Ledaig 15yo 1997/2013 (59.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, for Van Wees, Refill Sherry Hogshead #464, 262 bottles, AC/JICD)

Well, this should be interesting! Fall 2015 saw me doing a review of a sistercask (#465) of this Whisky. The cask next door, so to speak. It was filled the same day with exactly the same distillate, in just another refill Sherry hogshead, but with, probably, a different result, since no two casks are really alike. Both were distilled on 23/10/1997, #464 was bottled 01/08/2013, and #465 was bottled on 30/10/2013. Bottled only three months later but making one a 15yo old and the other a 16yo. #465 is also the darker of the two, but the difference looks bigger than the aforementioned 3 months. Maybe the two casks contained different Sherries. Maybe one cask was more active, or had a deeper char. All can be true.

#465 was bottled for The Whisky Exchange (of London), and #464 was bottled for Van Wees (of Amersfoort). Both casks were refill Sherry hogsheads. I’m opening this #464 now, since #465 is almost empty and it’s time to “kill” it. Don’t believe for a second, since it lasted me this long, it wasn’t any good. It is actually so good, I didn’t want it to be empty soon, second it isn’t really a daily drinker type Whisky to boot. It’s a big, big Whisky. So today I still have a chance to compare the two. Just bear in kind, one has had plenty of time to breathe and the other is almost freshly opened.

Color: Full gold, with some orange.

Nose: Funky, dusty and meaty. Big and sweet-smelling. Fatty, dirty, meaty peat. Almost like an animal was turned into peat along with the plants. Nothing bad here, just very animalesk. Crushed beetle and gasses bubbling up from a pond. Expect no clean earthy peat, or just bursts of sharp smoke. Yes, smoke is here, as well as peat. Smoke from wet wood. Marshland wood. Earthy. Wet and dirty peat. Earthy sweet peat. The smoke is soft. Spicy, vegetal and highly aromatic. Hints of liquorice and dust, mixed in with toasted oak. Vanilla, mocha and more drier wood and sharper smoke. Hints of Rhum Agricole if you ask me. Hints of peppermint immersed in mud. Very organic mud. Do I detect some sulphurous compounds in the back? Wonderful balance though.

Taste: Starts sharp and quickly turns to sweet, with a peppery attack, quickly followed by peat and sharp smoke. Its like the initial sweetness coats the mouth and when that recedes, the sharper element comes to the front of the stage. Maybe fruity even, I’m sure of it actually, but that part is overwhelmed by the rest of the big aroma’s this Whisky has. Licorice power, sweet licorice wood. Ashes, even cigarette ashes. Extremely warming, I can feel it going all the way down. Never get that a lot, not even from cask #465. Sweet, lots and lots of almonds and even hints of anise, barely noticeable: acetone based nail polish remover, and the crushed beetle is here too. This may seem strange and quite off, but let me assure you, this is all positive for the whole of this Whisky. Give it some time and more fruity notes start to develop. Red and yellow fruits. Sweetish, but also slightly acidic. Nutty and waxy. Hints of burnt plastic. Lots of smoke in the taste, along with some cow dung in the finish. Very rural and farmy. Salty lips. What a wonderful Whisky again, utterly complex. There is so much happening. It’s only slightly less balanced than the nose, and cask #465 for that matter. This imperfection is best noticeable in the aftertaste.

In a direct comparison, it is obvious to me that #465 is the more civilized of the two. The same notes appear, but turned down quite a bit. It’s not as “loud” as #464. It’s fruitier, with apple notes and some more red fruits emerge as well. More elegant and less broad, less sweet. Slightly sharper and more acidic. Better balance in the taste and definitely more elegant and less dirty. So not identical twins. #464 is bigger, bolder and has a longer finish. The sulphurous bits of #464 are easier to detect in a direct comparison, since #465 seems to have much less of it, or lacks it altogether.

I love both these Ledaigs, and if you have a preference, it’s because one of the two better suits your profile )of the moment). More elegant or more rough, cases can be made for both. Personally today, I might prefer #465 (it shows coal and black fruit, which I love), however tomorrow I might prefer #464 (big and bold). It just depends. #465 will score higher because it does show a bit more quality and balance, with more of the aroma’s I like, but, who knows, maybe some more breathing will bring out even more in #464. I’m in for a treat the next months/years…

Points: 89

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Tamdhu 15yo 1991/2006 (60%, Adelphi, Bourbon Cask #1955, 257 bottles)

Well let’s continue with another oldie, shall we? Clear out some of the sample bottles to fill it up with something new. This is Tamdhu, and Tamdhu is not on Islay, nor will this Whisky be peated. I expect a lot of this Whisky. First of all it’s Tamdhu, which makes a lovely distillate. It’s bottled by Adelphi, a bottler so good, it almost seems as if they can pick any cask they like. This has 60% ABV and just look at the color. Yeah baby, bring it on!

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Wood and sometimes a hint of an aromatic White wine. Very spicy. This must have been a very active (toasted) cask. Although you might think this cask previously held some sort of Sherry, I hardly doubt it. Creamy vanilla. American oak, all the way. No Sherry notes whatsoever and yet pretty sweet-smelling, although the dryness of the oak, soon takes over, to never let go. Ehhhm, is this all? Hints of fresh air, but it’s mostly all aroma’s that have to do with oak. It’s definitely not overoaked, mind you, but it seems to be rather mono-dimensional. I’m actually a bit disappointed now, since this is Tamdhu, from Adelphi, which has a reputation, and it’s 60% ABV. I love cask strength. Still, nothing happens for me. Sawdust and hot oak. It smells a bit like a carpenters workshop. This definitely could have done with some blueberry notes, now it smells a bit, dull…

Taste: Initially quite sweet, and again, everything you’d expect from an ex-Bourbon cask. Vanilla, powdered vanilla, creamy pudding, instant pudding powder. Milk chocolate (powder) and a totally different green feel to it, as well. My heart skips a beat right now, because, this is more or less it. Lots of oaky notes, and a strange sweetness. Not a lot more is coming to me to be honest. Earlier I already thought my nose was failing me, but tastewise I don’t “see” a lot of evolution in my glass. WYSIWYG.

Although Adelphi claim, Tamdhu prefers ex- Bourbon casks, I always thought Tamdhu was one of those distillates that work wonders with ex-Sherry casks, in both American and European oak. This particular example has no flaws, it’s nice, but it almost has no  complexity, nor does it evolve a lot after pouring or whilst drinking. I’m pretty sure I will forget rather quickly, how this tasted like, and I hardly forget the taste of a Whisky. Go figure.

Points: 83

Glen Garioch 15yo (53.7%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Cask Matured, 2016)

Back in 2013 I reviewed Glen Garioch’s entry-level Founder’s Reserve bottling. Maybe a simple Whisky at first, but showing potential with its development in my glass. In the end it scored (maybe only) 83 points, and I concluded that my interest in Glen Garioch was rekindled. Fast Forward to 2019 and here finally is my rekindled interest with this Glen Garioch bottling. Took me long enough! I picked this one from my lectern because it goes fast, very fast, and the bottle is only 1/4 full, (or 3/4 empty if you are a pessimist). Considering I opened it not too long ago, you can already conclude I like it very much, although I could have had other uses for tasty Whisky as well.

This particular bottling saw the light of day in 2016 in travel retail outlets, like airports, on ferry’s and such. However by 2018, and maybe sooner, this bottling seems to be more widely available. Maybe Glen Garioch is our little secret and not widely known to the general public. Well if you ask me, this bottling should stay our little secret and I also feel this isn’t very suitable for the general public to boot, but more about that later. As far as I know, there are two batches made of this: L162341 and L162342. The bottle I have carries the lower of both numbers.

Color: Copper orange brown.

Nose: Creamy, spicy and fresh. Very exotic. Almost Indian, tasted blind I might have said Amrut. Lots of creamy woody notes quickly follow suit. Sawdust and pencil shavings, not old wood. Lots of backbone to this. Typical Oloroso notes we also know from Aberlour A’Bunadh, yet here it is somewhat less harsh, less alcohol as well, but also older and the spiciness is definitely more exotic. Which Oloroso Sherry was in these casks, I wonder? Hints of vanilla and some tar. Tiniest hint of sulphur adding to the backbone. Honey and overall quite dusty. Dark, deep and brooding Sherry notes, but not too much. It also has a lively vibrant side to it (as opposed to the Bunnahabhain I just reviewed). Lots of character to this. Appetizing. I need a Pizza after this review! (I did!).

Taste: Big and very creamy. Sweet as well. Toffee, caramel, the lot. The (fruity) sweetness is less pronounced in the evening. Starts with quite a big wonderful spicy woody note and some tree sap. Slightly dry and soapy, with tar and Sherry, but it’s a beautiful woody note. It fits the nose perfectly. Hints of black fruits start to emerge. Well balanced but not as much evolution as one might think after 15 years, not as complex as well. However, what you do get instantly is a very well composed, and utterly delicious Sherried Whisky. Sometimes I pick up some bitterness in the finish, but that is no problem whatsoever. Wonderful expression. Probably best after dinner and a cigar can’t hurt it either.

Trying this one right after the Bunnahabhain, I just reviewed, I have to wonder how stuff like this would be after 30 years of ageing. Nevermind this. Tasting this after the Bunnahabhain is bliss. They differ so much, but go together very well. The Bunnahabhain today is quite pricy at auctions, and If you’re quick, this Glen Garioch seems to be on sale quite a lot, but it will sell out eventually, and then its gone.

Finally, I often give the advice that you should give a Whisky some air and time to breathe. Just pick any Springbank review and it’s there. Surprisingly, that is not the case this time, This Glen Garioch is best right after pouring it, just sayin’.

Points: 88

Potter Distilling Company 15yo 1985/2000 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Indian Corn, Bourbon Barrel, 360 bottles)

For the first time on these pages we’ll have a look at a Canadian Whisky, sorry Davin, I hope you can forgive me. This is some sort of oddity considering the place this was distilled as well as the grain used. Let’s start with the latter. It’s easier. For this Whisky, Indian Corn was used. Indian Corn is better known as flint corn, with a hard (as flint) outer layer, making it also suitable for use as popcorn. It has a very low water content, so it is more resistant to freezing than other vegetables and thus pretty resilient under harsh conditions. This is actually one of the three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans hence the name Indian Corn. Most Indian Corn is multi-colored.

Information about The Potter Distilling Company was a bit harder to find. Potter’s Distillers was founded in 1958 by Ernie Potter in Langley B.C. The company first operated as a bottler of Liqueurs but after a few years expanded into spirits. Sometimes the distillery is also known as the Cascadia distillery. In 1962 Captain Harold John Cameron Terry (Born in Australia) bought Potter’s Distillers and headed the business for more than two decades. According to the website of the current owners Highwood Distillers, production was moved in 1990 from Langley B.C. to Kelowna B.C. where it remained until 2006, after which it moved to its roomier current location at High River, Alberta. Does this mean the label of all those Cadenhead’s bottlings are wrong? The Whisky in those bottles was distilled in 1985 (a 14yo, 15yo, 31yo and a 32yo) and 1989 (a 10yo, 11yo, 24yo and a 26yo), but state Kelowna B.C. and not Langley B.C. Oops!

The picture below is from the 11yo, 1989 bottle, but the 15yo I’m about to review, looks exactly the same. Both Whiskies were bottled in 2000. I tried both before buying and I ended up with the 15yo…

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Sweet and fatty, yet very fresh with a nice touch of wood and Bourbon Whiskey. Very big nose. It has two sides to it. One big on creamy notes with vanilla, fudge, caramel, toffee, butter and pudding, you know where this goes. The other side is sharper, like a breath of fresh, very cold air. Nice defined wood, sharp and spicy. Toasted oak and licorice. The alcohol is quite pronounced as well. Notes of mocha. This is a big strong Whisky, which has been open for a long time and these are literally the last few drops from the bottle. Time and air can’t hurt it. Well balanced and slightly dusty now. A wonderful nose, that you need to add to your library of Whisky smells.

Taste: Sweet and tasted blind I might have said Demerara Rum, or Rhum Agricole even. Somewhere in between both. Definitely closer to a Rum, than a Single Malt Whisky. Just like the nose the alcohol is pronounced in the taste as well. Yup, sweet vanilla, warm butter and notes of a liqueur. Hints of toasted oak, tar and caramel and some slightly burnt sugar. Beyond the sweetness, there is more. It does have a certain depth to it. In a way it has something of a Rum, a Bourbon Whisky and the added freshness of a Gin. This is a Chameleon of a drink. The finish is not as long as expected, and a nice warming creamy, buttery and toffee note stays behind for the aftertaste, which is of medium length.

Another bottle finished as I’m writing a review. I’ve had this a for long time (I opened it in 2006). You can’t drink this sweet stuff very quickly. This needs its moments, and if you pick them wisely, you’ll have this around for a while, but every time you’ll get it, it’s great. I’m actually sad its empty, and for old times sake I’ll try to get another one of those Potters by Cadenhead’s. I can be a very sentimental guy sometimes.

Points: 84

The Balvenie 15yo 1989/2004 ‘Single Barrel’ (47.8%, OB, Bourbon Barrel #7581)

2003 will for ever be the year when The Balvenie 15yo aka ‘The Single Barrel’ from the masters of reduction, was even further reduced. Where this bottling, which often was older than the stated 15yo, used to be reduced to a nice 50.4% ABV, from 2003 on, was further reduced to 47.8%. Bugger, less tax, mo’ money? Never mind. Balvenie is always a nice distillery to review. The company usually puts much effort in reaching consistency between batches, but fails miserably, when comparing this 12yo ‘Doublewood’ to this one and this one. The 15yo however, was intended to have (some) batch variation, since they were the results of one Bourbon cask (I’m not sure if all are Barrels though). Funny enough subsequent releases, and there are many, were pretty similar, when you expected some more emphasis on the difference between casks. I guess, there is more difference when comparing two from (quite) different distilling dates. Well how convenient. Five years back I wrote a review of a 15yo ‘Single Barrel’ that was distilled in 1983, and released in 1999 @ 50.4% ABV, and now we are going to have a look at a “newer” example distilled in 1989, and released in 2004 @ 47.8% ABV. (The picture is of a similar bottling from cask #7633).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Initially fruity and fresh. Very accessible. Vibrant and happy I would say, Summer, it’s like sunshine in a glass. Barley, some butter and brown sugar. Vanilla powder and white oak. Dusty mocha. Hint of gun powder and soap. Next a more vegetal note emerges. Half dried weeds lying around in the sun and some fresh almonds in the background. Soft rhubarb. The more it breathes the weaker it gets. Simpler as well. Pretty easy Whisky, typical of the cask it came from.

Taste: Sweeter than expected, and bigger as well. Lots of fruit, dried apricots, peach in sweet yoghurt, but also vanilla and coffee creamer notes. Pudding and custard. Milk chocolate. Chocolate mousse. This cask gave off lots of vanillin. Very green and vegetal. Nutty, almonds again. A hint of christmas spices. Cloves, that kind of thing. Apart from this, a strange cold dishwater note and add to that a burnt note as well as a slightly floral note. Green. The nose definitely was cleaner. Ice-cream and fruity liqueur (alcohol).

It is strange and typical at the same time. Typical in the way that it is where it came from (Bourbon Barrel), but some strange notes appear as well. The sweetness and the notes mentioned above make this not really a daily drinker. With this one you need some down-time or follow it up with something else. One at a time is enough, and yes this makes it different from other examples of the 15yo I have tasted, so a succesful exercise in getting some batch variation. Not my favourite of the 15’s though.

Points: 84

Benrinnes 15yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L15P00535367, Circa 2001)

Long time no see! I took a month off, since a lot happened lately. First of all, a new job, which is nice, takes up a lot of time though, and the moments I did have left for writing reviews, were also spent differently than I initially expected. Apart from that, also The Whisky Show in London happened. Today, instead of reviewing something new from that show, I chose an oldie from my lectern.

Just like the Flora & Fauna Mortlach bottling I reviewed earlier, this is a bottle I brought with me to a gathering of my Whisky club, and as can happen when opening old bottles, the cork broke quite easily, crumbled to a pulp. You gotta love those corks now don’t you? Of all the Flora & Fauna bottlings, Mortlach, Dailuaine and this Benrinnes are the really Sherried ones (but there are more). Experience also shows us there is definitely some batch variation going on in the Flora & Fauna series. Here we have an oldie, supposedly bottled in 2001 (or 2002), so not a recent one, which might be entirely different.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry. Nice and earthy. Meaty, cold gravy. Thick aroma. Coal and steam. Is it already a sherried bottling from a different time than ours? How would a more recent example compare? This was distilled in the eighties, which was a different era compared to a Gordon & MacPhail Longmorn from 1971. So heavy on the Sherry. Thick and astringent. Dry and not as fruity as Longmorn. If you ask me, this compares more to the style of Glenfarclas, drier and not-so-fruity. Funky, tarry, musk, brown sugar, coffee creamer and definitely Vanilla. American oak. Still not a lot of fruit though. Hints of very ripe cherries mixed in with oak. Dry, dusty and quite spicy. Hints of cask toast including the smell of molten plastic. Meaty, cooked vegetables with more oak and spices. Hard to tell which spices though, although anise and cloves come to mind, as well as some crushed beetle (that’s not a spice isn’t it?). I can’t help but feel there are some older casks used for this particular expression. Good and interesting, but also a bit “strange”. A hint of soap (not of the perfumy kind) and mocha.

Taste: On entry, a brief light moment, almost like a underproof Whisky (which it is not). Soft, but luckily not “smooth”. It has wonderful raw edges and does show some bitter (and soapy) notes as well, which do work well. Fruitier than the nose, and already one that needs to breathe. Somewhat sweeter than expected, caramel but also the brown sugar I got from the nose, all in good measure though. Tar and plastic yes, cherries? yes as well, but that’s about it. Does it matter? No, since it is a different kind of Sherried Whisky. Lots of (sweet) licorice (and toffee) in stead, it almost tastes salty. Again, a very interesting and tasty experience. Wonderful body, but it sometimes falls apart a bit in the finish (depending on the moment). Finish isn’t as long as one would think, but still has enough length. Well, if it’s a problem, take another sip then. Tar and coal make up the aftertaste, and Sherry of course.

For me, another gem in the Flora & Fauna range. Especially looking at those earlier bottlings, there were quite a few more than wonderful examples there. Mortlach, Blair Athol, Rosebank, all excellent. Worth looking for. I really need to have a look at more recent bottlings in this range to compare them to the older ones…

People start to pay silly money for the Flora & Fauna Mortlach, and it doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s an older one or one of the last. Granted, they are very good, but really, this 2001 bottling of Benrinnes is equally as good!

Points: 88

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 sligtly too sweet. 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