Two 40 year old Blairfindy whiskies

Back when I started drinking whisky, some 15 years ago, I started going to Whiskyslijterij De Koning. Back then he was the importer of Blackadder whiskies in The Netherlands and a Blairfindy 40 year old was on one of the top shelves. Back then it cost a staggering € 180, much like official Port Ellen and Brora releases.

Back then, that was an unachievable amount for a bottle of booze. Little did we know that a decade and a half ago, that amount would happily be paid for booze of much lesser age and much lesser quality.

Anyway, I was able to buy some half bottles a while ago from someone who was getting rid of his collection and was vouched for by Rob, of the aforementioned bottle shop. I shared almost all of it, and the last 10 cl of each I drank myself. I finished both of them a few weeks ago on a rather splendid Sunday afternoon.

Oh, Blairfindy is Blackadder’s name for Glenfarclas. Off the record, of course.

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Let’s review!

Blairfindy 40yo, 1963-2003, 1st Fill Sherry Cask #5, 52.3%

20191027_134644Sniff:
Lots of old fruit, with heaps of apricots, plums, baking spices. Very complex with spices, bitterness and sweetness.

Sip:
Dry and pretty intense for a 40 year old dram. Intense nuttiness with some dried plums, raisins, apricot. Lots of oak, even some leather and hessian.

Swallow:
The finish is, if possible, even more dry, with loads of oak and leather. Wood spices and dried fruit.

Strangely, this isn’t as balanced or with as much depth as I expected. There’s a lot of flavor for sure, but they’re all big and in your face. The forty years have done some mellowing of the sharpness but the oak got added to the mix of flavors. End verdict is still quite positive, but just not 90 points positive.

89/100


Blairfindy 40yo, 1965-2005, Sherry Hogshead #1850, 51.7%

Sniff:
Again, sherry, but very different. Slightly cheesy, somehow. Quite some creamy notes. Wood spices, but very different than usual. More like pastries, bread and cheeses.

Sip:
Very gentle and warming. Fresh buns, soft yellow cheese. Gentle herbs and spices. Some stone fruit like peach, apricot. Some sweet mango.

Swallow:
The finish is, again, very gentle. Lots of soft oak, pulpy and soaked. Bread, buns, sponge cake.

The slightly less old one is a very different beast to the first one. It’s much more balanced than the previous one with a very different kind of wood influence. The sherry is toned down quite a bit and while that makes less of an impact, it does make for better balance. So, slightly less wow-factor, but just a little bit more interesting for revisiting.

90/100

Obviously, prices have changed over the years. Both because whisky has gotten ridiculously expensive, and also because these were one time only bottlings from about 15 years ago. The first one apparently goes for about € 1500, while the second one has been spotted at € 875. Insane amounts of money…

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Two Highland Park from 2002

Recently, Highland Park have started to be a lot more prolific in private cask releases. There’s still a slew of ‘Undisclosed Orkney’ going around, but I’m 99% sure that that is all Highland Park too, just without the official label on the bottle.

Anyway, I happened to have two different tasting notes backed up, both from a 2002 vintage. One was bottled independently as an undisclosed Orkney for Whiskybase, two years ago. The other was bottled for Loch Fyne Whiskies, with the official label. Both were bottled in 2017 and are over 58% ABV, but that’s where the similarities end. In regards to price point and cask used.

Orkney 2002-2017, Refill Hogshead, 58.7% – Archives, Fishes of Samoa

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Big on the nose with quite some straw, heather, and a bit of honey sweetness. It’s quite spirity with some grassy notes, some ether, with some farmyard scents too.

Sip:
The palate is pretty sharp, with a lot of heat from the alcohol. There’s some oak, heather and honey too. Quite dry, compared to the nose. Twigs and a bit of an earthiness. A tad spirity, but less so than on the nose. After a while it becomes a bit more straw like, more oak and quite some barley too.

Swallow:
The finish is a lot more gentle than the palate, with a nice warmth to it. Straw, heather, oak, honey. Some grassy notes. Quite long and a bit drying.

Initially, I found this a very strange whisky. A decent age, but it was very sprightly and very spirity. A lot of ‘greenness’, so to say. However, after a few glasses it grew on me (like those green algae and mosses) and I started to really like it. The spirity parts show the distillate really well, and it’s nice to not have a massively cask driven Highland Park for a change.

87/100


Highland Park 2002-2017, Refill Butt 3374, 58.4% – OB for Loch Fyne Whiskies

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Heavy on the sherry, in regards to style. Lots of baked goods, with some baking spices and the heavier dried fruits like dates and raisins. A small whiff of peat, some oak and an ever increasing prominence of raisins. A hint of the funkiness of oloroso sherry.

Sip:
Very sweet on the arrival, with lots of fruit, heavy wood and quite some spices. Quite complex, very heavy, hessian, oak, smoke, slightly coastal in the background. Quite cask driven, to be honest, but delicious.

Swallow:
The finish continues consistently with lots of heavy fruitiness and oak. Lots of funkiness with major sherry influences. Spices, fruit, woodiness and a bit of the expected funkiness with nuts and mushrooms.

This is very different from the previous one. It is, unexpectedly, a lot less heavy on the sherry than some others. There’s a lot of subtlety here and a lot to discover. Also I think the cask used was an interesting one since it didn’t focus too much on the fruity sherry, the more predictable kind. However, this is the moldy, nutty kind. Gorgeous, but not an easy whisky.

89/100

Now, a little while after both have been sold out the pricing is the biggest difference. The OB one goes for at least € 275, while the Indie one just tips over € 100. Both are highly recommended, but that recommendation is, as the Dutch say, ‘eggs after Easter’.

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Glenfarclas 21, 47.9% – OB for the Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland

… And as far as my experience with those bars goes, that means Fiddlers’ in Drumnadrochit.

I bought this last June when I was there with one of my best friends, JPH. We spent the night there, while drinking too much and sleeping too little, and a drive to Campbeltown the next day. On top of that, I was slowly getting sick due to my wife and three kids being ill the week before. You might imagine the drive 5 hour drive, but you shouldn’t.

Anyway, this whisky then. I guess all has been written about Glenfarclas by now, and I don’t have any personal experience to add. I’ve not reviewed many because I don’t really drink many, and I also don’t post as much as I review. So, there might be some long-lost Glenfarclas reviews in my Google Keep, or my notebooks. Who knows? (not me, that’s a given).

Also, what’s nice is that these Indie Whisky Bars have made this a series with a cracking Highland Park, and also Ballechin. I bought the first and skipped the latter because I’m not a huge fan of Ballechin. Also, on that first day in Scotland I had already bought this Glenfarclas, and the distillery exlusive at Glenturret. With Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting looming the next day, I decided to be, well, not exactly thrifty…

20191024_220258Sniff:
Sweet and spicy with some roasted malt, lots of wood pulp and some old fruits. A very classic Glenfarclas. A hint of black pepper and aged cheddar, baking spices with a slightly bitter edge. The bitterness is a bit of a mix between almonds and twigs.

Sip:
The palate is very gentle, and very spirit driven. Grain driven even. There’s a lot of malt, spices and roastiness. More like buttered toast than coffee. Some wood spices too, quite a lot even. But the spirit gets enough room to shine… A very bread like palate, but after a minute or two of swimming (yes, that long) the sherry gets more room to shine and the spiciness changes. It gets a bit more fruity (peaches, apricots) and more nutty (hazelnuts).

Swallow:
The finish is very dry, surprisingly so. The bread and spices remain, the combination of these two gives me hints of slightly burnt toast. Some hints of rye bread, but with a hint of sherry fruit and nuttiness.

This is a slightly strange dram. It’s a lot less sweet than I initially expected of a Glenfarclas of this age, and it’s very spice driven. I feel the cask and the spirit are in very good harmony, with both adding a lot of flavor and complexity to the whisky. What helps is that it has been given time to mature. Cracking stuff!

89/100

Glenfarclas 21, 47.9%, OB for the Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland

These whisky bars are: Artisan, Bon Accord, Dornoch Castle Hotel, Fiddler’s, Highlander Inn, The Pot Still.

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Laphroaig 20, 1995-2015, 58.4% – SMWS (Essence of Islay)

Yet another completely random sample that I most likely got from a Bottle Share. As you can see by the year of bottling in the title, this has been collecting dust for about four years, with me completely forgetting about it.

What also didn’t help is that I find most recent Laphroaigs rather lackluster, with them being fairly generic. Yet another peated whisky that I can forget about right after tasting it. Of course, this point of view makes me miss out on some really good ones too. However, with the current price point of Laphroaig, at least the properly aged ones, it’s quite the risk to randomly buy one…

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very gently smoky with soft pears and wild peaches. Don’t get me wrong, it’s smoky, but not the ‘punch in your face’ style that’s so prevalent. A fruity sweetness, with a fattiness of wax coats.

Sip:
Drier than expected, but also slightly less sharp. Wood-, alcohol-, and chili heat. With the fruity backdrop and a bit of coastal notes. Brine and sand, mostly. Again, those waxcoats, or canvas.

Swallow:
The finish is merely warming, but leaves a burn on your tongue for a while. Wintry, with pears, stewed apples, wild peaches, porridge and smoke.

Well, contrary to the introduction of most Laphroaigs being only so-so, this is a cracker. An absolutely great whisky with lots of depth and lots of character. The fruitiness and far more gentle peat smoke than I’m used to makes for a much more interesting whisky that is a lot more drinkable than its 58.4% makes you expect.

Essence of Islay seems about right, as far as SMWS naming goes…

90/100

Laphroaig 1995-2015, 20yo, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 58.4%, SMWS, 29.171 ‘Essence of Islay’

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Kavalan Solist 2010-2016, B101217032A, 58.6%

Ah, who doesn’t remember B101217032A? It’s one of those iconic cask numbers that makes most whisky lovers drool.

But no, it doesn’t really resonate, these eleven characters which most likely only mean something to the distillery’s barcode scanner. It also makes navigating the Kavalan Solist range pretty hard, apart from bottlings for certain outlets. “That Kavalan bottled for shop X” is far easier to remember.

Now, onwards to the whisky. I have a hard time with Kavalan. As in, most are really good, but I find that a country like Taiwan, which manufactors a lot of low end goods for Europe makes 5 year old whiskies that warrant € 100 price tags.

Also, and I know I’m a bit contrary in this, I quickly tire of Kavalan. As in, when I drink a glass of it, I really enjoy it, but when I have a second it gets a bit predictable. I’ve had this over the past couple of years with more of these bottle-shared bottles. Luckily, when bottle-sharing, you only have 10cl.

This one then…

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very rich and fruity with lots of banana, banana candy, mango and papaya. It gets drier after a little while, but there’s also more vanilla coming through. It’s very sweet with lots of pastry like notes.

Sip:
It starts quite gentle, but builds up in intensity, strength and dryness. It’s quite sweet, fruity and pastry like with the cask leading the parade. Lots of vanilla and bourbon-cask-based-fruits like banana, papaya and the like.

Swallow:
It’s a bit sharper on the way down than I expected, even though I knew it was almost 60% ABV. The fruitiness remains as does the dryness of the palate. Lots of straw, pineapple and banana notes. Some apricot jam and freshly cut oak.

As with most of the Kavalans I’ve had over the years, I find this whisky very good, but a bit too cask driven. If you want a lot of ‘maturity’ in a few years, you need active casks, and they sure know how to pick them. I think that is why I tire quickly of them.

So, lots of cask influence, lots of fruit, lots of flavors, but there’s not much to be discovered in glass two or three.

87/100

Kavalan Solist, 5yo, 2010-2016, Ex-Bourbon cask B101217032A, 58.6%

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Heaven Hill 2001-2015, Sherry Hogshead, 48.9% – Malts of Scotland

Apart from the fact that this is neither a malt, nor from Scotland, it’s still a pretty interesting twist on things. A pretty well matured Bourbon (at least 13 years old, but matured in a sherry hogshead! That is something normally reserved for single malts and blends, but not for bourbons!

This immediately caught my fancy when it came out in 2015, even though I was slightly apprehensive about the exact thing that made it stand out: the sherry cask maturation. Bourbon tends to be rather sweet, and a lot of sherry matured whiskies are too. Would it double up on the sweetness or would something else be created?

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
At first the sweetness of the bourbon hits, and then there’s a little extra layer of a candy like fruitiness. It almost reminds me of Kriek beer, or Rodenbach red ale. After that, it get’s very strangely beef stock like.

Sip:
The palate is gentle. Sweet and savory at the same time. Fruity, again like the red cherry ales. Oak, corn syrup, some autumn leaves, but all with that strange layer of sherry sweetness, with all its weirdness.

Swallow:
The finish is a little bit dry, compared to before. The savoriness is a bit less too. So, dry with both sherry and bourbon, which is something new to my palate. Still, it’s weird, but in a very interesting way.

Interesting is the word that best describes this whiskey. It’s not necessarily something I would care for enough to buy another bottle, even though it could be entirely different. In this case, the sherry and the bourbon don’t really mix. The sweetness is inflated, but not unbearinly so. It’s just that there’s that savory layer which can work in single malt, bourbon AND sherry, but here it just doesn’t.

Today’s soup might indeed be whiskey with H2O croutons…

75/100

Heaven Hill 2001-2015, Sherry Hogshead 15041, 48.9%

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Springbank 12, Burgundy Cask, 53.5%

We’re venturing into dangerous territory. Y’all know I absolutely worship Springbank for more or less everything they do. However, every now and the a wine cask release pops up and it’s getting sketchy.

Mostly, because in general wine cask usage is a bit sketchy (some exceptions exist), and it’s not always that it works with Springbank’s spirit. Let’s see how this one turned out.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Funky with lots of wine cask. The funkiness is typical for Springbank, with hessian, attic mold and old grain. Fruity and woody, spices and a small whiff of smoke.

Sip:
Strong and pretty sharp, before fruitiness and some sweetness kick in. Chili heat, lots of rancio and oak.

Swallow:
A warming finish that is suddenly a bit meaty, with lots of oak, and moldy fruit. That weird sweetness…

That weird sweetness that’s not normally there in Springbank whiskies tells me that this is a bottling I’m glad I didn’t buy. I would have probably finished it at some point but with everything else the distillery releases, I guess I’d rather have any other Springbank.

Having said that, though, it’s not exactly a bad whisky. It’s just not overly interesting and has some weird flavors that don’t work well for me.

82/100

Springbank 12, 1st Fill Burgundy Casks, 2003-2016, 53.5%

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