Dutch Jenever Week – Day 7: Rutte Single Barrel Bordeaux Graanjenever 14yo 1999 (38%, Limousin Oak Cask #239, 490 bottles

Jenever Week Logo

We already reached the end of our Dutch Jenever journey. It was a long journey for me, and writing the reviews and doing the research took me a whole lot longer than first expected. Lots of other things came in between, both already published and some not, like the next Master Quill week, which at this point in time is nearly finished as well. It’s a good thing I took my time, because in the mean time I somehow connected with Jenever and found out what it is and what its place is in the big scheme of things. I learned to appreciate it for the wonderful traditional liquor it is. I present to you the last review of the week and it is a 14yo Rutte, aged in a Bordeaux cask, in many ways similar to yesterdays 14yo Zuidam that was matured in two Oloroso Sherry casks. I expected both to be dominated by the Bordeaux Wine or Oloroso Sherry before setting off…

RUTTE_SINGLE_BARREL_BORDEAUX_14JR_lowresxxx300Color: Vibrant copper gold.

Nose: Very fruity. Berries, cherries and this definitely has some characteristics of wine, just not the wine itself. Very fresh and vibrant at first, but also a deep dull nutty undertone that evolves over time. Sweetish and grainy. The cask impaired a lot of aromas onto the Jenever. Waxy red apple skins. Vanilla, mocha and plywood. Small hint of licorice, some toasted cask and sometimes a light whiff of cigarette smoke. Still not a true red wine aroma, if you ask me. If someone would give me this Jenever blind and ask what kind of cask this came from, I would have been sure this was from a Calvados cask. The aroma is from apple, but also the typical acidity from Calvados. Very perfumy and fruity. Definitely floral as well. Cinnamon comes next and as we all know, cinnamon goes together well with the apple aroma this Jenever has. Nice stuff to smell. Soft.

Taste: Sweet, sweet, sweet. Apples in many (distilled) guises. First impression shows an enormous lack of complexity. Fruity, overpowering and warming, and yes, quite likeable as well. Liquid candy and although 38% ABV is not high, it seems way less than this. It drinks like a soft Sherry with corresponding ABV. Christmas pudding. More Calavados notes mixed together well with some soft and spicy notes from wood. I know this is from a cask that once held French Red Wine, but the spirit is Dutch. Having said that I can’t get rid of the French feeling this Jenever gives me. maybe this is because this hardly tastes like a Jenever at all? Am I biased by the statement on the label and the aroma’s of Calvados? I wish I had tasted this blind, not knowing what it was, would I call this a Calvados then? Even after 14 years we can safely say that the Bordeaux may have overpowered the Jenever a bit, but some nice synergy was achieved as well. It ís still recognizable as a Jenever. It has a great nose and tastes well. Big gulp now and damn, this has a lot to do with a semi-sweet Calvados (and nothing with Bordeaux or the other Rutte offerings I reviewed and tasted). Again a Jenever that has to breathe for a while, so don’t be hasty with it.

Whereas with Zuidam you get the feeling everything is intelligently planned and intended, with Rutte it sometimes is more random and spontaneous. Trial and error. Hit or miss.”Well lets not chuck out the cask, people. Rinse it out and put some spirit in it, I might like it in the end.” (And then forget about the cask altogether untill a cleaning-lady accidentally stumbles upon it…)

I hope Patrick van Zuidam doesn’t feel too comfortable now, to sit back on a beach somewhere, and just let things happen. Although the Rogge Genever was a bit sweet and simple, the rest of the offerings I reviewed here were top-notch. A clear winner. Rutte seems to be trying to find an identity for itself by concentrating on experimentation, marketing and far away markets. Everything was pretty decent though, especially this Dutch Calvados made from Jenever and Bordeaux casks. However, the bottle of the Rutte Twaalf Graanjenever started out as a disappointment by its lack of balance. Shockingly so, since I actually expected quite a lot of that one. When it got some extensive contact with air it got way better. I tasted some young expressions, maturing in American oak and they were pretty good. I should try another bottle of this 12yo, to see if the profile is just different. Knowing the Rutte 12yo, puts this Bordeaux Jenever more into perspective. The fruity acidity I expected to come from the Bordeaux cask is actually coming from the spirit itself, since it is also present in the 12yo.

In the end this Dutch Jenever Week only featured products from Rutte and Zuidam. Of course there are a lot more Dutch and other Jenevers around, as I mentioned yesterday, and I will absolutely source some more for future reviews., because Jenever is definitely worth your attention. Just let it be Jenever and don’t compare it to anything else. It’s not Whisky nor Gin and why should it? Proost!

Points: 79

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Hendrick’s Gin (41,4%, OB, Scotland)

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

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

Hendrick's GinColor: Colorless.

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

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

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

Points: 79 (yup high score again)

Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB)

Yeah, a Glenrothes cannonball! I may have mentioned earlier, but when I got into Whisky a long time ago, I really liked the looks of this. Didn’t care for the box though, just for the bottle. Second they are issued as vintages, like wines, so we have here an example of the 1992 vintage. Anyone remember how the summer and the harvest was in Scotland back then? So I quickly bought me something like this, and was a bit disappointed. Now many moons later I have tried quite some of these Glenrothes vintages, like this 1989, or this 1979, but somehow there never was one that really grabbed me.

Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB)Color: Gold

Nose: Creamy and funky. Definitely some Sherry influence. Vanilla and some disconcerting fruity acidity and spice. Weird combination, not all that well-integrated. Aroma of apples, Calvados. Every time you move the Whisky in your glass, the Calvados pops out first. Mild wood, hardly noticeable. More paper and lots of dust. Coffee creamer. The Sherry influence is also quite dusty and not entirely pleasant. Hints of burnt cask mixes with the Sherried funk. Meaty and ever so slightly smoky. Leaves. cold wet green tea leaves. When I let it breathe, some component, but not all, are coming together a bit. In the end not one of the best noses from planet Glenrothes.

Taste: Sweet and toffeed, quickly followed by woody spice, which combine rather well. No trace yet of the fruity acidity the nose suffers from. Dish water with some fresh coriander leaves and sweet dried basil. Paper and licorice. Medium finish with hardly any aftertaste. Although the taste of the toasted Sherry cask does remain for quite a while as well as some soapiness. A bit strange this one.

Where the nose had its faults, the taste is more likeable, but also rather simple. A typical everyday Glenrothes. Nothing special, faulty but with some good points too. A bit too simple on the taste and lacking some development. Since this is an older bottle, bottled almost twelve years ago, it manages to fetch quite some money at auctions, but that can only be collectors. Those people are definitely not paying that kind of money because this is so great or that special.

Points: 79

Cognac Week – Day 1: A. de Fussigny Superieur (40%, Fine Champagne)

Cognac Week LogoHappy new year! Most of you will not read this post, right from the first second of 2016, but probably a bit later. I hope you all got through the fatty stuff you stuffed in your mouth over the past few days, and are ready for a wonderful and healthy 2016. For Master Quill this new year will start with the Cognac Week! A new year, the fourth year for Master Quill, so its time for a new distillate on these pages. A worthy distillate and maybe long overdue. Up untill now we have already covered some wonderful distillates. Obviously Whisky in many forms as well as a growing number of Rums and there has been some Grappa. Wines and Beers have not been so prominent on these pages the last year as in the beginning, but I’m sure they will get their share of attention again someday, although I feel Master Quill is for the time being more about distillates, so that will remain the main focal point in the future. Let’s start with Cognac. The first one is made by A. de Fussigny, which just might taste as modern as the bottle looks.

A. de Fussigny SuperieurColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Fruity and dusty. Sappy oak sawdust. Italian licorice. Warm and sweet licorice juice, warm in your mouth. Tiny hint of Apple Brandy and powdered mint candy. Small hints of (new) wood and a tiny hint of unripe banana giving it a more Caribbean feel. Cocktail cherries. This particular Cognac does have some notes of vanilla and has a creaminess that leads me to believe also American oak is used for maturation. Smells young, light, fresh and hip, although some more organic notes appear when the Cognac is warmed in my hand.

Taste: Fruity and quite sweet for a Cognac. Sugar water and sweet cherries. Apples are in here too. Calvados and some caramel. Not a lot of wood (only noticeable under my tongue), and chewing on it, sweet and salty licorice emerges. Quite a simple Cognac though. It has a few markers but overall lacks complexity and has hardly any finish or aftertaste. It shows not a lot of evolution.

For me, this is marketed for young people who just start with Cognac, although I wonder if Cognac appeals to young people these days. Nevertheless we thought the public viewed Whisky as dad’s drink and see how the younger generation have embraced (Single Malt) Whisky with full force. Today it’s one of the factors it’s almost impossible or unaffordable to buy a well aged Whisky anymore.

Points: 79

Linkwood 18yo 1991/2010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)

Another Linkwood then. Linkwood is quite a difficult distillery for me. Somehow I don’t seem to like Linkwood that much, and I don’t buy any of Linkwood without tasting it first. This one I did buy blind. First of all I like Raymond Armstrong (the former owner of Bladnoch Distillery) and just like Dutch independent bottlers The Ultimate were/are able to bottle some great Whisky at very fair prices. Luckily a lot of my tasting is done blind, so it’s not the name that makes for a lower score. Don’t get me wrong, I did come across some good Linkwoods as well. So with an open mind let’s have a got at this 18yo Linkwood.

Linkwood 18yo 19912010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Acetone, unmistakable. Nail polish remover. Lots of sappy leaves too. Quite nutty as well. Well not dull isn’t it. This spirit jumps right out of my glass. The acetone seems to “remove” itself, but it’s just me not smelling it anymore since it tries to anesthetize me. Put it away for a minute and smell it again, and you’ll be hit in the head again. Even though some might like it, it most definitely is flawed. Nice wood underneath it all. Coffee, cloves and some mocha-cream. Hazelnut pastry. Vanilla, hints of lemon and even a bit perfumy after a while. If you factor out the solvent, this is quite a bold body from a highly active and spicy cask. Quite nice but with a rather unusual defect. No I don’t hate it. Maybe this needs to oxidize a bit?

Taste: For a brief moment there is a solvent. It is quite hot, but the solvent (not ethanol) is quickly replaced by a more woody and leafy aroma. Woody and nutty. Sweet, with a lot of vanilla. Even though the solvent part seems to dissipate for a while, the whole stays quite hot and overpowering, just as it did with the nose. Freshly painted wood and freshly sawn, not entirely dry, oak. The feeling something other than Whisky is going down my throat. Medium finish.

In a way this was difficult to score (but not really). First of all I liked it maybe a bit more than I scored it, but I don’t think this isn’t one to finish quickly. Quality wise this couldn’t score very high since it has some obvious flaws, not exactly from the middle cut maybe? (although hard to imagine).

Points: 79

The Michael Jackson Special Blend (43%, Whisky Magazine & Berry Bros. & Rudd, 1.000 bottles, 2009)

The late Michael Jackson, born 27th of March, 1942, was a writer who was mainly known for writing about Beer and later in his career about Whisky. Like many Whisky aficionado’s or anoraks, his Malt Whisky Companion was my first book on the topic. Michael JacksonNot a lot of books like that existed back then, and it opened a world for me. I almost wore the book out. In hindsight I liked his book on Belgian Beers better, due to its thorough research and obvious love and passion for the subject. The Whisky Companion itself started to gather some dust since a lot of the scores in the book weren’t very realistic to say the least. Just look at the scores for the Macallan Traveller Series to name but four. In 2009, the Whisky Magazine and Berry Bros & Rudd blended the remains of his collection of open bottles together and other Whisky was added to “correct” the result. A proportion of the profits raised with this bottling was donated to The Parkinson’s Disease Society, an illness Michael suffered from, for more than a decade.

The Michael Jackson Special BlendColor: Dark Gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, quite dark and brooding. Sweet tea, wax and lots of cask toast and (burnt) caramel. Slightly rotting apples and other creamy fruits. Hints of smoke and rubber tires. Quite special and waxy. Lots of wood, caramel and toffee, but also a fresher, more fruity side. Sweet grain. I have to say I quite like the way this smells. This must have some pretty high quality and old components. Vanilla with pencil shavings and slightly animalesk (probably a non-existent word). Meaty and flowery. It seems endless. Very nice nose.

Taste: Spicy and woody, licorice, but also quite sweet. Very aromatic. Right off the bat, a tad too low in ABV. This probably would have been better at 46% ABV if possible. I guess the sweetness comes from some younger (grain) whisky used to balance the whole out. Pretty fruity but also hints of paper and cardboard. Spicy and a bit dusty. Hints of mint from toothpaste. Very easily drinkable. Toffee and almonds. Very distinct nuttiness. Well balanced, but it is the kind of balance usually achieved with caramel coloring, it seems that way, but it doesn’t have to be true. Overall not very complex, medium (beer like) finish that is a bit bitter, but still quite nice and drinkable.

This is a piece of history. Especially the nose shows that some pretty awesome Whisky was put into this blend. I’m glad it is a decent dram, because Mr. Jackson deserves a farewell with a Whisky like this. Not for collecting but Whisky made for drinking. In a way Michael is sharing a dram with friends for the last time. Michael died of a heart attack on the 30th of August 2007.

points: 79

Pampero Aniversario Reserva Exclusiva (40%, Circa 2009, Venezuela)

Nearly summer, but already quite a lot of sunny days. Add to that that I live besides a lake, makes for an almost carribean feel. Well, no white sandy beaches, no palm trees, and not really crystal clear water, but you can’t have it all can’t you? Not so long ago I reviewed a trio of Rums, which I haven’t done for a while then and I must admit, I had quite a lot of fun with them. So why not do it again? Lets start with a Rum most Rum aficionado’s know very well. Pampero Aniversario. If you don’t recognize the picture below, this Rum is sold in a leather pouch, which also comes in handy when wiping moisture off of your windscreen.

Pampero AniversarioColor: Dark brown.

Nose: When you see the (dark) color of this Rum, you expect a lot nosing this for the first time, but it actually smells sweet, but also very elegant and middle of the roadish. It sounds worse than I actually mean. Reminds me a bit of Abuelo 7yo (which is sharper) and the 18yo Panamanian Rum from Rum Nation (which is less sweet). Light, fresh and fragrant. Hints of cinnamon and thick brown sugar. Lightly acidic fruit and cola. New leather and butterscotch.

Taste: Quite thin and for a brief moment sugary sweet, acidic, cola again. (Slightly burnt) brown sugar, but alas a bit thin (as in watery) and a bit too simple. It is even drier than expected. Hints of bitterness from wood and slightly burnt caramel. Creamy toffee with hints of vanilla. All flavours are well integrated. Short finish, which leaves you only with the burnt aftertaste.

The color alone made for great expectations. Alas the Rum itself is rather light. I can’t help but feel this has a lot more potential than it is allowed to show, so that everybody will like it. Just smell the Rum deeply, let it breathe a lot, its very complex, well balanced and nice. Taste wise a lot simpler and lighter, with a short finish. This Rum has a profile with lots of competitors. I already mentioned Abuelo from Panama, but also Diplomatico from Venezuela itself or Zacapa 23 from Diageo themselves.

Points: 79