Compass Box “Oak Cross” (43%, OB, Circa 2006)

From the same period as “Asyla” (a blended Whisky), I reviewed back in 2015, comes this Blended Malt called “Oak Cross”. Blended Malt is the new expression for what we once called Vatted Malts. Two or more Single Malts, from different distilleries, blended together (so, without any Grain Whisky). Oak Cross is made from three Highland Single Malt Whiskies, yes, blended together to make this Blended Malt. I’ll let Compass Box themselves explain how they did it, since there is no way I could have put it better myself:

All [three] are aged [10 to 12 years] in [first fill] American oak casks before we place a portion [said to be 40%] into innovative hybrid casks [for up to 2 years] featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads [hence the name Oak Cross]. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered Malt Whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.

By the way, the three Malts used for this “Blend” are 60% Clynelish (fruity), 20% Teaninich (for the smell of it) and 20% Dailuaine (the “meat” of it all).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Young and rather perfumy (Teaninich). Friendly and light. Appetizing. Something works very well here. Fruity (Clynelish). Yellow fruits that is, more of the apples and pears kind of fruit. Very European so to speak as opposed to the exotic Indian spices we get from, well…Indian Whiskies. Cardboard, and paper, dusty notes from oak, almost like an old house. Warm apple compote. More sweet than acidic to be frank. This has a warming quality to it. Notes of vanilla pudding. and soft oak, almost boiled soft oak. Tiniest hint of burned wood (and hay), warm motor oil (Dailuaine) and finally some grassy green hints. Although I am quite familiar with Whiskies from American oak, this does have another twist to it, is it the French oak maybe, or is it the soft fruitiness this shows. Nice, whatever it is.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry and again very friendly but also a bit thin, apart from the sugary feel that is. Nice and very approachable. No off-notes (hint of plastic, and ever so slightly soapy, but these don’t hurt the end-result a bit), and the sweetness never gets to that, annoying, cloying-level. Fruity yes, but harder to analyze than it was from the nose. Not so apply and peary as the nose. Maybe the sweetness is masking it? Fruity appetizing body, with a nice warming finish and enough staying power.

The sweetness makes this approachable and likeable, and is probably marketed towards people who are new to (Single Malt) Whisky. This may have it all, it seems young, but acceptable, therefore also quite inexpensive, well made, soft and friendly.

Points: 80

Advertisements

Highland Park Week – Day 4: Highland Park 1992/2006 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Refill Sherry)

Yesterday we ventured into the realm of the independent bottler, well two actually. Today we’ll stay there but add only one independent bottler to our collection. This time we’ll have a look at a reasonably priced, (at least it was reasonably priced ten years ago, when this was bottled), and reduced Highland Park bottled by Italian outfit Wilson & Morgan. Yes, you’ll find a lot of people in Italy with names like that!

Yesterdays Highland Park was distilled in 1995, this particular one was distilled several years earlier. Do you see a trend? However, since this was bottled ten years prior to yesterdays 1995 offering, this one is definitely younger (as in it spent less time in wood). Here it is stated on the label that this came out of a Refill Sherry cask, so lets see if this one has more Sherry influence, compared to yesterdays Refill Hogshead.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry notes and actually a bit soapy. Much different from the previous Highland Park. Right from the start discrepant fruity acidic notes. Dusty and vegetal. Not very appealing actually. First impression is that something is not quite right. Warm, dull (nothing sticks out or shines) and somewhat simple. Not a lot of development. It’s almost like the Highland park distillate and this particular Sherry cask are no friends of each other. I’m wondering what kind of Sherry it was. Definitely unbalanced. Hints of caramel, toast and aspirin powder. Add to that a vibrant red fruity, synthetic, acidity. Unbelievable how dusty this is. No wood and some hidden sweetness. Syrup, sugar (the smell of it, not the sweetness). Hints of morning breath and Jenever. Powdered coffee creamer.

Taste: Wow, the dullness mentioned above is right op front the taste as well, as is (finally) some wood. Short hot burst and woody spices. Friendly hint of, again synthetic, lemon. Some sweetness in the background, toffee, coffee creamer and yet again an unbalanced middle part. Rural notes. Here the dullness translates into paper. Old newspaper (hold the ink). The red fruits mentioned above make up the rather short finish, with a unbalaced aftertaste. The cask did it’s part here. It did impair aromas you wouldn’t get from a Bourbon cask. However, just like was noticeable on the nose. The Highland Park distillate and the cask didn’t work together very well.

This one is long gone and you don’t even see them that much on auctions. Most older bottles of reduced Whisky, by Wilson & Morgan were very affordable, so I guess most were drunk when they were released. If you come across this one at auction or on a dusty shelf somewhere, well it’s not without reason it stayed on that shelf and when auctioned, I wouldn’t pay all that much for it. Its Whisky, it’s not bad and it doesn’t have big flaws. Definitely drinkable, but not a high flyer if you ask me. A bit unbalanced and very restrained or dull, but not boring, or maybe that as well…

Points: 80

Longrow 13yo 1993/2006 (57.1%, OB, Private Bottling, for MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson, Cask #635)

This is a sample I have lying around for a very long time. I last tasted it last some ten years ago, and there was definitely something wrong with this. Just have a look at the review posted by Serge. yes, he’s a big fan of this one! Ten years ago I found it pretty odd as well, but come to think of it, Springbank make such good Whisky, what must have happened for it to be so “strange”, and for it to be bottled? Today I’m becoming more and more a fan of Springbank, feeling they can’t do anything wrong. In these days of NAS (some bad, some good), Springbank are able to churn out one good bottling after another. NAS or no NAS. So this less than half full sample got plenty of time to balance itself out with some air, so let’s see how this private cask of MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson will do in 2016. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

Longrow 1993 Private Bottling Cask #635Color: Light gold.

Nose: Light peat, but not much and some burning plastic. Herbal lemon. Deeper down a more buttery note. Fatty with hidden sweetness. Slightly burnt wood (toasted cask), fresh dried oak and an acidic off-note. Bread, butter, paper, cardboard (they all go together) and caramel. Toffee even. Next some crushed beetle. In my case an accident, because I’m not cruel to animals, but once I’ve gained the experience, I’ll never forget the smell. Well, it’s in this Whisky. (Tobacco) smoke and cold charcoal. Hints of menthol. It is a nose that wants to be dry and spicy, not fruity. It’s not floral, but may very well have been. Add to that a creamy, butter and toffee and you have this in a nutshell. Very well hidden is the aroma of new make spirit, a sweetish Vodka aroma. Sure, this is (still) lacking in balance a bit, but it’s not as bad as it was ten years ago. It did get better with “some” air. I actually like how it smells now.

Taste: Sweet, but with a lot of bread and paper notes. Floral plastics and vegetal. The initial sweetness works well with the relatively high ABV. Sweet sugared yellow fruits. Sugared apricots. the body itself is not so sweet. Interesting. Damn, this is really about vegetal paper. Paper, cardboard, wet paper, pulp. It’s hard to impossible to get past this. The paper notes overwhelm the entry and the better part of the body. When this dissipates, an acidic note shows itself which just is wrong. Towards the end of the body, the Whisky also becomes slightly soapy. Yeah, lets add to the plastic pleasure. Hey, now I get some smoked eel skin as well as the aroma of an ash-tray and sweet jasmine powder. What a Whisky. This has quite a few flaws, so maybe it’s good the finish is not very long (and hardly an aftertaste).

If after Serge’s review (and mine) you still want to buy it, be advised that you should let this breathe extensively. And I do mean extensively this time. It will help the nose along, the taste however is beyond repair. I wonder what went wrong here. It probably wasn’t the spirit going into the cask, but was the cask somehow contaminated? Rotting bung cloth? A fungus maybe? In the end not a complete dud, so I won’t be scoring this 55 Points like Serge, but for a Longrow this is not a good score either…

Points: 80

Bunnahabhain 8yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail’s Collection, Refill Sherry Butts, Heavily Peated)

Let’s continue with a Margadale. You might have never heard of Margadale, but that is how the heavily peated Bunnahabhain spirit is actually called. Margadale has a peating level between 35 and 40 ppm. Bunnahabhain means “mouth of the river”, now guess the name of the river itself… I would have liked it if they really would have called it Margadale, just like Tobermory and Ledaig. Now, the peated spirit Bunnahabhain produces is called Margadale, but when the spirit becomes Whisky, the bottled peated Bunnahabhain is called Moine. That’s probably a name you have encountered before. Only Berry Brothers & Rudd have once bottled a peated Bunnahabhain with a mention of Margadale. Bunnahabhain used to be an (almost) unpeated Islay Whisky, even the water used didn’t ever flow over peated land, but when the going got tough, aided by some changes in ownership, they started to make peated Whisky as well…

Bunnahabhain 8yo The MacPhails CollectionColor: Straw, light gold.

Nose: Fatty and buttery. Nice Islay peat. Sea breeze, salty and warming, but also with a soft quality to it. Peat, smoke, crushed beetle and tar. Burning newspaper. Hidden sweetness and florality. Effective and typical. Everything is there, but nothing is overpowering the rest. I would say elegant, as far as heavily peated Whiskies can be called elegant. Nice citrussy note, giving some freshness on top of the peat, smoke, tar and saltness. The floral and fruity notes are deeper and heavier and lie more on the bottom, or in the depth of the nose. Balanced and fine. With some more air it dumbs down a bit. Hints of (burning) paper (again), and the fruits come more to the fore. Dried apricots and white grape. Here you can see how the Sherry casks worked. It adds fruit and a nice woody spiciness. It somehow lacks the obvious vanilla you get from American oak Bourbon casks, although most Sherry casks these days are made with American oak as well. Sometimes you could guess its relative youth, but on the other hand, this shows enough complexity to be considered and older Whisky. Good ‘un. Nice distillate.

Taste: Right from the start we get some separation. The aroma’s aren’t very well-integrated. Interesting. Starts off with smoked salt and creamy butter and a nice White Wine acidity. Fatty peat, very fatty and buttery indeed. Licorice, sweet wood and honey sweetness. Sweetness there is, but not your regular white sugar sweetness. Yes runny thin honey it is. All the way through it keeps not integrating well. The acidity is displaced and hangs around too long in the back of my mouth, and the sweetness is trying to get too much to say underneath. Not sure this Sherry is a perfect match for the peated spirit. The more it breathes, the more it actually develops in the wrong way.

Nice stuff at 43% ABV. Sure, in times it is a bit thin, but I have no problem with the reduction. It makes this Islay Whisky very accessible. Don’t let it breathe though. It allows the acidity to develop and hold it hostage. The wood makes the Whisky, but in this case the wood broke the Whisky. It’s not terrible, but especially in the details this Whisky fails a bit.

Points: 80

Angostura 12yo “1824” (40%, Circa 2014, Trinidad & Tobago)

Are you mad? Reviewing the same Rum again? Nothing better to do? Well, at first I didn’t want to write two reviews about one Rum. I actually wanted to write one review about two Rums, expecting both to be the same, with just an upgrade in the presentation. When I was on my way writing the previous review, I grabbed this more recent bottling of the “1824” and was quite surprised about the difference when smelling it. I poured it back, without even tasting it, and right on the spot decided to break up the review and write two of them. So here is number two. By now we already know there is a difference in smell, but does it also taste differently? Let’s find out…

Angostura 1824 (2014)Color: Copper brown, ever so slightly lighter than the 2008 version.

Nose: Dry and woody with only a distant funkiness. Well balanced yet very laid back in the nose. Nice red fruity acidity kicks in. Dry vanilla powder and sugared almonds. Sugary in its sweetness as opposed to honey, caramel and toffee. There is vanilla. Smelling very smooth, almost elegant and sometimes perfumy. Sweet black tea with a tropical twist. Dried pineapple? It smells nice, smells like a decent brown Rum, but lacking something. It doesn’t smell like something special, but it does smell rounded out and appetizing. Also performs a bit poor in development. Altogether very middle of the road. Yes, smelling like an Abuelo, but that comes from a different place entirely.

Taste: Starts with red fruity acidity, sugary sweetness with some toffee. Warm diluted, but thin, caramel. Sugary with an herbal quality (cannabis), maybe that’s the influence of the wood. I imagine splinters taste like this. Quite simple with a short finish. Luckily this doesn’t remind me of the “1919” but this new “1824” isn’t one to be overly enthusiastic about as well. Bugger. At least Angostura was able to show its potential with the old “1824”. By the way, this Rum tastes better in big gulps. You need to concentrate it yourself to get the most out of it.

Well, there goes batch consistency. Quite worrying, the difference between a 2008 and a 2014 bottling can be so great, especially when the newest one isn’t the netter of the two. New and improved? nope, alas. Obviously they didn’t change the taste profile of this Rum with the new glass container it comes in, but if I were you, I would still seek out bottles looking like the one from the previous review. That one had a lot more going for it. This newer bottling is not a bad Rum, but the older one is a bit better better!

Tasting the old and the new “1824” side by side I now notice that the old “1824” is more akin to the old “1919” I tasted earlier. Having said that, the old “1824” is still a lot better than the new “1824” and both are better than the old “1919”. Capiche?

Points: 80

Dos Maderas PX 5+5 (40%, Spain)

Well after the fairly unusual rant of the last post lets leave the Whisky (business) behind and focus on some Rum. My other favorite distillate. A wonderful complement to the Whisky world. Oh yeah! This time around we” have a look at a Spanish Rum, although the Rums themselves come from Barbados and Guyana, places we know make excellent Rum, so if you can’t make top-notch Rum yourself, buy the best you can.

Dos Maderas is the Rum brand of Spanish Sherry producers Williams & Humbert. Williams & Humbert have a long history already, which, if you’re interested can be found all over the ol’ interweb. Remember, Google is your friend. Alexander Williams and Arthur Humbert started their wine-business in 1877. By 1972 the company was sold, and since then two times more. Current owners are the Medina’s who worked at the bodega and wanted it for themselves.

As I mentioned above, Williams and Humbert buy their Rums from Barbados and Guyana. Both Rums are approximately 5 years old. In Spain they are aged further for three years in cask that previously held a Palo Cortado Sherry. Part of this is bottled as the 5+3 expression. Another part is then further aged for another two years in casks that previously held PX Sherry, thus giving us the PX a.k.a. the 5+5. By the way both Sherries mentioned above, aged for twenty years in these casks, so these casks should impar a lot of aroma. Let’s see…

Dos Madeiras PX 5+5Color: Dark copper brown.

Nose: Smells extremely sweet. But also the liquid makes you believe that, since it is very syrupy. Hints of burnt sugar and definitely some Pédro Ximenez. Besides the depth this Sherry gives, it also impairs a fruity acidic note. Hints of paper and cardboard in the back and even some raisins. Not a lot of development and overall quite simple. Its like the sugar content this must have stopped its evolution and hides any possible form of complexity. Given the fact this contains 5 year old Rum from Barbados ánd Guyana, both highly aromatic Rums, the PX finish is a bit overpowering. That’s not bad, but its more about the PX, than it is about Rum. Altogether nice, but in a flavoured kind of way.

Taste: It starts with Rum, where the nose was more PX. Burnt sugar and Demerara qualities. Heaps of sweetness. It’s a light Demerara style which leaves room for the Bajan Rum as well. However, the PX takes the driver’s seat rather quickly and puts both Rum’s in the back to come along for the ride. Toffee, sugar and caramel, partly burned. Luckily there are some hints of vanilla and green olive (towards the finish). Hardly any wood. Finish is PX again. Aftertaste is PX as well.

I havent tried the 5+3 expression yet, and thus I don’t know if that one has some finesse to it. In this 5+5, the PX overpowers everything. I do like my PX’s, so I kind of like this, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with Rum. Maybe a shorter finish in the PX casks would have been better, and then they should be brave enough to call this 5+4 or even 5+3 1/2. But who am I to say so. Still good stuff though.

Points: 80

Jim Beam “Black” 8yo (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

Jim Beam white was my first Bourbon ever, in fact is was my first Whiskey ever! Especially for the money I always considered the bulk produced White quite decent. Later in my “career” I bought this Black label, which looks more serious and brooding. Just like a bride stands out next to the Terminator. This used to be 8yo, and it said so on the label, but todays version became a NAS. I don’t think it got much younger, but this way, I guess, the company has the possibility to mix in some 6yo and 7yo Whiskies.

Jim Beam BlackColor: Light copper orange.

Nose: Honey, and lots of it. Nice creamy wood. Vanilla. Very friendly and appetizing. Whiffs of burning newspaper, and sometimes a tiny, tiny whiff of fireworks. Toasted cask, but again, not much. The honey never takes a step back, its omnipresent. The more time you are able to give this the more the wood comes to the front. At twice the age of the “White” that should hardly come as a surprise. Well balanced stuff. Still, after the wood, caramel and toffee show themselves more as well as some white pepper and some, wait for it… rural organics. This is pretty good, considering the price and the industrial amounts that are made of this.

Taste: Quite light. Floral. Honey again. After a short delay that warm honey runs down my throat, quickly turning into slightly burnt sugar and oak. Very friendly and not the big hitter the label seems to promise. Definitely family of the White label, with more of everything, just maintaining the friendliness of it all. Extremely easily drinkable. Creamy vanilla and honey again. Quite sweet and lovely, with nice woody characteristics. Oak stays behind after you swallow. Not very complex, but very well-balanced. Especially when given some air and time. Mellow stuff.

The profile of Jim Beam Black fits that of Evan Williams Single Barrel, but half the price. I have to say I don’t know how a more recent “Black” will perform, but this 2004 bottling performs just nicely. Compared to Binny’s Buffalo Trace, the “Black” has way more honey, and seems soapier, which is something I haven’t picked up on, trying it by itself. The Buffalo Trace is more strict and in a way more fruity and even better balanced. I guess now it becomes a comparison of yeast strains. Jim being more floral and the Buffalo being more fruity.

Points: 80