The start of the New Year invariably ends up being a form of catch-up – resetting the alarm clocks to wake at what seems like an unfamiliar and ungodly hour, whilst trying convince ourselves that we’ve not completely forgotten about the ‘work thing’. The Dramble is also far from immune from being behind a little the curve – there’s still a pile of review samples from last year sitting in the bar that we really ought to start writing about. Mea culpa.
2018 marked the 50th anniversary of Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range, and resulted in a redesigned range of single cask whiskies, complete with modern, shiny new livery. Purveyor of all things booze-based Whisky Exchange joined the celebrations by releasing two exclusively picked Connoisseur Choice bottlings in the run up to Christmas – a 15 year old ex-bourbon Glenlivet and a 14 year old ex-sherry Glenturret. Let’s take a look…
Bottle Name: Glenlivet 2003 15 year old TWE Exclusive
The first of two TWE exclusives released just before Christmas 2018 is a refill ex-bourbon Glenlivet. Distilled in 2003 and then matured in a single cask for 15 years, this was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail under their Connoisseurs Choice range. 176 bottles at 59.4% have been produced and are still available (as of writing) from The Whisky Exchange for £99.95 a pop.
Nose: Fresh orchard fruits are up first with Granny Smith apples and Conference pears – deeper, both of these become embroiled in patisserie – apple crumble and pear tart. There’s a tangy citrus bite running throughout – candied orange and lemon peels with some milkier aspects of curd pie and Chantilly cream. Cask influence is never too far away, and presents with some typical ex-bourbon notes of vanilla custard, and prickly pepper spicing. Reduction unleashes plenty of natural sweetness – barley sugars and buttercream frosting alongside baked biscuit crumb.
Taste: Crisp and lively with the associated viscosity one would expect from the ABV – a mouth coating arrival with zingy tart fruits (grapefruit and lemon sherbet). The development them moves to the orchard with apple and pear – fresh and ripe – before heading caskwards with drying peppery spice, aniseed and cask char. The addition of water softens both the bite and the zing, offsetting some of the sparkle for deeper maltiness with rolled pastry and biscuits alongside some underlying grassiness.
Finish: Medium with tangy lemon, freshly mowed lawn and sappy oak.
This TWE picked Connoisseurs Choice feels archetypal Glenlivet in character. Whilst straight-forward and seemingly rather naked, orchard fruits and critic zing offer a crisp canvas for cask influenced spices to deliver plenty of animation. The end result is humble , but at the same time sprightly, clean and still rather vibrant.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange
Bottle Name: Glenturret 2004 14 year old TWE Exclusive
The second of two TWE exclusive G&M Connoisseur’s Choice bottlings released in December 2018 – this one has spent 14 years in a refill sherry hogshead (I dare say a particularly active refill sherry cask). 296 bottles have been produced at an ABV of 55.1% - they’re available for £94.95 from The Whisky Exchange.
Nose: The sherry influence is immediate and hefty – dark chocolate, dried fruits (figs, dates and raisins), freshly tanned leather, burnt toffee sauce and blackberries concentrated down to a thick cordial. There’s a sense of weight and meatiness here with pan juices, singed roasted joint and heavily reduced balsamic. In the background, something vaguely mineralistic and volcanic – not quite sulphurous, but certainly molten and a little brimstone. The addition of water seems beneficial here, expressing some brighter fruitiness with orange zest and cinnamon apples whilst revealing some underlying barrel char and further burnt meatiness.
Taste: The arrival is all burnt wood and reduced pan sugars offering a juxtaposition between bitter and sweet. Intense dark chocolate, blackcurrant and blackberry preserves are offset against singed tobacco, espresso and scorched oak. The mid-palate offers some respite with cleaner flavours of orange segments and milk chocolate sauce, before progressing in to a conclusion of rum and raisins, bitumen and shoe polish. Reduction doesn’t feel necessary from an ABV standpoint, but certainly offers a more even ride with an improved balance of spirit and cask. The palate is softened with a reduction in sugars and heavy sherry influence, making way for brighter flavours of zesty orange, marmalade and toffee sauce.
Finish: Medium to long with dark chocolate moving towards milk chocolate and a tingle of peppy cinnamon spice.
This is a substantial and forceful Glenturrent that’s far from shy about its sherry influenced origins. Whilst packed full of intense and deep aromas and flavours, the approach here is more sledgehammer than it is artful balance. Weighty and concentrated with plenty to say, but at the same time unwieldy and demanding of hydration to tease out fruitier nuances.