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

June 19, 2013


A little tour of the indie Lowlands

It's hot, it's summer, it's Lowlands time! But instead of lining up several bottlings from the same distillery, we'll rather do a little tour of the region today, which could be enlightening. Some names are becoming rarer, such as St. Magdalene, so it was more than time to do this. Now, it's not easy to quench one's thirst with cask strength whiskies, so let's have a lighter apéritif for starters. We'll then have a bigger Rosebank as the 'broom wagon'.

Rosebank 1984/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label)

Rosebank 1984/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: pretty simple and ultra-fresh, that is to say fittingly summery. Oranges in all their forms including squash and sweets, some apple juice and just the faintest hints of oak. Maybe also strawberries, even a little fresh mint… Mouth: light but zesty, very easy, very fruity. It’s fruit juice with just a little vanilla. Oranges, green apples, a little vanilla fudge… All easy, all good. Should take ice like a Viking (what?). Finish: short but clean. Traces of salt, which I’ve already encountered in Rosebank, and a little bubblegum in the aftertaste. Comments: you could just sing Vamos A La Playa (ho-ho ho-ho-ho…) Simple pleasures. SGP:531 - 83 points.

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2012 (50.3%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2012 (50.3%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical combination of fresh apple juice, grapefruits, vanilla and just a little porridge and yeast. A kind of rounder all-vitamin juice, pleasant. More overripe apples and more porridge after ten minutes. Mouth: sweet and sugary, halfway between citrus fruits and sweet or jell-os made out of them (or out their typical molecules ;-)). The lemony part tends to grow bigger, after just one or two minutes, in true Bladnochian fashion. Finish: quite long, zesty, with something oily. Lemon syrup without water. A little cane sugar in the aftertaste and again this feeling of bonbon. Maybe a saltiness too. Comments: we’re really close to sweets and drops – for adults of course. A malt unlike any others, and for that it’s recommended. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (52.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (52.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon) Four stars and a half These are all very good, so why spend time tasting them? For the pleasure, my friend... Colour: straw. Nose: it’s quite amazing how this baby’s close to the Rosebank in style, it’s almost a clone (clones are very fashionable these days, aren’t they?) So again, a wild bunch of citrus fruits, tangerines, oranges, lemons… and maybe also kiwis and a little rhubarb. Touches of vanilla and a little café latte to round this off. White chocolate. With water: water makes it louder and brings added notes of bubblegum. High-end bubblegum. Mouth (neat): perfect, full, creamy, very fruity, a perfect example of this style. Tangerines, kiwis and such. Not much to add, but this is much to my liking. With water: excellent, a whole citrus-driven fruit salad. Finish: medium length, on more or less the same notes, with a lemony signature. Right, rather lime. Comments: I think these batches are unbeatable if you’re into zestiness in whisky. SGP:641 - 89 points.

Glenkinchie 19 yo 1987/2007 (54.8%, Cadenhead’s, 234 bottles)

Glenkinchie 19 yo 1987/2007 (54.8%, Cadenhead’s, 234 bottles) Four stars Picture, a previous bottling. Indie Glenkinchies are rare! Colour: pale gold. Nose: a much grassier spirit this time, closer to the barley, to gunflints, to rocks… Much less expressive than the previous ones but this straightness is enjoyable. It’s just a shier spirit. With water: lemon-sprinkled porridge, whiffs of old books coming through, very slightly musty. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is rather barley-ish but very pleasantly so. There are more fruits as well this time, but instead of citrus it’s rather cherries, plums, peaches… In other words, another Lowlander that’s appropriately summery. With water: there, the citrus fruits come through now. A Glenkinchie that’s leaning toward both Rosebank and Littlemil, how does that sound? Finish: and once again, it’s the lemon that stands out. Medium length. Comments: this baby’s not without reminding me of the officials among the Annual Releases. Very good and, once again, appropriately summery. SGP:561 - 86 points.

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (56%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, USA)

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (56%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, USA) Four stars I've also accumulated a few St. Magdalenes at 60% vol.+ but we'll have those later on. Colour: straw. Nose: well in the style of St. Magda, that is to say much, much leafier and grassier than the other ones, much more austere, much more on humus, mushrooms, fern, hay, leather… Quite un-Lowlands, if I may say so, but extremely elegant. In the background, whiffs of old roses, eucalyptus and patchouli. Intriguing… With water: oh, it lost the leafiness and became both simpler and fruitier. Marshmallows? Also barley sugar… Nice but less thrilling with water. Mouth (neat): starts a little acrid and very earthy, which is unusual indeed. Gentian, turnips (not joking, Baldrick), lemon, mint and… sorrel? What’s sure is that it’s more lemony than on the nose. Good body. With water: more of all that. Also touches of cinchona, cranberries, blood oranges, pomegranates… After all, it’s a civilised St. Magdalene! Finish: quite long, clean, fruity, fresh and… summery. Comments: one of the most summery St. Magdalenes I could try. Now, I did choose this one on purpose ;-). SGP:461 - 87 points.

Auchentoshan 1991/2009 (59.3%, Malts of Scotland, cask #492, Chateau Montrose Finish, 301 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1991/2009 (59.3%, Malts of Scotland, cask #492, Chateau Montrose Finish, 301 bottles) Two stars Even if I'm a sucker for Malt of Scotland's usually brilliant whiskies, and if the distillery's own 'Bordeaux' bottlings were acceptable (around WF 79), I have to say this older offering by MoS has a very scary pedigree. And yes I love Montrose and Saint- Estèphe in general... Colour: gold. Nose: strange, but less strange than I had thought. Orange blossom and cassis, fennel (serious), parsley, then aspirin in water and a lot of orange squash. Okay, it is unlikely, but not quite un-nice so far. With water: a wee soapiness appears. Almond milk, sunflower oil, seeds… That was unexpected. Again, it’s not unpleasant. Mouth (neat): nah, that doesn’t work too well. I think the French oak makes it too spicy and gingery, and that Auchentoshan is too light and fruity a spirit to stand such treatment. With water: doesn’t swim, at all. Bitter spices. Finish: same. Woody. Comments: an excellent 1991 just bottled by Malts of Scotland in 2013 was on a totally different planet (WF 87) but it was a full bourbon version. Ha, Bordeaux and newish French oak in whisky, ça ne marche pas bien ! SGP:371 - 70 points.

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4)

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4) Five stars One of the very early Rosebanks by The Society. Colour: coffee! Nose: ah, old sherry on old style Rosebank, what’s not to like? Douglas Laing had some old sherried Rosebank ten years ago, and those were splendid. This one is in the same vein, with some wonderful notes of prunes, raisins and old Sauternes mingled with the spirit’s lemon and tangerines, plus quite some mint, camphor and liquorice. Kool cigarettes (unlit!) Superb… With water: s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! The complexity is astounding. Mouth (neat): unusual and majestic. It’s very powerful, ultra-zesty and yet kind of silky because of the sherry, with sultanas, old Chartreuse, orange liqueurs, a little earth, tobacco, liquorice… All that is wonderful and I especially like the fact that in no way the sherry masks the distillery’s character. With water: holy featherless crow! Exactly fabulous, this baby would solve the middle-east issues in no time. Finish: best of news, it’s very long. Comments: you know what’s really impressive with this little Rosebank? It’s the fact that it’s both rich and fresh, and that the distillery character remains there despite all this magnificent sherry. I’m in awe, respect to Mr. Hlil and gang. SGP:652 - 94 points.

PS: Yes, I know, Inverleven is missing. Nothing is perfect.
(with heartfelt thanks to Angus, Konstantin, Olivier and Tim)







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