Talisker Select Reserve – Game of Thrones – House Greyjoy (45.8%, OB, 2019)

Sooner or later, one of these Game of Thrones bottlings was bound to show up on theses pages now, wouldn’t it? Hard to miss them, especially since Diageo is throwing some serious money towards marketing them. But don’t you feel they missed the boat, since the series already came to a close some time ago? The question remained, which one of those bottlings would make it first. For a long time it looked like Lagavulin would be the first, but before I could open that one, I got my hands on the 10yo Lagavulin for travel retail and opened that in stead. Since the 8yo and in hindsight this 10yo weren’t very impressive, I really wasn’t in a hurry to open the 9yo Game of Thrones bottling fearing more of the same, so this is how Talisker beat Lagavulin to pole position.

Color: Orange gold, so pretty sure this was caramel colored.

Nose: Dry, dusty and malty but with a very nice funky note to it. Dirty toffee, in part, reminiscent of the smell of caramel colouring, cloying, fatty and creamy. Yes caramel colouring does have a smell, and it does have an effect on Whisky. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Nevertheless, this Whisky is still very likeable. You have to work at it a bit to focus on the aroma’s underneath. Nutty with hints of second hand cigarette smoke and hints of toasted cask and virgin oak. Old cabinet and very aromatic. It has an “older” smell to it, as well as a heavily engineered and doctored feel to it. Spicy, almost Indian Whisky spicy. Lots of cinnamon and cookie dough. Some smoke and some fresh oak. Also it seems some virgin oak found its way into this. On top of that, a lemony fresh acidity which really helps the whole forward. Yet also this feel of uncomplexity, helped along by this cloak of added caramel. An instant gratification Malt. Toffee notes, but in this somewhat suspicious way. However, I really like the Indian spices and lemon combination. Much friendlier than the milky unfinished notes of those new Lagavulins I mentioned above. I really like this nose (to a degree). If you are into Amrut and Paul John, you may like the smell of this (or not).

Taste: Nice entry. Somewhat sweet. Big, sweet, spicy and nutty attack, but also in a way thin. The fatty and creamy start is washed away by the alcohol, leaving room for more peaty and slightly smoky notes, but also some spicy wood and yes, a tiny pepper attack. Hints of ripe red fruits on top of the toffee and cinnamon. Sometimes it is almost like a Christmas pudding. Next, some virgin American oak. A vanilla note intertwined with cinnamon. A little bit of “older” wood as well as a slightly burnt note, maybe some smoke even. Cookie dough, even more than the nose had. Don’t we all like cookie dough? Sure, this has plenty of added caramel roundness to it, which kills some bits of it. It’s beating down the complexity this must have had. Slightly hot going down, with pepper in the finish and especially in the aftertaste. Highly drinkable though. A bottle of this won’t last you long. Easy and without any off-notes. Easy and even more drinkable than “Neist Point”, and that already was a highly drinkable Malt that didn’t last me long.

Wait a minute. Greyjoy? Wasn’t that from the Iron Isles. Sure, Talisker is also known as the Lava of the Cuillins, but this expression of Talisker has nothing to do with lava, and it tastes more like it was made on the shores of Goa. So hardly rugged Cuillins. Do you remember the weather and atmosphere on the Iron Isles? Boy, this house really doesn’t match the Whisky. Maybe Diageo should have paired this with 50 Shades of Grey in stead of Game of Thrones, or maybe House Tyrell, the house of sweet Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). That would have been a far more convincing match imho.

I sure can understand when people don’t like this. Because it may lack a bit in the complexity department, and has definitely been tampered with added caramel big time. Still, I had plenty of fun with this one. Sure, no high flying Malt, but since this is often sold for “not a lot”, it sure surpasses many other entry-level Malts. A bit of a guilty pleasure maybe?

Points: 84

Thanks to Auke for the sample!

Ardbeg “An Oa” (46.6%, OB, L69049, 2017)

I bought, reviewed and finished Corryvreckan and Uigeadail quite recently and was amazed by the quality you get for the price. Especially since these two are very, very good yet aren’t overpriced special releases. Ardbeg caters to that as well, but that’s another story entirely. No, these two are readily available core range bottlings. When An Oa came on offer, it was a no-brainer to get that one as well, it’s an Ardbeg after all! When freshly opened, whilst I was killing off both aforementioned Ardbeg’s, I wasn’t all that impressed. It’s hard to come out of the shadows of both stronger ABV, NAS Whiskies. This doesn’t say much about An Oa though, but more about how good Corryvreckan and Uigeadail actually are.

An Oa is the latest, widely available, addition to the core range, together with the 10yo and the two I already mentioned several times already. So how did they blend An Oa together, what is its unique selling point, what makes it stand out? For An Oa, Pedro-Ximénez casks, heavily charred virgin oak casks and first-fill Bourbon barrels were used, married, and here comes the unique selling point, wait for it, married in a French oak vat in The gathering room at the distillery. Yes the gathering room. I’ll run that by you again, The gathering room. By the way, some suggest, other casks might have been used as well, maybe there even will be some batch variation over the years because of using different types of casks in the marrying process?

Color: Light sparkly gold.

Nose: Softly peaty and softly smoky. All very restrained and held back. Green. Hints of dried fish, ground coffee and tar, but also a fresher and fruitier note, almost citrussy. Dusty and soft. Good job again. Salty, cigarette smoke, powdered vanilla. Hmmm some chlorine even after it had some time to breathe. Spicy and cold, sweet vanilla pudding. Lots of typical Islay markers. Virgin oak yes, Vanilla notes from American oak yes, PX, on the nose, barely, not right now, the virgin oak is much stronger. PX? not so much when looking at the color of this Whisky. I really wonder about the PX though. What did or should it do for this Whisky? An Oa, again like the other NAS Ardbegs, doesn’t smell young or unfinished. It’s not very complex though. Nevertheless it does smell good.

Taste: Wood, paper and cardboard, mixed in with sweet licorice, tar and some ashes. Ashy toffee and almonds, does that make any sense? That right there is what this Whisky is all about. (Slightly bitter) wood, (sweet) licorice and (burnt toast) ashes. These three are omnipresent in this Whisky at any time. Again, very accessible, due to its sweeter side. More licorice even, oily, and a nice warm feeling going down. It tastes familiar. Even when this is a new expression is feels a bit like coming home. Warm and cozy. 46.6% ABV is nothing to worry about. It is enough, and works well for this expression. More wood notes emerge. Sappy fresh oak, not old dry planks. Does carry some woody bitterness towards the finish. Quite green and lively. Some raspberry and citrus notes. Some sort of brooding hidden fruitiness on the back of my tongue. This is from the PX. The finish is of medium length and there isn’t all that much happening in the aftertaste apart from some woody bitterness reminding me of…earwax. Here it shows its apparent youth. Its all in your face right from the start but it lacks in depth and experience older guys, I mean, Whiskies have. Very drinkable. I fear, this won’t last long on my ledger too. I sticked it in the back for a while, but that hardly helped…

What can I say, I’m a sucker for green glass bottles and I like the look as if it was made in the thirties. I love Ardbeg, even these modern ones. They are of high quality and very accessible. Just read back and see how good the Uigeadial and the Corryvreckan are. Laphroaig makes one expression especially for Whisky ‘fans’, the 10yo Cask Strength, made in annual batches. Ardbeg even makes two! Both are way less expensive and even more readily available than the Laphroaig is. Yes they don’t carry and age statement.

Alas, both have been finished already, but boy, do I miss them. When I’m on Islay time, I start out with Lagavulin 10yo which, compared to all the Ardbegs mentioned in this review, seems milky, and unfinished, young, new make-y. They must have used some pretty tired casks for that one I guess. The unusually low ABV of 43% (these days) doesn’t help either. Where the Ardbegs are accessible and just ‘right’, crash tested and approved, the newest young Lagavulins just are not. I’m definitely not a fan of the 10yo nor the 8yo, (but I am of the 12yo and the 16yo core range offerings). Oops, the 12yo is a special annual release. I do welcome the age statements on the 8yo and the 10yo (as well as on the Game of Thrones 9yo, and the Nick Offerman 11yo), but in this case I prefer the NAS Ardbegs and the trusty old Lagavulin 16yo and the 12yo Cask Strength over the 8yo and the 10yo. I have yet to try the 9yo and the 11yo.

Word always was that it’s hard to meet up with the demand for the 16yo, so are all these new and younger editions ways to lure some of us away from the 16yo, to keep it more visible? Wait a minute, is there really some sort of shortage of the 16yo? I see it everywhere, it’s never sold out, and I see them often on offer somewhere. Maybe another ploy to scare the consumer. Making him or she believe, it may sell out and not come back? A rumour always surrounding Talisker 10yo because of al the NAS offerings from Talisker released in the past few years.

This An Oa, because that is where this review is actually about, is a nice one. Its fun stuff. As said above, for me both the Uigeadial and Corryvreckan are just better and very hard to top. I just like higher ABV’s, but I also understand many of you don’t. Should it stand aside them? Nope, it shouldn’t. An Oa is made for different people than Uigeadail and Corryvreckan are, but I do feel it does have a place right by the side of the 10yo, to offer another take, with a different composition and being a NAS.

Points: 84

Wild Turkey “Rare Breed – Barrel Proof” (56.4%, OB, 2016, 112816A12029M)

I came across this no-batch Rare Breed in a hypermarket whilst on holiday in Poland. It sat there (two of them to be precise) on a sad little shelf made of metal wire, between some marked down totally anonymous cheap wines lit by cold light. So I just had to take these two golden orphans with me. These were also marked down considerably, so essentially a no brainer. I reviewed a Rare Breed before, one with batch number WT-03RB, and that was certainly not bad, since it scored 82 points, and I may have been a bit on the conservative side. I ended that review with the remark that Wild Turkey is axing the batch numbering and making it younger an lighter in the process. I read somewhere that Rare Breed was a blend of 12yo, 10yo and 8yo Whiskies, but more recent batches are said to be 12yo, 8yo and 6yo Whiskies, by word of WT themselves. Well, and finally here it is, one of those no-batch younger and lighter Rare Breeds.

WT-03RB was pretty good, and was almost there, (but not quite), so I’m hoping the next step will be forward in stead of backward. I might be getting ahead of myself assuming it probably got worse is also not very professional, now isn’t it? So I opened this bottle a while back, in a time when I actually was very much busy with Whisky from Scotland, so Bourbons were shifted towards the back burner, big time. After finishing a recent review, I parked myself on the couch, opened the doors of my stash, and my eye fell towards the bottom shelf, bar one, where the Bourbons are. Its just one of the bottom shelves, not “the bottom shelf” quality wise. I started with Evan Williams, decent, easy and reduced too much, so the next step was obviously to go ahead and move up with this no-batch, younger and lighter Rare Breed. Well this certainly hits the spot. I pressed repeat two times more before finishing off with Booker’s. And guess what, sometimes I like this Rare Breed better than Booker’s and almost all of the time I prefer it to the Evan Williams, which is most definitely not a dud in it’s own right. Where the previous Rare Breed had some soap, this one has none. This batch of Booker’s also has this very floral, soapy, floral perfume notes to it. It seems to me this “batchless” might be better than the WT-03RB. Lets find out for sure if its lighter and d-lighter or not.

Color: Light orange gold. (Much lighter than the WT-03RB batch)

Nose: Big on aroma, creamy and chewy. Cookie dough. Fresh spicy wood and gravy. Yes, this has a meaty note. Vanilla and sappy oak. It’s like you can discern several different ingredients in this. Toasted oak, grains and cereals and even the yeast. Next comes a more fruity note. Little forest strawberries and hints of red lemonade. This passes quickly and moves towards a more drying note. Warm desert wind, with lots of wood and showing the youngest Whiskey blended in. The more you smell it, the sharper and drier the wood note gets. Finally it smells like a wood shop altogether. Sawdust and all, turning into paper and cardboard over time. Also the yeasty bit stays around as well. The big creamy aroma, from the start, subsides quite a bit. Give it even more time, and after some sips, (the aroma I smell is also released from my mouth), the wood note itself starts to evolve into a more fragrant, perfumy note. A hint of honey even. Nice.

Taste: Hot, quite dry and woody. Not so creamy as expected, but the odd toffee and liquid caramel notes are there. Yes some vanilla and sweet corn notes as well. (Wild Turkey use 75% Corn in their mashbill, the rest is 13% rye and 12% malted barley). Sometimes a bit thin and definitely wood driven, sometimes I even pick up a licorice note in the woody bit. Still a good dose of corn and a little bit of rye. Only slightly bitter. Dry leaves. Wood seasoned by high temperatures. Nice thin layer of sweetness laughed away by the wood, but extra points to the sweetness for trying. If I remember correctly, somewhat simpler than the WT-03RB batch I tried earlier, much earlier. Hey almost 4 years ago, so give me a break! The sweetness keeps battling with the wood, and this makes it fun to drink. It just doesn’t know how to give up. Nope, even with 12yo Whiskey blended in, this still lacks a bit of complexity it should have had, but still, this is much better than many other Bourbon’s around. This is why this bottle is almost empty already. The finish is medium at best, hot and fun, but the aroma’s don’t have a lot of staying power.

This is a whisky made with a high corn mashbill, however it is also a wood driven Whiskey. It has quite a stiff backbone and enough alcohol to carry it well. Sometimes a bit simple, but nevertheless quite enjoyable.

Points: 84

P.S. rummaging around my stash I found a sample of the WT-03RB batch I reviewed 4 years ago! This older batch is definitely much darker in color, much softer in taste, but quite similar in complexity. The 2016 no-batch, easily overpowers it. Sharper and bolder, much more fresh sappy oak and more of the yeast notes as well. Seems much higher in alcohol too. WT-03RB even seems a bit less balanced with quite a lot of toasted and burned notes to it. Even though WT-03RB is older and darker, it isn’t better. I really thought I might be upping the original score of 82, but alas, after careful tasting, H2H, 82 is still the right score for that batch. Go figure.

Laphroaig ‘Lore’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L8297, 2018)

When surfing, reading the odd review or two, I find that NAS and/or travel retail Laphroaigs don’t get much love and sure enough, are even hated by many. For instance, Lore and the 1815 Legacy Edition are the replacements for previous travel retail bottlings like the PX cask, QA cask and An Cuan Mòr, to name but a few. So, why this dislike? First of all, do they taste bad, or are they badly made, do they taste super young, unfinished?

Laphroaig has been taken over by Beam-Suntory, and since then, a plethora of NAS travel retail offerings have emerged. Big Bad company trying to make a lot of money with supposedly immature Whisky over your back, coaxing you out of your hard earned cash. Maybe that is the reason these bottling do not recieve a lot of love? Or is it the travel retail channel, making them a little bit harder to get, although I see all of these bottling in lots of shops. Also, travel retail also has some sort of stigma of offering mediocre, highly reduced (often to 40% ABV), litre bottles. And last but certainly not least; NAS, which often means lots of three year old Whisky mixed in, or so we, the consumer, like to believe. By now we don’t trust anyone, or any company, anymore. They are just in it for the money and not for the art of making Whisky, made for us the discerning drinker, and lover of malts.

In Laphroaig’s case, the bottles which are to be replaced, seem far from sold out as well, even when marked down. So shops are stocked up with many Laphroaig NAS bottlings. Being a big fan of the older/other bottlings, the 10yo (Green Stripe) Cask Strength comes to mind, or even the 10yo at export strength (43% ABV), the 15yo, I somehow lost interest with all these new NAS bottlings.

However, time has come for me to have a go at some of them. The An Cuan Mòr I have reviewed earlier, and I liked it, where lots of fellow drinkers didn’t. I will be the first to admit that it isn’t a daily drinker type of Whisky, but still the quality is there (for me), and I did like it. So which one of the “new” Laphroaigs to pick then? And what if they aren’t any good, as many people are so passionately claiming? In comes plan B. Bottleshares! Always a good way of getting to try expensive bottles without losing a lifetime’s worth of savings, or for spreading the risk in case of imminent anticipated disappointment. Is the risk low, share it/buy it with one friend. This time however the risk seemed pretty high, (I so believe everything I read), so time for a bottle share with three friends, which was a first for me. I still have to give the parties involved (parts of) their share, due to low stock of empty sample bottles. Through this four-way bottle share, I got the “Lore” and “The 1815 Legacy Edition”, and I bought a whole bottle of Brodir, which seemed a somewhat safer bet.

Lets start with Lore. On Tweet-ter John Campbell mentioned that Lore contains: “7 to 21 year old liquids with 3 more ages in between” so if it was stated on the label it would have been officially a 7yo Whisky, so no 3yo NAS people, even though older components were used to make this expression, so let’s call it by its name and not its unstated age, I give you: Lore…

Color: Dark Gold

Nose: Very aromatic thick smell. Sweet, syrupy, but not sugary, no, more like condensed sweet smoke. Perfumed smoke, Christmassy smoke. Cigarette smoke infused car interior. Licorice and an amazing freshness hovering over it as well. Quite promising right from the start. Very fragrant and spicy. Smells wonderful and different from most other Laphroaigs I know (mostly those bottled a while back). Paper announces the turn towards the softer side of Laphroaig, since it becomes very medium and soft, still meaty and smoky though. Velvety, almost, and still a bit sweet smelling. Some fruity notes and when smelling/drinking these, whiffs of black fruits are sometimes noticeable. Very soft peat, mostly from the well aged kind. So the older casks are definitely recognizable. No wood, not even soft wooden notes, no, its fresh and thick (almost impossible together), and very fruity. Sweet and accessible. To me this doesn’t smell like a travel retail exclusive but more as a holiday season exclusive. Softer than usual. Warming fire place and hardly any peat. This one is about aromatic smoke. Well done thus far, now let’s taste it, since something’s gotta be wrong with this, it just has to.

Taste: Black and white powder, liquorice and quite sweet. Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts. Sweet, also on the lips. Even though this has 7yo Laphroaig in it, it still isn’t heavy on the peat. Reminds me a bit of An Cuan Mòr, even though this is not its direct successor. Again more a smoky one. More of the softer stuff comes forth. The whole of the Whisky is sweet, dominated by it in fact and the lack of upfront peat makes it also very drinkable. Not sure about the sweetness in the long run though. Makes it a bit flatter, smoother. I hate that word when describing a Whisky. Smoky yes, peat, no, not so much. Starts out quite sweet and going through the body of the Whisky, the drier smoky notes take over. Salty lips, which is a nice effect after the initial sweetness. Somewhat simple in its approach. The finish is somewhere between short, shortish, cloying sweetness and of medium strength/length at best. The aftertaste; only some sweet liquorice again (and some smoke). Quickly gone. Quite a simple Whisky actually and definitely from Laphroaigs love-it-or-hate-it series. Nope for this one, Laphroaigh came down from it’s big rock in a storm, to club level on Ibiza. Miami Vive attire. Don’t I like it then? It’s nice, its different, still made up of good casks. A bit to sweet, for my taste, and therefore a bit too flat, and definitely too short. Laphroaig is always a bit sweet, but in the old days, most of it was well hidden by all those sea and peat aroma’s for which we love Laphroaig. The taste is ok, but it is the nose that presents all those awesome aroma’s. The original price is too high for what it is, but I paid half price for it (even before the bottle share), and then it is one you shouldn’t pass by, or maybe you should, because maybe one of the others mentioned above, might be better…

Knowing now what kind of Whisky this is and how it tastes, the copywriting on the packaging is a load of BS. “The richest of the Rich”, or, “…is our richest expression ever”? WTF? (I just stopped believing everything I read). Some Laphroaigs definitely are, but this Lore, nope, sorry, metro man territory, yes, manbun, yes, tailored suit, yes, this is for the travelling business class metro man, with coiffured beard. Doesn’t even come close to how a proper Laphroaig can be and should be. Darling can you pass the green stripe please?

Points: 84

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (62.8%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Charred American Virgin Oak and PX Sherry Butt #2701, 301 bottles)

After the long overdue reviews of Port, even two of them, from Kopke and Warre and to a lesser extent, a Bourbon, Evan Williams, let’s stay away a little bit longer from Single Malt Whiskies from Scotland. Yes let’s look at some Single Malt Whisky from India! OK, so not completely different, it’s still Whisky, but don’t you worry, I plan to review some other non-Scottish stuff as well. Nevertheless, lets start with this Amrut.

In 2013, (and other years as well), some single casks were bottled for Europe, in three varieties. The Bourbon version I reviewed earlier, this Virgin Oak/PX-Sherry combination we are going to look at right now, and last but hopefully not (the) least (of the three), a peated Whisky matured in a Port pipe. I’ll open this last one soon, right after I finish the Whisky I’m about to review now, and there isn’t much left in the bottle I can tell you. Amruts never stay long on my lectern…

Color: Bright gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Dry, Indian, exotic (cinnamon) and winey. Lots of dusty barley notes, somewhat enhanced by funky PX. Caramel and toffee notes without the sweetness. Reminds me a bit of Port finished Whisky. Sometimes its like the smell of blood up my nose. Meaty notes as well. Fatty gravy. Soft wood now, a bit cardboard-like. Even if I wouldn’t know it, it is easily recognizable as Virgin oak. Nose-wise not the most balanced of Amruts. Like PX and the Indian Barley/Virgin Oak really don’t like to work together and don’t see each other out of the office. This Amrut needs a team-building session. Funny how up front this sensation is, because I get this instantaneously. Still dusty and drying, with hints of dry clay. Yes Wine, Port, PX. That’s it. If I’m honest, I would say that the virgin oak even overpowers the PX-finish. I’m sure this would have worked better if it started life in a nice American barrel, used before, so not virgin. Maybe then the PX finish would have worked better. I like the use of virgin oak in some Whiskies like Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Glen Garioch Virgin oak as well, but this time in my beloved Amrut, not so much. Nevertheless, still a good Whisky, just not so good as Amrut can be.

Taste: Very hot and stingy. An explosion of flavour. Bitter wood. Cherry liqueur, dark chocolate and even more oak. Unsweet caramel again, mixed with alcohol. Wait a minute, unsweet? There is also this sugary sweetness to it. Warming going down, well, hot going down might be a better way to describe it. Just like the nose, it lacks balance. Everybody was put on this team, but they really just don’t want to work together. Even before I can start to take in the aroma’s, the lack of balance and the apparent simpleness of the Whisky comes to the fore. Lots of wood, overpowering and ruining the balance a bit. Again this is still a pretty good Whisky, it’s just not quite there. After some breathing, the first sips become somewhat sweeter. Lots of virgin oak in the body too. Short, bitter-ish and very hot finish. Wood for sure. Virgin oak in the aftertaste as well. I think we all got a bit surprised by the activity of this wood. What about the PX in this bottling then? not so sure, because this Whisky is so wood-driven. Maybe it’s not the Virgin oak and yet the PX-cask gave off a lot of tannins, or maybe both?

Nope, I can tell you already that for me the Amrut distillate works better with the previously reviewed ex-Bourbon casks, like the Single Cask (with Virgin oak as well, just less of it, apparently) and the regular (or so you would think) unpeated Cask Strength version. Sherried versions like the Intermediate are also pretty good.

Points: 84

And with that this is the “worst” Amrut I ever had. It’s not bad, but there are a lot more of better Amruts to be found. nope, this one is not my favourite expression…

Kopke Colheita 2003 (2018)

In several of my previous reviews, even more than once, I stated that I love my Ports, and I hereby confirm that I still do, even though my last review was done in the spring of 2014! Terrible! There is no excuse! How did that happen? five years! Is time flying this fast? I have to make amends and restart the fire of Port! Auke, also mentioned before, was so kind as to present me with a sample of one of his recent acquisitions, to help me restart the fire. Kopke Colheita 2003. Auke loves his Ports as well, and even managed to visit Portugal this summer, something I have yet to do.

personally, I love Colheita’s. They are aged, refined, easy to use, (so no decanting of unfiltered vintages) and quite affordable. Sure, vintages are the biggest thing in Port-world, but Colheita’s most definitely earned their place under the sun as well. Even better, Colheita’s also offer us a high quality alternative to Vintage Port and L.B.V.’s, with a different profile, a Tawny profile. Aged, not ruby red any more and more delicate. So a true win-win situation.

Color: Vibrant old red, tiniest hint of tan.

Nose: Fresh, sweet and fruity. Perfumy even. Deep, dusty and dark, with hints of asphalt, tar and licorice. Dry forest floor (in the summer). This adds to the third dimension of the Port and is most certainly not upfront. The combination of freshness and fruits with the darker side is quite interesting. The fruit stays, cherries and raisins with a nice acidic vibrancy. Waves of chewy fruity sweetness. Hardly any wood notes, not even the vanilla of American oak, nor the tannins of European oak. This Colheita is all about being quiet. It’s quiet and calm, softly spoken. The quiet intelligent guy in the corner who would rather ready a book than party hard.

Taste: Quite thin on entry. Not very syrupy and the sweetness seems to be very well kept in check. Plenty of youthful vibrancy and acidity. Here it shows its winy character. The body is quite simple, very nice, but simple. This is a Colheita that is not about sweetness. Sure it has some sweetness to it, (dry honey, does that make sense?), but that is not the crux of the story this Port wants to tell. Nope, this is about fruit, little sweet forest strawberries, cherries (especially in the nose). Not overly ripe red fruits, but almost there. all in all, a rather short finish for such and “old” Port, or does the old age show its fragility here? By the way, the deeper notes I got from the nose are not here in the body of the taste, not even in the finish, although the tiniest hint of wood (bitter) does show itself along to some almonds. Nope, well into the fruity and acidic aftertaste some more of the darker notes briefly return to take a final bow to the lover of Port and kiss his or her lips for the final time.

Medium sweetness which is balanced out nicely by firm fruity acidity. Very friendly and likeable on entry, but lacking a bit of complexity and oomph in the body and finish, but a real winner on the nose! Master Quill’s top tip: take this in big gulps to enhance the aroma’s.

Points: 84

Benrinnes 15yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L8044CS000, Circa 2008)

Rummaging around the bottles Erik left behind, I found this Flora & Fauna Benrinnes 15. Wait a second, didn’t I already review this Whisky? Yes I did. Almost two years ago I reviewed The Flora & Fauna Benrinnes 15yo. Only that one was an earlier bottling from 2001 and this one was bottled some seven years later. But why not? I remember I liked the 2001 bottling, and we know Diageo doesn’t like batch variation, so now we have a chance to find out. All in good “relativeness” since I have to compare it with the “other” review, since I don’t have any of the 2001 stuff around any more. I’ll write this review first before re-reading the other review.

Color: Orange brown with a copper hue.

Nose: Sherried, with big notes of (fresh) oak. Dark and brooding, somewhat meaty and tarry with strong notes of (sweet) licorice. Dusty paper. Green notes, vegetal, with crushed beetle. So definitely both flora and fauna are in this Whisky. Hints of coal dust, and also something sharper. Smoke? Prickly. I can’t find typical PX-markers, so I do believe this is Oloroso Sherry only. Quite a nice Sherried nose. Seems to me pretty good casks were used for this bottling. Is it fruity? Yes fruits can be found, but not those I expected, what I find is marginally sharper, more acidic. Something like warm apples. Compote. Hints of raisins and honey. Nice stuff. Not a lot of development though. Every time I smell it it is more or less the same. So nice and big, very influenced by Sherry, but not overly complex. Hey, the paper note re-emerges.

Taste: Well who would have thought that the first note I taste is of warm apples again? Very nice as a whole, tasty stuff. Not as big as expected, but highly drinkable. Warming at first and quickly turning into a a pretty short finish with not a lot happening, apart from some sweetness from a coffee bonbon, in the aftertaste as well. Some woody bitterness, but the wood itself, pretty invisible actually. Hints of paper and cardboard, but nothing off putting. After every promising sip it is amazing how short the finish really is. Relatively big nose, big start, but weak finish. No off notes, but it is short. yes, Sherried, hints of some kind of petrol based solvent and woody bitterness. Not so dark and brooding, but sweetish and easy going. Hints of coals dust. Not as complex as it might have been, but its strength is its accessibility and overall taste. Pretty simple for a Sherried bottling with 15 years of age behind its belt.

It is a good Whisky, but lacks a bit of oomph, a bit of complexity and a bit of length. Other than that pretty alright for the price. I don’t have to read back my earlier review of an earlier bottle, to tell you the 2001 is better than this 2008 bottling. Having read the previous review, I believe, both are quite similar. Only the 2001 seems much bigger and longer than this 2008 offering, hence the score. I hope I get a chance to review an even more recent bottling of this, so see what happened next.

Points: 84

Potter Distilling Company 15yo 1985/2000 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Indian Corn, Bourbon Barrel, 360 bottles)

For the first time on these pages we’ll have a look at a Canadian Whisky, sorry Davin, I hope you can forgive me. This is some sort of oddity considering the place this was distilled as well as the grain used. Let’s start with the latter. It’s easier. For this Whisky, Indian Corn was used. Indian Corn is better known as flint corn, with a hard (as flint) outer layer, making it also suitable for use as popcorn. It has a very low water content, so it is more resistant to freezing than other vegetables and thus pretty resilient under harsh conditions. This is actually one of the three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans hence the name Indian Corn. Most Indian Corn is multi-colored.

Information about The Potter Distilling Company was a bit harder to find. Potter’s Distillers was founded in 1958 by Ernie Potter in Langley B.C. The company first operated as a bottler of Liqueurs but after a few years expanded into spirits. Sometimes the distillery is also known as the Cascadia distillery. In 1962 Captain Harold John Cameron Terry (Born in Australia) bought Potter’s Distillers and headed the business for more than two decades. According to the website of the current owners Highwood Distillers, production was moved in 1990 from Langley B.C. to Kelowna B.C. where it remained until 2006, after which it moved to its roomier current location at High River, Alberta. Does this mean the label of all those Cadenhead’s bottlings are wrong? The Whisky in those bottles was distilled in 1985 (a 14yo, 15yo, 31yo and a 32yo) and 1989 (a 10yo, 11yo, 24yo and a 26yo), but state Kelowna B.C. and not Langley B.C. Oops!

The picture below is from the 11yo, 1989 bottle, but the 15yo I’m about to review, looks exactly the same. Both Whiskies were bottled in 2000. I tried both before buying and I ended up with the 15yo…

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Sweet and fatty, yet very fresh with a nice touch of wood and Bourbon Whiskey. Very big nose. It has two sides to it. One big on creamy notes with vanilla, fudge, caramel, toffee, butter and pudding, you know where this goes. The other side is sharper, like a breath of fresh, very cold air. Nice defined wood, sharp and spicy. Toasted oak and licorice. The alcohol is quite pronounced as well. Notes of mocha. This is a big strong Whisky, which has been open for a long time and these are literally the last few drops from the bottle. Time and air can’t hurt it. Well balanced and slightly dusty now. A wonderful nose, that you need to add to your library of Whisky smells.

Taste: Sweet and tasted blind I might have said Demerara Rum, or Rhum Agricole even. Somewhere in between both. Definitely closer to a Rum, than a Single Malt Whisky. Just like the nose the alcohol is pronounced in the taste as well. Yup, sweet vanilla, warm butter and notes of a liqueur. Hints of toasted oak, tar and caramel and some slightly burnt sugar. Beyond the sweetness, there is more. It does have a certain depth to it. In a way it has something of a Rum, a Bourbon Whisky and the added freshness of a Gin. This is a Chameleon of a drink. The finish is not as long as expected, and a nice warming creamy, buttery and toffee note stays behind for the aftertaste, which is of medium length.

Another bottle finished as I’m writing a review. I’ve had this a for long time (I opened it in 2006). You can’t drink this sweet stuff very quickly. This needs its moments, and if you pick them wisely, you’ll have this around for a while, but every time you’ll get it, it’s great. I’m actually sad its empty, and for old times sake I’ll try to get another one of those Potters by Cadenhead’s. I can be a very sentimental guy sometimes.

Points: 84

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky “Inaugural Release” 2014/2017 (46%, OB, First Fill Bourbon Barrels, 4000 bottles)

Every year our team attends the Whisky Show in London, and every year we come across something that surprises us. Usually it is a particular distiller. One time it was the range of Tomatin, and more recently we really liked the stuff of Indian Distiller Paul John. For example, last year, the only bottle I bought was a single cask Paul John. This year we found that the crux of the festival seemed not to be a particular distiller or brand, rather than the high quality of young Whiskies and/or new distilleries. Sure, there was a plethora of amazing old Whiskies on the Gordon & MacPhail stand and there is always nice super-premium stuff at the Diageo stand, but for us this year was about very nice young Whiskies. And guess what, they all came with age statements! Yes, it can be done! Funny enough, also young Whiskies coming from distilleries, people, (including me), tend to ignore. So, this year, I returned home with an 8 year old Tamnavulin, an 8 year old Glen Moray, a 10 year old Glenlivet and finally a 12 year old Tormore. All young, age stated, single casks and all from independent bottlers. Highly affordable as well. Before I forget, equally amazing was the Ailsa Bay and the man behind it. Today we are going to look at another young Whisky. The first release of an English Single Malt Whisky from the Cotswolds.

In my mind when a new distillery opens, it’s the brain child of two blokes who think they can do things better and try to conquer the world. Yes, I’m a romantic. Not true here, the two blokes thing, that is. This Whisky isn’t made in a shed in the Cotswolds. No, the Cotswolds distillery is the brain-child of Daniel Szor. A New York banker from Polish descent. Unfortunately his parents never learned him the language. Believe me, I tried, nope, Cotswolds is definitely not a shed. It’s a full fled distillery with tours and everything and a lot of staff, a lot, so I guess mr. Szor has some big plans, and is here to stay!

Color: Gold.

Nose: Floral, zesty, young and very perfumy. Big aroma. Cinnamon, cinnamon (again), more cinnamon and bread, cereal, sawdust and lots of notes from first fill Bourbon casks. Vanilla pods and Sinaspril pills. So yes, a nice acidic note as well. Insence sticks. No off-notes whatsoever and hardly any trace of new-made spirit. Nice wood, beautiful wood actually. Dry leaves and toasted toffee. Hints of candied yellow fruits in the distance. Spicy like an Indian Malt. Not sure this comes from the wood or are they using indian six-row barley at Cotswolds? The florality reminds me of Indian Whisky as well. Very appetizing. Well balanced and again a very big nose. Wonderful aroma’s coming together nicely. Still young and it already shows a lot of potential, which doesn’t mean this inaugural release isn’t worth it, because it is! Well done team!

Taste: On entry a wee bit thinner than expected and after that, an elegant and mouth coating young Malt emerges. Slightly sweet, slightly bitter, with toffee and caramel notes, and a lot of aromas coming from the first fill Bourbon casks. Making the body “bigger” than the entry was. Not as sweet as the nose promised. Already some nice yellow fruits though, as well as a hint of latex paint and machine oil? Wow. A desert in itself. Sweetish. Vanilla with a spicy note added to it. Just like the nose, quite Indian in style. Very appetizing stuff. The wood is almost virgin now, with a sharp spicy edge to it. Oats and crackers. Cigarette ash and toasted oak mixed with light fruity acidity. Again, lots of balance for such a young malt from a new distillery. Nice aftertaste.

Amazing inaugural release of Cotswolds. I’m told this is three years old plus one day, (some mentioned four days, but who is counting days in Whisky?). Amazing Indian style nose reminding me of some Paul John releases but foremost of this Amrut.

As mentioned in the introduction. Distilleries these days, are able to put out some very nice young Whiskies, even the ugly ducklings of yesteryear, you know, those anonimous distilleries distilling for blends only, like the aforementioned Tamnavulin. Amazing stuff, but on the other hand, we the consumer, we also had some time, by way of NAS-Whiskies, to get used to the taste of younger Whiskies. Maybe we just needed some time to adjust, and accept the times they are a-changing? Really old Whiskies these days cost the same amount of money as a new car, and something a bit younger still costs about the same as a nice vacation. So yes, we did get used to the taste of younger Whiskies, but nevertheless, there is much good stuff going around, just different from the stuff we bought 10 or 20 years ago…

Points: 84

The Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 ‘Single Barrel’ (47.8%, OB, Bourbon Barrel #7581)

2003 will for ever be the year when The Balvenie 15yo aka ‘The Single Barrel’ from the masters of reduction, was even further reduced. Where this bottling, which often was older than the stated 15yo, used to be reduced to a nice 50.4% ABV, from 2003 on, was further reduced to 47.8%. Bugger, less tax, mo’ money? Never mind. Balvenie is always a nice distillery to review. The company usually puts much effort in reaching consistency between batches, but fails miserably, when comparing this 12yo ‘Doublewood’ to this one and this one. The 15yo however, was intended to have (some) batch variation, since they were the results of one Bourbon cask (I’m not sure if all are Barrels though). Funny enough subsequent releases, and there are many, were pretty similar, when you expected some more emphasis on the difference between casks. I guess, there is more difference when comparing two from (quite) different distilling dates. Well how convenient. Five years back I wrote a review of a 15yo ‘Single Barrel’ that was distilled in 1983, and released in 1999 @ 50.4% ABV, and now we are going to have a look at a “newer” example distilled in 1989, and released in 2004 @ 47.8% ABV. (The picture is of a similar bottling from cask #7633).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Initially fruity and fresh. Very accessible. Vibrant and happy I would say, Summer, it’s like sunshine in a glass. Barley, some butter and brown sugar. Vanilla powder and white oak. Dusty mocha. Hint of gun powder and soap. Next a more vegetal note emerges. Half dried weeds lying around in the sun and some fresh almonds in the background. Soft rhubarb. The more it breathes the weaker it gets. Simpler as well. Pretty easy Whisky, typical of the cask it came from.

Taste: Sweeter than expected, and bigger as well. Lots of fruit, dried apricots, peach in sweet yoghurt, but also vanilla and coffee creamer notes. Pudding and custard. Milk chocolate. Chocolate mousse. This cask gave off lots of vanillin. Very green and vegetal. Nutty, almonds again. A hint of christmas spices. Cloves, that kind of thing. Apart from this, a strange cold dishwater note and add to that a burnt note as well as a slightly floral note. Green. The nose definitely was cleaner. Ice-cream and fruity liqueur (alcohol).

It is strange and typical at the same time. Typical in the way that it is where it came from (Bourbon Barrel), but some strange notes appear as well. The sweetness and the notes mentioned above make this not really a daily drinker. With this one you need some down-time or follow it up with something else. One at a time is enough, and yes this makes it different from other examples of the 15yo I have tasted, so a succesful exercise in getting some batch variation. Not my favourite of the 15’s though.

Points: 84