The Glenlivet 13yo “Zenith” (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, Cask #8024, 2013)

It was that other well-known Speyside distillery which between 1999 and 2004 released a few Exceptional Single Cask bottlings. Some of which I tasted and were very…exceptional indeed. Alas the bottles were a mere 500ml. The Glenlivet liked that idea and somewhere around 2005, started bottling their own exceptional single cask bottlings. For the first decade, releases were kind of sparce, but more recently, many more bottlings have seen the light of day. I’ve tasted quite a few by now, and some are really exceptional and some are less so. Still good, but nevertheless, not all that exceptional in my book. Proceed with caution I would say, especially when most of them are pretty costly even the young ones.

Another remark. Although it seems quite some information is put on the label I still miss a lot. Although the label does show a cask number (here: #8024), not stated is what kind of cask it came from. And what a about distillation year? pretty basic information most other single cask bottlings show. By the way, since most of these bottlings are quite expensive to boot, where is the wooden coffin? Even the Glenlivet 21yo has that and costs less than half. Sure you can’t drink the wooden box, but it would look nice wouldn’t it. Just look at the picture below. The bottle looks great, but the cardboard box next to it… not so much (at this price point).

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fresh with nice citrus notes countered by some smooth vanilla and soft oak. Very pleasant right from the start. Some distant fruit. Dusty mocha, aspirin powder and spicy oak. Yes the oak definitely asserts itself. Typical notes for a Whisky from a refill hogshead made from American oak, and as such, reminds of many fairly young Cadenheads bottlings from ex-Bourbon casks (remember those tall green bottles?). However, this one is not that hot. Again, there is some dried yellow fruit in the back. Well hidden but definitely noticeable. Hints of salt and pepper. By now the citrus notes have gone.

Taste: Here the fruit is more upfront, but the oak is as well. Not an instant-pleasure fruit-bomb you’ll like right away. After the initial fruity aroma, it has a sharp and slightly bitter attack of oak. Slightly soapy as well. Floral without ruining it. Just like the Glen Elgin I just reviewed, this seems to be one of those Whiskies you’ll have to work with. Definitely not a casual Whisky. It needs your full attention. So don’t distract yourself with loud music or some reading, since you would miss the essence of this Whisky. Spicy and bitter wood definitely take over from the initial aroma. Nutty as well. Fresh soft almonds. If you are patient and let the Whisky breath a while in your glass, the spicy oak, and especially the bitterness get softer, leaving more fruit to develop and reach a better balance. Still, the more this breathes the better it gets. Surprisingly it only has a medium finish, with a tad of  bitterness. Peanut butter and walnut skins in the aftertaste.

If you have a collection of these Single Cask bottlings, this one can serve as a contrast to some others, but if you buy just the one, I don’t think this is exceptional enough. What might be exceptional is that this is a non-Sherried, cask strength Whisky, which stays soft almost all the way through.

This one was bottled in 2013 and resurfaced in The Netherlands in 2016 with quite a discount. No wonder it sold out rather quickly. I guess it might be worth the price I paid (less than a 100 euro’s), but I would be very unhappy if I bought this, without tasting it first, for the initial price. Recent single casks, age notwithstanding, cost more than the very good XXV bottling. Something worth to consider.

When comparing similar bottlings I have open, sure the Lochside and the Caperdonich are better but also older and more rare. Compared to readily available Malts with a similar profile that I have, I would rather go for the Glen Keith, but this Glenlivet is nothing to scoff at though.

Points: 85

Glen Elgin 19yo 1991/2010 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt #2324, 412 bottles)

After the amazement of the Glendronach I recently reviewed, here is another shock (at least for me it is). I’m actually baffled I didn’t throw in Glen Elgin earlier on these pages, since it is one of my secret loves. Every Single Malt aficionado knows which Malts are just the best, but one always has a secondary, more personal, list of Single Malts. Everybody just loves Brora, or at least knows its one of the best around. However, not a lot of people would pick f.i. Teaninch as such, which is one of my other favorites. Usually it is a Malt with a less “easy” profile that somehow manages to tickle one’s fancy. It’s personal.

Glen Elgin. I love it. Many times it just floats my boat, and this one is no different. I brought it with me as a favorite to my Whiskyclubs gathering in Hamburg, where it failed to get the applause, I thought, it deserves. Yes, again, my opinion. The same club presented me a while back with a sister cask of this one, bottled something around the 61% ABV mark, and since then, I was looking out for a bottle of my own. This cask #2324, in Hamburg, was deemed too extreme and hot by many, but after a 1990 Family Cask of Glenfarclas, the Elgin was retried and deemed more accessible and creamy. So, remember, when tasting a lot of Malts in short succession, it is important where it is placed in the line-up, what you had to eat, how tired you are, and understand how your palate works. It all depends…

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Sherry, nutty, creamy with lots of soft vanilla notes. Soft wood fiber, but right from the start, not the usual oak aromas. I get hints of Rhum Agricole. Storm by the waterfront. Waterfront organics. Reed. Old air-dried oak (the outside of the cask). Vanilla, cream and wood, but not very fruity yet. Spicy and slightly grassy (wet). Sometimes hints of licorice (wood). Otherwise thick and syrupy with the sugar smell you get from a freshly opened sugar packet. The Rhum Agricole notes stay around, rendering the smell more dry. Add to this another layer of an acidic red berry smell (and some gravy) for complexity. Greek yoghurt? Only hints of sugared and dried yellow fruits now, but I couldn’t tell you which ones (dried papaya and pineapple come to mind).

Taste: Short attack. Big. Starts with some vanilla sweetness mixed with paper or cardboard. Wood, nuts and fruit. Fresh almonds (chewed). Creamy and dusty. Nutty and a medium wax aroma. Altogether a medium and very pleasurable body. The big start soon gets smaller. Fruity acidity on top, from red fruits. Berries. The acidity is quite unexpected and doesn’t fit the nose all that well, or the Whisky as a whole for that matter. Hints of Beer. Finishes (long) on the fruity acidity adding some light bitterness for the first time. The bitterness makes up the aftertaste as well.

I have to be honest. I don’t like it as much now as I did in the beginning. It is definitely one you have to work with, but you also need to forgive some minor flaws (like the acidic top note). I also fear this suffers a bit from oxidation. This is a bottle I often grab when I want a few cask strength Sherry expressions, so it is already 2/3 down, lots of air to play with.

Points: 85

Tamdhu “Batch Strength” (58.8%, OB, Batch 001, Sherry Casks, 2015)

In our series of NAS Cask Strength Whiskies, here is number three. After the nice Glengoyne and the surprisingly good Tomatin, here is Tamdhu. Tamdhu is since 2011, the new jewel in the crown of Ian MacLeod, who have managed to save yet another distillery from the hands of the Edrington Group. The group chose to focus on the highly marketable Macallan and Highland Park brands, so no use for this low profile, but high quality distillery Tamdhu is. Over the years all previous owners haven’t done a lot with the Tamdhu brand, so there aren’t a lot of Tamdhu expressions around. Ian MacLeod, being the new owners, came up with a nice retro design and up ’till now have released four expressions. A 10yo that is widely available, blended from first and second fill Sherry casks. A limited edition 10yo, blended from first fill Sherry casks only, which has sold out rather quickly. And last but not least, two batches of the Batch Strength expression. Today we’ll have a look at the first batch, although last year the second batch saw the light of day.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Funky bread-like notes. Cereal and smelly, brooding Sherry. Quite spirity and paper-like at first. Cold dish-water. After a short while of breathing a more likeable fruity note emerges, but not much. Hints of gravy, Beer and menthol. Butterscotch and a rather strange burnt note, with an acidic top note (that’s why its strange). I’m not alarmed though, because the previous two NAS cask strength expressions started out funky as well, but turned out to be really tasty in the end. Next a more vegetable and woody note. Spicy but not in a big way. Still some paper, (slightly scented toilet paper comes to mind), as well as some jasmine tea. Pencil shavings start to emerge. Soft with a hint of sweetness. Creamy and nutty. The more it breathes the more toffee it shows. The strangeness mentioned above never really disappears.

Taste: Big on toffee and pencil shavings. Wow. Nice. Sweet. Hot. Big. Brash. I like it! Here too a funky note. Even some orange skin. Different from the other two, but one that screams yes! Its good. Where the nose had some off-putting aroma’s, the taste is very inviting. If you like cask strength, this is immediately likeable. Sure a bit raw and at times a wee bit under-matured, but not much. It won’t be twenty years old, but it won’t be three years either. Well made, you can taste a lot of care went into this. Lots of nutty Sherry notes, so I’m guessing some Sherries that matured under flor were used as well. Wonderful woody elements adding to the whole. Medium finish at best. The big aroma’s turn dry and then disappear altogether, which invites you to take another sip.

First of all, this is all Sherry casks, as the plan is for all Tamdhu releases, but way different from the all Sherry cask Aberlour A’Bunadh, blended solely from Oloroso Sherry casks. Compared to the other two I reviewed recently, or even to the A’Bunadh, this is maybe priced a tad to high, but I suspect this liquid was also quite pricy to produce.

However, if I had to choose on smell alone I would pick the Tomatin, which is also less expensive than this Tamdhu, but since Ian MacLeod made the bold move to buy this distillery, which isn’t known to the big public, I understand the pricing and the Whisky is definitely worth its price. In a direct comparison with the Tomatin Cask Strength, it is obvious both are equally good, and both show something about the distilleries they’re from. The difference in taste is a matter of opinion, as well as your mood. You can’t go wrong with either of them, including the Glengoyne which did score one point less.

Points: 85

Thanks Alan!

Tomatin “Cask Strength” (57.5%, OB, Bourbon & Sherry Casks, 2016)

Today there are a few NAS Cask Strength Whiskies on the market that haven’t received a funny marketing driven name. Sure among many others, f.i. Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Uigeadail are very good, but considering the owners of Ardbeg, marketing is a given. There are also a few quiet boys in the back of the class, whispering about quality and quality only, not caring too much about marketing and don’t spend their money even on getting a funky name. A few of those come to mind as well. The last review I did is even one of those expressions. Glengoyne “Cask Strength”. Others are Tamdhu, Glendronach and Tomatin to name but a few. I never got around to review the original Tomatin Cask Strength, but now I have a chance at the first batch from last year’s newly designed release. As mentioned on the box, this Whisky comes from Bourbon and Sherry casks and will be an interesting comparison to Glengoynes expression with the same name.

tomatin-cask-strength-2016Color: Light gold.

Nose: Lots of barley and funky Sherry. Lots of cereal notes as well, but also a hint of smoke and cask toast (the former probably coming from the latter only). I can’t say this smells very appetizing and nice from the start, but the Glengoyne got better with extended breathing, so we’ll give this one some time as well, but I can already tell you that this Tomatin won’t take as long as the Glengoyne. There are also buttery and creamy elements and some hidden fruits. Sugar water and hints of licorice, clear glue and some sweet fruits. Pencil shavings, paper, cardboard and a slightly odd (or off) acidic note. Not much, but it’s there. Just not of the tropical kind Tomatin is known for…or is it, considering the evolution with air. Just like the Glengoyne version, It shows its youth and both show a somewhat similar young and strong style, based on both Bourbon and Sherry casks.

Taste: Yeah, strong at first but next, heaps of wonderful tropical fruitiness with nice nuts! It’s definitely a Tomatin all right. Sweet on entry. Toffee, caramel. Butter. immediately followed by some nice oaky notes. Not as strong as the number suggests, and also not hot. Pretty easy to drink, if you have some cask strength experience, that is. Cookie dough and cream, with just enough sweetness to present the finish which is definitely a bit drier. Just like the Glengoyne the taste is better than the nose is. Lacks a bit of complexity though, but in the taste it doesn’t remind me of a young Whisky. Whiffs of old style Whisky pass by as well.

The youthful cereal notes? I don’t like them. It’s that part of Whisky that transforms into something way better with some proper ageing in proper casks. When freshly opened these notes are pretty upfront, in your face. A bit off-putting in my opinion, but the same happened with the Glengoyne Cask Strength as well. Sure it wears off, but do you really want to wait some time after pouring it, before you can thoroughly enjoy it? Because you can, if you work at it a bit. After extensive breathing both become nice cask strength drams worth your money. The quality is there and therefore the score is up there well into the eighties. But for me, this is also proof why Whisky should be aged properly and why I’m also a bit hesitant when it comes to NAS-expressions, which most definitely are not all bad, just look at the WIP Kilkerrans to name but one. Luckily this one tastes so good, I have no problems forgiving it for the funky nose. Again one you have to let breathe for a while.

Points: 85 (almost 86).

Thanks Alistair!

Glenturret 2002/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhial, The MacPhail’s Collection, First Fill Sherry Puncheons)

After all these years time for another first on these pages. This is the first review of Glenturret. Glenturret is the oldest still working distillery of Scotland. It started operation in 1775 and was originally called Hosh. Like most others, never working throughout all these years. Todays owners are the Edrington Group. A group formed in 1996, that knows how to market Whisky and make money of it. Just have a look at some other distilleries owned by the Edrington Group: Names like Macallan and Highland Park. Both are (very) highly marketed and very much in the spotlight. Edrington is also the brand owner of Scotland’s favourite blend Famous Grouse, and that has to be marketed well, so in comes the Famous Grouse Experience built at…the Glenturret Distillery, since Glenturret finds its way into this blend. So Glenturret is considered the spiritual home of Famous Grouse and therefore has a raison d’être. Finally Glenrothes is a distillery owned by The Edrington Group, although the brand “Glenrothes” is owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd (as is Cutty Sark, another Blended Whisky). Finally, The Edrington Group is also 50% owner of the North British grain distillery, the other 50% is owned by Diageo.

In the recent past Bunnahabhain, Glenglassaugh, Glengoyne and Tamdhu were also a distilleries owned by the Edrington Group, but probably considered to hard to build up these brands to the extend of the other brands, so all were sold off. Glengoyne (2003) and Tamdhu (2011) to Ian MacLeod. Bunnahabhain, together with the Black Bottle Blended Whisky brand to Burn Stewart in 2003, and Glenglassaugh (2008) to a private group of investors, who subsequently sold it to Billy Walker of Benriach in 2013. Billy then sold all of his distilleries (Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh) to Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel’s) in 2016. Can you hear the Carousel Waltz?

glenturret-gm-2002Color: Full gold.

Nose: Yup, this is from Sherry casks alright. Quite different from the usual young Whisky drawn from Bourbon casks. Nice, creamy and dusty. Fruity, fresh ripe fruits and lots of candied fruits as well. Sweet peach yoghurt mixed in with the smell of new tires. Although no promise of any real sweetness yet, it does come across as syrupy. Vanilla, cloves with some pencil shavings and a nice (this time) fruity acidity even though it isn’t completely integrated with the rest of the aroma’s. Smells quite good actually. Apart from all this, it is quite perfumy as well. A slight burning note. Not really burned wood or toasted cask, no, the burned note seems to be integrated into the smell of new tires I mentioned above. I wouldn’t say unusual, but quite interesting, and I don’t mean interesting in a way to not say it isn’t any good, because it is, it’s very appealing and complex. I like it very much, it smells really good. I hope it tastes even better, if so, where can I order a case of this? But, lets not get ahead of ourselves, lets taste it first…

Taste: Wow, very sweet on entry. Syrupy and creamy all right. Butter candy and vanilla. The burning note and the tire note are in here as well, and I have to say right from the start, this doesn’t disappoint at all. Burned toast. Next a sugary and nutty note, alas a bit of a watery, sugary nutty note. Maybe this has seen a little bit too much reduction? Distant banana with creamy vanilla. Sweet fruity yoghurt again. This aromatic part is so big, that the more astringent woody notes you should almost always pick up, since Whisky is matured in wood, only shows in the finish. You can feel it in the back of your mouth. No bitterness whatsoever though and the finish itself has more than enough staying power, but when its gone, its gone, you’ll need to take another sip.

Sure Ferrari’s are amongst the nicest cars to drive, but sometimes you can have a lot of fun with a small cheap car as well. It’s the same with Whisky, Sure I get a lot, and I mean a lot, from a 1972 Brora, but sometimes you can have an equal lot of fun with an inexpensive Whisky from a distillery that doesn’t have a big name like Macallan of Highland Park, so in comes this Glenturret.

I’m wondering if, somewhere in the future, we will see a cask strength version of a similar 2002 Sherried Glenturret. That would be really interesting, I mean, good!

After writing this review I did a direct H2H comparison with the Gordon & MacPhail Teaninich I reviewed last. When tasting both Whiskies on different days you will remember them differently as in a direct comparison. H2H allows you to find differences and sometimes even aroma’s you would never get otherwise. For instance, when smelling the Teaninich right after the Glenturret, I’m amazed the Teaninich almost smells like a Rum at first. Waxy and thick. Something I never got when tasting it solo. Tasting it, it is definitely a Whisky, although big, bold and waxy. The Glenturret is much more refined and elegant.

Points: 85

Presidente Solera 23 Años (40%, Dominican Republic)

There are probably more Rum brands in the world than there are people, which makes the Rum world less transparent than, lets say, the Scottish Single Malt Whisky industry. Remember the reviews I wrote about Malecon? Malecon is a brand and not a distillery. Malecon is a Brand of PILSA. A Panamanian company which is known for its Cuban master blender: Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez Perez. Malecon is Rum made in the Cuban tradition. Well, something like this is also true for the Presidente brand. Presidente is made the Cuban way in the Dominican Republic by Oliver & Oliver and just like PILSA, Oliver & Oliver make, and own, a lot of brands of Rum, like Cubaney, Opthimus, Puntacana and Quorhum, to name but a few. They also make Rums like Atlantico and Tres Hombres, for other brand owners. Oliver & Oliver will make even Rum for third-party brand owners. If you and me want to put out a Rum together, Oliver & Oliver will be happy to oblige, but so would PILSA and many others around the world.

We’ll encounter may Rums in the future that are made by Oliver & Oliver, so more about them next time. Their website is more down than up these days, so lets find out who this guy on the label is. It is José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1898), a big national hero in Cuba. Amongst other things he is known as a writer, poet and journalist, but foremost as a political activist. He fought for Cuba’s independence against Spain, traveling the world to spread the gospel of political and intellectual independence and was the architect of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. The Cubans fought three wars against Spain for independence, and in the third and final war (1895-1898), during the battle of Dos Ríos, Martí was killed. Martí helped planning and execution of this war. After his death one of his poems was turned into the song Guantanamera (which is probably a Rum brand by now).

Presidente 23Color: Dark brown, slightly mahogany.

Nose: Big, initially sweet and syrupy, but quickly some dry woody aromas emerge as well. Old cabinet with faint smell of dried out lavender soap. Hints of cured meat, dust and toned down sawdust. Very closed actually and it comes across as one big aroma which makes it hard to detect distinct markers for this Rum. I have seen that before in Whisky when a lot of caramel colouring is done. I’m guessing from the smell that this has seen some sugar added to it. Sweet biggish smell with some dry spicy wood. Sweet black tea. Yet overall lacking some depth, so not all that old I guess. In fact it smells a bit like a El Dorado 12yo light, which also saw some added sugar. If you need to refresh your knowledge about the Solera System at this point, please read the introduction to this review. Nevertheless a very nice smelling Rum.

Taste: Sweet caramel, dry wood, slightly bitter spicy wood and plywood. Sitting near the fireplace in winter, when the air outside is crisp and sharp. Toffee, lots of vanilla and sugared cacao. Burnt sugar, and the aroma of burning paper. A touch of glycol. Because this has hints of burnt sugar and burnt wood, the sweetness is well hidden but unmistakably there. Big aroma. On top a nice well-integrated, slightly acidic fruitiness, which balances out the Rum. Just enough. Honey and licorice. The finish is rather cloying, another sign of added sugar, and surprisingly sees the soapy note from the nose return. The finish is of at least medium length, with quite a warming quality to it. Again a Rum that suffered a bit by reduction to 40% ABV.

This Rum is pretty sweet and these days, added sugar is like swearing in the church of Rum. And rightly so. Although Rum is made from molasses and sugar cane, adding sugar is something else. Sure, lots of Rum drinkers love their Rums sweet, but for that we have liqueur. Calling Rums like these just “Rum” is a bit confusing and to be honest, misleading. We already have the Spiced Rum category, why not add a Sugared Rum category. As a Sugared Rum this is not bad. It does taste nice, and although it has its flaws, I do quite like it.

Points: 85

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 6: Zuidam Korenwijn 14yo 1999/2013 Oloroso Sherry (38%, Special #3, Cask #1649 & 1650, 491 bottles)

Jenever Week Logo

On the sixth day, God created… This actually is the last review I’m writing for this series of Dutch Jenevers. To be honest, I almost never write reviews in the order of publication. Especially with the Master Quill Weeks. At some point in time, I find a “logical” progression in which to order the seven days of the Master Quill Week, not necessarily by ascending scores, mind you.

This is the fourth (!) offering by Zuidam in this week, another Korenwijn, and I promise you, it’s the last in this series. Tomorrow we’ll see another offering from Rutte (again). Now don’t start thinking now that Rutte and Zuidam are the only distilleries in The Netherlands producing Jenever. There actually is a long list of companies around, many of which are several centuries old.

The history of Jenever started in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both port towns. Other cities like Groningen and Leeuwarden (in the north) also have a Jenever history. Making Jenever turned out to be a smelly business, so with time the production of Jenever moved into neighbouring cities with some more room. Weesp (near Amsterdam) and Schiedam (near Rotterdam).

From Amsterdam I’d like to mention Lucas Bols (1575), Wynand Fockink (1679) and Van Wees (1782). From Rotterdam I’d like to mention Onder De Boompjes (1658), Nolet (1691), De Kuyper (1695), Wenneker (1693), Herman Jansen (1777) and Dirkzwager (1879). Most of them produce Jenever under different brand names.

Rutte was never located in Rotterdam itself. Rutte has always been from Dordrecht. Finally Zuidam itself is more recent. It started doing business since 1975 in the town of Baarle-Nassau near the Belgian border.

Zuidam Korenwijn 1999Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Closed at first. Some wine related notes, fruity. Needs to move around in my glass some more. Yeah development commences quickly. A deep thick aroma, countered by sharp woody dry notes. Some ground white pepper and clear glue which dissipates quickly never to return again. Also a slightly burnt and tarry cask note. Sawdust and toffee for short. The whole smells rather laid-back and calm. Subdued yet big. Happy about itself. Sawdust and pencil shavings and underneath some hints of new wood. All very spicy but well in check. It has a very specific fresh and fruity acidity to it, I also got from tomorrows offering, although not in such a big way, and way more balanced as well. Here it must be from the Sherry cask. The nose is an amalgamation of Jenever, the Sherry cask and oak, and I must say the Sherry cask really did its work here.

Taste: Creamy, buttery and very fruity. Very nice and very appealing. It starts out sweet. Toffee, mocha and runny caramel. When that subsides, and it does that quite quickly, it makes room for a very nice fruity aroma. You could almost call it a “special effect”. Nice wood as well, sometimes bordering on cardboard and old paper, but it works quite well. However, I feel it is hardly recognizable as a Korenwijn. At least when I compare it to it younger Brother, the Korenwijn 5yo I reviewed earlier. it almost seems like a hybrid with Whisky, Cognac and other distillates. Taste this blind and try to find out what this is. Again an entirely different product from Zuidam. Nice. The finish has medium length and finishes with the warmth of the Toffee/Caramel and some sharpness of wood. Chewy. This is definitely after dinner. It’s a dessert all by itself. Nicely soft and lively, even though the basis is quite sweet, as all Zuidams seem to have. Likable and dangerously drinkable.

Quite a small outturn, considering this came from two Sherry casks ánd the Korenwijn being reduced to 38% ABV. Nice expression from Zuidam though, and its clear to me why it was chosen as a special release. This one is quite expensive. Its more than twice the price of the Korenwijn 5yo, but when compared to the Korenwijn 10yo and 20yo, Zuidam also produces, the price seems to fit right in.

Points: 85