Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

Okay, back to K&L exclusives. I’ve quite liked the two I’ve already reviewed from this batch of casks—a Bunnahabhain 12 and a Craigellachie 16. Today’s review is of a cask going by name you migtht not recognize: Hector Macbeth. This is a a Glenfiddich that has been teaspooned. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry: it’s nothing kinky. Teaspooning refers to the practice of adding a tiny amount of a malt from a different distillery to a malt to prevent it from being sold as a single malt. It’s a practice certain distilleries engage in to keep their brand from being diluted—from their perspective—on the independent market; or, if not diluted, presented differently than they would like it to be. This K&L parcel contains a number of these teaspooned malts, some of them pretty old. This “Glenfiddich”, for example, is 23 years old. It was finished in a refill sherry butt (what kind of cask the teaspoon came from is unknown). I’m not sure if it’s still available but $120 was the price being asked for it when I last checked. That seems like a great deal in the abstract but my history with K&L exclusive casks with big age statements that are priced like they’re crazy deals has me not overly optimistic. But I’ll be very happy to be surprised.

Oh yes, I’m continuing with my exclusive EW! rating system meant for those who feel that my usual scores for K&L casks are too stingy. The EW! (or Everybody Wins!) rating is designed to help these people relax and feel good about their day. If you are one of these people there is no need to thank me for this service: it’s just the kind of guy I am.

Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (53.8%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; finished in a refill butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: The first and second impression are of oak along with indistinct spices that jostle with expanding vegetal notes. Not the most promising start, I must say. As it sits there’s some citrus (lemon peel) and some vanilla. With more time the citrus moves in the direction of apricot and the oak recedes a bit. A few drops of water knock the oak back even further and accentuate the fruit—citrus, candied pineapple.

Palate: Thankfully the oak is not as pronounced here as I’d feared (and the vegetal notes don’t make an appearance). But there’s also nothing else very interesting—some red fruit (cherry), some indistinct sherry sweetness. Nice texture though and very approachable at full strength. Not much change as it sits except a bit of lime. Let’s see if water improves matters here as well. Yes, it does: more citrus here too now (lemon peel); the muskier notes from the nose don’t follow, however. Some leafy notes as well.

Finish: Medium-long. The sherry separates a bit at first, unfortunately, but then recombines. The oak comes out stronger here—spicy rather than astringent. As on the nose and palate, water pushes the oak back and keeps the citrus going, turning musky towards the end. The finish is quite a bit longer now.

Comments: Neat, this seems very much like a rescue job on bourbon casks that might have got too oaky. The result is drinkable enough but it’s fairly anonymous sherry-finished whisky. Water makes it come alive, with a big dose of fruit on the nose and a more lively palate and more balanced finish. Alas, it still doesn’t add up to a whisky I’d want a full bottle of, not at this price anyway. That said, $120 is a good price for a decent 20+ yo whisky in this market, leave alone anything sherry-bothered from a name distillery. So if you’re looking for a decent whisky with a big age displayed on the label this may be a good way to get one. If you do get one I’d suggest you drink it with 5-7 drops of water.

Rating: 83 points.
EW! rating: 100/100 points.


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