Duncan Taylor Rare Auld (distilled at Girvan) 1974 40 year old, 53.7%
Single Grain Whisky | $450
This is an assured release, one not trying to be anything other than beautiful old grain whisky. Caramel, aged oak, rose petals, and dried heather twigs, with touches of sweetness. The palate has a lovely substantial feel to it, the strength quite apparent, with soft sweet toffees, fleeting citrus and grapefruit, then aniseed tugging at your tongue. The finish is a gum-numbing, sweet decay of fading oaky memories. (78 bottles)
When in doubt, the answer to any question is usually ‘more whisky.’ Here, peat smoke takes an upper hand over the sweet aromas of juicy orange and pear. The whisky begins icing-sugar sweet, settles to bubble gum, pear, apple, and malt, showing its impeccably balanced, finely textured character replete with strands of oak spices, gentle smoke, baked pastry, and vanilla custard. You can’t go wrong at this price.
Fruits are to the fore here, super ripe, and dark in hue: think of plump plums, sweet black grapes, and hedgerow berries. That said, it is never heavy, as if it’s just the aromatics of the fruits which have been preserved. In time, some dried flowers emerge. The palate is equally sweet, with a little caramel and spice. It fades gently. Impressive and well worth a look. I wonder whether the new Dalmunach distillery will produce anything like this? £213
The power of pure burning peat smoke, lemon-scented floor polish, pine needles, salt spray, and delicate vanilla places this squarely among the archetypal whiskies from Islay. Sweet lemon, custard cream biscuits, and hints of smoked goose lend an oily mouthfeel. A combustible climax of smoke, spice, and earthy peat kindle a red-hot finish that will have you puffing smoke like a chimney.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glentauchers) 8 year old, 54.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $84
Lightly grassy and hay-like, with some wheat chaff. The nose is quite hot, but that cereal note (reminiscent of draff) is pleasing, sitting alongside clean apple and orange barley water. The palate is sweeter and more floral (pear blossom) compared to the nose, though retaining some nuttiness. Has good verve. When diluted, the finish shows real chocolate and some dry spice. A very interesting young ‘un. £54
Duncan Taylor Octave (distilled at Glen Grant) 1995, 47.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $151
The impact given by secondary maturation in small (octave) sherry casks is what sets this range apart. Here, Glen Grant’s light fruits are given a darker twist, with some bodega notes, blackberry, and a surprising note of curry spices before milk chocolate develops; this is particularly apparent on the palate. The palate is gentle and quite creamy (cream sherry?) but it doesn’t like water. A pleasing dram. £99
A toasty and spicier interpretation of an 18 year old blend. Toffee, salted pecans, Dundee cake, and sultana aromas. A beautiful, thick texture replete with ripe red fruits, cardamom, fennel, and star anise. Caramels drift past on a river of spice, wreathed in a fine layer of smoke, then oak, mixed nuts, and cracker bread. The fruity sweetness is momentary and fleeting, leaving the front of the mouth loaded with spice.
It begins innocently enough. Ripening strawberries, cotton candy, and fudge on the nose, but with an undertow of devil-may-care spiciness. Soft mandarin citrus, vanilla fudge, sponge cupcakes, and a decent wedge of malt form the core of the palate; the spice is disappointingly mild considering the potential of the first sniff. Sweet and syrupy finish. Still, solid enough to make your world better at the end of a hard day.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Aultmore) 6 year old, 53.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
Remarkably rich color, indicative of a first-fill cask. A clean if hot nose with carpenter’s workbench, Comice pear, and lots of oak. Aultmore’s acidity comes through on the palate, with its zingy intensity cutting through the wood and achieving a certain balance. The palate shows a mix of fruit and wood sugars. Young certainly, but bottled at the right time given the intensity of the wood element. Water makes it more sappy and summery. Not hugely complex, but fun.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glenallachie) 6 year old, 52.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $84
Another blast of new oak. Fat and creamy, with distinct charred elements along with stewing pineapple, banana fritters, white chocolate, suntan oil, and a melting bar of nut-filled milk chocolate. An instructive dram showing how maturity is very different from age. With water, some of the distillery finally pokes through. To be honest, it’s slightly too much for me; like overdosing on cotton candy or sugar-topped donuts. £54
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bunnahabhain) 25 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $348
A stunningly lovely nose: all sweet, rounded, and layered with exotic tropical fruits, scented woods, wax, and perfume. Water makes it oilier and more waxy in nature. Sadly though, the oak has taken charge on the palate, making it more grippy and nutty. Worth a long sniff though! £228
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Longmorn) 18 year old, 51.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $190
Oak-driven, with cream and butterscotch dominating the nose initially. Then there’s black cherry, and coriander seed frying in butter. The weighty distillate adds depth, but not specific flavors. The palate is all coconut cream, cream toffee, then Longmorn’s cooked plum density comes in. I’d have preferred the oak to be scaled back, allowing the distillate to show, but if you’re looking for a scotch made for bourbon lovers, then go no further.
Duncan Taylor, Octave (distilled at Aultmore) 2008, 52.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $82
The recent official release of Aultmore means that malt lovers are finally aware of the distillery’s intense grassy/perfumed character, and it is these characters which are prominent here, alongside a very light sherried note in the background. There appears to be real complexity on the nose for such a young example, but water shows this to be the influence of the octave cask, which unravels slightly when water is added. Have it neat, and enjoy it a lot. £54