Google Asia Tasting Diary Part 1b

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

December 10, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus’s Asia Tasting Diary: Part 1b
And now, finally after many years of waiting, to the Auld Alliance in Singapore for a few days (not that I spent the entire time in the bar mind you)...


Isle of Jura 1966/2000 (43%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #1870) Isle of Jura 1966/2000 (43%, Mackillop’s Choice, cask #1870) Colour: Gold. Nose: An enthralling and rather beguiling mix of extremely luscious green fruits mixed with diesel oil and seawater. The kind of rather specific profile which seems almost unique to these 1960s Juras. I get wax, citrons, some salted butter, a few milk bottle sweets and a handful of smoked grains. There’s even a very faint and rather earthy peatiness emerging after a wee while. Superb elegance. Mouth: The fruits hit first. Green and tropical ones with mango, guava, star fruit, some green apples, kiwi and a little lime zest. There are minerals and flints here too; these wet rock and beach pebble qualities are quite ubiquitous. Some gentle notes of olive oil, a little brine and a drying, slightly sooty quality as well. Resurgent fruity notes of kumquat (seriously), a little crushed nettle and some rubbed mint leaf. The complexity is impressive. Finish: Long, oily and moving slightly towards farmyard and drier qualities. Some savoury notes of black olive and dried herbs. A lingering fruitiness that’s wonderfully pleasurable. Comments: These 60s Juras really had something quite special and unique going on. Unique and rather wonderful whisky. SGP: 642 - 92 points.  


Springbank 25 yo 1954/1979 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy, Mario Rossi import) Springbank 25 yo 1954/1979 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy, Mario Rossi import) Colour: White wine. Nose: Immediately brings to mind the OB 21 yo pear shape I tasted the previous week. However, in place of uber herbal qualities this one is rather more pure, chiselled and coastal. There are also these wee, oh so Cadenhead dumpy, metallic touches. Shoe polish, various medical tinctures and ointments, some green peppercorns in brine and also cereal touches and an old hay loft or two. Becomes increasingly gravelly and mineral. Lots of soot, coal scuttles, green apple peelings, dunnage and notes of ink and old newspaper. With time a few more citrus and green fruit notes start converging. Mouth: Spectacular waxiness and minerality. Olive oil, coal smoke, some aged herbal liqueur, lanolin, malt extract and barley sugar. Lime juice, agave and more undulating waxiness. Spectacular and totally beautiful in its poise and fragility. Finish: A love letter to wax, farmyard, seashore complexity and a dusting of white stone fruits. A slug of old medicine echoes in the distance. Comments: Spectacular old Springbank. The kind of uber pure, old school distillate driven malt that just gives me chills. Interestingly Serge scored a different bottle 88 in 2014. I wonder how much bottle variance starts to exist in these old Dumpies after close to 40 years now? Or simply a case of palate divergence? If anyone wants to open another bottle I will gladly taste it in the interests of science... SGP: 463 - 92 points.  


Dufftown 40 yo (45.3%, OB, early 1970s, Italian import) Dufftown 40 yo (45.3%, OB, early 1970s, Italian import) Some 1930s Dufftown? Don’t mind if I do... Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Emphatic, oily, waxy and fragrant with ripe, assorted fruits, some heathery, coal smoke notes and a subtle lick of antiseptic. Greengages, some fruit compotes and a clove studded orange ready for mulling. There are also these farmy notes of horse stable and some old toolboxes. Some tangerine liqueur, lemon wax and then some little tertiary notes of paint, eucalyptus resin and various dried herbs. Mouth: Quite drying with a big wood spice element. But also some phenolics, a little dusty old peat and lots of earthy and mushroomy notes. Metal polish, some sheep’s wool, a good glug of very old Sauternes, some quince paste, very old medicine and more, almost liqueur like, waxiness. There is some green fruitiness that remains fresh by the skin of its teeth but globally this is about waxes, earthiness, dryness and long aged peat characteristics. Some coal smoke and horse sweat towards the finish. Finish: Good length, not uberlong, but satisfying and with a little surprising barley sweetness and more drying earthy, wood spiciness. Comments: Fascinating, occasionally fragile, always beautiful. An amazing and historic old bottling that was ahead of its time in terms of age and strength. There is fragility to it at times but it remains undaunted and defiant in the end - the David Attenborough of malts. SGP: 463 - 90 points.  


Laphroaig 12 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead tall bottle, early 1970s) Laphroaig 12 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead tall bottle, early 1970s) There are numerous batches of this legendary bottling starting in the mid-1960s through to early 1970s. So this should be one of the latter releases under this label. Colour: Amber. Nose: It’s a gentle and very coastal and salty one. I remember a paler bottling that was far more classically tropical and fruity. This one is more nervous and resinously peaty with, wood ash, seashore, dried seaweed, minerals, smoked sea salt, iodine and various camphor, hessian and dunnage notes. Various medical tinctures, mercurochrome and TCP. Globally it’s very gentle and elegant though. Some burnt toffee, a few wet leaves and  a little olive oil. Some tar liqueur and ripe orange zest with a few more delicate notes of coal smoke, fermenting hay and sheep fank. Delicacy is the name of the game here. Mouth: The power goes up a notch here. An oily, uber dry and emphatic peatiness envelops the palate. A big farmyard fug also arrives. The seashore aspects are pushed to the background and the medicinal qualities come across as thick and drying. Black olives, rosemary, umami paste, a little blood orange as well. Finish: Some preserved lemons, medicine, soot, ash. Not the longest finish sadly. Comments: quite fascinating and undeniably excellent but overall a little disappointing given that other batches can easily be 96 point material. I had it at around 90-91 but the finish knocked it down by a point or so in my book. Still an emotional and wonderful old bottle to try. SGP: 366 - 89 points.  


Ardbeg NAS / 10 yo (80 proof, OB, early 1970s) Ardbeg NAS / 10 yo (80 proof, OB, early 1970s) A contentious label that there are many, many fakes of. This one, however, should be genuine as it is the gloss paper (rather than the matt which is usually a giveaway of the many duds) and the ageing to the label and capsule are all consistent. I should also say we are unsure if it is a 10yo or NAS as the bottle looks as though it may have lost a collar label at some point which should have been the age statement. However, it’s also possible it is just NAS. Either way... Colour: Light gold. Nose: A initially punchy nose full of bandages, elastoplasts, ointment and a little tar and rope. Some seawater, gravel, smoked sea salt, brine and kelp. A real elegant mixture of medicine and coastal aspects. The peat is typically rather earthy, dirty and organic. A tad simplistic but totally marvellous. Mouth: a bulldozer! Licking the inside of a kiln flue. A huge fug of earthy, blue peat smoke. Then smoked oysters, dried seaweed, boiler shed, motor oil, tar, rope, kreel net and some cow stable and dung (don’t eat a lot of dung I should add). The medicine is drying and tertiary with these notes of iodine and TCP.  Some sheep wool, wet rocks and gravel. Some very delicate notes of mint and jasmine. Finish: Long and again very dry, earthy and full of fragrant peat smoke, herbs, some medicine, some minerals and a deep, bass like wood smokiness. Comments: Probably one of the very few genuine examples of this label. And what a stunner it is too! SGP: 267 - 93 points.  


Ardbeg 10 yo (43%, OB, late 1970s, Genova import) Ardbeg 10 yo (43%, OB, late 1970s, Genova import) Colour: White wine. Nose: It’s remarkable how much difference there was between the 1960s and 1970s at Ardbeg, a difference that’s only more pronounced at younger ages between these two OBs. This one is far more tarry, oily, and full this emphatic, syrupy 1970s style Ardbeg peatiness. Lots of medical tinctures, iodine, beach sand, wet pebbles, some gentian and loads of tarry rope. Mouth: Simmering peat oils, coal, tar, soot, wax, some aged mead, a tough of minerals, some antiseptic, ash, struck flints and a very precise and complex array of medicines. Some meaty note as well, a little smoked fish and a big vat of brine. Finish: Long, hugely medicinal and full on, grizzly peat embers. Comments: Straightforward, classic and hugely pleasurable. Nowhere near as complex as the white label version which was powerful and muscular but more subtle. Whereas this is far more cocky, uncouth and full of bluster and raw power. Both are terrific but maybe this one is just a notch less due to being more simplistic. SGP: 357 - 92 points.  


Springbank 10 yo (59%, OB, sherry, late 1970s, Sutti import) Springbank 10 yo (59%, OB, sherry, late 1970s, Sutti import) Colour: rosewood. Nose: All manner of precious hardwoods, waxes, spices, dark chocolate, dark and crystallised fruits. Graphite, wet earth, moss, soot, wood embers, black pepper, black olives, a few ripe cherries, wild strawberries and the most delicate note of ointment underneath it all. We are accelerating towards anti-maltoporn brigade territory with pant-flambeing speed! Gets increasingly tropical and obscenely luscious with these notes of banana, guava and pineapple. But there’s also farmyard, motor oil, tool sheds and cough medicine as well. An epic poem of a whisky! With water: Pure olfactory harmony. A ballet of fresh and dried fruits, waxes, leather, hessian, wood spice, farmyard and this tertiary sherry character which sits in the background conducting and holding everything together with breathtaking precision. A masterpiece! Mouth: As my friend Jonny often says when tasting epic whiskies: ‘shit the bed!’. A cavalcade of resins, waxes, ointments, dried fruits, barley sugar, precious teas, aged cigars. Obscene, unabashed, maltoporn central I’m afraid. With water: now we can add myriad herbal notes, aged bitters, a lick of gentian, coal dust, mushroom powder and rancio. Just perfection! Finish: and... goodnight! Comments: undeniably a masterpiece. The kind of whisky that leaves you dumbstruck. Perfection of world class distillate married to the greatest of sherry casks and captured at a perfect age. SGP: 652 - 95 points.  


Rosebank 37 yo 1966/2003 (48.6%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare for Japan Import Systems, 122 bottles) Rosebank 37 yo 1966/2003 (48.6%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare for Japan Import Systems, 122 bottles) A hyper rare bottling for Japan. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Quite astonishing, you might think this was a much older bottling at first nosing, in the sense you have almost this OBE character of metal polish and dusty waxiness. However, this is confounded by most syrupy and concentrated soft fruitiness. Spiced plums, dates, fig paste, quince, baked pears in cognac, mead and mentholated notes of tea tree oil, eucalyptus resin and mint tea. Becomes increasingly camphory with these dunnage notes and very light tarry aspects. Blind I’d never have picked Rosebank in a year of Mondays. Some superbly nervous notes of wood spice, a little tamarind and eventually some rosewater and notes of aged, dry Gewurztraminer. Mouth: Huge and emphatic and almost medicinal with these notes of camphor, cod liver oil, medicine, lanolin and cough syrup. Some throat lozenges, green fruits, apple, gooseberry and lychee. A moist lemon sponge cake and many kind of waxiness, notably beeswax and furniture polish. More of these spicy qualities as well. Drying, big, complex and beautiful! Finish: Long, leathery and fragrant with notes of earl grey, jasmine, bergamot and chamomile. More spice and quince paste in the tail end of the finish. Comments: a totally delicious, moreish and splendid old Rosebank. The kind of dram that seems to evaporate from your glass. SGP: 452 - 92 points.  


Laphroaig 18 yo 1966/1985 (54%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 250 bottles) Laphroaig 18 yo 1966/1985 (54%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 250 bottles) Colour: Gold. Nose: A schizophrenic Laphroaig. Immediately beastly with these dirty peat notes but also straining towards refinement with an undercurrent of tropical fruit, seawater and in the middle a wee ocean of complexity with camphor, cough medicine, iodine, smoked salt, resins, fruit syrups and warm kiln peat smoke. Some tangerine peel, blood orange, cinnamon bark, diesel fumes, boiler shed and a whiff of tar liqueur. Some mineral edges as well: wet pebbles and sheep’s wool and such like. With water: tropical, nervous, saline, smouldering peat smoke, citrus, green fruits, melon, papaya. Maltoporn brigade please! Mouth: A majestic delivery. Singing and syrupy tropical fruits wrapped up in smoked pancetta and gloopy peat oils. Pine resin, tar, mercurochrome, iodine droplets, caraway and smouldering hay. Some kippers, brine and shellfish all appear as well. With water: as on the nose this just becomes the most gloriously peated concoction of fruit juices, smoked fish and seawater. There’s farmyard, medicine, a lick of wax; everything! Finish: Superbly long but becomes beautifully and unexpectedly fragrant with herbs, chamomile, lapsang souchong and some final echoes of iodine. Stupendous! Comments: When Laphroaig was at its best, in my opinion, it was utterly world class, totally idiosyncratic juice. This is a perfect example of that style and quality. SGP: 657 - 94 points.  


Caol Ila 21 yo 1968/1989 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 297 bottles) Caol Ila 21 yo 1968/1989 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 297 bottles) Colour: Gold. Nose: A monolith of dry peat smoke, medicine, earthy phenolics, wild mushrooms, mint and dunnage floors. A world apart from the house style of Caol Ila that came after the rebuild in 1974. This is far fatter, dirtier, oilier and more grizzled. There is this kind of fishy coastal character, creel nets, black pepper, brine, floor cleaner, herbal toothpaste, a Manzanilla style saltiness, drying seaweed and a huge whiff of camphor and paraffin. With water: a tad greener; a little more tropical; a touch sweeter and more barleyish. Although there is still this pervasive, slightly dirty and muscular fishiness, in a very good way. Mouth: A bit of a monster. So distinct from the other Islays at the time. This is powerfully spicy peat, with an almost acrid medicinal side. Hay lofts, cow sheds, coal scuttles tool boxes, white fish, peppered mackerel, green fruits, gravel, mineral oil, toasted cereals, smoked butter, anchovies, grilled scallops and sardines in olive oil. The list goes on. A monumental whisky! With water: almost peatier with water. Certainly earthier and more full of citrus fruits and rinds, olive oil, coal hearths, more black olives, tar and a more organic, pure farmyard aspect. Finish: Endless. A bruising gallop through peats, smokes, fruits, waxes and medicines. Comments: Another confounding masterpiece selection by Intertrade. The character of these magnificent 1960s Caol Ilas is so distinct from the later, although not necessarily lesser, examples is so great that I wonder if we shouldn’t think of the old distillery as a more of a closed distillery. Like the Laphroaig 66 this is really an extinct style of Islay whisky. SGP: 467 - 94 points.  


Ardbeg 29 yo 1967/1996 (52.0%, Kingsbury, sherry, cask 923) Ardbeg 29 yo 1967/1996 (52.0%, Kingsbury, sherry, cask 923) This one doesn’t really need an introduction does it...? Colour: Dark bronze. Nose: One of the most beautiful marriages of perfect sherry and perfect peat. The kind of aroma that brings to mind root beer syrup, cola cubes, earthen floors and the cleanest of smoke, marzipan, a fatty, saline cured ham and a few smoked, crushed almonds. An ancient, salty, almost crusty palo cortado aroma with further notes of bacon, rancio, ancient balsamic, hessian, damp sack cloth and black olives in brine. With water: becomes almost bruisingly medical and phenolic. Deep, earthy, emphatic and kind of eternal. A rabbit hole of a whisky down which you’ll willingly wander and never emerge. Mouth: A.S.T.O.N.I.S.H.I.N.G! This is pure, peated motor oil. Hessian, minerals, the most dense, syrupy and fat kind of peat and sherry combination. Meaty, farmy, darkly fruited, citrus rind, old herbs de Provence, prunes, plum sauce, wood and mulling spices, turmeric, black peppers, sarsaparilla. Did I mention astonishing? With water: soy sauce, treacle, tar, hessian... everything really. We’re kind of long past the anti-maltoporn brigade point here, besides, I don’t think they have a branch in Singapore. There are tannins too, the wood isn’t light, it’s just held in this kind of perfect, ephemeral balance with the mindboggling Ardbeg distillate. Finish: Endless and heartbreakingly superb. Like listening to Maggot Brain while suitably baked with your best friend. Comments: It’s a whisky with a reputation for a reason. And that reason is utterly deserved in my book. SGP: 467 - 96 points.  


Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.2%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask 574, 488 bottles) Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.2%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask 574, 488 bottles) Colour: Ruby. Nose: We are in very similar territories: cherry cola cubes, flat root beer, medicine balls, olive oil, motor oil, hardwood shavings, black pepper, a tiny glimmer of green fruit, dried cranberries and then soy and plum sauce with some five spice. A little bitter chocolate, dried sage and rosemary, then strawberry liqueur. Again we’re flying extremely high. With water: more notes of fresh cherries, along with the maraschino variety and a few drops of cocktail bitters, brown sugar and blood orange. Marzipan morphing into Battenberg cake. Mouth: This one is slightly more tannic and peppery than the Kingsbury. Not quite in the same league but this is still a majestic mix of dried herbs, earthy peat, oily phenolics, farmyard and chocolate. Cherry brandy, smoked candyfloss (if such a thing exists), medicine, coal dust, oyster sauce and peat resins. Again this almost crusted saltiness and deep, emphatic, ancient sherry character. With water: some green pepper, sandalwood, coal smoke, ointment, tea tree oil and a few sloshes of top notch mojito. Finish: Long, undulating and wavering between phenolics, the freshest and richest of espresso, dark and ancient sherry, earthy peats and ripe dark fruits. Plenty medical complexities between everything as well. Comments: A majestic and spectacular whisky. Not quite the equal of the Kingsbury but then few whiskies are. Still something of a masterpiece in its own right, another Ardbeg for the ages... SGP: 556 - 95 points.  


Bowmore ‘over’ 12 yo (No strength stated, OB for Japan, 1980s, half bottle) Bowmore ‘over’ 12 yo (No strength stated, OB for Japan, 1980s, half bottle) The sort of ludicrously rare bottling that the Japanese market has been blessed with over the decades. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: A dry and earthy aroma with plenty peaty backbone but also quite a bit of minerality and a natural dirtiness. Some resinous sherry character along with salted almonds, some umami paste and preserved lemons in brine. Switches between softness and power. With time there’s some more classical old Bowmore exotic fruit emerging. Mouth: Rather typical early 1970s Bowmore style. Lots of shellfish, kippers, some earthy and naturally funky / dirty peat qualities. Then also motor oil, diesel, seashore and fishing nets. Becomes increasingly saline, but also at the same time more fruity. These notes of lemons, orange peel, blossom, melon and banana. I think it’s probably above 43%, it feels rather punchy and powerful in the mouth. Like a slightly stronger version of the 12yo OB which was to be found in the European markets in the early 1980s. Finish: Good length. A coal hearth with a few warm peat embers in it. Some medicine and a few bandages and ointments. Comments: Not stellar old Bowmore but still extremely good and a super fascinating rarity to taste. Good luck finding another. SGP: 446 - 89 points.  


Highland Park 30 yo 1985/2015 (51%, Silver Seal, cask 372, 215 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo 1985/2015 (51%, Silver Seal, cask 372, 215 bottles) I’m very pleased to be able to try a whisky distilled in my birth year that should be better than ‘utterly average’. Colour: White wine. Nose: green fruits, lime zest, chalk, ink, lemon rind, olive oil, a vibrant waxiness and some beautifully nervous fruity notes of lemon drops, lychee and apricot. With a little time some very delicate medical notes of cough syrup and throat lozenges emerge. With water: gets leafier and fruitier with water. Some pine resin and a little lemon icing. Mouth: Lots of orange oils, herbal liqueurs, jasmine tea, green olives, yellow flowers, white pepper - a rainbow whisky! More cough medicine, more subtle waxiness and some mustard notes. Feels mature but also wonderfully lively and sprightly for its age. With water: gets drier now, veering more towards pastries, fresh breads and dried herbs. Some black olives in olive oil and rosemary. Really works beautifully with water. Finish: Long, lemony, mineral, savoury and full of little pin sharp notes of fruits and soft peppery spice notes. Comments: Exemplary old HP, not such a peaty one but more towards fruits and spices over all. The perfect every evening dram. I am delighted to inform you that I love it! SGP: 443 - 91 points.



(Eternal thanks to Emmanuel for these drams.)  







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