Islay Duo – Bruichladdich vs Kilchoman

When the weather is wet, cold and miserable, there is nothing like a bit of peat in your whisky to pick you up! While we still have a few more days of summery weather, our last selection of the evening from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar turned to a pair of peaty Islay single casks, bottled by the folks over at Master of Malts:

  • Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%
  • Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

We began with the Bruichladdich….

Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with some maritime sea spray, then the peat subtly surfaced more and more, a lovely herbal sweetness, toffee… then after the initial sip, we were rewarded with sweet maple bacon, sweet grass
  • Palate – Yum! Such delicious peat – Montreal smoked meats, roast pork, tobacco, frankly just very tasty!
  • Finish – Really long lovely smoke 
  • Water? I felt no need to add however one of my tasting companions did and shared how it made the whisky much sweeter

For me, this was a singularly fine specimen from Bruichladdich! We speculated it must come from the “Port Charlotte” line – clear stamp of peat but not amped up like an “Octomore”!

What more do we know? Here is what the folks over at Master of Malt have to say:

A wonderful bottle of Bruichladdich, bottled by yours truly – that’s right, it was bottled by Master of Malt! This 16 year old single malt was distilled on Islay back in July 2002 and filled into a refill sherry hogshead, where it slumbered until January 2019, when we bottled it up at cask strength, with no chill-filtration or additional colouring.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Apple and dried pear, golden syrup over steamed pudding, thick vanilla and toasted almond, then freshly polished wood and light wood smoke.
  • Palate: Toasted barley, brown sugar, vanilla and lemon peels lead. Plenty of earthy spice and oak shavings emerge underneath.
  • Finish: Lasting citrus sweetness and vanilla-y barley.

As on September 2022 it is still available for a whopping Eur 210!


What next? We moved on to the Kilchoman…

Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

  • Nose – Iodine and bandaid adhesive, smoke meats and spice, pastrami and toast
  • Palate– Sweet and peat, some spice, young with the wood element clearly showing through
  • Finish – Warm and lasting

While we couldn’t say for sure, it was clear this had something more than an ex-bourbon cask at work. Was it sherry or something else? Who knew but it added a nice sweetness.

As for the Kilchoman? The folks over at Master of Malt also had something to share:

A single cask bottling of tasty Islay single malt from the Kilchoman distillery, bottled for Drinks by the Dram! This one was matured for 6 years, from July 2012 to August 2018, which included a finishing period in a red wine cask, before being bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Scones, jam and clotted cream – a classic combo. Lasting earthy peat and some tobacco notes later on.
  • Palate: Digestive biscuits, salted butter, raspberry and soft sandalwood hints.
  • Finish: Clove, cinnamon, barley, smoke and oily walnut.

It is now sold out, however, when it was available it was priced at approximately Eur 92.

And there we have it, three pairs of samples explored and enjoyed!

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Going Grainy – Girvan 30 year and Cameronbridge 36 year

Grains are rarely found solo as their main purpose is to round out the more dynamic malts in a blend. However, there has been increasing attention on some grains – including Cameronbridge with its new “Haig” brand.

So we decided to turn our attention to grains and select a pair from our Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar:

  • Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular)
  • Cameronbridge 36 year (1982) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9%

Both are from the Lowlands region in Scotland and we began our exploration with the Girvan…

Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular) 230 bottles

  • Nose – Yikes! Is that glue? The kind of old-style molding glue from childhood, a bio-chemistry lab… a bit of citrus polish, some tannins? Then a curious thing began to happen… after our 1st sip, it opened up, unfurling like a flower from which a joyful honeyed perfume emerged, joined by milk chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, over-ripe fruits – particularly bananas, then more floral and herbal
  • Palate – Wow! Pure honey delight! Then deepens into chocolate, full, rounded with a lovely balance, fruity with resins, ‘sacher torte’, heavy oils, phenomenally creamy, showing its maturity
  • Finish – Lovely finish with more chocolate, sweetly lingers

There was such a surprise with this one – the initial aroma was not at all inspiring but then on the palate? Just fabulous! And when we went back to the nose, it just became more and more interesting and inviting. Even hours later the empty glass was a delight. This was an exceptional grain and we were lucky to have an opportunity to try it. Whilst now sold out, it was once available at Master of malt for Eur 166.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

Distilled in July 1988 at Girvan, this single grain Scotch whisky was aged in a single refill hogshead which yielded 230 bottles. After 30 years this special liquid was bottled at 58.1% ABV in March 2019, for Douglas Laing’s Xtra Old Particular series. Very extra and very old indeed.

Tasting Note by The Producer

  • Nose: The nose brings a vanilla fudge character with milky cereal and rhubarb.
  • Palate: The creamy palate bursts with toffee apples, pineapple chunks in syrup and cinnamon.
  • Finish: The finish is long and warming with polished oak, BBQ’d bananas and runny honey.

We then moved on to our next grain… this time 36 years!

Cameronbridge 36 year (Feb 1982/Nov 2018) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9% 192 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, light and very sweet, a hint of fruit, friendly or sympathetic but then… nothing much more
  • Palate – Very sweet, a bit of roasted barley or biscuits, pleasant but unidimensional, some sweet grapes, apples, or even a grappa-like quality
  • Finish – A bitter edge, a touch of caraway

While it had a promising start, it quickly fell short. After the Girvan, we were expecting, well, more. It is a quite pleasant grain, but misses having something distinguishing or remarkable. We concluded that it simply isn’t a ‘solo act’, singing a single simple melody that is nice and uncomplicated but would probably be more interesting when in harmony with others.

What more do we know? Well, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say when it was for sale for EUR 75 – now sold out:

As part of the His Excellency series, Bartels Whisky have bottled a rather delightful 36 Year Old single grain from Cameronbridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe. It was taken from a single cask, filled in February 1982 and then bottled November 2018. A limited outturn of only 192 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Cereal notes, creamy milk chocolate and fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger spices.
  • Palate: Stewed apples, another helping of spices and digestive biscuits.
  • Finish: Think scones with clotted cream and zingy jam.

Curious about other experiences with these grains? Here are a few previous brushes:

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Getting started – Royal Brackla vs Tamdhu

It felt a bit like putting on ‘training wheels’… getting back into the spirit of tasting spirits with a small selection from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar.

We chose our first ‘double header’ with two single casks from independent bottlers:

  • Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask)
  • Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants)

Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask) 285 bottles

  • Nose – Apple core, pear, loads of orchard fruits, Johannisbeer (red currents) or sour cherries… then it started to evolve from fresh fruits to dry fruits with raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite a shock to the system – hot and quite a punch of alcohol! Then we started to adjust… with the spice comes some of the fruit promises on the nose, however still masked by the cask strength
  • Finish – Nice! A bit bitter, some tobacco leaf with a lovely teasing spice

This was my 1st pick of the evening. In retrospect, we perhaps should have ‘eased’ into tasting with a ‘palate calibrating’ lighter 43 – 46% whisky. However, instead, we plunged into the ‘deep end’ going straight to full cask strength at 60.9%!

This is why we quickly switched to adding a few drops of water – transformative!

  • Nose – So delightfully aromatic! From fruits to toffee, a hint of wood then a green leaf, fresh and fabulous! Then back to fruity desserts with a generous dollop of rich cream
  • Palate – Delicious! So much fuller, bursting with fruits and cream, indulgent and just a wee bit voluptuous, sweeter, brighter

Definitely have this one with water – it opens it up beautifully! With a splash, the whisky revealed its classic character, well constructed with all elements in harmony. We concluded this is a lovely summer dram

What more do we know? It is an ex-bourbon American oak single cask bottle by The Single Cask. I’m not sure if you can still snag a bottle however once upon a time, it was available for  GBP 85 and here is what they have to say:

  • Nose: Fruit and barley springs from your glass, followed by musty oak green ferns dusted with white pepper.
  • Palate: A soothing balm of oak and spice that’s both rich and sweet with rock sugar, green tea and white wine.
  • Finish: A mellow and long finish where that rock sugar and white wine lingers alongside some dusky oak. 

We then shifted gears to something completely different with the Tamdhu.

Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants) 60 bottles

  • Nose – Oh my! Very metallic, stainless steel, wet granite, then quite vegetal, cabbage, then began to open up more – with some sweetness seeming into the mix. Primary notes remained metallic and mineral joined also by light saline… as it continued to air, became chocolaty with salted pralines, some nuts
  • Palate– Quite thick, wood and leather, tobacco leaf, mild sweetness, solid character of chocolaty toffee
  • Finish – Very mild, a hint of bitter
  • Water – DON’T! We found it needs the full cask strength to better show off its character, particularly loses out on the palate with water – just became harsh with spice and little else

What a contrast to the Royal Brackla! While our first was a summer dram, the Tamdhu was pure autumn. We found it very smooth and not at all sharp – deceptive at such a high cask strength. There is also an almost marine quality –  unexpected for a landlocked distillery like Knockando.

Along with it being more of a fall dram, we also thought it better suited to ‘bad weather’ dram – something to enjoy coming in from miserable wet, cool conditions. While not something exceptional, it was a whisky we put in the category of: ‘interesting to try once, not one to run out and buy’.

What more do we know? The folks at Lady of the Glen kindly keep an archive of older bottles here and have this to say:

This single malt whisky was distilled on the 24th of September 2007 and bottled on the 10th of April 2019. 50 litres were taken from Bourbon Hogshead cask #6833 to be finished in an intense Pedro Ximenez sherry octave #6833A for 3 months. This is the second and final batch of this particular release. A unique whisky, as only 60 bottles were yielded from this octave.

Our Pedro Ximenez octaves are sourced from a family-owned bodgega near Porto in Portugal. Pedro Ximenez is a very intense sweet, dark sherry. Octaves are small 50 litre oak casks that provide great levels of oak to spirit contact.

On the palate, expect flavours of hazelnut, dark toffee and butterscotch.

What an interesting start to our tasting evening. We took a break for a terrific dinner at Estragon… and returned to check out two pairs of grains and Islay drams.

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Bonus Glentauchers 2005 43%

Ding dong! Delivery time! This time a trio of Chorlton’s from the Netherland’s Whisky.base… as I unpacked the box, this little mini came tumbling out…

Now a bonus miniature is a kind gesture… however when it is from the fabulously reliable Gordon & Macphail indie bottler and just so happens to be a distillery – Glentauchers – that tends to produce balanced, lightly fruity drams in a “classic” Speyside style…. well this is indeed a welcome gift!

What exactly did they send?

Glentauchers 13/14 year (2005 / 13 Mar 2019) 43% (Gordon & Macphail)

  • Colour – Pale straw
  • Nose – Syrupy, fruity, a bit of caramel, vanilla… then it opened into a fruit basket – ripe pears, a hint of fresh mint, a squirt of citrus
  • Palate – Hmmm….. kumquats, then is that a hint of smoke? It has a nice bitter quality, woodsy spice, and oily, with some of the fruits on the nose adding just a dash of sweetness on the palate
  • Finish – Dry, a bit bitter, more of that curious smoke, surprisingly has a mineral element too

Overall it was a pleasant dram – my description doesn’t really do it justice – in part as I’m still a bit hampered by the post-COVID impact on my sense of smell.

This 2005 Glentauchers was quite reasonably priced at Eur 62.50 – at least here in Europe.

Curious about other brushes with Glentauchers? Check out a few of our tasting experiences over the years:

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Chorlton’s marvelous Mannochmore 13 years 59%

There we were, one fine summer evening… back from a day of catching great music at Nurnberg’s Bardentreffen festival. As the sun set, it was still clearly a gin & tonic kind of evening… however as my companions are also fellow whisky aficionados we simply could not call it a night without a wee nip! Nicely poised on the “top shelf’, this beautiful Mannochmore beckoned… simply too enticing to resist.

This is the 2nd Mannochmore I’ve tried from the Chorlton La Nouvelle Vague series. I missed being able to purchase it when first released in the UK and was exceedingly thankful a few eventually made their way to The Netherland’s Whisky.Base, enabling me to have it directly to Deutschland.

As for the whisky…. read on…

Mannochmore 13 year 59% 162 bottles

  • Nose – Mmmmm fruits! pears, plums shifting into dried fruit… like trail mix with coconut flakes, raisins, nuts and more… then shifted further into banoffee, vanilla, creamy… then a tropical delight with pineapple, caramel, raisins – think a rich pineapple upside down cake… further evolved into lemon curd, waxy, shortbread, honey sweetness… with a hint of amaretto…
  • Palate – Oh my! Very clear its higher proof, intense and flavourful with a nice spice kick, think banana bread that is generous with nuts, toffee
  • Finish – The slightly bitter nutty element carries through – almond or roasted hazelnuts – or perhaps something more like chikki – a kind of Indian peanut brittle

I expected another delightful summery dram… it delivered that and more! It is one of those fruity sunshine whiskies… however, at full cask strength, it is intense and powerful on the palate. But wow! That nose – so delicious and intoxicating! Just makes you come back over and over and over for a blissful whiff!

Curious, we added a few drops of water…. on the nose it simply made it sweeter and fruitier with a citrus twist – made me think of lemon meringue pie. While on the palate, it smoothed out the intensity while retaining the voluptuous fruity element chased by sweet spices. And with that yummy sweet and salty nutty finish? Put simply, this is a summer dram that invites you to simply slow down, savor and enjoy.

Above all – that nose! Better than perfume… even after the last sip, the aromas in the glass were so sweetly fragrant. Such a treat!

What did David have to say? Here is what he shared in his release email:

So, the first new bottling is this 13-year-old Mannochmore. The cask yield for this was a bit of a disaster (about 100 fewer bottles than I’d expected, probably due to a slow undetected leak…).

On the nose: lemon syrup, limoncello, lemongrass (there’s a theme emerging!) plus orange barley sugar and a little honey. I also find some spearmint chews, and a touch of minerality and something a little bit beery (or maybe pet nat yeastiness for the hipster crowd!).

The palate has a rich, almost syrupy/waxy texture, with tons of clean, sweet lemon, menthol, and balanced by some butterscotch and millionaire’s shortbread. The finish is clean, citrussy (surprise!), slightly salty and honeyed. I wrote “awesome” in my tasting notes which is not something I am typically wont to do.

This is an impeccable whisky for the spring/summer. Wonderfully textured spirit given a good dollop of sweetness from an active cask. I think we’ll all be talking more about Mannochmore in the future.

I purchased it in June 2022 from Whisky.base for EUR 96 plus shipping. (originally £78.50).

Here are a few more from La Nouvelle Vague series:

Here is the full set of Chorlton‘s sampled til date from the L’Ancien Régime series:

With more coming up soon (I hope!)….

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Arran Barrel Reserve 43% – Delicious ‘daily dram’ under Eur 30!

Otherwise known as the evening that proved sometimes the cheapest dram is the best!

The same evening I finally opened a much anticipated but somewhat disappointing Glenburgie 8 year, I also brought out a few Arran bottles…

Whilst there was nothing intrinsically WRONG with the Amarone, it didn’t live up to an earlier edition which was absolutely entrancing! Whereas the Port cask finish held its own. That shared, the real star of the evening was the Barrel Reserve!

Arran Barrel Reserve 43% (EUR 28)

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Happy fruits – starts with apple sauce, then shifts into a fragrant apple orchard on a warm summer’s day! Chased by light floral apple or cherry blossoms, then vanilla and a hint of brown sugar spice shifting into salted caramel, candied apple
  • Palate – More substance than the nose alone would indicate, now we have apple crisp, spice and a bit of wood, some salted peanuts
  • Finish – Carries through, lightly bitter but in a good way, more of that vanilla and even a bit of toasty salted peanuts mixed with the light zing at the close….

This is simply one very enjoyable dram! No fuss, no muss, just easy-drinking pleasure. It is exactly as described by the folks at Arran – fresh, light, and elegant. And above all, an excellent reminder that one doesn’t always have to spend a crazy amount of money to buy a decent drink!

I’ve returned to this as a ‘daily dram’ (though naturally, I don’t actually drink daily!), meaning the favoured “go to” whisky. It consistently rewards and I must admit, I may just order another bottle while it can be found at these prices! Bravo Arran for a solid whisky that just hits the spot!

What do the folks at Arran have to say?

Bottled at 43%, the Barrel Reserve emphasizes the delicious, sweet fruit notes which are the hallmark of our distillery. A fantastic discovery!

The brand new Barrel Reserve is a fresh, light and elegant no-age-statement Single Malt Single Barrel Scotch Whisky. It is 100% matured in Bourbon Barrels and is going to become your go-to dram for every occasion – to be served neat, with ice or in a longer drink or cocktail.

  • Nose – Delicate apples and pears
  • Palate – Beautifully balanced citrus fruit and light vanilla sweetness with a burst of apple and delicate marine notes.
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Charred Oak, Citrus, Vanilla

Early 2020, we came together to enjoy an Arran Vertical – 14 year 46%18 year 46%23 year (1996/2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6%.

A year later, we explored the Arran Cask Finishes with Sauternes 50%, Amarone 50%, Port 50%, “The Bodega” Sherry Cask 55.8%.

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When anticipation and experience differ – Glenburgie 8 year 46%

You know when you are highly anticipating a treat? And then the experience falls short?

I’ve been partial to Glenburgie, appreciating the classic quality, the pears, yum! Like many distilleries making whisky primarily for blends, you can primarily find it from independent bottlers – particularly Gordon & Macphail.

So when I spotted this young Glenburgie in Edinburgh from Hunter Laing Hepburn’s Choice in August 2020, it was an easy decision to pick up this 200ml bottle – even if it was rather pricey. I wasn’t worried 8 years would be too young, reinforced by the most enjoyable TBWC 8 year! Then it sat quietly for a couple years.

Fast forward to May 2022 with visits from a few fellow whisky aficionados and it seemed the right moment. So out came this wee bottle, ready to be explored!

It took very little time to determine this was quite different from what I’d thought to find…

Glenburgie 8 year (2007) 46% (Hepburn’s Choice)

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Freshly opened it had an almost rubber element, almost like cod liver oil, sour, apple mash, young, hay or straw, cardamon….
  • Palate – Initially a bit rough… Then became a bit nutty – mostly hazelnuts, curious, waxy, a bit of a burn, but was growing on us

Not the elegant sophisticated Glenburgies I’ve come to expect… If anything, it reminded me a bit of Talisker…

Until we added water… what a difference!

At 46%, it was a bit harsh and imbalanced. Nothing like previous whiskies from Glenburgie. With water, I could finally find some elements I’d come to associate with the distillery, yet still quite different too.

  • Nose – Watermelon, cherries, raspberry, fruity, scones, honey
  • Palate – Don’t laugh – it reminds me a bit of creamed corn! Mellower and malty

I could see it working well with others but as a single cask on its own? Didn’t even come close to meeting expectations though with water was quite a decent dram.

So what about these earlier experiences with Glenburgie I keep mentioning? Well here are a few:

I still have 2 more Glenburgie bottles ready for another opportunity!

  • 14 year (2004/2019) 43% (G&MP Discovery)
  • 21 year 43% (G&M)

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Additionally, there are two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Chorlton’s Orkney 22 year (1999/2022) 53.4%

These days trying to acquire one of the beautiful bottles from Chorlton‘s  La Nouvelle Vague series requires lightning speed! If you miss the email for even an hour you very well may be out of luck!

When I scored this bottle in Feb 2022, I suspected it would be many months, perhaps even years before I would find the right opportunity to open it! First was getting it from London to Mumbai – which happened in March 2022. Then I needed to join from Nurnberg to Mumbai – also happened by April 2022. And most importantly, finding the right occasion? And that’s when India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula mentioned he would be in town, together with two founders of SMAC India. I also knew once opened, an additional tasting session could follow where this could be shared as a “bonus”! Including the very person who kindly let me use his London address and brought the bottle to India!

So what did we think?

Orkney 22 year (9 June 1999 – February  2022) bourbon hogshead 53.4% (311 bottles)

  • Nose – Subtle and mellow at first, salt spray from the seashore, lovely herbal notes, then started to reveal butterscotch and gingerbread, fruit strudel – perhaps apricot? Then pears and melons, then tart slightly sour stewed apples. Then sweet varnish.  A nice earthy element kept the desert qualities in check – sweet but not overly so!
  • Palate – Wonderful! Buttery brandy. Salted old-fashioned black licorice, a hint of tobacco. Such a fabulous mouthfeel – tempts you to just keep rolling it around, enjoying its marvelous viscosity, a marvelous mix – from herbal to lightly fruity to smoke and pepper – all beautifully balanced and creamy
  • Finish – Rewarding, dry, bitter cinnamon bark, more of that enchanting herbal element… only complaint is that it dissipates too quickly leaving only a faint impression
  • Water – Necessary? No however also lovely with! Makes it sweeter, black peppercorn pops out, cloves and still nice and buttery

Take your time with this one… the more time you give it, the more it gives you! I was so happy to revisit it a few days later in a leisurely long evening over excellent cheese, fresh bread, and conversation.

Simply put – what an utterly lovely dram. If you blind tasted it, I strongly suspect Highland Park would NOT be the obvious option.

What did David have to say in his email?

Also available is a new 22-year-old Orkney. H*ghl*nd P*rk produces a consistently excellent distillate, but I always think these late-1990s vintages have a special something about them.

So, the nose starts on soft notes of lemony wax, honey and orange, with a wee clean herbal backing (eucalyptus, spearmint, lime leaves) and then really opens up the longer it breathes. There’s something fruity and lightly medicinal happening (think cherry lozenges), banana Nesquik powder (my secret shame), sea air and a thin thread of bonfire smoke. Adding water is transformative: tangerine Altoids, spearmint chews, angelica, sea water and heather.

The palate is rich, resinous and honeyed in texture. I get malt extract, lemons & limes & salt, plus a peppery peatiness that almost has a gentle Talisker feel. I also find seafood with salty-buttered brown bread, herbal liqueur and cough syrup. The finish is really long, with dried herbs, sweet citrus, and lingering smoke. Water again opens things up in a herbal direction: crushed mint leaves, lemon tea, pine needles and salty orangey honey.

This bourbon hogshead produced 311 bottles at 53.4% for £135 plus tax and courier charges.

Here are more from La Nouvelle Vague series:

  • Mannochmore 12 year 58.7% – A delicious fruit basket!
  • Orkney 15 year 57.1%Absolutely gorgeous dram
  • Croftnegea 13 year 53.9%Enchanting!
  • Ledaig 12 year 55.5%, Speyside (Glenrothes) 13 year 64.6% – Waiting in Paris
  • Glen Elgin 12 year (21 April 2009 / summer 2021) refill hogshead 56.6%,  Tormore 28 year (16 Nov 1992 / summer 2021)refill hogshead 42.4%, Bunnahabhain 18 year (28 Feb 2002 / Dec 2021) sherry butt 53.4% – Waiting in London

Here are the Chorltons we’ve sampled from the L’Ancien Régime series:

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Blends of yore – Hedges + Butler 21 year 43%

Without a doubt, this blend made our evening “remarkable“! It also prompted our meeting as I had brought it back from Germany where Krishna Nakula – India’s Malt Maniac – had bought it at an auction nearly two years earlier. As he just so happened to be in Mumbai for an event, we naturally had to catch up for a dram or two! Very generously, he chose to open this particular piece of history… Lucky us!

So what did we think?

Hedges & Butler Royal Scotch Whisky 21 year (1950/60s – 1970/80s) 43%

  • Nose – Rich and robust, think German cherry liqueur or a single rum, dark fruits – particularly plums, earthy and bursting with character, buttery milk chocolate with a heavy fruit liqueur
  • Palate – It has a velvety silky smoothness, well rounded and balanced, waxy with some mineral and tobacco, luscious juicy fruits and berries, a hint of spice and wood at the back, chased by bitters
  • Finish – Long and lingering with a hint of sweet spices

Superb and simply delicious! This blend provided clear evidence that they don’t make them like they used to! Very different – incredibly complex, rich, rewarding… a big full whisky. The nose and palate are outstanding… and very memorable. Lucky, lucky us to have an opportunity to try something like this!

It is hard to find too much in the way of exact details however based on the label and auctions, it is likely from the 1960s / bottled in the 1980s. The auction price was around EUR 88 however with taxes and shipping, came to EUR 105. I thought it quite reasonable, however Krishna shared such bottles earlier were selling for significantly less. As more and more people are now discovering that these mere ‘blends’ are in fact hidden treasures from a time when the BEST malt went into a blend, the price is also rising.

Hedges & Butler (aka H&B) is a brand of blends part of the Ian McLeod group. They trace their history as a wine and spirits producer back to 1667, relocating in 1819 to Regent Street, supplying the coronation banquet of King George IV with wine, port, and champagne. Their relationship with whisky began in the 1830s with blended Scotch whiskies – gaining their 1st of several “Royal Warrants” by King George IV, followed by Queen Victoria, then eleven different Monarch’s.

Fast forward to the 1960s, H&B was acquired by The Bass Charrington Group, then from 1998 the brand name has been owned by Ian Macleod Distillers.

Today you can still find H&B with a no age statement and 12-year version.

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Getting started with Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%

There we were – one hot sweaty April evening in Mumbai – about to kick off a tasting with a random yet remarkable range of whiskies. Just like with fine dining, it helps to have an “amuse-bouche” to whet the appetite, so we needed a whisky to ease into our evening.

I considered a few options before settling on the Arran no age statement – Lochranza Reserve. Launched in 2014, it was intended to be part of the core range as the ‘entry’ dram replacing the Arran Original, easily accessible – in terms of flavour profile, price, and availability in travel retail. Today in 2022? It has joined the Limited Edition section with just a few bottles remaining… though if purchased in the UK it is still quite reasonable – at a mere £25.

So what did we think?

Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%  

  • Nose – Hmmm… after a slightly musty start, becomes a clean, classic whisky with green apples, dry leaves and toasted oats, dry desiccated coconut, citrus, a hint of honey… also a herbal element – rosemary or thyme? Or a touch of cardamon?
  • Palate – A light spice, slightly salty and initially a bit astringent, it then shifted into more of that citrus joined by crunchy tart green apples, oak, and a dash of cream, nicely coats your tongue
  • Finish – Pink peppercorns, slightly bitter, chased by bourbon vanilla
  • Water – One would think with such a low ABV there is no need… however a splash of cool water brings out the orchard fruits and citrus after the initial spice hit settles down

Whilst the nose had a honey sweetness on the palate it deepened into a creamy caramel toffee and milk chocolate, smooth and straightforward. We weren’t expecting anything complex, however, I will admit that I had anticipated something a bit lighter. Even still, this hit the spot as a teaser of tastings to come!

What do the folks at Arran have to say about their Lochranza Reserve?

Our Lochranza Reserve is back for a short time only as the very last bottles of this edition.

This light, fresh and fruity Single Malt is bottled at 43% and is delicious on its own, with a splash of water or a bit of ice.  It is the perfect Single Malt for mixing and is a marriage of both Sherry and Bourbon matured casks.

Official distillery tasting notes:

  • Nose – Vanilla and lemon
  • Palate – Fresh Island notes. A touch of salt and sweetness
  • Finish – Citrus. Vanilla. Salty.

What else have we tried from Arran? Rather a lot as this distillery has become a clear favourite with a few of us:

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