Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brora, 12th Release, 35 Year Old 49.9%

This needs no introduction, I suppose. But anyway...

The most recent release of Brora (at time of writing, obviously) from Diageo's annual Special Releases 2013.
Stupidly expensive (upwards of 750 quid on release), rare (I guess, though I believe the make was around 250 dozen so if you really wanted one and were willing to drop all that cash I'm sure you weren't disappointed), and, perhaps, the apotheosis of the whisky world's bubble and its not always particularly dignified rush to super-premiumisation. Although there can be no accusing this particular 'brand' of jumping on the bandwagon in that regard. Leads from the front.

This was from a wee 20ml sample bought (drunkenly, but je ne regrette rien) from Whiskybase.

Brora, 12th Release, 35 Year Old 49.9% (2013)

Nose: Straight out of the bottle there's smoke and peat, but it's all still rather tight and closed. Needs a little time probably.
After a while there's still smoke and peat, of course, but they're now joined by honey, butter, sweet fruits and hay. The hay becomes more pronounced with further time in the glass. Impeccable balance.

Palate: Sweet fruit up front, evolving into a myriad of flavours as it writhes its way into every corner of the palate. Oily. Peat, salt, honey and smoke. Less explosive than the 5th release, if I remember correctly (says the batch number-dropping expert who's tried all of two). A more nuanced delivery here.

Finish: Honey, spice and citrus. Quite gentle actually, a sensation of wispiness as it trails off into a lovely ashy finish. Again, the balance here is superb. Not a foot wrong.

Fantastic whisky. Its smell and taste is redolent of times long past, yet it remains fresh, vital and, indeed, refreshing. At once powerful and gentle.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Longmorn 1969, 41 Year Old, Gordon & Macphail

I was shopping on Whiskybase a little while back and saw that this had become available, both as a full bottle and a sample. Now, I was never going to be able to try this in its regular large format (it was somewhere in the vicinity of 450 Euro, but long gone now so I cannot confirm that) but as a sample it offered a window into the whisky-past that I thought I couldn't turn down. Respect to the guys at Whiskybase for sample-bottling this kind of thing - just awesome.

I love a good Longmorn (though I don't much like a poor one, it must be said, but more on that another time) and this promised to be a ripper. So....

Longmorn 1969, 41 Year Old, Gordon & Macphail Reserve, for Van Weese, 59.4%

Nose: Undiluted and straight out of the (tiny) bottle it is a pure sherry bomb - chocolate, raisin and fruitcake. With water and some air, some lovely powdery tannins develop, melding beautifully with the heavily sherried fruit. Yet after even more time, some lighter fruits begin to emerge too - stonefruit, at first, but now tropical stuff, too, like mango and melon. Amazing.

Palate: Wow, massive. Mouth coating lusciousness. 42 years old! It's so vibrant. Plenty of that sherried fruit turns up, but it's never too heavy nor sickly sweet (or sulphury). Exceptional balance. On arrival there are immediate sweet fruits, which flood back and expand across the palate, becoming more sherry influenced as they reach the back of the palate and extend. Layers of fruit and texture reach out.

Finish: Nigh on pristine - the development is perfect. And fucking long. Remarkably, it's never bitter nor overtly syrupy, it's just a pure sherried, fruity, delight, astounding in its freshness and vitality. Delicious.

I don't think I've had a better whisky this year. 'Tis just a pity there was so little of it.

*I've realised much late (after reading MAO's review) that I had for some reason listed this as 42 YO when it is in fact a 41 YO - now fixed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Archives The Fishes of Samoa 51.5%

Glen Keith. Two first names? An earnest but failed country and western singer? A slightly obscure, once-silent-but-now-singing-again Speysider?
Another short review from a wee sample bought from

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Archives The Fishes of Samoa 51.5%

Nose: Pretty boozy and fumy straight out of the bottle. Needs a bit of time. Then, we get vanilla, banana, almonds and some citrus. A touch of rice wine too, perhaps.
It comes together a little more after even more time. It's more immediately pleasing actually, with some stonefruit emerging as well and coming to the fore.

Palate: It's quite malty and spicy as it hits the tongue, but then some of that stonefruit from the nose re-appears. Some sweet red berries in there at the back somewhere, too - nice.

Finish: Honeyed oak, vanilla, orange. Even more oak after a while, but it's never overbearing or too bitter. Shows some good length as the oak sustains what's left of the fruit.

I enjoyed this, my first (I think) Glen Keith. Some very pretty fruits intertwined with what must have been a pretty decent cask. Tasty.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Glenrothes 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives Fishes of Samoa 53%

Glenrothes is imported to and distributed in Australia by one of the country's largest wine distributors and is, for this reason, quite readily available (in OB mode) in booze stores large and small. I've tasted a number of the core range vintage bottlings at tastings over the years, but have never really been particularly excited by them.

I haven't tried an independent bottling before though. I bought this sample with a handful of others from

Glenrothes 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives Fishes of Samoa 53%

Nose: It opens with a burst of citrus, soon evolving into something floral and herbal. Later, there's also a honeyed sweetness developing, with a malty undercurrent of almonds.

Palate: Quite light and slippery in the mouth. There's honeyed malt and spice overlaid with some tarter fruit - citrus, green apple - as well as some vanilla, gum leaf and a hint of pear.

Finish: Rather tingly and numbing as the gum leaf/menthol notes follow through and dominate. Decent length. It becomes maltier after some time in the glass.

Not bad this. Some complexity and interest, while those gum-leaf notes also add a refreshing quality to the honeyed malt. Not earth-shattering, but a nice, aged and very drinkable Speysider.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Royal Brackla 1993, 20 Year Old, Mackillop's Choice 50.1%

Another first-time malt for me.
Royal Brackla, so Ralfy tells us, was used in the first ever Scotch blends, so it's a whisky that's been around for a while.
It's fair to say you don't see a lot of it about, though. This was a sample from whiskybase that I think the guys threw in for free amongst some others I bought.

Royal Brackla 1993, 20 Year Old,  Mackillop's Choice 50.1%

Nose: Intensely fruity at first - lots and lots of green apples. But it's also quite floral, perhaps even verging on herbal, too. A little later something a little cheesey emerges and begins to dominate, becoming quite distracting as I go to taste.

Palate: Piercing intensity as it hits the back palate, forcing its way up along the roof of the mouth. The apples remain, coupled with some sharper citrus notes. There's also pepper, mingling with a nice whack of malt. And cheese.

Finish: There's decent length here. The malt and citrus continue on the finish, now joined with something like mustard. Can't get rid of that cheesey element, though. Although perhaps now it's more of a memory than a distinct flavour.

This was interesting. Quite enjoyable to drink, in a whack-in-the-face-in-the-morning kind of way. Not sure about the cheese though.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Highland Park 1989, 23 Years Old, Malts of Scotland 53.2%

A short (and thus somewhat limited) review from a 20ml sample bought from
(Also, I'll posit, yet another entry for Worst Ever Bottle Image)

Back in the day, Highland Park 12 was one of the gateway malts that got me properly into whisky. Affordable, reliable and distinctive, it remains one of the malts I'll recommend as a starting point for new, curious whisky drinkers.

Highland Park 1989, 23 Years Old, Malts of Scotland 53.2%

Nose: Quite spirity at first. Then nutty - almond and marzipan mainly - and slightly green and heathery. Lemon appears after some time in the glass, as does a dose of oak and a fairly rich maltiness.

Palate: Intense, piercing grapefruit up front, becoming all chocolate and malt as it hits the back palate and coats the mouth.

Finish: Quite a big finish - lots of booze poking out here, showing every bit of its 53.2% - without being exceptionally long. That grapefruit and chocolate profile continues with little development.

To be honest, I reckon I would have picked this as a Tomintoul or something similar had I been served this blind. There is very little to remind one of this distillery's trademark profile, save perhaps that heathery note on the nose. There's nothing wrong or particularly strange about this of course - sherry casks do a lot of the heavy lifting to complete that profile, I guess - it was just something of a surprise.