Tomatin “Wood” (46%, OB, Five Virtues #1, French, American & Hungarian Oak Casks, 6.000 bottles, 2017)

I like my Tomatin’s. Good Whisky. Good people work there and represent it, with wit, honesty, intelligence and humor, no funny business. Lots of releases too. From 2017 onwards, they started with this five part series, showing what the five virtues of Whisky are. Wood (2017), Fire (2017), Earth (2017), Metal (2017) and last but not least, Water (2018). Although all five are NAS Whiskies, I was told, that no young Whiskies were used throughout the range, and all would have some proper numbers comprising of two digits if they would have been bottled with age statements. Thank God, because I feel Tomatin spirit really does need it’s time in oak. Young Tomatin’s can be milky, somewhat sour and heavy on new make characteristics.

When I visited the Tomatin stand at a show in 2018, I tried the “Metal” and “Water” expressions, which I liked very much. I bought both of them, and looking at the two bottles, yes, I’m human too, I just couldn’t resist to find the previous three releases of this series. I have this series complete, and will open them one after the other, in stead of opening them all at once, due to a lack of room for too many open bottles. Well, actually there is never really a lack of room, but I do have to restrict myself a bit, Whisky madness and all. “Wood” here, is the first of the Five Virtues, and this one was matured in a combination of different oak casks, French oak (70%) and American oak (20%) we know, but this time also some Hungarian oak (10%) found its way into the mix. Am I already expecting Tokay now? The spirit used for “Wood” was distilled between 1999 and 2006.

Color: Light Orange Gold

Nose: Barley sugar and lots of cereal notes with late woody notes. Sweet, soft and fresh. Deep and accessible. Appealing. there is a lot happening in a furthermore very balanced nose. Quiet and distinguished. A sort of Steely Dan Whisky. American oak vanilla. Creamy, with vanilla pudding, custard, that kind of thing. Sweet fruity (peach) yoghurt. Some nice slightly acidic White Wine notes, again well balanced. It all works well on the nose. I don’t care for young Tomatin’s and luckily there is non of that here, so even when this is a NAS, it also tastes like there is quite some age to this. Quiet creamy and slightly funky. Nutty as well. In the distance a nice edge of toasted, and again, creamy and sweetish oak. The toasted oak also brings a slightly smoky note, which works very well for this fragrant expression.

Taste: Less creamy, (but still enough), than the nose promised and definitely some more of the acidic White Wine notes mentioned above. Fresher and lighter. Still not overly woody, but enough wood notes to warrant the name and thank god, not young tasting as well. Warming. A little bit of creamy wood and quite unexpectedly, some cocktail cherries. Sweetened fruit yoghurt. Sweet and acidic at the same time. After a while the more sweet notes from the nose come to the front. The body of this Malt is not as big and thick as one might think by now. It has more toasted oak (and wee licorice) than the nose had. Overall somewhat simpler than the nose was and even that wasn’t nuclear science to be honest. Still a very nice, somewhat sweet easy drinker. Both the nose and the taste show a lot of balance, yet the balance suffers a bit towards the finish. The fruity acidity seems to unhinge from the main, creamy, body, to hover above it and some woody bitterness emerges (finally). Still, in this case, the fruity acidity still has a positive effect on the whole. For an expression which was called “Wood”, it may have been blended from the various mentioned woods. French, American and Hungarian Oak that is, but it is not really a wood driven Malt. Although on some occasions, when trying this, I do pick up on some woody bitterness. Today a lot of over-oaked, new or virgin oak, bottlings emerge, but this isn’t one of them, even when carrying the “Wood” name. This has a nice nutty and warming aftertaste. Tasty too, but not as big as the nose promised. Final thought: this maybe more of a wood-Malt than I initially thought, because, this Tomatin lacks the typical tropical Tomatin fruitiness, so maybe this really is a wood-expression after all…

For a lot of people Tomatin is not the most well known Malt, which is a shame really, because over time, I’ve come across many well made and well blended Tomatin Single Malts. When I tried “Wood” for the first time, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this expression. I’m a bit afraid I may have not given this malt the attention it deserves. This is an easy drinking Malt and I carelessly reached for it many times. Now when it’s almost gone, and I’m analysing it more carefully when writing this review, before its all gone, I do come across very nice balance and some nice aroma’s. Yes I do regret not giving this Malt enough attention, since, this really is one that deserves it. Its a great example of a malt that is nice to analyse and contemplate a bit about the woods used for this Malt. Very nice indeed.

Points: 85

Thank you Alistair, Stan, Krish and Scott. This one’s for you!

Macallan 9yo 1999/2008 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt, for Van Wees, First Fill Sherry Hogshead #12378)

Wow, look at his colour! I’ll explain shortly what I mean. Also, unusually dark for a Speymalt from this vintage. For those of you who don’t know, here we have an independently bottled Macallan. Maybe this is the way to go for the non-millionaires amongst us, since the owners of Macallan seem to have gone completely over-the-top bonkers with the “brand”, super premiumizing it, crystallizing the bottles, teletubbying the distillery and… well you know what I mean. Let’s shy away from the marketing and focus on quality then. The quality of Macallan’s distillate, the quality of what we’re getting, putting this quality distillate in a quality Sherry cask the good people of Gordon & MacPhail provided for this distillate and reviewing this drinkers’ Macallan…

Color: Vibrant mahogany! No it’s not just orange-brown, it’s mahogany, and it’s only mahogany when it has this redness to it, a red flame if you wish.

Nose: Restrained for a short while. Wonderful Sherry and woody notes. Ever so slightly waxy and also fresh and airy. Milk chocolate, with a tiny hint of smoke, which most likely came into the mix from the burnt insides of the cask. Next, some pencil shavings. Smells fantastic. Quality Sherry cask. Classic Macallan. Not a lot of vanilla, so, I’m hardly guessing, this was matured in european oak, although I do pick up on a slightly creamy note as well. Hard to explain why, but this smells luxurious, elegant and perfumy. Reminiscent of the great Macallans from earlier decades. Remember the times before Fine Oak, and all the stuff that came after that. Remember the days of, “…which science can’t wholly explain…”? Elegant and fruity and in no way, harsh nor overpowered by the first fill Sherry. Not cloying nor heavy. Excellent cask.

Taste: Smoky and slightly tarry. Black coal. Thin honey, yet not a lot of vanilla sweetness. Initially very, very nice. Reminds me of the Macallans, Strathisla’s and Longmorn’s, when Gordon & MacPhail bottles still had screw caps and were bottled @ 40% ABV. (…and still had enough power)! The body is about Sherry and wood, beautiful spicy, and perfumy, wood, and shows a little bit of nice woody bitterness as well. Soft and silky bitterness, which adds to the overall flavour of the Whisky. Quite fruity and almost drinks like red fruit lemonade. Nice notes of mocha and coffee with milk. Rather short finish though. This is where the relative youth comes in, but I don’t think this should have stayed in cask longer. First fill Sherry can be a brutal thing! Short bursts of warming and red fruity notes. And the aftertaste lingers longer than the finish was. Again classic style.

On the other hand, maybe, this could have stayed in cask longer, since in no way it is overoaked. The flavours could have been more powerful, and the cask itself seems very elegant and good. Or maybe it should have been bottled at cask strength, who knows. This might have had some more to it in the end. For me the best bit of this Whisky is the start, when you take a sip and keep it in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Nice woody and licorice notes start emerging that way. Tar and coal. Wonderful stuff. Tiny hint of the typical acidity from rather new oak, which is a different note from fruity acidity, mind you.

The ABV, is slightly higher than the regular expression of the Speymalt from 1999/2008 which was bottled @43% ABV. Darker as well. Still it manages to come across a bit thin. Would it be too harsh at cask strength or is it an economical move by Van Wees? As in, if you dilute it with water you get more bottles from the hoggie? Probably not since it’s a Speymalt. All things considered, this is a classic Macallan. Wonderful stuff. Sure, maybe more could have come from this, maybe not, but I’d still get it as it is. Most definitely I would. Much better than many, and I mean, many modern Macallans, bottled by the (owners of the) distillery themselves. Highly drinkable, so a bottle of this wouldn’t last long…

Points: 89

Epris 15yo 1999/2014 (45.4%, Cadenhead, Column Still, BMC, Brazil)

So Brazilian Rum eh? Is there such a thing? Sure, Rum made in Brazil, or is this maybe a Cachaça? What is Cachaça? Cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled. Hmmm, isn’t that the same as Rhum Agricole? Yes it is similar, just made in a different part of the world. There is a major difference though. When Rhum Agricole is aged it is aged in Oak. Cachaça can be aged in any type of (native) wood allowing for more diverse aroma’s. Adding even more difference to the aromas of Cachaça, is that fermentation is done with wild yeast cells as opposed to single, highly controlled yeast strains used elsewhere in the Rum industry. Every Rum producer has their own specific strains, so to me there seems to be more adventure to Cachaça.

The (huge) Epris distillery is located in São Roque near São Paulo, Brazil. Back in 1999 the distillery made Rum for Bacardi and other types of alcoholic beverages. Well informed sources tell me Epris never made a true Cachaça, nor does the label mention the word. So the Epris distillate we have here is a Rum made from fresh cane juice, probably not adhering completely to the production methods and rules for Cachaça. So maybe close to, but not a true Cachaça. We also know this distillate is made in a column still. Today Epris doesn’t do “Rum” anymore. Today they focus on making fermented rice and Sake! Who would have thought. Brazil!

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Clean and elegant. Grass and hay. Powdery and green, mixed in with some vanilla. Some sweetness with nice wood influences. Distant red fruits, yet well in the back. Hints of pencil shavings and bamboo. Cane juice. Vegetal. Slightly perfumy but also whiffs of a more sweaty kind, pass by. Mocha and vanilla. Medium fresh on top. I’m sure I’m not objective here, but I think I smell some cooked brown rice now! Tea with sugar. Clean and very soft. Spicy with a tiny hint of smoke (toasted cask). yes, cold black tea. Leafy. Smelling this, it seems to me this isn’t made from molasses. In a way it is a bit simple. I have this in my glass for a while now, but I don’t get a lot of development (yet). I guess this may very well need a whole lot of air, and this is a freshly opened bottle I have here. Already quite appealing though.

Taste: Semi sweet, sugar, caramel and toffee. Very friendly and soft. A bit light, thin and simple. Small bitter edge, with some yellow sugared fruits. Greenish, vegetal and grassy, but in no way does this resemble a Rhum Agricole. Maybe it is somewhat closer to a diluted Rum or Arrack (we’ll get to that quite soon actually, stay tuned). Flavoured tea with some sugar-water. Medium finish with sometimes some peppermint. Alcoholic at times. Whiffs of (vanilla) Wodka. Not very active casks if you ask me. Not a lot stays around for the aftertaste, but also no off-notes. Easy to drink, and definitely growing on me.

I love this series of Cadenheads Rums, but in a way this particular one starts out a bit as a disappointment. I’ve tasted many others from this series that were stellar, this one just is too simple, and sligtly too sweet. In no way would I have thought this has aged for 15 years. Not very adventurous, so probably not a Cachaça made with wild (boys) yeast and aged in a funky wood type cask. Here the beauty lies in the details. Enjoyable and definitely worth my money. I wouldn’t buy a second one just yet, but you should buy your first one, just like me, because it is different from the rest and it’s definitely enjoyable. Having said all this, the Epris does start to grow on me, so it may very well get better with time, air and some care.

Points: 83

Highland Park Week – Day 7: Highland Park 27yo 1972/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 324 bottles)

Wow, it’s already the seventh and last day of Master Quill’s Highland Park Week. How time flies when you’re having fun, but I say that after every Master Quill Week. Somehow it is always nice to concentrate on one subject and try several examples in quick succession. This week may have been a bit heavy on the Independent side, since only two offerings released by the distillery themselves were reviewed. Beforehand I would have thought the 18yo OB would be a worthy opponent to the five Independent offerings, but it turned out otherwise. We know the 18yo can be (very) good, but we also know that it does suffer from batch variation. So quite a surprise there. Another surprise was the sheer quality of the 9yo Signatory bottling. A Whisky not even in its teens! If only all of todays NAS offerings would be this good… Yesterday we had a very nice Highland Park bottled by Douglas Laing, which churned out quality Whisky one after the other. So it wasn’t a hard decision to end this Week with a 1972 bottling by Douglas Laing again, especially since it was bottled in 1999, early on in the Old Malt Cask series (OMC). Early OMC bottlings were always right up there, so lets see if this is any different, and therefore a worthy example to finish off this week.

Color: Gold.

Nose: I had only one sniff and I’m already in love. Nectar of the gods. Super fruity, old Malt. Too much fruit to name. Pineapple, passion fruit, apricots and white peach (somewhat later in the mix), but there is a lot more. More apricots, dried and sugared, Hints of regular peach and banana. Super fruity and super funky. Nutty and sweaty. Utterly wonderful. Yes this is an old Single Malt from, and I’m guessing here, a remade American oak hogshead. Vanilla combined with clay, soft spices and very soft oak. Vegetal and slightly dusty. Hints of cereal and latte macchiato as well. The yellow fruits are thick and syrupy, but just like a great, sweetish, White Wine, the acidic part is equally important. This thick, syrupy Highland Park has such an acidic top note, that livens the whole up. This is stuff from the hall of fame, something like 1972 Caperdonich. Stellar. Sugared yellow fruits picked up by hints of zesty citrus fruit. Well-integrated acidity. With some breathing, a more restrained note emerges. Fresh air. The big fruit dissipates a bit, leaving more room for some sour oak. Underneath, a slightly meaty, cold gravy aroma. Amazing how little wood is showing throughout. Butter with hints of salt and black pepper and after a while some nice oak finally emerges to make up the finish. Creamy and half-sweet yoghurt with white peach. Calvados and graphite powder. This change in character is kind of special. This Highland Park starts out as a 1972 Caperdonich, however the Caperdonichs don’t show such a change, so both finish quite differently.

Taste: Wonderful, elegant, half-sweet at first and a bit brittle. Lots of fruit again, red fruit pastilles and a large nutty part combined with slightly bitter dark chocolate and toffee. This is a bit of a Malt with granny’s osteoporosis, but we all love our granny don’t we, warts and all. It still has enough power at 50% ABV, but the aroma’s don’t seem to be as big as in the nose. Laid back fruit and even some Belgian Beer (again). It’s definitely simpler and not as thick as I imagined it to be. Some sweetness from sugared fruits, which fade-out… The body is thin, but not weak. It disintegrates a bit. Still a pretty long finish though, leaving a note of warm milk (from the latte macchiato?)

Don’t buy the, sometimes, mediocre over-priced, over-hyped bottlings of today, unless there are no old bottles to be bought, when bottles don’t show up anymore at auction. All collected or hopefully drunk by people who appreciate them. Spend your hard-earned cash on something like this, before it’s really too late. Everybody needs to taste how it used to be, and how it could be done…

Points: 91

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 6: Zuidam Korenwijn 14yo 1999/2013 Oloroso Sherry (38%, Special #3, Cask #1649 & 1650, 491 bottles)

Jenever Week Logo

On the sixth day, God created… This actually is the last review I’m writing for this series of Dutch Jenevers. To be honest, I almost never write reviews in the order of publication. Especially with the Master Quill Weeks. At some point in time, I find a “logical” progression in which to order the seven days of the Master Quill Week, not necessarily by ascending scores, mind you.

This is the fourth (!) offering by Zuidam in this week, another Korenwijn, and I promise you, it’s the last in this series. Tomorrow we’ll see another offering from Rutte (again). Now don’t start thinking now that Rutte and Zuidam are the only distilleries in The Netherlands producing Jenever. There actually is a long list of companies around, many of which are several centuries old.

The history of Jenever started in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both port towns. Other cities like Groningen and Leeuwarden (in the north) also have a Jenever history. Making Jenever turned out to be a smelly business, so with time the production of Jenever moved into neighbouring cities with some more room. Weesp (near Amsterdam) and Schiedam (near Rotterdam).

From Amsterdam I’d like to mention Lucas Bols (1575), Wynand Fockink (1679) and Van Wees (1782). From Rotterdam I’d like to mention Onder De Boompjes (1658), Nolet (1691), De Kuyper (1695), Wenneker (1693), Herman Jansen (1777) and Dirkzwager (1879). Most of them produce Jenever under different brand names.

Rutte was never located in Rotterdam itself. Rutte has always been from Dordrecht. Finally Zuidam itself is more recent. It started doing business since 1975 in the town of Baarle-Nassau near the Belgian border.

Zuidam Korenwijn 1999Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Closed at first. Some wine related notes, fruity. Needs to move around in my glass some more. Yeah development commences quickly. A deep thick aroma, countered by sharp woody dry notes. Some ground white pepper and clear glue which dissipates quickly never to return again. Also a slightly burnt and tarry cask note. Sawdust and toffee for short. The whole smells rather laid-back and calm. Subdued yet big. Happy about itself. Sawdust and pencil shavings and underneath some hints of new wood. All very spicy but well in check. It has a very specific fresh and fruity acidity to it, I also got from tomorrows offering, although not in such a big way, and way more balanced as well. Here it must be from the Sherry cask. The nose is an amalgamation of Jenever, the Sherry cask and oak, and I must say the Sherry cask really did its work here.

Taste: Creamy, buttery and very fruity. Very nice and very appealing. It starts out sweet. Toffee, mocha and runny caramel. When that subsides, and it does that quite quickly, it makes room for a very nice fruity aroma. You could almost call it a “special effect”. Nice wood as well, sometimes bordering on cardboard and old paper, but it works quite well. However, I feel it is hardly recognizable as a Korenwijn. At least when I compare it to it younger Brother, the Korenwijn 5yo I reviewed earlier. it almost seems like a hybrid with Whisky, Cognac and other distillates. Taste this blind and try to find out what this is. Again an entirely different product from Zuidam. Nice. The finish has medium length and finishes with the warmth of the Toffee/Caramel and some sharpness of wood. Chewy. This is definitely after dinner. It’s a dessert all by itself. Nicely soft and lively, even though the basis is quite sweet, as all Zuidams seem to have. Likable and dangerously drinkable.

Quite a small outturn, considering this came from two Sherry casks ánd the Korenwijn being reduced to 38% ABV. Nice expression from Zuidam though, and its clear to me why it was chosen as a special release. This one is quite expensive. Its more than twice the price of the Korenwijn 5yo, but when compared to the Korenwijn 10yo and 20yo, Zuidam also produces, the price seems to fit right in.

Points: 85

Plantation Guyana 1999 (45%, Old Reserve, 2009, Guyana)

Walk into a spirits shop which sell quite a few Rum’s, you have a big chance to find at least a shelf worth of Plantation Rums. I don’t know if this is true in all the corners of the world, but here in Europe it is. There are several reasons for this. They look quite interesting, quite a lot of Rum producing countries are available, and the price is quite nice. Especially if you are a novice it ticks all the boxes you care about. Having tried some of those, I can also say that they seem to be not bad.

Who is Plantation? Plantation is the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand. Cognac Ferrand being the mother company that has quite a few brands in its portfolio. If you punch in Cognac Ferrand in your browser, you are quickly transferred to Maison Ferrand and there you can see that Ferrand is definitely more than Cognac alone. Back to Plantation Rum then. Plantation buys casks of Rum and ages them where they have found them. At the end of maturation, the casks are transferred to France, where they receive a second maturation for up to 18 months in small oak casks. Although it is not said that the cask previously held Cognac, we do assume that’s the case most of the time.

Here, we’ll be looking at one of the vintage releases from the Plantation Old Reserve. This particular example comes from Guyana, but according to the website there are six more Old Reserves available: Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and Trinidad. I don’t know if they discontinued some versions, but I do have a St. Lucia version as well. All are vintage releases, so there are multiple vintages available. I have tried several of the vintages of the Jamaican version and found that not only is there some batch variation between the vintages, but also that there can be more than one batch of only one vintage. Jamaica 2000 comes to mind…

Plantation Guyana 1999Color: Full Gold

Nose: Big, fatty and yet not entirely Demerara (yet). Initially, and momentarily, it has this high ester quality and funkiness like a Jamaican Rum, but in a slightly different way. With some more breathing this becomes more like a Demerara and the funkiness disappears completely, or is this my nose getting used to it? Quite fruity and has a very mild acidity to it. Is this the Cognac? Yes, maybe. The slightly off-acidity reminds me a bit of standing in the produce section of an outdoor market in the cold. Hmmm, never saw that before in a tasting note, Crazy Quill. Since these bottlings have seen wood that previously held Cognac, I’m guessing, that must be its origin. Slightly dusty with some paper-like qualities and yes some wood obviously. Hot oak. Old oak planks, yet freshly sawn. Soft. Hints of orange juice (the acidity mentioned above) and maybe banana (it does have a deeper layer, close to concentrated banana aroma). Dry soft wood and old toned down sawdust. yes, its dusty. Black, slightly sweet, tea and hints of licorice. The fruity notes start to integrate better after prolonged breathing and move back a bit, giving way to a more thicker, nutty, funky and waxy toffee character. Ok, letting this breathe seems to be the crux.

Taste: Wood, nutty, fruity and extremely syrupy (syrupy, not necessarily only sweet) at first. Yellow fruits on light syrup, so not thick or cloying. Sugar and burnt sugar (nice) and more nutty notes. A bit hot. Chewy and tasty, in a complex way. It’s not typically toffee of caramel, more like a combination of earwax and toffee. Slightly bitter. It’s in there but its more complex than that. Fresh oak notes and some licorice. Now its (sweetish) Demerara. The second Cognac cask maturation suits the original Rum. Wax with bitter notes of burnt sugar and burnt wood. The body is thick and in your face, but towards the finish that loses ground. It breaks down a bit in the finish, which otherwise has quite some length to it. It feels like a cloaking effect of added sugar. Nice note of almond in the aftertaste and the more breathing, the bigger the licorice note. Not bad, but Demerara can be better, but you will be hurting your wallet these days to try some really good ones. At this price point, it might be hard to find a better deal, but definitely not impossible. Even the El Dorado range of the 12yo, the 15yo and the 21yo do come to mind. Which also has some sugar added, but probably to a lesser extent than the Plantations.

This Plantation offering is in no way perfect, does have a good drinkability, and seems fairly priced. Good ABV as well (at 45%). Not every Plantation Old Reserve is bottled at 45% ABV though. This is an older bottle, from, April 9, 2009 (laser printed on the bottle), and has a slightly different look from current bottlings, which have a thicker glass base and a different icon on the shoulder. It’s also slightly higher in ABV (45% ABV). I fear that subsequent releases may be a bit sweeter than this one, I have already tasted some of them, and 42% ABV. might be the new strength.

Points: 84

 

Glen Scotia 6yo 1999/2006 (52.7%, The Whisky Fair, Heavily Peated, Bourbon Barrels #541 & #542, 464 bottles)

How ’bout another Glen Scotia then. One in its youth. This heavily peated Glen Scotia has a mere 6 years under its belt. Yes you read it right, a heavily peated Glen Scotia, move over Longrow? This is a Glen Scotia that was bottled for the 2006 Whisky Fair in Limburg, Germany. Most definitely a festival you shouldn’t miss. I like the label of this Whisky Fair bottling, since it looks similar to other Glen Scotia’s from that time. Lets have some peat then…

Glen Scotia 6yo 1999/2006 (52.7%, The Whisky Fair, Heavily Peated, Bourbon Barrels #541 & #542, 464 bottles)Color: White wine.

Nose: Soft elegant peat alright, but also very grassy. Lots of grass, dry grass, and hay. A confectionary sweetness, like warm icing sugar, but mixed with a little milk chocolate and the grass, peat and sweet ashes. Cocos macaroon with more than a hint of almond. This is already wonderful smelling after the mere 6 years in cask. Although this is from Bourbon barrels, I do encounter some sulfury compounds. Still grassy and some typical vanilla, with lemon freshness. Typical for Bourbon Barrels. Barrels are 20% smaller than (remade) hogsheads, so in theory the spirit ages more quickly, but not twice as quick, since nobody wold argue with you if you claimed this to be 12yo. Quite some active barrels. Nice.

Taste: Sweet barley, yup sweet barley. Diluted lemon curd. Altogether quite lemony. Where the nose was quite complex and didn’t show its age, the taste is much simpler and seems young, but not alcoholic. A sweet and creamy rounded off taste. Some prickly peat but not a lot. I wouldn’t call this heavily peated, at least it doesn’t seem heavily peated. Sweet barley and sweet yellow fruits, but none in particular. I guess dried apricots are the closest. Sweet Earl Grey tea with a hint of honey and a lot of lime. Medium to short finish and the same goes for the aftertaste. Which is about young soft peat added to warm diluted lemon curd.

Even though this tastes quite nice, I’m a bit disappointed that the taste didn’t live up to the promise of the nose. I was quite surprised at first in what the nose achieved in 6 years. Still an experience and a nice surprise. I wonder how this would have turned out with some more age to it.

Points: 84

St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)

If you thought both Cragganmores were bottled a long time ago, then you must have a look at this St. Magdalene. This one was bottled one century ago. The 20th century to be precise. Nope its not antique yet since this was only bottled in 1999. Remember Prince? St. Magdalene itself is alas no more. Closed in 1983, it’s buildings now housing people ins stead of casks. An eternal shame led by economics of the eighties. In those days we had a Whisky loch (lots of unsold Whisky), and today almost a shortage. Big disappointment here, since St. Magdalene is my favorite Lowland distillery. Just have a look at my review of the legendary 1979 Rare Malt edition. By the way, bottles of this 1981 Gordon & MacPhail that were sold in Germany had stickers on the back that informed the public about caramel coloring…

St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)Color: Gold.

Nose: Nice, grassy and citrussy. Quite nice and elegant after all those heavy hitters I reviewed before. Waxy and fruity, again in sugared and dried apricots. Quite grainy too, it’s almost like an old blend from the sixties. Vegetal, less grassy actually but more like fern and almost flowery. Sweetish and waxy apple skins. Marmalade. With some air mare grassy and vegetal. Dry grass and hints of hay, making this an easily recognizable Lowlander. Distant white pepper and some slightly rotting wet wood or bad breath. (not bad here). Not un-complex, and very pleasant to smell. A shame this style is almost disappearing. Do cherish your old Magdalenes and Rosebanks people!

Taste: Sweet (paper) and fruity. Pleasant stuff. Yes, quite light and fragile, but that is helped along by the sweetness. After the sweetness comes wax, paper and cardboard, still quickly overthrown by a delicious fruitiness. Warm apple juice with apricots, Short peak of prickly black pepper. Hidden behind the fruity (not sugary) sweetness a hint of black coal. Highly drinkable. Decent finish with a nice fruity aftertaste.

I thought this would be killed by reduction and caramel coloring, but no. It still has a lot of life in it, just like the ancient Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 30yo I have on my lectern. That’s also elegant, brittle and light, but still giving a lot. I feel old malts could “take” a lot more than today’s modern Malts.

Points: 87

Braes of Glenlivet 19yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #9294, 658 bottles)

The day before yesterday I reviewed the first Braeval on Masterquill.com, the domain I was finally able to acquire. Today we’ll have another first, this time the first Braes of Glenlivet. Well not really since both are one and the same distillery.

Braes of Glenlivet was founded just in 1973, so it’s not thát old. At that time Seagram’s was a company with only two distilleries: Strathisla (I love Sherried Strathisla’s from the 60’s and 70’s) and Glen Keith (equally so). Both distilleries are next to one another by the way. Chivas needed more capacity, due to huge demand of the Chivas Regal 12yo blend in the States and was looking for a distillery to take over. When that didn’t work, plans were made to “build” five distilleries in the same amount of time. Braes of Glenlivet was the first in 1973 and Allt-a-Bhainne the second a year later. The next three distilleries were brought into the portfolio by acquisition in 1978: Glenlivet, Longmorn and Glen Grant (now owned by Campari since 2006). Other noteworthy facts are that the name of Braes of Glenlivet changed to Braeval in 1994 (to allow Glenlivet to be The Glenlivet, as in “there can be only one”). Breaval was mothballed between 2002 and 2008 and is the highest situated distillery in Scotland. 1665 feet.

Braes of Glenlivet 19yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #9294, 658 bottles)Color: Copper Gold.

Nose: Musty and a high quality Sherry note. Not a big heavily Sherried nose (hence the color). But dry and meaty. Slightly smoky (char) and vegetal (fern). Nicely oaky but also pencil shavings, which usually isn’t oak but cedar. Perfumy. This needs some air to balance itself out. Again the wood is playing a big role in this Braes/Braeval, just like the one I reviewed before. The vegetal part is developing into what I can only guess is a Japanese tea kind of note. Not floral, so it’s not the perfumy part of the nose, but very deep, profound, but also elegant and light. Having said that, next up is a hint of Velpon or Uhu (clear glue). Great herbal and earthy complexity (surely not only from the wood?), with a tiny hint of new make spirit. This is a very nice one to take deep breaths of. Stuff for connoisseurs I guess, so maybe not everybody’s cup of tea.

Taste: Strong, sweet and dry at the same time. Very nice. Lot’s of Beer and Hops, and not really Sherried for me. The hops doesn’t make this all that bitter. Quite some masked sweetness and again quite woody too. The bitterness is really a hoppy one. Interesting. Just like it’s younger brother, it’s coming undone a bit in the finish. The alcohol is really prominent, so most definitely a force to deal with. Finish with tea and wood, a hint of soap and rather drying. Beer and soap who would have guessed? The complexity of the nose isn’t really here in the taste. And I really miss the high quality Sherry I smelled initially. Beer and Sherry who would have guessed?

What really caught me by surprise were the similarities between the 1991 Braeval bottled by The Whisky Mercenary and this particular expression from 1979. Especially on the nose. One was distilled in 1991 and this one in 1979. Both have a similar full on smell and a woody part that plays a big role in the bigger picture. This Signatory has a more pronounced Sherry derived full and sweetish body, whereas the 1991 was more fruity.

Points: 85

Dalmore 11yo 1999/2011 (57.2%, Kintra, Refill Sherry Butt #3079, 120 bottles)

Dalmore then. Not so long ago I reviewed the official Dalmore 12yo and rummaging through the ever-growing stock of samples, I found this almost 12yo Kintra bottling. If it was only given two extra months and two extra days, this too would have been 12 years old!

Dalmore was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson but the Sunderland’s start distilling there. Soon after the MacKenzie brothers, Charles, Andrew and Alexander start to run the distillery. When Alexander Matheson dies in 1886, his successor sells the distillery to the MacKenzie brothers (1891). In 1917 the Royal Navy takes over and use the facility to make mines! After three years the Navy moves out and in 1922 the distillery is again up and running. In 1960 The MacKenzie brothers merge with White & Mackay and in 1990 White & Mackay were bought by American brands. In 2001 White and Mackay were sold again and called Kyndal spirits but the White & Mackay name returns a year later. In 2007 it is sold yet again to the United Breweries Group, an Indian conglomerate.

Dalmore 11yo 1999/2011 (57.2%, Kintra, Refill Sherry Butt #3079, 120 bottles)

Color: Light ocher gold

Nose: Big. Vanilla ice-cream and light wood, with some light menthol cigarette as well. Powdery and dusty. Cherries and Licorice. Horseradish. The wood is very perfumy. Definitely floral and perfumed soap. Strong aroma from a high strength Whisky. Half sweet, salty toffee with funky Fino or Manzanilla Sherry notes, but not as much as in other Fino matured Whiskies, so this might not be one. Red fruit hard candy drops and it does have a salty edge. Animalesk (cow dung) and soft wood. So enough happening on the nose.

Taste: Nice burn and quite sweet actually. Spicy sugared oak with white pepper, but also a sour oak note which turns into ripe black fruits. Quite a lot of wood. Coconut and maybe some peach. The horseradish returns and here it is less sharp but more sweet. Ahhh how nice it is to have a cask strength Whisky again. A breath of fresh air. Vanilla ice-cream returns for the finish. Otherwise the black fruits stay on so the funky sourness is there to stay too. Nice example to analyze like this. But the a word say it all. It is a Whisky you have to work with. If taken casually you won’t fully appreciate it, and maybe even won’t like. This needs your full attention and time.

Quite a nice development. It starts out pretty sweet, after which the wood shows itself. After that, the body collapses a bit to reform behind the lines to come back with a nice finish. Although not without its faults, the whole is quite nice and absolutely an experience. Nice how easy the development can be followed. The more it breathes the better it gets. Very nice pick Erik!

Points: 85