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

May 11, 2020


Strict lockdown is over in this country, let's celebrate appropriately with...

An OOTW trio

For once I wanted to do a wee session that would not gather whiskies from the same distillery (which will get tougher anyway with all those new bastard malts that are really starting to rattle our cage.) So, let’s find three pretty rare old malts that do share obvious similarities, while remaining totally different. Sure that’s possible, you’ll soon see what I mean… Oh, OOTW = Out Of This World. In fact we’ll have three variants by three different distilleries that started to produce some heavy peaters in the early 1970s because Islay was not producing that much, while demand for smoky components was getting higher at the blenders'. Think Jonnie Walker, for example, a brand that was thriving and that always needed quite some peaters. Especially for Jonnie Walker Black! Good, we’ll do this by ascending age if you don’t mind…

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB)

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB) Five stars
So Springbank! This is a legendary bottling from modern Longrow’s second year of activity. These 1974s came out with various age statements. I had adored the 16 a long time ago (WF 93) while a 25 that came out more recently with a newer livery fetched exactly the same mark. But I had never tried this 18 before.  I would add that I’m very happy about the fact that Longrow’s back in full form again since a good, say twenty years, while I think the early 1990s had been extremely problematic (notably because of all those very sulphury sherry casks that they were filling). Anyway, let’s proceed… Colour: pale white wine, crikey! Nose: a style never seen again since back then. N.e.v.e.r. And one that they had already lost in 1987, although many 1987s had been excellent too. So, let’s try to describe this… Say you take some oyster shells and crush them. Then you add a little urchin flesh, some aspirin powder, some bizarre old-style mentholy ointments, certainly some chalk and plaster ala Ben Nevis (it is, in fact, a notch Ben-Nevissy), drops of paint thinner, a cup of seawater, bits of bandages, and please shake well. That’s it, more or less. Mouth: pretty crazy, because it’s rather full of off-notes, and sometimes even flavours that are supposed to be flaws, and yet it’s a beautiful whole that became wonderfully soft. Citrons running the show as far as fruits are concerned, otherwise bandages again, soot, camphor, chalk, paint, suet, oysters and urchins indeed, some bizarre fish brine (ex-rollmops?)… And even wee bits of plastic. Crazy good. Finish: medium, this time rather on paraffin with grapefruit and lime juice, as well as a pinch of salt. And smoked fish, almost forgot to say. Comments: I had forgotten about this style. I won’t forget it twice. An incredible drop, wondering if they kept the recipe over there in Campbeltown.
SGP:555 - 94 points.

Ledaig (Tobermory) 22 yo 1973/1996 (44.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ledaig (Tobermory) 22 yo 1973/1996 (44.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars
So Tobermory’s Longrow, if you will. It’s to be noted that many Ledaigs had been christened Tobermory, so it’s always good to double-check da Internet before you buy any old Tobermory. Especially if you’re looking for mashed turnips and tinned porridge instead of deep coastal smoke! I agree, who would. Colour: straw. Nose: they got it right immediately! Any 1972, 1973 or 1974 was absolutely stellar, with a few rare exceptions. It is, in fact, a tad smokier than the Longrow, certainly less medicinal, probably more coastal (yet), and perhaps a wee td dirtier, almost feinty in a way, but in a good way. Yes that’s possible. What’s absolutely mesmerising is the pace at which all these tropical fruits are coming out one after the other, bananas (that often derives from the first bready notes), mangos, passion fruits, oranges, lemons, then roots, celeriac, liquorice, gentian (bingo), palm hearts… Leaves you breathless! I mean, noseless! Mouth: perhaps a we tad less fabtastic on the palate, but we’re still flying over the highest mountains. It’s rather peppery, smoky of course, neither very coastal nor medicinal this time, rather on jams, ripe tropical fruits, all-fruit juice… And indeed smoke. Finish: hold on, it does get medicinal now. Embrocations? Cough syrup? And always some mangos lurking in the background. These mangos often appear after quite a few years in great peaters. Some molecules are probably more instable than others. Comments: no, it’s just another immense whisky. Fascinating drops, those early new-era peaters from the mainland…
SGP:656 - 93 points.

Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead)

Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead) Five stars
Good, Brora’s story is not exactly the same since they used a different distillery to make this peated version of Clynelish, but the context is similar: they had to make Islay-style whisky on the mainland (granted, Tobermory’s on Mull). As for the 1978 vintage, in theory it’s rather lighter, I mean les smoky than those of the early 1970s, but we’ve tried quite a few Boras and whilst all 1970-1972s were very smoky indeed, the following vintages became less consistent. What I mean is that within the same vintage (say 1978 indeed), you could find either some lighter Clynelish-style distillates, or some heavy Lagavulin-style peaters. Not to mentions some rather Taliskerian juices. Anyway let’s try this wee bottling that was done for Asia last year. Colour: gold. Nose: I would say the most fragile, this is probably a kind of death seat after the fab Longrow and Ledaig. Having said that it did not become too oaky on the nose (the palate might be different), and what’s clear is that, quite unexpectedly, it’s closer to the Longrow than to the Ledaig. Seaweed, seawater, mercurochrome, clay, mouthwash, touches of olives, liquorice, capers, oysters… It’s really getting coastal, this is almost as if you’re opening your windows in front of the ocean, very early in the morning. You’ve even got whiffs of diesel fumes from a few fishermen’s boats leaving the harbour… Who needs holidays when you’ve got whisky? Mouth: no obvious oak, much more power than I expected, some big peat (like 30ppm, since you’re asking), apples first, then guavas, oysters again, clams and whelks (are you hungry yet?), tar, ashes, mango jam, a wee bit of vanilla fudge… IN fact, its also a tad rounder than I had thought, but never would it show any sign of tiredness. Once again we won’t quite feel allowed to make fun out of these Casks of Distinctions. Not out of this one, at least. Finish: medium, on a combo that’s always incredibly stunning, smoky marmalade. Wee kumquats smoked over charcoal and beech. Wonderful citrusy aftertaste. Comments: and one grain of salt.
SGP:555 - 93 points.

(Heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Hideo and Patrick)







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