Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky “Inaugural Release” 2014/2017 (46%, OB, First Fill Bourbon Barrels, 4000 bottles)

Every year our team attends the Whisky Show in London, and every year we come across something that surprises us. Usually it is a particular distiller. One time it was the range of Tomatin, and more recently we really liked the stuff of Indian Distiller Paul John. For example, last year, the only bottle I bought was a single cask Paul John. This year we found that the crux of the festival seemed not to be a particular distiller or brand, rather than the high quality of young Whiskies and/or new distilleries. Sure, there was a plethora of amazing old Whiskies on the Gordon & MacPhail stand and there is always nice super-premium stuff at the Diageo stand, but for us this year was about very nice young Whiskies. And guess what, they all came with age statements! Yes, it can be done! Funny enough, also young Whiskies coming from distilleries, people, (including me), tend to ignore. So, this year, I returned home with an 8 year old Tamnavulin, an 8 year old Glen Moray, a 10 year old Glenlivet and finally a 12 year old Tormore. All young, age stated, single casks and all from independent bottlers. Highly affordable as well. Before I forget, equally amazing was the Ailsa Bay and the man behind it. Today we are going to look at another young Whisky. The first release of an English Single Malt Whisky from the Cotswolds.

In my mind when a new distillery opens, it’s the brain child of two blokes who think they can do things better and try to conquer the world. Yes, I’m a romantic. Not true here, the two blokes thing, that is. This Whisky isn’t made in a shed in the Cotswolds. No, the Cotswolds distillery is the brain-child of Daniel Szor. A New York banker from Polish descent. Unfortunately his parents never learned him the language. Believe me, I tried, nope, Cotswolds is definitely not a shed. It’s a full fled distillery with tours and everything and a lot of staff, a lot, so I guess mr. Szor has some big plans, and is here to stay!

Color: Gold.

Nose: Floral, zesty, young and very perfumy. Big aroma. Cinnamon, cinnamon (again), more cinnamon and bread, cereal, sawdust and lots of notes from first fill Bourbon casks. Vanilla pods and Sinaspril pills. So yes, a nice acidic note as well. Insence sticks. No off-notes whatsoever and hardly any trace of new-made spirit. Nice wood, beautiful wood actually. Dry leaves and toasted toffee. Hints of candied yellow fruits in the distance. Spicy like an Indian Malt. Not sure this comes from the wood or are they using indian six-row barley at Cotswolds? The florality reminds me of Indian Whisky as well. Very appetizing. Well balanced and again a very big nose. Wonderful aroma’s coming together nicely. Still young and it already shows a lot of potential, which doesn’t mean this inaugural release isn’t worth it, because it is! Well done team!

Taste: On entry a wee bit thinner than expected and after that, an elegant and mouth coating young Malt emerges. Slightly sweet, slightly bitter, with toffee and caramel notes, and a lot of aromas coming from the first fill Bourbon casks. Making the body “bigger” than the entry was. Not as sweet as the nose promised. Already some nice yellow fruits though, as well as a hint of latex paint and machine oil? Wow. A desert in itself. Sweetish. Vanilla with a spicy note added to it. Just like the nose, quite Indian in style. Very appetizing stuff. The wood is almost virgin now, with a sharp spicy edge to it. Oats and crackers. Cigarette ash and toasted oak mixed with light fruity acidity. Again, lots of balance for such a young malt from a new distillery. Nice aftertaste.

Amazing inaugural release of Cotswolds. I’m told this is three years old plus one day, (some mentioned four days, but who is counting days in Whisky?). Amazing Indian style nose reminding me of some Paul John releases but foremost of this Amrut.

As mentioned in the introduction. Distilleries these days, are able to put out some very nice young Whiskies, even the ugly ducklings of yesteryear, you know, those anonimous distilleries distilling for blends only, like the aforementioned Tamnavulin. Amazing stuff, but on the other hand, we the consumer, we also had some time, by way of NAS-Whiskies, to get used to the taste of younger Whiskies. Maybe we just needed some time to adjust, and accept the times they are a-changing? Really old Whiskies these days cost the same amount of money as a new car, and something a bit younger still costs about the same as a nice vacation. So yes, we did get used to the taste of younger Whiskies, but nevertheless, there is much good stuff going around, just different from the stuff we bought 10 or 20 years ago…

Points: 84

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The Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 ‘Single Barrel’ (47.8%, OB, Bourbon Barrel #7581)

2003 will for ever be the year when The Balvenie 15yo aka ‘The Single Barrel’ from the masters of reduction, was even further reduced. Where this bottling, which often was older than the stated 15yo, used to be reduced to a nice 50.4% ABV, from 2003 on, was further reduced to 47.8%. Bugger, less tax, mo’ money? Never mind. Balvenie is always a nice distillery to review. The company usually puts much effort in reaching consistency between batches, but fails miserably, when comparing this 12yo ‘Doublewood’ to this one and this one. The 15yo however, was intended to have (some) batch variation, since they were the results of one Bourbon cask (I’m not sure if all are Barrels though). Funny enough subsequent releases, and there are many, were pretty similar, when you expected some more emphasis on the difference between casks. I guess, there is more difference when comparing two from (quite) different distilling dates. Well how convenient. Five years back I wrote a review of a 15yo ‘Single Barrel’ that was distilled in 1983, and released in 1999 @ 50.4% ABV, and now we are going to have a look at a “newer” example distilled in 1989, and released in 2004 @ 47.8% ABV. (The picture is of a similar bottling from cask #7633).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Initially fruity and fresh. Very accessible. Vibrant and happy I would say, Summer, it’s like sunshine in a glass. Barley, some butter and brown sugar. Vanilla powder and white oak. Dusty mocha. Hint of gun powder and soap. Next a more vegetal note emerges. Half dried weeds lying around in the sun and some fresh almonds in the background. Soft rhubarb. The more it breathes the weaker it gets. Simpler as well. Pretty easy Whisky, typical of the cask it came from.

Taste: Sweeter than expected, and bigger as well. Lots of fruit, dried apricots, peach in sweet yoghurt, but also vanilla and coffee creamer notes. Pudding and custard. Milk chocolate. Chocolate mousse. This cask gave off lots of vanillin. Very green and vegetal. Nutty, almonds again. A hint of christmas spices. Cloves, that kind of thing. Apart from this, a strange cold dishwater note and add to that a burnt note as well as a slightly floral note. Green. The nose definitely was cleaner. Ice-cream and fruity liqueur (alcohol).

It is strange and typical at the same time. Typical in the way that it is where it came from (Bourbon Barrel), but some strange notes appear as well. The sweetness and the notes mentioned above make this not really a daily drinker. With this one you need some down-time or follow it up with something else. One at a time is enough, and yes this makes it different from other examples of the 15yo I have tasted, so a succesful exercise in getting some batch variation. Not my favourite of the 15’s though.

Points: 84

Benrinnes 15yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L15P00535367, Circa 2001)

Long time no see! I took a month off, since a lot happened lately. First of all, a new job, which is nice, takes up a lot of time though, and the moments I did have left for writing reviews, were also spent differently than I initially expected. Apart from that, also The Whisky Show in London happened. Today, instead of reviewing something new from that show, I chose an oldie from my lectern.

Just like the Flora & Fauna Mortlach bottling I reviewed earlier, this is a bottle I brought with me to a gathering of my Whisky club, and as can happen when opening old bottles, the cork broke quite easily, crumbled to a pulp. You gotta love those corks now don’t you? Of all the Flora & Fauna bottlings, Mortlach, Dailuaine and this Benrinnes are the really Sherried ones (but there are more). Experience also shows us there is definitely some batch variation going on in the Flora & Fauna series. Here we have an oldie, supposedly bottled in 2001 (or 2002), so not a recent one, which might be entirely different.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry. Nice and earthy. Meaty, cold gravy. Thick aroma. Coal and steam. Is it already a sherried bottling from a different time than ours? How would a more recent example compare? This was distilled in the eighties, which was a different era compared to a Gordon & MacPhail Longmorn from 1971. So heavy on the Sherry. Thick and astringent. Dry and not as fruity as Longmorn. If you ask me, this compares more to the style of Glenfarclas, drier and not-so-fruity. Funky, tarry, musk, brown sugar, coffee creamer and definitely Vanilla. American oak. Still not a lot of fruit though. Hints of very ripe cherries mixed in with oak. Dry, dusty and quite spicy. Hints of cask toast including the smell of molten plastic. Meaty, cooked vegetables with more oak and spices. Hard to tell which spices though, although anise and cloves come to mind, as well as some crushed beetle (that’s not a spice isn’t it?). I can’t help but feel there are some older casks used for this particular expression. Good and interesting, but also a bit “strange”. A hint of soap (not of the perfumy kind) and mocha.

Taste: On entry, a brief light moment, almost like a underproof Whisky (which it is not). Soft, but luckily not “smooth”. It has wonderful raw edges and does show some bitter (and soapy) notes as well, which do work well. Fruitier than the nose, and already one that needs to breathe. Somewhat sweeter than expected, caramel but also the brown sugar I got from the nose, all in good measure though. Tar and plastic yes, cherries? yes as well, but that’s about it. Does it matter? No, since it is a different kind of Sherried Whisky. Lots of (sweet) licorice (and toffee) in stead, it almost tastes salty. Again, a very interesting and tasty experience. Wonderful body, but it sometimes falls apart a bit in the finish (depending on the moment). Finish isn’t as long as one would think, but still has enough length. Well, if it’s a problem, take another sip then. Tar and coal make up the aftertaste, and Sherry of course.

For me, another gem in the Flora & Fauna range. Especially looking at those earlier bottlings, there were quite a few more than wonderful examples there. Mortlach, Blair Athol, Rosebank, all excellent. Worth looking for. I really need to have a look at more recent bottlings in this range to compare them to the older ones…

People start to pay silly money for the Flora & Fauna Mortlach, and it doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s an older one or one of the last. Granted, they are very good, but really, this 2001 bottling of Benrinnes is equally as good!

Points: 88

Elements Eight Gold (40%, St. Lucia)

Elements Eight. Named after the eight elements needed for the production of (this) Rum: Terroir, Cane, Water, Fermentation, Distillation, Tropical Ageing, Filtration and Blending. Funny, since the base of this Rum are molasses from Guyana, which paints a somewhat different picture than the handpicked cane mentioned on the bottle. The Rum is marketed, no, Marketed with a capital M, by The Elements Eight Rum Company based in London, England which was founded in 2005 by Carl Stephenson and Andreas Redlefsen. Earlier, both have worked at J. Wray & Nephew. Remember Appleton from Jamaica? Right!

The Rum itself is produced at the St. Lucia Distillery, we know from Admiral Rodney, Chairman’s Reserve, 1931 or even the Plantation St. Lucia I reviewed earlier. Besides this Gold, there were three other Rums offered in the original line-up from 2006: Platinum, Spiced and Criollo Cacao. In 2016, after ten years the brand was completely revamped with four “new” expressions: Exotic Spices (aka Spiced), Vendôme (aka Gold), Platinum (aka Platinum, dûh) and Republica (new). The latter one a 5yo blend of one Rum from Cuba and one from Panama, so the Criollo Cacao got dropped, but might return at a later date. Apart from the Republica, the Rums are blended together from eight (although ten was the number mentioned on the old bottles) different Rums produced at the St. Lucia distillery, which has a John Dore double retort copper pot still for the heavy, flavourful components, depth and finish; a Vendome Kentucky Bourbon copper pot still, which gives the rather unique flavour profile and a steel columnar still for the lighter components (sentence stolen from Lance), apart from that, three different yeast strains were used for the production of these eight Rums. By the way, the oldest Rum used in this blend is 6yo, although marketing states that the whole was aged for 6 years. Luckily no sugar was added during production of this Rum, for a unadulturated experience.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Sugar cane. Fresh and clean. Mocha, milk chocolate with a nice wooden edge. Dusty. Vanilla powder and coffee creamer. With some air, more spicy, with notes of lavas (Maggi), black pepper and lots of dry grass. Cold tea. Tiny hint of fresh (unlit) cannabis and licorice. In a way, meaty. Pancake syrup and powdered sugar. Excellent nose. Dry, complex and with good balance. The nose develops nicely with air and time, and it develops over a long period of time. Warming with hints of sea breeze. Not a middle of Summer nose, but one for autumn, with wind and rain, the moment you understand summer is over…

Taste: Aiii, rather thin and definitely suffers from too much reduction. What a disappointment after the wonderful nose. Hints of toasted cask. A good bitter woody edge, with enormous staying power. Some caramel and toffee, but still not sweet. Almonds! The spices from the nose, finally show themselves, trying to save what can be saved. Well, when I let this stand for a while it definitely gets better than the initial disappointing sip. It really needs to stand around for a while. More complexity and definitely a bit industrial. Water based paint. Nice finish, with the bitterness forming tha mainstay of the aftertaste.

I do like St. Lucia Rums but this might not be on top of my list. If you let this breathe for a while it is able to show its heritage and the quality it must have had at a higher strength. Excellent example of a Rum that was reduced too much. Although this comes from the same distillery as the aforementioned Plantation, both couldn’t differ more. Having said that, there are some similarities too, and it is not hard to tell, when tasted blind, this is an offering from the island of Saint Lucia. This has a wonderful nose and taste-wise it starts weak but will grow on you,  if you let it. If you’re really patient with it, it will redeem itself. Interesting stuff and nice to see another example of this distillery. One that definitely grew on me.

Points: 85

 

Tres Hombres XV Años (42%, 2013, Dominican Republic)

Although Tres Hombres sounds very “Spanish” and the Rum hails from the Dominican Republic, this is a Dutch brand with a nice story behind it. Tres Hombres are three Dutch friends called Andreas, Jorne and Arjen who in 2007 started the world’s first emissions free shipping company. Today the company is called Fairtransport and has five ships in their fleet, one of which is called “Tres Hombres”. Apart from the ship and their nickname, Tres Hombres is obviously also a brand, put on Rum, coffee and chocolate. So when your cargo is shipped west, no ship returns empty. Sailing emissions free, the company also focusses on transporting special products which are organic, or crafted traditionally, like olive oil, Wine and Rum. When sailing back from the Caribbean, powered only by the wind, the journey takes a while and it is said that the Rum ages on the ocean, adding to the flavour.

This particular example, edition 05, from 2013, is a solera 15, so it is not a true 15yo Rum. The Rum is made by Oliver & Oliver. A company we already came across when reviewing Presidente 23 Años, also the Atlantico Reserva and Private Cask I reviewed earlier are sourced from Oliver & Oliver, this time for a Miami based brand owner. Even though Rums like this might be sweet, and you get duped a bit with the “age”statement, all examples mentioned were good for the style they represent.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Smells like a typical Rum. Warm with a promise of some vegetal dirty sweetness. Soft. All is here, wood and leather, but again soft and laid back. Vanilla powder, maybe even powdered coffee creamer. Virgin oak. After letting it sit for a while, the wood gets more assertive, and sharper, which I welcome very much, still underneath the feel of warm sugar-water. Now we also get some unlit cigarette tobacco and even a more spicy feel. A breath of fresh (sea?) air even. Dry leaves, wood and tea. Vegetal with tiny hints of latte macchiato, tea and hot chocolate. Very late in the mix some red fruits sweets. A nice Rum, yet overall it smells a bit simple, maybe less complex would be a better way to describe it. Likeable nevertheless.

Taste: On entry a bit thin. It isn’t thick nor cloying, which is good. I expected something different. Spicy oak. Vegetal again, but different from the nose. This time it’s autumn forest floor (on a sunny day, so without the damp and the rot). Cold tea with hints of chocolate powder. Hardly sweet, people! It drinks like the Epris I reviewed recently. With this I do not mean it resembles the Epris because it smells entirely different and the taste is quite different as well. It’s a different style altogether. I guess you need a bit more experience to wrap your head around the Epris. The Tres Hombres may lack complexity, and it’s not in your face, nor is it big (or sweet) like a Demerara or a funky Jamaican, but it is likeable, like a puppy is. Amazing. I love the way the soft wood presents itself here. Were the casks on deck, stewing in the sun?

When you pick up some experience along they way, I have to say this smells a (more than a) bit in the same line as the other Oliver & Oliver Rums I mentioned above. Tastewise however, this one does show that the people at Oliver & Oliver are perfectly capable in making (blending) different Rums. Lovely puppy, and puppies aren’t 15yo nor is this Rum.

Points: 84

Calvados Week – Day 7: de Querville Calvados Hors d’Age (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge, Circa 2008)

Logo Calvados WeekWell, what can I say, we’re in a flow now with the Vieux and the Vieille Réserve, so why not continue with the next de Querville in line, the Hors d’Age. Where the Vieux was 3yo, and the Vieille Réserve has a minimum of 4 years, this Hors d’Age was aged for a minimum of 6 years. So we get not only one year more, but a full two years more! I’ll bet you, lots of older distillates got thrown in for good measure as well. Again I expect a step up from both younger siblings, so by now I expect a lot!

de Querville Calvados Hors d’AgeColor: Gold.

Nose: Thick and syrupy, and even less fruity and upfront as the Vieux version of this. This definitely has some more age to it, and picked up some more Industrial notes along the way. Small hints of tar and toffee. Resembles a Sherried (Oloroso) Whisky. Again a dry Calvados. The Vieux smelled the part, but this is simply wonderful. Dry, spicy and dusty and full of elegant and polished wood. Old wood. Raisins and sugared and dry dark-skinned fruits. Excellent. Nice hidden note of black fruits. Not only a step up, but definitely a nose that delivers! Impressive.

Taste: Half sweet, waxy and up a notch in depth and darkness, compared to the Vieux and Vieille brothers/sisters. They all have the same style, which is dry and lets the wood shine through. The same amount of sweetness, but otherwise this is from a different planet altogether. First of all, I’m happy as can be, that after the stunning nose, tasting this does not disappoint. Nosing this particular example, you wouldn’t say this has anything to do with apples. tasting it, it seems to me as if the apples are there, but are more pear driven. This is absolutely stunning stuff. Amazing.

Maybe an ugly bottle and a label that looks like it was made in the middle ages, but boy-o-boy, what a wonderful drink is inside. I have to investigate de Querville some more, but this one and the previous two as well are very much recommended. The Vieux has youth and vibrancy, but not yet well matured. The Vieille Réserve is raising the bar a bit, but this Hors d’Age is a distinguished gentleman. Knowledgeable and smart. I can’s stop nosing this stuff it is utterly wonderful, and it puts many Whiskies to shame, even though it is a completely different distillate. Unbelievable, especially when you find out how inexpensive this is compared to Single Malt Whisky and other premium distillates of high quality.

And with this de Querville, our Calvados trip has come to an end, and what a wonderful trip it was. I don’t know about you but I (again) enjoyed myself thoroughly and have encountered some wonderful stuff. This won’t be the last of Calvados on these pages, because there is still a world of Calvados to discover, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Amazing how little information there is to find. It’s a hidden secret only the French seem to know about. I really like the stuff made by de Querville or Distillery du Houley, and these bottles are also made with a nice price stickered on them compared to many others. After these three de Quervilles, I didn’t have to go out for a loan to get the daddy of all the de Quervilles: “The Prestige”. A 18yo Calvados. High hopes I have for that one, high hopes. We’ll meet again…

Points: 88

Calvados Week – Day 6: de Querville Calvados Vieille Reserve (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge, Circa 2012)

Logo Calvados WeekI already liked yesterday’s Vieux very much, so I’m quite happy I can try it’s slightly older brother (or sister) as well. The Vieux is 3yo old, and this Vieille Réserve has a minimum age of 4yo. Not a big step, so with only a little more age to it, I expect it to be only a little bit better. Meaning, more mature, with even better balance and definitely more depth to it. Let’s compare…

de Querville Vieille ReserveColor: Almost gold.

Nose: Buttery with vanilla. Nice restrained apple aroma’s like the Toutain I reviewed earlier. Warm apples and cookie dough. Warm and cozy (unlike the Toutain I reviewed earlier). Underneath a quality you get from Grappa. A bit of hay (well, more than a bit actually, but its hidden in the plethora of other aroma’s) and dry grass. Not a freshly mown lawn though. Hints of warm gravy mixed with vanilla. Honey, almonds and sandalwood. A tiny spot of horse piss on hazelnuts and stained wood. What a combination. Like many Calvados’, this also needs a lot of air to develop, and when it does, it’s quite rewarding, giving more and more honey, and notes from White Wine. These distillates from de Querville do suit me. Extremely smooth when it gets some air. On the nose definitely a step up from the Vieux.

Taste: Half sweet and quite light at first, but it already starts to work in my mouth. Sugar water (in style), caramel and soft toffee, but more the creamy bits of it, than the sweetness. Apple compote and a tiny hint of pear. Hints of spicy wood, but not much of it. Paper dust and finally some apple skins.

Yes, this has some more added depth to it, so this has probably some older distillates mixed in than the mere 4yo mentioned. It may be only a year (officially), but for me this has definitely more of everything, Which one to pick depends on price I guess, but considering both are more than reasonably priced I would pick up this one. But both are good. By now, I think, I’ve gotten quite a taste for Calvados. Who would have known. Apple Brandy. Moi? Yes please!

Points: 84