Ardmore 1996/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, Refill Sherry Hogsheads)

Why review one Ardmore, when you can review two? Hidden far away in a wooden box, where I keep my odd-shaped sample bottles, I found this more recent Ardmore. All Ardmores I reviewed up ’till now, were somewhat older bottlings, and this one is more recent. 2014 is not that long ago isn’t it? Gordon & MacPhail released 1996 Ardmores in 2013 and 2014, and both are still available, so I guess they hold off a new release, untill both of these sell out. Where on one side we have official bottlings (OB’s), in this case the range released by Beam Suntory (the owners of Ardmore), on the other side we have independent bottlers (IB’s). Usually, firms that buy casks of Whisky and bottle them as a single cask (usually).

However, this particular Gordon & MacPhail bottling lies somewhere in between. This series is known as the licensed bottlings, but are also known as the distillery labels. This comes from the time the owners of certain distilleries allow Gordon & MacPhail to bottle a Whisky and market it as the “official” release, since back then the owners didn’t release an official bottling themselves, probably using the output from that distillery for blends.

Gordon & MacPhail do their own wood management (The wood makes the whisky). They bring in their own casks and fill them at a distillery. Sometimes they leave the cask to mature at the distillery, but more often they take it with them to their own warehouses.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Creamy, vanilla and ice-cream, oh and Sherried as well. On top some smoke. Right from the start this is very well-balanced. Everything is where it’s supposed to be. Sherry casks from American oak. Very sweet, big and thick smelling. Nutty. Almonds, with hints of clay. Add to this a fruity cloying sweetness with an edge of perfect peat, with sometimes some burnt match-stick aroma’s, with only a tiny hint of the sulphur. The sulphur is a mere trace, and I don’t pick it up every time I try this. Next to this the Sherry gives off a funky note which should be an off-note, but here, it works well in the construct of the nose. Almost like artificial orange powder (Sinaspril). Fire-place in the middle of winter. Almost christmas. Lots of vanilla comes next and the smoky note stays. Works very nice together. As I said, very well-balanced indeed. Medium complexity though, and it shows its hand quite quickly. After that, not a lot of development is happening.

Taste: Ahhh, yes. Nice (simple) sweet, creamy, nutty and (red) fruity Sherry nose, mixed in with vanilla and big toffee. Cold black tea. It’s big on the Sherry, the almonds and the cream this is. Also a slightly bitter oaky edge. Peat, but it’s aroma is different from the nose. Stricter and more modern. The fruit evolves in acidity. Excellent smoky note. Come to think of it, where is the wood influence? The wood may have made this Whisky (imho, the Sherry did), but where is the wood itself? Sure it has a lot of vanilla and creamy notes, so American oak was used, I believe, this one would have been better in European oak. A similar thing happens as it did with the nose. Everything is there right from the start and hardly any evolution happens after that. Balanced, yes, sure, but not as much as the nose. Lacks even more complexity than the nose.

Right from the start I thought it was nice, and it is. The journey, however, I was about to take with this Ardmore didn’t happen. Alas. A good Whisky, but it is what it is. The start was promising, and it started with a nice statement from the nose. After that it all went a bit downhill and simple. The Ardmore I reviewed last, also has its flaws, and I can’t say this one is better, hence the similar score. Both are good, but I expected a bit more, especially since in this one, the Ardmore distillery character is obvious in the nose, but not on the palate.

Points: 85

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Bowmore 1996/2014 “Aniseed Pastille” (46%, Wemyss Malts, Single Cask Release, Hogshead, 344 bottles)

This is not the first Wemyss bottling on Master Quill, but it is definitely the second and most certainly not the last. In the previous review I mentioned something about William Wemyss, so I won’t repeat that here.

Wemyss Malts (Edinburgh) was established in 2005 by William, who previously made a name for the Wemyss family in the wine business, producing Fonty’s Pool (Western Australia) and Rimauresq (Provence, France). Wemyss is Scottish and owns land where in the early 19th century John Haig’s first distillery, Cameronbridge, was built. Wemyss also grows barley there, that is used by several Scottish Malt Whisky distilleries, so historically the interest in Whisky has always been there.

Wemyss Malts releases vintage single cask Whiskies from many different distilleries as well as a few Blended Malts (since 2005), a Blended Whisky called Lord Elcho (since 2012) and through another company, a Gin (Darnley’s View, since 2010). The single cask bottlings are reduced to 46% and get a “name” in a similar way SMWS uses a flavour descriptor on their Whiskies. In 2013 William entered a new phase in their Whisky-adventure by purchasing the Kingsbarns distillery project at East Newhall Farm in Fife from Douglas Clement, who had problems raising money to fund the building of the distillery. The distillery is managed under Wemyss Distillery Ltd. which is a separate company from Wemyss Malts. Kingsbarns produces spirit since January 2015, so maybe we can expect their first Single Malt very soon. Since it is supposed to be a light and fruity Whisky, I expect it during summer. At first Douglas stayed on as founding director and as manager of the visitor centre. However, Douglas eventually left the distillery by the end of 2016 to ‘pursue other projects’.

Color: Light citrussy gold.

Nose: Big and fresh. This jumps out of my glass, like a young dog, full of life, wanting to lick you in the face. I hope this makes you understand, that this doesn’t smell like a heavy hitting Islay Malt, but a more friendly one. Nice soft peat, with a spiral of smoke rising from our bonfire. Fresh almonds, but it’s not a nutty Whisky. Apart from that, it’s quite citrussy, fresh and thus fruity, hence the friendliness of this Malt. Salty smoked fish with hints of sea-spray. Yes a bit of creamy vanilla, but no real woody notes. Only a tiny bit of wood and an even tinier hint of liquorice. Cigarette ashes? Proper refill hogshead. If smelled longer and more vigorously, I also get some more soft red fruits, ripe raspberry’s come to mind mixed in with some mud and a black pepper edge. Dirty friendly stuff. Smells excellent!

Taste: Sweet on entry. Toffee and runny caramel. Here comes sticky sweetness. Waxy and quite some soft peat. Ashes and slightly tarry. Already suffers a bit from reduction. Orange skins (bitter) and a bit of paper. Nutty notes again, not much though, followed by more smoky notes embedded in the sticky sweetness, giving some sharpness. Paper-like note keeps coming back to me. On the sides of my tongue there is this slight bitter note of aniseed. The power of suggestion? Yes I do get aniseed, but the sweetness is different. Not the dry, hard sugar of the pastilles, but rather soft toffee. Otherwise, I find this Bowmore a wee bit too simple in the taste department. Lacks development as well. It doesn’t have a long finish, nor a lot of aftertaste, which is built around sweetness and smoke (and secretly some black fruits I love in Bowmore), but where is the wood? Again, easy to drink, but a bit too simple. Depending on your day, because you, the taster, are far from being objective, the bitterness shifts in or out of focus. The second time around I tasted this for this review, on another day, I found it to be more bitter than the first time around (more fruity). Isn’t that complexity?

Comparing this Wemyss version of Bowmore, to Bowmore’s own take on Bowmore, I decided to do a head-2-head with “White Sands” an official 17yo travel retail Bowmore reduced to an even more un-modern 43% ABV. This bottling comes with the special recommendation of Eddie MacAffer, and yes, the “White Sands” is a bit more special, read: different. First of all it has development on the nose and more depth. More industrial, oily, smoky and burning notes. Brooding and more woody. However, if I had both bottles open at the same time, the Wemyss would be finished sooner…

Points: 85

Arran 19yo 1996/2016 “The Chosen One” (54.7%, OB, Limited Edition, for Whiskysite.nl, Sherry Hogshead #1390, 312 bottles)

One of the finer places to buy Whisky in the Netherlands is Whiskysite based in the town of Leiden. Excellent, wonderful looking store, good people, fair prices and a very handy Website which services the whole world. For me one of the go-to places. The same guys also host a Whisky festival called Whisky in Leiden. This years edition is next saturday on april 1st. No joke. If you are interested, I’m sure they will have room for you next year since this years edition is long sold out. Just like any real good festival, or retailer, the guys have special bottlings done for them. One of last years bottlings was a very old Arran. I can still remember Arran starting up, and here we have already a 19yo example of the Malt. I’m getting old.

Color: Gold.

Nose: First sniff and I’m guessing Fino Sherry casks. Nice Sherry note combined with nuts and wood. Mocha and a sweeter component in the background. Chewy toffee. As I said before, I never was a big fan of Fino cask Whiskies but just like Rhum Agricoles it is an acquired taste, and today, wow, I get it. They are very special. Vanilla and dried lemon powder, in part like in artificial sweets. Hints of high winds at sea, combined with cold dish water. Strange èh? But in reality not strange at all. Hints of wood come next, as well as some pencil shavings with floral notes and wood from cigar boxes. This smells very distinguished and luxury. Next a layer of cold fruitiness. Green and red apple skins, dried apricots and some dried basil as well. Sweet yoghurt. A promise of some fruity sweetness. Crushed beetle and rotting flower bulb, both a childhood memory. I’m sorry for the animal, I only did it once, by accident. Well balanced and none of the aromas presented here are overpowering. A quiet Arran. Toned down. Whispering. A sort of connoisseurs Whisky maybe. You need some experience to discover it all, as well as appreciate it fully. I hope I don’t sound arrogant now. If you are a novice, please buy it if you come across it, but wait a few years before opening it.

Taste: Half sweet and spicy. Nice wood-notes and soft nevertheless. Sweet fruit yoghurt. The stuff with peaches in it. White peach with a spicy bite. Warming. Mocha and hard coffee candy. Butterscotch and some aspartame sweetness. Pencil shavings. Again, well-balanced stuff and very tasty. If this would have been 5% lower in ABV, this would be dangerously drinkable and you’d finish the bottle way too quickly. Now it is slightly hot, which makes you appreciate it better and follow it up with a different Whisky. It’s almost as if the sweetness and the dryness of the wood are competing. one sip, and one manages to get all the attention, and in the next sip the other. Hints of Belgian Beer towards the finish. The finish itself is quite long.

Good cask strength Whisky from a nice (Fino) cask. No typical distillery character if you ask me, but also no particular aroma that manages to take the lead. Well balanced but with nothing really sticking out, making for a bit anonymous yet well-balanced Whisky.

Points: 86

Caroni 12yo 1996/2009 (69%, Krugers Whiskygalerie, Rendsburger Bürgermeister, Cask #1107, Trinidad & Tobago)

October always starts out with the best Whisky Festival in the world, The Whisky Show in London (UK). I visited it so many times already it stopped being about the Whiskies, although I tasted many of them. It’s a festival about people. Meeting the makers, the owners, the writers, the bloggers and its about meeting the friends I made along the way, your old buddies, so to speak. Missing those who could not be there this year. It’s always nice to meet some new people as well. I’ve just returned and it always takes me a while to adjust back to normal life. Many Whisky reviews were written before The Whisky Show and many were tasted at the show. So why not go cold turkey and do some Rums for a while, another passion of mine?

The Kruger in Krugers Whiskygalerie is Thomas Kruger, probably best known for his auction site. I actually don’t know if he auctions Rums somewhere, but he does bottle Whiskies and the occasional Rum. From Thomas’ bottling business, here is a Caroni! My heart always skips a beat when hearing that name, especially when it is un-diluted.

Caroni #1107Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Right from the start you get this utter balanced smell. It smells fairly dry, herbal and industrial, with a nice dose of heated oak (when sawing) and sawdust, just like a Caroni should. It’s also easily recognizable as a Caroni, leaning towards Rhum Agricole, with a splash of petrol in it, but not as much as other Caroni’s have. In and out come some whiffs of tar, burnt sugar, leather, Italian laurel licorice and again the wood of the cask. Past the usual suspects, this one boasts also some nice (red) fruitiness. The fruit, ripe raspberries, sugared pineapple (which I know are not red) and unripe wild strawberries. These fruits merge as a second layer and when that layer settles in, you get a more creamy, vanilla-like, toffee-sweet smell. It still is a Rum y’know. If I was presented with this blind, I would have argued it was an aged, rather dry, Rhum Agricole. Love this profile. Once you get the hang of it, there is no going back.

Taste: Starts out dry with a woody aroma, aided by the high ABV. Nevertheless very drinkable (for me) at this strength. I no way does it feel as 69% ABV. A little bit dirty, as Caroni should be. Petrol, exhaust gasses and licorice. Exhaust gasses, wow, never had that before! Not an aroma for the masses. Since the world prefers the flavour profile of Angostura, no wonder Caroni got closed, a fact that makes Rum aficionados break out in tears once in a while. It is so dirty I could also call this animalesk. It does resemble the nose, but seems a bit less complex. Powdery dryness. The high strength is duly noted when my lips start burning a bit and some heat clings to the roof of my mouth. Is it a problem? No it’s not. Blood comes out my nose. Just kidding. It does taste dryer than the nose lead me to believe. But when the dry spell passes, there is some residual toffee sweetness noticeable. In the taste, it is less of a “Rhum Agricole” than the nose promised. Not all returns for the finish. The finish is made up of the wood and (thin) licorice, but has lots of staying power with some very late, yet diluted, warm caramel to it.

I tried to compare this one to the Bristol 1998, but that is impossible, the difference in ABV is too big. From memory I know the Bristol has the petrol but is even more fruity. This Kruger expression is woodier. But I have another ace up my sleeve. The Kintra 1999 expression. Both seem remarkably similar at first. Lots of wood going on in both, but more of that in the Kruger. The Kintra has some whiffs of (clear) glue that can’t be found in the Kruger expression, and the Kruger shows some honey and even hints of Bourbon Whiskey (Buffalo Trace to be exact). On the taste, the Kintra is woodier and Kruger has more licorice and sawdust, but again they are pretty similar. Even the fruit profile matches. Always a good idea to do direct head to head (H2H) comparisons.

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Nico!

Rhosdhu 12yo 1996/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, 2.000 bottles)

Murray McDavidNext we are going to have a look at three bottlings by Murray McDavid. Murray McDavid was founded in 1996 by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, and Gordon Wright, naming it after Mark’s grandparents, Harriet Murray and Jock McDavid. The motto “Clachan a Choin” translates as “the bollocks of the dog”, so yes, the logo has a dog in it. Besides being an independent bottler, maybe their biggest claim to fame was acquiring Bruichladdich Distillery in the year 2k. In 2000 the distillery was still mothballed, but Mark and his mates quickly turned it into a working distillery. Less than 12 years later in the summer of 2012, Bruichladdich was sold to Rémy Cointreau UK Limited, as well as the independent bottler Murray McDavid. Rémy Cointreau didn’t know what to do with the bottler, so less than a year later they sold it to Aceo Ltd, a supplier of casked whisky and distillery services like cask storage, bottling and labelling.

So the first of three bottlings from Murray McDavid will be a rendition of a Loch Lomond Whisky: Rhosdhu.

Rhosdhu 12yo 1996/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, 2.000 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Spicy and briny. Funky, with some prickling cigarette smoke. Lots of grain, but also some traits I get from Rhum (of the Agricole kind) and Bourbon itself. Actually more like a Rye Whiskey. A dry and sweet fruitiness mostly. Definite cask toast. Vanilla and tangerine. Lots of saw dust and dare I say it (again), cardboard. It smells like an old (sweet) Single Grain, at the fraction of the cost. Dry powdery and again (citrus) fruity. Give it some air, and boy, does this need some air, and it’s even tarry sometimes.

Taste: Again quite grainy and fruity. A bit raw but therefore it needs the fruity sweetness it has. Vanilla powder and smelling like an old vanilla pod. Noticeable paper and cardboard again, but in no way is this disturbing in this one. Slightly weak in the finish, but otherwise a decent Whisky, helped by quite an active cask. Some acidity enters the fold when it’s time for the finale. The finale has great depth, with a toffee and caramel sweetness. Part of this caramel is even slightly burnt. The sweetness is just right, helped along by the leafy and spicy backbone.

I remember this when freshly opened and it didn’t do too much for me then (79 Points). This time around, with some more oxidation, this turned out nicely. This is a Whisky that needs a lot of air and really benefits from the heat of your hand. Keep it in the palm of your hand, don’t hold it by the stem. Knowing its secret, and if it was available today I would most certainly buy it. If you have it, remember how to treat it. Heat and air will do the trick.

Points: 83

Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (60.8%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #105091, 588 bottles)

Another year is almost over so this here is already the last post of 2014. What to review I asked myself? Maybe something incredibly special, something super premium or something outrageously expensive? Nothing like that. In the end I choose this Longmorn. Why? It seems like a good idea, to do none of the above, and I happened to have only one  open bottle left om my lectern that I hadn’t reviewed yet. Tying up loose ends. I hope this last year was a nice one and of course that the next one will be even better! Hope to see you back in the new year!

Dutch outfit Van Wees bottled eight heavy Sherry Longmorn’s distilled in 1996. These bottlings were rather popular, to put it mildly, since all didn’t need a lot of time to sell out. Highly collectible, but also good drinking Whiskies. Earlier, I already reviewed two casks from this series #72315 (the first release) and #72319 (the third release). Both were similar yet different, and both scored 88 points. This third review will focus on Sherry Butt #105091 (the seventh release). The first five were all sister casks #72315, #72318, #72319, #72323 and #72324 distilled on the first of May 1996. After that, three more Butts were bottled: #105092, #105091 and finally #105084. The latter was released during the Pot Still Festival 2014 in the Netherlands, making it the only one to be bottled in 2014, yet still at 17 years of age. Those last three butts were distilled on the 25th of June 1996 and yielded less bottles than the earlier butts but are higher in alcohol. There have been more butts bottled from the 723xx and 1050xx series, but those were bottled by Signatory Vintage for their own brand. Lets see if this will be another 88 points for Longmorn…

Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (60.8%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #105091, 588 bottles)Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Honey and quite vegetal. Especially the wood and honey make this Whisky not very distant from a very good Bourbon, although both Whiskies couldn’t be more different. Dry wood, old saw dust and dusty altogether. Burnt caramel and lots of sugared red fruits. Deep brooding and syrupy Sherry. Dark stuff from the gas light era. Elegant but more mysterious than the earlier bottlings.

Taste: Hot wood. Lots of wood and a sour note from fruit and Sherry. Coffee and dark chocolate with just the right amount of bitterness. Small hint of a sulphur compound, but the rest of the aroma’s are so powerful, Sulphur doesn’t stand a chance in dominating this Whisky. This Whisky also has a lighter side to it with paper and fern. Dark mahogany furniture with layers and layers of wax put on in its history to form this brittle woody and waxy nose.

Although I own both earlier reviewed Ultimate Longmorn’s, I haven’t opened the bottles. Both reviews were done from 6 cl samples. This bottle however, is one from my own collection I dared to open (curiosity killed the cat). The bottle is luckily still more than half full, but I had a fair chance in trying this without having to analyze it. In comparison, I do believe this #105091 is very drinkable and always leaves a good impression, but this time I won’t be giving another 88 points. The earlier releases, if memory serves me correctly, seemed to be more balanced, less dry and more fruity, than this one does. This time the added paper and fruity acidity do meddle with the balance of this Whisky, still good and I will not have any problem finishing this, but just not as good as the earlier one’s I have tried.

When compared to the Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park that also scored 87 points, the Highland Park has more raisins (dominant), coal and seems to be more accessible. It is less dry and sweeter on the palate. It is similar in quality, not higher in sulphur and actually quite nice. It is seems to me they are made for one another. I will only have to try them now in reversed order…

Points: 87

This one is for Cyril, great to hear you’re doing well!

Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (57.2%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #72319, 600 bottles)

I’m pretty amazed this Sherry Butt #72319 is still available. Here in the low countries there is a lot of discussion about these Sherry Butts released by Dutch indie bottlers The Ultimate (Van Wees). This Sherry Butt Sherry Butt #72319 is the third one in a row and earlier I already reviewed Sherry Butt #72315, which was the first one of the series. The second one was Sherry Butt #72318.

As I said, lots of discussion, since all casks are good, didn’t cost a lot and have some differences. So nice whisky to compare to each other. I still have some Sherry Butt #72315 left, so I can compare it to this Sherry Butt #72319. Word in the grapevine is that the first one (Sherry Butt #72315) is the “worst” of the three, all are very clear about that. Some consider Sherry Butt #72318 to be the best and some Sherry Butt #72319.

By the way I hosted a Cadenhead’s tasting recently and after the tasting, I passed a glass with Sherry Butt #72315 around, without telling people what it was, and it sure got a lot of thumbs up. So maybe some prejudice going around? Earlier I scored Sherry Butt #72315, 88 points, so let’s have a look at this “better one”…

Longmorn 17yo 1996/2013 (57.2%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #72319, 600 bottles)Color: Copper Brown (less red/orange in color than Sherry Butt #72315)

Nose: Sherry and polished wood, smallest hint of creamy acetone, soap and some mint. Definitely less raw and dirty than Sherry Butt #72315. Extremely balanced and “soft”. It does have its power, but it’s more laid back. Woody raisins are in here too, but here they show themselves quite late in the mix and more toned down and in balance with sour wood, (milk) chocolate and honey. Very thick.

Taste: Great! The first encounter in the mouth is very nice. Sherry with more than a hint of licorice and sweetness. After that the wood, albeit in a mild way, shows itself. Also some toasted cask and a wee bit of paint. These were some very good Sherry Butt’s. The finish itself seems to me to be a bit less balanced, it seems to be a bit disjointed. Probably the wood gives the finish an acidic (and ashy) touch that somehow doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit. A sourness and taste akin to oranges, (the flesh and the juice), not the oily bits out of the skin. On the plus for a lot of tasters: this one has no sulphur in the finish.

If I had to sum things up, I would say that Sherry Butt #72315 is more of a true Sherry nose, more raw and honest. Maybe also less complex. Sherry Butt #72319 is more elegant and more complex, wint small hints of all sorts of things. Both are worth the same amount of points, but are different, but is I had to pick only one I would say Sherry Butt #72315 would be my choice, since it compensates it slightly simpler profile and it’s rawness with a better finish. But I have the luxury of tasting these two head to head, which makes it a lot easier to pick up on small differences, without that possibility, both are an equally good choice (as if one still has a choice).

I don’t know Sherry Butt #72318, but the two I’ve been comparing here are definitely worth having both. They maybe examples of the same kind of Whisky (heavy Sherry), but both show enough difference to show you a bit more of the possibilities within this profile. Both demand a different mood of the taster, meaning you!  Well, now I’m very interested in Sherry Butt #72318. I hope Erik (a.k.a. Master Quills apprentice), opens his bottle soon 😉

Points: 88