Lagavulin 12yo 1995/2008 (48%, OB, European Oak, for the Friend of the Classic Malts)

So with the longest day of the year at hand, some would say that this isn’t the time for Peat. Peat needs rugged shores, strong gale force winds and driving rain to be thoroughly enjoyed, doesn’t it? Why not take a light, grassy and lemony Lowlander instead, or even some tropical stuff? Well what can I say, I just felt like it, that’s all.

A week ago I hosted a Whisky-tasting centered around the indie bottler, Signatory Vintage. I opened some bottlings of them, which will feature on these pages soon. Of course a good tasting needs an even better after-tasting, like a good party needs an even better after-party. The after-tasting, yes you’ve guessed it: Lagavulin. The distillery that’s celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, with the release of a 8yo, which will also feature on these pages shortly.

But first this oldie (but goldie). Relatively speaking of course. This Lagavulin was released in 2008 and it took well into 2015 to sell out. It was available in shops for a whopping 7 years! Now that its gone, prices are soaring. It was available for such a long time, because there may have been a lot of bottlings around, but it also gained a bit of a reputation. A lot of people, including fans of Lagavulin weren’t very fond of this particular bottling. I consider myself a fan of Lagavulin, so I just has to open it, and try for myself! But first a thought…

Bottlings like this, baffle me to the max. All this time we hear the industry explaining to us, that colouring is done to ensure consistency in colour from batch to batch. Also, the public, when buying Whisky, or any other brown spirit, may be put off when the aforementioned spirit is too light in colour. So why then is this one-off Lagavulin, bottled in a brown glass bottle, coloured with E150, when we, the public can’t even see the colour of the spirit untill after the purchase? Boggles the mind, and mind you, don’t go around thinking that caramel colouring doesn’t affect the taste, because it does, just read Michel’s article back from the day I used to be in the “Coloured Gang”. Sure, it may be a bit lengthy, but it definitely worth it.

Lagavulin 12yo 1995/2008 FFOTCMColour: Orange brown, just like a Bourbon.

Nose: Excellent smoky nose. It starts with more smoke than peat. Sure peat is next. Earthy, sweet and fatty clay. Ashes. Nice wood, accompanied by red fruity notes and some Italian laurel licorice as well. The fruity bit smells more yellow than red. Funky chewy sweetness. Cream Sherry. Mocha cream, cookie dough and light chocolate powder. Leather. Milk chocolate shavings on vanilla ice-cream held up by the wood. Again a lovely smelling Lagavulin, which always works well when it’s matured in Sherry casks. Hints of tar and also some spices. The creamy Sherry notes overpower the spices a bit, so its hard to tell them apart. If you have read the article I mentioned above, you might remember my comments about mellowing out the aroma’s by E150. I feel that is the case here also. This Lagavulin has a nice, very nice actually, but rounded out smell.

Taste: Quite sweet and creamy on entry, quickly followed by peat and toasted cask. Small vegetal bitter note. Very nice. Lots of sweet licorice, almonds and black and white powder. Pepper & salt and definitely some smoke and nuts. Smoked nuts? Smoked sweet almonds (not the salty ones). Red cocktail cherry and a whiff of artificiality in the fruit department. The sweetness is of the typical sugar-water kind. Its fantastic on entry, but the body is losing it at bit already. Falling apart and being quite simple. In no way, has the finish the length of other Lagavulins, but the one big taste lingers on for a while in the aftertaste. However, it’s more the sweet and fruity bit, with only a hint of smoke, than the peat.

This Lagavulin has matured in first fill Sherry casks, not made with American oak. There was a time when (probably) all Sherry matured in European oak butts and puncheons, which are quite large casks. Today a lot of Sherry casks are made from American oak, impairing vanilla and giving off a more creamy feel. Also the casks made today (hogsheads) are smaller than the butts and puncheons, thus allowing for some quicker maturation.

Let me start by saying this is a good Lagavulin. It drinks easily and there is more than enough happening. I like it a lot. However, if I compare this to other Lagavulins, it isn’t the best one out there. I believe the colouring did its part in mellowing out the aroma’s and blending them together into one big (nice) taste. Nothing sticks out really. Apart from the E150, the casks themselves probably weren’t the best money could buy as well, as well as its previous contents. So for a Lagavulin its good, but nothing more than that, but it’s also a Whisky most others can only dream of producing. Lagavulin has stiff competition from… itself.

Points: 88

 

Rhosdhu 12yo 1996/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, 2.000 bottles)

Murray McDavidNext we are going to have a look at three bottlings by Murray McDavid. Murray McDavid was founded in 1996 by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, and Gordon Wright, naming it after Mark’s grandparents, Harriet Murray and Jock McDavid. The motto “Clachan a Choin” translates as “the bollocks of the dog”, so yes, the logo has a dog in it. Besides being an independent bottler, maybe their biggest claim to fame was acquiring Bruichladdich Distillery in the year 2k. In 2000 the distillery was still mothballed, but Mark and his mates quickly turned it into a working distillery. Less than 12 years later in the summer of 2012, Bruichladdich was sold to Rémy Cointreau UK Limited, as well as the independent bottler Murray McDavid. Rémy Cointreau didn’t know what to do with the bottler, so less than a year later they sold it to Aceo Ltd, a supplier of casked whisky and distillery services like cask storage, bottling and labelling.

So the first of three bottlings from Murray McDavid will be a rendition of a Loch Lomond Whisky: Rhosdhu.

Rhosdhu 12yo 1996/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, 2.000 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Spicy and briny. Funky, with some prickling cigarette smoke. Lots of grain, but also some traits I get from Rhum (of the Agricole kind) and Bourbon itself. Actually more like a Rye Whiskey. A dry and sweet fruitiness mostly. Definite cask toast. Vanilla and tangerine. Lots of saw dust and dare I say it (again), cardboard. It smells like an old (sweet) Single Grain, at the fraction of the cost. Dry powdery and again (citrus) fruity. Give it some air, and boy, does this need some air, and it’s even tarry sometimes.

Taste: Again quite grainy and fruity. A bit raw but therefore it needs the fruity sweetness it has. Vanilla powder and smelling like an old vanilla pod. Noticeable paper and cardboard again, but in no way is this disturbing in this one. Slightly weak in the finish, but otherwise a decent Whisky, helped by quite an active cask. Some acidity enters the fold when it’s time for the finale. The finale has great depth, with a toffee and caramel sweetness. Part of this caramel is even slightly burnt. The sweetness is just right, helped along by the leafy and spicy backbone.

I remember this when freshly opened and it didn’t do too much for me then (79 Points). This time around, with some more oxidation, this turned out nicely. This is a Whisky that needs a lot of air and really benefits from the heat of your hand. Keep it in the palm of your hand, don’t hold it by the stem. Knowing its secret, and if it was available today I would most certainly buy it. If you have it, remember how to treat it. Heat and air will do the trick.

Points: 83

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 (50.6%, OB, The Family Casks III, Plain Hogshead #2216, 171 bottles)

In 2006 Glenfarclas started with an ongoing series containing lots and lots of single cask bottlings called the Family Casks. From the beginning, almost every vintage thinkable was released in very nice looking wooden boxes including a nice booklet. After a while, some vintages were not available anymore in the warehouses, and the wooden boxes were replaced by something a lot simpler. For the time being 2014 was the last year any Family cask was released, since 2015 saw no release of a Family Cask bottling (yet). Although Glenfarclas has a name to uphold with heavily sherried malts, just like The Macallan once did, and Glendronach does today, what was nice about the Family Casks was that any type of cask was released. This 1979 expression from the third run of Family Casks is from a Plain Hogshead and was bottled on the 17th of July 2008. Plain Hogshead could mean a rebuilt cask from staves that once formed a Bourbon barrel.

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 Family Casks IIIColor: Copper

Nose: Lots of creamy vanilla and coconut, what immediately makes me think about American oak. Very creamy and firm. Extremely fruity. Apricots, pears and ripe green plums. Hints of not yet ripe banana-skin and sweet ripe apples. It does have notes of a high quality Calvados. Almonds with dry powdered coffee creamer. Amazing how strong the aroma’s are, this is in no way a closed Whisky, no, no, no! Spicy, the wood kicks in a bit. Hint of latex paint. Lurking in the depth is a strange note, which is hard to describe. Old dried out cucumber with a tiny speck of acetone. You know how a cucumber smells, tone that down a few notches, and that’s whats in here too, underneath all those heavy hitting aroma’s from the highly active cask. I wonder what Bourbon it came in contact with. Wonderful old Whisky, with a perfect and endless nose. A true gem to smell!

Taste: Again extremely creamy and full of aroma. The power. Wonderful. Perfect stuff. Quite sweet upon entry. Creamy sweet and following quickly is a much drier woody sensation with just the right amount of bitterness. More wood than the nose had, but when the wood takes a step aside, wonderful aroma’s of ginger with jam made with red and black forest fruits present themselves, but not a lot of the fruit I mentioned in the nose. Amazing! Small hints of cask toast, slightly burned bread and candied cinnamon. Cloves and Christmas cake. Of course not a perfect Whisky, that does not exist, but this does come close. Wow! Warming and luckily a super long finish.

Here we have another super fruity old Bourbon Hogshead Whisky from the seventies. Reminding us of the stellar Caperdonichs from 1972, to name but one. I can only hope I’ll find me one of these sometimes.

Points: 93

Caroni 1998/2008 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum, Trinidad & Tobago)

The Caroni distillery was founded in 1923 and after 80 years of operation, sadly was closed in 2003. In 2001 the Trinidad government sold its 49% share in Rum Distillers Limited to Angostura for $35 million who were forced to close the distillery two years later, because that same Trinidad Government closed their sugar refinery on the island. In the first half of the 20th century Trinidad had some 50 odd distilleries, but today only one survives, Angostura. The demise of the Trinidadian sugar cane industry means that molasses today are mainly imported from Guyana. Because of its heavy style, Caroni was a favourite with the British Navy and yours truly.

Bristol Spirits Caroni 1998-2008Color: Gold.

Nose: Dry, funky and slightly industrial. Like a crossing between Rhum Agricole and Jamaican Rum, with added motor oil and petrol. High ester heavy style Rum. Different kinds of wood and waxy. Lots and lots of aroma. Hints of oranges and mushrooms. Hot butter. Orange skins at first, but with good nosing a deeper (and sweeter) kind of sugared oranges appear. I’m a big fan of Rums like these. Later on, some oak and earwax. Burnt wood and smoke. Bonfire and a fishy note. Grilled fish (hanging over the bonfire). When my mind wanders off, I will associate the hint of smoke and burnt wood with Islay Whisky. Nice side effect. When all the extremities wear off on the nose, the whole becomes slightly sweeter and friendlier. More salty and smoky vanilla. What a nose!

Taste: Dry oranges with some hidden sweetness underneath. Still a bit industrial, not saying that is bad, on the contrary. Nice hints of oranges again, all of it, the skins, the freshly pressed juice and the candied oranges. All quite dry and smoky, never truly sweet. The wood is trying to get some bitterness across, but that hardy is the case. The Rum itself is highly aromatic, the bitterness is pushed back, there is simply not a lot of room for it. Bitter orange skin and again a burnt note. I can’t help but feel that the orange oil you get with the juice from the skins also gives off a slight acidic note that doesn’t completely integrate with the rest of the taste. Something that also happens in the Abuelo 12yo. Only here it’s not that bad.

This is great stuff from a sadly closed distillery. Not your run of the mill easy-going overly sweet Rum, but something more daring and industrial. Maybe this Rum isn’t for everyone, but if you like the profile this was one of the best.

The 1998 Caroni reviewed here was bottled in 2008. In 2013 exactly the same rum was released, just 5 years older. That one would be nice to review sometimes. The picture on the left is from the 2013 release, but looks exactly the same as the 2008 release.

Points: 86

Benromach 2008/2014 “Organic” (43%, OB, Virgin Oak)

Not really a NASser since this is a vintage 2008 bottling. We also know this was bottled in 2014 so it is a 5yo or 6yo. Benromach doesn’t like hide its Whiskies in a shroud of mystery. Of course I love an aptly named Whisky but I was brought up with age statements so I like to (officially) know what I’m getting. Maybe all those NASsers are for a younger, more hip, generation? We’ll see. This “Organic” was distilled in 2008 and filled into virgin oak casks, just like they do with Bourbon spirit. Don’t worry, this will not turn this Whisky into a bourbon since only malted barley was used, and no corn nor rye. Why not make a rye Whisky then Benromach, wouldn’t that be something different and exiting?

Benromach Organic 2008Color: Gold

Nose: Yes woody. Sawdust, but also vanilla and warm vanilla pudding. Custard. I would say American Oak, wouldn’t you? Sugary sweet. The apparent sweetness is balanced out with some spicy oak, but not all oak is spicy, it also has a sappy oak quality to it. Sweet barley. Given some time, (when the taste becomes waxy), the nose tuns more floral. Floral with sandalwood.

Taste: Sweet at first, then vanilla and a more fruity note. Still all sugared fruits. Behind that the oak comes in again, but it’s not all wood alas, The wood also emits a cardboardy taste. Luckily that is soon exchanged with the sappy oak. That sappy oak turn a bit waxy and that in turn becomes a bitter edge into the finish. The bitterness also has some staying power. The finish is rather austere, so its quite different from the sweet start. The florality and waxiness of the nose, becomes also evident in the aftertaste.

For a Whisky this age and only new wood was used, this has already picked up a lot of color (as do Bourbons). Nosing and tasting this Whisky it really is what you may have expected. A Whisky that is defined by the use of new wood. Otherwise quite sweet and obviously not very complex, but more than expected.

Points: 82

Compass Box “Orangerie” (40%, OB, 2008)

Oranges and Whisky, where have I heard that before? Ah yes the new Amrut. This Orangerie isn’t Whisky, but it isn’t a liqueur either, as it doesn’t have the required additional sugar. Orangerie is made with soft and sweet Malt and Grain Whiskies, infused with (a lot of) Navalino orange peel and Indonesian Cassia bark, a kind of cinnamon and Cloves from Sri Lanka. It almost sounds like the desert from the menu of a very posh restaurant. The Navalino oranges are hand zested at the Compass Box HQ. So when coming in to the office they never know what John has in store for the people at Compass Box.

Compass Box OrangerieColor: Vibrant gold, thick and syrupy.

Nose: Oranges and dark chocolate. Orange skins yes, but not a lot of orange juice. Still there is some juice in here to be found, it has some hints of orange pulp. Hints of vanilla and lots of cloves. The bark used seems to be the glue that holds it together. Smelling it more vigorously, yes there is some Whisky underneath. It smells like something you’d combine with dark chocolate. Give some time, this has also a floral part, but also another dimension of the fruit emerges. Very strange but in the distance it has some characteristics of Gewürztraminer. Not a lot, but some if it is in here.

Taste: Not sweet at all. It’s Whisky all right, orange skin and spices. That’s it. No sweetness. Tiny hint og bitterness, enough to give it character, but too little to overpower. Try it again and forget the statement that this is a liqueur, because it isn’t. Not enough sweetness. It’s all aroma. Take another sip. Just like the nose, it has a lot to do with dark chocolate. On the palate it’s in the spirit already, but this has to be combined with dark chocolate.

Special stuff, and a niche by itself. It claims to be a Whisky, it’s not. It has additions, so it’s not a Whisky anymore. It claims to be a liqueur, but it’s not. Not enough sugar. No bad thing, this will save your teeth. Nope, it’s something else. It’s a quality mixture. Not something for every moment though. You won’t empty it quickly. Once in a while, you just want to take a sip of this and pair it with nice dark chocolate…

Points: 72

Paul & Philippe Zinck Pinot Blanc 2008

Exactly a year ago, I reviewed the 2009 vintage of this Pinot Blanc. Comparing notes it will be quite interesting to compare both. Just like last year, the end of may had its sunny days and this time around we are going crazy over asparagus (the white ones) at home. First time around we had Asparagus with the Zenato Pinot Grigio 2013, this time we’ll take a classic one from Alsatia. Quite an oldie actually since these wines aren’t made for keeping around for a longer time, but I never had a problem with White Wines from Alsatia.

Zinck Pinot BlancColor: White wine with a slight green tint.

Nose: Fresh and citrussy. Slight hint of melon (but without the sweetness). Creamy calcium and flinty. Hints of white peach. Smells quite citrussy and acidic. This may very well be quite a sour example, but we’ll see. Even though this is supposed to be quite a simple Wine, there is a lot going on in the nose.

Taste: Yes, quite acidic. Roter vitamin C. Is it too high in its acids, well no, not even for me. I usually don’t like over acidic Wines, but this one is do-able. After the acidity leaves the mouth, a more syrupy feel gets a chance to present itself. IS a bit the depth of syrup, but this time without the sweetness. Hard to explain. Although probably not present, but you never know in a difficult year; it seems to ave some wood. Toward the finish it calms down a bit, getting less about the acidity, but having drunk a whole bottle yesterday the acidity was something you get used too.

2008 was a challenging year for Alsatian Wines. The 2008 vintage is known for higher acidity, and yes, that’s true for this one too. I wouldn’t drink a whole bottle of this by itself, too high in its acids, but it is a nice and simple Pinot Blanc. Together with White asparagus, excellent. This Pinot needs food. Compared to the 2009 vintage, this is better balanced but also less sweet and more acidic. My wife preferred the Zenato with Asparagus. I had fun with both, but just a little bit more fun with this Zinck. Big difference between the 2008 and the 2009 vintage though.

Points: 78