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This is the third and final part of my look at some Lady of the Glen single casks.
Lady of the Glen is an independent bottler, founded by Gregor Hannah. Hannah was the son of a piper and became fascinated with the collection of bottles his Father accumulated as a thank you for playing at weddings and other ceremonies. After working in a bar for a time, Hannah decided to set up his own business. He now sources casks of whisky from all over Scotland and bottles them at cask strength, without filtering or colouring.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the samples featured in this article free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the whisky and the value for money it represents.
Tomatin 2008 12-year-old Single Malt
Tomatin is a Japanese-owned distillery near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. This Lady of the Glen bottling has been matured for 12 years in a hogshead, before bottling at 59.8%. It retails for £82.95.
Smell: Lots of raw ingredients here. Barley malt. Flour. Grist. There’s also some light, fresh, orchard fruits. Apple, pear, orange and lemon. With a little time some biscuit and baking spice notes came through. Quite a light touch from the cask with this one. Even at 12 years there’s a touch of young spirit about it. Touch of coconut and vanilla to round things off.
Taste: A light, delicate dram, this one. The spirity youth from the nose is present on the palate as well but not in an unpleasant way. There’s a nice fruity arrival before a touch of spirit heat brings a blast of pepper. Somewhat surprisingly given the freshness of the nose, it finishes with a bit of oak. Along the way there’s notes of vanilla, apple, honey, citrus and gentle spice. Water smooths out some of the heat and brings it all together, pushing the creamy vanilla character to the fore. The result, for me, was a more enjoyable sip.
Thoughts: I can enjoy whisky of any style, though like anyone, I have my favourites. Delicate drams like this Tomatin aren’t exactly what I tend to go for. That said, I found this quite enjoyable. Especially once water and time had worked their magic to smooth out some of the rough edges.
There’s a nice balance between the creamy vanilla and the gentle warmth and that light touch would make it an excellent starter on a cask strength tasting line-up.
Where I feel this one falls down a little is in pricing. As much as I enjoyed the experience of drinking it, I would struggle to justify paying £80 for it. In fairness to Lady of the Glen, I found some other similarly aged single casks from other bottlers on sale at similar pricing, so it’s not like they’re out on their own here, I just don’t think the Tomatin excites my palate enough to have me paying that kind of money for it. If you’re a fan of the distillery, you may feel differently.
Dalmunach 2015 6-year-old Single Malt
Dalmunach was established in 2014 by Pernod Ricard. It stands on the site that once housed Imperial Distillery.
This single malt matured in a refill bourbon barrel before being finished in an oloroso quarter cask. Bottled at 59.6%, it retailed at £67.
Smell: New leather. Treacle. Toffee and vanilla. Glace cherries. Brown sugar and cinnamon. Walnut. Pepper.
Taste: There’s some syrup before a punch of young spirit comes through. That’s soon blanketed by sherry that seems to develop for an age before finishing in a flurry of dried fruits. There’s notes of dark chocolate, tobacco, strong tea and burnt caramel.
Thoughts: I’m not entirely convinced by this one. I’ve no problem with a young whisky and the price, while not exactly cheap, wouldn’t put me off. I’m just not sure if the spirit and cask are working in complete harmony. There’s a slightly metallic note that seems to keep punching through the sherry that I find a wee bit off-putting. I say a wee bit, because I still enjoyed the whisky. An oloroso-seasoned quarter cask will cover up many a flaw and the longer it sat in my glass, the less I noticed its youth. As it is, the whisky delivers an enjoyable big hit of cask strength sherry flavours, I just wonder if it might have been better being left for another year or two in the original barrel.
My ill-informed, speculative opinions aside, lovers of mouth-coating, teeth-sticking sherry bombs will still find a lot to enjoy here and they won’t have to break the bank to get it, so fair enough.
Mortlach 2010 11-year-old Single Malt
Mortlach is known as the Beast of Dufftown, thanks to the weighty nature of its spirit. Worm tub condensers help to create a meaty note in the whisky that works extremely well with sherry casks.
This single malt was matured in a hogshead then given an oloroso finish. It is bottled at 55.1% and retails for £92.
Smell: Dark chocolate and sultanas. Old leather. Tobacco leaves. Dusty old oak. Touch of ginger spice. A splash of water brought juicy raisins and caramel and struck matches. Cherry, too.
Taste: From the first sip you’re in sheer decadence. The sherry cask is dominant but the spirit has the backbone to carry it. Wonderfully weighty and rich. There’s indulgent spices like cinnamon and ginger. There’s dried fruits. There’s walnut. There’s dark chocolate. Water brings some dry oak and pepper. Lingering finish is dominated by the dry oak note.
Thoughts: Huge sherry finish on this one. Perhaps it could be accused of being a little one-dimensional as a result. A little over-oaked, maybe. It feels like about 90% of what you’re tasting comes from the finishing cask. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable though and if you happen to be in the mood for a big, no-holds barred sherry bomb, this will hit the target.
At £90 a bottle you’re going to have to pay for the privilege of drinking it, though that’s not unusual for Mortlach, especially when finished in sherry. Would I pay it? If I was looking for a big sherry bomb? Possibly yes, though I think the Benrinnes reviewed in Part 1 was perhaps the superior dram and a little bit cheaper so maybe I’d opt for that instead.
Caol Ila 2012 9-year-old Single Malt
Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay. It spends most of its time producing whisky for use in Johnnie Walker and other blended Scotch brands, though a small range of single malts are available from owners, Diageo. Perhaps the best examples of this whisky come from independent bottlers, however. It is a spirit that seems to perform particularly well at cask strength.
This malt was matured in a hogshead before being finished in a Xynisteri White and Dry wine cask. Bottled at 58.3%, it retails for £70.
Smell: I think this is a first for me. Caol Ila finished in a white wine cask. The typical Islay smoke is there with a touch of seaweed and ocean breeze. It’s meaty too, like a hunk of pork sizzling on the barbecue. There’s also honey and fresh oak. Lemon and eucalyptus. Really interesting nose.
Taste: Buttery. Crumbly pastries. Vanilla. Malt. Barley sugars. Touch of citric acid and then right at the back, the familiar blast of peat smoke. Water brings forth some black pepper spice.
Thoughts: Credit where it’s due, this is a totally unique single malt. I’ve commented in the past on the sheer number of independently bottled Caol Ila’s around at any one time and that is still true but this is unlike any of the others. It’s also, at £70, one of the more affordable releases in this series.
A fascinating wee dram. It’s quite light, floral even, and the smoke seems gentler than usual, as though it’s been pushed to the background somewhat. Instead, we get a honeyed malt with notes of fresh sawn oak and lots of lemon juice before finally, the smoke finds its way through, right at the end. Excellent stuff.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit here.