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

Paul John 6yo (56,3%, Cadenhead, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 330 bottles, Summer 2018)

Here is yet another bottle of an Indian Malt I have to hurry to review before it is gone. Tasty stuff, I can already tell you that! What is it with those Indian Malts I like so much? Is it the Barley used? Indian six-row barley? Is it the wonderful exotic aroma achieved, from a simple Bourbon cask, without adding any wonky stuff to the Whisky? Probably all of the above and I guess some more. I already mentioned how good Amrut is, but this newer kid on the block is doing quite well for itself as well. In case you might wonder, there is already an independent offering from SMWS called Ringo George.

I remember my introduction to the Paul John brand (and Shilton, I might add) at The Whisky Show in London vividly. I was immediately amazed. Loved the flavours. When I bought my first bottle, (Brilliance, Batch No. 1), and let others taste it, it wasn’t all that well received every time, to be honest. I like it very much. Maybe some people just need some time to get used to it, I guess, since today a lot more people seem to like it. On the other hand, some people just don’t get used to it, because they don’t like the flavour profile, and maybe it is an acquired taste? Prices keep rising though, for more recent bottlings. OB and IB alike. So there must be more like me, who really like it. The aforementioned Ringo George was a 5yo 2nd refill Bourbon cask bottling and already cost a hefty £150 upon release, and sold out rather quickly. What’s in a name you might ask? Older bottlings on auctions are fetching quite a lot of money as well, these days. So the mantra probably should be: if you like it, and still can find it for a decent price, get it, because if you don’t…

Color: Orange-Brown Gold. Bourbon. Slightly misty. Indian mist.

Nose: Wood and pencil shavings. Sawdust and almonds. Drying, sharpish and wood-spicy. No peat! Slightly waxy and nutty. Trace amounts of vanilla and toffee. Aromatic in a dry style. The wood is speaking here, like a men’s fragrance. Gucci Pour Homme, but less classy, I suspect the difference being that Gucci has some stuff thrown in that is definitely not allowed in Whisky! Cloaked (acidic) fruits, but not the red fruits mentioned on the back-label. If so, the fruits are very un-ripe. You smell them, but do you really smell them? The fruit is hard to point out. Fragrant, yet not floral. There are many aroma’s here that seem to originate from wood. Earwax with a hint of ginger and toffee, and more dust and wood. Not overly complex, but not simple as well. Somewhat single minded. Letting it breathe for a while doesn’t do as much for this Malt as I expected. When I pour myself a new dram, the fruit is shortly obvious, so it seems that the yellow (not red) fruit aroma, dried apricots for about a second or three, dissipates quite quickly, to be replaced by a lot of spicy and woody bits. By the way, no typical Indian spices I can pick up on in many other Amruts and Paul Johns. Quite a restrained expression this one, but clearly a Paul John. A woody Paul John, and a nice smelling one too. Needs a lot of attention to get the most out of it. Not for careless dramming. Also, this needs a lot of time to really open up.

Taste: Starts out quite closed, this is true for the nose as well. When it opens up, more of the same. Earwax, lots of sweetish (as in not too sweet) toffee and wood. Right after pouring, it tastes of sweet toffee, but this is quickly overpowered by the dry woody bits, which is a bit of a shame, since this toffee note did add to the balance. Ashes and dust, with some hidden woody fruitiness. Dried orange and lemon peel with vanilla, yet much less orange peel oil than for instance Amrut Naarangi has, but every Whisky has less orange peel than Naarangi has! I like it better here. (Naarangi’s Orange comes from prepared Oloroso casks, but more about this in the future). This Paul John comes from a refill Bourbon barrel, so the source for this orange note is different. Distant hint of peat. Starts woody, and when that passes, there is some room for a very short sweeter note, without it being really sweet to boot. Also some woody bitterness pops up. Seems a bit thin due to the lack of sweetness. However, the short sweetness is soon again dominated by this dry wood note, that also makes up the finish. Nose and taste are more or less the same. Some (orange) honey in the aftertaste of mostly wood and some of its bitterness. The more this breathes, the sweeter it seems to get (up to a point). In the end, this Paul John is still a pleasure to drink. When you know what you are getting (wood instead of fruit), it’s alright. Again, this may not seem like a top example at first, but it is a pretty decent Dram nevertheless, as long as you are willing to put some effort into it. Definitely sold out by now. I wouldn’t pay top money for this at auction, only if you are something of an anorak and know your way around “difficult” Malts like these, or if you are a Paul John collector obviously. This is a pretty good Whisky, but there are quite a few better single cask expressions of Paul John to be had. This is really a high quality Malt, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t show its merits easily. I do feel this is a classy Whisky, just not Gucci classy.

This Malt, just like the first Christmas edition, is slightly hazy. That one even more than this. When asked, they explained to me that Indian Six row barley is high on proteins causing this Indian mist, but not every Paul John expression is misty. So probably this has to do with the level of filtering?

To conclude this review, I still have to mention, for completists, that this Whisky has aged for 5 years in Goa, India (Hot), and a year in Campbeltown, Scotland (Cold), what this two continent approach did for this Whisky, I couldn’t tell you. Finally, the label mentions this was bottled in summer 2018. Printed on the glass: 02/04/18 18/152, so summer comes early in Campbeltown! I know, I know, it was released for the summer season, quite strange though, since this is not a fruity expression, yet more of a woody winter warmer.

Points: 87

Cragganmore 1999-2019 (51.2%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, MoS 19038, 312 bottles)

Finally a chance to review a sample of Whisky, instead of one of my own bottles I have to hurry to review before it is gone. Cragganmore it is then, which has been probably a long time since I had one. Sure, I did already do a few reviews already, but since those works of art, I probably haven’t touched a Cragganmore at all, even outside of reviewing. I do have two or three bottles at home, but never got around to opening one of those. It isn’t also one of the favourite distilleries amongst my friends. I’ll have to check with them. Somehow it also never got rid of the “under the radar” status I mentioned earlier and yet it isn’t one of the worst Whiskies either. So, what is it with Cragganmore, that makes it so invisible? Maybe it should deserve this onder-the-radar-but-very-nice status or is it a hidden gem? Time to have another go.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Biscuity. Clean and fruity. Strong aroma. This leaps out of my glass like a happy puppy when I come home. Tail wagging! Latex paint and very soft wood throughout. Fresh and quiet now (you know the introvert type). Not a puppy any more. Vanilla and caramel, but no signs of toasted oak. Thus no heavy cask influence. The color is also witness of this. The Malt is sweet and accessible. Slight hint of rotting grass, well rotting is maybe a bit of a strong word, let’s say cut grass that has been lying around for a while. Ice cream with more floral and plant-like aroma’s. Dried autumn leaves. Also a fruity note in the back, like dried apricots and fresh hazelnuts. Do I detect a hint of smoke there in the back as well? More vanilla ice-cream, lemon sherbet and smoked and sugared lime peel. Excellent. However, the beauty lies in the details, as is often the case with Malts like this. So if you are a fan of Sherry monsters only, this is not for you. Refill Bourbon hoggie fans will know what to do with this one.

Taste: Very sweet on entry. Yes, vanilla ice-cream and lemon sherbet. Mocha, hard coffee candy (hopjes) and chocolate custard. Dare I say a hint of cannabis, or does that make me Dutch? Very tasty and very friendly. Fruity and not too sweet. Some wood in the background, like a wooden frame around the vanilla and lemon dessert notes. It’s not really bitter, but the bitter notes are quite interesting in this Malt. You have the obvious bitterness you get from oak, but here there is also this bitterness you get from lemon peel, or lets say, the white fluffy bit from the inside of the peel. This doesn’t seem very complex, especially for a 19yo or 20yo Malt. It also doesn’t show a lot of evolution, but what is there is balanced and just tastes very good. This Cragganmore is from the same class as a Signatory Vintage Glen Keith. The finish is similar to the body and than slowly fades away. Medium finish, maybe some vanilla and cannabis in the aftertaste and a woody sensation on the sides of my tongue.

Well a light colored Cragganmore, from a single not so active cask, well if this isn’t aficionado territory then what is? But here we have a perfect example of a quiet Whisky at cask strength from a good distillate with time as an ingredient. Maybe not entirely a surprise how this older refill Bourbon Hoggie performs. If the distillate is good and the cask isn’t worn out or has a bad vibe, what could go wrong? This combination always seems to give us decent Whiskies.

Points: 87

Thanks go out to Rik for the sample!

Kilchoman 4yo 2007/2012 (60.9%, OB, Bourbon Cask #390/2007, for The Nectar Belgium)

The Kilchoman I’m about to review was just bottled when I wrote the last Kilchoman review on these pages. When I bought the bottle I’m about to review, it was already an oldie in Kilchoman-time. Both this bottling and my two previous Kilchoman reviews came from 2012, the year I reviewed the 2010 Spring and 2010 Summer editions. All this already 8 years ago! Well, a lot has happened at Kilchoman since then, mostly good (f.i. they make terrific Whisky), but unfortunately also some bad (a kiln fire and an exploding boiler to name but a few).

Kilchoman is a farm distillery on the isle of Islay (Scotland). You know, the place where legends are like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and a few others that are also well known in the world of Whisky. In comes this “new” distillery (Founded in 2005). Today we have a bottle that is a mere 4 years old (and some months), all the other distilleries on Islay have mostly properly aged Whiskies on the market, so can this offering be anything good at so young an age, from a fairly new distillery? I already know the answer to this, but please read on to find out for yourself.

Color: White Wine, with microscopic small cask sediment particles. Macro flavour molecules, probably a good sign!

Nose: Thick fat peat, and lots and lots of smoke. Licorice. Black and white powder. Salmiak and crushed beetles. Smoked (white) flowers and more peat. More smoke, sweet smoke and an underlying citrussy note. Fresh air, combined with a zesty citrussy aroma. Not the oily bits from the skin, but the fruit within. The fresh air then gets accompanied by whiffs of the smell of a fireplace in winter. Don’t you just like to be outside on a cold winter evening, or night, where people are burning logs in their fireplace at home? Don’t you feel the warmth of family now? Next, (fresh) oak and some dried fish, but foremost sweet licorice. This just screams peat and smoke. However, the smoke may have started out sharply, but it is not sharp now, it’s quite soft and very well integrated into the peat notes. Its almost as if the whisky itself is smoked. Very big, yet not brutal. Hints of vanilla from American oak underneath and cold sweet black tea. Very well made Whisky by these ‘novices’. It already smells the part. It may very well be only 4 years of age, but the profile of the smell remind me of Whiskies from another time. Underneath all this, there is also this sweet fruity aroma. A highly aromatic Malt altogether. Wow!

Taste: Thin toffee with lots of fresh oak, green youthful oak and quite sweet on entry. Hints of wax and cardboard. Dare I say a snuff of Talisker pepper, yes? Peat and crushed beetles are present here as well. What amazing balance in this expression. Eventually the sweetness oozes away a bit, leaving room for the body to be taken over by peat, smoke and quite some (slightly bitter) wood for a 4yo. On top, a fruity acidity, which combines just nicely with the wood and the waxy notes this Malt has. The aforementioned beetle has some staying power in to the less big of a finish than expected. The aftertaste is warming and spicy.

Well, this 4yo from the new kid on the block can really blow many offerings from the big guys right out of the water. For me, this is better than f.i. the Laphroaig Lore, which, compared to this seems a bit boring, for me anyway. You might prefer the more elegant side of the Lore, so please don’t send me any hate-mail over this. Just to be sure, the ‘Lore’ isn’t a bad Whisky at all…

Points: 87

Rhum J.M Cuvée 1845 (42%, Vieux, Hors d’Age, Martinique)

After the XO and the Millésime 2002 this is the third J.M Rhum on these pages. This Cuvée 1845 is a blend of Rhum’s aged for 10 years in refill Bourbon barrels. Released in 2015 for the 170th anniversary of production. 170 years, since 1845! I feel that the time has come with this third J.M review, to dive into a little bit of history. If you’re bored easily, please read on, I’ll keep it brief.

Lets begin our journey in 1663 when Jean-Baptiste Labat was born in Paris, France. At the age of 20 he entered the order of the Dominicans, thus becoming better known as Pere (father) Labat. In 1693 Jean-Baptiste travelled to Martinique (amongst others) to do missionary work. There he became proprietor of the Fonds-Saint-Jacques estate where he started to modernize the sugar industry, quickly followed suit by others. In 1706 he returned to Europe, in 1716 returned to Paris and died there in 1738. The Fonds-Saint-Jacques estate changed hands (and names) several times until we finally arrive in 1845, when Jean-Marie Martin bought the estate. Due to other sources for sugar, especially in Europe, production was reduced, however, since distilled spirits were on the rise. Jean-Marie (J.M) thought it would be a good idea to build a distillery on his estate to produce Rhum, thus creating J.M Rhum (Agricole). The distillery (and the estate) changed hands several times since, but the J.M brand stuck.

Color: Orange golden brown

Nose: Vegetable, spicy and dusty. Much more typical Agricole than the Rum Nation Guadeloupe I reviewed recently. Very aromatic. Again this bad breath note combined with (slightly burnt) cola, dates and figs. Some nice polished (oily) oak with old leather. Dusty, green and earthy. Earthy like a sack of soil you buy for your garden (that has been laying in the sun for a while). Sweetish notes like toffee, caramel and vanilla with red fruits, candied cherries and hints of mango and passion fruit. Soft and elegant. Quite floral as well and slightly sugared. I’m sure its not added to this Rhum, but this does have the smell of white sugar diluted in warm water. Powdered sugar dust. Sugared almonds, some honey coated, some fresh. A very quiet and distinguished expression. One that sits back in the corner of the room, but in the best leather chair. After some breathing more oak emerges and lukewarm black tea (yes, with a little bit of sugar in it). Fresh oak and white latex wall paint, very creamy and clean smell. Almonds, warm apple sauce and fresh air. Sniff hard and give it lots of time and this turns out to be way more complex than it showed upon pouring. The well balanced aroma’s seem to emerge endlessly…

Taste: After the complex nose, the taste sometimes starts out a bit thin (not when freshly poured). Less sweet than expected. Rich toffee and typical Agricole notes. An edge of toasted cask complete with a light bitter edge. Vegetal, clean sugar taste. Green spices (celery) and aromatic. Little sting of pepper(oni) and a nice half sweet licorice and sometimes cinnamon note. Definitely less sweet than expected, yet very well balanced. Mocha and hopjes (Dutch coffee candy), milk chocolate and caramel. Milky Way bar. Sometimes even some citrussy notes emerge. At 42% ABV I do feel I have to work at it quite a bit to get all the riches out, which doesn’t mean it should have been bottled at a higher ABV. For me maybe yes, but I guess the ABV suits this Rhum and the market is was bottled for. Just look at the looks of this bottle, it’s just not looking very cask strengthy now does it? I don’t think Daddy Warbucks would appreciate this being high ABV when he picked this at the bar. Warming going down, and very well made. This is a Rhum for a hot day, this needs a little bit of ambient warmth to present its riches, on a cold day, and at this ABV, it is too light and stays too closed.

Quite light in style, careless sipping of this particular Rhum will most certainly mean you will miss a lot and would probably think it isn’t as great than it really is. This is definitely from the same family as both J.M’s I reviewed before, the XO (simpler) and the 2002 (more raw and bigger), but in a different softer and more elegant or luxury style. I guess it depends on my mood if I would prefer the aforementioned 2002 or this 1845. It could be that this 1845 is better than the 2002. I sure would understand if you say so. Personally, when I grab this bottle carelessly and don’t give it full (almost analytical) attention, its almost like mishandling the Rhum. I’m missing most of it, find it thin and un-complex, and that’s where the 2002 shines. Even when you don’t give it enough attention, it still is able to show its true self. Thus lets say the 2002 is always good, the 1845 has some highs and lows. The low being that it just demands your attention, if not, it will chew on your remote, or piss against the couch…bugger.

Points: 87

Tormore 12yo 2004/2017 (59.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, First Fill Bourbon Barrels #901 & 902)

Sometimes less obvious Whiskies just hit the right spot with the drinker. No big names, no big marketing ploy. Usually these are workhorse Whiskies originally meant for blends. Just like Inchgower (I just reviewed this 1998 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail as well) is mainly used in three well known blends. White Horse, Bell’s and Johnny Walker. Teaninich is another right-spot Whisky for me, but there are more. Tormore is one of those right-spot Whiskies as well (and used in several blends too). Tormore has a profile I rarely encounter elsewhere. Sometimes funky or even sulphury, sometimes industrial and frequently metallic. It doesn’t seem right, but it is most definitely not wrong either.

So what is it about Tormore? Maybe it is safest just to call it an acquired taste? Sure, I’m the first to admit that the markers I mentioned above don’t sound all that appetizing, but for me the strange profile works wonders. It broadens the horizon a bit, if you will. Entertaining and interesting. Unique and a bit strange. I first had this click with an metallic and industrial Tormore from the hot 13yo Cadenhead’s bottling I reviewed quite a while back. Tormore may not be entirely for novices, I’m sure it isn’t, but I found that people who are “doing” Whisky for a longer time, secretly have a soft spot for this Malt! I’m so curious now, I can hardly wait to take a sip…

Color: Very light gold, White Wine.

Nose: Cereal, barley, wood and strange enough, since this is coming from Bourbon barrels, some sulphur, but a nice light sulphur it is. Warming, funky, almost like a nice smelling fart. Don’t be offended, you’ve been there, admit it. There is another association I have with this smell. When growing up near a rural area I used to poke a stick into the bottom of a pond or stream, and the sulphury bits of this Tormore remind me of the bubbles coming up. Just like previous Tormore’s, it’s also metallic and nicely spicy. Funny when Tormore just seems dead wrong, it still is right (for me). It’s a bit off (or is it just different), but I just like it. Old dusty vanilla and fresh citrus notes. Ginger. Dry vanilla powder. One moment perfumy and chic. Fireworks and striking matches the next. (including the gas-passing, mentioned above). So, when did you have that last in a Whisky? The “off” notes, wear off a bit, showing more of the fruits and ginger underneath. Zesty, fresh and citrussy and still this huge breath of fresh air. When smelled vigorously, a meaty note comes to the fore. After a longer while, old furniture pops up. Dusty old furniture. My minds eye sees this old furniture, lit by a ray of sunlight falling into the attic through a small round window. My god what a nice farty, complex and interesting philosophical Whisky this is!

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Fatty and creamy. Toffee and vanilla ice cream. All these creamy notes are masking the high ABV, because in no way does this taste like a near 60% ABV Whisky to me. Big and bold. Spicy, stingy, but then this soft, cloaking, toffee layer takes away the pain. Milk chocolate, mocha flavoured cream. You can sense that there is wood and there is most definitely quite some bitterness present, but the big, bold and creamy aroma’s just don’t let it all through, well sometimes it does. Alas, not as complex as the nose, but tasty nevertheless. Sugared mint towards the finish. I’ll even throw in the chocolate again, to make it an after eight type of experience. Hints of ashes, mere hints only. Cow manure (this is the sulphur talking again, showing one of its guises), mint, toffee and caramel, without being overly sweet. What a nice Whisky. The longer you keep this in your glass the more the mint excels. The bitterness turns out to have some longevity to it though. Luckily it is not too much.

In ways even science can’t wholly explain, I manage to have a soft spot for Tormore, and this example is no exception. But buyer beware, this is me and you are you, you might dislike it as much as I like it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I think it is wonderful in its uniqueness and for me, one to relax, recline a bit and watch a good looking and good sounding version of the Matrix. This Tormore somehow has the same feel as this movie…

Points: 87

Highland Park 25yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 2 Sherry Butts, 1086 bottles, 13/242)

This is part three (of four) in Erik’s not-so-run-of-the-mill left behind bottles series. This time a super dark heavily Sherried offering from Cadenhead and Highland Park. Highland Park always went well with ex-Sherry casks. I used to be a big fan of Highland Park, one of the first I considered to be of the highest class available from Scotland. It is such a great tasting Whisky, honest, honeyed and humble. At least it used to be. It didn’t shout off the rooftops how great it is, and still managed to have a pretty solid fan-base around the world. Today however, Highland Park (and The Macallan) are part of a humongous marketing machine, which I tend to distrust. Sure the Whisky is still good, and there are still many, many, amazing bottles to be had (for a price), but the feeling is different, the feeling’s gone, sorry Highland Park. Just compare it to the way Springbank and Bruichladdich are marketed. The feeling is entirely different with these. Yet here we have an independent offering of Highland Park.

Cadenhead, by the way, thanks to Mr. Watt, seem to have reinvented themselves for many years to come. This bottling, it doesn’t say so on the label, seems to be the result of marrying two Sherry Butts together.

Color: Very dark orange brown, just shy of a mahogany hue.

Nose: Deep and dark, lots of oak, making it fresh. Toasted oak, and some warm plastic, which fades and disappears luckily. Fruity heavy Sherry. Meaty oak, and licorice. The wood also has quite a big floral component. Perfumy even. Next I got some Rhum Agricole “sweetness” mixed with dark chocolate. This one is neither red/black fruity, as old Longmorns nor thick and cloying. In the end it has more of the latter than the former. Elegant wood, yet definitely not old skool. Good Sherry, but modern. More and more whiffs of Rhum Agricole and cold gravy. Also drier spicy notes when you let it stand for a while.

Taste: Starts sweet and very nutty. With emerging bitterness when swallowed. A Doppler effect of bitterness. The bitterness is kept in check, so no problem here. Good tannins, not drying the mouth. Silky texture. Hints of vanillin and milk-chocolate pudding. Fruity and again this bitter end of the body. And a big body it is. Well it has been in rather active Sherry casks for 25 years, so no surprise here. Paper and clear glue. Honey, the stuff of bees, not your darling, I hear you ask? Nope, no not really, although it does remind me of licorice candy made with honey. Hardly a Highland Park. Its about the Sherry cask this one. Black tea bitterness, but with a nice edge of coal. Steam punk, but not old skool. The more this breathes in my glass the “older” it gets. More coal, and more steam (and motor oil). It may lack a tiny bit in complexity, but it makes up for it with development (in my glass). The finish is simple and again bitter (medium), but the body is very good (it finally does get into the realm of Longmorn after extensive breathing). Long aftertaste of oak, licorice and black fruits and yes, the bitter bit has the longest breath of all the notes. So it has its good and less good points. Maybe this should have been bottled a few years earlier?

Letting it breathe is a must for this Whisky, it makes all the difference.

Points: 87

Talisker 20yo 1980/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, “Tactical”, Finished in Sherry Wood, 504 bottles)

Earlier this year I had a leak in my house form a burst cold water pipe. Some demolition was done fixing the problem, so as of this past week and for three weeks in total, I live temporarily elsewhere, whilst several professionals fix up and better my place. My mate Erik offered me his house and I gladly accepted. Erik already sold his house but moved in with his girlfriend earlier than both expected, hopefully that will go well. If you think this is amazing, then let me tell you he also left me some open bottles as well, so I can review them here. And not your average run-of-the-mill, bang-for-your-buck Whiskies as well! 6.5 years ago I already did some kind of short job on another Tactical from the Old Malt Cask range and now, finally, I have a chance to review another one. Thanks mate!

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Slightly peated and sweet. Grassy and vegetal. Organic and slightly fruity acidity with every first sniff from my glass. Old scool. Slightly nutty, fresh and pungent. Hints of warm motor oil and definitely nothing like a modern Whisky or officially released Talisker I know of. If you move it around your glass for a bit, the sweetness emerges first, quickly to be taken over by a lot of the other aromas. Cooked red beets, and more of the sweetness, and some smoke again. Aromas released as by an indicator light. Sweetness on, sweetness off, sweetness on, sweetness off…More fireplace notes, with even whiffs of almost overheated plastic, and back to the green grassy notes again. Indicator light all right. Coffee, mocha, cardboard and hints of well aged Calvados. Dark chocolate bonfire. Sugar water, warm water from doing the dishes, peach and apple, for fruits. Yes, there is a lot happening here. Unique smell, very much the smell of Whisky from yesteryear. A smell to die for. Ticks boxes, awakens emotions. Great Scot(t) (and Bruce) almighty!

Taste: Starts a bit bitter, with charred wood, and again green and vegetal. Warming going down. Strong coffee notes with almonds. Smelling it after the first sip makes the smell even better. Second sip starts with the slightly bitter coffee notes with now some added fresh fruity acidity. A narrow band of green apple skins. The whole is not as big and complex as the nose promised. Next some more of the peaty notes. No heavy peat, but yes, the classic Talisker pepper attack is here people! Hello there! After the silky bitter notes finally some sweetness appears, to balance it out. Still this killer smell, wow! Sure, big on wood, peat, yes, but not as earthy nor as fatty as we’ve grown accustomed to from the usual suspects. Slight hint of warm plastic on the palate as well. Still a lot of coffee notes and dark chocolate stay on for the warming finish. The finish itself is pretty long, built around peat and wood. No big aftertaste though. 

The smell is stellar, old scool and well balanced. Amazing length, and the longer you let it breathe the better it gets, almost as if there are no limits to the development. The taste less so. Lacks a bit of complexity and evolution in my glass. Not overly bitter, but definitely bitter and wood driven. Could have been “bigger”, more complex. If only the fruity bits and some acidity could have made their way through, I believe it would do much better. Nevertheless, this is still a sort of classic Malt. From days long gone. I love it, its good and definitely an experience. 

Points: 87