Calvados Week – Day 4: Lemorton Vieux Calvados Réserve (40%, AOC Domfrontais, 2012)

Logo Calvados WeekYet another Calvados in this Calvados Week, but this time it is something different. Lemorton comes from the Domfront region. For this AOC, at least 30% pears must be used in the distillate, but often this number is much higher. Single Distillation is done in a column still.

The Lemorton domain is located in Mantilly near the town Domfront, name giver of the AOC. Mantilly has a terroir of clay and limestone, perfect for pear trees. Lemorton Calvados is not made from pears only though. It’s made from 70 % pears and 30 % apples. The Cider is first aged for 11 months in oak barrels and undergoes a single distillation in a small alambic armagnacais. Distillation takes place, once a year, and the distillate is then put into old neutral casks to let the fruity distillate speak for itself.

Lemorton Vieux Calvados RéserveColor: Red brown.

Nose: Thick apple butter and heavy pear syrup. Nice concentrated fruits with lots of depth. Dusty and very aromatic. It’s almost pear and apple Marmite. Borders on good Pinot Gris and even Gewürztraminer. Fruity acidity. Lovely stuff. Compared to a “normal” Calvados made only from apples, this Calvados which is more pear than apple, shows, how nice and complex the aroma’s of pear can be in a distillate. Honey and a tiny hint of toasted bread with hot butter on top. Small lick of lemon curd. Wonderful nose. After this, it still goes on. There is also a meaty component. Smoked very dry meat, but also some elements of cold gravy. The honey part grows if you let it breathe for a while.

Taste: Sweet and right from the start, you know this isn’t as complex as the nose. The nose itself was rather perfect to be honest. The taste isn’t as thick and aromatic and especially not as syrupy as expected. It’s thinner, more acidic and somewhat watery, but still with some woody bitterness and quite dry. Lacks some sweetness. As said above, this does have some White Wine acidity to it. Not bad, but the nose was better. Dissipates towards the finish, getting more acidic, stays dry and gains some bitterness. The finish is the least interesting part of this Calvados.

Compared to the products of Château du Breuil, Lemorton is quite expensive, especially considering the Lemorton Réserve is their entry-level Calvados. Smells like a very expensive distillate though, which oozes quality. The taste, not so much, alas. Although I loved pears before I liked apples, this Réserve is not my favourite Calvados I’ve tasted so far. Pears in Calvados have proven their worth to me, but maybe 70% is just a bit too much. Let’s look for an apple and pear Calvados, but this time a bit less rich in the pear department…

Points: 77

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Dutch Jenever Week – Day 4: Rutte Oude 12 Graanjenever (38%, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

For day 4 we return to the Rutte distillery we already encountered on the first day. This Jenever fits snugly in the “Oude Jenever” category as well, and the addition of the word Graanjenever tells us this was made from grain based spirit only, just like the Zuidam actually. A sign of quality. Together with a maturation of no shorter than 12 years makes me having high hopes for this one. But first, a history lesson and an amazing run of naming children by the Rutte family:

The history of Rutte starts with Sijmon Rutte born in 1749. Next came his son Simon Rutte, born in 1779. The Rutte family moved to Rotterdam. Both are said to have laid the basis for distilling Jenever. Antonius was born in 1806. In 1830 Antonius moved to Dordrecht and started working for a distillery. At the same time he started experimenting with distillation at home. One of the sons of Antonius called Simon Antonius (born in 1844) bought a bar in 1872 and started distilling in a shed in the back. After a while he started selling his own distillates in his own bar. The bar was closed eventually and Simon Antonius turned it into a shop, selling his (and other) distillates.

Next in line was Antonius Johannes (Anton) Rutte, born in 1872. Anton took over the business in 1905 but he died quite young and his wife Margaretha continued the business eventually handing over the reigns to her eldest son Johannes (Jan) Rutte. Jan had a son called… Jan (John) born in 1931. It was this John who started to distill with passion, making the Rutte distillery known far beyond the borders of the city of Dordrecht. John had three children but none of them showed any interest in the distilling business, so in 1991 John sold the company to a group of investors, clients actually, who loved the products of John. Erik Herter, one of them, someone like John himself, was taught the ropes. Even though the business was sold, John stayed around untill his death in 2003. Erik left the business in 2006 leaving Myriam Hendrickx in charge to this day.

Rutte Oude 12 GraanjeneverColor: Pale gold.

Nose: Very soft and fruity. Definitely grainy. Hints of Grappa and slightly soapy. Very fresh for a 12yo. Hints of butter, warm toffee and vanilla. Warm and soothing, like grandpa’s warm embrace. Yes, smells like something from the past. Vanilla ice-cream. Lots of woody notes you get from American oak. Not only soft, but also slightly spicy. Watercress! The whole is unbelievably soft smelling and introvert as well. The distinct smell of fruity new make spirit, you know, the stuff before it becomes Whisky. The new-make smell has this fruity acidity that is placed on top. It’s a bit dissonant at times. It seems a bit volatile, because for a moment, when sniffing, it is gone and then the whole becomes a lot nicer. Remember that Graanjenever is made with juniper and other spices, so those add to the smell as well. The Jenever has to breathe for a while to get rid of the volatile new-make part. It does help. Breathing makes the whole more coherent and nice. More vanilla sugar-water. I’m actually amazed that even after 12 years of ageing, this new-make aroma is still around, but now you know how to deal with it.

Taste: Starts somewhere between sharp and creamy, but turning quickly into something more chewy and sweet. Refined sugar with a splash of vanilla. Sometimes the sugary part tastes like brown sugar. Nice effect. Quite a mouth full, but also, again, that hint of new-make spirit I don’t really care for. Soft wood, with more of a vanilla pudding note. Quite a short finish and a creamy vanilla part forms the after taste, together with some bread aromas. Well this sure isn’t a Whisky, for those of you looking for an alternative. No, it is a whole new discipline, you might have to grow into. And if you can forget about Whisky for a while, and treat it as such, it can be quite rewarding, getting to know stuff like this, to broaden your distilled horizon.

I have tried more products of Rutte and liked quite a few of them. Beforehand I thought this one would be a favorite, after 12 years of ageing, but actually it starts out as bit of a disappointment. Extremely unbalanced start. I can’t get past the new make spirit in the nose and the taste, and some flavours just don’t seem to mix together well. Luckily there are some parts that are nice, so it’s not a complete let-down.

However, breathing does the trick here. It needs to be decanted. Give it time and lots of air and it becomes significantly better, but to my taste it will never completely recover, no matter how many time you are willing to give it. Still, I don’t dislike it. No. It has its charm and is definitely different from the Zuidam expression I reviewed yesterday. It is different in style and maybe is an acquired taste. For best results, buy a bottle and leave the cork off for two weeks. No, I’m not crazy. Try it for yourself.

Points: 77

Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009

Bolívar LogoAhhh, finally a Bolívar. This is a first one on these pages. Bolívar isn’t a big global brand for Habanos, but it is available in a lot of markets nevertheless. Not a big brand, but it has a specific and fanatical following under seasoned Cigar smokers. Bolívar is known for heavy and strong Cigars.

This 2009 is the first of two Edición Limitadas there are. In 2014 the second and last was released, which was a Super Corona. Don’t think that this means there aren’t a lot of special releases around, because there are. A lot of Edición Regional versions were made. These are limited editions, released in specific countries or markets. In 2006 the first was released for the German market only, and since then 25 more saw the light of day.

This Petit Belicosos is just like its bigger brother the Belicosos, just 15mm shorter. Another difference is that just like other Edicíon Limitadas the tobacco was aged for two years. As far as I know this Petit Belicoso is made in three different factories and thus boxes exist with three different codes: STA MAY 09, OMA JUL 09 and LRE AGO 09.

Bolívar Petit Belicosos EL 2009

Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009 (52 x 125mm, Petit Belicosos, Petit Pyramid, Box code unknown).

Color & Looks: Oscuro. Dark brown. No veins, quite stiff to the touch. When it warms up it becomes more flexible.

A cru: Strong leather smell. Cigarette ashes, mocha coffee and dark chocolate. Sawdust and (old) wood in general. Promising power.

Taste: Good smoke and the draw is good as well. Dark taste with hints of petrol. Stong mahogany wood. The whole is also quite on the woody side. It lacks the creaminess we know from Hoyo de Monterrey, but both brands couldn’t be further apart. This Bolívar is dry and sharp. Heavy indeed. Maximum strength dark chocolate. No stuff for beginners. This definitely isn’t one to start the smoking season with, so to speak. Strong powerful stuff, but by now I believe you get the picture. Extremely dry and woody, almost hard to smoke by itself. I wonder with what to combine this to balance the strength out a bit.

To be honest this doesn’t show a lot of development, even after six years in my humidor. Over halfway through some soapyness appears. The dryness is aided by some herbal notes like cumin and some restrained basil. These are all mere hints since the whole is wood, even more wood and some paper. I don’t know if my palate was anesthetized by this Cigar, but even given its power it doesn’t even have a long-lasting aftertaste, like I had with some Partagás from the past, which I could still taste the next day.

Well built and smokes very easily, but it does burn unevenly. It has a thick wrapper. Luckily the uneven burn is easily corrected. In the end I expected more of this. Ashes is darkest grey, black and brown. No white ashes at all. All the way through I had a craving for apple pie with lots of cinnamon, which I don’t even eat that often, so what does that mean? Will it go nicely with pie? I can tell you it went well with very strong coffee, two hammers, hammer as one.

What can I say. This is a heavy Cigar, and for me it was too much. Did I recognize the quality then? No, not really. I found it harsh, lacking development and it didn’t have a long and lasting aftertaste. Having said that, people who like these heavy Cigars do like this one very much, so I won’t argue with that. It probably is not for me. I have still a few of these lying around, so I’ll let them age more, and see what will happen. Maybe the Cigar will change or maybe I will.

Points: 77

Frapin V.S.O.P. (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru de Cognac)

The beginning of the year saw the launch of Cognac as a distillate to be reviewed on the pages of Master Quill. Serge calls it a Malternative and I think I understand why. Sure it’s another distillate, that’s not made from distilling Beer, like Whisky, but made from distilling Wine. A different distillate altogether. Is it an alternative to (Single Malt) Whisky? It’s not an alternative in taste, it’s too different, and I don’t come across a lot of cask strength Cognac’s to name but a difference. I do feel it can be an alternative to Whisky considering price. Most Single Malts are becoming more and more expensive (or younger a.k.a. the NAS phenomenon), and the consumer is looking for different distillates that are just more affordable. I always was interested in Bourbon’s and Rum’s but never considered them as alternatives, just different. But even those distillates are becoming more and more expensive.

In the case of Whisky, just look at the rise in price of your beloved eighteen year olds. Highland Park, Springbank, Longrow etc. You could buy Highland Park 18 for a lot less than it is sold for today, and I’m not talking about a decade ago, just look what happened in the past two years. You and I, who remember the old pricing, might not be willing paying double for it in the space of one year, but that’s no problem for the distillery. A new customer is willing to pay that amount, first fo all, because he or she can afford it or did not get used to the old price. This brings us right back to an alternative for Malts. This Frapin costs as much as a good blend, but as I said above, it tastes like something completely different. Personally I see it as a different distillate, with its own particular taste, love it or not, but it won’t make me trade in my bottles of Whisky, so in that sense it’s not an alternative at all…

I believe if you are looking for an alternative for your Whisky, you should look at other producers of Whisky, wo still can produce a nice and affordable Whisky. Sure if you love Whisky, you won’t find a replacement unless it’s a Whisky as well, but more on that later…

Frapin V.S.O.P. (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru de Cognac)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Quite woody. Orange skins. Fresh lacquer. Old bakelite. Cocktail Cherries. Definitely some oaky vanilla. Dry earth and woodchips, just like smelling Orchids. Sweetish. Sweet vanilla, but this time only hints of (sweet) licorice, something I get in a lot of Cognacs. Dry and dusty, like listening to Gheorghe Zamfir. Quite aromatic, but not very fruity or floral. Smells nice overall.

Taste: Wood, caramel toffee and lots of almonds, Quite sweet actually. Vanilla ice-cream. Hints of whipped cream. Some more fruit, but its hard to point out which. It’s like sweet yellow fruit yoghurt. Sweet, yoghurt, without any of the acidity or dryness. Quite light. The finish is the weakness here. Not a lot is happening over there. Only the candy cherry taste somehow lingers on a bit.

Baffling difference between the nose and the actual taste. It’s almost like the nose shows the potential, but the taste has been in part ruined. Added sugar maybe? Anyway, the whole is too light, and leaves next to nothing behind.

Points: 77

Bushmills 12yo “Distillery Reserve” (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

1608. The Old Bushmills distillery got its licence in 1608! It was King James I who then issued the licence to distill to Thomas Phillipps. As most of you very well know, this makes The Old Bushmills distillery the oldest licensed distillery…in the world (Jeremy Clarkson voice-over). Try to imagine how long the distillery may have even existed before that. Since then the distillery was in and out of production many times.

More recent history then: Diageo bought the distillery in 2005 for £200 million, only to trade it with José Cuervo (Tequila) for their 50% share in Mexico’s Don Julio Tequila brand, making Diageo the sole owner of Don Julio. Don Julio was founded in 1942 and is the eleventh largest Tequila brand in Mexico. For the time being I prefer 1608 over 1942…

Bushmills 12yo Distillery ReserveColor: Full gold, slightly “red”

Nose: Creamy with lots of vanilla ice-cream soaked into some shiny cardboard. You must know Vanilla ice-cream from a paper cup. Cheap milk chocolate or fake milk chocolate. Give it a minute and a more fruity note appears. Red forest fruit. Mint infused warm chocolate. Weak after eight. The mint fondant nose stays on. Hint of funky red Sherry. The whole is very restrained. It almost because the glass won’t let it go, or smelling the spirit through a neutral cloth. Molten ice-cream, weak milk chocolate and mint fondant, that this nose in a nutshell. Oh, and some cardboard…

Taste: Fruity and quite sweet. Fruity toffee, which should have been sticky, but tastes watery here. Again a Whisk(e)y that should have had a higher ABV. Remnants of fortified wine. Red berries and black currants I also get from Redbreast 15yo. Here also quite some vanilla. Tiny hint of burnt wood, but also the big paper note from the nose. Recognizable as an Irish Whiskey, but for me it’s also a bit flawed. It has a great side to it, but also a not-so-great side. Paper disturbs me, and takes away from the pleasure of drinking this. It wants to be a Redbreast 15yo or a Jameson’s 18yo, but falls rather short. Equally annoying is the finish, or lack thereof.

If you concentrate a bit, you can taste the sheer potential of this Whiskey. It could have been great since there are many likeable notes in here. Alas some off notes (paper) and the weakness of the whole ruin it for me. I hate to play the where-is-the-finish game. A damn shame, for I believe a potentially great Whiskey was ruined.

Points: 77

Teeling Small Batch (46%, OB, Rum Cask Finish, February 2015)

Last month I reviewed a single cask bottling of a Teeling Whiskey for the Dutch market finished in a Madeira Cask. Nice stuff, but for some, hard to get. The most widely available Teeling should be this Small Batch. This is a blended Whiskey finished in Rum casks.  Since 2013 many batches were released and for some batches, if not all, casks were used that held Rum from Flor de Caña (Nicaragua). Flor de Caña is known for an accessible and rather dry Rum.

Teeling Small BatchColor: Gold. (Thick legs in the glass)

Nose: Sweet. Sweet and sugary and smells very much like the sweet, middle of the road Rums like Abuelo Añejo I just reviewed. Brown sugar. Its Rum and Rum, after a while some more notes are discernible. Toasted wood, and sugary wood. Vegetal and whiffs of sulphur. I’m working hard at it, but I can’t recognize any Irish Whisky in this yet, let alone a Blended Irish Whiskey. Leaving the glass to breathe for a while, yes you might say it has some traits of Irish Whiskey. Some dry, woody milk chocolate enters the fold and it gets more dusty.

Taste: Again lots of Rum, just here it is a little drier and more leafy than an actual Panamanian Rum I mentioned above. Sugar right from the start. Also the body is all about Rum. The finish is the only place where you can actually taste the Irish Whisky. Sweet grain. The finish is quite short, a bit thin also and again sugary and Rum-like. Wow, were the Rum casks really empty, when they were put to use finishing this Irish Whiskey? Given some time the Rum wears off a bit and Whiskey seems to shine through, although it also could have been a dry sugar cane distillate now. A bit gritty, vegetal and woody. Notes of sweet red fruits more common to some Rums than Whiskey.

Wow, this actually is closer to a Rum than Irish Whiskey! Blended or not. Just look at the legs in the glass. Just smell this and taste this. luckily I have the bottle here. because if this was from a sample, I wouldn’t have written this review thinking the sample was mislabeled! This Teeling isn’t very expensive, but if you want a distillate that tastes and smells like this, get yourself the Abuelo Añejo it’s even less expensive than this Teeling Rum finished in Irish Whiskey casks. This actually is pretty funny! Were all the batches like this?

Points: 77

After finishing this review I filled my glass with the Abuelo 7yo. It is thicker and fuller and way more vanilla to it, but in taste quite similar to the Teeling. Amazing. It should be even more similar to the Añejo, but I don’t have that one here anymore for a proper H2H same for Flor de Caña 12yo and Flor de Caña 18yo I reviewed earlier, both gone…

La Mauny 1749 Rhum Agricole Ambré (40%, Martinique)

Lets try some Rhum Agricole shall we? This is not a very expensive Rhum Ambré, so probably made for cocktails or cola. This Rum is made by La Mauny. The Rum is named “1749” because in that year Ferdinand Poulain, Count de Mauny, from Brittany, France, arrived in Martinique. He married the daughter of a planter who owned a sugar estate located in Rivière Pilote, on the southern part of the island of Martinique. This sugar estate later became the La Mauny domain which besides Sugar produced Tafia, a precursor of rum. As with many sugar plantations, sugar stopped being the main business when sugar was sourced from beets, and of course, sourced closer to home, and the focus shifted towards distilling of the sugarcane juice. In 1923 The domain became the property of the brothers Theodore and Georges Bellonie. Georges distilled and Theodore was selling their product, Rhum Agricole. In 1996 La Mauny got an “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”(AOC) status, we know from french wines.

La Mauny Rhum Agricole Ambré (40%, Martinique)Color: Gold

Nose: Nice! Vibrant vanilla, spices and wood, but much more, already very complex. Licorice with lots of depth, orange skin. Thick sticky toffee like this is a Demerara Rum. Christmas pudding. With air, the spiciness becomes more vegetal, and you know what that means, yes another layer of complexity. This is an example where a young product takes a lot of wood influence without being woody. But back to the vegetal part it’s like smelling a fern in a pot of soil which is just being watered when you return home after a weekend of leisure. Excellent nose!

Taste: The taste matches the nose, but in a toned down way. Its warming all right, and it has the honey, vanilla and funky toffee. But it all seems reduced a bit, yes its a bit thin and light, there was more happening in the nose. The taste would probably match the nose even more, when it would be higher in ABV. For a moment quite early in its development, it has a peak of bitterness that does dissipate and doesn’t overpower the finish. There are elements that come across as being chemical or even something rotting a bit. What? If this had a fuller aroma on the palate, aided by a higher ABV, this would be a fantastic sipping rum. It’s still a good tasting Rum, but I guess it was eventually made for cocktails. Will have to look at some other Rums by La Mauny. This was just a first impression!

Points: 77