The Whisky Barrel 10th anniversary releases continue with not just 1 or 2, but 3 new releases to refuel the epic party up in Cupar, Fife. Rather than rattle through the whiskies you’ve missed already it’s much easier to look via our Whisky Barrel tag and go explore.
So far at Malt we’ve been fairly impressed and have managed – if you did take a peak – to provide multiple staff reviews of specific releases. Unfortunately, this time around you’ll have to make do with just me to peruse through this trio. Phil is enjoying his Red Breast, Mark is still working his way through that glorious 13 year old Kilkerran, Justine has the Fife Whisky Festival to organise and Noortje is playing jenga again. A recent trip to Sutherland provided the opportunity to relax and spend a couple of evenings with a few drams. The perfect accompaniment was provided by this assorted trio.
What’s been especially pleasing about this celebration range is that it’s been dictated by personal taste rather than the pursuit of sales. The fact that some have sold out promptly or are verging on this status is reassuring. The flavours have come thick and fast with the accompanying price tag often offering real value. To date my own personal favourite has been the 13 year old Cooley with that added sherry influence taking it to another level. The young Laphroaig showed promise and plenty of gusto and then there’s been the offering of that tasty 19 year old Caroni.
Last but no means least are the grain whiskies. Many of my friends still look on with disgust as I positively beam about a ridiculous grain whisky I’ve experienced recently. Grain in their eyes is an inferior and more limited whisky. It’s filler and it’s very much in their head. It’s not the same and their brain has become clay. Trying to snap someone out of this trait is difficult and often blind tasting is the best option. Shove a grain under their nose with an element of pre-warning and immediately I’ve found many are restrained by preconceptions.
Yet grain offers many delights. Yes, indeed the existing grain distilleries nowadays plough a similar neutral tightrope with the only exception being North British. The lost grain distilleries of Dumbarton, Garneath, North of Scotland, Cambus, Carsebridge, Caledonian and Port Dundas all offered quirks and differing styles. Combined with the element of time and a good cask, grain can deliver delights that don’t demolish your wallet. Admittedly the price of grains has risen sharply in recent years but it still offers more value than many single malts. A particular highlight was a recent 33 year old Douglas Laing Carsebridge that went down a storm at my Closed distillery and lost malts tasting held earlier this year in Edinburgh.
As part of their celebrations, the Whisky Barrel released a Dumbarton 30 year old from 1987 that went down a treat with consumers and Mark here at Malt. Returning to Hunter Laing they’ve bottled a sister cask from the distillery. It is distilled in the same year but having tasted and reviewed both previously, they could not be more different; such is the joy of whisky.
We’ll go through these drams in order of their 10th Anniversary release, which means the Glenlivet is up first.
Signatory Glenlivet 2006 11 year old – review
Distilled on 30th May 2006 before being bottled on 25th August 2017, from a 1st fill sherry hogshead #900552. This resulted in an outturn of 310 bottles at a mammoth 63.5% strength and costs £79.99.
Colour: cherry wood
On the nose: a rapid arrival of varnish and resin with a coco powder emphasis. There’s also a Black Forest Gateau taint with cream, dark chocolate and cherries. Also cutting through what would be a dense nose is the presence of raspberry. The addition of water reveals vanilla, cola and a sticky Korean BBQ sauce.
In the mouth: there’s no disputing the sherry influence here but it feel merged rather than suffocating. There’s an evident sweetness as opposed to dryness with tobacco and stewed plums with more cherries, red grapes and dark chocolate. Water brings out a touch of smoke, raspberries and cinder toffee.
Hunter Laing Dumbarton 1987 30 year old – review
Distilled in 1987 before being bottled earlier this year, from a single refill barrel #HL14247 at 55.3% strength. An outturn of 160 bottles were harvested and it’s priced at £93.92.
Colour: dried straw
On the nose: a vanilla sweetness verging on marzipan, but not overly so instead there’s a herbal element and sawdust. Butterscotch and an oily margarine aspect with rolled oats soon follow with a touch of cream and coconut flakes. Water provides an apple fruit quality.
In the mouth: the cask influence comes through strongly with cask char and a very drying vanilla quality. There are more almonds, nutmeg and allspice with a buttery and hazelnut nuttiness.
Hunter Laing Carsebridge 1973 44 year old – review
Starting life in 1973 via a single refill hogshead cask #HL14189, this was bottled at 50.9% strength and yielded just 150 bottles priced at £177.65.
Colour: a very pale syrup
On the nose: more familiar grain qualities of vanilla, cream, fresh varnish and almonds. There’s some charred bark, a touch of smoke and sugary biscuits giving this a real cereal aspect. It’s light and engaging with an almost floral quality.
In the mouth: very delicate on the palate but a lovely texture with a vanilla sponge, creamed corn and an oily aspect with some lemon juice. On the finish some bitterness from the cask and then black pepper. It’s really engaging and still vibrant.
Pick of the bunch and I myself cannot believe I’m about to type this is the Glenlivet. That’s not a slight on the competition but a reflection of the symmetry that the whisky offers. Yes, the colour may ring alarm bells for those that don’t enjoy such a turbocharged cask experience. However, I felt there was more symmetry between the spirit and the cask here. A marriage that was rather refined than monstrous. Certainly it is a better example than the Glenlivet Whisky Exchange exclusive of a similar nature that I’ve reviewed for future article.
As big a fan I am of grain whisky the Dumbarton here is a different beast to the previous cask. Far drier with more features from the wood it wasn’t to my palate’s liking but I appreciate others will enjoy it. The Carsebridge despite its advance years has plenty to say and is very easy to drink. Ultimately, this anniversary range continues to cover a variety of tastes and one will be to your liking.