Mortlach 1993-2018, 56.1% – Adelphi

It’s been both a slow and a busy week here. Not many posts in the last week or so, mostly because I’ve been quite busy, or so tired from being busy that blogging was far from the first time on my mind. Anyway, I thought to get back with something special.

This Mortlach was released last year and virtually the entire whisky world couldn’t get enough of it. I managed to get the last bottle from The Whisky Shop Dufftown. I tried picking it up during our Autumn holiday, but they forgot to get it from storage. Luckily, Mike being a nice guy, he shipped it to me quickly.

But, back to the whisky itself. I saw this being people’s whisky of the year and such. It got rave reviews up to 93 points, if memory serves. So, I had to get my hands on some of it. A bottle share was done and I ended up with something around 15 cl to get through.

Let’s do tasting notes before I ramble on.

20190314_224414.jpgSniff:
A very gentle, but very present layer of oak. There’s some scorched beef, the crispy black bits. Some old apple, and a whiff of nuts. Charcoal, straw. There’s a certain scent of freshly fallen leaves in autumn. Not the brittle ones, and not entirely fresh either.

Sip:
Not as sharp as I expected, but not flat either. It’s very dry and straw like. There’s a bit of a beefy note again. The charry bits with charcoal and burning grass. Some apple and nuts. After a few seconds there’s some chili heat.

Swallow:
The finish starts pretty hot, but the warmth is very nice. There’s a slight bitter note with lots of oak and some apple. Quite long, and a bit more gentle.

Well. This is a bit of weird thing. As in, yes, it’s a good whisky. I bet some people love it. I don’t think it’s bad either, but I’m not in love with it either. I recognize the quality, but I think it got a bit overhyped before I tried it. I strapped in for a whisky-of-the-year experience and that just didn’t happen.

When I picked up the bottle it cost around € 250, and it’s now up to € 300. I don’t think it’s that good, unless this restraint kind of Mortlach is in your wheelhouse. I expected a bit more impact. Not necessarily stronger, or more intense, but just a bit ‘more’. Somehow…

89/100

Mortlach 25yo, 1993-2018, Refill Sherry cask 4466, 56.1%, Adelphi

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Two Manzanilla cask Bunnahabhains

A little while ago a few whisky fanatics I’ve known for years had one of their decadent tastings. Contrary to previous ones which were “40%, and bottled in the sixties” and stuff like that, this one was a bit more manageable, being themed around hand-filled whiskies from the distilleries in Scotland.

Somehow I emailed them back telling them I didn’t have any hand-filleds, which is silly. I happen to have on of these two (the other one was almost, and now completeley, empty) and two 20cls from Balvenie. Anyway, I didn’t go to the tasting.

Now, I found I really had to start finishing the first of the two Bunnahabhains, and open the second one since I wanted to do a head-to-head between them. I picked them up when I was at the distillery last April, but these hand-filleds were already in the shop, filled by the girl who took us around the place.

Of course, we were spoiled for choice at Bunnahabhain. There was another third hand-filled and a distillery only bottling, which we bought and split between the four of us. I picked up these two since I loved the idea of doing a head-to-head, and I love the Fino and Manzanilla cask maturations, in general. Also, we tried them in Warehouse 9 and I loved them.

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Bunnahabhain 12yo, #331, Manzanilla, 51.3%

20190310_201246Sniff:
Big on the sherry, with a lot of sweetness and a lot of coastal salinity. Dried mango and papaya. Lots of oak, and some moldy notes like mushrooms. Old walnuts, too.

Sip:
The palate is a lot drier than I expected, with quite some oaky and chili heat. The sweetness it pushed back a little bit, but the dried fruits are still there. There’s maybe some apricot on top of the mango and papaya. The moldy notes are present, but slightly contained because of the alcohol.

Swallow:
This is an interesting finish. The moldy notes of mushroom and walnut are peaking here, with the dried fruit sweetness as a backdrop. Quite the intense finish, in a very good way.

91/100


Bunnahabhain 12yo, #332, Manzanilla, 52.4%

20190310_201254Sniff:
There’s a lot of sherry, but mainly by association. Those funky, mushroom, moldy casks and other fungal notes are associated with sherry casks in my book. It reminds me of the old sherry scent in the cave at Michel Couvreur’s. Dried fruit too, dates and papaya. Quite heavy.

Sip:
Very dry, with a lot of oak. There’s some peppery heat too, and some salinity. Rather coastal too, with hints of marram grass and brine. A hint of bitterness with some walnuts, fruit stones.

Swallow:
The finish is rather gentle compared to the palate, and not overly long. There’s a lot of the funky notes from the nose, but most other notes are pushed back.

89/100

It’s quite interesting to see these two very similar whiskies who are yet so different. The core of the whisky is the same distillate, and the same maturation conditions. However, the focus on the fruit in the first whisky and the focus on the nutty and moldy notes is what makes them interesting.

I do like those moldy/walnut/mushroom notes. However, I think the addition of the fruitiness in Cask #331 gives the whisky more depth, and therefore it makes it a bit more interesting. And by ‘a bit more interesting’ I mean this is a cracking dram. They do know how to make an awesome dram, on the sound of Islay shores.

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Chichibu IPA cask, 2017 edition, 57.5%

I have very limited experience with IPA cask whiskies. Mostly because there aren’t many around. And, honestly, if Glenfiddich’s version is anything to go by, that’s not a bad thing.

I tried a sip of this whisky at Maltstock last year, where Jon Beach and Tatsuya Minagawa hosted a Scotland versus Japan whisky tasting. There were three rounds of which Japan won two. I doubt it’s reflecting the current state of the industry and attribute Scotland’s loss mostly to bad picks. Because, let’s be honest here, most current Japanese whiskies are pretty shit, compared to the legendary stuff they built their reputation on a couple of years ago.

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It’s not a tasting, it’s a talkshow!

Glenfiddich’s IPA cask versus this one was in the bag for Chichibu before things properly started. It was the third round if I remember correctly, and after four whiskies, of which at least one other was at cask strength, that Dufftown dram didn’t stand a chance. Then this was tasted.

Quite a light whisky, especially for a Chichibu which generally shouldn’t be tasted as anything but your last of the day. Especially their very young peated whiskies is stuff that you’ll feel going down until you flush it down the toilet.

I bought a bottle after Maltstock to bottle-share. It set us back quite a significant wad of euros, but in this case I think it has been worth it. Tasting notes then!

20180907_205252Sniff:
It’s quite yeasty and very citrusy at first. A massive hit of IPA or lager like yeastiness, with even the slightest eggy hint of sulfur. Most of that is trumped by a huge hit of grapefruit. There’s a little bit of oak too, and it’s quite strong, but not too much of a burn.

Sip:
On the palate it’s rather sharp with a very light body behind it. Not unlike some double/imperial IPAs out there. The grapefruit continues, but with a lot of barley, lemon, oak and a whiff of brown sugar behind it all.

Swallow:
The finish brings the pithiness of grapefruit with it. Also a bit of the oily feel that the skin can bring. Apart from that there’s a bit of heat, with lots of barley, lemon, oak. Much like the palate. A lot of dryer notes linger longest.

This is such a strange dram. If you drink it there’s two things that come to mind. The first is that it’s completely out of balance with this being the most grapefruity whisky I’ve ever had. The other is that it’s utterly delicious in all its ridiculousness.

I like citrusy whiskies, and this one is no exception. It thoroughly enjoyable and, in hindsight, I should have not spent so much money on a lot of other things to just get myself a bottle of this. But this is something I’ve realised about a million times in the past. Of course, without trying a lot of different things, you don’t know this, so there’s that.

90/100

Chichibu IPA Cask, 2017 Edition, 6100 bottles, Ichiro’s Malt, 57.5%

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Speyburn 2004-2018, 52.5% – OB for Boomsma NL

I wrote a little introduction to Speyburn distillery a little while ago and I thought about copying it here. You know, just to check if people read with a bit of attention and notice.

Anyway, this whisky was released last year for the Dutch importer of the brand, Boomsma. Speyburn is not a big name in The Netherlands, so it’s quite readily available still. So readily in fact, that The Old Pipe has started to discount it from € 105 to € 85, which is quite a sensible price for a first fill sherry matured single cask, whisky. I got my bottle from elsewhere at that price too.

20190302_154024.jpgSniff:
Candied orange with clove and a small crisp hint of mint. Some cinnamon and slightly spicy sherry. Some dunnage warehouses with whisky soaked dirt, wet concrete and old wood.

Sip:
The spiciness on the nose predicts a rather dry whisky, and that’s coming true. It’s slightly coarse and dry, with a grainy mouthfeel. The clove and cinnamon are back, with hints of clay and sawdust too. Some red chili heat, with oak and orange.

Swallow:
The finish has a fruit and spice combination that reminds me of old fashioned Macallan from years ago. The spices are a bit more pronounced and the dunnage warehouse flavors take it in its own direction though.

I very much like this whisky. As in, it’s rather complex without being uncomfortable. The flavors are quite like older style Macallans (this one comes to mind) with lots of baking spices and candied oranges. What I also like on top of that is that it shows a very different side of Speyburn compared to the regular expressions and most single casks I’ve tried the last couple of years.

Highly recommended, especially at the discounted price of € 85

88/100

Speyburn 2004-2018, First Fill Sherry Butt 218, 52.5%, OB for Boomsma NL. Available for € 85

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Benrinnes 19, 1997, 57.5% – Pot Still Edition

I’ve managed to find a whisky that’s been out, but is not very clearly available on Whiskybase. At least, I’ve not been able to find it. Let’s add it in a minute.

Anyway, I managed to get my hands on a sample of this one. I think it’s coming from a swap or some random samples I bought over the years. It’s been a while since I drank it so I’m not 100% sure what sample bottle it came from.

So, a 19 year old Benrinnes, bottled for Potstill in Vienna, apparently, an amazing shop full of whiskies. One for the list of things to ever get around to.

001(57)_medSniff:
Fruity with peardrops, icing sugar and lemon curd. Straw, and after that there’s slightly glue-y hint.

Sip:
Sweet and candy like on the palate too. Quite strong, with a bit of alcohol burn. Simple syrup, a bit of a dusty texture, with hard candies, pear drops, Napoleon.

Swallow:
The finish is the first time I’m getting a bit of oak and barley. The candy flavors are toned down a notch.

As you might know from previous reviews of random Irish whiskeys, I’m not a huge fan of too sweet candy notes and this one has quite a lot of them. Therefore I’m not the biggest of fans, but I can see people liking this.

84/100

It’s still available from the shop in Vienna, for € 119, which isn’t too shocking in this day and age.

Benrinnes 1997, 19 years old, American White Oak Barrel, 57.5%, Potstill Edition

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Springbank 9yo, Local Barley, 57.7%

There are always these whiskies that sit on the shelf waiting for the right moment because they are (supposed to be) something different. Something (supposedly) special. This one was more or less that. More or less because it’s not overly rare or hard to get, even though it was suggested to be selling like hot cakes.

Also, in the end it’s just an overpriced 9 year old whisky made from a different strain of barley that happens to grow near the distillery. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly pay the price for whiskies like this since you’re buying a far more genuine product that some over engineered Macallan from a range of colors.

Anyway, this had been sitting on the shelf, waiting to be reviewed and properly tasted. I had had a few sips before and I already knew I liked it. However, when you sit down for a dram, you get to a whole different level of ‘understanding’ a whisky. In a regular session this was yet another high quality but not overly special Springbank. But, when I sat down I came up with the following notes:

20190216_142414.jpgSniff:
Properly funky like any good Springbank. Moldy attics, or a derelict house that’s not been entered in a decade. Quite prozaic for me, if I’m honest… Menthol, thyme and barley. Peat and cigaret smoke. Not a lot of oak. A bit farmyard-y, actually.

Sip:
It’s quite gentle, for a 9 year old, cask strength whisky. Although it does build up some intensity after a few seconds of ‘swimming’. Some black pepper and brine, some minerals. It’s actually a typical younger Springbank, but there’s added funkiness, added moldiness, added depth.

Swallow:
On the finish, the barley shines through, but it’s dry and old barley. Sawdust, old wallpaper (strangely, in a good way). Not overly long with hints of pepper, corky apple, some minerals and a bit of brine.

While I still find it strange to promote flavors of moldiness and funk in whiskies, it’s so good if that’s your thing. This is, contrary to the Bere barley variety from before, a fairly regular Springbank, but what makes Springbank good is all in overdrive here. And I love it.

And so, Springbank remains my favorite distillery…

90/100

Springbank 9yo, Local Barley, 80% bourbon casks, 20% sherry casks, 57.7%. Quite regularly available still.

 

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Glen Moray Distillery, and their tasting kit

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Last October I was staying in Speyside with my family. And even though my kids are 6, 4 and 1 years old, I found I had the moral and educational obligation to show them a whisky distillery.

The closest one was Benromach, but I visited that plays a couple of years ago, and wanted to see a new one. Especially if I’m going to see just one in a week in Scotland. Glen Moray it was. I contacted Iain Allan (who works there) to get some information on what to pay attention too, both in the distillery and in the shop…

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Relaxed flyers at Glen Moray

Unfortunately Iain was on holiday at that time, but to my surprise he did leave a message to get me into the upgraded tasting. And, as a boon to Glen Moray, the supply sample bottles and a little zipper-bag to take the samples home. A good thing, since I was driving. The misses chickened out at the last minute…

The distillery tour itself was a fun one. Not spectacular, but far from uninteresting either. It was us with the kids and one other couple on holiday. They did their talk and gave us some time to sniff the different casks, which the kids hugely enjoyed. I might have missed quite a bit in doing translating for the wee ones, and trying to keep them in check.

The tasting in the shop was an interesting one, since the expanded one apart from the regular dram consisted only of things available only at the distillery. Let’s do tasting notes!

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Glen Moray 1998 PX Finish, 45.5%
Sniff:
Lots of red fruit on the nose. Thick sherry, stewed pears and strawberries. Port wine, incredibly sweet and much too dessert sauce like.

Sip:
Slightly dry, but very sweet and fruity. Gentle, somehow like semolina pudding. Red berry syrup, very sweet.

Swallow:
The finish is drier, and more woody than before. These flavors push back the sweetness a bit.

Too sweet. It’s surprisingly not-woody, but the PX gave it a strange twist. I’ve encountered this before in some sherry casks of varied distilleries. Absolutely not my cup of tea.

80/100


Glen Moray, 120th Anniversary, 2002-2018, 52.4%
20190219_203121.jpgSniff:
A lot of oak, but not harsh. Slightly winey, without it tasting like a finish in such casks. Dry oak shavings, hessian, rancio.

Sip:
Dry and a bit of a bite. Dry apple, old oak, dessert wine / moscatel. Lots of oak keep at it, with some berries in the mix. Pear skins.

Swallow:
The finish has a weird sweetness that is a large part blackberries, simple syrup and shoe polish. Some oak, but mostly fruity, with a hint of that moscatel.

I picked up a bottle of this when I was there, so that kind of gives away what I think of this whisky. It’s surprisingly complex for a virgin oak cask. Generally I think these are too woody, but in this case there’s a lot going on that’s interesting.

88/100


Glen Moray, Bottle your own
Sniff:
Quite apply. Even a bit mineral like after a few seconds. A bit of the typical yellow fruity sweetness from Glen Moray.

Sip:
Quite a bit sharper than expected. Dry, oaky, crisp like an apple.

Swallow:
Here it’s a bit more like stewed apple. Apple, pear, a bit of a metallic sharpness.

Well, if memory serves this was a younger cider cask. The bottles were all sold out when I was at the distillery. Cider casks are rare and the only other one I know was an atrocious Tullamore Dew. This one is better, but it’s just not in my wheelhouse.

Strange, since I like apple-y whiskies, and ones with a hint of mineral. It’s just a little bit too weird.

78/100


Glen Moray 2010-2018, Peated PX Finish, 55.8%
IMG_5918.JPGSniff:
Heavy, leathertly and smoky. Thick smoke, with a fruity backdrop. Dried fruit, dates, prunes. Furniture polish.

Sip:
Slightly sharp, leathery, dry and oaky. Prunes and dates, leather wax. Quite some woody smoke, and some oaky and sherry sweetness.

Swallow:
The finish is gentle and has some baking spices and trifle. Smoke, leather, some green notes behind it all.

Well, as soon as I smelled this, I knew Anneke would love this, and I loved it too. I didn’t really expect this, somehow. I generally dislike the ‘let’s get on the peated whisky bandwagon’ drams. This one is very well executed though, and the PX is spot on with enough room for the wood and spices to shine, and without too much sweetness.

A bottle was bought.

88/100

Summarizing, I kind of like Glen Moray. I do like that they experiment with casks without going all 2010-Bruichladdich on the world. I fell in love with the whisky when I was able to try a flight of 35-ish year olds from the SMWS, and have tried quite a few other ones since. Nice and fruity, not too complicated but strong enough to withstand a bit of oak.

Thanks Iain, and the team at Glen Moray!

 

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