It’s all too easy to get stuck in a routine. Sometimes without even noticing. The ‘bedtime’ dram, the favoured distillery or just a growing preference for one style over another. Whisky is packed full of myriad obsessions – but with limited time, money and liver to go around – being cemented to any particular drinking avenue will sometimes prove a detriment to your wider exploration.
You only have to look at the list of the top 25 selling whisky brands in the world to note that there’s still a lot of people out there just like your dad. Irrespective of this list being almost entirely focussed on ‘cheaper’ blended whisky, it stands as a testament that much of the wider whisky drinking world still have their preferences…and they stick to them. That same whisky night-after-night, bottle after bottle. Familiarity is a powerful construct. As is brand alignment.
However, even within the enthusiast segment of the market there’s plenty of favouritism – and narrowmindedness. And the Internet doesn’t help this.
If you were new to the whisky world today and decided to look for advice on social media, you’d not be short of folk willing to offer (sometimes) helpful suggestions. But it’s almost invariably the same bottles and same distilleries which are raised up onto the pedestal time and time again.
On the one hand classics are classics – and all whisky explorations should strive to disembark for these staples. But on the other, even a cursory amount of time on the whisky Internet will suck you down the rabbit hole of limited editions and the perception of ‘must have’ releases from the big-name marques. There's nothing wrong with that in essence – but as above – with limited time, money and liver, every foray into the new, but known is potentially one less sortie into the untried and unfamiliar.
Whilst there’s not enough life within life to try everything, pigeon-holing yourself is a recipe for narrow-mindedness. Of a whisky life bound by rules – though shalt, and though shalt not.
And it's easily done – we all have our penchants and go-tos. But at the same time, whisky exploration is exactly that – an ongoing journey of discovery. And that’s unlikely to be quite as fulfilling if we don’t endeavour to earmark a little time to explore the path less travelled.
Today’s review bottle comes from Speyside’s Miltonduff – a distillery sometimes considered off as a little off the beaten track simply because there’s not been all that many official bottles from the distillery to explore. A handful of Chivas Cask Strength Editions alongside Distillery Reserve Collection bottlings make up the mainstay of the distillery’s official output from the last decade. Though none of this should come as much of a surprise – Miltonduff is primarily used as a dressing malt in the Ballantine’s blend.
TWE have bottled two sister casks of Miltonduff - #5014 which was released under Elixir Distiller’s Single Malts of Scotland imprint and #5015 which joins eight other bottlings in ‘Single Casks by The Whisky Exchange’ which was unveiled last autumn. Those interested in the full suite of nine releases can obtain samples by purchasing The Perfect Measure sample set – indeed, that’s now the only method to try the truly excellent Laphroaig and the blink and you’ve missed it Springbank (It seems I blinked).
Cask #5015 is a hogshead that was laid down in 1999 and provided 222 bottles at 50.7% ABV when bottled at the end of 2019. The resultant 20 year old Miltonduff is available to purchase from The Whisky Exchange directly for £110.
Nose: A sweet and sour affair. Gooseberries and underripe grapes develop into fresh apple and melon segments with a scattering of Skittles. Oatcakes and golden cereals sit with nougat and copper coins whilst a background soured cream adds a lactic note. Dilution presents reeds and flax alongside lemon cream piped buns topped with desiccated coconut.
Taste: The arrival has a weight to it - pleasingly creamy – it delivers stewed apples, pear compote and nectarines. The mid-palate favours citrus with orange peels and lemon curd pie joined by Alpen cereal and charred cask heads. Spicing builds into the back palate – anise and pepper alongside brass tubing Reduction expresses pear strongly – Poire William – together with grape brandy. Whilst less defined and lively the result is quite even-handed and retains the spirit-forward nature of this whisky.
Finish: Medium in length with pepper, cask char and fading soured fruitiness.
What this TWE Miltonduff 1999 20 year old lacks in overt maturity, it makes up for in stimulating aroma and flavour combinations. The spirit is still very much centre stage, despite 20 years in cask – making for a distinctive and oft-times complicated whisky to unravel. Benefitting from a little time in the glass whilst the destination is on a path less travelled, the journey is worth making nonetheless.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange