Hampden Estate Overproof (60%, OB, LM191, Jamaica)

What can we say about Hampden Estate. First of all, I don’t want to be a completist here and write down a full-blown history. On one hand there is much better information online than I can write down here by myself, and on the other hand, there actually is also not a lot to be found. There are a few great sources for information, but there is still way less information available on Rum than there is on Whisky. Much less. If you have some time then Matt’s visit of Hampden is an excellent read.

Hampden started out somewhere in the 18th century already, and the distillery today still operates more or less in the same way today. Old skool. The first mention of Hampden was in 1684. However, Hampden’s own website starts history in 1753 (as a sugar plantation), but no clear year is mentioned for the start of Hampden as a Rum distillery, only 1779 is coupled with Hampden Great House where the ground floor was a Rum store. What we do know is that somewhere Hampden started distilling Rum, as did many sugar plantations, when exports of sugar from sugarcane started dwindling, when in Europe sugar was made from sugar beets in stead of cane. What we also know is that Hampden, after all there years, still looks more or less unchanged, and looking at Matt’s pictures, steam-punk comes to mind as well as the pictures from fans of abandoned places. Time definitely stood still here big time.

Hampden is also known for its Jamaican funk, and of all the Jamaican funk that can be had, Hampden is probably the mother of Jamaican funk. The funk is partially there because of a very long fermentation, somewhere between 8 and 15 days, fermentation with wild yeasts that just come flying in with the wind. No yeast is added. Also, Hampden produces a sugar cane vinegar (muck) that is added during the fermentation, helping the funky aroma along. Hampden currently has four stills they call the heart of the distillery, and rightly so, but I guess that is true for most, of not all, distilleries: A 1960 John Dore (7.560 litres) from Forsyths, Scotland, a 1994 Vendome from Kentucky (18.900 litres), a 2010 Forsyth still (18.900 litres) and the most recent addition is a Pot still made by T&T from South Africa (18.900 litres). All stills are heated with coils on the inside.

Hampden’s core range consists of Hampden 46 (8 years of tropical ageing) and Hampden 60 (or Overproof, 7yo and older, a mix of different marks). I have yet to try the 46% ABV. I never got around to it because, up ’till now, I always believed it is the reduced version of the Overproof, but that might not be true. The Hampden I’m about to try must be one of the early bottles, where the front label mentions 8yo and the back label 7 yo, whereas newer versions have a more prominent 8 on the front label. To add to the confusion. The website mentions 7 years again. However I still believe the 46% is nothing more than the reduced version of the Overproof.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Big, fatty, sweet and nutty. Fruity with bath/shower cosmetics florality. No, you cannot even call this big, no, this has an humongous aroma, so high level of esters indeed. Fruity and fresh. Acidic and lively. Fatty nuts, almonds. High ester Rums like this are used for their aroma’s for baking and yes, that’s where you know this aroma from. After the initial wave of bigness passes, a little bit of wood starts to become noticeable, grows bigger over time and is here to stay. Some oak and some pencil shavings and an indistinct herbal quality, as well as a tiny hint of car exhaust. It is remarkable how the big, fatty and syrupy start does move back to leave some room for more astringent notes like the woody notes. It doesn’t even carry this promise for a sweet toffee’d Rum any more. I have to say excellent balance after some air. A sort of instant classic. Unique. A must-have.

Taste: Where the wood is somewhat laid back in the nose, it is most definitely present here on the palate. The wood opens the ball. Modern wood, but that probably won’t make any sense to you. hint of plastics, otherwise it smells of tropical ageing, you just sense the heat that surrounded the cask. Acidic. Big fruit and quite a lot of fresh acidity as well, with this underlying woody backbone. Acidity bordering on very, very (over)ripe fruit, the pre-rot phase almost. The wood becomes more dark chocolaty in style, and more spicy. Less herbal though, but more leathery in stead. Wood and ear wax. In fact the ear-wax was here right from the beginning, just in the plethora of things I didn’t recognize it immediately. The bitterness moves forward now, especially noticeable in the back of your mouth. The wood is upfront but luckily, in this case, its not over the top bitter. At this point, the pencil shaving note on the note grows stronger. On the palate it shows some similarities with Demerara Rum and a specific Port Mourant comes to mind. This is not something I get all the time. When trying this late at night, with a tired and fulfilled palate, the Demerara association isn’t there. So this has some bitterness and it certainly shows wood which now picks up a slight soapiness, reminding me of the bath/shower cosmetics from the nose. The aftertaste is long and warming with a key role for the woody bitterness, but again, it is kept in check sufficiently not to bother you.

For me this is a good Rum with a good ABV, sold at a very fair (good) price and with good availability as well. In hindsight it also has a remarkable simplicity uncommon for a high ester Rum. This is the overproof version and I hear some good stories about the reduced versions as well. I may have to look into those as well, since by now there are some more expressions to choose from than the 46% ABV version alone. Hampden LROK, and Hampden LROK the younger, both bottled at 47% ABV have become available just recently. LROK is a mark given by Hampden. LROK stands for Light Rum Owen Kelly and by this, it tells you that is has 250-350 g/hlaa of esters. By the way, this Overproof version is made with several marks: OWH (Outram Warmold Hussey, 40-80 g/hlaa), LROK and DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly, 1500-1600 g/hlaa). I don’t think a lot of DOK went into this blend to be honest. More about “Mark and Ester” in the next Hampden review.

Points: 88

The empty glass, the next day, smells of warm electrical cable and the dusty insides of an old transistor radio. How odd…

Savanna 15yo 2004/2019 (62.8%, Rum Nation, Rare Rums, 2nd Fill Cognac Cask #59, 402 bottles, Réunion)

So the yet another strange year has passed (2021), a year Master Quill did a lot of Whisky yet finished off with a Rhum Traditionelle (distilled from Molasses) most likely from Savanna. Today it’s 2022, so why not pick up where we left off with yet another Rhum Traditionelle from the same outfit, but this time Savanna has been mentioned on the label.

This offering was released in Rum Nations’ Rare Rhum series, with nice and classy white labels. The websites Rum Nation keeps up, are quite good and informative. Just have a look at the page for this Rhum particularly. Reading all the info about this Rhum some additional facts becomes apparent to us consumers, like this is in fact a 13yo Rhum, since the Rhum only aged in wood for 13 years (in the tropics). The Rhum spent its final 2 years in Stainless steel tanks (in Europe). In the introduction it is also mentioned this comes from Cognac casks (plural), yet the label mentions one cask #59. So the more information one gets the more questions arise… Well let’s not dwell too long about the facts ma’am and shift focus towards the Rhum at hand.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Sweetish, with warm toffee and caramel. Intense, oozing with perfumed aromatics. Quite fruity as well, with dry notes as well. Dusty and somewhat oaky. Cold black tea. Dried red fruit. Goji berries. Even though this is clearly a Savanna, like the previous reviewed Rhum, this also has some similarities to the Rhums Traditionnelle from Rivière du Mât, maybe that is the (volcanic) influence of the island? The Rhum smells extremely balanced and appetizing, but not all that complex to be honest. When this gets some time to breathe it also becomes more and more “friendly” and less intense, less of a heavy hitter. When snorted vigorously, some green spices emerge (reluctantly). Dried parsley? Hard to tell actually. More sugared black tea and somewhat nutty as well. Fragrant.

Taste: Yeah, big. Very nutty. Edible charcoal and nuts. Initially sweet but when that coating descends down the hole, quite a lot of wonderful chewy wood and heat come forward. Yup, more toffee. Tropical ageing all right! Sweet, nutty, hints of toasted oak and some smoke from a distant laid back smoke lying in the grass. The wood influence is quite big, and may not be for everyone, it isn’t all that disturbing to me. It deals with the sweetness in a wonderful way, but yes some might say this has aged too long, probably why this was transferred into stainless steel. Having tasted it now, the nose get even better than it already was. Dark chocolate, peppery, white pepper, herbal and with some good velvety bitters. More ashes and toasted oak. I like the oaky bitters in this Rhum. It suits it well. I’m tasting this from a sample, so I don’t have a back label at hand, but it should make the statement that this is an austere Rhum for connoisseurs who don’t like excessive sweetness. It did so on the back label of the previous Rhum I reviewed.

Since I still have a tiny amount left of the Réunion Cask Strength 7yo, and since it just has to be another Savanna, lets just compare the two. The 7yo is definitely lighter, friendlier and has a somewhat more industrial plastic smell in the nose, close to a more children’s clay smell. Many similarities, but in a toned down fashion, yet more of the fruity and sweet black tea notes. This 15yo just has more of everything (a lot of wood especially). On the palate the similarities don’t end, the 7yo is lacking most of the wood, but it also does show you how the 15yo was before most, yet not all, of the wood influence. The 7yo seems simple compared to the 15yo, but its worth the price of admission and the score I gave it earlier. So if you are having it, just don’t have it after the 15yo, that “wood” make no sense. Catch my driftwood? The 15yo is just a lot bigger, more mature and more sophisticated than the 7yo is, and has a lot more wood influence, but I believe you already got that if you made it this far down the review…

Summa sumarum: this Cask #59 is just a great Savanna.

Points: 89

Merci beaucoup Auke for the sample!

Réunion Cask Strength 7yo (60.5%, Rum Nation, Cask Strength, Rhum Traditionelle, 3.000 bottles, 2018, Réunion)

This is not the first Rum from Rum Nation on these pages and not even the first Rhum from Ile de la Réunion. Earlier I reviewed a Rhum from Rivière du Mât and I thought that one was nothing short of amazing, even though it was a reduced to a measly 42% ABV. Rivière du Mât isn’t even the most popular distillery from the Island, that honorary mention goes to Savanna, and then especially to the Rhum Agricoles Savanna produces. Savanna distillery was founded in 1870 in Saint Paul on the north west corner of the island and supposedly made Rhums based on molasses only. Fast forward many years. Since 1964 the distillery runs a continuous still. In 1992 the distillery moved to Bois-Rouge on the north eastern corner of the island, by today’s standard, some 50 kilometres by car. Today the distillery makes Rhum Agricoles, for which it is now mostly known, as well as Rhum Traditionelle (molasses based), some of the Rhums are of the high ester kind.

The Cask Strength series is a somewhat recent addition to the Rum Nation portfolio. The first Rum released in this series is actually this 7yo rum from Réunion, probably distilled at Savanna, and matured in ex-Cognac casks. Savanna uses a lot of ex-Cognac casks, because may of the official releases have been matured in Cognac casks as well. After this, examples from Jamaica and Guyana were also released.

Color: Orange Gold.

Nose: Fruity and creamy. Fresh (air) with toffee and caramel. Slightly funky and somewhat sweet smelling. Lightly waxed. Sweet White Wine, mocha, licorice and leather. Some dust on rainwater. Definitely has some traits from Rhum Agricole. The nose reminds me of J.M Agricoles. More J.M than, lets say, Rivière du Mât (Rhum Traditionelle). Initially some sweet citrus bathroom cleaner, soft chlorine and ozone from a pool or jacuzzi. These aroma’s are short lived, and are gone soon, never to return again (unless you pour yourself another one). Black tea with lemon. Hints of cookie dough, moist brown sugar, wood and sweet mint candy. Malty and biscuity, and thus some very soft oak. A whiff of fresh air, yet also spicy, a mix of many dried kitchen spices, yet also some cinnamon and hints of toasted oak (soft). Some unripe banana and also the brown bits of a banana skin and some aroma’s of overripe, almost rotting yellow fruits. Don’t worry, the Rhum still smells quite nice and is nicely balanced as well. Rum Nation also bottles quite a lot of Cask Strength Savanna’s, and I have one here to compare it with. Based on the smell of both, it is safe to assume this 7yo is a Savanna as well, nevertheless, one can be never entirely sure (please read on). By the way, the day after, the empty glass smells just wonderful. Very fruity and with hints of the fireplace at Christmas, or a nice bonfire. Love it!

Taste: Big and still sweet, although the back label mentions this is “for connoisseurs that don’t like excessive sweetness“, it is sweet but not excessively so. This sweetness is balanced out with quite some spicy wood, and toasted wood as well. Distant pine anyone? Quite hot going down. Brown sugar and candied cinnamon mixed with cola notes for freshness or zest. Very tasty. Well balanced stuff of high quality. Now for an interesting remark. Where the smell is all Savanna, there are some notes in the taste that do remind me a bit of Rivière du Mât (also from the Island of Réunion). An industrial, fatty, motor oil aroma. Crushed almonds with some woody bitterness mixed with brown sugar. I’m still convinced this is a Savanna, the smell is there and since Rum Nation has many other Savanna’s in their portfolio it is simply highly likely, but as said above, one can never be sure. Even though this is bottled @ 60.5% ABV, it isn’t hot all the time, like many other high strength R(h)ums. Licorice and Cognac, (really?), in the finish, as well as some wood. The aftertaste shows even some more wood accompanied by its bitterness. The Casks used must have been quite active or caught a lot of sunshine.

I say, high quality, big and very tasty. Lance mentions in his review: “It’s very much like the new wave of Jamaican rums now making such big waves – Hampden and Worthy Park in particular, because this presses many of the same buttons“. This is my sentiment exactly. It presses the same buttons without even being really close to those in smell nor taste. Its big and estery and bottling this @ 60.5% ABV helps the Rhum come across big time. Since this has been bottled in Rum Nation’s Cask Strength series, only mentioning it is a 7yo hailing from Réunion, thus calling it an entry level Rhum, (yeah right), this therefore also damn affordable. Heartily recommended and definitely not for novices to R(h)um. If you are just that, you should by it all the same, but do not open it just yet.

Points: 87

Talisker 8yo (57.9%, OB, Special Release, Carribean Rum Cask Finish, 2020)

Talisker is no stranger on these pages, and this 8yo is already the fifteenth Talisker reviewed, and why not, I ask you. Talisker has a lot going for it. It is an excellent distillate, has some peat, although not as much as some others on the market, and has a distinct and maybe unique feature, it is often considered to be peppery. A lot of wonderful aroma’s can converge in a Talisker. Works well in both Bourbon and Sherry, and the core range 10yo is already a very good Whisky. One other distillery manages to tick all these boxes save one. The distillery’s name is Springbank and the box not ticked is the box for pepper, I did say it was an unique feature, didn’t I?

In 2018 the first 8yo was released in Diageo’s annual special releases series. That “first” 8yo, was a very good one, and I remember back then, (and this is not that long ago), the talk of the town were the plethora of NAS releases (in general). At the time, there were many Talisker NAS bottles released as well. This 8yo was so good, a lower number like 8 suddenly became acceptable again, and the public always seem to prefer an age statement, so better a low number than none at all. I guess this took Diageo a bit by surprise, who knows, because there wasn’t an 8yo released in 2019. In 2020 this Caribbean Rum version saw the light of day (rushed maybe?) and earlier this year, another 8yo was released, from the smokiest stock they could find. Looks like the 8yo is here to stay. We’ll see what next year brings.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Initially milky and young. Tasted blind, I would have guessed this was a Lagavulin, since it has some similarities with the 8yo and the 10yo, similarities, which, I didn’t like by the way. I really, really like Lagavulin, never came ‘cross one that was sub par. So when coming across the 8yo and the 10yo, it felt a bit like a sell-out by Diageo, and I was overly disappointed, damn, I didn’t think they would stoop so low as to mess with the ‘vulin. But I digress, back to the Talisker at hand. Sweet tea leaves (wet), rain water and dead dry leaves on the street in autumn. It shows more (quite nice) wood spices when the initial milky component wears off a bit. Spicy, with mild sulfury organics, sweet mint and orange powder. Smells of a distant wood fire whilst walking on a snowy street at night (by yourself). This bit is great. When drinking this Whisky casually, I have a hard time to find any notes of Rum, both in the nose and in the taste. I do now, but for me they are more similar to a Rhum Agricole than the Caribbean Rum that is stated on the label, and by the way, Caribbean Rum, that isn’t really narrowing it down now doesn’t it? So Rum yes, but there isn’t a lot of it though. I feel all the alien notes this Talisker shows us, maybe aren’t even coming from the Rum casks at all, but they probably are. Diluted smoky toffee notes and hints of Brazilian Rum (Epris 15yo). At times sharp. The wood turns towards, toffee, coffee, mocha and pencil shavings. This will improve a lot with air, so give it time, but if you pour yourself another dram, the whole experience starts anew, including the wait for the nose to improve. Recognizable as a Talisker though. Apart from the wonky start the nose is all-right.

Taste: Starts with coarse alcohol, like Wodka, right from the start, not balanced. Paper and cardboard and some residual (barley) sweetness. Not much later the wood and all the lovely aroma’s from American oak kick in, as well as a peppery attack, yes, there it is. The aroma’s are there but the balance still struggles, like its missing a component. The wood also impaired a healthy amount of bitterness onto this Whisky, but since this Whisky also has a bit of sweetness, the bitterness is kept in check. The bitter notes take residence right on the very back of your tongue. Smoky and thus a peppery attack as well, so it’s still a Talisker after all. Fresh almonds, wood and latex paint. Come to think of it, this one isn’t really all that complex. The body of the work is good, the ending a bit less, so the finish shows the unbalance again, and the aftertaste does so as well, and shows us again the bitter notes this has.

First piece of advice. Pour this dram and put it away, let the air do its job first, because the first aroma’s that escape from your glass are too close to new make spirit. And after a long wait the whole experience is much better. The nose improves a lot and therefore the taste is helped along. In the end it is an interesting Talisker, no regrets opening it and it wasn’t a nasty chore to finish it as well (not empty just yet, but it will be soon). I won’t be opening a second bottle anytime soon though. Buy the 2018 version in stead, and well see about the 2021 edition in the (near) future.

Points: 85

Glenfarclas 15yo (52.1%, OB, Limited Edition for The Netherlands, 50% Refill & 50% First Fill Oloroso Casks, 1.800 bottles, 2020)

In 2015, I wrote a review about the core range 15yo (from 2006), and even with 83 points being a half-decent score, it also means it didn’t really blew me away back then. But, as is often the case with core range bottlings, there is a possibility of batch variation. Most distilleries try to replicate a certain profile and they usually succeed. Understandable because the bulk of those bottles are sold to people who like consistency, because they buy the same expression over and over again because that’s the one they like. Lets mention Talisker 10yo as an example of this consistency, although this 10yo exists for quite a while now and a shift in profile as times passes is inevitable, however, the quality seems consistent. Some distilleries are less proficient. Highland Park 18yo comes to mind showing a lot of variation in batches close to one another, just punch the reviews for these 18yo’s up from this site, like these 2012 and 2014 bottlings. Some distilleries embrace the possibility that batch variation gives them, Springbank is a master at this. With Glenfarclas I’m not sure, but I do know that this Dutch 15yo differs quite a bit from the 2006 15yo mentioned earlier.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Fresh, tight and fruity, maybe a little bit sweaty even, as well as some deep and brooding dusty notes, dust and chocolate powder. Sometimes farty organics. Beautiful fresh wood and wax. Fruit cake. Mushy red fruits, mushy after speedy or forced defrosting in a microwave. Wet or soaked oak, slightly sour, yet also some sharp fresh air. Very lively, with red fruit acidity combined with American oak vanillins, milk chocolate and the tiniest hint of toasted cask and cigarette smoke from a sixties living room. Fresh mushrooms. An autumn Whisky for sure. Rainwater flowing down the road. Dusty and quiet with a full on aroma. The woody bits transform into more paper like and old cardboard aroma’s, which sounds horrible, but isn’t. Red fruit still present throughout. Perfumy, leafy and all sorts of kitchen spice notes (a note of some dull, weathered, cinnamon comes to mind, mixed with the toasted oak and the chocolate powder), give this one some time to release all the aroma’s. It’s almost like it is in part steeped in the past and in part modern. Very well balanced. Very nice.

Taste: Starts sweet and fruity, like diluted jam, forest strawberry jam, raspberry jam, red fruit jam altogether. Warming going down, well balanced and tasty. Nice wood aroma’s, just the right amount. Fresh oak and toasted oak are all here. Nutty. Tiny hint of tar and toast mixed in the distance with some menthos (I don’t get that all the time though), which is a nice addition to the fruity and syrupy notes. After swallowing, a slightly more dry and spicier wood note comes forth, as well as more tar. Again warming and drying my lips. So definitely some astringent wood with actually not a lot of bitterness. At times slightly soapy, but not every time I taste this. The woody bit of the body, let’s say the middle bit, seems to have some definite tarry notes to it. Tasty stuff, really good, especially after not expecting this one to be this good.

When analysing this one in my controlled environment, it is a very good expression, when tasting this one randomly, let’s say within a flight of some other Whiskies, this one performs differently, so beware. It doesn’t overpower others so it depends a bit, what came before. It can be easily overpowered by other Whiskies, and I don’t even mean your heavy hitting Islay Whisky or a bona-fide confirmed Sherry monster, no, even a normal refill bourbon casked single cask Whisky like the Tamnavulin 8yo I just reviewed can overwhelm this Glenfarclas. Something one wouldn’t say from tasting this Glenfarclas alone.

Top tip, give this one the attention it deserves, take your time with it and you’ll be rewarded. Still, this is very tasty stuff and it is better than I initially expected. As said above, it is well balanced. This is a bottle that will be gone soon, since when I see this standing on my lectern, the only words that come to mind are “yes, please” and off comes the cork. A fun and foremost a very good Whisky. An instant gratification Malt. Maybe not all that complex, but what you get is very balanced and tasty. As I said, this will be finished soon. Is this really merely the undiluted version of the core range 15yo? If so, it is a worthy special release by any means and decently priced to boot for those el cheapo Dutch. Lucky bastards!

Points: 89

Tamnavulin 8yo 2009/2017 (59%, A.D. Rattray, Cask Collection, Bourbon Barrel #700628, Finished in a First Fill Bourbon Barrel for 16 months, 229 bottles)

This will be an interesting bottle. After the Dalmore I reviewed last, here is another example from a distillery from the portfolio of Whyte and Mackay, and yet another independent bottling. This is the first review of a Tamnavulin on these pages and to be honest, I never ran out of the house to fetch me a Tamnavulin. Tamnavulin just doesn’t have such a reputation. I did buy a nice, and very old, example from Duncan Taylor once, in the USA many years ago, but that’s about it. A few years back I visited the stand of A.D. Rattray at the Whisky Show in London, and tasted this Tamnavulin, I though it was rather nice and being a Tamnavulin, I bought it at the show shop. I couldn’t have been very expensive then.

Apart from the taste, I really liked the idea of maturing a Whisky in a Bourbon Barrel and then finishing it in another first fill Bourbon Barrel. This may imply the first cask it matured in wasn’t a first fill, but I might be wrong. The other thing that grabbed me was the mention of the number of the first cask it matured in (#700628), yet not the number of the cask it was finished in. But wait, there is even more. The label claims this was first matured for “over” 7 years and then received a finish of 16 months, so 100 months or more. Distilled on 10.05.2009 and bottled on 31.08.2017 equals less than 100 months. Being a Tamnavulin and all this wonky information on the label, and having tasted it, I just needed to have it, especially since Tamnavulin is rather a scarcity on my lectern.

Color: Medium gold (and seemingly not filtered to death).

Nose: Vanilla and soft oak. Malty and biscuity. Pleasant and fruity. Quite floral and perfumy. Classy. Underneath a more sweetish and fruity bit. Big and bold, with lots of aroma’s and an open character. Even though it is quite a young Whisky, there are no traces of new make and it smells quite mature. The oak gives off some spicy notes, but not much. Seems to me the initial cask wasn’t all that active and the second maturation wasn’t long enough for that cask to dominate the strong oaky notes. Interesting finish this is. Notes of yellow fruits are a bit overshadowed by this perfumy and soap-like aroma. The more I nose this, the more spices are noticeable, but all under this floral cloak. Smelling harder pulls out the yellow fruity bits, as well as some mint and a wee hint of horseradish and rainwater. The fruit turns slightly acidic. Maybe this makes the balance department suffer a bit, but it’s not a big problem though. After a while it turns a bit dusty and the mint vapor has some staying power in my nose. The sweetness picks up some licorice as well. This is an autumn Whisky (based on the nose alone at his point). Given more time, notes of cold dish water, bad breath and honey, these are adding to the complexity, but again making the balance suffer some more. Still this is still not a big issue though. I know “interesting” often has a negative ring to it, but without implying any negativity, this one just is interesting, due to the complexity and the oddness of the aroma’s this Whisky gives off.

Taste: Ahhh, nice. Spicy, slightly bitter and sweetish. Vanilla, nutty and some nice wood, that seemed not to be there in the nose. Warming and highly drinkable. Meaty as well. The vanilla bit grows slightly stronger when you hold this in your mouth. The first sip sort of repairs the nose, focusing it on the more lovely floral bit. Very appetizing and much better balanced than the nose was. Sweet and nutty, honeyed nuts. However the wood gave off plenty of spiciness to counterbalance the sweetness, which is definitely here, yet masked by the wood. Tasty example this is, and seems definitely more mature than the 8 years it (only) has. Apart from the sweetish yellow fruits on the palate, this Tamnavulin also has some zesty citrussy notes. Here it works well, in the nose the acidity isn’t helping the balance of it, however, on the palate this Tamnavulin is well balanced and the slightly bitter notes, this shows towards the finish, can put off some tasters, who don’t like bitterness altogether, but it does add to the balance. The dishwater and soapy bit in the nose, does play an unexpected role here in the aftertaste as well. Unexpected because it arrives late and I didn’t expect it at all to be honest. Along with this bitter note the nose shows us some licorice to go with it, changing the Whisky a bit. Nice complexity thus. Still an autumn Whisky I would say.

I like this Tamnavulin. The two casks worked quite well together. It’s mature and tastes great. The first cask must have been a refill cask, not giving off too much woody and bitter notes from the cask for the stated 7 years. The second cask, a more active one, did have enough time to impair its creamy and vanilla notes, but after 16 months, it didn’t have enough time to give off a lot of woody aroma’s, making for a reasonable well balanced young Whisky without the wood dominating the palate, nope the wood is just about right.

Points: 85

Kingsbarns “Balcomie” (46%, OB, 100% ex-Oloroso American Oak Sherry Butts, 2020)

Since this isn’t the first Kingsbarns on these pages, the distillery doesn’t need any further introduction. If you want to know more about Kingsbarns, please have a look at my earlier review about the Kingsbarns “Dream to Dram”. “Dream to Dram” was a very young expression that showed some potential. “Dream to Dram” was also the first bottling of Kingsbarns meant for the general public (released in 2018). It’s reduced to 46% ABV and it’s a bigger batch. The rest being mostly Single Cask offerings. The second general release is this “Balcomie” from 2020 and this year (2021), the third one just saw the light of day called “Bell Rock” which is made with ex-Oloroso Sherry Butts & ex-Bourbon Barrels. Let’s focus on the Balcomie now shall we?

Color: Medium gold.

Nose: Extremely malty and biscuity. Initially this Whisky is about the hints of milky new make, which come to think of it, is a very similar experience to that of Tomatin. Grassy and floral. Cereals, oatmeal and biscuits. Hints of smoke, like standing on a field in summer, where someone in the distance is burning off garden waste. After this green and young start, some of the Sherry provenance of this Whisky kicks in (somewhat), giving the nose something more body to it. Diluted red fruit lemonade and dish water. Light notes of citrus and toffee, without bringing the toffee sweetness actually. Quite some fresh air and some crushed wet mint leaves that already were used one time before for infusion. Citrus fruit with paper and cardboard. Spicy wood sometimes whiffs by. After a while the nose turns more towards the direction of sweet fruit. If you let this sit in your glass for a while, and it doesn’t need a lot of time, the Whisky reaches a more balanced state, without really losing these young components mentioned earlier. I still get this distant smoky note and now it has a more flinty edge to it as well. Not bad, the potential I saw in the previous offer of Kingsbarns is here as well, even though it most definitely smells like a work in progress. Some sort of soapiness comes to the front after you sip it, as well as some honey.

Taste: Thin. Paper-like maltiness, with late sweetness and some smoke (toasted oak probably). Rain water, slightly bitter wood and cardboard. The wood made the Whisky, or so it seems. Tastes like it’s not ready yet, but closer to a Whisky than it is to new make, although notes of new make are here. Some wood, some spicy wood, some paper and some indistinct sweetness. Bees wax and ear wax. Something just had to be bottled I guess. Very young with some oaky notes. Almost like it is almost a different distillate than Whisky. To be Frank, I expected more after the “Dream to Dram” expression. It’s all very young but also a bit boring and predictable, like nobody dared to be more bold, for instance by giving it a more meaningful finish. Maybe there is some conservative thinking behind the Malt? The Oloroso casks themselves hardly impaired a lot of Sherriedness. Tired casks maybe, or not enough time? Maybe some fear creapt in all this could have overpowered the light Lowland style of the distillate. This taste bit of the review might seem a bit short, but there isn’t a lot happening actually, so there isn’t much more to pick up on. Even the American oak impaired some of its bitterness, but non of the vanillin I expected.

To be honest, after the other Kingsbarns, I saw some potential, but this one isn’t better at all, alas. The nose seems to show the potential, but taste-wise this is lacking a fair bit after the other release. You might think, give it some slack, they are new, just started up and so forth. However, I’m writing this review having just been at the London Whisky Show, and actually this year (2021), a lot of new distilleries were present, and I can report to you that I tasted a lot of fairly new distilleries that have come a long way further with their young Whiskies than Kingsbarns have at this moment. So it can be done. Ardnamurchan and Copenhagen Distillery to name but a few, both from a colder climate, but also Milk and Honey (M&H) from Israel, but they have the advantage of climate which ages the Whisky faster. Still, these are all young distilleries making great Whisky. A lot of work to do for Kingsbarns, just keep at it!

Points: 74

Thanks go out to Nico again, for this second Kingsbarns sample.

Dalmore 2001/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill American Hogsheads, AE/JBAC, 05/03/2015)

So here’s Dalmore. Dalmore isn’t a Whisky I have many bottles of, if any. It was also a long time ago Dalmore’s were featured on these pages. This is now the third review, after the two reviews I did back in 2014. Obviously one from the distillery itself, the 12yo from around 2004 (so also a while back) and one 11yo independent offering from Kintra Whisky from The Netherlands. Both a bit under my radar to be honest, not spurring a lot of interest in buying more Dalmore’s, (which I didn’t). Dalmore also seems known for some affordable middle-of-the-road bottles, as well as quite some super rare, super premium, super old bottlings, giving Macallan a run for its money. How odd. After all those years, yet another Dalmore managed to emerged on top of the heap of samples. After many of my own bottles, here is sample for a change. As often happens with distilleries and their owners, they tend to change hands more often than they used to back in the day. In the year of both other Dalmore reviews, namely 2014, the company that holds Dalmore, Whyte and Mackay, was bought by Philippines’ largest liquor company called Emperador. Just to refresh your memory, Whyte and Mackay doesn’t only operate Dalmore distillery, but also in their portfolio are: Fettercairn, Tamnavulin, Jura and Invergordon (grain).

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fruity and Malty, with a tiny hint of smoke in the back. When freshly poured this is big on fruit, candied fruit, but a lot of this is just blown away rather quickly. Smells of toffee, caramel and apple, caramelized apple to be precise, but also fresh apple flesh and hints of apple skin. Warm cookie dough. Apple pie, but most definitely without the cinnamon, no cinnamon in this apple pie whatsoever. Fresh air and an even sharper breath of air, probably because of the smoky note this Whisky has. Maybe this comes from the toasted oak. Not sure right now. The Malty notes are getting more of a say and seem to introduce some more waxy notes, like the wax from the skin a red apple. With this waxy note comes the promise of some bitterness in the taste, we’ll see if that is the case here. By now, more wood as well. Sawdust from plywood. Dusty altogether. Hints of lemon peel and some remarkable horseradish notes, I didn’t expect here. Smells like a modern Whisky, although tasted blind, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was coming from some sort of refill Sherry cask (as well). For me this doesn’t have (only) the classic refill Bourbon notes we all know so well by now. No, this one has something else as well, something I also picked up on in the Dalmore 12yo, being different from others.

Taste: Soft, spicy, slightly woody and creamy. Sugar water. Wood, paper and a nice sweet chewiness. Waxy and indeed slightly bitter. Having this in your mouth makes the nose expand a bit. Not really fruity though, but it is vegetal. Highly drinkable, but not easily drinkable, it seems to have a taste profile more cut out for aficionado’s or connoisseurs. It has too much fresh oak notes and it might be a bit too bitter for the general public I guess. It’s also rather simple and thin, although it does have good balance. However, after tasting this, the nose expands, more and more is showed there. I’m wondering if this effect of the nose evolving and the taste being rather simple, comes from too much reduction of this particular example. Medium finish at best, disintegrating a bit, but the aftertaste is nice and warming, shows some of the sweetness and paper-like bitterness this Whisky possesses.

Definitely different from both other reviewed Dalmore’s, and it is not as bad as it seems. It has to be worked a bit and personally, I wouldn’t like to try this as a novice. I like the vegetal notes it shows, but it needed a very long time in my glass to show this. More than 30 minutes for sure…

Points: 85

Kilchoman 5yo 2012/2018 (50%, OB, Sauternes Cask Finish, 10.000 bottles)

In the previous review, I wrote that the way to go with Kilchoman, (for me at least), are the red labelled ones. Nice single cask bottlings, with quite some ooomph, like this Belgian and German one. Often still young, but already finished. Not a sign of extreme youth or new make spirit in sight. Bourbon casks work well with the Kilchoman spirit and all the other varieties, are definitely not too bad either. Time maybe for a green labelled one. I just can’t claim the red ones are the best, without even considering Kilchoman’s other colours now can I? A while back Nico and I did a bottle share of this Sauternes cask finish. This, in itself is odd, since both Nico and I do have a fondness for bottlings that came in contact with Sauternes. I guess Nico wasn’t too sure about Kilchoman back then, and I’ll have to ask him how he feels about Kilchoman right now. Sauternes, by the way, is a sweet White Wine from Bordeaux (France). You may have heard of Château d’Yquem?

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Soft, creamy and dusty. Cookie dough. Sweet smelling, perfumy and fruity (white peach in sweet yoghurt comes to mind). Fruity acidity, yet not only citrus. Apples with a hint of exhaust gasses from a small, yet efficient, petrol car. Dusty with cold motor oil. Spicy as well, dry kitchen herbs, cinnamon and some white pepper. Old cardboard box, bad breath and cold dishwater. Nice soft wood and some mint. The typical Kilchoman bonfire smoke note is here again, but toned down a little. Overall quite elegant, although some of the off-putting notes, I just wrote down, seem to indicate differently. Nevertheless, elegant it is. Let’s say Islay style elegant, with Kilts and muddy wellies. The whole Whisky seems slightly toned down, compared to the Bourbon single cask bottlings (the red ones, remember) I reviewed earlier. Slightly less sparkly. Light vanilla notes combined with mocha flavoured whipped cream, mixed in with pencil shavings and a wee bit of menthol. Dry garden waste lying in the sun in autumn. This nose keeps giving and giving and evolves, it’s just not as powerful as the German Single Cask. This is again a quality Malt from Kilchoman, more complex than a Bourbon cask alone, and this one is also softer. Hint of sweet mint now. It shows a different side of Kilchoman. Very appetizing and very good again. It seems a bit more harmonious than a single cask Bourbon expression, and as said, it gained some complexity with the Sauternes finish. However, in all the aromas presented, it is impossible to find any true Sauternes notes. I no way I can smell a sweet White Wine in this Whisky. All the elements that went into making this Whisky do work perfectly, so it seems. Very good Kilchoman again.

Taste: Paper and ashes. Wax and sugar syrup. Dry tall grass and hay foremost. Borderline Grappa. Creamy and sweet candied yellow fruits. Less strong than the single cask expressions. Clearly reduced. A very appealing sweetness, aromatically close to a sweet apple. Fresh air after some rain. Ashes, black and white powder (licorice), hints of spicy wood and some (sweet) bitterness. Warming going down. Little bit of molten plastic in the finish. I know, this sounds terrible, but rest assured, it isn’t. This is a very drinkable expression, due to the balance and probably the reduction to 50% ABV. The aftertaste does pick up some more on the medium bitterness. The nose was definitely more complex than the taste. This, in all fairness, tastes simpler than expected. All is good and tasty, yet not as complex as the nose promised, (and the buzz in the anorak-y part of the Whisky world). I believe the recently tasted German Single Cask expression may have even tasted more complex. This is more of an instant gratification Malt (and the reduced ABV helps with this).

This offers a (slightly) different take on Kilchoman. It’s good and definitely softer than the Single Cask expressions I reviewed earlier. Sauternes, well, if I tried this blind I might not have picked up upon the White Wine finish, although there are some hints in the depth of the taste, some sort of brooding sweetness, if that makes any sense to you. For some, this offers a more likeable Kilchoman, personally I still like both earlier reviewed red labelled ones better. Can’t wait to open another Kilchoman though, to have some more Kilchoman’s under my belt for comparison and a better view of the Whisky that is Kilchoman. Impressive Whisky, especially considering the age of the reviewed stuff.

Points: 86

Kilchoman 5yo 2008/2013 (60.7%, OB, Bourbon Cask #146/2008, for The World Single Malt Germany, 252 bottles)

Although not bad, I don’t really have a fond memory of the early blue labelled Spring 2010 and Summer 2010 bottlings, both are decent but not there yet. Both are showing their youth, and I’m not particularly a fan of Whiskies that still show their new make side. Aren’t all beginnings hard? However, I do have a fond memory of the previously red labelled Single cask bottling for Belgium. All three distillates are more or less from the same period of time, but this red labelled one is just a bit older, not reduced and from a single cask. In my mind, after tasting such Kilchoman’s, the red ones were the ones to go for. I like single casks especially at cask strength, warts and all. In the case of Kilchoman, usually there are no warts. Not a lot anyway. Pretty amazing considering the aforementioned single cask expression isn’t even 5yo and already very, very good and mature for its age, and remember this was matured in Scotland, not the tropical shores of Goa (India, in case you failed geography). So no surprise then, that the next Kilchoman I opened was another red labelled one. Yes, another ex-Bourbon single cask expression, why not. This time a red labelled one bottled for Germany. Let’s see if the Germans got an even better deal than the Belgians did. For starters, the German one is older, it is just over 5yo.

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Soft warming peat, glowing embers, fine bonfire smoke, flinty, with citrus fruit upfront. A combination of lemon, lime, unripe pear, sweet spearmint and menthol. Just sniff it, put it away, wait a minute and start breathing through your nose. Are you getting the menthol now? Soft wood, creamy, toffee and clay. Slightly perfumy and slightly meaty as well. All combined with smoke. Paper and dust. Fresh and spicy. Cedar wood, vegetal. Christmassy smoke emanating from a chimney, that’s it, with more fresh acidic fruit notes. A dram for a silent, snowy evening. Mocha, vanilla powder and maybe even a hint of an unlit Cuban cigar. Next, the promise of sweet, jam-like fruit, as well as a breath of fresh air, significantly different from acidic fruit, although both bring freshness to the Whisky. Smells appetizing and lively, yet also mature. No signs of new make spirit to be found. When snorted most vigorously, a more deeper and brooding animalesk kind of note emerges. I think this smells amazing for a 5yo Malt. Very mature. This must be quality, achieving this, in so little time and in a cold climate. It also has an unexpected depth to it, like Alice’s rabbit hole, the deeper you go, the more mesmerizing are its aroma’s. Take your time with it, it’s really, really good.

Taste: Wood and paper. Sweet red fruits. (Menthol) cigarette smoke in the wind, and more sweetness than expected. Milk chocolate and liquid bonfire smoke, with maybe some plastic in the back? All elements well balanced. It’s even slightly syrupy. Soft white pepper attack combined with fresh, green and sappy oak. Waxy, with a tiny hint of rubber in the back, and a short bitter note that is soon joined by sweet yellow fruits, candied fruits and some more of this peppery attack. Lemonade. The bitter and the sweet go together well. A lot is happening at once, so I’m almost struggling to keep up and write it all down. Speaking of down, this is quite warming going down. Pencil shavings, licorice and slightly tarry. The wood note comes late and when they occur in the taste, it starts to play a bigger part in the nose as well. Slightly less complex than the nose (or is it?). This one shows most of what its got, right from the start, but doesn’t lack in the evolution department either. Towards the aftertaste, the lemon and lime returns, wonderful. Really good stuff this.

This is a really good Whisky which makes me happy. Amazing result after some 62 months from a relatively new Islay distillery. Instant favourite. The bottle is half empty, and I’m not entirely sure, it was already this good when freshly opened, so this seems to be another example of a Whisky that needs to breathe a lot.

Points: 89

P.S. The empty glass smells of black coal, peat, smoke and some plastics, more than the day before, (when the glass wasn’t empty).