Six from the Vault

Being part and party to the nation's most exciting spirits programs has its benefits.  One of the finest has been a gracious invitation for membership to the prestigious and exclusive Los Angeles Whisk(e)y Society.  Truly one of the great resources for Whisk(e)y lovers of all sorts on the web, LAWS has provided me with a forum to taste some of the world's rarest whisky with some of the country's most knowledgeable drinkers.  While it might seem quite earnest and maybe a bit arcane, you really don't know the half of it!  The only downside to being a LAWS member from the professional whisky world is their unrelenting scruples.  I as a professional I am prohibited from posting reviews on their venerated website!  And hey I don't blame them, it certainly would not be fair for me to anonymously give all our Faultline products A+ ratings, but then again I do relish the opportunity to participate.  Lucky for us, I have this wonderful forum to express my opinions.  Last week, we tasted Six from the Vault (LAWS Members personal collections) and we are oh so GRATEFUL for it. So, I will proceed:

'75, Dallas Dhu Signatory 33 Year Old Cask Strength 46.7%

For me this is CLASSIC Dallas Dhu.  One of those old closed distilleries that comes at a collectors price, but honestly hasn't had the intense following that Brora/Port Ellen see.  I sat through a presentation at the UWE regarding investment grade whisky and Dallas Dhu was rated as one of the worst performing single malts on the market.  I guess I understand why as the distillery is all about subtlety and finesse, not power and punch.  Here we have just that.  The nose is a soft malty floral thing with fresh vanilla bean.  Whiffs of pomace fruit transform into the slightest grassiness.  As it opens, a touch of salted toffee comes out.  The palate goes fresh grain and some more wood, but brings out some citrus/cream and spice.  As it leaves the spice increases finishing somewhat austere, even peppery.  Could be longer and more complex, but all in all a pleasant glass. Good example of how Dallas Dhu should taste.

'63, Strathisla Gordon & Macphail "Book of Kells" for Limburg Festival 51.8%

I love love love this label.  Unfortunately, we don't really see this out here.  It was bottled for the famous Limburg Festival in Germany so good luck finding this one.  Anyway, it's from Strathisla, which I consider a rather enigmatic distillery, which don't see often of stateside.  Gordon & Macphail seems to own tons of this stuff and sells some old Strathisla for very reasonable prices.  Regardless, this one’s a cracker!  It opens up with pungent Seville peel, freshly tanned hide, dark roast coffee.  Then moves toward exotic wood, ultra complex and ever changing, I wrote dried flowers, baking spice, cacao, LOTS of fruit.  This is not a sherry bomb, it's like a laser guided missile.  ON the palate, what seems to be almost too much on the nose turns out to be pretty darn balanced.  Perfect blend of rich sweet sherry and lifted structure.  Dark malty grain, more exotic wood (sandalwood & birch bark), fancy expensive seeming spice notes (saffron? really?).  It's all just really well integrated.  This one is too old for water so just leave it out.  VERY GRATEFUL for this one!

'70, Glenrothes Whisky Agency 39 Year Old 48.1%

Whisky Agency bottles some great stuff, none of which is available domestically.  The labels are always so pretty; it has to be good right?  Well, I have to say this was the major underdog in the room.  To be perfectly honest Glenrothes is not a LAWS doll and this glass started with some rather disparaging comments about the little distillery.  Regardless, 'Rothes doesn't score terribly on the LAWS website although only 10 have been officially rated.  This probably won't help the average.  On the nose I got insect repellant, sour fruit, vanilla extract, and dirty oak.  The palate is apple cidery and astringent on the way to vinegar.  With water this calms down and straightens out.  I would go one to one and just get it out of the way. 

'78, Highland Park The Bottlers 21 Year Old 56.2%

I think it was the bad feeling I had from the Glenrothes, but when I first nosed this guy I really didn't dig it.  Rushing through my first tasting, I went back for a second go after my neighbor expressed interest.  On second pass I found something I'd missed the first time.  The nose was ALL sweet sherbet, orange liqueur, strong fresh sherry notes, a smidge of smoke.  On the palate fresh pepper and more of the HP smokiness.  Adding a bit of water helps coax some of the more intriguing qualities of this whisky out.  A very fine malt.

'72 Glendronach Oloroso Sherry Butt 39 Year Old 49.8%

Well if that Strathisla was a Laser Guided Missile, this would be the neutron bomb.  Just a huge monster sherry attack on the nose.  Ultra dark color in the glass, it smells just like it looks.  Strong Oloroso character - classic dried plums, dark red fruit, spice.  I think SKU and I both agreed that there was a clear sulfur (struck match not rotten egg-perhaps phosphorus not sulfur) note, which would have been off putting in a wine, but here builds complexity.  The palate continues with the spiced fruit, intense and dry, maybe some leather.  Some sort of mossy or nutty earthiness pokes through in the middle there.  All in all way dryer than expected and herbal.  On the end, the darker flavors (dark wood, leather) dominate.  Totally unavailable in the US as this is a special bottlings for Calgary's Kensington Market, but if you're north of the boarder it is a MUST buy for any sherry-head. 

'77, Port Ellen Old Malt Cask 23 Year Old 50%

This was a treat from SKU's cupboard and I thank him profusely for it.  I'm a sucker for Port Ellen and I don't often get to try younger Port Ellen (I know 23 year isn't that young).  But, this was bottled in 2001 and so it's been in bottle for over 10 years.  Anyway, this was very typical Port Ellen. Briny, peat, camphor, burning wax and paste.  The nose hints towards an underlying sweetness, maybe marshmallows, but it's really hard to pick out behind the smoke and salt on the nose.  The palate brings more peat which builds around a salty fresh grass and chalk element.  Rich, but not heavy.  Powerfully smoky and rustic, but it has that great sweetness that I love in Port Ellen.  The candied fruit work to balance out the waves of smoke.  The perfect contrast to itself.  A lovely little whisky. 

-David Othenin-Girard

David Othenin-Girard