I‘m sure, we all know what vertical means – malts from same producer/distillery, just different age or vintage. Short in this case means I have only three to compare.
I was always a fan of Glenfarclas 25yo. I also liked their 17 year old version, that I had about 4 years ago for the last time. So it is great time to recheck what I have here: I will start with Glenfarclas 15, and then Glenfarclas 17 and I will finish with Glenfarclas 21, which is preferred by some over my favorite 25yo. Glenfarclas 15 is strongest from the bunch – 46% (others – 43%). Great balance, fruity style with bitter notes. I am happy with the balance, but disappointed a bit with shy character, I have expected more sherried notes. Just a good malt.
Glenfarclas 17 is quiet similar, slightly more closed. More pleasant, more sherried. More bitter also (coffee and grass). Slightly more interesting. But let’s keep in mind it’s much rarer than 15 year old version (and much more expensive). I would stay with 15yo.
Now it’s 21yo turn. The same good continuation of distillery style. Longer maturation speaking here nicely – dry wood notes, nuts, coffee. Bit more complex than younger ones.
It was hard this time – all are more similar than I remember. Then the price is not the last argument while choosing one of them. For enjoyment I would still choose 21yo, but most worthy here is good old young 15 year old for it’s price/quality ratio. I’m not sure is it my changing (hopefully perfecting my palate) or market really changed the style of these bottlings a bit?
As we have Islay whisky festival Feis Ile going this week, this is great moment to taste some bottlings from this event. Unfortunately I couldn’t participate there this year. I‘m with all my heart there now. I am tasting one of my all time favorites – Caol Ila. Big bow and thanks to Justina (https://mywhiskydiary.net/blog/) for the samples! It’s my first time for Feis Ile bottlings!
I will take 3 year in a row. All are cask strength, so let‘s take them by chronological order from ‚oldest‘ release. First we will have Caol Ila 15 year old - Feis Ile 2013, then Caol Ila 12 year old - Feis Ile 2014 and Caol Ila 17 year old - Feis Ile 2015. I love mature and undiluted Caol Ila malts. I just adore that maritime, salty narrow style with elegant smoke.
First one – strong and fresh. Mellowed with water - maritime saltiness together with balanced smoke are graciously present. Even more narrow, than expected, but in a good sense. I love it. Maybe it’s just me and my period of un-sweet malts.. But even with ignorance to my preferences, this whisky is just flawless (and narrow).
Second one, the youngest. Obvious cask influence – vanilla notes are going well with maritime, lemony character. Really big difference from the former. If we can call these differences big enough – we have the same spirit, right? Good example about cask/oak influence and drink held there before pouring whisky. This one is more fruity, more fresh and more medicinal. Also very fine.
Third one, last year release. Eldest in the pack, matured similarly as 2013 – ex-bourbon->mostacel cask->ex-bourbon again. I was telling sometimes that I love Caol Ilas from 19 year old. From today that opinion has changed towards youth. Last malt is the narrowest. Maritime, smoky and lemony. Just that. Very good.
I loved all three. First one just a bit more. I‘m happy for this chance!
I am happy to have with me now couple of samples from Banff distillery. This distillery was closed on 1983 and demolished later on. So we have malt, that is no longer produced and becomes harder and harder to find. So, of course we have independent bottlings as official ones are ultra rare now. I have with me Banff 24 Year Old 1977/2002 - "Missing" (Silver Seal) and more recent one Banff 1975/2013 (Malts of Scotland). I am really curious keeping in mind those a first Banff I will try.
I‘m starting from the older one, obviously cause of lower alcohol content and possibly more delicate palate. Bottlers Malts of Scotland have high place in my books, as I really can‘t remember bad bottling from them. So I have expectations! Let‘s try.... Really interesting malt! With wood and ripe fruits (which is quiet usual for this age), I find kind of steamed potatoes or some sort of sour mushrooms. After writing my own tasting notes, just looked what the great humble Serge Valentine says about it – he finds mustard. I agree something like this. But let‘s call it steamed potatoes for myself. Without this element the rest is more than ok – nice balance, not too much wood, maybe finish is tad too short. Nice malt anyway.
Let‘s grab the second – bottle by Silver Seal at 2002.. Aroma is similar, but with much less fruity notes. Lots of mushrooms, vegetables, bitter tea. Bit too salty and to bitter, out of balance. Finish is longer and character is stronger, but I hoped much more. Quality is like lots of entry level malts around, which are more pleasant to sip.
Anyway, I am pleased to make a check under the name of one more distillery. And most interesting experience is that I have never had something similar in terms of style.
Finally I have long awaited Lagavulin 8 year old in my hands. I will make him a company with also quiet recently released Laphroaig Lore. As producer notes, its ‘richest ever’ made Lapgroaig. We will check if that might be the truth. Laphroaig Lore is a vat of malts matured in sherry, quarter and ex-Laphroaig casks (N-fill?).
I‘m starting from Lagavulin. Pleasant, fresh aroma, nice balance of sea, citrus fruits and smoke. Clean one. Plate is robust. Full of power, smoke, salt and sea notes. And hint of lemon freshness. I was pleased and surprised. For this age you get great balance and nice body. That clean style reminds me mid-aged Caol Ila malts – good harmony of salt, maritime character and smoke. Expectations were high, but I they were met – we have young monster with great balance and clean character. I believe it will become regular member of the Lagavulin family (because it’s young!). I believe and I hope. I am not a advocate of old malts (most of a time), but I am very demanding for young malts. Market situation forces to provide younger malts which sometimes replace much older long-time market favorites. Few weeks ago in a whisky event I had short discussion about old malts – are they overrated, or to be more exact – not worth a try or event not worth their price and our attention. I always say – if you have a chance – you have to try old whisky. Event all over the world are always good chance to do that without spending a fortune buy whole bottle. You shouldn’t look for great price performance for 30-40+ years malt. Just think that someone matured it over decades. And then it’s easier to understand. When people buy Ferrari, Bentley or whatever expensive, I don’t think they looking for great value for money. So during my lifetime as a whisky lover, I have found more tremendous malts amongst old ones than between youngsters. Anyway, I am very happy with this Lagavulin. Cause there are bunch of disappointing young malts recently released around (from Islay also). Prices are going up, age is going down. Am I sentimental old man or I just love good malt with minimum bullshit and marketing impact?
Ok, let‘s continue and play a bit – I have Laphroaig Lore, which has no age statement and which has written on the label „richest ever Laphroaig“. I hadn‘t tried many different Laphroaigs, so will compare it with what I did and with Lagavulin. We have identical strength which helps. Aroma is more green/raw and more aggressive. More youth, more smoke power. Body is even more robust than aroma. Smoky, maritime sometimes distracted with vanilla and grassy notes giving hint we have quiet young malt. Producer doesn’t give full recipe so we can just guess and speculate. I would say major part is younger that Lagavulin. Of course, it is very likely we have small part of much older malt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch sherried part here.
In this case and in my opinion Lagavulin seems more elegant and bit more sweet. And more balanced. I believe there will be plenty people around who would like Laphroaig more. It’s sad we have not much of information about it. It’s a producer’s choice always, but if they would give more information, advanced customer could have more prediction and expectations what’s in the bottle before buying. It seems it’s not good for the seller. It’s better when people buy label or legend, not the contents? I hope we will have more transparency in the future. Customer is becoming more and more educated.
While visiting one whisky fair, I have amassed several samples from Glengoyne – all single casks, just different age. All matured in casks that held sherry before. Some are American oak, while others – European oak. Anyway, I say I would expect malts of similar profile as we have same spirit and sherry influence might be predictable. Unique thing is that all bottlings are single cask, so uniqueness of a cask can play it‘s role here. It‘s interesting how Glengoyne is developing during maturation. We have a range from 11 to 21 years. Not huge, but significant lifespan. I will taste them from youngest to oldest, as all are sherried cask strength monsters. My list today: Glengoyne 11 Year Old 2000 Single cask, Glengoyne 12 Year Old 1996 Single cask, Glengoyne 14 year old 1999 (Malts of Scotland bottling), Glengoyne 14 Year Old 1998 Single cask and Glengoyne 21 Year Old 1988 Single cask.
I am starting from youngest and strongest one. Aroma and palate are so intense! Real sherry monster! Full of power and youth. And that nice character of chocolate and dried fruits can withstand any malt in this category. If others will have same power I am afraid I had to start from oldest one. Glengoyne is a gentle malt, completely unpeated, so there is a risk when cask won‘t be so active, we will have much more delicate malt.
Second one might be more gentle – color not so intensive, one year older. Yes, it is – clean one, more reflection to distillate, no overwhelmed by cask character. Just really good replacement when one is tired of peat or sherry monsters.
Third is darkest so far. I am waiting for „chocolate bomb“– such age and color hints me to this expectation. ‚Malts of Scotland‘ – is a really reputable bottled, acclaimed by amateurs and professionals. So that is true – I get chocolate monster and I need a pause. Leather, lots of chocolate and bit of citrus fruits – extreme mix, but is a wonder for genre lovers.
4th has the same age as previous malt. And colors are very similar. I make a pause with plenty of water in hand – third malt gave me almost unlimited finish! Well, we have similar malt, very similar. With notes of leather and chocolate. If a lover of old, very woody cognacs would be interested to go extreme with malt whisky, I would get him try this one.
Oldest and last one for today. With good pause again. So good… it is like wrap up for today – sherried malt notes with lots of elegance – sherry, chocolate notes create nice harmony here, they are mellowed a bit and mature fruitiness comes along very nicely.
It is obvious that active, powerful sherry cask overwhelms delicate whisky spirit and turns it to sherry monster. And times does a lot to mellow it again that whisky spirit can open up and come back. It‘s like with good wine – you need a time when it breaks it‘s tannins shell and gentle fruit can come up. So when you‘re up to looking for a extreme – you don‘t need something old. Just take first fill sherry cask matured malt and you have it. It will mellow with time, other notes will come up. And my experience shows that regular Glengoyne expressions and their single cask releases are so far one from another. I love latter ones – intense, full of flavor. But it‘s had to find them for decent price nowadays while regular expressions aren‘t impressive enough for my taste.
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