One amazing Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry 46% (G+MP)

Ardbeg is one of the Islay peaty “kings”… known far and wide for its strong distinctive character… which makes an interplay with sherry all the more interesting… courtesy of a Gordon + MacPhail’s experimentation.

What did we find?

Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry Cask 3133 46% (Gordon + MacPhail)

  • Nose  – Initially a bit ‘soapy’, then clear stamp of sherry and peat, cinnamon, wood fires burning, old books, quite rich, some dry hay, tannins, ash
  • Palate – Pure wildfire! With lots going on, fire and spice, chocolate, lots of ash, really quite brilliant!
  • Finish – Long finish with peat, chocolate and don’t laugh –  watermelon rind
  • Water – While ordinarily would not add to a 46%, please do in this case! It then reveals delicious bacon, maple syrup  along with cinnamon spice

Overall this had a brash “Pay attention dude!” quality – a “text book” Islay whisky – in the best possible way.

You won’t easily find this whisky as it was specially bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Symposion Sweden.

While I couldn’t find any official tasting notes, recommend you check out WhiskyFun‘s review!

Other Ardbeg tasting experiences

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Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% (LMdW)

It is time to admit I’ve gone from being skeptical about the Amrut’s available in India to being puzzled by experiments like Spectrum to becoming rather impressed with some of the expressions available outside of India.

After enjoying the Fever Club Con-Fusion whisky, our host shared the tale of when he 1st encountered this at Whisky Live in Paris. Shared how he was intent on other explorations but when passing by the Amrut booth sampled this and went “Woah!” So much so that of all the options, this is the one that stood out and made its way back to Mumbai for our sampling pleasure. Lucky us!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% 

  • Nose – Spice, fruit, basil and mint, not just herbal… it is like a chutney, very sweet fruit, then shifts to dark rich bitter chocolate
  • Palate – “What the F@%k!” Exceptional. An elegant peat. Cinnamon spice. a light brine, very dry.
  • Finish – Long spice peat…
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add

There was absolutely nothing off… very well crafted, the kind of whisky that will make you stop and pay attention.

Here is what the folks at La Maison du Whisky has to say?

One of this Amrut’s undeniable charms (of which there are many) is the construction of its aromatic and gustatory palette. Like the peat that gradually tames an olfactory opening of rare power. After taking the upper hand, like an inspired sculptor, it tastefully chisels out a palate and finish with an almost sensually smooth texture. In this, it is every bit as good as the magnificent version also aged in a port cask which, in our 2017 Creation Catalogue, majestically marked La Maison du Whisky’s 60th anniversary.

Profile: the very powerful initial nose is hot, mineral and camphoric. Little by little, an oily, earthy peat envelops the aromatic palette. Equally as present on the attack, this peat gradually becomes sweeter (apricot tart). The finish is malty and full of freshness. Lightly tannic, the end of the palate is herbaceous and floral.

Single Cask no. 2713 – Port Pipe
Limited edition of 420 bottles
Exclusive to LMDW

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Amrut Fever Club Con-Fusion 46%

Fever Club is a collection of whisky ardent Amrut fans… With a passion that has even prompted special bottlings like this. The “Con-Fusion” expression seems to be a variation on the “Fusion” theme produced and bottled in India on sale only for the select few for Rs 3,000 (that’s just under $50).

We had the pleasure of sampling it together with India’s Malt Maniac – Krishna Nakula – on a warm March evening…

Amrut Fever Club Con-Fusion (2017) Release No 1, 46%

  • Nose – Fresh citrus, spice, some nuts, flirtatious, a bit of lactic acid, is there a hint of peat? A light puff of smoke
  • Palate – Light soft creamy, milky nougat, white chocolate, burnt almond, has a lovely balance
  • Finish – Not much then the 2nd sip it is there with a nice peat close

A rather enjoyable whisky – the kind you want to simply relax with and unwind. We understand it is matured in ex-Olorosso casks.

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An evening with Krishna Nakula

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we meandered through a malty mix.. with our evening featuring a duo from Amrut!

Added to the mix was an amiable amble through the contrasting:

Plus a sniff and swish through:

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The remarkable Glen Grant 64 year (1949) 40%

No… that is not a typo… that really is 64 years… as in matured for 64 years… with the new make spirit laid to rest in first fill sherry butts in 1949. A piece of whisky history with the clocks turned back.

And I had a chance to sample it completely blind… no clue what I was trying or how exceptionally rare such a dram is.

Glen Grant 64 year (24/11/1949 –  6/6/2014) Cask 2200 + 3185 40%

What did my wee sniff, swish and savour sampling reveal?

  • Nose – Old wood varnish, betel leaf, peach pit, drizzle  of maple syrup, ripe fruits, specifically then shifted into roasted pineapple and a bit of jackfruit, red wine tannins, a bit yeasty, those sweet and sour, tart and tangy Chinese (Li Hing Mui) or Japanese (Umeboshi) dried plums, a hint of old leather
  • Palate – What have I discovered? A bit bitter with elements rarely found like hing, then shifts into raw mango powder or unripe guava, some tamarind, like bhel puri masala, yet no spicy “pepper” heat, continued that sweet element with substance yet truly tangy too, remarkable
  • Finish – After a simply marvellous nose, interesting palate, the finish was surprisingly light… closing with a puff of smoke

Overall it was a mystery – delicate and unique. Surprisingly tangy yet sweet too. Complex yet not heavy. Clearly old yet had fresh elements also. a kaleidoscope of contradictions… that somehow worked together in weird and wonderful ways.

I kept aside just a few drops to revisit after some time and was rewarded with an exceptional bouquet of fruits, flowers then pine.

The last drop drained, I again set the empty glass aside… and returned an hour later to discover the most glorious perfume! Simply wafting out from the glass. Beautiful.

When we learned this was matured in a 1st fill sherry butt, it was such a surprise. The colour was so light whereas previous brushes with older sherry drams were deep and dark – like the Glendronach 39 – 42 year.

It also is a complete marvel that after 64 years it could still achieve the min 40% required for it to be called a whisky!

This certainly goes into the category of “once in a lifetime” and I also have to appreciate the work the Gordon + MacPhail team are doing preserving then releasing rare examples of whisky history to the world.

Here is what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:

Without water:

  • Nose – Delicate Sherry aromas mingle with vanilla, rose water, and violet notes. Hints of burnt sugar, prune, and a lingering marzipan edge develops.
  • Palate – White pepper initially with grapefruit and hints of apricot preserve. Ground coffee and toasted almond flavours are complemented by underlying cigar ash.
  • Finish – Long, floral, and smoky.

With water:

  • Nose – Tropical fruits with pineapple and mango aromas. Subtle beeswax polish notes combine with bonfire embers and an orange zest edge.
  • Palate – Ripe banana, raisin, and fresh grapefruit flavours with a delicate hint of violets complemented by a lingering smoky edge.

Other rare vintages sampled over the years:

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Dream Drams – Mosstowie 35 year (1979) 48.1%

Our Dream Drams evening in Mumbai with Malt Maniac’s Krishna Nakula, continued with this Mosstowie 35 year from Signatory Vintage‘s mature cask strength series.

Krishna shared the distinctive feature of this whisky is it was produced using Lomond stills.

Founded in 1964, it was “closed” in 1981 with the Lomond stills removed from the Miltonduff Distillery. These stills were built in the 1960s with the idea of using the 3 adjustable rectifier plates to play around with “the position and temperature of the plates the reflux of the ‘boiling’ whisky could be controlled. The angle of the ‘lyne arm’ at the top of the still could be modified as well to influence the character of the whisky further.” (Malt Madness) The thinking was this would produce exactly what blenders needed and hence would be in demand.

However this innovation fell into disfavour as the maintenance and cleaning was very labour intensive. And more importantly, the demand from blenders did not come close to expectations… Hence while the distillery Miltonduff remains, you won’t find much Mosstowie single malt these days.

What did we find?

Mosstowie 35 year (30 November 1979/15 May 2015), Bourbon Barrel Cask Mo 25756, 48.1% (Signatory Vintage Cask Strength) 171 Bottles

  • Nose – We were greeted initially with sweet varnish, then as that subsided, citrus creamy spice took over, some star anise, lots of oriental spices, sour cherry, cork, fermented sour dough starter, desiccated coconut, kopra, nuts… there was a ‘bourbonesque’ quality, with old wood furniture… one even suggested smelly socks!
  • Palate – Lovely coating, wonderful mouth feel, a dash of salt and almost too much honey, yet settled into something both enjoyable and sufficiently complex to be interesting
  • Finish – Dry, again a bit salty, very sweet, a bit of beeswax, muted but very much there
  • Water – We found it dampened the nose, sweetened it even more, made it less multi-dimensional, only advantage was it gave the finish a nice spicy pick-up

We concluded this whisky had a very interesting complexity. A wee sample bottle of this made it home and was revisited a few weeks later. If anything, it was even more exceptional.

Tasting notes by the chaps at Master of Malt:

  • Nose: Oily toffee, marmalade, vanilla, ginger and cocoa.
  • Palate: Smoky wood spices and honeycomb with touches of menthol and kumquat.
  • Finish: Malty and warming.

This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in 2016 and is no longer available through them. However it was last seen on WhiskyBase.com for € 429.50.

What else did we sample?

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Cadenhead’s Caol Ila 36 year (1980) 52.3%

After the Glen Garioch, we seemed more in the mood to return to the Islays and a peatier dram. Particularly if it happened to be a Caol Ila 36 year, bottled by Cadenhead’s! Who wouldn’t be tempted? And what did we find?

Caol Ila 36 year (1980 – July 2016) Bourbon Hogshead, 52.3% (Cadenhead’s) 210 bottle

  • Nose – Paint shop, fevicole adhesive, creamy, muted, original bitter hing (asefetodi) , ritaful (soap nut), burnt orange peel, echo of peat. As it opened up, it revealed a sweet spice
  • Palate – Lots of vegetables, from an echo of peat, it grew into a proper peat and soooooo sweet and smooth
  • Finish – Green capsicum then a long cinnamon spice

And Krishna’s reaction? “OMG! This is beautiful for a winter day.”

This is definitely a whisky that benefits from time to open as it became more brilliant as it aired. For me, the nose was the most rewarding element. Perhaps not for everyone. And certainly not for everyone’s pocketbook but worth settling down with if you get a chance.

This whisky last appeared on Scotch Whisky Auctions in Nov 2016 for a winning bid of £280.00. 

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection evening in July 2017?

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Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7%

After the absolutely stunning Glen Grant 60 year, dangerously drinkable Bowmore 12 distilled in the 1970s, the peculiar The Prestonfield Vintage 1972 Bowmore 16, we shifted gears to a meatier sherry style whisky from Adelphi‘s single cask bottling of Glen Garioch.

Adelphi Glen Garioch 1993 (note image from different year)

Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi) 152 bottles

  • Nose – Top note of varnish, orange cream cookies or that fanta fizz, citrus zest, sweet honey, clove, a teasing nose that later revealed a musty quality – in a good way
  • Palate – Spicy, old style wood, sweet spice orange like clove studded oranges at Christmas, an almost brandy-like quality, red and green stewed apples, a dash of cocoa, continued to evolve taking on a meaty quality like a quality wagyu steak
  • Finish – Lovely chewy dates

There was a nicely mature quality to this dram, exceedingly smooth and no sense of it being full strength at 55.7%. A lovely sherry quality, more in keeping with what we normally expect – and that’s a mighty fine thing indeed!

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 43%

The more we explore the remarkable range of whiskies out there, the more we push into sometimes quite rare territory. Even expensive territory. And yet even highly acclaimed and coveted drams can sometimes lose their lustre. Old + rare + pricy doesn’t always = mind blowingly brilliant!

And every once in a while it is good to have that reminder.

After the truly dangerously drinkable and most enjoyable Bowmore 12 year distilled in the 1970s, we were primed to be transported to celestial levels with “The Prestonfield” vintage 1972 aka Bowmore 16 year.

Yet what did we find…..?

Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 (28 Feb 1972-1988), Sherry Wood, CS No 1036 – 1039, Bottle no 9861, 43%

  • Nose – Phenoylic, like walking into an old Scottish hotel with the scents of an old rug, worn leather chair and the fire burning (promising but unidimensional)
  • Palate – Sooth – like sacred ash mixed with camphor, a weird peculiar ‘queerness’ like carbolic soap
  • Finish – Limited with an almost tallow or lard-like quality

So here is the thing. The nose was promising once past the carbolic acid, an initial sip was sooty yet bland, then had a strongly ‘off’ quality. I’ll admit. I made a face. Both times I sipped. Even a bit on the 3rd when I was braced for it and ready for something decidedly different. Something like the tallow from animal fat used to make candles, that had gone slightly rancid. The most complimentary description I could think of was raw bitter chokecherries.

I had to admit it didn’t work for me and tried to understand why Prestonfield whiskies are so highly rated if this was an example. What about that strange, frankly to me quite awful tasting quality, that makes it be deemed ‘good’? Just because its rare? Costs a lot? Sorry. Doesn’t cut it for me.

Speculation turned to whether this bottle could have gone off – yet there was no rust on the cap and the miniature was opened just before we tasted. So…?

Who knows. Perhaps something had indeed gone wrong between when initially bottled and our opening… after all, nearly 30 years had passed. Or perhaps there was some small drop of something else that got into the bottle when originally filled that turned it queer over the years. Or even still, it could be that much more discerning palates than mine found something remarkable in what to me was unusual to the extent of being not enjoyable.

Do I regret trying it? Absolutely not! Would I be tempted to try again? Perhaps… just to see if something happened to this particular miniature that was not representative of the original whisky. But not enough to put a lot of effort into tracking it down.

This 5 ml bottle was purchased by Krishna Nakula for £35. On Whisky-OnlineAuctions.com, the last available miniature’s bid closed at £45 in February 2015.

What do we know about Prestonfield whiskies? Here’s what La Maison du Whisky shares:

The Prestonfield range of whiskies is without doubt one of the most well-known among connoisseurs, and yet few people are aware of its origins. Created in the 1980s by the Symington brothers, the famous label with the drawing of the Prestonfield Hotel is now available exclusively through La Maison du Whisky. The whiskies selected for this range have always been some of the best but, from 2000, the decision was made to bottle them all at cask strength from a single cask. Almost exclusively single malts, these whiskies are extremely sought after, and often appear at the major auctions.

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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A remarkable 1970s Bowmore 12 year 40%

Much has been said about how whisky styles have changed over the decades. That opinion is widely shared by those who started their sampling journey in the 1980s where most single malts were distilled in the 1970s or earlier. Yet most of these impressions remain in memories rather than the opportunity to test the theory.

Today, obtaining a sample of such earlier styles is challenging… most are found in private collections or auctions. Which is where this lovely little Bowmore 12 year miniature from the 1970s came. A wee dark coloured squat bottle that simply stated its age, alcohol strength and that it was matured in sherry casks. No hint of further details as this was simply a standard issue bottling for its time.

Bowmore 12 year (1970s – 80s) 40%

  • NoseHing (asafetida), pomelo, passion fruit vying with grapefruit, smoke and peat yet quite restrained, subtle, as it continued to open more fruit like cashew, pineapple and mango
  • Palate – Just as hing was the 1st predominant aroma, cashew fruit was on the palate, intensely sweet and dangerously drinkable with just a kiss of peat, brilliant body for a 12 year as it really sits on your palate
  • Finish – Peaty, leather, chocolate

This may sound a bit fanciful, but it had a joyful character on the nose, bright and fruity, superbly accessible and enjoyable on the palate with peat most pronounced in the rather delicious finish.

Like the Glen Grant 60 year old just sampled, this Bowmore was matured in sherry casks – but clearly of a different calibre and character than today’s sherry. Again, much more restrained overall, even the peat quality was faint – leading to speculation of re-fill sherry casks and curiosity about how the “barely there” peat quality came into play.

It truly was such a contrast in style to any Bowmore sampled in the last few years – which are often quite bold in character. Whereas this wasn’t clamouring for attention by swaggering into our senses, instead gained exclamations of “Fantastic! Stunning! Superb!” for its much more nuanced dimensions.

For some, it was the clear favourite of the evening – no simple feat given its competition!

Krishna shared his opinion that this Bowmore 12 year has all the “beauty of the old style.”

He went on to regale us with the tale of the term “FWP” (French Whore’s Perfume) used to describe a shift in character – particularly pronounced from Bowmore post Suntory coming into the picture for a few years. First detected by some whisky enthusiasts, they identified a peculiar soapy quality that they felt ruined the whisky… later linked to the soap used to clean the stills!

Since corrected, another Malt Maniac Serge shares:

The original ‘problem’ originated in the 1980’s and was corrected at some point during the 1990s. The FWP spirit sort of worked its way through the system and you shouldn’t detect the unsavoury FWP trait any more in bottlings that were released in recent years.

This 5 ml bottle was purchased by Krishna Nakula for £8. For those interested, a 740ml bottle could be found on Whisky.Online.com for a mere £450.

Whisky.Online.com

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

PS you can contrast my sampling of a more recent incarnation of the Bowmore 12 year here.

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