Feb 292016
 

Rare Malts Selection bottles are increasingly rare to come across, and getting to taste any one of them is a treat. The last Rare Malts Selections bottling was over a decade ago, and thus I myself missed out on the good times of buying them in the mid 1990s through early 2000s, and have only tasted a handful out of the 36 distilleries and 80 different expressions in the series (counting only age and vintage, not bottling size – 20, 70 or 75 cl – nor slight ABV variations between them, as many of them exhibit).

Teaninich is one of the least bottled distilleries in all of Scotland, especially given its size. 1992 saw a 10 year old Flora and Fauna bottled, and a single cask was released in the Manager’s Choice series in 2009. Other than those two bottles, three RMS releases were made in 1996 (1972, 23 years old), 1997 (1973, 23 year old – reviewed below) and 2000 (1972, 27 year old). This is rather strange, as the distillery produces almost 10 million liters of alcohol, the 8th largest in Scotland. In the 1970s, though, when this whisky was distilled, it was almost atop the list with a capacity of six million liters.

In 2013 Diageo announced plans to build a super distillery on the Teaninich grounds, with a 14 million liter capacity, like Roseisle. In late 2014, though, faced with slower scotch sales, Diageo postponed implementation of this plan.

Planned, and scrapped, Teaninich "Super Distillery" Photo Credit: cognisnews.wordpress.com

Planned, and scrapped, Teaninich “Super Distillery”
Photo Credit: cognisnews.wordpress.com

It’s the only distillery that uses a mash filter as opposed to a mash tun to create the wart. Not being a technical person, I learned that it creates a very clean and clear malt, removing any and all remains of the grains, which enables Teaninich to create, after a very long 75 hour fermentation, the wort it needs for it’s pretty green and rather oily whisky, which is a critical ingredient of several of the Johnnie Walker blends. If you’re as curious as I am, you can watch a video made by the manufacturer of the filter (Meura) on how it works, but if you’re as non technical as I – you won’t actually understand anything from it, and you’ll prefer to watch the following video, which explains the process, as opposed to the features of the filter….

This is a very consistent dram, giving a very congruent experience, and while definitely not one that will blow you away, it’s a very good dram.

Photo Credit: whiskyonline-shop.com

Photo Credit: whiskyonline-shop.com

Rare Malts Selection Teaninich 1973, 23 Year Old (57.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, quick legs and a nice necklace.

Nose: Sour honey, bit of fresh leaves and flowers, dry and dusty. White pepper. Water brings out some fresh light fruity notes.

Palate: Honey and light spice with some vegetal notes. Dusty with white pepper. Water brings out more pepper.

Linger: spice in back of palate, a somewhat waxy dryness and green leaves on the palate in a rather long linger. Water makes it more spicy.

Conclusion

This one could easily into a Lowland, Speyside or Highland in a blind tasting, which is probably what makes it such a good blending malt. As you would expect, this is an excellent whisky – it had to have been to be made part of this series – it’s not as distinct as some of the other expressions in the series I’ve had.

Henrik, master of the RMS, shared this dram with me – Slainte, buddy!

Aug 162015
 

Until Ballindalloch Distillery was established in 2014, Benromach was Speyside’s smallest distillery. Independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail owns Benromach, having bought it in 1993. It seems like every independent bottler is now opening their own distillery, but for G&M, this is not a new trend. In fact, G&M were in a bidding war for Strathisla in 1950, but lost out to Chivas Bros., who turned Strathisla’s picturesque settings into Chivas’ blend spiritual home, all the while G&M remained Strathisla’s “official bottler”. Thus, it took G&M over four decades to get a distillery.

On an aside, I’ll mention that between 1953 and 1993, the distillery was owned by DCL. It was one of the casualties of the disastrous 1983, but luckily, mothballed, and while the stills were removed, the distillery itself was left fully intact, and was thus available for sale to G&M a decade later, reopening in 1998. Interestingly, that same year there was a single 19 year old Benromach expression bottled in the Rare Malts Selection, strangely making the newly formed Diageo an independent bottler for a G&M distillery. This expression was a 1978 vintage, bottled at 63.8% ABV. This is the only bottling of Benromach in the RMS.

Photo Credit: clachaig.com

Photo Credit: clachaig.com

2014 saw a revamping of the core range to include the 5 year old, two 10 year old expressions – one of them presented at cask strength (100 British proof), and the brand new 15 years old. This four part series will review the core range. In addition, the distillery produces the contrasts series whick includes two wood finishes, as well as an organic and a heavily peated expressions. In addition, there is a 30 year old, as well as a 1969 (yes, my birth year) and a 1976.

The 5 year old replaced the NAS Benromach Traditional, and is made of 80% ex bourbon casks with 20% sherry cask matured whisky.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Benromach 5 Years Old (40% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Straw colored with thin legs. It looks rather viscous despite being only 40%.

Nose: Starts out with new make and malt with a vegetal/grassy note. Some honey appears after a few minutes in the glass. Light spice with clove buds and sweet citrus with touches of lemon. Within about ten minutes, the new make is completely gone, and a new slightly sour note appears, with a distant whiff of smoke.

Palate: Peaty, spicy and malty all at once. Then you get the pepper and the fresh white bread toast. There’s almost no sweetness at first, then you get some faint honey amid the dominant peat.

Linger: Smoky and peppery on the tongue, with some spice high up in the gullet. Tingly on the tongue with some citrus rind bitterness. This may be young, but the linger is absolutely lovely!

Conclusion

If ever there was a whisky to stick it to the NAS movement, this is the one.

Despite being young, this is a really good dram, and at £26, provides great value for the money. And, I’m surprising myself here, actually presents well at 40%.

If it’s well made, young whisky can be good, and you can both tell consumers the truth and sell it at a fair price, without hiding behind a marketing heavy label.

Shane, thanks for sharing this dram, it’s a wonderful summer tipple!

 

Jul 062015
 

I think Benrinnes is one of the distilleries with the largest number of unaware drinkers in the world. You get some Benrinnes in every bottle of Johnny Walker, thus by exension, it has a huge number of drinkers. Yet, I’m not sure that every malthead had the opportunity to have a Benrinnes single malt, as the bottlings are relatively few and far between.

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Named for a nearby mountain, Benrinnes was owned by John Dewar and Sons, and came into the United Distillers portfolio with them, but was not sold on to Bacardi by Diageo. The distillery was separated from other Speyside distilleries by its process. Until 2007, Benrinnes was partially triple distilled.

There have only been five official bottlings of Benrinnes by UD/Diageo. The only regular bottling was a 15 year old Flora and Fauna in 1991, and there have been several Special Releases, including one Rare Malt Selection in 1996 and a 23 year old and a 21 year old Special Releases in 2009 and 2014 respectively.

This is an independent bottling of a 26 year old single cask Benrinnes by The Bottlers. This is a stunning refill sherry butt at cask strength which will tickle and old sherry loves’s fancy.

Photo Credit: www.redditweekly.com

Photo Credit: www.redditweekly.com

Benrinnes 1982, 26 Year Old by The Bottlers, Refill Sherry Butt #3229 (57.4% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Dark Mahogany, slow and thin legs.

Nose: Deepest sherry and oak. High alcohol on nose. This dram really needs water. Notes of a dusty spice store, old leather, tobacco, a lot of oak on the nose, light notes of furniture polish. Water tones down the polish and brings out the classic old sherry, tobacco leaf. Harsh without water and a true stunner with it.

Palate: Very powerful oak to the point of overpowering the malt without water. A lot of old sherry, concentrated dried fruit, spicy with pepper and ground cinnamon with a lot of tannins and tobacco. Satisfyingly mouth drying!

Linger: Long overall with sweet and oaky notes with some polish and mild spice in the gullet. Dried fruit concentrate, sweet on the cusp of woody with some metallic note.

Conclusion

Fabulous dram. Water is your friend here! I think this might have been even more of a stunner given slightly less time in the cask, but we’re splitting hairs here. This is an absolute stunner, and if you come across it, pick up a bottle.

Yet another stunner from Ishai!!! Thanks, man!

Jan 152015
 

I’m long overdue on this next series, looking at some of the basic expressions out there on the market. Coming off a series of independent Clynelish bottlings, it’s fitting to start the ‘back to basics’ series with the Clynelish official bottling.

In 1991, United Distillers (later the heart of Diageo) released a series of entry level malts of distilleries not sporting an official bottling, which came to be known as the Flora and Fauna series due to the pictures of plants and animals on the label. Among the 22 distilleries bottled in that first series, was also a 14 year old Clynelish bottling, bearing the Clynelish/Brora Scottish wildcat. In 1997, a vintage 1982 Flora and Fauna cask strength limited edition was released at 57.7% ABV.

Photo Credit: whiskyauctioneer.com

Photo Credit: whiskyauctioneer.com

Besides the Flora and Fauna bottlings, seven expressions were bottled under the Rare Malts Selection label between 1995 and 1998, all between 22 and 24 years of age.

The Flora and Fauna bottling proved so popular, that in 2004 Diageo released an official 14 year old bottling, and later added a Distiller’s Edition, finished in Oloroso Seco casks. Additionally, in 2009 Diageo released a one-off Friends of the Classic Malts 12 year old edition, fully matured in sherry casks.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Clynelish 14 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Gold, rather quick legs but a ring remains sending a leg down the glass every so often.

Nose: Waxy lemon, like car wax, honey, clove, baked bread. The waxiness strengthens with time in the glass and some dusty spice appear with notes of honeysuckle.

Palate: Citrus and light spices with pepper, allspice and a light sourness in a full bodied liquid.

Linger: Honey sweetness on the tongue, waxy dryness in the mouth and spice tingles in the throat in a medium and pleasant linger.

Conclusion

To me this is a staple malt in any whisky drinking collection and a basic every day dram. It won’t blow you off your chair, but it will also never disappoint you.

 

 

 

 

Jan 082015
 

I like heavier, full bodied whisky, and Clynelish (especially if not chill filtered) is right out there in front of the pack, known for its waxiness and heft. The modern day Clynelish distillery was built in 1968, with stills that are the exact replicas of the old Clynelish distillery which was built in 1819 (later revived and renamed Brora). Without reopening a subject I discussed last week in the second Brora post, I will say that running a medium-peated batch through the stills would actually create the exact new make Brora did (well, almost, as it would be a different strain of barley, but that could probably be remedied too).

Photo Credit: scotchwhisky.net

The distillery style is a blender’s dream, as it gives body to any blend. Indeed, until 2004, there was no official bottling Clynelish, other than a 14 year old Flora and Fauna bottling, when the official Clynelish 14 was released. Besides the Flora and Fauna bottlings, seven expressions were bottled under the Rare Malts Selection label between 1995 and 1998, all between 22 and 24 years of age.

Like many of Diageo’s blending malts, many casks of Clynelish made their way to independent bottlers, and in this mini series looking at Clynelish expressions, We’ll look at some of them. The first is an Adelphi 17 year old.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Adelphi Selection Clynelish 17 Year Old, Distilled 1997, Cask 6417 Yielding 264 Bottles (57.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze with thin and slow legs and an abundance of droplets sticking on the glass for a long while.

Nose: Waxy dough, dried fruit, fruit soup, clove, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and sultanas. 10 drops of water tease out more of the sherry with more dried fruit and some honey with the beeswax of the honeycomb.

Palate: Orange peel, light pepper and cinnamon. The whisky is full bodied and rather dry with some dusty/spicy quality. It has an almost fizzy quality on the tongue. The water livens it up even more.

Linger: Long spice in the back of the throat, a tannic tingle on the inside of the cheeks with a dry/waxy feel in the mouth and on the teeth.

Conclusion

WOW, this whisky is alive, like a hot wire!

A lot of depth and a fabulous interplay between the heavy spirit and the sherry. A serious sherry bomb, and a real beauty.

Thank you Rasmus (and Alma Melissa 🙂 ) for sharing this beauty!