Havana Club Añejo 7 Años (40%, OB, Cuba)

Well, here is something I don’t do all that often, starting a review not knowing really what it is. (I’ll know in due time, before finishing it). I was given this sample and although I have heard some clues as to what this is, I am at the time of writing not sure what it precisely is. Well I do know it is a Rum called Havana Club though, bought by it’s owner right at the distillery on Cuba. And with Havana Club, I mean the real Havana Club, made in Cuba, you know, the island that has Havana sitting on it. There is also Puerto Rican made, Bacardi owned Havana Club, sold in the USA, that is said to be much worse. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it, but people who’s taste I trust, tell me so. The real Havana Club puts out quite some expressions, half of which are really, really affordable. Even the Selección de Maestros won’t cost you an arm or a leg, yet the other half is quite expensive to say the least. There seems to be nothing in the middle. Maybe the 15yo sits in the middle, but it already costs three times as much as the Selección de Maestros.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Starts with a peculiar rotting fruit off-note. Over-over ripe yellow fruits. Hint of gravy even. I’m definitely picking up something meaty, something I didn’t pick up on the first time around. Passion fruit, papaya and some mango. Over time the rotting bits fade away, leaving room for a more recognizable light to medium, sweet smelling, Cuban spirit. Some dusty wood and vanilla powder. Cancel the fade away bit, after snorting it one more time, the rot is back, or has never left. Wonky balance at first, yet bad it is not. Yes, fruit is the pivot around which the smell of this Rum spins. Is it real Cobb? Wait a minute the rot is again gone. Am I dreaming? A bit nutty but foremost ripe yellow fruits. Dried banana skin and a hint of red fruit acidity. There seems to be nothing more to it. Well there is some soft wood, and faint whiff of very old leather. Let this breathe for a while. The Rum picks up balance that way.

Taste: Super thin, instant evaporation in the cavity of my mouth. Rum vapors must come out of my nose. with still a thin, even coat of medium sweetness in my mouth, quickly followed by a wee bit more astringent wood notes. Sweet entry, toffee and fruits, and gone it is. Another sip (with lots of air). More nutty and even woody notes. And gone it is again. Yes a light Rum indeed. 70 cl of this must weigh around 10 grams. Simple, straightforward, but also without flaws. Generates a nice warmth. Toffee and fruits. That’s it, with still this wee woody spiciness underneath. As must be clear to you by now, the finish is short. Gewurztraminer notes suddenly appear, as well as some red fruit acidity. There is hardly an aftertaste. However this does leave a sort of toffeed Cuban memory behind. I wonder now if the Cubans drink this neat?

If you are really a novice, than is may very well be your starting point. Very light and unoffensive and Cuban. Yet it still has some alcohol for you to see if the world of Rum is for you. If so, boy are you in for a treat exploring further, because there is a lot more to find after this. Simple, fruity and medium sweet, but also clean and problem free. If you are more experienced, it may be too light and a bit boring, but having said that, this does bring to mind the pictures of Cuba. Sure you can mix this in many wonderful Rum based cocktails, but being on the island, I would have no problem whatsoever with a glass of only this Rum. Yes, I would enjoy it. Being quite hot today, I do understand the need for the Cubans to distill this light Rum.

Points: 75

Even though the score seems low, there is nothing wrong with this Rum. It’s just very simple. Thanks again to Auke.


Limeburners Peated Single Malt (48%, Great Southern Distilling Company, Bourbon Barrel M209, 294 bottles)

After the funky mushroom Whisky from France, let’s try another ‘World Whisky”. This time we will look at a peated Limeburners single cask Single Malt Whisky. Limeburners is the brand name for the Single Malt Whisky from The Great Southern Distilling Company from Western Australia. They call themselves a boutique distillery with a focus is on quality. The plan is to source all ingredients locally. Nice touch is that the distillery is powered by the Albany wind farm and the Whisky is reduced with filtered rain water. How’s that for sustainability?

Limeburners M209 aColor: White wine.

Nose: Softly smoky and peaty. Fatty with lots of vanilla. Creamy. Leafy, vegetal and the oak almost smells freshly cut. The peat quickly takes the back-seat and lets the cask drive. The wood drives slowly listening to Lana Del Rey on the car radio. Hints of new make. Judging by the nose alone I would say, bottled slightly too soon and not as peaty as I expected. Given some time to breathe it seems like all of the aromas introduced themselves one by one, and now work together for a more balanced feel. More citrussy too, distinct aroma’s of soft (sugared) lemon. Am I still objective when I pair the soft lemon with lemongrass. Nice, but where has the peat gone? It’s almost a lowlander in style.

Taste: First entry is definitely new make, with its distinct alcoholic and sweet taste. Beer, hops, lots of paper, woody bitterness and again very green, leafy and vegetal. Fresh tree sap. Virgin oak cask? I also get some raspberry hard candy and creamy vanilla. Typical american oak vanillin. The peat only shows itself in some sort of spicy pepperiness. Not bad but nothing special yet too.

The nose already gave it away, but especially in the taste it is noticeable, this is a bit too young. Also the notes of virgin oak are quite “there” so I think at least this cask has some more to give to the next distillate that will enter it.

Points: 75

The English Whisky Co. 3yo 2007/2010 “Chapter 6” (46%, OB, American Standard Barrel #001-011)

Next stop is in Roudham, Norfolk, UK. Although close to the source, from a Scottish perspective, this is a World Whisky. The English Whisky Co. is the brand name and the distillery is called St. George’s Distillery. Founded by James and Andrew Nelstrop, its location was chosen because of clean and pure water, and well Barley and Norfolk, need I say more? Initially they wanted to build a micro distillery, but customs and excise wouldn’t have it, they wanted a big distillery, otherwise they wouldn’t bother giving off a licence. In december 2006, distilling commenced under the supervision of Laphroaigs one and only Iain Henderson. 29 barrels were filled. This particular Whisky was distilled two months after opening by Iain, aged for three years so it is barely legal…

The English Whisky Co. 3yo 20072010 Chapter 6 (46%, OB, First Fill American Bourbon Casks #001-011)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Extremely malty, and noses like new make spirit. White bread used for sandwiches dumped in water. I guess the eleven casks used weren’t very active. Grassy, lemongrass and sugar. Hay and all sorts of grass plants. Citrussy. It will remain the new make spirit it essentially is. Malt, bread and Vodka. That’s it. Sure, noses like this are part of the Whisky industry as a whole, so you “gotta love it”. But I don’t like it when I buy a bottle of a finished product. I’m not nosing this and enjoying myself, to be honest.

Taste: Soft and sweet. At least the taste shows some potential. Well rounded, and just the right amount of sweetness. Taste wise no off notes whatsoever, just plain young and massively un-complex. Enjoyable? Very! Toffee and vanilla. light and sunny. You get my drift.

Nosing this stuff I really asked myself why would anyone bottle this when it is clearly not ready. This is why they came up with the rule that Whisky must be three years old. Well, if you make stuff like this in a cold climate with inactive casks (first fill, really?) and it reaches three years of age, then it hardly meets requirement doesn’t it. Tasting it is a different story completely. Good potential, and I’ll be watching this Whisky grow. I hope they will succeed. Good luck!

Points: 75

The Glenlivet “Founder’s Reserve” (40%, OB, 2015)

Just like the Berlin wall, old, well-known Whiskies that have been around for ages are coming down. We already see the manifestation of NAS Whiskies, you know the ones without the pretty numbers on the label: 10yo, 12 yo et cetera. It has recently been announced, by Pernod Ricard, that not only the Glenlivet 12yo will be discontinued, but also Aberlour 10yo. George Smith Founder of GlenlivetThis is moving in the wrong direction people! The Glenlivet 12yo has already been replaced with the new Founder’s Reserve, a highly original name taken from the old 10yo expression of The Balvenie. The Glenlivet already dropped the age statement for their highly popular Nadurra range, and are wooing the consumer to stay with Nadurra, by adding new versions. Bourbon, Oloroso and the next step will probably be a peated version. Other recent experiments were the NAS Alpha, and the NAS Guardian’s Chapter. We all know where this is going, don’t we. Lot’s of distillate will be put out as young NAS Whiskies, and the rest will be aged a prolonged amount of time to be bottled as (highly expensive) Whiskies which will still have an age statement. Yes, we should judge a Whisky by its taste and we will, and not by its age statement. Still, the super premium Whiskies will have an age statement, because age sells, people. Another experiment done by The Glenlivet is the release of an 11yo single cask for 300 Euro’s in the Netherlands, called Bochel (Hill). How far can you go? Let’s get back to the beginning, shall we? I already reviewed The Glenlivet 12yo, so we have a clue what that was all about. Now let’s have a look at its replacement. The NAS Founder’s Reserve…

The Glenlivet Founders ReserveColor: Light citrus gold.

Nose: Barley and aged spirit. Raw and yeasty. A big part of the beginning of the nose is made up of new make spirit. Apart from…new make spirit, I have never come across a Whisky that is so upfront and young. Obviously young. The new make note disperses and makes room for plain white oak. Does have some traits of Bourbon casks, but also of virgin oak casks. I hope this is still aged in casks, could be stainless steel with bits of wood thrown in. Sweet barley, yeast and oak. That’s more or less it with this Glenlivet. On top salty and estery. Well this is your wormhole that offers a peek of NAS Whisky. I guess a lot of entry-level, inexpensive Whisky of the future (and you know, the future starts now), will be like this. Perfumy and floral, latex paint with hints of mocha and still a promise of sweetness.

Taste: Sweet water. Sugary. Very, very, un-complex. Not even a lot of wood now. More (oak and pencil) wood in the nose. This is sweet balanced sugar-water with vanilla pudding and…yes, what else? Weak green, vegetal notes. In the background again the specific taste of new make spirit. This is an aged Poiteen! Short finish (obviously) and in my opinion too young, but still interesting…well, not really actually.

A long time ago, this would have been used internally to give the marketing people an insight into production methods and especially how Whisky ages. Who would have thought that today something like this would be actually bottled, and better even, replace the standard 12yo. Do I mean The Founder’s Reserve is bad? No, not at all. I love Single Malt Whisky and this is still is well made modern Single Malt Whisky. It’s just so obviously young and simple. They should have named it Baby Glenlivet. Benromach actually have replaced one of their NAS Whiskies with one with an age statement and calls it their 5yo. I’m curious how that one will compare to this one. I’m curious how these will compare to old 5yo’s (Tomatin, black label) and 8yo (Aberlour, cube bottle), but I’m also curious to see how the public will choose between NAS Whiskies and Whiskies with a low age statement. Interesting times ahead!

Points: 75

Matusalem Gran Reserva Solera 15 (40%, Dominican Republic)

Matusalem was founded in 1872 in Cuba by the Spanish Brothers Benjamin and Eduardo Camp. They especially went to cuba to distill Rum. Being Spanish they knew about the Solera-system often used to make Sherry and Brandy, so they incorporated that into the way they wanted to make Rum. In 1912 Benjamin returned to Spain but Eduardo stayed behind to run the company by himself, or did he? The Camp brothers had a partner in Evaristo Alvarez, so it was with him that Eduardo continued the Company. Funny enough in the end Eduardo’s son Claudio Alvarez LeFebre, married Evaristo’s daughter, making it a real family business! Their son Claudio Alvarez Soriano was the next in line to take over the business.

Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 SoleraIn 1959 the Cuban Revolution took place and the family moved their business to the U.S. of A. and the cuban’s turned the facility the family had to leave behind into the production facility of Ron Santiago. As with many families, when a lot of offspring shows up in a business where most of them don’t belong and are in it only for financial gain, they run it into the ground. The great-grandson of Eduardo, Claudio Alvarez Salazar took over the business in 1995 after a settlement with the rest of the family and moved the production to the Dominican Republic.

Color: Dark gold.

Nose: Light and lightly sugary sweet. Floral notes and lightly fruity too. Hint of perfumy wood, jasmine and some vanilla. Acidic red currants and some sugar. Tiny hint of toasted wood.

Taste: Light, very light, with a floral and woody touch. Passes quickly through the mouth in which the woody bitterness and a burnt note are the most obvious. Very thin in texture and actually in taste too. Not all is working well together in the taste here. Short and not the best of finishes.

It’s Obvious the Alvarez family is proud, not of their Spanish heritage, but of their Cuban one. So for a rum that is made in the Dominican Republic, the label states quite proudly that the Rum is from Cuban origin, and for me fits right in into the Cuban style but isn’t the best expression from that style.

Points: 75

Reisetbauer 7yo 1998 (56%, OB, Chardonnay & Trockenbeerenauslese Casks, 350 ml, LWH 098)

Hans ReisetbauerAnd now for something completely different! An Austrian vintage Whisky made by Hans Reisetbauer. This Whisky was distilled in 1998 and matured for 7 years in Chardonnay casks but also in casks that once held Trockenbeerenauselese, a (very) sweet and syrupy white wine. Casks come only from Austrian wine makers Alois Kracher and Heinz Velich. When looking for information, Hans seems to win a lot of prestigious prizes for his Eaux-de-vie or brandy’s made with fruits, and is regularly awarded as the best distiller in Austria. Hans decided to have a go at making Whisky. Hans planted four hectares of his own summer barley which was harvested for the first time in July 1995. Hans uses a double distillation regime.

Reisetbauer 1998Color: Gold

Nose: Creamy and lightly fruity. Apples and not winey at first. Fruity sweet with caramel. Very mild and definitely decent smelling (I may have expected something less good?). Powdery and dry, nice wood. Hint of vanilla. I’m not sure about the Chardonnay yet, but after some breathing I do smell the Trockenbeerenauselese. Having said that, it does remind me a bit of a Glen Moray in…yes, Chardonnay.

Taste: Sweetish and very vegetal. Fresh wood and a spicy (and winey) oak attack. Paint and plastic. Here most definitely the wine casks make their mark and mask that this is actually Single Malt Whisky. Maybe using the more traditional kind of cask would have been a better idea and use the Chardonnay and TBA casks for a finish. Quite hot and the heat has staying power. The aroma’s fade out leaving a hint of tannins, plastic and acidity. Still not a bad finish though.

I have heard people claiming this was terrible, but I don’t agree. Yes it is maybe too heavy on the wine casks used, but I can look past that and there definitely is some quality and potential here. Would love to see how Hans improves himself making Whisky.

The picture on the left is of the 700 ml bottle, simply because I couldn’t find a picture of a 350 ml bottle like mine, and I don’t think an empty bottle would make a good picture here. As can be seen on the bottle label, there were 1500 bottles made. On some bottles however instead of the 1500 bottles statement there is a code LWH 098 or LWH 007. Some bottles, bottled at 43% ABV, have a different label where the vintage (1998) is replaced by 7 years, but carry the same code LWH 098 as some 1998 vintages. Do you still follow?

Points: 75

Grottenbier Bruin (6.5%, 33 cl)

Pierre CelisThere are a few “rock-stars” amongst the Belgian brewers and one of them surely is Pierre Celis, who unfortunately is no longer with us (1925-2011). Pierre Celis was born and lived in Hoegaarden, famous for its white beer. As Pierre saw the his beloved white beer disappear in 1955, he decided in 1966, to remake the white beer under his own name. His uninsured brewery burned down in 1980, after which he reopened his brewery in Austin, Texas, USA.

GrottenbierAfter he sold his brewery to the Michigan Brewing Company, Pierre returned to Belgium to add a new notch on his stick. He developed a dark Belgian Beer to age in caves. Grottenbier roughly translates into Cave-Beer. Pierre favored caves for their constant temperature in which the beer could mature. At first the caves of Folx-les-Caves were used, but soon the Enterprise was transferred to the marl-caves of Kanne.

Since 2001 the beer is made by the St. Bernardus brewery (in Watou, Belgium). The beer is then cave-aged 42 meters under the ground, at a constant temperature of 11ºC. The bottles are regularly rotated, the same as Champagne.

Color: Orange-brown.

Nose: Fresh and acidic. Citrussy, yeast and hops. Caramel and some kind spice. But then dish water, with some added lavender. Quite strange if I may say so.

Taste: Vitamin C. Some lemon a pretty acidic. Little hints of burnt Sugar, that makes the beer quite bitter. Leafy. lacks balance. Not soapy on the palate, but it has soapy texture. Leaves quite a sour and stale impression. The warmer the beer gets, the more bitter it grows, and less entertaining it becomes.

It is something in between. It’s quite bitter and it has Lambic like acidity. I feel this beer doesn’t quite know what it is. It has the refreshing acidity, but also some burnt Sugar bitterness and hops. Don’t drink this too cold. 10ºC and up. It gives off more aromatics and shows more character. It ages well (I aged this for an additional 10 months), but this beer just isn’t for me. Still I do recognize this is a beer of quality.

Points: 75

Stormhoek Moscato 2013

And here is another wine favoured by my wife and my mother! Again a white one, but this time without bubbles but a lot sweeter. Master Quill already reviewed a white wine from the Western Cape region of South Africa. I have the feeling there is quite a lot of marketing going one here, since the label states as with the best of cosmetics: London Cape Town New York. Wow! The wine has the following enlightened text on the back label: Be Moved. Love. Encourage and Excite. Be enthusiastic. Motivate. Change the World or go Home…

Stormhoek can be found on the internet, but also on Facebook and Twitter.

Color: Ultra light white wine.

Nose: Sweet, artificial fruity sweet. Lots of peaches and apricots. Slightest hint of acidity. lemons. Lemonade. Very very fruity (and sweet-smelling).

Taste: Very sweet and really a peach drink. It’s so sweet and fruity I can hardly notice it is made with grapes. Funny that the back label stresses that it ís made with grapes, and tastes of grapes. I have drank wine made with muscat grapes before, but never so fruity as this one is. Deep down there is some acidity that very much resembles Vitamin C.

Going by the nose and the taste I would almost call this a children’s wine. Still this summer wine does have 8.5% ABV, so nevertheless it isn’t suitable for children. Recommended by my mother and my wife. I will recommend this a s a compote! Definitely designed for a young public (read women), hence the marketing.

Points: 75

Rum Week – Day 2: Angostura 1919 (40%, Trinidad & Tobago)

On the site is this snippet of a great story: “After a fire in 1932, which destroyed the Government Rum Bond, the master blender of Fernandes Distillers, J.B. Fernandes, bought the charred casks, only to discover they had been filled in the year 1919.” but also this: “Our rums are 100% Trinidadian, made in one distillery on one Island. Much like a single malt only better” – John Georges, Angostura Master Distiller.

WOW that’s quite a statement! I know a lot of maltheads or connoisseurs of single malt whisky are looking around for something beyond malts, since the original product is getting, more and more outrageous in price. yet, most will tell you that it is to broaden their horizons. Well I’m broadening my horizon here and am very curious how (this) rum will do.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet, but not overly sweet. A lot of creamy components. Enormous amounts of vanilla, toffee and custard. Also a little hint of smoke and there is a little bit of wood. Also a little bit of varnish or thinner, and a lot of toffee, caramels and such. Clay. (The blocks they make for children), but otherwise quite simple.

Taste: Sweet and thick. Caramel and woody toffee. The varnish or thinner component is here at the front of the taste, but dissipates with some air. After the initial sweetness, comes a more dry spell. Definitely more woody, like chewing on grand dad’s cedar cigar box. With that it also becomes more thinner and reduced. The finish is the part I liked the least. It has a little burned component to it, that would be great if there was any more, but the rest of the finish is rather thin, and more or less quickly gone.

In essence this is an eight year old blended rum from Trinidad (West Indies). Comparing it to the Diplomatico offering, there is no doubt about it this is the more interesting rum from a single malt point of view, but in all honesty I like the more aromatic and more complex Diplomatico better. Somehow, this 1919 is not my Rum, not for sipping anyway. I’ve drank a whole bottle of this and I think I’m allowed to say so.

Points: 75

Rum Week – Day 1: Diplomático 12yo Reserva Exclusiva (40%, Venezuela)

Let’s finish off this first month of the year with another Master Quill week. I like doing these weeks and the theme can be almost anything. This third week will be all about rum. Isn’t that a surprise, since I never reviewed rum on these pages before. So time to pull up the drawbridge, leave the moat alone and lock myself between the thick walls of Master Quill’s castle.

Diplomático is a Venezuelan rum. Just click on the link and you’ll see how many awards this baby got in its life. It should be pretty good then…

Color: Copper Gold

Nose: Half sweet and very aromatic rum. Vibrant and lively. Hints of sharp dry wood. Not thick nor cloying. Grassy with oranges, and raspberry syrup. Fruit liqueur. There are some more wood influences and do I detect the smallest hint of smoke? Probably the cask toast. Also some pastry in it, cookie dough, cake with raisins. Toasted bread. Cocos and sappy oak again. Lots going on in here. The nose is lovely although I do feel it is covered under a sugar blanket. An effect similar to adding caramel coloring to Single Malt Whisky. Homogenizing the smell.

Taste: Sweet. Very sweet. Heaps of chewy toffee with quickly a hint of wood. Strange enough a very thin texture, nothing syrupy as you might have expected. Very much about toffee, caramel and fudge. Actually pretty clean this one, but it has a bit of a disturbed balance by something sour that doesn’t fit this type of sweetness. I feel the sweetness and the acidity are in a constant fight with each other, but obviously the sweetness wins since this is über-sweet. Cold chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream. This is actually so sweet that it hides a lot of the aroma’s that must be there. The finish is also dominated by sugar, and burned sugar, (and a fruity note), making the finish fall flat on its face.

I poured this once over vanilla ice with warm chocolate sauce and it worked wonders. This rum is a dessert in its own right. It has a fabulous nose a somewhat less complex taste. I think there is a lot of potential to this, and I feel a well aged rum at a higher ABV with more wood ageing and less sweet and ‘thin’, should be pretty spectacular.

From a single malt point of view, I wouldn’t recommend this, and that is pretty strange. Venezuela is a good market for single malt scotches, so one would expect… Well it has its uses, but I don’t feel it’s a sipping rum. For me this is more a rum you should ‘do’ something with. Mix it, Cocktail it, or put it on your dessert. It’s good never the less, the super-sweet style is just not so much for me.

Points: 75