Two very different whiskies from Millstone on opposite sites of the flavour spectrum. One is young, peated and from an ex-port cask. The other is a quarter century old, unpeated and from an American virgin oak cask. Meet the Millstone 2018 Peated Tawny Port (Special #28) and the Millstone 1996 26 Years American Oak (bottled for The Whisky Exchange).
To be honest, I bought a sample of the Millstone 2018 Peated Tawny Port more out of curiosity than anything else. I don’t expect it to be exemplary per se, but I have a soft spot for Zuidam Distillery (where Millstone is made). Also, I am less familiar with their peated offerings than I’d like to be. This release is bottled as one of their specials, and it means something to me when master distiller Patrick van Zuidam gives it his explicit approval.
Now, the Millstone 1996 26 Years American is a different story altogether. This vintage has become somewhat legendary by now. I’ve had nothing butgoodthings to say about it over the years, and otherreviewers seem to agree. Sadly, 1996 Millstone is released only very sparingly. It’s part of some of the first (test) batches Patrick van Zuidam ever distilled.
That makes it all the more surprising this is already the second Millstone 1996 bottled for The Whisky Exchange this year. The first one was a sherry monster, and if experience tells us anything, this last one should be a tropical fruit bomb. It was released during The Whisky Show in October, and sold out almost instantly.
Millstone 2018 Peated Tawny Port (46%, OB ‘Special #28’, 3520 bts.)
Nose: Hints of apple sauce, some cinnamon and red berries. Just an assortment of vibrant, almost fizzy red fruit, really. But it’s not an attack on the senses. The nose is rather delicate and light. The smoke is subtle, and mostly of the wood variety. There’s some citrus as well, mainly lemon pith, and a touch of sauerkraut. Taste: The peat is more noticeable now. Hints of charcoal, some tar and canned cherries, a whisper of cocoa butter and slivers of raspberries. Also some (slightly bitter) orange marmalade. Finish: Medium length. A touch of dry ashes, winegums and sandalwood.
The youthfulness is indisputable. And the port cask hasn’t been active enough to hide it. Also, I’m not sure that would’ve improved things, as it might have become too wine-y. This is a bit of a tweener. Not quite peated enough to appeal to the true peat heads, but those who enjoy their ex-port cask matured whisky might find the influence too subtle.
Millstone 1996 26 Years American Oak (47.7%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, C#1372)
Nose: It’s the orchard fruit that immediately stands out. Loads of red apples, some pear skin. But the tropical notes slowly move in. There’s mango, hints of passion fruit and tinned pineapple. All very vibrant and lively. Some pine needles too, as well as a touch of resin, cigar boxes and star anise. Finally whispers of rum raisins. Taste: God yes, fruity beyond belief. Well, maybe not beyond belief, but much like some of the best Irish single malts from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Tropical, that’s for sure. Lots of mango, some banana, papaya and pink grapefruit, underpinned by gentle peppery spices. Then profiteroles and sweet pastry, alongside greener, leafy notes. Finish: Medium length. Gentle citrus notes, lingering peppercorns and almonds. Finally whispers of star anise.
I remember the first time I had one of these 1996'ers and being utterly blown away. That element of surprise is no longer here, but it remains upper-echelon whisky. It's the fruitiness that makes this Millstone 1996 26 Years for The Whisky Exchange stand out from its contemporaries. There are not many modern whiskies with such a flavour profile.