Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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Highland Hijinks – Glenmorangie The Duthac 43%

Glenmorangie is known for taking its typical highland of sweet honey, citrus and floral to play with different casks, particularly finishes, to create a different profile. The Duthac is one such variant – using a combination ex PX Sherry and Virgin Oak. Originally launched for travel retail, it was named after St Duthac who ‘rests’ near the distillery.

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Glenmorangie The Duthac 43%

  • Nose – Grape, initially quite restrained then heavy caramel, some clove, sweet spices, vanilla.. after the 1st sip the aromas shifted to plum skin, apricots, butterscotch
  • Palate – One remarked how it “crackled on the tongue” with the 1st sip then settled into a “typical” Glenmorangie – sweet, lightly fruity, honey, sweet spices with mild candied ginger
  • Finish – Slightly bitter, sits there with a linear yet solid quality
  • Water – Did absolutely nothing significant initially then a remarkable thing happened – the finish took on a distinctive watered down “Thumbs Up” (desi cola) taste!

Overall it was pronounced a terrific party whisky. After time, it settled into a yummy pudding pie or creme brûlée. Nothing exceptionally distinctive yet nothing challenging or off-putting. Nice, easy dram for more sociable occasions.

What do the folks at Glenmorangie have to say?

  • Aroma: Seductive aromas of pear, toffee apple, Brazil nuts in toffee, with an underlying spicy note, some toasty oak. With a splash of water, some creamy vanilla fudge is encountered, along with the classic Sherry cask note of linseed oil.
  • Taste: Mouth-filling flavours of milk chocolate, toffee, Brazil nuts, leather and some aniseed. The spiciness is definite, but gentle, with hints of ginger and clove.
  • Finish: The aftertaste once again reminds drinkers that this is a Glenmorangie, with vanilla, apricots in cream and some almond marzipan.

What did the Whisky Ladies sample in our night of Highland Hijinks?

Other Glenmorangie  sampled over the years….

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Deanston Virgin Oak NAS 46.3%

Our May 2015 tasting session featured whiskies from three countries – USA, Scotland and Ireland. We found the quality and appeal of this trio extreme from ‘disaster – do yourself a favour and don’t buy!’ (Hudson) to ‘decent but disappointing’ (Deanston) and utter ‘delight’ with “More! Please sir may I have some more!’ (Teeling)

The Scottish whisky was one sampled previously and earlier a favourite of our host. As always, we tasted blind so would not be influenced by anything other than the immediate whisky experience.

Deanston NAS 46.3% (Whisky Lady)

Deanston NAS 46.3% (Whisky Lady)

Deanston Virgin Oak NAS 46.3% 
  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Initially quite fruity with lime and vanilla, as it warms up, has a french lemony sweet aftershave kind of quality  – think Brut! The overall sense even before the 1st sip is that of a young, fresh, delicate whisky. After the 1st sip, whiff of crunchy green apples, nutmeg, strong honey
  • Taste – A fizzy tingly on the tongue, warm yet alas narry a hint of complexity, most found it a bit bland
  • Finish – Limited and sweet
  • Water – Nope! Don’t go there. Even diluting with only a few drops makes it simply too weak and waters down the light nose
  • Immediate reactions “OK but… maybe a good whisky for people who don’t drink whisky.” Ouch! Honestly, while there was nothing wrong with the whisky, it just somehow didn’t quite strike a strong chord. A few more descriptions bandied about were “bland” and “insipid.”
With more time to breath…
  • I used the lacklustre initial impression as an opportunity to see how it would fare after oxidating for 20 – 30 mins or so. Unlike the Nikka Takesturu 17 year or Chichibu French Oak Cask, I strongly suspected the Deanston would not improve with more time to breathe
  • Sure enough, a half hour later found the nose had dramatically changed to a pronounced sour curd – not in a pleasant way – with none of the initial fruity citrus sweet
  • On the palate? Remained decent but yes… bland

Our host shared:

“I first bought Deanston 10 years ago and it was excellent! Then my next bottle was about five years ago and it was so so. This one? (sigh)… Disappointing” 
I was curious about how this compared with our previous Deanston experiences, so I dug out our sampling records:
  • Deanston 46.3% in April 2012 – I missed this tasting session but another member noted how “We liked the bitter chocolate”
  • Deanston 12 year in June 2013 – For this one, we found “Nuanced nose with over ripe fruit, sweet and spicy on the palate, lovely finish with a hint of spice that slowly dissipated. Delightful!”

The label provides no indication of the year the whisky was bottled, so it is difficult to say whether the whisky or our tastes have changed so dramatically over the years. The only detail it does share is that it is finished in virgin oak casks and is un-chill filtered. I suspect the virgin oak element was what didn’t meet our collective palate.

Deanston up close... (Whisky Lady)

Deanston up close… (Whisky Lady)

In fairness, this isn’t such a bad dram… Unfortunately it just isn’t one that stands out. I’m a firm believer that whisky preferences are highly personal and it all depends on what appeals to your palate. Even though it clearly wasn’t the favourite of the evening, it was one whisky we could pinpoint as ‘Deanston’ even before the reveal. Which means something somewhere has registered as being distinctly ‘Deanston.’  Perhaps in a different mood, setting or a different set of expectations, it would shine more.
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