Teaninich 2006/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, First Fill Sherry Hogsheads, AD/JFBG)

More than four years ago I wrote a review about another Teaninich from the Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range. That one was distilled in 1983 and bottled in 2003, so that one was bottled before this one was even distilled! Reading back I see the mindset I was in at the time. The first decade I was interested in Single Malt Whisky, I hardly ever bought something that was reduced with water to “drinking strength”. If I bought anything from an independent bottler, it was most certainly bottled at cask strength. Today I still very much like my whiskies at cask strength, but I don’t have a problem anymore buying something reduced, as long as they didn’t reduce it too much. Old malts, distilled in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s seem to have some power left in them, when bottled at 40% ABV, but more modern malts need a higher a ABV. 43% seemed a bit of a compromise, but the 46% we see today, is doing the trick for me. So, two weeks ago I caught myself red-handed with a bag of no less than four of Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice bottlings! Go figure. As I’m a fan of Teaninich, I hardly could wait opening this one, so finally I didn’t even manage to wait for 24 hours…

Teaninich 2006/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, First Fill Sherry Hogsheads, ADJFBG)Color: Reddish gold.

Nose: Waxy, fruity and with a nice toasted oak aroma as well. Biscuity and a warm smell of lovely barley and cereal. Right now I already want to stop smelling this, and have a sip, but I’ll wait. The toasted aroma becomes more complex since it turns a wee bit into coal and even boasts a slightly tarry note. A breath of fresh air comes next, laced with alcohol. Reminding me of high quality and ultra soft rye Vodka. Hey, give it a break, it’s a very young Whisky. Bread and toasted bread obviously. Grassy and still waxy. Waxy, red blushed, apple skins? Slightly floral notes mixed in with coffee-creamer. Somewhat sweet and a nice note of vanilla. Since these are Sherry hoggies, I’m guessing the hoggies were made from American Oak. This is only a 7 or 8 years old Whisky, so it shouldn’t be too complex, but you don’t hear me complaining. I understand what it is, and I think it is pretty impressive already, at this age. Well balanced and I guess the casks were pretty good as well. They will do just nicely as second fill casks.

Taste: Definitely starts with a Sherry note. First fill casks all right. I guess they bottled this rather quickly, since the Sherry already starts to dominate the Whisky. My guess would be a Sherry matured under flor. Initially sweet (but not for long, because some white pepper comes to the fore). Waxy again and notes of paper and not of wood, although the paper note seems to make way for a more bitter woody note eventually. A tad funky and slightly less balanced than the nose promised. More Sherry (& flor) wood, with even some slight soapy notes. Don’t worry. Even though this is bottled at 46% ABV., it doesn’t even seem that strong. Sure its fruity, but in a more sugared kind of way. Perfumed lemon curd. Hidden behind the waxy and soapy wood. Surprisingly, the finish isn’t very long, giving away its relative youth.

Let me warn you about the new Gordon & MacPhail packaging. I had an open-topped Whisky bag and the experienced salesman, shoved the metal lids into the cartons instead of leaving them on the cartons. I would have lost them otherwise. I tried this at home and he was absolutely right. Just grabbing the carton and the lid already pops off, weakening the structure, with a possibility of dropping the lot on the floor. This is the 21st century isn’t it? Sort it out people. And it’s not only Gordon & MacPhail. Signatory have tins of which the lid comes popping off as well. The folded cardboard stuff some Diageo bottlings come in, can spontaneously unfold under your arm when carrying slightly too much Whisky at a time. That way I saw a bottle of Talisker slowly disappear from under the firm grip of my armpit onto the welcoming tiled floor.

Points: 83

Glen Keith 21yo 1992/2014 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #120566 & #120569, 271 bottles)

Whereas most of the reviews written come from samples accumulated over many years, it doesn’t mean I don’t open any bottles, because I do. Just click on “Whisky from Master Quills Lectern” down below, and in an instant you can see which reviews were written about bottles I have, or had, in my collection. Bottles I believed were worthy of buying, very often without even tasting them. Glen Keith is no stranger on these pages, which is no surprise actually. I rather like my Glen Keiths, and Strathisla, it’s sister distillery. Both reside on the same premises. Pernod Ricard, the owners, aren’t doing very much with Glen Keith (yet), so it is a bit of a hidden treasure, only known to aficionados and connoisseurs (I hate those words). Strathisla’s sister-distillery has been featured already three times before on these pages. One stellar one from the sixties, just as good as the legendary Strathisla’s from that era. Two more were reviewed, both from the nineties: 1990 and even one from 1992, just like this one.

Glen Keith 21yo 1992/2014 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #120566 & #120569, 271 bottles)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Wonderfully creamy and appealing. Only one sniff suffices to let us know we’ll be enjoy this thoroughly. I can’t imagine anything smelling so nice being not enjoyable to taste. Bourbon barrels so yes, nice vanilla and creamy notes, as well as some tension from woody spices partly young wood. Milk chocolate. Next some nice florality emerges as opposed to fruity notes often found in ex-Bourbon barrels. Fresh, not roasted, nuts. Dusty and vibrant at the same time. Not only floral, but also some acidic fruitiness comes to the fore, just don’t smell it too vigorously, the cream overpowers it then and makes it smell sweet. Enough happening in this one, although it may not be the most complex stuff around.

Taste: Fruity and nutty. Almonds. Waxy and chewy. Delayed pepper. Again with nice chocolate sprinkled wood and just like the nose, it tastes sometimes sappy and young. As if new wood staves were added to a rebuilt barrel. This would be highly unlikely though. Sawdust as well. Plywood? People who read everything on Master Quill, know that I dislike not-so-well integrated acidity that lies on top. Abuelo 12yo comes to mind. This Whisky also has an acidic note that lies on top, only this time it works a bit. Amazing. Just like the nose, the Whisky doesn’t seem to be extremely complex. However, the body of the Whisky is so big, that it manages to deal with the acidic high note.

Sure, reduced Whisky is extremely drinkable, but Cask Strength delivers a punch, but also presents flavours to you on a silver platter. The finish has great length and lingers on, seemingly forever, in the aftertaste. Smells nice, tastes even better. Water enhances the nutty creaminess of the nose and at the same time downplaying the woody aromas, making it even bigger and creamier, but also less sophisticated. In the taste, the acidity is given a lager role to play, which in the end alters the balance of the Whisky, making it less balanced in fact. It also adds some complexity with chili pepper and some mint. The finish is more about milk chocolate than it was before adding water. So it might be fun to experiment a bit with water.

For me, something like this is a no brainer. Its more than 20 years old, came from nice active barrels, and gives you heaps of flavour, and a lot of alcohol to boot, so you can play around with it, adding some water with a pipette. If you can’t find this particular bottling, don’t hesitate buying one by another bottler, or one of it sister casks bottled by Signatory Vintage instead, I understand they are all good, and some even better! Some are still available, so what are you waiting for?

Points: 86

Flor de Caña Centenario 25 (40%, Nicaragua, 2013)

Sometimes I get lucky, and somebody steps forward and sends me samples of (potentially very good) Rums. Not from the industry, but from a fellow Rum-lover, just to read my opinion. Samples are welcome indeed, since I’m actually running a bit low on my stash of samples for reviewing, and there is only a certain amount of open bottles I can have around the house, and at the same time, maintaining a certain level of normality, or at least, faking normality towards the rest of the world. Well Rik, thank you very much indeed, so here is the first one!

Looking back at older posts, I already reviewed two expressions of Flor de Caña. The 12yo and the 18yo, so how fitting is it to get this 25 (yo). Both earlier reviews were written about Rums still in the old bottle. The labels back then mentioned the age of the Rum. 12 years and 18 years. Since 2014, the Flor de Caña range is bottled in new big, flat, and square bottles. However, this time they only have a number on them: “12” and “18”. The word “years” has vanished. On the company website, they mention that the 18 is almost two decades in the making. So still an 18yo? Do we smell a rat? We know about numbers without a true age statement from Solera Rum producers. No, they haven’t, haven’t they? No. Another surprise is the price. You can easily say that the 12 (yo) and the 18 (yo) are very reasonably priced. The 25 (yo) costs the same as two bottles of the 18 (yo) ánd a bottle of the 12 (yo). It was always said that Flor de Caña ages their Rums for the full amount of time, as mentioned on the bottle, although I remember a 21, that actually was 15 years old and the 21 referred to the century we live in. For now, lets give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Or shouldn’t we? Early 2015 saw a report by Nina Lakhany, and near the end of 2015, a report by Clarissa Wei, showing that it is not healthy to work for the Nicaraguan Sugar and Rum industry. During the harvest season, the La Isla Foundation held a survey under workers from Chichigalpa showing workdays of 12 hours under extremely hot conditions, without proper hydration and time to recuperate. Workers are poor and are paid per tonne cut, so they work as much as they can to provide for their families under abysmal conditions. A study performed by the Boston University, following workers in Chichigalpa, shows that alarming numbers of planters and cutters are dying of Chronic Kidney Disease from nonTraditional causes (CKDnT). As a response, many bars started boycotting Flor de Caña products.

I urge you, dear reader, to click on the links above and read the corresponding articles, for you to see the dark side of Rum making.

Flor de Caña 25If you still are interested, here is the review of what turns out to be a very good Rum, alas made with blood…

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Yeah funky with a dry, spicy and woody backbone. Very chewy smelling and high on esters. Isn’t this Jamaican? Definitely well-integrated banana, coconut, vanilla and a whiff of lavas, dried salty vegetal mix and mint. Slightly burned (brown) sugar and fresh, slightly moist brown sugar. The sugar seems to be attached to the wood aroma. Nice. Love this smell. These brown sugar notes combined with the wood notes make it an absolute dream to smell. If this tastes anything like it smells, this will be an amazing Rum. Nutty and waxy. If smelled blind I would have never thought this was a Flor de Caña, especially with the experience of the old 12yo and 18yo behind my belt. Give it some time to breathe, and this will give off some fruity and floral notes as well. Wonderful. Well balanced and well made.

Taste: Sugary, but not overly sweet. A bit thin on entry, although the mouthfeel is syrupy. The way down takes some time and there are some wonderful burnt notes emerging. It has hints of burnt spicy wood, cask toast, maybe even some charcoal and tar. The spicy and peppery wood note stays with you throughout the whole of the body. Burnt sugar as well, but the amazing part is how toned down these notes are. Nothing overpowering, just well blended together. Not to sweet too. Nutty and again some hints of banana and sugared yellow fruits, but again so well-integrated, that the point this Rum tries to make isn’t about fruitiness. By the way, I don’t get the florality from the nose here. There are definitely some old Rums in the mix, but I doesn’t taste like everything is 25 years old. Medium long finish, but not a lot stays behind for the aftertaste. Sure, the nose is stellar, but the taste isn’t far behind. Marginally weaker and simpler, but still very good, even when reduced to 40% ABV.

I wasn’t blown away by the old 12yo mentioning that is was “not for me” and luckily, the old 18yo was already a bit better “Pretty light yet well-balanced”. More than a year and a half have passed since writing the review of the 18yo, and more than three and a half years since writing about the 12yo. A lot of Rum has flowed under the bridge since then and a lot of experience gained, I hope.

At this price-point, this should have been higher in ABV. I feel it is a direct competitor to the Abuelo Centuria, which is even a bit higher in price. Yes, the jump from the 18yo to this 25 is quite big, mind the gap, but compared to the competition, the price may not even be that bad. All things considered, this should have been way more expensive than it is… Don’t buy it…

Points: 90

Heartfelt thanks go out to Rik, for providing this and several other samples soon to be reviewed on these pages. Cheers mate!

Glenfiddich 21yo “Havana Reserve” (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

And here we have an old, and somewhat controversial, Glenfiddich that was totally matured in boxes that once held cigars. Oops, I mean, casks that once held Cuban Rum. Cuban Rums is a light Spanish style Rum which doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot of aroma. Rum casks weren’t used much for finishing Whisky, and even today distillers and bottlers tend to prefer the obvious Bourbon and Sherry casks. Especially today, other casks are used as well, from fortified wines like Port and Madeira and red and white, sweet and dry Wines. So a Rum cask you say? Yes, we have had more of those on these pages. A fairly recent Benriach comes to mind, to name but one. Controversial? Yes. Problems arose when Whisky like this was sent to the US of A. They still had an Cuban Embargo, so more cigars for us, as can be read on these pages as well, oops I slipped up again. There still was an Cuban Embargo back then, so no Whisky with the word “Havana” on the label was allowed into the country.

Glenfiddich and The Balvenie have the same owners, William Grant & Sons. Yup, those from Hendrick’s Gin as well. Bad boys down there! Bad boys since they also decided to sue our beloved New Zealand Whisky Company for blatantly stealing the “Double Wood” words and misguiding the poor public, who now must believe that Balvenie Double Wood is the same as the NZWC’s Doublewood, and New Zealand is somewhere in the Speyside region…

William Grant was looking for the perfect Rum casks for their Glenfiddich and considered casks that once held Rums from Venezuela (Spanish style), Guyana (Demerara Rum a heavy English style Rum) and some others. Finally Rum from Sancti Spiritus was chosen to fill up the casks for two years, After two years the Rum was replaced with Whisky for a six month finish.

If I’m not mistaken, the first release was called Havana Reserve and the second was called Gran Reserva. Rumour has it, that for this second release the same casks were re-used, thus explaining reports of the Gran Reserva being lighter than the initial release. A third version was released. Just to be absolutely sure, this Whisky was not finished in Cuban Rum casks, but in casks that once held Dominican Rum. The label now mentions Carribean Rum finish in stead of Cuban Rum finish. Later, subsequent batches simply were called Rum cask finish, so absolutely nothing could be misunderstood and when changing Rums the label can stay the same.

Glenfiddich 21yo Havana ReserveColor: Full gold.

Nose: Very aromatic. Creamy, toffee, nutty, thick and chewy. Next a floral layer which at times is quite perfumy, with great earthy undertones (given by the Rum cask). Vanilla and restrained wood. Half dried grass is noticeable, but covered under a thick semi-sweet layer of aromatics. Fruity, baked banana and dried sweet apricot. In the distance there is even a hint of licorice. But the Rum, is the Rum noticeable? Yes If you know the style of Rum the Cubans make, and you know this Whisky is finished in Cuban Rum cask, than yes, its noticeable, otherwise you must have some experience in tasting to smell and taste it. The Rum upped the aromatics and the chewyness a bit, as well as the sweetness. Great nose.

Taste: Sweet with lots of toffee. Earthy and “green”. Broken off branch and fresh tree sap. The baked banana returns. It’s a big Malt. It is overwhelming in fruit and floral notes. Has some bitter wood and slightly burned edges to it. Wood obviously. Oak, fresh oak and even some pencil. The body of the Whisky already shows it will not be as complex as the nose. However the biggest problem, relatively speaking of course, is the partial disintegration towards the finish. It’s like a band just before breaking up. Some aroma’s don’t want to work with each other anymore, and get separated from each other. Still in the fold though, but more apart. Underneath the woody bitter note and on top some acidity. Short finish, which surprised me since it’s a bigger Glenfiddich than usual, and this has aged for a whopping 21 years, you know. Not a lot happening in the aftertaste. So on entry I was quite happy with the performance of the 40% ABV. but the finish needed some more.

This is a beauty. Excellent smelling Glenfiddich. Tastewise, well, not at the same level of greatness as the nose, then again, it was (since it was bottled some time ago, and since has been discontinued) a mass-produced Whisky aiming at the public already gained by the rest of the Glenfiddich bottlings, without scaring them away. With this in mind, they did what they could, to keep this public and at the same time be a bit more adventurous.

Points: 84

The New Zealand Whisky Collection 18yo 1993/2012 (51.9%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, Cask #21)

After one blend and three reduced bottlings from their standard range, here is finally the first example of an “untouched” New Zealand Whisky. A 1993 expression bottled at cask strength and from single cask #21. That’s more like it. This way we can finally find out what the distiller intended. How did the spirit interact with the wood from the cask. No information about the cask itself has been given so we aren’t handicapped with information this time, and can just dig in…

The New Zealand Whisky Collection 18yo 19932012 (51.9%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, Cask #21)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fruity and dusty, carried with an undertone of fresh wood. I would say this came from a Bourbon cask. Not hard to tell since the wood impaired quite a lot of vanilla-flavours. One with green fingers too, since it has more traits from the kingdom of plants, than the wood alone. It’s easy to admit, this one is driven by wood. Even the spices are wood related, and what about the whiff of pencil-shavings and the aroma of freshly broken off twig? Does this mean this one is dominated by wood? Not at all. The wood gave of various elements of itself, without overpowering it. All in good measure. It has a promise of sweetness (toffee) and the big wood-vanilla synergy makes this a fruity and creamy nose with some backbone and character given by the wood. Slightly oriental (Indian) and floral. Restrained, elegant and wonderful.

Taste: Nice spicy, prickly and woody entry. It starts out with fresh oak and a quite big, nice vegetal sweetness. Tiny hint of bitterness. Right from the start it is obvious this one is carried by the cask strength. Good this wasn’t reduced. It doesn’t seem to have as many woody traits as the nose. Definitely simpler in design than the nose. The fruity bit I taste is a bit peculiar. To me it seems, the mixture of yellow and red fruits don’t combine perfectly here. More cereals and bread tones towards the end. The finish is shorter than expected and it’s the grainy, bread-like and slightly bitter bit that has the biggest influence on the finish.

The strength of this malt is the wonderful nose, as well as well on entry in the mouth. From there it goes a bit downhill. The body sort of disintegrated in my mouth and although the cask strength is noticeable, it doesn’t carry the aroma’s into the finish in a big way. This is a Malt that needs to be tasted, taking big sips. Good stuff nevertheless, easy drinking Whisky, but probably not the best single cask bottled by the NZWC. We’ll see because I have two more hidden away somewhere.

Points: 85

Hendrick’s Gin (41,4%, OB, Scotland)

Earlier I reviewed two very good Gins: Hven and Dutch Courage (the aged version). Both are very nice spirits, good enough for sipping. For me however, I already have lots of other spirits lying around the house which are even better for sipping than your average Gin, so for me, Gin is a spirit to do something with. Call me boring, but the best way to do something with Gin is to partner it up with a good Tonic. Many people can tell you how to make a nice Gin & Tonic, so I won’t do that here. Since I’m a taster of spirits, that is what I do. I taste the Gins on these pages neat, but I hope to put something down as well how a particular Gin behaves with a good Tonic. When I do that I’ll use a big balloon copita and very big spheres of ice or chunks of frozen spring water. For review purposes I do not add any garnish, but when you make your own G&T, please do to enhance the experience.

Hendrick’s is a Scottish Gin produced since 1999 in small 450 litre batches by William Grant & Sons. Whisky-people know them better as the people behind Glenfiddich and the Balvenie Single Malts. In the 60’s Charles Gordon, at that time the president of William Grant & Sons, bought a Carter-head still and a Bennett still (a small pot still) at an auction. Both were restored and put back into service for the production of Hendrick’s Gin. Both stills are producing a different Gin which are later blended together. Part of the botanicals used are macerated and subsequently distilled in the Bennett still with neutral spirit and water. The rest of the botanicals are put into a copper basket that hangs well above the spirit in the Carter-Head still, extracting the more sweet floral and elegant aroma’s by the rising vapour. Finally essences of Cucumber (from the Netherlands and Belgium) and Red Roses (from Bulgaria) are added to the blend of Gins, post distillation. The botanicals used in distillation are: Juniper, cubeb aka tailed pepper, caraway seeds, camomile, elderflower, meadowsweet, yarrow, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, orris root, and angelica.

Hendrick's GinColor: Colorless.

Nose: Juniper obviously, but also quite some toned-down citrus in the mix. All of this is aided by a rather sweet and very appealing floral aroma. Elderflower and meadowsweet for sure. It is said Bulgarian Rose and Cucumbers are the main markers for this Gin (I am assuming this, since they get mentioned a lot). I eat many cucumbers and I recognize the smell of cucumbers a mile away. Here I don’t get it (yet). I’m sure it’s there, but it is drowned out by the other, much stronger aroma’s. Same goes for the Bulgarian Rose. Although faintly present, it smells a bit more like marketing to me. Do Bulgarian roses smell better than other roses anyway? If mentioned so often, why does the Gin smell of juniper, elderflower and meadowsweet instead of the aforementioned rose and cucumber? Hmmm, maybe that’s why they ask you to garnish it with cucumber, to make it noticeable. Let’s not get carried away now, since the beauty lies in the details, even I should know that! Some whiffs of spicier ingredients pass by. Pepper and a more earthier and rootier smell. Sweet camomile is there too. It is no surprise. Hendrick’s is a wonderful smelling Gin. Well balanced and very appealing.

Taste: Quite spicy, cumin for sure. Oily and nice. Sweet and earthy. Coriander is definitely here, but used with taste. It’s the “hint of” I expected from the cucumber, but it is from the coriander instead. I usually don’t care too much for coriander, but here it does seem to work rather well. Luckily some other, very pleasant, floral, botanicals overpower it. This is quite a surprise. It packs quite an aromatic punch, but also the sweet florality is easily detected. Yes we have some rose-water in the taste. The cucumber however, absent for me. As I said cucumber is very common to me, but I can’t detect it. Maybe something wrong with me these days? It has some sweet barley and aroma’s of dry biscuits. The different tastes work together well, nothing really stands out making for a well-balanced big uniform taste. Subtle (the Zuidam and the Hven are bigger Gins).

Combine with a neutral Tonic like Fever Tree and maybe even more exiting, the aromatic Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic works quite well since the floral part played by the geranium is a nice match with the Bulgarian Rose from the Gin.

Points: 79 (yup high score again)

Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, 2003)

Another peated whisky in the summer? Has Master Quill gone completely crazy? Yes, because who wants to be “normal”! If you feel like it, just do it… By the way, it’s raining like crazy outside, so it only seems fitting.

2001 saw the first release of a 10 year old, with a vintage. Remember the classic brown paper Longrow label on the tall bottle? The first two releases, both in 2001 and both distilled in 1991 were a “normal one” said to be only from Bourbon, but also, for one time only, a Sherrywood. The series was short-lived, and was discontinued in 2006 after the 1996 vintage, in favour of the 10yo without a vintage statement. Throughout the series I don’t believe all normal ones were from Bourbon casks only, if any. You know Springbank, they tend not to repeat themselves. Just compare the last two releases of the Longrow 18yo (with the white labels), since the 2016 release contains Rum casks. Never a dull moment with Springbank and all of their other brands. Today we’ll have a look at the 1993 vintage of the 10yo, that was released in 2003.

Longrow 10yo 1993Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat. Fatty and smoky. The peat is smelling three-dimensional. It’s not only just there, it goes deep, and seems without end in complexity. Peat mixed with hints of lemon, waxy apple skins and vanilla. Cookie dough. Whiffs of warm apple pie. Burning leaves, sugared yellow fruits and even hints of sweet-smelling sweat, crushed beetle and slightly burned herbs and even has a quaint nuttiness about it. Very balanced stuff, with only a mere hint of wood. All seems to fit in together nicely. This is the best peat I’ve smelled in quite some time. I must admit, it had plenty of air to work with. Love it.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Heavy on licorice and the peat is shoved into the background, by the sweetness. The sweetness dissipates and leaves more room for a sort of herbal fruitiness. Prickly licorice and the nuttiness from the nose. Alas the peat never really makes it to the top and the wonderful depth it has on the nose doesn’t really blossom tasting it. Long finish, built around the caramel sweetness and with a larger role for sour oak. Coffee and chocolate in the aftertaste. It still is a wonderful Malt. Just if the complexity of the nose would have shone through in the taste, it would have been a truly exceptional Whisky.

Well this might not be a Whisky from the seventies, but it does remind me of the quality of that decade. I’m actually amazed a bit that many of the vintages are still available, although somewhat more expensive than the new 10yo.

Points: 88