US Anniversary Tasting: Brora, Clynelish, Port Ellen & More
Even though the Usquebaugh Society might be relatively new to me, they are around for 24 years already. On Sunday they held their annual anniversary tasting, and as a new member I was happy to participate. The line-up was, as you might expect from the biggest whisky society of The Netherlands, excellent. Exclusively 24 year old whiskies, all of high quality.
I don’t have the illusion that I can write comprehensive tasting notes during events like these, so you won’t get them from me. Instead you’ll find just some quick thoughts and a rating. So without further ado, here are the whiskies from yesterday, in the order that we tasted them.
Cambus 24 yo 1985/2010 (54,7%, Bladnoch Forum)
Some weird smells, and not in a good way. Someone at my table mentioned something about a home for the elderly. I mainly get a dusty, glue like nose. The taste is better though. Fruity, lemon candy, some coconut shavings and slightly bitter. Finish is more of the same, but short. The palate saves this whisky. My advice would be to avoid smelling it and to just drink the damn whisky.
Clynelish 24yo 1983/2007 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, DL3555)
A nice fruity Clynelish. I get orange and a pleasant sweetness, but also a bit salty or coastal, whichever one you want. The palate is very smooth and creamy and slightly dry. Just an allround, nicely balanced whisky. Lovely stuff.
Highland Park 24yo 1981 (55,8%, Adelphi, #6088)
Campfire! Not overpowering though, very subtle. Minerals, wet rocks. A tiny bit of honey and even less peat smoke. The palate is peppery and bitter. Rubber and plums. Others found it balanced, I thought it was a bit rough and unpolished. Just shows you how different everyone’s taste is.
Limerick 24yo 1988/2012 (56,8%, Adelphi, #10516)
I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a whisky as fruity as this one. Incroyable. Mostly tropical fruit, some citrus as well. The taste is more of the some. Fruit, fruit, and even more fruit with some vanilla and herbs. What a wonderful surprise. The one thing I wonder: might this Limerick get a bit boring when working your way through an entire bottle? But for now, who cares. Can I have some more please?
Port Ellen 24yo 1978/2002 (57,9%, DL for The Whisky Shop)
Yup, this was my first Port Ellen. I didn’t go in with high expectations, just because peat is not really my thing. And obviously, this PE is peated, like all of them are. It’s also fairly fruity. Apparently this is from a sherry butt, but you wouldn’t know it judging from the color. I also don’t get any sherry on the nose or palate. Must be 2nd refill at least. Salty, coastal and medicinal.
Rating: 86 points
Tomatin 24yo 1980/2004 (54,2%, Weiser, #13462)
Back to something fruity again. Underripe banana and white grapes. A creamy mouthfeel, pink grapefruit, but also peppery and the alcohol is fairly present. Slightly dry and bitter. This shows more subtleties than the Limerick, but is not nearly as fruity. I like it, but just not as much.
Brora 24yo 1977/2001 (56,1%, OB Rare Malts Selection)
Nosing this just makes me happy. Very Clynelish-esque, but with that extra Brora dimension. Smokey, but very subtle. Farmy, floral and fruity at the same time. Did I mention earlier I don’t like peat? Well, I do when it is subtle like this. Citrus and a bit dry.
A quick show by hands after we all finished the Brora, told us the Limerick was the favorite of the majority of the people in the room. I don’t think anybody would’ve predicted that at the start, but I can certainly see why so many people liked it. And even though I rate the Brora higher, the Limerick is the one whisky that I think I’ll remember most from this tasting, just because it was the biggest surprise for me.
A big thank you to Bram, Floris and Anton for organizing the tasting. And the food was also great (thanks Henk and Helen). I can’t wait till next year!
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.