Girvan 10yo 2006/2017 (50%, Creative Whisky Company, Single Cask Exclusives, GV005)

Five years ago I wrote about a North British Single Grain Whisky. There, I briefly explained what a Single Grain is. Most of you will know their Blended Whisky (Blends as we anoraks call them) and Single Malts. But lesser known are probably the Blended Malt Whiskies (Vatted Malts to us), and Grain Whiskies. The latter is used as the basis for Blended Whisky with some Single Malt added.

The North British, I reviewed earlier, was a decent example of a well aged Grain Whisky from yesteryear, since It was distilled way back in 1964. Now we have the chance to look at a very modern Grain Whisky distilled at Girvan. Girvan is a grain Whisky you will find, for example, in Grant’s Blended Whisky. Yes Girvan has the same owners as Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie (closed) and Ailsa Bay (new). Another fun fact is that Hendrick’s Gin is also made at Girvan, although I doubt I will find any cucumber in this 10yo Girvan.

Color: Straw

Nose: Sweet and bread-like, cookie dough. Very friendly and lively. Floral, perfumy, soft, laid-back and restrained. Toffee, caramel and slightly grassy. Some whiffs don’t even smell like Whisky to me, but closer to an aged Wodka, Gin, Calvados or even better: Jenever or Korenwijn. No evolution in the glass whatsoever, it stays the same through several minutes of breathing. Smells nice though, appetizing and sweet, but a Single Malt it is most definitely not. We have landed on a different planet altogether, folks.

Taste: Sweet on entry, with nice soft wood notes. Lots of caramel and toffee, and again, aged Gin notes. Slightly burnt edge from toasted oak. The texture isn’t cloying nor syrupy and isn’t sugary sweet as well, so if I would like something sweet(er), yet not really sweet, this would do the trick. If I would like something really sweet I still wouldn’t reach for a Liqueur but rather go for a PX-Sherry, but that’s me. Apart from that, I really don’t have a sweet tooth to boot.

So, this is sweet and creamy on entry, helped by the slightly higher than normal ABV. For me the 50% works very well. in fact, this isn’t for Liqueur or PX-drinkers at all, it shows too much spicy, and fresh, wood for that. It’s a Whisky after all. After the full-on entry, the body itself is already less big, creamy or sweet, yet somewhat hotter and drier. Reminds me a bit of a Brazilian Rum, something like Epris maybe. Hints of fruit emerge, candied ones obviously. Amazingly, since the entry is rather big and creamy, the body still holds its own. The finish itself is a bit hot and quite “small”. All seems gone for a moment, but it comes back in the aftertaste of which still has medium length.

Quite a surprise if you are expecting a Whisky. It’s still a Whisky made by the wood it was aged in. This was, again like the North British, a learning experience as well. Better, but also different, than expected and not very expensive, so try it if you dare, it won’t break the bank.

Points: 82

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The Benriach 10yo “Curiositas” (46%, OB, Peated, Circa 2006)

After all those very special expressions of “The” Benriach, it’s finally time to have a look at a more mundane Benriach. The standard 10yo, with peat, carrying the less mundane name of “Curiositas”, since it must have been very, very strange for Benriach to use peat? One just has to love the names they give their Whiskies. Curiositas was released in 2004. The expression I’m about to review was bottled in 2006 or earlier, so this is one of the firsts. Today the Curiositas is still a part of Benriachs core range, so it has proven itself to be quite a success.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fat peat, creamy and fruity. It’s peat alright, but elegant peat, if there is such a thing. Sounds a bit like an elegant Hummer or like claiming a pair of muddy Wellington’s can ever be called elegant. Compared to scruffy and iodine laden peated Whiskies from Islay, this is peated alright, but also very different. Crushed bugs (you had to be there), dabs of mud and gentle smoke. Big aroma at first, and also soft. However, the “bigness” gets less with breathing. Floral and soapy notes emerge. Cold dish water with a plethora of spices. Not really “farmy” but definitely a vegetable garden, Were Rabbit style.

Taste: Wow, this wasn’t what I expected. This starts out fruity and sugary. Very fruity in fact. One might ask, where is the peat? Cardboard and paper, soft wood and even more fruit turn up. A tiny smoky prickling sensation comes next, quickly followed by nice licorice notes. Creamy vanilla pudding with hints of coffee candy. Not a big body though, and to be frank, (not Dave), this has quite a short finish as well. This peated Whisky isn’t about power at all (alas), but more about the Speyside fruitiness, maybe rightly so. Ain’t that curious, yet logical too, when you think about it for a while. You gotta love the name now.

Peated Whiskies are very interesting, since especially “young” peated Whiskies can be very good without long ageing. Although I understand the Whisky, it’s not an expression I like best within the peated category. It’s nice, but from the body onwards. I feel, lacks too much oomph. I would have liked it much better if it would build more on the groundwork laid out by the nose., which seemed more peaty and smoky, but also more complex. Maybe it got better with the later batches.

Points: 82

Teaninich 10yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

In 1991, the predecessors of Diageo, the owners of Teaninich, introduced us to Teaninich and many other lesser known distilleries they own, through this series we now call Flora & Fauna. The labels depict local wildlife and sometimes plants. We have Michael Jackson to thank for the name, nevertheless, Diageo never adopted the name. In 2001 four new ones were added (Glen Elgin, Auchroisk, Glen Spey and Strathmill). For a short while nine cask strength versions were also available. Many of the original 22 entries have since vanished. Sometimes Diageo closed the distillery (Rosebank & Pittyvaich) or sold it off (Bladnoch, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aultmore, Aberfeldy, Balmenach and Speyburn), and in several cases Diageo put the distillery forward and graced them with their own series (Clynelish, Caol Ila, Mortlach, Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Elgin). The latter just added to the series in 2001. Today all that’s left of the Flora and Fauna series is (Teaninich, Benrinnes, Inchgower, Blair Athol, Linkwood, Mannochmore, Strathmill, Auchroisk, Glenlossie, Glen Spey and Dailuaine), although it seems Dailuaine is disappearing as well…

In this series I usually tend towards the more sherried expressions, since especially bottles bottled more than a decade ago show a lot of quality. The Whisky-boom wasn’t really there so lots of excellent Sherry casks found their way into this series. We already had a look at Mortlach and Benrinnes, but also Dailuaine and Blair Athol come to mind. Someone once gave me the Blair Athol to taste next to one bottled ten years prior, and the difference was amazing. A whopping 10 points. So yes, the best casks don’t seem to find their way anymore into the F&F series. However, for some distilleries the second best Sherry casks are still pretty decent, especially considering the bottles from this Flora and Fauna series are quite affordable to boot.

In comes this Teaninich, most definitely an expression that has never seen Sherry casks, and at 10yo, a very young one indeed. Still it’s a Teaninich and you know I love Teaninich, so even though no Sherry was used (probably), I still have some sort of high hopes for this one, since there is nothing to scoff at when Whisky has matured in Bourbon-wood. Barrel or hogshead alike.

Color: Dark straw yellow.

Nose: Buttery and woody. Yes, American oak for sure. Buttery and creamy. Custard pudding, coffee creamer (powder) with added sweet, ripe yellow fruits and a lot of influence from the wood. I said wood influence, not woody. Leafy. Dry plants and dried ice cream left over in the bowl. This seems like a typical (young) Whisky that has matured in American oak. If you are familiar with it, the profile can’t come as a surprise to you. As is the case with Whiskies like this, the beauty has to be found in the details. Occasional whiffs of fresh acidity (oak).

Taste: Short lived sweetness from the start, quickly to be overtaken by hints of fireworks, flint, sulphur (huh?) and liquorice. Didn’t expect that. Never simple, Teaninich. The sweetness doesn’t have any staying power though. It isn’t really present in the body nor in the finish. Maybe I’m interpreting the creamy notes with sweetness? Spicy notes emerge next. However it isn’t an easy Malt. This won’t do if you think you need a simple, American oak driven Whisky you want to drink playing cards with the boys. Because, if you give this enough attention, not all aroma’s are easy on the palate. Darn Teaninich, again more than you’d bargain for. Tea, with citrus aroma. sweet yellow fruits like dried apricots. This is a Whisky drinkers Malt, which is a very anoraky thing to say, Quill!

As I said above, if you drink this not giving it the attention it needs, it will let you down. For a careless drinker this isn’t really suitable. This means, not everything works as well as it should, because you, the sipper in this story, have to make it all fall into place, so without flaws this is not, and I have to score this accordingly.

Another word of caution. Flora & Fauna bottlings can be (very) different from batch to batch, decade to decade. This is a bottle bottled some fifteen years ago, so hard to tell what you get if you buy the latest release.

Points: 82

 

Port Charlotte 10yo (46%, OB, 13/153)

Many people like Springbank very much and some of those people, the likes of bloggers and vloggers and die-hard aficionados, call out to other distilleries to look more at Springbank as an example how they feel things have to be done. In that respect, hiding in plain sight is Bruichladdich, who are doing things like Springbank but in their own way. For one they have multiple brands: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore and more interestingly they are doing the “Local Barley” thing as well (f.i  the Bere Barley and Islay Barley bottlings). Both series contain rather young Whiskies, which are surprisingly good. Personally, even more exiting is the batch variation, which I find, adds to the adventure in Whisky, although I don’t think they change the composition as much as Springbank between batches. They even code like Springbank (here: 13/153). The first official Port Charlotte 10yo was bottled in 2012, so this is not the first batch of the first release, but it is still the first release, since in 2016 an official second release came out bottled at 50% ABV.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat, and dare I say it has a Sherried note? Honest and slightly sweet. Full-on aroma. Slightly sweaty and floral at the same time. Soft as well. Dusty. Clay and finger paint. Pencil eraser. Medicinal. Cold gravy. For me, very special stuff with quite some unusual markers. This big synergetic aroma easily overpowers the soft peat. Maybe not overpowers, but it sure works well in tandem with it. Nice development and evolution of the nose. Every sniff seems different from the last, unless you are sniffing continuously. Appetizing stuff.

Taste: Peat, wood and some fruit in the background. The fruit shows quite some acidity. Starts out sweet, caramel, toffee, but that isn’t here to stay. Well, the aromas stay but the sweetness retreats a bit. Licorice wood. More (different kinds of) licorice combined with milk chocolate mousse. Some soap in my toffee now, as well as some mints (mint candy). Is this the taste of the floral part? Where the nose had a big aromatic presence, the body of this Whisky isn’t as big. Alas the taste cannot keep up with the nose, but the potential is there. If the quality of any of the younger distillates is anything to go by I’m predicting the future of the 10yo to be a bright one. Just compare it to, the sweeter by the batch, offerings of Laphroaig and Ardbeg 10yo’s.

Yes even by today’s standard, 40 ppm phenols is heavily peated, even though by now we are used to the insane peating levels of Octomore, where 167 ppm is just the start.

Bruichladdich might not be the most original distillery around, although Octomore sure is as original as it gets, but it might very well be the most progressive of the bunch today. Springbank is a main stay for me and I guess Bruichladdich can be added to that list now as well. Don’t worry, these two aren’t the only ones on that list. Not by a long shot.

Points: 86

Clément 10yo 2003/2013 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.8%, Bourbon Cask #0310054, Vanille Intense, 459 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Alas, my 100% Canne Bleue version of a single cask Clément is almost gone. Damn small those 50cl bottles. I said I liked the smaller size of these bottles, because it would give us the chance to buy a bottle from another cask. True, but when they are as good as the first one, less definitely is not more. So what should I replace it with? Well, what about another version from Cléments single cask series. Yup, let’s do that. Sounds like a good idea. In comes the second version released: “Vanille Intense”. I don’t know about you, but somehow I’m expecting a R(h)um that is full of, well, vanilla notes. Where the previous one was all about the Canne Blue sugar cane variety, this time it’s all about the wood, or at least so I imagine. Sure R(h)um by itself can have enough notes of Vanilla, but here, I guess, it’s also the vanillin that came into the mix by way of the wood of the cask. It’s from a Bourbon cask, so American oak, which gives off vanilla notes to enhance the vanilla notes from the R(h)um. Expect intense vanilla notes.

By the way, a third version has been released recently, called “Moka Intense”. Interesting, but lets not get ahead of ourselves, and have a go at this “Vanille Intense” first, shall we?

clement-vanille-intenseColor: Copper golden brown.

Nose: Cookie dough. Luke-warm sweetened black tea. Vanilla. Only after this creamy start, the typical Rhum Agricole notes emerge, although throughout the whole experience, they are pushed back well into the background. So we are definitely in the territory of some active Bourbon casks here. Floral, honey and licorice. Nice (Indian) spicy wood, plywood and pencil shavings, although I don’t think they have used the latter two for this Rhum. Well integrated, a faint, but nice and sweet red fruit aroma. Leather and quite dusty. Next comes the sweetness, brown sugar and slightly warm toffee. This one really gives it up in layers. Is the vanilla intense? Well, not as much as the label suggested, but it is definitely a smoother and sweeter smelling Rhum, compared to its 100% Canne Bleue sister. It’s not the vanilla ice-cream I somehow expected. For me, especially the elegant woody notes are the best. Quite a nice nose, almost not a Rhum Agricole, but I like it!

Taste: Very soft, dull, dusty and sugary sweet. Simple. Warm sugar syrup with pencil shavings, cardboard and indian spices. Toasted cask. Lots of diluted toffee, watery caramel, licorice and vanilla. Spicy backbone from the oak, even a slight bitter vegetal note, with a late return of sugar. You can really taste the pencil shavings now. Remarkably soft and simple compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version. So it’s not about the vanilla after all. They just picked smooth, creamy, sweet and simple casks to avoid the potential rawness of the previous version I guess. Short finish as well, where the woody bitterness has the longest staying power. A bit disappointing really. Where the J.M 2002 and the Clément 100% Canne Bleue had something extra, this Vanille Intense does not. I think the Rum Nation Martinique Hors d’Âge is just as good and way more affordable.

Compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version, this one is less raw. More civilized and simple. Also toned down a bit. The 100% Canne Bleue seems to explode with aroma. Dare I say that the Vanille Intense is a bit boring? I just did, didn’t I? I don’t know if the lower ABV has something to do with it, or maybe it is just the profile of this Rhum. Also remember these are single cask bottlings and there should be a difference from cask to cask. Going on these two I will probably buy another bottle, bottled from a different cask, of the 100% Canne Bleue version (Brown label) and pass up on another Vanille Intense (Green label). Don’t get me wrong, the green ‘un is still good, but not as good as the brown ‘un…

Points: 85

The Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

We move back a decade or so to visit one of our old friends. One of the most standard bottlings of that time, the original Macallan 10yo. It had an age statement back then and was diluted to 40% ABV. It was the time, no fan of Macallan or otherwise, was aware of the dark clouds that were forming up ahead. Finally the storm broke and we were given the Fine Oak series. So for me the downfall in quality started with bottlings issued in the newly designed bottlings like the “Fine Oak” series. However, if memory serves me well, in 2002 they started releasing some sort of NAS called the “Elegancia”, preparing us for a softer and smoother experience, moving away from the true Sherry experience of the true Macallan. Not truly a NAS by the way, since it did carry a vintage, like Elegancia 1991. Nevertheless, after the Fine Oaks I really didn’t look back. I was so disappointed. I turned my attention towards Longmorn instead. Back then a lot of it was around and at fair prices to boot. The standard 15yo was pretty good, although the introduction of the 16yo made me rise my eyebrows a bit. Better looking bottle, but the Whisky was less interesting. No, may independent released some pretty stellar Longmorns, so I needn’t look back at Macallan. Of course I did try some of the newer bottlings, but I was never convinced moving back towards the Macallan. Only the future can tell us.

Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, Circa 2003)Color: Dark orange gold.

Nose: Wow, very aromatic. Heaps of Sherry. Extremely fruity, Cherries, apples and banana. Simply wonderful. Already from the start a nice backbone of (new) Oak and a promise of toffee’d sweetness. Warm runny caramel. A lot is happening from the start and it only needs little time to reach a nice balance. This is how I remember drinking Whisky a decade ago, without even giving it much thought then. Stuff like this would be around forever, wouldn’t it? Damn, why is it so hard to make something like this today? Ice cream, vanilla, caramel, laced with apples. Sugared apples and a splash of plain and simple refined sugar-water. Fruity, but not only apples. Sugared cherries and hints of mango and passion fruit. A tropical mix that could have been an older Tomatin. Resembles Tomatin 25yo a bit. Thick and cloying at first, but give it some time to breathe and the whole gets thinner. I wouldn’t say it dies out on us, but it does get a bit more restrained. Balances out. Every time I smell this I get hints of well made Calvados. It becomes fresher. More waxy apple skin aroma’s emerge. When you look for it, there are hints of toasted cask. Hints that are more upfront in older good Ex-Sherry cask matured Whiskies.

Taste: Simpler. Starts out soft and sweet, but not as complex as the nose. Tropical fruits and runny caramel again. Is is youth? Probably not. Is it reduction? I guess so. Sweet and on entry, sometimes like someones bad breath mixed with cardboard, what? Relax, it’s not that bad actually. This time around definitely some toasted cask in the mix, which does wonders for the balance. It gives the fruity and fresh Whisky a nice backbone. Slightly bitter oak, slightly burned as well. New sappy wood aroma is also present, although it is highly unlikely new wood was used, but you never know don’t you. The wood is sappy and sometimes a bit harsh and upfront. It’s the “burned” sensation however, that stays well into the finish. Also a nice and rich nuttiness appears towards the finish, combined with the cardboard we found earlier. For a 40% ABV Whisky this has a pretty lengthy finish, but no, it’s not long.

Tasting it now, in 2016, this is high quality by todays standard. Remember this was the simplest of Macallans some ten years ago. Sure, Italy had their official 7yo, since they like young and fresh Whiskies. Hard to believe not so long ago this was entry-level stuff. Today this would have been packaged in a shiny box that costs more than the  Whisky itself did ten years ago. You don’t want to know even how much it would cost today. Looking at auction prices, I would say every time, you get a fair deal when you want to buy one like these. Go for it. They don’t make them like this anymore.

Points: 85

Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, 2003)

Another peated whisky in the summer? Has Master Quill gone completely crazy? Yes, because who wants to be “normal”! If you feel like it, just do it… By the way, it’s raining like crazy outside, so it only seems fitting.

2001 saw the first release of a 10 year old, with a vintage. Remember the classic brown paper Longrow label on the tall bottle? The first two releases, both in 2001 and both distilled in 1991 were a “normal one” said to be only from Bourbon, but also, for one time only, a Sherrywood. The series was short-lived, and was discontinued in 2006 after the 1996 vintage, in favour of the 10yo without a vintage statement. Throughout the series I don’t believe all normal ones were from Bourbon casks only, if any. You know Springbank, they tend not to repeat themselves. Just compare the last two releases of the Longrow 18yo (with the white labels), since the 2016 release contains Rum casks. Never a dull moment with Springbank and all of their other brands. Today we’ll have a look at the 1993 vintage of the 10yo, that was released in 2003.

Longrow 10yo 1993Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat. Fatty and smoky. The peat is smelling three-dimensional. It’s not only just there, it goes deep, and seems without end in complexity. Peat mixed with hints of lemon, waxy apple skins and vanilla. Cookie dough. Whiffs of warm apple pie. Burning leaves, sugared yellow fruits and even hints of sweet-smelling sweat, crushed beetle and slightly burned herbs and even has a quaint nuttiness about it. Very balanced stuff, with only a mere hint of wood. All seems to fit in together nicely. This is the best peat I’ve smelled in quite some time. I must admit, it had plenty of air to work with. Love it.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Heavy on licorice and the peat is shoved into the background, by the sweetness. The sweetness dissipates and leaves more room for a sort of herbal fruitiness. Prickly licorice and the nuttiness from the nose. Alas the peat never really makes it to the top and the wonderful depth it has on the nose doesn’t really blossom tasting it. Long finish, built around the caramel sweetness and with a larger role for sour oak. Coffee and chocolate in the aftertaste. It still is a wonderful Malt. Just if the complexity of the nose would have shone through in the taste, it would have been a truly exceptional Whisky.

Well this might not be a Whisky from the seventies, but it does remind me of the quality of that decade. I’m actually amazed a bit that many of the vintages are still available, although somewhat more expensive than the new 10yo.

Points: 88