Monday, May 22, 2017

Whisky Review: Glenfiddich Special Reserve 12 Year (2002)

Glenfiddich is, well, Glenfiddich. The best selling single malt in Scotland pumps out volume like almost no one else, though Glenlivet is certainly trying to give them a run for their money.

This version of their 12 Year was bottled in 2002, back when practically no one cared about single malt and the current boom was practically unimaginable. Then as now it was bottled at 40%, almost certainly with coloring and chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for the sample.

Glenfiddich Special Reserve 12 Year

Nose: ranges from almost non-existent to moderate weight - light honied malt, slightly dank sherry, a little fruit (apples, pears, oranges), a touch of something floral/soapy - that are all difficult to pull out. After adding a few drops of water it opens up with more floral notes and more sherry.

Taste: moderate malt sweetness with a bit of sherried roundness, a little sour in the middle, floral overtones throughout, more grain than oak bitterness at the back, and a feeling of tired casks throughout. After dilution the sweetness becomes more cane sugar, the malt becomes drier, some fruit (apples, pears) comes out, and the floral notes are amplified.

Finish: sherry residue, light malt, a touch of oak-y bitterness

For all the depth of stock Glenfiddich was presumably sitting on in 2002, there doesn't appear to be any older, more complex whisky in here. Honestly, it's pretty remarkable how similar this is to their current bottles, which, if you want to look at it that way, speaks highly of their master blender's abilities. So while this was interesting as a curiosity, it is mostly forgettable.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whisky Review: Archives Glen Scotia 20 Year 1992/2012

While Glen Scotia has been getting more attention since its latest relaunch of its lineup, it still exists firmly in the shadow of its more famous Campbeltown brethren. In no small measure this is because, while it often produces good whisky, its output is rather inconsistent.

This was distilled in February 1992, filled into a hogshead, then bottled in May 2012 at 50.4% without coloring or chill filtration. The outturn for this release was only 80 bottles, which suggests that it was a cask split with one or more other bottlers.

Archives Fourth Release Glen Scotia 20 Year 1992/2012 Cask 08/71

Nose: very oily - mix of olive, fish, and motor oil, roasted malt, earthy, mild peat smoke, light caramel/nutty oak, toffee, savory, green (apples, pears) and overripe fruit (banana, berries, apple). After adding a few drops of water the dirt becomes worn leather, the malt becomes cleaner, the smoke becomes incense.

Taste: fairly sweet up front, quickly joined by oak that becomes increasingly strong and tannic towards the back, vague fruitiness in the background, light grime and peat come in near the back, with more bittersweet character. After dilution it becomes sweeter up front, maltier throughout, and the oak and peat/dirt fade significantly.

Finish: tannic oak, fresh peat, seashore tang, soy sauce, malt,

All the Springbank fans who didn't buy this really missed out. While distinctly Glen Scotia, it has that dirty Campbeltown character with a touch of peat smoke that folks love so much about Springbank. With a rather austere profile I can't imagine this being a crowd pleaser, but if you like your malts to be something other than monochromatically sweet this should be fun. Sadly, for as long as it stuck around at the WhiskyBase Shop, it's all gone now.

Diluted to 45%

Nose: gently woody, fresh vegetation/hay, creamy berries, vanilla, leather, floral, a little citrus peel

Taste: generally the same, but softer - dirty sweet malt with grapefruit peel overtones throughout, overlaid with slightly tired oak, drier malt, and a little peat around the middle, more funky/grimy/tannic near the back

Finish: Campbeltown malt, a little dirty, soft oak, bitter tannins

Dilution seems to bring out the softer side of the malt, especially on the nose. Many of the dirtier elements are tamed, bringing out more gentle cask influence. The flavors get a little simple and flat, but not unengaging. While it's a wilder ride at full strength, I don't think it would have been terrible to bottle this at 46%.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Whisky Review: Hepburn's Choice Strathmill 24 Year/1992

Strathmill is another one of Diageo's many semi-anonymous Speyside distilleries that produces whisky almost exclusively for their blends. While its history goes back to the late-19th century whisky boom, there's little to mention beyond its slightly complicated ownership and management over time, which I'll leave to Malt Madness to explain.

This particular cask was distilled in 1992, filled into what I'm guessing was a refill ex-bourbon hogshead, then bottled in 2016 at 47.9% without coloring or chill filtration for the Hepburn's Choice label exclusively for K&L Wines in California.

Hepburn's Choice Strathmill 24 Year/1992

Nose: clean malt, a touch of vanilla, light oak, light molasses/graham crackers, grass, slightly metallic, fresh herbs/wildflowers. After adding a few drops of water it remains largely the same, but loses some oomph.

Taste: malt sweetness up front, fading into bittersweet oak, muddled fruit (green apples/pears/raisins?), drier malt, and some alcohol heat near the back. After dilution it remains largely the same, but the oak becomes a bit bigger and more tannic, giving it a more bittersweet profile overall.

Finish: gentle oak, raisins, malt residue, stewed fruit, dried flowers

The charms of this whisky are subtle and never reach wild heights, but it's a solid example of a refill cask that hasn't stomped on the spirit. For the price and age, this was a perfectly decent buy, but would probably be a little disappointing for someone expecting more. I think you could find very similar casks from any number of Speyside distilleries using unpeated malt, so I wouldn't worry about not getting your hands on this one if you missed it. I was mostly excited about getting my hands on this for my project to build a better version of Johnnie Walker Blue Label from 20+ year old Diageo-owned distilleries, so in all honesty I was hoping for something that wasn't too bold. Though as the addition of water showed bringing the proof down much at all tends to bring out the oak, this makes it a bit difficult to work with.