New Fettercairn and Bunnahabhain plus more Legends Untold and new Glen Moray on Taste; Scotch & Perfume; More on Whisky Investing
As promised last time, a look at the rest of Diageo‘s Special Releases 2021 under the Legends Untold theme. There were a couple of other newbies from other companies too. One is Fettercairn and I did my tasting note before they advised it was embargoed till 9th December so had to take it out of the last column. There‘s also the latest Bunnahabhain which is a cask strength 12 Year Old. The final one is from Glen Moray in the Warehouse 1 series of limited editions.
Let‘s do Fettercairn 16 Year Old Second Release first. It‘s at 46.4% abv, NCF/NAC, both sherry matured and finished including some time in first fill palo cortado casks. If you‘re not familiar with that, it‘s kind of in the middle between dry and sweet sherry but can still be quite rich. Do try some if you haven‘t already. Anyway, to the notes:
Appearance: Warm, honeyed, old gold with brass highlights.
Nose: Vanilla rich oak and raisins at first from the bottle – quite rich and intense. In glass,the same but lighter. A tiny touch of sulphur; some pear juice. Drier and more savoury notes too. Light spices and some nuttiness from the wood (palo cortado has more almond notes)but these are candied nuts and some barley sugar. With water, oak softens showing some honeyed aromas; creamier and more like walnuts. At first I didn‘t get the pineapple I usually associate with Fettercairn but dried pineapple comes through here (they say dried mango but I don‘t agree)
Palate: Medium mouth weight. Warm, rounded, quite rich; slight bitter coffee grounds and dark chocolate notes; dried fruits and nuts – more like sugared almonds now and a spritz of citrus zest.
Finish : Long with both sweet and dry notes lingering. Touch of licorice and ground coffee; spices and zest with a dash of cedar box.
The 16 year old offerings started last year and are special editions chosen to highlight maturation variations. This one is a very tasty and soothing dram. Price varies quite a bit from around £65 to almost £75 so shop around but it is good value. I love Fettercairn and still marvel that it wasn‘t really offered much as a single malt until several years ago. Somebody obviously woke up to what a star they had with an interesting distillation story to tell, the stills being cooled by an outer water „jacket“.
Another one with some sherry influence is the latest Glen Moray 2008 Warehouse No. 1 offering but this one was finished in manzanilla sherry casks – one of the driest styles of sherry with a salty tang. Bottled at 54.6% abv, it‘s also not chill-filtered and has no added colour. This expression was distilled in 2008 and there are only 1,240 bottles available. It‘s also a UK exclusive and priced at about £75. Sorry Rest of World.
Appearance: Shiny old gold with tawny and brass tints.
Nose: Richly fruity with some floral (not a pun!) notes; warm apricot and light sultana; rich, damp oak, vanilla and earth floors. Honey, apple strudel and buttery. Something leafy too.
With water, some waxier aromas; more spices, vanilla and warmer oak.
Palate: Lightly salty and also fruity; slightly mouth-coating; peppery and zingy on the tongue; citrus pith + zest bitterness; oak and a herbal (sage?) and heathery dryness with a hint of grass.
Finish: Long and dry but with residual barley sweetness, a pinch of salt and a little grassiness.
Definitely enjoyed this one too. The Glen Moray specials are always ones to look out for. If you’re looking for a special present for someone who likes these aroma and flavour styles then this is worth the money – if there’s any left!
The Bunnhabhain 12 Year Old Cask Strength usefully came in a little pack with the standard 12 Year Old and their Stiuireadair so I was able to compare new 12 with standard. I have to say I preferred the standard 12 Year Old at 46% abv. It was more immediately appealing – sweet, open and opulent – on nose and palate. I found this cask strength version a bit more closed. I hesitate to say more austere, just a bit less up front. The expected nut and honey notes are here along with a little marzipan and sweet spices. Oak and earth alongside struck match, vanilla and strong tea (tannins). The empty glass gives off aromas of hazelnuts and sugared nuts. It has almond biscuits on the palate with dried fruits and a dry finish. It is a very palatable whisky but I just prefer other Bunnas, particularly the 18 year old which I also find really versatile in food pairings.
Moving on to the Legends Untold, I had Oban 12 Year Old (56.2% vol), Talisker Aged 8 Years (59.7%), Lagavulin Aged 12 Years (5 %) and Lagavulin Aged 26 Years (44.2%) to play with. As last time, I‘m not proposing to offer up a full tasting note on all the single malts from this second batch from Legends Untold. This column‘s examples are from the west coast mainland (Oban) and islands – one from Skye and two from Islay.
As you‘d expect, the Oban was the least smoky and has an intriguing nose which includes a little citrus and lychee (for me) amongst other aromas. Smoky bacon crisps leapt out of the glass first on the Talisker nose along with salty air and ham + peat smoke richly roasted barley and wood fire embers. It was the most disappointing on the palate in my view.
The Lagavulin 12 still had youthfulness on the nose and didn‘t seem as smoky as the Talisker but has aromas of smoked food and even a little bit of vegetable cooking water plus bonfire embers and the tannins of strong black tea. For me, the star of this group was the Lagavulin Aged 26 Years. Rich, mellow and smoky on the nose; briny sea air and orange marmalade; peeled green apple. Barley sugar and burnt caramel; some dried fruits and candied citrus peel. Richly smoky and peaty on the palate, dark chocolate and strong coffee which all persist on the finish with richly roasted barley.
Going back to the recent mentions of whisky investment, Ian Buxton, renowned whisky scribe, has some sage advice on the matter in his inimitable eloquent and gently humorous style. Find it at https://www.masterofmalt.com/blog/post/seven-tips-for-investing-in-whisky.aspx .
Bringing up the rear this time is a release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society telling us that they‘ve linked with Scotland‘s first fragrance house to pair two perfumes with two of the Society‘s whiskies. We‘re told, „The Kingdom scents Metamorphic and Portal have been expertly paired with SMWS Flavour Profiles Lightly Peated and Juicy Oak & Vanilla.“ They can be explored at the Society‘s bars in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. For years I‘ve been telling audiences that creating a blend is like creating an eau de parfum. Where we use grain whisky as the base and build on it with single malts, perfumers use an alcohol base and use essences of flowers, herbs, other plants and spices to create their finest scents. This takes things a step further in asking you to tantalise your senses nosing a single malt whisky alongside its perfume match.
I was thinking about listing my favourite 2021 whiskies from those I‘ve tried this year but will save for end December. I‘d be interested to hear what any readers would choose as their star whiskies of 2021 (only those launched this year). If all goes to plan and a remote Zoom link works, then I‘ll be doing an interview next week for use later on. Phone is on standby in case the tech doesn‘t work. So I may well hold that over for January if I do manage to link up with my interviewee.
Till next time, have a happy Christmas if you celebrate it and enjoy any holiday you get. It‘s turning out to be difficult time again for all of you in our wonderful hospitality industry, not just here in the UK, it seems. Let‘s hope businesses will be able to operate more fully again as soon as possible in 2022.