Glenburgie 26yo 1983/2010 (53.7%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #9801, 204 bottles)

Kilnflat was founded, by William Paul in 1810. The distillery was closed between 1870 and 1878. When it was opened again, by Charles Hay, he also renamed the place to Glenburgie, a name are more familiar with. In 1884 Alexander Fraser & Co. takes over only to go bankrupt in 1925. Again the distillery changes hands, and this time to those of James & George Stodart Ltd. In 1927 the distillery was mothballed and stays that way untill 1936, when Hiram Walker buys the distillery. In the mean time in 1930, Hiram Walker also gained a majority of James & George Stodart Ltd.

In 1958 the distillery also gets Lomond Stills to produce another SIngle Malt you might have heard of: Glencraig. This will go on for several years but finally in 1981 the Lomond Stills are removed again and replaced by conventional stills, making Glencraig a “closed distillery” and somewhat of a collector’s item. In 1987 Hiram Walker is bought by Allied Lyons. In 2005 Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) buys Allied Domecq becoming the current owner of Glenburgie.

In 2003 the distillery was demolished entirely and replaced (a bit further down the premises) by a new and highly modern distillery. Only the old customs house remains and the four stills, the boiler and the mill were brought in from the old distillery. By 2006 another pair of stills were added.

Unbelievable, this is only my first review of a Glenburgie. Amazing. That’s why I stared with this brief history “lesson”. Not so long ago I was asked about great, lesser known, Malts (from Scotland) a.k.a. personal favourites off the beaten track. Glenburgie managed to get into that top 10, that’s why I’m so amazed this is just the first review of Glenburgie, should have been much sooner. Glenburgie is a distillate that works extremely well in Sherry casks.

Glenburgie might be lesser known as a Single Malt, but that’s because a lot of it goes into the Ballantine’s Blend. In 2017, Chivas Brothers released three Single Malts under the Ballantine’s name. Huh? Yes Glenburgie 15yo (the heart), Miltonduff 15yo (the foundation) and Glentauchers 15yo (the finish), were released as such, to tell the story how they make up the Ballantine’s Blended Whisky.

Color: Almost copper gold.

Nose: Very big aroma, this leaps, or rather, attacks you, with a soothing friendly voice, from the glass. Nutty and fruity. Meaty and dusty. Some soft old oak right after that. Dusty old oak. Quite big and holding a promise of sweetness, sweet (and meaty) apples rather than the usual Sherry notes. The oak has an aroma reminiscent of tobacco and leather and hints of old Calvados. Very fragrant Glenburgie. Nice and spicy. In fact, this holds it all. Quite balanced, and very big, it’s so big it hides the complexity a bit. Try not to forget, this is a 26yo Malt. It doesn’t show a lot of evolution over time as well, it stays more or less the same when nosing it. But with a Malt so big and nice, who needs complexity and evolution?

Taste: Yes sweet on entry, but with a lot more. Cannabis and toffee. Crushed beetle again and lots of nuts. Yes, let’s throw in some caramel as well. The start is sweet and sticky. Quite hot and the 53.7% ABV printed on the label, seems a bit low. Very fruity but grassy as well, thick fat grass notes, different from fresh-cut grass or dry grass and hay, but as mentioned above, also the grass you smoke. It’s fatty grass and cannabis. Do I detect a nice tarry edge right behind the spicy oak? Hot black tea. Dries out towards the finish. What a wonderful complexity and blend of aroma’s. This bottle is now 1/3 down, and that’s a good thing, because right after opening, this was much tighter and closed. Amazing how the nose lacked complexity and evolution, and when tasting it now, it is all but complex and shows a lot of evolution as well. One has to stop oneself writing notes, since, this keeps emitting more aroma’s from my glass…

Wonderful Glenburgie, extremely drinkable, even at cask strength.

Points: 89

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Caperdonich 26yo 1980/2007 (56.2%, Dewar Rattray, Bourbon Cask #7349, 164 bottles)

Earlier this month my Whisky club reconvened again and this time we picked Glen Grant and Glen Grant 2 as the subject of choice. Glen Grant 2 is better known as Caperdonich. This 1980 was my entry into the line-up and got a lot of thumbs up. Not the winner in the end, because what Whisky could compete with the great Glen Grant, Gordon & MacPhail bottled to celebrate the wedding of Charles and Diana (the clear winner in my opinion). Also present was a highly praised Duncan Taylor Caperdonich from 1972 and two Murray McDavid Missions from 1968 and 1969…

Caperdonich 26yo 1980/2007 (56.2%, Dewar Rattray, Bourbon Cask #7349, 164 bottles)Color: Dark gold.

Nose: Vanilla, but a very strict kind of vanilla. Lots of influence from the wood. Spicy vanilla. Buttery and creamy. Demerara sugar. This also has a nice luxurious paper like quality to it. Old warehouse full of ageing Malts. A wonderful old Malt this turns out to be. The (dried) spiciness is quite complex. Light honey and nutmeg. Have you ever treated yourself at home to a quality vanilla ice-cream and didn’t do the dishes right away? Remember the smell of the dried out ice-cream at the bottom of the bowl? It’s in this very Whisky. Nice! Dried leaves partly from forest plants and partly from dried herbs and to a lesser extent: pencil shavings.

Taste: Vanilla again, but also a hoppy character. You also try the occasional beer don’t you? Toffee and caramel. Just the right amount of sweets, combined with a very zesty, although, tiny hint of fruity acidity. Red fruits, little forest strawberries, half-dried raspberries and other red berries. Where in most cases the acidity isn’t all that well-integrated, here it works like a charm. The fruitiness continues well into the long finish where the hoppy (cannabis?) bit returns. Is there even a tiny, tiny hint of coconut? All of this is given a good and astringent backbone of oak, that is aiding the Whisky along and giving it character. It’s not overpowering, just, but definitely in there. The high strength is noticeable but the Whisky is never hot.

What a great Malt this is. Fantastic development over the time you’re trying it and what wonderful flavours this gives off. This may take water very well, but I have never been feeling the need to do that yet. Thankfully I still have quite some left in this bottle to play around with and mostly, to enjoy myself with it. A great buy. Sad this distillery is no longer producing Whisky. But you never know how modern Caperdonich would have turned out in the first place. Luckily the old Caperdonichs are often stellar, especially from Bourbon casks.

Points: 88

Glenglassaugh 26yo 1983/2009 (50.4%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #171, 885 bottles, 500ml)

Glenglassaugh LogoIt’s been a while since a bottling of Dutch indie bottlers Mo Òr graced these pages, but it certainly is the first Glenglassaugh. Last MoÒr was an old Aultmore that turned out to be very good. This time we’ll have a look at an example of Glenglassaugh, an ex-closed distillery. The demand for Whisky is so great these days, that the industry resurrected every distillery that still could be reopened. Even when cold economics suggested more money could be made, distilleries only got demolished to make way for an even bigger more modern (read: efficient) distillery (Imperial). Only recently Diageo announced they are going to hugely expand Mortlach, and it ptobably won’t be the last one.

A new bottling by the reopened Glenglassaugh: The Glenglassaugh RevivalSo any distillery that reasonably could be reopened is reopened, the rest is demolished, stripped bare, or otherwise made unusuable. I wouldn’t be surprised anymore if Diageo decides to cash in on the name, and reopen Brora! Besides this, more and more new distilleries are popping out of the ground like mushrooms on a forest floor…

Back to Glenglassaugh. Glenglassaugh itself was founded in 1875 but was closed already in 1908, and fell silent for a whopping 23 years! It reopened in 1931 just to be closed again 5 years later, in 1936. This time the distillery wasn’t working for 24 years. Reopened in 1960, the distillery was fitted with new stills, but still it didn’t manage to stay open permanently, because it was closed again in 1986. It was reopened (again) in 2008, after an extensive 22 years of silence. Since then the distillery has already changed hands. What a rocky past!

Glenglassaugh 26yo 1983/2009 (50.4%, Mo Òr, Oloroso Sherry Butt #171, 885 bottles, 500ml)Color: Copper Brown.

Nose: Hmmmm, very nice and classic Oloroso! The smell seems chewy! Nice woody spices emerge, but in this case, the whole smell is fantastic. With some air, the Sherry becomes even more funky which only adds to its likeability and complexity. The smell is dry and dusty, but not meaty. The wood plays an important role, it’s an integral part of it, without overpowering it. After some time, more heavy elements are coming out, hints of dates, coal and tar and toasted cask (and some violet soap, but it suits the Whisky).

Taste: Toffee and caramel, initially sweeter than expected, but quickly turning dry. What a bomb of aroma! Just put a few drops in your mouth and you know exactly how this tastes. It seems condensed! Laurel and hints of licorice on the back of my tongue. Dark fruits are in the mix too, blackberries mostly and blueberries are present in the finish. The finish itself is fantastic. It’s great that this Whisky retained a little bit of sweetness, which matches the dryness and the spiciness of the wood. I guess this was bottled at its peak. Well done!

Guys, thank you for not reducing it. I already thought your reduced Tomatin and the Caperdonich were fantastic, both at 91 points, but this cask strength Glenglassaugh blows them hands down! Excellent!

Points: 93

Caol Ila 26yo 1974/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 294 bottles)

Next up is this Douglas Laing bottling of a 1974 Caol Ila and most probably from a Hogshead, but you never know. 1974 is a pretty special year for Caol Ila because from 1972 through 1974 the whole of the distillery was rebuilt, completely! Everything, apart from the warehouses, was demolished and completely rebuilt. In 1974 six new stills were installed, so here we can have a taste of the first whisky that ran off the stills in 1974. This is the first of the “modern” Caol Ila as we know it today. Is it new and improved?

Color: Gold

Nose: A very refined yet fatty peat, quite sweet and floral. Fantastic organics! Grassy, lemongrass actually, in perfect harmony with excellent (fishy) peat. Do I detect some tarred rope? Pretty light for a Caol Ila, but so elegant and fresh, it does have some sea breeze to it. Oil spill on water. Beautiful bonfire smoke and leafy. Nice elegant wood. Bushes in summer in the rain. Nothing oomph or in your face, this a very refined Islay Whisky. I already like this very much, but the nose just keeps developing…

Taste: Again quite sweet, light peat and clay. A little bite from the smoke, than the wood and the smoke again (in that order), after that slightly sweet and a thin palate of yellow fruits. Very balanced. Lemonade fruitiness combined with fatty elegant peat (again) and nice smoke. The saltiness these old Caol Ila’s often have is absent from this 1974. medium finish that gets thinner, which underlines the brittleness of this malt. Old age. Still it is so good, the initial taste and the body are that nice, that I don’t care about the weaker, but not short finish. This is a lovely dram.

What a fantastic Caol Ila this is. Sure Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Laphroaig and Lagavulin all have fantastic old drams, and are big names, but those seventies and early eighties Caol Ila’s are right up there with them. How nice Douglas Laing had a 1974 Caol Ila, a shame only that it was only one cask… I would have wanted more.

Points: 91

Thanks Andries for the sample!

Bowmore 26yo 1982/2009 (53.4%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 195 bottles)

And here is another Master of Malt bottling. Earlier I reviewed a reduced Tomatin, that was a true disappointment. I didn’t even know it’s possible to ruin a Tomatin, since usually I like Tomatins. So with this one I do worry a bit. This also is a Bowmore of the eighties, which quite often turn out to be your better hand-soap (lavender and violets come to mind). I once tried a 1989 Berry Bros. & Rudd bottling that made me physically ill. That was a first for me, so I tried that one half a year later and it happened again.

Color: Gold

Nose: Powdery and sweet. Not very Islay to be frank, hardly any peat or smoke. Lots of flowers though, soap, also some clay and thick, so it seems to have body. When freshly poured it is very closed. After a while some smoke trickles trough. Hey, waiting even longer there is peat too. All in minute quantities. Again not very Islay-ish. Is this really a Bowmore? Wet paper and a small hint of licorice. It’s not bad, but not very balanced either. Now we have sour oak. It’s fresh, fruity and floral, luckily not over the top lavender-soap eighties Bowmore.

Taste: Sweet and syrup, with ash and some wood. It actually attacks you in the beginning. The sweetness disintegrates quickly into something acidic. It’s like a syrup that shows, when stripped from your throat, some lemon. The attack is nice, and the middle is also quite nice, but bold tastes fade and leave you with a fairly dull and anonymous finish. What can this be, a strange and unusual Bowmore distillate in a Fino Sherry cask? Well, let’s leave it at that.

In the end it’s not a FWP-Bowmore from the eighties, but it also isn’t recognizable as a Bowmore either. It’s ok on the nose and when it enters your mouth is shows some promise. Halfway through though and especially the finish are a bit weak, which is a surprise after the bold body. But the most remarkable achievement is making and finding a Bowmore that has nothing to do with…Bowmore!

Points: 84

Balmenach 26yo 1983/2010 (52.8%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #2410, 201 bottles)

After an Inchgower I reviewed earlier, here’s another example from the likes of Raymond Armstrong. If he isn’t distilling his Bladnoch, he’s on the look-out for casks of sometimes unusual distilleries. Worth a look, since he isn’t charging a lot of money for these forum bottlings. By the way, his son, Martin, has even more cask strength single cask whiskies on offer.

Balmenach was licensed in 1824, but existed much longer as an illicit farm distillery called Balminoch. Not earlier than 1992 the first official bottling is released, a 12yo Flora and Fauna. Not long after this United Distillers (now: Diageo) sold Balmenach to Inver House Distillers, with wich came an end to the Flora and Fauna bottling.

The new owners released between 2000 and 2002 only three rare bottles. A 27yo from 1973, a 28yo from 1972 and a 25yo from 1977 celebrating the queens jubilee (still shaped bottle). No more official bottlings have emerged yet. Today Balmenach is owned by Thai Beverages.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet and malty. Citrus, oranges with creamy wood and custard. Very powdery and paper like. Clean, what you smell is what you get. Creamy wood is the main part, but nothing overpowering. Candied apricots. Hints of cigarette smoke.

Taste: Spicy wood, sweet and sour. The sweet and sour is fruity. Again candied apricots and bitter lemon peel. Lemon with vanilla. Quite sweet and a lot of wood and bitterness in this one. Warming beer with its hoppy finish.

Actually a quite nice whisky. Fruity, overall likeable, with just one ‘flaw’. It’s quite woody and bitter. Although not overpowering.

Points: 84

Thanx to Erik L. for bringing the bottle!

Port Ellen 26yo 1979/2005 (56.9%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Sherry Butt #2015, 497 bottles)

Again rummaging through my box with trophies collected on my travels, I found another Port Ellen. I like Port Ellen, so please forgive me, for yet another review. Port Ellen is the closed distillery from the immensely popular island of Islay, known for its peated whiskies. Always around in abundance, prices were ‘moderate’ for a closed distillery from Islay. Today stocks are depleting, and prices tend to rise sky-high, and it won’t be long untill there’s nothing left. Even if casks still lie around, Port Ellen isn’t getting better by ageing even longer. Maybe casks will be transferred into stainless steel holding tanks to stop ageing and fetching a lot of money when bottled is a few years’ time. Who knows. Since 2001 Diageo releases Port Ellen annually in their special release series. The first release fetching at least a 1000 Euro’s at auctions…

Port Ellen was founded in 1825, and was sadly closed like many others in 1983. Although the distillery is dismantled, the site is still there. Today it’s home to Port Ellen Maltings. Where barley is malted and all the other distilleries of the island are customers…

Color: Gold (with black cask sediments, floating around).

Nose: Thick and elegant or is it? Dry Fino Sherry and crushed beetle. Peat and kumquats. It smells like a bush, very vegetal. Black tea and flowery perfume. The citrussy wood is great in this one. When left to breathe for a while it’s wonderful altogether, and a mixture of hot tea, with dry black tea leaves comes even more to the fore. Stunning!

Taste: Thick, spicy, sweaty and sweet. Black and white powder. Very balanced. Alas no Port Ellen rubber. Again Fino Sherry. Bold, round body with distant peat and milk chocolate. Clean at first, and dry,with a very nice gritty and dirty bonfire finish that tends to be sweet and sour (green apples), but not bitter. Every sip is like a chameleon, different every time.

Ahhh, the Raw Cask series, a series where filtration got a new meaning. This is a series where the whisky is certainly not chill-filtered. It is probably filtered through a chicken wire fence. Some people even suggest, the stuff floating in these whiskies have sediment thrown in from anywhere and is not even from the original cask. Well I’d like to believe… It looks original and rustic and I don’t have a clue what it does for the taste. If you drink it all, you can imagine what it does for the mouthfeel, well not much really, the flakes just tend to cling to your palate and tickle. This is a very good Port Ellen and it deserves a well-earned…

Points: 91