Brora 38, Port Ellen 37 and others in the Diageo 2016 Special Releases

These labels have already been found in the TTB database, for this year’s Diageo Super Premium releases.

A 1978 Port Ellen will certainly be tagged with a premium price.😉

Whisky Gospel

On the heels of Feis Ile 2016, some labels of the forthcoming 2016 edition of Diageo Special Releases has shown up at the federal TTB database (labels are at the bottom of the post) earlier today.

At the moment we can quite safely assume (like 99.999%) those five release will be out coming October:

  • Lagavulin 12 Year Old 2016 – 57.7%
  • Caol Ila 15 Year Old Unpeated – 61.5%
  • Port Ellen 1978 37 Year Old – 55.2%, 2940 bottles
  • Brora 38 Year Old – 48.6%, 2984 bottles
  • Auchroisk 25 Year Old – 51.2%, 3954 bottles

We can see that the annual releases of Lagavulin 12, Caol Ila Unpeated, Brora & Port Ellen live on for another year. After 16 years, we still keep asking ourselves: just how many casks are left and how long can they sustain this series of Brora and Port Ellen?

I wonder if they have another…

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Tullamore D.E.W. Cider cask finish, 40%

So, it’s been a while since I reviewed an Irish whiskey, and when I did they were older single malts and not the blended whiskeys that make up the vast majority of the distillates of the Emerald Isle.

Sometime last year (around this time, actually) Tullamore D.E.W. released a cider cask finished whiskey which is, as far as I know, a first in the industry. (All we have to wait for now is a tequila cask finish, right?). It’s a travel retail release and came in at € 54 for a liter. Quite affordable, but also quite a bit more expensive than their regular range.

Normally, a liter of Tullamore D.E.W. comes in at about € 20 for a liter (at the discounters), so € 34 for a couple of months in a cider cask seems rather steep.

Sniff:
The cider is very, very clear on the nose. Almost like a cheap Calvados. So, lots of apple and it’s very crisp. Slightly yeasty too. Some malty notes but not too many. Somehow it tastes like there was quite some cider left in the cask, almost like it is a mix instead of just cask ‘reusage’.

Sip:
The palate is smooth and crisp, with minor hints of oak, apple and a few creamy notes too. Pastry cream, with some malt and other grains. The cider influence unbalances it.

Swallow:
The finish is more or less the same as the palate. Not much development, if any. It tastes like a blended whiskey with a twist. Some grains, some apple and pear.

So, as just said. A blend with a twist. It’s quite unhinged and unbalanced. Like they just chucked a couple of liters of cider into a cask of their whiskey. Add the fact that the whiskey isn’t very old to begin with and the result you get is a young tasting mix of raw flavors.

The summary of this is:

There is no reason to drink this, except curiosity. That is now stifled and I’m not going to finish the sample. It’s not good at all.

60/100

Tullamore D.E.W. Cider cask finish, 40%. Released last year in Travel Retail at € 54 a pop.

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Yamazakura 16, 40%

This Japanese blended whisky is an exclusive release for Europe. It more or less showed up unannounced, but there has been some information given on Nonjatta.com.

Apparently it consists of 16 year old whisky that was distilled somewhere in the past. Before bottling it was transferred to tanks in which it lay for an unknown period (Hirsch whiskey from the States teaches us this can be years and years), after which it was shortly ‘woken up’ in casks again.

It was matured in bourbon barrels and is made up of 20% malt and 80% corn whisky. There are 1992 bottles available.

The company that produces it, Sasanokawa Shuzo has been ‘producing’ whisky since 1946. But the origins of their product have been mysterious. Some say the bought spirit and blended it in Japan, others say they produced it from scratch. The provenance of this whisky is unknown, but I don’t think there’s reason to believe it was distilled elsewhere than in their distillery in Fukushima prefecture.

It doesn’t happen often that new Japanese whiskies come out, and when they do it’s even more rare if you can actually afford them. So, when this one popped up, I snatched one up for bottle sharing.

Sniff:
It’s very malty and quite heavy. Some spices and toasted oak, but also a hint of spirit. Sweet grains, sugar and rather thin. Well, actually, it’s quite generic.

Sip:
The palate is slightly fatty and syrupy. Some oak, some malt, some white pepper. There’s more spices after that, and the hint of toasted oak. A tiny bit of red cinnamon makes up the most interesting flavor.

Swallow:
The finish shows the white pepper again. It’s not very long and the notes of grains and oak linger longest.

What to say about this one. There’s nothing special about it, that’s for sure. Well, maybe that off note I’ve not described yet. There’s something in this whisky that I can’t put my finger on. It’s a weird scent and flavor that doesn’t sit well with me and it is kind of omnipresent. So every step of the way is a weird step.

The flavors are all very uninteresting, and apart from that off note and the hint of red cinnamon on the palate there’s not much going for this one. A miss, this one.

79/100

Yamazakura 16, 40%, available for £ 89.95 from The Whisky Exchange

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Highland Park 18, 1956-1974, 43%

Recently I got the chance to get my mits on a tiny sample of this 18 year old Highland Park. Obviously I wanted in, and thanks to some timily obtained bottled I was able to trade for it instead of buying the sample, which generally makes things more reachable than when having to throw money at it.

Anyway, an ancient Highland Park. I once tried a 1955 one but that was thin on the palate. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to try again with something similarly aged, of course.

So, a whisky distilled when my mom was 1 year old, and my dad 3. Bottled 7 years before I was born. It better be special!

Sniff:
Dusty at first with a light whiff of spices. White pepper, some lemon and crisp Granny Smith apples. Crumble pastry, bread, flour and some oak.

Sip:
The palate is smooth and slightly tingling. A bit creamy as well. A little bit of smoke is coming through, and the white pepper is back too. Star apple, Granny Smith. After a while I get some aniseed, white oak. There’s a flavor that makes this one stand out as ‘old distillate’, but I can’t put my hand on the exact aromas. Earthy as well.

Swallow:
The finish is light but also quite rich. Dusty with white pepper and flour. Not very long.

Well, while this is not the most complex of whiskies, it sure is good. Very, very good even. The flavors are very old fashioned and really stand out as distillate from another era. Apparently there have been quite some changes to the process since the mid fifties.

The white pepper is never overpowering, and the oak is very timid. The combination of pepper and apple works surprisingly well, and the pastry notes on the nose are awesome.

92/100

Highland Park 18, 1956-1974, bottled for Ferraretto Import, Milano, 43%. Obviously only available through high end outlets. Currently valued at about € 1000.

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Balblair 2000-2014, 51%, OB for the Russian Federation

Now this is a first! I’ve never had a bottling for Russia before. Of course, that doesn’t change the whisky much, but it’s just a fun fact.

Anyway, this heavily sherried Balblair single cask was released two years ago and apparently it didn’t sell out quickly enough. It’s that, or the shop sent bottles back for some  other reason. A couple of weeks ago they popped up in Dutch stores and they sold out quickly, even though the price tag was a hefty one (a bottle was about € 170).

I bottle shared is, since I was very interested in tasting it but didn’t want to shell out the money all by my lonesome. 60cl was sold, 10cl was kept. And it’s all gone.

Sniff:
I get bitter oranges at first with a boat load of sherry. Dry leaves, dusty with toffee and burnt caramel. Quite sweet and fruity with spices and lots of oak.

Sip:
The palate has more fruit with mostly oranges. Oak, toffee and tobacco leaves. Fallen autumn leaves, the brittle, rustling kind. Lots of oak and dryness. Sweet citrus fruits, some red fruits, spices and dryness.

Swallow:
The finish is dry and mellows quickly, with a little bit of an afterburner a few seconds later. Quite long, with mostly the fruit lingering. A very light whiff of smoke?

Well, this is great. Intense sherry that displays the mellow fruitiness of Balblair quite nicely. Also the orange flavors of the sherry work really well with the intensity of the oak. A lovely dram of which I find it surprising that it didn’t sell out in the initial market. But then again, we wouldn’t have been able to try it, would we? So thanks, Russia!

All in all, a very, very good whisky that just is a bit too ‘simple’ to go up to 90 points.

89/100

Balblair 2000-2014, Single sherry cask 1341, 597 bottles so it was a butt. 51%. Bottled for Aromatniy Mir, in Russia. Available at LMDW for € 190

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Balblair 1975-2006, 30yo, 46.2% – Jack Wiebers Prenzlow Portfolio Collection

It’s not really a well known distillery in The Netherlands. As in, you can get it but that’s about it. Not many shops stock Balblair, and especially the older vintages somehow tend to be skipped. It’s a shame, since there’s some really, really good booze coming from the guys up in Edderton.

I visited the distillery in 2013, when I was on holiday there with the misses and my daughter. We had a lovely time even though I had already spent most of my whisky budget and didn’t pick up the handfilled available there. Silly me, I know.

So, there have been some twitter tastings, a few samples here and there, but my collection has not often been graced with Balblair until recently. Through bottle sharing I have had three all of a sudden. I finished one this weekend, of which a review will follow, and I also finally tried this one. A 30 year old from a decade ago. That means it’s been distilled in 1975, like their epic vintage release.

Sniff:
A light scent of malt, dunnage warehouse and sawdust. That old, slightly moldy oak scent is present too. Some fresh peaches and apricots, and dried ones too. Quite fresh. Maybe some mint as well. Lots of old oak, which is a very good thing. Dusty, like an old attic. Oh, and hessian.

Sip:
Sweet wood, I’d say white oak with old bourbon cask influences. Slightly peppery, and other spices. Lots of fresh and dried fruits again. Mainly peaches and apricots. Lots of oak, but all in a good way and not overpowering. Quite, well, ‘rustic’. It becomes a bit syrupy after a while, with more fruit juices coming through.

Swallow:
The finish has a bit more woody spices. Pepper, maybe some cinnamon and ginger. It mellows quickly and the attic, hessian and ‘attic scents’ remain longest. Ah the oak of course.

Well, this is awesome and honestly a lot better than I expected and hoped. Especially what this is going for in auctions it’s quite a good deal (little under € 200 if I’m not mistaken).

It’s a style of whisky that’s becoming increasingly rare and precious. Because of that I’m glad this little bottle share didn’t sell out completely! I’m thoroughly going to enjoy finishing this bottle!

The fruit, spices and oak make this a true highland whisky and almost has an old Clynelish character, minus the wax, and it’s just awesome.

92/100

Balblair 1975-2006, 30yo, 46.2%, Jack Wiebers Prenzlow Portfolio Collection. Sometimes available in auctions for around € 200

 

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A whisky tasting with Jock Shaw – part 2

The second bit of the tasting review. A tasting organized by Drinks & Gifts for the customers of the shop, hosted by Jock Shaw.

I described the tasting itself yesterday, and don’t have much to add to it. Jock was awesome. I was late. Some people were loud and others were not. Jock’s stories made the whisky tasting. Or at least, they made it more interesting than just a flight of drams.

In the second half of the tasting, after the smoke break, we went for a bunch of younger whiskies. Officially two of them were NAS, but that means young, however you put it.

Photo by Jock Shaw

Ardmore, 46% – Cooper’s Choice

This Ardmore is young and spirity on the nose, with the sweetness of the alcohol coming through. Untamed peat with barely any flavors of oak. Quite earthy, autumnal with scents of dead leaves. The palate is gentle with dry peat, spirit, grass, dirt and charcoal. Slightly salty bacon too. The finish is soft and long, with hints of alcohol and a much lighter peatiness than before.

Honestly, I was very positively surprised by this one. The whisky is very young but quite lovely and somehow, it tastes very ‘honest’. Nobody tried to make this taste older than it is, and therefore I love it. Good stuff!

86/100

Laggan Mill, 46% – Cooper’s Choice

The nose is heavily peated with a very heavy, feinty kind of peat. Quite sweet with mulchy leaves, decaying plants. Clean oak notes and some lemon. Slightly floral. The palate is sweet, dry with some tannins. Quite sharp with alcohol. The finish also brings those citrusy flavors. Simple syrup and candy, quite long with hints of earthy peat and smoke.

According to Jock this must be Bowmore since there’s a ruin of Laggan Mill close to the distillery, and the lemony flavor. I’m more inclined with ‘the internet’ and think this is Lagavulin. The spirit feels too heavy for a Bowmore too. And also, you can’t really put Lagavulin on the label, but you can put Bowmore on it.

On the other hand, Laggan Mill might be chosen because this way they can change the contents around when one brand runs out. Oh, there was also a Laggan Mill under the previous label of Cooper’s Choice and that too was widely thought to be Lagavulin.

The whisky itself is nice enough but not overly interesting. If you’re into young, heavily peated stuff without too much taming, this might be a way to go. However, I don’t find it overly interesting, unlike the Ardmore for example. It’s just a bit too one dimensional and ‘just peat’.

83/100

Kilchoman 2011, 5 years old, cask 666, 57.8% – OB for Bresser & Timmer

Then the final dram of the evening. A 5 year old sherry matured Kilchoman. Jock wanted to do his little SM game with this, which means washing your mouth vigorously for half a minute with a sip of this, swallowing and doing a big inhale. It’ll burn, although it wasn’t as bad as with a previous experience like this.

Anyway, on the nose there’s smoked bacon, golden syrup and pancakes. Burnt caramel, but also some green plants. Quite fresh and fierce. The palate went more towards the barbecue, but the smoke is more timid than expected. Licorice, bacon, pork marinade, ash, smoke, barley and quite spirity. The finish is quite long and mellows quickly. It’s sweet with that barbecue marinade again. Dryness and pepper linger.

An interesting Kilchoman, one of the better ones I’ve tried recently. But still, it’s a Kilchoman. And by that I mean there’s nothing to complain about, apart from the fact that there’s hundreds of single casks out there and the sherried ones all kind of taste similar. They’re consistent, but that also makes them less interesting.

87/100

So, all in all, a great tasting. A highland toast to finish everything off, and people singing along with The Wild Rover towards the end of the tasting. It was good fun, and unlike any other tasting you can go to. As in, go to Jock Shaw’s tastings. He’s good at what he does, interesting and fun.

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