Hosted by Arthur Motley of Royal Mile Whiskies, tonight [originally broadcast on June 17th 2020], I enjoy a virtual tasting that focuses on independent bottlers. This 6-whisky line-up features whiskies from North Star Spirits, Gleann Mor and Morrison & Mackay.
Alongside a representative for each of the three independent bottlers in question, a special guest appears at the end – no other than Dave Broom. No wonder Arthur told us to keep some whisky back. Dave goes through each dram in his own immutable way, at the end.
I kid you not, when I clicked on any of the email links to this virtual tasting, this loads:
The correct link is HERE
Arthur introduces us to Greg Urquhart, owner of Edinburgh-based Gleann Mor. Greg’s company has been going for 5 years, though it has been bottling more hand sanitiser than whisky in recent times. ‘Rare Find’ was Glean Mor’s first brand/range name. This 1997 vintage Rare Find, they bought already finished, for 2 years in a port cask.
- N: Creamy and fruity, the port finish providing the topper-noter – [strawberries – Arthur]. Coming back to this after the Cambus [#2], it’s all-fruit > floral << juice, ripe yet crisp. We’ve all the apples, melon, ripe pineapple,… Thai fruits galore – all effortlessly emitting aromatic, perfumed aromas.
- T: Strong peppery one to start, but it just needs some time and water, now with a fruity arrival that initially hides the [desirable] beer/wash sourness to come. A whisky for [fruity/pilsner/strong]-beer fans perhaps? Chuck in the water for a more raisin-y husky malty experience, though the fruit bouquet on the nose becomes less obvious/more simple on the palate when reduced. The classic Linkwood fruity putty surely appears at some point before the turn.
- F: The sour > sweet, [port] grape tannins, oak and spirit all seem to carry this one as a group effort. Yeasty peppery abv-fresh finish.
- C: This is right up there with the best of what I’ve tried of Linkwood in the last few years. It’s [NNS] Iain’s favourite also.
Scores 88 points
Graeme Mackay from Morrison & Mackay takes us through this next one. Graeme tells us that at one time [back in the day], some in the industry demanded grain/column still spirits like Cambus, be de-classified as whiskies. See the ad that reads in bold: ‘Cambus is not a pot still whisky’ – an example of where Cambus used the negatives to their advantage.
Cambus 1991/2019 27yo M&M Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask sherry butt #61976 [515 bts] 60.6% WB91
Abv-wise, we’re going even higher!
- N: Initially earthy, gluey, potent. Particulars: green olives, olive oil, sunflower seeds, honeyed walnuts into > green popcorn, becoming much huskier later into chocolate-y Coco Pops and aromatic peppery Vitam-R < caramel. It changes all the time, however. Two hours later, and I’m in an old dark empty bierkeller in the wee hours, with very dusty Fimo laying around and toffee apples being quietly made in the background [surreal].
- T: Sour-sweet wood-vanilla arrival. Dave Broom points out the rum likeness, which is so obvious once he’s said it [in particular, Don Q: WLP – I find]. Water in the mouth brings out more of a savoury-sweet malty raisin-y [subtle] sherried profile,…
- F: ,.. though very boozy/sherried < husky < sour-lemon and > chocolate-y > [olive] oils persist thereafter. We see a spirit-faithful conclusion, the character of which is in keeping with what I’ve experienced of Cambus before.
- C: Not for the faint-hearted, but once tamed, it’s a lovely single cask. Keeps you thinking till the last. “That was a belter“, declares Dave Broom.
Scores 87 points
Iain Croucher from North Star Spirits guides us through this single cask, fully-matured oloroso cask Longmorn.
Longmorn 2005/2020 15yo NNS series #10 Oloroso butt [596 bts] 63.1% WB89.85
[The printed labels on all these sample bottles have so many errors, but hopefully, I’ve now got the correct info ].
- N: Dark/deep-sweet, dry-rich fruity squidgy lightly salt-seasoned oloroso nose which, unlike a ‘bomb’, washes over you rather than exploding in your face. Given time, I pick up on flavours that are rarely found in the majority of contemporary malts at this age. Add [tired] cola fudge-covered soft apple, supermarket armagnac, Nocino,…….. stop already [and get a bottle]. Try not to think of flat coke after watching the tasting video. This is darn on impossible not to like, but on an objective front, is the cask too dominant?
- T: If not on the nose, you may think it’ll be a bomb on the palate, but even neat at 63.1%, it’s utterly agreeable. Having said that, let’s add water. It doesn’t need a lot before the bitter>sweet waxy fruitiness blossoms, and with old skool rancio vibes – wow! “Intelligent active wood“, says Iain, who states that Longmorn works best at this kind of age in single sherry casks. Underneath, a slightly sandy oaky thread supports the waxy-fresh fruitiness. I find this on the edge yet totally within itself. A marvel!
- F: Some fine pencil shavings find their way onto the fusty oloroso path with a consolidated soft understated freshness, though how has this happened over 15 years in a first-fill oloroso butt at 63.1%, I do not know? The question remains, however: has the distillery character been lost, and if so, does it [always] matter?
- C: “A Killer, an absolute killer,……….. Eeked out before the cask came to dominate“, says Dave Broom. What a find, what a result, and still available from European shops for around €200. Imagine this having a Japanese label. What price then?
Scores 89 points
Bowmore 2001/2020 18yo NNS series #10 [190 bts] 55.2% WB89.06
- N: New furniture, silicone, plastics, new trainers, firm-medium [salty > sweaty] peat smoke over lavender > vanilla tamarind becoming hammier. Dry white wine > calvados? I think a little, and butter biscuits for sure. Treasure hunters will have a field day with this one.
- T: It’s not soapy [nor particularly violet-y], but floral qualities utilised by bathroom product manufacturers have lots to answer for, for a whisky enthusiast’s analysis of aromas and flavours. Here, lavender is mixed with all-sorts, really all-sorts. Then there’s the fruitiness which is so hard to define [for me] as it’s so intrinsically bound within the previously mentioned all-sorts. Mango and papaya for sure, but mixed with copper, meatiness, smoke, maltiness,… More and more sugary as it opens up, but its steady surging power never relents. A mouthfeel picks up into the finish.
- F: That abv allows a humming of what’s gone. It’s firm till the last and never too astringent, though the particular briny oiliness may begin to niggle before too long. An almost sugary finish, surprisingly.
- C: Subjectively, I prefer the Longmorn, but I can hardly separate these two from a more objective perspective. Bowmore fans should love this, but perhaps don’t compare it with the past. However, talking of old Bowmore: “Keep it for another 20 years“, says Dave, “and it would have got to that, but,……“
Scores 89 points
Ben Nevis 2015/2020 4yo M&M Carn Mor Strictly Limited [900 bts] 47.5% WB84.69
Graeme is back. AM asks: “What do you like about Ben Nevis in general“? GM: “Erm,,… it’s stinky“.
- N: I totally agree: stinky, and pongy. The ‘warts n all’ is where Ben Nevis is at for me. With crisp-soft apple snow into nutty oaky gingery-sweet sugar icing, this is yeasty, fresh, vibrant, tastefully phenolic, young, fresh, relaxed,.. Nothing spikes, everything is just-so if formidable.
- T: Tart apples, a dribble of milky custard, “doughy” [AM]… the crips/young,….
- F: ,….. barley-faithful spirit carrying the [peppery/spirity/husky] apple-y qualities till the tail.
- C: You can see why this kind of juice might find its way [in small quantities] into Japanese-labelled blended whisky. Reminds me of the 3yo Queen Margot [WLP] in some ways, but, fresher, more forthright,… unfinished? On the flip-side, it’s a perfectly permissible unapologetic bold release.
Scores 80 points
Greg is back to tell us this is not a sourced blended malt. It was blended by Gleann Mor themselves.
- N: Wild Garlic? Oily > fishy < leather? Mechanics oiled spring onions? Brine? Shoe polish?,…. soy & fish sauce? Warmed processed ham? Wax coat preserving-agent chemicals & Polyfilla? Yep, all of the above. This is an oily maritime number that reflects many of the great qualities of any number of peated malt styles, presented as a congenial welcome package all-rounder.
- T: Tastes fabulous too and nicely rounded on arrival. AM wonders whether there might be some Lagavulin in the mix but Greg won’t budge on a reveal. The travel and finish aren’t so strong but there’s nothing erroneous here.
- F: Concludes peaty/fresh/salty/dirty/oily with lightly pickled smoke.
- C: Perfectly summed up by Dave Broom: “Utterly approachable“.
Scores 82 points
Arthur asks the panellists ‘What was your favourite whisky of the night that wasn’t your own?’ For Graeme and Greg, it was the Longmorn. Iain plums for the Linkwood whilst for Arthur, it’s the Bowmore.
Great line-up, great tasting, superb presentation. With thanks to everyone involved.