Highland Park Week – Day 4: Highland Park 1992/2006 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Refill Sherry)

Yesterday we ventured into the realm of the independent bottler, well two actually. Today we’ll stay there but add only one independent bottler to our collection. This time we’ll have a look at a reasonably priced, (at least it was reasonably priced ten years ago, when this was bottled), and reduced Highland Park bottled by Italian outfit Wilson & Morgan. Yes, you’ll find a lot of people in Italy with names like that!

Yesterdays Highland Park was distilled in 1995, this particular one was distilled several years earlier. Do you see a trend? However, since this was bottled ten years prior to yesterdays 1995 offering, this one is definitely younger (as in it spent less time in wood). Here it is stated on the label that this came out of a Refill Sherry cask, so lets see if this one has more Sherry influence, compared to yesterdays Refill Hogshead.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry notes and actually a bit soapy. Much different from the previous Highland Park. Right from the start discrepant fruity acidic notes. Dusty and vegetal. Not very appealing actually. First impression is that something is not quite right. Warm, dull (nothing sticks out or shines) and somewhat simple. Not a lot of development. It’s almost like the Highland park distillate and this particular Sherry cask are no friends of each other. I’m wondering what kind of Sherry it was. Definitely unbalanced. Hints of caramel, toast and aspirin powder. Add to that a vibrant red fruity, synthetic, acidity. Unbelievable how dusty this is. No wood and some hidden sweetness. Syrup, sugar (the smell of it, not the sweetness). Hints of morning breath and Jenever. Powdered coffee creamer.

Taste: Wow, the dullness mentioned above is right op front the taste as well, as is (finally) some wood. Short hot burst and woody spices. Friendly hint of, again synthetic, lemon. Some sweetness in the background, toffee, coffee creamer and yet again an unbalanced middle part. Rural notes. Here the dullness translates into paper. Old newspaper (hold the ink). The red fruits mentioned above make up the rather short finish, with a unbalaced aftertaste. The cask did it’s part here. It did impair aromas you wouldn’t get from a Bourbon cask. However, just like was noticeable on the nose. The Highland Park distillate and the cask didn’t work together very well.

This one is long gone and you don’t even see them that much on auctions. Most older bottles of reduced Whisky, by Wilson & Morgan were very affordable, so I guess most were drunk when they were released. If you come across this one at auction or on a dusty shelf somewhere, well it’s not without reason it stayed on that shelf and when auctioned, I wouldn’t pay all that much for it. Its Whisky, it’s not bad and it doesn’t have big flaws. Definitely drinkable, but not a high flyer if you ask me. A bit unbalanced and very restrained or dull, but not boring, or maybe that as well…

Points: 80

Teaninich 2006/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, First Fill Sherry Hogsheads, AD/JFBG)

More than four years ago I wrote a review about another Teaninich from the Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range. That one was distilled in 1983 and bottled in 2003, so that one was bottled before this one was even distilled! Reading back I see the mindset I was in at the time. The first decade I was interested in Single Malt Whisky, I hardly ever bought something that was reduced with water to “drinking strength”. If I bought anything from an independent bottler, it was most certainly bottled at cask strength. Today I still very much like my whiskies at cask strength, but I don’t have a problem anymore buying something reduced, as long as they didn’t reduce it too much. Old malts, distilled in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s seem to have some power left in them, when bottled at 40% ABV, but more modern malts need a higher a ABV. 43% seemed a bit of a compromise, but the 46% we see today, is doing the trick for me. So, two weeks ago I caught myself red-handed with a bag of no less than four of Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice bottlings! Go figure. As I’m a fan of Teaninich, I hardly could wait opening this one, so finally I didn’t even manage to wait for 24 hours…

Teaninich 2006/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, First Fill Sherry Hogsheads, ADJFBG)Color: Reddish gold.

Nose: Waxy, fruity and with a nice toasted oak aroma as well. Biscuity and a warm smell of lovely barley and cereal. Right now I already want to stop smelling this, and have a sip, but I’ll wait. The toasted aroma becomes more complex since it turns a wee bit into coal and even boasts a slightly tarry note. A breath of fresh air comes next, laced with alcohol. Reminding me of high quality and ultra soft rye Vodka. Hey, give it a break, it’s a very young Whisky. Bread and toasted bread obviously. Grassy and still waxy. Waxy, red blushed, apple skins? Slightly floral notes mixed in with coffee-creamer. Somewhat sweet and a nice note of vanilla. Since these are Sherry hoggies, I’m guessing the hoggies were made from American Oak. This is only a 7 or 8 years old Whisky, so it shouldn’t be too complex, but you don’t hear me complaining. I understand what it is, and I think it is pretty impressive already, at this age. Well balanced and I guess the casks were pretty good as well. They will do just nicely as second fill casks.

Taste: Definitely starts with a Sherry note. First fill casks all right. I guess they bottled this rather quickly, since the Sherry already starts to dominate the Whisky. My guess would be a Sherry matured under flor. Initially sweet (but not for long, because some white pepper comes to the fore). Waxy again and notes of paper and not of wood, although the paper note seems to make way for a more bitter woody note eventually. A tad funky and slightly less balanced than the nose promised. More Sherry (& flor) wood, with even some slight soapy notes. Don’t worry. Even though this is bottled at 46% ABV., it doesn’t even seem that strong. Sure its fruity, but in a more sugared kind of way. Perfumed lemon curd. Hidden behind the waxy and soapy wood. Surprisingly, the finish isn’t very long, giving away its relative youth.

Let me warn you about the new Gordon & MacPhail packaging. I had an open-topped Whisky bag and the experienced salesman, shoved the metal lids into the cartons instead of leaving them on the cartons. I would have lost them otherwise. I tried this at home and he was absolutely right. Just grabbing the carton and the lid already pops off, weakening the structure, with a possibility of dropping the lot on the floor. This is the 21st century isn’t it? Sort it out people. And it’s not only Gordon & MacPhail. Signatory have tins of which the lid comes popping off as well. The folded cardboard stuff some Diageo bottlings come in, can spontaneously unfold under your arm when carrying slightly too much Whisky at a time. That way I saw a bottle of Talisker slowly disappear from under the firm grip of my armpit onto the welcoming tiled floor.

Points: 84

16-3-2017: I just finished this bottle and I have to add that it got gradually better over time. This really needs to breathe to show all of its huge potential, even though its just a reduced young Whisky. A have a soft spot for Teaninich and this one really didn’t dissapoint me again. I Love it. I’ll give it a point more, and maybe I should have given two…

Points: 85

Glencadam 30yo 1975/2006 (54.4%, Dewar Rattray, Cask Collection, Bourbon Cask #7588, 216 bottles)

Why not make it a double bill, and review our third Glencadam. Both Glencadam’s I reviewed earlier managed to score a nice 85 Points, so let’s see if this one does better. This particular on is 30 years old, and by itself it’s older than both previous examples put together. This is another one from the attic, since it was released back in 2006. The difference couldn’t be greater when comparing it to the Glencadam I just reviewed. It is twice the age and this one comes from a Bourbon cask, surely it will do better?

Glencadam 30yo DRColor: Full gold, and only slightly lighter than the 15yo.

Nose: Half sweet and nice biscuity barley. Slightly spicy and reminds me of old Dutch Jenever. Definitely some Bourbon influences. Some waxy elements, but not much. In fact the Whisky smells quite young and vibrant and not at all would you expect it to be 30 years old. Fresh, hints of citrus and only mere hints of vanilla. Dusty wood completes the nose. That’s it, not much more is happening. After a while more fruit comes to the fore. Sweetish yellow fruits. Some unripe banana skin. Adding to the structure of banana comes powdered coffee-creamer, in the smell a creamy variant of vanilla. Dusty and slightly dried out ice-cream after you spilled it and didn’t clean it right away. Given some time the freshness takes a back seat and the whole is nice but also rather dull. Not a very active cask I’m afraid. Having said that, it does smell like something from the past.

Taste: Wood, paper and cardboard and after that a short, sharp attack, quickly followed by a short sweet note. After the sweetness comes some woody bitterness. Distant dull vanilla. Waxy again. Cold candle wax. So the body is present and almost chewy, yet surrounded by dry paper and woody notes. A nice old Bourbon matured Whisky, but not a stellar one like 1972 Caperdonich or 1976 Tomatin, to name but a few. Here also some fruit emerges, but again a bit dull. Dried bits of pineapple and some old broken almond bits, you sometimes find in the couch. Luckily the sweetish and fruity note dominate the body, not leaving much room for the woody bitterness. The finish has medium length, but there isn’t much happening afterwards. What stays around for the longest, apart from general (cardboardy) creaminess, is a sour note you get from (new) oak.

Not bad, quite nice, but also not spectacular as well. No real off notes and nothing (bad) overpowering the whole. Still a nice one to pick up when all of its distant relatives are sold out. Definitely a lot better than most of the modern Whiskies though. I’ll have fond memories of this nevertheless.

Points: 85

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points: 80

Tobermory 1995/2006 (55.6%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #744)

The last Tobermory I reviewed was one of the stellar 32yo’s that have quite a reputation. How to follow-up on one of those? Today we’ll be looking at and independently bottled Tobermory. The bottler being Berry Brothers & Rudd and the year of distillation 1995. Tobermory has a rocky past and for a while even was converted into a power station. The reputation of the distillate was even shakier. In the past this stuff could really be hit or miss, so not something you would buy untasted. It could be really bad and funky, strange even. On the other hand, if it was good it could be really good, surpassing most other Whiskies, so the potential is there. Today that reputation is different. Tobermory and Ledaig are getting better by the year, and every new release is something that interests me a lot. Still no easy Malt, but if you get it, you’ll get it. In the day where everything starts to taste a bit similar and official bottlings are becoming younger and NAS-ser, an independently bottled Tobermory or Ledaig could very well be your best choice. At least it often is different from the rest. What more could you want these days?

Tobermory 744Color: White wine.

Nose: Heaps of barley. Damp hay. Citrussy fresh. Lowland style. Lemon grass, lemon curd, all kinds of sweet lemon, without being overly present and thus overly acidic. Hints of new-made spirit even. Old vanilla. Very light. Hints of a salty sea breeze. Very light peat as well. Smells chewy. Sappy, spicy, fragrant and vegetal wood in the background. Garden bonfire, burning off some dry grass. The initial barley note wears out, for a more coherent smell. I’m not sure if this is perfectly made Whisky, but after I got used to the Bladnoch 8yo I reviewed earlier, I seem to like this one as well. Just like the Bladnoch, this profile grows on me.

Taste: Very sweet entry. Sugary sweet. Sweet barley. Most definitely some hints of Grappa. Toffee, but also a sharper and drier element. All sorts of lemon again, combined with toffee and some dry wood. Otherwise not very fruity. A plethora of different dry grasses. Fatty and hints of cold dish water you forgot. Faint soapyness, like the paper wrapper that came off a bar of soap years ago.

Excellent entry and body, aided by this very typical profile. Nice stuff. The finish is not so strong and concentrates around two or three distinct markers from the body. Slightly soapy barley, wood and paper. As well as a tiny bitter note. The sweetness is gone, although hints of toffee reappear in the aftertaste.

Not a very easy Malt, but definitely one you would like to try, since it is different from many other malts. Quite the learning experience, because it’s almost like an unpeated, peated Malt. It’s how a peated Malt could be underneath. Although this is also no Lowlander, it is nice to have since it has a second face as a Lowlander. True Lowlanders like Rosebank and others are becoming more and more scarce and expensive. Besides this Tobermory, I hope for a bright future for Bladnoch as well, but if not, try something like this before the profile becomes extinct.

Points: 85

Linkwood 15yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, First Fill & Refill Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

Gordon & MacPhail release Whiskies in many series. Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, Gordon & McPhail Cask Strength, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive to name but a few. Whisky Geeks call the series like this Linkwood the “Licenced Bottlings”, but I have heard the people of Gordon & MacPhail calling it the “Distillery Labels”, though both names aren’t anywhere to be found on the label. Bottlings in this series consist of Whiskies, where there isn’t (really) an official bottling of, again, like this Linkwood, and to a lesser extent Strathisla and Longmorn, like the 1971 I reviewed not so long ago, of which an official bottling did exist, although not many. If memory serves me correctly, Whiskies in this series were always reduced to 40% ABV and later 43% ABV.

Linkwood 15yo G&MColor: Light copper gold.

Nose: Dusty and funky Sherry. Slightly raisiny. Deep, dark and brooding. Nutty not fruity, so lacking the Sherry cherry of fresh and fruity Whisky. This is all but lively. Its darker and more brooding than I’ve come to expect. Very old calvados. It is apply but in a dense and syrupy kind of way. It’s some kind of hybrid between old Calvados and raisins. It is quite old and unusual smelling and definitely does not smell like a distillate from the early nineties. Hints of charred oak and vanilla powder. Nice, deep and complex. Oily baking paper. Dull brown sugar and some soft wood spices, and sometimes a short whiff of old soap.  More a sort of floral note than a real soapy note.

Taste: Paper and wood, again deep and all but fresh. Old raisins. Dried apples. Red apple skins and definitely from Sherry casks. Quite restrained. This does not shout out its presence, it more sort of sits in the corner quietly. Distant burnt note. Apart from the (burnt) woody (paper) and Sherried traits, this is also has qualities of refined sugar without being very sweet. Does that make sense? Hidden sweetness overpowered by the aroma’s described above? Second half lacks a bit of development and the finish concentrates around the wood and paper notes, with hints of old Sherried Whiskies ending in a medium walnut bitterness and of medium length. It end with the finish, there is no noteworthy aftertaste.

Actually this particular bottling, and beware there are more batches of this, is quite restrained and is unlike many of the Whiskies that are on the market today. This also makes it less likely choice for a daily drinker. Although it is alright at 43% ABV, I wouldn’t have minded some extra 3%, just to carry and strengthen the aroma’s that are presented to us.

Points: 83

Heaven Hill 9yo (61.5%, Cadenhead, Individual Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 192 bottles, 2006)

All that talk about soapy florality in the Millstone “100 Rye”, made me remember this bottle of Heaven Hill bottled by Cadenhead. Actually this is a very interesting bottle since it is from Heaven Hill’s previous distillery. Heaven Hill Bardstown FireThe Heaven Hill distillery was located in Bardstown (DSP-KY-31) and it burned down on the 7th of november 1996. With the distillery, also 7 of the 44 warehouses were destroyed by the fire, containing some 90.000 casks. Even the water supply caught on fire. Since this bottle is 9 years old and bottled in may 2006, it is distilled somewhere between may 1996 and may 1997. The new distillery, Heaven Hill bought, is the former Bernhem distillery (DSP-KY-1), which is located in Louisville. The Cadenheads label clearly states that the distilling was done in Bardstown, so this means that this particular bottle is yielded from a single cask that was filled just before the fire and somehow managed to survive the fire, assuming it was ageing on site. One question thus remains, is this Bourbon going to be smoky or did it sleep through the fire?

Heaven Hill 9yo (61.5%, Cadenhead, Individual Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 192 bottles, 2006)Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Initially very floral, but that somehow manages to escape. Typically high Rye mashbill florality, or is it wheat, since this does remind me quite a bit of the very special Old Fitzgerald 12yo, also distilled by Heaven Hill. Otherwise not very “big” but soft and dry, dusty even. Caramel. Toasted cask. Hints of gravy and toffee. Soft oak and a bit sweet. Promises some sort of chewiness. Pretty is probably a good word for it. Give it some time, or better, al lot of time to breathe the more classic notes emerge, like honey, which finally defines the sweetness. The honey is well-integrated with the woody nose. Burnt wood yes (cask toast), but not smoky.

Taste: Quite a woody bite and there you have it, quite the soapy, floral Rye experience. A lot of flowers pass over my tongue. Lilac, lily-of-the-valley, lavender and tulips. Wow I never got this before! Grannies laundry. Very unusual stuff. The florality disappears down my throat, leaving me with a less floral finish than I initially thought. The aftertaste is more centered around a burnt toffee and creamy soft caramel, wood and soft leather. Only a mere hint of florality. Very unique and layered Bourbon. Never tried anything like this before. Even the most floral Four Roses, is not as floral as this. This one needs some time to develop and definitely needs time get used to. In no way is it a bad Bourbon though, but this will never be your average daily drinker stuff. Very educational. I’m pleased I came across this one.

Again a very good reminder that many Whiskies, whichever kind, need time and air to breathe and compose themselves. A lot is said about using water with Whisky, but air is just as important as water. I prefer giving Whisky some time. Maybe I should be starting to decant my Whiskies some more?

Points: 82