Amrut Peated Cask Strength (62.8%, OB, Batch 38, 2017)

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Amrut Unpeated Cask Strength, which turned out to be quite an excellent Whisky. I wasn’t really surprised, since I’ve come across many nice Amruts. many, but not all of them, because the one I reviewed last was nice, but also a bit unbalanced. A single cask for Europe, matured in virgin oak and finished in a PX-Sherry butt. Nevertheless, it still managed to get 84 points so it wasn’t all bad now was it? The Unpeated Cask Strength batch #87 was definitely better. It might have been a (big) batch, but it still blew the, far more costly, Single Cask out of the loch…ehhh, water. I love my peats as well, so the time has come to review The Unpeated Cask Strength’s supposedly darker brother. Again, I have high expectations for this Peated Cask Strength…

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Just opened the bottle and the soft peat welcomes you already. The first aromas already enter your nostrils even before you pour your first dram. From the glass now: youthful, lively and playful. Nice fresh and fatty peat with hints of clay (Das Pronto) and a greenish edge to it. Fresh and fruity. Wine gums and hints of sweet cherries. Sunny and summery, so definitely not a darker brother, ab-so-lutely-not. Nope, peat is not always about winter storms, twilight or salty sea spray. By the way, this Amrut has another trick up its sleeve. With this one it is possible to momentarily “forget” about the peat and smell what it would be like without the peat, as if you can turn it off. Underneath it is a very fruity, light and bright Whisky. Flip the switch and the peat comes on like a light. Next, more freshness and some smoke, way more balanced than the virgin/PX Amrut. Somewhat late hints of fragrant cedarwood and more meaty components emerge as well. Some floral notes and some Christmassy perfume. Well what a surprise it is, giving this dram some time to breathe. Dusty notes emerge next, as well as some sweeter notes. This one is more complex than its unpeated brother but also less bold, who would have thought comparing a peated version with an unpeated one.

Taste: Spicy, peaty, hot and slightly bitter at first. Slightly sweet, but not much. A lot of wood, with matching medium bitterness. Hmmm, some virgin oak again guys? Caramel with almonds and dead cigarettes in an ashtray. Much simpler than the nose, quite some bitterness as well. I get the feeling this isn’t finished yet, bottled too young, bottled too soon, but on the other hand, ageing this longer on these active casks would have extracted even more wood and bitterness, so no, not bottled too soon after all… The finish is bitter. The aftertaste is, luckily, less bitter and warming. In fact the aftertaste is better than the finish. I suspect virgin oak, too much of it. The taste is a bit of a disappointment after the nice and complex nose, and especially disappointing after the great unpeated cask strength version. It is also a bitt dissapointing aftre the virgin/PX. Its just too woody and bitter.

First of all, the color of this batch was lighter than that of its brother, so please don’t take my remark to literal. After nosing, the peated one is definitely not the darker brother, the contrary actually. Yes these two Whiskies are brothers, but the unpeated version seems to me to be more mature, maybe it’s the older brother? In this one the wood and bitterness are too much, but the peat is lovely, and much more complex than you might think, and makes this Amrut remind me a bit of a peated Paul John, something that has never happened to me before. Yes, Amrut and Paul John are both Indian, but like the place they come from, they are entirely different. Mind you, India is a big place!

Points: 82

I spoke too soon with the virgin/PX version, because now this peated cask strength version is the worst Amrut I ever had, yet still 82 points. If only the taste would match up with the wonderful nose.

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (62.8%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Charred American Virgin Oak and PX Sherry Butt #2701, 301 bottles)

After the long overdue reviews of Port, even two of them, from Kopke and Warre and to a lesser extent, a Bourbon, Evan Williams, let’s stay away a little bit longer from Single Malt Whiskies from Scotland. Yes let’s look at some Single Malt Whisky from India! OK, so not completely different, it’s still Whisky, but don’t you worry, I plan to review some other non-Scottish stuff as well. Nevertheless, lets start with this Amrut.

In 2013, (and other years as well), some single casks were bottled for Europe, in three varieties. The Bourbon version I reviewed earlier, this Virgin Oak/PX-Sherry combination we are going to look at right now, and last but hopefully not (the) least (of the three), a peated Whisky matured in a Port pipe. I’ll open this last one soon, right after I finish the Whisky I’m about to review now, and there isn’t much left in the bottle I can tell you. Amruts never stay long on my lectern…

Color: Bright gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Dry, Indian, exotic (cinnamon) and winey. Lots of dusty barley notes, somewhat enhanced by funky PX. Caramel and toffee notes without the sweetness. Reminds me a bit of Port finished Whisky. Sometimes its like the smell of blood up my nose. Meaty notes as well. Fatty gravy. Soft wood now, a bit cardboard-like. Even if I wouldn’t know it, it is easily recognizable as Virgin oak. Nose-wise not the most balanced of Amruts. Like PX and the Indian Barley/Virgin Oak really don’t like to work together and don’t see each other out of the office. This Amrut needs a team-building session. Funny how up front this sensation is, because I get this instantaneously. Still dusty and drying, with hints of dry clay. Yes Wine, Port, PX. That’s it. If I’m honest, I would say that the virgin oak even overpowers the PX-finish. I’m sure this would have worked better if it started life in a nice American barrel, used before, so not virgin. Maybe then the PX finish would have worked better. I like the use of virgin oak in some Whiskies like Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Glen Garioch Virgin oak as well, but this time in my beloved Amrut, not so much. Nevertheless, still a good Whisky, just not so good as Amrut can be.

Taste: Very hot and stingy. An explosion of flavour. Bitter wood. Cherry liqueur, dark chocolate and even more oak. Unsweet caramel again, mixed with alcohol. Wait a minute, unsweet? There is also this sugary sweetness to it. Warming going down, well, hot going down might be a better way to describe it. Just like the nose, it lacks balance. Everybody was put on this team, but they really just don’t want to work together. Even before I can start to take in the aroma’s, the lack of balance and the apparent simpleness of the Whisky comes to the fore. Lots of wood, overpowering and ruining the balance a bit. Again this is still a pretty good Whisky, it’s just not quite there. After some breathing, the first sips become somewhat sweeter. Lots of virgin oak in the body too. Short, bitter-ish and very hot finish. Wood for sure. Virgin oak in the aftertaste as well. I think we all got a bit surprised by the activity of this wood. What about the PX in this bottling then? not so sure, because this Whisky is so wood-driven. Maybe it’s not the Virgin oak and yet the PX-cask gave off a lot of tannins, or maybe both?

Nope, I can tell you already that for me the Amrut distillate works better with the previously reviewed ex-Bourbon casks, like the Single Cask (with Virgin oak as well, just less of it, apparently) and the regular (or so you would think) unpeated Cask Strength version. Sherried versions like the Intermediate are also pretty good.

Points: 84

And with that this is the “worst” Amrut I ever had. It’s not bad, but there are a lot more of better Amruts to be found. nope, this one is not my favourite expression…

Evan Williams 9yo 2000/2010 (43.3%, OB, Single Barrel #379)

Sometimes Master Quill tends to repeat himself, well, not really this time. Yes, In the fall of 2015, The Master did do a review of an Evan Williams Single Barrel bottling, and now here is yet another, but not a repetition, because luckily this “new” one is from a different vintage. The former review was this spicy 2003 vintage and this time we’ll have a go at a 2000 vintage. Is older better? I understand that the mash-bill for Evan Williams Single Barrel looks something like this: 78% corn, 12% barley and 10% rye. Lots of corn and not a lot of rye in this mash-bill. The “vintage” range already saw the light of day in 1986, so with this 2000 expression, Heaven Hill already had some 15 years of experience bottling this. So without further ado: take it away Evan, ehhh Master, ehhh Quill. Nevermind. Go, just take it away…

Color: Light orange brown.

Nose: Wood, lots of fresh cut oak. Perfumy. Sweetish and even more floral. Wood driven, but with lots going for it. Balanced and likeable. Greener notes come next, some hay and grass, oak and latex wall paint. More cuttings from the garden and after a while some more fruity notes appear. Slightly acidic and fresh, only adding to the balance. Hints of toffee and caramel. Excellent nose if you ask me. One moment fresh and lively and the next, deeper and more brooding. Definitely some Rye in here, but less so than expected, even though I didn’t expect a lot. After some more breathing, honey notes come forward. Smelling this after some sipping only enhance the honey notes that were almost absent from the start. Interesting.

Taste: On first entry, a bit thin to be honest. I prefer Bourbons at high strength, because especially Bourbons release their intricate aroma’s better at a higher proof. That said, this Single barrel smells very good and is definitely interesting (there is that word again), even when you like your Scotch Whiskies. Another sip. Well, this does the trick, beyond the low proof, some nice aroma’s emerge. Wood, latex paint again. Honey, hints of toasted oak and a tiny hint of leather. Definitely not as sweet as I would imagine, even though this Bourbon saw lots of corn. A slightly bitter note comes next, oak, tree sap, wax. The finish has less length than the nose and is also less complex. medium at best (and it has paper notes). Today the bitterness has some staying power which was less so on other days, so it depends on the taster (as always), time of day and the moment trying it. Aftertaste somewhat indistinct, so it definitely suffers from reduction to 43.3% ABV. Nope, in the taste department, this turns out to be much simpler than the nose promised.

For a nice evening with some Bourbons this is the starter. Well priced, and interesting, but I prefer other, (higher strength) Bourbons more. Compared to the earlier review, this 2000 example is softer (weaker is maybe a better word this time around) and less spicy, and also is lacking the licorice and cherry notes of the 2003. The 2003 is definitely a step up from the 2000. So yes, the date makes a difference. So choose your single cask vintage Evan Williams wisely!

Points: 81

Warre Late Bottled Vintage 2011

Sometimes you have to strike the iron while hot, so after an absence of Port on these pages for an amazing five years, here is number two within this week. After Auke’s Kopke I reviewed last, lets turn to a different style of Port, with my own Warre’s Late Bottled Vintage 2011. 2011? Is that a typo? No it isn’t, 2011 turned out to be a truly amazing, quintessential Vintage Port year! I ask myself, why didn’t they turn this into a LBV then? B-choice?

So what is a Late Bottled Vintage Port, I hear you ask?

Well, traditionally a Late Bottled Vintage (or LBV for short), is a Ruby Port from a single harvest/year, bottled after ageing for four to six years in wood, tonnels to be precise, which are very large casks. It should be a Vintage Port in style which is to retain some of the character of fruit and the tannins from the wood influence and the aroma’s to be had from the depot of the unfiltered Port (some more tannins for ya). Back in the day, there were many unfiltered LBV’s around, more akin to Vintage Ports. Apart from filtering, I’d like to point out that the time frame of four to six years is quite large. A 4yo Port does taste different from a 6yo Port (when aged in wood).

Today an LBV can taste young and fruity by, (in part), maturation in a tank, to retain that youthful, zesty, vibrant fruitiness, or a LBV can taste mature with noticeable wood ageing. Most of today’s LBV’s are filtered (and fined) and don’t need further ageing in the bottle, which is convenient. Luckily, some however, do have (some) depot and can be aged for a while longer. My Warre is such and example, going against the grain of the modern consumer who wants young and fruity LBV’s which are ready to drink. Although this Warre is not a true Traditional completely unfiltered, LBV, at least it doesn’t say so on the label, it does have some depot. Also, drinking this I do not feel the need to decant it. Sure you sometimes don’t know what you are getting when buying any bottle of LBV from the shelf, if only the labels were more clear, but I do welcome the choice.

To finish this introduction off, a household remark: The picture below is of the 2013 version, My bottle is already open, therefore not very photo genetic, and I couldn’t find a decent picture of the 2011 on ye olde interweb, so I used a decent picture of the next L.B.V. bottled by Warre, the 2013. Don’t be confused though, it looks exactly the same (apart from the year stated obviously).

Color: Extremely dark ruby red. Slightly cloudy and there is some depot in the bottle. Don’t spill this on your white shirt (I did that once at a Port Tasting, awkward).

Nose: Red Wine and fruits. Fresh and slightly sweet smelling, sometimes sugared fruits. Warming and fresh, almost like the warmth of the sun was captured in here. I get this every time I try it. Thick and yet not the promise of a lot of sweetness. Slightly dusty and closed. Warm berry juice over pudding. A tiny hint of vanilla, so American oak? Accessible and promising.

Taste: Sweet on entry with good acidity. Fruitier than the nose, otherwise it tastes like it smells.┬á Excellent acidity actually, matching the medium sweetness. Good balance. Again accessible just like it smells. 20% ABV, and it shows an alcoholic note, that seems to be disconnected from the Port itself. Tannic (Red Wine) mouthfeel, not much, but enough for the specific feel you get between your tongue and roof of mouth. Sweetish and fruity. Fruit juice for semolina pudding. Medium finish with (luckily) some tannins and woody bitter notes, all well in check, just adding to the complexity and giving it a more “Vintage” style. The Port is good and moderately complex. An easy daily drinker and definitely not a true Vintage Port which is something else entirely, but it is family. After multiple sips, the tannins dry out your lips and stay behind on your tongue. I like this style of LBV, it puts the V in the LBV, so to speak.

Just like the Colheita before, this Late Bottled Vintage is a style made for comfort, for all us full-time, over-time, busy office people. Tasty, without a lot of fuss. Just open it and drink. No decanting, no ages of ageing after buying, not a lot depot that gets between your teeth. Easy stuff. This is a very accessible and nice Port with some Vintage Port-style without the Vintage Port price tag, even less hard earned cash has to change hands than when buying a good Colheita. Nevertheless, a Colheita is something different, so you need both in your life. Frankie says: go for it!

Points: 83

After doing this review I feel that the Kopke Colheita 2003 I just reviewed, seems to be more modern in style (as mentioned above for modern LBV’s. It youthful and very fruity, which is a bit odd considering Colheita’s are about long ageing… Food for thought.

Thanks go out to Auke for bringing up Port again! Now de-cork the old White please ­čśë

Kopke Colheita 2003 (2018)

In several of my previous reviews, even more than once, I stated that I love my Ports, and I hereby confirm that I still do, even though my last review was done in the spring of 2014! Terrible! There is no excuse! How did that happen? five years! Is time flying this fast? I have to make amends and restart the fire of Port! Auke, also mentioned before, was so kind as to present me with a sample of one of his recent acquisitions, to help me restart the fire. Kopke Colheita 2003. Auke loves his Ports as well, and even managed to visit Portugal this summer, something I have yet to do.

personally, I love Colheita’s. They are aged, refined, easy to use, (so no decanting of unfiltered vintages) and quite affordable. Sure, vintages are the biggest thing in Port-world, but Colheita’s most definitely earned their place under the sun as well. Even better, Colheita’s also offer us a high quality alternative to Vintage Port and L.B.V.’s, with a different profile, a Tawny profile. Aged, not ruby red any more and more delicate. So a true win-win situation.

Color: Vibrant old red, tiniest hint of tan.

Nose: Fresh, sweet and fruity. Perfumy even. Deep, dusty and dark, with hints of asphalt, tar and licorice. Dry forest floor (in the summer). This adds to the third dimension of the Port and is most certainly not upfront. The combination of freshness and fruits with the darker side is quite interesting. The fruit stays, cherries and raisins with a nice acidic vibrancy. Waves of chewy fruity sweetness. Hardly any wood notes, not even the vanilla of American oak, nor the tannins of European oak. This Colheita is all about being quiet. It’s quiet and calm, softly spoken. The quiet intelligent guy in the corner who would rather ready a book than party hard.

Taste: Quite thin on entry. Not very syrupy and the sweetness seems to be very well kept in check. Plenty of youthful vibrancy and acidity. Here it shows its winy character. The body is quite simple, very nice, but simple. This is a Colheita that is not about sweetness. Sure it has some sweetness to it, (dry honey, does that make sense?), but that is not the crux of the story this Port wants to tell. Nope, this is about fruit, little sweet forest strawberries, cherries (especially in the nose). Not overly ripe red fruits, but almost there. all in all, a rather short finish for such and “old” Port, or does the old age show its fragility here? By the way, the deeper notes I got from the nose are not here in the body of the taste, not even in the finish, although the tiniest hint of wood (bitter) does show itself along to some almonds. Nope, well into the fruity and acidic aftertaste some more of the darker notes briefly return to take a final bow to the lover of Port and kiss his or her lips for the final time.

Medium sweetness which is balanced out nicely by firm fruity acidity. Very friendly and likeable on entry, but lacking a bit of complexity and oomph in the body and finish, but a real winner on the nose! Master Quill’s top tip: take this in big gulps to enhance the aroma’s.

Points: 84

Glenfarclas 16yo 1990/2007 (58.9%, OB, The Family Casks, Sherry Butt #9246, 617 bottles)

And we’ve already reached the end of our short journey of Whiskies left behind by Erik. Professional work has almost ended at our house (the ceiling has yet to be done) and the time has come for me to finish up in true amateur style. The final chapter of this brief tour will be this vintage Glenfarclas. This is the 1990 vintage from the original release of the Family Casks back in 2007. In that year The Grant Family released 43 cask strength single cask bottlings, with vintages between 1952 up to 1994. Many different casks were used, like ex-Bourbon casks, first to even fourth-fill Sherry casks, but also Port pipes can be found in this series, or the many series that followed later. This first 1990 vintage is from a pretty hefty Sherry Butt, I can tell you that!

Color: Warm orange brown. Definitely mahogany.

Nose: Big and spirity. If caught off guard, it almost seems as if whiffs of acetone pass by. Fresh oak, Earthy next. Spicy and meaty, with lots of gravy notes. Honey (The Bee stuff). Perfect thick and cloying Sherry nose. Fresh and woody. Lots happening, with already signs of excellent balance. Soft warm wood, nothing like the sharper style I found in the 25yo Cadenhead Highland Park. No, this is entirely different and also a bit younger. Sometimes it smells like a Bourbon from a very heavily charred cask. George T. Stagg style. Fruity, nutty, yet this still carries those nail polish remover notes. Weaved into the fabric of the aroma’s I mentioned above is a wonderful, and sometimes odd smell of happy red fruits. I tried to describe it differently, but it just smells fruity, sunny and happy to me. The Highland Park, mentioned earlier, could be thick, dark and brooding, more like a gray rainy day. This Glenfarclas, on the other hand, also is a big Sherried Whisky, but happier, livelier, with a more acidic fruity bit. Sometimes this smells like food, chewy, substantial. Hey after the first sip I smell some Jasmine in here too. So a hidden floral bit rears its pretty little head. Nice.

Taste: Yeah big again, very big, definitely loads of wood, with rich tannins and also some bitterness. Oak and ashes. Fruits overpowered and pushed back. Warming. Quite hot with rough edges. You even could call it harsh. Yes this takes no prisoners, and is definitely not for everyone. Very hot going down, this is beyond warming actually. Cola notes, and also some burnt notes. Underneath fruity and because of its age, an oaky bitterness kept well in check. Its only so…hot. Coal, licorice, oaky, its big and harsh but also shows quite some beauty. Something you know is bad for you, but still you can’t help yourself and keep being drawn to it. Very interesting. Its in many ways over the top, woody, drying tannins, yet not all that bitter. Already towards the end of the body, this gets very simple and good. Not a lot of development though. The Highland Park had a lot more going for it, especially after some (extensive) breathing. The finish of this Glenfarclas is about wood, oak, fresh oak, virgin oak, Fresh sanded oak planks, but definitely less bitter then the Highland Park. So chocolate yes, dark chocolate, no, not exactly. Milk chocolate then? Nope, lacks the sweetness of that. No, it’s more like cocoa powder. Yes that’s it. Wood, leather, gentleman’s club. Rich, but in the taste not fruity. For fruity Sherry I turn to old Longmorns and Strathislas.

If I’m not mistaken, Erik brought this bottle with him when our Whisky club went abroad and did a tasting in Hamburg, Germany some years back. When freshly opened this was considered almost to harsh to drink and we all tried to find out why it was actually being released in this new and prestigious The Family Casks series. It’s more do-able now, but still not a Whisky to tackle without gloves. A full bottle of this would last me for many, many years to come.

Points: 85

Highland Park 25yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 2 Sherry Butts, 1086 bottles, 13/242)

This is part three (of four) in Erik’s not-so-run-of-the-mill left behind bottles series. This time a super dark heavily Sherried offering from Cadenhead and Highland Park. Highland Park always went well with ex-Sherry casks. I used to be a big fan of Highland Park, one of the first I considered to be of the highest class available from Scotland. It is such a great tasting Whisky, honest, honeyed and humble. At least it used to be. It didn’t shout off the rooftops how great it is, and still managed to have a pretty solid fan-base around the world. Today however, Highland Park (and The Macallan) are part of a humongous marketing machine, which I tend to distrust. Sure the Whisky is still good, and there are still many, many, amazing bottles to be had (for a price), but the feeling is different, the feeling’s gone, sorry Highland Park. Just compare it to the way Springbank and Bruichladdich are marketed. The feeling is entirely different with these. Yet here we have an independent offering of Highland Park.

Cadenhead, by the way, thanks to Mr. Watt, seem to have reinvented themselves for many years to come. This bottling, it doesn’t say so on the label, seems to be the result of marrying two Sherry Butts together.

Color: Very dark orange brown, just shy of a mahogany hue.

Nose: Deep and dark, lots of oak, making it fresh. Toasted oak, and some warm plastic, which fades and disappears luckily. Fruity heavy Sherry. Meaty oak, and licorice. The wood also has quite a big floral component. Perfumy even. Next I got some Rhum Agricole “sweetness” mixed with dark chocolate. This one is neither red/black fruity, as old Longmorns nor thick and cloying. In the end it has more of the latter than the former. Elegant wood, yet definitely not old skool. Good Sherry, but modern. More and more whiffs of Rhum Agricole and cold gravy. Also drier spicy notes when you let it stand for a while.

Taste: Starts sweet and very nutty. With emerging bitterness when swallowed. A Doppler effect of bitterness. The bitterness is kept in check, so no problem here. Good tannins, not drying the mouth. Silky texture. Hints of vanillin and milk-chocolate pudding. Fruity and again this bitter end of the body. And a big body it is. Well it has been in rather active Sherry casks for 25 years, so no surprise here. Paper and clear glue. Honey, the stuff of bees, not your darling, I hear you ask? Nope, no not really, although it does remind me of licorice candy made with honey. Hardly a Highland Park. Its about the Sherry cask this one. Black tea bitterness, but with a nice edge of coal. Steam punk, but not old skool. The more this breathes in my glass the “older” it gets. More coal, and more steam (and motor oil). It may lack a tiny bit in complexity, but it makes up for it with development (in my glass). The finish is simple and again bitter (medium), but the body is very good (it finally does get into the realm of Longmorn after extensive breathing). Long aftertaste of oak, licorice and black fruits and yes, the bitter bit has the longest breath of all the notes. So it has its good and less good points. Maybe this should have been bottled a few years earlier?

Letting it breathe is a must for this Whisky, it makes all the difference.

Points: 87