I recently did a bunch of Bunnahabhains in order to challenge my own bias.
Bias is an important thing for reviewers. Everyone has a certain bias. For instance, in the city I live in, going out for Thai food typically means 9/10 times you’re going out for bland Thai food made with the intent to use black pepper as the main spice. 1/10 times it’s amazingly tasty and you’re going to have to decipher a spice level chart that competes with old school tabletop RPGs in terms of complexity.
That said, I should still agree to go out for Thai food, as my bias is caused by old coworkers who don’t have good standards. There are good Thai places.
When buying and sampling and ordering Glenburgie, there is a knee-jerk reaction I have tied into a bias: Older ex-bourbon Glenburgie tends to taste of apple pie with some side flavours, doesn’t have a lot of latitude, and I’m good. Ex-Sherry Glenburgie? Sure, I’m in. Those can be nasty and dirty and fun spice bombs.
So it’s time to challenge my biases once more: I collected four 20+ year old Glenburgies and we’re going to see if I wrote apple pie over and over. When your data points in a direction, and you want to prove your point, you need more data.
Up first in the data mining we have Glenburgie 20 1995 Five Lions Private Collection. So what is that?
This is a 20-year-old, 2nd Fill American bourbon hogshead cask aged whisky specifically bottled by Five Lions. First question: How did they do it with their giant paws? Also are we talking all male lions, all female lions, or a mix? Because I really don’t believe male lions could concentrate long enough to not screw it up. Also, aren’t they cats? Cats can’t taste sweet notes! No, no, none of this makes sense!
Oh, it’s a company name, ignore me.
Five Lions is an independent bottler that specifically bottles with a “high collectors value and promising taste.” Not gonna lie, reading “high collectors value” makes my skin crawl. Open the damn whisky, it’s not the next pump and dump scheme.
There are three different colour coded labels: Green for “All Regions. All Tastes” in which they get Scotch from everywhere; the Pink for The Ambassadors of Scotland, which are older whiskies; and the blue, “Smoke, Peat & Salt”, which proves why we need to start using the Oxford comma more often and also an easy way to find peated whiskies.
Alright, enough of my whinging about marketing. At the end of the day they could name these after Teletubbies and splash AI generated Simpson’s erotica on the label and I’d buy it if they find tasty whisky.
So let’s see if they found tasty whisky, shall we?
Vintage: June 1995
Bottled: November 2015
Cask type: 2nd Fill American Bourbon Hogshead
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Olive oil, pear, plantain, nutmeg, cranberry
Nutty and dry is what I mean by olive oil. I realised after writing the review that “olive oil” varies and people may not totally understand it. So nutty, dry, and smells like olive oil that I have in my house, which is Kirkland Signature. There, maybe I avoided being mocked by the hardcore olive oil people.
Where was I… oh, yes, whisky. Spice, more red fruit, some oak, and some starchy/fruity elements. We could split hairs and say it has some apple and spice, but I don’t think you’d nose this and say “apple pie”, unless that’s a catchphrase of yours, in which case please escape the terrible hellscape of a TV show you’ve been trapped in.
Taste: Cinnamon/peach pie, sand, pear cobbler, rock candy
Hey, hey, it’s not apple pie… It’s peach. Alright, we’re off to a weird point where the cereal in here goes from butter, nutty pie crust to spicy, dry, cereal forward cobbler but you’re not here for me to nerd out on baked goods I like.
It ends with this sharp sweet note too and some strong mineral/earth going on.
Finish: Straw, cloves, apple, ouzo, sand
Interesting farm note at the end. And yes, if we’re being pedantic, it does end like apple pie, but at least it’s apple pie at a farm near the beach, aka the worst farm ever (not putting down seaweed farms here, I mean a traditional European/North American farm but near the farm).
Sharp anise notes here and lots of spice. But you know that, because most of you have had an apple pie. At least a McDonald’s one.
Conclusion: A very dry, very mineral, and very unique whisky that I’m happy to have had the amount I did. This may not be what I’m looking for. Now some of you will point out it still had the apple pie DNA, but it wasn’t super sweet, it didn’t have huge hits of butter, and was more dry than others.
So I got what I wanted? Kinda? I mean, this is certainly a take on Glenburgie that’s interesting. With the right pair for dinner it’d be great. Like fish maybe. I’m bad at pairing dry wine, so let’s shut this down before I say something very dumb.
But let’s look beyond me for a second (just a second!) Is it a good whisky? Yes, it’s quite tasty and interesting. It’s different enough that if you normally don’t love ex-Bourbon Glenburgie, I’d say try it. Heck I’d even be happy to have owned it at the time, though not sad I didn’t have more of it because it’s totally not my thing.
Scotch review #1604, Speyside review #456, Whisky Network review #2331