It’s approaching two years since I last posted…. more on that soon. As I attempt to remount my blogging horse, I thought I’d ease myself into the saddle with some recent Scotch tasting notes.
Today a couple of independent bottlings I just polished off from two very different distilleries.
The first, a Macallan, comes from one of the heavyweights of the Scotch whisky world (as of 2009, it was the second largest-selling single malt producer by volume, behind Glenlivet and ahead of Glenfiddich). Macallan is renowned for its traditionally* rich, sherried house flavour, and for its regular release of rare and older bottlings that often fetch astronomical prices. The bottle in review here is far removed from Macallan’s roots and should not be seen as indicative ofMacallan’s typically excellent releases (particularly in the sherried variety!). The Macallan 12 year old was in fact the first single malt that made me fall in love with sherry-matured whiskies and remains a special drop for me, despite its increasingly stupid price.
The second, a Blair Athol, while one of the oldest running distilleries in Scotland(built in 1798), is a rather invisible distillery in the Perthshire region of the Highlands, and likely unknown to most scotch drinkers outside of the most enthusiastic. This is not at all surprising as the vast majority of Blair Athol’s spirit goes directly into blends –particularly Bells, of which it forms the backbone. The owners dorelease a standard 12 year old “Flora and Fauna” edition but thisis typically only carried by boutique stores and specialty whiskymerchants. Outside of this, you may find occasional single cask releases by a variety of independent bottlers, as we have here, and at varying levels of quality.
On to the notes:
Macallan 15 years(Hart Brothers)
Bottled: June 2008
Nose: Very muted.Overripe banana. Vanilla ice cream. Balsa wood. Hay, rolled oats, andpencil shavings.
Palate: Banana in continuity with the aroma. Glutinous rice and a touch of cinnamon.Dry bourbon notes. Flat cola and barley sugars.
Finish: Dry and a little starchy. A lingering vanilla sweetness and rather woody.
Thoughts: I suspect this was drawn from a refill bourbon barrel – a very tired one and it shows. From the nose to the finish on the tongue, the experience must be fought for. Look, while it’s not a bad whisky per se, it is definitely an uninspiring drop. The bottle never really grabbed me so I spread it out over quite some time and I will confess that ultimately it did grow on me a touch. Perhaps that is an understated complexity and the challenge of apprehending it. Still, I’d summarise it as a diffident whisky and not a Macallan to be proud of. (Keeping in mind that this was not an official Macallan release!).
BlairAthol 12 years (The Old Malt Cask/Douglas Laing Co.)
1 of 760 bottles
Sherry Butt DL Ref. 4686
Nose:Orange marmalade. Treacle. Honeycomb. The sherry influence is clear.Dried dates and grapeskins. Peanut husks. Continues to really open up into a very rich andcomplex nose with time in the glass. Light ginger ale or spritzer?
Palate:Sweet, malty, and quite spicy. Brilliant balance! Lively. Light fruitcake (and really very cakey or bready… think panettone). A lovelyinterplay between spice and wood notes. Plums. Cassia bark and a hintof star anise.
The mouthfeel is full and a touch oily. There is some heat coming from the higher ABV and it will take some water although it is delightful as it stands.
Finish:Butterscotch. A long, luscious fade. Woody andspicy… a touch bitter/sweet.
Thoughts:This bottle is areal cracker. It is in character with the distillery’s official Flora & Fauna release,
but is significantly augmented by the higher ABV and lack of chill-filtration. Richness,complexity, and balance in a glass.
The next review up within a few days, will be of some stellar recent Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings.
*Up until 2004 when Macallanintroduced the Fine Oak series, its whisky was matured solely inOlorosso sherry casks fromJerez, Spain. This turn hasbeen met with very mixed reviews, and more than a little heavycriticism in some quarters. Giventhe release of older age statement whiskies in the Fine Oak series itwould seem Macallan has actuallybeen aging quitea lot of their whisky in exBourbon barrels since at least the 1970s.