A masterclass for Antique Lions (of Spirits)

P_20181110_155933_LL-01At the last Milano Whisky Festival I took part to a great Masterclass organised by the one and only Max Righi: the massive and decisive Max’s Choice.

The tasting was advertised as a nice walk in the world of Antique Lions of Spirits (ALOS), a collaboration among three great independent bottlers. I’m obviously talking about the aforementioned Max Righi (Silver Seal), Diego Sandrin (Lion’s Whisky) and the German Jens Drewitz (Sansibar Whisky): three imposing figures that, as Max told us at the beginning of the tasting, agreed to collaborate in order to buy together some particular (and particularly expensive) casks. Now, after this premise I was even more convinced that taking part in this tasting was a great idea, and I started to shiver with Vorfreude. We tasted 5 of the latest bottlings of ALOS and I filled (partially) 4 samples in order to re-taste them at home and to share with you, my imaginary readers, my notes. Sadly I didn’t manage to sneak out this fantastic Clynelish 1997-2018, you’ll have to make do with these four…

We immediately start with a true beast, probably to set the pace. The malt chosen by Max is a whisky of unknown origin. What we know is that it is a 44-years-old (!!!) from a Speyside distillery, aged in a sherry cask. Here it is what I though about it:

Speyside Region 1973 (51.6, ALOS, 2017) Copia di Yoda
This malt is 13 years older than me and it is part of the “The Butterflies” series,  but it’s definitely not a butterfly itself!
Nose: Incredible, attacks with a very delicate strawberry, and then a succession of smells that literally gives me the chills. I’m not joking, I get goose bumps, it’s super deep. Malt, a light sherry with no sulphur whatsoever. Dense and stratified, as impressive as Thanos’s purple chin. I’d spend hours just nosing it. Flowers, lavender. I find an awesome bouquet of countryside aromas, of sweets and sparkling wine. Oranges, honey, cinnamon. Wow.
Taste: Strawberry-like fruits are dancing in front like true primadonnas here, but there is also a solid and not invasive wood. Mango, watermelon, oranges… there are so many things here that I fear I might get lost in an succession of explosions like in Aquaman. Rich, full of malt and honey, oily, herbal, with a light background of vanilla. After adding some water it rewards you with lemons and a vague chocolate flavour. It’s fantastic.
Finish: Long, clean, sweet and rich. Vanilla, a hint of oaky bitterness. The finish is actually something surprising, deep, with a play between vanilla and strawberry that amazes me. What a start, and what a whisky!

Glenrothes 1997 (57%, ALOS, 2018) Copia di Luke
P_20181110_170904_LL-01Another single cask from the “The Butterflies” series: Max tells us that Glenrothes is not really his favourite distillery, and that it is particularly appreciated in Germany. I’m thrilled just the same, since 20 years of Glenrothes in a sherry cask would be appealing to anybody. But it might also be that the 6 years I spent in Hamburg took their toll on me.
Nose: I do understand that somebody may not like ti, but it really speaks at my teutonic side, dirty and naughty. A lot of sherry and zero alcohol, despite its 57% of alcohol. A bit herbal, a bit sulphuric, it’s full of these impurities that somehow I find intriguing. Creamy, too. With water the sherry becomes more prominent, very rich, and also again very herbal. It’s weirdly zesty: lemon and lime Cremoso, pure. Con acqua lo sherry si esalta ancora di più, molto carico, molto erbaceo ora. E stranamente molto aspro: limone e lime charge like the Rohirrim in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Taste: Much more “classic” of the nose, and also a bit mono-dimensional. A bit mouth-drying (and I know that many here are gonna turn their nose up), but I quite appreciate it. It has something imperfect, dirty, filthy. Therefore, I like it. A bit rough, but very good.
Finish: Medium length, and also here very fry, with some sweet cherry and a dirty oaky bitterness. e anche questo molto secco, con un po’ di dolcezza ciliegiosa e un lurido amaro che viene dal legno. Probably super enjoyable if drunk alone, bbut after the Speysider it slightly disappoints. Not its fault, though!

Springbank 1998 (48%, ALOS, 2018) Copia di Darth
OK, now we leave the enthomology and we move to the “Savannah series“. Curiously, on the bottle they put… an orangutan?? But orangutans don’t live in the savanna! Oh well, let’s not think too much about biology and let’s focus on the liquid inside the bottle: a 20-years-old Springbank, aged in a sherry cask. What more could you ask?
Nose: Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, golly what a day, as Little John would say! What an aromatic smoke, as intense as the glare that Luke gave to Rey at the end of Episode VII. It attacks the rears of my nostrils with spiteful leathery whips. Spasmodic, dirty, full of wet stones, earth and (surprise!) flowers. A bit rube and a bit lord, just like Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading places. A vague blueberry, with some citrus aroma.
Taste: Much lighter and less explosive here. It stops on the celebrated leather, on the salt (a lot of salt!), on some unexpected violets. Then a mild sweetness distracts you a bit from the oranges and from the classic, great Springbank minerality. There is also a light smoke here and there. With water I find some fruits (peaches) and again that sour taste from the citrus fruits, but also some flavours that remind me of shoe and furniture polish.
Finish: Non too long, but the aromatic smoke and the shoe polish stays quite long. It is even better than the Glenrothes, but like that one it speaks to my taste as softly as President Dale to the Martians in Mars Attacks.

Octomore 2011 (51.9%, ALOS, 2018) Copia di Han/Copia di Luke
P_20181110_170942_LL-01So a bit laboriously I come to the last malt of this crazy tasting. And how to end if not with ALOS’s Octomore? It too is part of the”Savannah series“, and here the African Elephant is very appropriate. After 6 years in a bourbon barrel (a first difference with the OB editions, which often sport colourful wine cask finishes), here it is!
Nose: Crazy peat, violent, juicy, bully, mammoth-y. A sharp lemon, more cutting than the hands of Rei of the South Dipper Waterfowl Fist. It’s a strong-headed Octomore, a bit hardcore. Not too complex at the nose. It’s almost a relief, though, as I don’t know if I could tolerate its punches of liquorice and smoke if there were much more stuff on top of it.
Taste: A perfect, evil, humungous marriage of vanilla and peat smoke, with more violence than the one Zidane used to head butted Materazzi.  Strangely there is also a fruity sweetness (strawberry?), a bit of an outsider in the midst of ginger, lemon and, obviously, the persistent and vivid smoke. Really good. It’s a bit of a pity (a peaty! hahaha!) that it doesn’t tolerate water. A bit like Theon Greyjoy in its “Reek” persona.
Finish: Long and gigantic, between the oak and the smoke it sticks to you like Claudio Gentile when he was battling with Maradona. In this tasting is probably the malt I appreciated the least, but it’s still super good. And this tells a lot about the incredible level of this Max’s Choice. It was a true pleasure to be able to attend to it!

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