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May 2022 - part 2 <--- June 2022 - part 1 ---> Current entries

 

June 4, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
ALL the Springbank Wood Expressions
Tasting all of these feels like quite the daunting task, I've tried most of them in the past already and to my mind this is a series which can be a little bit inconsistent. Having said that, we shouldn't underestimate how important and influential this series has been for whisky lovers. Released between that rather crucial decade from 2002 - 2013 when so many new people were discovering malt whisky, how many found their gateway to more serious enthusiasm via this very series? Especially, I suspect, people within the UK.

 

So, we'll do the whole lot of them in order of release. Starting with…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 12 yo 1989/2002 (54.6%, OB 'Wood Expressions', rum finish, 5700 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 1989/2002 (54.6%, OB 'Wood Expressions', rum finish, 5700 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: funny how these batches start to come across as pretty 'old fashioned' these days; it's certainly from the 'less likely' era of production at Springbank with all these impressions of crushed greenery, swimming pool water, clay, chalk and oily toolbox rags. What's good though is that it still feels rather 'Springbank' and not totally swamped by overt rum. With water: peppery and still very much on clay and mineral oils, but I can't help but find it overall a tad flat. Mouth: a bit funny really, on sheep wools, clays, ointments, old metal coins, metal polish and slightly sooty and cardboardy qualities. It's ok, but I'm not too sure… with water: a feeling of plainness now almost, with these notes of wet grains, vegetable soup, some aniseed, some more clay, perhaps a glimmer of medicine. Finish: medium, quite peppery, a tad salty and more clay and chalk. Comments: Not sure what to say, these weren't the greatest vintages to be honest. There's not much wrong with it, I just find it rather flat and a little empty.
SGP: 352 - 79 points.

 

 

Longrow 13 yo 1989/2002 (53.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions' sherry, 2350 bottles)

Longrow 13 yo 1989/2002 (53.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions' sherry, 2350 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: quite medicinal, but more a lighter shade of Longrow I would say. The peat doesn't immediately leap out at you as in later vintages. This is more on seawater, dry roast peanuts, bandages and a few hints of mechanical oils and smoked lemons. With water: chamomile tea, bonfire embers and miso. A rather umami profile emerges. Mouth: softer peat smoke and a feeling of burnt toast, graphite oil and smoky bacon crisps. Some unusual things, and once again with this rather industrial side too. Some camphor and black pepper come with a little time. The sherry is there, but rather subdued, was this refill sherry? With water: better now I think, more focussed on tarry rope, camphor, soft peppery peat smoke and some rather sharp salinity. Finish: good length, a tad vegetal and rustic in places, but still with nice peppery and smoky bacon qualities showing. Comments: a nice wee drop, but once again, as with Springbank, I feel they really improved production a few years later.
SGP: 464 - 83 points.

 

 

Springbank 13 yo 1989/2003 (54.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions', port pipes, 3120 bottles)

Springbank 13 yo 1989/2003 (54.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions', port pipes, 3120 bottles)
Colour: rose-amber. Nose: the port wood definitely has a louder voice here than the rum did in the previous Springbank. Which I feel actually works in this instance so far, it's rather sticky with dark fruits, plum sauce, sultanas, Madeira cake and things like red berry fruits and sweet children's cough medicines. With water: wild strawberries, baked bananas, cherry lip gloss and a little eucalyptus - very lovely actually. Mouth: a little too jammy on arrival for me, moves more into the territory of wine finishes than port in some respects with these notes of shiraz, strawberry jam and balsamic onion. Juicy but a bit flabby in texture and not quite sure of itself. With water: much better! Loses this overtly jammy side and becomes a bit more balanced displays this nice mix of red fruits, sultanas, bramble leaf and nettle tea. One stray bandage reminds us there was once some peat involved here. Finish: medium and rather sweet, on red fruit teas, jams, fruit cordials and liquorice. Comments: quite a ride. The nose was overall pretty excellent, but an imbalanced wobble on the neat palate was saved by water. I was teetering all over the place with a score, but the fun side of this one has won me over in the end…
SGP: 552 - 85 points.

 

 

Springbank 12 yo 1990/2003 (52.4%, OB 'Wood Expressions', sherry butts, 1799 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 1990/2003 (52.4%, OB 'Wood Expressions', sherry butts, 1799 bottles)
Colour: pale amber. Nose: a rather 'Springbank' style of sherry, with all this gun metal, flints, game meats, animal furs and hints of treacle, natural tar and wood embers. There's also a touch of herbal cough mix and smoked paprika. I'm quite a fan, thus far. With water: salted liquorice, fennel seed, cough medicines and wormwood. A nice herbal / medical profile emerging. Mouth: all on roasted mixed nuts, milk chocolate, paprika, chilli oil, coal dust and bandages. A definite 'mid era' profile of Springbank, but it kind of works with this rather gamey sherry style - it's certainly charismatic. With water: goes more towards the earthier aspects. Things like aged pinot noir, BBQ sauce, dry roast peanuts and aged orange peels. Finish: good length and pretty earthy, but also quite a few dark ales, rye bread and umami vibes such as miso and marmite. Comments: 'robust' you might say. Of this era of production, I would say this is one of the better/more interesting examples. At times it was maybe on the cusp of being a little too weird or grubby, but it always pulled back from the edge.
SGP: 462 - 86 points.

 

 

Springbank 12 yo 1991/2004 (58.5%, OB 'Wood Expressions', bourbon hogsheads & barrels, 5986 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 1991/2004 (58.5%, OB 'Wood Expressions', bourbon hogsheads & barrels, 5986 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: a totally different story! All on hay, limestone, wet rocks, chalk and lemon barley water. Also very slight touches of soot, bandages, seawater and heather flowers. Clean, crisp and refreshing. With water: more on dusty malt bins, grist, mash water and oatcakes. It has that 'working distillery' vibe about it. Mouth: rather chiselled and focussed on minerals, pebbles, white flowers, chalk and hints of shoe polish, watercress and a little mustard powder. Very good, but quite a world apart from the current 10yo for example. With water: rounder, fatter and waxier now. On lemon barley water, dry and delicate peat smoke, hessian and coal dust. Still also rather focussed on raw ingredients and slightly yeasty aspects. Finish: medium, dry, rather hot and peppery, and still on breads, beers, ink, mash water and yeast. Comments: of its time, but a very good dram in its own right, you just need to like them rather raw and rugged!
SGP: 362 - 85 points.

 

 

Springbank 14 yo 1989/2004 (52.8%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 12 years in refill sherry + 2 years in fresh port pipes, 7200 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 1989/2004 (52.8%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 12 years in refill sherry + 2 years in fresh port pipes, 7200 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: slightly sharp and tangy with fruit acids, plum wine and hints of cellar must and hessian. Also touches of metal polish and lamp oil with some dried dark fruits. So far the sherry and port combination works pretty well I would say. With water: more on tobaccos and damp cellar earth with some sweeter dark fruity notes such as damson preserve and fig. Mouth: same feeling of tanginess, you could be munching on a Tangfastic. There's also some cherry cough medicine, red currants, pink grapefruit and Tizer! These kinds of sharp and popping fruity notes mixed with darker notes of hessian, bitter chocolate and earth which actually anchor the whole thing rather well. With water: a little more about the Springbank now, with some lightly peppery peat smoke and hints of bonfire embers, anthracite and a dry waxiness. Finish: good length, rather peppery, earthy, sooty and going towards hessian rags, toolbox oils and metal polish. A solitary sultana bobbing about in the aftertaste. Comments: better than expected I would say. The sherry and port seemed to have knocked each other into some kind of cohesive and well-balanced shape, while the distillery character emerges blinking into the sun with a little water. Very good.
SGP: 563 - 87 points.

 

 

Longrow 10 yo 1995/2005 (55.6%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 8 years in refill wood + 2 years in fresh Tokaji, 7440 bottles)

Longrow 10 yo 1995/2005 (55.6%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 8 years in refill wood + 2 years in fresh Tokaji, 7440 bottles)
I remember this one causing some ripples of conversation upon release at the time. A divisive dram that seemed to create adulation and repulsion in equal measure. Although, it has been so long since I tried it, I can't actually remember what I think of it anymore. Let's find out… Colour: amber. Nose: beefy! Literally, lots of beef stock, Bovril, bitter dark chocolate powder, suet, venison sausages, gravy and in time this rather tarry, grubby peat smoke emerging too. I have to say, it's rather a lot of fun, but I can see why it would divide the crowd! In time it gets more towards these mulchy, mushroomy and earthy qualities. With water: very leafy, earthy, chocolatey and full of damp pipe tobaccos, pickled walnuts, game salami and a little treacle. Mouth: extreme stuff! Very earthy and meaty once again but at the same time almost jarringly sweet and sticky on botrytis, booze soaked raisins, Christmas pudding and glazed walnuts. Pulls you in different directions simultaneously. With water: sweetness again, verging on cloying probably, but some nicely spice-infused smokiness brings it back. Dry roast peanuts, bonfire embers and black pepper all coming through a little later on. Still globally very meaty, earthy and… chunky. Finish: long, very earthy, some grubby meaty vibes, soot, leather, tobacco and developing a nice herbal bitterness in there too. Still an extreme style though. Comments: easy to see why this would be such a divisive whisky. There's a meatiness that strays into challenging territories at times, and which can jar a bit with the residual sweetness of the Tokaji on the palate (not much flushing of casks went on here I expect) but overall there's a charm about it which is hard to refute. I suspect it'll remain a divisive one forever. In fact, I just checked Serge's original notes from 2005 and it looks like he was not at all impressed (WF49). Ha! Maybe this one has improved with 17 years (yes, 17!!!) in glass. Or perhaps I'm just a bit of a softie? Irrespectively, my key takeaway here is: I want a glass of Tokaji!
SGP:674 - 78 (rather meaningless) points.

 

 

Springbank 9 yo 1996/2006 (58.0%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 7 years in refill bourbon + 2 years in fresh marsala, 7740 bottles)

Springbank 9 yo 1996/2006 (58.0%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 7 years in refill bourbon + 2 years in fresh marsala, 7740 bottles)
Marsala being a fortified Italian wine which can be dry or sweet. Colour: deep gold. Nose: feels like rather sweet Marsala involved here as there's an immediate sticky dark fruit sweetness going on. Brown breads, sweet ruby ales, coal smoke, honey cake and plum wine. Also wee touches of treacle and hessian. With water: touches of blood orange and grenadine now, also some pink grapefruit. Feels like it's becoming overall a little fruitier and lighter on its feet. Mouth: more assertive distillery character here with this nice mix of mechanical oils, soft waxes, peat embers and dried herbs. Some pink peppercorns, sandalwood and chai tea impressions too. Fun and rather complex in fact. With water: becomes a tad more bitter and a bit greener now, goes towards lemongrass, chlorophyll and herbal teas. Finish: medium in length and nicely peppery with ginger and cinnamon. Comments: overall a simpler offering and I think the marsala on this occasion works quite well.
SGP: 562 - 84 points.

 

 

Springbank 16 yo 1991/2007 (54.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 8 years in refill bourbon + 8 years in fresh rum, 5100 bottles)

Springbank 16 yo 1991/2007 (54.2%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 8 years in refill bourbon + 8 years in fresh rum, 5100 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: rather mashy and fermentary at first with beers, breads, hay and this rather rugged gristy vibe. After that some medicines like tiger balm, then lemon verbena and cider apple funk. With water: on funny things now like ink, vinyl, vase water and brand new trainers. More green things like chlorophyll and crushed flower stems. Mouth: same sort of mashup of farmyard notes, breads, yeasty qualities and light medicinal qualities. Still rather sharp and a little salty, green apples, mineral salts, lime peel and chalk. Getting a bit drying now as well and feeling a bit austere. With water: a touch of barley sweetness comes skulking back, but generally still rather on greenery, light salinity, faint medicinal vibes and mashy cereal notes. Finish: medium in length. Rather crisp, green - acidic even - and sharp. Comments: I'm not sure I get much rum influence. Having said that, I don't get much classic Springbank character either. There's plenty attractive qualities going on here, but it feels like it's a little bit adrift.
SGP: 462 - 82 points.

 

 

Longrow 7 yo 2000/2008 (55.8%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 5.5 years in refill bourbon + 1.5 years in fresh Gaja Barolo, 12120 bottles)

Longrow 7 yo 2000/2008 (55.8%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 5.5 years in refill bourbon + 1.5 years in fresh Gaja Barolo, 12120 bottles)
Colour: bright copper. Nose: quite a big, fermentary themed peat smoke with lots of pepper, aniseed, tar and marmalade on the boil. Tipping over into slightly overripe oranges - which Serge seems to find frequently in these winey Longrows - with sooty and farmyard vibes bustling about too. With water: more leathery, more earthy, some tobaccos, mushroom powder, graphite and a wee hint of rubber. Mouth: playful and rather impressively peaty, but also comes with a slightly jarring sense of the peat and wine fighting for supremacy. Some sticky preserved fruits, pickled onions and smoked meats. With water: feels a bit more cohesive now. Bouillon, soot, mashed turnip, whisky cream (shall we say Haggis as well?) hessian, more slightly musty citrus fruits and this rather typical Longrow peppery peaty flavour. Finish: good length, some damp grainy notes, a nicely earthy, gruff smokiness and notes of real ale. Comments: I'm a little surprised, on paper I shouldn't enjoy this combo, but it works pretty well on this occasion.
SGP: 665 - 84 points.

 

 

Springbank 11 yo 1997/2009 (55.1%, OB 'Wood Expressions', madeira wood, 9090 bottles)

Springbank 11 yo 1997/2009 (55.1%, OB 'Wood Expressions', madeira wood, 9090 bottles)
I remember buying a bottle of this one from Loch Fyne Whiskies at the time it was released and thoroughly enjoying it… Colour: orangey gold. Nose: yup, an excellent saltiness on top of some resinous dark fruit notes, hessian, dunnage must and some rather mineral, medicinal-tinged peat smoke. Also things like honey-glazed ham, camphor and natural tar extract. Excellent, and showing bags of distillery character. With water: treacle, soot, menthol tobacco, hardwood resins and a sense of wine must and bodega funk (sorry, I know this is madeira!) Mouth: big arrival! All on natural tar, sticky dark fruits, smoked meats, herbal bitters, aniseed, salted Dutch liquorice and more camphor and hessian qualities. Really thick in the mouth and wonderfully peppery and waxy. With water: becomes juicier and fruitier, a rather playful sweetness that incorporates red fruits, bramble wine, and then medical aspects like a drop of iodine and cough medicine. Finish: long, tarry, peppery, elegantly sweet, medicinal and lightly herbal in the aftertaste. Comments: I still love it, although I wonder if it hasn't improved with a decade in glass, becoming more rounded and complex than I remember. Or perhaps time is just doing its thing on my brain? Anyway, the full term maturation in great quality casks, combined with an undeniably tip-tip vintage for Springbank has really worked here.
SGP: 552 - 89 points.

 

 

Springbank 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.4%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 9 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in fresh claret, 9360 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.4%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 9 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in fresh claret, 9360 bottles)
Claret of course being red wine from Bordeaux, although we don't know the chateau. Colour: bright coppery amber. Nose: bright and sweet red fruitiness, with amaretto biscuits, strawberry jam, orange peel and eucalyptus oil. I rather like this sweet and aromatic profile thus far. With water: ever so slightly more earthy and showing tobaccos and sweet red liquorice - still very attractive and easy. Mouth: sweet and concentrated on red fruits again, also with this slightly minty note of… well, of mint. But also bramble leaf, cassis, treacle and these sorts of fruity children's medicines such as Calpol. I am a little discombobulated, but I rather enjoy this… With water: sweet marmalade, orange muscat wine, treacle pudding, bergamot and a little black pepper. There's also this faint vibe of game meats and dark chocolate. Finish: good length, rather a lot of earthy dark teas, blackcurrant, treacle and some dark fruit compotes. Comments: what was that? Probably one of my favourites finished Springbanks, I love this fusion of sweet, fruity, earthy and medicinal. Not to mention the fact that there's absolutely no cloying or disjointed aspects coming from the wine that I can detect. 1997 seems to be when they were truly back on form at Springbank.
SGP: 652 - 87 points.

 

 

Hazelburn 8 yo 2002/2011 (55.9%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 5 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in Sauternes casks, 9180 bottles)

Hazelburn 8 yo 2002/2011 (55.9%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 5 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in Sauternes casks, 9180 bottles)
I don't think I ever tasted this one before, but I am generally a fan of sauternes wood maturation… Colour: amber. Nose: much more on heather honey and stewed fruits than the others, so more typically Hazelburn I suppose with this sense of lightness and sweetness. Beneath, though, there's also some rather Springbank-esque hessian and soft waxy notes too. A wee tobacco pouch and some sultanas. Very attractive! With water: more open and aromatic, on leather, leaf mulch, dark chocolate and figs stewed sweet wines. A touch of shoe polish and something slightly more mechanical showing after a while. Mouth: soft, sweet and with a lot of gelatinous fruitiness, dark fruit compotes, treacle, some impressions of old Armagnac and candied citrus peels. Feels considerably older than 8 years. Still these lovely honey, tobacco leaf and dark fruit qualities in balance. With water: once again this terrific fusion of oils, tobaccos, sultanas, prunes, heather honey, black coffee and chocolate. I have to say, superb! Finish: long, treacley, sweetly fruity, honeyed and with many sticky dark fruits and earthy tobacco notes. Comments: Once again, Sauternes seems to work some magic. Probably my favourite of all the younger Hazelburn OBs. I had good feels about this one but it still came as something of a surprise I have to say, totally love this mulchy, sweet and very tobacco driven profile.
SGP: 751 - 88 points.

 

 

Longrow 14 yo 1997/2011 (56.1%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 11 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in fresh burgundy, 7800 bottles)

Longrow 14 yo 1997/2011 (56.1%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 11 years in refill bourbon + 3 years in fresh burgundy, 7800 bottles)
Colour: orangey amber. Nose: not sure I get a huge amount of peat up front on this one, it's more on very sticky fruit compotes, jams, quince and treacle. There's a resinous saltiness in the background though, along with some oily hessian cloth, which feels a bit more Longrowish. Overall a little closed on the neat nose though. With water: not sure water helps, loses definition and feels very sickly and spicy but also a bit disjointed and kind of floppy. Mouth: peated orange squash and wine must. Apricot jam slathered on honey glazed ham, dusted with cupboard spices and washed down with cherry cough syrup. Pretty difficult I think. With water: very syrupy, jarringly sweet and again feeling flabby and generally rather wobbling all over the place. Weird artificially sweetened medicine flavours with some rotting orange peels. Finish: medium in length but a tad flat, musty and bitter, some more of these rather rotten fruit notes and becoming much more drying. Comments: Not a fan of this one at all I'm afraid. Started out unlikely, then got weird, then became just not very good in my view. Longrow + Burgundy = carnage in my wee opinion I'm afraid.
SGP: 363 - 71 points.

 

 

Springbank 12 yo 2000/2012 (52.7%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 6 years in refill bourbon + 6 years in fresh Calvados casks, 9420 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 2000/2012 (52.7%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 6 years in refill bourbon + 6 years in fresh Calvados casks, 9420 bottles)
I remember this one being released and it feels rather intensely like it was only last week. Therein lies whisky's true power: the warping of time and memory. Anyway, not too sure Calvados wood is technically permitted by the SWA? But then of course they now allow Tequila for Diageo, so not sure they really have much credibility in telling smaller producers what the can and can't do… Colour: pale gold. Nose: could be mind tricks, but I do indeed detect apples and pears at first nosing. Apple pie, sweet breakfast cereals, soft waxes, putty, lemon oil and some orchard fruit teas. Also subtle green things like gooseberry, nettle and myrtle. Elegant, subtle and very attractive  so far. With water: fully on Springbank distillate now, lots of waxes, coastal freshness, mineral oils and soft green and citrus fruits in the background. Mouth: rather more on classical, good modern Springbank here, with lots of clay, beach pebbles, threads of peat and soft waxy notes. Some citrus rinds, sooty notes and smoky mashy flavours. With water: a little peatier, fatter, oilier and once again going more emphatically towards the distillery character - which is great of course! Nice dry waxiness, coastal notes, sandalwood and wee camphor notes. Finish: good length, nicely coastal, refreshingly mineral and with a wisp of peat smoke. Comments: an excellent drop, but I'm not sure what the Calvados really brings to the proceedings here. Feels like it's best qualities come in spite of the double maturation, not so much because of it.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.

 

 

Springbank 9 yo 2004/2013 (54.7%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 4 years in refill bourbon + 5 years in fresh Gaja Barolo casks, 11000 bottles)

Springbank 9 yo 2004/2013 (54.7%, OB 'Wood Expressions', 4 years in refill bourbon + 5 years in fresh Gaja Barolo casks, 11000 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: lemon and honey, not unlike nosing a hot toddy! Goes on with citrons, waxes, putty, lemon barley water, heather honey and some baked apples. A feeling of sweet young dessert wines more than Barolo to my nose. But certainly more restrained and elegant so far. With water: yellow plums, honey, delicate waxiness, sweet breakfast cereals and flower pollens. Mouth: some typical Springbank fatness with hessian and waxes mingling with stewed apricots, baked apple and various jammy tones. Feels like a Venn diagram of Springbank and generic wineyness with minimal crossover. But having said that, it's pretty good I think as most of these wine aspects seem reasonably gentle, sweet and easy. With water: honeys, soft waxes, lightly peppery, some shoe polish and more notes of apricot jam and impressions of yellow flowers. Finish: medium in length, a little drier, more on cereals, dried flowers, pepper and mineral oil. Comments: probably amongst the better of wine expressions in this series. Feels like a dram of two rather separate halves, but they co-exist in relative harmony so no complaints from me.
SGP: 552 - 86 points.

 

 

Conclusions…

 

 

That was indeed rather tough at times, but undeniably fascinating. Although, I should emphasise it was done over four separate tasting sessions. What strikes me is that the series as a whole tends to struggle from being drawn from vintages where the base Springbank distillate wasn't at its most luminous, tasting all these certainly underscores just how comprehensively the whisky making improved after about 1993 I think.

 

 

I'd also say that when this series shines it's more to do with the distillery character than the various woods being deployed. My favourite remains the Madeira edition, but that one stands out as being a full term maturation. Although, having said that, another commendable aspect about this series was that these bottling weren't really 'finishings' so much as proper secondary maturations. I think it's great that they would tell you on the front labels the maturation timings and profiles. Another example of how Springbank have often been ahead of the curve in terms of transparency. The series as a whole might feel a little old fashioned and innocent now, but viewed historically it was certainly an important stepping stone between whisky's age of innocence and today's modern era of enthusiasm.

 

 

Finally, I'd simply say that my main takeaway from tasting all these is that I love Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn but my preference will always be for those makes from bourbon or plain refill wood. That's usually my personal preference with most whiskies, but especially with a distillery which makes such charismatic and distinctive distillate.

 

 

Big hugs and gratitude to Bram for these samples!

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2022


Whiskyfun

Back to Basics

JW
That is to say, back to blends. I believe it is important that us Malt Maniacs and distinguished friends keep trying some large-volume blended Scotch from time to time, just to keep our feet on the ground. In smart moderation, naturally… That's a universal law by the way, lesser whiskies, more moderation.
Magazine ad, 1967. Good old Nancy!

 

 

 

Johnnie Walker 'Red Label' (40%, OB, Dutch import, +/-2022)

Johnnie Walker 'Red Label' (40%, OB, Dutch import, +/-2022) Two stars
We haven't formally tasted Johnnie Red too many times, but styles and quality seemed variable, depending on the years and, perhaps, the markets. Remember, altogether approx. 15Mio 9-cases of Johnnie Walker are moved every year, while I don't think they've got a vatting tank that big (oh come on). Colour: gold. Nose: these noses are often pretty nice, with appealing ripe fruits, especially apples, some vanilla and toasted cakes, some shortbread, and a delicate maltiness that would easily mask the nasty young grains. In short, nice nose. Mouth: as I remembered it, easily drinkable and yet not dull, with a wee salty touch and some pear cake at first, while it would then get drier, bitterer, and frankly less pleasant after half a minute. That's pretty much the fate of all entry-level blended Scotch, but this one's doing rather well. Kind of. Finish: always the worst part in these blends. Cardboardy, coffee dregs, some rugous smoke in the end, orange squash. Comments: let's be fair and remember that this is meant to be sipped on ice or with soda etc.
SGP:341 - 73 points.

Dewar's 'White Label' (40%, OB, US import, +/-2022)

Dewar's 'White Label' (40%, OB, US import, +/-2022)
It appears that I've never formally tried Dewar's 'White Label'! Tell me about a so-called whisky blogger… Tsk-tsk, I can hear you. Colour: straw. Less caramel than in the Johnnie W. Nose: seems to be maltier, with rather more acidity, green fruits, porridge, doughs and fresh breads… There's even a nice floral side, around the usual dandelions. Mouth: same bitter, rustic, gritty style on the palate, with no transition this time. Tough and extremely rustic, with a lot of sawdust and cardboard. I couldn't empty my shot without ice or juices. I'm not sure water alone would help and won't even try that. Finish: short, drying, bitter. Comments: I remember old Dewar's – although not the White Label - used to be much deeper, more lively, and maltier. And frankly better. Rather nice nose, though.

SGP:231 - 65 points.

Johnnie Walker 12 yo 'Black Label' (40%, OB, Duty Free, +/-2021)

Johnnie Walker 12 yo 'Black Label' (40%, OB, Duty Free, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
The most sold 12 yo in the world and Chivas Regal's archenemy. We'll have Chivas after this one. We've tried some very good batches of Johnnie Walker Black in the past. Colour: gold. Nose: a feeling of smoked flowers, lapsang souchong, with some ashes, tobacco, cigarettes, wholegrain bread, a touch of wax, then strawberry yoghurt… It's a pretty complex nose for sure, most pleasant and, hopefully, drinkable on its own. Let's make sure about that… Mouth: a clear feeling of Johnnie Red ++, with small berries, apples, fruit peel, then some smoke and liquorice. Some peat and earth. Finish: medium, rather fat, earthy. No feeling of cardboard this time, or barely. Comments: far from the utter glories that old Johnnie Blacks used to be circa 1950s-1960s, but clearly sippable without any ice, Fanta, Canada Dry, Coke or Pepsi. Even without Irn Bru.

SGP:352 - 78 points.

As we said…

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, French market, +/-2022)

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, French market, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
We've tried some splendid very old bottles of Chivas Regal but careful with their corks. Recent expressions have been a little average in my book, while earlier 12s at 43% could really rock our world. Everything's going to hell… Colour: light gold. Nose: rounder and cakier than JW Black, rather all on cakes, scones, breads and brioches. Touch of vanilla and stewed apples and pears. A little less characterful than JW Black. Mouth: hold on, this is a good batch. Nice arrival, on tonic water, ginger and apple juice, then we have a little earth (we're much closer to JW than expected), caraway, liquorice, Szechuan pepper… Finish: short to medium, with a little menthol and lemon, which would save even the worst whisky in the world. No, no names, although I would have gotten a few ideas… The aftertaste's a tad more difficult, too cardboardy, as many blends are. Comments: as I just wrote, a pretty good version of Chivas 12. The aftertaste made it lose some points, though.

SGP:451 - 77 points.

Chivas

The previous inceptions of Chivas Regal (with thanks to La Revue des Marques)










Johnnie Walker 'Black Label Triple Cask Edition' (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Johnnie Walker 'Black Label Triple Cask Edition' (40%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars
No more age statement and more talking about casks and woods, welcome to the modern whisky world. According to some online blurb, this one's meant to have been finished in bourbon (check), Caribbean pot still rum (check) and finally 'Scotch whisky' (whaat, onanistic Scotch?) It's also said to have been boosted with Blair Athol, Cardhu and Strathmill. Just like us. Colour: light gold. Nose: clearly maltier, clearly less smoky. Having said that, the wood's playing the main part here, you get fresh sawdust, broken branches, plywood… And no 'Caribbean pot still rum', I'm afraid. Maybe on the palate… Mouth: starts nicely, malty and with apples, but it's getting immensely oaky after just ten seconds. Sawdust and coconut ruling this wee baby, not my cup of malt for sure, and not my cup of blend either. A little bubblegum too (bubblegum = youth). Finish: medium, still oaky. Sweet oak and cinnamon cookies. Comments: with climate change, deforestation and all that, I'd wager the way would rather be 'less oak' than 'more oak'.
SGP:361 - 70 points.

Perhaps another Walker…

William Walker & Sons Aberdeen (no ABV, Very Choice Old Highland Whisky,  +/-1930)

William Walker & Sons Aberdeen (no ABV, Very Choice Old Highland Whisky,  +/-1930) Four stars and a half
Not too sure this is a blend, it could be a single malt. I believe this brand is now extinct but I've seen that W. Auctioneer had one from the 1970s. In a way, this is almost blind tasting (by the way, looks like we will return to the Whisky Show London with Charlie and Dave this year, expect some more very crazy 3-men blind tastings!) Colour: light gold – complete with a wee 90 year old spider in my glass! We'll call it Boris, John, but filtration was not the company's strong point, apparently. Nose: typical sooty, chalky, waxy, mineral, smoky, meaty, camphory and mentholy nose. This could well have been a single malt, but it does feel like it was bottled at below 70° proof. Maybe 65 proof? Indeed that used to be legal… Mouth: big maltiness – this IS a single malt. Having said that, it is impossible to find the distillery, maybe one that was closed for good even before WWII? Or maybe Parkmore, the one that we WANT to try (because some say some cask(s) remain?) Anyway, soot, marrow, menthol, shoe polish, leek, oranges, ham, bouillons and broths, Colonatta bacon, etc. Finish: not even short, so definitely 70 proof. Not more. More waxy and meaty saltiness, plus some ashes and more sootiness. Drop of chartreuse in the aftertaste. Comments: actually a tad fragile, but fantastic. I'd kill to learn about the name of the distillery.
SGP:453 - 89 points.

Right, it wasn't a blend, dead sure about that. Which means that we'll have to find another blend to put a proper end to this wee tasting session…

Campbeltown Loch (46%, OB, 2022)

Campbeltown Loch (46%, OB, 2022) Four stars
With hugs to everyone at Cadenhead's Whisky Market Cologne/Köln. Now, I just see that this is actually a blended malt – I used to believe Campbeltown Lochs were blended Scotch, no? Looks like this one's made out of all single malts in Campbeltown, namely Springbank, Glen Scotia, Hazelburn, Macallan, Kilkerran/Glengyle and Longrow (spot the odd one out!) Colour: white wine. Nose: young, starting citric and chalky, with some lemonade and kiwi juice. Then there's sourdough, a fresh pack of lemon drops, yellow Haribos and a little lime grass. This one should repel any mosquitos, perhaps even Campbeltown's famous – and voracious - midges. Mouth: very good, with a similar chalky, doughy and lemony development, supplemented with a little fresh mint, green pepper and tiny roots and saplings (quinoa?) Finish: rather long, on pretty much the same flavours and with a smokier signature. Longrow, I presume. This wee chemicalness too… Comments: a fully naked Campbeltowner, undisguised and maskless. Very cool proposition, and certainly a true 'regional malt'. Perhaps for your favourite hipflask rather than for your most expensive crystal sniffer (a.k.a. fishbowl).

SGP:452 - 86 points.

We've got many more Y-T-T blends at Château Whiskyfun, so stay tuned. Oh, Y-T-T means yet-to-try.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all blends we've tasted so far

 

June 2, 2022


Whiskyfun

A short trip abroad
More travelling, starting this from France one more time..

La PIautre 2018/2021 (56%, Version Française, LMDW, 388 bottles)

La PIautre 2018/2021 (56%, Version Française, LMDW, 388 bottles) Three stars and a half
Not an unknown story, a brewery thinking at some point that they could make whisky too, etc. This has been finished in local wine (they're in Anjou), a Coteaux de l'Aubance, which is a sweet wine. Not an untold story either, but these sweet wines would usually work well with spirits. Colour: gold. Nose: close to the malt, close to bread, close to yeast, with only a very discreet rubbery touch that may go away once waters been added, let's see. With water: not quite, on the contrary, but these whiffs of bicycle inner tube are not unpleasant. After all, old Ardbegs used to have them too. Mouth (neat): oh, good, rather thick and well textured, sweet yet not too sweet, rather on dried apricots and mirabelle jam, with a wee citrusness in the background. Chenin blanc! With water: the best part, with a tight, well-composed sweet maltiness mingled with drier raisins and apricots. Finish: a little drier and peppery, with bits of rubber indeed, but no problemo. The aftertaste is a little dying (raw chocolate, ground coffee) but also a little salty. Hold on, tinned sardines? Comments: not the chenin bomb that I had expected. We're safe!

SGP:451 - 83 points.

To nearby Switzerland…

Säntis 'Edition Dreifaltigkeit' (52%, OB, Switzerland, lot Nr.7, +/-2021)

Säntis 'Edition Dreifaltigkeit' (52%, OB, Switzerland, lot Nr.7, +/-2021) Four stars
We're in Appenzell and unless you're a native German speaker, please try to say 'Dreifaltigkeit'. Bravo! Indeed that means 'trinity' in German. This was matured in old beer casks, a typical set-up at Säntis. Colour: deep gold/amber. Nose: with bags of pencil shavings and tons of pinewood chips, this should work well as a spread over your barbecued ribs. Seriously, I think this is awesome, totally deviant in a great way, and more and more on smoked and grilled bacon. Spectacular, I can't wait to check what will happen once water's been added. With water: same but with even more pinewood. A little aquavit, perhaps, Schinken häger… ever heard of  Schinken häger? Mouth (neat): total extreme fun. Tons of smoked bacon, litres of Jägermeister and Fernet Branca, and this feeling of drinking sauna oil. With water: more tar, myrtle liqueur (first time I'm finding this much myrtle), salty bacon… Finish: very long. Perhaps a tad too long in fact, you'll need a break before you pour another whisky. Yes, of course this is whisky. Comments: utter fun! Isn't this Whiskyfun?

SGP:664 - 86 points.

And so, a long break…

We're back.

Sild 'Crannog' (48%, OB, Slyrs, Germany, +/-2022)

Sild 'Crannog' (48%, OB, Slyrs, Germany, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
Not sure I'm getting everything here but apparently, this is about a ship and about the island of Sylt, north of Hamburg, while it was distilled at Slyrs Distiller, in the Bavarian Alps. All this is making perfect sense, don't you agree? Colour: white wine. Nose: light and fresh, rather on wee touches of varnish at first, then bonbons (lemon) and pancake sauce. It is rather malty, but I cannot not think of some young bourbon. Mouth: much more happening, with some smoky – albeit varnished too – cakes, preserved pineapples, a little glue, mullein syrup, touches of rye… It is a little unusual and unseen, but after the crazy Säntis, that's nothing.  Finish: medium, pleasant, fruity  lime, rhubarb) and always with these wee varnishy touches. A little smoke in the aftertaste, strawberry yoghurt… Comments: really cool and good, but the Säntis was a killer.

SGP:552 - 78 points

I'm wondering if we shouldn't try one of those crazy St Kilians while we're in Germany…

St. Kilian 2016-17-18/2021 'Nine' (55.3%, OB, Germany, Signature Edition, 7500 bottles)

St. Kilian 2016-17-18/2021 'Nine' (55.3%, OB, Germany, Signature Edition, 7500 bottles) Four stars and a half
One of the Black Sabbaths of contemporary whisky making. Some Sauternes has been involved here, otherwise it was mostly ex-bourbon wood. I think we're ready… Colour: straw. Nose: butter cream, almond croissants, nougat and tangerine syrup. Boy is it gentle and civilised! With water: geared towards anything lemons; not the wrong direction. Impeccable bourbon wood too. Mouth (neat): rather more massive, this one responds to, say Bimber, Daftmill, Shizuoka and Chichibu. Lemon liqueur, manzanilla, tight lemon tarte, tapioca, earthy/rooty vegetables. Say celeriac. With water: a little rounder and sweeter. Lemon tarte (as usual, with meringue and bits of lemon zest). Finish: long, with perhaps a little sawdust. Comments: seriously, it's another one that's impeccably flawless. Thank God these distilleries have very limited capacity, otherwise they would soon turn the whisky world upside-down.

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Oh well, let's simply stay in Germany and then call this a tasting session.

Finch 8 yo (58.6%, OB, Germany, Madeira cask, 2021)

Finch 8 yo (58.6%, OB, Germany, Madeira cask, 2021) Two stars and a half
We're in Schwaben this time, in Heroldstadt. This baby first spent five years in a 'noble' wine cask, then almost four years in a Madeira cask. As I understand it, they've mashed and distilled both barley and malted barley, so it should be a kind of self-blend. Colour: apricot. Was it red Madeira? Nose: totally on earth, flour, polenta, chocolate powder and… Guinness. With water: also… Roasted semolina soup and mutton suet, plywood, new plastics… Mouth (neat): a funny one indeed. Sour beers, rotting cherries, wood dust, chocolate, pepper, gruyère, malt extract… With water: back to Whiskydom, in a way, with some Maggi and Guinness. Good news, the colours are the same. Finish: long, saltier. Cold onion soup and more Maggi. Comments: great fun here. This dram is totally deviant, but that's what's making it interesting and eminently sympathetic. Now there sure is a little room for improvement. Hugs.

SGP:461 - 78 points.

Last minute bonus, back to Alsace

St Wendelin 2015/2020 'Le Principal' (46%, OB, Distillerie Bertrand, released 2022, new oak, 50cl, 812 bottles)

St Wendelin 2015/2020 'Le Principal' (46%, OB, Distillerie Bertrand, France, released 2022, new oak, 50cl, 812 bottles) Four stars
A new expression from pioneers of Alsatian whisky Bertrand and their chief sorcerer Jean Metzger, known for their Uberach whiskies that they started making nineteen years ago already. This new organic range called St Wendelin does focus on ingredients that are Alsatian. They had decided to postpone the launch because of Covid. Colour: light gold. Nose: delicate and yet firm, totally au naturel, with some floral tones (dandelions), custard, mirabelles (the distillery's also making some excellent mirabelle eau-de-vie), quince, brioche and, since it is Alsatian, touches of kougelhopf. Jo amel. Interestingly, the cask was all new French oak but the whisky remained elegant and delicate, thanks to the fact that it was a 350l piece, so with less oak contact than in a traditional barrique or piece. Mouth: a few more spicy touches (nutmeg, cinnamon) but it remains a relatively soft and enjoyable malt altogether. Some cinnamon rolls filled with mirabelle jam and golden raisins, with some rather liquoricy spiciness coming out, from the oak I presume. A little star anise too, even tiny echoes of absinth, perhaps. Finish: medium, very pleasant, very well balanced, on similar notes. A little white pepper and, perhaps, a touch of sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: very well mastered new French oak and no make-up. Lovely new expression from the far north of little Alsace.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2022

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Glen Grant 70 yo 1952/2022 'Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II Edition' (52.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry butt, cask #381, 256 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Karuizawa 1973/2008 (56%, OB, Martin's Selection for Norway, American oak sherry butt, cask #6249, 342 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, French market, +/-2022)  - WF90

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Maison Tribot 'V.70 A.51' (50.3%, Old Master Spirits, for Australia, Grande Champagne, 120 bottles, +/-2021) - WF93

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
None this month (phew)
 

June 1, 2022


Whiskyfun

Little Trios, today Benriach plus two

When the 'new' Benriachs came to the market there's been a huge shock, in no small measures due to the extreme quality of some older vintages, such as 1966, 1971 or 1976. It's true that the little 10 yo that used to be available before that was not a shining star, to put it mildly. Now, has Benriach fallen back into the peloton since its last take-over? I'm not too sure, to be honest we don't try many of them anymore… Let's have a go at a wee bunch…


Benriach

 

 

Benriach 10 yo 'The Original Ten' (43%, OB, +/-2022)

Benriach 10 yo 'The Original Ten' (43%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
It's funny that they would have gone back to something similar to the old design from the 1990s. It also says 'Three Cask Matured', which is always scary and a little, say demeaning in my book. Now Macallan does it too, so…  Colour: white wine. Nose: the fact is that this nose is nice, modern, with some fresh cake, chalk, lemon syrup, Szechuan pepper, fruity hops, IPA, lemon curd and custard… It's just a little shy and I'm sure that's the relatively low strength. Mouth: same kind of composition, with lemons, white pepper, chalk, dough, cider apples and green pears, plums… It's really nice, only the white pepper would tend to come to the front a little too much. I'm sure 46% vol. would have fixed that. Finish: medium, very nice, this time with more honey and, good news, rather less white pepper. Comments: extremely fine and in France, the price is very right (39.90€ at LMDW as we speak – no, of course not, we do no affiliation with anybody.)

SGP:531 - 83 points.

Benriach 10 yo 2009/2019 (51%, OB for Minmore House and Shinanoya, Japan, peated/rum barrel, cask #4414, 273 bottles)

Benriach 10 yo 2009/2019 (51%, OB for Minmore House and Shinanoya, Japan, peated/rum barrel, cask #4414, 273 bottles) Three stars and a half
Peat and rum! Peat and rum, are we ready for this? Colour: white wine. Nose: well, peat plus rum generates… peat. I mean, in this very case. I'm finding this much nicer than the earlier peaty efforts they had done (Birnie Moss and such), but we're very close to raw peated malted barley, as if we were visiting some working malting plant. I'm finding the rum hard to detect, but I suppose we could if we had both samples in front of us, with and without the rum. Growing notes of camphor and bicycle inner tube, rubber, Barbour grease… With water: rubber up. A new box of rubber bands. Mouth (neat): some kind of smoked herbal liqueur, I suppose that's the rum. Did anybody ever try to smoke Jägermeister? I mean, peat it? Cigarette ashes and grey pepper in the background. With water: we may have struck balance. Some mangos and pineapples popping out, rather unexpectedly. Finish: rather long, fruitier when reduced. Comments: something of an UFW (unidentified flying whisky). Good fun, why not.
SGP:546 - 84 points.

Benriach 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.1%, Alambic Classique for Fassstark.de, bourbon, cask #21012, 261 bottles)

Benriach 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.1%, Alambic Classique for Fassstark.de, bourbon, cask #21012, 261 bottles) Three stars and a half
The indies are on… Colour: white wine. Nose: completely different, much more on acidic small fruits and berries (holly, elder) and varnish, almost with some acetone and surely with a lot of cider apples. Rather tough, but in general, with these uncertain kinds of profiles, water will make wonders, let's see... With water: fresh wholegrain bread and even notes of rye, really. No more varnish, rather some extended breadiness, which I'm always in favour of. Mouth (neat): totally raw, totally eau-de-vie-ish, this is tutti-frutti (or raw grappa) enhanced with litres of barley syrup. A funny feeling once more. With water: there, the breads coming out this time again, together with rather a lot of kirschwasser. Lemons and gooseberries in the background. Finish: long, tart, grassier. Crunching the lime zests from your mojito. Comments: good fun once more. The drinker will have some work to do tough, especially with water.

SGP:561 - 84 points.

Perhaps one or two more, we won't do Benriach very often…

Benriach 2012/2020 (60.4%, C&S Dram Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #800226, 226 bottles)

Benriach 2012/2020 (60.4%, C&S Dram Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #800226, 226 bottles) Three stars and a half
Another one from and for Germany. This should be extremely eau-de-vie-ish, according to the colour, but we shan't complain, we love eau-de-vie too… Colour: very pale white wine. Love it that the very engaging bottler did feel the need to add 'natural colour' to the label. Now, agreed, you could artificially discolour whisky too, as some used to do around the late 1960s and early 1970s. But we're digressing… Nose: total raw bread, chalk, porridge, leaven, sourdough and grist, with something very fermentary, between cream cheese and natural raw yoghurt. With water: bits of rubber this time again – is that one of Benriach's new markers? – otherwise crushed almonds and just apples and pears. Mouth (neat): lovely! Cranberry and prickly pear syrups, plus a lot of tart sweetness. We'll dare mention limoncello again, my friend… With water: there, some good, sweet, pure naked barleyness. This is where you realise that malted barley is shock-full of sugar, it is almost like if not everything got fermented (which is impossible, we agree). . Finish: medium, very sweet, almost sugary. Comments: same ballpark as far as 'quality' is concerned. So, very good and good fun.

SGP:641 - 84 points.

Let's try an older one…

Benriach 21 yo 1999/2021 (56.5%, WhiskySponge, 1st fill bourbon, 164 bottles)

Benriach 21 yo 1999/2021 (56.5%, WhiskySponge, 1st fill bourbon, 164 bottles) Four stars and a half
Ten more years will sure make a difference. A rather hallucinatory label too. Colour: light gold. Nose: ah, we're rather reminded of the Distillery's 'old range', with more distinct fruits, both tropical ones and our common 'orchard fruits'. That would be preserved greengages – I'll never tell enough how much I love that – and guavas, bananas, apples, also proper tangerines (not the boosted sugary ones), then lighter acacia honey and beeswax, as well as some very complex Wulong tea. It is not an immediate one on the nose, but it is very complex, just give it time. With water: more on grasses and peels. Also fresh walnuts and almonds. Mouth (neat): a fistful of bonbons, jellybeans, marshmallows and banana foam. We know that The Sponge is a sucker for banana foam, while his birthday is on… (No, no, S., please…) With water: superb development on grassy citrus. So more grapefruits, limes and lemons. Oh hell, we'll even mention yuzu once more. Peppered yuzu sherbet. Finish: rather long and, exactly, on peppered yuzu sherbet. Comments: simply high-class Benriach fruitiness.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

The trio became a quintet, all right then, is this Whiskyfun or what?

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Benriach we've tasted so far


May 2022 - part 2 <--- June 2022 - part 1 ---> Current entries


 

 
   

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

None yet

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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