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

November 20, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild, back from Jerez

Notes From Jerez...

It is testament to the quality and character of the sherries we tasted in Jerez that the whiskies really took something of a back seat throughout the week we were there. And what a week it was! For all the bluster and marketing gruel spooned out about sherry casks by the whisky industry, if you want to truly understand what a 'sherry cask' is in terms of modern whisky maturation then you should go and visit Jerez and its remarkable winemakers.


The difference between a traditional sherry cask and the journey they undergo - the 'curation' if you like - and the brand new, wood technology laden cheap Oloroso seasoned examples, is quite staggering. If they even actually come from the sherry producing region at all.  


However, the trip was not a negative one. If anything it was celebratory and revelatory in the truest senses of those words. We all came away with deep and lasting impressions about the beauty of the various traditional types of sherry produced there and the skills and passion of the people that make them. As a trip it was both humbling and profound; joyful and, as ever with these mini adventures, far too short!



The following is a selection of some of the sherried whiskies that various friends brought along to open on the trip. We had discussed making a list or some notes for the numerous terrific sherries that we tried but we felt that perhaps it would not have done the liquids due justice.



Glen Olo 10 yo ‘Old malt whiskies’ (no less than 75 proof, El Vino & Co Ltd., bottled 1970s)

Glen Olo 10 yo ‘Old malt whiskies’ (no less than 75 proof, El Vino & Co Ltd., bottled 1970s) A rare bottling from the 1970s by London based wine merchant El Vino. At the time they had their own sherry casks which they would fill whiskies into. There are some Bunnahabhains and Highland Parks out there as well with a similar label. I assume from the label wording that this must be a blended malt - although whether it was fully matured in El Vino’s sherry casks or just finished I’m not sure. Colour: Teak. Nose: Polished leather, stewed prunes, figs, überchocolate, praline, mole sauce. It’s a deep, bassy, richly earthy and minty sherry. These kinds of thin after eight mints with touches of garden peat, forest mulch, wet leaves and cocoa powder. A rising sootiness with time along with some aromas of burnt fir wood.



Mouth: Again superbly rich, herbal and resinous. A beautifully nervous and bristling sherry character. Some notably peppery notes and a little chilli heat. The kind of old school, ancient sherry cask style which is totally extinct in whisky these days. More bitter dark chocolate, dark fruit compote, Guinness cake and crushed pecan nuts. Some graphite, espresso, walnut oil, a lick of creosote and some pine resin. Finish: Long, with a soft and lingering earthiness, sultanas and some rather spicy, vigorous tannins. Comments: If it’s a finish there is no sign of it whatsoever. Majestic old style sherry and a surprisingly powerful and muscular palate. Although the mouth does remain slightly too bitter which prevents it from going over the 90 mark but it’s a fine, old style sherried dram. SGP: 452 - 88 points.  


Port Ellen 28 yo 1978/2006 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, 212 bottles) Port Ellen 28 yo 1978/2006 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, 212 bottles) Colour: Light amber. Nose: Coal hearths and welly boots. A big and pure Port Ellen character. Tar, fish nets, rope and a rather crystalline peat with hessian and various smoked fish notes such as kippers and smoked mussels in brine. Some lemon rind, wet beach pebbles and grilled oysters. Very coastal notes of dried kelp (always good to toss in some kelp as Marcel helpfully suggests) Serge follows this up with the rear right tyre of a 1976 Porsche 930 turbo after a lengthy session on the Nurburgring - I can’t confirm this personally but Serge has a high racing pedigree I’m told. Maybe it’s just the atmosphere but there’s also a hint of a rather potent Manzanilla. Saline, brisk and full of Atlantic vigour and ozone. With water: Creosote, much more earthiness - maybe even some hints of rancio or balsamico - then more mineral aspects such as wet gravel and beach sand.  


Mouth: Rather typically dirty, oily, fishy and great. A dead fish on Santa Lucina beach found by a Scotsman in damp socks (thanks Phil!). Elsewhere there is mercurochrome, TCP, smoked mead, peat oils and further dunnage notes of earth, hessian, camphor and lamp oil. A big Port Ellen, full of bluster, oils, salt, medicine and this ever-present grubby quality that is so typical of Port Ellen at these ages. Serge finds it veers a tad too close towards sweetness, however, he enjoys these elusive notes of a late-night, part time flamenco dancer (I don’t know either). With water: a few glimmers of green fruits, some more rope and hessian notes. More tar - tar liqueur - dried herbs and some cured meats. Finish: Lengthy, oily, tarry and inevitably earthy with that unshakeable and charming PE dirtiness. Comments: A rather great Port Ellen. It’s quite tough as so many of these casks are but it’s undeniably impressive whisky. The sherry and the whisky are perhaps not totally integrated, which is the only flaw of any real note. SGP: 347 - 90 points.  


Braes of Glenlivet 19 yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #9294, 658 bottles) Braes of Glenlivet 19 yo 1979/1999 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #9294, 658 bottles) Colour: Gold (or ‘Kumquat orange’ according to Jeroen). Nose: A mix of nuts - trail mix that sort of thing - barley, cereals, some buttered toast, some orange peel and some pleasingly light touches of wax and motor oil. Truth be told it’s somewhat boring. There’s also some milk chocolate, some Guinness (Serge drinks it by the flagon, you’d be surprised), bran flakes, golden grahams (clearly this is a breakfast whisky). With water: Greener and more floral with notes of crushed dock leaf, chocolate limes and millionaire shortbread.  


Mouth: It improves somewhat with these notes of beeswax, pollen, some sugar puffs, runny honey, a scattering of spices and then some green tea. With time some graphite oil, some dried herbs and a little bergamot. Pleasant but still a little mundane if truth be told. Although Serge finds some Export Guinness this time (he drinks the stronger stuff at weekends and during business meetings). I’d add a few mulling spiced as well. With water:  chocolate digestives, plums, orange oils and more sweet, baked goods. Serge says some kind of herbal tea but he is failing to identify which one. A short while later he declares it to be rosemary tea. Finish: A reasonable length. Jon declares it to be filled with notes of chocolate orange as he munches his way through a large slice of chocolate covered orange. There are some further notes of Darjeeling tea, liquorice, oatcake and a little flourish of chocolate. Comments: I remain somewhat unconvinced but Serge is adamant that it is ‘not too bad - seriously’. As he rightly notes: there are several notably superior sister casks which are quite a bit darker in colour. SGP: 541 - 84 points.  


Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #513-518) Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #513-518) A very rare one. We are excited. Colour: An aged mahogany castanet doused in VORS Oloroso. (Thanks to Phil and Jon for their peerless observations). Nose: Dense dried dark fruits - mostly dates and figs but also a few prunes. (Small figs, big figs, diced figs, figs from Turkey, figs from northern Yemen, dried figs, wet figs, old figs, figs with wifi, figs that might fly...) Dark chocolate, wet earth (possibly the earth underneath a fig tree) and a few dried herbs. Marcel suggests - incorrectly - that there may be sulphur. But he is, as you might well imagine, wrong. Maduro cigars, black olives, umami paste, Toscani cigars (I think Serge wants a cigar), a few hints of wild strawberry and eventually some sarsaparilla root. With water: a little softer and breadier in some ways but also fatter and more emphatic. More peppery, more fruity, more tertiary notes of toasted seeds and now also coal scuttles and hints of tar and lapsang souchong.  


Mouth: Huge, dense and dripping with treacle, bitter chocolate, earth, fig rolls, dates, muesli, strawberry liqueur, cocktail bitters and mulling spices. Some green pepper, salted liquorice, old pipe tobacco and aged balsamico. Also an intermittent and beautifully subtle rancio. Serge wishes to add the blackest of black pepper. Pepper and cloves. He thinks it is really peppery. With water: Beautiful! Wonderfully earthy, oily and alive with dried fruits, molasses, aged cognac, rum soaked sultanas and some caramelised Demerara sugar. Finish: wonderfully long and echoing with wet earth, dried leaves, coal hearths, balsamic, raspberry compote... the list goes on and on. Majestic! Comments: Not really a surprise, but an utter pleasure. Another of these poetic old sherry casks married with terrific distillate. SGP: 552 - 93 points.  


Macallan-Glenlivet 29 yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1058, 256 bottles) Macallan-Glenlivet 29 yo 1965/1994 (49%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1058, 256 bottles) Colour: Amber. Nose: A honeycomb. Pollen, beeswax, honeysuckle and wild flowers all caught up in a soft, undulating and superbly elegant waxiness. Many honeys and honeydews. Some mirabelle jam and quince jelly. Notes of green and mint teas, lamp oil, menthol, eucalyptus oil and then some beautifully subtle herbal notes which converge on old yellow Chartreuse. Goes on with mothballs, cough syrup, cherry tunes and various other subtle medical notes. Some tobacco leaf notes, a cigar humidor and an old pipe. Rather excellent and straightforward. Not overtly complex but all the flavours and beautiful and precise.  


Mouth: A cavalcade of honeys, resins, waxes, fruit compotes and crystallised fruit peels. More herbs, some old spice boxes, coal, earth, maraschino cherries and then more of these dunnage notes which also suggest paraffin wax and assorted green fruits. Maybe a little coconut as well. Feels again quite soft and straightforward but still very beautiful. At this point Serge apologises but he is finding figs again. Finish: Long and mentholated with more notes of aged tobacco and soft wood spices. Comments: Amazing old Macallan. The kind of bottle which is totally embarrassing to taste next to many of the modern bottlings. SGP: 431 - 93 points.   


Glen Albyn 34 yo 1967 (51.3%, Kingsbury, cask #3920, 239 bottles) Glen Albyn 34 yo 1967 (51.3%, Kingsbury, cask #3920, 239 bottles) Colour: Mahogany. Nose: A rather earthy sherry with many notes of precious hardwoods, cloves, cigar humidors, dried mushroom powder, tobacco leaf and a slightly salty note, reminiscent of an old Palo Cortado. Also rather meaty with notes of beef stock, marmite, cured pork and a background note of earthen floor and camphor. Really rather dense and organic with an elegant complexity that veers globally towards earthiness. There are fruits in the form of dark, dried fruits and various fruit compote. Some figs, which Serge will be pleased to hear I’m sure. With time some notes of old balsamico and farmyard emerge, which I find quite ‘Glen Albyn-ey’. With water: Ahh, more fruits! Fresh strawberries, more figs, some dates and then even something that alludes to medicine with these notes of distant cough medicine.  


Mouth: There is a strangeness to it undeniably. Notes of flat coca cola, soft green fruits, molasses and pomegranate syrup. But also a continuation of these earthy qualities. Some walnut wine, balsamic, flat root beer and more of these slightly salty marmite notes. A scraping of marmite across buttered, warm brown toast. With water: Now more raisins, treacle sponge, tamarind jam, more crushed nuts (ouch!) and more notes of cola cubes and cured meats. Finish: Long and converging on menthol, mint tea, motor oil, paraffin and some black pepper and black olives in oil. Some fading herbal notes as well. Comments: I think the cask was really great here and did a lot of the leg work, but of course 1960s Glen Albyn was also a bit more positively characterful than some of the rather more funky 1970s  counterparts. All in all this is rather delicious stuff! SGP: 432 - 91 points.  


Glen Mhor 20 yo 1965/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, Sherrywood) Glen Mhor 20 yo 1965/1986 (46%, Cadenhead, Sherrywood)   Colour: Amber. Nose: Moss, wet earth, walnuts, aged oloroso, coal dust, old leather, a little wax and some hessian. Time brings out more obvious notes of raisins, cognac soaked sultanas, Dundee cake and damson jam. Goes on with more cakey and earthy notes, some VSOP Armagnac, some brambles and a few delicate touches of metal polish and eventual mineral notes. Furniture polish, chamois leather, steel wool, toasted sunflower seeds and some dried rosemary. Mouth: More earth, dunnage, hessian, prune juice, coal hearths, balsamico and a dollop of raspberry jam. Goes on with herbal liqueurs, some old Benedictine, then orange oils and orange bitters. Some gravel, aged pinot noir, a leafy tobacco note, lapsang souchong tea and some very soft notes of bergamot and bay leaf. Some maraschino notes and maybe a sip of a decent Old Fashioned. Finish: Drying, long and full of aged Boal Madeira, game notes like cured Pheasant, throat lozenges, boiler sheds and a resinous, crystalised fruit note. Comments: Again, these Inverness distilleries were really hitting higher notes in the 1960s. This is another terrific old Cadenhead dumpy and a really benchmark example of Glen Mhor. A very muscular and satisfying old highland style, sherried dram. SGP: 431 - 92 points.  


Thanks to Jeroen, Marcel, Patrick, Phil & Simon, Jon, Thomas, Hans, Serge, Luc, Emmanuel and, of course, el papá: Olivier. Muchas Gracias Olivier!  







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