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

October 27, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
And why not!


Lagavulin 12 yo 2005/2018 (57.8%, OB Special Releases) Lagavulin 12 yo 2005/2018 (57.8%, OB Special Releases)
Colour: straw. Nose: textbook Laga 12 purity. Lime juice over fresh oysters, mineral salts, chalk, tart cider apples, sheep wool, salt n vinegar crisps, brine and wet kelp. It’s undeniably sharp, pure and clean, but perhaps it’s a tad on the soft side by comparison to some earlier batches. With water: a more fragrant salinity. Sandalwood, more kelp, some freshly chopped mixed herbs, bandages, ointments, softer citrus notes, bath salts and a hint of eucalyptus. Mouth: Who said soft!?! This is as big, vinegary, sharp and punchy as ever. Lemon juice, black pepper, kiln smoke, raw smoky grist, sardines in olive oil and some spoonfuls of pure mezcal. Anchovies, dual shades of olive and seawater. With water:   really like peat ash, preserved lemons and raw salt water now. Umami paste, olive tapenade, capers, beach pebbles etc... Finish: Long, ashy, briny, extremely citrusy with lime and lemon juice and a touch of squid ink. A slightly farmy aftertaste. Comments: Still bright and brilliant. Even if some earlier releases in this series have been a tad more profound in my book.
SGP: 357 - 90 points.


Lagavulin 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.6%, OB for ‘European Lagavulin Fans’, cask #0001, European oak, 158 bottles)

Lagavulin 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.6%, OB for ‘European Lagavulin Fans’, cask #0001, European oak, 158 bottles)
I feel there are probably more than 158 Lagavulin fans in Europe. And so long as Britain remains a member of the EU I count myself as one of them. One of an increasing number of private casks that Diageo are doing these days - unsurprisingly they chose European oak for this release. Colour: deep gold. Nose: soft embrocations, drifting bonfire smoke, coal dust, dried kelp, mechanical oils and toasted black peppercorns. The peat feels slightly restrained, as if it’s caught on the verge of morphing into all these other tertiary aspects such as tar, mead, old rope and antiseptic. Evolves rather beautifully towards a kind of earthy/medical/smoky profile over time. Slightly reminiscent of some older White Horse 12 year olds at points. With water: drifts more towards boot polish, hickory smoke, struck flints and some smoke-cured meats. Mouth: very peppery, sooty and displaying a kind of fruity chilli heat. Smoked paprika, iodine, germoline and wood ash. There’s a BBQ sauce aspect as well. I like it but there’s also a rawness to it as well which I wasn’t expecting. Hints of burnt caramel, artichoke, olive oil and grilling sardines. With water: ahh, much sweeter and oilier now with water. Lemon cough medicine, more natural tar notes, oily peats and some herbal extracts that lean towards liqueurish. Hessian and various medical tinctures. Finish: long, leafy, smoky, earthy and full of salty notes such as miso, soy sauce and anchovy paste. Some oily lemony notes as well. Comments: At times it’s a little tough, but if you work with it and give it the benefit of time and a little water it really does reward. What can I say? Another very excellent Lagavulin. Damn those lucky Europeans! Just you wait till we are eating re-hydrated mashed potatoes and Boris Johnson is in charge, then we’ll show you...!
SGP: 466 - 91 points.



Most people’s favourite Brora 30 year old seems to hover between the 2003 and the 2004 releases. I’m aware that there are already notes for these Broras on Whiskyfun, but they were recorded all the way back in 2004 and 2005. Back when Whiskyfun was only technologically ‘a few years out of date’ and Serge had only viewed all 281 episodes of Inspector Derrick twice. So, let’s record some notes for them now if you don’t mind.  


Brora 30 yo (55,7%, OB Special Releases 2003, 3000 bottles) Brora 30 yo (55,7%, OB Special Releases 2003, 3000 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: It’s easy to forget just how utterly different and special the early 1970s Broras are. Trying them is a scarce treat these days and I think it’s important to remember that when these 30 year olds came out there wasn’t really anything like them. The Rare Malt 72 and 75 Broras displayed their own character that was quite apart from these 30s in my book. You have this supremely pure farminess that sits in harmony with rather fatty green fruits and notes of rope, tractor parts, mechanical oils and that pervasive and every present waxiness that oozes throughout and ties everything together. The coastal aspect is there as well, vivid, incredibly fresh and invigorating. Lots of lemon peel, beach pebbles, sea greens and a whole shoreline of minerals. With water: where do you begin? Water really just brings an even greater cohesion to it. It’s not peat, wax and salt so much as everything as one superb whole that surpasses the sum of its parts. Although, I will just mention lime infused oils, kiln smoke and waxed canvas. Mouth: hell’s teeth! What a whisky! Oily, glistening, fat, unctuous peats, waxes, wood embers, silage, hay lofts, cured meats, cow stables, iodine, beach sand, crushed shells, preserved lemons... you could go on indefinitely finding so many tiny wee aromas and flavours. But probably best just call the anti-maltoporn police (were they even around in 2004 Serge?) The texture is creamy and all-consuming. Superbly peppery, lots of lean, salty bacon fat and some oily sheep wool. With water: unequivocally brilliant! Utterly superb, huge, fatty, gloriously complex and  warming. The very epitome of ‘waxiness’ in malt whisky. Finish: endless. Wandering down all sorts of tertiary avenues of flavour. Sooty, oily, grassy, citrus, salt, cured meats, hessian, earth, herbal... Comments: Undoubtedly a masterpiece. A triumph of evocative distillate character, age and restrained cask influence. The only trouble with whiskies like this is that they dominate your attention so utterly. Not the sort of thing you can really just pour a dram of and chat away to someone over. Compelling is an understatement.
SGP: 585 - 95 points.


Brora 30 yo (56.6%, OB Special Releases 2004, 3000 bottles) Brora 30 yo (56.6%, OB Special Releases 2004, 3000 bottles)
Colour: gold (a shade deeper). Nose: A tad straighter and more mineral than the 03 at first. But also more medicinal, more embrocations, bandages, gauze and various subtle ointments. The raw farmyard note in the 03 is displaced here by a balancing but deep sootiness. Give it time and the waxiness bubbles up to the surface like slow lava. In time the earthiness becomes gravelly and there’s this note of turmeric, capers in olive oil and some fresh, yeasty breads. With water: really a similar ‘unifying’ effect as in the 03 but again here it’s more sooty, more polished, more light green fruits, more beeswax and wee flickers of lanolin and lamp oils. Mouth: you do notice the wee variations between them. This one is again leaner, straighter and more direct. It goes towards the peat in a more singular and precise fashion. But it’s brilliance is unquestionable. White hot peats, metal polish, more of this wonderful wood ember character, sandalwood, seashore salinity, paraffin wax, camphor and a texture that’s almost approaching old sweet wines such as a particularly excellent SGN - no wonder these are often considered ‘wine drinkers whiskies’.   Will this anti-maltoporn brigade never get here...! With water: if you’ll excuse me but, holy shit! Water exposes the most stunning medical side in this one. Like pear eau de vie, mercurochrome and precious ointments all fused together. There’s damp hay, white truffle oil, smoked German beer, old ink and tiny tropical notes like pineapple syrup. Finish: similarly endless, only here there’s the most sublime and muscular saltiness. Like a great tidal swipe of sea salt, lemon rind, tar, dried seaweed and smoked oyster sauce. In the aftertaste there’s a callback to these more rural, earthy, mechanical notes. Comments: There isn’t much between them to be honest. Maybe I preferred the 03’s broadness and more overt farminess a tad more, but it’s splitting hairs really. Both are truly magnificent, humbling and beautiful whiskies.
SGP: 576 - 94 points.


It’s little wonder these two whiskies command such enthusiasm and love. Both are sublime in their own way and, in all honesty, I was teetering on the brink of giving them both 95. Although, I was also teetering on the brink of 96 for the 03. I think what’s important to remember as well, especially in light of the fact that Diageo are restarting Brora, is that these whiskies were made in a way which, at the time, looked towards the future. The barley came from Glen Ord’s maltings. The fermentation utilised the SMD distilling yeasts of the day. And the stills were steam heated by that point. Certainly, at the time of production, these whiskies would have been produced in a way which was as commercially minded as what was going on at any of SMD’s other distilleries. It’s not to champion these methods, but rather to highlight what a remarkable distillery the old Clynelish distillery was. And to remember the importance of a slower production regime. Even with some more modern ingredients, if you go slower, accept a slightly lower yield and use equipment that upholds - either by design or default - the better characters of your ingredients, you can be surprised by what astonishing whisky might result. I’m very happy to have tasted these two whiskies again side by side.  


Many thanks to Dirk and to Marcel (I’m afraid the whisky was very far from dead Marcel)  







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