Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Vintage Collection, Cask #3002, 472 bottles)

Here we have a rather “young” Linlithgow, a.k.a. St. Magdalene. I really, really loved the extremely layered St. Magdalene 19yo, that was released three years prior to this one, so when this came out in 2001, I snapped up a few, expecting a similar experience to the one year older and cask strength expression mentioned above. Hey it was reduced a bit, and only one year older, so it could happen, and it was half the price of the 19yo! At the time, Whiskies from the Vintage Collection were never expensive, as was the case with this one. They sold this at the price of what a Springbank 10yo sells for today. Remember, even in 2001 this was already a closed distillery, so go figure. It was a different Whisky world back then. If I look around the net today retail price for this one is £699,-, and if you read this in 2025 it will probably be even higher, or have we all moved on to something else? If that is the case, why are you even reading about an old Whisky nobody cares for anymore?

Color: Pale gold, straw.

Nose: Extremely malty. hints of sugar-water and ear wax. Fruity and grassy. A Lowlander alright. A breath of fresh air. Toned down, almost shy, but don’t think this is light, because it’s not. It shows quite some aroma. The quiet (big) guy in your class, but you already know there is more to it than meets the nose. Yellow fruits and whiffs of American oak, It is definitely something from the past. Somehow Whiskies today aren’t like this anymore. Its like sitting alone in a field, middle of summer, nothing more than crickets and almost inaudible distant sounds of the rest of the world. Life is beautiful. Hints of cold butter and hay. Warm wood and a bit of old vanilla. Definitely not as multi-layered as the Rare Malts bottling mentioned above, and it hasn’t its evolution either. This is more straightforward and shy (again). Perfectly balanced nose. It got plenty of time to breathe and it can handle the air. No worries then of oxidation. By the nose alone another great example of the variety of St. Magdalene. Closing this distillery is a real loss, and this one is not coming back, so what you are holding in your glass is a piece of history, hence the hefty price-tag.

Taste: Sweet on entry. Malty, barley sugar. Slightly warming. Paper and cardboard. Creamy, with toffee on entry but it gets thinner towards the finish. Lots of fruits emerging at different moment when you keep it in your mouth, making for a sweetish, fruity, friendly Whisky. Only a slight bitterness reminiscent of toasted wood emerges. Less “big” than the nose suggested. In comparison to other Whiskies from this distillery, this might be a rather simple expression, (is it?), but still it oozes something special. Memories of black coal, and motor oil. If so, this can only have trace amounts noticeable, because in essence it is a sweet fruity Whisky. Simple, maybe, but it rewards you with aroma’s from the past, coming from a distillery like no other. Near the end of the body a somewhat burnt note emerges, burnt wood, hot machine (oil). Very nice industrial edge after the friendly fruitiness.

I spent a lot of time with this Whisky over the years, and I remember, when freshly opened, it showed a lot more of the waxy notes and even quite some bitterness. So don’t be afraid of oxidation, even when this is a reduced Whisky, because it will only get better. In the end it turns out much better than I have always thought it was…

Points: 86

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Highland Park Week – Day 6: Highland Park 17yo 1984/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 786 bottles)

Two more to go, so alas, we are near the end of yet another Master Quill Week. As we have seen the past few days, here is another independently bottled Highland Park, this time by Douglas Laing. Near the end of the nineties, Douglas Laing started bottling single cask Single Malts, with enormous success. It may very well have been the most successful independent bottler with stellar releases, time after time. Heaps of Brora and Port Ellen come to mind. I guess back then, they were a bigger name, temporarily, than Gordon & MacPhail and maybe Signatory Vintage. If the cask had enough ooomph, the Whisky was reduced to their preferred drinking strength of 50% ABV. It is a good strength. Nobody back then complained about reduction, or that it should have been cask strength only. I loved a lot of their bottlings and bought quite a few of them. Even though the bottle itself is pretty simple, I am a sucker for Whisky in green glass (remember Laphroaig?).

Here we have a 17yo Highland Park with hardly any color. The cask yielded a lot of bottles, so I’m guessing the original Whisky was pretty high in ABV, and came out of a Fino Sherry puncheon (or butt). I’ve tried quite a few Douglas Laing bottlings from Fino Sherry casks, so it shouldn’t be too hard to recognize.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Very restrained, but right from the start the unmistakable aroma’s of Fino Sherry maturation. As I said, if you had a few, it isn’t too hard to recognize. Fresh sea-spray with a laid back nuttiness. The more it breathes, the nuttier it becomes. Wonderfully elegant and not as big or raw, as Oloroso and PX sherry casks can be, especially in more recent bottlings. This Fino cask didn’t impair a lot of color to the Whisky, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t give off a lot of aroma as well. Well, one thing is for sure, this doesn’t smell like a Whisky from a Bourbon or even some other tired cask. So don’t be fooled. Added to the fresh sea-spray, are some lemony notes. Zesty lemon skins. Perfumy, and ever so slightly floral. Cookie dough. Almond cookies. Hints of toasted cask. Scorched heather maybe? Vegetal, with hints of garden bonfire (but not the smoke). Slightly dusty as well. Extremely balanced, but not hugely complex. Lovely.

Taste: Yeah. Sweet, much sweeter than expected. Lots of Vanilla and nicely creamy and vibrant. Lemons and the flesh of sweet apples, so not thick nor cloying. Where the nose was quite restrained, this isn’t, but on the other hand, the nose had more “Fino” to it. Ice-cream and hardly any wood. For a short while, towards the finish, it has aroma’s from a Belgian Trappist Triple Beer. Also a bit soapy, floral with a tad of bitterness. These three are kept in check rather well, so don’t be disturbed. High quality stuff, and tasting it now it is much nicer and better than I remembered. Last time I tasted this, I still had not acquired the taste for Fino Whiskies, but now I have and I love it! Long finish, as all Whiskies should have and a very nice and warming aftertaste. If I’m honest, this isn’t the most complex stuff around, even though there is enough development in the glass. It is, however, extremely balanced, and I consider this to be high quality stuff, but I might have said that before already.

When I smell this and my mind wanders off, I feel Whiskies today rarely ever have this profile anymore, so it seems Fino casks often end up somewhere else than in Independent bottlings. Maybe the Whisky is different because Sherry casks themselves are more often made from American oak (more vanilla aromas) than European oak (more tannins). American oak makes Sherry creamier and more accessible, friendlier, aiming at a larger consumer base.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Whiskies from Fino casks maybe are an acquired taste, as it was for me. I wasn’t too fond of the particularities of Fino cask maturation for a long time, but I got it in the end, and I have to say it works wonders with Whisky. I love it. Its like Bourbon cask matured Whisky with a twist, and sometimes quite a large twist, also the difference between Fino bottlings can be enormous.

A nice contrast to yesterdays Signatory offering. The differences couldn’t be greater, even though both come from a “Sherry-cask”. So now you know if you see: “Matured in a Sherry cask” on a label, you still know nothing and have no clue of what to expect…

Points: 87

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: Sweet 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, followed by a somewhat burnt synthetic aroma. 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? Soft, smooth and 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

Cognac Week – Day 3: Château Montifaud VS (40%, OB, 2001/2006)

Cognac Week LogoDay Three already of Master Quill’s Cognac Week. Today, and tomorrow, we’ll have a look at Château Montifaud. Château Montifaud was founded in 1837 by Augustin Vallet, and by now the sixth generation of Vallet is with the company: Laurent Vallet. In between came Pierre, Maurice, Louis and Michel. Where Jean Fillioux has sort of a super premium reputation, Château Montifaud has lots of fans with the public. You get quite some quality and the Cognacs are very reasonably priced and most of the time get longer ageing than similarly named Cognacs from the big brands. Take this VS (Very Special) for instance. The youngest component of a VS is required by law to be at least two years old. The VS of Château Montifaud is five years old, and is made with grapes from the Petite Champagne region. You’ll see this “overageing” throughout the range.

Chateau Montifaud VSColor: Orange copper gold

Nose: Slightly winey, light, dusty and sweetish. Young, with already a nice depth to it. Licorice. Abundant sugared fruits. A nice one to smell vigorously. Wonderful nose, but a little bit restrained. It doesn’t leap out of the glass even after some time exposed to air. Definitely more complex than the A. de Fussigny Superieur.

Taste: Quite light. hints of licorice. Sugary sweet and fruity. Syrupy and the sweets are like half crystallized light honey. Maybe too young, but it tastes too thin. I know 40% ABV is typical for Cognac, but it just is too light. Very mellow, nothing sharp at all. Short finish, but whats there, is very nice.

Young, good stuff. Excellent daily drinker Cognac. Very friendly, not very complex, light and mellow. Great balance. If it’s there it’s in the right place. Well made and Montifaud is definitely worth exploring further. I’ve also tried a more recent version (2014) of this very Cognac, and that one seems stronger, is more aromatic, but also tends to be somewhat simpler, less complex and even thicker in its sweetness. The quality is unmistakably there though, and it still would get the same score as this earlier bottling.

Points: 83

Rum Nation Barbados 10yo 2001/2011 (40%, Single Domaine Rum, Barbados)

After the peated Benriach and the chilly foreplay to winter, lets head back to a nicer climate and head towards Barbados. Although Scotland is a beautiful county, I’d rather be in Barbados right now. Edinburgh, not even 10° C. Barbados more than 30° C. What would you do? Remember my review of the Cockspur 12? Well the Barbados Rum I’m about to taste, actually comes from the same place. Both Cockspur 12 (not 12 years old though) and this Bajan Rum come from the same distillery: The West Indies Rum Distillery. You always hear about, location, location, location don’t you? Well, this distillery is located right at the beach, just like some of the best Scottish distilleries, with the one distinct difference I already mentioned above. I just image lying my tired bones on the beach, enjoying the sun, and then bubble up de gap to the distillery for some “refreshments” safe! This Rum was bottled by Italian bottler Fabio Rossi under his Rum Nation brand he founded in 1999. We maltheads already know Fabio as the man behind indy Whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan.

Barbados Rum 10yo 2001-2011 (40%, Rum Nation, Barbados)Color: Orange gold, amber.

Nose: Wonderfully complex smell. Oak and vanilla, short whiff of acetone with fresh air and clean alcohol. Most definitely not too to sweet. This is quite a breath of fresh air after all those sweet and sweeter Rums. Sure toffee and caramel, but this time with spicy wood, slightly burnt wood and without the sugary type of sweetness, although it does smell a bit like brown sugar. Hints of dark chocolate, bacon and even a pinch of cherry liqueur, salt and cola. It almost smells like an overly toffeed Bourbon, and I have to say the fresh and nutty smell of oak is just about right in this one. Maybe this is a Whisky drinker’s Rum. Well done!

Taste: Yes, this is no dud, in fact this is very good! Wonderful entry of sweet almonds and again wonderful oak. Long and warm caramel. The nuttiness, oak and caramel are aided by hints of licorice and orange rubber (lab rats will recognize it), to form the body of this Rum. It’s warming without ever being heavy. Great balance and quite a nice finish, with hardly any bitterness to it. Wonderful vegetal aftertaste too. It’s chewy and you just want another caramel from the bag, and another, and another. I love it and I will be sorry when it’s gone.

Well, dear readers, for me this is a hidden gem. I already thought Cockspur was nice, but this also is really something. Exceptional balance, all flavours are well-integrated and match up quite nicely. I even prefer this one over the Cockspur 12. Get it as long as its available. Today Rum Nation still bottles a 10yo Bajan Rum, but they have changed the bottle into a dumpy one. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I am sure it will be just as good as this one.

Points: 85

Braeval 11yo 2001/2012 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Spring/Winter, Sherry Cask, DMG 9312)

You don’t have to polish your glasses. So soon after the other Braeval and Braes of Glenlivet Whiskies I reviewed, yet another Braeval graces these pages. Yes, another independent bottling of Braeval. This should come as no surprise since the owners Pernod Ricard (Chivas Brothers) don’t do a lot with this brand either. More or less the same situation as Strathisla, which is owned by the same company. It seems to me all their energy flows into The Glenlivet and Aberlour and not a lot of faith exists in marketing Single Malts from these lesser known distilleries. Bacardi (John Dewar & Sons) which owns Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Aultmore, Macduff, and Royal Brackla, have recently decided to market the Whiskies of all their distilleries with an age statement. Lets hope Pernod Ricard will follow suit.

Braeval 11yo 2001/2012 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Sherry Cask, DMG 9312)Color: White wine. Not too pale.

Nose: Sweet, Bourbony and malty. Sweetish and pretty clean. Vanilla and pleasant oak. Spicy and leafy. Whiffs of latex paint and even slightly perfumy. Sometimes even vanilla ice-cream and Cappuccino. Becoming grassy over time, combined with a breath of fresh air. Not very outspoken though. 46% ABV is a decent strength, and since all aroma’s aren’t that outspoken I guess this didn’t benefit from reduction. Still a very agreeable nose.

Taste: Spicy and slightly (new) woody. Sweetish and lots of vanilla. American oak Sherry cask? Good balance. Good strength, but I’m sure this would be better undiluted, maybe that way it was too hot or just to plain strong for some. After some time the new wood and leafy note stays and combines with a little bit of barley with vanilla, mocha and vanilla ice-cream. Fresh forest after a rain shower, including the wet forest floor and mushrooms. Nice, innocent and anonymous.

Unlike both other examples of this distillery I reviewed before, this one has been reduced to 46% ABV. This example is also from this very decade and a bit younger than both others, so what does that do for this distillery? Well hard to tell actually since this isn’t a very complex malt. As all other Braevals, this is pretty good, yet this example is a bit anonymous. Reduction places it into the path of maybe less experienced drinkers, who still are a bit cautious with cask strength Whisky.

Points: 82

Glenrothes 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 600 bottles)

Hello everybody! How is this new year treating you? I’m totally fine, thank you. Let’s start this new year off on Master Quill with another oldie, bottled by Douglas Laing. The last Whisky I reviewed in 2013, was a very young and recently bottled Tamdhu by fellow indie bottler The Ultimate (Van Wees). This time however we will take a look at a 25 year old Glenrothes from 1975. If only this would have been a 25yo Ardbeg from 1975, bottled by the same outfit… Maybe by saying that, I’m doing Glenrothes wrong, so lets not waste any more time and have some Glenrothes please!

Glenrothes 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 600 bottles)Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fresh and funky at the same time. Minerality and flor from Fino Sherry. Probably from a second fill cask. Smells sweetish and very lively, maybe even young, from a less than active cask. Nutty, roasted and fresh almonds, which for me is also quite typical for dry Fino Sherries. Nice distant maltiness. Nose develops nicely too.

Taste: Great, or maybe even fantastic fruit candy sweetness, very unique. When that dissipates a nice soury and woody touch matched with some nice creaminess. Vanilla Ice-cream. Slightly bitter black tea, and a bit salty on the lips. The wood gives off a little bite, which I like. All in all, it’s quite mild and tasted blind I would have never guessed it has 50% ABV. Nicely balanced, and very Fino.

The bitterness that is there has two functions. It gives some oomph to the fresh, fruity and lively profile (which is good), but also dominates the finish a bit (which is not so good). Nevertheless, the whole is very a-typical for a Glenrothes, and I can easily understand why this didn’t fit the profile for an official release, or why it wasn’t used for a blend. On the other hand, this is exactly why, especially the earlier bottlings of Douglas Laing are so popular. It is a chance of a lifetime, to taste some Whiskies from distilleries who do not resemble the products of their makers. Somewhat similar to the Douglas Laing Taliskers, or Tacticals if you prefer. Most of those are not very obvious Taliskers too. This is a very nice Glenrothes and for me better than a lot of the official Glenrothes, even though in the end I’m not the biggest fan of Fino Sherry Casks being used for Whisky, I prefer Oloroso, but that’s a matter of taste obviously, having said that, this Glenrothes managed to get:

Points: 88