Chivas Regal 12yo (40%, OB, 2012)

After two highly specialized, anorak type of Glen Scotia’s, because, besides us, who in the world has ever heard of Glen Scotia? It’s time to move on and get back to basics again. Back to Blended Whisky even. This time we will have a look at Chivas Brothers Chivas Regal 12yo. This is something you might encounter in almost every hotel bar around the world, as well as any Whisky selling supermarket. It’s been around since the beginning of the twentieth century. Blends have homes and the “home” of this blend is the Strathisla Distillery.

Chivas Regal 12Color: Gold.

Nose: Barley with funky honey sweetness. Quite fruity too. Lemon, apple skins and apricot water, because it has quite a watered down nose. Vanilla powder and distant hints of charred oak. For a 12yo, this has remarkable little wood aroma, but I have to say that the whole is rather thin and light. Apart from that, the nose seems to be designed to have a certain composition. This composition is there all the time. No development whatsoever. Is that typical for a blend like this, a blend from a big company, blends we al know as well as our ancestors?

Taste: Sweet and honeyed, but not thick, and very likable, just like a lemonade in the summer. Lots of grainy elements, but before you can make your mind up if you like this grainy element it is already surpassed by the fruit, (peach and banana), and a delicious sweetness. Very rounded out, like you get from caramel colouring. When the sweetness slowly travels down your throat a more bitter note is left behind in my mouth. Here’s the wood, and here is maybe the age, I guess. This lingers on for a while, fruity sweet yoghurt, which is nice. The end of the body and the finish are the same. The bitterness fades out and there hardly is any aftertaste. Just an echo of the body, which is good, because you don’t want the slight bitterness to be the note that stays behind. So not a very long finish and the aftertaste lets it down a bit.

This is actually not bad. Love the taste, and do concentrate on the taste, since in no way you’ll get the “12yo”, and there isn’t any noteworthy development going on in the glass as well. So, not bad, but would you go for “not bad” or should we expect some more from our blends these days? Sipping along, yes, its nice initially, but I also get bored quickly with this. After a glass of this, which I enjoyed, I wouldn’t pour me a second one soon. So my pick from the hotel bar would be Glenfiddich 12yo, since it always sits next to this Chivas Regal.

Points: 74

Glen Scotia 6yo 1999/2006 (52.7%, The Whisky Fair, Heavily Peated, Bourbon Barrels #541 & #542, 464 bottles)

How ’bout another Glen Scotia then. One in its youth. This heavily peated Glen Scotia has a mere 6 years under its belt. Yes you read it right, a heavily peated Glen Scotia, move over Longrow? This is a Glen Scotia that was bottled for the 2006 Whisky Fair in Limburg, Germany. Most definitely a festival you shouldn’t miss. I like the label of this Whisky Fair bottling, since it looks similar to other Glen Scotia’s from that time. Lets have some peat then…

Glen Scotia 6yo 1999/2006 (52.7%, The Whisky Fair, Heavily Peated, Bourbon Barrels #541 & #542, 464 bottles)Color: White wine.

Nose: Soft elegant peat alright, but also very grassy. Lots of grass, dry grass, and hay. A confectionary sweetness, like warm icing sugar, but mixed with a little milk chocolate and the grass, peat and sweet ashes. Cocos macaroon with more than a hint of almond. This is already wonderful smelling after the mere 6 years in cask. Although this is from Bourbon barrels, I do encounter some sulfury compounds. Still grassy and some typical vanilla, with lemon freshness. Typical for Bourbon Barrels. Barrels are 20% smaller than (remade) hogsheads, so in theory the spirit ages more quickly, but not twice as quick, since nobody wold argue with you if you claimed this to be 12yo. Quite some active barrels. Nice.

Taste: Sweet barley, yup sweet barley. Diluted lemon curd. Altogether quite lemony. Where the nose was quite complex and didn’t show its age, the taste is much simpler and seems young, but not alcoholic. A sweet and creamy rounded off taste. Some prickly peat but not a lot. I wouldn’t call this heavily peated, at least it doesn’t seem heavily peated. Sweet barley and sweet yellow fruits, but none in particular. I guess dried apricots are the closest. Sweet Earl Grey tea with a hint of honey and a lot of lime. Medium to short finish and the same goes for the aftertaste. Which is about young soft peat added to warm diluted lemon curd.

Even though this tastes quite nice, I’m a bit disappointed that the taste didn’t live up to the promise of the nose. I was quite surprised at first in what the nose achieved in 6 years. Still an experience and a nice surprise. I wonder how this would have turned out with some more age to it.

Points: 84

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)

After two more Wheated Bourbon’s it’s only a short hop across the pond to land in the west of Scotland. Campbeltown to be precise. Today we’ll spend some time with a Whisky from the “other” distillery from Campbeltown Glen Scotia. Well. it used to be the “other one”, But today Springbank isn’t just Springbank anymore, with their Glengyle distillery producing the excellent Kilkerran. Here we have an almost 15 year Single Malt Whisky that managed to stay at 61.6% ABV, quite a feat. Let’s see where this will take us…

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)Color: Very light gold.

Nose: Spicy, smoky, grassy and extremely fruity. Warm in its appearance, maybe because of the cookie dough? Lots of barley and a hint of rubber. Not your ordinary Bourbon matured Whisky. Very nutty and waxy, but again a kind of industrial waxy rubber. Rubber bands mixed with gravy. Next is a lemony fresh fruitiness wich in turn mixes with the smell of a freshly printed newspaper, warmed up a bit on the radiator. Hints of warm water you used to cook mussels in. Dis I say this was a bit unusual? I did? All right. Salty and sweet barley I imagine with a snuff of white pepper, ashes, and smoke. Warm custard, but very restrained. Quite complex and special.

Taste: Lemony paper. Warm Chivas Lemon Curd. Lots of sweet barley and here too a whiff of rubber passes by. Band aid I would say. The taste is definitely less unique that the nose was, but still not your usual suspect from a Bourbon Hoggie. Hints of nuts and lemon, and a little bit of cookie dough. Hints of rettich and a tiny, tiny amount of woody bitterness in the aftertaste.

An excellent nose you almost never come across. It’s easily understood, why this Glen Scotia got selected by Adelphi. Especially the nose is quite complex. Balanced stuff, the nose matches the taste. They belong together although the nose was more complex. Not everything from the nose was to be found in the taste. The beauty lies in the detail with this one. And I’ve said this before, give this time to breathe.

Points: 86

W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Circa 2007)

Just like the Old Fitzgerald, W.L. Weller is a Wheated Bourbon that used to be made at Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  When that closed down, the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to Heaven Hill and W.L. Weller was sold to Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace. The W.L. Weller 7yo “Special Reserve” is no more. After this one, a similar looking bottle was released, but without the 7yo age statement. Later the look was altered altogether. It’s still called “Special Reserve” and it still lacks an age statement. Other Wellers that are still around are the W.L. Weller “Antique” bottled at 53.5% ABV. and a 12yo, which is bottled at 45% ABV, just like our 7yo. Finally there is a William Larue Weller that is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), which is bottled annually at barrel strength, something in between 65 and 70% ABV.

W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Buffalo Trace)Color: Medium orange brown.

Nose: Lots of cream and toffee, very appetizing. Honey, vanilla and wood, nutty and dusty. Again toffee and warm runny caramel. Nice spicy wood in the distance even reminiscent of a dry (salty) meaty aroma, beef jerky or polish kabanosy. Sappy charred oak. Savvy and supple. Sawdust, perfumed caramel and chocolate bonbons. A hint of sweet corn and charred cask, and dare I say it, minute amounts of smoke and ashes, probably from the toasted cask. This smells like it owns it. Very well made, interesting and nice. Love how this smells.

Taste: Sweetish, nutty, fresh and well-balanced. Quite some wood influence as well as paper. Sawdust I would say. Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and lots of vanilla ice-cream with caramel sauce on top. Small hint of dry bitter wood trailed by some, but not much, vanilla sugar sweetness. This works well and gives the Bourbon some backbone. Again, this is a very appetizing Wheated Bourbon. This is a perfect example where all the aroma’s come together nicely, but having said that, this doesn’t seem to be your most complex Wheated Bourbon. It’s very tasty in an almost simple kind of way, but I don’t consider this a daily drinker. It pack a wee bit too much for that and it deserves to be savoured.

Who said that Wheated Bourbons are light and dull? After this one I’m curious if the new “Special Reserve” comes near this one, because this 7yo is quite the winner for me. I like it a lot. I compared it to the Old Fitzgerald 12yo I reviewed earlier, but that one almost seems soapy compared to this one.

Points: 86

Old Fitzgerald 12yo “Very Special” (45%, OB)

I finished the Four Roses single barrel as well as the Old Grand Dad 114, so it’s time to open some fresh bottles. One was very easy to pick, and  that was the Old Fitzgerald 12yo “Very Special”, the next, well you’ll see later I guess. Old Fitzgerald 12yo is a Wheated Bourbon made by Heaven Hill in Louisville Kentucky. If you happen to stumble upon a very old bottling of this, or even a “Very Very Old Fitzgerald”, you’ll have a distillate of the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, worth quite some money today. The Old Fitzgerald brand was created around 1889 by Charles Herbst maybe even as early as the 1870’s. Pappy van Winkle bought the brand during prohibition and changed the mashbill of the Original Old Fitzgerald by adding “a whisper of wheat”.

As you might know, the Bourbon mashbill must have at least 51% of corn, and usually Rye is used as a secondary grain with some malted barley. For Wheated Bourbon, the Rye is substituted by Wheat. Apart from these two, also Rye Whiskey (at least 51% Rye) and Wheat Whiskey (at least 51% Wheat) exist, and of course Whiskies with both Rye and Wheat.

Old Fitzgerald 12yo VSColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Dry and dusty, cold soft ashes. Hints of glue. Dry leather, honey and soft almonds. Tiny hint of apple skin, dried out orange skin and some unripe banana. The wood itself is quite floral, like old lavender soap mixed with cocoa powder. Not a lot of spicy wood or toasted cask, even after 12 years. Quite a surprise considering the color of this Bourbon. The age dulls out the fruity notes it probably had when it was younger. Still the nose is built around a dry and dusty wood and leather notes.

Taste: Wood most definitely is the first aroma you taste. Dark cocoa powder, with soft sweetish cinnamon comes next with an elegant sweetness (corn), meaning not too much. The sweetness was toned down by the time this Bourbon spent in cask. The Whiskey goes down like a syrup, very slowly, taking its time, giving a little heat and good length in the finish. Some unbalanced acidity from the wood shows itself in the aftertaste, especially on the tongue, but it’s easy to deal with, even though it has some staying power. Even later in the aftertaste the more powdered creamy notes emerge, buttered popcorn and toffee.

It’s rumoured that Heaven Hill wants to stop making this, but that really would be a shame. It’s good stuff and definitely one you want to try if your favourite wheated Pappy Van Winkle is getting worse a bit, or becoming to expensive to enjoy properly. Also a nice one to try against some of the Weller’s that are around, which are also Wheated Bourbons.

Points: 85

Arran “Batch 4” (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)

After the Bruichladdich that was bottled more than ten years ago, we move on to a more recent bottling distilled on a different Scottish Island. It’s an Arran. Well that’s about it, we don’t know a lot more. OK, let’s try a little harder then. It’s obviously an NAS Arran, that was bottled at 52%. It might be cask strength or not. Anything goes I guess. looking at the whole range, some big names, like Macallan, have pretty low ABV’s. We also don’t know the distillery date, but we do know this was bottled in 2014. We also don’t know if it’s a single cask bottling or not and what kind of cask was used, but I understand that most, if not all come from multiple casks. We also know that this was bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, yes that’s its name. We’ll call it TBWC to reduce the chance of getting RSI. TBWC can be linked to UK drinks retailer Master of Malt (MoM), just click on the link and you’ll see why. Since 2012 MoM started with their TBWC, issuing a lot of Single Malts and some other stuff in nice looking 50 cl bottles with comic book labels. This Arran reminds me of Tin Tin.

Arran Batch 4 (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)Color: White wine.

Nose: Malty and unusually fresh. Sweetish and fruity. Yellow fruits you get from candy. synthetic pineapple. Grainy and gritty, which gets less over time. Some citrus, lemon and lime, mixed in with a more creamy vanilla note. Already thinking refill Bourbon, are you? The whole seems pretty light and a bit young, but not in a way it should remind you of new make spirit. It’s overall pleasant, but not very complex nor does it evolve a lot, but yes its nice. Given some time and movement, to aireate the Whisky, more spicy notes from oak presents itself, as well as some floral notes, so now its nice and lovely. Whiffs of alcohol you get from smelling a well made wodka, and that is not the same as the new make spirit I mentioned earlier. So no off notes, and also nog big bomb in your glass. Restrained and elegant. Feminine if you allow me to say it.

Taste: Again fresh and fruity, malty and fresh. Toffee and vanilla, but also a sappy and leafy vegetal quality. Young wood? Paper and dried peach with ice-cream. Licorice and hazelnuts, with a hint of Cappuccino and mocha. I like the strength of this, especially combined with the profile it has, but it is a bit hot. It reminds me a bit of old bottlings of young Lowlanders.

Sure this may be from re-re-refill Bourbon casks, hence the color. Hell, maybe even the casks were tired. Sure, in many ways its simple and smells of alcohol. It doesn’t show a lot of evolution and so forth, but it’s so damn drinkable! OK, I’ll stop swearing now. I especially like the fact it does remind me of old Lowlanders, that is something that took me by surprise.

The bottle looks great, but sometimes that means that what’s inside is not so nice. This time however, TBWC have managed to source a very interesting and different take on Arran. Highly drinkable and in a way reminds me of yesteryear. Maybe its a profile for aficionado’s since the lowland style is almost gone, and is getting extinct. Therefore I can imagine a lot of people not liking this. Having said that, this is also not a typical Lowland style Whisky. It lacks a more pronounced citrussy feel and especially the grassy notes to be a true Lowlander. To be on the safe side: yes I know Arran is an Island and not part of Lowland.

Points: 85

Bruichladdich 15yo (46%, OB, First Edition, 2003)

Earlier I reviewed the Bruichladdich 10yo. That was one from the first batches to be released, right after the distillery was sold to Mark Reinier & Co. The first releases were that 10yo, the 15yo I’m about to review and a 20yo. Ten years ago that is how a standard range looked. Age was everything back then. Today we’re not that far removed from an age, where age statements seem to be only for people with Lamborghini’s. Real ones, and I don’t mean the tractors too. It’s all about demand people. The 10yo I mentioned before didn’t float my boat, so I’m not sure what to expect with this 15yo. Let’s have a go shall we?

Bruichladdich 15yo (46%, OB, 2003)Color: Medium gold.

Nose: Reminds me of the 2003 10yo with just some more of everything, in fact, this one doesn’t want to stay in your glass! Fresh citrussy barley. Hint of peat and a little bit of smoke. Smells quite sweet for such a Malt. Garden bonfire. The sweetness is fatty and oily, or you can call these aroma’s well-integrated.  The more I smell this, and the more air it gets, the better it becomes. By now it’s already way better than it’s 10yo brother (or sister). Nice succulent wood, again integrated with the sweetness. Hints of vanilla, not much, and fresh, some distant fruitiness. I spoke too soon. The vanilla part grows bigger with more air and becomes creamy. Sweet yoghurt with peach. Lovely. Great balance and quite appetizing. I hope it tastes as good.

Taste: Quite sweet and very creamy with a woody, bitter edge to it. Again the sweet yoghurt with peach and toffee. Reminds me a bit of the great Bourbon casked Whiskies from the seventies. Great entry and a similarly great body. Not a lot of development though, but with something that tastes this great, who cares? Towards the end of the body the slightly peated toffee sweetness takes a step back and lets the wood through. It’s there, without taking over, barely though. You felt it coming: “but”. The flaw is in the finish. It breaks down a bit and is slightly shorter than the nose and the great body suggested. A wee bit too much reduced? Yes I know, its 46% ABV., but that doesn’t matter. This is how reduction with water, sometimes alters the finish. The aftertaste moves in to the territory of soap and stale beer and a minute amount of hops, but that sounds worse than it actually is, so don’t worry. Not a lot is left in the aftertaste, and there is only one remedy for that. Take another sip so it all starts all over again.

Points: 85