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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where's the Love? Mannochmore 12 year old 1999 Blackadder Raw Cask #5400

For the next three weeks, I'll be doing a mini-series called "Where's the Love?"  I have selected three distilleries that are never mentioned by whisky gods (or geeks) as being amongst the great ones.  Or even the good ones.  Each week, I'll focus on one of these distilleries utilizing the HUGE SAMPLE SIZE of two whiskies in determining if there's something to be enjoyed in its products or if it has earned its unfavorable reputation.

I love saying "Mannochmore".  Roll the 'r' at the end slightly and you'll feel like a real Scot or a least a real Tolkein Troll.  Mannochmore's honor may have been forever sullied by the Diageo product fart called Loch Dhu.  The Dhu is considered by many to be one of the worst whiskies (if not the worst whisky) ever to be bottled, so bad that it's sort of a right of passage in come circles.  The real debate may be: is it "Plan 9 From Outer Space" bad or "Manos, Hands of Fate" bad?  I'm on Team Plan 9.

The thing is, Loch Dhu is only one Mannochmore out of the 150-200 Mannochmores (remember, roll the 'r') to have been bottled.  Ninety-seven percent of those whiskies were bottled by independent companies, so there is probably a hell of a lot of variation out there.  And consider, Loch Dhu's horror is derived from the buttload of e150a the producers dumped into it, and also perhaps the garbage cans used to age the spirit.

Today's version of Mannochmore comes to us via the indie bottler Blackadder, who kindly packaged it at cask strength and without colorant.  And since this is one of their "raw casks", every bottle includes a carpet of black whisky glitter at the bottom.  I received this sample via a swap with Florin (a prince) over two years ago.

Distillery: Mannochmore
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Blackadder (Raw Cask)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 12 years (April 21, 1999 to November 2011)
Maturation: "Oak cask" (for reals!)
Cask number5400
Limited bottling: 304
Alcohol by Volume: 60.6%

The whisky is a little murky already, before water is added.  It's piss-colored with a green tint.  Plenty of barrel schmutz was included by the generous Florin (a prince).  The nose begins with whole wheat toast and butter, lemons, coconut, and talcum powder.  It does get a little eccentric at times, hopping between blossoms, burnt milk, camphor, pears, ginger, and hand soap.  The palate is hot, as can be expected at this age and ABV.  It's lightly candied, with orange peel and vanilla bean.  Hell, forget the "lightly" part.  It gets intensely sugary and tart after a few minutes.  Later, notes of whipped cream, wood smoke, and limeade emerge.  Lots of grains (wheat, barley, rye) in the finish, along with the whipped cream and vanilla. It suddenly switches to a second gear, revealing sugar, pears, apples, wood smoke, and limes.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose leads with a combo of camphor, lemons, and gasoline.  Then talcum powder, those floral esters, cream of wheat, and that farty smell ripe strawberries sometimes get.  The palate has completely changed, and the texture has thickened.  There's honeydew, mango, and malt up front.  Then burnt sugar, coffee grounds, and Bowmore lavender (no soap).  The finish is bubblegummy, like "tropical fruit"-flavored gum.  There's a light bitterness as well, likely connected to the coffee grounds note.

Yes, there are quirky notes in the mix, but I enjoyed this whisky.  I may not hurry out to buy a bottle, but I'd be happy to recommend it to adventurous palates.  Those of you in that category probably already anticipate a Blackadder Raw Cask putting up a fight.  The smoky notes may be more akin to sulfur than peat and the spirit is indeed rather raw as a whole.  But, again, it's drinkable, especially as the palate blooms with added water.  I think the lowered ABV may hint at the fruits some say are found in the official Flora & Fauna version.

This is at times a weird whisky, but it can still be loved if it found the right home.  And aside from the coffee grounds thing, it isn't even remotely related to Loch Dhu.  Tomorrow's Mannochmore comes from a different time and a different cask...

For today's Mannochmore:
Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - winesearcher shows two European retailers selling it in the $80s
Rating - 80


  1. This was a favorite whisky for me, and I don't recognize the murkiness or any of the farty notes, except that I had them in other whiskies. I can only guess that the sample may have gone bad in the intervening two years. My notes were very brief: "Stunning whisky - really excellent! 4-4.5*". I have a couple bottles in reserve, we should have a retaste when I get to it.

    1. I'd definitely be happy to try it again. :) But I'm not too sure the sample went bad. I'm confident in the sample pouring and storage methods utilized. The bottle was full and well sealed, so I think it would take a lot longer than 2 years for things to go cockeyed. The cloudiness may have been due to the amount of cask sediment. And perhaps sediment breakdown could have affected the whisky. But if that's true, I'd imagine that would be a risk with the Raw Cask bottles in general.

      The quirky notes I found while tasting it neatly weren't offputting, and I've experienced them in other whiskies. The fartier notes came about when I added water. Also, I tried it alongside another Mannochmore, so we may have come to it from different perspectives.