Old Taylor 43% (bottled in 1973)

Of course, it’s pretty obvious I’m deep diving into American whiskey again. It was never far away, but I didn’t really engage with it properly for a while. I did get some samples from MvZ in the past that I hadn’t tried yet, and this is one of them.

There is at least one even older one that I’ll be reviewing soon, from the original Stitzel-Weller distillery, so that should be something!

This one then, bottled in 1973. Since it’s a straight whiskey without an age statement, it’s at least four years old. That results in this being distilled in the late sixties at the latest. Over fifty years ago.

Image from MvZ

Sniff:
Very rich and rather light bourbon. It’s a bit more minty and menthol like than contemporary bourbons, in general. There’s corn, and dry oak but not an overload of sweetness. Cigar leaves, for a bit more depth.

Sip:
The palate brings a bit more sweetness, but that is nicely held in check by a surprising amount of bite (for a 43% whiskey), and some cherry stones and almonds. Sour cherries, dry oak and sawdust, and a dry kind of menthol with a hint of cigarette.

Swallow:
The finish mellows quickly and leaves a bit more spicy notes together with the bitterness and sweetness of the palate. The oak is a bit more prominent and therefore, the dryness is too.

There are some things that this whiskey is, and is not. It’s a much more old fashioned whiskey which makes it stand out from the contemporary crowd. It’s a bit lighter than ‘really’ old fashioned whiskeys though. What it’s not is a whiskey that changes your view of bourbon in general.

The menthol and cherry notes are great. A different style of oak and cigarettes is interesting too. I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of this!

88/100

Old Taylor Straight Bourbon, 43%, bottled in 1973

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Arran 19, 1996-2015, 48.8% – Gleann Mór A Rare Find

Gleann Mór is one of those bottlers that are not available in The Netherlands, as far as I know. What put them on my radar quite a few years ago was that they bottled a Lagavulin.

It’s virtually unheard of to find indie Lagavulin, and even more so with the actual distillery name on the label. In the end it turned out to be ‘just another Lagavulin’, but with a spirit that good, that’s not a bad thing at all.

This Arran was bottled around the same time and somehow it found it’s way into my sample collection where it was promptly forgotten. Well, that’s not entirely true. I mixed it up with something else.

Around that time there was this festival bottling from Arran, which I didn’t really like. And somehow I though this was another sample of that, instead of what it really was.

Image from Whiskybase

Anyway, a while ago I tried it. We’re still going through old notes here, while I’m still unable to smell anything. It turned out to be quite different from the festival bottling…

Sniff:
Very dry and bitter on the nose, but the sweetness starts coming through right after. Cherry stones, dates, light oak.

Sip:
Soft with lots of dried fruits, sherry and spices. Some American oak, with barley, but mostle dates, plums, figs, the works.

Swallow:
A bit of a short finish, with a lot of fruits, and sweetness.

This is a very decent sherry cask bottling from Arran. While this is not a rare thing, it has been a while since I had any and this one just reminded me of the solid quality the distillery generally puts out.

Of course, I stopped having many sherry casked Arran since everyone was bottling them and things got a bit boring, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad in any way. So, good stuff. Nice and fruity, with a lovely bitter hint on the nose.

86/100

Arran 19, 07/1996-08/2015, 48.8%, Gleann Mór (A Rare Find). Available in the secondary market for € 150

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Ledaig 2007-2015, 8yo, 52.3% – Beacon Spirits

It’s with shame that I start this review. I got this sample from Bert Dexters, of Beacon Spirits, years ago and have completely missed it in reviewing. My sincere apologies, Bert.

A young Ledaig as we have seen quite regularly in this decade. Although, they have been getting more rare with the brand reaching more maturity. Some ten years ago every one was bottling 5 year old Ledaig, followed by increasingly older ones.

This one is bottled by Beacon Spirits, a Belgian bottler with some seven casks to their name, according to Whiskybase. Not a lot, but it says something about them not bottling just about anything they can get their hands on. I prefer these slower approaches.

Now Ledaig, as most of you will know is distilled at Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull, on Scotland’s west coast. It’s their peated brand, much like Bruichladdich has Port Charlotte (and Octomore, for the more gimmicky approach).

Ledaig is a bit of a weird brand, since there were quite some releases from the first half of the 1970s, with just a handful from 1976 to the early nineties. They’ve been getting back at it in recent years, though. I guess that’s a good thing since it’s a rather cracking whisky. Or at least, it has become that more and more. Let’s see where this one sits.

Image by Bert Dexters

Sniff:
The smoke is the first thing you notice and there is no way around it. It’s a mix of highland and coastal smoke in style, meaning it’s a combination of woody, earthy smoke with briny aromas too. It’s very typical for Ledaig, with some sea weed and dried flowers. There’s a whiff of funkiness that’s rather uncommon for Ledaig.

Sip:
The palate is surprisingly mellow. Not too surprising when a younger whisky is already down to this ABV. The peat comes with some chili pepper heat, after which the dried flowers and sea weed follow once more. It has a minor hint of espresso, with some bitterness to it.

Swallow:
The finish is much more crisp than I expected with a far more coastal tinge to it. Lots of sea wind, lots of peat and smoke, but also heather, flowers and sea weed again. When the flavors fade, the smoke lingers on the palate and that’s rather nice.

The whisky is very true to the character of Ledaig, with some nice little hints of other interesting flavors. I was surprised with the little note of funkiness which I find interesting. As in, some really young ones, ten years ago, were funky to the level of rotting carcasses. Then, the newer batches of Ledaig got very clean, almost like a non-Islay Ardbeg.

So, an interesting whisky to say the least. True to the distillery character, but divergent enough to be interesting!

86/100

Ledaig 2007-2015, 8 years old, 52.3%, Beacon Spirits. Still available for € 65 in Belgium

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Springbank 12, 2001-2013, 53.5% – Springbank Society

Image from Whiskybase

It’s feels like it’s been ages since I got my hands on a Springbank Society bottling. I know there’s one sitting in Campbeltown which I was supposed to pick up last April.

Obviously that didn’t happen, and I’m not entirely optimistic about it happening in April of 2021 either. Of course, during the entire lockdown and following closure of Springbank Distillery, selecting a cask for the society has not been a high priority for any of the people in Campbeltown.

This one, bottled seven years ago, matured in a Port hogshead. Port are a bit hit-and-miss so I was slightly skeptical when this came out, but of course, I wanted it.

Sniff:
The port is noticeable but not overpowering the spirit. What also helps is that the funkiness of Springbank is similar to that of port, and it works well together. Some rancio, and red fruits. But also a whiff of smoke and lots of barley and oak. Cherries and almonds.

Sip:
The palate is a bit sharper than the nose was, and quite drying. The moldy, wet oak overpowers the fruit a little bit, and the dryness is rather corky. Springbank in overdrive.

Swallow:
The finish carries the palate over and lets it linger. The fruitiness is present, but it’s more jammy than fresh or dried. Forest Fruit Jam.

If you would imagine a Springbank whisky matured in a port cask, I guess this is exactly where you’d end up. Red fruits, amped up funkiness and a bit of dryness. Luckily, most of these things are right in my wheelhouse. It lacks a bit of complexity to make it a truly great whisky, but with this stuff initially selling for around £ 60 (estimated), you can’t really go wrong.

87/100

Springbank 12, 06/2001-11/2013, Fresh Port Hogshead, 53.5%, bottled for the Springbank Society Members.

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Guest Post: Lagavulin with Port Ellen influences

Tom climbs his pen once again to write down his thoughts on the new Lagavulin 12 years old. An annual highlight in the world of special releases.


A highlight in the year is always the Special Releases announcement of Diageo. A trusted name on that list is always the Lagavulin 12 Years Old. Last year, Diageo managed to piss off collectors by changing the packaging for the Special Release series. The Lagavulin for instance sported an elegant White Tailed Eagle. To me, it seemed also the contents of the bottle made a fresh start. Let’s see how Lagavulin followed that up with this years expression. (I will have the 2019 nearby for comparison.)

Lagavulin 12 Years Old, Special Release bottled at 56,4 % ‘from a single vintage’

According to the bottle taken from one vintage, and even though there is no further information, according to Whiskybase it comes solely from 2007 stock. This is seemingly the only difference with last year, where the expression was made up from stocks ‘selected for their high peating level’.

Sniff:
Fresh sea breeze on a sunny Autumn day, where the grass on the hills in front of the Lagavulin Distillery is still green. Somehow these good people managed to catch this in a bottle. Very vibrant! It helps to rinse your glass with ice-cold water and then don’t dry off the inside of the glass. The 2019 in comparison smells more like the barn we have grown to love due to peat influences. The 2020 seems to have a happier, upbeat character. In the distance dry notes from yellow fruit like banana, and sundried leaves on wet earth. This reminds me of some teenage Port Ellen actually.

Sip:
If the 2019 was composed for it’s peatiness, then what is this supposed to be? Immediately after landing on the tongue the fire and ash cover your palate, with just the lightest hint of lemony sourness. If this whisky had a soundtrack, it would indeed be Sour Times by Portishead. These additional sour influences make for an interesting variation on the 2019, which has more frontal bitter notes.

Swallow:
This is where I cast my vote for the 2020 as the best of the two; given that we are splitting hairs here (this is why I tasted right before lunch, with the cleanest palate of the day). The deciding factor for me is the length of the finish, which is incredibly long and warming, as a good Autumn whisky should be. The bitterness that is lacking on the tongue does pleasantly appear in the finish. The 2019 is smoother on the exit, the 2020 gives you a final gut punch.

91/100 points for a Port Ellen-esque Lagavulin, where 90 points remain for the Brora-esque Lagavulin of last year. Both are incredible. One could only wonder what an additional 4 years can do, if it weren’t for the traditional 16 Years old being proof of that. We would love to see that one at an even higher ABV. Please?

Where older expressions of the 12 year old SR-Lagavulin were sometimes hard to get into, the last two years have brought a turnaround. These Lagas have become more accessible, while retaining complexity and an abundance of distillery character. Refill American oak is THE wood for Lagavulin.

Stock up while you can, these are future classics.

Available in The Netherlands for about € 125


About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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Stagg Jr. Batch 5, 129.7 proof, 64.85%

Stagg Jr. is, as far as I know, a brand that was released when George T. Stagg, on of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) got more and more popular. This whiskey is made in the same vein, except it’s not as old.

What you can expect is a solid bourbon at a rather ridiculous strength. At least, when it came out, ABVs like this were not overly common. Things have changed in the last couple of years with Bourbon (and American whiskey in general) becoming more and more popular over the years.

I had this sample, although I don’t remember where I got it, for a while and tried a little while ago. It’s from a batch bottled in 2015, so of course it’s only available at a rather inflated price. Although, with things being as they are, I’m not overly shocked by the current price tag.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Sweet, oily bourbon. Lots of corn sweetness, and a whiff of alcohol (unsurprisingly). Some dried strawberries and baking spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, oak.

Sip:
Dry and insanely strong. Lots of oak and alcohol. The sweetness needs a few seconds to come through. This cuts through everything. It gets a bit oily in texture with a syrupy thickness. Spices, oak, red fruits like strawberries, raspberries.

Swallow:
The finish is more classical with the more typical bourbon flavors in overdrive. Corn, oak, spices, even some cigars.

The ‘Kentucky Hug’ on this one is strong, which is not surprising given the strength. It’s not too strong though, and when given half a chance to give you the other flavors of red fruits and oily thickness, it’s turns out rather great. Of course there are some wood spices and those only add to the complexity. Great stuff, this!

88/100

Stagg Jr., bottled in 2015, 129.7 proof / 64.85%. Available in France for € 300

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Glen Albyn 23, 1978-2001, 43% – Signatory Vintage

Glen Albyn distillery was one of the three Inverness distilleries, that have all closed down during the 1980s. The other two are Glen Mhor and Millburn. I’ve only seen Millburn in passing by, it’s a restaurant now. Both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn have been demolished.

With Glen Albyn being a malt that was mainly used for blending, as far as I know, there aren’t too many bottlings around. I’ve not tried many, to say the least.

Let’s see if this sample size of one gives us an idea whether or not it should have stayed open…

Image from Whisky Antique

Sniff:
Pretty aromatic, with quite some oak, and very classical with hints of honey an heather. A touch coastal. Gentle herbs ‘de Provence’, with a hint of vanilla. Well balanced.

Sip:
The palate is very smooth, with lots of oaky notes. There’s pastry cream, wood, herbs, thyme, oregano, sweet apples, pears.

Swallow:
The finish is a tad more dry, a tad more coastal. Oak, herbs, vanilla and apples.

Interestingly, there isn’t much that I’m going to remember this whisky by. It’s very classical, and therefore not unique. However, what it does, it does very well. I like the classic highlands notes of honey and heather. I like it even more that there’s a whiff of coastal character to go with it.

So, all in all it’s a very solid dram. But, with this at almost € 400 (most recent price), the quality isn’t there to warrant the price tag. Obviously and understandably, the price is based mostly on rarity.

87/100

Glen Albyn 23, 22/02/1978 – 06/04/2001, cask 696, 43%, Signatory Vintage.

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Inchmurrin 42yo, 1973-2016, 44.3% – Cadenhead

One of these samples I found in my collection. Yet again.

Inchmurrin, as some of you will know, is one of the many brands of Loch Lomond Distillery in Alexandria, near the loch of the same name. Inchmurrin is one of the islands in the lake, and is used as one of their brand names, next to Inchfad, Inchmoan, Loch Lomond and Croftengea. I’m probably forgetting some.

There is some method to the madness of their branding, but if memory serves, Inchmurrin uses a specific setup of their stills in which they cool their rectifier. There’s something about yeast strains too, but I don’t know specifics about that.

Anyway, Inchmurrin is a brand they’ve used for ages, but if I check the vintages available on Whiskybase, it’s been really patchy until the mid-nineties. There have been quite a few bottlings from the mid seventies, though. Even one that was relabeled by Cadenhead themselves, over a decade after it was initially released and then forgotten about.

This one wasn’t forgotten, except by me. It’s one of these Cadenhead releases of which I got a sizeable sample and then put it on my shelf in 2016. There were only 25 bottles released, apparently!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Lots of white oak, and while there is vanilla, it’s not all encompassing. Some dry baking spices and coconut flakes. Hessian, sawdust.

Sip:
The palate is much drier, with more focus on the oak, with heaps of barley too. Coconut flakes again, with vanilla and apple pie. Very light with a hint of salinity.

Swallow:
The finish is very mellow with a bit less vanilla here. More coconut, more sawdust, more dried apple. Lots of bready barley notes.

To me there are definite pros and cons to this whisky. Technically it’s all okay with it being interesting, and old. As in, it tastes rather old. The Inchmurrin setup generally makes for interesting drinking and this one is no different.

However, for a 42 year old whisky I would have expected a bit more complexity. It seems the cask hasn’t necessarily taken over the distillate, but it did mellow it so much that there’s wasn’t much left of it either.

This sounds overly negative, and that’s not entirely justified. It’s proper whisky, but I would expect more of a 42 year old whisky, or anything I pay € 200 per bottle for.

87/100

Inchmurrin 42yo, 1974-2016, Bourbon Barrel, 44.3%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection. No longer available.

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Glen Scotia 2008-2018, 9yo, 55.9% – Kintra Whisky

I might be a bit of a snob, but when I’m at a whisky festival, I veer towards the exclusive stuff. Random 9 year old whiskies I generally skip. Not just at festival but also in shops.

Why? These can be good, right? Yes. But with whisky’s popularity of whisky, everyone and their brother is releasing single cask whisky and there’s just too much generic-ness going on. Too many things that should have gone into a blend and not have been bottled as a single cask release.

But, in early 2019 I was at the Hielander whisky festival at Kintra’s stand, and I wanted to try some of their recent releases. This one was there. There were more exclusive ones but some were already poured into the glasses of my in-laws. We tend to share.

This one ended up in my glass. It had been less than a year since I was at the distillery, so there was a bit of Glen Scotia fanboy-ism going on too.

As you might have guessed by now, I was very positively surprised by this, and I ended up buying a bottle. I semi-recently emptied it and finally wrote tasting notes.

Sniff:
Straw and barley, with yellow fruits. Pineapple, apple, fresh and dried. Some oak and a hint of vanilla too. Slightly coastal.

Sip:
Slightly syrupy, fruity and coastal. Pretty fierce, with straw, marram grass and briny sea air. Salty, sweet, and strong.

Swallow:
Not overly long but lots of grassy, dry notes. Accompanied by lots of dried pineapple, and fresh apple.

This whisky does everything you expect from a coastal whisky, but adds some more fruit than I expected initially. The pineapple notes are pretty tasty, and it combines rather well with the salinity of the distillate.

It took me a while to go through the bottle, but when I finally got into it, I got through the last half-or-so pretty fast. Also, I took it with me on holiday to Brittany last summer, and it was nice and summery enough to get me through a few evenings!

87/100

Glen Scotia 2008-2018, 9yo, cask 369, 55.9%, Kintra Whisky. Available for € 73 at Whiskysite.nl

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Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof, 57.1%

This ‘small batch release’, which isn’t a very small batch at all, was done in 2012 for travel retail. I managed to pick up a bottle at some point, but it’s been so long that I don’t recall where I got it.

Anyway, back then it was a liter of pretty straight forward Bowmore at high strength for about € 60, so there wasn’t much complaining to happen.

By now the bottle is long gone, but the tasting notes haven’t been published yet. At the moment I am having a massive cold, so nothing new is being written. Luckily, there’s about a hundred backed up tasting notes ready to be processed into a proper blog post.

Image by Eugene

Sniff:
Dry smoke, salinity, like being in the town of Bowmore when they’re peating their barley. Some fruitiness, with apple, grape, grass, minerals and brine.

Sip:
Strong, very strong. Dry and crisp, but with bread, grain and some oak. Dry smoke, salty, briny. Quite some fruitiness, but also the strangely chemical Bowmore-ness. Slight hints of ammonia, in a good way, if that’s a thing.

Swallow:
A slightly sharp finish, warming, but crisp. Star fruit, apple, grape, not too long.

The youth of the whisky isn’t being hidden, but it’s not a problem at all. Instead of it tasting overly green, there’s just a lack of mellowness or maturity instead. Pretty straight forward, as expected, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

It gives the typical crisp Bowmore flavors and scents, with quite a bit of smoke to back it up. Due to it not being very old, there’s quite a bit more smoke than I’m used to from Bowmore.

All in all, this is a rather lovely whisky. After opening the bottle it went rather quickly, even though it was a liter. But I really wanted I could get one on the secondary market for around € 100, which I think is a fair price for a bottling from eight years ago.

87/100

Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof, Small Batch Release 2012, 57.1%

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