Ancient Malts at Kensington Wine Market

Over two nights, March 20 and March 21 2014 we put on two Ancient Malts whisky tastings at Kensington Wine Market. Our Ancient Malts tastings typically involve a marquee bottle, and a range of complimentary whiskies at least 30 years of age. This time around the Glendronach 1968 Recherche ($4,799.99), at 44 years, the oldest bottle of Glendronach ever released held the honour as the events marquee bottling. It was complimented by a blended Scotch and six single malts between 30 and 42 years of age.

At both tastings the whiskies were sampled blind, with the exception of the Glendronach Recherche. As the pour size on it was slightly smaller, and because this was the whisky people had come to taste, we felt it was important that it was declared. The whiskies were all tasted blind, here are my tasting notes:

  1. Duncan Taylor Black Bull 40 Year Batch 3 – 41.6% – 85.6% Malt/14.4% Grain – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: toasty, creamy and tropical with some soft floral malt; melons and citrus with ripe pineapple and sugary hints; silky smooth little if any trace of grain; Palate: soft, toasty and floral with growing sweet spice and top notes of soft decadent grain; more pineapple and melon with some white fruits, crisp citrus and waves of candied spices; the oak starts to show its age, but is kept largely in check, loads of vanilla, some honey and lots of fruit; Finish: light, clean, toasty and faintly floral with fading soft spice, sugars and fruits. – $302.99
  2. Glenglassaugh 1972 KWM Cask – 42.6% – 39 Year – Ex Sherry - Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: heavenly, silky and fruity; molten brown sugar, candied fruits, toffee cake, Demerara rum and candied orange; hints of melons, mangoes, coffee and chocolate too; Palate: sweet, sugary and spicy with more Demerara rum, molten brown sugar and an assortment of festive spices: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and fennel; there are elements of chocolate covered coffee beans, candied orange and treacle sauce too; layers of fruit are present too with some tart orange peel, more melon and unripe mangoes; Finish: exceptionally smooth, rich, spicy and sweet with soft fading oak, lingering spices and more Demerara rum; melons and tropical fruits come out with a flourish of Dolce Leche at the end.” – $699.99
  3. Wilson & Morgan Glenturret 35 Year – 48.5% – Distilled 1977 – Bottled 2012 – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: creamy, honeyed and very nutty; caramel sauce, overripe oranges, melons, burnt raisins and brown sugar; the body of the nose feels big, doughy and chewy with banana cream pie; Palate: very big and toasty with flambeed bananas, Demerara, more nuts and some tingling spice;  notes of orange peel and juicy melons slowly emerge with more soft caramel and vanilla cream; becomes progressively spicier with hot ginger and cinnamon and toastier too; Finish: long, creamy and toasty with fading fruits and spice; the whisky dries showing its age but leaves a pleasant oily coating and Demerara-like sugars.” – $304.99 – Only 2 left!
  4. Tomatin 40 Year – 42.9% – Distilled 1967 – Bottled 2007 – & Sherry Hogsheads – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: a mélange of tropical fruits, decadent spices, silky leather tendrils and fine tobacco; as the nose opens up there is a hint of mango, fresh cut pineapple, melons and Seville orange; there is a little prickle from the oak, hinting at the whisky’s advancing age; Palate: more silky leather and fine tobacco with decadent spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg; the fruit is fleshy and ripe with more tropical fruits, creamy melon, mango, baked apple and more cut pineapple; brown sugar and wet tea leaves with med-dark chocolate emerge later with a base of creamy vanilla; Finish: long, fruity and creamy with lingering tingly spices; more fine tobacco, smooth leather and traces of the tropical fruits.” – $929.99
  5. Auchentoshan 1979 – 50.5% – Oloroso Sherry Matured – 1000 Bottles – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: intensely nutty and leathery with a huge oloroso influence; musty old oak, muddied hiking boots, and deep dark spices; Cohibas, dark chocolate and overcooked Christmas cake; Palate: candied fruits and spice with leather and more tobacco; burnt dark fruits, mom’s classic Mincemeat pie and  unsweetened dark baker’s chocolate; licorice, anise and perhaps even a touch of clove add to the whisky’s dark profile; Finish: long live the spices and soft leather as the dark fruits and chocolate take their curtain call.”$509.99 – SOLD OUT!! (scouring the Earth for more)
  6. Glendronach 1971 Cask 1246 - 42 Year – 44.6% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – 432 Bottles – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: big muscular sherry: leathery with dates, prunes, dark chocolate and clove; mixed berry jam, candied orange slices and cooked raisins; Palate: fruitier and more subtle than expected from the nose the palate shows layers of fruits, syrup and even a cream backbone; maple coated walnuts and almonds, more candied orange, dark fruits and rum soaked Christmas cake; mixed berry compote on french toast with whipped cream and a hint of maple syrup; Finish: it is all about the layers of fruit, candied nuts and Christmas cake; soft, smooth and long lingering.” - $1223.00
  7. Glendronach 1968 Recherche - 44 Year – 48.6% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Cask No. 5 – 632 Bottles – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: rich and fruity, right off the bat soft sweet licorice notes (think Panda brand), expensive ladies leather gloves and brandy soaked cherries; candied fruits and classic Christmas cake notes are present, but they are soft and elegant, layers of assorted fruits lie beneath, dark, orchard and tropical; Palate: rich and fruity with lively spice and a velvety smooth delivery; the flavours peel back from this whisky like the layers of an onion: first dark fruits: dates and sultanas, then fleshier tropical fruits, next soft leather, then chocolate and tobacco before tingling spices take charge; this is a classic sherry cask whisky, and so fruity: melons, mangoes and plums; brown sugar, maple syrup and treacle sauce develop as the fruits fade; Finish: long and fruity with a soft leathery backbone; it dries hinting at the whiskies age but still has more layers to peel back. - $4799.99 – SOLD OUT!
  8. Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 30 Year – 57.5% – Distilled 1983 – Bottled 2013 – Sherry Butt 1096 – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: Dulce Leche, soft peat oils, honey, vanilla and cream; salty fish and clean maritime smoke emerge; underneath there are notes of citrus and honey dew melon; nose more like Port Ellen than Caol Ila; Palate: round creamy and some with some grip from the earthy oily peat; loads of honey, vanilla and cream; a little on the tarry-side, candied fish, beach bonfire and loaded with fruits: oranges, melons, baked apple and pear; lots of layers to this whisky which comes in waves; Finish: long, creamy and coating with more vanilla cream, fading soft fruits, briny sea breeze and savoury oily peats.” - $457.99

At both of the tastings, before revealing the whiskies, participants were asked to vote on their two favourites. Here are the favourites from the two respective tastings:

March 20, 2014: The Caol Ila was the overwhelming favourite on the first night, scoring a vote from all but two participants.

  1. Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 30 Year
  2. Auchentoshan 1979
  3. Glendronach 1971

March 21, 2014: The Auchentoshan stole the show edging out the Coal Ila and Tomatin.

  1. Auchentoshan 1979
  2. Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 30 Year
  3. Tomatin 40 Year

Combined Results: When combining the votes from the two nights the results mirror the first tasting with the Tomatin only one vote from tying the Glendronach.

  1. Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 30 Year
  2. Auchetoshan 1979
  3. Glendronach 1971

I was pleased to see the Tomatin 40 rank in the Top 3 at the second tasting. Next to the Caol Ila, and excluding the Recherche, it was my second favourite whisky on the evening with the Glenglassaugh in 3rd. The Tomatin finished 4th in the first tasting.

Participants at both tastings were asked to cast a vote on whether the whisky lived up to their expectation. In both tastings, the overwhelming majority said yes. In fact, of the 40 participants over two nights, there was but 1 dissenter!

The Glendronach Recherche 1968 is now gone, but there may be another… rumour has it the distillery still has one more cask from that year. Perhaps we’ll see a 50 year old at some point down the road!

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