste is a bit peculiar. To me it seems, the mixture of yellow and red fruits don’t combine perfectly here. More cereals and bread tones towards the end. The finish is shorter than expected and it’s the grainy, bread-like and slightly bitter bit that has the biggest influence on the finish.

The strength of this malt is the wonderful nose, as well as well on entry in the mouth. From there it goes a bit downhill. The body sort of disintegrated in my mouth and although the cask strength is noticeable, it doesn’t carry the aroma’s into the finish in a big way. This is a Malt that needs to be tasted, taking big sips. Good stuff nevertheless, easy drinking Whisky, but probably not the best single cask bottled by the NZWC. We’ll see because I have two more hidden away somewhere.

Points: 85

Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, 2003)

Another peated whisky in the summer? Has Master Quill gone completely crazy? Yes, because who wants to be “normal”! If you feel like it, just do it… By the way, it’s raining like crazy outside, so it only seems fitting.

2001 saw the first release of a 10 year old, with a vintage. Remember the classic brown paper Longrow label on the tall bottle? The first two releases, both in 2001 and both distilled in 1991 were a “normal one” said to be only from Bourbon, but also, for one time only, a Sherrywood. The series was short-lived, and was discontinued in 2006 after the 1996 vintage, in favour of the 10yo without a vintage statement. Throughout the series I don’t believe all normal ones were from Bourbon casks only, if any. You know Springbank, they tend not to repeat themselves. Just compare the last two releases of the Longrow 18yo (with the white labels), since the 2016 release contains Rum casks. Never a dull moment with Springbank and all of their other brands. Today we’ll have a look at the 1993 vintage of the 10yo, that was released in 2003.

Longrow 10yo 1993Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat. Fatty and smoky. The peat is smelling three-dimensional. It’s not only just there, it goes deep, and seems without end in complexity. Peat mixed with hints of lemon, waxy apple skins and vanilla. Cookie dough. Whiffs of warm apple pie. Burning leaves, sugared yellow fruits and even hints of sweet-smelling sweat, crushed beetle and slightly burned herbs and even has a quaint nuttiness about it. Very balanced stuff, with only a mere hint of wood. All seems to fit in together nicely. This is the best peat I’ve smelled in quite some time. I must admit, it had plenty of air to work with. Love it.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Heavy on licorice and the peat is shoved into the background, by the sweetness. The sweetness dissipates and leaves more room for a sort of herbal fruitiness. Prickly licorice and the nuttiness from the nose. Alas the peat never really makes it to the top and the wonderful depth it has on the nose doesn’t really blossom tasting it. Long finish, built around the caramel sweetness and with a larger role for sour oak. Coffee and chocolate in the aftertaste. It still is a wonderful Malt. Just if the complexity of the nose would have shone through in the taste, it would have been a truly exceptional Whisky.

Well this might not be a Whisky from the seventies, but it does remind me of the quality of that decade. I’m actually amazed a bit that many of the vintages are still available, although somewhat more expensive than the new 10yo.

Points: 88

Longrow 13yo 1993/2006 (57.1%, OB, Private Bottling, for MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson, Cask #635)

This is a sample I have lying around for a very long time. I last tasted it last some ten years ago, and there was definitely something wrong with this. Just have a look at the review posted by Serge. yes, he’s a big fan of this one! Ten years ago I found it pretty odd as well, but come to think of it, Springbank make such good Whisky, what must have happened for it to be so “strange”, and for it to be bottled? Today I’m becoming more and more a fan of Springbank, feeling they can’t do anything wrong. In these days of NAS (some bad, some good), Springbank are able to churn out one good bottling after another. NAS or no NAS. So this less than half full sample got plenty of time to balance itself out with some air, so let’s see how this private cask of MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson will do in 2016. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

Longrow 1993 Private Bottling Cask #635Color: Light gold.

Nose: Light peat, but not much and some burning plastic. Herbal lemon. Deeper down a more buttery note. Fatty with hidden sweetness. Slightly burnt wood (toasted cask), fresh dried oak and an acidic off-note. Bread, butter, paper, cardboard (they all go together) and caramel. Toffee even. Next some crushed beetle. In my case an accident, because I’m not cruel to animals, but once I’ve gained the experience, I’ll never forget the smell. Well, it’s in this Whisky. (Tobacco) smoke and cold charcoal. Hints of menthol. It is a nose that wants to be dry and spicy, not fruity. It’s not floral, but may very well have been. Add to that a creamy, butter and toffee and you have this in a nutshell. Very well hidden is the aroma of new make spirit, a sweetish Vodka aroma. Sure, this is (still) lacking in balance a bit, but it’s not as bad as it was ten years ago. It did get better with “some” air. I actually like how it smells now.

Taste: Sweet, but with a lot of bread and paper notes. Floral plastics and vegetal. The initial sweetness works well with the relatively high ABV. Sweet sugared yellow fruits. Sugared apricots. the body itself is not so sweet. Interesting. Damn, this is really about vegetal paper. Paper, cardboard, wet paper, pulp. It’s hard to impossible to get past this. The paper notes overwhelm the entry and the better part of the body. When this dissipates, an acidic note shows itself which just is wrong. Towards the end of the body, the Whisky also becomes slightly soapy. Yeah, lets add to the plastic pleasure. Hey, now I get some smoked eel skin as well as the aroma of an ash-tray and sweet jasmine powder. What a Whisky. This has quite a few flaws, so maybe it’s good the finish is not very long (and hardly an aftertaste).

If after Serge’s review (and mine) you still want to buy it, be advised that you should let this breathe extensively. And I do mean extensively this time. It will help the nose along, the taste however is beyond repair. I wonder what went wrong here. It probably wasn’t the spirit going into the cask, but was the cask somehow contaminated? Rotting bung cloth? A fungus maybe? In the end not a complete dud, so I won’t be scoring this 55 Points like Serge, but for a Longrow this is not a good score either…

Points: 80

Glendullan 14yo 1993/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid, for Malts and More, Bourbon/Rioja Tempranillo, Cask #05/0052, 493 bottles)

After the Murray McDavid Rhosdhu, here is the second of three bottlings by Murray McDavid. This time we’ll have a look at Glendullan. The Edradours I reviewed last had their first appearance on Master Quill, and now we can cross off Glendullan as well. Here we have a fine example, where Murray McDavid were taking the independent bottler. Specializing in Wine cask finishes. In the early 2000’s Wine finishes were snuffed at, since most of them were overdone and the Original Whisky was probably dull (pun intended). It was just the industry trying Wine finishing out and learning on the go. They still have to wait many years to find out where their experiment were taking then. This particular Glendullan started its life as a regular Whisky aged in Bourbon casks (most likely a Hogshead).  After a while the contents were transferred into a wine cask. Tempranillo te be precise. Tempranillo is a red grape most common to Spanish Wines like Rioja.

Glendullan itself is a distillery owned by Diageo. A bottle of Glendullan is not the most common find of all distilleries, especially considering Glendullan is one of the largest distilleries Diageo owns.

GlendullanColor: Dark gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Spicy wood and a slightly acidic winey note. Very spicy oak, slightly burnt. Nutmeg, and herbal as well. Some faint odd acidic citrussy dishwater aromas. Applesauce, de Querville Calvados! Quite dusty and old smelling, like an old Whisky aged in a Bourbon cask. Behind that a more restrained fruity note, but again acidic fruit combined with hard candy versions of that fruit with added cherry and raspberry candy flavours. Almond pastry, cinnamon and nougat. It’s not quite a replacement for a Sherry aged Whisky, but not bad nevertheless. The Wine turned out very soft on the nose. I do get some grape skin, but from white grapes, not red. In the end, all aroma’s are built upon a wealth of wood, but no, it’s not woody. Needs a lot of air (time) to develop, but in the end it will not disappoint.

Taste: Fruity lemonade and warming. Citrussy again and to a lesser extent so are the apples. Present, but not so much in the Calvados way. Also grenadine and quite a lot of licorice. Old rotting wood. The kind that has been submerged for a long time in a forest. Quite thick. Some raisins. Lots of influence of the wine cask. Maybe a bit too much? The Bourbon casked Whisky isn’t really recognizable anymore. Is that bad? Nope not really. This is still a nice tasting Whisky. Less complex than the nose, but overall quite pleasing. It doesn’t show its best bits right from the start. Pour it and leave it for a while.

Quite stunning what Murray McDavid have achieved with Tempranillo. No wonder Tomatin has gone that way lately too. Complex stuff, with a stunning nose, with quite some development.

Points: 85

Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AA/ABJG)

This time I’ll have a look at a bottling from a distillery which “works for me”. I tend to like Benrinnes, so I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this distillery never featured before on these pages!

Benrinnes was founded way back in 1826 by Peter McKenzie, but destroyed within three years. Most distilleries that are destroyed somewhere in their history, are destroyed by fire, but Benrinnes was destroyed by water (flood), but don’t forget about fire just yet. Five years after the flood, a new farm distillery was built a few miles away and was called Lyne of Rutherie. This distillery changed hands a few times eventually David Edward became the owner. He renamed the distillery Benrinnes in 1864. In 1896 the distillery was almost completely wiped away by…yes, a fire. When David passed away, his son Alexander takes over. Alexander also founds Craigellachie (1891), Aultmore (1896) and Dallas Dhu (1898). Alexander also purchased Oban in 1898. Quite a busy decade for Alexander.

Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AAABJG)From 1955 through 1956, the distillery is again completely rebuilt, this time because of economics, not disaster. In 1966 the distillery is equipped with six stills, but are not configured in the expected three pairs which a normal double distilling distillery would have. Benrinnes have two groups of three stills which makes for a partial triple distilling configuration (sounds a bit like Springbank doesn’t it?).

Color: Gold

Nose: Full on aroma, flowery and perfumy Sherry. This leaps out of the glass and grabs you by the…nose, in a non-agressive way. Fruity sweet, dusty toffee. Tiny hint of roofing tar. Oxidized Sherry. Fino Sherry probably. Grassy and still floral. Horseradish. A promise of sweetness. There is some wood in here but it comes across as virgin oak, which also gives off some vanilla notes, so it seems to me this is from a Fino Sherry American oak hogshead.

Taste: Again lots of aroma. Sweet hops, Beer. Yes! Creamy sweet toffee and a hint of cardboard. Nutty, which again makes me think of an oxidized Sherry. When this is from refill Fino Hogsheads it picked up a lot of color, without it being reddish from Oloroso and such. Since this is from multiple casks, I’m wondering now if they would mix casks from different types of Sherries for this series, I’ll have to ask). The hoppy beer note stays well into the finish and that may be considered unusual and light, Late in the finish I also get some tangerine, with quite some vanilla. Interesting bottling. By the way, this one needs air and time.

The back label states this has a light body, but I sure beg to differ. Pretty special stuff if you ask me. The profile of this Whisky leaves me with some questions, so I’m not quite done with it yet. With bottlings like this I always wonder how the Whisky was before reduction, especially the finish. Benrinnes suits Gordon & MacPhail, would be a nice Whisky next to Benromach.

Points: 85

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, First Fill Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)

The Glenglassaugh I reviewed recently was a first on these pages, but so is this Blair Athol. Blair Athol puts more than 90% of its new make into Bourbon Barrels and/or Hogsheads, and most of those are used for the Bells Blended Whisky. Less than 10% of the new make winds up in Sherry Casks and eventually most of those are used for the 16yo Flora and Fauna expression. Official expressions of Blair Athol are scarce. A long time ago there were a 8yo and a 12yo, and more recently a version of Blair Athol found its way into the Rare Malts series (a 27yo with distillate from 1975), and in the Managers Choice series (a 13yo with distillate from 1995).

When visiting the stand of Douglas Laing last year at the London Whisky Show, Chris Birthday Boy Leggat, gave me a sample of this and told me he was very curious what I would think of it, so let’s have a look…

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)Color: Golden nectar with the slightest red hue.

Nose: Malty and full. Dusty and sweet. Sweet wine. Hints of cookie dough and warm apple pie. Hard to detect the fruitiness through the dough and the pie (and the apparent sweetness). Funky (in a Bootsy Collins kind of way) with the occasional whiff of fresh air. Aroma’s here are from the low-end of the spectrum, heavy and sweet, as opposed to acidic and fresh citrus fruits. With some breathing the oak finally emerges.

Taste: Sweet with pie again, but lots more wood than the nose suggested. The wood gives it character and hardly any bitterness. Very creamy, more like clotted cream than plain vanilla. There is however a little strange hint of acidity that affects the balance a bit, this acidity continues into the finish. It is strong enough to get in between of the sweetness and the cookie dough and cream. If you ask me more a kind of acidity from the wood, than the Sherry. With extensive breathing more wood emerges, just as in the nose, as does the smallest hint of fresh cola. The balance picks up with breathing, so don’t be too quick drinking this. Salty lips.

I’m guessing from a Fino Sherry Butt (or maybe even Manzanilla, which also seems a bit salty). Blair Athol isn’t one of those distilleries with a huge following and almost never is truly great. This one is as good as Blair Athol can be. Nice.

Points: 85

Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (57.3%, Cadenhead, Refill Bourbon Hogshead, 252 bottles)

Wow, unbelievable, this is just my second Ardbeg review on these pages! I have this distillery up there with the greats, so what happened? This is an Ardbeg from 1993 bottled by independent bottlers Cadenhead’s. This is most definitely not the first Cadenhead’s on these pages, no it’s actually already the tenth, so for more information about Cadenhead’s, please have a look at all the other reviews of Cadenhead’s bottlings.

Color: White wine.

Nose: Sweet and mellow peat. Smells older than it actually is. Very nice, refined and balanced. Vegetal. Lemon sherbet. Fatty and smoky. Definitely citrus fruits this one, and some tropical fruits too. Not an in-your-face Islay monster, but with a lot of Islay character. Freshly cut peat. After a wee bit of breathing, some butter emerges, and it picks up a bit in oomph. More oily and smoky, ans even the citrus (lemon) is more dominant. The peat on the other hand recedes even more. Breathing adds something fishy and some vanilla to the mix. Somewhat more sea influence.

Taste: Sweet, sweet and light young peat. The smoke comes later. Nice effect. Hardly any wood. Whereas the nose showed me some light (old) peat, on the palate this Whisky does show its youth. Just as in the nose, very restrained lively and fruity Ardbeg, again not a kick in the head. With some air and time, it even gets a wee bit floral and ashy and slightly more pungent.

The offset and the body are nice and full, or round, if you prefer. The tastes fit together and show a more elegant side of Ardbeg. Towards the finish it does start to break down a bit. I said a bit. For an Ardbeg the finish is rather short and again light at first, but breathing lengthens the finish (and adds a little woody bitterness, finally). Typical Islay, not typical Ardbeg is you ask me. Probably not a very active cask, since there isn’t any wood detectable, nor has it picked up a lot op color.  It reminds me of an Ardbeg Bond Reserve I still have, so I’ll review that shortly (also from Cadenhead’s).

Summa summarum, nice Ardbeg that needs to breathe!

Points: 86