Deanston 18, 46.3%

When I got that awesome sample of Ledaig 42 from Ronald Zwartepoorte, of Whisky Passion fame, I also get a sample of the then new Deanston 18. Since that was June and that wasn’t that long ago, I think we still can call it a relatively new release.

Luckily, it’s not a limited release it’s actually still available! That’s something rare nowadays, permanent additions to ranges! Anyway, I got a sample and when I was going through my stash yesterday, I decided to taste it.

Deanston, to me, is a bit of an odd one out. I think I never spent money on Deanston, while I like the distillery and its product well enough. I remember trying a single cask from Master of Malt which I should have bought.

The distillery was featured in The Angel’s Share, and it’s quite easy to reach from Edinburgh, which maybe I should have done when I was there a couple of years ago.

On the nose I found this one slightly spirity, but in a way I like it. In a way that the distillery character shows. It’s surprisingly rich with lots of fresh barley and sugar. There’s some vanilla and Creme Catalana. Quite ‘standard’ but in a very accomplished way.

The sugar and vanilla are here again, and it’s slightly hot from the alcohol. Barley and shortbread. It’s quite light with oak, some chalk and a slightly creamy mouth feel.

The finish is beautiful. Really rich and full. A hint of coconut on top of the vanilla, oak and barley.

This is a very simple whisky, in a way. None of the flavors are surprising, not for whisky in general and not for Deanston. But what they’ve done with it is simply great. A thoroughly enjoyable dram that shows enough of both spirit and oak maturation. Very well balanced.

And another fun fact: It’s actually affordable. It’s not exactly cheap but with the way things are going right now, an 18 year old Official Bottling for some € 85 (in the UK) is nice!

Deanston 18, bourbon cask finish, 46.3%. Available for £ 61 (€ 83) at Master of Malt

Thanks to Ronald Zwartepoorte for the sample!

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Clynelish 32, 1972-2005, 53.5% – Glen Master

Glen Master must be the most corny name  for a bottler they could come up with. I can imagine thinking of something like that after an evening of heavy dramming and considering it a great idea. I can also think of a way you regret a name like that in the morning.

But, at the end of the day, what counts is what’s in the bottle. And, in the case of 1972 Clynelish, you’ve obviously done something right. Not everybody gets awesome casks like this.

Clynelish is a long time favorite of mine, as are many others (Lagavulin, Springbank, Rosebank, BenRiach, Brora, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Highland Park, Arran, and so on). But what makes Clynelish unique is that they’re masters of the waxy highlands profile. There are some others (Inchgower comes to mind too), but none are as notorious for it as Clynelish.

It so happens that I love that profile. That makes me biased towards Clynelish, but in both ways. If it complies with my expectations I’m overly happy and enthusiastic about it, but if it’s not, I’m overly harsh.

Oh, and I tried this blind, but it took me about three seconds to figure out it’s Clynelish.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

A wax bomb! Candles and such. Sharp but it does lighten up after a couple of minutes. There’s wood and chalk, licorice and some salmiac. There’s also slate and some minerals. Quite austere, but with wax. Something sweet comes in late, like brioche.

The licorice is on the palate too, with white pepper and some alcohol. Sharp, with chalk, vanilla and freshly cut white oak. It does get a bit sweeter after a couple of seconds and slightly spicy. Slate, minerals, apples, leafy greens. Wax, obviously.

The finish is mostly waxy again, old and spicy. Rich oak and beeswax, candle wax. Some furniture polish and lacquer.

And yes, this ticks many of the right boxes. It might be a bit on the alcoholic side on the palate, but the combination of the wax and austerity is great. This is an absolutely gorgeous dram, and it’s a text book Clynelish in all regards.

The fact that it’s ancient and therefore has been in oak for 32 years hasn’t overpowered the spirit at all. It really added to it, but the wax and minerals are typical in many younger Clynelishes, but then they’re not as refined as this.

Great stuff!

The label states that this is a ‘single barrel bottling’. So I’d assume based on that and the flavors that this is a bourbon barrel bottling.

Clynelish 32, 1972-2005, 53.5%, Glen Master

Thanks Tom!

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Glenglassaugh 1976-2004, 27yo, 46.8% – Signatory Vintage

Glenglassaugh is a distillery in an area that has seen many closings, technically. The eastern highlands still have some distilleries open, but there’s a lot of them that have shut down over the years. One of the most prominent ones is Glenugie. A rare thing to come across that now, and the prices have soared accordingly.

For a long time Glenglassaugh itself also was part of that list of lost distilleries. Luckily a couple of years ago some folks were able to buy and restore the place, and get it back up and running. Even more recent the BenRiach Distillery Company bought Glenglassaugh from them and took over, after which Stuart Nickerson (involved in the restoration) moved to Shetland to start building a distillery there.

The result of Glenglassaugh’s silent years is quite obvious in the complete lack of middle aged whisky. There quite a bit of old stuff available at hefty prices, and there have been some releases since its reopening of new whisky. Of course, that new stuff is all very young, up to six years old by now. The old stuff is at least 29 years old since they initially closed in 1986.

Anyway, this dram is part of Signatory’s Cask Strength initiative. They release those whiskies in nice looking vases now, but a decade ago there were dumpy bottlings. Generally those are always of very high quality. I don’t I remember having one that was not nice or better than that.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Wow! With only 46.8% ABV I expected this to be a lot less strong and fierce It has scents of wet rocks and is very austere. Very sharp. Grass and straw with a hint of vanilla. There are scents of wild flowers, daisies, daffodils, dandelions. Also apple and iron.

The palate is very, very sharp with a strong flavor of alcohol at first. Some oak, grass and straw. I also get apple and unripe pear. Flowers and leafy herbs. Floral again, and slightly strangely waxy.

The finish is very floral again as well with some vanilla. After the nose and palate this part is surprisingly soft and gentle. It’s not very long and the waxy flavor is back here too. White, fresh oak.

This is a very strange whisky. As in, a whisky of this ABV that is this sharp is an exception in my book! The austerity it displays on the nose and the palate are fairly off the charts and there’s a lot of alcohol happening, even though a lot of it has gone to the angels over the almost three decades of maturing.

Apart from that austerity there’s a very light whisky hiding in there. A very floral and light dram with lots of wild flower flavors. That makes it something different than we generally get these days, it seems that most of the distilleries producing really floral, herbaceous whisky are closed or silent. I really hope Glenglassaugh can bring whisky like this back to the world!

So, interesting: yes. Tasty, yes, quite. Very, very interesting and actually, after you know what to expect it’s a great little dram. Just be wary of the first sniff and/or sip!

Glenglassaugh 1976-2004, 27yo, cask 2383, 46.8%, Signatory Vintage

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Inchgower 1982, 29yo, 53.9% –

Sometimes I find a whisky with a certain profile that I find very hard to define, but oh so delicious. It happened with an Inchgower 1982 from Duncan Taylor. It also happened with a 1982 Clynelish I had during the BTC a few years ago.

There’s a certain flavor in there that I thoroughly enjoy but find very hard to pin down. But I know it when I find it in a dram. And somehow, I’ve never taken the plunge to actually buy a bottle of this stuff I love so much. Mostly because the releases were timed to perfection with the depletion of my whisky budget. I know I should save for the true gems to come by. I’m trying hard.

Anyway, when these drams came by in 2011, I was able to get some samples, and I got this sample from GJR, like an old Caol Ila a while back. He’s a nice chap and is also on the board of the Usquebaugh Society as our book keeper. He’s good at that. Even though we generally don’t like what he has to say…

So, booze. Good booze if history is any sort of indication. And a mental note to myself to keep an eye out for 1982 Clynelish and Inchgower.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Yup. This has that scent. Leather and beeswax. Wax and wood. Thát scent. Some chili pepper and paprika too. Oak, and just a tad thin or watery.

The palate brings vanilla, honey, beeswax. Some resin, candles and old oak. Some dry leather and simple syrup. Pepper, chili and black. Quite spicy and an orange like bitter note that’s quite nice.

The finish is dry and rich. Beeswax, honey and some oak again.

This whisky does have that lovely old scent and flavor, but it’s not as complex or rich as some of the others I’ve tried. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, but it’s just not as good as some others that were more expensive back in the day.

It’s a very tasty whisky and I’d love to spread some of this around to get an indication of what that elusive flavor is, but I’d have to spend money and my wife and I just agreed to not do that for a while. At least, not on luxury items we don’t necessarily need.

I do recommend getting a bottle of this. It’s available on the Whiskybase marketplace for € 120, which is a fair price.

Inchgower 1982-2011, 29yo, 53.9%, Hogshead 6690,

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Yamazaki Limited Edition 2015, 43%

As part of a deal for a bottle I recently sold I could come over the guy who bought it and pick some samples. He’s very focused on Japanese whisky and therefore has some contacts in the land of the rising sun. He just got in this Limited Edition Yamazaki, this year’s edition which is bound to go the way of most Japanese whiskies and sky rocket soon.

However, I got a sample and I get to review it. Quite early as I haven’t seen any posts of it yet, although I don’t follow a lot of blogs myself. (Not many, just 50 or so…)

It’s bottled at 43% and made up of young bourbon barrels and older (up to 20+ years, according to the press release) sherry casks. Obviously it’s already sold out and if I remember correctly from the talk BP and I had about it yesterday it’s already doubled in price.

Yamazaki generally is very good, although the 2013 whisky of the year from Murray’s Bible was only so-so in my book. Worth a hundred bucks, and CERTAINLY not the 1300 euros it finally went for at its peak. But then again, that’s what hypes are for, right?

Timid and malty at first. There’s some oaky spices and a hint of apple. Sweeter fruits follow that, melon and unripe banana. Some nutmeg and tree bark. The sherry is very faint with just some dark spices coming through. Also a touch bitter.

The palate is not overly rich at first, but has a very nice and interesting flavor of cassis, cherries and some almonds. The oak is kept in check and it takes a few seconds for some bitterness and oomph to come through. It’s slightly biting after that, with some sharp spices. Not quite peppery. The melon is present again (rock melon, I’d say). Some licorice. It gets richer after some seconds, which helps.

The finish is complex with many flavors. All I got before hit right at the same time and the sweetness and light bitterness of the oak and spices fight for the first spot. Neither wins. The sweetness lasts longest, although the bitterness is never gone. Wood influence at its finest.

This is a gorgeous dram. It’s not punch-packing like some other Yamazaki releases and therefore lacks some intensity, but it’s more a refined dram than I expected. The sweet fruits and the bitter spices combine very well and I think that’s where the sherry cask and bourbon cask blends work best.

The only thing I’ve not found here is that typical ‘Japanese-ness’. This could just as well be a Balvenie or some other very carefully and very well blended scotch. But, that’s not really a complaint when the whisky is this good. And it is. It is gorgeous.

Yamazaki Limited Edition 2015, 43%, available for $300 at Dekanta in the US (at the time of writing)

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Eylandt Legend, white spirit, 40% – Kampen Distillateurs

Kampen Destillateurs is a small Dutch distillery in the province of Zeeland. They, like Zuidam mainly produce other drinks. In this case that’s mostly liqueurs, vodka and a grappa like product.

A couple of years ago (information is sketchy) they released their whisky spirit called Eilandt Legend (Island legend) for their investors. It was available at the Whisky by the Sea festival in Vlissingen but since then it has gotten very quiet. According to some people who know things about whisky it was very promising.

I managed to get my hands on a sample, I think it was courtesy of Elise of DH17, but I’m not sure. It’s been years and I had completely forgotten about it. When I came across it in a recent night of ‘I grab some sample and taste those’, I decided to give it a go.

Well, it’s a spirit for sure. It’s very rough and fiery, even at 40%. No refinement at all to be found here, even compared to other new makes from Scotland for example. There’s some smoke and salt, with alcohol and sulfur. Some barley, porridge and mash notes follow, being a tad sour.

The palate is again, very mash like. Like a sour beer gone bad. Too much of those notes! Alcohol, barley, porridge. But also sulfur like vegetable flavors. It’s not sharp and quite a bit better than the nose made me expect (or dread). Still not good though.

Oh hell no!

This is a bit of a strange one. If I would regard this as an actual product, it would score in the vicinity of Abhainn Dearg, which is not a good thing. But, when you imagine the roughness being mellowed out, and nice soft oak influences added to the mix I can imagine this going somewhere.

But, since we’re not reviewing possible future products but what we actually tasted we have to go with that. And then the short story of it is “No. Just no. Hell no.”.

There is a lot wrong with this and the roughness is not the main issue. The scents and flavors are just not nice. The sulfur is far over the top and the soury mash and porridge notes are just appalling.

I’m glad I’ve been able to taste this, but, as you might imagine, I’m not convinced of this being a success.

Eylandt Legend, white spirit, 40%, Kampen Distillateurs

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Inchgower 1994-2007, 13yo, 58.9%, The Manager’s Dram

During my last Blog Birthday Bash buddy TT left me a sample of this. Contrary to what usually happens (I’m trying to improve this, it’s going better) it didn’t disappear in my nigh-infinite sample stash but I drank it soon.

The Manager’s Dram is a series of whisky releases from Diageo during the 2000s in which they released a whisky from a lot of their distilleries to showcase the distillery. While they were acceptably priced in those days, they’re pretty expensive now. Funny enough Diageo tried this again a few years ago with their Manager’s Choice series, but they tried to pass of 8 year old whisky for hundreds of euros. As you might imagine, this didn’t work out too well. A lot of the distilleries’ whiskies are still available and the only ones gone are the ever popular distilleries like Lagavulin, Talisker, Clynelish and Oban. Maybe I’ve missed one, but a lot of others are fairly easy to get, at heavily discounted but still high prices.

Now, back to the Manager’s Drams. I’ve had the Caol Ila at a tasting ages ago. It was great. I had the Clynelish a few years ago when I visited Jon Beach. That is one intense dram.

Diageo usually releases their special releases at really high ABVs. A lot of the annual premiums are high ABV, a lot of the Rare Malts are over sixty percent. This one, actually, is at a surprisingly ‘mellow’ 58.9%.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

It’s surprisingly well ‘finished’ for a 13 year old dram and smells much more mature than expected. There’s a light scent of barley and white bread. Some fresh herbs like mint and some pine scents. Red chili pepper too, peach and apple sauce. A tad of oak too.

The palate is pretty sharp with some alcohol heat. It’s sweet and rich with brioche style bread on the palate. Peach, dried peach and some baking spices. Rich with flavors of ‘ontbijtkoek‘.

The is a fruit bomb before the spices and herbs come back. Again that ontbijtkoek. It’s long and strong with less oak than I expected.

Somehow the style of this whisky reminds of a lot of SMWS bottlings. Highly complex with lots of different flavors. There’s more wood influence on one hand because of the complexity and influences. On the other hand there’s less since it doesn’t actually taste like oak.

This one is a gorgeous example of a young whisky that taste much better than you’d randomly guess from a 13 year old Inchgower. Maybe the expectations are heightened because it’s from the Manager’s Dram series, but I still was positively surprised.

Great stuff, and recommended if you can get it!

Inchgower 1994-2007, 13yo, 58.9%, The Manager’s Dram. £ 175 at TWE

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