Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 (Whisky Fair)

Yesterday I posted a brief look at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. Here now is a review of one of two whiskies I drank at their famous whisky bar: a Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 bottled by/for Whisky Fair. As I mentioned in my write-up yesterday, their bar has a rather impressive collection of whiskies. You can choose between whiskies bottled in the 1970s (and earlier), older whiskies distilled in the 1970s (and earlier) and also many recent and contemporary whiskies of very strong reputation. And the prices are very fair as well—each bottle has its by the pour price marked on it, which keeps nasty shocks at bay. They also have a large printed list. I took a look at it, I looked at everything in the cabinets and on the shelves, and my eyes began to glaze over a bit. Accordingly, I decided to just go with the recommendations of the Thompson brothers as listed with those of other staff members at the front of the whisky list. This was my first pour, Phil Thompson’s value pick from the then-current list.  Continue reading


Laphroaig 14, 1998 (Whisky Fair)

wflaph1998I have nothing new to say about Laphroaig, so let’s get right to my notes for this 2013 bottling for the Limburg Whisky Fair.

Laphroaig 14, 1998 (53.9%; The Whisky Fair, sherry cask; from a purchased sample)

Nose: The phenols come wafting over the lip of the glass before I’ve even finished pouring: cereally, minerally (wet stones), carbolic; not smoky as much as pungently peaty. With a bit of air the peat gets quite sweet and there’s some wet coal smoke too. This must have been a refill sherry cask; at least there’s no obvious sherry influence on the nose. Gets increasingly ashy with time. With more time, gets quite briny. With a few drops of water the coal smoke wakes back up and gets a little acidic. Then there’s some citrus–somewhere between lime and tangerine peel.

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Imperial 17, 1995 (Whisky Fair)

ImperialThis Imperial was bottled for the Whisky Fair, which is one of the biggest whisky festivals in the world (perhaps the biggest in terms of reputation), held every year in Limburg, Germany. Quite apart from the official distillery offerings that show up at most festivals (and which dominate the lineups at the few festivals in the US) Limburg is famous for the esoteric and collectible bottlings, official and independent, on offer by the pour and by the bottle. And as at European festivals you are allowed to purchase/fill samples to take away, it’s an opportunity for geeks to get their hands on small pours of legendary whiskies, full bottles of which would cost a king’s ransom. And also to taste/explore new bottlings from boutique outfits.

Every year I see whisky geeks in Europe talk online about heading out to Limburg and feel envious. Then I read the reports of the crowds which seem to rival the Kumbh Mela and feel less bad about being a whisky geek in the US (yes, there are some US based whisky geeks who go out to these festivals but that’s beyond my pay grade; if I had the money to spend I’d spend it on whisky). Who knows, maybe one year I’ll be in the neighbourhood for a conference at the right time….
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