Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 “Warehouse No 1” (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)

That’s not all! There is more. I hope you didn’t think I would have only hand-filled Aberlours from ex-Bourbon casks now didn’t you? This is a case of saving the best for last, at least so I hope. Experience showed me that the Aberlour spirit fares well in Sherry casks, and often something wonderful emerges. Just take a look at one of the best NAS bottlings in the Marketplace: The Aberlour A’bunadh. Up ’till now I reviewed two batches on Master Quill: #13 and #33 and calling both pretty good would be an understatement. Here we have a sort of A’bunadh only older and coming from a single cask. So who knows, maybe it’s even better!

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 Warehouse No 1 (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)Color: Warm and dark orange brown.

Nose: Wonderfully sherried. Toffee and cherries. Slightly tarry and very reminiscent of A’bunadh, so I would go with Oloroso Sherry for this one. Nice soft oak. Slightly burnt caramel and the whole comes across with nice toffee notes, without its sweetness though. Well balanced and definitely older than A’bunadh. With some air more rubbery notes appear and more dry wood. Very dusty actually. Tiny hint of cola sweetness and even a hint of florality? Where A’bunadh sometimes can smell a bit harsh, this oozes softness. Excellent stuff.

Taste: Yes more A’bunadh. Starts with a high note of acidity, that quickly moves into cherries and a tarry woody depth. Nice liquid toffee temporary sweetness. Mocha and cream. Latte Macchiato (with a wee bit too much milk). Sticky toffee pudding. Schwarzwalder kirsch trifle, all again without their usual sweetness. Dusty. Extremely drinkable. Lovely.

Even though its twice the age of A’bunadh, it’s very similar in its initial profile. Forgetting the smoothness and softness brought to this Whisky by ageing, you can see this as a single cask A’bunadh. Both share a lot. Having said that, and more or less claiming this is (easily) recognizable as an A’bunadh, I have to say that it also reminds me a lot of the 1996 Ultimate (and Signatory) Longmorns. Earlier I reviewed three of those: cask 72315, cask #72319 and cask #105091.

Points: 89

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Abuelo Centuria Reserva de la Familia (40%, Panama)

You thought I was finished with Abuelo, no? Nope, there is still another Abuelo available. The Centuria was released in 2011, one year after the 12yo in celebration of the distillery’s centennial. It is said to be a blend of the Varela family’s own private reserves. Hmmm, holding on to the best stuff for private use aren’t we? Luckily they have found it in their hearts to share a part of it with the world. For this Rum, only estate-grown sugarcane is used, which could mean that for the other three versions also Rum from molasses may have been used or sugarcane grown elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with that. The Rum was aged in a solera system for up to three decades and matured in American Whiskey barrels (Probably Jack Daniels). 3.000 bottles were produced. For such a limited quantity run, it is quite special that this hasn’t sold out yet. Maybe 3.000 bottles were initially released, but more were made since.

Abuelo CenturiaColor: Dark brown, PX Sherry.

Nose: Fantastic old oak. Dark chocolate. Creamy vanilla and a slightly acidic note. Leather and dark organics. Spicy and hints of orange skins. Gingerbread spices with dried oranges. Sometimes this nose reminds me of a very old Single Malt Whisky. The nose is always centered around the many different wood notes. The wood changes, but will never let you down. It’s the centerpiece, its like nosing the wooden interior of the ball-room of the Titanic (before it sank). You’d almost dress up to nose this.

Taste: Ahh now we’re talking. Coal and tar. Great interaction between dry oak and half sweet, slightly burnt sugar and caramel. Creamy even. Long finish with soft old oak, gingerbread spices and some licorice. Polished furniture. In the distance there is the fresh and acidic fruit. Here it is pushed back a little (by spicy wood) and thus aids the overall taste. In the 12yo this fruit is up-front and ruins the whole balance with its strange acidity. In this one they got it right. I would say, back to the drawing board with the 12yo! Lots of old Rum in this one, but blended masterfully not to let the oak dominate. Not sure if it’s all solera though.

This is hands down the best of the bunch. Even at this price point. It costs about as much as four bottles of the 12yo, today at least, but I expect it to be even more expensive in the near future. However, this is still the one to get. The other three are decent Rums, but each of them can be replaced by many others. A bit anonymous? So, nothing special compared to the Centuria. The Centuria is fantastically unique and is worth its price, even at 40% ABV.

Points: 89

Hampden 17yo 1990/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Jamaica)

Quite nice trying some Rums in a row, something I haven’t done in a while, and I have to admit it, it’s quite a lot of fun. After the white Plantation, and the brown Cockspur 12, let’s try a super premium high ester Rum from Jamaica, bottled by the old Wine and Whisky traders, Berry Brothers & Rudd.

Hampden Distillery from Jamaica is known for heavy pot still Rums a.k.a. high ester Rums. A lot of effort is made in the workings of yeast in the production process using century old fermentors, and of course, they use their own cultured yeasts. Hampden has a reputation to uphold when it comes to this kind of high ester Rum.

Hampden 1990 BBRColor: White wine.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Lots of esters. Extremely funky and dense. I really love Jamaican Rum, and this is exactly why. I recognize the typical Jamaican smell from the Plantation Jamaican Rums. Its thick and chewy. Rum with raisins or raisins full of Rum. It reminds me of a lot of things but I can’t put my finger on it what it exactly is. Christmas cake. Vanilla Ice cream with raisins in it. Reminds me of Napolitanean cassata ice-cream. That’s it. Loads of vanilla and new (bicycle) tires, where do you get that! Great funkiness. After a while a bit dusty. This is reggae in a bottle. Excellent stuff, I need it.

Taste: Sweet (just right for me) and lots of fruity acidity. Which is a great addition that prevents this Rum from becoming too heavy or cloying, what is even worse. So it has a lot of the Jamaican funk, but it is also super fruity. Unbelievable. Heaviness I can deal with, I love it actually, but overly and sugary sweet, nope, not my cup of tea. This Hampden ís my cup of tea. Give me the whole pot! Clean (no, not clean actually) and funky, slightly Industrial. But I like Industrial notes in Rum. You can find it in Caroni from Trinidad, but also in Rum Agricole. Good drinkability at 46% ABV. Lovely stuff. Sipping away at this, the added acidity stand out in the finish, defining it, and sometimes can be too much.

I don’t want to add too much to what I’ve already written above. This is great Rum and I really like this style. For a Jamaican, it could have been dirtier even, and bottled at a higher strength even, but I’m not complaining. this is wonderful stuff, with more than usual fruitiness, and a nice fresh acidity. All that after 17yo! Wow. I can almost cry this isn’t available anymore.

Points: 89

Tomatin 40yo 1967/2007 (42.9%, OB, Seven Bourbon Hogsheads, 1614 bottles)

As can be read on these pages, Tomatin rarely disappoints. There is always room on my lectern for a tropical Tomatin. Especially older Tomatins quite hit the mark with fabulous aroma’s of tropical and citrus fruits for which it is known. Tomatin has a high reputation with bourbon cask only bottlings like the 15yo that has been discontinued to be replaced with the 14yo port finish. The 25yo has been discontinued too, which also was made with Bourbon casks only. Now, here we have a 40yo Tomatin formed from seven Bourbon Hogsheads with distillate from 1967. You may have heard of The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper? Yes 1967. And this is still available. How is that possible? Is this bottling a dud of some sorts? Time to find out…

Tomatin 40yo 1967/2007 (42.9%, OB, Seven Bourbon Hogsheads, 1614 bottles)Color: Copper brown gold.

Nose: Sweet and fruity, quite typical for older Tomatins. Lots of vanilla and quite thick. Highly aromatic. Quite syrupy too. Hints of mint and black coal and even some tar and sweets. Complex with lots of development. Give it time. Almonds are coming through after a while. Great nuttiness, rarely seen in Tomatin. Fruity, dusty and dirty at times. Great.

Taste: Fruity again, but also some bitter hops, waxy bitter wood. Elegant. Sweet and brittle at the same time. Lovely waxy stewed and candied fruits towards the finish. Lovely vanilla, with memories of old wood in the back. Apricot and vanilla pudding with fresh and acidic red berry sauce on top. Hints of mint are here in the taste as well. Fabulous development built up in layers and a lovely finish to boot. At the end of the finish the expected woody bitterness (and pencil shavings with almonds) appear or stay behind when the momentarily overpowering waxy fruitiness dissipates. Sweet almond cookies are all over this Malt. The taste is less complex than the nose and shows a surprising fruity freshness and youthfulness.

Malts like this were reasonably expensive when they came out and prices have been rising ever since. However, modern malts can never be like this anymore. So why dish out 300 euro’s for a modern 12yo generic special edition when you can pay a measly 100 more and get yourself a museum-piece still readily available on the market today. This is history in a bottle. Isn’t that worth something?

Points: 89

Glengoyne 21yo 1985/2006 (53%, OB, First Fill Sherry Butt #629, 632 bottles)

Two years ago Master Quill had a week specially dedicated to Glengoyne. In that week I reviewed a Glengoyne from 1985 called “Summer” a Limited Release. There also was a Winter (1984 Vintage), a Spring (1972 Vintage) and an obviously an Autumn (1969 Vintage). Essentially all four are Single Cask releases (SC) like the one I’ll be reviewing shortly. This 1985 should be quite interesting since it was drawn from a sister cask of the “Summer”. Summer was drawn from cask #608, and this SC was drawn from cask #629, so that should be interesting.

Glengoyne 21yo 1985/2006 (53%, OB, First Fill Sherry Butt #629, 632 bottles)Color: Mahogany brown.

Nose: Nice Oloroso Sherry nose, with lots of fruits. Fresh and acidic. Wonderful depth. Earthy and dusty, but never dull or heavy. Creamy with hints of vanilla. A very vibrant fruity nose. This probably was a considered a contender for the “Summer” spot. Small hints of warm asphalt. Dusty with some licorice, mocha and licorice. Meringue. Extremely balanced and likeable.

Taste: Cardboard, almonds and quite some licorice again. Warming. Spicy and soft old wood. Creamy and very nice. Fruity vanilla, pudding with warmed up red fruits on top (part fruit, part sauce). Spicy sharpness (hot) because of the alcohol, without that, quite soft and creamy. Slight acidic touch towards the finish, and enough wood. Again, just like the nose. Extremely balanced. Wonderful Oloroso Sherried bottling.

Although a very good Glengoyne Single Cask, I thought the “Summer” was even better. More complexity and even better integrated aroma’s. A bigger body and an even better finish. However, make no mistake. This Butt #629 is no dud, far from it. Hardly any Sherry bottling these days is a good as this is. You know the lonesome tropical Island question, and what to take? If I had to take this one instead of the “Summer” I still would go in a heartbeat!

Points: 89

The New Zealand Whisky Collection The 25yo (46%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, 2013 Pré Release)

In October 2013 I met Greg Ramsay (a.k.a. The Tasmanian Devil) and his Master Distiller Cyril Yates.  Three years earlier he bought the New Zealand Malt Whisky Company and all of its remaining stock of 450 casks. Under the new regime several new releases saw the light of day. Some reduced to 40% and some at cask strength. When Greg and Cyril came to London (where I met them), they also had a pré release version of their 25yo with them. They brought some sample bottles bottled at 46% ABV and asked a few people what they thought of it. Yours truly got on his high “reduction” horse and opted that all future releases should be 46% ABV as probably many others did. Yes I understand that reduction to 40% means lower tax and more output, but the Whisky tasted so much better. Earlier I reviewed The South Island 18yo and the South Island 21yo, which both are pretty good, but which I thought, suffered a bit by reduction to 40% ABV.  By now the 25yo has been released at 46%, but here I’ll review the sample I got of the pré release version. It should be the same Whisky.

The New Zealand Whisky Collection The 25yo (46%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, 2014)Color: Almost full gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic and super fruity. This brings back memories, because in London I liked this so much I couldn’t help myself and try it several times. Tropical fruits abundant. Sugared pineapple, mango and passion fruit. Old bottle waxiness. This leaps out of your glass with a big smile. Hints of bourbon vanilla and elegant wood. The wood here is just lightly present in no way does it interfere with the fruit, nor giving a big backbone, although it adds a little spice. No, this is another kind of Whisky.

Taste: Fruit and cream, Whipped cream and vanilla pudding. All of the fruits above but also maracuja. So much better at this strength. Warming and obviously a bit hotter. Slight hints of sawdust, slightly bitter oak and soapy florality. This one has it all. Slight nuttiness from the wood. Towards the finish a new kind of fruit enters the fold: citrus fruit. I get the smallest hints of red oranges and grapefruit (not the bitterness especially, that is still more woody). In the finish there are also hints of banana and banana foam candy, yes both. How is that for a fruit basket. Get me this when I ever wind up in hospital. This Malt has excellent balance and just tastes fabulous.

This is a again a step up from the 21yo. Although that one was very good, when you compare that one to this 25yo, wow what a fabulous Malt this turned out to be. This Whisky needs the higher strength. Guys 46% is the way to go. Wonderful.

Points: 89

Laphroaig Week – Day 3: Laphroaig ‘An Cuan Mòr’ (48%, OB)

Laphroaig SignDay three of Master Quill’s Laphroaig Week and we are still in the territory of Official Bottlings (OB). Probably one of the nicest NAS (No Age Statement) Whiskies around is the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, but just like other distilleries, Laphroaig seem to have gone berzerk, issuing lots and lots of NAS Whiskies lately: Brodir (Port), PX Cask (self-explanatory), QA Cask (partly uncharred oak), Select (I hate that name) and the Triple Wood (Bourbon, Quarter Casks and Oloroso Sherry). Like so many other (NAS) Whiskies, the Laphroaig at hand: An Cuan Mòr (Big Ocean), was released to travel retail but it seems somehow pretty available everywhere else too.

From the Laphroaig website: “All have been matured in first-fill-only ex-American white oak bourbon barrels in our warehouse right next to the Atlantic. This whisky is then carefully re-casked and left to sleep in the finest European oak.” Alas no word about age or how long both particular types of casks were used. Oh well, we’ll have to do with the end result, and not care about age then.

Laphroaig An Cuan MorColor: Orange brown gold.

Nose: Hefty and rubbery. New bicycle tires. I like this. Not your ordinary Laphroaig. Dry red-fruity peat (dare I say medicinal?), and lots of (dry) Sherry influence. (I mean dry as a result, not that the Sherry is dry). It’s hard to get past the rubbery elements in this. The red fruits come across as the cherries in modern and new world Pinot Noir Wines with forest strawberries and raspberries. Probably the new favorite malt of Christian Grey (or Dorian Gray for that matter). Hints of Vanilla, but the rubbery Sherry is so hefty it’s hard to pick up lots of the masked notes.

Taste: Ashes, sweet and fruity. Laphroaig themselves mention burnt apricot and that fits the bill. Let’s not forget the peat. Well balanced, and a great development throughout the body. Halfway through: paint, licorice. Good ABV. Candy sweetness and fruitiness. Winegums and vanilla. Nice warming body, and all the strange aroma’s are working extremely well together. Long lingering finish, and never a bitter wood note.

Yes, They’ve done it again! Another Laphroaig love it or hate it Malt. I’m loving it. What a great WONKY NAS this is. For some, completely over the top, but isn’t that what Laphroaig is all about. Isn’t that what Lamborghini is all about. They should make crazy stuff, that’s what they are here for. Both make love it or hate it products, and in my opinion both are trying to be too nice with their latest offerings. Concerning Laphroaig, just look at the toning down and  over-sweetification of my beloved 10yo (they have ruined it!) and the Select. (I hate that name). Many of you won’t understand why I love this An Cuan Mòr so much, and that’s OK. Laphroaig are releasing quite a few other Whiskies too, and they all are pretty different and decent, so pick out another one, you’ll be all right. Leave this one for me (and Franc W).

Points: 89

This one is for Billy “Wonky”Abbott and Franc “The Mayor” W.