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Monday, 26 July 2010

Spoilt for Choice?

The final tranche of Diageo's Managers' Choice bottlings has just been released, which includes several big names, including Clynelish and the much anticipated bottling of Lagavulin, as well as some of the other less well known bottlings. Tasting notes of the entire batch can now be found on our new Caskstrength Warehouse site and below we've featured a cross section of our thoughts on some of the riders and runners...

Clynelish – Managers’ Choice – 1997 / 2009 – First Fill Bourbon American Oak – cask 4341 - 216 bottles – 58.5% vol

Nose: Ahhhh... Clynelish! Welcome to our noses. Beautiful aroma of lavender, vanilla and parma violets. Clynelish and Rosebank have, for us the two of the finest, most fragrant noses within Scottish whisky and you can see why Clynelish is the choice for the smart blender. If grain is the hard tackling midfielder, the ball winner, then Clynelish is the creative, luxury player. The one you come to watch. The one who sells the shirts. Really, really good.

Palate: Waxy, slightly bitter and loads cream. Holding the palate it develops loads of lovely berry flavours: summer fruits yogurt! With water: Swimming pool notes come through and the berries are reduced.

Finish: Very “bourbon-like” with oak and red jam. Not too far from the Four Roses Single Barrel. With water: As with the palate, the gentle medicinal notes.

Overall: This is a cracking dram but for me, needs to be taken straight.

Auchroisk – Managers Choice - 1999 – bottled March 2009 - 642 bottles - Sherry Hogshead - cask 11323 - 60.6% vol

Nose: Immediate Caramac notes, some definite spiritiness, malted milk biscuits, condensed milk and dessicated coconut.

Palate: Very thin mouthfeel, almost disappears in the mouth instantly. Some crème caramel notes and hints of Toffee Crisp bars. With water, the caramel notes are more pronounced, but that’s about it.

Finish: Sweet and fairly short, with a slight malty note entering on the death.

Overall: The nose gives you hope that this will be a stunner, but it falls apart way too quickly and you’re left thinking about what you’re going to try next. Disappointing.

Lagavulin- Managers Choice – 1993 – bottled February 2009 – 612 bottles – European Bodega Sherry Oak - cask 4477 – 54.7% vol

Nose: Soft medicinal notes, with carbolic soap and earthy/dry undertones. Slightly vegetate, with some salted potato crisps. A hint of plastcine and some gentle wood smoke rounds out a very pleasant nose indeed.

Palate: Crunchie bars, soft peat smoke and a slight mossy/musty note. The salted crisps make a return and some lighter white chocolate sweetness rounds out the palate.

Finish: The sweetness lingers with the classic Lagavulin carbolic medicinal notes and a drying woody note on the death.

Overall: A decent enough bottling, but in our opinion this goes to highlight just how good the regular 16yo bottling is when placed side-by-side. Also worth checking out the Feis Ile bottlings from the same distillation date, (1993) which again probably have the edge here.

Knockando – Managers’ Choice – 1996 / 2009 – Spanish Sherry Oak – Cask No 800790 – 612 Bottles – 58.5% Vol

A classic sherry whisky – robust dry/fruity aromas, tannic notes and slightly bitter undertones. The wood has dominated the whisky, but has not beaten it completely into submission.

Palate: Very dry mouthfeel, some fruity richness and twigs. The sherry influence is, er, heavy and somewhere under all this make up is a fairly honeyed whisky with some lovely delicate notes of green apple and fresh mint. With water: much improved and the true flavours of this distillery come to the fore.

Finish: long and warming with heavy polished wood and some mint. With water: as with the palate.

Overall: Spain is, along with France, one of the biggest markets for Knockando as a single malt and we wonder if this had an influence on the decision making behind this choice of bottling. The sherry is very pronounced but fortunately hasn't killed off the distillery character and is certainly worth a try if you're keen on big, fruity beasts.

So there we have it- alongside the Talisker, the Clynelish shines through as probably the best of the Managers' Choice bottlings.