Monday, 8 February 2021

Let's talk about Malternatives: Vallein Tercinier "Lot 65" Cognac 1965 - 2016 [Tasted #511]

With the exception of the odd Rum or Gin post, we haven't really covered the topic of "malternatives" much on the blog, but over on the @TimeforWhisky Instagram we've been discussing a few lately, mostly Rums, Cognacs and Armagnacs. 

(For those unfamiliar with the term, a "malternative" is basically a whisky alternative. Generally but not always a spirit, their interest comes in a large part from the significant rise in whisky prices and availability, and whisky drinkers seeking value elsewhere, often landing on Rums, Cognacs and Armagnacs, where some incredible value and amazing spirits can still be found.)

One of the first Cognacs I came across when starting to venture beyond whisky was Vallein Tercinier. I learned of them through Independent Bottler Maltbarn, who bottled a 1986 ("Lot 86") Vallein Tercinier at Cask Strength which I really enjoyed. I then started reading up on the house, and noticed Serge from WhiskyFun had some very, very good things to say, and that a few of the older vintages were said to have a tropical profile (pretty much my holy grail when it comes to whisky profiles). One in particular was referred to as being "between a 1966 Bowmore and a 1972 Caperdonich, only less expensive" which sealed the deal for me...I needed to seek some out.

So off to auction I went, where I picked up a few from the 1960s (and even one from the 1930s!), including this "Lot65" from 1965. I'd heard a few well-regarded people in whisky circles refer to the Lot65 as a "legendary bottle", so hopes were high. 

Lot65 actually comes in three different strengths (two at higher strength with a different label and a green wax stamp), but this is the lower-proof version @ 46% ABV (although believed to still be cask strength). One of the other versions scored a whopping 95 points over on WhiskyFun, whilst this same 46% bottle sscored a very respectable 93 points, also on WhiskyFun. High praise indeed.

The bottle didn't last too long (shared with many good friends), but before it was emptied I had the chance to sit down and take some proper notes, and see if the hype was justified.

Cognac Vallein Tercinier "Lot 65" (46% ABV, ~50yo, Cognac, Grand Champagne, France)
Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Instantly tropical - mango, guava, some strawberries and after a little time, passionfruit. There's an underlying red berry fruitiness that tells you this is Cognac rather than whisky, but it takes a backseat to the mango and passionfruit. Red grapes emerge too, as does just the slightest hint of spice after a while.

Palate: Follows the nose, with pineapple, blueberries and cherries dominating. The spice notes return (more of a fruit spice, think fruit cake), and there are some leather notes. Slight hints of tannins show, but nothing excessive, especially considering the 50yo age. Hugely complex with massive depth of flavour.

Finish: Long, spiced apple and mango, with red grapes lingering well after the glass has been emptied.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. In his tasting, Serge at mentioned "the profile would make me think of some Bowmore from the very same vintage" and I have to agree. A stunning Cognac.



Friday, 29 January 2021

Tasting Glenmorangie's little-discussed "Truffle Oak Reserve" 26yo [Tasted #510]

Back in 2019 Glenmorangie quietly released "Truffle Oak Reserve", a 1000 bottle release of 1993 Glenmorangie, matured for 26 years (16 of which were in "Truffle Oak").

("Truffle Oak" you might rightly ask? In a nutshell, a porous oak sourced from Germany's Black Forest.)

Interestingly, this wasn't the first release of this liquid, with the distillery first releasing a 12yo (with a 2 year Truffle Oak finish) in 2005, limited to 886 bottles. The remainder of the 4 original casks was set aside, matured for an extra 14 years, and the result is what you see here.

Little has been written about this bottle, and I might know why. It seems the marketing is focusing on private clients and high-end events, rather than press release saturation and seeding samples out to bloggers and other media. Understandable, given the limited release and significant price tag. Thanks to good friend of this site Eddie Nara, I was able to attend one of those events (held in the Tatler Suite at Hong Kong's Upper House, no less) and try the whisky.

It's a shame most won't get to try this, as it's an absolutely stunning Glenmo - possibly one of the best I've had (definitely up there with the earliest Signets, which I adore, and the 1963). You can find my full tasting notes below, but it's a hugely complex dram with the Truffle Oak clearly having a significant influence (as you'd expect after 16 years of "finishing").

With exclusivity and quality though, comes cost, with Truffle Oak tipping the scales at $21,500HKD (or over $3,500AUD). Compared to the 1991 grand vintage (also 26yo) at $5,795HKD, it's not a cheap dram...but it is an incredible one. Only 12 bottles came to Hong Kong, and given I tried this a few months ago now, they may well all be sold.

Glenmorangie "Truffle Oak Reserve" (55.7% ABV, 26yo, Highlands, Scotland, $21,500HKD)
Colour: Vibrant orange gold.

Nose: Initial hit of spiced oak, then an earthy nuttiness comes to the fore. More damp earth eventually involving into intriguing, mossy, mushroom notes. There's vanilla, but for me it's more of a rich, intense vanilla essense note.

Palate: Spicy at first, but rich and juicy at the same time. There's still some of that musty damp earth (in a good way, trust me) and huge mouthfeel thanks to the 55.7%, but it's never harsh. With a bit of time, peach and raspberry notes begin to emerge and complement the earthy notes.

Finish: Hugely long, with red berries, peach and some melon notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. This...this is very good.