Mortlach 1988-2016, 18yo, 55.8% – Signatory for The Whisky Exchange

Mortlach has been gaining popularity and fame since Diageo revamped the packaging and upped the prices to ridiculous levels. The fun thing about this is that Mortlach is gaining that popularity mostly from the independent bottlers, since those bottles are affordable for mere mortals like you and I.

The Whisky Exchange, in their recent batch of single cask releases have included one, at a very decent age of 18 years old. It’s been finished in a sherry cask. There isn’t much more information, about the length of the finish or the type of sherry cask used.

EDIT: there is. The finish is 54 months. Which is pretty long, and it explains the intensity of it. See the rest of the post.

Whiskybase tells us that it used to be a couple of hogsheads that were finished in a butt, at least. Not an official ‘single cask’ according to the sometimes flexible rules of the Scotch Whisky Association, but I’ll roll with it!

Sniff:
The nose is sharp. Very sharp. There’s loads of sherry so it sure was an active cask. Some straw and lots of fruit. Plums, nectarines, both with stones for bitterness. Some spiced cake and lots of dried fruit. Some clove and cinnamon.

Sip:
The palate is sharp too and very dry with tree bark and lots of bitter wood notes. Spicy with some fruit in the background. Cinnamon sticks (not the ground stuff) and other baking spices.Very warming.

Swallow:
The finish is meaty, with some marinade like hints. Still lots of oak and sharpness, but slightly different. Long, spicy and lots of fruit.

Dave Broom called it ‘A monster of a Mortlach’, and he’s absolutely spot on. This thing is a monster in every way, and I love it. The complexity is good, and the sharpness tells me it handles a drop of water very well, which gives it even more longevity in my book.

The fruit (both dried and fresh) stand up nicely to the oak, and the fact that it’s a finish isn’t overly noticable. It’s not thin in anyway. Highly recommended!

90/100

Mortlach 1988-2016, 18yo, Hogsheads, then finished in Sherry Butt #5, 55.8%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange. Still available at The Whisky Exchange for 120 quid.

Thanks to TWE for the sample!

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Eagle Rare 10, barrel 230, 45% – OB for World of Drinks

This is not going to be a traditional review with proper tasting notes. Mostly since I didn’t write any notes, but I still want to review this whisky, in a way.

Some background first, since that is the reason I’m writing this piece anyway.

Eagle Rare is a bourbon brand from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky. It’s quite famous, although that fame is mostly based (for me at least) on the rather good 17 year old that comes out annually as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Then it’s released simultaneously with heavy hitters like George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller and the 18 year old Sazerac Rye.

The ‘normal’ ten year old bourbons from Eagle Rare always are released as single barrels, which means this one, selected by the World of Drinks chain of liquor shops in The Netherlands, fits in that line of releases normally.

When it came out I got enthusiastic, since we don’t get many single barrels bottled for semi-local shops, events or anything. At least, not from America. I bought two, and decided to bottle share one bottle. It didn’t sell out, that bottle share, but that’s fine since I ended up with quite a bit of bourbon to drink.

The expensive sticker

The expensive sticker

One of the reaction I got on that bottle share was “That’s a fucking expensive sticker”, in regard to it being a single barrel bottled for a shop in Holland. While every bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year old is a single barrel. Of course, that guy is right since it being bottled for someone special doesn’t make it any more special if everything is already a single barrel.

I had to look into it, but the price of a regular bottle of Eagle Rare starts at some € 38 at the ‘box pushers’, the low margin stores that base their existence on vast amounts of sales instead of a healthy margin. In regular shops it’s a bit more expensive and clocks in at some € 40, but prices go up to € 48 in other shops.

This one is available (or was, it’s not in the chain’s web shop for some reason) at € 47. It seems the sticker is more or less included for free, compared to healthy competition.

The whiskey itself is fine. Just like many other Eagle Rares, if I recall correctly. It didn’t stand out but it’s quite good, and an easy drinker. It also works well in sauces and cocktails., Normally I prefer to use cheaper bourbon for that, but I didn’t have any open bottles at the time.

There’s some caramel and corn sweetness. The oak isn’t too pronounced or bitter. All is quite smooth and well balanced. Well done at Buffalo Trace and also well done for picking the cask at World of Drinks, I guess.

So, how do I feel about this all? I could have saved myself some 8 euros by getting an Eagle Rare elsewhere without a sticker. I could also have not gotten one since if it wasn’t released as a ‘bottled for World of Drinks’ special I wouldn’t have thought to buy it at all.

Still, I think it’s cool to get this. Mostly because there’s not much bourbon going around in The Netherlands among whisk(e)y geeks and there should be more of it. Also, I love that a Dutch shop had the balls to have this entire cask bottled for themselves, and this concept should be supported. Maybe we get a bit more special releases in in the future because of actions like this.

When all is said and done I suggest people get a bottle of this when they’re in the shop, and be happy with it. Let’s regard this as an investment in an improving bourbon market in The Netherlands. Massive kudos for World of Drinks for doing this!

86/100

Eagle Rare 10 year old, bottled for World of Drinks in 2016, 45%. Not sure if it is still available, but it cost me € 47 or € 48.

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A couple of Gordon & MacPhail Drams

Over the last couple of months I’ve been getting some G&M samples from random distilleries. The ancient Mortlach and slightly less old Benromach have been sitting and waiting for the right time.

However, the somewhat younger drams have been piling up too, and me not blogging as much as I used to doesn’t help one bit. So, contrary to my usual habit of not drinking on work days, I broke with that plan for a night and tried three of them.

Two of them are from Speyside (Glenallachie and Craighellachie) and one Highlander (Dalmore). I’ve not tried many of any of those distilleries, and the ones I did try in the past weren’t overly convincing.

Well, except for some Dalmore samples. I’ve tried some cask samples (which you can’t buy) and some older ones (which you can’t afford), but those were good. Unfortunately the affordable ones are mediocre, in general.

Craighellachie 1997, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2014)

On the nose it’s all quite spirity, but not necessarily in a bad way. Lots of oak nonetheless, but mostly sawdust. Some straw and moss and a bit of a slate like minerality. The spirit is a tad green, with some sugary sweetness. The palate has the same sweetness but it’s more upfront. Some plants, and mossy green flavors. A bit of oak, and a grainy mouth feel. Some brown sugar, as well as straw and hay. The finish is a bit more warm but quite similar. Not too short.

On its own it’s not overly convincing, but there is a certain appeal to it. I can see the concept of these bottlings as being an introduction into independent bottlings.

80/100

Glenallachie 1999, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2015)

This one is quite a bit lighter with more hints of vanilla. A touch of sugar too and some green scents, but different. More grassy, I’d say. The palate is quite sharp with some pepper and vanilla, and a syrupy mouth feel. Some pear and a soft fruitiness, with a hint of oak. The finish is light and a bit warmer again. Quite classic, with a bit of sweet wood and more richness than expected.

This one is slightly different in balance. Although the flavors are comparable, the focus is rather different.

81/100

Dalmore 2001, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2015)

Dalmore then. Somehow I’ve been dreading tasting this. Mostly because my experiences are as described above. I generally don’t like them, and when I do like them I can’t get that one.

This one is much heavier on the nose, and warmer too. There’s hay and leather, some oak shavings. A nice spirit which has quite some autumnal scents to it. Some fruit, peach and pear mostly. The palate is sweet and heavy with hints of black pepper and hay. A bit of a gin like spiciness, but not without fruit either. More complex than expected. The finish has dry wood and focuses more on the spices again. It’s a bit short though.

Surprisingly, the Dalmore is the best one of the three. It’s a bit heavier, based on the distillery’s spirit, I’d say. In this case it works and it is a bit more complex because of it. Not bad at all.

82/100

The good thing about these bottlings is that they all show a different side of the distillery’s output. At least from what I know of each distillery. None of the first two are drams you encounter often, although the owner’s have been trying to remedy that.

Dalmore is slightly more common, but there’s quite some bottlings out there and the affordable ones are all pretty thin and watery and (I think) don’t showcase the distillery character all too well.

These bottlings are, as said, an introduction into independent distilleries. In the case of the Glenallachie the price is nice too. Clocking in just under 40 euros it is priced similarly to any other single malt of this caliber. Good stuff. The others I find a bit too expensive at just under and just over 50 bucks. A tenner less would have been more appropriate for the drams.

Thanks to G&M for sending the samples!

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Imperial 1995-2016, 20yo, 50.1% – Signatory for The Whisky Exchange

Before let’s say, 2014 or so, Imperial wasn’t on many people’s radar. They were a closed distillery but not one that had gotten a cult status, unlike Rosebank for example.

For me that changed during the Blind Tasting Competition on Christmas Eve of 2014 when that year’s competition closed out with that one. I was glad to order one right away since that awesome bottling suddenly sold out overnight. Much to the surprise of unsuspecting suppliers who had it on their shelves for months without anyone being overly interested in it.

Since then I have the feeling that everybody is trying to get their piece of the pie, and the bottlings have grown quite rampant. This one, from The Whisky Exchange, came in a while ago for reviewing.

Sniff:
The nose is sharp and malty with lots of barley. A minor whiff of peanuts, and white pepper. Some oak but not as much as almost 21 years generally smells like. The typical white wine (Chardonnay?) sweetness and crispness that Imperial often has.

Sip:
The palate is sharp, with a bit of alcohol. Quite a lot of white pepper and chili pepper. Fresh, dry oak and again that sweetness of white wine. Some vanilla, but not a lot.

Swallow:
The finish still has a bit of that sharpness, but is also warming. Grains, barley, grist and hints of pepper. Not overly long, but rather nice.

This one is very consistent with what I know and have come to expect from single cask Imperials. It’s got a lot of grainy hints, but also the hints of oak aged whitewine with a hint of vanilla sweetness. I like those flavors, so I think this is a good thing.

Also, since this one sits at 70 pounds at The Whisky Exchange, it’s priced quite acceptably. Especially now the morons in the UK voted for Brexit and the exchange rate has suddenly become much more viable.

87/100

Imperial 1995-2016, 20yo, Matured in Hogshead #50252, 50.1%, Signatory Vintage, bottled for The Whisky Exchange. Available for 70 quid.

Sample provided by The Whisky Exchange, much obliged, guys!

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Longrow 21, 46% – OB for the Springbank Open Day 2016

When this one was announced, I got all giddy on the inside. That was slightly lessened by the price of a bottle, but I still was enthusiastic about it. A 21 year old Longrow. There’s only ever been one Longrow that was older than this one!

It was released at the Springbank Open Day, last May, and I managed to get a sample. Well, two actually, I didn’t put my eggs in one basket since I felt a need to taste this one. At £ 250 I didn’t really feel the need to buy one, though.

That I love Springbank is no secret. I think it’s my favorite distillery in Scotland, maybe in the world, especially if I disregard closed distilleries (Karuizawa, Brora, Port Ellen, Rosebank, you know the drill).

I visited them in 2010, and I feel it’s been far too long already. I am planning a trip to Scotland with friends for 2018, but since that’s not even next year it’s far too long in the future. Luckily, there’s 2017 that’s still full of options for Scotland and awesomeness.

Oh, getting back to this whisky. There’s not much to say about it. There were 230 bottles, which probably means this is a single cask. It was distilled in November 1994, and bottled in May 2016. It comes from a refill bourbon hogshead.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
It’s very smooth on the nose with lots of warm grain. The typical light salinity of Springbank and even more so in Longrow is present. Some muesli (toasted grains, I guess). A slight smokiness and light hint of vanilla. Some spices, some sawdust, and after a while a hint of black pepper. Warm smoke.

Sip:
Spicy wood, but very smooth nonetheless. Even a bit creamy. Salt, minerals and slate. Some vanilla and white oak, with barley and toasted cereals in the background.

Swallow:
The finish is much more salty than I expected, with more minerals and slate as well. Quite interesting because of it. Wood, grains and some smoke.

The summary of how I feel about this whisky can be copy pasted from last week’s Tamnavulin.

It’s a very decent dram, rather good, but not exceptional. I don’t think it adds much depth on top the 18 year old (although I’ve not tasted the more recent editions of that). The finish is the most interesting bit with more salt and minerals detectable. The run up to that is fairly standard and should get its quality of the smoothness and ease with which this goes down.

However, if you take the price tag in regard, it’s just too ridiculously expensive. £ 250 when it came out and currently sitting at a comfortable € 479 in the Whiskybase Marketplace is just insane for this kind of whisky.

If I had the choice I’d instantly go for the not-even-€-100 18 year old.

87/100

Longrow 21, 11/1994 – 05/2016, 230 bottles, 46%, OB for the Springbank OB. Currently € 479 and up in the secondary market.

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Tamnavulin 1967-2010, 43yo, 41% – The Whisky Agency

A properly ancient whisky that I picked up for a bottle-share. Which, somehow, never filled up, so I had to drink it myself. Bummer.

It seems that most bottle-shares I do with those pricier, older whiskies never fill up. That’s annoying, sometimes, but in some cases it’s not too bad either. It’s more costly, but it also means I get to drink more awesome stuff myself.

This one, by now, is nearing its end and it won’t survive the coming weekend. I shared it with buddies during the Blog Birthday Bash last Saturday, and they were kind enough to leave me a heel to end on my own.

So, Tamnavulin then. A whisky that’s normally considered to be far from interesting and goes into blends for the vast majority of its production. There’s probably a lot in Whyte & Mackay, since they own the place. The distillery was closed between 1993 and 2007.

Sniff:
On the nose it starts with some oak. Not too much, but it’s there. A rich maltiness follows with a hint of vanilla. Barley and some chaff, but also dried apple and a slight toastiness. Candied lemon and bread too.

Sip:
The palate is slightly thin, even though it’s bottled at cask strength. Quite a lot of oak, with dry barley and a whiff of spicy, dry rub for barbecue meat. Toasted oak, barley husks and soft fruit. Stewed apples or so.

Swallow:
The finish is fairly predictable after the palate and doesn’t surprise me at any point. Slightly richer than the palate, and a bit more sweet too.

It’s not an easy whisky to rate. On one hand it’s pretty well made and shows some nice, classical flavors. But, on the other hand, it’s really boring and doesn’t surprise or wow me at all. The 43 years are not really noticeable, so paying extra for the age is not value for money either. Quite a bummer, even though the whisky is not bad.

Technically, I try not to taste the price tag of a whisky, but in the end I want to know if a whisky is worth the money and effort. While this is a good dram, well made, no gimmicks, it’s not worth € 250, which is what it used to cost.

87/100

Tamnavulin 1967-2010, 43yo, 41%, Bourbon Hogshead, € 350 in the current market.

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The sixth annual Blog Birthday Bash

This here blog has been around for six years already. The actual date was August third, but that passed rather eventless. However, last Saturday was the annual barbecue-and-booze celebration.

I made the fairly predictable huge hunks of pork again, although somehow they cooked but the core temperature didn’t rise, so it wasn’t pullable. Still damn tasty though.

The main thing that happened was the BYO tasting, just as it did all previous editions. I asked everybody to bring just one bottle, but somehow I have either very deaf friends, or very strong willed ones, since nobody did that. The final line up was 21 drams. Twenty-f-ing-one.

Thanks a lot guys. You just ruined my Sunday morning… Although, I couldn’t just passed on a few, but that wouldn’t be polite…

Luckily, we still have the photos. Courtesy of AdW:

From the early nineties, most likely. A very tasty starter

Lidl’s output from last year. I couldn’t resist since it my vintage, and I could buy around my birthday

The most impressive bottle of the evening. Early 1950s Jameson Single Pot Still. Unique in every way

A great brandy, but not in its element around all these whiskies.

Great stuff

More impressive than I expected, to be honest.

Nobody guessed either the distillery or the age. Nice, but no cigar.

Now this then. F-ing incredible stuff. Amazing depth and flavor

Simple and not people’s favorite of the night.

This one happened while I was prepping the food, so I didn’t pay it enough attention. I think it was good though.

Good stuff!

Really big flavors. More sherry and more peat than we’d expected from a Bowmore

A classic. I still regret not buying it when I had the chance.

This one didn’t work for us.

This one did.

This one didn’t either. It’s my bottle so I hope it shines better after it’s been open for a while.

A really good Benrinnes. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I ‘think’ I remember this being good.

My friend Henk’s club of gents bottled this. It’s surprisingly good for a Tullibardine.

One of the extras. Nice and fruity, but not showing the character or depth of a 43 year old.

After this I believe some people left, and others sat around with some more samples. I should’ve stopped here, but I didn’t.

I had an awesome night! Thanks a lot, Tom, Henk, Helen, Martin, Martin, Sebas, Teun, Antoine, and most of all Anneke (for putting up with this nonsense for all these years)

Posted in - Armagnac, - Blended Malt, - Blended Whisky, - Irish Whiskey, Ardmore, Benrinnes, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Glen Elgin, Glen Garioch, Glenrothes, Imperial, Jameson, Longmorn, Longrow, Tamnavulin, Tullibardine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments