The following originally appeared on Whiskyhost on January 25, 2010:
One of the joys of either running a whisky society or being a member of one is that you get the opportunity to taste whiskies that, ordinarily, would never appear on your radar. For meeting #34 of the Single Malt Whisky Society of the Palouse I put together a tasting of five 30 Year Old whiskies. I've given the prices below if you were to walk in to a shop in the UK or US and purchase a bottle. Clearly, taxes, shipping and fluctuating exchange rates will play a role in altering the exact number you see below but I hope the stated prices will provide you with a ballpark cost for each of these older expressions. Here's the tasting sheet:
And here are the society's tasting notes:
Glenfarclas, 30 Year Old, 43% ABV [$150 - UK only]
N: Starts out with fresh citrus, pears and apple crisp (apples, cinnammon, and vanilla crumb). Develops heather honey, plums, and raisin bread as it warms and eventually makes it all the way to toffee apples, smoked edam, and a charred cask toastiness
P: A little woody, with bacon grease, monkey nuts, bread pudding, and peppery cotton candy
F: A layered finish with a slight woody bitterness in the front but sweet butter in the back, the citrus returns, too
This was my runner up for best whisky of the night. The 43% ABV hurt it in the company of 'natural' and 'cask strength' whiskies but I found this bottling to be very fresh, full of delightful citrus, but with enough smoky notes to keep things interesting. I would definitely think about purchasing another bottle. Note: a couple of members completely disagreed with me on the fresh, citrus qualities and found the nose to be a little musty. I've found musty notes in other older versions of Glenfarclas but not in this one.
AnCnoc, 30 Year Old, bottled in 2005, 50% ABV [$130 UK only]
N: Yeasty and beery with a host of chemical notes: latex, mimeograph ink, modeling glue, antiseptic, and even a touch of hairspray
P: Hot and tangy, like a high alcohol lager, powdered hot cocoa mix, carob, and powdered milk, even wood flour
F: Lots of wood, the warm lager notes remain, sweet like sugar water
This was a funny one. I can't imagine the notes above make you want to rush out and purchase a bottle but people generally liked this bottling. Indeed, when asked to vote for their favorite among the first three whiskies almost half the group voted for this one. I MUCH preferred the Glenfarclas and found myself in the company of only two other members!
Glen Ord, 30 Year Old, bottled 2005, 58.7% ABV [$200 UK/US]
N: I couldn't get beyond the diaper cream but others found cinammon gum, sour milk, dude ranch (hay, horses, leather -- makes me think this is one for Ruben at WhiskyNotes), and wet cut wood
P: Full, creamy mouthfeel, goes down hot (hard to discern individual notes while fighting for your life!)
F: Cayenne pepper in chocolate, lots of salt, memorable for one reason or another
Comments mostly focused on this being a beast of a whisky; lots of alcoholic punch and vigor. I found it to be too beastly, sadly, but some pleasant honey notes and hot butter rum were exhibited with one drop of water. Among the first three whiskies this one split the vote with the anCnoc for "best of the top row" honors.
Highland Park, 30 Year Old, 48.1% ABV [$250 UK/ $400-450 US]
C: Honey bronze
N: Slightest hint of sulphur (coal smoke), wood shavings, freshly baked bread, green apple, and hazelnuts. Developing into brown sugar, almond extract and the inside of a dishwashing glove (this is normally from the sherry)
P: Classic Highland Park: wood (cherry wood), smoke (charred cask), creamy and floral (heather), with walnuts and more sweet almond
F: Pepper, chewing tobacco, and old oak
Good. Very good, even. But it didn't knock me off my feet the way the 25 Year Old did when I tried that a few years ago. Given that the 25 is $250 in the US I'll be spending my serious Highland Park dough on either the 21 Year Old or 18 Year Old. None of the Highland Park fans in the room placed this among their top three Highland Parks, although they all agreed that this was still a great whisky.
Talisker, 30 Year Old, bottled 2009, 53.1% ABV [$275 UK/ $300 US]
N: Public swimming pool, bracing seashore walk, band-aids, boat tar and smoke, of course, but also vanilla custard eclair, fresh citrus shoe polish, and Elmer's school paste (spearmint scent)
P: Buttery and creamy, with a perfect balance between the sea salt and the black pepper that eventually delivers pipe tobacco and dark chocolate
F: Long, smoky, salty, peppery, and smooth: "like a hug from a peppery tart"
The evening's top whisky. Handled it's alcohol impeccably, delivered a multi-faceted experience, and still has me thinking about selling a kidney in order to buy a bottle!