Reviews of interesting whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
Lady of the Glen
Lady of the Glen are an independent bottler of Scotch whisky. They very kindly sent me some samples of their Autumn single cask and small batch releases. Below you will find my tasting notes and personal opinions on four of them. For part 1 of this review, please visit here. Part 3 will be published soon.
*Full disclosure: the whiskies reviewed in this article were sent to me 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.
Longmorn 2011 10-year-old Single Malt
Longmorn Distillery was founded in 1893. The driving force behind its creation was John Duff, an entrepreneur who unsuccessfully attempted to kickstart a whisky industry in Cape Town and failed in an attempt to establish a distillery in the United States before returning to his native Scotland. Five years after he opened Longmorn, he built Benriach next door. Benriach was only in operation for a couple of years before an industry-wide crash forced it to close. Longmorn, however, was able to remain in production. Today the distillery is part of the Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers stable.
This single malt was aged for 10 years in a first-fill bourbon barrel before being bottled at 55.8%.
Smell: There’s an oakiness at first with a touch of wood varnish. That’s followed by straw and dry grass before some bourbon and vanilla notes. Toffee. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Lemon air freshener. Fresh apples and nectarines.
Taste: The bourbon influence is there straight away with toffee and chewy vanilla fudge. Woody spice and pepper. Honey. Grassy cereals. Muesli. Apple and pear. Water brings more of the fruity character to the fore.
Thoughts: There’s a lovely weight to this whisky. It properly nails the mouthfeel aspect. In terms of flavour, there perhaps isn’t anything particularly unusual going on but it’s a good example of a bourbon-matured Speyside Scotch that’s elevated by its luxurious mouthfeel.
Price: £81 is probably about average for a single cask Longmorn of this age. The wonderful mouthfeel makes it feel like you’re getting a real quality spirit for your money. A wee bit extra complexity on the palate might have lifted it from good to great but that’s nitpicking. Good dram.
Blair Athol 2012 9-year-old Single Malt
Blair Athol Distillery stands just outside the popular tourist town of Pitlochry. The distillery was established all the way back in 1798 but closure in the 1930s saw it snapped up by Arthur Bell & Sons, beginning a long association with the Bell’s Blended Scotch brand. Today, both Bell’s and Blair Athol are part of Diageo. Single Malt bottlings are rare, even from independent bottlers.
This Lady of the Glen bottling was matured for 9 years including a finishing period in an ex-sauternes wine barrique. It’s bottled at 54.5%.
Smell: Lots of oak and exotic spices. Like running your nose along a well-stocked spice rack. There’s ginger and clove. Nutmeg too. Conkers! Walnut. Autumn leaves. Cigar boxes. Leather. Then marmalade. Apricot. Tinned pineapples. Peaches. Runny honey on toast.
Taste: It’s very oaky at first with lots of spice that I eventually had to tone down with a splash of water. Really intense arrival in fact. Apricot jam. Sultanas. Touch of cherry, even. Now blackcurrant. Chilli powder and cayenne pepper. With water a honeyed malt note came through with a splash of cola. Even cola-flavoured sweets. Dry, woody finish with a return of the blackcurrant.
Thoughts: This is bonkers. Powerful fruit notes and potent spices that I almost found a wee bit too much. However, the boldness of the arrival kept bringing me back to the glass. A bit like a moth repeatedly flying into a lightbulb, I wanted to experience the burn again and again. Water extinguished some of the heat and maybe a little of the intensity was lost as a result but the overall effect was a more balanced dram. Intriguing, fascinating, mental…
Price: I’d be happy to pay £70 for a dram that I find as challenging and surprising as this. One day I might hate it, the next it might be the best I’ve ever tasted. That kind of unpredictability is like gold-dust.
“Dalgety” Tamnavulin 2009 12-year-old Single Malt
Tamnavulin is a Whyte & MacKay owned Speyside distillery. It was established during the 1960s whisky boom and was taken over by the Glasgow-based blender in the 1990s. The distillery was originally intended to supply spirit for various blended Scotch brands but in recent years there has been a range of single malt whiskies, often affordably priced and widely available in UK supermarkets – and beyond.
A vatting of two casks – a refill barrel and a virgin American oak. Bottled at 51.9%.
Smell: Toffee and a wee touch of oak char. Some exotic spice notes. Orange peel. Orange juice, too. Apple pie with cinnamon. Red grapes. Also a wee bit malty underneath the oak influence. Some breakfast cereals in there. Cornflakes and rice crispies! White pepper.
Taste: Citrus. Opal Fruits (Starburst for anyone that isn’t as old as me). Pepper developing into new oak with some woody spice. At the back there’s a grainy, buttery quality. Honey and malty biscuits. Hobnobs. Oatcakes. A splash of water brought out some apples and pears.
Thoughts: In spite of the use of virgin oak, which I sometimes find can be a wee bit overpowering, there’s a nice balance between fruit and wood. Water helped me get to the spirit behind the cask, which offered up some pretty standard Speyside stuff. A decent enough wee sipper.
Price: I think I’ve got a wee bit fed up with the use of virgin oak in single malt Scotch and so I didn’t completely fall for this one. That said, this dram was by no means dominated by the wood and the citrusy arrival was very nice. Not one I’d rush out and buy for myself but good quality all the same and a sensible enough price at £70.
Bunnahabhain 2010 12-year-old Single Malt
Bunnahabhain Distillery stands proudly on the Isle of Islay. It is located just north of Port Askaig, after Caol Ila and Ardnahoe. The distillery was established in 1881 at a time whisky was dominated by the blends. In order to service that market, Bunnahabhain, unlike many of its island neighbours, is predominantly unpeated (although smoky versions are produced). The distillery is owned by South Africa-based Distell, who also own Deantson and Tobermory distilleries.
This particular Bunnahabhain was matured for a total of 12 years. First in a sherry butt before a finishing period in a PX hogshead. It’s bottled at 55.3%.
Smell: Sweet, nutty sherry. Raisins, sultanas, prunes. Wee touch of balsamic. Burnt caramel. Brown sugar. Dark chocolate orange creams. Black forest gateaux. Winter spices in there too. Star anise and cinnamon. Even a wee touch of paprika.
Taste: Aged PX. In other words, sherry and oak. Oak tannins round the side of the tongue give a drying sensation. There’s raisins and sultanas and dark chocolate. Maple syrup and orange slices. Orange liqueur. Lots of black pepper.
Thoughts: Quite oak-heavy – the finishing cask is really dominating. A woody rather than overly sweet PX. Although it does still stick to the teeth in that fun way sherry sometimes does. There’s also a lovely tingle of spice around the mouth and gums, even well into the finish. Enjoyable enough but maybe a bit too much of the wood for me.
Price: Single cask Islay has long since stopped being affordable. A fact sadly represented by the £135 tag on this Bunnahabhain. I’m sure some will love it but it didn’t quite woo me into temptation at that price.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit https://www.ladyoftheglen.com/
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