Dream Drams – Aultmore 5 year (2007) 66.8%

Master of Malt for years has been my ‘go to’ online source when searching for just a little bit more about a particular whisky – including an idea of price!

However until our rare malts session with Malt Maniac Krish Nakula, I had never had a Master of Malt bottling… to have it be a young 5 year old Aultmore… at a mind boggling strength of 66.8%? Very intrigued…

Aultmore 5 year (12 March 2007/May 2012) 66.8% 1st fill sherry oak puncheon, Bottle 021 of 628 (Master of Malt)

  • Nose – Nutmeg, egg nog or Dutch Advocaat liquer, spicy buttermilk like chaas, quite herbaceous, spicy, creamy, avocado, phenolic like walking into a chemist’s shop, then all spice, a Bengali panch phoran of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard seeds and kalonji (nigella), then shifts into delightful sherry notes of rum raisins, stewed plums
  • Palate – Spice, honey cinnamon, no doubt this was high alcohol but not dauntingly so, mince pie, thick honey, treacle, marmalade, chillies
  • Finish – Very dry, has a bit of a burn, extreme clove on the finish, then a debate between black liquorice and fennel, then again the nutmeg

I must admit, on the 1st sip, three tasters grabbed for water… when adding water to the whisky, we found:

  • Nose – Lots of sweet notes, pepper spice, almost like spiced rum
  • Palate – It needed the water! Breath through sweet spice… again it was almost rum like
  • Finish – Remains dry yet more accessible

Overall we found the complexity and range of elements remarkable for such a young dram – particularly given its high strength.

Krishna kindly gifted this bottle to me so that the Whisky Ladies could try it in an upcoming session. As I prepared to write this post, I was tempted to do a small pour to revisit… and gave in… All elements were consistent with what we found earlier, with the sherry quality even more pronounced.

What I hadn’t observed in the 1st round was how much this reminds me of the powerful and flavourful Hampden 2010 Jamaican single rum…. at 68.5%, there are few spirits out there quite so high in alcohol that are still eminently drinkable. Or so I thought… turns out some of the Whisky Ladies had a different opinion!

While the Aultmore 2007 is no longer available, the folks over at Master of Malt have a 2009 version for $71.

This isn’t the first time we’ve bottled a 5 year old Aultmore for our Single Cask Series, nor is it the first time that whisky from this distillery has shown so well at such a relatively young age. No coincidence there. Distilled in May 2009 and bottled in April 2015, this bottling says “age ain’t nothing but a number”. Other numbers include 65.4, the natural cask strength abv, and 122, the number of bottles produced.

PS – Alas this Aultmore was the victim of a cracked cork… which meant a perfect candidate for an anti-oxidation trick.

Other whiskies savoured in our “Dream Drams” evening:

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Dream Drams – Lochside 1981 43% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Years ago I tried in Singapore at The Auld Alliance a Gordon + MacPhail bottling of Lochside 1981 at cask strength 51.2%.

To say it was superb was an understatement. Til date it remains in my mind as the singularly longest finish I’ve experienced.

When asked by folks to share one whisky I’m dying to try again… this came top of the list.

Unbelievably, during the last London jaunt, a slightly different avatar of this beauty was tracked down at The Whisky Exchange, now reduced in strength to 43%.

Trusting the gents over at Gordon + MacPhail that they know what they are doing and haven’t ruined this lovely dram watering it down, my whisky sampling companion took the plunge and made the huge sacrifice to his wallet to acquire the bottle.

It was saved for a very special evening – Dream Drams – held with Krishna Nakula with the balance carefully preserved to share with the Whisky Ladies.

Lochside 1981

Lochside 24 year 1981 (bottled 2005) 43% (Gordon + MacPhail Rare Old)

  • Nose – Lovely old furniture, stewed fruits, amarula fruity Bailey’s, fresh eucalyptus, bitter almond, fish oil, old leather, fresh brioche or french toast with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, maple syrup, light citrus spice, milk chocolate, beeswax, truffles, salted caramel, zesty citrus, and behind cinnamon spice… it all keeps evolving
  • Palate – An absolute show stopper! Spices dancing, unctuous, simply delicious, honey sweet, spice and bitter, causes mouth watering salivation
  • Finish – A fantastic long finish with incredible staying power. Herbal, bitter almond, puff of smoke that still lingers

In short, this whisky is completely stellar. It is very complex, pronounced by Krishna Nakula as an “old style whisky”, with a gift of aromas, flavours and finish that keeps on giving.

After sitting with it for some time, it continued to evolve… coming back, it was like sniffing a fruit salad of pear, apples, nestled in custard creme… such a beautiful whisky with a delightful sweet spice.

The Whisky Ladies concurred with the original assessment and added a few of their thoughts:

  • Nose – Lovely with so many elements. Soft, sweet to piquant and herbal, nutmeg, cotton candy, slight salt
  • Palate – Warm spice, light leather, so smooth, yet also tingles then back to just silky smooth. Truly beautiful with such complexity and nuance, a fully body experience of delight!
  • Finish – What a finish! It keeps changing, starts with a warm spice, then dark raisins, sweet spices of clove and cinnamon, then fruits, simply stays and stays and stays

In short. A complete stunner.

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

Without water:

  • Nose – Sweet, oily and herbal aromas. Some dry grass, with cereal notes.
  • Taste – Sweet, rich fruits flavours and a touch of green grass/leafy flavours. Spices and a hint of plain chocolate.

With water:

  • Nose – Some fruit, oiled wood, earthy and sweet toffee aromas all present. Hints of smoke on the edge.
  • Taste – Sherry wood with sweet, nutty flavours. A touch of smokiness.

If you are curious to know more about the Lochside Distillery, Gordon & MacPhail has this to say:

Lochside Distillery began life as a brewery in the 1890s. After closing in the 1950s the site was bought by Joseph Hobbs, who also ran the Ben Nevis Distillery and converted it into Lochside Distillery. The new distillery contained 4 pot stills and a 21 metre high Coffey Still. Lochside Distillery was one of a few distilleries which produced both malt and grain whisky. Following the death of Joseph Hobbs, his son, also Joe, ran the distillery until it was acquired by Destilerias y Crianza, of Madrid, in 1973. The main purpose for the distillery was to produce Scotch Malt to blend with their own Spanish spirit. After years of industrious production Lochside Distillery fell victim to the drinks industry over-production problems of the early 1990s.

PS This whisky was purchased in 2016 at the Whisky Exchange in London for an unmentionable price. A different bottling recently sold for £450.00. This one can no longer be found…

Other whiskies savoured in our “Dream Drams” evening:

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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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80s flashback – Port Ellen 26 year 1982/2009 50%

Oh the elusive allure of sampling from a discontinued distillery!

Once upon a time, Port Ellen was home to innovation, industry and experimentation. Established in 1825, a shrewd early owner Ramsay pushed Port Ellen to become the 1st distillery to secure the right to export large casks to North America, set up a bonded warehouse system that remains in use today, part of creating continuous stills, established an Islay steamboat, imported Sherry and Mediera to Glasgow and even tried his hand at politics!

Though his family sold their interest in the 1920, Port Ellen continued to operate maltings and the bonded warehouses, re-opening with two more stills in 1966-67.

However by 1983, a choice had to be made… to close Caol Ila or to close Port Ellen? Caol Ila fans remain ever so grateful their distillery was given new focus and life… whereas many industry pundits bemoan the absence of new Port Ellen offerings with its versatile style.

As the folks over at The Whisky Exchange share:

Some sherry-casked Port Ellen can be beautifully rich, spicy, sweet and leathery; bourbon and refill casks often show a more austere, peppery medium-weighted style. Common characteristics, though, are a high level of peatiness and, in the best examples, a phenomenal complexity which Islay fans adore. For these reasons Port Ellen has become one of the most sought-after of the lost distilleries by collectors, investors and aficionados.

This particular Port Ellen was aged 26 years… part of the last batches laid in September 1982 and bottled in July 2009. There are only 712 bottles in existence released by independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co as part of their Old Malt Cask series.

Courtesy Krishna Nakula

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Gorgeous smoky bacon, peat, dry fruits, blue cheese, mustard, lots of those umame notes, sweet, iodine, over-ripe fruit, spoiled apple
  • Taste – Smokey cigar, baked pie, cinnamon spice candies, chewy black pepper, a little nutty, wet cardboard, burnt oak, creamy
  • Finish – Smokey spicy bacon, ashes, salt
  • Water – Kicks up the spice level initially – especially the black pepper then settles into a harmonious marriage of warm peat and cinnamon spice

The presence of peat is unmistakable yet it is restrained in the most enjoyable way. In short, an absolutely beautiful dram!

A discussion ensued about all the elements we discover in a whisky. As Krishna Nakula put it:

“Whisky tasting is a metaphor… How does bacon, vanilla, fruit come to us? From the esters during the fermentation process.”

Yet it is how our senses interpret that makes appreciating a complex, interesting whisky so special!

The folks over at Douglas Laing & Co shared on the bottle their tasting notes:

  • Nose – Opens creamy with a sweet baked style + peat fire in a kiln
  • Palate – Phenolic with burnt oak, sweet tar + creoste + ashes
  • Finish – Long + salty rock pools, burnt toast + more damp ash

This remarkable rare malt came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula at an evening organised by The Secret Supper Project and The Vault Fine Spirits in celebration of 20 years of Malt Madness.

Other discontinued whiskies sampled:

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80s vs today whisky styles

The 1980s was a time of pac-man, tetris, Apple computers, big chunky jewellery, hair that defied gravity, caked on make-up, and some very bad pop hits.

For some of us, the 1980s was also a time where we shouted “ban the bomb” and “anhilitate apartheid!”, where we stood firm with our brethren in Tiananmen Square, the Palestinian intifada, watched the wall come down and yes… had funky spiked hair, grunge clothes and hung out at punk rock gigs.

If you haven’t figured out which camp I belonged to… pop over to Everyday Asia and check out the photographic evidence in “How I got ‘hooked’ on going away.”

However, the 1980s didn’t happen to be a time that I could afford whisky! I was far too deeply buried into heavy academic tomes to surface to sniff, swirl, swish and swallow a single malt.

Rumour has it that the 1980s happened to produce many rather good drams. More than a few whisky experts around the globe speak of how whisky styles have changed between ‘then’ and ‘now’, noting that with the increased demand for single malt growing globally, production methods, quality controls and shifts in palates have created differences in whiskies produced 30+ years ago with those matured today.

After sampling the remarkable Glendronach grand dames and then the rare Karuizawa 39 year from 1973 with whisky stock laid in the early 1970s, we had another exceptional evening that sampled whiskies from the 1980s… There is indeed something ‘different’ about these drams!

1980s whiskies

1980s whiskies

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Laphroaig 1987 16 year 46% from Silver Seal

As shared, my last trip to Singapore featured a remarkable whisky sampling evening at The Auld Alliance with eight different drams!

One of the more surprising whisky was a very uncharacteristic yet rather interesting Laphroaig. I’ve never associated ‘flowery’ with this distillery!

20150604_Laphroaig 16 yr

Laphroaig 16 years ‘Silver Seal‘ 1987/2004  46% (No 229 of 770)

  • Nose – Softer, easier, sweet, a sterile pharmaceutical quality like a sweet medicinal capsule
  • Taste – Initially sweet and flowery, a distinctly ‘meetha‘ (sweet) all the way down with mint, basil and honey, so light and yet grew into the faintest wisp of smoke? Sip further and it the smoke begins to uncurl itself revealing there is indeed a deeper element, growing and expanding into a more robust and rounded whisky than it seemed in the first few sips. Still retained a fresh, sweet quality yet with depth
  • Finish – Smooth, nice and easy, sweet peat
  • Overall – A sense of SILK, well balanced with more going on than first appeared

In fairness to this whisky, it was difficult to get back into the saddle after the utterly remarkable Lochside 1981. What was fascinating to us was this did not have the current bold Laphroaig whisky character – something much more nuanced and subtle.

Laphroaig 1987

You can find The Auld Alliance at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

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Lochside 1981 51.2% (Gordon + MacPhail)

The next up in our The Auld Alliance Singapore sampling suite simply stays with you! Lochside 1981 remains one of my all time favourites til date.

20150604_Lochside 1981

Lochside 1981 / bottled 2010 51.2% (Gordon & MacPhail)

  • Nose – Peat, meadow, grassy, fresh, hint below of spirit, from the nose alone a sense of some age, tropical fruits
  • Taste – Unbelievably smooth, silky with the nicest peat, absolutely no harshness, bursting with raisins, berries, a big swell of delicious spice, juicy
  • Finish – A gorgeous gift. The kind of finish that simply keeps on giving, shifting from berries to smoke to a savoury sweetness.
  • Overall – Had a sense of maturity, very well-balanced with the kind of finish that simply commands RESPECT!

In short, this one made us stop. We turned to each other and realised our evening could just end on this whisky – a true show stopper. One sip would last 15 minutes. This is the kind of whisky you wish you had in your cabinet. The kind you want to share with special folks who truly appreciate a quality dram. Without fanfare, it slipped into the class of one of the most memorable whiskies sampled til date.

From the discontinued Lochside distillery – known to be one of the ‘ugliest’ distilleries – Arun from The Auld Alliance shared it also used to produce beer. Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, the label noted the whisky is matured in refill sherry hogshead.

Their notes indicate:

From the closed, and now demolished distillery, this Single Malt has hints of subtle spices and is laced with ripe, tropical fruits.

All I can say is, if you can try this whisky – just do it! It was last seen on WhiskyBase.com for € 350 however is no longer available. For more information about the distillery, you may find this post from WhiskyIntelligence of interest.

Other whiskies sampled as part of our Scottish quartet included:

If in Singapore, check out The Auld Alliance at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

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BenRiach 21 year 1988 Cask No 4423 54.8%

Next up in our Scottish sample at The Auld Alliance was a BenRiach limited release exclusive to Singapore.

20150604_The BenRiach 1988

BenRiach 21 years 1988 Cask No 4423 54.8% (bottle 19 of 269) 

  • Nose – Sweet honey suckle, soft, romantic, a symphony of scents with figs, dates, treacle. A ‘nice’ whisky…
  • Taste – Swung from sweet to spice, bursting with cinnamon and cardamoms, then fennel. Full of such a distinctively spicy character.
  • Finish – Remained on the spicy side
  • Overall – Clearly without peat, the final feeling was more of delicious spice rather than the sweet nose

What we appreciated most was the deceptively soft sweet nose which then made us stand up and pay attention with the spice. All in all a rather ‘nice’ dram!

Other whiskies sampled as part of our Scottish quartet included:

If in Singapore, check out The Auld Alliance at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

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Little Mill 25 year 1989/2014 50.9%

First up in our remarkable Scottish quartet in Singapore at The Auld Alliance was a whisky from a now discontinued distillery – Little Mill.

20150604_Little Mill

Little Mill 25 year 1989/2014 50.9% (282 bottles)

  • Nose – Berry, smooth, fruity, vanilla, well-rounded and not peated
  • Taste – Here was where the surprises began – peat! Definitely had stuff going on, oily, straight spice, had body and a ‘thick’ quality
  • Finish – Nice, smooth, stays
  • Overall – Had a nice ‘curve’ to the tasting experience which began fruity, then peaty and finally mellowed into smooth sweetness.

Both of us shared how we prefer whiskies that tell a ‘story arc’ – this one gave the impression of being hard-working, warm, generous. It invited you to play with it a bit more…

Bottled specifically for The Auld Alliance, the label also noted  ‘Three Rivers Tokyo.’

A rather interesting whisky and one I felt privileged to try!

You can find The Auld Alliance at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

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