I came by a sample of this long-aged Speysider thanks to my installation as the substitute LA Scotch Club host for the K&L Strikes Back event at Lost Property in Hollywood on April 10th. Andy, Mr. LA Scotch Club, was out of town that night, so it was David OG and I who held court. Actually, it was 99% David OG. I was just there to take care of money stuff, check people in, and be the keeper of the bottles. I grabbed a sample for myself that evening and now here's my review seven weeks later:
Ownership: Pernod Ricard (via Chivas Bros.)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old & Rare
Age: 29 years (October 1985 - July 2015)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Bottle count: 251
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
Caramel Colorant? No
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Its color is yellow amber, a good sign the oak levels are moderate.
The neat nose starts off with a great fruit basket: limes, lemons, grapefruit, mangos, and clementines. The vanilla note here is subtle, thanks to the refill-ness of the cask. There are also roses, cherry lollipops, lime jello, and citronella candles. With water (~46%abv), the limes and lemons grow louder. Toffee pudding, butterscotch hard candies, and peach gummy candy notes arrive. With water (~40%abv), it's still very pretty. Fresh flowers, peach candy, and toffee lead the way.
The neat palate reads hot and tight at the start. Tart citrus proves to be the biggest note throughout. There's salt, some maltiness, a little bit of sweetness, vanilla, and a floral note. Seems to need water to open up. With water (~46%abv), it still has that tart bite, though it does become somewhat fruitier and floral. Hints of malt, sugar, vanilla, and tangy lime candy. With water (~40%abv), there's more malt, some baking spice, vanilla, and a peach hint.
The neat finish is tart, sharp, minerally, with hints of malt and vanilla custard. With water (~46%abv), it's still mostly tart and tangy citrus. Some quiet notes of vanilla and toffee pudding. With water (~40%abv), it continues to get quieter. Hints of canned peaches, vanilla extract, and chocolate malt.
The nose is the winner here, as it delivers all those fruit notes I so adore. It has depth and dimension, as well as stamina as it stands up to well to water. Had the palate matched the dynamic nose, I would have broken my rule about >$200 bottles and bought one of these for myself. But the palate and the finish never really open up nor switch into another gear. Time and water help the palate a little but shuts down the finish. Thus this goes from an A- grade nose to a B palate to a B- finish, for those keeping score.
What I will say is that the current price of $199.99 is, in the current market (the usual qualifier), a great price for an almost-three-decade-old single cask Speyside. The original $349.99 sticker is closer to what the market would call for, but it doesn't seem like this whisky flew off the shelves as fast as needed so K&L dropped their price, something we all wish other retailers did.
Availability - Exclusively through K&L Wine Merchants
Pricing - $200, was $350
Rating - 85