Caol Ila 10yo 2005/2017 (54.0%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel #301553, for Vinotek Massen Luxembourg, 210 bottles, 170927)

Funny how things can go. When I posted the review of Caol Ila #301535 a month ago, I didn’t even have this #301553. I have posted two Tamdhu’s, and I already was well underway with the next tandem of Malts, why not write some reviews in pairs, adding the possibility of comparison one to the other? Nope no spoiler alert needed, you’ll just have to wait and see what comes next. I can only reveal that the next tandem will make for a very interesting comparison. Next, the sound of the doorbell ringing…twice…because the postman always rings twice*, and she brings me my latest auction winnings. One of which is the sister cask of #301535: #301553. So with some further ado, I present you the Caol Ila that went to Luxembourg. Thus, here’s the final ado: Just like the other one, we know the exact distillation date: 21-02-2005 (back label), which is the same day as this one, so the distillate is exactly the same, but, (spoiler alert), the outcome isn’t ! We also know the exact bottling date: 07-08-2017 (printed on the glass), so this Malt is almost 12.5 years old, and aged for almost 25% longer than the previous one. Onwards with the review now Quill, stop your ado-ing!

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Soft peat. Very perfumy, distant hint of coffee and plastics (only when freshly poured, the plastics will be gone soon). Big. Wood, mocha and milk chocolate. Warm. Underneath quite fruity and on top a breath of fresh cold air (after the rain). Moderate fatty peat, crushed beetles and some really nice smoky characteristics, almost not Caol Ila-like and to me this smells like an exceptional cask. Everything is in its right place, and it hits all the right spots. It is really wonderful already, complex and already shows some nice development in my glass. Initially quite sharp. Wood, but not your usual oak, but more like wood lying in a forest. Mild yellow fruits with a promise of fruity sweetness. Apples, mint and meat. In this version of Caol Ila there is this soft layer of smoke that always hangs over it, like smoke or clouds in the sky. Well balanced Malt. Smells more adult than the aforementioned sister cask, and that one already had a stunning nose. Since this is exactly the same distillate, did the 2.5 years more make such a difference or is there more to it? As Gordon & MacPhail already tried to tell us earlier, does the wood make the Whisky? I’m smelling this for a while now, without tasting it, and this really develops in my glass big time! If this is as good to taste as the nose is right now, than we’re in for a real treat. I’m giving this one much time, since this is a freshly opened bottle. What a wonderful, well aged nose this is. One might expected this to be from a similar barrel as its sister cask, but it doesn’t have to be. If so, these must have been some well selected staves then. A cooper with a keen eye, knowing what to pick? This one really smells a lot better, it really is remarkable. More details, better defined and better development. Where #301535 dulled down when smelling for a while, and remember, it was a good one to boot, this #301553 just never stops performing. Amazing!

Taste: Wow, initially very soft on entry (the other one was softer and definitely soapier, here most, not all, of the soapy bit is replaced by a sweet fruity bit). Peppery and spicy smoke and strong going down, and then turning soft again, and again sweet. Sweet cardboard and paper notes. White pepper and yellow fruits. Sweetish and cold ashes from the fireplace come first. Nutty and fruity, but as I said, lots of ashes. I have to give it some more time, but it seems to me to be different from its sister cask, it is also a bit different than I expected considering the nose. Surely this must be from another line of Barrels? The middle part is fruity and accessible, but towards the finish more ashes, paper and a wood-bitter note. Although the finish is of medium length. It is warming, somewhat soapy (at times) and leaves for a nice, nutty and woody aftertaste. Much better balanced than its sister cask if you ask me. Benefits from the warmth of your hand when breathing, but never really lives up to the amazing level of the nose, but it is still better than its aforementioned sister cask. Especially if you warm this one up in your hands.

When this was sold in Luxembourg it was quite cheap especially considering the quality this Malt possesses. I paid a bit more than the initial price at auction, but still feel I got a good deal. Later I found out that the quality of this particular example is well known in circles of anoraks and aficionado’s and bids can be even (much) higher than my final bid. First of all, this Luxembourg edition surpasses the already good nose of the Belgium edition. It is quite amazing in fact, look how the nose changes and even unlocks another dimension after a few sips. In the taste Luxembourg seems a bit sharper and more complex, less soapy with even more ripe fruits. After #301535, I was not sure about getting a similar bottling, 84 points is good, but not that good. I read somewhere, this one was better and in the end I couldn’t help myself. If given the chance, I bid on two, and that way often securing just one or none even, because one or more of you often overbids me in the last minute, but this time no one did and I got both. In hindsight: Yey!

Amazing how medicinal the empty glass smells the next day. Extreme. The empty glass of the other one smells different. Both seem to have some pine resin, which wasn’t there before. The empty Luxembourg one smells more like a sauna now. How’s that for complexity.

Points: 88 (the nose, if scored by itself, would score well into the 90’s)

* Final ado: I was lying earlier, from where I’m sitting, I can’t even hear the doorbell, the sound is too soft.

Rivière Du Mât Extra Old XO (42%, Ile de la Réunion, Circa 2014)

I found my first Rivière du Mât bottle (The Brut de Fût), sitting rather sad, covered in dust, with its blue box missing, shoved behind another bottle on the shelf in a shop. It looked like it didn’t get a lot of love from the people selling it, not even having it’s own place on the shelf. Nobody seemed to be interested in it as well. However, I am a sensitive guy and I liked the bulky bottle. I had no idea what was inside, but being an adventurous guy, and having read good things about Rum distilled on Ile de la Réunion, I bought it and gave it a lot of love by storing it in a dust-free, dark cardboard box, surrounded by many Rum-friends, some of which speak French as well! That bottle still sits waiting patiently for me to uncork it, chatting away to its friends about the wonderful ile it comes from. I hope they have a good time over there. Once in a while I open those boxes greeting them. A joke here, a pat there, sometimes wiping away the dust on a shoulder. Anoraky isn’t it? What? Creepy? What do you mean with “go heal yourself”, or “turn yourself in”?

Much later I had a meeting with my Dutch Whisky club, in Hamburg, Germany. Remember the time this was considered normal? Obviously we went to a nice well-known, friendly and well stocked shop in Hamburg that alas must remain anonymous here, (Weinquelle, on the Lübecker Straße 145). In stead of buying Whisky, I ended up with a couple of Rivière du Mât bottlings. I bought the XO and the 2004 Vintage, and not the heaps of Whisky the other guys bought. By the way, if you plan to go to this shop you don’t know about, look at their site you can’t find. They don’t have enough space to have everything they sell in the shop, luckily they have the rest in the back, so come prepared (I did).

Ile de la Réunion, “wez dat”? You can find the island when sailing east from Madagascar. Surely you know where Madagascar is? You misplaced the DVD? Jeez, not the film! Another island close by is Mauritius, which lies further east.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Different from other Rums I have nosed before, maybe some resemblance to the imagined combination of St. Lucia and Caroni. In part it’s industrial and dusty, hints of bad breath, short-lived licorice, vanilla, latex paint and hot motor oil, but also very warming and special. Bonfire. Almonds and fruity. It has a warm sugary water aroma reminding me of the Epris I had before. This is so different, that I have to dissect this in my mind. What is it, the nose is made up from? Dates, yes, but with a sort of motor oil quality to it. Nutty as well. Ginger and very soft wood. Very well balanced. Its wonderful. Especially from a not-full bottle. This does need air. After a while a nice mixture of almonds, ethanol and oak emerge. In a way it smells a bit reduced, you feel it could have been so much bigger. This probably would be truly stellar at cask strength. I must have a look for something like that, if it exists.

Taste: Sweet on entry, honey and spicy ginger. Classic molasses Rhum with a (sweet) twist. Alas also a bit thin. Hints of tobacco, and a waxy quality. Tea biscuits (and butter). The bad breath note in its liquid form, resembles almost burning molten plastic (and more almonds). I know it sounds so horrible but it is just a part of the balance, and it works well in this. Quite aromatic and warming. Licorice and more soft wood. Some ashes and a tiny bitter oak edge. Well balanced. Even though this is quite aromatic, for a Rhum Traditionnel (molasses), you can call this a light R(h)um, and proves that a light R(h)um can be very exiting. This one reminds me of many aroma’s encountered for the first time when getting into Single Malt Whisky, so this Rhum fits me perfectly.

I only wish this was bottled at a higher strength than the 42% ABV they did. This is sooo good, and I’m sure it would have benefited immensely from the higher strength. Nevertheless an excellent Rhum, very tasty. I also noticed that the lower the level of the Rhum in the bottle, the better it got, the smell got deeper, the taste more balanced. This needs lots of air, people, I can’t stress this enough. When this is empty I will replace it with another Rhum from Ile de la Réunion for sure, because this one was a cracker. I understand there is plenty more good stuff made on the island…

Points: 88

Port Charlotte 8yo 2007/2018 “CC:01” (57.8%, OB, Heavily Peated, Cognac Casks, 18/006, 2018)

Those of you who have checked the title meticulously will have a question. How can this be 8yo (so stated on the bottle), when this is distilled in 2007 (so stated on the bottle) and bottled in 2018 (so stated on the bottle)? Has it been transferred into glass after 8 years or as often happens, the Whisky in the bottle is (and is allowed to be) older than the stated age. We may never know. This expression is abbreviated as CC:01, meaning that this is the first (01) release of Whisky, fully matured in Cognac Casks (CC). I’m sure there will be more of these abbreviations reviewed on these pages in the foreseeable future.

Finally, this is one of those bottles which I almost missed reviewing before it is gone. One of those bottles I reach for easily, despite the high ABV. One of those bottles I believe to have reviewed earlier already, even being surprised I can’t find the review on these pages. So from the last drops in the bottle, here it goes.

Color: Gold

Nose: Bonfire, spicy wood, creamy but not really vanilla like. Big. Paper and smoke. More bonfire. Beautiful, perfumy smoke notes. Wonderful smelling Malt this is. Hints of medium sweet Rhum Agricole. (J.M style). Next leafy, autumn garden. Extremely well balanced and very appetizing. All just fits together so well. Some breaths of fresh air, bonfire smoke next, with a luxury feel to it. And this nice lazy hidden sweeter and fruitier note (lime juice). Lazy, because it lets me know its there, but allows me to enjoy the other notes first. Soft yet spicy wood. In no way harsh. Creamy, leafy with mocha. It keeps developing. Black tea. Dry, old, dusty oak. Hints of raspberry ice-cream, the vanilla notes emerge after all just before the first notes of pencil shavings. Good one, I love it. No it’s not finished yet. Notes of well aged Calvados now. Will it ever end? Let me just say, nothing really Cognac-y or winey or peaty. Capiche?

Taste: Spicy and sweet on entry. Skip that last remark though, maybe there is some Cognac to it after all. Quite hot going down. Some indistinct fruity notes come next, on top of dry oaky notes. Both are on top of each other, so a bit less well integrated, or maybe the cement between the bricks is missing. Sweetish yellow fruits, partly dried, combined with a nice ashy note and maybe some old licorice. Notes of bitter oak towards the finish and a bit of waxiness emerges. See Lagavulin, this is younger than your 10yo and no milky, too young tasting Whisky here. Nice restrained smoke. Earthy or maybe grounded is a better word. Slightly less balanced than the nose, and also less beautiful, but still very good nevertheless. Fairly long finish, but after that it all went down, leaving just a medium amount for the aftertaste.

Well, what can I say, me likey. It didn’t take me all that long to buy me another one of these. Very good Port Charlotte. I Hope Bruichladdich will do more Cognac Casks in the future (and release them, obviously).

Points: 88

Glen Garioch 15yo (53.7%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Cask Matured, 2016)

Back in 2013 I reviewed Glen Garioch’s entry-level Founder’s Reserve bottling. Maybe a simple Whisky at first, but showing potential with its development in my glass. In the end it scored (maybe only) 83 points, and I concluded that my interest in Glen Garioch was rekindled. Fast Forward to 2019 and here finally is my rekindled interest with this Glen Garioch bottling. Took me long enough! I picked this one from my lectern because it goes fast, very fast, and the bottle is only 1/4 full, (or 3/4 empty if you are a pessimist). Considering I opened it not too long ago, you can already conclude I like it very much, although I could have had other uses for tasty Whisky as well.

This particular bottling saw the light of day in 2016 in travel retail outlets, like airports, on ferry’s and such. However by 2018, and maybe sooner, this bottling seems to be more widely available. Maybe Glen Garioch is our little secret and not widely known to the general public. Well if you ask me, this bottling should stay our little secret and I also feel this isn’t very suitable for the general public to boot, but more about that later. As far as I know, there are two batches made of this: L162341 and L162342. The bottle I have carries the lower of both numbers.

Color: Copper orange brown.

Nose: Creamy, spicy and fresh. Very exotic. Almost Indian, tasted blind I might have said Amrut. Lots of creamy woody notes quickly follow suit. Sawdust and pencil shavings, not old wood. Lots of backbone to this. Typical Oloroso notes we also know from Aberlour A’Bunadh, yet here it is somewhat less harsh, less alcohol as well, but also older and the spiciness is definitely more exotic. Which Oloroso Sherry was in these casks, I wonder? Hints of vanilla and some tar. Tiniest hint of sulphur adding to the backbone. Honey and overall quite dusty. Dark, deep and brooding Sherry notes, but not too much. It also has a lively vibrant side to it (as opposed to the Bunnahabhain I just reviewed). Lots of character to this. Appetizing. I need a Pizza after this review! (I did!).

Taste: Big and very creamy. Sweet as well. Toffee, caramel, the lot. The (fruity) sweetness is less pronounced in the evening. Starts with quite a big wonderful spicy woody note and some tree sap. Slightly dry and soapy, with tar and Sherry, but it’s a beautiful woody note. It fits the nose perfectly. Hints of black fruits start to emerge. Well balanced but not as much evolution as one might think after 15 years, not as complex as well. However, what you do get instantly is a very well composed, and utterly delicious Sherried Whisky. Sometimes I pick up some bitterness in the finish, but that is no problem whatsoever. Wonderful expression. Probably best after dinner and a cigar can’t hurt it either.

Trying this one right after the Bunnahabhain, I just reviewed, I have to wonder how stuff like this would be after 30 years of ageing. Nevermind this. Tasting this after the Bunnahabhain is bliss. They differ so much, but go together very well. The Bunnahabhain today is quite pricy at auctions, and If you’re quick, this Glen Garioch seems to be on sale quite a lot, but it will sell out eventually, and then its gone.

Finally, I often give the advice that you should give a Whisky some air and time to breathe. Just pick any Springbank review and it’s there. Surprisingly, that is not the case this time, This Glen Garioch is best right after pouring it, just sayin’.

Points: 88

Longrow 10yo 1992 (46%, OB, 2002)

Back in the summer of 2016, I reviewed the 1993 10yo, the successor to the 1992 I’m about to review now. The 1993 stayed on the back of my mind, since I really liked that one, giving it 88 points. When, last year (2018), a local shop had a sale, this 1992 showed up for a very nice price, so at first I bought two, and a while later, at yet another sale at the same shop, I bought the two that remained on the shelves. That was 2018 and this was bottled in 2002, So not a very popular dram, it seems, in these neck of the woods.

Between 2001 and 2006, six similar looking annual release were bottled as a 10yo vintage, where the 1992 (from 2002) was the first one in the Springbank bottle we all know so well by now. (The 1991 was in the tall bottle).

Lets find out if this 1992 vintage is as good as the 1993 and lets find out if buying four bottles of this wasn’t a mistake. And yes, also with this one, the cork broke on me when first opened. Luckily I have my trusted brown bag with many corks in them, a life-saver in many occasions, especially when handling bottles with old corks.

Color: Light gold. Slightly more color to it compared to the 1993 vintage.

Nose: Fragrant meaty (light) peat, fatty and oily (olive), with a slight winey acidity. Freshening the whole up. In no way, this comes across as a heavily peated Whisky. Sugary barley and quite fruity. Buttery pop-corn and quite creamy. Well balanced, very appetizing and quite some depth to it. All works very well in this one. Soft and more meaty peat notes. Still light and soft. No smoke at all. Slightly fatty and it smells a bit sweet as well. Hey, apart from the nuttiness I almost missed, here also comes a burnt and smoky note, I always miss in the evening. Yes, I’m trying it now before breakfast. You should try it. Sugared and dried yellow fruits, but also a small hint of oranges. Yes, distant citrus fruits in the back. A very friendly and accessible Longrow. Longrow sees more peat than Springbank, but still Longrow can be very soft, and this one is no exception.

Taste: Starts with a short attack of smoke, quickly followed by the fruity bits and the soft peat. Butter. Toast with warm butter. Lots of fruity bits, some slightly acidic, and some sweet. Again light and soft and dangerously drinkable. Slightly salty as well when I lick my lips. Nice. Also a heavier note emerges. Fatty and caramel-like. Licorice. After a while more smoky, burnt and peaty notes emerge in the body of this Whisky. Time release? Fresh butter now. More creamy elements emerge from the Whisky. The lightness shows itself best towards the finish. Quite short and light, leaving only a warming note behind, without me being able to tell which of the notes mentioned above stays behind. One of the fruits probably, a nutty note, and some peat. If you wait a bit longer, it’s definitely the peat which has the staying power to make it well into the after taste. Nice stuff altogether, the only beef I have with it, this morning, is that it finishes a bit too sweet. It may be a daily drinker type of Whisky in the evening, but less so in the morning when I think of the sweetness. On another mornings the sweetness seemed less predominant and the buttery notes (with the toast as well), do make this a breakfast Whisky. Go figure, taste is a peculiar thing and we as humans are subjective as tasters beyond belief, so please take that into account.

Now lets see how the 1992 compares to the 1993 I reviewed earlier. Well just in case you thought all the vintages are alike. I can safely say that the noses of te 1992 and the 1993 are different. The 1993 is a tad more medicinal and lacks the creamy and buttery notes of the 1992. Somewhat more predominant in the wood department, but not by much. The fruit is similar, but toned down a lot of notches. The 1993 is smokier and reminds me of a sea breeze. It’s also cleaner and more oak is noticeable. Yes even some unlit cuban cigar tobacco. I guess that wasn’t in the original review of the 1993. I guess the relative sweetness of the 1992 hides the wood and all the other notes (if present). Where the 1993 is cleaner, the 1992 seems to be the bigger (sweeter and creamier) Malt. Taste wise, both are closer to each other with the same “lightness”. The 1993 is sweeter then I remembered, and also shows the fruit and the softness and even more of the nutty bits with milk chocolate. Variations on a theme I guess. Trying the 1992 directly after the 1993, shows some youth in the 1992. Both score the same and are definitely twins, but if I had to choose I’d pick the 1993. It is ever so slightly better. Does this mean I’m regretting getting four of the 1992? No, of course not. I love it!

Points: 88

Ben Nevis 10yo (46%, OB, 2018, L18/8069)

I’m a big, big fan of Springbank and all of its output. I love the taste, the independence, the batch variation, the society. Buy a bottle and you never get the same Whisky twice. Above all however, I love the taste in combination with the sheer quality. Springbank 10yo was always the )only) Whisky I mention to people when they ask me for a bang-for-your-buck Whisky. Nevertheless, I’m always open to other Whiskies as well, I’m not bound to a few distilleries, or to one type of Whisky. I love a lot of different Whiskies with different styles. Dear readers, Springbank 10yo is about to be dethroned from that first place. I will still mention it, but with the same breath I will also mention this Ben Nevis 10yo. It’s fabulous. It’s complex, its unexpected, it’s simply wonderful. It has aromas I only encounter in Whiskies from yesteryear and not in modern stuff like this, distilled in the 21st century. I’m not sure if only this particular batch is so good, or that all Ben Nevis’ 10yo are this good, but we will find out someday, won’t we? Although I’m sure the latter is true!

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Fresh, flowery, malty and fatty. Lightly sweet and very, very seducing. Smoky and fresh. Sweaty (Sauvignon Blanc), yet also lots of aroma’s from Alsatian White Wines and Rieslings from across the border (that would be Germany). Nice notes of subdued oak and even honey. Warming and big. Toffee, without the sugar. Creamy and nutty. Sweet yellow, tropical fruit yoghurt. Very special. Tiny, tiny, tiny hint of peat (and smoke) and also some Sherry. Tiny hint of pencil shavings and some sawdust as well. Extremely well-balanced.

Taste: Sweet, sweaty and big. Toasted oak. Benefits from air, so let it sit in your glass for a moment. The sweaty notes from the nose are here for you to taste as well. Tropical fruits, yes. Dried pineapple and papaya come to mind backed by a bitter oak note. This has definitely older Whisky in the mix. (18yo is rumoured). Where others probably sell a lot of Whisky and are aching for NAS-expressions. The owners of Ben Nevis (The Japanese) are taking it zen, and have older Whiskies to spare to make this special 10yo even more special. In fact the profile lies somewhere between Springbank 10yo (fatty, oily, warm motor oil, hints of peat and big) and Caperdonichs from 1972 (the fruit man, the fruit). Great body, medium finish (turning a wee bit sour for a moment), with a nice long warming aftertaste (not sour anymore). When its gone, its gone (and you need another sip). Complex, but not too much.

Ben Nevis 10yo looks like this, since 2016 and is released once a year, and it seems to me it sort of sells out before the next release has been bottled. For instance the 2019 versions hasn’t been released yet, but this 2018 I’m reviewing now, has all but vanished from many shops I know. It is the only standard bottling, with the rest of the output being specials and single cask bottlings. All sold at special prices indeed, making this the only standard bottling of Ben Nevis and also the only affordable one. I wish they would expand a bit with their standard range, like a 15yo for instance, and some others after that? Yes please!

Points: 88

The Balvenie 21yo “Portwood” (40%, OB, Circa 2002)

Just like some of the previous reviews, here is another bottle from my lectern. I bought this one way back in 2002 after I sampled it at a friend’s house. I have very fond memories of this one, so in my case the disappointment was humongous when I tried the freshly opened bottle. Almost a year has passed since then, so I believe it is time to have another go. Truth be told, In the passing year I have sampled it several times and found it to be better every time I tried it, so for the second time around I again have high hopes for this one. Oxidation rules! Often, not every time, but often.

Color: Copper gold, with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Winey and sweaty. Nice old, soft and wet, wood and warm wax. Underneath some old vanilla lingering, mixed in with a winey note, sweetish Port. After the initial wet wood, the note shifts into old dry oak. So the original Whisky matured in American oak alright to be finished in Port casks. Very perfumy. Very distinguished. It feels like a member (not a Whisky) of a members only gentleman’s club. Fresh homemade pot-pourri, not the soapy dried hideous stuff, that smells of grannies closet. This bottling oozes the sense of a Whisky from yesteryear, something that can’t be repeated. It also gives me the feeling the whole has worn out a bit, again adding to the note af antiquities. If there is a beef to be had with this Whisky it’s that even with this many years under its belt, it does lack development. The Whisky establishes itself big time, only to not change much in your glass. So breathing in the glass doesn’t do much whereas breathing in the bottle did bring a lot of balance since opening. Oxidation can be a strange phenomenon.

Taste: Not as big as I’ve expected from the nose alone. A bit simple on entry. Sweet and nutty. Yes moving into fortified Wine territory now, complete with a raw and bity (and a soft bitter) effect right after the start (typical for Port finishes). Red fruits and more nuts and wax. The red fruits form a very nice layer on top of the nutty bit. If you’re familiar with tasting Wines, this Balvenie gets richer when you take in some air while you sip this (the more the better actually). Since is so low in ABV. take big gulps! Vanilla, raisins. yeah, now we’re talking. Sure raisins, but in no way does this taste like a Sherried Whisky, no its raisins, but different from a Sherried Whisky. The low ABV. isn’t capable of carrying the finish for a long time, nor does this Whisky have a noticeable aftertaste. After the finish it gets weak quickly and you wait for an aftertaste that doesn’t come. When its gone, its gone. So, in the end, this is very, very nice, all aroma’s fit together nicely, but also (and I hate the word but) I still expect a bit more form a Whisky with a reputation like this one. It’s very nice, highly drinkable, but lacks complexity, development and a bit of oomph. On the other side, after extensive breathing this is a balanced whisky with nice aroma’s and no off notes whatsoever.

Just like the Kilkerran I reviewed last, both are examples of Whiskies that weren’t all that great right after opening. I took this bottle with me when I was invited by Nico to sample some odd Balvenie 12yo from 2016, alongside many other Balvenies. We both had high hopes for this one, since it is an oldie, and everything was better some decades ago, wasn’t it? Yet all we could muster was “is this it?” Again rightfully disappointed with a freshly opened bottle. Did it get better? Yes it did, is it as great as memory serves me? No not really, so this goes to show, that oxidation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that tasting Whisky can be a very subjective matter to boot.

Points: 88

For fun, I unearthed a Port finished Imperial, but both are remarkably different so there is no sense in comparing. Where one seems old and distinguished, the other is more modern and even bigger on the nuttiness. Both are quite sweet and they share the need to be had in big gulps. Maybe 81 Points for the Imperial was a bit on the conservative side though (but not by much).

 

Benrinnes 15yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L15P00535367, Circa 2001)

Long time no see! I took a month off, since a lot happened lately. First of all, a new job, which is nice, takes up a lot of time though, and the moments I did have left for writing reviews, were also spent differently than I initially expected. Apart from that, also The Whisky Show in London happened. Today, instead of reviewing something new from that show, I chose an oldie from my lectern.

Just like the Flora & Fauna Mortlach bottling I reviewed earlier, this is a bottle I brought with me to a gathering of my Whisky club, and as can happen when opening old bottles, the cork broke quite easily, crumbled to a pulp. You gotta love those corks now don’t you? Of all the Flora & Fauna bottlings, Mortlach, Dailuaine and this Benrinnes are the really Sherried ones (but there are more). Experience also shows us there is definitely some batch variation going on in the Flora & Fauna series. Here we have an oldie, supposedly bottled in 2001 (or 2002), so not a recent one, which might be entirely different.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry. Nice and earthy. Meaty, cold gravy. Thick aroma. Coal and steam. Is it already a sherried bottling from a different time than ours? How would a more recent example compare? This was distilled in the eighties, which was a different era compared to a Gordon & MacPhail Longmorn from 1971. So heavy on the Sherry. Thick and astringent. Dry and not as fruity as Longmorn. If you ask me, this compares more to the style of Glenfarclas, drier and not-so-fruity. Funky, tarry, musk, brown sugar, coffee creamer and definitely Vanilla. American oak. Still not a lot of fruit though. Hints of very ripe cherries mixed in with oak. Dry, dusty and quite spicy. Hints of cask toast including the smell of molten plastic. Meaty, cooked vegetables with more oak and spices. Hard to tell which spices though, although anise and cloves come to mind, as well as some crushed beetle (that’s not a spice isn’t it?). I can’t help but feel there are some older casks used for this particular expression. Good and interesting, but also a bit “strange”. A hint of soap (not of the perfumy kind) and mocha.

Taste: On entry, a brief light moment, almost like a underproof Whisky (which it is not). Soft, but luckily not “smooth”. It has wonderful raw edges and does show some bitter (and soapy) notes as well, which do work well. Fruitier than the nose, and already one that needs to breathe. Somewhat sweeter than expected, caramel but also the brown sugar I got from the nose, all in good measure though. Tar and plastic yes, cherries? yes as well, but that’s about it. Does it matter? No, since it is a different kind of Sherried Whisky. Lots of (sweet) licorice (and toffee) in stead, it almost tastes salty. Again, a very interesting and tasty experience. Wonderful body, but it sometimes falls apart a bit in the finish (depending on the moment). Finish isn’t as long as one would think, but still has enough length. Well, if it’s a problem, take another sip then. Tar and coal make up the aftertaste, and Sherry of course.

For me, another gem in the Flora & Fauna range. Especially looking at those earlier bottlings, there were quite a few more than wonderful examples there. Mortlach, Blair Athol, Rosebank, all excellent. Worth looking for. I really need to have a look at more recent bottlings in this range to compare them to the older ones…

People start to pay silly money for the Flora & Fauna Mortlach, and it doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s an older one or one of the last. Granted, they are very good, but really, this 2001 bottling of Benrinnes is equally as good!

Points: 88

Calvados Week – Day 7: de Querville Calvados Hors d’Age (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge, Circa 2008)

Logo Calvados WeekWell, what can I say, we’re in a flow now with the Vieux and the Vieille Réserve, so why not continue with the next de Querville in line, the Hors d’Age. Where the Vieux was 3yo, and the Vieille Réserve has a minimum of 4 years, this Hors d’Age was aged for a minimum of 6 years. So we get not only one year more, but a full two years more! I’ll bet you, lots of older distillates got thrown in for good measure as well. Again I expect a step up from both younger siblings, so by now I expect a lot!

de Querville Calvados Hors d’AgeColor: Gold.

Nose: Thick and syrupy, and even less fruity and upfront as the Vieux version of this. This definitely has some more age to it, and picked up some more Industrial notes along the way. Small hints of tar and toffee. Resembles a Sherried (Oloroso) Whisky. Again a dry Calvados. The Vieux smelled the part, but this is simply wonderful. Dry, spicy and dusty and full of elegant and polished wood. Old wood. Raisins and sugared and dry dark-skinned fruits. Excellent. Nice hidden note of black fruits. Not only a step up, but definitely a nose that delivers! Impressive.

Taste: Half sweet, waxy and up a notch in depth and darkness, compared to the Vieux and Vieille brothers/sisters. They all have the same style, which is dry and lets the wood shine through. The same amount of sweetness, but otherwise this is from a different planet altogether. First of all, I’m happy as can be, that after the stunning nose, tasting this does not disappoint. Nosing this particular example, you wouldn’t say this has anything to do with apples. tasting it, it seems to me as if the apples are there, but are more pear driven. This is absolutely stunning stuff. Amazing.

Maybe an ugly bottle and a label that looks like it was made in the middle ages, but boy-o-boy, what a wonderful drink is inside. I have to investigate de Querville some more, but this one and the previous two as well are very much recommended. The Vieux has youth and vibrancy, but not yet well matured. The Vieille Réserve is raising the bar a bit, but this Hors d’Age is a distinguished gentleman. Knowledgeable and smart. I can’s stop nosing this stuff it is utterly wonderful, and it puts many Whiskies to shame, even though it is a completely different distillate. Unbelievable, especially when you find out how inexpensive this is compared to Single Malt Whisky and other premium distillates of high quality.

And with this de Querville, our Calvados trip has come to an end, and what a wonderful trip it was. I don’t know about you but I (again) enjoyed myself thoroughly and have encountered some wonderful stuff. This won’t be the last of Calvados on these pages, because there is still a world of Calvados to discover, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Amazing how little information there is to find. It’s a hidden secret only the French seem to know about. I really like the stuff made by de Querville or Distillery du Houley, and these bottles are also made with a nice price stickered on them compared to many others. After these three de Quervilles, I didn’t have to go out for a loan to get the daddy of all the de Quervilles: “The Prestige”. A 18yo Calvados. High hopes I have for that one, high hopes. We’ll meet again…

Points: 88

Springbank 12yo “Cask Strength” (52.3%, OB, Batch 8, 14/12)

I got this, put it on my lectern, opened it and drank it. That is more or less what happened to it. Sometimes when I believe a Whisky I have open will be needed for future comparison, (to other batches in this case), I take a sample from it and put it in my archive. I had a few drops left in the bottle so I already opened its replacement the 17yo Sherry Wood. When writing the review of this 17yo, I wanted to compare that one to this Cask Strength Batch 8, so I tried to pull up the review of that one, just to find out it didn’t exist. I liked this one so much, I drank it all before ik could write the review! So, out comes this sample I just drew for future reference, not knowing “the future” would descend upon us so soon!

Springbank 12yo Batch 8Color: Light orange gold.

Nose: Meaty and somewhat closed. Waxy and slightly rough. Lots of American oak vanilla. Tar and coal dust. Bourbon vanilla and custard. It also has the fruitiness Springbank gets from using Sherry casks. So its easy to detect it is a blend of both kinds of casks. No secret in this, because probably all expressions of the 12yo Cask Strength are blends of both types of cask. Meaty Sherry notes with a tiny hint of sulphur (matches), but also a breath of something fresher, to all those heavy aromas whiffs by. Nice Springbank peat is also present. Quite sweet and fruity and some paper. Bigger on its aromas, but slightly less complex than older siblings.

Taste: Initially big sweet and waxy. Nice (bitter) wood and again the paper-like quality and a tiny hint of smoke. Sugared almonds and a little sting of peat, aided by the higher ABV, than the 46% of most other Springbanks. The smoke is gone and for the rest of the journey we are accompanied by peat. Not too much though, just enough. When the first sip travels down, more vegetal notes appear. As well as a slight burnt note. The taste seems more about Sherry casks, than it is about Bourbon casks. This doesn’t have to mean that more Sherry casks were used for Batch 8, but the Sherry aromas are dominating. It has a sort of anonymous fruity profile. Red fruits, yes maybe, sugared yellow fruits, yep, probably present as well. Which fruits? Hard to tell actually. Towards the end of the body, before the finish, a slight unbalance happens. Where older Springbanks hold it together, here it shows its relative youth. Still this is a wonderful malt. This finish has all of the body and underlines the wood a bit. It comes as no surprise the finish has pretty good length, wood first, peat next, and in no way as creamy as in the start.

This comes from a now finished bottle, and I have to say, it got better over time. This is one that really needed some time to breathe. I remember being a bit disappointed when I first opened this one. I had just finished the eighteen year old also bottled in 2014, and definitely liked that one better. I really love and adore this one now, but can’t help but feel, that Springbanks need to age a while longer. Comparing this to the 17yo Sherry Wood and the 2014 18yo, you can see the older ones have more matured aromas to them adding to their complexity. With a 12yo Springbank you get a fantastic Whisky which for the quality you get is quite affordable. Sure, you pay a bit more for the 17yo and the 18yo, but you also get more imho. More aroma and definitely more complexity. Having said that, the 12yo Cask Strength series is a wonderful series especially at the prices Springbank are selling it for.

Top tip: Let this breathe, let it breathe in the bottle, (try storing it for a week or so without the cork on it), and let it breathe in your glass. Don’t be hasty with it and if you do you will certainly be rewarded.

Points: 88