Today, we arrive at the well-established Old Malt Cask range from Hunter Laing & Company, who recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special outturn of releases. Thankfully, they’ve decided to keep things simple and raid their inventory and bottle 20 casks from some of Scotland’s most notable names including Clynelish, Laphroaig, Littlemill and then the Auchentoshan.
This continues our look at various independent bottlers of late including Adelphi, Chorlton Whisky and Maltbarn with plenty more to come. However, it’s not a surprise to say that the Old Malt Cask has been an established series for longer than many of its rivals. In fact, it’s brimming with fond memories for me personally, with some marvellous casks that were presented with the minimum of fuss including those awful cardboard boxes that could disintegrate far too easily! For many years it was a go-to range that assisted my own whisky development, appreciation and journey.
However, it’s a reflection of a competitive market and so much choice that I haven’t really engaged with the Old Malt Cask (OMC) range much in recent times. I actually couldn’t say with confidence when I last purchased a release from an outturn although my hazy memory suggests a Tormore would have been the likely candidate. Consulting the MALT archives for reference, it seems the last time we sat down with an OMC was way back in 2015 when Mark reviewed a 16-year-old Dalmore. Since then, absolutely diddly squat, despite our move to the daily publishing format in 2017. This underlines how much whisky is out there nowadays, especially from the independent sector and how impossible it is to keep up unless you’re extremely wealthy or a flipper, or indeed both?
A key attraction has always been that each release retains the character of the distillery. These are naturally presented and always bottled at 50% strength. Whilst such characteristics are accepted as commonplace nowadays, a few years ago this was far from the case. We’ll jump into this trio, which take us around the Speyside region of Scotland with some unfashionable names and hopefully the revival of fond memories.
There are commission links below that never influence our opinion. I’d also say shop around and support your local independent whisky shop whenever you can.
Old Malt Cask Craigellachie 2006 – review
Colour: A Caramac bar.
On the nose: Light, clean with a cotton freshness. Memories of a summer meadow with plenty of honey, sugar work with fudge and wine gums. Water is very beneficial. Toffee, orange zest and a hint of fruit tea. Peaches and wine gums.
In the mouth: Lacking depth is the initial impression. Very forward with caramel, apples and a mineral quality. Sugar cubes, icing sugar, plain flour and plenty of cereals. Water reveals olives, jelly sweeties and pineapple cubes.
Old Malt Cask Mortlach 2007 – review
Colour: A light gold.
On the nose: A surprising assortment of fruit with apple peel, orange pips and malt milk biscuits. Ginger, a dull vanilla, lemon oil with a flourish of lime and pineapple cubes. Water brings on a musty sense with honey not too far behind alongside pleasant aromas of ice cream wafers and cinnamon.
In the mouth: Malty again with a nice density and texture. Green apples are joined by scorched green peppers, olives and a pleasing layer of caramel. Water here wasn’t that beneficial. An unusual Mortlach and possibly one that hasn’t fully come together, yet.
Old Malt Cask Royal Brackla 2007 – review
Bottled at 11 years of age from an ex-bourbon cask #17089 with an outturn 425, this is still available via Amazon for £68.45.
Colour: Apple core.
On the nose: A warm embrace from vanilla marshmallows, meringues and an apple fruit salad from a tin so some syrup and fruit juices. Sugary, but also a vibrancy and freshness. A touch of glue? Melon, bread dough with plenty of yeast and a fermented nature with lemon peel. Water showcases wood chips, mint leaf and talc powder.
In the mouth: Vanilla poached pears, well-fired shortbread and black pepper. Green apples, sherbet, pine nuts and green mangoes. Water reveals grapefruit and sugared pancakes with a twist of lemon.
The Craigellachie is a solid average dram. Enhanced with the addition of water that almost touches upon a 6 and ultimately I found it enjoyable stuff. Nothing provocative or memorable just solid hence the score. The Royal Brackla was fairly similar. Nothing celebration-like from the contents and just a solid dram with no thrills. The Mortlach is interesting from the point of view its not your typical rugged, savoury Dufftown beast. Another side is showcased here and one that is prefectly pleasant albeit average once again.
The upshot of this trio are their affordability and showcasing other names away from the Ardbeg’s and Laphroaig’s of this fashion whisky world. Each is solid, but with so much choice currently on the market is solid in danger of becoming the new substandard?
Samples kindly provided by the Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch.