American Whiskey Blind Tasting Pt. 2

Welcome back to the second part of my Blind American Whiskey tasting! As I explained in Part 1, I’m blind tasting a flight of bourbons and ryes from Hi-Spirits, the UK distribution arm of the Sazerac Company, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery and makers of Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller and many more of the USA’s finest whiskeys.  I taste each whiskey blind and give my notes before discovering what’s behind the label…

Sample E

Nose:  Fresh red and green apples and cooked pears. Powdered cinnamon and sweet clove rock, homemade toffee apples, Edinburgh rock and an earthy, barky note.

Palate: Medium-full, quite warm and spicy mouthfeel but not too astringent.  Cooked orchard fruit with some apple liqueur notes, leafiness, bark, and of course the cinnamon and a little pepper. Delighted to find a menthol note again, really lifts the palate, makes the whole more lively and adds complexity.

Finish: Long, spicy, warm and drying, nice fruit jammy notes, cigar leaf and a hint of menthol lingering in the cinnamon tingle.

Comment: My kind of Unidentified American Whiskey. There’s a lot going on here, from the orchard fruit to the warm cake spices and the more herbaceous notes that add the complexity I look for and take the whole thing to another level.

Reveal: EH Taylor Small Batch 50%, £92.50.  Another one that I haven’t tried before, and one I’ll definitely be making the effort to try again at any available opportunity. The generous fruit and warm spices really hit my sweet spot. Perhaps the higher strength offsets the sweetness and makes it appeal to a hardened cask strength single malt drinker like me?

 

Sample F

Nose:  Sweet cinnamon lozenges, sugared plums, hard icing sugar and melted vanilla ice cream. Dark chocolate shavings. A promising herbaceousness, developing into dry autumn leaves and old bookshelves.

Palate: Medium-full, with a warmer mouthfeel, spicier than the others so far.  Dried apples, fruit liquorice, woodglue, Butterkist popcorn, Danish pastries and other patisserie notes. You might think that sounds too sweet but there’s a lot of cinnamon and pepper balancing it out.

Finish: Very long. Fruity boiled sweets, persistent warm cinnamon, faint barley sugar, glue, faint leafiness and menthol hints.

Comment: Another serious, complex whiskey. Big oak spices dominate alongside the sweetness but there’s plenty of fruit and patisserie notes keeping it from becoming one-dimensional.

Reveal: Old Rip Van Winkle 10yo, 53.5%.  Another whiskey that I perhaps should have recognised off the bat, RVW is one of my long-time favourite bourbons. Famously, the Van Winkle line of bourbons are ‘wheaters’, meaning that the secondary grain is wheat rather than the traditional rye.  This is where the extra sweetness comes from, but the higher strength ensures that there’s plenty of balancing spice.

*Note: Due to the extraordinary demand for Van Winkle whiskeys, we allocate our bottles for sale via ballot.  To enter our ballot, just purchase a bottle of Buffalo Trace whiskey here.*

 

Sample G

Nose: A sweet nose, with apple Chewits, strawberry laces, milk chocolate and red apple peel, but with earthy, woody aromas lurking behind.

Palate:  Quite full-bodied with a very warm, drying mouthfeel. Very spicy, with flavours of cooked green apples in brown sugar, tinned peaches, Playdoh and Fruit Salad sweets, then more woody flavours taking over: clove, cinnamon, varnished oak, icing sugar.

Finish: Very long, hot and spicy at full strength, redeemed by a lasting fruity, appley, brown sugar sweetness.

Comment: I’m not a betting man – I have enough vices already – but if I was I’d wager that this is stronger and/or older than most of the others tasted so far. Certainly it packs a punch with one of the most intense palates yet.

Reveal: EH Taylor Rye 50%, £95. Oh dear. This is why I’m not a betting man, as although the strength is quite high, it’s less than the previous whiskey and the age is only four years old…  I’m glad I picked up on the rye spices, at least – though in fairness, you’d have to be missing a few tastebuds not to notice them! This is a bruiser, with great flavour intensity.

 

Sample H

Nose: A more custardy kind of nose, with a creaminess and sweet pastry / dough notes taking precedence over the fruitier aspects of its predecessors. Rich Tea biscuits, the milk from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, then a little fruitiness: apple leather with a hint of dried blackberry.

Palate: Medium-full, with a gently warming, unctuous mouthfeel.  Follows on well from the nose: Cinnamon Crunch, the biscuity notes, apple leather, then hints of sugared almonds, hard icing sugar, dried fruit. Very nice balance, with nothing becoming too dominant.

Finish: Very good length, gently persistent fruit and biscuity notes, becoming drying without any harsh edges.

Comment: A very well-integrated whiskey, with lots going on and a high class balance of wood, fruit and sweet spices, without ever getting cluttered.  The palate is well-developed and structurally strong without any overbearing heat.

Reveal: Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yo, 45.2%. After my previous disgrace, I’m pretty happy with my verdict on this one, as it’s much along the lines of how I’d try to describe this delightful whiskey if you asked me.  Along with the Family Reserve 15yo, this is my favourite of the Van Winkle range.

 

Sample I

Nose: Nice ‘old church pew’ notes, with milky cinnamon, Weetabix, milk chocolate, custard cream biscuits, and damson jam and cooked apple in the background. Water lifts some pleasant marmaladey citrus notes up from the depths.

Palate: Mediumweight, with an unctuous, mouth-coating texture. More fruity than I’d expected from the nose, with apple and dark fruit conserves, then some more gluey, Playdoh notes, the return of the marmalade from the nose and some background spices that remain much more restrained than some of the earlier whiskeys.  Really, it’s all about the fruit jams here.

Finish: Good length, warm with a little sweet, spicy tingle.

Comment: A more gentle, elegant dram to finish on, with a more fruit-forward character, less spice and a softer, gentler mouthfeel despite a good weight. Impressive, nuanced whiskey.

Reveal: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 40%, £26.50. I’m very, very impressed with how well this held up against its more lofty peers, especially being tasted last.  It’s one of the unwritten rules of the whisk(e)y industry that your entry-level dram should be your best value for money, because that’s the one that the greatest number of people are going to taste and First Impressions Count.

Well, that was a lot of fun – many thanks again to the folks at Sazerac and Hi-Spirits for the samples, it was great to taste and compare this portfolio of superb whiskeys.

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NOVEMBER AUCTION HIGHLIGHTS 2018

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Auction closes 28th November from 8 pm.

Black Bowmore 1964
1st Edition

If there’s ever a whisky worthy of the word ‘legendary’, it has to be the Black Bowmore. And if you’re ever going to splash out and buy one, I would certainly look no further than this example. Sadly, the Black Bowmore’s are usually notorious victims to the ‘Angel’s Share’ and particularly the first editions; which many have been officially re-sealed over the years due to their wax seals. But not this one.

This particular bottle has been in the pipeline for some time now and on our recent trip to Scotland, we managed to secure it for our November sale. It has been in the sellers’ possession for many years where it has been stored and cared for perfectly. It’s almost impossible to find these in such pristine condition with such a well preserved filling level these days.

Ardbeg 1965 + Matching Miniature
Museum Edition

The only official vintage Ardbeg distilled in the 1960s. A vatting of two casks from 1965 left at the distillery when LVMH took over. Casks 3678 and 3679 made up a yield of a mere 261 bottles at just short of 40 years old.

Old, official Ardbeg’ seem to be a thing of the past these days. There’s hardly any hitting the market; to put things into perspective, we’ve sold less than a handful this year. Which is rather scary! Where are they? Are they stuck in collections? Or are they being consumed? Who knows; but one thing is for sure, their supply is very thin indeed. This is a great opportunity to secure yourself one of the most desirable Ardbge’s ever released.

Port Ellen 1979
1st Release

Here’s another distillery bottling we’re seeing less and less of on the market –  we’ve had our fair share of these over the years, but the last time the First Release appeared in one of our auctions was back in February 2017. This displays how scares these official Port Ellen’s are becoming and if you think about the recognition this distillery holds, as well as its history, it’s bewildering where these stand in the current market. It’s not only a historic bottling, but the liquid itself stands up to its status.

Port Ellen 1st Release

Casks Held In Bond

This month we have three casks that are currently maturing in bond, in Scotland. Up first is a 1990 Macallan; It is an excellent cask, and at times unusual in a good way, example of Macallan. One which feels ready now and would probably not benefit from too much further ageing. The strength and flavours are all evenly matched and well integrated. A good, very tasty whole that outweighs the sum of its parts. Read full tasting notes »

Then we have two 2005 Tullibardine’s: Cask 186 is a fascinating cask. Unlike most other contemporary Tullibardine’s. This one shows real individuality, great texture and a beguiling fruitiness. Could easily be bottled now or left to age for at least another decade quite comfortably. A very fun style of whisky that should make for a great conversation stoker. Read full tasting notes »

2005 Tullibardine whisky cask for auction

While cask 267 is an excellent, clean and richly flavoured sherry cask which has served this Tullibardine well. Would continue to mature well for at least another decade. Read full tasting notes »

Tullibardine whisky cask for sale

All the best from all of us here at Whisky Online Auctions.

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American Whiskey Blind Tasting Pt.1

Time for some fun: after our Ian MacLeod tasting earlier this month, this time my tastebuds are being challenged with a flight of American whiskey from Hi-Spirits, the UK spirits distribution agency now owned by American distillers Sazerac Company.  I’ll be tasting each sample blind and giving my impressions before revealing what it was.

Hi-Spirits has an enviable stable of American whiskeys, as their parent company owns Buffalo Trace distillery, where most of the whiskeys I’m tasting this week are distilled. The Sazerac company also has a few other distilleries, including the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown – producers of 1792 Bourbon – and the A. Smith Bowman distillery, which makes Virginia Gentleman.

Buffalo Trace is arguably the largest producer of what we might call ‘prestige’ American whiskey.  The distillery’s top end brands, including the likes of Eagle Rare 17yo, Thomas H. Handy, William Larue Weller, Sazerac 18yo and George T. Stagg have picked up dozens of awards at international spirits competitions and are routinely named by Jim Murray as the world’s best whiskies – indeed, just last month William Larue Weller was crowned by Mr. Murray as World’s Best Whisky 2018, while Thomas H. Handy Rye came third.  

Buffalo Trace is also the guardian of the Van Winkle and W. L. Weller brands, distilling wheated bourbon to the recipes originally pioneered at the legendary extinct Stitzel-Weller distillery. In combination with their own original brands, this portfolio represents the most distinctive and sought-after bourbons and rye whiskeys produced in the USA today.  So let’s get tasting them…

Tasting Sample A

Nose: Mellow aromas of cooked apple, wood glue and freshly-varnished oak benches. There’s a very nice note of blossom as well. Digestive biscuits, vanilla custard and dry tree bark in the background.

Palate: Medium-bodied, with a gentle mouthfeel. Vanilla custard, cooked apples, sweet pastry, cinnamon – apple pie, in other words, which is always a good thing. Develops a leafiness and a faintly menthol aspect mid-palate.

Finish: Decent length. The menthol leads into a warm spiciness that tingles without burning.

Comment: Very pleasant, easy-drinking whiskey, with the leafiness, spice and menthol kicking the complexity up a notch.

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Reveal: Eagle Rare 10 year old (45%, £38.50).  One of Sazerac / Buffalo Trace’s hallmark brands, and one I always consider a safe call in bars. I’m very impressed by how easy drinking this whiskey is for the strength. A good start, let’s see what’s next.
Sample B

Nose: A jammier note, with cooked raspberries and blackberries. There’s apple pie as well, but more in the background, and again there’s a leafy character and some old oak notes. This is both fruitier and woodier than the first sample though.

Palate: Mediumweight, and very soft in the mouth.  There’s the jammy note, plus a more prominent glueiness, warm spice, hints of linseed oil and wood varnish again. The leafiness and menthol reappear again mid-palate.

Finish: Good length, herbaceous, earthy and woody with warming cinnamon spice and faint pepper keeping it fresh and lively on the tongue.

Comment: The leafiness and slightly gentler mouthfeel gives this sample the edge on balance and complexity for me.

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Reveal: 1792 Small Batch 46.85%, £39.50. This is made at the Barton distillery that Sazerac bought in 2009.  I remember this brand when it was known as Ridgemont Reserve – back when I was an off-license till jockey this was always a good recommendation for people for looking for something a bit more complex.  1792 is known for having a high rye content, which explains the leafy, spicy notes I found.

 

Sample C

Nose: A deeper, dustier note, suggesting greater wood influence than the previous samples. Old, seasoned, polished wood like an old church pew. Develops fresh linen, faint damson, dried orange peel aromas and an oaty, porridge note. Water lifts the damson and cinnamon.

Palate: Medium-full with a warm, spicy mouthfeel. The old church pew is upfront, with sweet brown sugar, varnish, furniture polish and wood glue to the fore and the warmth provided by cinnamon and nutmeg notes, even a hint of white pepper. A drop of water brought out the damson from the nose with a bit of cooked plum.

Finish: Long and spicy with the damson coming through towards the death.

Comment: A more savoury dram, a bit more serious for me somehow. The wood is more prominent here. I’d have this as an after-dinner whiskey, perfect to follow a winter stew or a heavy steak.

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Reveal: E H Taylor Single Barrel 50%, £92.50.  I haven’t tasted this one before, and I’m impressed.  The higher alcohol gives it a greater intensity of flavour than the gentler drams preceding it and if I was drinking it at home I’d probably have it with a small drop of water to take the edge off the alcohol and lift the fruit. As the sweetness is less prominent here than in many bourbons, this is probably a good one to recommend to Scotch whisky fans.

 

Sample D

Nose:  Big apple pie and vanilla custard initially, with cinnamon heralding more woody hints of old varnish and furniture polish. Develops milk chocolate aromas and a solid oakiness: bark and old seasoned wood.

Palate: Medium-full, with a luscious, warm, spicy mouthfeel that never gets too hot. Sweet cinnamon custard, cooked apples, hints of dark fruit jam and cookie mix. A complex palate, becoming biscuity midway through – Lotus biscuits and ginger snaps.

Finish: Warm and gentle. Good length. Cooked apples with cake spices, fading sweet cinnamon and autumn leaves.

Comment: I liked this one a lot. It seems to have the depth of the previous whiskey with more of the fruity notes from the first couple of samples.

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Reveal: Sazerac Rye 45%, £46. Of course! I’m cross, because I should have recognised this – it’s been one of my favourite American whiskeys for years. It’s one of those bottles that if I see it in a bar… I know I’m in a good bar.

Right, that seems like a good place to stop for now – tune in soon for Part 2 of the Great American Blind Tasting!

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NOVEMBER AUCTION – CASKS HELD IN BOND – TASTING NOTES

Whisky Casks For Sale

This month’s auction features three whisky casks that are currently maturing in Scotland. First up is a an excellent, and at times unusual Macallan. This would currently yield approximately 208 x 70cl bottles of whisky currently at 28 years old.

Then we have a fascinating Tullibardine that’s unlike most other contemporary Tullibardine’s which shows real individuality. This one would currently yield approximately 211 x 70cl bottles of whisky currently at 13 years old.

And finally another Tullibardine that is a clean and richly flavoured sherry cask which has served this cask well. This would currently yield approximately 307 x 70cl bottles of whisky also currently at 13 years old.

Macallan 1990. Cask #4070. 48.4%

Colour: White wine

Nose: A soft buttery note to begin which unfolds nicely onto coal hearths, damp earth, linseed oil, furniture polish and delicate tertiary notes of coconut, lemon balm, dried herbs and cough medicine. There is a resilient cereal note running underneath as well; crisp, lean and malty. In time there are notes of dried banana chips, sunflower seeds and other trail mix qualities. The overall impression is one of a fine-textured, well-balanced malt whisky.

Palate: Good weight and texture. Slightly petroly and oily with notes of grassy olive oil and mineral oil. Very light camphor and wax aspects as well. More well-structured cereal qualities, some natural sweetness and hints of various dried herbs. These ever so slight medical aspects resurge with these notes of cough medicine and orange throat sweets. Get’s spicier over time as well, towards freshly ground white pepper and cinnamon bark.

Finish: Long, spicy, dry, slightly mineral and with some unusual notes of steel wool, pine needles, wood resins and coal dust. Still rather precise and punchy.

Comments: An excellent, and at times unusual in a good way, example of Macallan. One which feels ready now and would probably not benefit from too much further ageing. The strength and flavours are all evenly matched and well integrated. A good, very tasty whole that outweighs the sum of its parts.

1990 Macallan Whisky Cask For Sale

Tullibardine 2005. Cask #186. 57.7%

Colour: Oaked white wine.

Nose: Potted plants in a greenhouse. Lots of greenery, cut grass, cactus, green banana, peppery salad leaves and some rather oily, fatty green fruit notes as well. Lime cordial, gomme syrup, various fruit liqueurs and a fascinating note of mustardy vinagrette. Quite unusual, but big, oily and very inviting with this rather opulent fruitiness. Unlike many other Tullibardines. Continues with notes of gauze, oily rag, marzipan and sweetened herbal extracts.

Palate: Big, fatty, spicy, sooty, herbal and rich. There’s a rather impressive oiliness and aspects of crisp maltiness, lean bacon fat, turmeric, salted flat breads, muesli, sweet oatmeal and wood glue. Quite unlike most other malt whiskies of similar age. In time it goes towards cod live oil, white flowers and soft waxes. There’s also a fermenting, yeasty quality about it – hints of sourdough, fizzy lemon and ink.

Finish: Rather long and mouth coating. It’s a big, textural, fatty style of distillate. Leaves behind notes of mixed dried herbs, wood spice, glue and strong, earthy teas.

Comments: A fascinating cask. Unlike most other contemporary Tullibardines. This one shows real individuality, great texture and a beguiling fruitiness. Could easily be bottled now or left to age for at least another decade quite comfortably. A very fun style of whisky that should make for a great conversation stoker.

2005 Tullibardine whisky cask for auction

Tullibardine 2005. Cask #267. 58.4%

Colour: deep amber / polished rosewood.

Nose: This one feels very much about the cask at first nosing. Lots of sweetened black tea, jasmine, tea tree oils, creme de menthe, black pepper and cured meats. Thick, fatty, earthy and with plenty hessian and coal dust. There’s also toasted oak, ripe banana, milk chocolate, walnuts and mixed dark fruits soaked in cognac. Quite excellent.

Palate: Big, thick, resinous and sweet sherry. Lots of coco, walnuts, strawberry wine, gingerbread, lemon thyme, espresso, bovril and damp sack cloth. Some wee touches of treacle, salty old oloroso and rancio as well. It’s really the sherry that does the talking with this one but it’s an excellent and characterful – and most importantly clean – style of sherry so it works very well.

Finish: Long, earthy, gingery, spicy and ultimately syrupy, sweet and slightly mentholated. Comments: An excellent, clean and richly flavoured sherry cask which has served this Tullibardine well. Would continue to mature well for at least another decade.

Comments: An excellent, clean and richly flavoured sherry cask which has served this Tullibardine well. Would continue to mature well for at least another decade.

 

Tullibardine whisky cask for sale

If you are interested in buying this cask, you can register to bid on our auction here: https://www.whisky-onlineauctions.com/create-account/

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Alex Barclay Miniature Auction Part 3

Whisky Miniature Auction Now Live!

It’s time for the third of our auctions dedicated to the miniature collection of Alex Barclay, president of the Mini Bottle Club.  Back in the summer, the team travelled to Birmingham to collect over 5,000 miniatures from Alex – the collection is so large that we’re splitting it into five auctions of around 1,000 bottles each. You can read more about Alex and his incredible collection in our interview with the man himself here.

Malts Of Scotland

This month’s auction features hundreds of miniatures from one of the more recent arrivals on the independent bottling scene: Malts of Scotland. This German company was only established in 2005 but they’ve had a big impact in a short time, and won the Independent Bottler of The Year from Whisky Magazine’s Independent Bottlers Challenge in 2016.

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You’ll have to check out the auction itself to find all the amazing MoS bottlings, but a few very interesting lots caught our eye.  Some of the oldest malts include the Lochside 1967, the Glenrothes 1968 and the Bunnahabhain 1966 – the latter one of only 48 minis produced. Islay fans, meanwhile, will be excited to see the sherried Port Ellen 1982 and Caol Ila 1979, as well as the more recent Laphroaig 1990, sherried Bowmore 1995 and sherried Port Charlotte 2001. All of these bottlings are at natural cask strength, with the PC bottled at a very hefty 66.1%.

Other highlights from Malts of Scotland include a wide selection of drams from distilleries that are rarely seen outside of official bottlings, such as the Macallan 1989 and ‘Talimburg’ 1994, plus a rare (misspelled) ‘Ayreshire’ 1992 single grain – presumably from Girvan – and world whiskies such as the Paul John 2009, Heaven Hill 2001 and the intriguing Tullahoma 2011 Tennessee Bourbon 2011, most likely George Dickel.

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Irish Whiskey

The other major theme of this month’s auction is Irish Whiskey and as you would expect from a collector of Alex’s stature there are some absolutely astonishing bottles.

From the familiar names we have some incredibly old and rare Jameson’s, including a  war-era Jameson 7yo, ‘Made only from Barley, Malt, Wheat and Oats’!  There’s also a 1930s Jameson 7yo and a clear glass US import Jameson 7yo 1926-1934.  We also have some very rare Jamesons bottled under license by various Irish grocers and wine merchants, such as the Jameson Vat 10 for O’Malley’s in Limerick and the beautiful Mooney’s Extra Superior.

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It’s not just about Jameson’s, of course – there are very collectable examples from other well-known brands including Paddy’s 10yo, Gilbey’s Redbreast 12yo and a very old Power’s bottled for Aer Lingus.  

The real gems, however, are the ancient old blends and pot still whiskeys.  As is sadly often the case with very old miniatures, some of the bottles have low fill levels, but we know that collectors understand the value of these bottles as beautiful historical objects in their own right.

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A few of the dozens of fantastic old Irish minis: from Belfast, there’s Kirker & Greer’s Shamrock Whiskey or the ancient Irish Whiskey Company (another wonderful label), then there are US imports such as Mitchell’s Shamrock 14yo and Original Irish; and curiosities such as the Ballyhooley Whisky – a blend of Scottish and Irish whisk(e)ys with its own tasting cup – or the splendidly cheesy Leprechaun ‘As distilled in the glen by the little green men’.

The absolute stars of the Irish side of this auction, though, are the miniatures from the long-extinct Brusna distillery, better known as Locke’s and Kilbeggan. Kilbeggan is Ireland’s oldest distillery, founded in 1757, but production stopped in the 1954 and the distillery was closed in its bicentennial year, 1957. We have a trio of these wonderful miniatures: Locke’s Old Kilbeggan 15yo, Locke’s Liqueur and John Locke & Co. Pure Pot Still, with a drawing of the distillery on the label.

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Elsewhere in the auction, there are plenty of excellent OB single malts, including Glenturret 1965 and Glenmorangie 1963 and dozens of Glenlivets and Glenfarclases (Glenfarcli?). I particularly liked this Glenfarclas for the Aquascutum Club and the Ross’s Rare Old Glenlivet 12yo.  Once again, there’s truly something for everyone in this month’s miniature auction – Good Luck and Happy Bidding!

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OCTOBER AUCTION RESULTS 2018

October whisky auction results

Another raft of impressive prices were realised in our latest auction. The top item was, as expected, the cask of 1989 Macallan which fetched £90,100 – slightly higher than recent similar Macallan casks suggesting they may well be on the rise again as appetite remains undimmed. Perhaps more tellingly was the full set of Millennium Springbanks which hit £21,100, a record for this set by some distance. Given the way, prices have been going for older Springbanks recently this is hardly surprising. Hard to believe you could pick up a complete set for under £6000 a couple of years ago.

A second edition Black Bowmore was similarly impressive at £13,100. Although, given the track record of this series in recent times, these kinds of results are no longer that surprising. Neither was the £8400 paid for the Sherriff’s Bowmore 8-year-old pear-shaped. A stunning whisky of legendary repute which explains the serious prices people are clearly willing to pay for such a whisky. These kinds of bottles will likely never be cheaper again given their scarcity.

Sherriss's Bowmore

The upper end of the auction

In fact, the whole upper end of the auction was a string of examples of these kinds of serious yet unsurprising prices for remarkable bottles. The UK version of the famed Samaroli Springbank 12-year-old at £10,100 is another perfect example. As is the Jura 1964 Cadenhead Dumpy for £3300. It seems these days that any bottle of seriously perceived whisky that rarely sees the secondary market is bound to fetch a hefty four-figure sum minimum. With many increasingly entering the five-figure range – some jumping there with rather staggering speed in recent months.

Of course, it isn’t only malts that impress. Famous blended brands such as the Islay Mist also do exceptionally well whenever they turn up – the 1950s bottling at £3600 being a particularly rare and pristine example. Given the repute of these whiskies, I’d almost say this price was on the soft side but it’s probably best not to start getting into the mindset of £3600 for a bottle of whisky being cheap.

The Macallans were all as you might expect price wise, as was the 1970s Laphroaig 10-year-old at £2150. Perhaps more interesting was the Ardbeg Provenance at £2250. It has taken a slow and winding time for the Provenances to reach this price point and they do seem slightly out of kilter with the more expensive sibling Ardbeg bottlings from the late 1990s. Given the quality of the Provenance whiskies, I wonder if they aren’t going to jump up another level in price within the next six months or so?

One of the most beautiful bottles in the sale was no doubt the Old Pulteney bottled by Cadenhead in the 1960s at 85 proof. A stunning and rarely seen whisky, this one is one of a few of this bottling that have found their way to market over the past year or so which explains it’s slightly softer £1800 result. However, this is still an impressive price which demonstrates the demand for older bottlings from the famous bottlers such as Cadenhead. Especially unusual ones such as this Pulteney.

Old Pulteney Cadenheads

The Lagavulin Syndicate 38-year-olds are all holding well at £1550. Once the initial supply of these bottles to the market has dried up I suspect the price of this one will start to climb fairly significantly. Something of a surprise at the same price tag was the Littlemill 1964 32-year-old distillery bottling from the 1990s. No doubt the recent uptick in interest for Littlemill and other closed distilleries, in general, helped this one along its way.

Demand for older Gordon & MacPhail bottlings also appears to remain undimmed with the Talisker 1967 100 Proof and the Highland Park St Magnus fetching £1550 and £1500 respectively. These are hefty prices, but given the great filling levels, general condition of the bottles and stunning reputations of the whiskies, these seem like fair prices for these whiskies in today’s market. If you can afford to bid at these price levels I think these are no-brainer bottles to go for.

Talisker 1967 100 proof Highland Park St Magnus Label

 

Results around the £1,000

Other notable results around the £1000 mark were the 1966 Macallan Speymalt by Gordon & MacPhail at £1300. A strong result for this bottling and maybe a sign of higher interest in Speymalt series – an inevitability given their repute, content and the price of similarly aged official Macallans.

There was the Laphroaig 1968 Hart Brothers at £1250, the Ardbeg 1974 Signatory at £1300 and the Springbank 1979 Cadenhead white label at £1150. All of which were strong results for these particular bottlings.

Going down through the middle of the sale stand out results include the Signatory 1974 Bowmore at £825, the Glendronach 1960 23-year-old Connoisseur’s Choice at £825 and the Glen Garioch 1970 27-year-old single cask for £825. All of which are something of a climb on recent results for these bottlings.

The Lagavulin 1984 – 1995 SMWS 111.3 bottling at £800 also demonstrates just how powerful the combination of a big name distillery and a rarely seen SMWS bottle number can be. A similar whisky of that age and vintage from another bottler wouldn’t have climbed that high. Just as a 1960s bottle of Jameson Crested Ten Irish Whiskey at £725 demonstrated that demand for older Irish Whiskeys is starting to increase significantly. No doubt the surge of excellent older bottlings on the market, coupled with increased global interest and many new distilleries starting up is fuelling new collector interest.

Lagavulin SMWS 111.3 Jameson Crested Ten

Even in today’s market Macallan can continue to surprise. A pair of standard 1990’s 10-year-olds at £575 apiece seems eye-wateringly daft. Especially when there’s a Highland Park 1973 SMWS 4.87 just beneath it for £525.

All in all, this was a strong sale with a wide spread of excellent bottles – quite a few of them scarcely seen in today’s secondary market. As a result, prices were pretty high across the board. Even for bottlings, you might not think much of on the face of it. For example, a 1978 21-year-old Glenlossie at £310 seems pretty steep. But this just demonstrates the breadth of the buying audience that exists around the world for good old malt whiskies these days. It doesn’t look as if things are going to change anytime soon. Until next time.

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Glengoyne & Tamdhu Tasting Notes

Founded in 1933, Ian MacLeod Distillers are one of the unsung independent distillers and bottlers in the UK, despite being the 10th-largest Scotch whisky company in the world.  This may be because much of the company’s business is behind the scenes – they are one of the largest suppliers of own-brand whiskies to bulk markets and some of their biggest brands are marketed mostly overseas.

In the UK, the company has a reputation among whisky cognoscenti as a reliable source of high quality, great value whiskies. Ian MacLeod have a diverse range of proprietary and independent bottlings, with Smokehead, Chieftain’s Choice and Isle of Skye among the most prominent.  The company is not just involved with whisky – they produce a variety of other gins, vodkas and rums and in 2016 they acquired Spencerfield Spirits Co, producers of Edinburgh Gin.

Ian MacLeod  & Co. became Ian MacLeod Distillers in 2003 with their acquisition of the Glengoyne distillery; Tamdhu distillery was purchased in 2011 and relaunched in 2013.  In October 2017 it was announced that Ian MacLeod had acquired and were rebuilding the lost Lowland distillery Rosebank – a stunning coup that gladdened the hearts of whisky fans the world over. It’ll be a while yet before there’s any new Rosebank to be tasted, so we’ll be focusing on Tamdhu and Glengoyne today…

6640-9379glengoyne18yearold

Glengoyne 18 Year Old, 43%, £82

Nose: Hot-buttered brown toast and a rich brown sugar aroma, then raisins, flapjacks, oatmeal, Digestive biscuits. Develops a pleasant leafiness, and prominent vanilla and biscuity aromas never allow the sherry to dominate.

Palate: Medium-full; a very clean, generous, soft mouthfeel with a little tingle. The flavours sync clearly with the nose: bready and biscuity with the fruitcake sherry sweetness again prominent without being too dominant – the balance is excellent, with a really crystalline barley edge rounded out by a hint of soft vanilla and chocolate cake.

Finish: That clear barley edge with a generous, warming, spicy tingle. The balance here is flawless. The sherry and spices fade slowly to reveal a delicate chocolate note.

Comment: Clearly, I don’t drink enough Glengoyne. This is a brilliantly put-together whisky and while the wood is impressive – obviously excellent casks – it’s the punchy, unpeated barley character that really impresses me. In short, the distillate and the oak complement each other beautifully, and that’s down to great cask selection and masterful blending.
6641-9380glengoyne21yr

Glengoyne 21 Year Old, 43%, £120

Nose: Big sherry, a much deeper oak presence than the 18 year old. Gingerbread, cinnamon biscuits and rich Dundee fruitcake.  Develops malt loaf, cooked raisins, muscovado sugar, homemade wholemeal bread, old church pews, cookie dough, old soft leather. In these days of ‘wood technology’ and various techniques designed to pimp the whisky, it’s an absolute joy to encounter a more old-school sherry-cask character – and not even the slightest hint of the dreaded sulphur.  

Palate: Follows on perfectly from the nose – a big hit of brown sugar sweetness initially, then settles down into lovely fruitcake and patisserie notes.  A strong nuttiness – brazil nuts, hazelnuts, noisette – then milk chocolate and Ovaltine, before the cooked fruit returns with a spicy overtone.

Finish: Lingering fruitcake, candied mixed peel and growing spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, faint white pepper. Again, the balance is exquisite.  Nothing feels overblown, the sherry and spices sit beautifully together and there’s enough clear barley punch to keep the whole thing rounded.

Comment: I don’t understand why so many whisky companies – some of whom have far vaster resources than IMD – waste so much time and money trying to game the system with ‘wine-treated’ or ‘sherry-seasoned’ casks that aren’t really sherry casks, or multiple re-rackings, red wine finishes and so on. The formula is simple: make the best distillate you can, put it in the best bourbon or sherry casks you can afford and you’ll most likely end up with a very good whisky. This is Exhibit A – a great after-dinner option, especially with Christmas coming up. This could easily steal the show on the big day.

Two absolutely cracking drams from Glengoyne, so the stablemate Tamdhu has a lot to live up to! Onwards…

6637-9376tamdhubatchstrength

Tamdhu Cask Strength, 58.3%, £57.95

Nose: Once more, there’s a big sherry hit straight off the bat.  There’s a big emphasis on rich brown sugar character initially, then milk chocolate, walnuts and hazelnuts, vanilla ice cream, chocolate milkshake. Becomes earthy, with notes of autumn leaves or compost, old bookcases.  I have to assume, given the lack of an age statement, that this Tamdhu is a relative youngster, but whatever the actual age is, this is a nose of admirable character and maturity.

Palate: Full-bodied but not too hot or punishing to the tastebuds. Remarkably palatable at full strength.  A huge initial sweetness without being cloying, then plum duff, sugared almonds, nougat and chocolate cake.  Once again, as with Glengoyne, the barley edge of the distillate comes through strongly, providing a counterpoint to the generous sweet oak. The fruitcake, chocolate and dried nuts are all here, with faint vanilla custard and bark. Very intense, well-defined flavours. With water:  Swims well and can handle plenty of water without losing its shape. The water brings more old oak character to the fore alongside chocolate milk and golden syrup.

Finish: Very long and satisfying finish. Young, sherried, cask strength drams can be very bitter at the death but there’s none of that here. It’s strong, sweet and spicy, certainly, but never goes over the top.

Comment: With a NAS whisky bottled at 58.3%, you might expect a certain brutality, but while this is a powerful dram it’s certainly far from vicious.  As with the Glengoyne, there are clear signs here of an adherence to traditional standards, excellent wood policy and serious skill in the cask selection and blending. Long may this dram confound our expectations. What’s clear is how criminally underrated both of these distilleries are.

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