20Y+ Whisky Tasting at Whisky&More

20Y+ Whisky Tasting
presented by
Whisky&More©


My fourth whisky tasting at the Belgian whisky shop called Whisky&More© in hometown of Hasselt. While earlier tastings were centered around independent bottlers like G&M, Liquid Treasures and Malts of Scotland, the owners now organised their own tasting focussing on their wares in the 20y+ range. 
To my dissapointment there the whisky segment in their shop had not been expanded and might even have shrunk a bit. The owner are clearly steering their shop   towards the sale of luxury tobacco paraphernalia and cigars. In a murderous market where they have to compete with online retailers, ordinary supermarkets and with two other shops in their area that are locking in the exclusive partnerships with independent bottlers, it is understandable that they are trying to find their own niche. Besides a open-handed chap like myself trying to elevate his status, could well use a cigar or two.   

Our tasting was in the good hands of... euhm... sadly I've forgotten the man's name. Anyhow he did a great job at entertaining his guests with a small powerpoint presentation and funfacts from the maltmadness website. Three whiskies on tonight's line-up were accompanied with a little snack: a nugget of marzipan, a piece of 18 months old cheese, chocolate eggs and coffee. Which was a nice touch, however I will not be inclusing them in the review as I like to focus on the spirit itself..

LU

1. Glen Moray Portwood
2. Old Pulteney
3. Glen Garioch
4. Glendronach
5. Caol Ila
6. Caol Ila

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25yo (1988/2014)
21yo
24yo (1990/2014)
21yo
25yo
22yo (1992/2014)
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43.0% ABV
46.0% ABV
47.8% ABV
46.0% ABV
51.2% ABV
53.9% ABV

W&M tastingLet's dive right in, this review follows the classic "Pandemonium of Single Malts" format, with the small exception that both the overall verdict and individual scores can be found at the end of the page.

 

Glen Moray 25 Portwood Finish

Vinewood Galore

Was I wrongfully under the impression that the 25yo Portwood Finish was a brand new instalment in the distillery’s range? I vaguely remember them making a fuss about it online a few months or even weeks ago. A new batch maybe? No says the internet,  it is actually a yearly recurring vintage release, with the first batch being a 1986 vintage. This 1988 release is already the third instalment, and here I was thinking I could give you guys the latest scoop.

Glenmoray25
Description:
 distilled in 1988, matured in bourbon casks for 23 years with a 2 year port cask finish, bottled at 43% ABV.

Nose: a dry nose coated in varnish, vinewood, walnuts and an offbeat note of curry.

Mouth: rich body with a fair dash of pepper on the palate, some chocolate, marzipan and red meat drained in port.

Finish: long and drying, with a touch of vanilla in the tail.

 

Old Pulteney 21

Salty Old Flame

Ah Old Pulteney, my salty old flame from Wick, so familiar yet still largely uncharted territory.
Though I regularly stock a 12 or 17 in the cabinet, I never ventured any further in the wonderless world of this Northern Highlander, aside from a few independent releases. The 21 was built around a recipe similar to that of the 17yo. Only with a higher percentage of first fill Oloroso sherry casks in the mix and four extra years on it
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oldpultney21

Description: matured for 21years in both 2nd fill bourbon and 1st fill Oloroso casks. Bottled at 46% ABV.  

Nose: a simple coastal profile: briny and earmarked by oak tannins. A core of grain with fruit notes of pear and touch of caramel to sweeten up the ensemble.

Mouth: a thick round highland body with a subtle rich but salty palate: old wood and varnish go hand in hand with a lick of honey, seaweed, white pepper and some lemon squash.

Finish: medium long with a fade on wood polish.

 

Glen Gerioch (1990/2014)

Yet another 1990 Vintage

As a 1990 Vintage myself, I can’t help being biased towards any bottle that shares my year of birth (except for that one horrendous 1990 vintage Glentauchers distillers label from G&M). To me Glen Garioch is the sugarplum fairy of the whisky world: synonymous with a sweet, fruity and candied profile. Plus this is pre-1995 Glen Garioch, which means an extra puff of peat smoke in each bottle.

Glengariochch
Description:
 distilled in 1990 matured for 24 years in bourbon hogsheads, bottled in 2014 by Cadenhead for their small batch range at 47.8% ABV.

Nose: clean and fruity, kiwi, red apples, green tea and vanilla with a touch of smoke.

Mouth: waxy body, with succulent honeydew melon, cloves and ginger on the palate .

Finish: medium long, both bitter and drying. Grapefruit with a soft smoky touch.

 

Glendronach 21 Parliament

My Midsummer Night's dram

It is called Glendronach and it is brilliant. One new thing that I learned today. The parliament does not refer to the legislative institution, but to the flock of ravens living in the field next to the distillery.
Don’t think anyone is going to fight me on this, but Glendronach is one of the best distilleries out there at the moment. The people of Billy Walker performed miracles in cask selection after the take-over in 2009. So much that the 15yo revival in no time, became an all-time favourite with the whisky crowd.
Glendronach 21


Nose:
great nose, with lots of elements that I generally associate with other beverages. Powerful but refined notes of sherry and lighter tones of sweet wine, rum and coffee, a bit bitter, dark chocolate and some slightly meaty tones, like cooked ham. Underlying are notes of chopped parsley, some fruity elements: oranges, figs and cherries, with a whiff of peaty smoke. Lastly, a strange hint of latex paint, but not unpleasant.

Mouth: fresh grape juice on the palate evolves into bitter tones of coffee, orange, blackberries, more notes of ham, with spices: cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

Finish: long and lingering. More notes of wine and coffee, a touch of liquorice, lychees, dark chocolate, strips of leather, tobacco, with a light undertone of vanilla and orange oil.

 

Caol Ila 25yo

Silk Islay

From Islay’s least picturesque seaside distillery with Scotland’s greatest still room panorama comes a 25yo whisky that might actually be right for your wallet. Though the initial prices have gone up from the 2010 premier, it is probably the most affordable old whisky from the Diageo stall. That being said is it actually worth the money? At a €190 in Belgian retail, there will be a lot of Independent releases that can outclass it price/quality wise. And the 43.0% ABV does not bode too well.
Caol Ila25

Description: Caol Ila matured for 25 years in American Oak Bourbon casks, brought down to 43.0% ABV for bottling.

Nose: a gentle maritime malt, only mildly peated, black powder smoke with oysters, lemon and a whiff of breakfast bacon.

Mouth: medium bodied, soft as satin and very clean, flaked sea salt, lemon, soft earthy peat, and again that meaty touch of bacon.

Finish: short’ish for an Islay dram in my opinion, salt and peat in the tail.

 

 

Caol Ila (1992/2014)

Laphroaig meets Bowmore

Where it came from no one knows, but suddenly it was there. John McCrae’s co. single malt whiskies. Named in honour of the famous Canadian wartime poet, who wrote the famous ‘In Flanders Fields’ a century ago? That could well be the case, as it was exclusively bottled for the Belgian Market during the centennial of the Great War. Maybe it is just a coincidence, with any further references to the war lacking and the more traditional style of the label it might just have been an attempt to give a ‘Scottish’ ring to the brand. But as always, it’s not the packaging that counts, but its contents. Otherwise this would have been another Highland Park review.
caol ila mccae

Description: distilled in 1992, matured for 22 years in bourbon hogshead, bottled in 2014 at 53.9% ABV.

Nose: opens up with soft medicinal peat smoke (are you sure we’re not in a different part of Islay?) strong menthol of fisherman’s friend lozenges, eucalyptus oil, a rich touch of vanilla, citrus, bacon and wood fire cinders.

Mouth: smoother than expected, slightly bitter even. Dominant notes of citrus, vanilla and salty chocolate on the palate.

Finish: medium long but pleasantly warming, salt and smoke.

 

The Verdict

Well, let's just  start at the beginning.

Glen Moray: port finishes are occupying an ever larger part of the premium segment. To some it might provide an alternative for the growing scarcity in high quality sherry casks, but I am certainly not one of them. Some wine finish experiments may well be worth a try, but portwood can and will never be a suitable replacement for the sherry-whisky tandem. That being said, this is the first port finished whisky that I can appreciate, it is a rich meaty and certainly balanced whisky. However for a 25yo whisky it is lacking a bit in depth.

Old Pulteney 21: born in salt and smoke, matured to perfection. What’s not to like about this grand and refined Old Pulteney. The fruit from the 17yo has made room for a polished wooden profile. Most enjoyable, she handles the strong influence of oak quite well. .

Glen Garioch: Cadenhead vatted a batch of Glen Garioch that is far from complex, but gentle and fruit-driven. Both enjoyable and affordable, they should really make more of these. Proving once more that you can’t go wrong with a Cadenhead small batch.

Glendronach: A beautiful nose that reminds me of other sherry monsters, but less rough and much more refined. Fine on the palate, though the nose raised my expectations and it didn’t completely live up to it. Then again, this is a very fine whisky, smooth and not in any way abrasive (even for a 48%ABV)..

Caol Ila: not blown away, but not disappointed either. In balance with a refinement verging on delicacy. This whisky is fine, great even, but by my admittance my preference goes out to rougher and untamed Islay.

Caol Ila: here I was, expecting a rougher cask strength Caol Ila. To my surprise I got a blend of house style Laphroaig and Bowmore. Medicinal peat and salty bacon go hand in hand in this fairly docile whisky!

 Glenmoray25  oldpultney21  Glengariochch
Score: 85 Score: 87 Score: 84
Nose:
22
Taste:
21
Finish:
20
Balance:
22
Nose:
21
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
23
Nose:
21
Taste:
22
Finish:
20
Balance:
21
 Glendronach 21  Caol Ila25  caol ila mccae
Score: 88 Score: 87 Score: 87
Nose:
20
Taste:
18
Finish:
19
Balance:
21
Nose:
21
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
23
Nose:
22
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
22

< 75: undrinkable, avoid at all costs
75-79: acceptable, give it a try but don't spend to much money on it
80-84: average, enjoyable whiskies mostly easy sippable entry-level single malt 
85-89: above average drams, often well aged expressions, open your wallet
90-94: excellence, sorry kids no x-mas presents this year, daddy needs this bottle
95-99: divinity, call your bank manager for another mortgage on your house