a whisky enthusiast's muse through art, writing, painting and drawing

-- Drinking with Scotch Pros --

​A Blast from the Past to Present Day Expressions

16 March 2015

I am very lucky to know some serious whisky drinkers who have been sipping this stuff before it was cool.  I mean, they were collecting bottles since the 70's, clearing liquor stores from across the nation and buying bottles by the case.  I had the opportunity to learn from these guys and see how things tasted like when they were made from decades ago.  I must say, I was quite bewildered as to why so many people were lamenting over the current line up of whiskies.  They frequently said, "Ugh!  The quality is going down, while the prices are skyrocketing."  Apparently, back in the 1980's no one was really drinking any scotch, so you could find a Springbank 10 Year that had a heavy dose of 20 plus year-old scotch in it.  

Now, whisky companies are slowly getting rid of the age statement, but in the silver lining in all of this is that they've bumped up the proof.  I personally feel that the new Glenlivet editions that have been released are really stunning scotches, and I am a big fan of the Glenlivet Guardian's Chapter because it's full-bodied and filled with creamy vanilla profiles. 

"Hey, Tim Puett, if I grab all of these Ardbegs can we pose like little mermaids?" 

I drove by myself to a "secret" location (it sounds really silly when I say this) and once I landed, I was greated by whisky legends.  It was unreal.  I couldn't believe the amount of whisky unicorns that were planted on the table.  Scotches like The Balvenie Tun were pretty much the baseline expression, and that's saying a lot, considering how incredibly rare and expensive The Tun has become.  I was handed a bottle of Talisker that was produced in the 80's by an older man who lamented, "Here!  Try this.  This is how Talisker USED to taste like."  Upon sampling the Talisker, I found myself to be completely underwhelmed by its characteristics, for it had the aroma of Northern California's Bay, the kind of scent that was filled with dead seaweed, plants that brushed against the shores as flies latched onto its leaves while salt penetrated the base of my nostrils. The flavor just appeared a little bit off-putting; it was light, earthy and there was a touch of char.  Personal I found myself to be in love with the current line of Talisker.

I was waiting for an "aha" moment during the sipping experience, and what I've learned from that evening was that the sherry casks I sampled from the 80's all appeared to have more of a leathery, earthy tone that was filled with dark roots; whereas, the current sherry casks could either bare the weight of peppercorn spice, tannins, dark chocolate or a bit of sulphur.  Much to my surprised, the current line up of Port Casks found in Exclusive Malts are quite similar the the 80's style sherry casks.  I asked my friends, "What is the psychology behind all of this?  Why is it that these men love the things that were made from 30 years back," and I concluded that people glom onto things that they were exposed to at a younger age.  Thus, they not only like these old-school scotches for the flavor, but it is also for sentimental reasons as well.  

All in all, I was mesmerized by the amount and quality of whiskies that were available to me.  It was an absolutely special moment for me, and I was so happy that these people took me under their wing, teaching me about these products that were produced in the past.  So, in short, there were some things that blew my little mind!  

-- Brief Tasting Notes of Each Expression --

Talisker 12 Year; 86.8 Proof.  Made in the 1980's

Nose: Off-putting aroma of sea-salt air and washup-up seaweed.

Flavour:  It's interesting because it's so different from the current releases of Talisker; it's much darker in terms of the black cherry pits, but the color is light (golden with char chips floating inside) and there's no salinity factory here.  However, there's a dose of char with a big influence of oak.  It's extremely bone dray and oak-forward. 

Finish: Vanilla, fondant and cream are present. 

Master of Malt Speyside 60 Year: Well, what can I say, this is roughly £3,000.  Maybe my mouth just likes cheaper stuff because I felt like someone took a big inhale of a giant fatty and blew weed into this bottle and all I got was marijuana plants in my mouth. I've never smoked pot before, but some customer was High at Hi Time Wine Cellars. How ironic ...just like that Alanis Morisette song.  While people loved this, I was not a fan at all.  It was too earthy and I felt like I was chewing on cardboard and walnuts. 

 Talisker 20 Year: I love you so hard. Talisker 20 year . This is 62% abv and bottled in 2002. I think I got pregnant 4 times over from this bottle. Daaayamn Diageo. You have me by the Fallopian tubes . I wanna quite you but I can't.  It's rich and filled with all sorts of creamy, buttery expressions, yet it's nutty at the same time.  Talisker is sublime.  I just absolutely am a big fan of their stuff and this was #3 favorite scotch that evening. 

Port Ellen: Somebody bring me a yacht Cuz I just pulled up to Port Ellen! Boo yah! Eat your heart out, Ben Kingsley. Port Ellen, unfortunately is now a closed distillery, but is used as a malting floor for distilleries like Lagavulin and Caol Ila. This unicorn scotch has a very malty and bread-forward profile like Craigalechie 13 year. However, the common ground ends there .The smoke, red fruits and spice become apparent as it sits in the glass for 15 minutes. Once again weed is present in a baller whisky! Sugar and orange candy are present on the finish. I wish I could get a hold of this, but Diageo would probably tell me to kick rocks because I'm not the lead singer of Train.

Caol Ila 32 year: lots of Sherry with loads of figs as hints of spice is present. Deep dark figs and cherry pits are present that linger to tropical fruit, char and dragon fruit. This gives me a great insight of how oloroso Sherry casks differ from present sherry casks as I get lots of figs, leather and earthy tones from old school 80s casks while present olorosso casks have either a peppery profile , tannins, black coffee or dark chocolate

Longmorn 1962 : This is where leather, red fruits and the epitome of sherry cask are at their finest. This is the Liam Neeson of scotches. He may be older but he is all kinds of Fizzzzine. Unf! I wish I was taken so I could be saved by him. Don't underestimate and old Scotchy scotch scotch or old man. They are sexy and need some Lurrvin, too.  Damn.  This is one of the most incredible sherry bombs I've ever tasted.  

Ardbeg.Kildaton: 46% abv This is similar to the current Ardbeg expressions (I.e. 10 year, Corryvreckan, Uigeadail ). There's a classic malty bready dark coffee profile with loads of cereal grain that has some hints of mesquite wood. It's like a hybrid of Corryvreckan and Uigeadail.

Renaissance: This is essentially the 10 year but bottled at cask strength. 55.9% abv. Salt lingers on the sides of my tongue while loads of rainbow sherbet and strawberries emerge. Mesquite wood and coffee and toasted almonds pull forward towards the end. Totally in love with this one

Macallan 18 Year: Ranging from 1976-1979. Someone call the fire department Cuz it just got hot in herrrre.

1976: sweetness and cherries. Very creamy with loads of busted, juicy cherries essssploding in your mouth.

1977: more kettle corn here than the 76 vintage. There's a dryness here, too, that leads to pecan pie and creme brûlée. This reminds me of the current Glendronach expression like the 15 year.

1978: smells like feet and farts but the palate is great. Don't you worry. I am committed . I will fight through the farts to get a good drink of whisky Cuz I am all in or nothing at all. I was the original linsanity before Jeremy lin Started b-ballin. There's a touch of mesquite wood that reminds me of Broragedden. It's not smoky like the char kind of smoke but it's got a savory sweet mesquite wood profile or applewood ham. Mm my favorite .

1979: has lots of tannins and walnuts. It's my least flavourite out of the 4, though it does taper off to lovely fig and plum and dark chocolate expressions.this finishes off with dark chocolates and goes to mesquite wood