Epris 15yo 1999/2014 (45.4%, Cadenhead, Column Still, BMC, Brazil)

So Brazilian Rum eh? Is there such a thing? Sure, Rum made in Brazil, or is this maybe a Cachaça? What is Cachaça? Cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled. Hmmm, isn’t that the same as Rhum Agricole? Yes it is similar, just made in a different part of the world. There is a major difference though. When Rhum Agricole is aged it is aged in Oak. Cachaça can be aged in any type of (native) wood allowing for more diverse aroma’s. Adding even more difference to the aromas of Cachaça, is that fermentation is done with wild yeast cells as opposed to single, highly controlled yeast strains used elsewhere in the Rum industry. Every Rum producer has their own specific strains, so to me there seems to be more adventure to Cachaça.

The (huge) Epris distillery is located in São Roque near São Paulo, Brazil. Back in 1999 the distillery made Rum for Bacardi and other types of alcoholic beverages. Well informed sources tell me Epris never made a true Cachaça, nor does the label mention the word. So the Epris distillate we have here is a Rum made from fresh cane juice, probably not adhering completely to the production methods and rules for Cachaça. So maybe close to, but not a true Cachaça. We also know this distillate is made in a column still. Today Epris doesn’t do “Rum” anymore. Today they focus on making fermented rice and Sake! Who would have thought. Brazil!

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Clean and elegant. Grass and hay. Powdery and green, mixed in with some vanilla. Some sweetness with nice wood influences. Distant red fruits, yet well in the back. Hints of pencil shavings and bamboo. Cane juice. Vegetal. Slightly perfumy but also whiffs of a more sweaty kind, pass by. Mocha and vanilla. Medium fresh on top. I’m sure I’m not objective here, but I think I smell some cooked brown rice now! Tea with sugar. Clean and very soft. Spicy with a tiny hint of smoke (toasted cask). yes, cold black tea. Leafy. Smelling this, it seems to me this isn’t made from molasses. In a way it is a bit simple. I have this in my glass for a while now, but I don’t get a lot of development (yet). I guess this may very well need a whole lot of air, and this is a freshly opened bottle I have here. Already quite appealing though.

Taste: Semi sweet, sugar, caramel and toffee. Very friendly and soft. A bit light, thin and simple. Small bitter edge, with some yellow sugared fruits. Greenish, vegetal and grassy, but in no way does this resemble a Rhum Agricole. Maybe it is somewhat closer to a diluted Rum or Arrack (we’ll get to that quite soon actually, stay tuned). Flavoured tea with some sugar-water. Medium finish with sometimes some peppermint. Alcoholic at times. Whiffs of (vanilla) Wodka. Not very active casks if you ask me. Not a lot stays around for the aftertaste, but also no off-notes. Easy to drink, and definitely growing on me.

I love this series of Cadenheads Rums, but in a way this particular one starts out a bit as a disappointment. I’ve tasted many others from this series that were stellar, this one just is too simple, and in no way would I have thought this has aged for 15 years. Not very adventurous, so probably not a Cachaça made with wild (boys) yeast and aged in a funky wood type cask. Here the beauty lies in the details. Enjoyable and definitely worth my money. I wouldn’t buy a second one just yet, but you should buy your first one, just like me, because it is different from the rest and it’s definitely enjoyable. Having said all this, the Epris does start to grow on me, so it may very well get better with time, air and some care.

Points: 83

Glencadam 15yo 1989/2005 (58%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Butt #6014, 578 bottles)

Another one I found in the attic. Although this hasn’t been bottled ages ago, this time around I have a Signatory Glencadam bottled back in 2005. That’s already 11 years ago. Time flies. This is just the second Glencadam on these pages and it seems not to be a Malt with a big reputation. Having said that, the “new” 10yo I reviewed last time around, was something of a nice surprise for me. Quite impressive for an officially bottled 10yo. However, I have seen it before that the first release of something is better than most subsequent releases. Just sayin’…

Glencadam 15yo SigVColor: Copper gold.

Nose: Creamy and strictly Sherry. Smells like a Red Wine cask actually. Whiffs of stale Beer. Wow, where is this going? Hints of caramel and licorice. Creamy and perfumy. Definitely more floral than most Whiskies I recently tried. Floral pudding. Sure some dried apricots underneath, but not enough to call this fruity as well, although the fruit aroma becomes stronger with prolonged breathing, so it may be more fruity then I initially thought. Hardly any wood. Fruity and floral it is and dry warm wind blowing over the top. After even some more time the floral part seems to have disappeared. Interesting effect. It’s all about what evaporates the first. It becomes nicer over time, and better balanced as well.

Taste: On entry again the feeling this comes from a Wine cask. Apart from the slightly harsh winey note, a lot of paper and cardboard notes. A Beer-like carbonation taste (not saying there are bubbles in this one, an effect I know from a certain Teaninich, also bottled by Signatory (not reviewed yet, but I do have a bottle of that somewhere). Lots of pronounced Italian laurel licorice. Cumin and slightly minty. Hidden sweetness and a nice bitter (hoppy?), and slightly soapy, edge well into the finish. Well this one seems to have it all doesn’t it?

If you work on this a bit it is quite nice and wonderfully complex. For some it may be an acquired taste. You need to let this breathe for quite some time though, although seeing it change with time is quite nice as well. Interesting Malt. Recommended for aficionado’s. I liked the feel of the 10yo I reviewed earlier, and this one doesn’t disappoint as well. However, I’m not that positive about some of the other regular releases by the owners themselves, so be careful with buying those without trying.

Points: 85

 

Bellevue 15yo 1998/2014 (52.6%, Isla del Ron, IdR 011, 169 bottles, Guadeloupe)

The market for good Rum is on the rise, especially in markets where Single Malt Whisky is king. In the last couple of years the run on good Whisky was bigger than life, depleting the stocks considerably. Today we face not a shortage as such, but a shortage in older matured Whiskies. In part because there isn’t any, in part because it is simply not bottled because one can fetch a better price later on down the road. Hence we see an ever-growing number of Whiskies without an age statement and with a funky little name. Nothing bad here, but putting two and two together, the Whiskies must be younger and younger to be able to keep the new bottlings coming for a hungry (read: thirsty) public.

Whisky people in general are not happy with the youth of their Whiskies, nor are they happy with the development of prices of their beloved aged Whiskies. Just look at Highland Park 18yo, Talisker 18yo and Laphroaig 18yo, producers simply don’t have the time anymore to wait that long and subsequently sell it for a not so super-premium price. It’s not all romance you know, it still is a business. Happy times for Whisky producers in warm climate countries such as Taiwan and India, where very good Whisky is made today in much less time than in Scotland and the other traditional Whisky countries.

In comes Rum. Whisky people are open to trying other distillates that are nice and/or aged, and/or affordable. One of those alternatives for Whisky is Rum. Guadeloupe Sainte Anne Grande-TerreThe old Rum community is enriched with Whisky people fishing in the pond of Rum and getting to know the product and a different kind of romanticism. Where Scotland is beautiful, but also cold and wet, Rum predominantly comes for the Caribbean and especially the image of paradise islands comes to mind. Older Rums are becoming scarce very quickly and just like Whisky, will become almost extinct, Prices are on the rise as well. Where have we seen this before?

Lots of independent bottlers of fine Single Malt Whisky are turning to Rum. Some did that many, many years ago, Like Cadenhead and Berry Brothers & Rudd, and some more recently like Wilson & Morgan (Rum Nation), Kintra and David Stirks outfit Exclusive Malts, but there are many more. Today we’ll have a look at another one. Isla del Ron is the Rum brand of Thomas Ewers’ outfit, Malts of Scotland.

Thomas EwersThomas bottled a Rum from Guadeloupe from a distillery nobody has heard of, South Pacific (as stated on the label), not to be confused with the South Pacific distillery of Fiji, which is entirely different place altogether. Thomas explained to me he was offered a cask of South Pacific, which turned out to be Bellevue instead, so in this case the label is wrong. Casks like this are sold to bottlers through brokers, so it’s not a surprise there are a lot more Bellevue casks from 1998 bottled by different parties. And with brokers there lies a problem. Brokers only want to sell on casks, not really caring informing the buying party what really is in the cask if they have the information at all.

Thomas believes this to be from the Bellevue distillery on Marie Galante Island, but looking at information of many other “Bellevue’s” from 1998, it can also be Damoiseau’s Bellevue Distillery (Le Moule, Grande-Terre), which would be even more probable, since it is a larger producer. So we’re not sure about the exact distillery, nor can we be about the ingredients. It can be either distilled from molasses or from sugar cane juice. It can even be a blend of both, since some distilleries produce both. Sugar cane when it is harvested, and molasses the rest of the year. Questions, questions.

Isla del Ron GuadeloupeColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Big aroma, lots of different spices. It’s like a spice mix from Indian Whisky. Vanilla, chewy. Dry, spicy and fatty but not sweet. Hint of sweet peppermint. Butter and coffee with milk. Mocha and hot butter as well. Cinnamon, cocoa powder, leather and hints of soft wood. Damp earth and after that rather dusty. Hints of licorice mixed with a nice dry and clean woody note and slightly burned sugar, molten plastic (don’t worry) and creamy banana. Very well-balanced and a nose of great complexity. Especially when the heavier elements are snorted out of the glass, the fun starts. Wow!

Taste: Starts out with a short, sweet and aromatic burst, but quickly becomes dry and very aromatic, with again the Indian spice-mix so predominant in the nose. Nutmeg and lavas, but there is a whole lot more. When it goes down the hatch it becomes even drier. The lighter elements start to evaporate in my mouth and engulfs it with lots of beautiful aroma’s. Milk chocolate, dry leather and a slight bitter edge of wood. Hints of licorice, tar and charred oak. Hot chocolate. After getting used to the spicy dryness, it becomes creamy hot chocolate style. Lovely development as well, especially since the aftertaste is stronger than the finish. Wow, what an amazing Rum!

I like the bottle used for Isla del Ron, it’s the same bottle used for Pusser’s 15yo, HSE from Martinique and last but not least, for Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. I only have a beef with the label, its dark, dull and depressing. Rum comes from places where life is colorful. I hope Thomas will continue to bottle a lot more Rum’s, but I hope he’ll spice up the looks a bit!

In the end, after I tasted this in the shop, I needed a whole 10 seconds to snatch one up. This stuff makes me happy!

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Rik for the sample.

Clynelish 15yo 1997/2012 (51.5%, The Whisky Mercenary, Bourbon Cask, 59 bottles)

A few days ago I reviewed another Clynelish from 1997, and I just stumbled across this one, bottled by the Whisky Mercenary a.k.a. Jürgen Vromans. Since this is bottled in 2012, I guess Jurgen sent it to me a few years back as well. Only 59 bottles did once exist, but we know the Belgians to be enjoying life quite a bit, so I don’t think a lot of bottles of this have survived. I guess its will be even harder to find one of these today. I’ve reviewed quite a lot of Jürgen’s bottlings, and I have to give it to him, he has quite the nose for picking them, as well as being allowed to pick “dem Whiskies!” You might not know, but it’s not easy to be an independent bottler. You just don’t go into a warehouse trying all of the casks lying around and picking the best you can find, unless you have a bit of a reputation…

Clynelish TWMColor: White wine.

Nose: Buttery and malty. Fresh. Like a breath of fresh air, yet also citrus fresh. Creamy toffee barley. The cask seemed to be quite inactive, maybe the color also gives that away a bit already, but the sweetness is more like toffee and not big on vanilla you get from more first fill and more active casks. Another hint is the lack of a pronounced wood aroma. Cold apple compote with a bit of warm apple sauce, laced with a splash of calvados. All those apply associations are noticeable, but in no way overpowering. The fruity sweetness gets more and more dusty and dry, with a tiny bit of surface wood, oak obviously, with a little bit of mint. Apple pie, after some breathing the apple is joined by some freshly made dough. Nice balance with more than usual distillery character. Typical example where the wood did less to make the Whisky. It shows its other side. Fruity fresh, with shallow depth, dough aroma instead of wood, but at the same time lacking real depth and complexity. This isn’t a fault. It’s just different, and with this it shows another side of Single Malt Whisky in general.

Taste: Well, what a surprise. Sure it is fruity, but way more wood in here than in the nose. It starts with wood and paper as well as quite the peppery note. Sugary sweetness and creamy. I didn’t expect that at all. Toffee and bread. Caramel. The aroma’s grow a bit bigger with more breathing, so don’t be to hasty with this one. The lack of activity from the cask is noticeable by the weakness of the finish. It starts with a little attack, for a brief moment shows a nice body, but then it comes down very quick and leaves you a bit with a light, short and unremarkable aftertaste, which at some point in time even gets a bit bitter. Cedar wood bitterness. This bitterness even grows bigger, if you drink this Whisky after a prolonged time of breathing.

In my opinion, not the best of Clynelishes around, but there are many other who like it even better. This is from 2012, right at the start of his career as The Whisky Mercenary. Its hard then to get to pick the very best of casks, and it is a shared cask as well. Only 59 bottles was his share, but I guess at this ABV there was more Whisky in the cask, bottled or blended by others. Nevertheless educational, because here you can see that it’s more about the spirit, than it is about the wood.

Compared to the 1997 Wemyss Clynelish I reviewed a few days ago, the family resemblance is quite remarkable, but the Wemyss is definitely the more aromatic and polished expression of the two.

Points: 81

Linkwood 15yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, First Fill & Refill Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

Gordon & MacPhail release Whiskies in many series. Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, Gordon & McPhail Cask Strength, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive to name but a few. Whisky Geeks call the series like this Linkwood the “Licenced Bottlings”, but I have heard the people of Gordon & MacPhail calling it the “Distillery Labels”, though both names aren’t anywhere to be found on the label. Bottlings in this series consist of Whiskies, where there isn’t (really) an official bottling of, again, like this Linkwood, and to a lesser extent Strathisla and Longmorn, like the 1971 I reviewed not so long ago, of which an official bottling did exist, although not many. If memory serves me correctly, Whiskies in this series were always reduced to 40% ABV and later 43% ABV.

Linkwood 15yo G&MColor: Light copper gold.

Nose: Dusty and funky Sherry. Slightly raisiny. Deep, dark and brooding. Nutty not fruity, so lacking the Sherry cherry of fresh and fruity Whisky. This is all but lively. Its darker and more brooding than I’ve come to expect. Very old calvados. It is apply but in a dense and syrupy kind of way. It’s some kind of hybrid between old Calvados and raisins. It is quite old and unusual smelling and definitely does not smell like a distillate from the early nineties. Hints of charred oak and vanilla powder. Nice, deep and complex. Oily baking paper. Dull brown sugar and some soft wood spices, and sometimes a short whiff of old soap.  More a sort of floral note than a real soapy note.

Taste: Paper and wood, again deep and all but fresh. Old raisins. Dried apples. Red apple skins and definitely from Sherry casks. Quite restrained. This does not shout out its presence, it more sort of sits in the corner quietly. Distant burnt note. Apart from the (burnt) woody (paper) and Sherried traits, this is also has qualities of refined sugar without being very sweet. Does that make sense? Hidden sweetness overpowered by the aroma’s described above? Second half lacks a bit of development and the finish concentrates around the wood and paper notes, with hints of old Sherried Whiskies ending in a medium walnut bitterness and of medium length. It end with the finish, there is no noteworthy aftertaste.

Actually this particular bottling, and beware there are more batches of this, is quite restrained and is unlike many of the Whiskies that are on the market today. This also makes it less likely choice for a daily drinker. Although it is alright at 43% ABV, I wouldn’t have minded some extra 3%, just to carry and strengthen the aroma’s that are presented to us.

Points: 83

Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Circa 2003)

So the Springbank 10yo is always a nice dram and really affordable to boot. Springbank 15yo is usually quite a different dram, never simply only an older version of the 10yo. We already know there always is quite some batch variation with Springbank, and we love that. Not every consecutive 15yo is similar to the previous one, and now the 15yo is not a mere step up of the 10yo. Apart from the taste of it, probably the reason a lot of anoraks love Springbank. So without further ado lets finish off this rotten year 2015 (at least for me it was) and aim for a better year in 2016. So I’ll see you again next year, in good health. Slainthe!

Springbank 15yo (circa 2003)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, right from the bat, mixed with fresh air. Something completely different from the 10yo. More fruity with fruity acidity from all kinds of different fruits. Apply acidity as well as acidity from dark fruits. Dry and dusty. Lean and sharp, as opposed to the fatty vanilla from the 10yo. It’s not just an older version of the 10yo. Small hints of peat as well as (only) a small hint of the clay and wax from the 10yo at first, but these aroma’s, as well as the sweetness, develop a lot over time, so give it time to grow. Wonderful stuff.

Taste: Sweetish, red fruits, cloying syrup. A bit Port like. Toasted cask. Peatier than the 10yo, but the peat is well hidden behind the Sherry notes. Definitely a lot drier and fruitier from the 10yo. Alas, just like the 10yo, this has not the longest of finishes and the aftertaste is not particularly big as well. Lovely development towards more fatty peat and oil and sweet tar and a hint of licorice and sugared black tea. Extremely well made and balanced.

I remember when this was released, it wasn’t a very popular bottling. Sure it deviated quite a bit from the usual Campbeltown profile. Even today the 15yo isn’t the most popular Springbank. People seem to dish out more for the old 10yo than for this old 15yo. I’m just happy it is here and it is different from the 10yo. I love both, but for me the Sherry brings something new to the Springbank table, and therefore will score this slightly higher (and because I like it more).

Points: 86

Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Circa 2006)

Almost three and a half years ago I reviewed it’s older brother from the same series, the 25yo. Rummaging through samples stored (read: misplaced) all over the place, I found this 15yo, as well as the 21yo, which I will review next. These two are samples of the standard range Glenfarclas from more or less ten years ago. Today the label look different, although the dumpy bottle stayed. So without further ado, I give you Glenfarclas 15yo.

Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, Circa 2006)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Dusty and dry, hints of Wine and Sherry. Creamy with vanilla and some nice soft oak. A perfumed woody wind seems to emanate from my glass. The perfumy, jasmine tea, bit seems more powerful with air, up to the point you could almost wear it. Next a cardboardy note joins the slightly minty florality. It smells nice, not “wrong” as most soapy notes often do. Quite some depth. Notes of roasted beef, covered in black pepper as well as toasted oak. Wow, the diversity of aroma’s the Sherry has given this Whisky is amazing. I’ll call this “oriental”.

Taste: Starts with oak and wood, with a smooth and slippery mouthfeel. Some burned oak and cardboard again. Luckily the cardboardy notes don’t ruin this Whisky at all. Warming, fruity and aromatic. Not heavy, cloying of full of raisins. Nope this Sherry is more lively and fruity. This one is bottled at 46% ABV, where as the 21 and the 25yo are 43% ABV. The slightly higher strength hold it up beautifully. Beer-like finish, some burnt notes. The Sherry returns in the aftertaste, but the charcoal, burnt wood notes never leave. Not overly complex.

Well, one thing is for shure, they don’t make them like this anymore. Although this was bottled almost 10 years ago, I can’t imagine the current 15yo will taste, and smell, anything like this. But I could be wrong. I hope I’ll get the chance to try some more recent bottlings of “standard” Glenfarclas (apart from the 21yo I’ll review next).

Points: 83