Calvados Week – Day 6: de Querville Calvados Vieille Reserve (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge, Circa 2012)

Logo Calvados WeekI already liked yesterday’s Vieux very much, so I’m quite happy I can try it’s slightly older brother (or sister) as well. The Vieux is 3yo old, and this Vieille Réserve has a minimum age of 4yo. Not a big step, so with only a little more age to it, I expect it to be only a little bit better. Meaning, more mature, with even better balance and definitely more depth to it. Let’s compare…

de Querville Vieille ReserveColor: Almost gold.

Nose: Buttery with vanilla. Nice restrained apple aroma’s like the Toutain I reviewed earlier. Warm apples and cookie dough. Warm and cozy (unlike the Toutain I reviewed earlier). Underneath a quality you get from Grappa. A bit of hay (well, more than a bit actually, but its hidden in the plethora of other aroma’s) and dry grass. Not a freshly mown lawn though. Hints of warm gravy mixed with vanilla. Honey, almonds and sandalwood. A tiny spot of horse piss on hazelnuts and stained wood. What a combination. Like many Calvados’, this also needs a lot of air to develop, and when it does, it’s quite rewarding, giving more and more honey, and notes from White Wine. These distillates from de Querville do suit me. Extremely smooth when it gets some air. On the nose definitely a step up from the Vieux.

Taste: Half sweet and quite light at first, but it already starts to work in my mouth. Sugar water (in style), caramel and soft toffee, but more the creamy bits of it, than the sweetness. Apple compote and a tiny hint of pear. Hints of spicy wood, but not much of it. Paper dust and finally some apple skins.

Yes, this has some more added depth to it, so this has probably some older distillates mixed in than the mere 4yo mentioned. It may be only a year (officially), but for me this has definitely more of everything, Which one to pick depends on price I guess, but considering both are more than reasonably priced I would pick up this one. But both are good. By now, I think, I’ve gotten quite a taste for Calvados. Who would have known. Apple Brandy. Moi? Yes please!

Points: 84

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Glengoyne “Cask Strength” (58.8%, OB, Batch #4, 2015)

In 2012 Glengoyne launched their NAS offering simply called “Cask Strength”, because that is what it is. A cask strength Whisky without an age statement. Before that, the Cask Strength offering did already exist, but it was also 12yo. In this case, rumours have it, that the Whisky isn’t all that young. So I don’t expect a 3yo Whisky with a few older casks thrown in to give it some depth. Sure there is “Burnfoot” and there are 5 batches of “Teapot Dram”, but that’s about it. No more NAS from Glengoyne. Nope, the regular range of Glengoyne is made up of good old-fashioned numbers like 10, 12, 15, 18, 21 and 25. Above that a recent 35yo comes into play, but expect to pay a lot of hard-earned cash for that one. Back to the one without a number, this time bottled at a hefty 58.8% ABV. I sometimes tend to whine a bit about Whiskies being reduced too much, well I don’t think that will be the case this time. Lets find out if it’s any good, shall we?

glengoyne-cask-strength-batch-4Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Nice funky Sherry, cask toast, mocha and vanilla. Funky as in not sparkling or fruity, nope, its deeper and more brooding than that. Less welcoming and dark. Medieval. Bread and barley, lots of it. Warm (toasted) bread, so definitely a cereal note. No trace of new make spirit though, so it’s not a 3yo NAS. However, there is some youth to it. Nevertheless, sometimes, it really does remind me a bit of Whisky made some time ago as well, so definitely a Whisky with multiple facets. Next whiff is of a slightly floral and herbal perfume. This could be interesting. When given some time to breathe, hints of new make do emerge, and the funky, sulky notes from the start, ease up a bit, to become more friendly and floral. Glengoyne are adamant about not using peat, but this does have a smoky note probably provided by toasted (Sherry) oak. It gives it more backbone and a bigger aroma. Meaty. Dusty vanilla powder. This is an autumn Whisky. If it’s October, bad weather, this is your dram. I like it. If I had to sum it up in a few words: Cereal, (American) oak and Sherry. Well balanced yet not all that complex though, also lacking some development and balance. This could do with some more ageing, which would obviously affect the price.

Taste: Barley, bread and quite sweet. Lots of Sherry and creamy notes. Fruity with a nice oaky bite. Old warehouse. Right from the start already better than the nose. More balance and tastier than it smells. Sure its a bit hot, because it has a lot of alcohol and the wood is also quite active. Lots of wood notes. Pencil shavings and oak from the start. Vanilla but also toasted oak and virgin oak. More pencil shavings. The woody bit is quite nice and kept in check by the sweetness of the Malt. A winning combination. The entry is great and the body nice big and sweet. The sweetness isn’t lasting though making way for a more woody, dry and (fruity) acidic side of the Whisky. It’s a two-stage Whisky. Again, not the most complex in the world, but very tasty and very good value to boot. Definitely one for drinking and less for smelling if you ask me, unless you are patient and let it breathe for quite some time. It gains a lot in the balance department that way.

You’ve got to love Glengoyne, for advertising not using peat for drying their malt. Especially when the world is peat-mad. Hey even Glendronach and several other Speyside distilleries offer peated expressions. When will we see a peated expression of Glengoyne? Remember Macallan advertising that their dram is so special because of the hand-picked Oloroso casks? Well look what happened there… No fuss at Glengoyne, just like Springbank. Making Whisky their way and doing it well. No funny names, no marketing tricks, mostly age statements, although Teapot Dram almost is a funny name.

Points: 84 (same score as Batch #1, but not as high as the previous 12yo cask strength expressions that I scored between 86 to 88 points)

Thanks go out to Alan for the sample, thanks mate!

Tomatin 14yo “Port Casks” (46%, OB, Tawny Port Pipes Finish, 2016)

I come from a time when Distilleries started experimenting with other casks than the usual Bourbon and Sherry casks. When Whiskies finished in Wine casks, Port casks and Rum casks popped up in the market, I actually preferred the Rum cask versions the most. I didn’t particularly like the Wine and Port finishes. It’s not because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of change, because today there are lots of these finishes around that are pretty good, but when I taste back the first examples they still are not-so-good. Port was an easy choice for distillers and blenders I guess, since it is related to Sherry and both are fortified Wines. However Sherry casks and Port casks yield very different Whiskies.

I guess the early versions were finished in casks that previously held Ruby Port. Young and bold stuff, which made for a very raw and harsh Whisky, especially when finished for too long. The U.K. loves Vintage Port which are excellent Ruby Ports, 2 years old, so the obvious starting point for experimentation with finishing. Today we see more and more Port finishes done in Port Pipes that previously held Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are older Ports, that turn (reddish) brown from oxidation. For this 14yo expression Tomatin first matured the Whisky in Bourbon barrels and for the finish they used Port Pipes that previously held Tawny port for 50 years! The 14yo Tomatin was first introduced in 2014, a replacement for the 15yo, which came from Bourbon casks only. Tomatin also discontinued the 25yo which also was from Bourbon casks only. In 2016 we saw a complete revamp of the design, so this review is for the “new”14yo, number four in the core range preceded by the “Legacy”, the 12yo and a Cask Strength version without an age statement (We’ll get to that one later).

Tomatin 14yo Port Casks 2016Color: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Musty and definitely recognizable as a Port finish. It is quite obvious to say the least. Also the color gave it away. You don’t get this pinkish hue, from caramel coloring, and wine finishes smell differently, however it also reminds me a bit of a Jenever fully matured in a Bordeaux cask. Apart from the typical fruity Portiness there is an unusual hay-like aroma, like Grappa has, it is different from your usual Whisky. In the back there is also a more creamy, vanilla note, softening the whole up. Nice soft wood as well. Although the finish is quite strong, it isn’t overpowering, and the Whisky remains balanced. Nevertheless, the finish ís strong enough not to let Tomatin’s signature tropical fruitiness through.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. Chewy. Here the finish isn’t as strong at first like in the nose. Here it starts with sweet and creamy Bourbon cask notes, but the Port quickly exerts itself. I don’t know yet if the burnt note I get, comes from toasted oak, or from the Port pipes (or both). A fruity acidity lies on top, so less balance here than on the nose. Hints of paper (not cardboard, which is heavier and less likeable). The whole is quite creamy and friendly. Well made and quite bold to let the Port finish speak its mind. Creamy, fruity, slightly burnt and some nice wood. That sums it up. Medium finish.

This is daily drinker material. Something I would reach for quite often. Sure you can analyze it to death, but why should you. I already did that for you. Not very expensive and fun to drink and definitely different from most other expressions in the shops today.

Points: 84 (same score as the previous version)

The Balvenie 12yo “Doublewood” (40%, OB, Circa 2004)

It has been 15 months since I last reviewed a Balvenie on these pages, and how convenient now, that is was also a 12yo Doublewood. However, the previous review was about a Doublewood bottled in 2014 and here we have an example of the same Whisky, the only difference being, that was bottled a decade earlier, 2004. You never know, but I think I know which one will be better…

the-balvenie-12yo-doublewood-2004Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Spicy Sherry notes, bursting with aroma. Deep honeyed layers somewhat reminiscent of Bourbon. Nice oaky feel, combined with some hints of vanilla, warm butter, hot gravy, cardboard and paper. Vegetal and slightly dusty. Definitely some sweet barley notes underneath, accompanied by soe sweet/acid red fruit notes. Candied cherries, waxy red apple skins and meaty Sherry. Very much Sherry driven but the underlying Bourbon notes are a good match as well. Excellent big nose, with all aroma’s well integrated. wow. This brings back memories from when I first started to drink Single Malt Whisky. One thing is certain, the entry-level Whiskies form a decade ago were different from (the same) entry-level Whiskies of today.

Taste: The start is creamy and buttery. Pudding and custard. Next come the drier woody bits. Sawdust and oak. Slightly warming but also a bit too thin.The wood gives it a bitter edge. The Sherry aroma’s must be rather heavy since they come a bit late to the party. And here they are. Somewhat dark and brooding and slightly syrupy. But no doom and gloom, because on top there is a fresher and more acidic fruity note as well. Hints of warm apple sauce, which is very much different from the apple skins I got in the nose. Waxy with hints of Calvados. Towards the finish it starts to break down a bit. The waxy sweetness stays behind the longest, as, for a while, does the bitter edge (pencil shavings), but the distinct aroma’s merge first and then fade away…

Wonderful stuff brought down a bit by the 40% ABV. Should have been higher. Nevertheless, you don’t hear me complaining because it is big enough to overcome the 40% ABV. Very nice stuff especially the start. It tastes best right upon entry. It’s still going strong when it develops in your mouth, but loses grip a bit when finishing. At least a medium finish, but the overall aroma stays behind for quite a while with a nice and warming quality to it.

Points: 84

Lagavulin 8yo (48%, OB, Refill American Oak, Limited Edition, 20.000 bottles, 2016)

Here at Master Quill, we love Lagavulin. In fact if you like your peated Whiskies, then it is really hard to find a bad Lagavulin. It has always been a Single Malt of very high quality and rather rare to encounter as an independent bottling, although there are quite a few out there. Another amazing fact is that the “regular” 16yo is still very, very good, and very, very, affordable. Well done Diageo. For now, because when they start tinkering with Lagavulin 16yo, or delete the Talisker 10yo, well, that wouldn’t be so good now would it.

We all know, the Whisky marked changed quite a bit the last few years, it the demand! It’s therefore harder to put out well aged Malts for a price, older Whisky drinkers are used to. In come the NAS (No Age Statement) bottlings with funny names. Like for instance Talisker Skye (the island it hails from), Talisker (Dark) Storm (it is windy on the Isle of Skye), Talisker Port Ruighe (Pronounced as Port Ree, as in Portree, the largest town on Skye), Talisker 57 North (the location on the map) and Talisker Neist Point (a local lighthouse).

With Lagavulin, Diageo didn’t really venture into NAS territory, instead they released this 8yo. Sure still young like many other NAS bottlings, but this time we, the consumer, get to know its age. For one we now know there isn’t any three year old Whisky in this expression, because all the others must have it. No, this time we are not being conned and we are now more than happy to pay for a relatively young Whisky and feel quite good with it. Yup, put on an age statement, even if its 5yo (Benromach) or this 8yo, and everybody’s happy. I’m sure this Lagavulin got a break from the drinking public, whereas the Taliskers mentioned above were criticized to the bone. I for one like age statements, but do not necesseraly dislike NAS bottlings. However, not knowing whats in it, makes me more hesitant in buying them without tasting it first. With an 8yo, you somehow know what to expect…

Lagavulin 8yoColor: Pale straw. Very light.

Nose: Sweetish laid-back peat. Nice spicy feel to it, in part made up of burnt wood, or even better, burning wood. Usually young peated Whiskies tend to be quite heavy on the phenols, but this one smells quite nice and almost elegant. Ashes and candy. Slow development. Hints of rubber, crushed apples turning brown and some distant cigarette smoke. It also has a slightly acidic fruity note. Unripe pineapple and green apple skins. Fresh wood and fern, with mocha tones. Milk chocolate and . It wants to be warming but hardly is. It is a Lagavulin alright, in many ways a lighter version of the 12yo cask strength expression. Sure some might say it’s lighter in style, maybe slightly under-developed, or less complex, but when you spend some time with it, smelling it, it actually is wonderful stuff. Well balanced. Love it.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. To sweet and fruity? Bubblegum, well didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect it to taste like this after thát nose. Very nutty. Almonds and hazelnuts ground to a pulp. Where is the peat? Ahh there it is. Well definitely not a heavy hitting high phenol young peated Whisky. Nope. We can call this very fruity by Lagavulin standards. With some air I get hints of new make spirit. Not the spirity part, but the barley part of it. This one really doesn’t improve giving it a lot of time to aireate in the glass. It shows more imperfections that way, showing, it isn’t really finished yet or even some exposing flaws in the “design”. The finish is medium at best, but shorter than it should have been. How did it get so light, friendly and simple? High drinkability, but in this case even at 48% ABV isn’t enough. It is a very nice one to drink, but the weakness lets it down a bit, or is it too simple, and maybe that lets it down a bit. Maybe both, the truth often lies in the middle, or were my expectations a bit to high.

Beforehand I wanted to compare this one with the 1995 European oak version, but I think it’s better compared to the Wilson and Morgan Caol Ila, also a young peated Whisky.  Smelling the Caol Ila right after the Lagavulin, it seems to have some exhaust fume notes and clay. Garage, new car. Notes I didn’t pick up on when reviewing it. An unusual and very interesting note, just like the petrol taste in good Rieslings. I now love this Caol Ila even more. Smelling the Lagavulin after the Caol Ila, the Lagavulin shows more barley, bread and cocoa, and definitely more youth. I guess lots of the casks weren’t very active anymore. The Lagavulin is even lighter in colour than the Caol Ila. Although the Lagavulin is slightly higher in ABV the difference is noticeable. The Caol Ila is slightly nuttier with nice fruity notes. It tastes well matured and a bit beyond the 9yo it has under its belt. In this direct comparison, I like the Caol Ila better.

I have bought a few of these Lagavulin 8yo’s on good faith and even though I’m a bit surprised how it turned out, I’m not altogether unhappy with it. It still is pretty decent, but it’s not what I expected it to be, and it may still have to find its place in the bigger scheme of things, but let me say this, the 1995 I mentioned above is way better!

Points: 84

Heartfelt thanks go out to Nico for letting me have a sample.

Malecon Seleccion Esplendida 1979 (40%, Panama)

Why not make it a Malecon, double bill? In the previous review I had a look at the 25yo brother/sister of this Rum, called the Reserva Imperial, and was surprised by its youthful, vibrant quality, I somehow didn’t expect of a 25yo Rum. The label mentions: Rum made in the Cuban style (a light style), although hailing from Panama. For me the Rum also suffered a bit by its reduction to 40% ABV, where clearly this should have been a bit higher to “carry” the Rum. Today we’ll have a look at an Seleccion Esplendida from 1979, what should be an exceptional vintage Rum. This one was bottled in 2008, but I am not sure. I gather, Las Cabres de Pese wasn’t working in 1979 so I’m guessing this was distilled at Varela Hermanos S.A. as well. My only fear is again the 40% ABV…

Before I set off, if you are interested more about the Malecon brand and some of its history, I ask you to read the lengthy introduction to the previous review of the Malecon 25yo.

malecon-1979Color: Orange brown, slightly lighter than the 25yo.

Nose: Drier. Spicy and reeks of higher quality. After only smelling it once I already like it a lot better than both Malecons I reviewed earlier. Thus, we are going into the right direction. Nice fruity acidity, better balanced and integrated compared to the 25yo. Hints of Aspirin powder and nice dry oak. Again a meaty quality like the 25yo, but this time it makes my mouth water. Dry cured meat, beef jerky and some cold gravy. Vanilla is next and quite present. Oak driven vanilla. This smells so good, I’d almost wear it as a perfume.

Taste: Well this doesn’t seem so reduced as the 25yo. Alas the fruity acidity is present, but in a less integrated way as the nose. Fruity black tea? Quite some dry wood spiciness as well, and from the start you see this has some sweetness to it, but that is well overpowered by the dry aroma’s. I don’t think they sugared this one up, guys! If so, its masked rather well. it has some bitter notes as well, but they help the whole. Even the bitterness in the finish is not hurting the Rum at all. Apart from this, some nice toffee notes stay behind next to the woody and bitter notes. Again, just like the 25yo, the finish is short, and again, this was probably reduced too much. Bugger!

We are entering super premium territory now, since today this 1979 costs about tree times more than the 25yo. Is it worth that kind of money? It is definitely a step up from both other Malecons, but for a Rum in general, it lacks complexity. It’s basically a bit too simple, to be honest. The nose promised a lot, but the taste didn’t deliver what could have been. Stop diluting it so much! I feel both the 25yo and especially the 1979 are a bit overpriced for what you are getting. Nice just isn’t enough anymore, especially at these prices, so I can’t really recommend both of them.

Points: 84

Tomatin 12yo 2002/2014 “Pedro Ximénez Sherry” (46%, OB, Cuatro Series #4, 3 years Pedro Ximénez Sherry Finish, 1.500 bottles)

The fourth and final installment of the Cuatro series is the one finished in Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry casks. Understandably the last one of the series, since PX is a very dark and sweet dessert Sherry. The grape variety itself is white, getting its color of drying in the sun. We started out light (in color, not aromatics) with the Fino and Manzanilla expressions. Examples of Sherries that age under flor (which keeps oxygen at bay). The third expression was the Oloroso one. Oloroso is a Sherry that ages without flor and thus prone to react with oxygen. So finally the PX. Even darker than Oloroso and also very sweet as opposed to most other kinds of Sherry. Historically, Oloroso casks were always the most popular casks for ageing Whisky. Back in the day, one was sure the Oloroso butt (or puncheon) was made of european oak, giving off some more tannins than the American oak that is so popular with Sherry Bodega’s today. American oak gives off a more vanilla like and creamy aroma. Today, PX has become quite fashionable as well, for ageing Whisky, since it gives off a lot of color and a sweetish aroma. However, the sweetness does not always come through though.

Tomatin Cuatro Pedro XiménezColor: Gold, more or less the same as the Oloroso expression, ever so slightly darker.

Nose: Thick and a very rich nose. Hints of burned wood and even some tar and coal. Nice, and right from the start a better balanced nose than the Oloroso expression. Underneath, thick, creamy and chewy, like crème brûlée. If you smell it vigorously, you can recognize the PX. On top lies a nice acidic winey note as well, adding to the complexity of the Whisky. All well-balanced here. A nice grassy note emerges, aided by some fruits. Nice overripe red and yellow fruits, but also a very distinct aroma of unripe bananas, biscuits and vitamin C pills (another acidic note). An Autumn Whisky, just for the moment the leaves start to fall. Wonderfully rich and elegant nose, better than the nose of the Oloroso expression. I hope it tastes better too!

Taste: Big. A lot from the nose comes back in the taste. Slightly tarry, burnt wood again, with hints of vanilla and butter. Burnt sugar, yet not sweet sugar. All of the (acidic) fruity notes are there, but here, even some hints of white grapes show themselves. Add to that a typically Dutch coffee bon-bon called Haagsche Hopjes, and you’ll get the picture. Nutty. Hazelnuts and even fatty peanuts. The body and the finish are not thick, chewy and cloying like a true PX Sherry, but the aroma’s are there. A somewhat Beer-like finish. The different “burnt” notes; the tar, the wood and the sugar, are on the rise, so if you don’t like that, don’t get this one. It starts out elegant, but ends a bit raw and bold.

And there you have it. The whole Cuatro range explored. Was it worth it? Yes! A very nice learing experience. Do you, and I, as consumers need the whole set of four? Yes, we do if you want to share the experience with lots of others. Four bottles of study material from the Tomatin University Distillery. Do you need a whole box to drink by yourself? No, not really.

For this end piece I did a proper H2H2H2H. Yes, that means I have four drams in front of me. Comparing the Fino to the Manzanilla is interesting, but for a drinking Whisky both are too similar. Especially on the nose. If you only want one, I would opt for the Fino expression, since it tastes slightly better. Oloroso, supposedly the best Sherry cask for Whisky, was in this case a bit disappointing. Smelled less aromatic than the first two, but otherwise surprisingly similar. Not the same but certainly very well related. On the taste it is somewhat unbalanced especially toward the finish. I would pass on that one. Finally the PX does show poise, and yes it does start a bit sweeter on entry compared to the other three. It’s well-balanced, and definitely the one to pick over the Oloroso expression. But, and there is a but, the PX does show a lot of burnt notes you’ll have to like, although those notes are more and more obvious in the Oloroso expression as well. In the end, I would take two, The Fino and the PX, Both are very tasty and somewhat different from each other, but not as much as expected beforehand. If I had to pick one, I would definitely go for the Fino, which for me is the best of the bunch.

Points: 85