Clynelish 1996-2013, 46% – Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

Ooooh! A decently aged Clynelish! Or at least, that’s what I thought when I saw this in a tasting line-up last September (I’m behind, I know it).

It was slightly less aged when I found out it had been bottled three years prior, but I was still quite enthused. What was also interesting was that this was the first bottle in a tasting of six. That meant the bar was being put high from the start. Or at least, that’s what we hoped…

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose is quite fruity, with apples and pears. Sweet, like apple pie, so also pastry and sugar. Maybe some baked raisins. After that we got hints of crunchy muesli, honey. Some barley hints and candle wax.

Sip:
The palate leaned quite heavy on the oak. I said white oak back then but it was a sherry cask so there’s a chance I was wrong. Barley, quite intense on the arrival. Stewed fruits and honey. Quite a rich palate.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more typically Clynelish. Slightle more waxy (candles) and a hint of minerals and iron. I find this to be the thing with a lot of mid to late nineties Clynelishes. Some apples and slate.

Well, this is a bit of a conundrum. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this whisky, nobody was really thrilled by it either. It had all the markers with orchard fruits, some waxy notes, not overly oaky and a hint of slate. All typically Clynelish if you ask me.

That should be a recipe for a whisky that scores an easy 89 points or so, but in this case we all thought it tasted a little bit, I don’t know, boring? To rate that is tricky, since incredibly high quality can be boring, as this one is.

What’s also a bit strange is that currently, almost four months after the tasting, I am more and more inclined to buy this bottle anyway. As in, even though it doesn’t do anything extraordinary, it lives up to anything you could expect from a Clynelish so very, very well…

Also, what doesn’t help is that this is quite less slate-y and flinty than most 1996/1997 distilled Clynelishes, and it’s at 46%. In this case, that’s a pro, if just because most of them aren’t and this is different.

87/100

Clynelish 1996-2013, Refill Sherry Butts, 46%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice. Prices vary between 88 and 106 euros in The Netherlands.

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Johnnie Walker Platinum Label, 18yo, 40%

It’s been ages since I tried Johnnie Walker Gold Label, but that still is one of the most popular posts on my blog. A few years ago Diageo decided to phase that one out, and replace it with the Platinum Label. Not a clue why, but their marketing division probably had some ideas about that.

Then, last Christmas a good friend of mine was here for a couple of beers and whiskies. His company gives their customers a Christmas gift of some nice whisky samples, this year coming from Master of Malt. He also brought me a pack and in there was this Platinum Label sample.

There also was a Nikka From the Barrel, Lagavulin 16 and a couple of others. A nice pack that shows a lot of everything.

johnnie-walker-platinum-label-blended-whiskySniff:
Quite waxy at first. Smooth with hints of oak. Slightly buttery with some caramel. Slightly too sweet, but quite light. Very simple, and a tad flat. You’ll have to do your best for some scents.

Sip:
The palate is gentle, with some chalky notes and licorice. Waxy and slightly dry. Some soft oak, very lightly spicy and a hint of banana.

Swallow:
The finish brings some gentle warmth and is very consistent. So, slightly too sweet (banana) with some waxy notes and hints of licorice.

I think, if I remember the Gold Label correctly (it’s been a while), that this one is a tad more flat than that one was. There’s slightly less going on and the flavors are all rather timid. It’s not a bad whisky, but it’s not something I’d spend my money on.

As with the old Gold Label, this one doesn’t offer enough value for the money you spend on it. As in, for around € 70 you can also get a really nice single malt. For example, you can get a bottle of Lagavulin 16 and buy a couple of beers as well. So, it’s a nice whisky from a marketing perspective, but I don’t think this is aimed at the connoisseur…

80/100

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label, 18yo, 40%. Available around € 70 in a lot of shops.

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Bruichladdich 1986-2006, 19yo, 54.4% – Blackadder Raw Cask

This is a whisky with a bit of a personal back story.

Back in 2007 I planned to go to Scotland for a weekend with two of my best friends. We had booked tickets, and rooms in some hostel in Glasgow. On a wintry Thursday morning we hopped in the car to airport Brussels South. We had Googled the location and it was a two hour drive or so.

We took almost double that time to make sure we made it. We had to drive past Antwerp and partially past Brussels, after all. Weather was shite, traffic was worse. We arrived at Brussels Airport with about 10 minutes to spare so we ran in and tried to find the right counter for check-in.

After some running around we decided to ask someone where the RyanAir counter was. The friendly, and smirking reply came that it was about 70 kilometers south. Apparently our navigation had forgotten about the ‘South’ appendage to the airport name and sent us to Brussels Airport instead of Brussels South. We didn’t notice until it was FAR too late to do anything about it.

On the spot tickets were ridiculously expensive (as in, one ticket there was more than we had paid thusfar for three tickets and three nights of accommodation) so we went home in a bit of a conflicted state. On one hand we were kind of sad we didn’t get to go to Scotland. On the other hand it was too hilarious a story to be sad about.

When we got back to Den Bosch (where I lived back then) we decided to use the suddenly freed up funds to visit our local whisky retailer and have ourselves an awesome whisky weekend. This was one of the bottles my friend bought. We loved it massively.

When I found it still available there two years ago I bought a replacement.

laddie

Image from Whiskybase

 

Sniff:
Some light vanilla notes at first, which are followed by lots of white oak. A bit of ethanol and some heat of that too. Slightly spicy with wood spices. Ever so lightly salty and a hair of smoke.

Sip:
The palate is quite sharp with minimal smoke again. Lots of oak and some wood spices. Pear peels with white oak. Becomes smooth after the initial sharpness with some heat and a creamy texture. Starts to be a bit astringent.

Swallow:
The finish is soft and creamy, and quite long. Slightly drying with tannins from the heaps of white oak and the hint of smoke. Some wood spices again.

So, what to say about this. I think I love this a bit more than I should based on historic bias. If I try to remove that I still think it’s a very decent whisky and one of the few available Bruichladdichs from before the closure, and released after the reopening that hasn’t been tampered with by putting it in some kind of ridiculous cask.

Compared to other ‘natural cask’ Bruichladdichs from this area I think it’s a very good one and I very much enjoyed finishing this bottle. It’s a damn fine whisky however you put it!

88/100

Bruichladdich 1986-2006, 19yo, cask 841, 54.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask

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Glenlochy 1977-1996, 18yo, 60.5% – Cadenhead’s

On Whiskybase there’s a remark for this whisky that it was sold in auction in 2015. Don’t I know it! I finally managed to get my hands on an old Glenlochy! It’s one from Cadenhead’s from two decades ago, so I knew to expect an austere, high octane whisky from an American oak cask.

I don’t have much experience with Glenlochy, but I got to try one from my buddy MZ (who I should meet again sometime soon, note to self…).

The Fort Wiliam distillery was closed in 1983 when a lot of Diageo plants closed due to the vast recession and huge overproduction in the 1970s. It was built only in 1898, to just make it in time for a whisky recession then, because of the Pattisson Crash.

I have been intrigued by whiskies like this, since they are a bit more ‘authentic’ than a lot of things happening now. A lot of modern whiskies are engineered to a certain profile, while stuff like this was, I think, a lot more happenstance.

15775025_10154645934376210_4214400801827880258_oSniff:
On the nose we get grain and flinty notes. Quite mineral rich, with green twigs (spruce?), oak, thyme. Also some notes of apple (including the iron) and resin.

Sip:
The palate is unsurprisingly sharp, but also rich and oaky. Ferns and other green dewy foresty notes. Some chili pepper heat, with some green herbs as well. Blue clay and twigs.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more focused on the oak, but doesn’t lose the minerals and iron. Quite austere. Herbs, with a warming, earthy quality. Rather long too.

So yes, this is bloody awesome. Of course, it’s quite a typical Cadenhead’s whisky from the ‘old style’ of Cadenhead’s. Generally I don’t go for those whiskies, since they tend to be a bit monotonous. However… This one fits the style and has boatloads of character, while not diverging from the standard. So, in the end I love it.

Of course, this stuff is very hard to get. Generally the only Glenlochys, or other more obscure distilleries that closed in 1980s, are only available when shelling out north of € 200. I find that sometimes acceptable, but even then you have to stick to the not-so-popular bottlings.

Sherry casks from Signatory or Duncan Taylor are far more expensive than this stuff, but let’s just keep trying!

91/100

Glenlochy 1977-1996, 18yo, 60.5%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection. Expect to pay around € 300 in auctions, I guess…

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GlenDronach 2003-2016, 13yo, 53.9% – OB for The Duchess

For who? The Duchess? Well, yes. It’s a fairly new Dutch brand from a shop called Best of Whiskies and/or Best of Wines. A friend and fellow club member runs the whisky division and has been making a way for himself in the Dutch scene.

This GlenDronach is their second bottling, after a 1991 Ardbeg (!). What Nils (the guy who runs it) also hosted was a fairly epic Springbank tasting with Frank McHardy talking the guests through a bunch of drams. Talking about something legendary! I still regret not being able to attend.

Anyway, Nils was kind enough to give me a sample of his new bottling. I have been a dick about not reviewing it about four months ago. Luckily for you, ‘dear reader’, it’s still available.

This puppy was drawn from a Virgin Oak hogshead, and bottled at cask strength, last May.

11205_bigSniff:
The nose is smooth and gentle with (obviously) quite some oak. I get scents of chili peppers and pears. Some ethanol. The curls after shaving a beam of white oak. Some bayleaf and licorice.

Sip:
The palate is surprisingly sharp and bone dry. Mind, this is not a complaint since I like dry whiskies, and a bit of oomph never hurt anyone either. It’s really demanding and draws your attention when you take a sip. Lots of fresh oak with GlenDronachs heavy spirit backing it up. Something crisp too, some mint maybe. Oak, wood spices, pear, chili and alcohol.

Swallow:
The finish is dry, but not as dry as the palate. Lots of oak and heat from the alcohol. White and red pepper to add to the heat. Quite long and warm.

So, what about this one then? It’s a bit of a two-sided affair. On one hand it’s strong, punchy and dry. I quite like that. I also like the flavors which are not overly similar to the other GlenDronach Virgin Oaks out there. It’s quite different from how I remember our club bottling, for example.

On the other hand, a lot of Virgin Oak GlenDronachs have been released over the last five years or so. That means you lose some originality points there. Having said that, compared to the generally available single casks it’s priced competitively, and it’s something else from the more available sherry casks. Recommended!

86/100

GlenDronach 2003-2016, 13yo, Virgin Oak Hogshead 1751, 53.9%, OB for The Duchess. Available for € 69 at Best of Whiskies.

Thanks a million to Nils van Rijn from Best of Whiskies for sharing a sample!

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Glenalba 34yo, 1981-2015, 40%

Somehow, Dutch newspapers and practically every news outlet in north-western Europe was raving about Lidl bottling a whisky that scores 95.5 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

Of course, not a single self respecting whisky fanatic reads those scores, since this awesome 34 year old sherried blend from the discount supermarket only scores half a point higher than the regular Jameson did last year. Yes, that entry level blend also sits in the upper echelons of whisky greatness, according to Mr. Murray.

Apart from that, the reviews of the Glenalba were pretty good in general, so when I happened to be in Scotland last year with my friends I had to pick it up. What also helped is that I was in Speyside just a few days after my birthday and I was made in 1981, like this whisky.

Also, a 34 year old whisky at 50 quid is a good deal, even if it tastes only so-so.

albaSniff:
The nose is very, very gentle, but has a bitter edge because of the sherry and wood for 34 years. Lots of gentle oaky notes with lots and lots of sherry. A focus on dates, plums and figs. Some minty freshness behind it and some leafy notes like ferns. The dewy fresh green stuff, so to say.

Sip:
The palate starts very light, which is no surprise at 40% ABV. It does get a tad richer with hints of dried fruits (dates, plums). Fresh, dry oak too.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit drier, but rich and quite long. Dates, and slightly bitter almonds.

After getting the link about the Lidl whisky sent to me by approximately everyone on the internet I decided I had to review it, and share it. So, I took the whisky to work and it was enjoyed. I took it to my friends for New Year’s Eve, with whom I was in Scotland when I got it. Again, it was enjoyed.

The general reaction to this whisky is not, however, that this is more or less the best thing since sliced bread. It’s good, it’s very good, and it’s incredible for 50 quid (back then still some 70 euros). However, rating this in the same league as Brora, Port Ellen and the finest single malts the world has to offer doesn’t make any sense at all.

Should you get this whisky if you can? Yes. Should you expect it to be the be all, end all whisky you try? No.

89/100

Glenalba 34yo, 1981-2015, 40%. No longer available, but they’ve released a  new one at 35 years old that you might be able to get.

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Mortlach 1954-2012, 58yo,43% – Gordon & MacPhail’s Rare Old

Well, rare and old this one surely is! A 58 year old Mortlach! I still can’t really wrap my head around me getting this from Gordon & MacPhail.

This one was also delayed quite a bit in reviewing, but I wanted to find a special moment for it. In the end, or as it is also known, last Sunday, I decided to no longer wait but create that moment. And also, any moment you can taste something like this is a special moment, so it got a bit selffulfilling too…

I’ve not tried an overload of Mortlachs in recent years, but generally they are well loved. I think Mortlach works especially well with sherry casks. The combination of their heavy, meaty spirit works magically with fruity and sometimes slightly bitter sherry flavors.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose is soft and rich, with lots of (great) oak and sherry. Some crisp menthol notes with beef and charcoal. Those oak chips for smoking on the barbecue too (unlit). Some earthy notes like dunnage warehouses have, so whisky soaked soil with wet oak and cobwebs. Later I get some chocolate and butterscotch.

Sip:
The palate is very gentle. Quite dry, very full and rich. There’s oak, charcoal, menthol. I’m also getting cherries and cherry stones (so a slightly bitter note too). Sherry, dark chocolate and again those earthy notes of dunnage warehouses. Old casks.

Swallow:
The finish is dry and slightly tingling. Quite warming too. Oak, casks saturated with whisky, some beefy notes. Heavy with some cherries, chocolate and caramel. Not as long as I expected.

Oh. My. God. If there ever was a whisky worth almost two thousand euros, this just might be it. This is so insanely good!

I’ve tried a 66 year old Glen Grant and a 58 year old Glenfarclas a couple of years ago. Those were ridiculously good as well, but in those whiskies the spirit had lost most of its power, which made them completely wood driven. Not a bad thing, but it did make the brand names quite interchangable.

This is not the case with this Mortlach. It does everything you expect from an old, sherried Mortlach with the charry beef scents and flavors coming through very well. Even at ‘just’ 43% ABV, it just shines.

Everything works in this whisky. Everything.

94/100

Mortlach 1954-2012, 58yo, 1st Fill Sherry Butt 494, 43%. If you can still find this, it will set you back at least € 1800

Thanks a million to Gordon & MacPhail! Much obliged!

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