Google Strathisla and sherry

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

February 18, 2020


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Strathisla and sherry

It is true that Strathisla has got rather more discreet than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Having said that there’s a newish Chivas Regal Strathisla that’s pretty intriguing but sadly, we haven’t got it. Let’s see what we can find…

Strathisla 13 yo 2003/2017 (58.3%, OB, Single Cask Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #62274, 654 bottles)

Strathisla 13 yo 2003/2017 (58.3%, OB, Single Cask Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #62274, 654 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one’s dark as some chocolate cake. Colour: mahogany. Nose: it’s full of charcoal, toasted oak, and engine oil. I would almost call it ‘old-garage-y’. Some very big amontillado too, very black chocolate, old guns, truffles, mint extracts, cold-brewed ristretto, roasted chestnuts, all that. Heavy sherry, heavy extraction. With water: as usual when water’s been added to some very oloroso-ed malt, Bovril and other very dark meaty sauces come out.  Mouth: really huge, sharp, pungent, full of cracked pepper and oak extracts, roasted nuts, bitter oranges, ultra-black chocolate (like 90% at the very least)… In short not one that would take prisoners. With water: chocolate and Armagnac, plus that salty sauce once again. Oxtail soup. Finish: long and very dry. Raw crude chocolate indeed, and more beef soup. Bitter marmalade, caraway, cloves and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re pretty close to some early A’Bunadhs, but this is even thicker, more bitter, and certainly drier. Love all the pepper and cocoa in there.
SGP:362 - 89 points.

Good, back exactly 30 years…

Strathisla 16 yo 1973/1989 (62.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante Italy, licensed label, 75cl)

Strathisla 16 yo 1973/1989 (62.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante Italy, licensed label, 75cl) Five stars
Wouldn’t we rather expect just another sherry monster? Everyone loves this label that’s always been ‘old-school’, hope they’ll never change it. Have they? Colour: deep amber. Nose: another bigly sherried one (your English never stops improving, S.), but this time we’re rather more on prunes and raisins, Christmas cake, figs and dates, chestnut honey, molasses, and then a lighter, very engaging fruit cocktail. We’re noticing pears, papayas, tamarind, blood oranges, a touch of mint, a touch of olive oil… It’s amazing that it would be this expressive at such high strength, but that may be one of the benefits of bottle aging. With water: just perfect, wonderfully drier, rather on some old sweet wine that digested its sugars. Oh let’s paraphrase Carla Bley if you don’t mind, ‘I like whiskies that are very lush, with all the lush parts taken out.’ Sweet Carla Bley!... Mouth (neat): very strong, naturally, but absolutely fantastic, with just the right balance between mint and other tiny herbs on the one side, and lush dried fruits on the other side. Lush? With water: absolutely glorious and even epic. A perfect example of what good bottle aging can do to a whisky that was probably quite a brute when it was bottled. Magical oranges, figs, and all kinds of spices. The oranges are mesmerising here. Finish: very long, rather on some kind of artisanal Jaffa cake, with a very dry and very wonderful chocolaty and coffee-ish aftertaste. Comments: textbook middle-aged sherry monster. 16 years in wood + 30 years in glass, that’s perfect – and isn’t that one of the secrets of many a greatest Cognac by the way?
SGP:551 - 91 points.

All is perfect so far, so I guess we could push things a little further down the years…

Strathisla 1949/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label)

Strathisla 1949/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label) Five stars
Good, let’s do a little math… Wait but this is 56 or 57 years old! Not sure anyone would have bottled such an old malt under such an understated livery these days. And at, ach, err, at 40% vol…. Colour: gold. Nose: tops. Old herbal teas from grandma’s old tin boxes, chamomile, spear mint, peppermint, pollens, wormwood, lily, some camphor, Vicks, honeydew… There isn’t much sherry this time, unless the distillate’s absorbed everything within all those years in wood. Yes we’ve seen that happening quite a few times. Right, two or three times. I just hope it won’t have got flattish on the palate… Mouth: sure it is not an utter monster, but it is not flat whisky at all, it’s just that it really went towards all things bouillony and herbal. So fewer fruits, rather a feeling of ‘nice’ cardboard, wood smoke, many teas, some bouillons of all kinds, perhaps rather more nutmeg than usual, and then quite some cedar wood, incense, balsa, cinnamon… Sure it’s a little drying, but we’re nowhere near any limits. Some very lovely old herbal liqueurs do emerge as well, although that would all be a little jumbled. Mandarine? Gentian? Unicum?... Finish: medium to short but clean and not frustrating at all. More wee herbs and spices, and a perfect meadiness in the aftertaste. Comments: this one should do wonders in a large Cognac glass (a.k.a. fishbowl) Not many whiskies do in my book. Imagine, 1949! Whisky blogger 101, never mention historical events that occurred in the year a spirit was distilled, that’ lame at best and everyone knows about wikipedia. Not that I’ve never done that myself, mind you.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

(Merci François and Patrick)

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