Cognac Week – Day 2: Jean Fillioux Très Vieux (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru du Cognac)

Cognac Week LogoNext please! In our Cognac Week, we move on to a Cognac made by Jean Fillioux. Today the fifth generation of Fillioux is at the helms of the company named for the second generation of Fillioux. The company was actually started by Honoré Fillioux in 1880, before his son Jean took over. Honoré learned the trade as a blender at Hennessy. Fillioux’ “La Pouyade” estate is located in the golden triangle, the place where the best Cognacs come from. The estate is situated right in between the towns of Verrieres, Angeac Champagne and Juillac le Coq. Grapes for the Cognac’s of Jean Fillioux grow on 50 acres on land with a terroir of limestone and chalk clay.

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux is a Grande Champagne Cognac, around 25 years old. This one has quite a few years under its belt, so lets see if this Fillioux lives up to its grande reputation.

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru du Cognac)Color: Copper Orange

Nose: Sweet and fruity. Pretty and elegant. Nice soft wood and elegant fruitiness and hints of sweet white wine, banana, pear and vanilla. After a while plain licorice and over ripe mango juice and a tiny hint of pineapple. Given some time to breathe, the licorice transforms itself in the softer and sweeter laurel licorice. New cured leather and nutmeg, with a tiny hint of lavas. Dry, dusty and quiet. Like an afternoon in tropical heat on the border of a desert listening to Georges Zamphir. Excellent nose, wonderful stuff. I just hope it tastes just as good.

Taste: Much drier than expected. Well balanced, perfumed and slightly soapy. Abundant tropical fruits. It almost tastes like a Tomatin. Soft tannic bitterness, that gives the Cognac a backbone. Quite warming and less soft than the nose promised. Although different, lighter and simpler than the nose, this is not a disappointment. Late in the finish a more woody bitterness appears, showing this has seen quite some (new) wood during its extended ageing.

Fantastic nose, that develops and develops when moving about in the glass. Very nice. Much simpler in taste however. Good stuff, but not necessarily something I must have on my lectern. Quite expensive too, considering the simple taste. You pay for the age. Sure, it tastes great, just lacks a bit in the complexity department. You will find more complexity in other Cognacs of Jean Fillioux.

Points: 81

Glenfiddich 19yo “Age of Discovery” (40%, OB, Madeira Cask Finish)

After an (alas imaginary) short break on the beaches of Barbados, back to Scotland again. From the oldest Rum brand in the world we now focus our gaze at the Whisky that started it all for Single Malts, Glenfiddich. Up ’till now lots of Glenfiddich have found their way onto these pages. The Whisky at hand is the first of three “Age of Discovery” bottlings. All three are accompanied by little stories about traveling and discovering new territories by usage of tall sailing ships. This particular Madeira cask finished Glenfiddich is about discovering the isle of Madeira (and Madeira Wine). The other ones are about sailing up the rivers of America for Bourbon casks (not a Bourbon finish, but wholly matured in Bourbon casks) and finally a Red Wine finish with the story of Darwin visiting the wine making regions of Argentina. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and have a look at this Madeira finished one first.

Glenfiddich 19yo "Age of Discovery" (40%, OB, Madeira Cask Finish)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Funky and acidic. Where is this going? Some wood, rotting wood. Barley and grainy in fact. Waxy.  I’m getting a lot of wax lately, so maybe that’s just me. Luckily with time the aroma’s start to gel a bit. Started out very unbalanced, but the balance returns. Still the whole doesn’t seem to be very complex and obviously is very light. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to reduce it to 40% ABV. Mint & toffee come next. Unbelievable how malty this is after 19 years.

Taste: Sugar water with mocha, toffee and more sugar-water. So yes, quite sweet and appealing. Did the Madeira do that? Lots of vanillin from the American oak. Creamy. Pudding. Custard. Caramel, Toffee. After that it falls flat on its face. Short finish and hardly any aftertaste save for some creamy sweetness. Sure it’s nice and very, very easily drinkable, but hey, where is the development, where is the complexity? It’s a shame this got reduced so much because it tastes like nothing special now. It’s nice, but it is in no way better than a good Malt that costs much less than this one does.

I don’t know if this was meant for travel Retail? A lot of those big box Whiskies that are meant for travel Retail are 40% ABV. Why? Is the industry afraid the traveller at hand will open and drink the bottle on the spot? On the ferry or on the plane? Well, if that’s so, a traveller will get pretty plastered drinking a bottle at 40% ABV as well. So no need to put so much water into the Whisky bottle I would say. I guess you pay for the packaging this time. It’s nice, but could have been so much more. Expect to finish this bottle very quickly, because it drinks like lemonade, but alas also has the complexity and length of a lemonade.

Points: 81

Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, Circa 2002)

A short introduction: Cragganmore was founded in 1869 by Glenfarclas’ John Smith and stays within the family untill 1923 when it is sold to the newly formed Cragganmore Distillery Co. In 1927 Cragganmore is 50% owned by DCL, one of the precursors of todays Diageo. In 1965 DCL buys the second half of Cragganmore to become 100% owner. In 1988 this Cragganmore 12yo becomes part of the Classic Malts Series, and in 1998 the Cragganmore Distillers Edition sees the light of day (more about that later), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and have a go at this 12yo that was bottled back in 2002…

Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, Circa 2002)Color: Gold.

Nose: Fruity and malty. Quite some hints of caramel. Chilled produce, sugared yellow fruits and some candied orange. Waxy with an air of menthol. Hints of cardboard and toasted oak. Perfumy and vegetal. Fern on a dry forest floor. Sweetish, but also some oak acidity. Give it some time and the oak turns more spicy. Otherwise it is light, with creamy vanilla, wax and candied sweet yellow fruits.

Taste: Waxy and toffeed. Quite fruity and light. Dried peach and old dried apricots. Hints of clay. Warming. Damp earth from the forest again. Maybe some mushroom? Yellow fruit sweet yoghurt. A funky acidity creeps in. Very soft warm oozing caramel. Soft distant wood. Cigar box wood. Simple, light and likeable. Tiny hint of beer and hops in the finish, which comes as a surprise, also quite sweet with a burnt wood edge too it.

In the end I still feel that it is bit anonymous really. The distillery character is somehow hidden behind fruity sweetness, caramel and wax. Nice fruitiness though. Very easily drinkable. Again an entry-level malt to get you going. Nothing wrong with it, but also nothing special. One you’ll finish quite quickly and you’ll start wondering afterwards where it has gone. If anything, it does invite you to take another sip, as I will do right now..

Points: 81

Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley (50%, OB, 2014)

In the more recent past when Bruichladdich had different ownership, a lot of bottlings saw the light of day and a lot of bottlings comprised the standard range. Now that the distillery has changed hands and tries to be a fashion accessory, the stanf=dard range is reduced to only two NAS bottlings. Scottish Barley and Islay Barley. If my memory serves me well, all standard bottlings with an age statement have been dropped.

In 2013, this same Whisky was released with a somewhat different “label”. The first release had big lettering for “Scottish Barley”, whereas the 2014 release I’m about to try, has “Classic Laddie” in big lettering. I have tasted the 2013 version and scored that one 85 points. Let’s see if this newer version is equally as good.

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley 2014Color: Light gold.

Nose: Well this is a nose that screams Barley. Very young smelling and even has some Bladnoch-butter. Fatty, with a citrussy edge. Hints of new make spirit, and given some time to breathe, a more bread like, coffee and milk chocolate note appears. The whole is quite soft. Wet. fresh wood. Virgin oak. Nevertheless it is also recognizable as a Bruichladdich. It does remind me sometimes of the Cadenhead Bruichladdich 17yo I reviewed earlier.

Taste: Soft paper like wood and an extremely creamy taste. Coffee with a lot of milk. Chocolate milkshake. When the higher ABV flows down my throat a short flash of hotness flies by, but also dissipates quickly. Cream with a hint of ashes. Bourbon and vanilla, but also dark chocolate and a faint fruity note. Cherry liqueur bon-bon? Virgin oak again. Lots of barley (and sugar?) in the finish. Barley, oak and cream are the three words that describe this Whisky best I guess.

As consumers we are compensated. We get less ageing and less complexity, but we get more ABV. 50% to be precise.

Here we go again, another NAS bottling that will split the Whisky world in two. Definitely a young, crude and uncomplex Whisky, but at the same time a nice and designed sophisticated soft taste that a lot of people will like. The Bruichladdich spirit is a good spirit, but this spirit didn’t get a whole lot of time to develop. It’s like a child asked to drive a bus. Some would even say that this isn’t really Single Malt Whisky. If someone had invented this about a 1000 years ago, he or she, may have called it Barley Wine. Not bad, but not my NAS of choice.

Points: 81

Grappa Week – Day 6: Sibona La Grappa Di Barbera (42%, 50 cl, 2011)

Grappa Week LogoToday we’ll have a Grappa made by Sibona. Looking at the picture below you might think it doesn’t look like much, but holding the adorable half litre bottle in your hand, makes you want to have a whole row of bottles like this, with Grappa’s made from every single grape variety that grows in the Piedmont region of Italy. The bottle itself has markings, warning you when another 10 cl has gone, and has a little extension preventing you from dripping the precious liquid, so not a drop gets lost. For this “Linea Graduata”, the label looks like someone typed it in his shed. Looks fantastic though. Even without tasting, I would like to have them all!

Barbera is a red grape variety that has grown very common to Italy. It is the most planted grape variety just after Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Sibona hails from the Piedmont region, and over there, Barbera is the most used grape variety. Both Sangiovese and Montepulciano are not (really) planted in the Piedmont at all.

Sibona La Grappa Di BarberaColor: Light citrus yellow, straw.

Nose: Lots of hay, warm, basking in the sun. In the distance crickets are chirping and you are living the live of a God with an Italian beauty by your side. At least you are enjoying yourself very much. Hay, dry grass, dust, cereal, honey and some deep fruity notes and some nice citrussy notes as well. With some time, creamy notes develop with hints of vanilla coming from the oak ageing. Black tea, with a flowery note to it as well as some black fruits. Dry and very well-balanced. Hints of rural organics. Maybe not at first, but this has become a dream to nose.

Taste: The hay and dry grass return big time in the taste as well as some virgin oak. A sappy and tannic bitterness with grape skin aroma. It would be funny now, to say this isn’t sweet enough, but yes, it is on the dry side, which won’t make it your daily drinker, nor will it be a Grappa for everyone (starting to drink Grappa). Nevertheless, I’m glad this hasn’t been ruined by sugar. Having said that, apart from the honey, there is some hidden sweetness to this Grappa, and it is sugary in quality, not saying that this is sweet at all. So slightly sweetened black tea it is. The more it breathes the more black (and red) fruits emerge. very appetizing. A connoisseurs aperitif I would say. It’s far to elegant or subtle to function as a digestif even though Grappa is really a digestif, and this particular example is quite powerful. With extended breathing the naturally occurring sweetness becomes more and more noticeable.

I remember when I opened the bottle I didn’t like it very much, because all of the hay and it seemed not to be pleasant to smell as well. But even then, I had the feeling I would grow into it. At this point in time I really don’t know for sure which of us has changed, me or the Grappa, which got some air into the bottle to breathe and develop. This is a high quality Grappa showing off a single grape variety from the Piedmont. Not an easy Grappa, and something to savour once in a while. But when you need it, it’s great. The role the wood played is easily discernible. The Barbera has been aided by some ageing in oak, in fact, this is the darkest of all the Grappa’s from the “Linea Graduata”.

Points: 81

Rum Nation Panama 18yo (40%, Single Domaine Rum, Release 2010, Panama)

All four Ron Abuelo’s have been reviewed now, but there is still one ace up my sleeve. An independent release of an Abuelo Rum. Lance (The Lone Caner) reviewed this very same Rum and mentions this is an Abuelo Rum, so let’s go with that. Rum Nation is the Rum brand of Italia’s one and only Fabio Rossi, most of us also know from the Independent Whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan. Fabio also has a passion for Rum and is able to source some very special Rums for his own label. Besides this 18yo, Rum nation also has a 21yo Panamanian Rum, which according to Lance, even surpasses the Centuria in quality. I have the 21yo in storage somewhere, so I’ll probably review that one too in the near future.

Rum Nation Panama 18yoColor: Reddish orange brown.

Nose: Powdery and dusty. Radish (Rettich). Cold gravy and leather. Laid back, and yes, still middle of the roadish. Soft old oak. Soaked oak. Lots of toffee and custard. Some sulphur and a meaty note come flying by after a while in the glass. Next some smoky honey, white pepper and candied lemon skins and bitter oranges.

Taste: Half sweet toffee and some wood. Sweetish and the typical Abuelo red fruity acidity is in this one too. Better integrated than in the 12yo. The body has quite some wood and spicy wood, licorice. but the wood is still soft. The end of the body and the finish tell you more. The wood stays on and becomes more spicy, the Rum gets a bit hot for a while, finally some action! Red peppers, and somehow it lacks a bit of complexity. The finish itself is rather short. When I come to think of it, the spicy bite seems to be a bit sulphury. But the finish is about wood and its light walnut skin bitterness.

Quite soft and well-behaved for a 18yo Rum, and quite inexpensive to boot. You know Rums in the hot Caribbean age quite quickly, so when a Rum is still so smooth and easily drinkable after 18 years is quite a feat. I have made quite a dent in this bottle already, and I’m still trying to figure out what it’s all about. It is in part similar to the 7yo and 12yo Abuelo offerings. The heritage is apparent, but it is all a bit to anonymous for me, it doesn’t bring a smile to my face, as in great, I love this, I need more of this. I can easily live without the Añejo, the 7yo and the 12yo, heck, even the 18yo I can do without. The Centuria, however, is from another Panamanian planet and is the proof great Rums can also be made in Panama. I’m wondering about the Rum Nation 21yo now…

Points: 81

Abuelo Añejo 12 Años Gran Reserva (40%, Panama)

We have already tried the Reserva Especial (Añejo) and the Reserva Superior (7yo), and I have to say, they didn’t lie bout them. The 7yo is most definitely superior to the Añejo (which is a NASser). Both are clear examples of the Panamanian Rum style, the first young and light, the second a lot more aromatic and letting the wood shine through. Not bad. Let’s see if the 12yo, called Gran Reserva is even better than the 7yo…

Abuelo 12Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Spicy and deep. Even more dry and dusty than the Añejo. Hot, almost burning wood. Nice deep fruity acidity. Pineapple. Nice touch of orange and a tiny hint of solvent. Nice wood and sawdust. Winey and PX-Sherry. Caramel. Waxed dark chocolate sprinkles. Less vibrant and sweet than the Añejo.

Taste: Thick and syrupy. Ahorn syrup. A little bit sweeter than the 7yo, but still not much. There is some wood spice in here, which is left behind in the finish. Quite warming. Alas this 12yo also has a fault. It has this (rotting) fruity aroma and acidity and this syrupy sweetness, but those two don’t match! One is on top of the other, and they are never completely integrated. The acidity has more staying power than the sweetness, which is also a bit strange. This is where this Rum goes slightly wrong. Next up the wood. That is the third dimension that isn’t properly integrated. It’s like a succesful band of which the members can’s stand each other. Beatles White album maybe? However, for me Abuelo isn’t The Beatles, but more The Moody Blues. Beautiful music, maybe, but also a bit boring. In this case, the Moody Blues don’t like each other very much.

As the age rises, there is more of everything, more aroma, more consistency, more color (maybe E150?) and more wood, but is it also better? Not for me.

Now that we have tried the three Rums that make up the standard range we can conclude that the Añejo is the simple and light one, meant for mixing. The 7yo is also quite light, but is suitable for sipping. Also the 7yo is the best balanced of the three. The 12yo is the sipper, at least, its meant to be the sipper. The 12yo is alas a bit unbalanced, but shows a lot of promise. I hope for a better balanced blend in the near future.

Points: 81

The Macallan 18yo 1986 “Sherry” (43%, OB, 2004)

Macallan 1986 18yo (old)In 2004 Macallan officially released two Sherried 18yo’s. The one on the right, we know very well, that was the one with the old labels that have been used for decades. (For reasons science cannot wholly explain…). Around 2004 Macallan also started to release a new bottle design we all know from the Fine Oak series and later bottlings. Here we’ll review the 2004 18yo with the new design. The label states that this is Whisky distilled in 1986 and earlier years. We know the “other 18yo” to be very good, now lets see if this is any better or maybe it’s the same stuff…

Macallan 18yo 1986 Sherry (43%, OB, 2004)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Pretty laid back and toned down nose. Sweetish Sherry. Hints of wood, dust and cardboard. Not a full on sherry we know from the other 18yo’s. Very floral and even some orange fruitiness. Some whiffs of this even smell like someones bad breath. Strange hints of cooked vegetables. So bad breath, cooked vegetables, but a moment later also a breath of fresh air emerges. Very strange indeed.

Taste: Sweetish (sugar water) and thin. Fruity and slightly waxy, but the wax comes through as fruity and it’s only a hint. So definitely and older cask found its way into this. Hints of sweet apples and pears come through, which makes me think this is not from Olroso Butts. Fino maybe? This also lacks complexity, and the sweetness somehow stays on top. I expected more development from this. Well, it’s nice, pretty simple and easily drinkable, but this is not a Macallan as we knew it. This could have been anything.

This bottling really marks the end of an era. The era that was dominated by the Sherried Macallans with the old labels. I Always thought the beginning of the end for Macallan was with the release of the Fine Oak series, but would I have tasted this one back then, this would be it. Who would have known that almost never again we would get a Macallan like we used to. In hindsight the Fine oak’s may have not been that bad, since after that the likes of Macallan Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby, to name but a few, were released. Costs a lot of money these days. bit tastes like a good standard bottling that you can get for 40 or 50 euro’s…

Points: 81

Chairman’s Reserve (40%, St. Lucia)

Sydney Fireworks2015 is upon us! Happy new year! This side of the planet that means that the new year starts off rather cold. Therefore this month I will pay some more attention to one of the warmest of distillates; Rum. In my opinion definitely worth checking out outside of your cocktail. Yes sipping rum to get through the cold as opposed to avoiding scurvy. Rum to be enjoyed to the max I say! Got Rum?

The story is that the chairman of St. Lucia Distillers Laurie Bernard wanted a quality rum made with aged rums from continuous and pot stills. In 1999 this rum was born. At first only for the local market but soon internationally. The blend is circa 5 years old has been matured in barrels that previously held American Bourbons and Whiskey from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace. The aforementioned rums are blended and married together then put back into the barrels for six months.

Chairman's ReserveColor: Full gold

Nose: Nice and thick, but quickly more green and leafy. Syrupy smelling and very nice, aromatic. Thick and funky. Pickles from a jar and hard candy powder. I like this very much. If nosed blind I would sometimes call this Jamaican (but not often). The initial fatness and funkiness wears off and changes into something more dry and dusty, yet preserving its initial impression. Small hint of smoke and some mild tangerine skins ánd curiously, the smell of someone preparing a steak. Nice woody touch with dirty smoky honey.

Taste: Nice light and refined taste, with only a sweetish start and then into a more aged and dry rum. Thin yet very appetizing. Cold black tea and lots of honey. When swallowed and when it leaves my mouth it dissipates quickly, leafy a slight oaky bitterness behind. Although very light and thin, I do like it. Very tasty.

Definitely a rum worth sipping. It has a certain character though, that makes is very suitable for cocktails. St. Lucia Distillers themselves recommend it with coconut water.

Points: 81

Cadenhead Creations 20yo ‘Rich Fruity Sherry’ (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)

Cadenheads CreationsMerry Christmas everybody! In 2013 Cadenheads released a home-made blend called Cadenhead Creations (Rich Fruity Sherry). This first batch had an age statement of 20yo and was bottled in 2013. The blend was made with two casks of Single Malt and two casks of Single Grains. Samples of those casks are pictured here on the right. From left to right: Mortlach 1992 (cask #7848), Bruichladdich 1993 (cask #1648), Cameronbridge 1989 (cask #22804) and Invergordon 1991 (cask #39006). Since then two more Cadenhead Creations were released. A 21yo (black label, silver stripe, Blended Malt made with Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila) and a 17yo (white label, yellow stripe, another Blended Whisky made with Ardmore, Auchroisk, Caperdonich, Clynelish and Invergordon).

Cadenhead Creations 20yo 'Rich Fruity Sherry' (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Although it seems that this is a 50/50 mixture of Single Malt and Single Grain, the nose is more on the grainy side. Malty and waxy, paper and cardboard. Very nice wood. Meaty, nutty and spicy. Deeper down some hints of Sherry, not upfront as the label suggests. Fruity (but not sweet) and lots of character.

Taste: Malty and grainy again. The waxiness is here to, but here it is fruity and accompanied with a little bit of sweetness. Sweet paper and cardboard again. Some short, hot or red peppery attacks. Spicy and slightly bitter wood. Aspartame sweetness. The wood upfront and may be too strong. The wood makes it right across the body of the Whisky into the finish. Along the way the wood picks up a little bit of oaky bitterness, with together with the red peppery attack make the finish.

Rich, yes, rich wood. Fruity, well not so much if you ask me, the wood is way more pronounced. Sherry, well if you expect the dark Sherries from the picture above, that´s not the case here. It doesn’t remind me of Oloroso or PX-Sherry casks at all. This blend is about wood in many guises.

Points: 81 (for character)