Mortlach 12yo 2008/2020 (56.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #800110, #800126 & #800127, 710 bottles)

After the wonderful and very interesting Loch Lomond, let’s try another Whisky fully matured in ex-Bourbon casks. This time one that was distilled at Mortlach. Mortlach has quite the reputation with Whisky Aficionado’s and rightly so. For instance, Mortlach 16yo was arguably the best offering in Diageo’s once extensive Flora and Fauna Range. Having this niche popularity, Diageo decided to do something more with the brand that is Mortlach and discontinued the 16yo around 2012 in favour of a Rare Old (NAS, not rare nor old, 80 points), an 18yo and a 25yo (84 points). All in 500 ml bottles! These three were released in 2014 and replaced in 2018 by more common age statement versions: 12yo, 16yo (a magic age statement for Mortlach) and 20yo. All three now in 700 ml/750 ml bottles. Mortlach is known for its Whiskies matured in Sherry casks. The 16yo Flora and Fauna is an example of this, and I thought an offering by Wilson & Morgan was even better than that. No surprise then, this has matured in a Sherry cask as well. I also reviewed a Provenance Mortlach earlier, I suppose was matured in Ex-Bourbon wood, which was not so interesting, so let’s see if this Signatory Mortlach is any good, or we should stick to Sherried versions of Mortlach altogether.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Winey, clear glue, creamy and slightly acidic. Not your usual creamy vanillin kind of smell though. A moment later some more fruits emerge, as well as the creamy vanilla powder notes. Dusty and slightly smoky (probably from toasted oak, not peat). Hints of gravy and cold dishwater, and some soft sugared fruit notes. This is a big Malt, which already shows amazing complexity. Not a cloying smell, since a nice fruity acidity keeps playing its part. This is a Mortlach and Mortlach is a special distillate, and boy, does this smell special. For some this may be a simple kind of Whisky, just pour new make into Bourbon Barrels, mind you, they didn’t even turn those into hogsheads, lazy buggers, and job done, easy, simple, no hassle. Yet Mortlach in a Bourbon Barrel, comes out slightly different from Whiskies from other distilleries matured like this, there is always something different about Mortlach, richer, beefier, meatier, just bigger, special. It’s almost like the fatty acid chains are just longer with Mortlach (without becoming soapy). Hints of raspberry hard candy, next to the half-ripe yellow fruits. Just not as exotic as it can be in well matured Tomatin’s. However, keep in mind that this is only 12yo, and not 30yo like the Tomatin’s I just mentioned. I don’t even know why I brought that up, since Mortlach and Tomatin are very different from each other. So fruity it is, just not all that tropical.

Taste: Sweet and very, very nutty and fruity at the same time, much more fruity than expected actually. Some wood, more akin to pencil shavings than oak, to be honest. Including a slight harmless bitter note. Again, not cloying since the big body also has enough fruity acidity to help it along. Nice. What a wonderful start. Signatory have recently issued some Mortlach Sherry Monsters from the 2010 vintage, which are more or less the same age, but I can’t imagine those ones beating something like this. Licorice powder, some paper and some spices as well as a peppery backbone. Sometimes a sweet minty note pops up. Mocha, milk chocolate. Tastes like a dessert Malt now. Hints of hay, more paper and overall still quite complex. Nice finish and a long warm aftertaste, including the glue again, which you pick up on initially when smelling a freshly poured dram of this.

This is an excellent Mortlach that was not matured in a Sherry cask. Very big and tasty, with complexity and length. The quality is unmistakeable and this will please a lot of Whisky aficionado’s. Its a good example of the spirit of Mortlach and a good example of what “simple” American oak can do. The quality is right upfront, and easy to see for everyone. I scored the Loch Lomond from the previous review slightly higher than this Mortlach, but I also believe, that one might not be for everyone, and you can only find the true beauty of the Loch Lomond when you work it a bit. The Mortlach is more suitable for casual drinking, its always good. the Loch Lomond needs your full attention, otherwise it can be a grumpy old git and will Will-slap you across the face.

Points: 88

Hampden Estate Overproof (60%, OB, LM191, Jamaica)

What can we say about Hampden Estate. First of all, I don’t want to be a completist here and write down a full-blown history. On one hand there is much better information online than I can write down here by myself, and on the other hand, there actually is also not a lot to be found. There are a few great sources for information, but there is still way less information available on Rum than there is on Whisky. Much less. If you have some time then Matt’s visit of Hampden is an excellent read.

Hampden started out somewhere in the 18th century already, and the distillery today still operates more or less in the same way today. Old skool. The first mention of Hampden was in 1684. However, Hampden’s own website starts history in 1753 (as a sugar plantation), but no clear year is mentioned for the start of Hampden as a Rum distillery, only 1779 is coupled with Hampden Great House where the ground floor was a Rum store. What we do know is that somewhere Hampden started distilling Rum, as did many sugar plantations, when exports of sugar from sugarcane started dwindling, when in Europe sugar was made from sugar beets in stead of cane. What we also know is that Hampden, after all there years, still looks more or less unchanged, and looking at Matt’s pictures, steam-punk comes to mind as well as the pictures from fans of abandoned places. Time definitely stood still here big time.

Hampden is also known for its Jamaican funk, and of all the Jamaican funk that can be had, Hampden is probably the mother of Jamaican funk. The funk is partially there because of a very long fermentation, somewhere between 8 and 15 days, fermentation with wild yeasts that just come flying in with the wind. No yeast is added. Also, Hampden produces a sugar cane vinegar (muck) that is added during the fermentation, helping the funky aroma along. Hampden currently has four stills they call the heart of the distillery, and rightly so, but I guess that is true for most, of not all, distilleries: A 1960 John Dore (7.560 litres) from Forsyths, Scotland, a 1994 Vendome from Kentucky (18.900 litres), a 2010 Forsyth still (18.900 litres) and the most recent addition is a Pot still made by T&T from South Africa (18.900 litres). All stills are heated with coils on the inside.

Hampden’s core range consists of Hampden 46 (8 years of tropical ageing) and Hampden 60 (or Overproof, 7yo and older, a mix of different marks). I have yet to try the 46% ABV. I never got around to it because, up ’till now, I always believed it is the reduced version of the Overproof, but that might not be true. The Hampden I’m about to try must be one of the early bottles, where the front label mentions 8yo and the back label 7 yo, whereas newer versions have a more prominent 8 on the front label. To add to the confusion. The website mentions 7 years again. However I still believe the 46% is nothing more than the reduced version of the Overproof.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Big, fatty, sweet and nutty. Fruity with bath/shower cosmetics florality. No, you cannot even call this big, no, this has an humongous aroma, so high level of esters indeed. Fruity and fresh. Acidic and lively. Fatty nuts, almonds. High ester Rums like this are used for their aroma’s for baking and yes, that’s where you know this aroma from. After the initial wave of bigness passes, a little bit of wood starts to become noticeable, grows bigger over time and is here to stay. Some oak and some pencil shavings and an indistinct herbal quality, as well as a tiny hint of car exhaust. It is remarkable how the big, fatty and syrupy start does move back to leave some room for more astringent notes like the woody notes. It doesn’t even carry this promise for a sweet toffee’d Rum any more. I have to say excellent balance after some air. A sort of instant classic. Unique. A must-have.

Taste: Where the wood is somewhat laid back in the nose, it is most definitely present here on the palate. The wood opens the ball. Modern wood, but that probably won’t make any sense to you. hint of plastics, otherwise it smells of tropical ageing, you just sense the heat that surrounded the cask. Acidic. Big fruit and quite a lot of fresh acidity as well, with this underlying woody backbone. Acidity bordering on very, very (over)ripe fruit, the pre-rot phase almost. The wood becomes more dark chocolaty in style, and more spicy. Less herbal though, but more leathery in stead. Wood and ear wax. In fact the ear-wax was here right from the beginning, just in the plethora of things I didn’t recognize it immediately. The bitterness moves forward now, especially noticeable in the back of your mouth. The wood is upfront but luckily, in this case, its not over the top bitter. At this point, the pencil shaving note on the note grows stronger. On the palate it shows some similarities with Demerara Rum and a specific Port Mourant comes to mind. This is not something I get all the time. When trying this late at night, with a tired and fulfilled palate, the Demerara association isn’t there. So this has some bitterness and it certainly shows wood which now picks up a slight soapiness, reminding me of the bath/shower cosmetics from the nose. The aftertaste is long and warming with a key role for the woody bitterness, but again, it is kept in check sufficiently not to bother you.

For me this is a good Rum with a good ABV, sold at a very fair (good) price and with good availability as well. In hindsight it also has a remarkable simplicity uncommon for a high ester Rum. This is the overproof version and I hear some good stories about the reduced versions as well. I may have to look into those as well, since by now there are some more expressions to choose from than the 46% ABV version alone. Hampden LROK, and Hampden LROK the younger, both bottled at 47% ABV have become available just recently. LROK is a mark given by Hampden. LROK stands for Light Rum Owen Kelly and by this, it tells you that is has 250-350 g/hlaa of esters. By the way, this Overproof version is made with several marks: OWH (Outram Warmold Hussey, 40-80 g/hlaa), LROK and DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly, 1500-1600 g/hlaa). I don’t think a lot of DOK went into this blend to be honest. More about “Mark and Ester” in the next Hampden review.

Points: 88

The empty glass, the next day, smells of warm electrical cable and the dusty insides of an old transistor radio. How odd…

Tomatin “Water” (46%, OB, Five Virtues #5, Sherry Butts & Second Fill Bourbon Barrels, 6.000 bottles, 2018)

Alas, we’ve come to the last of the five virtues. The four previous editions were all good, for me personally, especially “Metal” was very nice, but I love well aged seemingly simple ex-Bourbon casked Whiskies. All four are definitely interesting and different from one another. No duds between them. So now the time has come to put the series to bed with “Water”. Water is made with distillate from the winter of 2005, which doesn’t make things any clearer, since the year starts and ends in winter… Half of the Whisky was matured in second fill Bourbon Barrels and the other half in Sherry Butts. Although in some communications, Tomatin does mention Sherry Hogsheads as well (just not on the packaging). If memory serves me correctly, I really liked this one as well in London, and after the very nice Metal I have high hopes for this Water as well.

Color: Copper gold, like a Bourbon, definitely not the colour of water.

Nose: Spicy wood right upfront, with sweet smelling red fruits, hints of tar, an old warehouse with a stone floor, and toasted oak. Notes of wood and fresh air. Nutty, dusty and somewhat sharp and spicy. A take on modern Sherry casks, somewhat similar to the Sherry notes, (not the peat notes), of Benromach Peat Smoke 2010 I reviewed just recently. Old warehouse with old paper and pepper with hints of a more (smelly) organic note. Wet earth and a wee bit of virgin oak. Again a quiet and balanced expression from Tomatin with lavas and gravy and some more indistinct organics. Leafy with hints of old dried out leather and a garden bonfire. Nice (dried) kitchen herbs. The Sherry makes this smell “chewy”. More whiffs of paper are flying by. A Whisky for a sunny day.

Taste: Sweet and syrupy. Fruity. Jam-like. Red fruits. Thick. The Whisky sticks to my glass. This thick, fruity, (half) sweetness, somewhat masks the big note of wood this has as well, including the also masked bitterness. Paper again. Slightly tarry, as if tarry toffee was used for this one. Well balanced as expected. Raisins and ever so slightly soapy and definitely a bit smoky, must be the toasted oak. Vanilla and pudding are here as well, so these second fill barrels still worked their expected magic too, even though the Sherry bit turned out stronger in the mix. I noticed it in Metal, but Water is also a (designed or constructed) Malt which shows what its got, right from the start, lacking a bit in complexity and evolution. This is a minor gripe however, since the balance is there and it is a delicious (red) fruit-driven Whisky with enough back-bone to it. This is not a Sherry monster, but it still is all about the Sherry in this one. Classy stuff.

This is a great companion to Metal. Both are very good and quite different from one-another, but somehow fit together. Both are fruity, but with the Bourbon casks alone that were used for Metal, that shows us an entirely different yet classic Tomatin tropical fruitiness, whereas this Water edition shows us more the Sherry-linked red fruits, in this case, the thick jam-like red fruits. Amazing contrast. At first I thought, well lets review these last two samples I have, so I can open something else, but both are so nice I’m now wondering if I shouldn’t be opening both full bottles at once, after finishing off Earth. With the Metal-edition I was wondering how it would compare to the 15yo American oak. Here with Water I’m wondering how it would compare to the 18yo Oloroso version. Both the 15yo and the 18yo are from the standard range and widely available. “Wood”, “Fire” and “Earth” are all Whiskies which are good, but you have to work them a bit, all three aren’t really for careless sipping, or you’ll miss out on the best bits they have on offer. Metal and Water are good right from the start, more like instant gratification Malts, and in my opinion the best of the bunch.

Points: 88

Lagavulin 2002/2018 “Distillers Edition” (43%, OB, lgv.4/507)

Lagavulin is a great distillery with great people and has a great output of very high quality, although, my firm Lagavulin-faith was rocked a bit with the more recent releases of the 8yo (@ 48% ABV) and the 10yo (@ 43% ABV). I still have to review the 9yo Game of Thrones Edition (@ 46% ABV) and the 11yo Offerman Edition (@ 46 % ABV). Before we get to those, I have this modern classic on my lectern, yes @ 43% ABV, this is a bit of yesteryear’s ABV, but The Distillers Edition has always been good and and already tried by many. I would be surprised if you were reading this and never had tried a Lagavulin Distillers Edition before.

In 2016, I already had an earlier edition of a Lagavulin Distillers Edition on these pages. The 1996/2002 lgv. 4/490. That is most certainly an oldie compared to the one I’m about to review. In fact, this one was distilled when the earlier one was bottled. Just like all the other Lagavulin Distillers Editions, this was finished in Pedro Ximénez (PX) casks. PX is a sweet fortified Wine, so expect some sweetness, although in general, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Also, this Whisky has been coloured with Caramel, why? The 1996 edition was bottled in clear glass, but this 2002 was bottled in smoke coloured glass, so why still alter the Whisky with E150? This is something that was on my mind reviewing the Lagavulin 12yo for the friends of the Classic Malts as well.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Nice warming peat, with quite a lot of iodine. Bonfire in winter. Fire place at Christmas. Smoked vanilla and toffee. Cold outside, quite hot inside the log cabin. PX is recognizable, giving off a sweet raisiny, meaty and fruity aroma. Wood, burnt wood, scorched wood. Tarry. Licorice. More smoky than peaty, but warm peat is certainly here as well. Wonderful balanced nose. After a while breathing in my glass, the rougher notes of smoke and, to a lesser extent, peat, dissipate a bit, leaving more room for a sweeter more syrupy note. Syrupy is not always a good note, mind you, and here it offers a cloak of sweetness masking some of the wonderful notes from the beginning. Apart from the iodine laden smoke a more perfumy note emerges as well. Big and smoky not light and fruity. This is essentially what one might call a winter dram. Wonderful nose. Amazing at this price point.

Taste: Initially lighter and thinner than the nose promised. Lacking a bit in the oomph department and with it killing a bit of the depth this probably had. Here bitter smoke and quite a lot licorice seems to be upfront, something, if present, that seemed masked in the nose. Sweet sugar-coated anise-like licorice. The sweetness kicks in now. It works wonders with the bitter notes of smoke (fire place!) and peat. Crushed beetle and vanilla. Still a very tasty Islay dram different from the rest, a potential masterpiece. Again more smoky than peaty. By now I really wish I could have had the chance to try this before it gets diluted, that version must be surely stellar. Salty lips, very dark chocolate bitterness. Is it me or does this really have notes of red fruit syrup, not much, but detectable. Way to easily drinkable @ this ABV. I’m actually amazed this bottle is already so far gone, when did that happen? Every time I want to take another sip to expand on these notes, the glass is also empty. This is also a Malt the works better with bigger sips. A Malt to be drunk. The sweetness even makes it into the finish, with chocolaty bitterness in the aftertaste. Again, like the nose, well balanced. Good stuff, more please. I have to refill my glass. Nom, nom, nom.

Really dear readers, If you can get a 16yo, which is utterly wonderful, and/or this Distillers Edition, of which I almost forgot how good it really is, there is absolutely no need to buy the 8yo and/or the 10yo, both are so much less of a Whisky than these two and offer nothing more or new, they seem unfinished and come across as an afterthought. It absolutely pains me to say this about these two offerings from one of my most beloved distilleries, but please do yourself a favour and avoid both the 8yo and the 10yo, and if you know them and feel one of both are very good, are you sure you have tried the 12yo Cask Strength, the 16yo or one of these Distillers Editions? Are you sure? Because for me the difference is amazing. Just like Ardbeg with their Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, Lagavulin also has truly great Whiskies in their core line-up with the 16yo and the Distiller Editions. So really good Islay Whiskies can still be had at a very reasonable price point. All four belong on a bang-for-your-buck list.

Points: 88

Talisker 15yo (57.3%, OB, Special Release, Freshly Charred American Oak Hogsheads, 2019)

We have already seen quite a few special releases from Talisker, probably the most popular distillery in the Diageo portfolio. For instance, there have been two releases of 20 yo’s in 2002 and 2003, an annual release of a 25yo. Between 2004 and 2009 the 25yo was bottled at cask strength, and since 2011 it was reduced to the “Talisker strength” of 45.8% ABV. There have been several 30yo, again, between 2006 and 2010 bottled at cask strength, and since 2011 reduced to “Talisker strength” as well. There have been some other special releases as well. Since 2018 Talisker showed up in the annual special releases with a 8yo, in 2019 with this 15yo and in 2020 another 8yo was released, this time finished in Caribbean Rum casks. I expect Talisker to be a main stay in the forthcoming years of annual releases. Let’s have a look at one of those three new annual releases. The one I have open in my glass right now is this 15yo from 2019, an expression matured in freshly charred American oak hogsheads. Usually these are refill casks that have been used multiple times, and have grown a little bit tired. A long time ago these casks would have been scrapped, but these days theses cask are rejuvenated, their lease of life extended by re-charring them and opening up another layer of wood, giving an aroma closer to virgin oak than a refill cask would. So lets have a look at this tired old oak release, to see if it’s any good…

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Very aromatic. Hints of Rhum Agricole and sweet funky organics. Dry, big and fatty. A promise of sweetness, but it’s not only this, it also has a sharper and very fresh side as well, like a windy seaside view complete with sea spray. Nutty, sweet and creamy with some ground coffee, not freshly grounded mind you, a bit faded, maybe old ground coffee. Paper and a bit of cardboard, but also very old, soft spicy wood. Kitchen spices. Lovely and fruity sweet organics. Peppery attack with a big alcoholic, well, attack as well. Hints of peat combined with different funky organics. The initial, almost ozonic, layer makes up the first series of aroma’s, but when these pass, more fruity notes emerge. Some of the fruity notes are quite acidic and it seems there are several acidic notes, not all of which seems to be well integrated initially. A razor sharp Malt. When this gets more time to breathe, and especially when the bottle becomes emptier and emptier, it shows a more woody note mixed in with something very nice. Still fresh and very oxygenated, and also more balanced. I get lots of notes I don’t encounter all that much. A special release indeed. Fresh pineapple, sweet apple meat, mixed with a wee bit of cream. Tiniest hint of smoke and tar, but different from Islay smoke and tar, here it is more refined and combines with creamy wood and American oak vanilla. Sometimes, I swear, I even get a note of rotting wood and cold water left over after washing the dishes the evening before. All of this is partly masked by the fruity bits on the nose. Salty meat is next. Polish dried sausage. Complex it is!

Taste: Big, very big, with a short sweet and vanilla sensation and an equally short slightly bitter attack. Clay, sharp smoke, burnt wood, warm peat and lots of nuts. Industrial and it differs quite a bit from the nose. Salty and dried fish. The sweetness evolves after the initial attack. Salty and dried meat come next, with later on, after the first sip, a nice nutty and wonderfully creamy body with the classic Talisker pepper attack. The smell of clean steamy bodies in a sauna, how is that for funky organics? It has been a long time since I had a Malt this salty. The feeling of salt on my lips. When this opens up a bit, some nice yellow fruit notes emerge. Nice fruity acidity better integrated than it was in the nose. More peat and smoke (and clay again). A really good Talisker yet not perfectly balanced though. There is this difference between the nose and the taste, but also not everything I can taste seems to be in it’s right place. Don’t worry, this is only a minor grievance. Quite hot going down. But this is also why we like Talisker. Fruity and also some winey notes. Lips still salty. Long finish (with less balance than the body has) with a very warm aftertaste in which the wood, the dried yellow fruit and the toasted oak resonate. Personally, I find this to be another very good OB like the 8yo from 2018. Both welcoming releases after all those lesser and less inspired NAS bottlings. I hope Diageo will continue to release good and interesting Talisker’s in the annual special releases.

Let it breathe for a while, this needs quite a lot of time and air to find more balance.

Points: 88

Last year I reviewed the Talisker 57° North and since that has an almost identical ABV, let’s do a H2H between North and this new 15yo. First of all, the North is ever so slightly darker, most likely from caramel colouring. On the nose North is much softer and definitely a lot younger. Much closer to new make spirit. That’s exactly the difference between a NAS and a 15yo. The 15 has more wood, and is more mature. North has more cream, like creamy sweet yoghurt. On the palate the North is way simpler, sweeter, rounder and again much younger as well. The North by itself is a nice high ABV Talisker. However, if you compare it to a Talisker with some proper ageing, the differences couldn’t have been greater. Different puppies altogether.

This is review #800.

Amrut Kadhambam (50%, OB, Batch No. 6, Bourbon matured, Rum, Sherry & Brandy Finish, 2017)

If you read my reviews back about Indian Malts, you know they are quite to my liking. However, the last review I did was way back in 2019, remember those pre-Corona days? How different life was back then? So it is about time to review a few more. Today I’m having a look at another Amrut. This time Kadhambam, which is the Tamil word for mixture. Well, what they have concocted here is a mixture of different finishes. The Amrut standard Single Malt (Bourbon matured) has been further matured in casks that previously held Rum, Sherry and Brandy. Those casks are then married together to form this Single Malt.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Malty, somewhat less Indian spices than expected but there is still a lot here, in part masked by a lot of other aroma’s. Dusty and sweet. Toffee with nice organics. Fruity, jam-like sweetness and almonds. Vanilla and powdered orange candy. The base Bourbon matured Malt is easily discernable, so the finishes didn’t overpower the Malt. It is also definitely noticeable, that a lot of different casks were used. The Brandy bit is recognizable from my earlier experiences with Port Charlotte CC:01 which was Cognac cask matured. When I smell this with a low flow rate, let’s say 5 seconds worth of snorting (which is quite long, just try if for yourself), lots aroma’s pass by. It is soft and spicy at the same time, very fruity and appetizing. Quite late in the mix the woody bits come forward. Licorice, pencil shavings and the familiar toasted oak. Cold sweet black tea, more licorice and a slight hint of tar. This might seem like a Whisky where just a lot was thrown together, yet still it manages to reach such a high level of balance. Amazing. This turned out very nicely.

The aroma’s of this Malt are transported well. 50% ABV is a very good strength for this. 40% ABV is rather weak for a Modern Malt and 60% ABV can be quite overpowering for some. Old Malts were made differently from different barley varieties, maybe different yeast strains and the cask may have been different. Old Malt’s could be easily diluted to 40% ABV. Just look at G&M’s Longmorn from 1971. Not everything was working At 40% ABV, but a lot did, and today that percentage would be lower. I don’t think Douglas Laing bottled their Old Malt Cask Whiskies at 50% ABV by accident, although I do suspect some economics were applied as well. If you reduce Whisky (a bit), you end up with more bottles to sell. But hey, Whisky is also a business, even though for some of us it feels like a charity. So nothing wrong with the business of it all. Luckily for us aficionado’s, Douglas Laing stopped diluting at 50% ABV. A heartfelt thanks for that!

Taste: Starts sweet and fruity, but thinking back to Port Charlotte CC:01, I don’t really remember that cask giving off this kind of sweetness. Toffee, runny warm caramel, fruit syrup and jam. The perfect sweetness takes a while to move over. Indian spices, almonds and licorice, toasted oak, sweet ripe red fruits and green banana. Let it breathe, it may be a bit closed at first (especially when you’re dealing with a freshly opened bottle). Wood in the back, as well as some cold ashes from the fireplace. There is a lot happening in this Malt, so all this stuff needs a while to break free. Very well balanced with a fruity and nutty aftertaste. Tasty! The longer this stands the nuttier the taste becomes. Amazing balance. Another cracker!

The price is gradually rising over the past few years, but at today’s price-point it is still very recommended. I guess the score reflects that.

Points: 88

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