Sunday 30 October 2022

Dead Reckoning Rum: Independently bottled rum from around the World [Tasted #605 - 607]

We don't feature a lot of malternatives on the blog, but when we do, we prefer them to follow the same types of whiskies we typically like to drink - i.e. cask or higher strength, single cask, and/or independently bottled. So when Justin Boseley of Dead Reckoning Rum (IG) reached out recently, it only took a quick Google to learn this was the sort of malternative that ticks the TimeforWhisky boxes...

Justin runs La Rumbla Imports, a premium spirit store based in South Australia focusing on (you guessed it) rum, but also runs his own independent rum brand Dead Reckoning Rum, described as "An Australian Independent label specialising in master-mixed rum blends, single casks and some rare, forgotten ‘barn-finds’ of the Rum world".

Justin was kind enough to send through three samples of recent and upcoming releases, specifically:
  • Dead Reckoning Rum Mutiny - South Pacific Cask Strength 21 Year Old (65%)
  • Dead Reckoning Rum South Pacific Muscat Cask 10 Year Old (47%); and
  • Dead Reckoning Rum Mhoba - South Africa 2 Years 5 Months Old ex-Red Wine Cask (56%)

Being a relative newbie to rum, I hadn't heard of South Pacific Distillery, but a little Googling led me to learn it's from Fiji, owned by Coca-Cola, and has been bottled by other independent bottlers (Samaroli, Kill Devil etc..) previously. Whilst the distillery does release some of own bottlings at the younger end of the spectrum, it seems they didn't quite know what to do with some of the older stock they had on-hand, which is how Justin came to bottle the 21 Year Old featured here (due for release in November in Australia, $200AUD RRP).

Dead Reckoning Rum Mutiny - South Pacific Cask Strength 21 Year Old (65% ABV, 21yo, 100% tropical aged, 85-90% angels' share, 285 bottles, Fiji, $200AUD)
Colour: Deep burnished copper.

Nose: Grass-laden earthiness, stewed pears and peaches, along with banana & singed straw, funky, intriguing and inviting.

Palate: Big, mouth-filling Esthers give way to blackberry and blackcurrant notes, intense blackcurrant jubes, 85%+ dark chocolate and coffee beans then some black jelly babies. It’s big, very big, but not at all harsh. LOTS of flavour.

Finish: Long, dark chocolate coated coffee beans.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100 (Martin). At 65% this could've just been an overly hot mess, but it's not at all. It's complex, full of flavour, big, and delicious.

Dead Reckoning Rum South Pacific Muscat Cask 10 Year Old (47% ABV, 10yo, 100% tropical aged, 50% angels' share, 1,240 bottles, Fiji)
Colour: Copper gold.

Nose: Esthers, grass, and a sweet fruitiness.

Palate: I get toffee at first, followed up by Sultanas and 70% Lindt Chocolate. These are big flavours, but they're refined, and at 47%, eminently drinkable.

Finish: Long, with slight oak tannins and coffee grounds.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100 (Martin). I like this.

Dead Reckoning Rum Mhoba - South Africa 2 Years 5 Months Old ex-Red Wine Cask (56% ABV, 2yrs 5mths old, 21% angels' share, 377 bottles, South Africa, $170AUD)
Colour: Burnished copper-gold

Nose: Wow, instantly I just get huge amounts of blackcurrant juice, followed by some apple juice. It's intense, it's huge, it's obviously young, but it's packed full of flavour.

Palate: Big esthers, alongside fresh apple juice and juicy blackcurrants. I left the sample bottle half-full for ~2 weeks and after that oxidation, noticed some chocolate milk and caramel chews.

Finish: On the shorter side, with more blackcurrent and grape, hints of chocolate before ending in slight hints of drying oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 86/100 (Martin). Super unique, youthful and not overly complex, but definitely a well-made rum - tasty and in no way "harsh".

Thanks to Justin of Dead Reckoning Rum for providing these samples - definitely a brand I'll be keeping my eye on in the future.


Friday 28 October 2022

G&M Private Collection Lochside 1981, St Magdalene 1982 & Glen Mhor 1982 (The Recollection Series) [Tasted #602 - 604]

The 10th anniversary celebrations may be over, but the epic whisky posts certainly aren't. Continuing the "closed distillery" theme of a few of our recent posts are three new releases from Gordon & MacPhail, as part of their new series "The Recollection - Lost works of Art from Scotland's Liquid History".

"The Recollection", a series of "rare single malts to revive and celebrate the character of now closed distilleries" is interesting in that it will span both Private Collection and Connoisseurs Choice ranges, presumably introducing bottles at a range of prices.

G&M were kind enough to send me three samples of "The Recollection" Private Collection releases recently, as a taste of things to come:
(The series has also seen bottlings from Pittyvaich, Inverleven, Convalmore, Imperial & Banff released recently too.)

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Lochside 1981 40yo (49.2% ABV, 40yo, Cask #802, One of 141 bottles, Highland, £3199.99/ $4999 USD)
Initially a brewery, Lochside becan distillation with a Coffey still, followed by four pot stills in 1961. The distillery ran until the early 1990s, was demolished in 2005, and has a distillery character described as "a Highland whisky of medium body and fruit", complementing long-term Sherry maturation. This one in particular was matured in a refill Sherry hogshead.

Colour: Rich dark orange gold

Nose: Whole oranges, grapefruit, with a slightly minty undertone. Wine gums at first, with tropical fruits (subtle mango, coconut) emerging over time.

Palate: Grapefruit and passionfruit, some oak, orange zest and hints of dunnage warehouse and those lovely old sherry casks of years gone by. There's a slight nuttiness and a little of the mint from the nose too.

Finish: Slightly drying and herbal (herbal tea), with just a hint of tannin at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin). Properly delicious, well-made and expertly-matured whisky.

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection St Magdalene 1982 39yo (54.8% ABV, 39yo, Cask #2094, One of 165 bottles, Lowland, £2249.99 / $3499 USD)
St Magdalene (often called "Linlithgow") was built in the mid-18th century, and operated through to 1983 when it was closed. The distillery has since been renovated into residential flats, though the malting barn and kiln remain. The whisky offers a "light style of spirit with citrus and herbal influences". In this case, maturation was in a refill American hogshead.

Colour: Golden sunset

Nose: Herbal and spiced at first. After some time, milk chocolate emerges, along with lemon zest, white pepper (just a little), and some lime and grapefruit notes.

Palate: Apricot and peach, floral notes, milk chocolate, passionfruit, oak, vanilla ice cream drizzled with honey, and sweet milk tea.

Finish: Long, chocolate-coated pineapple alongside toasted oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100 (Martin). I don't generally reach for Lowland whiskies, but this one is lovely.

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glen Mhor 1982 40yo (50.8% ABV, 40yo, Cask #72, One of 174 bottles, Highland, £2249.99 / $3499 USD)
Built in 1892 & demolished in 1986, the whiskies of Glen Mhor are said to have a well-rounded spirit style which works well with G&M's bespoke Sherry casks (in this case, a refill sherry hoghsead).

Colour: Copper-gold.

Nose: Dark chocolate nuttiness. It's sherried, but the sherry's not in your face. There's also some nutella, herbal tea and maraschino cherries.

Palate: The chocolate from the nose carries through, as does the nuttiness. Then there are some stone fruits, oat cakes, dried tobacco leaves, varnish and manuka honey. A delicious variety.

Finish: Long, with earth-laden chocolate notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin). Another delight.

All bottles will be available worldwide through usual G&M channels. Thanks to G&M and WSW for the samples.


Tuesday 25 October 2022

Tasted #601: Bushmills 2012 Burgundy Cask

One less commonly known thing is that whiskey distilling started in Ireland. Another fact is that the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery was granted a license to distill in 1608, making it one of the oldest distilleries in the world and certainly in Bushmills, Ireland. Though the town's first distillery didn't appear until 1784, there had been an improvement over the next century.

Triple pot distillation though did not start until the 1930s, following the appointment of Scotsman Jimmy Morrison as a manager to improve the make. Jimmy's triple type of pot still [distillation] was not in use anywhere else. He had come to Bushmills from Mortlach, which may raise the question of similarities? Between the 1930s and the 1970s, the distillery only produced peated whiskey. Fast forward to today, Bushmills makes light, grassy, triple-distilled malt and its original blends. 

So what do you get when you combine the triple distilled malt from one of the oldest distilleries with an approach that sees the use of historically significant casks to finish the malt? How about a rather pleasant and delicious triple-distilled whiskey. This was such when we tasted the Bushmills Burgundy Cask; a release that forms part of a special series created exclusively for The Whisky Club.

Bushmills have produced a three-part exclusive series for the Whisky Club, with the first series, released in 2020 being a 2006 vintage Marsala Cask aka Italian Sherry. The second series followed a 2011 vintage Banyuls Cask, a French Port matured Bushmills.

The Bushmills Burgundy Cask is the third and final release in the Bushmills Causeway Collection 2012. What's unique is that the Burgundy casks have been sourced from Domaine des Hospices, a winery dating back to the 1400s. The Burgundy Cask will also be the first release with Bushmill's new Master Blender Alex Thomas. She has described the release as "one of the best whiskeys that Bushmills have produced to date"

Distilled in 2012, the spirit was first laid down in Bushmills’ trademark Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks before being further matured for three-and-a-half-year in Burgundy red wine casks. Bottled this year, this non-chill filtered and non-coloured release has been bottled at cask strength; 51.8% ABV.

The Bushmills 2012 Burgundy Cask - The Causeway Collection (51.8% ABV, 10yo, Antrim, Ireland, A$135 (via The Whisky Club) 


Nose: The nose is fresh, sweet, and vanilla-laden. There are dried fruits mixed with strawberry jam and some custard apples. 

Palate: The palate builds on the sweetness from the nose with red velvet cake followed by a vanilla and strawberry jam sponge cake. The palate is rich and slowly evolves into notes of spiced toffee apple cake and sticky date pudding

Finish: The finish is long and smooth with spices and tannin remaining for a while longer

Rating: 93/100 (Hendy)

Thanks to Eilis Grainger of Mango Communications and The Whisky Club for providing us with a sample of this Bushmills Burgundy Cask release.


Saturday 22 October 2022

Tasted #600: Springbank 50yo 1919 (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Well here we are...10 years to the day since's very first post! Over 630 articles, 600 Tasting notes, and more amazing experiences than I ever thought possible....and still going strong!

Coinciding with this momentous occasion, Tasted Post #600 had to be something special (after all, the past 100's included a 65yo Lalique Macallan50yo OB Balvenie & 60yo Glenfarclas). Any of the previous 9 "10th Anniversary" whiskies would have been sufficient...but hey, milestones like this don't come along all that often - this whisky had to be something really special.

...and to that end, I present the Springbank 50 Year Old 1919. Filled into cask on 29th Dec 1919 (just 13 months after the end of WW1), and bottled on 25th Nov 1970, this whisky slumbered away in oak throughout the entire World War II, the moon landing, the Vietnam War, the first nuclear explosion...I could go on.

It's pretty incredible to try any 50 Year Old whisky, but to think this was distilled almost 100 years before I tried it....astounding.

As with several of the "10th Anniversary" whiskies over the past 10 days, this whisky was tasted thanks to the generosity of a fellow whisky lover (@whisky_is_better_aged again), at Hong Kong's WhiskyNow 2019. I'd just tried a different Springbank 50 Year Old (Millennium Collection, pictured below) when @whisky_is_better_aged mentioned he had something special under the table, and gestured for my glass.

When this 1919 Springbank was pulled out, I realised "something special" was an a bit of an understatement...

The bottle itself doesn't mention the year of distillation, but Emmanuel Dron's excellent "Collecting Scotch Whisky" tome has the accompanying letters which came with the bottle in 1970, detailing the key dates and figures. Of particular note is this whisky was bottled at 66.3 proof, or roughly 37.8% ABV - i.e. by today's standards, it couldn't legally be called Scotch whisky!

A distillery re-bottling of this sold for an incredible £183,500 less than a year ago, and though this original "Pear Shaped" Springbank 50 Year Old hasn't quite achieved such lofty prices, it's certainly incredible rare and valuable.

Springbank 50 Year Old 1919 Pear Shaped Bottle (66.3 proof (~37.8% ABV), 50yo, Campbeltown, Scotland)
Colour: Dull orange-gold.

Nose: Ok, well this is unlike any whisky I've nosed before. There's a dustiness, some earth-laden smoke, a herbal oiliness and some Vicks lozenges. It's...a spirit. I wouldn't immediately necessarily say whisky. It's complex, and lovely to nose, it's just...very unusual!

Dusty lemon tart with a freshly baked crust is my initial impression, followed by drying oak with a slight oiliness. Black jelly babies, a certain "barnyardiness" and camfourwood follow, before the dusty, earthy smoke of the nose re-appears. A mixed bag of flavours!

Short to medium in length, with overripe lemons, residual oak and a lingering forrest floor earthiness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Subtle, understated, yet equally complex and baffling. On the whole though, an enjoyable whisky and an immensely satisfying experience.

Not the 1919...but another Springbank 50 Year Old (Millennium Collection) tasted on the same day.
(Yes, it was a good day...)

Well there we have it, 600 Tasting notes and 10 years. Hendy and I look forward to bringing you the next decade of eventstasting Notes and whisky news...and who knows maybe one day we'll even update this ancient website!

Thanks for reading / following - it really means a lot.


Friday 21 October 2022

Tasted #599: Highland Park 50 Year Old (2020 Release) (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the HK launch of the Highland Park 50 and 18yo Single Cask Edition 4. Unfortunately, unlike the days of old, launch events for rare old bottles these days don't tend to feature tastings of the whisky being launched, so the 50 Year Old wasn't available for tasting.

Fast forward a few weeks though, and good mate Kam of Dram Good Stuff held one of his trademark epic dinners, where a small group open a crazy bottle (this time, the Highland Park 50) and everyone gets a generous share over a fantastic meal. Whilst I wasn't at the event, Kam was kind enough to share a taste of what was left afterwards.

I've been sitting on these tasting notes for a while, waiting for the right occasion to post them. This whisky very nearly became Tasted post #600...but I decided on something even more insane for that (as for what, you'll have to wait until tomorrow)!

This Highland Park 50 Year Old is actually the 3rd release. The first, released in 2010 in a Sterling Silver-wrapped bottle was followed by a second, released in 2018, with a silver design from design firm Discommon, and finally this third release in 2020, following the same design as the 2018 but in gold colour. Edit: Turns out there's since been a fourth release, rose gold-coloured with only 139 bottles released in 2021.

One thing I find really cool about this release is it utilises a bit of a solera system - whereby the whisky (9 refill casks laid down in 1968, then re-racked into a first-fill sherry cask in 2008) was married with some of the 2018 release.

Only 274 bottles were released (at $208,000HKD), so I count myself very fortunate to have tried it...but we all know whisky at this age can be amazing, or it can be "past its best". So which was this? Read on...

Highland Park 50 Year Old (2020 Release) (43.8% ABV, 50yo, 1 of 274 bottles, Orkney, Scotland, $208,000HKD, £22,500)

Colour: Dirty, dark copper.

Nose: Initially, you get that "old whisky" note that often only comes from well-aged whiskies - dunnage warehouse, old leather-bound books, and a hint of earthiness. Thing is, this is simultaneously showing strong, clean sherry notes, with some cola, flamed orange, herbs and fresh cigars. A 10/10 nose - stunning. So far so good!

Palate: Rich and fruity at first (cherries, stone fruit, orange peel) with an oddly satisfying velvety mouthfeel. There's an earthiness, some mustiness (in a good way - think dunnage warehouse again) but no noticeable oak tannins! Certainly no dominating oak anyway. There's a herbal element, some caramel, cola chews and finally sweet oranges.

Long, wit notes of sweet herbal lozenges and some residual oak notes at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. Hugely complex, hugely delicious. Whiskies like these may not be cheap, but (considering not every whisky of this age is actually good), it's always satisfying when a whisky this old is this good.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Tasted Post #600...and our actual 10th Anniversary!


A very big thanks (again!) to Kam Daswani of Dram Good Stuff for his generosity sharing this Highland Park.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Tasted #598: 1980 Port Ellen "Prima & Ultima III" 41yo (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

We kicked off our 10th Anniversary tasting celebrations with a 40 Year old Brora from the Prima & Ultima collection (#2), so it felt fitting to (almost) bookend it with an even older Port Ellen, also from the Prima & Ultima collection - #3 this time.

Distilled in 1980 and bottled in July 2021 from two casks (refill American Oak hoggy, ex-Sherry European butt), this bottling joins the rarified ranks of the 40+ year old Port Ellen club - a club with few members and even fewer open bottles. 

1980 Port Ellen "Prima & Ultima III" 41 Year Old (59.6% ABV, 41yo, 1 of 605 bottles, Islay, Scotland, $15,200SGD)

Colour: Golden sunset.

Nose: Oak, lemon zest...if I didn't know better, I'd guess this could be a Caol Ila in its late teens or early 20s. Lemon pie with a freshly-baked crust. With a few drops of water, there's a lot of peppery peat.

Palate: Dusty lemon, salted, then lemon tart, BBQ'd pineapple rings, brine, salted plum, salted lime, then some hints of seaweed. There's a noticeable smokiness - more BBQ than medicinal or coastal, but the saltiness cuts through. 

Finish: Long, salted lemon with some subtle residual peat smoke.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A very enjoyable dram, with no signs of over-aging and no "off" notes. If you'd told me it was a 20-something year old Caol Ila (and priced accordingly), I'd believe you and be impressed....but at this sort of level ($15k SGD) I think I expected just a little bit more. 

A very big thanks (again) to Kam Daswani of Dram Good Stuff for his generosity sharing all three Prima & Ultima collections to date.


Wednesday 19 October 2022

Tasted #597: Caol Ila Manager's Dram Aged 15 Years (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Number 7 in our 10th Anniversary line-up comes again from Islay, in the form of the legendary Caol Ila "The Manager's Dram" Aged 15 Years. Bottled in 1990 and never officially sold, this release was given to friends and family of the Distillery, but if you want one today, you may need to fork out around £8,500...

Yesterday I spoke about the Bowmore Aston Martin DB5 1964 Black Bowmore, and how I'd tried the original release 5 years earlier at a Japanese bar (Rogin's Tavern). What I didn't mention was that there was one single whisky at the bar more expensive than the Black Bowmore, by quite a margin. It was this Caol Ila Manager's Dram. I didn't taste it, and had wanted to ever since.

About a year ago I posted the above photo on Instagram asking "Name a legendary dram you haven’t yet tried, but really want to?". It was done purely to spark some conversation, but then about 6 months later at a tasting with friends, a small sample was slipped to me by a very generous friend, with the label reading "Caol Ila Manager's Dram". 

Mind. Blown. Finally, I was going to get to experience the whisky many refer to as the most sublime expression of sherry and peat ever bottled....

Caol Ila "The Manager's Dram" Aged 15 Years (63% ABV, 15yo, Islay, Scotland, £8,500)
Colour: Intense coffee copper.

Nose: Huge, fruity sherry, followed immediately by smoky ham, salted plums, old leather, humdor. The notes just keep coming - it's hugely expressive, especially considering the 63% ABV. The salted plums become bonfire-smoked, with a side of salted chocolate, and some bacon.

Palate: Big, zesty sherry. Clean, but old school if that makes sense? Slightly dusty, but in no way sulphured. These are the casks you dream of!  Chocolate orange, leather, furniture polish, salted plums again, orange spices, oak, and salted nuts. With water, some maple bacon and a little more salinity.

Finish: Long oak tannins, BBQ meat brushed with a cherry glaze. It just goes on and on..with bacon through to the very end (with water, it's more of a smoked duck note).

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. Worthy of the hype? Dare I say it...yes.


Tuesday 18 October 2022

Tasted #596: Black Bowmore DB5 1964-1995 (Aston Martin) (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

We're going back to Bowmore for #6 in our 10th Anniversary line-up, and sort of revisiting a whisky I've already tried - in the form of Bowmore's "Black Bowmore DB5 1964-1995" Aston Martin collaboration....the liquid in which is perhaps better known as the 1964 "Black Bowmore" 3rd Edition, released in 1995. 

I say "sort of revisiting", because whilst the liquid here is the same, the bottling, release year and price tag are very, very different. You can read a brief history of the Black Bowmore series in my earlier post (including its fascinating connection to Australia in the comments and here), but in short when this whisky was initially released in 1995, it was around £100.

Fast forward 25 years to 2020, when Bowmore teamed up with Aston Martin for a range of bottlings, most of them initially travel retail editions of the standard 10/15/18yo, but one of them a re-bottling of the aforementioned 3rd release Black Bowmore. Released in a limited run of only 27 bottles (25 for sale), with an actual Aston Martin piston incorporated into the bottle, the price had gone up ever so slightly since £50,000 (if you want one now, The Whisky Exchange will sell you one - for only £180,000).

Side note: I get the luxury angle with these whisky / car manufacturer collaborations, but I still find them strange. "Drinking & driving" and all that. Just me? Let us know in the comments!

I'm not sure exactly how these 27 bottles came to be - did Bowmore purchase them from collectors? H Have them in their archives? Never sell them back in the 90s? Whatever the case, the whisky here is effectively the same 1964-1995 whisky, albeit with a slight increase in ABV from 49% to 49.6% (though my sample bottle said 49.7%).

The original release (below) is still one of the best whiskies I've ever had, so I was keen as mustard to try the re-released £50k version and see how it (and my palate) fared 5 years later.

Black Bowmore DB5 1964 (Aston Martin) 1964-1995 (49.6% ABV, 31yo, Islay, Scotland, price: £180,000)
Colour: Deep, dark coffee.

Nose: Initially a big tropical hit, with that same clean sherry I loved back in 2017. Passionfruit and mango initially, then evolving into strong notes of pine needles, forrest floor, coffee grounds and BBQ glazed ham. As intoxicating as my first experience - there was a lot of time spent nosing this glass back and forth.

Palate: Carries the fruit from the nose - guava, pineapple cake, mango, but also brazil nuts, raisins and cherries. After some time an earthy oak notes start to sure - more so than I recall with the previous tasting.

Finish: Long, with mango the most predominant note and some residual oak tannins at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. Still an incredible whisky, still right up there with my favourites. I'm not sure if the whisky is different or my palate has changed (both, I'm sure) but...

Another thanks to the ever-generous @whisky_is_better_aged for this one.


Monday 17 October 2022

Tasted #595: Glendronach 50yo (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Today's 10th Anniversary Dram comes courtesy of Hendy, in the form of one incredible GlenDronach...

My first foray with GlenDronach was back in 2016, at an Oak Barrel GlenDronach tasting where I fell in love with the distillery and in particular with its 15yo. Notwithstanding the fact that GlenDronach is Scotland's second oldest legal whisky producer, the distillery is also well known for its range of sherry-matured whiskies as well as its tumultuous history.

Everything from its quality, to its rich profile and value, are what separates GlenDronach from other similar distillers. Those that come to learn more about GlenDronach will quickly discover the two significant periods; the GlenDronach prior to its closing in 1996 (until 2002) and the rebirthed GlenDronach which was acquired by Chivas Brothers in 2005, subsequently purchased by BenRiach Distillery Co in 2008.

You can also think about its whiskies in similar ways, with those GlenDronach whiskies that have been distilled prior to its closure in 1996 and its newer releases that may have been distilled in recent times, following its reopening in 2002.

This brings me to the GlenDronach 50yo, a truly special GlenDronach which I thought was also fitting for our special 10-year celebration tasting round-ups. 

The GlenDronach 50yo is the distillery's oldest and rarest whisky to date. Distilled in 1971, the malt has quietly aged away since in one PX and one Oloroso sherry cask. Both casks from the bodegas of Jerez in Andalucia, Spain. It was then blended for final maturation for around one year in a single new Spanish oak PX cask. With only 198 bottles available worldwide, Rachel Barrie, GlenDronach's Master Blender said:

“The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years is the most prestigious expression of what this timeless, richly-sherried Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has to offer."

Bottle No. 1 of The GlenDronach 50yo is gone as it was proudly donated to the inaugural Distillers’ One of One Auction in December 2021, raising £40,000 in support of disadvantaged young people in Scotland.

I was provided with a small sample of the GlenDronach 50yo following its launch in Sydney. Here's what I thought...

The Glendronach 50yo (43.8% ABV, 50yo, Highlands, Scotland, A$39,500)

Very alluring and fresh; with notes of dark fruits, plums, prunes, cherries, raisins and dark chocolate. There is a small hint of tobacco that is woven with the deep fruity and cocoa scent.

Palate: Luscious, viscous and with no oakiness. The palate carries the notes from the nose with stewed plums, mixed with cherries. There's a small hint of citrus but finely strung together by smooth fine Belgian chocolates. Truly delicious.

Finish: Not too long, it fades slowly though the remains of that fine cocoa slowly drift away.  

Rating: 95/100.

Thanks ever always to Stuart Reeves for providing us with the sample of the GlenDronach 50yo and also having us at the launch that featured Stewart Buchanan, the GlenDronach Global Malts Ambassador.


Sunday 16 October 2022

Tasted #594: 1957 "Moon Import" Bowmore (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Our 4th 10th Anniversary Dram dram (and first, but not last from this distillery) is a 1957 Bowmore from Italian Independent Bottler Moon Import.

Many whisky fans will be familiar with Samaroli, and the legendary independently bottled whisky they released in the 1970s to 1990s, but there were other equally legendary Italian independent bottlers at the time - Sestante (later Silver Seal), Nadi Fiori's Intertrade, and Moon Import to name the most notable ones. Whilst the latter is probably most well-known for its "Birds" series, they produced several other bottles as well, including this 1957 Bowmore, bottled in 1990 at 32-33 years old.

My love of Bowmore is no secret (especially to anyone who follows our Instagram) and as much as I love the older, tropical style Bowmores, particularly those from the 1960s, they're not exactly easy or cheap whiskies to procure these days. In a WhiskyFun article on a legendary Bowmore tasting (which I wasn't at, but which included this exact bottle) Angus MacRaild said  "I would hazard that Bowmore from the 1950s and 1960s is still recognised as one of the greatest spirits ever produced by mankind." 

It's pretty hard to ague.

I was fortunate enough to try this bottle thanks to the significant generosity of @whisky_is_better_aged (a name that'll come up again during these 10th anniversary tastings) - once in 2019, and again more recently.

"Moon Import" Bowmore 1957 (40% ABV, 32-33yo, Islay, Scotland, £8,500+)
Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Oh my goodness, this is tropical fruit heaven. Guava at first, then passionfruit. Some slight oat cake hints, then it's back to the fruit - pineapple, more passionfruit. There are some faint floral notes too. It's definitely got character, but there's a light delicateness to it as well (no doubt at least in part due to the 40% ABV).

Palate: More of the fruit from the nose - pineapple most predominantly, but there's guava, passionfruit (in spades) and mango to a slightly lesser extent. There's also a faintly BBQ-esque meaty note, and a slight salinity that reminds you of where this whisky originated. For me though, the fruit dominates, and whilst the whisky (bottled at 40%, now with 32 years of bottle ago) is undoubtedly full of flavour, you can't help but think it would have just that little more with some additional ABV, maybe.

Finish: Medium to long in length, with a residual sea-salt smoked passionfruit note.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Ticks a lot of the tropical fruit notes I love, and is technically a very respectable whisky. Whilst I hate to default to the old "this would be better at a higher ABV" chestnut...I would have loved to try this around 50% ABV.

See you here tomorrow for #5!


Saturday 15 October 2022

Tasted #593: 1955 Talisker 50 Year Old (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Number 3 in our 10th Anniversary dram roundup comes from The Isle of Skye, distilled way back in 1955 and bottled in 2005 by Gordon & MacPhail at a whopping 50 years old. I tasted this a few years back at Whisky Now Hong Kong (which I hope returns in 2023).

Now technically, this is a "Secret Skye" whisky and isn't actually labelled as a Talisker, but in 1955 there was precisely one distillery on the Isle of Skye. So it's either a Talisker...or a Talisker.

Talisker has never released an OB 50yo (this year's 44yo "Forrests of the Deep" is the oldest OB to date), so it's fair to say a 50 year old is pretty special (and with an average rating on WhiskyBase of 93.05, it seems others agree). 

It's also a lot darker / more sherried than any OB Talisker I can recall, coming from a single sherry butt. Sound like fun? Let's jump in then...

Gordon & MacPhail "Secret Stills" Isle of Skye (Talisker) (45% ABV, 50yo, Isle of Skye, $68,990HKD)

Colour: Deep rich mahogany.

Nose: Cloves, old books, aged leather and almonds (at first). Old dusty oak, with slightly saline hints, some raspberries and furniture polish / varnish. Then some grapefruit(!) notes appear, along with a long soft note of humidor.

Palate: Initially - berries. Raspberry, lingonberry, and even some lychee! There's a slight menthol note, and the oak is definitely there, but it's not overpowering (despite what the colour and 50 years in a first fill sherry butt might suggest)! Raisins and blackcurrants, toffee, licorice and black tea come next (the latter not overtly tannic), followed by dark almond chocolate, and some sweet, tobacco notes. Hugely complex, but also "clean".

Finish: Black tea, slight tannins.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A hugely complex whisky - lots going on, and it's all extremely tasty.

You know where to find us tomorrow for dram #4!


Friday 14 October 2022

Tasted #592: Yamazaki "Age Unknown" 30 Year Old (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

Our second 10th Anniversary dram whisky comes from Japan…in the form of a 30 Year Old Yamazaki.

Hold up....Yamazaki? 30 Years Old? 

How often has someone told you they tried a 21 or 30yo Yamazaki, and you just know they meant Hibiki? I mean, apart from single casks, Yamazakis are usually always NAS, 10, 12, 18 or 25yo, right?

Generally, yes, but in 1989 a very limited Yamazaki "Age Unknown” was released, containing Yamazaki from the 1960s and bottled at 25 years old. 5 years later in 1994, a further 300 bottles were released with an extra 5 years maturation, making this 30 year old Yamazaki!

(You can tell these older 1994 bottles apart as they have the signature of “Keizo Saji” on the label - Suntory’s chairman).

WhiskyFun gave this a WF96 recently, a score very few whiskies achieve. With these kind of figures (300 bottles, released 28 years ago, WF96, WB94.67 etc..) I'd fully expected this to fall into the "whiskies Martin will never try" category...but then on a recent trip to Melbourne, the incredibly generous Deni Kay (@deni_kay) invited me around for an evening with he and his Old Master Spirits partner David (@whisky.nerd), where David kindly shared this. I wasn't about to say no! Absolute legends, both of these blokes. 

Yamazaki "Age Unknown" Keizo Saji Release (43% ABV, 30yo, 1 of 300 bottles, Japan, Price: lots and lots and lots, if you could even find a bottle)

Colour: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Instantly, I get Golden Rough chocolate (Aussie readers will know it) - milk chocolate with roasted coconut. Straight back to my childhood. That's followed up by creamy vanilla, sultanas, coffee grounds, aged honey, a humidor full of lovingly-aged cigars and a slight nuttiness (walnuts). It's like someone took all the best notes from a beautifully-aged, clean sherried dram, and all the best notes from a beatifully-aged Mizunara dram, and mashed them together. Simply stunning.

Palate: Mercifully, the nose is backed up by an equally complex and stunning palate. There's some spice initially, but it doesn't overpower (like it does in the 2014 Yamazaki Mizunara), and sits alongside more coconut, milk chocolate, sandalwood, nougat and honey in perfect harmony. Back in 2017 I wrote that the 2017 Yamazaki Mizunara 18 Year Old had one of the most incredible noses I'd experienced, but the palate didn't match it. In this Age Unknown, it does.

Finish: Long, very long (especially considering the 43% ABV), with coconut, sandalwood, mild woodspice, caramel and honey.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. Simply incredible. One of the greatest whiskies I've ever had. Anyone have a spare $40k AUD?

See you tomorrow for dram number 3!


Thursday 13 October 2022

Tasted #591: 1980 Brora "Prima & Ultima II" 40 Year Old (TimeforWhisky 10 Year Anniversary Dram)

As I wrote last week, this month sees us celebrate 10 years of, and to mark the occasion Hendy and I decided to write our tasting notes for 5 epic drams, in the lead up to the actual anniversary (22nd Oct).

..then we decided, "hold's a tenth anniversary, we should make it ten posts!"

So that's what we're doing. One post a day from today until 22nd October, each suitably epic, each tasted by either Hendy or myself. Without giving too much away, we'll have:
  • Four whiskies in their 50s
  • Two whiskies from the 50s
  • Some crazy Bowmore
  • Whiskies from closed distilleries; and
  • A 30yo Japanese single malt from a distillery which most people don't realised produced a 30yo

It should be acknowledged that these are whiskies we've tasted (and taken notes on) over the past 3-4 years - and just never gotten around to uploading onto the blog. 

It should also be acknowledged that many of these whiskies came from very generous whisky folk who provided them freely - simply to share great whisky with other whisky lovers! 

So without further ado, let's kick things off with a 40 Year Old Brora OB, distilled in 1980 and bottled in 2021 as part of Diageo's "Prima & Ultima II" collection.

It's been a while since we've tried a Brora on this TimeforWhisky. Brora Distillery closed in 1983 (but re-opened in May 2021) and in that time has attained legendary status. This particular release is comes from the last of the 1980s casks (3 refill American Oak hogsheads), bottled 18th Jan 2021, and will be the last OB 1980s release. 

Any Brora is sought-after (and expensive) these days, but a 40yo is a unique thing indeed...

1980 Brora "Prima & Ultima II" 40 Year Old (49.2% ABV, 40yo, 1 of 505 bottles, Highlands, Scotland, $13,400SGD)

Colour: Golden straw.

Nose: Orchard fruits, with subtle wisps of smoke. There's a breadiness, a slight nuttiness, some beeswax, a floral smokiness that lingers through.

Palate: Big and oily, with more orchard fruits, marzipan, peaches and cream - no peach pie, with a freshly baked crust. Slight caramel notes follow, with more of that toasted oak breadiness.

Finish: Very, very long - following the palate with residual fruit, toasted oak and caramel notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Not my favourite Brora to date (it's a high bar, to be fair) but a lovely dram regardless.

A very big thanks to Kam Daswani of Dram Good Stuff for the taste of this Brora.


Wednesday 12 October 2022

Bowmore 1989 Port Cask Matured 23yo [Tasted #590]

As we approach 10 Years of in just over a week (and start the "Epic 10" posts from tomorrow), I've been reflecting on some transformative drams I've encountered along the way - those which, despite several years & changing preferences, I still find myself gravitating back to.

One of those is Bowmore's 23 Year Old "Port Cask Matured" from 1989. Released in 2013 as a 12,000 bottle run, this whisky fascinated me as it spent all 23 years in a port casks. Port finishes aren't all that rare, but entire maturation in Port casks (and for a full 23 years) is pretty rare for a Scotch whisky. 

I was intrigued, and (as a lover of most Port-matured whisky), my first taste in 2014 had me hooked. After trying it again at the 2015 Hong Kong launch of Bowmore Mizunara, I decided I needed a bottle, and another, and so on... (I even drank it the day my first son was born).

As whisky tends to do, it got more expensive and harder to come by, so when I bought my last bottle around 2016/2017, I just sort of held on to it...keeping it in the back of the cupboard, waiting for the "right day" to open it...

...which came along just last week, when I arranged a large 'BYOB" whisky gathering dinner (20 people, 40+ bottles...) and decided I'd bring this along. Of course the big question was, after so many years, was it as good as I remembered...?

Bowmore 1989 "Port Cask Matured" 23yo (50.8% ABV, 23yo, 1 of 12,000 bottles, Islay, Scotland)
Colour: Golden copper

Nose: Rich coffee grounds steeped in toffee, leather journals, cherry pie, with the slightest hints of sea air.

Palate: Follows the nose - creamy and rich, big berry notes, lots of plums, a hint of juicy oak. There's a slightly tangy BBQ note, but for the most part the peat smoke is fairly muted. It's the casks that take over here - but thankfully, they shine.

Finish: Long, slightly drying, with residual hints of plum (then salted plum), coffee grounds and rich cherries.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Still the dram I remember. Still the dram I love.


Monday 10 October 2022

Adelphi Selection Ben Nevis 1996-2019 22 Year Old [Tasted #589]

Another day, another tasty 1996 Ben Nevis...this one from one of my favourite Indie Bottlers - Adelphi, bottled in 2019 from a re-fill sherry cask at 22 years old.

Source: The Whisky Shop

Adelphi Selection Ben Nevis 1996-2019 22yo (55% ABV, 22yo, 1 of 205 bottles, Highlands, Scotland, no longer available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Tropical and funk - two great Nevis traits (in this case, a little heavier on the tropical side - no bad thing). Lemon, lime, mango, a slight salinity and hints of paprika spice and oak.

Palate: Fruit spice, mince fruit pies, mango chutney and grilled BBQ pineapple, with some guava to round it out, and a nice subtle oak undertone.

Finish: Long, mango spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Just delicious.


Sunday 9 October 2022

Hidden Spirits Clynelish 26yo 1992-2019 [Tasted #588]

There's no doubt about it, Clynelish is a legendary distillery and throughout its history there have been some incredible bottles - especially from the 60s and 70s, and of course any "pre-Brora Clynelish" - these are bottles commanding huge premiums today, even for what was at the time a "standard" 12 year old (or younger) whisky.

Every now and then, a newer, "modern" Clynelish comes along, gets a great review and the whisky world goes into a bit of a frenzy. Probably the most notable / recent example of such a bottle was Hidden Spirits' 1992 26yo "Highproof" Clynelish, bottled from a single cask (#CY9219, if you're interested) in 2019 with an outturn of only 193 bottles.

I missed the boat on release, but managed to grab a sample from Timeless & Tasty (who do still have a great range of Clynelish in Hong Kong), giving me the opportunity to see if the hype was justified for this whisky which Serge Valentin famously gave a 94...

Hidden Spirits' 1992 "Highproof" Clynelish 26yo (50.1% ABV, 26yo, 1 of 193 bottles, Highlands, Scotland)
Colour: Light copper-gold.

Nose: Big notes of wax and yellow fruit - peach, pear, followed by sherbert. With water I found a little salinity.

Palate: Follows the nose well - viscous and waxy, with apples, pears and peaches. There's a little earthiness, a little sweetness, and a little grassiness. With water, a touch meatier, more salinity again. Overall very mouth-filling, rich and creamy.

Finish: Long, earthy, salted meats.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Yes, it's a very well-made, elegant, and well-integrated whisky. Very balanced too, with all the notes working in harmony. Is it a 94? Not in my books, but I'm not the world's foremost Clynelish expert either....a very solid dram regardless.