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

Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003 “Special Edition” (52.5%, OB, 6000 bottles)

Cragganmore, and an old Cragganmore it is. Last year Diageo released a 25yo Special Release from 1988. That one costs a pretty penny, and is almost sold out by now. Nevertheless these days people throw themselves at anything that looks or feels like a super-duper premium bottling. However, the short row of special editions of Cragganmore was started back in 2003, by this 29yo from 1973. Yes a distillate from the seventies, and distillates from the seventies are usually even harder to come by. Nevertheless, this 1973 Cragganmore is still not very hard to get ánd even at a lower price than the aforementioned 1988 special release. What is happening here? Is the 1988 way better or has everybody simply forgotten about the 1973?

Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003 Special Edition (52.5%, OB, 6000 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Waxy and floral but rather closed. Quite light, delicate and vibrant. Old smoke and toast. Distant yellow fruits with a hint of tar. Nice combination. Steam age Whisky. Hints of barley and (floral) soap, but also hints of wood (old furniture) and even a tiny hint of pencil shavings. Hints of soft white pepper and some discernible sweetness. Dusty, fruity and slightly waxy, but I have to say it again, very closed.

Taste: Tropical fruits and quite sweet, like other bottlings from the seventies. Just remember Caperdonich and Tomatin. Cannabis and dish-water. Old papers and slightly cardboardy, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. Nice combination of cream and tired oak. It definitely tastes better than it smells. Don’t get me wrong, it smells good (albeit closed), but it tastes better. The finish is announced by some oaky bitterness, which fits the fruity waxiness perfectly. And old gent of a dram. Old and brittle but lots of stories to tell. You never know with old stuff like this, but to me, this seems to be exclusively from old Bourbon casks.

I am not Mr. Water. I hardly use water when tasting Malt prefer movement. Just let it move around in my glass, airing, oxidizing of you prefer, maybe warming it up in my hand a bit. That does the trick for me. However, if I encounter a closed Malt, then, and only then, water can be a nice experiment. I’m such an anorak, that I don’t even use a pipette, but I use a syringe. (Smaller droplets giving me more control). I know it’s sad, but I do have a life, so don’t worry about me. Well after some droplets and some more droplets, water didn’t open up the nose a lot. I did get more floral and toasty. It did do wonders for the taste. It got better, with more cannabis, more pencil shavings and more yellow sugared fruits. The toasty bit crept in here too. Lovely stuff, a bit brittle (apart from the body), so be carefull. So in this case, do try some water. Yes it needs some work, but it’s also quite an experience.

I haven’t tried all of the other special releases of Cragganmore but I can’t imagine them to be better than this one. Sure, age doesn’t matter (or so they say) and distillates of the seventies don’t have to be better than more recent distillates. However, this 1973 does come across as a very old Whisky, meaning it does smell and taste like something that can’t be made like this anymore. To “prove” or “un-prove” my point here is a review of a more modern Cragganmore, that did manage to fetch a higher score…

Points: 87

The Benriach 29yo 1976/2006 (56%, OB, Batch 3, Hogshead #8084, 194 bottles)

And yes another Benriach and another one from Batch 3. After the 1968 Hoggie that scored 89 points and the 1984 peated Butt that scored 88 Points, let’s see if this 1976 peated Hoggie can finally break the barrier and score (well) into the 90’s.

Color: Full Gold

Nose: Fruity and half waxy (it’s not Caperdonich 1972). The fruits would be Apricots, some peach again and strawberry jam. Creamy and spicy oak, malt and sawdust. A rather calm powdery nose. You know those hard candies made of compressed powder? Cold wet tea leaves. Distant sweets and very fruity. Again the yellow fruits. Apricots and peach minus the perfumy side of peach. There could be peat in this, but left in very minute amounts. After some time, smoke and banana. Peat?

Taste: Thick, spicy and waxy. Distant smoke and hints of black fruits. Sweet, nice balance. Work for it and you’ll be rewarded. Again a great sweet fruity malt. Peat maybe, but not as we know it. It’s not from Islay and this is not heavily peated. Just the right amount of wood (the 1968 had more wood).

Of the three I tried from this third batch, I like this best. Some would say the 1968, but for me this has more of everything. Rounder and better balance. OK, maybe simpler, but much bolder. This time the seventies over the sixties. It all just fits snugly, and the peat is so great in this!

Points: 91

Port Ellen 29yo 1982/2012 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, Cask #2041)

Today my good friend Erik L. came over and brought two bottles with him. Today I’ll review the first one of those, yes, another Port Ellen! So when we thought we had it all yesterday with the Blackadder Port Ellen, we continue today with a Port Ellen from Old Bothwell.

Old Bothwell is a company from Bothwell, Lanarkshire Sur near Glasgow Scotland. It’s a company that specializes in bottling their own stock of wines and spirits with the possibility of personalized labels. In the whisky-world they became quite famous for bottling a series of great Port Ellen’s. Alas Old Bothwell just bottled their last cask of Port Ellen, so now they will move into other whiskies. First up are a Tormore 1988/2012 and Macduff 1980/2012.

Color: Gold

Nose: Very peaty and foremost, very smoky at first. Reminds me of one of the Douglas Laing Port Ellen‘s reviewed earlier. Bonfire, lots of fire-parafernalia such as ash and smoke. After (some) breathing, more perfumy and salty peat, it smells a bit like peat from flowers! Very nice balance. Citrus, lemon, and again a bit meaty. Again, I don’t get the rubber Port Ellen’s used to have for me. It’s probably not there in 1982 Port Ellen’s. Fresh, sea-air laden with mint. This has also a vegetal side to it. As you might have guessed, this nose is very nice.

Taste: Half sweet, big bodied and vegetal. Peppered and slightly bitter/woody peat. Ashy. In a good way a lemonade like quality due to some fresh lemon peel and sea air. It definitively reminds me of sea air that can be smelled here in Holland too. Seems to me this has yet to reveal its full potential. The wood here is sour, and leaves a somewhat strange bitterness on the finish.

Let this breathe for a while. I guess the second half of this bottle will be the better half. The bottle I’m tasting now, is almost full. But this Port Ellen already scores…

Points: 89