Yet again, Tom van Engelen climbs his pen, as we say in The Netherlands. This time he tries a sherry cask from Berry’s and a 1968 Glen Garioch. Talk about old whisky…
A sherry cask matured whisky can be a case of hit and miss. When it’s good, it is heaven, when it’s bad you want to wash your mouth. When I first got into whisky there was this hype around very young Macallans and Highland Parks bottled in the MacPhail’s Collection or as Speymalt, I don’t exactly remember. Those charming black labels, young whisky roughly between 8 en 10 years old, and as cheap as 28 euro. Yes, those were the days. I should have stocked up. It was THE topic of conversation on the good old fora on whisky websites, because the liquid could be very harsh, the struck matches kind of types, not for the faint of heart. An extreme in the sherry matured whisky universe.
Where are we now, you ask? In better days, even though putting “sherry cask matured” on a label is no guarantee for good stuff. A finish for a few months is a far cry from a decent full blown maturation. But when I look at my whisky cabinet, I can safely say I am in my “sherry phase” right now, following hot on the heals of the “peat phase” that went on for quite a while actually. So, when I look I see Aberlour A’bunadh and the rather difficult Tamdhu batch strength. That last one is actually growing on me, but the bottle being opened was much needed. It was really too austere at first, now it creeps up to Aberlour level. Good development!
My newest addition is the BBR’s sherry cask matured blended malt in The Classic Range. A blended malt, yes, not the most common thing in my stock, I have to say. This was actually an impulse buy. I saw it on a website, the color seduced me, the discount was very nice, and one day later I took out the cork. I like those Douglas Laing expressions so curious how I will enjoy this:
A classic sherry nose reminiscent of the medium dry my grandmother used to drink. Not overly “red”, subdued caramel, very balanced and easy to get in to. This is skillfully blended, a true testament to the art.
It is very easy on the tongue but certainly not boring. This is BBR and Ronnie Cox’s name is on the label so chances are high there is Glenrothes in the mix. Sweet, soft, full bodied, nutty. The balance in this blended malt is amazing. There is no shadow side to this whisky.
The sharp edge that one likes in a finish is absent. I am not sure I entirely miss it. The fact is, despite or thanks to lacking punch, I could down a bottle of this easily (and I will!). What more can we wish for? This is whisky the term “bang for your buck” was invented for.
Score: 85 points.
For balance and clarity: I did not even care that this is a NAS whisky. Good ABV, all is well in the blended malt universe!
So, am I now a convert to blended malt? Well, it is a very good alternative for your everyday dram. When something is really good and straightforward, it can score high praise and/or points (if you care for that). As a whisky enthusiast this is one to drink, not taste and write reviews about. Sometimes we forget to drink, don’t we? Do it with something like this. But of course, one does miss the challenge a good (single) malt provides. So, just for the sake of tasting a real nice sherry monster, let me conclude this blog with a classic and wish you a nice day!
Glen Garioch 1968 – cask #622
An old box that used to be filled with Caribbean cigars, but now hold sweets. Dark chocolate with the subtlest of smoke. 1968 was not only a pivotal year for Bowmore, this Glen Garioch from a single cask is utter brilliance.
Oh my, what a peat explosion! If I told you this was a 1995 Bowmore you’d believe me. This screams Islay, and yet it isn’t. The earthy peat and smoke is just mind blowing. This tastes like liquid cigar too. Tea leaves, balanced wood, all kinds of nuts… It’s truly amazing. And totally no off notes whatsoever. Extremely balanced, a one in a million kind of cask.
It’s here where the wood speaks, lots of high quality chocolate and just enough sting to keep you awake. But then you dream of a desert island and peace, in your heart and in your mind. Perfect balance, as can be found in this whisky. My, oh my.
Score: 96 points. These are the holy grails whisky lovers should look for. I don’t dare look at prices for this bottle on auctions. In this case, a high price would be worth it.
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.