Sunday, January 30, 2011

21 - Significance of age

It is such a celebrated number. Who wouldn't like to be 21 again? It is the number of significance and importance, not only for me personally but for the vast majority of us and also for the whiskies that we enjoy. Age 21 marked the legal age to enter a fine club in London, the legal age to drink in U.S and also the legal age for Malaysians to enter a casino. Being said that, did you know that the ageing for whiskies is also equally important as it will have an impact on it's character? As we all know, time is essence.

There is just so many wonderful whiskies out there and 21 year old bottlings are not that difficult to find either. Not too long ago, I had a chance to do a horizontal tasting (same year, different distilleries) of some of the best single malts of highland and speyside regions. Time to revisit the feeling of being 21-year-old again!

Whiskies tasted:

Aberfeldy 21yo
Dalmore 21yo
The Balvenie Port Wood 21yo
Highland Park 21yo

Out of these 4 whiskies, I have tried Dalmore and Highland Park previously and this time it is done in a way that I can compare all these 4 bottles side by side. Three of these bottles are also in the "101 whiskies to try before you die" book that I aim to complete it before I die! haha...

Aberfeldy 21 Bottling Note

Launched in October of 2005, this 21 year old lies at the core of the Aberfeldy range and is something of a flagship for the brand. This bottling was heralded as the Best Mainland Single Malt at the World Whisky Awards 2007.

Dalmore 21 Bottling Note

The Dalmore Distillery has been producing exceptional single malt whisky since 1839. This bottle is a Gold Medal winning single malt from the highlands. It is a sherry oak matured whisky and the bottling now has been discontinued.

Balvenie Port Wood 21 Bottling Note

The flagship single malt from Balvenie's little group of Port Wood whiskies. This bottling was finished in thirty year old port pipes and is a veritable masterclass in poise and balance.

Highland Park 21 Bottling Note

Established in 1798, Highland Park is one of the oldest Scotch whisky distilleries. More important than age though, is the combination of traditional whisky-making techniques with obsessive attention to detail that has made Highland Park arguably the most respected single malt in the world.

Aberfeldy 21 Tasting Note

Nose: Honey, fruity. Thick malt, enlivened by a fresh, zesty quality.
Palate: Smooth, vanilla, undulating, refined smoke.
Finish: Gentle finish with perhaps some ripe white peach notes and a good wave of honey.

Dalmore 21 Tasting Note

Nose: Fresh, rich and complex, sherry, smoke, with aromas of dried apricots, peaches and nutmeg.
Palate: Sweet and malty, berries, chocolate and caramel.
Finish: Smoky, fruity, some caramel.

Balvenie Port Wood 21 Tasting Note

Nose: Elegant. White peach and a faint puff of smoke.
Palate: Surprisingly delicate. Abounding, yet fine. It has a sublime mouth feel with red fruit, an edge of white grape and a very floral honey.
Finish: Cocoa, slightly bitter as it tails away gracefully.

Highland Park 21 Tasting Note

Nose: Hints of brittle toffee, spicy malt and contrasting heather and smoke notes.
Palate: Rich and full-bodied in the mouth, it is quite smooth and elegant, with hints of caramel, stewed fruits and chocolate, plus some peaty notes.
Finish: Long and sophisticated, with malt, smoke, and a little oaky.

Then, I was asked by my friend to rate the whiskies from my most preferred to the least preferred. After all, this is all about my personal tastes and thus I have no qualms to choose my favourite bottle unless someone plans to sue me for not choosing their bottle as the preferred choice! Lol...

I would rate Balvenie as my most preferred due to it's elegance and delicate notes. Next, I would prefer Highland Park. Let's put it this way - they rarely put a foot wrong and this expression of 21yo is indeed lovely. The third bottle would be Aberfeldy because it is a well-mannered, gentle and heather-honeyed whisky where people who doesn't like whisky would find that they might like this one. Too bad I hated the rather squat and ugly bottle! My least favorite would be Dalmore as I find it less expressive compared to the rest.

Balvenie > Highland Park > Aberfeldy > Dalmore

Seriously, if you're into whisky, the best way is to have a group of friends to conduct a horizontal or vertical tasting so that you can have a few whiskies side by side to see which ones you actually like. At least through this way, I have found my favourite bottle for 21-year-old whiskies! Brilliant!


Sean said...

The highland park one sounds tempting, since I enjoy the flavors of toffee and caramel...
Ahhh I wouldn't mind being 21 years old again though ... But for just one day =)

eiling lim said...

Sean: I wished I could too going back to 21! Highland Park is indeed very consistent in its quality and I enjoy all the expressions of the bottling.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i bought a balvanie 15 yr old last yr at the airport and realised the alcohol level was like 46.5%, probably higher somewhat and found the taste rather one dimensional and there was a huge whiff of alcohol..

i suppose 21 yr old is a diff story eh? must try when i go duty free!

eiling lim said...

Hoe: Yeah you should try the 21yo Balvenie. It has a different character and very delicate.

AugustDiners said...

i wish i can get use to the taste of whisky, But i thought the glenliddich 30 yrs was quite nice. Care to share your opinion on this?

suituapui said...

Gosh...21 is such a long time ago for me - Johnny Walker, still going strong...and hopefully it will stay that way.

TY said...

Nice choice of selection...hmmm...21 sounds like long time ago.
On my return, I smuggled a few through for the should give Glenlivet or Macallan 21 yr old a try and next inline should be the 25 year range.

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KY said...

given 2 experts the same whisky separately, i wonder if they'll be able to come up with the same descriptions.. ermm

"elegance" is a bit.. susah to grasp for me... :S

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eiling lim said...

AugustDiners: I like the glenfiddich and of course the 30yo is a very smooth and elegant whisky given the long ageing but in my humble opinion, I think this bottle is overpriced. You can get some other bottles with the same level of enjoyment at a cheaper price.

STP: Haha... feeling the age now?

TY: I have actually tried all the Macallans already including the Macallan 30yo. I also find it way overpriced.

KY: Sometimes they might come out with the same description if the notes are apparent but the rest is really up to your tastebuds.

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Anonymous said...

At last you are practicing what you preach. Please show us a empty bottle very week.

eiling lim said...

Anon: one every week? I'm not an alcoholic!

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