March 1, 2016

New Chief(s) in Town! Ian Macleod's Chieftain's Bottling Run #9

Ian Macleod's Chieftain's independent bottlings of rare whiskies have put out some serious malts over the years.  We're talking about a thirty year Port Ellen, a 1969 Springbank, stuff like that. They've certainly set the bar pretty high with the declaration, "The Chieftain's collection's hallmark is that each bottling must be fit for a King, a Leader or in the Celtic world, a Chieftain." Guess today that's us! 

The Chieftain's Run #9, 2016

Looking at the selections we were intrigued. Mortlach has recently come on to our radar and we've been pleasantly surprised. There is a 100% bourbon cask Glen Grant, which we've never tasted before (they're famous for their "sherry bomb" casks). Not to mention all these bottlings are 15+ years, unfiltered, and mostly served up at higher proofs. We invited our frequent guest reviewer @jakecahill to sit down and taste the whole line. Here's what we came up with.

Mortlach 18-Year PX Cask 46% 

Steve's Tasting Notes

Nose: Pineapple Jelly Beans, jammy fruity syrup, stone fruits (apricots).

Palate: Jake says “stewy” just as I take a sip and yes, it’s like chewing on a nice fruity stew of prunes and plums and raisins.

Finish: Smooth and short, with punchy berry fruitiness, a little white chocolate and a touch of tannin from the oak. Overall a very nice dram. This is not a flavor bomb, but very subtle and well crafted. A great pick for someone in the Macallan / Speyside fanfare category.

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautiful golden color (bourbon cask before PX?) opens up with a dried pruney fruit. Dried pineapple and mango. Some slight vegetation that I cant quite pinpoint. Almost like compost while all the materials are still fresh. Slight hint of petroleum.

Palate: More of the dried fruit. leaning more toward the prune and date here. That soft vegetation comes back with a little earth and spice toward the back end. 

Finish: It sounds like an awful combination of ingredients (dried fruit, vegetation and petroleum??), but like a great chef can pull a dish together with complimentary flavors from opposing ingredients, this Mortlach comes together as a wonderful whisky with an inviting nose and interesting flavor wheel that delivers a new component every time you revisit it. 

Glen Grant 20-Year Bourbon Finish 55.1%

Steve's Tasting Notes

Nose: Heavy, big vanilla extract. Maybe this is from the bourbon cask? But it's way more vanilla than you'd typically get from barrel influence. More vanilla than in many bourbons! There has to be some very sweet vanilla influence coming through from the distillate, can't just be the barrel. There's a little light oak and some green grapes and figs.  It's a very mellow nose for over 110 proof.

Palate: Interesting palate. I was expecting mild flavor based on the smoothness of the nose, but it opens up with some pretty bold spirit warmth, fresh cream, an “almond milk smoothie” comes to mind, getting a lot more of the barley and wood on the tongue.

Finish: Being a fan of big flavors like Islay smoke and American whiskey, it’s usually tough to impress me with a Speyside bourbon cask, but this one at cask strength has some
power that separates it from the pack. Really sweet but in a nice flavorful way without being cloying. Surprisingly this was my favorite of the bunch, and definitely the one I found myself thinking about the next day.

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: Strong bourbon influence on the nose. Soft and light but an array of inviting aromas. You can really dig your nose into this one and get quite personal with it for a 110.2 proof. For me I got a lot of Vanilla malt shake, Dark Cherries, Dried Figs, Toasted oak and slight burnt out campfire. "Soda!" I said. "What kind of soda??"   "CREAM SODA," says Steve, "Dr. Brown's Cream Soda!" "YEEESSSSS! That's it exactly!"
Palate: Boom! Theres the Proof! It wasn't in the Pudding! It was in this Glen Grant. Creamy and spicy come crashing together here. Crème brûlée and apple cobbler. with 

Finish: A long nice finish with subtle malty and earthy elements dominating as the fruit and spice slowly taper off. This was my personal favorite.

Braeval 19-Year "The Red Beaune"

Steve's Tasting Notes

Nose: Not blowing me away on the nose. Kind of a jammy sickly sweetness bumping into the spirit in not such a good way.

Palate: Maybe like red licorice. Again this one’s not doing it for me. The wine finish feels a bit ham-fisted into what was not a very flavorful malt.

Finish: Honestly this was my least favorite of the bunch. Like I said I'm generally not a Speymalt guy, and I'm almost always underwhelmed by fancy wine finishes. Jake is much more knowledgeable about wine than I so I asked him what "Red Beaune" meant. "Probably Côte de Beaune" says Jake, which Google reveals is usually a combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes - neither of which being my favorite wine. So maybe this just isn't my cup of tea.

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: Kind of 'fumbly' and really out of whack. Overly fruity and medicinal in an unpleasant way.

Palate: I imagine the first experimental batches of Robitussin and Dimetapp tasted something like this. I just really don't have anything nice to say about this malt other than its... Interesting and unique I guess.

Finish: Thank goodness its finished. NEXT!

(Even though we were drinking together, Jake and I wrote our notes separately so I guess we were pretty much on the same page!)

Linkwood 17 Year Oloroso Finish 55%

Steve's Tasting Notes

Nose: Hard apple cider for me on the nose.

Palate: Still in super green apple territory here. Sort of over the top sweet green Granny Smith apples. Was hoping for a little smoke on this one but apart from maybe a little barrel char there’s hardly any smoke here.

Finish: Comes together nicely between the fruit, sweetness, and a good amount of wood. This one’s
nice, would be very good standing up next to a stinky cheese! Taleggio anyone? Mmmm talegio!

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: Very fresh and lively. A good hit of vanilla bean and apple skin. Honeycomb.

Palate: That honey comes back but my apple has now turned mealy/slightly oxidized. Nutty almost. A bit of damp earth. A little bit of red fruit here like strawberry or cherry too. 

Finish: This has a little bit of heat to it. Which is interesting seeing as its lower proof. It isn't enough to distract it from its character and flavors though. A really lovely and enjoyable whisky.

Fettercairn 19-Year Oloroso 57.4%

Steve's Tasting Notes

Nose: Immediately digging this one. Medicinal nose. Not peaty but very herbal. The sweetness from the sherry is coalescing nicely with all this crazy menthol stuff. tart cherries, lemon meringue.

Palate: Holy black pepper. This is a punchy ballsy malt. Still mixing together nicely between the dry herbal stuff and the sweet grapes. Definitely the most interesting of the bunch so far. Really didn’t know what to expect from this one but really like it.

Finish: Wow it’s really strong but super drinkable for 114.8 proof! Not reaching for water. Really lovely strong mix of bitter, sweet, and warm wood.

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: This one wins most interesting in my mind. Really fun and exciting. Pronounced herbal and medicinal nose with a wonderful background of dried fruits, rosemary, and cornbread.

Palate: Super spicy with a waft of cough syrup (the good tasting cherry kind). A fresh sprinkle of dried herbs de provance into the pot and just a tad grapey.

Finish: Great playfulness between sweetness and Earth. Really fun to keep going back to again and again. 


This was a really fun line. The Grant and the Fettercairn were truly surprising and memorable, vanilla-bomb and pepper-bomb respectively. The Grant is a little pricey, coming in around $140-$160, but I find myself definitely contemplating picking up a bottle. Same with the Fettercairn which is on the shelves around $120-$130. but would be such a strong conversation starter. Particularly for real malt whisky fans, either of these would be a total stumper tasted blind, and a really interesting addition to any tasting. 


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