Rob Stevens, proprietor of Whiskyslijterij De Koning hosts four seasonally themed tastings each year. As in, there are four themes, but there are way more tastings. He can only fit 11 people in his tasting room, so there’s three tastings per opened bottle, and then there’s always the regular and the slightly more luxurious XL tasting per season.
Spring used to be a Lowlands themed tasting, but with the limited availability in the last few years grain whisky was added to that one. It might change when Annandale and Falkirk and what have you become more readily available.
Autumn is based around the Highlands and Campbeltown. I’m hoping there’s a tasting set available for that one after the summer holidays as well. It is an annual feast of glorious drams, if past results are anything to go by.
Then there’s winter. Obviously that’s an Islay theme. I generally book an entire tasting every year with some friends. Normally that’s a pretty awesome tasting as well, although the diversity within Islay’s releases that are also at least somewhat affordable it getting more and more limited each year.
Then there’s this summer tasting. The one region we’ve not mentioned yet is Speyside. And with its typical style of fruity whiskies, I think it fits the season well. So, when a tasting set became available, contrary to joining the tasting, I got myself a set and was in for a treat.
Glenburgie 21, Gordon & MacPhail, 43%
Barley and honey, and a lot of oak. A hint of matches, some light wood spices. American oak, cinnamon, maybe some apricot jam.
Very gentle but with an edge of prickling black pepper. Oak, sawdust, a tad hot with chili pepper. Apricot jam and matchsticks. Cinnamon, some ginger.
The finish continues in the same vein, with a lot of wood driven flavors. I’m getting a hint of vanilla, but it’s tiny.
Lovely, complex and old fashioned. There’s a lot happening here and it shows some really lovely maturity. Spices, wood, some sweet summer fruits. A cracker.
Craigellachie 2010, 9yo, Red Wine Barrique, Càrn Mòr, 50%
Light, quite crisp, some aniseed, some fruit. Also some minerals, iron, slate, apples. Hints of raspberries, strawberries puree.
Slightly hot due to the alcohol. Quite thin on the palate. Peppers, berries and jam, a bit of scone like pastry and dryness.
A short finish that is pretty fruity, red forest fruits, with some old oak.
It’s pretty typical for a wine cask. The fruitiness forces itself on the whisky, but the underlying spirit is young and rather uninteresting. Also typical for a wine cask: I just don’t like it that much.
Glenallachie 15y, 46%
Very typical of sherry matured whiskies with both some fruity scents and some spices. Rather complex, with a hint of bitterness. Hazulnuts, oranges, yeast paste, clove and oak.
The palate is rather robust with orange pith, hazelnuts and lots of oak. Wood spices like clove and cinnamon, with sawdust and marmalade.
The finish is largely the same, full, intense and long.
What stands out most is the lack of sweetness. Normally, modern sherry cask matured whiskies show a lot of sweetness and not a lot of integration between the cask and the spirit. This one does that differently and it’s all the better for it.
Mortlach 20y, Cowie’s Blue Seal, 43,4%
It starts with immensely dry notes of hessian, oak, dusty barley and grist, sawdust and chaff.
The palate is quite light, with hints of coconut and lemon, lots of oak. But also hints of paper and cardboard. Extremely old fashioned.
The finish is a little bit more fruity. However, it’s mostly dry, with cardboard, sawdust and oak.
While this might sound strange, this is awesome. It shows a lot of old fashioned whisky notes that you don’t encounter all that often nowadays. I can imagine that the weird distilling regime has something to do with it.
At the moment of tasting I didn’t know this was the Mortlach, and I wouldn’t have guessed it, since the typical meaty notes that this distillery normally shows aren’t there. However, it’s a cracker!
Glen Moray 21y, Portwood Finish, 46,3%
This one starts with some hints of marinated beef, barbecued steak with oak. Somehow, eggy. Straw, peach and plums too.
The palate is a tad more fierce than I expected, very dry and shows quite some oak. Again there’s beef and charcoal, charred bits of barbecue meat. Slightly bitter notes too.
The finish is quite long, with dried fruits, oak and some raisin like sweetness.
At the time of tasting I guessed this was the Mortlach, for beefy reasons. However, it turns out to be a very weird Glen Moray. I like it quite a bit and it seems it’s the amped up version of the 25 year old Port Wood from several years ago. Having said that, I’m not really getting the port influence all that much. There’s some fruit and sweetness, but that could easily have come from a sherry cask.
Inchgower 22y, 1997-2020, 59.7%, Signatory
The nose is massive and strong, but very closed. There’s barley and some dried apple with and coconut husk. I’m not getting much else.
The palate shows the very high ABV and a lot of notes like apple, barley, apple skins.
The finish is very simple and very straight forward. It doesn’t add anything that wasn’t there before.
Initially I expected to really like this one. I generally like Inchgower and it does have a good age to it. However, I found this one to be very boring and very closed. A whisky that makes you work too hard for it to show its flavors and complexity, if there is any.
If I keep up the ‘buy a bottle after a tasting’ shtick’, I wouldn’t know which one to pick between the Glenburgie and the Mortlach. I like them both equally with the Glenburgie showing a bit more layers and complexity, while the Mortlach shows more old fashioned flavors that are more of a rarity nowadays. Of course, the Mortlach is much more expensive, which makes the decision for me.
All of these whiskies are available at Whiskyslijterij De Koning: