Longmorn 20yo 1992/2013 (52.3%, Kintra, Bourbon Hogshead #86624, 132 bottles)

Longmorn probably was one of the best Whiskies coming out of the sixties and seventies of the previous century. There are so many remarkable bottlings coming from that time, it’s nothing but amazing. Because of this, it also might be its curse. It is almost impossible to drink something like this (a Longmorn from the eighties and later), without having high expectations and looking back to the old stuff instead of comparing it to its contemporaries. Sure we all know stuff from “back then” is different from the stuff today, but still, Longmorn, has a special place with me…

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fruity, biscuity and malty. Fruity it is. Passion fruit and some pineapple, mixed with vanilla powder. Sugared and dried yellow fruits, but also a more waxy note. Meaty as well. Old warm dusty warehouse, more like a Kentucky warehouse than a cold and damp one in Scotland to be honest. So a lively, sunny, and dusty Whisky, from a dry warehouse with a summery feel to it. Nice fruity aromatics aided by a more creamy and vanilla note, backed by dust and oak. Character building. Nutty, with hot water. Overall laid back with a quiet disposition.

Taste: A sweet, nutty and spicy entry. Sometimes with a beer-like and hoppy note to it. The woody bit can taste this way when you try this early in the morning, when your palate is till fresh. In the evening its woody and spicy, nothing more. Typical Bourbon Hogshead Whisky. Funky green sweetness from the start, and even though not extremely high in alcohol, it does exert itself. Definitely fruity and nuttier than the nose. passion fruit again with old apricots next. Hints of toasted oak, this time more warming than sharp. Hints of clear glue and lots of fruits, apricot and to a lesser extent: peaches, even dried pineapple comes to mind. Nice touches of sweet vanilla and ice-cream, but never turning overly sweet and dessert-like by the backbone of spicy oak and toasted oak. Nice development though. It evolves over time.

Nice Longmorn, nice Whisky, but also almost anonymous. It could have been anything, apart from the amount of fruit in this one, which gives it away a bit. Keep in mind that this is from a Bourbon hogshead, so the distillate hasn’t been masked by Sherry or some kind of finish. This is pure Whisky. Its good, it does the job, however it’s almost not a ‘Longmorn” to me. Maybe I’m a bit harsh, maybe I’m a bit prejudiced and maybe I’m not truly objective as well. Am I capable to let the memories of old Longmorn go, for a review like this? I don’t know. This is a good one, but not a must buy for me, sorry. Come to think of it, this does have some similarities to the profile of the old Longmorn 15yo OB. That one is good as well, but also a bottling I don’t neccesseraly need to have. it doesn’t completely click with me. So If you really like the 15yo, by all means get this one as well when it pops up at an auction somewhere. For me, I’m glad I’m taking notes here, because after some time, I might forget how this tasted like, but thinking of the 15yo I’d probably remember.

Points: 85

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Highland Park Week – Day 3: Highland Park 20yo 1995/2015 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive, for The Whisky Mercenary, Refill Hogshead #1485, 325 bottles)

Day three of Master Quills Highland Park Week and after two OB’s, its time to see what the IB’s are up to with Highland Park. Here we have a special one since it is one independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail, bottling a Highland Park for another independent bottler, The Whisky Mercenary. This may very well be the best of three worlds, first Highland Park make a great distillate. Second I love how G&M work, where they try to have as much in their own hands as possible, The wood, the maturation, the selection and the bottling to mention but a few. Third, Mercenary Jurgen has a good nose, and is able to pick some nice stuff, and believe me it’s hard to get what you really want as an independent bottler. So here we have a 20yo Highland Park from a refill hogshead. When looking at the colour it seems to be at least a third refill remade hogshead from staves taken out of Bourbon barrels. Now forget what I said, because looks can often be deceiving and it is actually very dangerous to do so. My bad, and I hope you won’t make the same mistake like me.

Highland Park 20yo 1995/2015 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive, for The Whisky Mercenary, Refill Hogshead #1485, 325 bottles)Color: Light gold, almost White wine.

Nose: Right from the start, not even smelling from the glass, but whilst pouring, a nice creamy vanilla smell passes by. On top some Calvados. Quite some aromas that have to do with apples. Fatty red apple skin, but mostly warm apple sauce. In the background it has some more scarce notes of other distillates, other than Whisky. Can’t put my finger on it yet. Nutty chocolate paste with a trace of red fruit acidity. Warm soft wood with hints of semi-sweet yellow fruit and some dust. Underneath this has some smoke combined with soft woody spices and cold butter. American oak alright, and definitely not first fill or the next fill. So I guess my dangerous assumption plays out all right this time. So overall quite nice, good balance, but not very complex though. Adding to my feeling the cask may have been a bit tired already. I don’t think it was filled yet again.

Taste: The first note is that of wood. Soft wood. Next some sweetness. Honey, smoky toffee and caramel at first but the wood takes over again adding some dryness. Vegetal. Same as the nose. Good balance but not very complex. Tired cask again, even though the biggest influence seems to be that of wood. Medium finish and hardly any aftertaste. When its gone, its gone. No honey or wood stays behind. After some breathing and taking sips again, the Calvados notes emerge on the taste as well. The diluted toffee notes seem to grow not bigger, but wider, like butter candy with hints of lemon skin shavings or lemon curd, since that is sweeter. Also distinct notes of almonds. The smoky notes present themselves here as well now. So with extensive breathing there seems to be more (complexity) to this Whisky than I initially thought. See, how you have to be patient? Don’t fill up your glass too much, give it room for air, and be patient if you want to enjoy its full potential.

Connoisseurs, there is that dreadful word again, dislike tumblers or any other “wrong” glass. They are adamant about it. They don’t allow for flavour development, of which this Highland Park is an excellent example. This Highland Park needs a good glass. Personally I equally dislike it when one buys the “right” glass but then fill it up too much (and then post  a half full Glencairn glass on social media). This again doesn’t allow the Whisky to develop in the glass. You need a lot of room for air. Try it. Be patient, be smart!

The hint of smoke is actually very nice and makes it resemble Talisker and, to a lesser extent, Springbank a bit. So if I had to taste this blind I would have gone for Talisker, without the pepper though. Good distillate, reasonable cask and a nice profile. Needs some time, so don’t be hasty. Good Highland Park and just like the Leif Eriksson, again one without Sherry, and another thing becomes clear, 50% ABV > 40% ABV.

Points: 86

Cadenhead Creations 20yo ‘Rich Fruity Sherry’ (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)

Cadenheads CreationsMerry Christmas everybody! In 2013 Cadenheads released a home-made blend called Cadenhead Creations (Rich Fruity Sherry). This first batch had an age statement of 20yo and was bottled in 2013. The blend was made with two casks of Single Malt and two casks of Single Grains. Samples of those casks are pictured here on the right. From left to right: Mortlach 1992 (cask #7848), Bruichladdich 1993 (cask #1648), Cameronbridge 1989 (cask #22804) and Invergordon 1991 (cask #39006). Since then two more Cadenhead Creations were released. A 21yo (black label, silver stripe, Blended Malt made with Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila) and a 17yo (white label, yellow stripe, another Blended Whisky made with Ardmore, Auchroisk, Caperdonich, Clynelish and Invergordon).

Cadenhead Creations 20yo 'Rich Fruity Sherry' (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Although it seems that this is a 50/50 mixture of Single Malt and Single Grain, the nose is more on the grainy side. Malty and waxy, paper and cardboard. Very nice wood. Meaty, nutty and spicy. Deeper down some hints of Sherry, not upfront as the label suggests. Fruity (but not sweet) and lots of character.

Taste: Malty and grainy again. The waxiness is here to, but here it is fruity and accompanied with a little bit of sweetness. Sweet paper and cardboard again. Some short, hot or red peppery attacks. Spicy and slightly bitter wood. Aspartame sweetness. The wood upfront and may be too strong. The wood makes it right across the body of the Whisky into the finish. Along the way the wood picks up a little bit of oaky bitterness, with together with the red peppery attack make the finish.

Rich, yes, rich wood. Fruity, well not so much if you ask me, the wood is way more pronounced. Sherry, well if you expect the dark Sherries from the picture above, that´s not the case here. It doesn’t remind me of Oloroso or PX-Sherry casks at all. This blend is about wood in many guises.

Points: 81 (for character)

Glenlossie 20yo 1992/2012 (57%, The Whisky Mercenary, 144 bottles)

Jürgen (The Whisky Mercenary) has issued two new bottlings recently, a 21yo Littlemill from 1992, a closed distillery that enjoys a cult status these days. The second new bottling is ‘The Nameless One’ from 1995. Jürgen claims to know nothing about this one, well….

But before we get to that, rummaging through my collection of accumulating samples, I found this Glenlossie bottled by Jürgen. Glenlossie is a Speyside distillery founded in 1876 and today is owned by Diageo. The distillery itself isn’t that big, it has three wash stills and three spirit stills and produces in excess of 2 million litres of alcohol per annum. Glenlossie Bonds ís big. It warehouses around 250.000 casks of various Diageo Whiskies on site, but that’s not all. In 1971 SMD constructed a second distillery on the premises of Glenlossie, which we know as Mannochmore. Also a dark grains plant was built, to produce 150.000 tonnes of cattle fodder from the residues of distilling per annum.

Glenlossie 20yo 1992/2012 (57%, The Whisky Mercenary, 144 bottles)Color: Bright light gold.

Nose: Elegantly oaked with fresh citrus and a hint of gravy. There are some yellow sweet tropical fruits, coconut and pear in here but they are integrated with some light mocha. Than the Whisky turns into something more floral. Honeysuckle comes to mind. A little bit of wood-spice and creamy vanilla from the oak, but otherwise very clean smelling. Late in the finish after some breathing, another kind of clean shows up, a tiny hint of floral soap, which is not a problem. Altogether a nice, pleasant and elegant nose.

Taste: Quite hot at first (it’s 57% ABV you know!) with just a tad of white pepper. The oak is upfront, together with lots of vanilla and some mint. The same sweet mint you can encounter in After Eight ice-cream. Hints of spice and sweet lemon water. Very creamy and soft. Sweet and minty. Actually quite good. Within the portfolio of a typical ex-Bourbon cask Whisky it has some nice traits, high in alcohol, sweet and refreshing at the same time. Good balance and a nice finish to boot what else could you possibly want from a Whisky like this.

Typical single Bourbon cask Single Malt Whisky. It’s clean, has vanilla and oak and I guess it’s the future of independent bottling. A lot more first fill and second fill Bourbon cask Whiskies are made than from Sherry or other kinds of casks, Port, Wine, Rum etc. etc. It does change the independent landscape a bit, but it offers us consumers, and Whisky geeks a chance to see more about the distillery character and you already know that the beauty lies in the details. Again an excellent choice by Jürgen, I understand the pick.

Points: 85

 

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, First Fill Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)

The Glenglassaugh I reviewed recently was a first on these pages, but so is this Blair Athol. Blair Athol puts more than 90% of its new make into Bourbon Barrels and/or Hogsheads, and most of those are used for the Bells Blended Whisky. Less than 10% of the new make winds up in Sherry Casks and eventually most of those are used for the 16yo Flora and Fauna expression. Official expressions of Blair Athol are scarce. A long time ago there were a 8yo and a 12yo, and more recently a version of Blair Athol found its way into the Rare Malts series (a 27yo with distillate from 1975), and in the Managers Choice series (a 13yo with distillate from 1995).

When visiting the stand of Douglas Laing last year at the London Whisky Show, Chris Birthday Boy Leggat, gave me a sample of this and told me he was very curious what I would think of it, so let’s have a look…

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)Color: Golden nectar with the slightest red hue.

Nose: Malty and full. Dusty and sweet. Sweet wine. Hints of cookie dough and warm apple pie. Hard to detect the fruitiness through the dough and the pie (and the apparent sweetness). Funky (in a Bootsy Collins kind of way) with the occasional whiff of fresh air. Aroma’s here are from the low-end of the spectrum, heavy and sweet, as opposed to acidic and fresh citrus fruits. With some breathing the oak finally emerges.

Taste: Sweet with pie again, but lots more wood than the nose suggested. The wood gives it character and hardly any bitterness. Very creamy, more like clotted cream than plain vanilla. There is however a little strange hint of acidity that affects the balance a bit, this acidity continues into the finish. It is strong enough to get in between of the sweetness and the cookie dough and cream. If you ask me more a kind of acidity from the wood, than the Sherry. With extensive breathing more wood emerges, just as in the nose, as does the smallest hint of fresh cola. The balance picks up with breathing, so don’t be too quick drinking this. Salty lips.

I’m guessing from a Fino Sherry Butt (or maybe even Manzanilla, which also seems a bit salty). Blair Athol isn’t one of those distilleries with a huge following and almost never is truly great. This one is as good as Blair Athol can be. Nice.

Points: 85

Bunnahabhain 20yo 1990/2011 “Isle of Islay” (52.8%, The Creative Whisky Company, The Exclusive Malts, Cask #251211, 298 bottles)

Here we go again. Another monstrously long title, again a Single Malt of which the distillery name is not on the label, but we know it’s a Bunnahabhain. So three in a row, this being the third Bastard Malt in a row, reviewed here on these pages. The Creative Whisky Co. Ltd. is non other than David Stirk. Fellow Rush lover and Whisky bottler par excellence, or should I say Exclusive Whisky bottler?

Bunnahabhain 20yo 1990/2011 "Isle of Islay" (52.8%, The Creative Whisky Company, The Exclusive Malts, Cask #251211, 298 bottles)This Bunna is pretty dark in color so my guess would be a Sherry cask. Since David didn’t specify what (kind of Sherry) the cask previously held, we can only speculate what this is. Maybe a Sherry Hogshead, or maybe a Butt that was shared with others, or only half the Butt was bottled? My guess would be the former (a Hoggie). It looks like a Oloroso or PX Sherry Hogshead to me, so we’ll have to try, to make another guess at it…

Color: Copper orange (the typical color of most Bourbons).

Nose: Fresh and Sherried but not heavy or cloying. Nice hints of spicy sweet and acidic wood. Definitely a lot of raisins and overall rather dry. Dusty with some fatty cardboard (nothing wrong with that). Ground coffee and hints of wet sugared cherries. Well balanced.

Taste: Heavy sherry with small hints of fat peat and a little bit of smoke and steam. Nice cloying black fruit. Tarry and a bit dirty. I like it. Yes it is a bit drying on the tongue, so maybe it should have been bottled a few years earlier. Still this is a great dram. It has a lot of character. Near the finish the wood starts to play a part with its spicy and slightly bitter finish and some black fruits come up. Dry black tea, so there are some tannins in here…

I brought this one with me when my Whisky club went to Switzerland two weeks ago and there the drying palate put some tasters off. I for sure noticed the drying qualities of this Whisky, but I didn’t have so much of a problem with it. Far worse for me is a heavily sherried malt, with lots of sulphur of bitterness in the finish, something this malt doesn’t have. By the way, for me this is a Oloroso Sherry Hogshead…

Points: 88

Glengoyne Week – Day 4: Glengoyne 20yo 1986/2006 ‘Peter’s Choice’ (51%, OB, PX Butt #433, 603 bottles)

Well here you go, day four and here is the third and last of the Mashman’s choices from Glengoyne. Hardly a surprise after the last two days, isn’t it? This time a Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt. Pedro Ximénez or PX for short, is a very sweet dessert Sherry. Oloroso Sherry were always considered to be the best for maturing Whisky, but it turns out that PX Casks are very good too. Let’s see how this PX-Glengoyne will do.

This is wat Peter had to say about his choice: “sweet, rich, wonderful and moves beautifully when shoogled*, just the way I like my whisky and my women!” So Peter shoogles his women? I mush have a go and shoogle my granny then!

Color: Sparkling copper brown, almost with a red tinge.

Nose: Quite fresh and light, but also raisins and alcohol. Dusty powdery wood. Utterly balanced, but not very outspoken. Charlie’s choice was definitely more ‘heavy’, this is friendlier. Dry meaty and slightly woody. Very slick and elegant yet again. Not a sherry monster. Honey sweetness and leafy.

Taste: Again very elegant, and sweet, easily recognizable as a PX Sherry. There is wood, but not very much, also something hoppy, with a hint of soap. The body is firm enough to withstand the soap, so don’t see that as a problem. The whole is thinner than Charlie’s choice though. The finish here is again beer-like and a bit sour. If that had stayed more fatty and sweet, that this would have been a score into the 90’s.

A very nice pick by Mashman Peter, may the shoogle be with you! This is the last of the Choices from personnel of the Glengoyne distillery, tomorrow the choice is mine again! Nosing the three Mashman’s choices, I would say the best nose is on Charlie. Tastewise it is a tie between Charlie and Peter, where Charlie is more brutal, or sporty, and Peter is more dressed to the occasion, so to speak. Both score the same and which one is better is dependent on how you feel. So two ties here, one between Charlie and Peter and a second between Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Points: 88

* Shoogle is a Scottish word which means to gently shake or agitate.