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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A 60 year old whisky?! Yes please! Glen Grant 60 year (1950-2010) 40%

Mature whiskies are rare and beyond the means of most whisky imbibers.

Thanks to a few events, generous fellow malt explorers, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a couple of older drams – Glendronach, Glenfarclas and Auchentoshan come to mind. Yet none crossed the 50 year mark, let alone touched 60 years…

Until a fine evening of malting with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula who started our evening off with this beauty from Glen Grant.

And best yet – my sample began completely blind so I had no idea what I was experiencing…

Glen Grant 60 year (14 Oct 1950 – 22 Nov 2010), Cask Strength No 2750, 2760 40%

  • Nose – Musty, like a granary with my being transported to the Manitoba farms of my youth, cereals, then shifts more into the old, polished wood of antique furniture, followed by a light sweet honey, a delicate perfume, flowers, fruits, cream, the slightest hint of bitter mocha, as it kept airing with a just drop remaining, a delightful piquant aroma emerged
  • Palate – Rubber, smoky, more of that antique wood, coffee, very elegant and nuanced, exceedingly easy on the palate, great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Such staying power! Yet delicate with a light clove spice

Slow, complex with a hint of smoke without a pinch of peat. The more you sip, the more you marvel. Very sophisticated. This was one that if you had a full dram, it could last hours… sit, savour and let it continue to speak to you, revealing different elements along the way.

The two casks were both ex-sherry – one first fill and the other re-fill. While we do not know the balance between the two, given its nuanced character, the re-fill may have had more play.

We spoke of the contrasting character of sherry matured whiskies – with the younger Kavalan’s on one end of the spectrum with its intense very berry sherry character to the Glendronach grand dames matured for 39 – 42 years in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons dripping in rum-soaked Christmas cake with dry fruits and nuts.

Whereas this Glen Grant was much more gentile, with a fresh ripe fruitiness not dried dates or prunes, light honey drizzle not rich dark maple syrup… a quite fabulous balance of subtle elements in perfect harmony.

Apparently this is a Gordon & MacPhail bottling can be found for £3,500 through Whisky.online. Here’s what they have to  say:

A 1950 Glen Grant bottled in 2010 at 60 years of age. There is no other company in the world that still holds stocks of whisky like this, another super aged masterpiece by Gordon & MacPhail. Glen Grant is a spirit that ages beautifully, this is a beguiling mix of antique wood aromas, simmering spice, all kinds of layered fruit complexity and utterly perfect balance. A truly beautiful, utterly classy whisky that captures just how beautiful the really old whiskies can be, mesmeric stuff.

And yes, for once, words like “beguiling”“layered fruit complexity”, “classy” and “mesmeric” really do apply…

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

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Dream Drams – Mortlach 1976, Lochside 1981, Mosstowie 1979, Aultmore 2007

There are tasting experiences that collectively push the bar to a completely different level.

On this particular monsoon evening in Mumbai with Malt Maniac’s Krishna Nakula, none were standard distillery drams. All but one would qualify as ‘adult‘ whiskies, representative of an older style… From Gordon & MacPhail‘s rare old collection  of closed distilleries to Signatory Vintage‘s mature cask strength set to a unique Master of Malt single cask series, these were no ordinary single malts.

These were the drams that dreams are made of… prompting a few of us wonder… are we truly worthy?

What did we sample?

  • Mortlach 37 year (1976/2013) 43% G&MP
  • Lochside 24 year (1981/2005) 43% G&MP Old Rare Collection
  • Mosstowie 35 year (1979/2015) 48.1% Signatory Cask Strength
  • Aultmore 5 year (2007/2012) 66.8% Master of Malt
  • Laphroaig “T5” 21 year (1987/2008) 53.4% – Bonus Dram!

You will simply need to be patient over the coming weeks as I catch up with all the marvellous malts enjoyed. Trust me… it will be worth the wait.

And a HUUUUGE thank you to our host, whisky contributors who made such an exceptional evening possible! You know who you are.

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Krishna Collection – BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Last in an evening with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac, was a whisky from BenRiach

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions - note image is for Cask 806 not 808

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions – note image is for Cask 806 not 808

BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Cask No 808 Olorosso Sherry Peated OB for Taiwan Bottle 84/678

  • Nose – Peaty, sherry, brine, sweet spice, heather and flowers
  • Palate – Smooth, peat, a little spice, very well balanced
  • Finish – Lovely

One of those whiskies that sound like the different elements would not go together, but somehow do. The interplay of sherry and peat works wonderfully and was a worthy close to our evening.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other BenRiach whiskies sampled so far include:

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Krishna Collection – Kavalan Solist Sherry (2008) 55.6%

For a few years now, Kavalan from Taiwan has done rather well in the world whisky awards department – with good reason.

As the Malt Maniacs 2016 awards were released there was a lot of chatter in one Mumbai whisky WhatsApp group. Kavalan had clearly dominated – sweeping with the ‘Supreme Champion’ award, Ultra premium, Premium… with an insane 6 Gold awards, 13 Silver awards and 4 Bronze awards.

As Keith Wood shared the Malt Maniacs report, they “received 23 different cask entries of Kavalan; 2 bourbon, 3 port and 18 different sherry casks. At this point I must add that Kavalan themselves only entered the permitted 3 bottles, all others were from private cask owners.”

I thought of this development as I brushed off notes from a sampling of a 2015 Malt Maniac entry… here is what I found…

2016-04-25 Kavalan Solist

Not the whisky sampled – another Kavalan Solist Sherry (OB)

Kavalan Solist NAS Sherry Cask S081229026 55.6% 08 Bottle 421/527

  • Nose – More saccharin than honey, sweet prunes, dry fruits, heaps of dark chocolate
  • Palate – More mellow, sweet spices, cinnamon and oak bark, teasingly playful, peppers dipped in sugar
  • Finish – Very sweet finish, exceedingly long and lovely

What makes this one interesting is that it is vibrant, not mature and bursting with character. It may not be the most sophisticated whisky you will find, but it has a certain something that draws you back.

That’s just what Kavalan has accomplished with its Solist series – each single cask has a distinctive character. It may be in a similar family yet distinctive – take 2010’s casks S1001200358 vs S1001290048. All Solist single casks have unique qualities and can clearly stand on their own too. That cannot be said of all single casks.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other whiskies previously sampled with Krishna:

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Finally… an Amrut that made me go “Wow!”

It is one of those ironies that the best whiskies produced in India are not available in India. The complexities of getting permissions for each state, distribution challenges, restrictions on alcohol percentages by state for Indian made spirits, and locally acceptable price points are all barriers to bringing quality locally produced whiskies to the locals.

However it is a shame that much of what has made the world of whisky pay attention to Amrut is simply not available in India.

This sample shared by Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula was no exception. Made purely for distribution in Taiwan, the only reason it made it back into the country was as part of the Malt Maniac global independent award tasting competition.

Photo: Whisky Auctioneer

Photo: Whisky Auctioneer

Amrut 5 year (May 2010/Jun 2015) 56.5% Cask No 3823 Olorosso Sherry for Taiwan Bottle 1/600

  • Nose – Musty, sweet, very vibrant, the dusty quality is actually what makes it interesting, there are many layers – spices like cinnamon, cloves then sterile notes, pickles, dried currents, some oils, a dash of salt, the ‘khatta‘ quality of tamarind
  • Palate – Big thick raisins, spice kick, sugar-coated chillies, marshmellows
  • Finish – Sweet liquorice

The beautiful thing about this is the layers, sherry but not too much sherry… there is a brightness to it that contrasts with the heavy rich flavours. Even re-reading through my notes, it doesn’t sound like it should work but it does.

I hope more such Amrut’s wander their way to me.. this is certainly one I would have liked to spend more time enjoying.

Other Amrut’s sampled include:

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

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Krishna Collection – Glenlivet 19 year (1995/2015) 58.1%

India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula shared another dram… this time a Speyside from a well-known distillery – Glenlivet – from independent bottlers Signatory.

glvsig1995v3

Photo: Whisky Exchange

Glenlivet 19 year (30 Oct 1995/9 Sep 2015) 58.1%

CS No 166951, Sherry Butt, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection 431526. 526 Bottles.

  • Nose – Banana spice, clean, lightly herbal, strong start then bursts into a kaleidescope of colours from tea to bright citrus
  • Palate – Cereals, nutty, tasty and utterly delicious – think toast and marmalade
  • Finish – Back to being clean, yet somehow a little less satisfying

This was one of those whiskies that had a delightful nose, quite enjoyable dram yet had less complexity than the other whiskies sampled on that particular evening. Overall though a fine dram indeed.

Others from the 2015 collection:

Other whiskies sampled with Krishna include:

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