Mortlach 11yo 1992/2004 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Autumn/Summer, DMG 627)

Talisker Storm is essentially a young Whisky, one of today’s NAS-expressions. A decade ago, this 11yo Mortlach would be considered a young Whisky and back then we hardly ever heard of NAS-Whiskies to boot. Mortlach is known for its unique distilling regime where the Whisky in the bottle was distilled 2.6 times. Mortlach is also known for dark and dirty Sherry bottlings. Mostly first fill and Oloroso. Just have a look at this Wilson & Morgan Mortlach. So Mortlach fits in the group of Macallan (of old), Aberlour, Glendronach and Longmorn.

However, here we have a rather pale expression of Mortlach bottled by Douglas Laing, from the time Fred and Stewart were still running a business together. Douglas Laing had essentially three series of bottlings. Provenance, Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare (better known as the Platinum-bottlings). There were some more, but lets stick to these three better known ones, shall we? Provenance was mostly reduced to 43% and later 46%, Old Malt Cask to 50% (if possible) and generally older and more special. Finally Old & Rare-expressions were cask strength en even older still (and extra special). Maybe there are some exceptions but in my mind all were single cask bottlings. Here we’ll try a young and very pale Mortlach from the least expensive series of the three. Young-ish and reduced.

mortlach-provenance-11yo-1992-2004Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fresh, soft and fruity. Some barley and definitely some citrus notes. Very fresh and “summery”. Hints of bread, mocha and nuts, but also a chewy, green oaky note. Vegetal. Green leaves and perfumy. Hints of dishwater and latex paint as well, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Powdery and dusty, in part like the smell of old books, some leather and cold gravy. Warm butter and vanilla pudding. Quite a lot happening here, and a bit dirty alright. Although all of the aroma’s I’m picking up here, are pretty different, the whole is well-balanced. They mix together well. Mortlach is known for a meaty element (from Sherry casks), but that is lacking here.

Taste: Barley again and a lot of the vegetal, green and oak notes. Chewy again and it has a short sharp edge from the oak. It’s almost like virgin oak this, with a bite. A little bitter woody bite. Don’t think now this is a bitter Whisky, because it isn’t. The bite itself is extremely short, leaving room for a very soft and mellow Whisky. Cannabis and vanilla. Creamy, with cookie dough and chocolate-chip cookies as well. Sweet(ish) and fruity. The taste of this Mortlach is less complex than the nose. Judging by the color, the cask didn’t seem all that active, but it did impair a lot of the woody notes, so it probably was an easy pick when considering bottling a younger Whisky. Hey, but it’s not all (soft) wood notes, there is also some coconut, nutty and creamy aroma’s. (something you can also find in some Glen Keith‘s matured in ex-Bourbon casks). It’s fruity as well. Medium nutty and creamy finish, with hints of cannabis (the first time around). With a medium bitter aftertaste giving the whole experience some backbone.

Mortlach is known as a dirty, meaty Sherried Whisky. However, this probably came from an American oak cask that previously held Bourbon. So does the meaty part come from the Sherry then? Well not entirely. Especially on the nose, the distillate, without the influence of (Oloroso or PX) Sherry casks, still shows a meaty aroma. Cold gravy I called it, and dirty. It doesn’t taste as a dirty meaty Mortlach to me though. Remarkably soft, and pretty decent overall, yet nothing special as well.

Points: 81

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Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (56.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt #1561, 611 bottles)

600Post number 600, so lets break out something special. Special for me is Brora. Sure Port Ellen, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, they all are Cohiba’s, but Brora is Trinidad. Brora is extra special (to me). 600 is a round number but it’s not 1.000, 10.000 or even a million. It’s 600, so I won’t be reviewing a 1972 Brora, which for me is the pinnacle of them all. The 30yo OB from 2004 contains lots of 1972 Brora, so look at that review how great 1972 Brora can be. Back to this Signatory bottling from 1981. In 1981 Brora was in production, obviously, but were all over the place. Some expressions are full of peat and some are not. I wonder if this one has some peat to it…

Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (56.4%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt #1561, 611 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Fresh and vivid. Definitely Sherry, but in no way funky. Quickly a fresh creamy and toffee note develops and only a mere hint of peat, just inhale vigorously. Needs to breathe a bit. Nice soft woody note, which sometimes take a turn towards old paper turned yellow. A bit dusty as well, (with whiffs of white peach). In no way dry. Quite spicy. I tickles the nose, and again toffee mixed with wax. Chewy would be the word. Mild yellow fruit notes appear, adding some acidity and yet more freshness to the nose. It’s not typically peach, white or other, but some whiffs come across as peach in semi-sweet yoghurt. The wood stays soft and is part of the fruity and creamy mix, instead of giving it a spine. Its nice overall, and does develop al lot, where initially it didn’t seem very complex. Hardly any peat at all and just a splash of smoke.

Taste: Thick, waxy and fruity. Definitely a profile we get from fruity Speysiders from the seventies. Nice soft wood. Toffee, without being very sweet. It has some fruity sweetness, but just the right amount. It has more than 56% ABV, but it’s still friendly. Not hot, nor burning my throat. Very drinkable. To my amazement, a lot disappears towards the finish and the finish itself is medium at best. Only in the aftertaste it starts to come apart a bit, fading out. Just the right moment to take another sip.

This one isn’t about the peat and the smoke, and the ruggedness of highlands, and sea storms after which you need warming. This one is for those moment you need an old Speysider, Bourbon matured, with lots of fruit and wax. Remember this isn’t from a Bourbon cask, but is from a Sherry butt. It has hints of peat and smoke. It’s a bit like the profile Benromach is going for today with the new 10yo and 15yo.

Points: 89

Benromach “Traditional” (40%, OB, 2004)

This is quite a unique bottling. In 1993, Gordon & MacPhail acquired the distillery, but not untill 2004 this “Traditional” was released. The very first Benromach made by the new regime. Alas today the traditional is no more, it has been replaced last year by the 5yo. For ma also a unique bottling, whereas everybody is coming up with, sometimes, silly names for their Whiskies, Gordon & MacPhail decided otherwise. They mothballed the “Traditional” name and replaced it with the 5yo, so it’s also not a NAS anymore. For some 5 is a pretty low number, but at least you get a better sense of what to expect. Luckily this trend is gaining momentum as well, since there will be a Lagavulin 8yo shortly, and I expect quite a lot of that one. Back to the “Traditional”. It is said to be 20% first fill Sherry and the rest comes from first fill Bourbon. All first fill casks, so they must have impaired quite some aroma to this young Whisky.

Benromach TraditionalColor: Straw.

Nose: Barley, butter and lemon water. Very light and does not want to come out of the glass. More barley and grassy notes. A bit dull, restrained, as in it doesn’t great you, popping out of the glass with lots of fresh and citrussy notes. No, it restrained, like an English butler. By now we have gotten used to the slightly peaty and waxy notes, but here it was something of a first. For those of you who know the new 10yo, albeit the reduced or the 100 proof version, this is definitely family. The peat is typical, and the waxyness of the spirit as well, so for me this is easily recognizable as a modern Benromach. The Cragganmore I reviewed last, had Fino Sherry written all over it, but I have to say this one has some notes of that kind of Sherry as well. Hints of new make spirit. A bit immature. There is also something missing here. This is said to be 80% first fill Bourbon, but where then is the vanilla?

Taste: Barley again and definitely sugar-water, with some hidden vanilla underneath, did I mention that it is a bit restrained? At first that’s all there is. Soft. Pudding and paper. Diluted liquid honey. Hints, really only mere hints of red fruits (from the Sherry I guess). Slightly warming finish, with peat and again a lot of sweetness. Although it has a very light and uneventful (restrained) finish, it does have some staying power. Totally un-complex, which has a slightly different meaning than “simple”.

This brings me to the subject of blind tasting, believed to be the most fair of all ways of tasting spirits. First of all blind tasting is not entirely objective, since the taster is not objective. You also have different moods and different expectations. Second, a blind tasting is usually done with several Whiskies, so you tend to compare the one to the other, and like one over the other, but what if in a particular flight is this NAS Bernomach as well as a Lagavulin 37yo, which would you prefer? I first tasted this in such a flight and my initial score was 65 Points. This time I’m tasting it and I know what it is. If I’m in the mood for a Whisky like this, I wouldn’t grab the Lagavulin 37yo now would I. Just like every other Whisky out there they have their time and place, but yes the Lagavulin is a way better Whisky, with a way better price-tag as well…

This Benromach is young and simple (un-complex). But it is also light, grassy, citrussy and fresh. So it has its moment. Some would call it their summer Whisky. Its nice and…restrained.

Points: 72

Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB)

Yeah, a Glenrothes cannonball! I may have mentioned earlier, but when I got into Whisky a long time ago, I really liked the looks of this. Didn’t care for the box though, just for the bottle. Second they are issued as vintages, like wines, so we have here an example of the 1992 vintage. Anyone remember how the summer and the harvest was in Scotland back then? So I quickly bought me something like this, and was a bit disappointed. Now many moons later I have tried quite some of these Glenrothes vintages, like this 1989, or this 1979, but somehow there never was one that really grabbed me.

Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB)Color: Gold

Nose: Creamy and funky. Definitely some Sherry influence. Vanilla and some disconcerting fruity acidity and spice. Weird combination, not all that well-integrated. Aroma of apples, Calvados. Every time you move the Whisky in your glass, the Calvados pops out first. Mild wood, hardly noticeable. More paper and lots of dust. Coffee creamer. The Sherry influence is also quite dusty and not entirely pleasant. Hints of burnt cask mixes with the Sherried funk. Meaty and ever so slightly smoky. Leaves. cold wet green tea leaves. When I let it breathe, some component, but not all, are coming together a bit. In the end not one of the best noses from planet Glenrothes.

Taste: Sweet and toffeed, quickly followed by woody spice, which combine rather well. No trace yet of the fruity acidity the nose suffers from. Dish water with some fresh coriander leaves and sweet dried basil. Paper and licorice. Medium finish with hardly any aftertaste. Although the taste of the toasted Sherry cask does remain for quite a while as well as some soapiness. A bit strange this one.

Where the nose had its faults, the taste is more likeable, but also rather simple. A typical everyday Glenrothes. Nothing special, faulty but with some good points too. A bit too simple on the taste and lacking some development. Since this is an older bottle, bottled almost twelve years ago, it manages to fetch quite some money at auctions, but that can only be collectors. Those people are definitely not paying that kind of money because this is so great or that special.

Points: 79

Longmorn 1971/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, JD/AII)

The old Jameson opened my eyes for old bottles. Not true actually. I’ve known it all along. I just needed a kick in the bee-hind, to open some more, before I one day, kick the bucket. Luckily I had a birthday two months ago, and that is always a good reason to pick a nice one from the collection and “because you’re worth it…”. Of course, “Thursday” is also a good reason in my book. 1971 is quite a legendary year for Longmorn. At Longmorn nobody will concur, because they haven’t done anything different in the years before and since 1971. However, there somehow are a lot, very good sherried, and otherwise matured, Longmorns from around 1971. I particularly love the 1971 from Scott’s Selection, although true Longmornado’s tell me there a many better ones. Great!

Longmorn 1971/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, JD/AII)Color: orange gold.

Nose: Waxy. Old black fruits and just like the Jameson I reviewed last a bit of steam. Buttery and beautiful Sherry and black coal. It doesn’t leap out of the glass and I believe that is due to the reduction to 40%. I’m not worried yet, because these old distillates can handle a lot of water. Today’s Malts do need a higher strength. Nevertheless it seems the nose suffered a bit in power. Maybe this is one for a Cognac copita (the big balloon glass). Luckily I have a whole bottle of this, so I can experiment a bit. Slightly tarry but right after that a fresh note of faint menthol/mint. Way down deep into the nose some licorice pops up, well hidden in the dark fruitiness. Again, a wonderful old bottle.

Taste: Sweetish black tea, and again pretty fruity. Raspberry hard candy, and some cherries. The whole is quite soft, so again, maybe this was reduced too much. It’s great as it is, but I can’t shed the feeling, a lot was taken away from this Malt as well. Now it’s too damn drinkable, so I don’t think this will last me a long time. I’m sorry the body isn’t a bit bigger. I’m accepting this now and I move on. This is great stuff extremely well-balanced. A nice nuttiness comes to the fore and then even some honey. Hurray for air, breathing and developing Whisky. Great combination of fruit and the hints of tar and black coal. Tiny hint of burnt Sugar towards the end. The finish could be longer, but we’re rewarded with a wonderful aftertaste. It even reminds me a bit of some Rhum Agricole in the finish. Be patient and give it time to breathe. It opens up. wow!

I’m a sucker for Sherried Longmorns from the second half of the sixties through the first half of the seventies. These Whiskies are so good. Sure there are a lot of Longmorns around that are better than this one, but there are not a lot of Whiskies better than Longmorns like this. Give it time to breathe, it will open up and become bigger than it initially was.

Points: 91

This one is dedicated to David Urquhard (1952-2015) who passed away on 30 November 2015, aged 63.

Edradour 10yo 1994/2004 (46%, Signatory Vintage, The Unchillfiltered Collection, Cask #349, 783 bottles)

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 most of the 1994 vintage were released by Signatory Vintage in the Straight from the cask series. You must remember the 50 cl bottles in the colored wooden boxes with all kinds of (fortified) wine finishes. However a few of those were rescued from that sometimes ill fait and released as is, under the unchillfiltered moniker, reduced to 46% ABV. Here we have one such cask that didn’t undergo a wine finish, simply because the Whisky at hand came from a Sherry cask.

Edradour 10yo Cask #402Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Quite creamy and already lots of aroma. Very dry with enough influence from the wood. It does remind me of cherry liqueur, without it being overly sweet. The Whisky also has a more vegetal side to it as well as some good Sherry funk. Fruity. Watered down red fruit juice, with toffee, chocolate butter and (milk) powder and some herbal smelling wood. Quite spicy when I come to think of it.

Taste: Paper, pepper and sometimes a bit hot. Artificial hard red candy juice. Remember those little raspberry ones? Warming and in the distance quite sweet. Candied citrus fruits (predominantly oranges) and the zestier note is provided by some lemon curd. After that the lengthy finish starts with some burnt newspaper ashes, cheap chocolate powder and some soft dark wood, not necessarily oak. Nutty coffee (Inca).

This is quite a Whisky, but I can’t help to feel that something is not quite right. That is probably personal, because I get that a lot with Edradour. Probably a typical Edradour marker, I still have to get used to. Still, this is quite quaffable. Go for one if you come across it. Maybe the 1994 vintage is sold out by now, but there should be still some 10yo’s from 2004 around. The picture is from one of the 2004 vintages, the 1994 looks the same.

Points: 82

The Macallan 18yo 1986 “Sherry” (43%, OB, 2004)

Macallan 1986 18yo (old)In 2004 Macallan officially released two Sherried 18yo’s. The one on the right, we know very well, that was the one with the old labels that have been used for decades. (For reasons science cannot wholly explain…). Around 2004 Macallan also started to release a new bottle design we all know from the Fine Oak series and later bottlings. Here we’ll review the 2004 18yo with the new design. The label states that this is Whisky distilled in 1986 and earlier years. We know the “other 18yo” to be very good, now lets see if this is any better or maybe it’s the same stuff…

Macallan 18yo 1986 Sherry (43%, OB, 2004)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Pretty laid back and toned down nose. Sweetish Sherry. Hints of wood, dust and cardboard. Not a full on sherry we know from the other 18yo’s. Very floral and even some orange fruitiness. Some whiffs of this even smell like someones bad breath. Strange hints of cooked vegetables. So bad breath, cooked vegetables, but a moment later also a breath of fresh air emerges. Very strange indeed.

Taste: Sweetish (sugar water) and thin. Fruity and slightly waxy, but the wax comes through as fruity and it’s only a hint. So definitely and older cask found its way into this. Hints of sweet apples and pears come through, which makes me think this is not from Olroso Butts. Fino maybe? This also lacks complexity, and the sweetness somehow stays on top. I expected more development from this. Well, it’s nice, pretty simple and easily drinkable, but this is not a Macallan as we knew it. This could have been anything.

This bottling really marks the end of an era. The era that was dominated by the Sherried Macallans with the old labels. I Always thought the beginning of the end for Macallan was with the release of the Fine Oak series, but would I have tasted this one back then, this would be it. Who would have known that almost never again we would get a Macallan like we used to. In hindsight the Fine oak’s may have not been that bad, since after that the likes of Macallan Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby, to name but a few, were released. Costs a lot of money these days. bit tastes like a good standard bottling that you can get for 40 or 50 euro’s…

Points: 81