Monday 25 July 2022

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery 72 Year Old [Tasted #580]

My admiration of Gordon & MacPhail has been well documented on this blog - not just for the quality and variety of independently bottled whisky they release, but for their respect for Scotch Whisky, stemming from their 125 years as an integral part of the industry, across four generations.

Part of that respect includes ensuring the utmost historical accuracy, exemplified by their latest release, the 72 year old "Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery".

"Milton Distillery" you say? Confused? I was too...

Strathisla may be known as the most picturesque distillery in Scotland, but it turns out it was only officially named Strathisla in 1951 - prior to that, it was (you guessed it) Milton distillery. So whilst G&M could have called this Strathisla (known for their high-quality, well-aged malts), they chose to keep things accurate and use the name under which the whisky was distilled - Milton.

Gordon & MacPhail's relationship with Strathisla/Milton goes back more than a century, and in 1949 (19th May, to be precise), being well familiar with the distillery's liquid, they filled a first-fill Sherry puncheon (made to G&M's specifications), intended for long-term maturation.

"Long-term" was certainly what they got, as the whisky wasn't bottled until 6th January 2022, 72 years later, yielding 180 bottles at 48.6% ABV.

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery" 72yo (48.6% ABV, 72yo, Cask #383, One of 180 bottles, Speyside, £TBC)

Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Subtle aged sherry, seville oranges, well-aged cigars, with a slight herbal grassiness. After time, some spiced butterscotch becomes noticeable.

Palate: Initial subtle oak tannins quickly give way to overripe oranges, cigar box notes and cut grass. Stewed fruits (pear and apricot predominantly) show, along with apple pie with a hint of spiced honey. 

Finish: Long (no surprises there!) with the spiced honey continuing to the end, alongside the slightest hint of smoke (more of a BBQ meat smoke).

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Another sublime whisky from G&M which defies conventional thinking about whisky and "optimum age". Yes, these casks were built to "go the distance", but to find such nuanced drams at over 70 years old, and without any overt oak influence, continues to impress me.


Friday 1 July 2022

Togouchi & Sakurao "core range" Single Malt Japanese Whisky releases [Tasted #578 - 579]

Almost 12 months ago, we took a look on the current state of the Japanese whisky market, including tasting a number of new releases from an exciting wave of newer Japanese distilleries producing proper (i.e. distilled-in-Japan) Japanese whisky. 

One of those whiskies was Sakurao's 1st Release Cask Strength, which was particularly interesting as it marked the first whisky from Sakurao Distillery (formerly Chugoku Jozo) to be distilled in Japan. Previously, they'd been producing Togouchi whisky - aged in Japan, but distilled in Scotland / Canada. I mentioned that the distillery had (somewhat confusingly) also released a new, Japanese-distilled Togouchi, but at the time it was for the domestic market only.

Fast forward to 2022, and Sakurao Distillery have now released their "core range", regular line-up of both Sakurao & Togouchi - both now available in Hong Kong.

Whilst distilled at the same distillery, Togouchi is aged for more than 3 years in a disused railway tunnel in the forest (Hiroshima mountains) , in ex-Bourbon barrels. Sakurao, on the other hand, is aged in Sakurao, seto Island Sea, in 4 different cask types (ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, American Oak & Mizunara).

First releases (especially when single casks) are always fun, but they're not always representative of the distillery's ambitions, or intentions for a core product, so I was excited to dive in and see what these approachable (43%) core/regular releases had in store...

Sakurao Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Golden straw.

Nose: Honeycomb, ginger tea and orange cake

Palate: Honey toast, BBQ-singed oranges, and peach tea, followed by a little vanilla and woodsmoke.

Finish: Long, with vanilla shortbread notes followed by fresh peaches.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. A solid showing for a first core release - and a very solid competitor to other new distillery releases around this price point. 

Togouchi Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Green bananas, banana chews and minty peas.

Palate: More banana chews, intertwined with notes of rockmelon & vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Medium in length, with a fresh apple crispness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Another solid showing. This is one of those whiskies where you say "you know what? Yeah, it's on the younger side, but it's just super drinkable and tasty." A worthwhile pickup for anyone who wants to see what the future of Japanese whisky could look like.

As with previous (and no doubt future) Sakurao Distillery releases, AFTrade (who provided these bottles for review) are distributing and selling these in Hong Kong. Well worth a look.