Glenburgie 26yo 1983/2010 (53.7%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #9801, 204 bottles)

Kilnflat was founded, by William Paul in 1810. The distillery was closed between 1870 and 1878. When it was opened again, by Charles Hay, he also renamed the place to Glenburgie, a name are more familiar with. In 1884 Alexander Fraser & Co. takes over only to go bankrupt in 1925. Again the distillery changes hands, and this time to those of James & George Stodart Ltd. In 1927 the distillery was mothballed and stays that way untill 1936, when Hiram Walker buys the distillery. In the mean time in 1930, Hiram Walker also gained a majority of James & George Stodart Ltd.

In 1958 the distillery also gets Lomond Stills to produce another SIngle Malt you might have heard of: Glencraig. This will go on for several years but finally in 1981 the Lomond Stills are removed again and replaced by conventional stills, making Glencraig a “closed distillery” and somewhat of a collector’s item. In 1987 Hiram Walker is bought by Allied Lyons. In 2005 Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) buys Allied Domecq becoming the current owner of Glenburgie.

In 2003 the distillery was demolished entirely and replaced (a bit further down the premises) by a new and highly modern distillery. Only the old customs house remains and the four stills, the boiler and the mill were brought in from the old distillery. By 2006 another pair of stills were added.

Unbelievable, this is only my first review of a Glenburgie. Amazing. That’s why I stared with this brief history “lesson”. Not so long ago I was asked about great, lesser known, Malts (from Scotland) a.k.a. personal favourites off the beaten track. Glenburgie managed to get into that top 10, that’s why I’m so amazed this is just the first review of Glenburgie, should have been much sooner. Glenburgie is a distillate that works extremely well in Sherry casks.

Glenburgie might be lesser known as a Single Malt, but that’s because a lot of it goes into the Ballantine’s Blend. In 2017, Chivas Brothers released three Single Malts under the Ballantine’s name. Huh? Yes Glenburgie 15yo (the heart), Miltonduff 15yo (the foundation) and Glentauchers 15yo (the finish), were released as such, to tell the story how they make up the Ballantine’s Blended Whisky.

Color: Almost copper gold.

Nose: Very big aroma, this leaps, or rather, attacks you, with a soothing friendly voice, from the glass. Nutty and fruity. Meaty and dusty. Some soft old oak right after that. Dusty old oak. Quite big and holding a promise of sweetness, sweet (and meaty) apples rather than the usual Sherry notes. The oak has an aroma reminiscent of tobacco and leather and hints of old Calvados. Very fragrant Glenburgie. Nice and spicy. In fact, this holds it all. Quite balanced, and very big, it’s so big it hides the complexity a bit. Try not to forget, this is a 26yo Malt. It doesn’t show a lot of evolution over time as well, it stays more or less the same when nosing it. But with a Malt so big and nice, who needs complexity and evolution?

Taste: Yes sweet on entry, but with a lot more. Cannabis and toffee. Crushed beetle again and lots of nuts. Yes, let’s throw in some caramel as well. The start is sweet and sticky. Quite hot and the 53.7% ABV printed on the label, seems a bit low. Very fruity but grassy as well, thick fat grass notes, different from fresh-cut grass or dry grass and hay, but as mentioned above, also the grass you smoke. It’s fatty grass and cannabis. Do I detect a nice tarry edge right behind the spicy oak? Hot black tea. Dries out towards the finish. What a wonderful complexity and blend of aroma’s. This bottle is now 1/3 down, and that’s a good thing, because right after opening, this was much tighter and closed. Amazing how the nose lacked complexity and evolution, and when tasting it now, it is all but complex and shows a lot of evolution as well. One has to stop oneself writing notes, since, this keeps emitting more aroma’s from my glass…

Wonderful Glenburgie, extremely drinkable, even at cask strength.

Points: 89

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Compass Box “Oak Cross” (43%, OB, Circa 2006)

From the same period as “Asyla” (a blended Whisky), I reviewed back in 2015, comes this Blended Malt called “Oak Cross”. Blended Malt is the new expression for what we once called Vatted Malts. Two or more Single Malts, from different distilleries, blended together (so, without any Grain Whisky). Oak Cross is made from three Highland Single Malt Whiskies, yes, blended together to make this Blended Malt. I’ll let Compass Box themselves explain how they did it, since there is no way I could have put it better myself:

All [three] are aged [10 to 12 years] in [first fill] American oak casks before we place a portion [said to be 40%] into innovative hybrid casks [for up to 2 years] featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads [hence the name Oak Cross]. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered Malt Whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.

By the way, the three Malts used for this “Blend” are 60% Clynelish (fruity), 20% Teaninich (for the smell of it) and 20% Dailuaine (the “meat” of it all).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Young and rather perfumy (Teaninich). Friendly and light. Appetizing. Something works very well here. Fruity (Clynelish). Yellow fruits that is, more of the apples and pears kind of fruit. Very European so to speak as opposed to the exotic Indian spices we get from, well…Indian Whiskies. Cardboard, and paper, dusty notes from oak, almost like an old house. Warm apple compote. More sweet than acidic to be frank. This has a warming quality to it. Notes of vanilla pudding. and soft oak, almost boiled soft oak. Tiniest hint of burned wood (and hay), warm motor oil (Dailuaine) and finally some grassy green hints. Although I am quite familiar with Whiskies from American oak, this does have another twist to it, is it the French oak maybe, or is it the soft fruitiness this shows. Nice, whatever it is.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry and again very friendly but also a bit thin, apart from the sugary feel that is. Nice and very approachable. No off-notes (hint of plastic, and ever so slightly soapy, but these don’t hurt the end-result a bit), and the sweetness never gets to that, annoying, cloying-level. Fruity yes, but harder to analyze than it was from the nose. Not so apply and peary as the nose. Maybe the sweetness is masking it? Fruity appetizing body, with a nice warming finish and enough staying power.

The sweetness makes this approachable and likeable, and is probably marketed towards people who are new to (Single Malt) Whisky. This may have it all, it seems young, but acceptable, therefore also quite inexpensive, well made, soft and friendly.

Points: 80

The Benriach 10yo “Curiositas” (46%, OB, Peated, Circa 2006)

After all those very special expressions of “The” Benriach, it’s finally time to have a look at a more mundane Benriach. The standard 10yo, with peat, carrying the less mundane name of “Curiositas”, since it must have been very, very strange for Benriach to use peat? One just has to love the names they give their Whiskies. Curiositas was released in 2004. The expression I’m about to review was bottled in 2006 or earlier, so this is one of the firsts. Today the Curiositas is still a part of Benriachs core range, so it has proven itself to be quite a success.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fat peat, creamy and fruity. It’s peat alright, but elegant peat, if there is such a thing. Sounds a bit like an elegant Hummer or like claiming a pair of muddy Wellington’s can ever be called elegant. Compared to scruffy and iodine laden peated Whiskies from Islay, this is peated alright, but also very different. Crushed bugs (you had to be there), dabs of mud and gentle smoke. Big aroma at first, and also soft. However, the “bigness” gets less with breathing. Floral and soapy notes emerge. Cold dish water with a plethora of spices. Not really “farmy” but definitely a vegetable garden, Were Rabbit style.

Taste: Wow, this wasn’t what I expected. This starts out fruity and sugary. Very fruity in fact. One might ask, where is the peat? Cardboard and paper, soft wood and even more fruit turn up. A tiny smoky prickling sensation comes next, quickly followed by nice licorice notes. Creamy vanilla pudding with hints of coffee candy. Not a big body though, and to be frank, (not Dave), this has quite a short finish as well. This peated Whisky isn’t about power at all (alas), but more about the Speyside fruitiness, maybe rightly so. Ain’t that curious, yet logical too, when you think about it for a while. You gotta love the name now.

Peated Whiskies are very interesting, since especially “young” peated Whiskies can be very good without long ageing. Although I understand the Whisky, it’s not an expression I like best within the peated category. It’s nice, but from the body onwards. I feel, lacks too much oomph. I would have liked it much better if it would build more on the groundwork laid out by the nose., which seemed more peaty and smoky, but also more complex. Maybe it got better with the later batches.

Points: 82

El Dorado 25yo 1980 (40%, Guyana)

Here is El Dorado Number four. After the more affordable and pretty sweet 12yo, the proper 15yo and the poor mans mid range premium 21yo, here is the true official Premium version. Just look at the decanter and the big knob on top. This is a 25yo distilled in 1980, so released somewhere around 2005. The previous, and first 25yo, was the millennium edition, released in 1999. El Dorado is the go-to-Rum when looking at Demerara Rums. However, the owners do get some slack for adding sugar. Many very good or even stellar Demerara Rums are released by independent bottlers offering expressions without added sugar, or less added sugar. Velier, Bristol and Rum Nation come to mind, but there are a lot more. Lately DDL themselves are now in the business releasing Demerara Rums as if they were an independent bottler with the release in 2015 of an 1993 Enmore, 1999 Port Mourant and a 2002 Versailles (with some added sugar). In 2017 another Port Mourant (1997) and Enmore (1996) were released. For me, Demerara is one of my favourite styles of Rum, together with the funk of Jamaica and St. Lucia and lets not forget about Rhum Agriciole, fantastic stuff in its own right. There are many wonderful Rums to be found. (Just opened my first bottle from Reunion, actually). Nice, and again different from the rest.

Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Sweet hints, with nice woody notes. Woody acidity and spicy. Slightly tarry, wood polish and plain old dust. Notes of clear glue as well. Compared to the 21yo, this does smell more distinguished, like entering an old mansion. Priceless antiques, beeswax furniture polish and so on. Definitely, some industrial notes with petrol, unlit tobacco and licorice (Enmore), but also (again) the whiff of fresh air, burnt caramel and brown sugar. How is that even possible with all these heavy aroma’s? It tells me the nose isn’t very clogged up, and roomy. It lets its treasures out in layers. Honey, cough syrup and more beautiful wood (and more licorice as well). Very, very nice. Amazing how well aged Demerara’s can smell. In fact this does smell a bit like an old Agricole (but less so than the 21yo). Next, another layer opens up, caramel, burnt caramel and vanilla, but not in a (sweet) way, gluing the aroma’s together, similar to the 21yo. This is the better smelling of the two. It’s there but not as much. Slightly more influence from the wood.

Taste: Good lord almighty! (no offence intended). Fruit syrup, definitely raspberry. Very dissonant and unbalanced. It sits on top of, and maskes, the rather brittle Rum, overpowering it massively. This seems like Jekyll and Hyde appearing at the same time, quite a feat. Underneath an overly dry Demerara. (I have a bone-dry 1964 Port Mourant locked away, so I know). This has that underneath, but quite another and strange fresh and fruity layer on top. Doctored! Messed with!! Ruined!!! Fruit syrup. Raspberry syrup for sure. Liquid sugar. Candied oranges. Where did that fruit fly come from? The second time around, trying this on another day, it didn’t take the fruit flies long to find me and my Rum. Amazing. This came from the bottle depicted to the left? Yes it did. Guyana Rum. No way they did this! Yes the reports are true, the consumer has been saved from old, heavy, over-the top, over aged, dry and potentially aggressive Rum by sugar of the added kind. This fruity sweetness should be very interesting for mixologists I guess, as Don Papapapapapapa can be called interesting as well and which will vanillin you long time. Both shouldn’t be sold as Rums, but rather as liqueurs, as which compared to “other” liqueurs, they aren’t bad at all. As Rums: stop! ban! forbid! just don’t! Short finish but and an aftertaste very similar to that of PX-Sherry. Get PX in stead, much cheaper than this El Dorado. Some amazing decisions were made in Guyana a long time ago…

Burnt sugar and burnt wood in the aftertaste. Very fruity. PX. Actually a very strange aftertaste: the insides of my cheeks are full of cloying sugar that won’t let go by itself, and the aftertaste is more sugary as well. Not nice. Only the wood seems to maintain itself well into the finish. Sugary aftertaste, which is also quite short. Although there is a lot of the greatness still around, I can imagine it was originally bone-dry, but to shoot it in the back like this, is a bit cruel don’t you think? I will savour the nice bits this displays, but the whole is quite well ruined (as a Rum). Not really a sipping Rum for the discerning consumer, but if you make a lot of money and are not a discerning Rum-drinker, this has nice packaging, nice bottle, oozing “success” and “because you can” and is rather excellent in cola! Go for it! Us poor people will buy the occasional cherry-coke and a bottle of PX instead. ’nuff said.

Points: 74 (hard to tell really, since it doesn’t seem to be a Rum)

P.S. Just to wash away the sugary aftertaste, I picked the El Dorado 21yo. That one now seems bone dry in comparison… (it isn’t, in case you’re wondering).

P.S.II. The second time around in stead of following it up with the 21yo I mixed the two together. 60% of the 25yo with 40% of the 21yo. The 21yo still managed to take over the end result, but, and you might have guessed it, this new concoction was way better than the 25yo by itself. Quite dry in the nose, but sweet on the palate, with less of the raspberry syrup. Not bad with a way longer and dryer finish. I actually like this mix very much, seems very balanced and somewhat “bigger” than the 21yo by itself.

El Dorado 21yo “Special Reserve” (43%, Guyana, 2006)

After reviewing the 12yo (in 2013) and the 15yo (in 2015) from the El Dorado premium range, now the time has come to move up one step of the ladder again and have a look at the 21yo. Just like it’s two younger brothers it has been blended together from Rums made with several of the many stills that have survived. I call the three, “brothers”, since the three aren’t simply older versions of the same kid, but the DNA between the three has some variation. Related but different, like brothers. This 21yo has been blended together from the Albion (AN), a French Savalle still, the Versailles (VSG), a single wooden pot still and the Enmore (EHP), a wooden Coffey still. Where in the 21yo, the Albion is the dominant one.

I have read somewhere that, 35yo Rum was used, but by now, because the 21yo is around for some while, that might not be the case anymore. I’m sure the Rums used, have different vintages where the youngest Rum has to be 21yo. A rule adopted, from Single Malt Whisky, by the English-speaking Rum world. This is completely different from the practices of Solera type Rums. The Rum has aged exclusively in the carribean and since the climate is hot and dry, Rums this age can get very easily over-oaked, since water, instead of alcohol, is the first to evaporate. Speeding up the ageing process, as compared to the more mild European climate. Cadenheads and Bristol come to mind, when thinking about Demerara Rums that have (partly) aged in Europe, but there are many others.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Thick Demerara style. But with a breath of fresh air. Sharp wood, spicy wood. Tar and oak. Lovely. This is how a Rum should smell, one that has been in cask for a long time. Are you paying attention Don Papa? Oh, wait a minute. Caramel and toffee comes next. Somehow the nose seems glued together with sweetness now. Hints of petrol and melting plastic to balance things out. Yes again an aroma that sounds hideous, but really isn’t. Well it is, but not in this Rum. Dry crushed leaves and molasses with a return to the more woody notes. Green and (dry) grassy. Hints of lavas, but darker and more brooding. Tar covered lavas then? Black tea and hot toffee (again, slightly deep burnt sugar-toffee). Dry, dusty and now I get more than a fair share of licorice (and warm caramel), whilst I revert to smelling it like a Dyson would. Vortex snorting. (I must remember this expression, and use it more often, since it is revealing). Nice stuff. I have a feeling there is some fruit to it as well, but since the Demerara style is strict and fierce it doesn’t let it out. Very appetizing but also I fear some added sugar was used on this old Rum. Let’s taste it.

Taste: Thick (for a brief moment) and sweet, but not too much, and never cloying. Lots of licorice again, but also a slight nudge towards the style of Agricole. Unmistakable, I get it every time. Excellent aged brown sugar aroma, but with lots of soft wood notes to balance this out. A nice burnt (sugar) note, toasted oak with vanilla, combined with bitter oranges. Cold black tea and ear wax, but with less bitterness than both. This one is about wood. So here the number 21 does mean age. Very balanced, it tastes exactly like it smells, less sweet maybe and “thinner” in structure. Since this is an old one, because in Caribbean weather, 21 years in wood is almost a lifetime, the sweetness is broken down and surpassed by the effect the wood has on this Rum. Hints of freshly sawn oak even. It’s not as big and shows some delicacy of the old, especially towards the finish. In the finish some soapy and definitely bitter wood stay behind and some honey as well. The aroma’s are brittle and hardly a problem though.

This is geriatric Rum, I love it, sure in many ways it is over the top, as if aged for too long, gaining too much of the benefits of wood, making it less easily drinkable, than the very sweet 12yo and the very nice 15yo. This is why of the whole series people tend to prefer the 15yo as a sipper, and the 8yo as a daily drinker. But this 21yo has its moments and when it time, this delivers, warts and all. Granted this may be for experienced drinkers to really appreciate it, and so be it. If you are not one of those, you might want to stay off this one for a while for you to become of age and try it again. And if you do, it will be clear this was (today), fairly priced as well.

Points: 87

Inchgower 25yo (1980/2006 (53.2%, Dewar Rattray, Sherry Cask #14161, 486 bottles)

After the “old” Teaninich, let’s have a look at something else from the attic that was also bottled a long time ago. Just like Teaninich, Inchgower is another lesser known Distillery owned by Diageo. And for me one of the better ones as well. I’ve come across quite a few really good Inchgowers. Long time no Inchgower though on these pages. It’s almost six years since I reviewed another Inchgower. One from 1982 bottled by Raymond Armstrong, remember Bladnoch? The 1982 was quite hefty and although very good, it was another Whisky, like the Teaninich F&F I reviewed just now, that needs a lot of attention, wearing you out if it didn’t get the attention it wanted. If carelessly sipped, it will kill you, so even though it is a very good Whisky with a quite a high score, I was glad when the bottle was finally finished. Strange ‘eh? Here we have another Inchgower from the beginning of the eighties, so I’m already bracing myself, especially since this is a Sherried one as well…

Color: Dark copper brown.

Nose: Boiled eggs (not rotten). Very buttery and milky. Luckily, these off notes dissipate quite quickly. I have to say right off the bat that this Whisky got a lot of time to breathe. When it was freshly opened this had a lot of Sulphur. When the milky, baby vomit notes dissipate, it shows more woody notes. A minute amount of sulphur and some bitter black tea. Underneath (sniff hard), brown sugar and even some honey. Sulphur still detectable and now it rears its head (is it ugly?) like swamp-gas. Although a lot seems wrong with this, I seem not to dislike it. I never belonged to the I’m-allergic-to-sulphur-police, so I’m able to deal with it. In the depth, where the brown sugar is, are also the more soft woody notes. Some whiffs smell like Rum actually. Sulphur seems to be dying down, but when you move the Whisky around in your glass vigorously, you’ll be able to get some more. Spicy, yet not woody. Vanilla powder and altogether funky. Give it time to breathe. In the end the Sulphur is kept in check and all the remaining wonderful aroma’s get their room to shine. What a wonderful nose this is. The sulphur didn’t bother me that much, but the milky part did, this must breathe before sipping.

Taste: Big, woody and slightly soapy. After swallowing, the first sip, the soap, again, this time around, no too bad, is followed by a wave of liquid bitterness (and fruity acidity). I know, a strange sentence indeed. Fruity underneath and mouthcoating. Sweeter than expected, very, red, fruity. Cold black tea. And the bitterness seems ok. Very funky floral notes which mix well with the red over-ripe fruits. Berries, raspberry, little ripe forest strawberries. Mouth coating, very, mouthcoating indeed, leaving behind some bitterness, but more important, some priceless black fruits as well. For me the black fruits are the holy grail of Whisky. Nice finish, but who cares, if the long aftertaste shows you all those black fruits, dark chocolate and some wood. Sure it isn’t able to shed all of the soapyness, but with fruits like these, I’m happy to forgive it it’s soapyness and the many other flaws it shows. Special stuff.

Some Whiskies like this, over-the-top, can be bad. This one has a lot wrong with it but it’s not bad, There is a lot of fun to be had, if you like the extreme ones, if you are able to deal with a Whisky like this. If you are a novice, steer clear, please. If you are an anorak, a whisky-geek with tendencies towards SM, please pick it up at an auction, because as I said, it is not a bad Whisky. Too much of a lot, but therein lies the fun. A guilty pleasure. Aficionados like it, that’s why this doesn’t pop up a lot at auctions. I’m sure that when I’m going to clean my glass, it will foam like crazy! (It did). For me a no-brainer if it shows up somewhere. Don’t bid against me please!

Points: 91

(Freshly opened, without breathing, the score would be 84, so you’d better let it breathe, long time!)

Teaninich 10yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

In 1991, the predecessors of Diageo, the owners of Teaninich, introduced us to Teaninich and many other lesser known distilleries they own, through this series we now call Flora & Fauna. The labels depict local wildlife and sometimes plants. We have Michael Jackson to thank for the name, nevertheless, Diageo never adopted the name. In 2001 four new ones were added (Glen Elgin, Auchroisk, Glen Spey and Strathmill). For a short while nine cask strength versions were also available. Many of the original 22 entries have since vanished. Sometimes Diageo closed the distillery (Rosebank & Pittyvaich) or sold it off (Bladnoch, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aultmore, Aberfeldy, Balmenach and Speyburn), and in several cases Diageo put the distillery forward and graced them with their own series (Clynelish, Caol Ila, Mortlach, Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Elgin). The latter just added to the series in 2001. Today all that’s left of the Flora and Fauna series is (Teaninich, Benrinnes, Inchgower, Blair Athol, Linkwood, Mannochmore, Strathmill, Auchroisk, Glenlossie, Glen Spey and Dailuaine), although it seems Dailuaine is disappearing as well…

In this series I usually tend towards the more sherried expressions, since especially bottles bottled more than a decade ago show a lot of quality. The Whisky-boom wasn’t really there so lots of excellent Sherry casks found their way into this series. We already had a look at Mortlach and Benrinnes, but also Dailuaine and Blair Athol come to mind. Someone once gave me the Blair Athol to taste next to one bottled ten years prior, and the difference was amazing. A whopping 10 points. So yes, the best casks don’t seem to find their way anymore into the F&F series. However, for some distilleries the second best Sherry casks are still pretty decent, especially considering the bottles from this Flora and Fauna series are quite affordable to boot.

In comes this Teaninich, most definitely an expression that has never seen Sherry casks, and at 10yo, a very young one indeed. Still it’s a Teaninich and you know I love Teaninich, so even though no Sherry was used (probably), I still have some sort of high hopes for this one, since there is nothing to scoff at when Whisky has matured in Bourbon-wood. Barrel or hogshead alike.

Color: Dark straw yellow.

Nose: Buttery and woody. Yes, American oak for sure. Buttery and creamy. Custard pudding, coffee creamer (powder) with added sweet, ripe yellow fruits and a lot of influence from the wood. I said wood influence, not woody. Leafy. Dry plants and dried ice cream left over in the bowl. This seems like a typical (young) Whisky that has matured in American oak. If you are familiar with it, the profile can’t come as a surprise to you. As is the case with Whiskies like this, the beauty has to be found in the details. Occasional whiffs of fresh acidity (oak).

Taste: Short lived sweetness from the start, quickly to be overtaken by hints of fireworks, flint, sulphur (huh?) and liquorice. Didn’t expect that. Never simple, Teaninich. The sweetness doesn’t have any staying power though. It isn’t really present in the body nor in the finish. Maybe I’m interpreting the creamy notes with sweetness? Spicy notes emerge next. However it isn’t an easy Malt. This won’t do if you think you need a simple, American oak driven Whisky you want to drink playing cards with the boys. Because, if you give this enough attention, not all aroma’s are easy on the palate. Darn Teaninich, again more than you’d bargain for. Tea, with citrus aroma. sweet yellow fruits like dried apricots. This is a Whisky drinkers Malt, which is a very anoraky thing to say, Quill!

As I said above, if you drink this not giving it the attention it needs, it will let you down. For a careless drinker this isn’t really suitable. This means, not everything works as well as it should, because you, the sipper in this story, have to make it all fall into place, so without flaws this is not, and I have to score this accordingly.

Another word of caution. Flora & Fauna bottlings can be (very) different from batch to batch, decade to decade. This is a bottle bottled some fifteen years ago, so hard to tell what you get if you buy the latest release.

Points: 82