We’ve previously reviewed just a single whisky from the French off-licence and independent bottler, Les Grands Alambics – a delightful Croftengea. It seems fitting to rectify that by exploring more of their offerings. Operating from Chambéry in Savoie, France (situated to the east of Lyon and south of Geneva), their independent bottlings fall into two prominent lines: one inspired by jazz, and another themed around birds. In today’s review, we delve into a 1994 Secret Speyside that Les Grands Alambics bottled as part of their bird series back in 2020.
Secret Speyside 1994 Les Grands Alambics Review
The Secret Speyside whisky was distilled in 1994 and then bottled in 2020 by Les Grands Alambics. After maturing in a puncheon, only 46 bottles were produced, and they quickly sold out, particularly at the initial price of €169. In keeping with Les Grands Alambics’ practices, this 26-year-old Secret Speyside was bottled without any added coloring or chill filtration.
Neat: The nose is quite intense (although I allowed the whisky to sit in my glass, covered, for 15 minutes prior to smelling). It starts with a note that falls between varnish and paint, which then transitions to a fruity aspect, initially reminiscent of orange and chocolate – akin to Jaffa cakes or orangettes. Subsequent notes include hints of camphor and eucalyptus, evoking the smell of Japanese Salonpas pain relievers (a scent I particularly appreciate). A touch of spiciness also emerges, with a noticeable presence of ginger that imparts a mildly prickly sensation.
With water: The addition of water introduces a perception of menthol cigarette remnants, coupled with something slightly dusty.
Neat: The arrival is on quite some woodiness combined with an oddly ashy quality. A notable astringency is present. Notes of sliced candied ginger unveil, as well as orange sponge cake, crushed hazelnuts, dark and intensely bitter chocolate, along with a strong ristretto-like coffee essence. Then, there’s a transition to elements akin to spent tea leaves, and a gradual intensification of heat, featuring hints of Tabasco and chili, accompanied by the peppery essence of nasturtium petals.
With water: The addition of water seems to amplify the bitterness and sourness, giving rise to flavors reminiscent of grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.
With more aeration, the palate tends to shift away from the pronounced sour and bitter notes, resulting in a notable improvement.
The finish lingers with a nice warmth, showcasing a milder presence of orange and dark chocolate tones. The peppery nasturtium petals persist alongside the nuances of hazelnut and crushed walnut.
I held optimistic expectations based on the nose, as it featured many appealing elements (such as the camphor and eucalyptus notes I enjoy). Regrettably, the initial experience on the palate wasn’t satisfying for me, unless I allowed the whisky considerable time to aerate (I left about a third of my sample in the bottle and revisited it the following day). Initially, there was an excessive astringency that didn’t align with my preferences. I’m genuinely intrigued about the potential distillery of origin. The overall rating remains positive due to the captivating aroma and the improved palate following extended aeration.
Thanks a lot, Max!