Paris Whisky Live – Mortlach 16 year

Next in our Paris Whisky Live wanderings was a brief brush with Mortlach… There were other whiskies on offer however ours was a brief “pitstop” before continuing on to other explorations…

Mortlach 16 year 43.4%

  • Nose – Heavy sherry, plums, Christmas cake drenched in whisky, robust
  • Palate – Rich and intense, more plums, raisins, heavy sherry, sweet spices
  • Finish – A long strong finish
  • Water – More balanced and a bit creamy

We found this was a “turbo-charged” sherry bomb. Nothing subtle or nuanced about this one!

As for other experiences with Mortlach? Read on…

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Paris Whisky Live – Craigellachie 13 and 31 year

Several whisky stands at Paris Whisky Live had special drams they made available with some fan fair! Such was the case with Craigellachie which had at a certain time one bottle of Craigellachie 31 year available to taste. Who could resist?

Of course, before going straight to the “rare stuff”, we chose to “warm up” with the Craigellachie 13…

Craigellachie 13 year 46% (approx Eur 61)

  • Nose – Tropical fruits – especially pineapples, some savoury sweet ham, sweet spices
  • Palate – Loads of character! Full-flaoured with both sweet fruits and tangy
  • Finish – Deeper and meatier than expected

At first, I thought – what a classic styled Speyside! And then realised this was far from the case as this Craigellachie was robust and savoury.

What do the Craigellachie folks have to say about their 13 year?

Craigellachie 13 Year Old evokes Bonfire Night: aromas of oozing toasted marshmallows, fire-roasted pineapples and baked apples studded with cloves, with the tang of cordite lingering in the background.

It was initially matured in a mix of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, then the blend was split to be finished with half in 1st fill Sherry casks and the balance in 1st fill Bourbon casks.

Craigellachie 31 year 52.2% (approx Eur 2,330)

  • Nose – Loads of honey, some oak, fruity and sweet
  • Palate – Juicy warm peaches, some “top” spice, hot chocolate though a touch imbalanced – a bit “too much” of the different elements
  • Finish – Follows through with fruits, spice, and more sweetness
  • Water – Some lovely herbal quality came to the fore, and rounded out the palate nicely too!

It was like being enveloped in a warm wool sweater or blanket. At cask strength it is remarkable… with water it is beautiful. Well worth trying if you have a chance – though it is with a rather steep price tag!

When introduced, there was mention of a combination of both first fill and refill casks…  I think it was also, like the 13 year a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry however don’t quote me on this! 🙂

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Paris Whisky Live – Royal Brackla 12, 18, 21 year

After checking out the GlennAllachie range at Paris Whisky Live, we moved on to Royal Brackla. Overall we’ve had “happy” experiences with whiskies from this distillery. I was particularly pleased to see the range on offer was all at 46% – typically considered the “connoisseurs” strength as fro most whiskies it provides a nice “feel” for the whisky character without being “watered down” too much!

So what did we think of this trio of Royal Brackla 12, 18, and 21 year vintages?

Royal Brackla 12 year Oloroso 46% (approx Eur 67)

  • Nose – Fresh, with some citrus acidity, sherry Christmasy notes, a bit buttery
  • Palate – Full, fruity, some cherries or raisins
  • Finish – Honey followed by hay

I will admit I had fewer notes for this one than the balance… however I think checked the official tasting notes and would overall concur:

The full bodied spice of Oloroso and the bright summer breeze of Royal Brackla elegantly combine as a smooth and inviting dram – ripe peaches, black cherries, chocolate covered almonds and muscovado sugar.

Royal Brackla 18 year Palo Cortado 46% (approx Eur 148)

  • Nose – Started off a bit salty and spicy, dare I say like a nice aged cheddar, it was initially shy to reveal further notes but when it did – lovely!
  • Palate – Soft, delicious, juicy peaches, wonderful balance
  • Finish – Really quite fabulous – creamy, tangy, and lightly bitter with spice

Overall this was a luscious juicy indulgence – I didn’t note any cocoa powder however it was a mere “sniff and swish” as happens in such settings…

And where is the cocoa? Why in the official tasting notes:

Rich spices, creamy vanilla, big, succulent soft fruits and cocoa powder, brightened with a zing of citrus.

Royal Brackla 21 year Oloroso, Palo Cortado, PX 46% (approx Eur 250)

  • Nose – Caramel, toffee, rich vanilla ice cream, berries
  • Palate – Victoria sponge cake with jammy creamy icing and cake layers
  • Finish – Gorgeous! Long, strong, sherry

Overall we found this simply beautiful! A special treat… certainly not something for every day but a very special occasion.

As for the official tasting note? Would we agree? Most certainly!

Syrupy toffee notes, with richly fragrant summer berries warmed by the sun and dusted in cinnamon and muscovado sugar.

Curious about other Royal Brackla expressions? Check out:

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Paris Whisky Live – GlenAllachie 8 and 10 year

After being blown away by the offerings at the Gordon & MacPhail booth – both discovery & Connoisseurs Choice – we needed a wee “bread, butter & cheese” break at Paris Whisky Live. Apparently, this is a “must” to serve booze – something to soak up a bit of the alcohol. Naturally, as this was Paris everything was insanely delicious!

Fortified and ready to head back into the fray, I thought what better way to continue than GlenAllachie! Why? Aside from their producing some damn fine drams, it was also the “lure’ of briefly catching up with Juliette Buchan – who I had first met in Singapore at Whisky Live when she was with Gordon & Macphail see? Fitting.

We last met in person at Nurnberg’s The Village Whisky festival in early 2020 before everything locked down. It was such a contrast from the usual male-dominated whisky experiences to join the fabulous Sharing Angels – a diverse group of dram dames that meet up at various whisky events around Germany!

After that, things were rather quiet so I was thrilled to catch a virtual tasting of GlenAlachie whiskies with Juliette & Richard in Dec 2021 and promptly acquired a quartet which are patiently waiting for the right tasting opportunity.

On offer in Paris was a rather nice quartet:

  • GlenAllachie 8 year 46% (approx Eur 47)
  • GlenAllachie 10 year Batch 7, 56.8% (approx Eur 58)
  • GlenAllachie 12 year 46%GlenAllachie 15 year 46% – Both of which I skipped as had sampled in the virtual tasting plus have closed bottles waiting at home in Deutschland

At Juliette’s suggestion, I went straight to the 10-year cask strength which she shared was first matured in Virgin Oak before being finished in red wine casks.

  • Colour – So deep, it veered on walnut wood!
  • Nose – Forest feeling, leafy, nutty, honey-sweet, heavy dry fruits
  • Palate – Rich chocolate, flavourful, juicy, ginger – yum!
  • Finish – Sweet finish
  • Water – Opens up beautifully – fab!

There was no ignoring this dram! Full-bodied, and bursting with flavour, it was a concentrated dose of yummy goodness.

I then moved on to the 8 year which was matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry puncheons along with a small quantity of Virgin Oak casks and red wine barriques:

  • Colour – Dark bronze
  • Nose – Punchier than the 10 year, however also fresh, fruity, young and lighter
  • Palate – Soft at first then builds – think of creamy butterscotch ice cream with flecks of nuts and candied ginger
  • Finish – Here is where the sherry and wine influence is most pronounced

This one is deceptive. Particularly after the powerful 10 year cask strength, you might be tempted to consider it too “light”, however, it clearly holds its own. Great to have a chance to try it!

Curious about other GlenAllachie tasting experiences? Check out:

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Gordon + Macphail Connoisseurs Choice – Glendullan, Glenburgie, Caol Ila

We continued our whisky explorations at the Gordon & Macphail stand at Paris Whisky Live, switching gears from their DIscover to Connoisseur Choice range with:

  • Glendullan 12 year (2009 / 2022) 45% (approx Eur 100)
  • Glenburgie 26 year (1995/2022) 1st fill Sherry Puncheon #6349, 56.8% (approx Eur 250)
  • Caol Ila 25 year (1996/2022) 1st fill Sherry Butt #16074, 59.2% (approx Eur 350)

Glendullan 12 year (2009 / 2022) 45% 3245 Bottles.

  • Nose – A burst of berries – sweet and inviting
  • Palate – Strong berry flavours – mostly raspberries with some cassis
  • Finish – Nice sweet and sour cherry plus berry finish

What more do we know? The bottle states that this whisky had its initial maturation in a refilled bourbon barrel, finished in Cote Rotie cask for 3 years. It must be the red wine that brought such distinctive berry flavours to the fore – my tasting notes are merely variations on a berry theme! Their official tasting notes share a bit more with:

Dried strawberry aromas give way to roasted peanuts and crystallised violet. Rasperry compote flavours combine with liquorice and red apple. A medium-bodied finish with citrus and red berries.

Glenburgie 26 year (1995/2022) 1st fill Sherry Puncheon # 6349, 56.8% 564 Bottles.

  • Nose – Beautiful elegant pear, lovely sherry elements, some marmalade
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Lovely balanced palate, complex, nuanced, fruity, yet at the same time “heavy” and nutty
  • Finish – Again – stunning! Full fruit flavours, long, strong with hint of spice

I’m already partial to this Speyside distillery – with Glenburgie fixed in my mind as the “Downton Abbey” of whiskies – something that harkens back to an earlier era, still with some character and spunk but overlaid with a summery elegance. Everything that I love about Glenburgie was evident here – its age merely augmenting all the elements I’ve grown to love.

What more do we know? The label indicates this was a single cask 1st fill Sherry Puncheon – clearly responsible for the full flavours found in this impressive whisky. Their official tasting notes state:

Sweet raisin aromas combine with orange peel and fruitcake. Sultana flavours emerge alongside pepper and toasted hazelnuts. A full finish with spice.

Caol Ila 25 year (1996/2022) 1st fill Sherry Butt #16074, 59.2% 555 bottles

  • Nose – Cured meat, bacon, bonfire, sweet, heavy maple
  • Palate – A proper “campfire” dram – all those meaty aromas and sweet maple combine
  • Finish – An incredibly sweet peat feat! Some chilli chased by sweet cinnamon
  • Water – Whilst I only had a small sample, I added a drop. Wow! Brings such balance to every element – fabulous!

I was careful in my tasting order – sampling all the non-peated whiskies before turning first to the Discovery Range Caol Ila then this Connoisseurs Choice single cask. It made for a nice progression with this 25 year old being absolutely spectacular. Well worth sampling if you have the chance.

The official tasting notes are a great reflection of what to expect:

Raspberry compote aromas give way to festive spices and smoke. Cured meat flavours complement summer fruit and orange peel. A full finish with black pepper and bonfire embers.

Well done Gordon & Macphail with all three! None of the Connoisseurs Choice expressions disappointed and I appreciated that they kept two vintage single casks for the “main floor”, not just featuring such rare whiskies in the VIP section.

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Paris Whisky Live – Gordon + Macphail Discovery Tomatin, Miltonduff+ Caol Ila

In early 2021, I decided to start acquiring some bottles for future tasting sessions and thought it was past time to pick up a few of Gordon & Macphail’s Discovery range of affordable “entry” drams. I picked a Glenrothes & Miltonduff. They have waited patiently in Germany for the right opportunity – either to taste with others there or bring home to India.

However, naturally, I’ve been rather curious and so was happy to have a chance to try one of them at Paris Whisky Live! On my 2nd day, we whetted our tasting appetite with a few French drams then made our way to the Gordon & Macphail stand and kicked off our explorations with this trio…

As shared with the London Whisky Show, the Discovery line was created for a place to begin your discovery of whisky at a reasonable price point, with colour-coded expressions to help guide the approach… In Paris we tried:

  • Green for ex-bourbon casks – Tomatin (2009/2021) 43% (approx Eur 44)
  • Purple for ex-sherry casks – Miltonduff 10 year 43% (approx Eur 55)
  • Grey/off-white for smokey/peaty – Caol Ila 13 year 43% (approx Eur 55)

We followed the suggested order: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and then peaty….

Tomatin (2009/2021) 43%

  • Nose – Light and classic ex-bourbon style, fresh green apple, pears, vanilla cream
  • Palate – Keeps on the same light, fruity and happy vein, oaky, more vanilla
  • Finish – Gentle – fruity, floral, honey

A rather nice example of ex-bourbon…. call it a perfect aperitif.

What about the sherry expression? We sampled the Miltonduff 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Fruity, orange, woodsy, citrus
  • Palate – Medium-bodied, tasty buttery caramel, marmalade, cinnamon
  • Finish – More of that yummy marmalade

A nice Speyside and I will very much enjoy revisiting it and discovering more when eventually the Gordon & Macphail Discovery range is opened up at home!

Curious to know more? Check out what Gordon & Macphail have to say here.

As for the peaty, they chose a classic Caol Ila 13 year 43%:

  • Nose – Fab peat, banana, sweet grass, maple bacon, cured sweetmeats
  • Palate – Soft, completely peaty, fruity
  • Finish – Long sweet and smoky

Now, this is a “proper” Caol Ila – what fun! You can also find out more about this expression from Gordon & Macphail’s whisky archive here.

What a nice way to whet our appetite for Gordon & Macphail’s Connoisseurs Choice range – which was our next stop!

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Darkness Sherry – Mortlach, Blair Athol, Cambus

At Paris Whisky Live 2022, the VIP section had an area dedicated to Atom Brands – best known for That Boutique-y Whisky Company which was celebrating its 10th anniversary! However, they also featured their Darkness range of intensely sherried whiskies.

Is it OK if I confess to being a bit confused about their new “Darkness” range? After all, That Boutique-y already has their well-known Whiskies, Gin, and now also rum… so why not build a twist on this? Nope! True to form, they don’t do the predictable.. instead created a completely new brand for intensely sherry whiskies – both limited edition vintage and then another line which are matured for only 8 years.

As they explain, their approach for their Limited Editions is:

Finished in Octave Casks that may have held any type of sherry wine, our Head of Whisky explores specific finishes (Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel or Manzanilla) chosen for their ability to enhance individual distillery characteristics.

These are unrepeatable releases that have each undertaken Darkness’ signature liquid transformation in tiny octave sherry casks.

As always, what matters most is what is in the glass! On offer in Paris was:

  • Mortlach 20 year 49% (Darkness) EUR 171 for 500ml
  • Blair Athol 18 year 49.4% (Darkness) EUR 105 for 500ml
  • Cambus 29 year 45.7% (Darkness) EUR 145 for 500ml

As it was just a sniff and swish, please forgive the light impressions… however enough to hope there will be future opportunities to explore further!

So… where did I begin? With the Mortlach naturally!

Mortlach 20 year 49%

  • Nose – A burst of flavours! Loads of sweet dry fruits, chocolate
  • Palate – Amazingly rich. Gorgeous and delicious – nothing shy about this Mortlach!
  • Finish – Resinous and rewarding, mocha

If this Mortlach was any indication, calling this an “intense” range was spot on! Stunning and well worth exploring. A mighty and most enjoyable Mortlach malt.

I then moved on to the Blair Athol….

Blair Athol 18 year 49.4%

  • Nose – Oh my! Also quite the sherry bomb! Strong sherry elements – dark fruits, nutty
  • Palate – Yum! Superb. Figs and nuts, like an indulgent chocolate bar
  • Finish – Fruity, caramel

A clear stamp of Olorosso sherry! And frankly, simply delicious.

And last but certainly not least, an aged grain from the closed Cambus distillery.

Cambus 29 year 45.7%

  • Nose – Initially quite shy, then opened up to a lovely fruit basket
  • Palate – Complex, creamy, subtly sweet
  • Finish – Soft finish

After the incredibly robust Mortlach and Blair Athol, it was quite a shift to this Cambus. However, once my senses adjusted to something softer and gentler, could appreciate the lovely nuanced character.

What an interesting trio! Whilst I miss the fun That Boutique-y Whisky Company labels can appreciate the quality of the liquid in the Darkness bottles!

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Paris Whisky Live 2022 – Valinch + Mallet

What fun! Another independent bottler! This time via friends from Italy – Davide Romano and Fabio Ermoli – who founded Valinch & Mallet in 2015. I was tipped off that these guys were a “must-visit” at Paris Whisky Live 2022‘s VIP section… and while I only sampled two whiskies would certainly take more time to explore more the next opportunity!

I asked Fabio for guidance – something classic and unpeated…. he immediately knew to direct my attention to the Linkwood and Knockdu / anCnoc. What did I find with a light sniff and swish?

Linkwood 11 year (2010/2022) Sherry Cask #134 53.4% (Valinch + Mallet) 550 Bottles

  • Colour – Glowing amber
  • Nose – Remarkably heavy nose, wood
  • Palate – Burst of flowers, then juicy fruits, heavy and spicy hot
  • Finish – Sweet and sustained

This was no light, sprightly stroll in the park, it was a full-flavoured fruity, floral frolic in a hot summer garden. Nothing shy or subdued, just sheer summery exuberance bursting from the glass.

Knockdhu 9 year (2012/2022) 52.6% Bourbon Hogshead Cask #71537 (Valinch + Mallet) 376 Bottles

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Very fruit-forward, light, honey sweet
  • Palate – Fruity and fab! Balanced
  • Finish – Lovely and lingering

While young, it was fruity and joyful, a great reminder of how much I have enjoyed anCnoc whiskies over the years.

I enjoyed my wee sample and think it is well worth keeping an eye on these folks!

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LMdW Artist Series #12 – The glorious Glenrothes 25+ year

Glenrothes 25+ year (1995/2022) 1st Fill Sherry Cask No 6983 55.5% (LMdW Artist Collection #12) 448 Bottles. Eur 795

  • Nose – Delicious older fruits, rich dried figs – a clear full sherry, chased by chocolate and red currents
  • Palate – Heavy, mature, tobacco, slightly imbalanced
  • Finish – Resinous

This was a heavy, dark, rich dram… at approx 27 years, it packed a punch. With a simple sniff and swish, I wouldn’t even presume to have captured all the facets of this whisky so, instead, turn your attention to what the folks at LMdW have to say (courtesy of how Google translate)….

  • Nose : Rich, unctuous. With a pure classicism and radiant beauty, the initial nose reveals notes of dried fruit (date, fig), chocolate, black liquorice and camphor. Allowed to breathe, orange zest, heady flowers (lily, iris), caramel and sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger) form an olfactory sequence of great depth. As a highlight, red fruits (strawberry, raspberry) nuance the aromatic palette with their scarlet tones.
  • Appearance : Orange copper
  • Mouth : Rich, very balanced. Marked by a very nice apricot and roasted rancio (coffee), the attack in the mouth is very much like malted barley. Gourmet (porridge, coffee éclair), the mid-palate invites you to revel in juicy white peaches. The slightly rough skin of these peaches brings a lot of smoothness to the taste palette. Radiant and mature, on the chromatic level, the end of the mouth has taken on very beautiful brown hues (tobacco, carpet of dry leaves).
  • Overall : Long, finely tannic. At the start of the finish, flavors of currants go perfectly with malted barley grains. Juicy (squeezed orange) and at the same time caramelised, the aftertaste lingers on with notes of curry and grated ginger. Finely woody, the retro-nasal olfaction also reveals a subtle fruitiness (wild strawberry). The empty glass is empyreumatic (burning cigar), cocoa and floral (hyacinth, peony).

What an interesting experience however I had no idea this Glenrothes was retailing for Eur 800 – yikes!

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LMdW Artist Series #12 – The intense Benrinnes 10+ year 58.1%

Benrinnes over 10 year (2011/2022) 1st Fill Sherry Cask No 307205 58.1% (LMdW Artist Collection #12) 660 Bottles EUR 198

  • Nose – Heavy dates, prunes, such a clear sherry influence!
  • Palate – Intense, almost too much – at least for so early in the day! Resinous, nutty, very active
  • Finish – Curious….

Overall this was a tough one for me… I’ve had mixed experiences with Benrinnes, however mostly very positive – such as the remarkably rustic19 year, an earlier Artist Series 20 year with its rusty metallic and sweet character, and the less interesting 24 year.

I strongly suspect this is the kind of whisky you don’t want to have just a quick sniff and swish…  it was such a short brush I honestly didn’t discover even a fraction of what was described in the official tasting notes.

What more do the folks at LMdW have to say (courtesy google translate)?

  • Nose : rich, deep. Very complex, the initial nose reveals an endless amount of apricot rancio, notes of beeswax, linden honey, heady flowers (hyacinth, pansy), toffee, Turkish delight, chocolate milk, sweet spices (cumin, ginger), fresh coriander, candied orange, melon, camphor, verbena, toasted walnuts, carnation, malted barley grain…
  • Appearance : orange copper with mahogany reflections
  • Palate : ample, unctuous. With a very pleasant delicacy to the touch, the attack on the palate is apricot, chocolate, tertiary (mushrooms, mousse) and balsamic (cough candy, pine). Gourmet, the mid-palate oscillates between flavors of mocha, gingerbread, salted butter caramel and melon ice cream. Then, gradually, dried fruits (chestnuts, chestnuts, walnuts) rub shoulders with fermentation notes (grist) as well as exotic fruits (mango, banana, pineapple).
  • Overall : long, full of liveliness. At the start of the finish, the notes of cough candy and pine resin come back in force and bring a very pleasant freshness to the taste palette. Then, flavors of candied apricot, geranium flower and ginger bring both a lot of smoothness and dynamism to the aftertaste. On the retro-nasal olfaction, notes of still-warm brioche and Paris-Brest emphasize the delicious character of the finish. The empty glass is liquoricey, oily (sesame, sunflower) and cocoa.

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