Distillery/Brand: The Lost Distillery Company
So here’s a nifty little trick. Find out which distilleries closed in the last 100 years or so never to open again. Do extensive research and get an understanding of what their malts might have tasted like. Blend some malts together to recreate that whisky. And then proceed to blow me away!
Thank you Lost Distilleries for what you have undertaken for it is nothing short of brilliant!
I will not go into the history of the Gerston Distillery (1796-1882 & 1886-1914) but suffice to say they ran out of business after a good long run. The distillery was located in Halkirk in Caithness – a remote area in the far north of Scotland. So expect a lot of salty and briny peat in the mix.
Nose: Wonderfully sweet with a strong salty peat lash. Some vanilla and tropical fruits in the second breath and then a long lasting rosemary, five spice and thyme combination that stays on for hours and hours. A lovely beam act between sweet and spice.
Palate: The robust spirit is confident in it’s maturity. I am told there are spirits older than 20 years in this bottling. They don’t mention it but I’m told. The chocolate honey is smooth and silky with a smear of spicy plum jam. Really quite well balanced and lovely.
Finish: Satisfyingly long and full of spicy cocoa.
This is a treat to drink and I’m pretty sure the original was no where close to being such a class act.
Distillery/Brand: The Lost Distillery Company
I was at this tasting recently and someone told me about The Lost Distillery Company. Quite genius actually. They literally imagine what closed distillery malts may have tasted like and go about recreating them. I think that’s one of the most creative ideas to come out of Scotland of late. And boy, do they do a good job!
This particular bottling of the Stratheden Distillery (1829-1926) is a throwback to the time the distillery served it’s whisky to smugglers and other illegal distillers in the area. Set in the centre of Auchtermuchty, the distillery was in the middle of flat farmland with the skyline dominated by the nearby Lomond Hills.
This one is made with a Lowland malt base and uses peat from Orkney.
Nose: Toffee sweet with a dominant creme brulee and butterscotch attack. Some dates, some almonds and a hint of something musky and floral. Quite generous in it’s approach.
Palate: Creamy smooth and is like stuffing your face with a fruit basket of apples, pears, oranges and bananas. All at the same time. Quite a colorful fruity pounding. One which puts a smile on your face.
Finish: Brilliantly long with a sugarcane essence.
These are beautifully crafted representations and, as I mentioned in another Lost Distillery review, there is no way the originals could have been this good.
Sampled at a tasting the night before I hadn’t really heard much about Wemyss other than they were an interesting independent bottler with none other than the great Charlie Maclean chairing their nosing panel.
The first in the series was the 12 year old Hive named for the flavor profile they were trying to create. In this instance something quite honeyed. And they seem to have succeeded.
Nose: Invariably sweet honey-comb and beeswax with just the mildest hint of spice and coastal sea-salt. Pleasant and uncomplicated.
Palate: Quite one dimensional with the same honey chocolate fudge quality to it.
Finish: A medium finish brings out, yes you guessed it, honey.
An early morning dram if there ever was one.
Colour: Pale Straw
Wemyss, as I recently discovered at a tasting, is quite an interesting independent bottler. They go about trying to create specific flavor profiles rather than accepting what ever it is that comes out of their casks. And they are ably helped by the great Charlie Maclean.
In this instance they decided to create a spicy spirit aptly named Spice King using mystery malts from the Highland and Islands.
Nose: True to their word, out from the glass sprang a multitude of toasted spices with a charry edge. Lots of cinnamon, coriander, thyme and rosemary. Like literally crashing into a spice rack and sending it tumbling into a pot of bubbling meat stew.
Palate: Sweeter with sticky toffee but the oaky spices come back to play quite strongly amidst a drop or two of lemon.
Finish: A lingering finish of licorice and anise make for quite an edgy malt.
I guess the reason a lot of us liked this expression was the use of Talisker as it’s base malt and you know you can’t go wrong with that.
This particular expression was third in line at a Wemyss tasting I attended recently. An interesting independent bottler which goes after a particular flavor profile rather than the other way around. And made all the more interesting thanks to the great Charles Maclean at it’s nosing helm.
Nose: The peaty nose has a lot of red apple sweetness sitting on a bed of oaky maple syrup. A quick breath and there is nutmeg and clove in the spice department. Interesting. Pleasant.
Palate: Sweet on the palate too, with it’s clove infused dark chocolate and purple fruits.
Finish: Nice, long cinnamon finish.
Magnificent? No. Pleasantly forgettable? Sure.
They say the anticipation of sex is better than the sex itself. Ever since I began collecting malts I have had a fascination with Ardbeg. That was even before I had tasted one. My intrigue grew as did my appreciation of these brilliantly crafted malts and the Path To Peaty Maturity was my ultimate reward. I have the four in my collection but wasn’t planning on opening them any time soon.
But then my close friend (who is now my best friend!) called me and said he had picked up a bottle of this gem and wanted to share it with me. And for that, Mr B, I will forever be in your debt.
Which brings me to my absurd sex reference up top. As I made my way over to Mr B’s house I was extremely nervous that it would not blow me (pardon the pun) away. I have had a recent spate of ‘beauties’ (pun) which left me wanting and I desperately did not want Still Young to join that list of fallen expressions.
How wrong I was.
Nose: This is a symphony of perfection. The type that forces you to involuntarily close your eyes and throw your head back in pleasure (pardon the unintentional sensual imagery). The beautifully presented peat is lean and deliciously in control. I have yet to experience such understated balance and poise. The lemon citrus and rock salt comes through next drizzled on fresh melon rind. Let it rest and a gloriously perfumed dry white white wine emerges from the pale gold depths of the glass. One could be forgiven for forgetting to drink it.
Palate: The exquisitely textured spirit confidently traverses your palate with a rush of crumbling sugars, that same fruity melon, ripe lemon drops and a hint of aniseed. Such simplicity yet such grace. Only Ardbeg is capable of such brilliance.
Finish: The never ending finish holds you captivated for ages, allowing you to introspect on, what can only be described, as the perfect dram.
I’m not giving this one a perfect score because I don’t want to stop searching. But even I know I’ve seen the promised land.
Colour: Deep Gold
When I was young and impressionable (not too long ago) I happened across a certain gentleman by the name of Jim Murray. His opinions and reviews left me riveted. I would swear by him and ridicule people when they disagreed with him.
Then I met him and he lost some credibility in my eyes. A bit of a perv and slightly irritating. But that’s just his personality. He still knew his whisky. Then I started noticing some scores in his Bible which I couldn’t wholeheartedly agree with. But I chalked that up to personal preference. We are, after all, all entitled to our opinion. And then I found out that he named the Glenmorangie Ealanta as his whisky of the year.
Jim, we need to talk.
Nose: Matured exclusively in virgin American oak for 19 years the nose is quite bourbony with a touch of spicy exotic. Sickly sweet chocolate vanilla meets squishy tropical fruits and soft orange apricots with a healthy dollop of dark breakfast marmalade rounded off with toasted nuts. The nose is different alright but is far too sweet for my liking.
Palate: The same tropical fruit basket of papaya, apricots and papaya arrives on the palate covered in maple syrup and some cardamom pods. It’s borderline tasty but fails to truly excite.
Finish: The finger snap finish is a truly disappointing cinnamon oak.
Now I don’t want to accuse any one of selling out but those Whisky Bible sales and whisky workshops must surely be on the decline.
Colour: Deep Gold
I think we all owe Glenfiddich a huge thanks! Not only for keeping the single malt flag flying so that it’s visible to all those rookies out there but also providing seasoned palates with gem after gem to satiate their need for quality.
This bottling of the Reserve Cask comes from a 13,000 liter Solera vat and is composed of 100% Spanish oak refill and first fill butts. It’s part two of three Solera vattings: Select Cask, Reserve Cask & Vintage cask.
Instead of all the casks being combined for a single, once-off vatting which is subsequently bottled, the Solera is a large vat which is continuously topped up with new malt each time a portion of it is drawn off for bottling. So at any one time, the Solera has a portion of whisky that has recently been added, combined with portions that have been in the vat for considerably longer – arguably a portion from the very first original filling should still be present.
Any questions? Good. Now on with the nose.
Nose: One word: gorgeous. Classic Glenfiddich. Full bodied and creamy and that’s just the nose. Strong sherry influence with lovely butterscotch and toasted almonds dipped in luscious dark chocolate garnished with red apples and sprinkled with a touch of salt.
Palate: Which makes the journey to the palate that much more painful. There is stale sponge cake, chocolate and cinnamon and a whole lot of confusion. It starts of promising but then fails to deliver any complexity choosing, instead, to float about aimlessly on your palate in a single layer of flavors.
Finish: The Houdini finish (and by that I mean makes a surprise disappearance) is a lemony limestone of disappointment.
Oh well, you can’t win ’em all, I suppose.
Colour: Young Sauternes
I started drinking whisky only because of my love for bourbons. Big bold personalities unashamed of smothering you with flavors whereas most Scottish single malts chose to remain restrained and courteous.
And Bernheim Original was one of the first that I managed to get my hands on.
Nose: Made from 100% wheat grain the nose is an intense pounding of warm chocolate and maple syrup with squished blue berries and raisins. All poured into a bowl of steaming hot caramel marchiato with a few cardamom pods.
Palate: The intensity continues on the palate with the same clove infused maple syrup drizzled on a chocolate orange cake. Fantastic.
Finish: The long finish is once again bristling with chocolate covered cloves.
This is brilliant stuff. Unafraid and brash with a wagon full of attitude.
Colour: Pale Straw
I have a funny history with Bowmore. I don’t consider them one of the greats because they tend to cut loose some questionable expressions every now and then. But my friend Nitin is infatuated with them and so I don’t lose faith entirely.
And for that I’m glad because this bottling of Bowmore is possibly one of the best expressions from the distillery I have ever tasted!
Nose: Full of coastal sea air with mild peaty overtones. Water chestnuts dipped in caramel, seasoned with clove and liberally sprinkled with salty grewia (falsa in my language) make for one of the more wonderful noses I have come across of late. Let it open up and there emerges maple syrup on pancake covered in dark berries.
Palate: Intense marmalade cooked in dark honey lathered on top of chocolate fudge and sprinkled with a decadent dash of expensive cinnamon. I can hardly tell this is 56% ABV.
Finish: Long and dreamy with a brown sugar espresso steeped in clove.
Nitin, I think I now know where your fascination stems from.