I’ll keep this intro brief due to the sheer number of tasting notes I want to write in this post. These drams were all opened and poured at the Lindores Whiskyfest that takes place at Hotel Bero in Oostede, Belgium once a year, usually during the last weekend of October. As you will see below the quality of the bottles that get opened speaks for itself and is more than enough reason to entice anyone serious about whisky to attend. Although for me the true highlight is the opportunity to see many friends that I spend far too little time with throughout the rest of the year. As we all know, the true quality of a bottle lies as much in the company you keep while drinking it as it does in the contents. So heartfelt thanks to all my friends who came along and were so generous with their whisky and good company. Anyway, on with the tasting and, for what follows, I can only apoligise unreservedly.
The majority of these drams were poured at the infamous Nocturn with a few other choice highlights from the rest of the festival. Lets start with a Clynelish…
Clynelish 12yo OB for Chiano. Rotation 1960s. Short screw cap. 43%. 75cl.
Colour: Pale white wine
Nose: A blizzard of white fruits, wild flowers, all kinds of pebbles, wet rocks, minerals, petrol, aged riesling, farmyards and a wonderfully lean waxiness. Like the cask strength Edward & Edward versions this is just about the purest expression of this unsexy old highlands style distillate. Only the lower strengths lends this one a little more grace and elegance. The coastal characters are more driven by floral qualities than the brutal briny edge of those stronger bottlings. Goes on with touches of wild parsley, butter, chamomile and darjeeling tea. An endlessly entertaining nose.
Palate: Very consistent with the palate, grass, green fruits, more minerals than you can shake a seashore at, lemon oil, touches of hay, olive oil, wax and a little peat. White pepper, coriander, mustard seeds all kinds of gentle coastal and spicy touches with more of these incredibly petroly and rieslingesque notes.
Finish: It hangs around for quite some time leaving a real tingly mineral fizz on the palate with a great spreading warmth down the chest. Linger notes of sunflower seeds, cereals, muesli, bonfire smoke and green tea.
Comments: It’s a rare thing indeed to taste 1950s Clynelish from the original distillery and this doesn’t dissappoint. I think this one isn’t quite the masterpiece of Edward & Edward bottlings but its up there as one of these exemplary old style official bottlings the likes of which are totally extinct these days. An emotionally charged dram if ever there was one.
Teaninich 1959 22yo Samaroli. 300 bottles. 46%. 75cl.
Colour: Light gold
Nose: An immediate hit of fresh butter with sage, sorrel, wax, metal polish, all kinds of green and garden fruits, muesli, camphor and touches of lemon and orange juice. Very delicate citrus qualities combined with drier qualities like various teas and wood spices. The whole is also quite thick and oily with elements of faint old phenols, coal smoke and tar. Has a very discreet flicker of wood in there but, like with the Clynelish, it’s the distillate that does most of the talking. Goes on with all kinds of dried herbs, cereals and butter notes. Absolutely luscious.
Palate: A massive and flabby green fruit quality with plums, rosy apples, and then some bizarre but excellent touches of soy sauce, truffle oil and greengages. Gets waxier, tarrier, oilier and thicker with time, one of these big, fatty whiskies that engages every part of the palate. Savory notes of toasted seed breads, oatcakes and tarragon. There is also a tinge of sweetness from some vanilla pods and white chocolate. Focused and wonderfully balanced.
Finish: Long, waxy, herbaceous, oily, mineral and full of petrol, smoke and real glycerol fruity quality.
Comments: My favourite Teaninich by far, this would be great to compare with the 1957 Cadenhead dumpy. It’s incredible how much this distillery changed in the following decade and beyond from the time this was distilled. Truly fantastic old style malt, another small masterpiece by Mr Samaroli.
Springbank 33yo OB rotation 1970. Pear shaped bottle. No strength or capacity stated.
Nose: A very strange kind of wax polish on top of a mix of metal notes, some thick farmyard qualities and then orangina, fresh orange juice and luxardo bitters. Has some nice biting notes of pepper and mustard seed in the background with a draped over coastal quality that drifts in and out of focus. Toasted brioche, nutmeg, chamomile and some veyr elegant minerals. This is quite an odd aroma that I suspect has undergone an unusual mix of OBE and slight oxidisation during its long stay in bottle. However I wouldn’t say its out of condition at all.
Palate: More of these weird notes of orange juice, chamomile tea, then a big brittle coastal streak with wax, hessian, dunnage, ancient peats, metal polish and iron filings, like sucking steel wool dipped in orange juice and wax polish. Once again this has obviously undergone quite an interesting journey while in bottle. The palate is a little weakish and cardboardy and gives up these odd touches of cider, fermenting hay and sour apples at times.
Finish: Long, miky and elegantly medicinal with these odd touches of salted porridge, muesli, minerals and buttered toast.
Comments: This is a very tricky one to score, the odd profile suggest it has probably been slightly deconstructed during its time in bottle. I would love to open another one to compare it, I imagine they could be very different. However this is still a fascinating and very tasty dram that is obviously the product of a bygone era. A real privilege to taste.
Score: 83/100 (however this could be drastically different from another bottle)
Macallan 1946. Bottled circa 1961. Securo Cap. Campbell, Hope & King. 80 proof. 26 2/3 fluid ounces.
Nose: It’s undeniably one of these old style Macallans that reeks of coal fires, touches of orange bitters, rancio, pipe tobacco, wet earth, soft, metallic phenols and an really elegant waxiness. Goes on with a wonderful note of crushed green peppercorns, tcp, old wood resins, dark fruits, hints of menthol, pipe smoke and boiler sheds and touches of stables and farmyards. With time there are more of these notes of old simmering peat and an increasing tropical fruit presence. This one really needs time in the glass to fully open up but its well worth the wait, it turns into a powerhouse of elegance, complexity and beauty.
Palate: Immediately rich, hugely spicy and with incredible bite, even after nearly 50 years in bottle this one still retains a brilliant presence and texture in the mouth. Old phenols, touches of coal, tar, wood fire smoke, hints of herbal toothpaste, old medicine, old coins, more rancio, glazed fruits, dundee cake, camphor and crushed hazelnuts. All kinds of flavours peeking through in the one, wonderful complexity and richness of flavour. Continues with more notes of tea, cocoa, dark fruits, mint creams, eucalyptus, tea tree oil and hints of white balsamico.
Finish: Long, warming, waxy, phenolic, a drying medical quality, dusty peats, all kinds of fruits and a bitter touch of dark chocolate.
Comments: What did you expect? It’s such a rare privilege to try one of these wartime Macallans but bottled at a much younger age. A truly poetic malt.
Glenfarclas 1953-2012 58yo OB for Wealth Solutions Poland. Cask 1674. 400 bottles. 47.2%. 70cl.
Nose: A big whirlpool of honeycomb and all kinds of mint aromas at first nosing with delicate tobacco leaf, snickers bars, mixed nuts, all kinds of chocolate, orange blossom, tangerine liqueur, nougat, cocoanut and touches of rosewater. Gets leafy and spicier with time, revealing layers of dried herbs and more menthol qualities. The wood seems perfectly pitched here, not a whisper of aggression anywhere, it’s just an aromatic powerhouse that just keeps on evolving. With time we get all kinds of candied and glazed fruits, fruit preserves and little flecks of mineral smokiness in the background.
Palate: Beautiful and hauntingly elegant. Glowing embers of mint liqueur, dark dried fruits, ancient cognac, rancio, hints of long aged demerara rums, sultanas and a streak of silky sea salt in the background. Probably due to the fact that this would have been distilled when Glenfarclas was still using quite a bit of peat. Goes on with white flowers, bittermints, dandelions, herbal teas, wood resin, mead, heather and molasses. Gets eventually savory and nutty again, the freshness is quite astounding in a malt of this age. No overwhelming woodiness or tannins, just layers of wonderful flavour.
Finish: Long, sticky and rich with touches of wood spice, nuts, more menthol qualities, caraway, white pepper and tiny hints of medicine.
Comments: It’s not a cheap bottle this one but it’s undeniably stunning. Well worth trying if you get the opportunity. A myriad of flavour and complexity on display here and not in the slightest bit tired, over wooded or mono-dimensional. In fact it has more vitality and freshness than many malts half its age.
Bowmore 1955-1974. OB 1/2 size ceramic bottle. No strength or capacity stated.
This incredibly rare beauty was bottled for the opening of the Bowmore visitors center in september 1974 and given to staff at the time, many of whom walked from the gates of the distillery merrily necking them at the end of the day.
Colour: Pale as fuck!
Nose: There’s going to have to be some censorship here at some point I think. This is just bewildering. It’s not even really like whisky. Did they use some sort of maceration process during distillation using a whole Waitrose of tropical fruits? It’s just the most vivd, pin-sharp and explosive combination of grapefruit, passion fruit, guava, pineapple, mango and… well you know what I mean. It’s just a wall of fruit behind which you could say there were minerals, all kinds of smoke and tiny bits of peat but that wouldn’t really be doing this stuff justice. The precision and delicacy of these aromas is just quite baffling really.
Palate: Whether or not this is cask strength I don’t know but it’s perfect whatever it is. Biting, fresh, complex and glorious. Keeping well up to speed with the nose, another barrage of fruit that gives way to the cleanest and purest kind of coastal elegance, a whole poem of fruits and seashore. There’s not much more to say about this. It’s utterly masterly.
Finish: Censored, and about time too.
Comments: There’s no other distillate in the world like old Bowmore as far as I’m concerned, this is utterly sublime. I think the fact that the seal on these bottles is super tight is also a big plus, it really arrests evaporation and keep the spirit in peak condition. I’ve fondled several of these little beauties and they’ve all been full to the hilt. Good news for anyone else that fancies opening one.
Ardbeg 1959-1985 25yo Cadenhead’s dumpy. Sherry matured. 46%. 75cl.
Colour: Dark as fuck!
Nose: Oh dear. Censoring will have to be involved here too. It’s one of these rare sherry and peat combinations that seems more akin to a kind of liquified peat, tar, root beer and espresso cocktail. In the same way that the Bowmore seemed to personify everything that was utterly great about that distillery so to does this Ardbeg. It’s almost like the peat and sherry are fused at the waist as one, perfectly integrated, no flaws or chinks or imbalances of any kind. The peat is like some sort of simmering mulch, a quick mass of bubbling phenols, medicine and tar. You could throw a bottle of this into a log burner and be warm for a year. Although there are many who would promptly shoot you if you did.
Palate: There’s really not much point in me writing about this anymore, it would just be arduous for you. This is the kind of dram that makes you realise why you’re into whisky. It’s impossible to describe the coiled potency and fused perfection of these flavours. It’s just breathtaking, like being gently nullified with a wet sledgehammer made of peat turf while someone throws alternating buckets of saltwater and root beer in your face.
Finish: I fee like I’ve just brushed my teeth with a metal toothbrush covered in coffee and soil.
Comments: I’d go so far as to say this is probably the best Ardbeg I’ve ever had.
Now, how about a curtain call…
Laphroaig 1970 14yo. Samaroli. 60 bottles. 57.1%. 75cl.
This was a very limited bottling done by Samaroli for a bar in Milan. Something I never thought I’d taste so thanks from the bottom of my heart to Thomas for this one.
Nose: This is much in the style of the ‘other’ 1970 Samaroli Laphroaig as I remember it, a brilliant and pristine coastline in a glass. Myriad aromas of kelp, sandalwood, rock pools, all kinds of seaweed, fresh oysters, crab meat and any other shellfish you care to mention. Like the greatest whiskies this one wears it’s alcohol incredibly deftly with a light prickle of salt and pepper but otherwise it’s all seashore, farmyard and fruit. With time it also starts to merge more farmyard qualities into this growing family of aromas. Graphite, green phenols, the stench of iodine like you spilt it on your hands and then butter, chives and herbal toothpaste. With water: little teases of tropical fruit begin to emerge now with increasingly vivid notes of fresh pineapple, mango and passion fruit. Then we get some big kippery qualities and touches of sea greens and floral soaps.
Palate: A simmering lather of peat embers, coal smoke, beach bonfires, white pepper, green tea, lemon sherbet, wet sand, minerals, lime juice and olive oil. Superbly glycerol in its texture with all kinds of oils, farmyness and touches of cider apples, roasted malt and gentian spirit. The huge saltiness is relentless but kept in check by these wonderful notes of citrus, greasy peat and all minds of medical complexities. With water: there’s something slightly milkier about the palate now with more herbal notes of bay leaf, sage, tarragon and rosemary. Even more spellbinding with water.
Finish: An all nighter, one of these Laphroaigs that gets into your gums and battens down the hatches. Leaves your mouth strewn with ashes, lemon juice, smoked cereals, tropical fruit juice and simmering, medicinal peat.
Comments: It’s difficult to disengage from such a whisky on an emotional level but this is undeniably a spectacular dram, one that I’ll probably never try again but I’m truly happy that I did.
Now, while we’re at it, here’s a couple of pictures of bits and pieces that were tasted but, for any number of reasons, notes were not recorded, much to your relief I’m sure.
Ok, I’m sure that’s quite enough. Something a little more ‘down to earth’ next time. Slante!