Liquid Time Travel

Posted on Wednesday 18th of September 2013

That’s an odd title I have chosen, I could change it but I’ve started typing now and there are far more important things afoot on this post. If you are into whisky then I suspect you will, like me, take pleasure in the variety it offers, the peaks and troughs, the oddities, surprises and the occasionally sublime. Every now and then good fortune seems to come around in the form of an incredibly memorable whisky. Whisky can be memorable for all kinds of things, it’s devastating hideousness, it’s palpitation inducing beauty, the moment it captures, the company it is shared with or the memory it evokes. Emotion of some sort is inevitably wedded to these most memorable of drinking occasions. I’ve had technically sublime drams that just can’t quite match the slightly unbalanced yet wildly loveable personalities of other more unusual whiskies. Today we’ll have a few drams that, for me, are the epitome of what whisky is all about and why I love it. They stand for me as monuments to just how great, thrilling, delicious, emotional and truly valuable whisky can be. These whiskies originate with my friend and geek in law Phil, who recently purchased a rather epic stash of old bottles at a country house sale in Cornwall. The sale included the contents of the old cellar, amongst the rather stunning array of old Madeiras and wines from Berry Brothers there was also a stack of old whiskies, not to mention the odd bottle of sherry and rum as well. Phil dutifully sold one of his livers and bought all the spirits. Fast forward about a month and we sit during a quiet night at the bar in Dornoch Castle Hotel, the place is run by Phil and his brother Simon. If you’re a regular on facebook you may know them as the ‘Whisky Collector’, they are notable for their habit of unashamedly, and rather blatantly, flaunting every single old bottle of whisky that passes their way on the Malt Manaics page as well as their own. Not to mention the occasional bit of trolling on the official Macallan page, but the less said about that the better. Not all bottles have been opened so far and no doubt more notes will appear here as time passes and these bottles are opened, for now here are notes for the first bottles. Apologies in advance for any overtly sentimental gushing or excessive maltporn, you wish to have that brigade thing of Serge’s on standby…

Calvados, Rum, Cognac, Whisky...?

Calvados, Rum, Cognac, Whisky…?

Berry Brothers Whisky/Calvados/Armagnac/Rum??? Bottled circa 1920s. Driven cork. No label. Level was in the neck. 

This was the first bottle we opened. At first I felt it was a youngish blend that had benefitted heavily from such a length of time in the bottle. However, when we tasted them with our good friend Emmanuel from the Auld Alliance in Singapore who happened to be visiting Scotland a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned that it may well be an old Calvados or some other similar wood aged spirit. So, the upshot is…we don’t know exactly what this is, not useful but it should make for an interesting tasting, lets see what gives with a fresh palate and open mind….

Colour: Orangey gold

Nose: I just cannot get this idea of Calvados out of my head now, the nose is laced with apples at first, when I had originally tried this we noted that there was a distinct green appley note, however I took this as a sign of a more pronounced grain component which is often typical. Now that the spirit has had time to breathe however this apple note is far more elegant and complex, notes of aged cider, baked apples in brown sugar then touches of nutmeg, demerara (could it be a rum?) a gentle but pronounced medicinal quality, like tiny notes of mercurochrome, germoline and metal polish. Goes on with beautiful notes of figs, raisins, coal fires, very delicate wax, wet leaves, hessian and pine resin with touches of camphor and lamp oil. I think we’ve ruled out rum. What a beautiful nose, so delicate but also balanced and wonderfully complex.

Palate: It’s amazing how much bite there is after almost a century. I think the proof is in the palate with this one, straight away we there are big, really biting notes of russet apples, demerara rum, brown bread, cinnamon, pear cider, touches of animal skins and leather with a very gentle meatiness. Seems to develop a hint of cardboard but then moves away and gets very minty and zingy with notes of blood orange, eucalyptus and citrus peel. Now a little dusty, waxy and metallic, typical OBE notes but all perfectly formed and present in a way that really informs and adds to the overall quality. This would probably have been quite a basic spirit when it was bottled, there is not a huge wood influence. Even though we know glass ageing softens woodiness this really does still bear the hallmarks of its inherent youth. Gets slightly salty and sharp with more apple peelings and touches of cinnamon.

Finish: Excellent length for such an ancient and fragile spirit. Leafy, drying, many apple notes, more stewed raisin notes, moss, wet earth, tcp and touches of mint.

Comments: My vote is with Calvados to be honest. The bite of the spirit on the palate is really reminiscent of a good youngish Calvados and those apple notes that rear their heads all over the place also point towards such a conclusion. Almost certainly no way to know for sure but I also don’t really care, the fragile beauty and elegance of this spirit is what really shines out. It’s amazing how you can sort of tell what parts were really enhanced by bottle ageing. Anyway, heartbreaking old stuff, and that was just the start, it’s about to get even worse…

Score: 91/100

Berry's Old Scotch Whisky circa 1914

Berry’s Old Scotch Whisky circa 1914

Berry Brother’s & Co. Very Old Scotch Whisky. Dumpy bottle. Circa 1914. Driven cork. Label destroyed. Level was in the neck.

This was the second bottle we opened. Berry Brother’s did not add the ‘Rudd’ part of their name until after 1914, prior to that it was Berry Bros & Co, so the label gives a good indication that this is indeed a very old high end whisky bottled around the time of the First World War. That would suggest high malt content blend or straight vatted malt distilled probably around the late 1880s/early 1890s. I know I know…I’m sorry.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Oh dear, where to begin… I suppose the first impression is a big canvas of wax, hessian, various oils, farmyard notes, camphor, wet earth, coal, clay, dusty phenols, old, metallic peat notes with tiny glimmers of green fruits in the background. These simmering peat qualities are actually reminiscent of a very old Ardbeg in some ways, like a lightly peated 60s Ardbeg perhaps. Goes on with really deft medical touches, linseed oil, tcp, bandages, iodine, old rope, metal polish and minerals. Ancient herbal liqueurs, a really old juane chartreuse, touches of caraway and orange bitters. It’s a heartbreaking nose to be honest with you, I should really stop writing…

Palate: Fat, glycerol peat, hay, straw, dust, metal polish, a ton of wax, coal, peat embers, muesli, wet grains, smoked fish like kippers and then little squeezes of lemon juice and wet pebbles. You can feel it has softened in the bottle but the presence, warmth and weight of this stuff in the mouth is really quite incredible, the closest thing I can compare it to would be the old 1930s White Horse or the 1940s Mackie’s. Other than that there’s not much to compare this stuff to, it’s a style even further removed from what we would ordinarily call ‘old style’. So beautiful. Goes on with touches of mint, jasmine, oriental spices and big orange liqueur notes. Still beautifully biting.

Finish: Long, metallic, minty, waxy, sweetly phenolic and resinous with this beautifully fat but complex peat quality, it’s a style of peat really completely extinct in any modern whisky of the last 50 years I’d say. Dried herbs, cured meat, some gentle spices and waxy old mineral notes in the end.

Comments: What can you really say about such Whisky. This is how they made them in the late 19th century I suppose. I couldn’t tell you if it was a blend or a straight malt, my feeling is that it is probably a high malt content blend but again, who cares, the complexity, elegance and mesmeric flavour profile are in another stratosphere from most of today’s malts. Hard to really find enough ways to describe the beauty and privilege that lies in tasting such ancient whisky. No doubt the +/-100 years in bottle helped it along but it’s remarkable how well intact it is.

Score: 94/100

Berry's Vatted Malt? The fragment of label that remains would suggest so.

Berry’s Vatted Malt? The fragment of label that remains would suggest so.

Berry’s Fine Old Scotch Whisky. Possibly All Malt? Circa 1914. Driven cork. Level top shoulder but had leaked in transit the day before. 

This one was a latecomer thanks to a mistake by the auction house and upon arrival it was apparent that it had leaked slightly so we dutifully shouldered the burden of opening it. (I know, I’m such a git) This is the one that is most likely to be 100% malt, although whether single or vatted? Who knows? The label fragment it still bears is almost identical in style to another Berry Bros & Co bottle we found from another auction so once again it dates this bottle to around 1914.

Colour: Light gold

Nose: The first impression is just a big fat nostril full of peat oil, pine resin and camphor. This fleshes out quite quickly into really fresh mint leaf, wet earth, dunnage, crystallised fruits, marzipan, touches of air freshener but in a really good way. Loads of oils, wax, old polished furniture, old books, leather, caraway liqueur, dried herbs, old chartreuse, coal fires and a little crusty salty note. Absolutely sublime and quite different to the others in many ways, this is much richer, fatter and more luxurious in its resilient, oily peat qualities. This certainly ‘feels’ more like a malt. There are no notes that suggest any grain component. These huge resinous touches are just astounding quite frankly. Also notes of fresh paint, a lovely mineral quality and hessian, butter and flints.

Palate: Huge attack, fat, farmy and full of greasy, oily phenols, camphor, olive oil, caraway, muesli. Touches of wax jackets, motor oil, leather, wood spice, wax, paraffin, tcp, some raisins, more mint, mentholated toothpaste, Madeira cake, liquorice and more ancient herbal liqueur notes. Quite bewilderingly beautiful. Metal polish, old coins, touches of OBE again but in the most beautiful way, a wonderfully complex and subdivided peat flavour. Some resinous citrus fruits, nervous notes of wildflowers, some grass, crushed coriander seeds and a little pancetta. This is huge, bold and completely different whisky, unlike anything I think I’ve ever tasted.

Finish: Herbal, resinous, waxy, long, minty, phenolic, peaty, thick, syrupy and full of honey, yellow flowers, chamomile tea, coal smoke and minerals. Beautiful.

Comments: I think this must be a malt, probably a vatted malt as would have been popular at the time but who knows. It’s not like any whisky I’ve ever tried before, the closest semblance of character lies in these other Berry’s bottlings but they too are of a truly ancient time. The only other thing that springs to mind is the old Lagavulin 12yo Spring Cap 1958 rotation. Not because they taste similar but because they are both so utterly different from any other whisky I could try. What a wonderful whisky and a unique privilege.

Score: 94/100

BONUS

Who wants to stop after that…? Not me, lets have something else from a looooong time ago. We opened this one very recently as well.

Greer's OVH circa 1930s

Greer’s OVH blended whisky circa 1930. No strength or capacity stated. Stopper cork.

This was part of a parcel of 12 bottles we acquired as part of our wee drinking cabal known as the ‘Glug Glug Club’ (yes we know we’re cool). The company that produced this owned St Magdalene distillery at the time and it is most likely that this was the constituent malt for this blend.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Another sublimely antique cocktail of metal polish, old resinous peat, apple peelings, wax, crystalised fruits, smoked tea, minerals and lemon oil. Goes on with al the usual suspects of hessian, dried herbs, wild mushrooms, dunnage, kreel nets, tar and menthol. More compact and focused than the others perhaps hinting at a little more design in its construction maybe. It certainly feels more ‘blended’ although the grain component is incredibly quiet, it must have had a significantly high malt content. Or the 80 or so years in bottle have brought all the malt components to the fore and kind of subdued the harsher angles, who knows… It’s beautiful regardless.

Palate: Once again great weight and attack on the palate, their is a kind of dusty green apple not at the back which suggest the grain component is a little louder on the palate but for the most part its more of these wonderfully nervous notes of metal, wax, peat oils, drying phenols, minerals, pine resin, barley sugar, dried mint leaf, all kinds of other herbs, cereals and butter. Still very fat and weighty if a little lighter than some of the others. Develops notes of tincture and iodine, the peat is very distinct in this one. White fruits and touches of rapeseed oil now as well.

Finish: Not as long as some of these magnificent Berry’s bottlings but still beautifully resinous, gravelly, mineral, peaty, oily and even with touches of green fruits still after all these years. Incredible stuff.

Comments: What’s to say? Another stunning old blend. It’s nice to think that there was a fair old dollop of St Magdalene in this one. It’s amazing how great these old bottles can be if you get one with a decent level.

Score: 91/100

I should point out that all these drams can be tried by the glass at the bar in Dornoch Castle Hotel. Phil and Simon are running a ‘Whisky Deal For Whisky People’ this winter if you fancy snuggling up in a great Scottish whisky bar this winter. Apparently they have a few hundred bottles that need drinking up and they’re flogging them off at knock down prices. I will probably be along to hoover a few up at some point.

That’s probably enough madness for today. But we’ll return to the 19th century very soon…

 

 

Two For The Road

Posted on Monday 2nd of September 2013

One aspect of the current fervour in the whisky auction world is that it require my job to be highly responsive and ever changing. For example when someone calls you saying they have some whisky I get details, location and make a decision about how to move forward based on what they tell me. If someone from Elgin calls me as says, “I’ve got three or four bottles I’d like to sell…”, that’s easy, make arrangement to pick them up next time I’m up, which is pretty regularly given the sheer quantity of good bottles that are still knocking about up there. Sometimes the response must be more urgent and immediate, like last week when someone calls up and says “I’ve got some whiskies I’d like to sell.”

“How many?” I ask

“Oh..about 200 or so.”

“Wow, where are you based?”

“Kent.”

“Bugger!”

That last part was said internally but the result was a long drive down to southern Englandshire, I felt a little like one of the Starks heading to King’s Landing (if you don’t get that reference then you haven’t seen/read Game Of Thrones for which I pity you).

Welcome to hell.

Welcome to hell.

It was an interesting and tiring trip, one I’m in no hurry to repeat. Certainly not if it involves driving on the M25 again, that fabled tarmac noose strung round the neck of London and sitting there in stagnant glory like the world’s biggest novelty carpark. It’s these sort of ventures that make you joyous to finally return home, although at the same time they serve to make the job that bit more interesting and unusual. There is an undeniable thrill about this rather unique line of work, the anticipation of going to see a strange room full of whisky. The temptation to let your mind run wild with what might lie within is deep. There’s no greater joy for me on a working day than visiting a new house, walking into a room, rummaging through a cupboard, a cellar or an attic and finding something you’ve never seen before, or only heard of in short, fabled breaths. It doesn’t happen too often but on the rare occasions when you find something truly special, those are the best of days to work in whisky auctioneering. Of course it helps if you’re a fanatical nerd like me, but still, liquid history is the best kind, the kind you can drink. Speaking of truly special things and liquid history, it’s about time I made some notes for these two babys…

Huge thanks to Wayne for opening this stunning piece of history. This would most likely have been bottled around the First World War.

Huge thanks to Wayne for opening this stunning piece of history. This would most likely have been bottled around the First World War.

Ainslie’s Circa 1915. Two part moulded glass bottle with stopper cork and wire seal. No strength or capacity visibly stated. 

Ainslie, Bailllie & Co were a short lived operation founded in 1913 and shutting up shop in 1921 so this dates to around the First World War and is most likely jammed full of old Clynelish.

Colour: Gold

Nose: I find it hard to detect any grain at all in this, usually with really old blends the malt is very loud but there are always some of these apple peeling, wet grain or banana foam style notes that tend to give away the grain component. Here all we have is super elegant waxiness around all kinds of seashore complexities, wet clay, sheep’s wool, hessian, sea greens, olive oil, camphor, touches of tar, peat oil, soft farmyard notes, coal dust, metal polish, it’s really a cavalcade of old style aromas and characteristics that are absolutely inseparable from old Clynelish. With a little time it develops notes of quince, mint leaf, marjoram, many dried herbs, tiny touches of fragrant soaps, wood resin, bay leaf, green pepper. There are even touches of some exotic and green fruits. This is quite incredible, one of the most elegant, complex and beautiful aromas I’ve come across for a long time.

Palate: It’s worth noting that the level was around the middle shoulder, how long it had been there I don’t know but despite that the punchiness of the delivery is remarkable for a whisky that has been in bottle for about century. The grain component is a little clearer on the palate but for the most part it is a superbly drying, highly mineral and austere biting delivery, full of citrus rind, lemon oil, olive oil, camphor, wet rocks, seashore notes, tar, very soft peatiness, metal, lanolin, earth, wet grains, caraway and muesli. Touches of tobacco leaf, some faint wood spices, dill, black pepper, lapsang tea, chamomile and a little butter. This was probably quite young when bottled, the softness and complexity is quite astounding and no doubt aided by such a lengthy stint in glass. Quite a remarkable dram to be honest.

Finish: Fades a little quickly but still remarkable length, full of minerals, oils, camphor, tar, metal, all kinds of delicate medicinal complexities, buttered toast, cereals, green fruits, apples, butter and more coastal notes. Emotional stuff!

Comments: What an amazing old dram, scoring whiskies such as this one is pretty much pointless I’d say, the emotion involved is so high, just thinking about the people that made this and the world it came from, not to mention the journey it’s been on to survive this long and arrive in our hands for drinking as it did. It’s quite a remarkable thing…

Score: 93/100 (for what it’s worth)

You can probably guess who opened this uber-rarity, merci beaucoup Serge.

You can probably guess who opened this uber-rarity, merci beaucoup Serge.

Clynelish 12yo OB circa 1950s. Spring cap. 70 proof. 

This should make for an interesting comparison…

Colour: Sauternes ( I always feel like a pillock describing colours in such fashions)

Nose: Oh wow. This is similar to the Ainslie’s but where the Ainslie’s has restraint, delicacy and elegance this is fat, huge, oily and intense. Huge notes of wax, boiler sheds, olive oil, soot, wool, dry wood, camphor, wet leaves, sea greens, natural vanilla, grease, goose fat, tar, ancient peat oils. This bottle was understandably quite closed when it was first opened, now it’s blossomed in the most spectacular way. Further notes of wildflowers, touches of medicine, seashore, sandalwood, paint, chamomile, lemon skins and green tea. The purity of the waxiness in this is just so astounding, it’s like some sort of concentrated Clynelish syrup, just add 30ml to a bottle of water and you’ll have normal Clynelish. (don’t do that)

Palate: About as big as whisky can be at 40% I suppose, resin, wax, wet rocks, whole mines of minerals, wet wool, earth, coal, tar, tcp, rapeseed oil, all kinds of wet, smoked grains, white pepper, mackerel and something like peat syrup. The epitome of unsexy and difficult but, at the same time, utterly beautiful and compelling, taste whisky like this and you realise just how much production styles have changed, all the bullshit that gets spoken about whisky these days just becomes painfully more ridiculous when you’re tasting something like this.

Finish: Long, fat, waxy, slathered in minerals, hessian, seashore, kelp, tar, phenols, metal polish, old coins, wood spice and herbs. Magnificent!

Comments: What’s there to say? Now if anyone has a bottle of the 8yo from the 1940s…?

Score: 94/100

The comparison between the two is amazing, they are so alike in many ways, makes you wonder just how much Clynelish was in the old Ainslie’s, maybe 100 percent, it’s possible I suppose but we’ll never know. It should be noted that the Ainslie’s may be a little thinner in texture but the peatiness feels much bigger compared to the 12yo, it’s funny, it tastes like a step even further backwards in production style. These are probably two of the most emotional and amazing whiskies I’ve tasted for a long, long time.

Did I vat them together…? Well, yes obviously, because I’m a bit psycho like that, the result… probably best I don’t tell you, we’ve had quite enough whiskyporn for one day.

 

 

Glendronach Batch 8 Notes And Witterings

Posted on Monday 26th of August 2013

GDBatch8groupinfrontLR

Glendronach is one of those distilleries that has really undergone quite a renaissance in recent years. The revelations about just how great it could so often be were no doubt helped by the fact that it was undervalued by Allied Distillers for the majority of the 1990s and that it was quietly churning out relatively old style, rich, characterful whisky for most of its life without anyone to make a noise about it. It was also one of the last distilleries to fully modernise, retaining its malting floors until 1996 and its direct firing until as late as 2005, a fact that can be tasted quite strikingly in many of the current releases that draw on stock from these years. Interestingly we associate it most closely now with rich and opulent sherry, much in the same mould as Glenfarclas or Macallan. However, go back to the 1980s and earlier and the vast majority of the early official bottlings were composed from refill wood. These are almost all spectacular whiskies that show off the spirit in all its naked, unsherried, old-school glory, thick with minerals and alive with a keen waxiness and nervous fruity complexity. Like aged rieslings they are an acquired taste but once acquired never lost and always adored. Normally I’d urge you to seek out and try one but to be honest, I’d rather you left them all for me. Anyway, lets see what these latest batch of sherry bombs hold in store…

Try one of these if you can, or the 12yo which is much easier to find. All are spectacular.

Try one of these if you can, or the 12yo which is much easier to find. All are spectacular.

Once again I don’t have all of them but I think I’m only missing one so it’s not too great a gap. Like we did with the Benriachs the other day we’ll go in reverse order, back in time if you will…

Glendronach 2002 10yo. Cask number: 1988. Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon. 55.6%vol.

Colour: Dark amber

Nose: Classic young sherried Glendronach, straight away we’ve got touches of furniture polish, dates, raisins, stewed fruits, various ground spices, a little cinnamon powder, ground nutmeg, buttered toast, cloves. A highly polished and super clean sherry, quite nervous and jumpy but beautifully aromatic and lively. Really classy stuff. Becomes a little meaty in time, some gamey notes, touches of beef stock and old red wines. With water: becomes a little greener and a touch more mineral with water, notes of sandalwood, menthol and strawberry bonbons.

Palate: At first its a big punchy delivery all on quince, bread, spice, muesli, dark fruits and honeycomb. Becomes a little earthier and more elegant with a few moments, giving up little touches of balsamico, treacle sponge and golden syrup but still remains huge and rich. With water: flintier, drier and stodgier, more like Oloroso than PX to be honest but no complaints, more honey and spice, rolled oatmeal, black pepper and a little caraway.

Finish: Long and full of spicy warmth, more treacle, honey, pepper, various spices, stewed fruit flavours and something sharp and appley like an old Calvados. Excellent.

Comments: The sherry character here is more modern than the older ones from the 1990s tend to be but this is excellent young whisky, complex, very clean, very polished and just plain tasty. Solid cask selection here.

Score: 87/100

Glendronach 1996 17yo. Cask number: 1490. Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon. 53.1%vol.

This one comes from the last year of the malting floors, lets see what gives…

Colour: Light mahogany

Nose: Oh wow, a wonderfully opulent, old style sherry, seriously, you could mistake this for a 1970s Macallan 18yo, where were they getting these casks back in the 1990s? This just reeks of balsamico, dried mushrooms, wet earth and old hardwood shavings, like the hot woody richness you get off a lathe (that’s an obscure tasting note for you). Gloriously meaty, rich, leafy, earthy and thick, notes of cherry, date, raisin, stewed plums, dried  herbs, aged demerara rum. Really quite spellbinding to be honest. With water: just as deep but more gently aromatic, wonderfully leafy with the faintest natural dirtiness in the form of earth and forest flora, still quite meaty and now becoming tarry as well. Beautiful.

Palate: Fizzes with a mix of demerara, wet earth, dunnnage, hessian, motor oil, aged armagnac and dark fruit compotes. Full on flavours of thick treacle sponge cake, dark chocolate mousse, caraway liqueur and coal dust. This is quite a long way from the 2002, it’s almost like we’ve stepped back an extra thirty years. With water: softer and wider encompassing lots of dried fruits, some citrus peel, lanolin, various herbs and spices, cigar boxes, a little cereal and dark brown sugar. Lip smacking stuff.

Finish: Long, peppery, touches of tar, cola cubes, wax, hessian, ancient balsamico, cured meats, dark fruits, various oils and spices and a little cigar smoke.

Comments: I want to say this was a bit of a revelation but I don’t really know why I’m surprised. This is brilliant whisky, imagine this after another twenty + years in bottle. I really hope they’ve still got plenty of these casks still lying around in the warehouse. What a dram.

Score: 90/100

Glendronach 1994 19yo. Cask number: 101. Oloroso Sherry Butt. 58.4%vol.

Colour: Dark rosewood

Nose: This is different again, this is perhaps slightly less unashamedly opulent as the 1996 but still super-classical in it’s syrupy elegance. An absolutely pristine nose, perfectly clean and full of subtle aromas of freshly baked bread, bay leaves, preserved lemons, old sherry, various fruit compotes, cocoa powder and strawberry liqueur. Little gamy flourishes of aged pinot noir, orange muscat, coal fires, leather, old books, mustard powder and sticky toffee note in the background. Beautifully elegant and complex, you almost wouldn’t think it was over 50%. With water: green tea, lemon oil, some truffles, more earthiness, more leafiness and some gentle waxy notes.

Palate: A sticky raisin juice first then a slow burning spiciness with lots of freshly ground black pepper, black tea, some beeswax, really dark chocolate, espresso, prune juice, date jam and touches of strawberry puree. This is definitely one for sherry lovers, I’m not always into big sherry but I really love the balance and slow-burning complexity of this one. Really captivating stuff that demands time and attention. With water: soot, wood smoke, touches of chamomile, wet earth, more wax, more spice, more unctuous fruitiness more of everything really, stellar stuff.

Finish: A lovely tart woodiness with little notes of tcp, camphor, dark chocolate, resin, mead, mint tea and a really long, lingering and warming fade.

Comments: Another spectacular Glendronach, more complex and subtle that the 1996 but perhaps not as excessive or opulent, still blindingly excellent whisky. Same score.

90/100

Glendronach 1993 20yo. Cask number: 3. Oloroso Sherry Butt. 52.9%vol.

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: We’re in a very similar ballpark here to the 94, lots of treacle, fruit compote, dried mushrooms, earthy touches, balsamico, sandalwood and strawberry jam. Develops spice, natural caramel, toffee apples, chocolate truffles and some really elegant notes of old furniture and books. This is probably the most accessible so far, it seems to sit somewhere between the extravagant earthiness of the 96 and the elegant complexity of the 94. Super clean, aromatically delicious and very easy. Becomes increasingly herbaceous with time. With water: green notes of pine needles, wax, wet leaves, soda bread, coal fires and golden syrup.

Palate: Tons of dark fruits at first with a rising thick earthiness beneath, notes of bark, sandalwood, cigar boxes, pipe tobacco, posh liquorice, even something resinous and green like cannabis. More dried herbs, wood spices, darjeeling tea, fruit liqueurs, red currants and camphor. With water: more strawberries, more spices like cloves, nutmeg and black pepper and a big resinous streak. Touches of greengages and more exotic fruit with a little time as well. Another beauty.

Finish: Long and aromatic with tiny notes of violets amongst the bigger spicy and earthy elements. More notes of tea, cigar boxes, lemon rind, wax and various fruits.

Comments: Another stunner, this is getting embarrassing. Who cares though, these whiskies are wonderful. Who said no one releases great whisky anymore?

Score: 90/100

Glendronach 1992 21yo. Cask number: 145. Oloroso Sherry Butt. 58.1%vol.

Colour: Amber

Nose: Lighter, leafier and hotter, this cask has obviously taken more of a back seat approach to its parenting. Notes of honey, mead, wildflowers, caraway, butter and sage, even a little grassiness. Lovely freshness to this one with a real aromatic quality. Goes on with scents of lemon oil, cloves, thyme, old cigar boxes, a little balsamico, touches of rancio and the earthiness of dunnage warehouses. With water: beautifully leafy, vibrant and full of complex notes of lemon, olive oil, hessian, clove, various herb liqueurs and fresh pastry. Quite a savoury one this.

Palate: Quite a sharp and pointed delivery on unexpected flavours of banoffee pie, coal tar soap, custard, mead, molasses, bags of spice, some vanilla, cereal, black tea, little touches of earth and tobacco as well. Quite different from the others, a good choice in that respect, more zingy, youthful and lively, not quite as elegantly composed as the others but lots of fun and beautifully flavoured. With water: round, bread, leafy, spicy and savoury, very consistent with the nose. Gets earthy and the spiciness grows considerably, beautifully elegant now, all on bread notes, citrus oils, cocoa, ground coffee and menthol. Really comes alive with water.

Finish: Really long, green, leafy, earthy, spicy, fruity, oily, just wonderful and filled with encores.

Comments: I had thought initially that this one might be less of a shining start than the others but I can’t really find reason to go less than 90 yet again, just another marvellous Glendronach. This one really benefits with time and a decent dollop of water, lighter than the others but that lightness brings this wonderful green complexity with it. Luscious stuff.

Score: 90/100

Glendronach 1990 22yo. Cask number: 2971. Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon. 50.8%vol.

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: I can smell this one already, one of those drams that just kind of climbs out of the glass. Its another super earthy one, full of leafy dark fruits, candied citrus peel, orange bitters, warm spices and touches of liquorice, root beer and something farmy like stables. It’s just another beautifully pristine and elegant sherry cask this one, somewhere between the 1996 and the 1994 again only the richness of age is starting to show in a really beautiful way now. Goes on with increasing notes of camphor and menthol. With water: little change, maybe softer, more nervous, a little flinty with more mineral qualities and touches of lemon oil, soda bread and cough syrup. Still beautiful.

Palate: Begins with big notes of hessian, coffee, sweat, treacle, damsons, strawberries and orange liqueur. Notes of warm spiced breads, hot cross buns, butter, dates, demerara rum, aged calvados and dried tarragon. Beautiful, resinous and complex stuff. I’m not sure I really want to add water but I suppose we’d better have a try… beautifully resinous now, water really works wonderfully although I’d say it’s not particularly better than before, just different. Notes of orange blossom, more orange bitters, creme caramel, cough drops, caraway, some elegant tannin and eucalyptus oil.

Finish: Long, nervous, resinous and tart, full of dark fruits such as black cherry, dates, raisins stewed in cognac, dark brown sugar and cloves.

Comments: Another stunner, although the elegance and complexity here is starting to creep up a notch higher. This is serious whisky. I’ll say it again, imagine these casks after another 20-30 years in bottle, these are great whiskies.

Score: 91/100

And now for the big daddy…

Glendronach 1971 42yo. Cask number: 1246. Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon. 44.6%vol.

Colour: Rosy Teak

Nose: Oh lala. As they say. This is another world entirely, notes of medicine, bandages, tincture, wood oils, ancient furniture and whole libraries of old books. Notes of ancient cognac, sarsaparilla, raisin puree, coal fires camphor, some strawberry cordial. This is just stunning, really gorgeous and aromatically precise, it’s perhaps not as complex initially as some of the middle aged casks such as the 1990, but this aroma of delicately medicinal sherry is almost unique to these old early 1970s Glendronachs, it’s utterly seductive. Goes on with mint, eucalyptus, herbal toothpaste, even faint touches of peat smoke and some earthy phenols. These early 70s batches often had quite a distinctive streak of peat, this is perhaps what helps keep them so fresh after 40+ years in a PX cask. Lets see if the palate can keep up with this spellbinding nose…

Palate: …no problem, a big midnight garden of dark, unctuous fruits, muesli, raisins, dates, prunes, dried apricot, caraway, demerara, cocoa powder, molasses… it just goes on. There are some definite tannic notes but they are smooth and rich and completely held in cheque by the fruit and these recurring medicinal complexities. It’s quite incredible whisky to be honest, after 42 years it just seems to have been caught at the perfect strength and still well in its stride. More oily, chocolately phenols, streaks of medicine, root beer, herbal liqueurs like old yellow chartreuse, tiny hints of violets, tar, elderflower cordial, buttered toast. It just goes on, the complexity really builds if you just let this one sit for a while. I could drink litres of this, and I don’t say that lightly about what it effectively an old sherry bomb.

Finish: Long, lingering and drying. Full of fading dark fruits, really dark bitter chocolate, oily phenols, whispers of medicine and all kinds of herbs, citrus peel, dried fruits and wood spices.

Comments: I think this is probably one of the best of these 71/72 official casks at this kind of age that I’ve tried. One day I’ll find samples of all of them and do a head to head…one day. For now, this is a small masterpiece. Utterly beautiful old whisky, the kind that moves beyond just olfactory pleasure and becomes a little emotional.

Score: 93/100

 

 

 

 

 

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