Google Old glories for new year

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

December 31, 2022





Xmas Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Old glories for new year!
I had thought it would be nice to see in the new year with a wee line-up of brand new, top notch whiskies from new distilleries. After all, isn't it better to look to the future than mull over the past? As it happened, I didn't really have anything suitable for a full session on my shelves that fit that initial plan. So, let's go with Plan B: an unashamed wallow in old glories of yesteryear with the help of some Glen Garioch and Highland Park. Isn't that what everyone is doing these days anyway?





Happy new year to all you lovely folk!






Highland Park 13 yo 1956/1970 (70 proof, Avery's)

Highland Park 13 yo 1956/1970 (70 proof, Avery's)
I just adore the line on these old Avery's labels: "This straight malt whisky was distilled on November 15th, 1956. It has been aged over 13 years in Spanish Oak casks which had previously contained our fine quality Sherry. It was carefully bottled in our Bond on April 2nd 1970." Mic drop. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: we are on Orkney, and exquisitely so! The level on this bottle wasn't too great when it was opened, but despite that, and despite the 70 proof, this is just an embarrassment of riches. Layers and layers of dry, herbal, intricate Orcadian peat with long aged Sauternes, coconut, sultana, toolboxes full of old hessian rags and mechanical oils, natural tar and resinous impressions of wormwood and cough syrups. An enchanting traipse through a whole land of aroma that doesn't really exist in whisky anymore. Mouth: even with a slightly loss of ABV this is still astonishingly syrupy upon arrival. Pure, old school cough syrup mixed with yellow Chartreuse, aged Drambuie and Clacquesin. I also find suet, marrow and bouillon broth full of green and black pepper, smoked sea salt, olive oil and feelings of mutton and sheep wool oils. Hugely organic, fatty,  herbal and mechanical. Vegetal aspects which are the opposite of the more dodgy kind you may find in old blends; everything here feels like the result of stunning old HP distillate in some sublime sherry wood. Finish: not the longest, but still rather long, if you see what I mean. A glowing, still warm hearth full of peat embers. Comments: utterly exquisite old Highland Park with an indomitable wealth of old style Orkney peat character on display. I seem to recall feeling this bottle was ever so slightly tired when we opened it but revisiting this sample I'm struck by the beauty and remarkable freshness and resolve. I think a bottle with a better level would comfortably be in 94/95 point territory. As it is…

SGP: 565 - 93 points. 



Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (57.6%, OB, 228 bottles)

Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (57.6%, OB, 228 bottles)
Now a legendary bottle, which I've never formally tasted before. Let's set that straight right away…Colour: amber. Nose: fat and juicy sherry immediately up front, underpinned by softer, sooty peaty notes, camphor and things like beeswax, furniture oil and dark fruit molasses. Concentration, power and a wonderfully clear feeling of 'Highland Park'. It continues to evolve with impressions of resinous hardwoods, hints of black olive, medical embrocations - at times you would even start to think of some very top class heavy Caroni. A slow but increasing evolution and complexity in this nose, the type that draws you in hopelessly… With water: saltier, more leathery, tarry, nutty and full of all kinds of crystallised and dried fruits. Totally brilliant! Mouth: an outstanding fusion of dry, earthy, herbal peat with some stunningly salty old Oloroso VORS and then all manner of softer, dried and stewed dark fruits, aged Fins Bois Cognac, walnut liqueur and touches of gentian and pickled tarragon. One of those whiskies where as soon as you feel you have a grasp of it, it changes tack and adds in further layers of complexity. With water: goes up a notch higher with water. Extreme complexity now, coupled with a fantastically thick, chewy, dry peat smoke flavour. We'll have to stop as this could go on far too long otherwise… Finish: long, getting lighter and more playful again with green pepper, lemon rind, quince, tiny drops of iodine and more camphor and peat. Now also some dried tropical fruits in the aftertaste. Comments: another one of these whiskies that rather dominates you and leaves you with little choice but to hang onto its coat tails for the ride! Deservedly a modern legend in my view. A bridge between the profile of the 1956 Avery's and later styles of Highland Park in some ways, but it does that with rather outrageous brilliance. The kind of bottle that will probably be 94 point material in another 10 years.

SGP: 564 - 93 points.



Ok, that Avery's HP has given me an idea…



Glen Grant 13 yo 1959/1972 (75 proof, Avery's)

Glen Grant 13 yo 1959/1972 (75 proof, Avery's)
Same statement about sherry casks with same wording, which is encouraging, as is the slightly more punchy 75 proof. This was a bottle I opened the other week when visiting some friends in London. Colour: mahogany. Nose: a much deeper, denser and rather more opulent sherry style that's reminiscent of some superb old off-dry oloroso cream sherries, that used to be very popular in the UK. All manner of fudge, Armagnac-soaked raisins, figs, candied walnuts and subtle hints of meat stocks, gravies and dried cranberries. This fusion of meats, earth, fruits and some delicate medicinal undercurrents is just gorgeous. Mouth: stunning sherry, salty, gamey and riddled with umami paste and rancio! An utterly irresistible style that's now all but extinct in Scotland's warehouses I think. Maybe hard to say we detect an obvious Glen Grant profile, but then of course Glen Grant from this era would float with this kind of cask like two happy hippies on acid! The whole just screams perfect balance and utter decadence. Finish: long and full of salted dark chocolate, game meats, rancio, pickled walnuts and Irish coffee. Comments: the urge to go and pour a silly sized measure of this into a large cognac snifter glass is reaching danger level - little wonder there are so few bottles of this one left! What's rather cool is that the sherry profile is pretty different from that of the 1956 HP, which felt like it belonged more to the old G&M school transport sherry cask style. Another amazing slice of utterly gorgeous liquid history.
SGP: 652 - 92 points.



And now of course we should probably have a sparring partner for the Glen Grant…



Glen Grant 27 yo 1973/2000 (46%, First Cask, cask #7647, sherry)

Glen Grant 27 yo 1973/2000 (46%, First Cask, cask #7647, sherry)
From this rather neat wee series for Direct Wines which was sourced from Signatory Vintage. Colour: pale amber. Nose: a lighter style, more mulchy, earthy and rounded with notes of chocolate biscuit, malt loaf, brown bread spread with treacle and moist Guinness cake. Also develops some lovely classical notes of raisins, sultanas and prune. Needs a little time in the glass to gather complexity but it evolves rather beautifully with some impressions of heather ales and dessert wines. Mouth: very typical of these vintages, with waxy honeycomb vibes up front, along with runny honey, pressed flowers, pollens, dried dark fruits and crystallised citrus peels. In some ways it is struggling after the 1959, but in other ways the fact it is quite a different profile is a real asset. Olive oil, Earl Grey tea with lemon and a light medicinal note. Finish: medium, on quince jelly, more honey, sweet wines, soft waxes and wee herbal cough medicine notes. Comments: it's a short, sharp reminder of just how utterly charming and excellent these batches/vintages were for Glen Grant. The kind of bottle that has probably been remorselessly destroyed over a fair number of festive holidays since release. I was hovering around 90, but I love Glen Grant and it's Hogmanay so let's throw caution and care to the wind…

SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Ok, after that slight but very welcome sidetrack, onto Glen Garioch.



Eastern Highland Malt 1975/1988 (50%, Duthie for Samaroli, 20th Anniversary, Fragments of Scotland, 648 bottles)

Eastern Highland Malt 1975/1988 (50%, Duthie for Samaroli, 20th Anniversary, Fragments of Scotland, 648 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: take some 1974 Caol Ila, add a few good drops of 1970 Port Ellen, one or two splashes of 1968 Ardmore and finish with a scoosh of 1971 Brora. Or, if we must, perfectly pure and salty peat, tiny earthy and vegetal notes, a sense of rather fat and hefty smoke, embrocations, green olives, tar. A beautifully fresh and chiseled nose that makes you think of some of the greatest peated malts. With water: saltier, more vegetal and earthy, more medicinal and also brimming with freshness and zesty fruits. Whisky that makes you grin like the Cheshire Cat. Mouth: gah! Stunning. So textural, so fat and so oily! Slathered on peat flavour that's salty, drying, herbal, coastal and fresh while also feeling like it belongs to the farmyard and the engineers garage. Mechanical oils, tars, pickling brine and various umami things along with also preserve citrus fruits, like lemons in brine. Then camphor and iodine too. All over the place but in a joyous and utterly brilliant fashion. There's also this very clear feeling of sticking your head in a malting kiln, which is essentially the voice of the raw ingredients shining through in my book. With water: what I find so impressive is the depth and fatness of the peat flavour - you have to really work your molars to break this wondrous sludge up into consumable portions! All the while it simultaneously manages to retain this joyous complexity with all these other wee flavours and things pinging out at you. Finish: superbly long and gelatinous in the mouth. This peat has missed three busses! Salty, resinous, citric, tarry, peppery and smoky! Comments: It would appear I used the word 'joyous' twice in this note, that about sums it up. Only thing I'd add is that this is probably my favourite of the 1975 Glen Gariochs - kudos to Mr Samaroli and also, if I may, to the fact it was bottled at 50%, which I'd hazard has worked wonders over the years in glass in this case.

SGP: 465 - 94 points.



Glen Garioch 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell's personal selection III)

Glen Garioch 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell's personal selection III)
A famous and extremely rare bottling that carries a mighty reputation and that I never tasted before. I'm extremely happy to finally be able to try this one. Colour: deep dirty gold. Nose: what's amazing is how the 1973s, and this one specifically, are so different from the 1975s. This is just so much more organic, farmy, metallic and dirty in a good way. Black olives, brine, anchovy paste, silage and tarry rope. Saying that it's also showing some superbly salty and pure sherry notes, like some ancient Amontillado with these salty, walnutty vibes. The peat is also sharper, more sinewed and slightly more specific but still wonderfully weighty and enveloping. I also get pinewood and burning rosemary branches. It's another of these story book whiskies that has tales to tell and will lead you down some long and wayward paths. With water: becomes tenser and really balanced between saltiness and these gamey/tarry accented peat smoke aromas. Such an unusual and brilliant profile that is really quite unlike most other old peated makes. Mouth: holy moly, we've stumbled upon some 100° proof peated green Chartreuse. Also stunning tarriness, medical embrocations, pure iodine, camphor and smoked olive oil. You can also add tobaccos, walnut wine, leather, smoked game meats and flamed orange rind. With water: more of these orange notes, along with other preserved citrus rinds, massive of smoke, herbal ointments, very salty liquorice, cocktail bitters and sooty peat flavours. Finish: wonderfully long, resinous, herbal, tarry and peaty. A superb interplay between a unique peated distillate and some ruggedly excellent old style sherry cask. Comments: I understand why people would enjoy the purity of the 1975s, but these 1973s possess some kind of otherworldly charm and charisma that is extremely hard to put your finger on in my view. This is a big old shaggy beast of a Glen Garioch, and I absolutely love it!
SGP: 476 - 93 points.



Hogmanay hugs to Olivier, Iain, KC, Cicada and Mike D.



Happy 2023 everyone!










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