The Whisky Cellar is back with its fourth series of Private Cellars Selection bottlings, but not only. Keith Bonnington, The Whisky Cellar‘s founder and ex-Edrington employee, bought, a few months ago, from his former employer, the Brig O’Perth blend brand. One of his other projects, Scalasaig, also is not only an island whiskies blend, but also now a bottler, with, I imagine, single malts coming from all the distilleries making up the Scalasaig blend. So for this fourth Whisky Cellar Tweet Tasting, we’ll try the Brig O’Perth, a Tobermory bottled under the Scalasaig brand, and three single malts and one single grain part of the Whisky Cellar Private Cellars Selection Series 4. We enjoyed a lot Keith’s selection during the first three Tweet Tastings, so I think we can have high hopes for this Whisky Cellar Fourth Tweet Tasting.
Brig O’Perth 14-Year-Old 125th Anniversary Edition Review
Brig O’ Perth is a blend dating back the end of the 19th century. Created by Matthew Gloag, it was part of his wines and spirits range, considered to be amongst the best at that time on offer in Scotland. In 1897, the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best-known general medical journals, described that blend as ‘desirably smooth and mellow to the taste’ (whisky is a medication, remember. Well, at least at that time it could be sold as such, good times!) This ‘smooth and mellow’ style is the one that Keith Bonnington sought to replicate with the help of renowned whisky maker, master blender and Edrington colleague, Max MacFarlane.
For this 125th Anniversary Edition, Keith Bonnington used a high malt content, with a base of mostly first-fill ex-bourbon barrels matured Highland whiskies, as well as a small proportion of ex-sherry butts, the two main components of this blend being from Ben Nevis and Blair Athol. Whilst this 125th Anniversary Edition carries a 14-year-old age statement, future releases of this blend will be made as batches carrying a 7 or 8-year-old age statement.
This ‘first’ edition is bottled at 46.7% with an outturn of 1.125 bottles, non-chill filtered and with natural color. The RRP is £45, and you can find some at Aberdeen Whisky Shop, Whisky Castle in Tomintoul, MoM and a few other shops.
Soft orange juice, hints of dust and leather, the outside of a dunnage warehouse with its door opened, gentle vanilla and honey, plum dusted with sugar, and LU Petit Beurre biscuits. After a little time and air there is a marzipan note – nutty almonds and sugar.
Orange and apple initially, with a sourness reminding me of dark cherries, orange and green apple. Creamy mouthfeel after some time in the mouth. Caramel, rum and raisin ice cream, fresh figs, lemon flavoured fudge, ginger nuts biscuits, with soft spices. A little bit of sharp oak as well.
Sharp oak, dark chocolate, green apple and rum & raisin ice cream, lemon peel, with a good length.
A good start to the tasting. This Brig O’Perth blend has a good nose, good palate, and though it might be slightly too oaky, this is honestly quite quaffable. And at that price, well, I see no reason not to try it.
Aberfeldy 2014 7-Year-Old The Whisky Cellar Review
First release of the evening from the Private Cellars Selection Series 4 (okay, I’ll just write PCSS4 from now on, I’m not paid by the sign. I’m not paid at all anyway!) comes from the Highland distillery Aberfeldy. It was matured in an ex-bourbon cask for its five first years, then finished for two years in a recharged-oak cask (number #412 for you geeks), to increase wood extraction. Two hundred and thirty-five bottles were filled out of this cask at 53.6%, with chill filtration nor colouring. The RRP is £45, and you’ll find it at the shops mentioned above.
Cold mint and lemon tea, burnt toast with slightly salted butter and apricot jam, muesli, orange juice, we have a complete breakfast here.
A few drops of water from the pipette bring stronger citrus notes, a bit of raw coconut and some oak spices. Some rum & raisin ice cream and milk chocolate as well.
Slightly prickly arrival (50+ ABV hurray!), pepperish, then very floral and slightly herbal. Slightly chalky mouthfeel, orange peel, milk chocolate, crushed almonds, the drizzle topping over a cake, liquorice and maybe a wee touch of aniseed. Chalk cigarettes.
Reduction softens the palate, but provide some lemon juice, hints of grapefruit, peaches, a few slices of ginger and the feeling you just licked your cigar box.
The finish is herbal with a citrusy sourness, medium length.
A fine example of how an indy bottler can really give another perspective on a distillery. Far from the low ABV official bottlings, we have here a characterful whisky. Though you can taste the joyful youth out of it, you have for just £45 an entertaining and tasteful whisky. Keith has a thing with young whiskies, each series he bottles some young but delicious ones. We’re not at the Royal Brackla from Series 1 level, but this is good competition.
Cambus 1988 33-Year-Old The Whisky Cellar Review
We then moved to a single grain double cask, as this Cambus release is made from two sister hogsheads casks #59256 and #59258, filled in September 1988 and bottled in February 2022, giving an outturn of 487 bottles at 42.5% ABV.
Cambus was a Lowland grain distillery owned by Diageo, historically it was one of the star distilleries of the former DCL back in the 19th century. It started as a malt distillery in 1806 after the conversion of an old mill by John Moubray, but it became a grain distillery in 1836 after he installed two Stein patent stills to distil grain whisky instead. His grandson Robert added a Coffey still in 1851, allowing Cambus to become one of the largest grain distilleries of that time. It became in 1877 one of the founding distilleries of DCL, and was closed in 1993 by Diageo as part of their £100m production reorganisation. The old Cambus site later became a bottling plant and is also now a cooperage. When Alfred Barnard visited the distillery between 1885 and 1887, it was distilling corn, and the water used in the distillery was supplied by the river Devon, before falling into the River Forth.
Back to this Cambus bottled by The Whisky Cellar, you’ll find it at the usual suspe… shops, Aberdeen Whisky Shop, Top Whiskies, Whisky Castle or Master of Malt for the RRP of £150.
Wood polish, nail varnish remover, lemon-flavoured carambar, coconut, leather shoe polish, turpentine, damp wood, white and yellow fruits. The notes seem awful but don’t be mistaken: it’s awesome.
Sweet arrival, slightly thin at first but it gets quickly a bit thicker, strangely. Soft lemony notes, banana foam sweets, sponge cake with mango coulis, beeswax, the aftertaste of unsweetened toothpaste, vanilla, honey, maple syrup, apple tart…
Difficult to describe. Like slightly oaky sweetened lemon juice poured over rum & raisin ice cream? Like imagine that makes sense and you got the finish.
It’s my first experience with Cambus as a single grain and boy it didn’t disappoint. At the beginning of the 20th century, malt whisky distillers began an uprising against grain spirit and their use of the term ‘whisky’, during the ‘What is Whisky?’ trials. DCL, operating several grain distilleries already at that time, used Cambus to sway public opinion in their favour. Well, tasting this, I cannot but agree. This is not only just ‘whisky’, but seriously good whisky. I love those notes I got on the nose, the nail varnish remover (I know some consider that an off note, but I don’t), the turpentine, the polish and all. The palate is unsurprisingly sweet (was it maize that was distilled?), but the sweetness softens over time in the mouth, revealing other flavours. The combination of flavours of said palate, including ones I’m not able to pinpoint, left me wondering. I’d need to spend more time with it, but unfortunately my sample is now empty. Was it maybe like a sweet and sour tear-extracting lollipop?
Scalasaig ‘Island Hopper’ Tobermory 2013 Review
We knew and reviewed a Scalasaig ‘Island Hopper’ blend a few months ago, and now the brand is also working as an indy bottler, releasing single malts from distilleries part of the Scalasaig blend recipe. They start with a 2013 Tobermory, vatted from four hogsheads and finished in Sherry Casks, before giving 1.450 bottles of 8-year-old Tobermory, bottled at 46.5%, as usual with TWCe, without colouring nor chill filtration. RRP is £67, same shops as listed above.
Tobermory is a distillery located on the Isle of Mull, an island located at the west of mainland Scotland, between Islay and Skye. Tobermory Distillery produces both unpeated malt, released under its Tobermory brand, and peated malt whisky, released under the Ledaig brand. The distillery was founded in 1798 as Ledaig Distillery by a local kelp merchant, John Sinclair. It would have to wait until 1823, however, to get its licence. The distillery had a difficult pass, as it was silent for 40 years between 1837 and 1878, then again between 1930 and 1972, having changed hands several times during that time. It filed for bankruptcy in 1975. But in 1979, it reopened as Tobermory distillery after being bought by Kirkleavington Property… then closed once again in 1982. It stayed silent for 11 more years, before Bunt Stewart bought both distillery and stock. In 2013 Burn Stewart was bought by Distell, its current owner, and the distillery was refurbished over the course of two years between 2017 and 2019, though the visitor centre stayed open during the refurbishment.
Red apple, cider, orchard fruits, plums, spices, honey. Soft flowery notes as well, young bamboo leaves. There’s also a light coastal feel to it with a bit of salty sea foam.
Water reveals citrusy notes of lemon zest and reinforces the coastal feel with rock pools and fresh algae.
Sweet and fruity than 1.5 second later, slightly spicy and less sweet. We’re now more in unsweetened artisanal cider, with a chewy mouthfeel. Salted caramel, black coffee, dark chocolate, black pepper and a few berries including juniper.
After reduction, there’s now a spicy sourness, like grapefruit that would be covered with tabasco sauce and more black coffee.
Smoked hot chocolate, chalk, the skin side of leather, medium length.
There is an underlying sourness both on the nose and the palate, intertwined with maritime notes. While neat they go well together and everything is quite balanced, except maybe for slightly too much spices on the palate, it doesn’t seem to take reduction well, in my opinion, as it increases the sourness and the spiciness on the palate. I’d recommend you drink it neat, as they got the ABV right from the start.
Ben Nevis 2011 10-Year-Old The Whisky Cellar Review
Back to the Private Cellars Selection Series 4, with a Ben Nevis distilled in November 2011. Nine years later, it was repacked on the 27th November 2020 into a PX Sherry Cask #11127 for a 15 months finish, before being bottled at 10 years of age. 313 bottles were filled at 56.8% abv, all NCF and NC. The RRP is £70, and you’d better be quick and lucky to have one, as at the time of the tasting Aberdeen’s Whisky Shop was already sold out on this one.
Neat: Apple, plum, salted caramel, figs, a bit of funk, vanilla, hay, dusty paper, leather, orange peel. But also ginger biscuits and strong glue (Loctite super glue). There’s something meaty as well, like matured cured ham, when salt crystals form inside the meat.
After reduction, notes of salted nuts and blueberry jam appear.
Spicy and thick arrival, on tabasco, pepper and chilli, but also salted liquorice, plums, cherries, dark homemade chocolate mousse, fudge, clove, star anise. All in our, spicy, sour, bitter, and joy.
After adding a few drops of water with the pipette, I didn’t get much difference. Still spicy and reach. Maybe a bit of old leather.
Slight salinity in the finish, with a lingering spiciness on the tongue. Cherries, apricot, plum, ginger and an ever so slight hint of smoke. Medium length.
I don’t have enough experience with Ben Nevis to be able to tell if the PX sherry butt finish was too strong for the distillate. What I have enough experience with, however, is enjoying whisky. And this one, I really did enjoy.
Bruichladdich 2011 10-Year-Old The Whisky Cellar Review
The last dram of the tasting was a Bruichladdich 2011, produced in their peated ‘Rhinns’ style at 30 ppm (phenol parts per million, the unit of measurement of peatiness of the malt before it is distilled). It was then filled into a Jurançon cask (a French Vin Doux Naturel from Jurançon, near Pau, in the Pyrenees) where it spent all of its maturation. It was bottled 10 years later in February 2022, giving 295 bottles at 58.9% ABV, with an RRP of £120.
Neat: Peat, Elastoplast, blue cheese, a faint sweetness in the back, this warm and slightly winey, cut grass, chimney smoke with wood still slightly wet, dunnage warehouse, farmyard and rubber boots.
With water: more smoke, cereal bars, chalk.
Neat: Thick viscous mouthfeel, spicy arrival, peat smoke, it makes me really think of Ardbeg 10. Then after at least 10 seconds, huge chocolate. A handful of quarters (coins), mint, sausages on the BBQ, with the apples smoked over the sausages.
Adding water, well… more of the same with more fruits and smoked meats.
Smoke, spices, with a metallic touch. Long.
Phew, we had a beast there. The high ABV with the peat and the young age makes a dangerous combination on several axes. First, drink that after your meal, not before, because if you do drink it before, there’s no point eating, you won’t taste anything else than this whisky. Despite that not that excessive peatiness (30ppm), it’s still heavily peated. Secondly, well, huge palate that will rip your head off. In a good way, but still. And finally, well, the bottle level might lower rapidly. Because even though it’s in your face, this is seriously good, and you’ll want another dram. And another one. A bit pricey, but damn is this good.
Huge thanks to Keith Bonnington from the Whisky Cellar and to Steve Rush once again for this Tweet Tasting and for having me. All samples were provided for free by The Whisky Cellar, but that doesn’t change my thoughts and what I write. All pictures are probably from The Whisky Cellar but were sneakily lifted from Aberdeen Whisky Shop’s website. I’m sure they would have agreed anyway, right?
But don’t trust our word for it…
My good friend Brian @MaltMusings as always has posted a recap of the evening as well, so go read his thoughts as well as those of many of the other people that could join that Tweet Tasting. You can also check Mike’s Whisky Odyssey reviews here, with beautiful photos of the samples on his Instagram account.