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Lady of the Glen is an independent bottler of Scotch whiskies, founded in 2012 by Gregor Hannah.
They very kindly sent me some samples of their latest batch and I’ve been spending the week working my way through some of the highlights. To read Part 1 of this series click here and for Part 2 click here.
*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 dram and the value for money it represents.
Dufftown 2008 13-year-old (Ex-Islay Octave)
A Diageo establishment, Dufftown contributes to The Singleton single malt range as well as supplying spirit for the owner’s blends.
I presume this liquid came from the same original hogshead as the Oloroso-finished Dufftown in Part 2 of this review. The same spirit, from the same hogshead, separated into two distinct finishing casks.
This one found its way into an ex-Islay whisky octave. Such small casks are renowned for giving intense flavours in a relatively short space of time. Only 57 bottles were produced at 54.7%.
Smell: Any Islay influence isn’t immediately apparent. Instead I pick up fresh, orchard fruits with honey, caramel and toffee. There’s also a touch of barley malt and digestive biscuits. Perhaps the faintest hint of smoke in the background. Water brought out even more fruits like apple, orange, peach and pear.
Taste: Big honeyed arrival followed by some citrusy spice and rich oak. Then comes some black pepper. Lots of caramel and toffee. Nice oily texture. Little suggestion of the peaty element right at the back as it moves into the finish. A little waft of smoke gives way to Scottish tablet and vanilla fudge. Water slightly diluted the intensity of the arrival but the overall experience was better. The dram was more rounded and balanced and that little peaty hint seemed to interact better.
Thoughts: This works rather well. I feel like the Islay octave could very easily have stamped all over the Dufftown spirit but it hasn’t. Instead it seems to have added an extra layer of flavour and given the whisky a subtle yet pungent peaty punch. It makes an everyday Speyside malt into something far more interesting.
Value for money: For a fairly unique single malt that’s limited to an incredibly small 57 bottles, £85 is probably fair. It’s not a massive dram by any means, but it’s complex and fascinating. One for the whisky drinker that seeks out the unusual.
Highland Park 2007 13-year-old (Bourbon Barrel)
It’s interesting to see Highland Park named on an independent bottling. Normally we’re presented with “Orkney” single casks, as if no-one would be capable of working out which of the two distilleries it could possibly be from. There’s been quite a lot of it around of late, where indie bottlers are concerned, but from my perspective, the quality is almost always high.
This bottling was matured in a bourbon barrel for its full 13 years and bottled at 54.3%.
Smell: The nose has all the raw ingredients of whisky; namely barley. It’s full of cereals and grains. Then comes honey and citrus. Bourbon-y vanilla and caramel. A little touch of peppery spice and a hint of smoke.
Taste: Big chewy bourbon character with a burst of peppery heat. Chewy caramels and malty biscuits. Little touch of ginger. Toffee. Charred oak on the finish. Water brought more of the charcoal note and added some liquorice. Also released some fresh citrusy zing.
Thoughts: I like a whisky that I can chew on and loved the mouthfeel of this offering. There’s also a nice balance between spirit and cask with neither dominating the experience. It’s big, it’s rich and it lingers on the palate for an impressive length of time. I probably enjoyed it more than most of the single cask Orkneys I’ve come across in the last couple of years.
Value for money: At £95 a bottle, it certainly isn’t a cheap dram but it’s one of very high quality.
I’ve always felt it important to discuss price in my reviews but to be honest, it’s getting harder and harder to compare. What even is normal nowadays anyway? I recently paid £140 for a 5-year-old Octomore – and Macallan can literally charge anything they like for their no-age-statement bottlings. By those standards, £95 for a 13-year-old single cask, from a distillery as renowned as Highland Park, seems perfectly sensible.
It’s not going to be available to everyone at that kind of price but at least those able to buy a bottle will get something superb for their money.
Caol Ila 2015 6-year-old (PX Octave Finish)
Like Highland Park, there’s been a fair bit of Caol Ila around within indie bottling circles. There can be few complaints, however, about the quality of said bottlings. Caol Ila is a malt that seems to really fly at cask strength. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a bad one.
This Lady of the Glen expression turned out just 57 bottles from a PX octave. Prior to that it was matured in a hogshead.
Smell: Barbecue coals and blackened, chargrilled meats. Honey glazed ham. Bonfire smoke. Burnt caramel. Charcoal. Charred oak. With water I found seaweed on a pebble beach. Wonderful nose.
Taste: Lots of deep oak and ashy smoke. Not really getting the super-sweetness you can sometimes find in a PX finish. There’s salted caramel. Black pepper. Old oak and coal fires. Wonderful oily texture, even after water was added. Water brought out some currants and sultanas. A little dusting of cinnamon, too.
Thoughts: It turns out I saved the two best drams for last because I would struggle to pick a batch favourite between this Caol Ila and the preceding Highland Park.
This single cask from Islay’s workhorse distillery is packed full of personality. The spirit’s youthful, fiery character has given it the power to stand up to the onslaught of the octave cask and the end result is a thing of beauty. It’s robust, it’s meaty and it isn’t for the faint hearted.
Value for money: Everything you could want in a young, cask strength Islay malt. £75.95 may seem steep for a 6-year-old but this whisky could deliver twice the pleasure of whiskies three times its age.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit here