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

Advertisements

Arran 19yo 1996/2016 “The Chosen One” (54.7%, OB, Limited Edition, for Whiskysite.nl, Sherry Hogshead #1390, 312 bottles)

One of the finer places to buy Whisky in the Netherlands is Whiskysite based in the town of Leiden. Excellent, wonderful looking store, good people, fair prices and a very handy Website which services the whole world. For me one of the go-to places. The same guys also host a Whisky festival called Whisky in Leiden. This years edition is next saturday on april 1st. No joke. If you are interested, I’m sure they will have room for you next year since this years edition is long sold out. Just like any real good festival, or retailer, the guys have special bottlings done for them. One of last years bottlings was a very old Arran. I can still remember Arran starting up, and here we have already a 19yo example of the Malt. I’m getting old.

Color: Gold.

Nose: First sniff and I’m guessing Fino Sherry casks. Nice Sherry note combined with nuts and wood. Mocha and a sweeter component in the background. Chewy toffee. As I said before, I never was a big fan of Fino cask Whiskies but just like Rhum Agricoles it is an acquired taste, and today, wow, I get it. They are very special. Vanilla and dried lemon powder, in part like in artificial sweets. Hints of high winds at sea, combined with cold dish water. Strange èh? But in reality not strange at all. Hints of wood come next, as well as some pencil shavings with floral notes and wood from cigar boxes. This smells very distinguished and luxury. Next a layer of cold fruitiness. Green and red apple skins, dried apricots and some dried basil as well. Sweet yoghurt. A promise of some fruity sweetness. Crushed beetle and rotting flower bulb, both a childhood memory. I’m sorry for the animal, I only did it once, by accident. Well balanced and none of the aromas presented here are overpowering. A quiet Arran. Toned down. Whispering. A sort of connoisseurs Whisky maybe. You need some experience to discover it all, as well as appreciate it fully. I hope I don’t sound arrogant now. If you are a novice, please buy it if you come across it, but wait a few years before opening it.

Taste: Half sweet and spicy. Nice wood-notes and soft nevertheless. Sweet fruit yoghurt. The stuff with peaches in it. White peach with a spicy bite. Warming. Mocha and hard coffee candy. Butterscotch and some aspartame sweetness. Pencil shavings. Again, well-balanced stuff and very tasty. If this would have been 5% lower in ABV, this would be dangerously drinkable and you’d finish the bottle way too quickly. Now it is slightly hot, which makes you appreciate it better and follow it up with a different Whisky. It’s almost as if the sweetness and the dryness of the wood are competing. one sip, and one manages to get all the attention, and in the next sip the other. Hints of Belgian Beer towards the finish. The finish itself is quite long.

Good cask strength Whisky from a nice (Fino) cask. No typical distillery character if you ask me, but also no particular aroma that manages to take the lead. Well balanced but with nothing really sticking out, making for a bit anonymous yet well-balanced Whisky.

Points: 86

Glenfiddich 19yo “Age of Discovery” (40%, OB, Madeira Cask Finish)

After an (alas imaginary) short break on the beaches of Barbados, back to Scotland again. From the oldest Rum brand in the world we now focus our gaze at the Whisky that started it all for Single Malts, Glenfiddich. Up ’till now lots of Glenfiddich have found their way onto these pages. The Whisky at hand is the first of three “Age of Discovery” bottlings. All three are accompanied by little stories about traveling and discovering new territories by usage of tall sailing ships. This particular Madeira cask finished Glenfiddich is about discovering the isle of Madeira (and Madeira Wine). The other ones are about sailing up the rivers of America for Bourbon casks (not a Bourbon finish, but wholly matured in Bourbon casks) and finally a Red Wine finish with the story of Darwin visiting the wine making regions of Argentina. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and have a look at this Madeira finished one first.

Glenfiddich 19yo "Age of Discovery" (40%, OB, Madeira Cask Finish)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Funky and acidic. Where is this going? Some wood, rotting wood. Barley and grainy in fact. Waxy.  I’m getting a lot of wax lately, so maybe that’s just me. Luckily with time the aroma’s start to gel a bit. Started out very unbalanced, but the balance returns. Still the whole doesn’t seem to be very complex and obviously is very light. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to reduce it to 40% ABV. Mint & toffee come next. Unbelievable how malty this is after 19 years.

Taste: Sugar water with mocha, toffee and more sugar-water. So yes, quite sweet and appealing. Did the Madeira do that? Lots of vanillin from the American oak. Creamy. Pudding. Custard. Caramel, Toffee. After that it falls flat on its face. Short finish and hardly any aftertaste save for some creamy sweetness. Sure it’s nice and very, very easily drinkable, but hey, where is the development, where is the complexity? It’s a shame this got reduced so much because it tastes like nothing special now. It’s nice, but it is in no way better than a good Malt that costs much less than this one does.

I don’t know if this was meant for travel Retail? A lot of those big box Whiskies that are meant for travel Retail are 40% ABV. Why? Is the industry afraid the traveller at hand will open and drink the bottle on the spot? On the ferry or on the plane? Well, if that’s so, a traveller will get pretty plastered drinking a bottle at 40% ABV as well. So no need to put so much water into the Whisky bottle I would say. I guess you pay for the packaging this time. It’s nice, but could have been so much more. Expect to finish this bottle very quickly, because it drinks like lemonade, but alas also has the complexity and length of a lemonade.

Points: 81

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

Glen Keith 19yo 1992/2012 (53.8%, Kintra, Bourbon Hogshead #120587, 156 bottles)

Recently I reviewed a Glen Keith by Malts of Scotland (a german bottler) that one was also 19yo (1990) and was quite the surprise. This time another Glen Keith that is 19yo old (1992) and this time by the Dutch bottler Kintra. Glen Keith itself was mothballed for more than a decade (1999-2013), but has restarted recently, Probably the last one of the mothballed distilleries that could have been revived. The rest of the closed distilleries are demolished or used for warehousing or have been turned into apartments or warehouses. It is very unlikely that any other of the closed distilleries will reopen. As of now probably only new distilleries will see the light of day.

Color: Gold

Nose: The nose starts out rather sweetish and slightly soapy. Next up some fresh air and latex paint. This changes seamlessly into a perfect woody touch, that gets spicier with time. Vanilla and ice-cream with cherry bon-bon liquor (without the chocolate). Sometimes it even smells a bit as new wood. Those of you that think that something’s wrong because of the hints of soap and latex paint are mistaken. Pretty neat nose, one to be taken in vigorously, Smelled like this I also get a hint of sweetened yoghurt and some toffee. Later on some hints of dark chocolate and red fruit gello. In no way does is smell like a cask strength Whisky. No, this is a very laid back Glen Keith.

Taste: A perfect balance between the wood and the sweetness. There is a nice caramel like sweetness that underlies the whole experience. Nice and warming, and never bitter. Luckily it is not quite clean. Again some ice-cream, but after the sweet and the vanilla, the wood returns, which makes for nice balance. They play together well. Small hints of lemongrass and some lemon skins, but don’t get the wrong picture, these are only in here in hints, and make the whole even more interesting. It does develop a bit in the glass, more to the woody side and late in the taste a little bitterness does emerge, like walnut skin. That’s no problem.

Compared to the Glen Keith by Malts of Scotland, this is even a better example of a Bourbon matured Glen Keith. Again a bottle that will be finished rather quickly. Nice Pick by Erik Molenaar.

Points: 86

Thanks to Andre and Erik for providing the sample.

Glen Keith 19yo 1990/2010 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Barrel #13678, 232 bottles)

Last time around we had a stellar but also antique 1967 Glen Keith bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. This time around we have a more modern expression distilled in 1990 bottled in 2010 by german outfit Malts of Scotland, in a more modern type bottle. Let’s see if a more modern Glen Keith is up to par. We’re now in April 2013 and this should be the month the distillery would be reopened. I have looked around in the media but haven’t found a word about it, so I guess the distillery hasn’t opened yet. I hope I can inform you on the reopening in the next Glen Keith review.

Color: Straw

Nose: Clean wood, overall clean, spicy naked wood or virgin oak as they like to call it. Not a lot of character for something that was 19 years in a barrel. Definitely a refill. a slight hint of vanilla, which can’t be a surprise. Cloves, not very ripe pears and a little bit creamy. Well considering all, clean is the word here, you could almost call this sterile, but I won’t because it isn’t. No faults too. I guess the spirit’s great, but the barrel didn’t do a lot for this Whisky. When warmed up a little, some grassy or hay-like notes appear and it gets slightly perfumy (like soap), mind you it’s not soapy! Maybe we should call this profile ‘honest’.

Taste: Sweet and creamy and actually very drinkable, Small hints of wood which gives the whole some character. Overall creamy, with vanilla and mocha and some ice-cream and clotted cream as well. It has a very confectionery feel to it. The sweetness is sugary, but again there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s quite nice, it’s very simple because there isn’t much to it, but easy drinkable likeable. An easy sipper, and I can imagine people having a lot of fun with this.

Let it breathe to open up. Well its incomparable to the oldies from the sixties and seventies. Those were mostly sherry bottlings to boot. Still this is from a cheap Bourbon Barrel, but it shows us that the spirit is rather good. For a simple refill cask. still it did nothing wrong and makes this a nice sippin’ Whisky. Nice.

Points: 84

Glengoyne Week – Day 6: Glengoyne 19yo 1985/2004 ‘Summer’ (52.6%, OB, Cask #608, 606 bottles)

After the cold, cold winter we actually had (are still having), with lots of snow, I guess it’s time for a nice long hot summer! First day of spring went by some time ago, and it still was snowing on that day, so I guess we all need a bit of summer in our lives. Unlike yesterday’s 1984, 1985 is a year more common to find a Glengoyne from. In 2006 Glengoyne even bottled a sister cask of this ‘Summer’ edition, that was a Butt, so it’s probably safe to assume, that this is from a Butt as well.

Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Typical musty Sherry. Spicy and leafy. Butter, honey and raisins. Mocha coffee. Coal and tar. This is by far the best dark Sherry cask up untill now in this Glengoyne week. A slightly acidic freshness, like lemon pie inside a raisiny heavily sherried dram. Dusty old polished wood, with ageing lacquer on it. Dark fruits emerge afer a while, Blueberries! Perfect balance and lots of character.

Taste: Big body, spicy with just the right amount of wood, and almonds. Did I say wood? It’s not just any kind of wood, this is tarry wood, steam locomotive wood. Blueberries infused in honey, with some added acidity. Again very balanced stuff this. It reminds me a bit of the great Longmorn’s of the early seventies. Those are legendary, and Glengoyne were able to make this in the mid eighties! Were are it’s sister casks?!?!

This cask was bottled in 2004, so it wasn’t around anymore when the mashmen of Glengoyne made their choices, so let’s call this, this consumers choice.

Points: 91

Thanks go out to Erik (Master Quill’s apprentice) for providing the sample.