It’s been a monumental week and a long & tough two months of head-down work, rest & play, with the emphasis on work, a little play [see recent blogs], and even less rest. So I’m going to treat myself tonight, not to a Mars Bar but four samples i gleaned from TWE’s first Old & Rare whisky show in Glasgow last month [Feb 2016]. My palate is super clean today, having being on a diet of carrots and spinach and herbal tea in the main, so I’m ready for something extra special.
Excitingly & unprecedentedly, I’m tasting two Brora’s as ‘warm-up’ drams before two super-rare whiskies that very little is known.
I’ve had two Diageo Brora 1977 vintages before and both were much older bottlings [37yo WB & 38yo WB respectively], from the Special Releases range. I hear equally good things about this relatively younger Brora.
- N: Despite such a small sample being cooped up in a plastic 18ml sample bottle for around four weeks, the nose is enormous with notes of peat chocolate hitting the nostrils first. Brora is masterful at sweet & farmy [an ideal dessert dram for Farmer Barleymow no doubt], but there’s a firm coastal note here too – sea spray the order of the day. There’s also some flora n fauna [again from the farm but also a perfumed note Diageo distiller’s are well versed in accomplishing so skilfully], and a liberal sprinkling of mixed herbs and dry tropical fruits that develop later – papaya the main player.
- T: Intense, big and sweet peat arrival once again, with some wood spice and pepper [eased by water]. There’s much action going on mid-palate, but i’ll not spoil it for you.
- F: Slowly moves towards herbal with liquorice wood with a light candy sweetness that forever remains. Becomes a little chalky-dry & soft, yet resolute with a mixed-herb, spirit-true, witch-hazel finish.
- C: Another Brora in fine form.
Scores 91 points
I have a 5cl miniature already in the archives so this is a precursor to further delights, me hopes. I paid around the same amount for this ‘dribble’ as i did for a full 5cl miniature. That’s inflation [coupled with rarity] for you, now such a rarity in fact that my sample was poured from a 5cl miniature itself – bonkers!
- N: This shares a similar profile to the 1977 vintage, though this is less sweet & chocolatey and much drier. Both are bottled at a similar age but this comes without that cask strength intensity. The peated-cowpat farminess is delightful with a nut-butter, hay & honey sweetness, billiard chalk dust with brine, sweet olives [those cute dark, teardrop ones], and a toasted/smoky note,…. a Brora with Port Ellen leanings. Then there’s a steak & kidney pie with whole-baked shallots, fennel and endive with pear – moving to a tart but the pie’s pastry remains firmly on top, with a touch of biscuit. Talking of biscuits. they are honey-oat biscuits with lime pieces, dried fruit candy and,… many many things. A super nose, one that changes constantly. Better than the strong 1977 even.
- T: A soft parchment-dry arrival with a soft squidgy-paper chew and a faint confectionary-chocolate note moving steadily towards savoury-sweet peated barley and a malt-sweet ash. A faint herbal note runs alongside to keep the sweet side more savoury.
- F: Salted>caramel, more ash, iodine, kelp and aniseed. A long, soft & sour, dry-herbal-complex finish.
- C: Given the abv, it ‘kills you softly’. It wouldn’t have needed a lot more boosting [43-44% possibly], to send it sky-rocketing score-wise.
Scores 91 points
- N: Of the whisky [and cognac for that matter], that I’ve tried from the 1930’s [only a few], there’s often an air of wonderment from them all. Here’s a nose that’s rather like a super-aged cognac – more armagnac actually, with a big note of butter biscuits, before other headlines that write of sweet leather, soft & steeped TTW, golden syrup [slowly penetrated over the years into the vinyl-lined shelves of the pantry cupboard, gradually seeping out from a slowly rusting Lyons tin], clay for sure, crispy oil-paint brushes discarded and left in an old garage drawer, [Serge’s] quince jelly note [which i had just yesterday] – with maple syrup-sweet shoe polish, prunes in syrup, polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, [aka bakelite],…… and on & on. it’s all ’golden years’ stuff, slightly sepia-faded,….. yet out of the blue the sherry, the caramel and even vanilla & syrup sponge will leap out as lucid as you like, as if this was bottled only last week.
- T: Whatever the abv [in the 40’s i’d imagine], this is bold stuff. On the palate it’s a touch metallic, smoky, sooty and slick throughout with dry & old sherried oak, softened & weathered by years of bottle/ceramic flagon ageing. It continues with granite notes, [dry-sherried] shoe polish and deep-oaked herbal, all sublimely immersed with an incredible amount of sustained endurance. It stays out to play well after the sun has set, eventually softening & fading to the finish. There’s a sublime & elastic, oak-sherry-dry mouthfeel to boot.
- F: More complexities on oaked, honeyed chocolate, stewed tea,..… There’s a long outro with a final flickering of dry heather-honey, vanilla [nothing like today’s ethyl vanillate], maple syrup and heavy oak tannins.
- C: However good that Overholt was [and it was: Blog], this tops it by several degrees. Definitely the best whisky i’ve encountered ever – so far.
Scores 95 points
Orkney 1894/1918 around 45%
- N: This is surely a worthy opponent to follow the best whisky I’ve ever encountered [so far]. Note the legs [bottom right] – more like one large leg. It’s impossible not to compare this [the oldest single malt i’ve ever tried so far], with the Glen Mhor and first impressions are of a more straight-ahead nose relatively speaking. The peat level is similar coupled with some soot, though this Orkney angles more towards a fruity side with apples & pears bathed in oaked syrup<glycerol showing most strongly. It’s got that G&M 60’s-70’s bottling style written all over it although there’s much more bourbon-led activity here than the heavily-sherried Glen Mhor. This tastes fully bourbon cask-influenced in fact. The potency which appears initially subdued grows on development as does a grain-like quality too.
- T: Much more simple on a honeyed malt. There’s a subtle strength here with a firm hand that pushes through, again with a grain-like middle core – actually, more a high malt-content blend.
- F: Dry & heathery with dried & perfumed tropical fruits in the distance. Chocolate
- C: Often more akin to a high malt-content blend, though it clearly has ‘Highland Malt Scotch Whiskey’ written by hand on the label. Talking of the ‘e’, there is something rather Irish about this too. Very nice indeed but that Glen Mhor blows away all the competition tonight.
Scores 87 points
Many more Old & Rare sample reviews coming up soon .