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 
  • 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 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!

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 
  • 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 
  • 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 
  • Tel: +65 6337 2201

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Scottish sampling suite in Singapore – Little Mill, BenRiach, Lochside, Laphroaig

I can’t wait to be back in Singapore this coming week!

My last trip there in June resulted in a remarkable whisky sampling evening at The Auld Alliance with eight different drams to our tasting adventures… A round the world tour and a remarkable Scottish suite…

The Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance – All eight sampled!

A ‘sneak peak’ into what we sampled…

For the Scottish quartet we tried a remarkable line-up:

We also explored the world with:

I know how rare such an evening like this one was… however I’m hoping for another whisky adventure on Saturday night! Perhaps with some new whisky aficionados…?

If in Singapore, I do encourage you to explore the whisky collectors mecca at The Auld Alliance:

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

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Glendronach Grand Dames – Age DOES matter!

Living in India, it requires significant effort to source unique whiskies from around the world. Though our ‘Duty Free’ options have improved considerably in the last few years and local distributors are stocking a wider range, typically what you can readily find is both relatively standard fare and insanely expensive for what you get.

So when a chance to sample a few drops of a quartet of gorgeous Glendronach grand dames came knocking? I would have been an utter fool to pass up!

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Until this night, the oldest whisky sampled was the Glenfarclas 40 year… It was also a unique opportunity to explore the subtle variation between a single cask and a single year…

All were aged exclusively in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons with three laid in the same year – 1971. We were extremely fortunate that our whisky host was able to acquire over several years such a remarkable series of whiskies. While primarily intended for the Taiwan market, this quartet made its way to India…

What did we try? Here goes..

  • Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask#2033 54.7% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask#1248 47.5% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask#1247 48.9% (UK Batch #6 – 529 bottles)
  • Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask#1246 44.6% (UK Batch #8 – 432 bottles)

We started with the 39 year old, spent the most time distilling its character before moving on to each subsequent sample, contrasting, comparing and debating the similarities and nuanced differences.

Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask #2033 54.7%

  • Nose – Instant deep dark burnt sugar, dry fruits bursting with raisins, dates, prunes, figs… mellowed into a rum soaked plum Christmas cake, then a waft of musty old antique furniture polish, a rancio element, well oiled leather, a ‘brown’ sauce of demera reduction blending with laguna custard, cinnamon, cloves…
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip then cigar smoke, green vegetables, the spices of cinnamon and cloves envelopes, rich, smooth, delicious chewy raisins
  • Finish – Dry, remnants of plum-cake, a beautiful bonfire, pipe tobacco
  • Water – Makes it much more creamy, burst of ripe sweetness, the nose becomes a bouquet of gorgeous dry fruits, a little bitter dry coconut… transformative!
  • Overall – We absolutely loved it! It is very robust, pulling in all the PX sherry elements with a certain panache and majesty

Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask #1248 47.5%

  • Nose – More approachable with all of the dry fruits like prunes, dates and figs still present and more yet restrained, more elegant, a whiff of temple agarbati, over time the prunes became the dominant dry fruit element
  • Palate – Similar to the 39 year yet sweeter, softer, gentler with more pronounced cinnamon, cloves and a hint of bitterness, a bit ‘woody’ with wet chalk, some copper, completely decadent
  • Finish – Drier than the 39 yet the finish holds even more
  • Water – Again, while initially reluctant to add, it simply rounds out all the gorgeous sherry elements
  • Overall – We found while clearly written by the same ‘author’, this ‘book’ had more refinement and grace than the 39 year

Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask #1247 48.9%

  • Nose – Same but… going deeper into the same profile
  • Palate – Of the four, this had the strongest ‘old leather’ quality, we compared it to a grandfather’s tobacco pouch, allspice added to the cinnamon and cloves, ripe dark cherries
  • Finish – Dry as the others yet also quite warm and beautiful, prunes in the finish as well not just the nose
  • Water – Yet again, not needed yet equally a few drops did enhance
  • Overall – Sampled after the 42 year, this was our last note to savour…

Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask #1246 44.6% 

  • Nose – Varnish, aged cheese, unmistakable prunes, sweet, men’s cologne, all that we found before concentrated with even more to uncover
  • Palate – Wild chokecherry jam with that bitterness from the skins, a tinge of black current jam, dry tobacco with the sense of it having been cured in cognac, the feel of being in a dark forest
  • Finish – The driest of the four with an ashy quality
  • Water – Adding a few drops was less transformative than we found with the 39 year yet still did help it open up beautifully
  • Overall – The most masculine of the four, it had a richness and complexity that simply cannot be matched by younger whiskies

It was such a privilege to sip, savour and enjoy such rich mouthfuls of whisky maturity. In this case, age truly does matter… and while some have argued these PX whiskies are so deeply enriched by sherry that one could save money by simply going straight to drinking sherry, that’s utter nonsense!

What I’ve found indulgent and decadent in the younger Glendronach whiskies is in full force here! No luxury spared… imagine being in a lush velvet boudoir with a crackling fire, your every whim fulfilled… and when your hand reaches out for a sip of something rich, robust yet refined… this is what you want!

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