Hampden 13yo 1992/2006 (66.2%, Cadenhead, “HLCF”, Pot Still, Jamaica)

The previous review was of a more recent official release and I wrote down some sparse and basic early history of Hampden Estate. Well, since all good things come in pairs, I’ve managed to unearth, from my stash of samples, a nice companion to the previous review. If you call the official one bottled at 60% “Overproof”, then surely this Cadenhead’s offering fits that bill as well, clocking in at 66.2% ABV. Since the previous review turned out to be quite a long one, I decided to leave it at that and keep the rest of the information I gathered for that review for future reviews of Hampden Rums. Well, the next one came along rather quickly, so I can now use this space to tell you some more about the recent history of Hampden as well as some basic info about the marks of Hampden.

By 2003 Hampden Estate was nearly bankrupt, and the government of Jamaica stepped in to save a lot of local jobs, since lots of people were employed by the estate as a whole, working for the sugar factory, the distillery, the great house and working the 750 acres of sugar cane fields. A lot of legalities were exercised between 2003 and 2009, when finally the Jamaican government sold Hampden Estate at auction. The new owners became Everglades Farms Ltd. owned by the Hussey Family. The Hussey’s are well known on the island owning several (different) businesses on the island.

When making Rum for different purposes, one can aim for a certain ester count. So for instance, when making Rum as used in baking, a high ester count is key, for it gives off a lot of aroma with a tiny amount of liquid. For our purpose, the more esters the heavier and more flavorsome the Rum becomes. Are you a Rum aficionado, then you likely prefer a high ester count, are you a novice, the lower marks are best places to start your Rum journey on (if you can find them on the label that is. Again I’m going to steer you towards Matt, since he has, yet again, a very informative page on his site about the marks of Jamaican Rum, as well as to the site of Marius where he comprised a list of which marks were produced in which years at Hampden Estate (especially useful for the independent bottlings of Hampden). We can put this to the test and look up 1992 and sure enough, 1992 is coupled with HLCF. HLCF stands for Hampden Light Continental Flavoured and has an ester count of 500 to 700 g/hlaa (grams per hectolitre of absolute alcohol), which in comparison to most other Rums on the market is very heavy, but for Hampden, this mark can be found on the bottom half of the list!

Before we dip into this Rum here is the list of Hampden Marks:

  • DOK – Dermot Owen Kelly – 1500-1600 g/hla
  • C<>H – Continenal Hampden – 1300-1400 g/hlaa
  • H/GML – Hampden George MacFarquhar Lawson – 1000-1100 g/hlaa
  • <>H – Hampden – 900-1000 g/hlaa
  • H/LCF – Hampden Light Continental Flavoured – 500- 700 g/hlaa
  • LROK – Light Rum Owen Kelly – 250- 350 g/hlaa
  • LFCH – Lawrence Francis Close Hussey – 85- 120 g/hlaa
  • OWH – Outram Warmold Hussey – 40- 80 g/hlaa

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Banana (only in the first nano-seconds or so) and some soft dull wood, cold gravy and tree sap. Even more banana and papaya come next, and like the previous Hampden a lot of fruit in the pre-rot phase, especially pineapple. Passion fruit ice cream mixed with vanilla ice cream and a wee sprinkle of wee (lukewarm urine, acidic). Wow all this just leaps at you. Vegetal, with dried pineapple and an undefined solvent. Dry and dusty notes with licorice (of the all sorts kind), announcing wood. Funk, dried cow dung (lying in the sun) and leather. Artificial fertilizer and a slight note of warm plastic, like the electrical cable mentioned in the previous review. Cold black tea. Very fruity with lots of spicy and woody notes for balance (I don’t get the wood all the time though…). 17th century spices. Sailing ship hold after a spice transport. Very well balanced. The freshly emptied glass reveals cinnamon, and dare I say that it smells even better than the glass still containing the Rum. Maybe the high ABV gets a bit in the way of things, although normally that isn’t a problem for me. Soft wood, and more different spices, still this associated with times lone gone. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t smell like anything from the past two centuries I guess. The note mentioned earlier turns into a more organic urine note, steamed up sauna full of people. Died out fire, cold burnt wood, charcoal. Very complex and laid back. Hints of grenadine lemonade and even the slightest whiff of cola and unripe green apples. Amazing stuff, very different from those dosed and utterly sweet and cloying Rums, some people believe to be true Rum. Remember the Rums of A.H. Riise and even worse, Don Papa? Freak out!

Taste: Starts with most of the fruits from the nose as well as the wood, and its bitterness, and the urine notes with some added ear wax notes. Might sound horrible, but isn’t, although it’s impossible to shed this association. I guess this makes this Rum not for everyone, but I don’t think “everybody” will seek out this Rum that was bottled a good fifteen years ago. Fruity with ashes. Oranges and lemons to some degree, but it seems to be those aroma’s without being all that citrussy. Hope this still makes sense… Warming and friendly. Some toffee and warm caramel, but to a lesser extent than your usual Rum. Very well balanced. I would never have guessed this was as high in ABV as it is. Quite tasty but with, in some areas, medium staying power. Some bitterness in the finish, as well as the urine and some varnish and/or resin.

This is a Rum (I mean Hampden in general) that in nose and taste, is closer to “extreme” than “middle of the road”. It is very big and unusual. Rivière du Mât is another good example of this. I guess both Rums are not for you, if you are new to the game of Rum, nor if have a mind unlike a parachute (works best when open). An acquired taste.

Comparing the Cadenhead’s offering to the Overproof shows us something interesting. First of all, the Cadenhead’s is five years older, yet the Overproof is darker in colour. That in itself isn’t saying much, however, the Overproof is made up of foremost lighter marks OWH and LROK (OK, and a wee bit DOK for good measure) and the Cadenheads offering with H/LCF, but smelling both side by side the Overproof seems fuller, less fresh and acidic, yet more syrupy and glue like, so more of this indistinct solvent mentioned above. The average consumer would associate the smell of Overproof more like a “classic” Rum. The Cadenhead’s offering smells quite different and more complex (as it should). Both are actually quite good, and quite different as well. Both have their good and bad sides to them. Cadenhead’s needs some work and experience from the taster, Overproof is more forgiving and surely would please more people. For me personally, the Overproof just might be the better Rum overall, although that obviously is a matter of taste, but the Cadenhead’s has the better, definitely less cloying and more complex finish. The Overproof seems to be also a more modern Rum, where the Cadenhead’s brings back times long forgotten. Both Rums have been a blast to review.

The empty glass (the next day) smells of wood and hints of chlorine, yet soft and waxy, hints of lemon (acidity) and wood and a wild mix of herbs. Old machine oil, like lying on the bottom of an old motor vessel that hasn’t run for many years. (Rivière du Mât has also this old machine and industrial feel to it, maybe even more so). Smelling an empty glass the next day, can reveal things you didn’t pick up on when tasting, and especially with Hampden Rums this seems true.

Points: 87

Savanna 15yo 2004/2019 (62.8%, Rum Nation, Rare Rums, 2nd Fill Cognac Cask #59, 402 bottles, Réunion)

So the yet another strange year has passed (2021), a year Master Quill did a lot of Whisky yet finished off with a Rhum Traditionelle (distilled from Molasses) most likely from Savanna. Today it’s 2022, so why not pick up where we left off with yet another Rhum Traditionelle from the same outfit, but this time Savanna has been mentioned on the label.

This offering was released in Rum Nations’ Rare Rhum series, with nice and classy white labels. The websites Rum Nation keeps up, are quite good and informative. Just have a look at the page for this Rhum particularly. Reading all the info about this Rhum some additional facts becomes apparent to us consumers, like this is in fact a 13yo Rhum, since the Rhum only aged in wood for 13 years (in the tropics). The Rhum spent its final 2 years in Stainless steel tanks (in Europe). In the introduction it is also mentioned this comes from Cognac casks (plural), yet the label mentions one cask #59. So the more information one gets the more questions arise… Well let’s not dwell too long about the facts ma’am and shift focus towards the Rhum at hand.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Sweetish, with warm toffee and caramel. Intense, oozing with perfumed aromatics. Quite fruity as well, with dry notes as well. Dusty and somewhat oaky. Cold black tea. Dried red fruit. Goji berries. Even though this is clearly a Savanna, like the previous reviewed Rhum, this also has some similarities to the Rhums Traditionnelle from Rivière du Mât, maybe that is the (volcanic) influence of the island? The Rhum smells extremely balanced and appetizing, but not all that complex to be honest. When this gets some time to breathe it also becomes more and more “friendly” and less intense, less of a heavy hitter. When snorted vigorously, some green spices emerge (reluctantly). Dried parsley? Hard to tell actually. More sugared black tea and somewhat nutty as well. Fragrant.

Taste: Yeah, big. Very nutty. Edible charcoal and nuts. Initially sweet but when that coating descends down the hole, quite a lot of wonderful chewy wood and heat come forward. Yup, more toffee. Tropical ageing all right! Sweet, nutty, hints of toasted oak and some smoke from a distant laid back smoke lying in the grass. The wood influence is quite big, and may not be for everyone, it isn’t all that disturbing to me. It deals with the sweetness in a wonderful way, but yes some might say this has aged too long, probably why this was transferred into stainless steel. Having tasted it now, the nose get even better than it already was. Dark chocolate, peppery, white pepper, herbal and with some good velvety bitters. More ashes and toasted oak. I like the oaky bitters in this Rhum. It suits it well. I’m tasting this from a sample, so I don’t have a back label at hand, but it should make the statement that this is an austere Rhum for connoisseurs who don’t like excessive sweetness. It did so on the back label of the previous Rhum I reviewed.

Since I still have a tiny amount left of the Réunion Cask Strength 7yo, and since it just has to be another Savanna, lets just compare the two. The 7yo is definitely lighter, friendlier and has a somewhat more industrial plastic smell in the nose, close to a more children’s clay smell. Many similarities, but in a toned down fashion, yet more of the fruity and sweet black tea notes. This 15yo just has more of everything (a lot of wood especially). On the palate the similarities don’t end, the 7yo is lacking most of the wood, but it also does show you how the 15yo was before most, yet not all, of the wood influence. The 7yo seems simple compared to the 15yo, but its worth the price of admission and the score I gave it earlier. So if you are having it, just don’t have it after the 15yo, that “wood” make no sense. Catch my driftwood? The 15yo is just a lot bigger, more mature and more sophisticated than the 7yo is, and has a lot more wood influence, but I believe you already got that if you made it this far down the review…

Summa sumarum: this Cask #59 is just a great Savanna.

Points: 89

Merci beaucoup Auke for the sample!

Longrow Red 13yo “Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon” (51.6%, OB, 10 years Bourbon Barrels & Refill Sherry Hogsheads, 3 years Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels, 9.000 bottles, 2020, 20/08)

Of all the Longrow Red’s that have been bottled, most follow some sort of recipe: first a long maturation in Bourbon casks, followed by a shorter term finish in casks that previously held a Red Wine. Only two deviate from this recipe: 2014’s Fresh Port, which had a full 11 years maturation in Port casks, the other one this 2020’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, where part of the initial maturation was carried out in Sherry casks. By the way, the Wine casks for this edition were sourced from Mont Gras’ Intriga Estate in Alto Maipo, Chile.

As mentioned in the introduction of the previous review for the 2019 Pinot Noir edition of Red, when I tasted this Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 edition, I really liked it, so I got half a bottle. Still not sure ‘eh Quill? Probably not. One simply doesn’t put an open bottle in storage, nope, open bottles belong on the lectern here in Master Quill’s castle, and should be enjoyed right away. When tasting through this half bottle, especially when it was still half full, the smell and taste had some great funky organic peat going on, which I really liked, so I even went further and finally bought myself a full bottle, and put it directly in storage, because there is no room for closed bottles on said lectern. Lectern’s aren’t all that big, you know. Nope, there is no need to have the same whisky open twice one right after the other. This shared bottle is now almost empty, usually the moment the distillate of the Springbank distillery is at its best, so time to write up this review…

Color: Bright orange gold. Radiant with a pink hue.

Nose: Warm and creamy peat and dusty. In a way, hints of Wine, but not so much a Cabernet Sauvignon (a Red Wine), but at times more like a fragrant Alsatian White Wine with a little bit of added bonfire smoke for good measure. Definitely more Winey than the 2019 Pinot Noir edition. On top, hints of citrus combined with some funky organics with hints of bad breath. Not actually sweet, but sweeter than the Pinot Noir. Some recognizable notes of Oloroso Sherry, as can be found in several Hazelburn offerings. Wood, pencil shavings, paper and peat with hints freshly crushed green grapes, acidic, as in not very ripe grapes. Aromatic, farmy and perfumy (vetiver?). Soft and fruity, (little forest strawberries?), peat and some sweet and soft smoke. Bonfire smoke again. It starts with fatty and creamy peat, but before you know it, the smoke quietly displaces the peat. Wee hints of vanilla. This vanilla bit seems to be integrated with the fruity notes, like a custard with fruit syrup poured over it. Creamy. Not hard to smell this is a Wine finish though, and once you smell it, it can’t be un-smelled. Toasted Wine infused oak and some more pencil shavings. Faint smell of unlit Cuban cigar. Soft fresh wood and in part resembling the cigar box itself. Sweet funky organic note emerges next, this overall funkiness works wonders in this Malt. Nutty with raisins and next, the smell of an old bar of soap, this particular smell from an old ladies closet. Winey and perfumy. Hints on incense, cold air at night, maybe with a wee puff of smoke, integrated with the air, from an odd fireplace. Now some fragrant and perfumy fresh oak. Definitely some fresh sawn oak, although it doesn’t remind me of virgin oak Whiskies. Red ripe fruits hovering above all the other aroma’s, and a slight hint of yellow fruits well in the body of this Malt. This fruit takes a while to show itself. At times, it smells a wee bit to sweet, if you ask me, but this is only a minor gripe. Nicely balanced and smells accessible. Quite complex and the wood works wonders in this one. The Pinot Noir is the more likeable nose, but this Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely more complex.

Taste: Diluted red fruit syrup, again somewhat sweeter than the Pinot Noir was. Red Wine right from the start, which is easy to spot, when you’ve had Deanston’s Bordeaux offering earlier. Peat and toasted oak only come next, with a short smoky sting from peat and smoke, all very upfront. Almonds, semolina pudding with red berry sauce. Coarse rural toffee. I don’t even know if it exists, but the sweetness tastes like rough and crumbly toffee, not the smooth and runny kind we all know. More aroma’s of (new) wood. Sweet underneath, but with smoke and to a lesser extent peat on top, this is balanced out a bit. Some tar and smoke and some rubber even. Macaroons, After the sweetness and the prickly and smoky bits a more dryer note comes forward, as well as some virgin oak bitterness, almost sappy, savvy? Clay. Without the peat this would be suitable for almost every Whisky drinker, like the aforementioned Deanston, but luckily this has peat and smoke, making it different and for some, more exciting.

In most cases the distillates of Springbank distillery, only get better over time. Gaining in balance and overall taste and smell. we say it has to breathe and needs some time to reach it’s full potential. Here this is not really the case. This is one of those rare “Springbanks” that lose a bit of balance towards the end. The top probably lies around the half full bottle mark, but after that it goes downhill a bit, it doesn’t get bad, but its “deterioration” is noticeable, it loses a bit. In the end this is still a good Whisky, and sometimes it happens that a Whisky somewhat oxidizes, that in itself is no fault. Personally I need to find out if the (Red) Wine finishing is something for me. Still, this one is good, and the Deanston I reviewed last was good as well. Maybe it’s growing on me?

Points: 87

Glentauchers 13yo 2002/2015 (55.6%, Five Lions, Private Collection, 2nd Fill Bourbon Barrel)

Within the realm of Whisky one can find a lot of different tastes and smells. But hey, that is also true for Rum and many other aged distillates. This is one of the reasons one can never really stop talking or writing about it, because there is always a lot more to say. Whisky isn’t dead, there is a lot of evolution in Whisky as well. Once only Blended Whiskies were the ” thing” and most distilleries owe their life to being part of a big selling blend. There was also a big move towards ageing Whiskies in Spanish Sherry casks, butts and puncheons. Who doesn’t like those excellent 60’s and 70’s Sherry driven Malts like the Macallan, Glendronach, Longmorn and Strathisla to name but a few.

More recent and more evolved are Whiskies in less traditional casks like Red and White Wine casks. Today everything goes. Casks after Rum, Cognac, Calvados, Sweet Dessert Wines, or Sherry’s put on American Oak casks rather than the traditional European Oak. The Sherry drinking public finds these Sherry’s more friendly and accessible. The art being how to use all those different casks, and for how long. A fine example turned out to be this recently reviewed Deanston finished in Bordeaux casks. When talking to people who… well the world knows them as anoraks, aficionado’s or connoisseurs, when talking about the different styles of Whisky, these people always seem have a soft spot for Whiskies that have been aged for a good while in refill Bourbon barrels and Hogsheads. These casks tend to less dominate the distillate and add more creamy and vanilla flavours (coming from American Oak). Whiskies that have been aged this way always leave some room for the quality of the distillate, which differs from distillery to distillery, making these Whiskies extremely interesting.

Here we have an example of this. A Glentauchers, aged for 13 years in a second fill Bourbon barrel, nothing more. So what we have here is the distillate and a previously used cask, nothing more. I bought this one at auction and it didn’t break the bank, and I felt this would do just fine. Glentauchers makes a nice distillate, the cask is a second refill, so not worn out, not tampered with, recharred or something and always a plus, the Whisky was bottled at cask strength, giving it enough power to bring all those lovely flavours forth. Lets dig in!

Color: White Wine

Nose: Starts nutty and waxy. Dried out yellow fruits with a little bit of honey. Big breaths of fresh air and a citrussy acidic note as well. An ever so slight edge of smokiness. A huge layer of perfumed paper and a slight burnt note as well. Soft wood bordering on cardboard and the skins of almonds. Initially not as fruity as expected. So it seems not fruity nor woody at first. However, having said that, there is definitely some fruit here, but it is all fresh citrus notes. Oils from the skins. Hidden fruits. Thus the cask might have been less active, making this an excellent example of a malt where only time and the quality of the spirit determine the outcome, and the cask did do something as well obviously, but to a lesser extent than in most other cases. Still, this is a giving Malt, it is quite big on the nose, very fragrant and aromatic. Soft blend of licorice and spices in cold dishwater (a wee bit soapy), which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. This is a very laid-back Malt were nothing really stands out. A soft and quiet spoken Malt. The one that sits in the back at a birthday party, aptly dressed for a party and wearing fine floral cologne. It is more than happy to observe in stead of taking part in idle and utter boring conversation, biding his time until it’s time to finally go home again. Slightly (saw)dusty and the fresh air just keeps coming. Hints of cold gravy. After a while the floral note becomes clearer. Jasmine. not so much the fresh flower itself, but more like the scented rice or the tea. I’m actually still struggling a bit to distinguish the other fruits. Some unripe pineapple and unripe waxy mango skin. The malt is friendly and accessible, which often spells: “fruit”, but no, that doesn’t seem to be the dominant aroma this time (apart from the citrussy top note, and maybe some unripe fruits). Good one this though. Balanced, I like it.

Taste: Sweet and wood-spicy on entry. Hints of mocha cream on a cake. A friendly, and citrussy fresh, entry. Wood and wax and definitely more fruit than in the nose, the sweetness helps that along. Yet still not a very fruity Whisky though. The wood adds some restrained bitterness. Licorice all sorts, including the anise. Wow, remarkable. Quite hot going down. Lightly smoked toffee with some cumin and minty toothpaste. Light honey aroma’s make up the rest of the sweetness. Hints of wood, cardboard and a leafy note. Some smoke, pineapple and lemon hard candy. In the end the woody bitterness stays behind in the aftertaste. Sometimes it even tastes a bit soapy. Alcohol definitely there. Sweet, nice, and a very tasty Whisky indeed.

Even though one might consider this less interesting because of the cask used, and therefore one may find it even a bit boring. If you do, you might be missing the point. For me, this is a well made Whisky which does have a lot to offer. All is good and all is in its place. It’s a Malt of integrity and honesty and to be honest, this one pleased me a lot more than the dark coloured and Sherried Glenallachie 15yo I reviewed recently.

Points: 86

Ardmore 13yo 1994/2008 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead #65, 303 bottles)

Ardmore, my poor-man’s Brora. Since coming across several Ardmore’s over the time, I see huge potential in this Whisky. Very good spirit, and if it is filled into a cask of equal quality, activity, this stuff can really shine. Just have a look at the three I reviewed earlier. Whiskyman’s 1992 (89 Points), Gordon & MacPhail’s 1993 (87 Points), and finally Mo Ór’s 1992 (84 Points), where the last one was reduced to 46%, Why would one do that? All three were bottled some time ago and the reviews were written a few years back as well, so let’s continue with another one from the past. We move up only one year, since this was distilled in 1994, and bottled some ten years ago.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Well, this most definitely doesn’t smell like White Wine. Slightly buttery, with vanilla, some soft oak, and a slightly acidic side-note. Typical Hogshead remade with American oak staves. Green, grassy and even slightly meaty. Gravy? Not very peaty and hardly any smoke at all. When searching for peat I’m welcomed by a more fruity and lemony note as well as a leafy and green note. Hmmmm, it is the lemon you get from detergents. Nice oaky note taking over from this little faux-pas though. Pencil shavings even. Yes some peat seems to be coupled with the oak, soon to be followed by the return of the creamy and buttery notes from the start as well as some cold dish water. Remember you washed the dishes yesterday and forgot to pull the plug? This may not be one of those complex Ardmores, since it is clearly from a cask that has been filled several times before. Its friendly and fruity, almost summery in demeanor. Some notes seem a bit off, but pull together just in time. Interesting feat.

Taste: Oak and sawdust first. Hints of pepper. Yeah. Right after the characterful statement, the more fruity, citrussy, notes appear. Almost with a carbonated quality to it. Although very tasty, friendly it is not. Too much alcohol for that. I love the oomph which you can sense does great things to balance this Whisky. Ashtray and nice peat mixed in with the citrus fruit. It switches effortlessly between the (fatty) creamy & woody/cardboardy part and the more fruity acidity. Although not very complex, what it does, it does it good. Quite a long finish, although it maybe better to describe it as a prolonged body, since you get all the aroma’s, all the time. Aftertaste is bitter (wood) and again all of the above. This one fools you into thinking its simple, and fruity, it is, but it is not an easy one, and that’s not only because of the high ABV.

Definitely not your typical Ardmore. Where in the past I called a particular Ardmore a potential Brora, this one most definitely isn’t. This bottling is an interesting Whisky, made form excellent spirit, but not good enough to be a Brora to be. I feel Ardmore is somewhat overlooked and underestimated by its owner Beam Suntory in favour of the other distilleries in their portfolio. Ardmore has to compete with Auchentoshan, (one of the last Lowland distilleries), Laphroaig and Bowmore (big, big Islay brands) and Glen Garioch (Highland), which seems to get a lot more love and attention than Ardmore (also Highland). So Ardmore seems to be the ugly duckling in the portfolio. Maybe Ardmore isn’t getting the best casks the company owns, since the Mo Ór example and this The Single Malts of Scotland offering seem to come from somewhat less active casks, yet still manage to turn out quite good. Apart from this, the official output doesn’t seem to be hurling at the consumer as well. Still, I have a lot of faith in Ardmore, it holds a place on my favourites list. It can be a truly amazing Whisky. As long as it stays under the radar, we have to hunt for examples from the independent bottlers world, that were ‘accidentally’ filled into good casks.

To the people of Ardmore Distillery. Keep doing the excellent work, your moment to shine will come!

Points: 86

The Glenlivet 13yo “Zenith” (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, Cask #8024, 2013)

It was that other well-known Speyside distillery which between 1999 and 2004 released a few Exceptional Single Cask bottlings. Some of which I tasted and were very…exceptional indeed. Alas the bottles were a mere 500ml. The Glenlivet liked that idea and somewhere around 2005, started bottling their own exceptional single cask bottlings. For the first decade, releases were kind of sparce, but more recently, many more bottlings have seen the light of day. I’ve tasted quite a few by now, and some are really exceptional and some are less so. Still good, but nevertheless, not all that exceptional in my book. Proceed with caution I would say, especially when most of them are pretty costly even the young ones.

Another remark. Although it seems quite some information is put on the label I still miss a lot. Although the label does show a cask number (here: #8024), not stated is what kind of cask it came from. And what a about distillation year? pretty basic information most other single cask bottlings show. By the way, since most of these bottlings are quite expensive to boot, where is the wooden coffin? Even the Glenlivet 21yo has that and costs less than half. Sure you can’t drink the wooden box, but it would look nice wouldn’t it. Just look at the picture below. The bottle looks great, but the cardboard box next to it… not so much (at this price point).

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fresh with nice citrus notes countered by some smooth vanilla and soft oak. Very pleasant right from the start. Some distant fruit. Dusty mocha, aspirin powder and spicy oak. Yes the oak definitely asserts itself. Typical notes for a Whisky from a refill hogshead made from American oak, and as such, reminds of many fairly young Cadenheads bottlings from ex-Bourbon casks (remember those tall green bottles?). However, this one is not that hot. Again, there is some dried yellow fruit in the back. Well hidden but definitely noticeable. Hints of salt and pepper. By now the citrus notes have gone.

Taste: Here the fruit is more upfront, but the oak is as well. Not an instant-pleasure fruit-bomb you’ll like right away. After the initial fruity aroma, it has a sharp and slightly bitter attack of oak. Slightly soapy as well. Floral without ruining it. Just like the Glen Elgin I just reviewed, this seems to be one of those Whiskies you’ll have to work with. Definitely not a casual Whisky. It needs your full attention. So don’t distract yourself with loud music or some reading, since you would miss the essence of this Whisky. Spicy and bitter wood definitely take over from the initial aroma. Nutty as well. Fresh soft almonds. If you are patient and let the Whisky breath a while in your glass, the spicy oak, and especially the bitterness get softer, leaving more fruit to develop and reach a better balance. Still, the more this breathes the better it gets. Surprisingly it only has a medium finish, with a tad of  bitterness. Peanut butter and walnut skins in the aftertaste.

If you have a collection of these Single Cask bottlings, this one can serve as a contrast to some others, but if you buy just the one, I don’t think this is exceptional enough. What might be exceptional is that this is a non-Sherried, cask strength Whisky, which stays soft almost all the way through.

This one was bottled in 2013 and resurfaced in The Netherlands in 2016 with quite a discount. No wonder it sold out rather quickly. I guess it might be worth the price I paid (less than a 100 euro’s), but I would be very unhappy if I bought this, without tasting it first, for the initial price. Recent single casks, age notwithstanding, cost more than the very good XXV bottling. Something worth to consider.

When comparing similar bottlings I have open, sure the Lochside and the Caperdonich are better but also older and more rare. Compared to readily available Malts with a similar profile that I have, I would rather go for the Glen Keith, but this Glenlivet is nothing to scoff at though.

Points: 85 (original score)

Added note (September 10, 2018): I’m now drinking the last drops from this bottle, and man did it come around. This needed a lot of air, and time to open up, but it did come up trumps. The nose is utterly wonderful, on the palate it didn’t change as much. Sweeter, more malty, very well balanced. Comes close to the Glen Keith mentioned above, which i still prefer.

Points: 86 (new score)

Glendronach 13yo 2003/2016 (55.2%, OB, for TasTToe & Drankenshop Broekmans, Oloroso Sherry Butt #5489, 705 bottles)

To my amazement, after all those years of writing Single Malt reviews, this is the first Glendronach on these pages. How did that happen? I’ll have to conduct a formal inquiry into this matter. Heads will roll. Lets hope this young Glendronach is a worthy expression of the distillery. Glendronach was founded in 1826, and has changed hands some nine times if I count correctly. In recent history the distillery was mothballed in 1996. Production resumed for a short while in 2002. In 2005 the distillery abandoned coal firing in favour of indirect firing with steam. After the change the distillery reopened in the portfolio of yet another owner, when Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) acquires Allied Domecq. Almost there. In 2008 Pernod Ricard sells the distillery to a small consortium lead by Billy Walker, the owners of the Benriach distillery. Billy revamped the core range and started releasing Single Cask bottlings with the now common brown labels, as the one I’m about to taste. After Glendronach, Billy and his mates bought Glenglassaugh in 2013, but sold all three to Brown Forman in 2016 for a heft sum of money…

By the way, the picture below is wrong. I couldn’t find a proper picture of the bottle I tasted, and the picture I took of the label with my phone, well lets say it wouldn’t look professional. The picture below is for another Glendronach 13yo from 2003. In fact it is of a bottle filled from the cask filled in 2003 right after the one I tasted. Same distillate, same sort of cask, but still another single cask. The picture I used is for cask #5490 whereas I tasted cask #5489. Both were bottled for different customers from the same country: Belgium, so close enough, wouldn’t you say? Enough of the dry stuff, let’s get wet now!

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Oloroso Sherry alright. Thick but right from the start some nice dusty woody notes and do I detect a hint of the S-element? Sweet raisins, fresh and pretty modern.  (which need some time to breathe to show themselves). Black and white licorice powder. Remember the 9yo Highland Park I recently reviewed? Well that is old style Sherry maturation, where the wood is softer, whereas this is more modern. Clean and sharp. Woodshop with oriental spices. Hints of fresh new oak and a wonderful floral and woody perfume, fragrant soap even, very nice. Very faintly meaty, like cold gravy. Great balance but not very complex. More wood notes in the form of pencil shavings. So, excellent wood, with less Sherry than expected. Wonderful nose.

Taste: Yep big wood alright, but again not in a bad way. Oriental Spicy wood with thin cherry liqueur. Reminds me a bit of Amrut. I really love the wood in this. Remember, someone is saying that the wood makes the Whisky, so wood should be a contributing factor. Again the wood has more to say than the Sherry. Starts half-sweet at best, where wood and Sherry share the attention, but quickly the wood demands center-stage for itself and dominates, without overpowering it though. Both contribute the right amount of aroma’s to make for a wonderful Malt. Hints of Italian laurel licorice and hard coffee candy. The body is even less sweet and for a moment turns in to an oaky acidity. Again, not bad. Medium finish and more of the same into the aftertaste, which after a while is gone completely.

This is well-balanced, not very complex, but very nice to drink. I feel no need to add water. It seems to be good to go as it is. Nice and likeable. A bottle you’ll like and finish quite quickly since it will be the one you’ll want to start the evening with. Unless you insist on starting with something at 40 or 43% ABV.

Points: 87

 

Thanx Nico!

Longrow 13yo 1993/2006 (57.1%, OB, Private Bottling, for MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson, Cask #635)

This is a sample I have lying around for a very long time. I last tasted it last some ten years ago, and there was definitely something wrong with this. Just have a look at the review posted by Serge. yes, he’s a big fan of this one! Ten years ago I found it pretty odd as well, but come to think of it, Springbank make such good Whisky, what must have happened for it to be so “strange”, and for it to be bottled? Today I’m becoming more and more a fan of Springbank, feeling they can’t do anything wrong. In these days of NAS (some bad, some good), Springbank are able to churn out one good bottling after another. NAS or no NAS. So this less than half full sample got plenty of time to balance itself out with some air, so let’s see how this private cask of MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson will do in 2016. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

Longrow 1993 Private Bottling Cask #635Color: Light gold.

Nose: Light peat, but not much and some burning plastic. Herbal lemon. Deeper down a more buttery note. Fatty with hidden sweetness. Slightly burnt wood (toasted cask), fresh dried oak and an acidic off-note. Bread, butter, paper, cardboard (they all go together) and caramel. Toffee even. Next some crushed beetle. In my case an accident, because I’m not cruel to animals, but once I’ve gained the experience, I’ll never forget the smell. Well, it’s in this Whisky. (Tobacco) smoke and cold charcoal. Hints of menthol. It is a nose that wants to be dry and spicy, not fruity. It’s not floral, but may very well have been. Add to that a creamy, butter and toffee and you have this in a nutshell. Very well hidden is the aroma of new make spirit, a sweetish Vodka aroma. Sure, this is (still) lacking in balance a bit, but it’s not as bad as it was ten years ago. It did get better with “some” air. I actually like how it smells now.

Taste: Sweet, but with a lot of bread and paper notes. Floral plastics and vegetal. The initial sweetness works well with the relatively high ABV. Sweet sugared yellow fruits. Sugared apricots. the body itself is not so sweet. Interesting. Damn, this is really about vegetal paper. Paper, cardboard, wet paper, pulp. It’s hard to impossible to get past this. The paper notes overwhelm the entry and the better part of the body. When this dissipates, an acidic note shows itself which just is wrong. Towards the end of the body, the Whisky also becomes slightly soapy. Yeah, lets add to the plastic pleasure. Hey, now I get some smoked eel skin as well as the aroma of an ash-tray and sweet jasmine powder. What a Whisky. This has quite a few flaws, so maybe it’s good the finish is not very long (and hardly an aftertaste).

If after Serge’s review (and mine) you still want to buy it, be advised that you should let this breathe extensively. And I do mean extensively this time. It will help the nose along, the taste however is beyond repair. I wonder what went wrong here. It probably wasn’t the spirit going into the cask, but was the cask somehow contaminated? Rotting bung cloth? A fungus maybe? In the end not a complete dud, so I won’t be scoring this 55 Points like Serge, but for a Longrow this is not a good score either…

Points: 80

Caol Ila 13yo 1990/2003 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, Cask #1114, 283 bottles, JC/GF)

I got up this morning seeing that it is a nice and sunny day, just with a chill in the air. Ice on the windscreen, and couldn’t be bothered de-icing the car, so I did the school run on foot. Luckily no wind so it wasn’t so bad. Walking towards the winder I did pick up the inspiration to review some Islay Whisky. Yeah! Rummaging a bit in the sample bank I dug up two Islay babies, that will together well, or make for interesting comparison. Once not so readily available, today impossible to miss. Caol Ila is the name and peat is the game. I love Caol Ila because it ages really well. So lets educate myself and have a look at a younger example of Caol Ila. This 1990 Caol Ila was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2003. The outturn was 283 bottles at cask strength, and considering the color and wood management policies at G&M, I would be surprised if this wasn’t matured in a remade Bourbon Hogshead although a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry hogshead is also possible. Two of its sister casks were also bottled in 2003: #1115 (JC/AEG) and # 1116 (JC/CEB). More sister casks exist. In 2011/2012 at least three more were bottled: #1120 (for La Maison Du Whisky, France), #1121 and #1122 (both for Van Wees, The Netherlands).

Caol Ila 13yo 1990/2003 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, Cask #1114, 283 bottles)Color: White wine.

Nose: Dry and smoky peat, with an underlying sweetness. So it’s not the fatty peat you sometimes get. This is drier and a wee bit more spicy. Cow organics in cold weather. With hints of hay and quite some buttery and lemony notes as well as hints of shiny aromatic apple skin (not acidic). Some flowery elements were present in the peat, lavender as well as there is some crushed beetle (sounds strange doesn’t it?). Vanilla and more creamy, fresh buttery notes. The wood smells a bit meaty and well aged, so not young and sappy. Hints of cured meat. Smells a bit toned down and maybe older than it actually is. Very well-balanced. More about fresh and fruity notes than heavy peat. Accessible. Garden bonfire burning off old branches combined with powdered vanilla and powdered coffee creamer. It’s not really a big Whisky, but a well constructed one. Wonderful nose, especially by the wonderful vanilla and floral nose. I would say Fino Sherry hogshead. made from American oak.

Taste: More peat and quite sweet, which works quite well this time. There is enough going around to balance the sugary sweetness out. Burned leaves and a lot of vanilla and clotted cream, custard, pudding. These notes are quite big and it takes a while for those to pass, to let a more paper and (spicy) wood note through. Distinct hints of soap. It breaks down a bit in the finish, with a creamy note that goes down my throat, but in the same time a more acidic wood note stays behind in the roof of my mouth, the soap also has some staying power under my tongue. These flaws are easily forgivable, looking at the whole. Good Caol Ila.

This went under the radar a bit when it came out, as well as its sister casks, but what a treat this is. Definitely American oak and probably Sherry that aged under flor instead of Bourbon. All aroma’s work together well. I wish I had more of this, but at least I had the experience of a whole bottle of this. Worth seeking out at auctions, but a lot of it was probably drunk back then.

Points: 87

Isle Of Jura 13yo 1989/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 1564)

Here is the third and final bottle in our trilogy of Murray McDavid bottlings. Don’t worry there will be more. After the Rhoshu and the Glendullan, this time we will have a look at a (Isle of) Jura. Both of its fellow Murray McDavid bottlings have proven themselves to be reasonable Whiskies and not so long ago I reviewed a very good Jura as well. So we’ll start this review with high hopes…

Isle Of Jura 13yo 1989/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 1564)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Sweet malts, but also lightly spicy, frankincense, with lots of vegetal and waxy notes. Highly fruity. Sugared apples, with even some licorice and cinnamon, and some sweet red berries. Reminds me a bit of Calvados. This is a very appetizing nose. Vanilla and dusty, yet not dry. Full of aroma, and warm sugar-water. When smelled to vigorously, a note of paper emerges as well as a tiny hint of old, worn out jasmine soap, a bar you find in the back of granny’s closet, amongst the over sized… well, you know what I’m talking about. Actually this does smell like a Whisky not from these times, but more from the era of black coal. Granny’s era. Sweet and lively. Fruity without a lot of wood. Nice complexity and ditto balance. Lovely.

Taste: Sweet, thin apple water and bitter apple skins. Here the wood does show itself with quite the wood and bitter sap notes. With hints of charred oak. A bitterness we are quite familiar with, reminding me of some nuts. Remember the thin brown skins on walnuts and hazelnuts? If you can get past the bitterness there is a fruity lightness behind it. Malts again and some hay on a summer’s day. Lacks the complexity of the nose though. The finish is another of its weak points. Too short and a bit mono-dimensional. Lacks development from the body, well into the finish. The aftertaste makes you wonder if you haven’t drunk an I.P.A. earlier, for its slight hoppy bitterness left behind in your mouth.

Not a highly drinkable dram, it’s simple, and a wee bit too bitter for a daily drinker. The nose makes you a promise of something special. The nose is actually pretty stunning, and I’m really, really sorry, I can’t say the same for its taste.

Points: 82