Glen Elgin 19yo 1991/2010 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt #2324, 412 bottles)

After the amazement of the Glendronach I recently reviewed, here is another shock (at least for me it is). I’m actually baffled I didn’t throw in Glen Elgin earlier on these pages, since it is one of my secret loves. Every Single Malt aficionado knows which Malts are just the best, but one always has a secondary, more personal, list of Single Malts. Everybody just loves Brora, or at least knows its one of the best around. However, not a lot of people would pick f.i. Teaninch as such, which is one of my other favorites. Usually it is a Malt with a less “easy” profile that somehow manages to tickle one’s fancy. It’s personal.

Glen Elgin. I love it. Many times it just floats my boat, and this one is no different. I brought it with me as a favorite to my Whiskyclubs gathering in Hamburg, where it failed to get the applause, I thought, it deserves. Yes, again, my opinion. The same club presented me a while back with a sister cask of this one, bottled something around the 61% ABV mark, and since then, I was looking out for a bottle of my own. This cask #2324, in Hamburg, was deemed too extreme and hot by many, but after a 1990 Family Cask of Glenfarclas, the Elgin was retried and deemed more accessible and creamy. So, remember, when tasting a lot of Malts in short succession, it is important where it is placed in the line-up, what you had to eat, how tired you are, and understand how your palate works. It all depends…

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Sherry, nutty, creamy with lots of soft vanilla notes. Soft wood fiber, but right from the start, not the usual oak aromas. I get hints of Rhum Agricole. Storm by the waterfront. Waterfront organics. Reed. Old air-dried oak (the outside of the cask). Vanilla, cream and wood, but not very fruity yet. Spicy and slightly grassy (wet). Sometimes hints of licorice (wood). Otherwise thick and syrupy with the sugar smell you get from a freshly opened sugar packet. The Rhum Agricole notes stay around, rendering the smell more dry. Add to this another layer of an acidic red berry smell (and some gravy) for complexity. Greek yoghurt? Only hints of sugared and dried yellow fruits now, but I couldn’t tell you which ones (dried papaya and pineapple come to mind).

Taste: Short attack. Big. Starts with some vanilla sweetness mixed with paper or cardboard. Wood, nuts and fruit. Fresh almonds (chewed). Creamy and dusty. Nutty and a medium wax aroma. Altogether a medium and very pleasurable body. The big start soon gets smaller. Fruity acidity on top, from red fruits. Berries. The acidity is quite unexpected and doesn’t fit the nose all that well, or the Whisky as a whole for that matter. Hints of Beer. Finishes (long) on the fruity acidity adding some light bitterness for the first time. The bitterness makes up the aftertaste as well.

I have to be honest. I don’t like it as much now as I did in the beginning. It is definitely one you have to work with, but you also need to forgive some minor flaws (like the acidic top note). I also fear this suffers a bit from oxidation. This is a bottle I often grab when I want a few cask strength Sherry expressions, so it is already 2/3 down, lots of air to play with.

Points: 85

Compass Box “Asyla” (40%, OB, Circa 2006)

After the Chivas Regal 12yo, a Blended Whisky from a big company, let’s see what the little, more independent, guy can do. A guy with a passion for blending. Obviously I’m talking about John Glaser, and his Compass Box Whisky Company. A company that all Single Malt aficionado’s seem to love. We’ll have a look at an early “Asyla” here. Asyla is part of Compass Box’s signature range, or core range for us normal folks. A quick look at the website of Compass Box learns us that Asyla is the lightest of the signature range, calling it delicate and sweet.

Only Whiskies from first fill used American oak casks were used, for vanilla purposes obviously. The Malt’s used are Linkwood (30%), Glen Elgin (10%) and Teaninich (10%) and the Grain comes from Cameronbridge (50%). Sometimes Longmorn is also named as an “ingredient” for this blend, because the Compass Box website mentions that the Malts for this blend hail from the towns of Longmorn and Alness. Looking at the map you can say that Linkwood and Glen Elgin come form the town of Longmorn, so I’m not sure that there is any Longmorn in this blend. Since Asyla is around for quite some time, maybe the Malts that go into this blend differ from time to time. For now I’ll stick to Linkwood, Glen Elgin and Teaninich though. Before I forget, the other four offerings from the signature range are: “Oak Cross”, “The Spice Tree”, “The Peat Monster” and “Hedonism”. Of course outside of the signature range, a plethora of other bottlings exist.

Compass Box AsylaColor: Light gold.

Nose: Grainy, light, yet perfumed. Floral at first but also fruity, with a tiny hint of pineapple and green sour apple skin. Sometimes I even get a trace of lavas. Heaps of vanilla shoveled on top, and given some time even some spicy wood. More than a hint of Calvados, an Apple Cider distillate from Normandy or Brittany. Dry and powdery. Sweetness is mentioned by Compass Box themselves, but for me the nose doesn’t carry a promise of sweetness, in any way or form. Elegant and light, but alas also a bit thin and anonymous.

Taste: Paper and grain come first, after that a blend of sweetness and (virgin) oak, although no virgin oak was used for this one. The vanilla presents itself after the paper and grain, and a slight bitter note, fade out. Not a lot of development going on, and you’re probably not surprised this doesn’t have a long finish as well. The finish itself seems to be a bit unbalanced, due to some acidity from the oak. The oak seems a bit fresh, as in not used for a long time when it contained Bourbon (or Tennessee Whiskey).

To be honest other bottlings of Compass Box made me expect more from this. Something in the order of a variant of Delilah’s. It should have been more creamy and even more towards the vanilla note so vehemently advertised.

Sure. Whisky is the product of spirit and wood (amongst others), but the bitterness it could do without, and as I said, it should have been more creamy. If you can find it, get a Delilah’s by the same bottler, and you’ll know what I mean.

I do like a lot of Compass Box Whiskies, but this one is not entirely for me, and that’s a surprise, because I expected this would be better than the Chivas Regal 12yo. Maybe age does matter?

Score: 72