Old Particular Benrinnes 15 Year Old (2004) Scotch Whisky
Benrinnes (named after the nearby mountain - ergo Ben in Scotland) Distillery found in the Speyside region has held a special place in my heart since we used a 10 Year Old Benrinnes for a finish in our Woodstock McLaren Vale Shiraz casks.
Back pre-2007 they were using a partial triple distillation method to promote meaty/sulphury style, and this being a 2004 distillate should be from that camp. But the Old Particular range of hand selected malts from Douglas Laing and co are chosen for 1 reason: their exceptional character, and this is certainly and exceptional example of Benrinnes whisky.
The nose has a slight autumnal damp forest floor nature, with touches of yellow flesh plums and a rich herbaceousness with a backbone of clean crisp malt. The malt hits first on the palate, and as you hold the whisky in your mouth the smooth gentle weight from the alcohol builds nicely with a lovely sugar and spice character. The label mentions 'sugary coffee' which is certainly true for me atleast.
The finish is of good length, but perhaps a little prickly (from alc) for some. The finish is carried by the diminishing sweetness and increasing spice.
Allround I find this to be a really great example of Benrinnes. Overally smooth and balanced. 92 points from me.
This release is from a single refill hogshead (DL13911) producing 328 bottles, with no colouring or chill-filtratation and bottled at 48.4% ABV.
Available now in the store.
Carn Mor Bunnahabhain 2004 15 Year Old
For me Peated malts are always at their best when they pick up some sweet character from their cask of maturation. I'll always remember the Ledaig 17 Year Old from Cooper's Choice that was finished in a Moscatel cask. Stunning stuff. And here we have another prime example, albeit more traditional with it's maturation being completely in an ex-Sherry Cask.
Bunnahabhain, the most northerly distillery on Islay, is right up there on my short-list of best at the moment. That said, I'm not a massive fan of the Distillery Bottlings of 12 Year Old, but rather I think the 18 Year Old is one of the best 18's in the market albeit incredibly difficult to find here in Australia.
In General terms, only about 20% of the malt produced at Bunnahabhain is particularly peated. And the whisky in question today is a peated malt, although only moderately.
Niel Hendriksz is the Export Director for Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers. I recently quizzed him over zoom on this particular bottling, and he said: "It’s not your usual Bunnahabhain, which is probably why I like this specific bottling so much. Slightly peated and matured in a sherry butt gives it an incredible complexity without making it complex, if that makes any sense at all. Bottled at just north of 50% again for me is the sweet-spot as its gives it life, but you’re not fighting with the alcohol at any stage, very well integrated. "
Here are my notes from my recent taste:
Nose: The peat comes through gently, with wafts of damp forest floor, leather and a slow build of sherry dried raisins and nuts. Great complexity of character coming from the glass.
Palate: Immediate touch of sweetness then the peat (iodine style) builds with time in mouth, as does the sherry fruit flavours, touch of dried orange peel, raisins and nuttiness. The alcohol is warming with a bit of punch, but totally in a good way. There is a touch of sulfur to the malt, which can almost be expected from the Sherry Butt; however it is mild and not distracting.
Finish: Very long and warming. Once down the hatch the peat in particular stays for a while, but with a great nuttiness.
Overall: Really a great dram. 96/100
We are pleased to be able to offer a small selection from the brilliant team down at Fleurieu Distillery. For those who haven't tried these exceptional malts yet, then know that they really are a must!
We are pleased to be able to offer:
Fleurieu Distillery Signal to Noise for $189 here.
Fleurieu Distillery Cartoon Lurve for $194 here.
& Fleurieu Distillery Moon River for $234 here.
We have a very limited supply, so get in quick!
Some big changes with one of our lovely suppliers, as Morrison & Mackay (producers of the popular Carn Mor range) have undergone a corporate rebranding as 'Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers'. A natural progression after the Morrisons acquired the Mackay share.
The press release dated 19/10/20 states: "Formally known as Morrison and Mackay, the newly formed company will be named Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers and has undergone a significant transformation since it went under the sole ownership of Brian and Jamie Morrison last year. The executive team, led by Managing Director Douglas Crawford, have great ambitions regarding the future of the family-owned company which can be seen from the investment in their site and the complete overhaul of their current brands with their new whisky portfolio being released in stages over the next six months"
Alongside the corporate re-branding has been an extensive packaging re-design (eg. image below).
Excitingly for the drinker, the first out-turn of Scotch Malt Whisky bottled has been intentionally selected to launch the re-brand with a bang! Excitingly we have a pallet of the newly packaged malts just about to hit the water, due to arrive just this side of Christmas. Stay tuned! We have secured bottles of Clynelish, Bowmore, Longmorn, Glen Keith & More!!
The astute amongst yourselves will have spotted a few social posts about our latest shipment. In total 36 new whiskies landed, and it has been great opening a few bottles and exploring the new whiskies to Australia.
Particularly exciting for me is the couple different Bunnahabhains and Ledaig's that have landed. Stunning malts, there can be no doubt.
Explore the new arrivals yourself by browsing here.
Next in my little series of announcements for our upcoming shipment is a stunning Tobermory 23 Year Old in the Old Particular Range from Douglas Laing and Co.
Tobermory Distillery on the isle of Mull is in one of Scotland's most picturesque locations overlooking Tobermory Bay. Fewer and fewer Indpendent Bottlers are able to get their hands on barrels of Tobermory as the Distillery has a difficult enough time meeting their own demand requirements. At it's best though Tobermory Malt can be astoundingly good.
This single malt Scotch Whisky is from a single cask laid to rest for 23 long years. A refill hogshead with a tiny 216 bottle out turn.
The Malt itself has flavours of crisp pear, plump sultanas and chocolate rice pudding. Bottled at 46.7% ABV.
I could only get my hands on 6 bottles of this one that I am expecting to land in Australia in the 2nd half of August 2020. Any questions on price or reserving a bottle can be directed to Simon@selectscotchwhisky.com.au
Recently we were very lucky to be able to have a 'virtual' chat with Andrew Crook, the Managing Director of the Vintage Malt Whisky Company. We touched on the impending arrival of the Cooper's Choice 1994 Old Rhosdhu soon to hit our shores, and on his experiences in the Scotch Malt Whisky Trade. Here's a copy of our chat:
SSW: G’day Andrew. Thanks for your time. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and how you found yourself in the Whisky Industry?
Andrew: Thanks Simon. Well, The Vintage Malt Whisky Co Ltd is a family company started by my father in 1992. Dad had been in the whisky trade since the late 1970’s so I grew up surrounded by whisky. My father worked for Morrison Bowmore in those days and my earliest whisky recollections were visiting Auchentoshan distillery near where we lived in Glasgow and sometimes spending family holidays on Islay and Aberdeenshire at Bowmore and Glen Garioch distillery cottages. Around the millennium, our company was growing and Dad was looking for new blood to be involved in the business. Then lure of working with whisky seemed too good to pass up, and although it felt like a risk at the time, I have never looked back. I now have overall responsibility for the business but both of my sisters have major roles in the company too. It is a real family firm which is great to be part of.
SSW: Do you have a favourite distillery and style of malt?
Andrew: We don’t have our own distillery and I am fortunate to be able to sample and select casks from a great number of different distilleries each with their own unique style and charm. However, from day one of our company, we have been heavily involved in building brands using heavily peated, smoky spirit from Islay. I have certainly grown to love this style very much. However, in more recent years, I have developed a great love of old single grain whiskies. Very different to malt with huge coconut and sweet vanilla notes. Absolutely delightful and good examples are far too easy to drink.
SSW: Tell us a bit about the Cooper’s Choice range from The Vintage Whisky Company?
Andrew: Well the original idea for this range actually goes back to my fathers days at Bowmore distillery. Dad worked closely marketing Bowmore with the now world famous Jim MacEwan and they became friends. Jim was a cooper originally and felt strongly that the role of the Cooper in the whisky trade didn’t get the recognition it richly deserved. This idea stuck and when Dad started his own company he decided to establish a brand in their honour, The Coopers Choice series was born shortly after. They are all single cask bottlings and we try and represent all of the regions of Scotland. We are always looking for unusual casks, curiosities and closed distilleries, however, as any independent bottler will tell you, this is a great challenge nowadays. The most important aspect of any Coopers Choice bottling is quality. We are very fortunate that due to the stock holdings we have built up and supply relationships we have, we are able to be very choosy as to what makes it into Coopers Choice. Only the very cream of our inventory is selected after careful evaluation. Casks which don’t make the grade for Coopers Choice are carefully blended away into our other volume blended malt brands.
SSW: Personally I was originally drawn to the unusual finishes that many of the Cooper's Choice range come from. Where has this interest in unusual oak finishes come from?
Andrew: My father toyed with a few wood finishes in the early days of Coopers Choice but back then 95% of what we bottled was ex Bourbon or first fill sherry wood. Nothing wrong with that at all but as the malt whisky market has grown and grown and more and more bottlers and brands are being bottled, we had to look for a point of difference on crowded retail shelves for commercial reasons. Over the last half dozen years, we have been carrying out extensive reracking campaigns on a percentage of our inventory to create new and exciting styles and flavour experiences for our Coopers Choice bottlings. There is a great deal of experimentation involved in this as some casks work better than others but there is a huge amount of fun to be had. To date we have used, port, sherry, red wine, madeira, marsala, sauternes, muscat. With the relaxation of elements of the maturation laws governing scotch whisky in 2019, we have taken advantage and filled some stock into Calvados casks. This has produced some fantastic results. Ultimately, it is all about quality and flavour. As a small player, if you don’t focus on quality, you are doomed to failure.
SSW: Arriving shortly on Australian shores is a relative obscurity… a Cooper's Choice 1994 ‘Old Rhoshdhu’. What exactly is ‘Old Rhosdhu’? Where is it from and what is the style?
Andrew: This bottling is a classic example of the kind of casks we seek out for Coopers Choice. You described it as an “obscurity” and you are dead right. This single malt hails from probably the most versatile but largely unheralded distillery in Scotland – Loch Lomond. A large distillery which contains both pot stills for making malt whisky and column stills for making grain whisky. They also produce many different styles of malt whisky which are mainly used to create the different flavour profiles they seek for their own bottlings. It can be difficult to get 100% accurate information on all of these styles produced but my understanding is that Old Rhosdhu was a single malt made between the 1960’s until the year 2000 and had a fruity and floral style. Our cask is from 1994. In my experience, it is rare to see this malt on the market and that’s one of the reasons it was so interesting for Coopers Choice. Of course, rarity is only one aspect, and far from the most important one. Quality is paramount and thankfully this cask met with our approval.
SSW: And what about this particular malt? I note it is ex-Bourbon barrel. Is it a heavy wood influence?
Andrew: Yes a first fill bourbon cask which has imparted good colour and the lovely flavour notes which quality bourbon maturation provides.
Tasting notes as follows:
Nose: Fragrant tropical fruits and baked apple skins
Palate: Oaky spices and more fruit. Touch of walnuts, toasted oats and cereal notes
Finish: Cedar and spice. Medium length
SSW: Overall what are your thoughts on the whisky?
Andrew: A lovely dram which is very easy to drink.
SSW: Are there any Cooper's Choice whisky’s in the pipeline that you are excited about we should keep our eye out for?
Andrew: Covid 19 meant we were unable bottle any casks for a couple of months but we have 12 new releases coming up at the end of July. Proud of all our selections but we do have a stunning heavily sherried Mortlach coming up which I know will be popular with our customers. For Islay fans, a port finished Caol Ila should also be a big hit.
SSW: Thanks kindly for your time and we hope to see you in Australia at some stage soon!
Andrew: A pleasure and thanks for having me. I have travelled a fair amount but have yet to make it “Down Under”
I'm excited to announce some of the beauties soon to be arriving on our shores to Australia (on their way to the UK port as I type). I'll keep posting weekly until they arrive (expected in mid-August 2020, in time for Fathers day) just to keep appetites whet.
The first is a range of new Carn Mor Scotch Malt Whiskies in new packaging to Australia. The 'Bequest' package was created to honour the retirement of founder and chairman Brian Morrison. There are some truly exceptional Scotch Whisky (s) here with impressive age statements, all single cask whisky (s) with understandably small out turns. No chill filtering or colour added and bottled at cask strength. The 3 I have managed to get my hands on are:
Bowmore 1996 22 Year Old, ex Hogshead . Given Brian's close connection to Bowmore I could not pass this up! Only 225 bottles from the outturn and the measly allocation I could get was 6 bottles!
Macallan 1993 25 Year Old, ex Bourbon Barrel. Only 196 bottles from the barrel here. I'm told to think 'rare oak' releases on this one. These old Macallan Malts are always something special, and considering the number of Scotch Whisky collectors who chase Macallans they never stay around long. Given the low number of whiskies from the out turn I count myself lucky to have been allocated 9 bottles.
Finally is the 1993 Glen Grant 26 Year Old again from an ex Bourbon Barrel. I'm told on good advice this Glen Grant 26 Year Old is an exceptional Single Cask release! So exceptional, my allocation for all of Australia...3 bottles :(
Stay tuned for when these land, but if you are interested in putting your name down for a bottle, send me and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
#MorrisonandMackay #CarnMorWhisky #ScotchWhisky #Whiskylover #dramtime #Macallan #GlenGrant #Bowmore #singlecaskwhisky
Simon Spier is the founder and lead partner of Select Scotch Whisky. A passion for Whisky, and a love of wine has lead Simon to start importing and selling limited quantities of rare and collectable Scotch Malt Whisky.