Grains, blends, malts and single casks. These weren’t necessarily ever drunk side-by-side and some were hanging around for over a year. So, i’ve simply ordered them here by preference. Here goes.
- N: Weird engineered [engiweird] one. Smoked vegemite, herbal drinks towards dandelion & burdock, Dr pepper, fruit flavoured cigarettes [is that a thing?], burnt cherry drops,..
- T: Bitter-sour cream and what first seems like a port pipe cask influence. The peat translates to ash, the sherry to cherry Cognac cola bottles. Strange, but not altogether unpleasant. Develops on sweet liquorice and more sweet herbal. Drying.
- F: Fruity sweet and super ashy.
- C: Years ago I was utterly wowed by this heavily peated Benriach, given it was for me the first of its kind. How my tastes have changed. Note to self: Beware the ‘first of a kind’, and compare like with like where possible. This bottle soon settled in like a lone wolf at the back of the cabinet for a few years before finding its final drops integrated into some spurious cocktail blend. I forget which specific whiskysponge.com article it was now, but it includes the line “as I was running out of inventive ways to spoil perfectly good casks of 1970s Glenglassaugh and Benriach,…”.
Scores 80 points
- N: You could be thinking there’s quite some Glenrothes in here given the raisins, yet it could well be a whole lot of Glenfarclas. On the other hand, let’s assume it could be any[Glen Moray-like] Speyside whisky that’s had a solid sherry syrup-ed finish. This Glenalba possesses a distinct ‘old skool’ blended quality with rough=off-notes that gradually lift enough to reveal soot, shoe polish, tar, putty, tahini, clay, a little buttery creosote, a pottery kiln, rancio rubber [turntable bands], green olives, nut skins [Brazil=hazelnut], dry fungal=sulphury notes, funky dry oaked fruits, fruity trainers…… Intriguing stuff driven by age and helped along by that sherried injection.
- T: There’s yet more Glenrothes-ness on the palate and a slight yet distinct soapy note, disguised over time with some water and optimistic chewing. Also a soft-deep compacted sherried-waxy mouthfeel, albeit dry yet with buttery/thin-sweet candy syrup coating, fruit-sweet led with firm oaked-tannins. The barley spirit incredibly still somewhat identifiable despite all the layered distractions. Old sooty=sulphury sherry into the finish with a tangy bitter-aniseed<sweetness and a little oily balsa wood – all tasty conflictions.
- F: More mouthfeel fun with slippery oily sherried bees wax to the death, accompanied all the way by a weary-dry-sherried aniseed=peppery & aromatic>chilli spice heat.
C: Despite even more inherent problems than the heavy-handed sherry finished 25yo [swamped with tannins and random conflicts], I find this older brother a most likeable old skool style blend. A 34yo blend for £45, get down to Lidl for a try.
Scores 83 points
President Special Reserve 12yo [1970’s] De Luxe 43% WB83.33
- N: Very much a product of its time. A little dry with a splintered & nutty (macadamia) oakiness and a winey (fino) sherry character (in part), albeit far reaching with ginger and a little sticky toffee pudding. One thing is for sure, I’d wager there’s heaps more aged spirit in here than the stated 12 years. Give this time and it softens, settles & relaxes – oh it relaxes.
- T: The nose may have relaxed but the arrival is sharp, spirity & prickly. Water initially complicates things and creates a fizzy arrival, but it does settle down significantly after a while. Then there’s some heat – not sure if it’s the cask or spirit, or both, but it’s brief. In time the entirety softens, delivering sweet malt carried by bitter oak or vice versa, such is the integration.
- F: Fades rather too quickly. There’s a dry oak finish with a dark, bitter-sweet conclusion. Rallies a little at the end.
- C: At time of writing (2017), these old style blends can still be snapped up at auction for a steal. Well worth a look.
Scores 84 points
Clynelish 1997/2012 [15yo] BBR ‘Boisdale’ cask #6467 [320 bts] 46% [WB]80.50
Initially disappointed by its basic sweetness on opening, a few months down the line and it’s coming along nicely, very nicely.
- N: Well that figures – sweet malted barley. We are firmly in bourbon cask territory. The profile is more on the dessert side but with a little smoky herbal in the background.
- T: Sweet with barley-cereals, a touch peppery. But then comes the dogs proverbials – buttery/waxy/ barley mouthfeel with frequent Brora-esque hints and a slightly salty & smoked/malted chew. Turns cocoa-like but not before taking in the maltings and some barley cream. There’s a sweet pickle note going into the finish. Pleasing soft refill action throughout.
- F: Dryish, barley chocolate before some aged, dry cream, cream liqueur and a touch of liquorice. Dry oak then digs in, soft yet firm and sustaining. Good finish.
- C: On opening this bottle at Whisky Squad’s epic 2016 xmas special blog, ’a simple yet delicious session dram’ was pretty much the consensus.
Scores 85 points
Port Dundas 1992/2013 21yo HH Clan Denny cask #9452 55.7% WB86.78
- N: Varnish, ginger cake<sponge cake, tapioca, silicone sachets, ground poppy seeds, shoe polish, soot, coal, linseed oil, bergamot oil, tiger balm, a touch of eucalyptus and fruity potpourri [synthetic=essential oils]. Coming back to this months later, I’m very pleased with these notes.
- T: Starts thin before cloying a tad, developing an oily-cereal body with a touch of white pepper, notes of garden peas and burning [white] sugars. Decent length travel, one that plays with chocolate over coffee – the resemblance to Tia Maria striking [I grabbed a sample to concur]. The Tia Maria resemblance is in flavour alone, so thankfully there’s no cloying sweetness. Mash notes into the finish with snow peas.
- F: Surprisingly good length finish with more mash>wort action. Mainly it’s snow peas & Tia Maria with a touch of cacao=cocoa – think i’ll add that to the cook book. Just a little jarring now before the barley oils form to create a wonderful oily mouthfeel conclusion.
- C: Grain or no grain, good is good and this is certainly that. A demonstration in what a decent cask can do with any decent enough spirit. A great result.
FINAL REFLECTIONS [last pours]
- N: Still as potent as when i first opened the bottle, month and months ago. Cocoa-laced caramel-toffee-d youthful spirit welcomes the nose with a little porridge, spelt sponge, hints of chocolate orange, lime, linseeds,… I wrote quite a shopping list before so I’ll spare us that all over again. You get the picture – potent, detailed and alluring. Water makes it richer, those caramel-coated varnished barley corns gleaming.
- T: Somewhat peppery with or without water, the cocoa and fusty-vanilla=honey/funky<bourbon sugars coming through. There are a few textural changes before the darker-bitter mash notes become established, though conversely it’s also rather sugary.
- F: The cask appears to play a super supporting role to the cereal-y spirit. I mentioned before the cereal mash & snow peas. Certainly its pea-ish again but today leaning more towards mashed kidney beans and some greens of sorts. Far less Tia Maria also.
- C: It simplifies somewhat on opening so don’t let it hang around unattended for too long. A very decent single cask grain this one. I enjoyed [and shared] two whole bottles equally as much.
Scores 87 points.
This was Frank McHardy’s final project before retiring as Springbank production director. This blend consists of 75% malt whiskies [from five distilleries covering the five whisky regions], and 25% grain whisky. It would be reasonable to assume there’s a proportion of Springbank in here, but that is only an assumption.
- N: Fusty, dusty/sooty/ashy, nutty, gritty, grassy=cereal-y lemony soft with stringy candy, light caramel, baking fruits, a little papaya, medjool dates, faded [brown] leather [tOMoH], banana shake, rose herbal soap, vanilla cream,… Cracking and congenial nose.
- T: Not a whiff of grain early on. With a strong, direct & bitter arrival, this is barley malt forward – rich, soft floury malt countered by an firm, acute citrus character towards bitter lemon & grapefruit. Later it creams up as those casks of 30 years take hold of the reigns.
- F: Lots of moving parts to the finish. Soft & integrated woody and gravel-y sour vanilla cream joins the bitter~sour citrus, a sweetish<savoury Euthymol candy fruitiness and mineral barley notes with sooty=smokey hints throughout. However it’s the mineral-y=pebble-y citrus that remains stalwart.
- C: The bottle didn’t last too long, a testament to its tastiness. I recommend only a little water.
Scores 88 points
Glendronach 1994/2013 18yo Ob. Cask #3547 [Btl #279/607] 55.1% WB89.82
- N: A moorish, squidgy/fatty herbal=toffee/sugary sweet, rum/liqueur-like funky number with a little dust, some black pepper, coffee liqueur, waxy cardboard-y<mahogany=oak shavings, a little banana, cake mix, Wrigley’s spearmint gum… Again, rum-like but with an unquestionable malty core.
- T: A sherried BFG, tall & broad and yet soft/integrated with a rum=liqueur-like firm-bodied, woody, toffee-d maltiness. With water, a bourbon/candy sweet & herbal sour profile, [refreshingly PX led rather than the more blatant oloroso], with plenty of sherried chew and a slightly varnished woody freshness.
- F: Woody vanilla herbal creme fraiche. Fairly short and clean, dusty cream concluding, with however a lingering PX oaky sweetness at the death.
- C: Where oloroso appears to have the monopoly on sherry cask maturation, it’s refreshing to come across a decent PX cask. To think, this bottle was £76 only four years ago. Investors cry, drinkers fly.
Scores 88 points