Tomatin 14yo “Port Casks” (46%, OB, Tawny Port Pipes Finish, 2016)

I come from a time when Distilleries started experimenting with other casks than the usual Bourbon and Sherry casks. When Whiskies finished in Wine casks, Port casks and Rum casks popped up in the market, I actually preferred the Rum cask versions the most. I didn’t particularly like the Wine and Port finishes. It’s not because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of change, because today there are lots of these finishes around that are pretty good, but when I taste back the first examples they still are not-so-good. Port was an easy choice for distillers and blenders I guess, since it is related to Sherry and both are fortified Wines. However Sherry casks and Port casks yield very different Whiskies.

I guess the early versions were finished in casks that previously held Ruby Port. Young and bold stuff, which made for a very raw and harsh Whisky, especially when finished for too long. The U.K. loves Vintage Port which are excellent Ruby Ports, 2 years old, so the obvious starting point for experimentation with finishing. Today we see more and more Port finishes done in Port Pipes that previously held Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are older Ports, that turn (reddish) brown from oxidation. For this 14yo expression Tomatin first matured the Whisky in Bourbon barrels and for the finish they used Port Pipes that previously held Tawny port for 50 years! The 14yo Tomatin was first introduced in 2014, a replacement for the 15yo, which came from Bourbon casks only. Tomatin also discontinued the 25yo which also was from Bourbon casks only. In 2016 we saw a complete revamp of the design, so this review is for the “new”14yo, number four in the core range preceded by the “Legacy”, the 12yo and a Cask Strength version without an age statement (We’ll get to that one later).

Tomatin 14yo Port Casks 2016Color: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Musty and definitely recognizable as a Port finish. It is quite obvious to say the least. Also the color gave it away. You don’t get this pinkish hue, from caramel coloring, and wine finishes smell differently, however it also reminds me a bit of a Jenever fully matured in a Bordeaux cask. Apart from the typical fruity Portiness there is an unusual hay-like aroma, like Grappa has, it is different from your usual Whisky. In the back there is also a more creamy, vanilla note, softening the whole up. Nice soft wood as well. Although the finish is quite strong, it isn’t overpowering, and the Whisky remains balanced. Nevertheless, the finish ís strong enough not to let Tomatin’s signature tropical fruitiness through.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. Chewy. Here the finish isn’t as strong at first like in the nose. Here it starts with sweet and creamy Bourbon cask notes, but the Port quickly exerts itself. I don’t know yet if the burnt note I get, comes from toasted oak, or from the Port pipes (or both). A fruity acidity lies on top, so less balance here than on the nose. Hints of paper (not cardboard, which is heavier and less likeable). The whole is quite creamy and friendly. Well made and quite bold to let the Port finish speak its mind. Creamy, fruity, slightly burnt and some nice wood. That sums it up. Medium finish.

This is daily drinker material. Something I would reach for quite often. Sure you can analyze it to death, but why should you. I already did that for you. Not very expensive and fun to drink and definitely different from most other expressions in the shops today.

Points: 84 (same score as the previous version)

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 7: Rutte Single Barrel Bordeaux Graanjenever 14yo 1999 (38%, Limousin Oak Cask #239, 490 bottles

Jenever Week Logo

We already reached the end of our Dutch Jenever journey. It was a long journey for me, and writing the reviews and doing the research took me a whole lot longer than first expected. Lots of other things came in between, both already published and some not, like the next Master Quill week, which at this point in time is nearly finished as well. It’s a good thing I took my time, because in the mean time I somehow connected with Jenever and found out what it is and what its place is in the big scheme of things. I learned to appreciate it for the wonderful traditional liquor it is. I present to you the last review of the week and it is a 14yo Rutte, aged in a Bordeaux cask, in many ways similar to yesterdays 14yo Zuidam that was matured in two Oloroso Sherry casks. I expected both to be dominated by the Bordeaux Wine or Oloroso Sherry before setting off…

RUTTE_SINGLE_BARREL_BORDEAUX_14JR_lowresxxx300Color: Vibrant copper gold.

Nose: Very fruity. Berries, cherries and this definitely has some characteristics of wine, just not the wine itself. Very fresh and vibrant at first, but also a deep dull nutty undertone that evolves over time. Sweetish and grainy. The cask impaired a lot of aromas onto the Jenever. Waxy red apple skins. Vanilla, mocha and plywood. Small hint of licorice, some toasted cask and sometimes a light whiff of cigarette smoke. Still not a true red wine aroma, if you ask me. If someone would give me this Jenever blind and ask what kind of cask this came from, I would have been sure this was from a Calvados cask. The aroma is from apple, but also the typical acidity from Calvados. Very perfumy and fruity. Definitely floral as well. Cinnamon comes next and as we all know, cinnamon goes together well with the apple aroma this Jenever has. Nice stuff to smell. Soft.

Taste: Sweet, sweet, sweet. Apples in many (distilled) guises. First impression shows an enormous lack of complexity. Fruity, overpowering and warming, and yes, quite likeable as well. Liquid candy and although 38% ABV is not high, it seems way less than this. It drinks like a soft Sherry with corresponding ABV. Christmas pudding. More Calavados notes mixed together well with some soft and spicy notes from wood. I know this is from a cask that once held French Red Wine, but the spirit is Dutch. Having said that I can’t get rid of the French feeling this Jenever gives me. maybe this is because this hardly tastes like a Jenever at all? Am I biased by the statement on the label and the aroma’s of Calvados? I wish I had tasted this blind, not knowing what it was, would I call this a Calvados then? Even after 14 years we can safely say that the Bordeaux may have overpowered the Jenever a bit, but some nice synergy was achieved as well. It ís still recognizable as a Jenever. It has a great nose and tastes well. Big gulp now and damn, this has a lot to do with a semi-sweet Calvados (and nothing with Bordeaux or the other Rutte offerings I reviewed and tasted). Again a Jenever that has to breathe for a while, so don’t be hasty with it.

Whereas with Zuidam you get the feeling everything is intelligently planned and intended, with Rutte it sometimes is more random and spontaneous. Trial and error. Hit or miss.”Well lets not chuck out the cask, people. Rinse it out and put some spirit in it, I might like it in the end.” (And then forget about the cask altogether untill a cleaning-lady accidentally stumbles upon it…)

I hope Patrick van Zuidam doesn’t feel too comfortable now, to sit back on a beach somewhere, and just let things happen. Although the Rogge Genever was a bit sweet and simple, the rest of the offerings I reviewed here were top-notch. A clear winner. Rutte seems to be trying to find an identity for itself by concentrating on experimentation, marketing and far away markets. Everything was pretty decent though, especially this Dutch Calvados made from Jenever and Bordeaux casks. However, the bottle of the Rutte Twaalf Graanjenever started out as a disappointment by its lack of balance. Shockingly so, since I actually expected quite a lot of that one. When it got some extensive contact with air it got way better. I tasted some young expressions, maturing in American oak and they were pretty good. I should try another bottle of this 12yo, to see if the profile is just different. Knowing the Rutte 12yo, puts this Bordeaux Jenever more into perspective. The fruity acidity I expected to come from the Bordeaux cask is actually coming from the spirit itself, since it is also present in the 12yo.

In the end this Dutch Jenever Week only featured products from Rutte and Zuidam. Of course there are a lot more Dutch and other Jenevers around, as I mentioned yesterday, and I will absolutely source some more for future reviews., because Jenever is definitely worth your attention. Just let it be Jenever and don’t compare it to anything else. It’s not Whisky nor Gin and why should it? Proost!

Points: 79

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 6: Zuidam Korenwijn 14yo 1999/2013 Oloroso Sherry (38%, Special #3, Cask #1649 & 1650, 491 bottles)

Jenever Week Logo

On the sixth day, God created… This actually is the last review I’m writing for this series of Dutch Jenevers. To be honest, I almost never write reviews in the order of publication. Especially with the Master Quill Weeks. At some point in time, I find a “logical” progression in which to order the seven days of the Master Quill Week, not necessarily by ascending scores, mind you.

This is the fourth (!) offering by Zuidam in this week, another Korenwijn, and I promise you, it’s the last in this series. Tomorrow we’ll see another offering from Rutte (again). Now don’t start thinking now that Rutte and Zuidam are the only distilleries in The Netherlands producing Jenever. There actually is a long list of companies around, many of which are several centuries old.

The history of Jenever started in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both port towns. Other cities like Groningen and Leeuwarden (in the north) also have a Jenever history. Making Jenever turned out to be a smelly business, so with time the production of Jenever moved into neighbouring cities with some more room. Weesp (near Amsterdam) and Schiedam (near Rotterdam).

From Amsterdam I’d like to mention Lucas Bols (1575), Wynand Fockink (1679) and Van Wees (1782). From Rotterdam I’d like to mention Onder De Boompjes (1658), Nolet (1691), De Kuyper (1695), Wenneker (1693), Herman Jansen (1777) and Dirkzwager (1879). Most of them produce Jenever under different brand names.

Rutte was never located in Rotterdam itself. Rutte has always been from Dordrecht. Finally Zuidam itself is more recent. It started doing business since 1975 in the town of Baarle-Nassau near the Belgian border.

Zuidam Korenwijn 1999Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Closed at first. Some wine related notes, fruity. Needs to move around in my glass some more. Yeah development commences quickly. A deep thick aroma, countered by sharp woody dry notes. Some ground white pepper and clear glue which dissipates quickly never to return again. Also a slightly burnt and tarry cask note. Sawdust and toffee for short. The whole smells rather laid-back and calm. Subdued yet big. Happy about itself. Sawdust and pencil shavings and underneath some hints of new wood. All very spicy but well in check. It has a very specific fresh and fruity acidity to it, I also got from tomorrows offering, although not in such a big way, and way more balanced as well. Here it must be from the Sherry cask. The nose is an amalgamation of Jenever, the Sherry cask and oak, and I must say the Sherry cask really did its work here.

Taste: Creamy, buttery and very fruity. Very nice and very appealing. It starts out sweet. Toffee, mocha and runny caramel. When that subsides, and it does that quite quickly, it makes room for a very nice fruity aroma. You could almost call it a “special effect”. Nice wood as well, sometimes bordering on cardboard and old paper, but it works quite well. However, I feel it is hardly recognizable as a Korenwijn. At least when I compare it to it younger Brother, the Korenwijn 5yo I reviewed earlier. it almost seems like a hybrid with Whisky, Cognac and other distillates. Taste this blind and try to find out what this is. Again an entirely different product from Zuidam. Nice. The finish has medium length and finishes with the warmth of the Toffee/Caramel and some sharpness of wood. Chewy. This is definitely after dinner. It’s a dessert all by itself. Nicely soft and lively, even though the basis is quite sweet, as all Zuidams seem to have. Likable and dangerously drinkable.

Quite a small outturn, considering this came from two Sherry casks ánd the Korenwijn being reduced to 38% ABV. Nice expression from Zuidam though, and its clear to me why it was chosen as a special release. This one is quite expensive. Its more than twice the price of the Korenwijn 5yo, but when compared to the Korenwijn 10yo and 20yo, Zuidam also produces, the price seems to fit right in.

Points: 85

Cragganmore 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, Sherrywood, 696 bottles)

Early on in my “Whisky career” I used to be a “regular” at one of the few Cadenhead Shops that were around. Amsterdam had one of the first shops outside of Scotland. I tried quite a few Cadenhead bottlings in those days and bought maybe even more, so i still have quite a few of those older bottlings. However, almost all the Cadenhead bottlings I brought home were cask strength versions, called Authentic Collection. At the same time Cadenhead bottled part of the same cask at 46% ABV, calling it the “Original Collection”, although I suspect, sometimes the whole cask was reduced and bottled at 46%. I’m not sure if there exists a cask strength version of this Cragganmore. I .have to admit I hardly own an “Original Collection” bottling (if any). Cragganmore of course is one of the Diageo Distilleries, and is represented in the Classic Malts range. Since Diageo hugely promotes these Malts, it is always nice to compare that to one of the independent bottlings. I’ve already reviewed some of them on these pages. The 12yo, the 1988 Distillers Edition and the 29yo Special Edition. I also had a great 1993 Sherried Cragganmore, bottled by Duncan Taylor. Lets see how this 1989 Cadenheads offering will do.

Cragganmore Cadenhead 1989/2003Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Rich and sweet. Fruity. Waxy apple skin. Funky raisins and cherry water. The initial fruity acidity is quite thin so after a while you don’t small it anymore. IF you use a lid for a while the acidity gets concentrated and is noticeable again. Without this acidity, this is a dark and brooding offering. A bit goth I would say. Damp earth and slightly rotting leaves n the forest floor. Smells quite sweet and underneath there is quite some vanilla as well. Dusty and notes of dull wet wood mixed in with toffee and caramel. Quite aromatic but at the same time sweet and syrupy. A two-faced puppy this is. Put a lid on it and its more fruity and acidic, let it breathe and it becomes more brooding. Very interesting.

Taste: Almond and toffee sweetness (which dissipates quickly). Short licorice attack. Apple skins and apple aroma’s more akin to Calvados. Very nutty (Sherry) this is. Probably a Sherry that aged under flor, so not from our usual Oloroso and PX casks. No, this is more Fino or Amontillado. Wine people believe this is Sherry royalty, much better than Oloroso and PX, which are the most popular casks for ageing Whisky these days. Just check out the bottlings of Glendronach. Having said that it, obviously doesn’t automatically mean the Whisky is better off as well. Quite some wood, with a slight bitter edge, but also vegetal bitterness, like you get from biting fresh leaves. Strange? Get out of your chair then and spend some more time in nature! The finish isn’t as long as expected and the aftertaste is quite anonymous as well.

Personally, I find Fino Sherry casks can produce very nice, but different Whiskies. For me it was something I had to grow into, and I guess I’m not finished growing just yet. I really do recognize the quality of the result, but it somehow is not something that like right off the bat. It needs some work. On the other side, I believe, this profile suits a nice Cuban cigar, if you pick the right one for it.

Points: 82

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)

After two more Wheated Bourbon’s it’s only a short hop across the pond to land in the west of Scotland. Campbeltown to be precise. Today we’ll spend some time with a Whisky from the “other” distillery from Campbeltown Glen Scotia. Well. it used to be the “other one”, But today Springbank isn’t just Springbank anymore, with their Glengyle distillery producing the excellent Kilkerran. Here we have an almost 15 year Single Malt Whisky that managed to stay at 61.6% ABV, quite a feat. Let’s see where this will take us…

Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/2006 (61.6%, Adelphi, Refill Hogshead #1071, 258 bottles)Color: Very light gold.

Nose: Spicy, smoky, grassy and extremely fruity. Warm in its appearance, maybe because of the cookie dough? Lots of barley and a hint of rubber. Not your ordinary Bourbon matured Whisky. Very nutty and waxy, but again a kind of industrial waxy rubber. Rubber bands mixed with gravy. Next is a lemony fresh fruitiness wich in turn mixes with the smell of a freshly printed newspaper, warmed up a bit on the radiator. Hints of warm water you used to cook mussels in. Dis I say this was a bit unusual? I did? All right. Salty and sweet barley I imagine with a snuff of white pepper, ashes, and smoke. Warm custard, but very restrained. Quite complex and special.

Taste: Lemony paper. Warm Chivas Lemon Curd. Lots of sweet barley and here too a whiff of rubber passes by. Band aid I would say. The taste is definitely less unique that the nose was, but still not your usual suspect from a Bourbon Hoggie. Hints of nuts and lemon, and a little bit of cookie dough. Hints of rettich and a tiny, tiny amount of woody bitterness in the aftertaste.

An excellent nose you almost never come across. It’s easily understood, why this Glen Scotia got selected by Adelphi. Especially the nose is quite complex. Balanced stuff, the nose matches the taste. They belong together although the nose was more complex. Not everything from the nose was to be found in the taste. The beauty lies in the detail with this one. And I’ve said this before, give this time to breathe.

Points: 86

Glendullan 14yo 1993/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid, for Malts and More, Bourbon/Rioja Tempranillo, Cask #05/0052, 493 bottles)

After the Murray McDavid Rhosdhu, here is the second of three bottlings by Murray McDavid. This time we’ll have a look at Glendullan. The Edradours I reviewed last had their first appearance on Master Quill, and now we can cross off Glendullan as well. Here we have a fine example, where Murray McDavid were taking the independent bottler. Specializing in Wine cask finishes. In the early 2000’s Wine finishes were snuffed at, since most of them were overdone and the Original Whisky was probably dull (pun intended). It was just the industry trying Wine finishing out and learning on the go. They still have to wait many years to find out where their experiment were taking then. This particular Glendullan started its life as a regular Whisky aged in Bourbon casks (most likely a Hogshead).  After a while the contents were transferred into a wine cask. Tempranillo te be precise. Tempranillo is a red grape most common to Spanish Wines like Rioja.

Glendullan itself is a distillery owned by Diageo. A bottle of Glendullan is not the most common find of all distilleries, especially considering Glendullan is one of the largest distilleries Diageo owns.

GlendullanColor: Dark gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Spicy wood and a slightly acidic winey note. Very spicy oak, slightly burnt. Nutmeg, and herbal as well. Some faint odd acidic citrussy dishwater aromas. Applesauce, de Querville Calvados! Quite dusty and old smelling, like an old Whisky aged in a Bourbon cask. Behind that a more restrained fruity note, but again acidic fruit combined with hard candy versions of that fruit with added cherry and raspberry candy flavours. Almond pastry, cinnamon and nougat. It’s not quite a replacement for a Sherry aged Whisky, but not bad nevertheless. The Wine turned out very soft on the nose. I do get some grape skin, but from white grapes, not red. In the end, all aroma’s are built upon a wealth of wood, but no, it’s not woody. Needs a lot of air (time) to develop, but in the end it will not disappoint.

Taste: Fruity lemonade and warming. Citrussy again and to a lesser extent so are the apples. Present, but not so much in the Calvados way. Also grenadine and quite a lot of licorice. Old rotting wood. The kind that has been submerged for a long time in a forest. Quite thick. Some raisins. Lots of influence of the wine cask. Maybe a bit too much? The Bourbon casked Whisky isn’t really recognizable anymore. Is that bad? Nope not really. This is still a nice tasting Whisky. Less complex than the nose, but overall quite pleasing. It doesn’t show its best bits right from the start. Pour it and leave it for a while.

Quite stunning what Murray McDavid have achieved with Tempranillo. No wonder Tomatin has gone that way lately too. Complex stuff, with a stunning nose, with quite some development.

Points: 85

Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 6 Month Rum Finish, DL REF 3850, 312 bottles)

I’ve been reviewing more Rums lately, which is fun to do. back to Whisky for now, but I won’t have to let go of Rum altogether. To continue the Rum theme, my previous review was of a Teeling Blended Whiskey, finished in Rum casks. The Rum completely took over the Whiskey. Here is another Whisky, Scottish this time, that was finished in a Rum cask. Alas we don’t know where the Rum cask came from, nor do we know what kind of Rum it once held.

The title is correct, the picture is wrong. I found an old sample of this Clynelish on my attic, but it seems Whiskies were drunk in 2003 and not collected. I couldn’t even find one in an auction. No picture to be found of this particular 14yo rum finished Clynelish. All I could find was this picture of its 13yo sister bottling, also finished for 6 months in a Rum cask. For a brief time Fred Laing reserved the red lettering on OMC bottles for younger Whiskies in a time when  Douglas Laing was bottling almost only stellar and old bottlings. For one reason or another the red lettering, and the red tube, was soon abandoned. The bottle in the picture was bottled in February 2003, and the 14yo, I’ll be reviewing soon, later in that same year. It is therefore entirely possible the 14yo doesn’t even have red lettering.

Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 6 Month Rum Finish, DL REF 3850, 312 bottles)Color: Light citrussy gold.

Nose: Wood and yes, it has some light golden Rum on the nose. This time the Rum didn’t overshadow the Whisky. You still can recognize a Single Malt Whisky in this. Flowery and soapy and hints of rhubarb. Soft young wood, leafy and fruity. Papaya, maracuja and a tiny hint of banana. In a blind tasting I would have said this was a Tomatin. Typical Bourbon cask notes and with tropical fruits, what else could it have been? Nice nose. Floral and fruity, but also damp earth and raisins. Hot butter. Sometimes whiffs of a Pinot Gris fly by. I like this. Well balanced and even though a lot can be picked up, the balance is so great and the aroma’s are so well-integrated it doesn’t even seem complex. The aroma’s show themselves in layers, but when an aroma is replaced by the next, it isn’t gone for good, everything comes back as a boomerang. Given some time a more burned note appears that wasn’t there before. I have always liked Rum finishes, maybe that’s where the interest in Rum comes from.

Taste: Recognizable as a Clynelish, with added yellow, tropical and red fruits. Quite hot, it bites back a bit. Sweet and more yellow fruits. Pineapple and white grapes, hints of unripe peach and unripe banana. After the initial sweetness, notes of paper and wood. Cheap wood, plywood maybe. This is less balanced than the nose is and the finish leaves a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. Burned wood and grape seeds. Nice stuff, just don’t expect a sweet Rum in this one.

Back in those times, it seems that Rum finishes were more common than today. Wine finishes were hardly available, and those that were around were not particularly good. Look around today, lots of finishes in casks that previously contained a Wine in all its guises. Rum finishes are still not done very often, apart from some Benriachs I guess. Speaking of which…

Points: 86