Whiskyfun
 

February 16, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Assorted rarities and shameless maltoporn
As you are no doubt aware it’s around this time of year, in advance of the Whisky Show Old & Rare, that many very silly bottles start to get opened in order for their various owners to ‘check’ the quality of the whisky. So, if you don’t mind, lets rattle through a small selection of some of them today and stoke the fires of anticipation...

 

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2016 (47.1%, Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry wood)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2016 (47.1%, Whisky Agency for The Auld Alliance & Three Rivers Tokyo, sherry wood)
Colour: straw. Nose: this is yet another of these really stellar old anonymous Speysiders. I’m sure many of you know the recipe by now: take many flagons of ancient Benedictine and Chartreuse, add a few bee hives, juice a few truckloads of guava, melon, nectarine and mango and then top with the pureed pulp of all the post-Brexit EU style ripe bananas. Finally drench the whole thing in heather honey and drizzle with some drops of molten wax. You could also add some jasmine tea, old leather, elderflower cordial and dried raspberry. Mouth: banana liqueur (could be bendy or straight - my palate isn’t that good!), mixed with tobacco, wood resins, fruit jelly sweeties, honeycomb, nectar, pollen, mint julep,  tea tree oil and wee hints of camphor and many very old sweet wines. Finish: long, resinous and full of supple waxes, tropical and green fruit cordials, freshly baked bread and toasted pine cones. Comments: Yet another killer cask from this big bundle of 73s which seem to have all been totally thrilling! Pure fruit liqueur. No doubt the Brexiters will want none of this multi-continental filth getting in the way of their rationing come March 29th.
SGP: 751 - 92 points.

 

 

Glenury Royal 30 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #6860, sherry cask, 168 bottles)

Glenury Royal 30 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #6860, sherry cask, 168 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: an extremely easy and elegant mix of leafy tobacco, mint leaf, forest mulch, fragrant waxes, metal polish and things like caraway and citronella. Wee hints of beef stock, mushrooms, old school textbooks, orange oils and shoe polish as well. Typical old style, well-aged Highland malt whisky. You can’t help but be charmed by this style and profile. Mouth: the perfect strength and a wonderful delivery, all on roasted hazelnuts, praline, waxes, dried dark fruits such as raisins, some plum wine, strawberry tobacco and herbal extracts. Continues this leafy, minty theme while also displaying some rather resinous aspects, soft oily qualities and denser hints of black truffle, hessian and coal dust. Finish: good length, all on button mushrooms, dried herbs, hints of milk chocolate, green and various fruit teas and pithy citrus notes. Comments: An excellent and pretty textbook old highlander. I doubt many of today’s distillates will possess this kind of character when they are of similar age.
SGP: 561 - 91 points.

 

 

Glenugie 31 yo 1966/1998 (53.9%, Signatory Silent Stills, cask #5082, hogshead, 206 bottles)

Glenugie 31 yo 1966/1998 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #5082, hogshead, 206 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: I don’t ordinarily like to summon Serge’s preferred deity but sweet Vishnu! A big wave of freshly cut grasses, lemon jelly, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, fresh limes, grapefruit, coconut milk, passion fruit and runny honey. An exotic hand grenade in a glass! Continues with cantaloupe melon, lime curds, glazed fruits, guava, pineapple syrup from a tin and some herb-infused waxiness underneath. Lush is the word! With water: a little drier, a little straighter and more direct, a tad more mineral, more waxy, more sooty, more notes of hessian, olive oil, tarragon, chalk, white stone fruits, lychee, dried apricot and a lightly peppery watercress note. Just wonderful and terrifically complex. Mouth: hugely syrupy in texture - like sooking the dregs from a fruit salad bowl! But there’s also a slightly savoury side with pine resin, precious hardwoods, waxes, lemon rind, crushed aspirin, dried thyme and some softer, rather buttery cereal tones. Totally thrilling! With water: tropical fruit syrups once again, only this time more resinous, more fatty, more extractive herbal notes, tea tree oil, green tea, yellow chartreuse, mineral oil, pineapple chunks and mango salsa. Finish: long, leafy, herbal, gently waxy and even getting slightly coastal with these delicate saline touches. Still fruity to the very end. Comments: I mean, are any of us really surprised?
SGP: 761 - 93 points.

 

 

Glenlochy 27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4459, hogshead, 212 bottles)

Glenlochy 27 yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4459, hogshead, 212 bottles)
Colour: yellow wine. Nose: Ahh Glenlochy! A big hearty waxy beast with these wee pinholes of white fruits, honey, fragrant chalk, hessian, lamp oil, sandalwood, toasted seeds and various fruit jellies. Also add to that some yellow flowers, verbena, vapour rubs and a slightly meaty salami note. With water: evolves more towards the mineral side of things with chalk, pebbles, ink and limestone. Sheep wool, crushed sea shells and an earthy turmeric aspect. Mouth: taught, punchy, waxy, oily and rather full of hessian, camphor, white pepper, green tea, lemon oils, white fruits and things like marc de gewurz and dried sage. Superb old school, fatty and very textural highland malt. With water: drier and much breadier and overall more autolytic. Notes of petrol, waxes, salted butter, some brilliant old riesling made by an Alsatian giant! Really spectacular with water. Finish: superbly long, resinous, flinty, mineral, waxy, slightly salty and with these fading oily and resinous qualities in the aftertaste. Comments: At times it leans towards austerity, but patience and attention yields a captivating and rewarding dram. Power, precision and beauty all rolled into one! I love Glenlochy.
SGP: 571 - 92 points.

 

 

Let’s bring out the big guns. In order of theoretical heft...

 

 

Ledaig 1972/1995 (51.9%, La Maison Du Whisky)

Ledaig 1972/1995 (51.9%, La Maison Du Whisky)
A dram with something of a reputation... Colour: walnut. Nose: where do you begin? Liquid cola syrup mixed with freshly brewed espresso, walnut wine, root beer, sarsaparilla extract, some dark and ancient cough medicine, cherry eau de vie, raisins stewed in old cognac and a huge, simmering, earthy and tar-flecked peatiness. Greasy engines, old tool boxes, oily rags, hessian, brown bread, sooty coal scuttles, mushroom powder, coffee granules and game meats. Utterly immense and bewildering stuff! Like being miniaturised and dropped into the heart of an old Aston Martin DB5 engine parked in a desolate peat moor (Serge’s ultimate fantasy by the way). With water: rosewater, BBQ char, eucalyptus resin, strawberry wine, some very gloopy old balsamico and things like roast chestnuts, more tar and creosote. If you ever wanted to tar and feather someone from the inside out... Mouth: Bovril, bacon, beef stock, iodine, tar, lemongrass, peach stones, black coffee, peppered mackerel, biltong... maltoporn guys, are you around? With water: peat, oil, tar, medicine, seawater, liquorice, herbs, earth, bouillon, rancio... seriously, we’d better stop! Finish: glorious, immensely long, fatty, greasy, mechanical, earthy, herbal, medical and sooty. A laboratory, on a farm, in a field, next to a beach, downwind from a hospital, in a glass - with a workshop. And a cow! Comments: Silly whisky. Not suitable for vegans. (No offence vegans.) But seriously, what an incredible dram.
SGP: 488 - 95 points.

 

 

Port Charlotte 4 yo 2001/2005 (61.4%, OB / Private bottling, bloodtub sherry cask, 39 bottles)

Port Charlotte 4 yo 2001/2005 (61.4%, OB / Private bottling, bloodtub sherry cask, 39 bottles)
I know what you might be thinking, but this one also carries quite a reputation. Bloodtubs were specially commissioned small casks made from deconstructed old sherry casks and used for private customer fillings by Bruichladdich during the early 2000s. Colour: rosewood. Nose: You’d never believe such things could be hewn by four meagre wee years. Smoked cherry wine, strawberry laces, cigar ash, burning rosemary wood, smoked mussels, raw peat smoke from a kiln, black olives in brine, peppered mackerel and anchovy paste. Then we’re back to darker fruitier things again, things like bramble wine, cassis, cloves, beef stock, kippers, roasted mushrooms, leaf mulch and raw antiseptic. Iodine droplets, cola cubes and damson jus. With water: we’re onto strawberry liquorice, key lime pie, salty old rope, fishing wellies, pitch, roof sealant and germoline. Some kind of Harry Potter potion gone wrong, or right? Mouth: natural tar liqueurs, gentian root, smoked game meats, red fruit cordials, more soft ashy notes and huge, textural meaty qualities. Jerk chicken spices, paprika, soot, limoncello, oyster sauce, balsamic, rancio and goats cheese. Mad, totally bonkers stuff but it just works in the most thrilling way. With water: concentrated herbal extracts, resins, herbal toothpaste, salted fish, more kippers, chewing an oxo cube while smoking a strong cigar. More tarriness, more cola syrup and a lean, saline-accented earthiness. Finish: long and pretty immense. On smoked fish, sandalwood ash, bonfire smoke, peat embers, caraway, soot, smoked mead, beeswax, lime pith and dried mint. Comments: A Dwarf from Lord Of The Rings in whisky form I think. Mad, intense and yet totally brilliant whisky.
SGP: 389 - 93 points.

 

 

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)
Another dram that has something of a ‘reputation’... Colour: gold. Nose: what strikes first is just this immense sense of control and poised power. It’s coastal in the extreme with these walls of seawater, crushed seashells, beach sand and drying beach kelp, but there’s also a core of fruit within that. A big, beating heart of pineapple, mango, guava and passion fruit that just screams 60s Bowmore. Around that swirls some cigar smoke, mineral salts, fresh butter, chopped chives, aspirin, lemon dust and - eventually - bushels of raw, freshly kilned malt. It keeps changing as well, veering at some points more towards medicine and then back towards the shoreline. In between there’s these wee notes of fabric, linen, putty and miso broth. Incredible complexity and power. A whisky that is totally in control; you can but follow... With water: all the above but add waxes, putty, cereals, pure acacia honey, various fruit eau de vies, Elastoplast, mead... utterly stunning! Mouth: holy fuck! A tidal surge of coastal complexities and ripe tropical fruits. Star fruit, mango, banana, apple, all shades of citrus, passion fruits again - even grape syrup and pomegranate. Just incredible! Beyond all this fruitiness there’s soft notes of tar, herbal ointments, fish sauce, lime juice, mouthwash, iodine, herbal toothpaste... Gah, I’m not sure I know how to continue describing this one. With water: we’re reaching perfection here. The fusion of oils, peat, seashore, salinity, waxes and immense tropical fruits is a combination that is near impossible to surpass in whisky in my experience. Finish: we’re well and truly down the rabbit hole now. And I for one have no interest in returning. Comments: It’s not the first time I’ve tried this whisky. I recall a bottle opened for a friend’s 50th birthday which was an utter monster when first cracked but revealed all its hidden qualities slowly over time. And by time I mean approximately 2 years. This one seems to be really at its peak, the kind of whisky that I think really only existed for a snapshot of human existence. Humbling stuff.
SGP: 667 - 97 points.

 

 

Now, sadly neither of these final two whiskies are appearing at the Old & Rare show this year, but I unexpectedly had the chance to record some notes for them earlier this week and if ever there was a tasting where they might ‘fit in’ so to speak... Also, who really needs an excuse...

 

 

You may have heard of this crazy new Italian bottler called ‘Samaroli’ who is doing some cool stuff with ex-Marmite casks and has just released a really incredible new peated whisky brand called ‘Port Ashtray’ (rumour has it that it’s Speyburn inside!)

 

 

Glen Grant 1959/1999 (47.3%, Samaroli, sherry cask, #3790, 180 bottles)

Glen Grant 1959/1999 (47.3%, Samaroli, sherry cask, #3790, 180 bottles)
Colour: deep rosewood. Nose: There’s something of a very old Karuizawa about this, that is to say dried porcinis, firecrackers dusted with paprika, pot pourri, jasmine tea and morello cherries. Ahh, but there’s just so much more! A sublime and lean earthiness with these pointed leathery notes. It’s a big sherry cask but it’s also bafflingly deft, elegant and controlled. Crushed walnuts, fresh espresso, juniper, verbena, herbal oils, cannabis resin, strawberry liqueur. Utterly stunning and just overwhelmingly beautiful and complex. The kind of aroma that involves medicines, natural oils, herbs and resins, fruits, earth and meats. All bound up in this web of nutty, salty, effortless sherry. You know who to call for God’s sake! Mouth: where do you begin! It feels stronger and more powerful than 47.3%, but it is also utterly perfect at that strength. A lean, salty and ropey sherry. You can practically feel the hessian twine between your teeth! There’s drops of the oldest balsamicos, truffle oil, maraschino juice and, in case you didn’t already suspect, the rancio to end all rancios. Some game meats confit in some ancient dry madeira. Keeps evolving, towards eucalyptus, mint and dried herbs like lemon thyme. Liqueurish but also still resinous, biting, lively and full of exotic notes of lapsang souchong, dried citrus peels, crystalised tropical fruits and aged cigars. Majestic! Finish: longer and with some fully blossoming tannin. Lots of toasted seeds, black tea, dry earth, mushroom powder, strawberry scented pipe tobacco, strong coffee, peppered game meats and - yet - a crystalised tropical fruit flourish in amongst it all as well. Comments: Glen Grant and Samaroli. Both resonating at some kind of lofty mutual pinnacle that resides somewhere in the general direction of Andromeda.
SGP: 671 - 96 points.

 

 

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)
To think there were once 2400 bottles of this juice! I’d love to know if Springbank had the presence of mind to refill these casks? Colour: orangey amber. Nose: a quick grasp of waxes and putty, then it drags you hell for leather into a vortex of dried wild mushrooms, various tobaccos, oily sheep wool, golden sultanas soaked in honey, rancio, salted meats, leaf mulch, caraway, rosehips, red fruits such as red currents and cranberries and things like black pepper. There’s also animalistic notes of game, sweat and stables. The sherry is rather profound in that it displays multiple facets with such breathtaking distinction and precision. There’s this earthy side that encompasses coal scuttles and hummus, then the sinewed mineral side that nods towards preserved lemons, salinity and beach pebbles. And finally that fruity core of raisins, dates, kumquats, citronella, pineapple syrup and something floral like foxgloves or carnations. You can see the foundations of this whisky’s almighty reputation. With water: dark chocolate infused with sea salt and dried chilli, mirabelle, yellow wild flowers such as dandelions, a whole rack of dried herbs, toasted fennel seeds and more of this deep and profound rancio quality. Mouth: the thing that strikes first is this salty and oily meatiness, like a salami laced with fruity red chilli. But it gives way to this abundance of silky and sinewy dark fruits. Dates, fig, plums baked in sweet wines, prune eau de vie, camphor, linseed oils, dried tarragon and things like hawthorne, golden syrup, balsamic and lanolin. A level of intensity and a density of texture and flavour that goes beyond simply powerful but feels almost purposeful as well. With water: really evolves quite strikingly with water. I get things such as gun oil, strap leather, mint julep, pipe tobacco, bitter chocolate, a flicker of matchbox, flinty mineral notes, mineral oil itself and then ancient herbal liqueurs such as yellow chartreuse. You could really just go on and on picking out an endless list of flavours and aromas from this beguiling old Siren of Campbeltown. Finish: Ridiculously long. A slow drift through herbs, nuts, dunnage warehouses, Jerez bodegas, workshops, the Kintyre shoreline, some sweet wine orientated wine cellars, the farmyard and the delicatessen. Comments: It’s not the first time I’ve been fortunate enough to taste this whisky. It’s one of these drams that just seems determined to never give up its full self in one go. Every time I try it I come away feeling differently about it; with a sense that I’ve discovered something new or thought it was different from before. There’s not many drams that can toy with you in such a profound and affecting way. In that sense it really shares something with the Bowmore above. But anyway, Samaroli, pffft, what did that guy know...
SGP: 672 - 97 points. 

 

 

Just a quick thought on those two drams. The Glen Grant is, in my book, a rather underrated whisky (I’m not taking into account crazy auction prices here - which I think become increasingly unrelated to the actual quality of whisky, but that’s another topic...). Whereas the Springbank, while staggering, is perhaps not quite as world beating as many have suggested in my view (I’m talking ‘100 point’ proclamations here). The Springbank I think is better by a single point on technicalities, whereas the Glen Grant is perhaps a more pleasurable dram by virtue of just how easy and luxurious it is. Both whiskies are sublime in their own ways, and indeed if you look at the SGPs they are not so different in overall profile. This is where the 100 point scale proves its importance and weight of meaning in the 95-100 range and where we really start to separate out whiskies along divisions of ‘technicality’ and ‘emotion’. Anyway, what a terrific chance to try these two legends side by side.

 

 

If I were some kind of psychopath I’d probably vat the rest of each of these two whiskies together right now to see what sort of demented potion emerged. Such a combination would probably taste like a Karuizawa 1965 having a threeway with a 50yo Dalmore and some pre-war Macallan as a Largimeanoch 67 Bowmore watched from corner while simultaneously sexting a 1940s 10yo Highland Park all leading to a climactic, very messy 97 points and a hotel room out of service for at least a week!

 

 

Thankfully, as Serge will confirm, I’m a sensible kind of guy.

 

 

Eternal gratitudes and hugs to Thomas, Enrico, Emmanuel and Jonny.

 

 

Copyright Serge Valentin, Nick Morgan and all the Malt Maniacs