Arran “Batch 3” (51.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 728 bottles, 50 cl)

As a volume, 50 cl should be just enough, or some would say, barely enough. I do the occasional bottleshare with friends, and half of a full bottle (35 cl), well that’s actually not enough for me, I believe that 50 cl is the bare minimum of acceptability. Earlier, way back in 2015, I actually reviewed Batch 4 of Arran from the same bottler. I have to admit, I totally forgot about that one. When backtracking a bit on my own website, I just found my review of Batch 4, which gave me quite the scare, since in this case the review for Batch 3 came first, an this introduction was the last bit to write. Both Batch 3 and Batch 4 have the same label, and for a moment there I though I’d written a review of the same Whisky again. Fortunately I didn’t, even though it would have been quite interesting to compare both reviews. That would have been a happy accident. Just to be clear, I would have posted this review anyway. Since I don’t remember Batch 4 any more, I can’t compare both to each other, which is quite unusual for me, since I usually do remember almost all Whiskies I’ve tried.

Color: White Wine, quite pale.

Nose: This has it all, tropical fruits, barley, bread, barley sugar, milk chocolate, hint of vanilla and very soft wood. Leafy. Lively. Fresh and also sweet smelling. Toffee and wine gums, and sometimes a bit like a Rum, but also a nice fresh golden Beer and Gin. What a remarkable combination of smells. Also a tiny flinty and smoky note, coming from, I guess, the toasted oak. It’s not very woody though, although over time, some more soft (virgin) oak moves in. Besides the big fruitiness, it is also somewhat perfumy and somewhat sweaty. Not soapy, mind you, it just smells so friendly and nice. Hints of fresh air, cow pasture and paper, only adding to the complexity. It may hardly have a colour, and yet it is a NAS bottling, but in no way does it smell like a young or under-matured Whisky. Amazing how much is going on in this one. No off-notes whatsoever. Wonderful smelling Malt.

Taste: Sweeter than expected and fruity. Vanilla, toffee and mango ice cream. Much simpler than the nose was. Fresh and lemony. Cold dishwater with lemon detergent and almonds. Wood shavings and sawdust. Fresh oak playing a larger role here than it did on the nose. I can feel the bitterness on the back of my tongue already. Very tasty and well balanced yet less complex. In a way this is a winter warmer. Despite all the fruit it isn’t a sunny Malt. Nice warmth when descending down the pipe. After the fruit moves away, the aftertaste also has this slight bitter lingering note, and present as well (finally it’s there, I’ve been expecting it for quite some time now) a slight soapy feel. The finish itself is medium at best, it doesn’t have a great length, and even the aftertaste leaves quite quickly, hinting at some youth. Still, what this Malt is able to offer, despite its supposed youth, it is amazing. If only the taste was as good as the nose was, than you’d be amazed what I would have scored this.

I didn’t buy Arran for a very long time, after a plethora of very young and initial releases, some of which already were very good. (Remember the Champagne finishes?) Not by choice or prejudice though, it just fell under the radar somehow. I bought this Arran at auction by chance. I wanted to buy a Boutique-y bottle, placed several lowish bids on some of them, and this was the only only one nobody seemed to care for and I was never overbid. So after a while is was Arran time on my lectern, and I opened this one, and it is great. Unexpected. NAS, very pale, so I didn’t expect all that much to be honest, yet this is a very good Arran. So after having tried this one, I immediately scored me some more Arran’s at auction. After this Arran, I’m not so sure 50 cl is acceptable to me any more. I fear this will be gone too soon.

Points: 87

Paul John (59.5%, Single Cask #1906, 210 bottles, 2015)

In the previous review we delved into Paul John single cask #1051, although that particular one turned out to be a tad wonky. So I just had to compare it to another Paul John unpeated single cask. I still have some samples lying around from the golden Shilton Almeida era, probably the most passionate brand ambassador out there, and amongst others, certainly one of the best. Still baffled Paul John let him go, and since Shilton left the company, I don’t see a lot happening on-line yet at Paul John headquarters. Shilton moved on from the Goan sun to the sun that bakes Tel Aviv. One of Shilton’s samples is of cask #1906, like #1051, hailing from the same glorious year that was 2015. For most people certainly a better year than the virus infested, war ridden years we are living through these days.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Super fruity at first, and different from cask #1051. This just leaps out of my glass, with a nice sweet, fruity and surprisingly, flinty toasted cask notes, reminding me a bit of Pouilly Fumé. This cask also has more complexity to it, with a nice floral note as well as some lemon detergent, giving it more cleanliness, dûh, and freshness, even though it might sound horrible to some. Waxy and paper-like, meaty even, dry meat, beef jerky. No, this one is definitely more appetizing than #1051. More complex as well. The pencil shavings are here too, but much more toned down. The pencil shavings are overshadowed by the fruitiness, which is nice. Very nice spicy wood, just the right amount. Fresh butter. Well balanced stuff. This is from a 75% full sample, so this had a lot of time to interact with some air. To be honest, the cold dishwater is also recognizable, just less heavy handed and it has less of it than cask #1051 had. After some more air in my glass, the pencil shavings component does become more apparent, but it never gets to the same level as it does in #1051. The woody bit is more spicy, and evolves a little. More herbal and green. With this one, all seems to fall right in its place, much more balanced. Nice fruity nose, something that is lacking from #1051. A pleasant experience, as well as a pleasant surprise (after #1051). The Pouilly Fumé bit in the nose, makes this one extra special, since that flinty note works so well for this Malt.

Taste: sweet and waxy, (including a distinct paper or cardboard note), with an even bigger (red pepper?) sting to it. Distant mocha and milk chocolate. Quite some ripe yellow fruits. Wow, excellent. #1051 seems gloomy compared to this. #1051 is more like a winter Whisky, and shows nothing of the tropical shores of Goa. Quite some wax in this one again, as well as some soapy detergent. More wax than I expected and the woody bitterness is helped along by the wax. Less bitter than #1051. Appetizing stuff this one, with again quite a lot of influence from the wood. Next some more fruit, fresh, not over-ripe yellow fruit and some fresh citrus for zestiness and likeability. Also the acidity of red berries. Giving it an extra layer over #1051. In the finish some soft notes of anise and sweet licorice. Again not a big aftertaste, more like a lingering warmth, with a wee soft bitterness.

Well, in this review I compared this #1906 all the time to #1051 which I reviewed right before this one, so there isn’t a lot more to comment about here really. To sum things up: #1906 is a way more friendly example, more fruity, and the gloomy bits that overpower #1051 are here as well, just less of it. #1906 is also better balanced, and just better overall. Having tasted quite some Paul John single cask offerings, I would recommend you to pass on #1051, because there are a lot of better examples around, #1906 is just one of them, and #1906 isn’t even one of the very best, close, but not quite. Final observation: personally, I like the peated single cask offerings of Paul John even more than the unpeated ones. The peating levels are not very high, but highly effective and very tasty.

Points: 87

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask (58.6%, OB, B111209041A, 2017.07.11, 184 bottles)

After the minion-Solist I reviewed last week, here is the first true Solist on these pages. I guess that any journey into the world of a particular Single Malt should actually start with the result from maturation in a cask that previously held Bourbon, because casks like these, especially refill casks, show the distillery character best, not overpowering the true nature of the spirit. So here we have a Solist, an ex-Bourbon single cask bottling bottled at cask strength. Beforehand I was quite excited to find out if this Malt would be closer to an Indian Malt or more like an aged Scottish Malt. As said in the previous review, Kavalan is mostly made with Scottish imported barley, but matured in the hot Taiwanese climate, whereas Indian Malts are predominantly made with Indian Six-row Barley, but also matured in a similarly hot climate. By the way, another fun fact, the Indian distilleries do import something else from Scotland though: Peat, and maybe Kavalan does so as well. I’ll look into this when reviewing a peated Kavalan. But first back to basics…

Color: Gold.

Nose: Spicy, sweetish, fresh and modern. Buttery and creamy. Microwave popcorn (the buttery/salty one, definitely not the sweet one) and latex paint for walls. (Not talking about solvents here, although maybe the tiniest hint of some acetone is noticeable, like you get from fermenting over-ripe yellow fruits). Pretty fruity from multiple yellow fruits, as well as a nice Asian florality. After a while the fruit turns slightly syrupy or jam-like. Medium spicy wood. Fresh and herbal. White pepper and pencil shavings. Slightly dry and dusty as well. Mocha and light milk chocolate with distant ice-cream. Some vanilla and wood spices, suggesting of course, American oak. After some breathing the more dusty and cardboard-like notes emerge, adding to the complexity. This is a very good example for a well aged Bourbon cask Whisky, only well aged in Taiwan has thus a different meaning than it does in Scotland. It takes much less time there than a similar example of Whisky aged in Scotland. This particular Kavalan reminds me a bit of Bourbon cask matured Glen Keiths from Signatory, but it could be similar to many other well aged ex-Bourbon cask matured Scottish Single Malt Whiskies as well. The point being, that the aforementioned Glen Keith’s are some 20 years old and I don’t think this Kavalan is a lot more than 5 or 6 years of age. So quite the result for a young Whisky. All in all, a clean smelling Kavalan, this is. Thank you, Mr. Yoda for that.

Taste: Very nutty and prickly, right from the start, fresh almonds. Nice sweetness but also a wonderful fruity acidity complements the sweetness very well, making it fresher and “lighter” than a similar Scottish counterpart. Didn’t pick up on a lot of this nuttiness on the nose though. Cocoa powder, wax and clay and with just the right amount of sweetness counter-parted by spiciness. Fresh and citrussy as well. Very fruity, very tasty. On the body, since a lot is already happening, not a lot of wood is discernible, but in the finish a bitter edge is there. Warming going down. Sure it has quite a high ABV, but it really doesn’t come across as one. Well balanced stuff this, just slightly less complex than the nose was.

This, (ex-Bourbon), is one of the more nicely priced Solists available, and if the price stays as it is, it most definitely is a good alternative for an older Bourbon cask matured Single Malt. It is also closer to a Scottish Single Malt than an Indian Whisky is, and with this, Kavalan seems to be not really carving out its own niche…but rather fishes in exactly the same pond as the Scots do. In that light some of the Solists have some pretty hefty prices. Nevertheless, this “basic one” is very well made, and it takes a lot less ageing time to match the quality of a Scottish Single Malt. Recommended.

Points: 87

Entirely by chance, I found out this malt works extremely well outside on a sunny day in spring (so when it’s still a bit chilly outside), combines very well with (cold) fresh air.

Lagavulin 11yo “Offerman Edition” (46%, OB, 750 ml, 2019)

If I would have written this review a bit earlier, than this particular review would have concluded the Lagavulin-prequel-quartet of the 8yo, 9yo, 10yo and this 11yo. However, just recently, yet another Offerman Edition has been released, this one finished in Guinness casks. Damn, now I have to find me that one as well, and just like the original Offerman Edition, this one isn’t destined for our European market. This Offerman is mostly US-only. They kept the new one at 11yo as well, because I suspect they wouldn’t dare on touching on (another) 12yo, as to not confuse the public too much with the annual cask strength version. This Offerman Edition is made with hand-picked Bourbon and rejuvenated Bourbon casks, in part by Offerman himself. Especially when you’re in Europe, you might wonder who this (Nick) Offerman is? Nick Offerman is an American Actor playing the role of Ron Swanson in the TV-series called “Parks & Recreation”, and Ron just loved Lagavulin (because Nick loves Lagavulin).

Color: Gold, lighter than the 9yo GoT version.

Nose: Wow, this has a mild, farmy, clay like start. Hay from healthy, fatty, full grown grass, making it somewhat different from the 8yo, 9yo and 10yo. Loving this. Otherwise, it does resemble the 9yo a bit. Just like I expected before reviewing the GoT Edition, this time again, I expected something more along the lines of the 8yo and 10yo, but with the 9yo already being quite the surprise, this one does even smell better. It smells a little bit like a…Brora! Man, if this tastes like it smells, please take my money now Diageo and thanks to you, Nick Offerman, for picking these casks! But wait a minute, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now. Iodine (and a tiny hint of chlorine as well) comes knocking on the door, especially when this gets some time to breathe in your glass. I suspect Nick especially sought out this Iodine. Old, wet wood spice. Slightly perfumy even. Tiny bonfire and a wee bit of prickly peat. This Malt has it all, including the underlying (candied) fruit. Wet iodine laden peat with salty seaside notes. The Broraness wears off and Lagavulin emerges some more, Lagavulin we know from the 16yo (which has Sherry) and especially the GoT edition. But the farmy bit that remains is still very nice, turning a bit meaty even. Not a lot of smoke any more. Dull vanilla powder, with still this zesty citrus note as well. Is there something like dry almond powder? Overall quite a soft edition, but one that works quite well. The GoT has slightly more of the creamy and buttery vanilla notes than the Offerman, but the bonfire notes are the same.

Taste: Starts as thin like the GoT, but this time with some crushed beetle and some fresh, slightly crushed almonds, and a very nice sweetish fruity bit. This one has even more of a licorice-peat note than the GoT. Fruity and appetizing, like cola on a hot day. It does have cola notes, hence the association. Almonds again and a wee bit of hot plastic. Warming and soft, so not this burning sensation when going down. This one has some sweetness as well, but definitely less so than the GoT. Slightly less complex than the nose, with seemingly less development. I like the lingering bonfire notes. It gives me a happy association, because who doesn’t like sipping a good Whisky when sitting and staring at a bonfire in the woods, or some pieces of wood in the fireplace.

This one turned out to be like a better variant of the GoT, but a variant of it nevertheless. Offerman offers us more than the GoT did, especially on the nose. Nice profile. Dear Nick, since you are a Lagavulin aficionado, why not pick some more casks like this, and bottle them at cask strength? Since this is Bourbon casks only, a fitting choice by an American if I may say so, it is more of a prequel to the 12yo, yet it is different in its profile. The empty glass (after a while), is iodine laden, where the empty glass of the GoT (the next morning) smells of peat and warm plastic. Looks like this (Iodine) is what Lagavulin and Nick went for.

Points: 87 (so the odd’s clearly beat the evens)

After the Offerman, I tried the GoT again, I find that there are a lot of similarities, but it is also lacking an entire (farmy) level. The Offerman is just a better and expanded version of the GoT. Tried it again and yes, the GoT is just simpler, still good, yet simpler. I haven’t seen Parks & Recreation yet, but I wonder if it’s also a better TV-series than GoT. Apart from some states in the US, this edition seems to be hardly available any more, thus prices are rising at auctions and the secondary market. Prices as I see today are such that even though this is a good Lagavulin, I can’t recommend it to you, because when taking the price into account, I believe you are better off with the 16yo and the Distillers Edition as well as the Game of Thrones version which turns out to be a very nice Lagavulin as well, is less expensive and more readily available. If you can spare the cash, please do buy it, because it’s another good Lagavulin differing from the others.

Hampden 13yo 1992/2006 (66.2%, Cadenhead, “HLCF”, Pot Still, Jamaica)

The previous review was of a more recent official release and I wrote down some sparse and basic early history of Hampden Estate. Well, since all good things come in pairs, I’ve managed to unearth, from my stash of samples, a nice companion to the previous review. If you call the official one bottled at 60% “Overproof”, then surely this Cadenhead’s offering fits that bill as well, clocking in at 66.2% ABV. Since the previous review turned out to be quite a long one, I decided to leave it at that and keep the rest of the information I gathered for that review for future reviews of Hampden Rums. Well, the next one came along rather quickly, so I can now use this space to tell you some more about the recent history of Hampden as well as some basic info about the marks of Hampden.

By 2003 Hampden Estate was nearly bankrupt, and the government of Jamaica stepped in to save a lot of local jobs, since lots of people were employed by the estate as a whole, working for the sugar factory, the distillery, the great house and working the 750 acres of sugar cane fields. A lot of legalities were exercised between 2003 and 2009, when finally the Jamaican government sold Hampden Estate at auction. The new owners became Everglades Farms Ltd. owned by the Hussey Family. The Hussey’s are well known on the island owning several (different) businesses on the island.

When making Rum for different purposes, one can aim for a certain ester count. So for instance, when making Rum as used in baking, a high ester count is key, for it gives off a lot of aroma with a tiny amount of liquid. For our purpose, the more esters the heavier and more flavorsome the Rum becomes. Are you a Rum aficionado, then you likely prefer a high ester count, are you a novice, the lower marks are best places to start your Rum journey on (if you can find them on the label that is. Again I’m going to steer you towards Matt, since he has, yet again, a very informative page on his site about the marks of Jamaican Rum, as well as to the site of Marius where he comprised a list of which marks were produced in which years at Hampden Estate (especially useful for the independent bottlings of Hampden). We can put this to the test and look up 1992 and sure enough, 1992 is coupled with HLCF. HLCF stands for Hampden Light Continental Flavoured and has an ester count of 500 to 700 g/hlaa (grams per hectolitre of absolute alcohol), which in comparison to most other Rums on the market is very heavy, but for Hampden, this mark can be found on the bottom half of the list!

Before we dip into this Rum here is the list of Hampden Marks:

  • DOK – Dermot Owen Kelly – 1500-1600 g/hla
  • C<>H – Continenal Hampden – 1300-1400 g/hlaa
  • H/GML – Hampden George MacFarquhar Lawson – 1000-1100 g/hlaa
  • <>H – Hampden – 900-1000 g/hlaa
  • H/LCF – Hampden Light Continental Flavoured – 500- 700 g/hlaa
  • LROK – Light Rum Owen Kelly – 250- 350 g/hlaa
  • LFCH – Lawrence Francis Close Hussey – 85- 120 g/hlaa
  • OWH – Outram Warmold Hussey – 40- 80 g/hlaa

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Banana (only in the first nano-seconds or so) and some soft dull wood, cold gravy and tree sap. Even more banana and papaya come next, and like the previous Hampden a lot of fruit in the pre-rot phase, especially pineapple. Passion fruit ice cream mixed with vanilla ice cream and a wee sprinkle of wee (lukewarm urine, acidic). Wow all this just leaps at you. Vegetal, with dried pineapple and an undefined solvent. Dry and dusty notes with licorice (of the all sorts kind), announcing wood. Funk, dried cow dung (lying in the sun) and leather. Artificial fertilizer and a slight note of warm plastic, like the electrical cable mentioned in the previous review. Cold black tea. Very fruity with lots of spicy and woody notes for balance (I don’t get the wood all the time though…). 17th century spices. Sailing ship hold after a spice transport. Very well balanced. The freshly emptied glass reveals cinnamon, and dare I say that it smells even better than the glass still containing the Rum. Maybe the high ABV gets a bit in the way of things, although normally that isn’t a problem for me. Soft wood, and more different spices, still this associated with times lone gone. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t smell like anything from the past two centuries I guess. The note mentioned earlier turns into a more organic urine note, steamed up sauna full of people. Died out fire, cold burnt wood, charcoal. Very complex and laid back. Hints of grenadine lemonade and even the slightest whiff of cola and unripe green apples. Amazing stuff, very different from those dosed and utterly sweet and cloying Rums, some people believe to be true Rum. Remember the Rums of A.H. Riise and even worse, Don Papa? Freak out!

Taste: Starts with most of the fruits from the nose as well as the wood, and its bitterness, and the urine notes with some added ear wax notes. Might sound horrible, but isn’t, although it’s impossible to shed this association. I guess this makes this Rum not for everyone, but I don’t think “everybody” will seek out this Rum that was bottled a good fifteen years ago. Fruity with ashes. Oranges and lemons to some degree, but it seems to be those aroma’s without being all that citrussy. Hope this still makes sense… Warming and friendly. Some toffee and warm caramel, but to a lesser extent than your usual Rum. Very well balanced. I would never have guessed this was as high in ABV as it is. Quite tasty but with, in some areas, medium staying power. Some bitterness in the finish, as well as the urine and some varnish and/or resin.

This is a Rum (I mean Hampden in general) that in nose and taste, is closer to “extreme” than “middle of the road”. It is very big and unusual. Rivière du Mât is another good example of this. I guess both Rums are not for you, if you are new to the game of Rum, nor if have a mind unlike a parachute (works best when open). An acquired taste.

Comparing the Cadenhead’s offering to the Overproof shows us something interesting. First of all, the Cadenhead’s is five years older, yet the Overproof is darker in colour. That in itself isn’t saying much, however, the Overproof is made up of foremost lighter marks OWH and LROK (OK, and a wee bit DOK for good measure) and the Cadenheads offering with H/LCF, but smelling both side by side the Overproof seems fuller, less fresh and acidic, yet more syrupy and glue like, so more of this indistinct solvent mentioned above. The average consumer would associate the smell of Overproof more like a “classic” Rum. The Cadenhead’s offering smells quite different and more complex (as it should). Both are actually quite good, and quite different as well. Both have their good and bad sides to them. Cadenhead’s needs some work and experience from the taster, Overproof is more forgiving and surely would please more people. For me personally, the Overproof just might be the better Rum overall, although that obviously is a matter of taste, but the Cadenhead’s has the better, definitely less cloying and more complex finish. The Overproof seems to be also a more modern Rum, where the Cadenhead’s brings back times long forgotten. Both Rums have been a blast to review.

The empty glass (the next day) smells of wood and hints of chlorine, yet soft and waxy, hints of lemon (acidity) and wood and a wild mix of herbs. Old machine oil, like lying on the bottom of an old motor vessel that hasn’t run for many years. (Rivière du Mât has also this old machine and industrial feel to it, maybe even more so). Smelling an empty glass the next day, can reveal things you didn’t pick up on when tasting, and especially with Hampden Rums this seems true.

Points: 87

Réunion Cask Strength 7yo (60.5%, Rum Nation, Cask Strength, Rhum Traditionelle, 3.000 bottles, 2018, Réunion)

This is not the first Rum from Rum Nation on these pages and not even the first Rhum from Ile de la Réunion. Earlier I reviewed a Rhum from Rivière du Mât and I thought that one was nothing short of amazing, even though it was a reduced to a measly 42% ABV. Rivière du Mât isn’t even the most popular distillery from the Island, that honorary mention goes to Savanna, and then especially to the Rhum Agricoles Savanna produces. Savanna distillery was founded in 1870 in Saint Paul on the north west corner of the island and supposedly made Rhums based on molasses only. Fast forward many years. Since 1964 the distillery runs a continuous still. In 1992 the distillery moved to Bois-Rouge on the north eastern corner of the island, by today’s standard, some 50 kilometres by car. Today the distillery makes Rhum Agricoles, for which it is now mostly known, as well as Rhum Traditionelle (molasses based), some of the Rhums are of the high ester kind.

The Cask Strength series is a somewhat recent addition to the Rum Nation portfolio. The first Rum released in this series is actually this 7yo rum from Réunion, probably distilled at Savanna, and matured in ex-Cognac casks. Savanna uses a lot of ex-Cognac casks, because may of the official releases have been matured in Cognac casks as well. After this, examples from Jamaica and Guyana were also released.

Color: Orange Gold.

Nose: Fruity and creamy. Fresh (air) with toffee and caramel. Slightly funky and somewhat sweet smelling. Lightly waxed. Sweet White Wine, mocha, licorice and leather. Some dust on rainwater. Definitely has some traits from Rhum Agricole. The nose reminds me of J.M Agricoles. More J.M than, lets say, Rivière du Mât (Rhum Traditionelle). Initially some sweet citrus bathroom cleaner, soft chlorine and ozone from a pool or jacuzzi. These aroma’s are short lived, and are gone soon, never to return again (unless you pour yourself another one). Black tea with lemon. Hints of cookie dough, moist brown sugar, wood and sweet mint candy. Malty and biscuity, and thus some very soft oak. A whiff of fresh air, yet also spicy, a mix of many dried kitchen spices, yet also some cinnamon and hints of toasted oak (soft). Some unripe banana and also the brown bits of a banana skin and some aroma’s of overripe, almost rotting yellow fruits. Don’t worry, the Rhum still smells quite nice and is nicely balanced as well. Rum Nation also bottles quite a lot of Cask Strength Savanna’s, and I have one here to compare it with. Based on the smell of both, it is safe to assume this 7yo is a Savanna as well, nevertheless, one can be never entirely sure (please read on). By the way, the day after, the empty glass smells just wonderful. Very fruity and with hints of the fireplace at Christmas, or a nice bonfire. Love it!

Taste: Big and still sweet, although the back label mentions this is “for connoisseurs that don’t like excessive sweetness“, it is sweet but not excessively so. This sweetness is balanced out with quite some spicy wood, and toasted wood as well. Distant pine anyone? Quite hot going down. Brown sugar and candied cinnamon mixed with cola notes for freshness or zest. Very tasty. Well balanced stuff of high quality. Now for an interesting remark. Where the smell is all Savanna, there are some notes in the taste that do remind me a bit of Rivière du Mât (also from the Island of Réunion). An industrial, fatty, motor oil aroma. Crushed almonds with some woody bitterness mixed with brown sugar. I’m still convinced this is a Savanna, the smell is there and since Rum Nation has many other Savanna’s in their portfolio it is simply highly likely, but as said above, one can never be sure. Even though this is bottled @ 60.5% ABV, it isn’t hot all the time, like many other high strength R(h)ums. Licorice and Cognac, (really?), in the finish, as well as some wood. The aftertaste shows even some more wood accompanied by its bitterness. The Casks used must have been quite active or caught a lot of sunshine.

I say, high quality, big and very tasty. Lance mentions in his review: “It’s very much like the new wave of Jamaican rums now making such big waves – Hampden and Worthy Park in particular, because this presses many of the same buttons“. This is my sentiment exactly. It presses the same buttons without even being really close to those in smell nor taste. Its big and estery and bottling this @ 60.5% ABV helps the Rhum come across big time. Since this has been bottled in Rum Nation’s Cask Strength series, only mentioning it is a 7yo hailing from Réunion, thus calling it an entry level Rhum, (yeah right), this therefore also damn affordable. Heartily recommended and definitely not for novices to R(h)um. If you are just that, you should by it all the same, but do not open it just yet.

Points: 87

Tomatin “Metal” (46%, OB, Five Virtues #4, First Fill Bourbon Barrels, 6.000 bottles, 2017)

The five virtues are coming along quite nicely. Metal is already the fourth out of the five virtues. Earlier I reviewed the first three: Wood (85 points), Fire (85 points) and Earth (86 points), the last one a rare peated Tomatin. On Paper, Metal is a fairly simple Whisky compared to Wood (which was made with three different kinds of wood), Fire (made with de-charred and re-charred wood) and Earth (three different kinds of casks and also made with peated barley to boot). Metal is made solely with first fill Bourbon barrels, filled with distillate from 2003 thus making it also the oldest expression of all the five virtues. It should be 13 or 14 years old. In earlier reviews I mentioned, that my journey with the Tomatin five virtues series actually started with this Metal (and Water) expressions in London 2018. I liked both and this made me backtrack a bit, buying the first three of the series. All three earlier versions didn’t disappoint, so let’s see if the last two are the best of the bunch, as I currently believe from memory. As said before, I did buy the whole set eventually, but the last two reviews will be based on samples I brought back from London.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fruity and very likeable. This brings back memories! Sweet barley and cardboard. Perfumy soft wood (and paper), with mocha notes and dusty. Ever so slightly meaty with a tiny hint of lavas and an indistinct melange of dry herbs. Definitely well aged and this oozes style and class. Its very refined, but lacks a bit in the complexity department, (maybe this is the reduction to 46% ABV). I’m already smelling this for a while now, and not a lot of evolution is happening to be honest. Nevertheless all that is there is very fine and balanced and easily recognizable as a Whisky from ex-Bourbon casks. Vanilla notes and slightly creamy. Faint flinty note as well as a faint menthol note. I have to say that what is here does go together rather well together. Based on the nose alone, easily the best of the five virtues (’till now).

Taste: Sweet and fruity, something that is present in all good Tomatin’s from ex-Bourbon. Just have a look at the 30yo, which offers this in spades, tropical style. Here there are yellow fruits like maracuja and dried pineapple mixed with vanilla pudding or custard. Right next to this, or behind it, if you like, quite a firm backbone of oak, pencil shavings and a little bit of smoke (probably from toasted oak, which matches the flinty note from the nose). There is most definitely quite some influence of wood to be noticed in the back. Strong and spicy and even some bitterness, not too much though, the bitterness is adding to the whole, not taking it over. Sweet mint. The whole is pretty straight forward and comes as no surprise to those who know their Tomatins. Just don’t make the error believing this is simple, because it’s not. Very nice expression this one, and also after tasting it, still the best of the five virtues. I wonder how this compares to a recent, regular 15yo also solely from American oak casks, which is slightly older and slightly cheaper.

When pouring this, I was quite surprised, the colour being only White Wine, or straw as some people call it. This is said to be from first fill Bourbon casks, and especially first fills can impair quite some colour onto the Whisky, especially after some odd 13 years. Also, I wonder why this was called “Metal”. If I would pick a Whisky to show off the Metal from the still, I would have picked (third) refill hogsheads. These casks would certainly not overpower the distillate thus showing off the most distillery character. But then again, these first fill barrels aren’t overpowering anything as well. Considering the colour of this Whisky I still have a hard time believing this came from first fill casks. Based on the nose as well, I would still not believe this is from first fill Bourbon casks. Tasting it, however, there might just be a possibility this has seen some first fill Bourbon casks, since there seems to be quite some influence from wood, yet it is different from the “Wood” expression. Lets just forget about all this and conclude that this “Metal” is a very good Whisky. Tomatin does well in American oak, especially when it gets the time to mature for a prolonged amount of time.

Points: 87

Longrow Red 13yo “Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon” (51.6%, OB, 10 years Bourbon Barrels & Refill Sherry Hogsheads, 3 years Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels, 9.000 bottles, 2020, 20/08)

Of all the Longrow Red’s that have been bottled, most follow some sort of recipe: first a long maturation in Bourbon casks, followed by a shorter term finish in casks that previously held a Red Wine. Only two deviate from this recipe: 2014’s Fresh Port, which had a full 11 years maturation in Port casks, the other one this 2020’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, where part of the initial maturation was carried out in Sherry casks. By the way, the Wine casks for this edition were sourced from Mont Gras’ Intriga Estate in Alto Maipo, Chile.

As mentioned in the introduction of the previous review for the 2019 Pinot Noir edition of Red, when I tasted this Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 edition, I really liked it, so I got half a bottle. Still not sure ‘eh Quill? Probably not. One simply doesn’t put an open bottle in storage, nope, open bottles belong on the lectern here in Master Quill’s castle, and should be enjoyed right away. When tasting through this half bottle, especially when it was still half full, the smell and taste had some great funky organic peat going on, which I really liked, so I even went further and finally bought myself a full bottle, and put it directly in storage, because there is no room for closed bottles on said lectern. Lectern’s aren’t all that big, you know. Nope, there is no need to have the same whisky open twice one right after the other. This shared bottle is now almost empty, usually the moment the distillate of the Springbank distillery is at its best, so time to write up this review…

Color: Bright orange gold. Radiant with a pink hue.

Nose: Warm and creamy peat and dusty. In a way, hints of Wine, but not so much a Cabernet Sauvignon (a Red Wine), but at times more like a fragrant Alsatian White Wine with a little bit of added bonfire smoke for good measure. Definitely more Winey than the 2019 Pinot Noir edition. On top, hints of citrus combined with some funky organics with hints of bad breath. Not actually sweet, but sweeter than the Pinot Noir. Some recognizable notes of Oloroso Sherry, as can be found in several Hazelburn offerings. Wood, pencil shavings, paper and peat with hints freshly crushed green grapes, acidic, as in not very ripe grapes. Aromatic, farmy and perfumy (vetiver?). Soft and fruity, (little forest strawberries?), peat and some sweet and soft smoke. Bonfire smoke again. It starts with fatty and creamy peat, but before you know it, the smoke quietly displaces the peat. Wee hints of vanilla. This vanilla bit seems to be integrated with the fruity notes, like a custard with fruit syrup poured over it. Creamy. Not hard to smell this is a Wine finish though, and once you smell it, it can’t be un-smelled. Toasted Wine infused oak and some more pencil shavings. Faint smell of unlit Cuban cigar. Soft fresh wood and in part resembling the cigar box itself. Sweet funky organic note emerges next, this overall funkiness works wonders in this Malt. Nutty with raisins and next, the smell of an old bar of soap, this particular smell from an old ladies closet. Winey and perfumy. Hints on incense, cold air at night, maybe with a wee puff of smoke, integrated with the air, from an odd fireplace. Now some fragrant and perfumy fresh oak. Definitely some fresh sawn oak, although it doesn’t remind me of virgin oak Whiskies. Red ripe fruits hovering above all the other aroma’s, and a slight hint of yellow fruits well in the body of this Malt. This fruit takes a while to show itself. At times, it smells a wee bit to sweet, if you ask me, but this is only a minor gripe. Nicely balanced and smells accessible. Quite complex and the wood works wonders in this one. The Pinot Noir is the more likeable nose, but this Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely more complex.

Taste: Diluted red fruit syrup, again somewhat sweeter than the Pinot Noir was. Red Wine right from the start, which is easy to spot, when you’ve had Deanston’s Bordeaux offering earlier. Peat and toasted oak only come next, with a short smoky sting from peat and smoke, all very upfront. Almonds, semolina pudding with red berry sauce. Coarse rural toffee. I don’t even know if it exists, but the sweetness tastes like rough and crumbly toffee, not the smooth and runny kind we all know. More aroma’s of (new) wood. Sweet underneath, but with smoke and to a lesser extent peat on top, this is balanced out a bit. Some tar and smoke and some rubber even. Macaroons, After the sweetness and the prickly and smoky bits a more dryer note comes forward, as well as some virgin oak bitterness, almost sappy, savvy? Clay. Without the peat this would be suitable for almost every Whisky drinker, like the aforementioned Deanston, but luckily this has peat and smoke, making it different and for some, more exciting.

In most cases the distillates of Springbank distillery, only get better over time. Gaining in balance and overall taste and smell. we say it has to breathe and needs some time to reach it’s full potential. Here this is not really the case. This is one of those rare “Springbanks” that lose a bit of balance towards the end. The top probably lies around the half full bottle mark, but after that it goes downhill a bit, it doesn’t get bad, but its “deterioration” is noticeable, it loses a bit. In the end this is still a good Whisky, and sometimes it happens that a Whisky somewhat oxidizes, that in itself is no fault. Personally I need to find out if the (Red) Wine finishing is something for me. Still, this one is good, and the Deanston I reviewed last was good as well. Maybe it’s growing on me?

Points: 87

The Benriach 18yo “Latada” (46%, OB, Limited Production, Peated, Madeira Finish. 4001 bottles, 2015)

The Benriach Limited Production 18yo’s. It took me a few years but now we can finally put this trio to rest. In the year 2015 three 18yo’s were released, but not on the same moment. Albariza (PX finish) was the first one, reviewed in 2018, Dunder (Rum finish) the second, reviewed in 2015 and finally this review of Latada (Madeira finish) in 2021. Quite a lot has happened in the world in this space of time. In 2017 also two second edition’s were released, both 22yo, so the original casks for these two, were filled earlier than those for the 18 yo’s. However, this tells us nothing about length of the finish. Albariza and Dunder were thus repeated, but there is no 22yo Latada. Were the Madeira casks used for finishing unavailable or did they forget to produce it? Were the results unsatisfactory and the decision was made to hold it back, or maybe the original 18yo Latada didn’t sell all that well or was somehow unpopular and they just didn’t bother to repeat it. Who knows? So, let’s find out for ourselves, shall we?

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Fruity and very pleasant light peat. Latex paint, vanilla powder and warm apple sauce. Very pleasant nose. I’ll let you in on a little secret with this Malt. You can force this Malt to smell like a 1976 Benriach or Tomatin. Fruit, fruit, fruit, tropical fruit, well you catch my fruity drift now, yes? Excellent old-skool Benriach fatty, sweet and succulent yellow fruit. If you pour this Malt in your favourite glass and cover it up right away, allowing for the aroma’s to concentrate under the lid. Leave it there for a few minutes (or even better, hold it in your hands to speed up the process). When you feel confident, take the lid off and smell it… Remember, you heard about this here first! This Benriach has this amazing trick upon its sleeve. Thick sunny fruit with a nice black peaty edge. Good balance. Warm smoked apple sauce and moisturising hand cream (Nivea). Crushed beetle and smouldering leaves. Fresh oak with nice medium wood spices and some bonfire notes. Amongst all these Benriach’s that were released under Billy Walkers reign, with labels in colours you didn’t even know existed, these three finishes (Albariza, Dunder and Latada) really stand out for me, as if these received some kind of extra care. Benriach is already a great distillate and Malt, and these three are certainly no slouches. Otherwise this Latada seems to be somewhat simpler and less peaty than both Albariza or Dunder.

Taste: Sweet and sour fruity acidity. Apple sauce, sugared yellow fruits, slightly nutty (like a mix of freshly burnt and unsalted nuts you buy at the market on Saturday) and cigarette ashes. Thick (sweetness + peat) and thin (acidity) at the same time. Some nice wood, more than the nose had, but not very much, not a lot of bitterness as well, which is great. This leaves more room for the fruit and the peat. I expected even some more peat here though, and maybe even some prickly smoke, but foremost this Malt shows me ashes first, apart from the fruit that is. Soft and (light) peat do come next. Only next, comes some sweet licorice and again some wood. All in all a very tasty Whisky (hints of diluted Fanta), but less complex than expected. Excellent finish though. Nice warming and peaty aftertaste. Sure, of the three, Latada makes you work the hardest to show you what it’s got, but it is still a very nice one. The body of this Malt is narrower than both the Albariza and Dunder and as said also somewhat less complex.

Keep a lid on this one! Focus them aroma’s!

Points: 87

I understand that the scoring of Albariza (89 Points), Dunder (88 Points) and Latada (87 Points) seem a bit “coincidental”, but for me these scores reflect perfectly the quality of all three Malts and the differences between them. All three are very good, and some finishes just work a little bit better than the next. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion, and it is highly likely, your preferences will differ. The perception one has, concerning the PX, Rum and Madeira finishes is also a matter of taste and can differ from one person tot the next. So for me the PX finish works best, but the other two are very nice as well. All three finishes work very well with the peat, and I can recommend all three. Considering these 18yo’s, I could be tempted to buy the Albariza and the Dunder back, but luckily these two have 22yo’s versions, so I’m getting those in stead. If a 22yo Latada would have existed I would have bought that one as well, because the 18yo version is still a good Whisky, receiving a well deserved 87 points. It would be interesting though to see how the 22yo would have been. However, I’m not sure if I would be getting the 18yo Latada again. For me it is still the least one of the three if you compare them to each other, and it is also the one that needed the most work to get everything out of it. Albariza and Dunder are easier in that respect. Get them all, they are good and differ quite a lot from each other. I would only recommend opening them in reverse order, so Latada first, than Dunder and finally Albariza. That will work best.

Springbank 18yo (46%, OB, 11/14)

Whenever one walks in, there are always several Springbank’s on my lectern. I always have to be careful not to empty the bottle before the review has been written. Amazingly the last Springbank featured here is the 15yo bottled in 2018. The review was written in 2019, so no Springbank was reviewed in the whole shitty year that was 2020, how is that even possible? Never mind, here is the review of the Springbank 18yo bottled in 2011. One with the nice old black label that has already been replaced with the blingy and shiny purple label we still have at the time of writing. As said many times before, one of Springbank’s strong points is batch variation. No release of the 18yo is similar to any of the other releases, and this one is no exception. The 2011 never was considered to be one of the best, so let’s see why this one gets less love than other editions of this Malt.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fatty, yet fresh. Citrussy and fruity, but also waxy and some (wet) hay and dry coconut. Sometimes a bit farmy. Smoked sweet toffee, latex paint and soft wet wood. Wood that has been under water for quite some time. Burnt wet paper. Old matches (lit a long time ago). Very aromatic as a whole. In part a men’s perfume and otherwise quite fruity. Warm motor oil. Fatty. Easily recognizable as a Springbank. Smells balanced and really appetizing. This has a very good nose. Yellow fruits like white peach and tropical fruits like passion fruit and maracuja with a wee edge of smoke. Sweet and ripe smelling. Lime, candied pineapple and some almonds. Hints of sweat combined with the men’s perfume. The whole Whisky smells like a Whisky from yesteryear, you know, one of those Malts, people say, “they don’t make them like that any more”. Smells extremely well made and thus a wee bit old fashioned maybe, but then again, Springbank never smelled anything like anything else out there. Some more caramel and toffee, and some alcohol as well. Alcohol like you get from a cherry liqueur with a wee snuff of old white pepper, so not fully aromatic white pepper. Faded white pepper and add to that some warm anise (milk). Maybe this is a bed-time dram? Not woody at all, but there is this sense of toasted wood, although not much.

Taste: The taste is less big than the nose is. Well, initially it is, but the big fatty, nutty and fruity start dissipates rather quickly (making room for some wood and its bitterness). Still fruity, but also a bit thinner, maybe a tad more watery. Still quite warming going down. Here the age exerts itself through more wood and loads of almonds. With the second sip, the more waxy and nutty notes come to the front. Toffee and paper. Wax with citrus aroma’s blended in. Lemon and lime notes, not your orange or tangerine aroma’s. Although the woody bitterness does resemble the oils from orange peel a bit. Nice soft wood with (just) enough bitterness to let you know this is a well aged Whisky, and yes it aged in a wooden cask alright. Upfront are the waxy and toffee bits with the citrus and tropical fruits, the start of the body is the best. The more time you spend with this sip, brings out the more astringent woody bits and especially the bitterness of which there were no early warning signs of its arrival. The nose seemed so sunny and friendly and now this somewhat gloomy bitterness shows itself. It’s not bad, but it does come a little bit unexpected considering the nose. The finish is of medium length at best, and the aftertaste is somewhat dominated by the wood and its bitter friend. However, when this bottle was freshly opened, I don’t remember this bitterness at all. I guess this is what the breathing accomplishes. I have to admit, not every day is the same and personally it depends on the day how I get on with bitterness. Springbank almost always needs a lot of breathing, here with this one that is not the case. Strange, and again unexpected.

Yes, this is still a classic Springbank offering, yet not a big and bold one. As happens with a lot of offerings from this distillery, it only gets better over time. These Whiskies need to breathe to develop even beyond a point you couldn’t imagine when freshly opened, and this one was a good one right from the start, and as said above, quite different from Springbank 18yo bottlings form other years. We just love batch variation here! This one did develop to a high quite soon, but also managed to get past its top, and found its way down again. I don’t get that a lot with Springbank. As said earlier, this is not a Big Springbank, hence its reputation, so in this particular case the Whisky probably would have been even better at a slightly higher ABV. Around 50% I would say. This one is still a good one, hence the score.

Points: 87