This past weekend, we had a chance to sample some fantastic independently bottled whiskies from a private collection. Like last year’s event, the tasting was led by Igor of Heads & Tails, who regaled us with tales of drinking with Malt Maniacs, master distillers and whisky royalty, while providing insight into the bottles we were enjoying. This year’s theme was ‘whisky with a twist’ and each bottle was chosen, as it presented something unexpected and out of the ordinary for the distillery it was from. Some of the bottles chosen were also from lesser known distilleries, and Igor’s primary goal was to demonstrate that drinking whisky is a process of discovery, and no bottle should be written off simply because it’s unfamiliar.
Here are some pictures and descriptions of the fantastic drams we sampled. As always with these bottlers, each whisky is NCF, uncoloured and cask strength.
Auchentoshan 23, distilled 1992, bottled by Maltbarn
This was a chocolatey, fruity but dry and earthy dram, and everyone agreed that if Auchentoshan was normally like this, we’d be buying a lot more Auchentoshan!
Glenburgie 18, distilled 1999 bottled by Asta Morris
Bottled for the Japanese market, this whisky was completely unfiltered – not just non-chill filtered. It had a very cloudy appearance and tons of sediment in the bottle. It was aged in a PX sherry butt and was a fruity caramel bomb that was quite sweet and with a hint of tobacco and spice.
Speyside 1998 Vintage, bottled by Archives
An undisclosed Speyside distillery aged in an undisclosed sherry cask, Igor’s point in sharing this one is that what’s written on the label doesn’t matter if what’s inside is fantastic – and it was! This was a nutty, earthy, dried fruit salad with hints of leather and tobacco. We all agreed that it was very likely an oloroso cask, and possibly from the Glenfarclas distillery
Fettercairn 28, distilled 1988, bottled by the Whisky Agency
After a break, we got on to the next set of 3 drams. Fettercairn was a new distillery for many in attendance, and this bottle was a real treat. It was a buttery lemon cake of a dram, with plenty of ex-bourbon oak influence and some minerality and brine. The complexity on this one was incredible and we spent a lot of time discussing it. Adorned with a typically gorgeous Whisky Agency label, this whisky is fantastic both on the shelf and in a glass, and worth looking for.
Glenrothes 20, distilled 1996, Bottled by Jack Wiebers – The Old Train Line series
When most of us think of Glenrothes, we imagine the stout round bottles and heavily sherried flavours. This was aged in ex-bourbon, and gave us a chance to see Glenrothes spirit without the sherry influence and get a real feel for the distillery profile. The nose was incredibly perfume-like, and the flavor was a tons of rich caramel and toffee, spice and brown sugar, stewed fruit and chocolate.
Ardmore 2009 Vintage, bottled by Archives
This was the youngest dram of the day by far, clocking in at 7 years. Ardmore has put out some peated bottlings in years past, but this was unpeated Ardmore with a twist – it was aged in ex-Laphroaig casks. The nose was like a salty banana split with some barnyard funk and light smoke. The flavor was bolder, with a ton of ash, smoke, brine and floral notes. With water, some more spice, caramel, oak and typical Laphroaig iodine notes started to shine. It was a very fitting way to end a tasting celebrating unique whiskies.
Big thanks to Igor for walking us through these bottles and further opening our eyes to the crazy and unique whiskies that are out there!