Two Clynelishes from 1991 by The Ultimate

Some months ago I decided to open some Clynelish bottles from my collection and bottle share them. Of the four bottles opened, two are from The Ultimate, a Dutch independent bottler that’s been bottling for years. The two bottles were well aged whiskies from 1991, bottled in 2013 and 2014.

Now, normally, I’m not a huge fan of The Ultimate. They (and I from them) have had some utterly gorgeous whiskies over the years, but sometimes there’s a stinker in there that makes you instantly regret buying it. To avoid this, I’ve only been buying things from this bottler after tasting them, since I find it a huge waste of money to have stuff sitting on the shelves for years until I decide to make sauce.

This sounds rather negative, but I guess it goes for almost all bottlers out there. The main difference is that it happens a bit more often with bottlers that are considered ‘budget bottlers’ than with the more expensive ones. But in any case I really advise you to try before you buy.

But, after this random rambling from me, let’s get to the whiskies.

Clynelish 1991-2013, 22 years old, Hogshead 13216, 46%

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
On the nose it starts with the typical Clynelish scents like candlewax, beeswax and some resin. There a soft scent of oak and autumn leaves. It’s has a slight rough edge with hints of nettles and other leafy greens.

Sip:
The palate starts slightly sharper than you’d expect from a well aged 46% whisky, but mellows quickly. It’s quite rich with waxy notes, resin and oak. It gets a bit more fruity with flavors of apple and pear. Quite dry too.

Swallow:
The finish then. This continues the smoothness that ended the palate. There are hints of dried apple, oak, honey and beeswax.

Honestly, this does everything you want it to do. A 20-something year old Clynelish that is completely predictable is a good thing, in most cases, and in this one it is too. I think this whisky could have been a bit more interesting when bottled at cask strength, but that is not a common thing for The Ultimate. The waxy notes are very present without dominating the whisky, and they leave enough room for the lighter hints of fruit, oak and leaves to come through. Very good indeed.

88/100


Clynelish 1991-2014, 23 years old, Hogsheads 13213 and 13214, 46%

 

Sniff:
This one has dry notes on the nose from the start. There are candles and waxine hints, with dried apple and cinnamon. Quite smooth, all together.

 

Sip:
The palate is as smooth as the nose, with more hints of oak, tree bark and dry leaves. A hint of white and black pepper adds a bit of spicyness, before the resin and candlewax comes through. Dried apple and cinnamon towards the end, like on the nose.

Swallow:
The finish is smooth and light, with dry oaky notes. Some bark, some cork. White pepper towards the end here too.

The second one, as you might have guessed is a bit different from the first. It’s drier and slightly more complex. This does, however, push back the waxy notes a bit, but luckily without completely masking them. The complexity makes it a bit more interesting to me, since there’s a bit more to discover. When you’re having your second, third or fourth glass of it, it doesn’t go completely predictable, which might happen with the first one.

89/100

Of course, both whiskies are mostly sold out now, since they were bottled quite a while ago. You might encounter one in a more off the beaten path shop, but I guess chances are getting low. They will pop up now and then in the secondary market, but prices have gone up significantly in the last year or so.

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Glenesk 1984-2016, 31 years old, 49.5% – Cooper’s Choice for The Whisky Fair

Sometimes you come across a whisky that you just don’t get to taste often. Glenesk (or Glen Esk, or Hillside) is one of these distilleries that have been closed for a long time and their product is exceedingly rare. As in, the MUCH more expensive Port Ellen is very easy to come by, compared to this distillery’s output.

The first time I tried a Glenesk was in September of 2010, at Whisky By The Sea in Vlissingen. Back then, the Diageo stand had Rare Malts available for acceptable prices (some five euros for a dram, if I recall correctly). I instantly loved that one, and have had a knack for those chalky highland malts ever since.

This one was available as a leftover from The Whisky Fair in Limburg, in 2016. They often do really great bottlings for that festival, and most of the time these whiskies are acceptably priced for what you’re getting. Keep in mind that that means a bottle of Glenesk still tops 300 euros. Luckily there’s bottle shares which gives me and others a chance to try stuff like this at a vastly reduced price (and volume, but trying trumps owning, right?).

2017-11-10-10-58-33.jpgSniff:
The nose is gentle and soft, with lots of barley leading the way. It does have that ‘old’ scent of wood, and soil and dusty attics, There’s some baking spices and candied lemon as well, with a hint of pulpy tree bark.

Sip:
The palate is more spicy than I expected with a surprising hint of white pepper. Then I start getting baked apple, puff pastry and cinnamon. There’s hints of old oak, caramel and dusty barley as well.

Swallow:
The ‘oldness’ comes through in the finish, more so than on the palate. Apple and caramel too, with that dustiness and earthy hints. White oak leads the long finish towards the end.

Well, I sure like this whisky. Actually I quite love it. It has that old flavor that is harder and harder to come by at prices mere mortals can cough up. The only drawback is that apart from that, it’s a fairly predictable whisky. It’s very good at what it does, but it’s not surprising or ‘horizon expanding’ in any way. That’s not necessarily a good thing but for a 350 euro bottle, I would generally expect something that I remember in a few years and I doubt this is it.

89/100

Glenesk 1984-2016, 31 years old, Bourbon cask 4677, 49.5%, Cooper’s Choice for The Whisky Fair. Currently available at Whiskysite.nl for 400 euros

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Dictador 1976, 40 years old, cask SHC 394, 46.4%

Some months ago I blogged about a rum bottle share that more or less lacked in interestingness. There were various levels of quality and age to those rums, but the similarity between all of them was that I wouldn’t spend my money on them again.

On the back of that bottle share I ordered a bottle of this Dictador, to see a different level of rum at a decent price. The strange thing is that this stuff went for ‘only’ 150 euros a pop, while a rum from an independent bottler at half the age goes for the same. I’m not sure why the discrepancy is so huge.

Anyway, it’s the oldest rum I ever had, and this made me a bit worried at the same time as enthusiastic. I tried some rums at 25 and 30 years old some years ago and those weren’t for me. Maybe that was the age? Or maybe something else. Let’s find out!

Sniff:
dictador_best_of_1976_46_4__70cl-6570There’s a very sweet, liqueur like scent to it. Thick and sugary with a whiff of alcohol too. Mocha and milky coffee, with hints of chocolate and oak. Some roasted almonds. There’s a lot going on, and it’s not shy either. Very late on the nose I get some caramel notes.

Sip:
The palate is sweet with sugary syrup. ‘Real rum’ with the cane sugar hints. Mocha again, with milk chocolate and raisins. It gets a bit dryer and less sugary. There’s a slight spicy hint which, combined with the taste of chocolate (and this being from South America) makes me think of mole.

Swallow:
The mole flavors continue on the finish, with the mocha being a little more in the background. Sugar and caramel. It’s quite dry and ridiculously long.

Well, this is something else. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything that is similar to this beauty. All the flavors are awesome and there’s a lot to discover here, a lot of different nuances and hints. Luckily I really like mocha and mole!

I can’t believe this kind of booze is available at 40 years old with a price tag of ‘only’ 150 euros. I bottle shared this one too, but I might have been better of keeping it all to myself. Especially now it’s been quite a while since I actually tasted it, I want another glass and there’s none left. Bummer!

Editor’s note: there seem to be some left in my home town.

91/100

Dictador Best of 1976, 40 years old, cask SHC 394, 46.4%. Available for some 150 to 160 euros.

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Highland Park 1988, 29yo, 51.5% – Cadenhead’s Cask Ends

I have no certainty how I got my hands on this sample, but I think it was from a bottle share from some guys in England, together with a heap of Springbank Open Day stuff. Anyway, when I saw a sort-of-affordable 29 year old Highland Park available, I wanted to have some. It’s not often these come by nowadays, especially not at a decent price.

Anyway, a late eighties Highland Park. At cask strength. Bottled straight from the cask by someone I know (albeit only digitally). Can’t go wrong, right?

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
What stands out on the nose is the bags of malt, at least initially. Some soft oak notes follow with a very light smokiness, a bit like a  smoldering campfire. After that I get stewed apple with some baking spices. Cinnamon, mostly, I guess. And some pastry notes to finish up.

Sip:
The palate is reasonably sharp and slightly drying. Maybe more intense than sharp. A light smokiness again, with some earthy tones after that. Apple, dried apple, autumn leaves. Also some cake dough. Slightly sweet with a small hint of vanilla and some hay.

Swallow:
The finish is rich with some baking spices. Warming with earthy hints. Some apple pie, vanilla and oak.

It’s rich, complex, and utterly delicious. That’s the short of it. The only ‘comment’ I can think about this whisky is that the finish is slightly less impressive than what came before. But, keep in mind, that this is still very, very good.

Honestly, this is the exact kind of whisky that is a real treat to find. It’s a shame casks like this are so few and far between. And, if they pop up they generally are quite expensive.

I consider myself lucky to have been able to try this one.

90/100

Highland Park 29yo, 31-3-1988 – 2017, Refill Bourbon Hogshead 06/265-1, 51.5% – Cadenhead’s Cask Ends.

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Inchmurrin 2003-2017, 14yo, 54.6%, cask 171-1, The Whisky Nerds

Last Friday I was at a whisky tasting at De Whiskykoning. In that line-up were the previous two Inchmurrins from The Whisky Nerds, and they were hugely popular. And while Rob tried to keep the arrival of the third one under wraps, I saw one of the Whisky Nerds (Bram) driving off after delivering a couple of boxes to the shop.

To indicate how ridiculously popular the three bottles were:

I saw practically everyone going home after the tasting with at least one of the Whisky Nerds bottlings. Some people bought all three, some bought the first two, and some bought any other combination of 1 or 2 bottles. I’ve been to a lot of whisky tastings over the years, but never have I seen such focus in purchases after it.

The theme for the Inchmurrins is ‘Trias Usquebaugh’, named after the trias politica on which most western governments are built. After Law and Order, the third one is named Executive. Contrary to people’s expectations of it being named ‘Special Victims Unit’.

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Sniff:
It’s a little bit sharper on the arrival than I expected, but it’s still a cask strength dram so not too surprising. There’s a lot of sherry in this bottling, with the bourbon being noticeable, but playing second fiddle. So, a lot of the dry sherry notes, but they’re supported by the yellow fruit notes from the bourbon cask. Slightly dusty with leather, old wood, and dried peaches and plums.

Sip:
The palate is sharp on the arrival, it can use a drop of water to slightly mellow it. It’s dry and peppery too, with the pepper being the red chili kind. Lots of dried fruits here, dates, peaches, plums. Some wet wood like in dunnage warehouses. Some syrupy orange notes later on.

Swallow:
The finish mellows quickly but stays rather rich. Slightly dry with lots of fruit, lots of flavors with some tropical fruits coming through here. Mango, pineapple.

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Bourbon, the mix, Sherry. A gradient of Inchmurrins.

While I was familiar with the concept of this whisky (keep something back from the Law and Order bottlings, and marry that for a couple of months before bottling that too), I was very curious to find out how this turned out.

And as it turns out, this does nicely hold some middle ground between the previous two Inchmurrins. There was more of the sherry cask involved in getting this ‘blend’ together, and that’s noticeable. The bourbon cask plays second fiddle, but has a very important role nonetheless.

In my presonal opinion, this whisky fills a different role to the other ones. The other ones go for a very (VERY) clear showcase of a bourbon and a sherry cask with the distillate being the same. This one is slightly less of a showcase whisky, and more a drinking whisky. It’s very solid, with a nice balance between the casks, and slightly less ‘opposing’ than the others. Slightly less of a ‘one trick pony’ doing the opposite thing than the other one.

Still, if you can still find them (maybe you can hire, the A-Team), I think you should get all three of them. Share them with a couple of friends and see where your preference lies. With ten people tasting them last Friday and not a single one disliking them, I think you’re good to go!

Inchmurrin 2003-2017, 14yo, 54.6%, cask 171-1, ‘Executive’, The Whisky Nerds. Available in various shops in The Netherlands

90/100

Thanks to The Whisky Nerds for supplying a sample!

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Two new releases from The Duchess

Since Best of Wines in Bussum, The Netherlands, has been bottling whisky, they’ve not released a lot. As far as I know there have been only three bottlings prior to these. Three are in their Shieldmaidens range, and one was a private cask from Glenrothes.

They set the bar very high for themselves, as they should. The shop has made name for itself by being a very luxurious one, selling top end wines to all over the world. Since they’ve been getting a foothold in the world of whisky, it only makes sense to continue along those lines there too.

Luckily, Nils van Rijn, a fellow club member and all round good guy is in charge of the whisky division. He has a great nose and palate, so selecting casks shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

A little while ago I got an envelope with their two newest samples in it, one rum and one whisky. I’ve tasted them, and thought to review them here as well. After all, that’s why they sent me those samples in the first place…

Glenrothes 1996, 20 years old, Cask:10/1996, 52.8%, Shieldmaiden Lagertha

13804_bigThe third Shieldmaiden bottling is a bourbon cask matured Glenrothes, a curiosity in its own right. Compared to the previous release, the Ardbeg (Shieldmaiden Malin) it’s a very affordable whisky, clocking in at 100 euros. In the current climate this is a very fair price for a 20 year old single cask.

The nose starts with quite a lot of alcohol, but is also warm and shows hints of freshly sawn oak. Quite warm, with straw and slightly bitter hints of pear peels. Fresh bread. All in all a rather light nose. The palate is much more spicy with lots of oak. Rather sharp and dry with fresh oak, apples, pears and straw. Baked apple too. The finish is fruity again, with apple juice, apple and soft pear. Some red fruits too, and rather long.

A nice and unorthodox Glenrothes, that’s very much worth a taste. I can imagine this being a surprising whisky to a lot of Glenrothes fanatics, but in a very good way. Quite an interesting dram, that can handle a drop of water.

87/100


Bellevue 1998, 19 years old, Cask 22, 54.9%, The Duchess

13974_bigApart from the Rum bottle share I don’t really drink a lot of rum. If anything, that bottle share sort of killed my apetite to sink some money into trying more. I know there’s good stuff out there, and I do find it an appealing concept. However, there’s so much randomness out there, that I don’t think I know enough about it to make an educated guess to what I like and dislike.

Luckily, sometimes you get a sample and get to try something new nonetheless.

On the nose, this Bellevue rum from Guadeloupe shows a lot of sweet alcohol, very different to the whisky described above. It’s rather sugary with lots of dark oak. Oak in the tropical way. Sugarwater, with a hint of glue (in a good way), but showing lots of spices. Clove is the one I am getting mostly. The palate is sharp and dry, with fresh hard wood, very different to the whisky again. Sawdust, dryness, sweet with clove, pepper and a lot of complexity. A slight chemical hint that is restraint enough to make it more interesting. The finish is very warming with charcoal and bonfire notes, hardwood, sweet barbecue and spices.

Well, luckily I got to try this indeed. This is a better rum than any in that bottle share and really shows how interesting it can be, as a category. A highly recommended drink if you’re looking to diversify and still have a very complex, cask strength drink at hand. Unless you don’t like spices that is. There’s a lot of that going on.

88/100


Concluding, I can say that they’re on a roll here. If they keep up this level of cask selection they’re going to be an important bottler and one to keep an eye on. Both the whisky and the rum are very good and very interesting. What’s not a given these days is that both the rum and whisky are also very attractively priced at 100 euros each.

Oh, and not unimportant, both are available at the time of writing.

Thanks to Best of Wines for the samples!

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Some goodies from Springbank

Springbank has long been one of my favorite (if not the favorite) distilleries in Scotland. I really liked them early on in my ‘whisky journey’, but especially since I visited the place in 2010 with my wife, I’ve been hooked.

Because of that it might not be too surprising that I generally try to get my hands on a lot of samples from this distillery, and I’ve been known to run quite some bottle shares with stuff from ‘the wee toon’.

FYI: Springbank Distillery is releasing their whiskies under three different brands:

  • Springbank: 2.5 times distilled, gently smoked single malt
  • Longrow: heavily smoked single malt
  • Hazelburn: triple distilled, non-smoked single malt

Hazelburn 13 years old, Oloroso cask matured, 47.1%

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Image fromWhiskybase

This official bottling starts quite heavy on the nose. Much heavier than I expected, honestly. Lots of sherry with notes of dried fruits and old leather. Plums, apricots, some wet barley mash. Quite rich. The palate is somewhat sweeter with more dried fruits. The flavors of mashed grains with fruit, oak, plums, peaches, leather and old wood. Some black pepper and charcoal as well (there is lot going on here). The finish is surprisingly dry and very much like Springbank (the ‘other’ kind of whisky). Leather, oak, some mustiness, but rich and dry.

This, honestly, is much, much better than I expected it to be. I did expect it to be good, but it’s actually very great. The slightly higher than normal ABV makes for a richer dram, but the slightly lighter than cask strength ABV makes this a very dangerously drinkable whisky. As you might imagine, the sample I kept for myself disappeared rather quickly.

87/100


Springbank 2006-2016, 9 years old, Refill Marsala Hogshead, 58.7%, Springbank Open Day 2016

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Image from Whiskybase

I was quite thrilled when I saw this one making the rounds, since one of the first Springbanks I really loved back in the day was the Marsala wood from a little over a decade ago.

The nose is very sharp with lots of alcohol. Hazelnuts come after, with a green and spirity background. Toasted bread with dry oak shavings. The palate is insanely sharp with lots of alcohol heat again. Very young and not a lot of wood to mellow that. Chili peppers, hazelnut, Brazil nut and maybe some almond. Not too sweet and getting richer after a while. The finish restarts the heat from the alcohol with lots of nuttiness. Some grain, oak and twigs. Not a very long finish.

Well, this certainly does not live up to my memory of the one that got me hooked. I’m not sure what the angle was when bottling this, because it’s far too sharp for me and it’s not a very mature whisky. Luckily there is some flavor to make this not a complete train wreck.

78/100


Springbank CV, 46%, bottled in 1997

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Image from Whiskybase

An oldie that I was able to get in auction. I heard a lot of good stuff about this whisky, and all about how I missed Springbank in the good days, when the newer CV bottlings came out some years ago. I bought this at around 150 euros, but currently they’re doing more than twice that, if Whiskybase is something to go by.

The nose is quite rich and sharper than I expected (it was the first dram of the day, admittedly). Lots of old, dry grains with the dried chaff notes as well. Porridge with a slightly buttery scent to it. In the background I’m getting some fruits. Apple, pear, grapes, kiwi maybe. The palate continues the dry and slightly sharp thing. It’s very consistent with mostly grain, oak and fruit notes. Apple, pear and grapes again. I’m thinking it’s more like dragonfruit than kiwi though. Straw, and a bit more sweetness than the nose had. The finish is rich and dry, with lots of oak and barley. The fruits gone by now.

Well, what to say. I expected a lot from this whisky and it didn’t completely deliver. I understand how this was the entry level twenty years ago, and it’s better than the current entry level CV, but it’s also not worth 150 euros. Let alone 330 or more.

87/100


Hazelburn 1997, 16 years old, Sherry cask 1004, 52.8%

21463377_10155422529156210_2363001169097118959_nThis last Hazelburn is from a private cask I was able to pick up through Facebook. There’s not a lot of information on the label about the cask or when it was bottled, but if this is not a sherry cask, I might just as well sell ALL my whisky and just drink lager for the rest of my life.

There is a lot of sherry on the nose. A different kind than the other Hazelburn though. This one is more meaty, more Mortlach-y, somehow. The texture is rather light, with lots of dry baking spices. With the whisky’s meatiness that goes more towards a good stew (or a ‘steak pie filling’ or something). Dried apricots too. The palate is very consistent with the nose with the beefy flavors being very interesting and not at all weird. Slightly sweet and woody, but with quite some heat from the alcohol. The finish mellows quickly and is slightly sweeter and more ‘normal’. Still there’s that beef and stew flavor with some sweet spices.

89/100

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