Van Wees, a very well known bottle-shop and importer of various kinds of booze celebrates their 100th anniversary. Officially that happened last year but the plague got in the way of timely celebrations.
So, last week they released their anniversary bottlings. There were five whiskies, and some other drinks as well (at least a rum and a grappa) and these two bottlings are the first of them to be reviewed here.
I don’t expect to see the 31 year old Glenfarclas and the 25 year old Arran popping up soon. These bottles were quite out of my league at € 700 and € 350, but the Benromach will be reviewed soon.
Interestingly, when I did the bottle share with these bottles last week, most people were interested in the Strathisla, even though the glory days of that brand seem to be a few decades ago. These 60s and 70s bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail (here, here and here) were absolutely epic, but newer stuff has never been able to really sway me.
Strathisla 13, 2008-2021, First Fill Shery Hogshead, 57.7% – Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees
And no, ‘shery’ isn’t a typo on my part. It actually says that on the label. I would expect a brand like G&M to have templated stuff like that to avoid typing errors like this, but it turns out to be a human effort after all. Anyway, in the end it’s the liquid that counts, and we’re about to find it whether it does.
Lots of sherry, but not completely overpowering the spirit. There are still quite some notes of barley. Dried apple and apricot, almond paste. Some cinnamon sticks too.
Quite dry with some coarseness and a pretty fiery character. Oak and barley, with dried yellow fruits. Peaches, apricot, apple.
The finish is still rather fierce, and quite long. A rather lovely flavor remains of oak, dried apricots, almond paste.
When I think of Strathisla I think of two things. These insanely high rated bottlings I wrote about in the intro to this blog post, and everything that came after them. This newer style of whisky is a very solid Speyside whisky, which works very well with sherry (or shery) casks. In this case, it does that very well too, but on the other hand, it is just exactly that. A good Speysider with sherry maturation.
I’m glad there’s still some notes throughout, because I think this was on the brink of being ‘just cask’. A very good whisky, but not exceptional. It just lacks that ‘one thing’ that makes you remember this for a while.
Miltonduff 13, 2007-2021, First Fill Sherry Hogshead, 59.7% – Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees
No typo here!
Lots of oak and barley, a hint of baking spices and leather. Some vanilla, peaches, pear skins, sand biscuits, toasted bread.
Dry and fierce, with some biting hints of chili pepper. Pear skins, dried apple, peaches. Sawdust and grist. Barley with a touch of vanilla.
The finish is a touch more focused on notes of pastry, but suddenly adds some blackberries.
The combination of the dryness on the palate, the barley notes throughout and the dried peaches and pear skins make for a very interesting whisky. A lot more unique than the Strathisla. The addition of blackberries on the finish helps too!
So, when regarding the current whisky climate, so pricing and availability, I think both are well priced and the Miltonduff just trumps the Strathisla. I think it’s a more interesting whisky, and it’s a bit cheaper as well. (€ 85 vs € 100).
Anyway, I think Van Wees has selected two very decent casks of whisky for their anniversary. If the other ones are just as impressive at their respective price points, there’s nothing to comlain about!