Today’s dram is another fine example from Gordon & Macphail “The Wood Makes the Whisky” campaign. It’s a 16 or 17 years old BenRiach, distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2014 and it was matured in refill Sherry hogshead casks.
BenRiach 1997 Connoisseurs Choice (46%, Bottled 2014, £58.50)
Nose: Elegant and light sherry notes at first: sweet dried fruit with some fresh berries thrown in for a good measure accompanied by cinnamon. Then honey, cereals, pears and white fruit, soft and creamy vanilla with crushed nuts, quite a rich nose and after a while the lovely sherry notes comes back for good. Continue reading
There are some distilleries you play love/hate games with and in my case one of them would be Dalmore. I usually just can’t stand the caramel and the chill filtration they do with their official line up, hence the sparseness of Dalmore reviews here. Of course when you go to special aged editions the situation is a tad bitter (like the 1981 Amaroso I reviewed) but the global picture is pretty gloom.
That’s why I was happy to receive a sample of an indie Dalmore from Gordon & Macphail. There aren’t too many of those in the market, and I instantly grabbed the chance to try this Dalmore 2001 – it’s au natural without additions or damaging filtering!
Dalmore 2001 Connoisseurs Choice (46%, Bottled 2015, £32.08/€54,90)
Nose: It’s a very fruity nose with a lot of pears and pineapple notes. Also some creamy malt, liqorice, bitter grapefruit and gentle oak wood spices. After it sat down in the glass for a few minutes there were red apples, lemon, herbal eucalyptus and light spearmint perfume. Continue reading
Weird fact of the day: there aren’t too many official bottlings from Strathisla distillery. In fact, despite Strathisla being owned by Chivas Bros. for over 50 years, it was only in 2004 where the official Strathisla 12 Year Old was introduced to the market. Until then it was all indie bottlings or the semi official Gordon & Macphail bottlings as G&M were licensed to release malt from Strathisla, Ardmore and other distilleries through many decades in the 20th century.
Today we’re reviewing Strathisla 1967 vintage that was bottled in January 2015 after maturing in a first fill sherry butts for 47+ years. Yes, it’s that old a whisky and it was priced quite reasonably when it went to the market. Only G&M with their large and old stockpile of casks that can do it and luckily it was chosen to take part in their “Wood makes the whisky” campaign.
Strathisla 1967 Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage (43%, Bottled 2015)
Nose: What a rich and dense nose. It’s pretty heavy with prunes, dried berries and fresh orange peels. Has that jammy/marmalade feel to it, wax and smoke, maybe even smoked wax?, sweet raisins, old library and furniture like visiting the grandparents, light mint spice shows up after a while along with some chocolate and coffee to balance the heavy fruitiness, feels quite fresh and lively. Continue reading
The Glenlivet Rare Vintage series is one I’ve been keen to taste for years as they had so many old (and expensive) vintages in this series, with even some whiskies from the turn of the 20th century!
And finally I get to taste a vintage from the series, courtesy of G&M and their “The Wood Makes the Whisky” campaign. This time it’s a Glenlivet 1974 vintage which is a vatting of whisky from refill American & refill Sherry casks.
Rare Vintage Smith’s Glenlivet 1974 (43%)
Nose: Relaxed, fresh, dried fruit with sultanas and figs, some eucalyptus, nutty, furniture varnish, getting fragrance & fruit sweetness, sherried by balanced by the american oak, in fact it mat be suggestive but there’s some vanilla note below the surface. What a lovely nose! Continue reading
One more young whisky from G&M in the “The Wood Makes the Whisky” campaign, but this time it’s a whisky from a powerhouse distillery that all but ditched the age statements from their main OB expressions: Macallan.
Luckily, we have independent bottlers to enjoy age labeled Macallans but even those are pretty rare and hard to find, that is, unless you’re Gordon & Macphail. I bet there’s some prior contract that supplies G&M with fresh casks from Macallan and so we can enjoy the Speymat range, from the expensive old to the young and affordable vintages.
As befitting the tone of the last few reviews, It’s a younger in that range that we check today, the Macallan Speymalt 2006 that was bottled in 2015 (17/11/2015 to be precise), making it approximately 9 year old. It was aged in various sherry casks, both 1st fill and refill casks which should give it a nice sherried touch, which is what Macallan built their brand upon.
Macallan Speymalt 2006 (43%, £32.95/€43.75)
Nose: At first sniff it feels even younger than 8 yo Glenrothes from the last review. There is a big malt and cereals mix and some beeswax. The sherry casks are felt at first with light dried fruits coupled with sweet and fresh red berries but then the impact slowly turns into a fruitier impact with some apricots and lemon peels along with the red and dried fruits, Continue reading
While we’re on a roll from last week, let’s check another young and low ABV whisky. Today it’s a 8 year old Glenrothes from Gordon and Macphail, another entree in the “The Wood Makes the Whisky” campaign, that was matured for 8 years in a combo of refill Sherry hogsheads and refill bourbon barrels before bottling back in 2011.
Macphail’s Collection Glenrothes 8 Year Old (43%, £31.95)
Nose: Malty and creamy coconut, vanilla with a touch of honey, oak wood spices, develops some green apples at the background with a surprising briney note and then slowly some weak sherry impact shows up: chocolate, nutmeg and cinnamon. A very gentle nose.
Palate: Spicy and sweet, oak wood spices, a little salt, vanilla, floral/herbal edge, some sweet lemon, chocolate and then walnuts in the background.
Finish: Lingering spiciness and walnuts, soursweet lemon and grapefruits, milk chocolate, short length
Thoughts: Relatively young and not an overly complex whisky (as it usually goes together), but it’s an easy to drink whisky with all those gentle and subtle notes.
Earlier this month, Gordon and Macphail, the Elgin based independent bottlers launched a campaign named ‘The wood makes the whisky’. The campaign focuses on the cask’s contribution to whisky flavor. It’s worth repeating here what I wrote numerous times in the past, that the whisky industry estimates cask’s impact on whisky flavor at 55-80% of the final result, making it the single largest factor (Yeah, I know my math 😉 )
The campaign launches with a a dedicated book and few selected whiskies to demonstrate and showcase G&M experience in matching spirit and cask. The book, written by Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison of World’s Best Spirits, is excellent reading and covers all the aspects of wood and casks relevance to whisky production: from the basics on different oak types (American vs European) and the expected flavors derived from those kinds of oak, cask sizes, previous liquid impact and how is it being managed in the warehouse (although I wish that part would be longer!).
The second part of the book concentrates on matching the distillery character (spirit profile) with the correct casks and the implications of such matches – maturation period, what is supposed to happen during that time, how the distillery character and casks counterbalance one each other until the desired flavor is reached and the whisky is bottled.
Along with the book I received a few samples of some of the selected whiskies for the campaign and today I’ll start with the younger one: 8 year old peated Bunnahabhain in a refill sherry casks.
The book tell us that Bunnahabhain distillery character is neither delicate nor heavy. The refill sherry casks means moderate sherry impact of spices, dried fruit. Let’s check it out then.
Macphail’s Collection Bunnahabhain 8 Year Old (43%, £28.80,€34.90)
Nose: Smoky, salty and fruity. One time cereals and then abundant of cured meat and fruit sweetness. There’s a great balance between the peat smoke and the sherry cask influence. The peat note is well rounded and is kept in check even over time when many young peated drams nose get overtaken by peat smoke. Getting fruitier over time: green melon and dried pears. Continue reading