At a recent tasting at Milroy’s of Soho on Greek Street in London, I was lucky enough to try a few tasty drams and listen to some great chat from Colin Dunn, brand ambassador for Diageo. He was there to promote the release of this year’s best drams from the global giant.
I have given each my honest opinion but if you have given any of these drams a go, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below this page.
Rosebank 21-year old:
This 21-year old single malt comes from some of the oldest stocks still available from the Rosebank Distillery, which closed down in the 1980s. It has been matured in American and European oak casks, and comes out at a comfortably strong 53.8% ABV.
I found the whisky to be supremely delicate on both the colour and the nose. It was full of roses and floral notes. It was light in the glass and on the taste buds and really opened up after about eight or nine seconds in the mouth. The finish was fairly sweet, with a hint of the flavour of bread. There was not too much kick on the aftertaste and was surprisingly clean, given it gave way to sweeter flavours throughout.
All in all, it was delightful whisky and I was very surprised that one coming in at nearly 54% could be so delicate. It retails at £159.
Caol Ila 12-year-old:
This un-peated 12-year-old is a big, bold, bourbon-cask baby, coming in at a super-strength of 64%. There are only 6,000 bottles of this rich and flavourful whisky, and it is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
The nose is all indulgence: sweet, creamy, salty-caramel and hints of coffee. The flavours on the palate continue to be intense, with a buttery note coming from that toffeed nose. Despite it being an un-peated whisky, I still got hints of sea salt – but maybe I was going crazy with all the intensity bouncing around my mouth. I also caught a tiny hint of strawberry in the aftertaste which was quite pleasant.
Not my fav21ourite of the night, but definitely interesting. This puppy retails at £54.95.
Port Dundas 20-year-old:
The third whisky in the special releases catalogue is definitely special indeed. This little beauty is the first single grain whisky and comes from the oldest bottling at this now defunct distillery. The company used a coffey still on this, and then matured it in both bourbon and European oak casks, leaving us with a 57.4% finish.
The nose was lovely on this one: very rich, with hints of milk chocolate, black pepper, caramel and a few whiffs of something metallic (or, at least to me there was). The whisky warms up nicely but not overpoweringly in the mouth, giving way to a full flavour of vanilla, apple and a little acidic tang. It was quite sharp on the tongue to finish and that gave way to a bit of anise and wood flavours in the final stages.
In conclusion – me likey! It had a lot going on and was bold without being overstrong. At £115 a bottle, it’s pricier but I’m sure will satisfy many a whisky lover out there.
The company bills this one as “not for everyone” but I was rather surprised with it. This 25-year-old is matured in sherry casks, so is dark and rich on the eye. The Speyside distillery uses most of its stock (90%) in J&B, but the rest of it goes into making some lovely bottles, such as this one.
On the nose, I picked up burnt toffee and an autumnal wood smoke that reminded me of being outdoors in my dad’s woodshop as a kid when it was cold outside and smoke from the chimney in the house wafted its way over to mingle with the smell of wood chips. Odd, I know, but hey – everyone’s different!
The whisky was fully flavourful on the palate, with big creamy, sugary and chocolate notes. Lots of fruity jam too.
All in all, this was another one I starred. I do normally like sherried whiskies so I wasn’t entirely surprised with the outcome. The 4,500 bottles retail at £135 each.
Port Ellen 32-year-old:
Moving onto the fifth whisky, I savoured each drop of this little beauty – mostly, because it’s already sold out! Shame! Colin gave us a long run-down of just where you should be drinking a Port Ellen like this and I got so caught up in listening to him and enjoying it, that I only made a few notes. But that’s what a great whisky is about: getting lost in its flavours!
I did manage to get these points down about the oldest release from this closed distillery, however:
1. It’s good! Ok, I know that’s not very helpful when you’re a reader. But, it definitely got a star.
2. It’s sweet without being overpoweringly so; it’s got a hint of smoke, without being overpoweringly so.
3. There are citrus, pepper and spicy notes on the palate and warms you through.
4. It just keeps going – the flavours, the smells, the experience. All around, rather divine.
Most people will tell you, yes. Yes. And yes. I will say, it wasn’t my favourite but I could see some fine points about it. It was surprisingly soft on the nose, with hints of the seaside and wood smoke. It was sweet to start on the palate, but then went down a lemony Pine-Sol route and finally finished down a smoky road.
Although it is deemed to be less intense than most Brora bottlings and although it had the highest price tag of the night, it just wasn’t for me. Maybe I’m just not that evolved yet…
When Colin suggested there were hints of raw meat on the nose of this Lagavulin, I knew just what he meant. This 12-year-old peated bourbon cask whisky comes in at 57.5% so it is already a “meatier” whisky, but the addition of bacony notes on the nose only add to it. It was like picking up a pack of raw meat (I got bacon or pork chops) and smelling that slightly acidic, rough smell of a butcher’s shop. But was it unpleasant?
Funny enough, it wasn’t for me. I quite enjoyed that odd beginning hint of meat smoke and BBQ goodness. The palate was also not all that smoky and was, in fact, much sweeter than I was anticipating. There was also a slightly herbal tinge with droplets of raspberry mixed in.
Probably the oddest one of the night, but interesting all around. It retails at the reasonable price of £62.95.