Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Wood Makes The Whisky - The Examples

Last Autumn, the leading Scottish independent bottling company of Gordon & MacPhail launched a new campaign to show the importance of casks in the whisky maturation process - The Wood Makes The Whisky. It highlights the most important part of their business and is supported by a dedicated website and a selected number of whiskies, which have been bottled to demonstrate the various sections within the campaign.

In Part One of this blog post, we looked at the ideas and concepts behind the campaign.  In this part we sample some of the whiskies that Gordon & MacPhail have released to demonstrate the various points within the campaign.  These include combinations of different ages, styles, cask wood types and cask sizes to show how all can effect a whisky.


Ardmore 1996
Region - Highlands/ Casks - Re-fill sherry hogsheads
This whisky has a vibrant golden yellow colour and is packed with earthy aromas and a hint of soft peat smoke.  In the background are further aromas of stewed apple, cinnamon, straw, sultanas and waxy furniture polish.  On the palate there are immediate notes of creamy soft butterscotch and toffee, which are complimented by delicate peat smoke.  The smoke brings out a tangy and zesty orange note, along with warming wood spices (think of cinnamon again) and golden syrup.  The smoke fades slowly on the long finish and becomes drier once the fruit and sweet elements go.

Bunnahabhain (Peated) 8 years old MacPhail's Collection
Region - Islay/ Casks - Re-fill sherry butts/ 43% ABV
This whisky is very pale yellow in colour and the nose is vibrant, punchy and peaty.  The peat smoke is reminiscent of coal tar soap and is acrid and medicinal in nature.  Underneath are aromas of incing sugar, honey, vanilla and freshly cut grass.  On the palate this has sharp lemon and sugary honey-like notes battling the acrid smoke.  There is a distinct salty edge underneath this, plus green apple and white chocolate.  It feels light but robust at the same time, mostly because of the feisty peatiness.  The finish is long and increasingly dry and ashy, especially once the sweet characteristics fade away.

Glen Grant 1954 Rare Vintage
Region - Speyside/ Casks - First fill sherry/ 40% ABV
The colour is deep mahogany and the nose is rich and exquisite with a mix of sweet and savoury - think of burnt caramel, toffee, dried dark fruits, chocolate, leather and waxy furniture polish. On the palate it is soft and gentle, but extremely flavoursome.  Plenty of caramel and butterscotch hit first, then dark dried fruits (especially raisins and prunes) and bitter candied orange peel.  Dark chocolate and coffee grounds mingle with a dusty earthiness and waxed leather.  The combination is superb and accentuated by dried tropical fruits, delicate soft wood spices and an increasing note of menthol/clove.

Glenlivet 1974 Rare Vintage
Region - Speyside/ Casks - Re-fill American oak and re-fill sherry/ 43% ABV
The colour is a deep golden amber and the nose is full of earthy aromas and dried tropical fruits (especially mango and pineapple) plus hints of turkish delight, maraschino cherry and freshly waxed leather.  On the palate this feels very elegant and soft.  There are immediate notes of stewed peach and dried pineapple followed by heather honey, vanilla pod, golden syrup and milk chocolate.  Background notes of menthol, eucalyptus, burnt orange and dried cherries add incredible depth, along with warming cinnamon and star anise.

Glenrothes 8 years old MacPhail's Collection
Region - Speyside/ Casks - Re-fill sherry hogsheads & re-fill bourbon barrels/ 43% ABV
The colour is pale gold and the nose is fresh and vibrant with aromas of green apple, malted cereals, lemon zest and brown sugar.  On the palate it feels soft and sugary yet light with the initial notes being of toffee, butterscotch, muscovado sugar and sultanas.  With time come further notes of malty cereals, candied orange and hints of cinnamon-like spice and treacle.  Late notes of stewed apple and pear make it feel slightly richer and mix well with the other elements.

Macallan 2006 SpeyMalt
Region - Speyside/ Casks - First fill and re-fill sherry butts/ 43% ABV
The colour is pale gold and the nose is sugary and sweet.  Aromas of fudge and brown sugar mingle with those of sultana and bittersweet malt.  On the palate is light and sugary with plenty of dried fruit notes present - think of sultana, raisins, apricot, orange zest and candied lemons.  These are supported by a robust bittersweet maltiness and earthy notes of ginger and cinnamon.  With time distinct milk chocolate and hazelnut praline characteristics develop.  The finish is short and sweet with the sugary notes lingering longest.

Speyburn 1991 Connoisseur's Choice
Region - Speyside/ Casks - Re-fill sherry hogsheads/ 46% ABV
The whisky is pale lemon yellow in colour and the nose is fresh, vibrant and zesty.  Initial aromas are of dried grass, green apples and toffee.  These combine with dried tropical fruits and dusty cereals.  On the palate it is light, fresh and delicate.  Very subtle notes combine to create a building sweetness - honey, toffee, dried mango, icing sugar and golden syrup.  An increasing maltiness adds depth and a slight savoury element, but the overall feeling continues to be of lightness.

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