Samples are an excellent way to try a range of different whiskies (I’ll recommend Master of Malt and Whiskysite.nl as good sources) but I don’t really like doing full reviews based solely upon them. Maybe I’m just a bit slow, but I need to make a bit of a dent in a bottle before I feel like I’ve come to understand it. So, here are some mini-reviews from samples I’ve tried recently – take them with a pinch of salt!
Mortlach – 1995 ‘Stem Ginger Preserve’, Wemyss
Nose: I’m never sure how much the titles that Wemyss give to their bottlings affect your expectations, but – yes – I do get a bit of stem ginger! Other than that though the overall impression is a very Speyside sweetly grassy nose, even heading towards being a bit menthol and minty. Coconut too, and then some darker fruits come in – think black cherry. Slight hint of furniture polish, although this disappears in the glass with time.
Taste: Sweet with apples, pear juice and a bit of honey. Then the minty grassiness comes in. Quite oily on the palate.
Finish: The fruitiness develops into something more orangey and tropical. Then there’s quite a bit of peppery spice and oak.
Hmm, not a very Mortlachy Mortlach, with little of the beefy oomph you might expect. It’s one of the more minty whiskies I’ve tried (beaten, by far, by a Cadenhead Glendullan that was like melted Kendall Mint Cake) and, otherwise, a solid Speysider.
Strathisla – 25yo 1989 Sansibar
Nose: Oddly mineral and chalky, with a bit of a sour pickle-esque note. Some grassy herbal notes. Lemon barley water, and it gets noticeably fruitier as it sits in the glass. Maybe a touch of smoke?
Taste: Not what you’d expect from the nose. Masses of apple fruitiness, with syrupy peaches too. A bit of gorse flower (floral vanilla and coconut), some lemon, barley and butter.
Finish: Pleasingly sour, with tart apples. Little touches of aniseed and herbs.
Very interesting this, like a slightly twisted take on the Speyside style. I’ll be looking for more Strathisla to explore.
Tormore – 30yo 1984 Exclusive Malts
Nose: Quite spirity, with pear drops. You wouldn’t think this was an old whisky. Green apple peel. Notes of orange, grapefruit, honey and ginger. Waxy.
Taste: Apple cake with cinnamon and vanilla. Weirdly “boozy” if that isn’t an odd thing to say about a spirit! Cointreau, most definitely, and some overly-ripe pineapple.
Finish: Chocolate orange, and then a good spicy kick of pepper and nutmeg. Interesting touches of something floral and soapy – pot pourri?
Add Tormore to the list of distilleries to explore further – a couple of drams wasn’t enough to get a handle on this. Odd contrast between some of the old-bourbon-barrel notes and the slightly-rough esters in the nose.
Minmore (Glenlivet) – 25yo 1988 Cadenhead
Cadenhead like to append “-Glenlivet” to their Speyside bottlings, but Minmore is Glenlivet, for the sake of an attempt at clarity.
Nose: Big! Strawberries and redcurrants in syrup, with brown sugar and some nice old oak. Quince. Orange boiled sweets.
Taste: Very sweet and rounded. Baked apples, orange syrup, caramel, plum jam, peach.
Finish: Honey and oranges with a little pepper and cinnamon. Bit of woodiness poking through. Long.
It’s old(-ish) Glenlivet, so it’s big, rounded and balanced. Solid and high-quality but, to my tastes, slightly unexciting. You can be too balanced.
Glen Scotia – 22yo 1992 ‘Run to the Stills’ The Whiskyman
Starting with the Iron Maiden reference there’s no balance to be found here!
Nose: Odd! First whiff is of a mixture of vanilla and petrol, with some earthy and rubbery hints. This is some wild spirit. Beyond that first impression you find canned cherries with chocolate ganache, smoked almonds, pear juice, wax paper and some dry minerality.
Taste: Smokier than you might think from the nose. Very distinct dark Rye bread. Chocolate orange, rum and lime. A very “Eastern” spiciness: somewhere between Chinese Five Spice and an Indian curry powder.
Finish: Cherry and chocolate and ash. Chocolate and coffee liqueur. Canned pears.
There’s a tiny bit of overlap with a rum-finished Springbank I’ve tried, and I’m glad to see some Campbeltown familiarity. Beyond that, though, and we’re off into very idiosyncratic places indeed. It’s the polar opposite of a well-behaved whisky like Glenlivet. I love it. If anyone knows where I can get a bottle please let me know!