Evan Williams 9yo 2000/2010 (43.3%, OB, Single Barrel #379)

Sometimes Master Quill tends to repeat himself, well, not really this time. Yes, In the fall of 2015, The Master did do a review of an Evan Williams Single Barrel bottling, and now here is yet another, but not a repetition, because luckily this “new” one is from a different vintage. The former review was this spicy 2003 vintage and this time we’ll have a go at a 2000 vintage. Is older better? I understand that the mash-bill for Evan Williams Single Barrel looks something like this: 78% corn, 12% barley and 10% rye. Lots of corn and not a lot of rye in this mash-bill. The “vintage” range already saw the light of day in 1986, so with this 2000 expression, Heaven Hill already had some 15 years of experience bottling this. So without further ado: take it away Evan, ehhh Master, ehhh Quill. Nevermind. Go, just take it away…

Color: Light orange brown.

Nose: Wood, lots of fresh cut oak. Perfumy. Sweetish and even more floral. Wood driven, but with lots going for it. Balanced and likeable. Greener notes come next, some hay and grass, oak and latex wall paint. More cuttings from the garden and after a while some more fruity notes appear. Slightly acidic and fresh, only adding to the balance. Hints of toffee and caramel. Excellent nose if you ask me. One moment fresh and lively and the next, deeper and more brooding. Definitely some Rye in here, but less so than expected, even though I didn’t expect a lot. After some more breathing, honey notes come forward. Smelling this after some sipping only enhance the honey notes that were almost absent from the start. Interesting.

Taste: On first entry, a bit thin to be honest. I prefer Bourbons at high strength, because especially Bourbons release their intricate aroma’s better at a higher proof. That said, this Single barrel smells very good and is definitely interesting (there is that word again), even when you like your Scotch Whiskies. Another sip. Well, this does the trick, beyond the low proof, some nice aroma’s emerge. Wood, latex paint again. Honey, hints of toasted oak and a tiny hint of leather. Definitely not as sweet as I would imagine, even though this Bourbon saw lots of corn. A slightly bitter note comes next, oak, tree sap, wax. The finish has less length than the nose and is also less complex. medium at best (and it has paper notes). Today the bitterness has some staying power which was less so on other days, so it depends on the taster (as always), time of day and the moment trying it. Aftertaste somewhat indistinct, so it definitely suffers from reduction to 43.3% ABV. Nope, in the taste department, this turns out to be much simpler than the nose promised.

For a nice evening with some Bourbons this is the starter. Well priced, and interesting, but I prefer other, (higher strength) Bourbons more. Compared to the earlier review, this 2000 example is softer (weaker is maybe a better word this time around) and less spicy, and also is lacking the licorice and cherry notes of the 2003. The 2003 is definitely a step up from the 2000. So yes, the date makes a difference. So choose your single cask vintage Evan Williams wisely!

Points: 81

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

Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

This Caol Ila is one I just cracked open, literally. It is an oldie I bought some 15 years ago. Sure it is a reduced independent bottling, and it didn’t cost much, but its a Caol Ila and its bottled by Wilson & Morgan, who have bottled a lot of good Caol Ila’s, just have a look at this 24yo expression distilled in 1975, to name but one. The cork broke on this one. This time it didn’t only just break off, it seemed to disintegrate completely. Vaporized into thin air, so to speak. Luckily most of the crumbs were easy to fish out of the bottle and hardly anything sank to the bottom. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an ode to the screw cap, now you know why… Karma strikes again.

Caol Ila 1991/2000 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Ahhh, right after pouring the room filled with the smell of beautiful peat. Nothing harsh and rough, but smooth and refined. Nice, clean and soft and aromatic peat. Helped along with a citrussy fruitiness. Well-balanced and much nicer to smell than the Kilchoman Spring I reviewed (much) earlier. Smells quite sweet. Leafy and chewy. Dry vanilla powder, maybe even some powdered coffee-creamer. Some hidden tar, but also an expansion on the fruits. We have hints of sweet, ripe pineapple, mango and banana, mixed with vanilla from the wood, and the wood itself somehow didn’t make it. Crushed beetle and some distant dried basil in the background. Remarkable. Ohhh yes, and some bonfire smoke. I nearly forgot to write that down! I have to say it again, well-balanced stuff and remember, this isn’t even ten years old, which today has become standard.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Sugar water. Syrup. Very fruity and a little hoppy bitterness. Big and chewy. Sweet, funky and nutty peat. Not at all earthy. Nice touch of smoke, but not much. It’s like all the aromas are fighting over front row seats. As mentioned, there is a lot of sweetness, that exerts itself right from the start, but these is a lot of fruitiness as well. The Whisky is also nuts. I mean, full of nuttiness. All big and all upfront. I always get some coffee in good Caol Ila’s, and this time is no exception. Sweet coffee, with a tad of toffee in the coffee. It’s not stong black coffee but rather a sweet Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato. Underneath a nice, herbal and lightly bitter undertone (from oak). Long finish and similar aftertaste. Leaves me behind with salty lips. Good Whisky! I hope todays young Caol Ila’s are just as good and affordable.

Ohhh these were the days, where young Whisky seemed better than it is these days, or maybe I’m biased.  This is a very tasty Caol Ila, not overly complex and one I’ll come back to again and again. This will not take years to empty, which it usually takes me, since there are lots of open bottles around the place…

Today there is much ado about young Whiskies, especially NAS Whiskies. It seems NAS isn’t really accepted by everybody. It sometimes is viewed as a devilish plan selling us inferior and immature Whisky (sometimes at a premium price). On the other hand, when distilleries and independent bottlers alike, just mention an age statement of a young whisky there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore, since you know what you’re getting. Just look at the recently released Lagavulin 8yo and compare that to the plethora of NAS Taliskers (also owned by Diageo) and NAS Laphroaigs (not owned by Diageo), which seem to be under par and the fantasy names do not help the acceptance process of the (educated) public, or those who have seen different times buying Single Malt Whiskies.

For the fun of it, let’s compare this “9yo” Caol Ila to the NAS Talisker ‘Neist Point’. Smelling the Talisker after the Caol Ila, it is remarkable how much the Talisker smells of grainy immature Whisky and even shows some whiffs of new make! Much more than when smelled by itself alone. Although having new make in the mix is illegal, since Whisky must be at least 3 years old, there must be a big component of very young Whisky in the Talisker. The Caol Ila behaves like a 9yo, nice, well made, good cask, but lacking some of the complexity often brought to a Whisky by extensive maturation. In the taste it is noticeable that the Talisker has some more happening than just the new make, and young Whisky, alone. Thank God almighty. The Talisker needs some air to get the new make out, after that it is not bad, not bad at all. Sweet as well and buttery. The taste of the Talisker grows on you, even though the new make never really leaves the scene. A draw, or is it? Considering the amount of money Diageo wants for the Talisker (in some markets), the jury made a unanimous decision in favour of the Caol Ila. [sound of judge’s hammer on wood]

Points: 85

Plantation Jamaica 2000 (42%, Old Reserve, 2013, Jamaica)

Some two months ago I reviewed the first Plantation Rum bottled in the Old Reserve Series, time for another one. The first one was made in Guyana, an easy choice since I do love Demerara Rum. Same with Jamaica. Jamaican Rums tend to be big and bold, high on esters. Actually Jamaica 2000 (in the old bottle, like the review of the Guyana), was my first Plantation Rum ever. That one was stunning. Here we have probably the first batch, released in the new bottle. There is a laser edged code on the bottle stating this one was bottled on April 18, 2013. I know both batches already, and there is some batch variation. I found the earlier one even bigger than the one I’m about to review here…

Plantation Jamaica 2000 (new bottle)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Extremely buttery start. Lots of caramel and toffee aroma’s. Big, big, big! It smells sweet, candylike and so funky. I love stuff like this. Sugared yellow fruits in alcohol. Buried deep down below, there is a wine-note, so Cognac is noticeable. Ex-Cognac casks were used to finish the Rum in. Leather, chocolate, wood and sawdust. It’s all in here and for you to smell, so the big Rum didn’t even overpower it all, so no heavy thick cloak of toffee lies over this Rum. Next, because these is an evolution going on, a more nutty aroma emerges. Wood, almonds and cold black tea. The whole seems to become drier, which I like. Smells great, as often with Jamaican Rums.

Taste: Not as thick as one would expect, and certainly not as chewy. It is not overly sweet as well, but the sweetness is your typical refined sugar as well as some burnt sugar. Right from the start quite some influence from wood, combined with the defining Jamaican funk from the nose. Toffee, wax and nuts. Vanilla Ice-cream with Rum and raisins, but also I remember from Christmas. No big toffee from the nose as well. Liquid toffee and alcohol. Without smelling it, tasting this blind I would almost call this an Abuelo expression (the 7yo), only less sweet and more powerful. How strange. It has a nice woody backbone, with a slight bitter edge to it. Cask toast, burnt sugar, something like that. Warming. letting this “melt” on your tongue, a more fruity aroma emerges and even some fresh artisanal cola notes, which aren’t so damn sweet. Whatever the aroma, it will always be slightly woody accompanied with a woody and waxy bitterness. I guess in this case the finish did some work on the typical Jamaican profile.

Just try something like this from Jamaica and try to compare it to a Rhum Agricole, I bet you can’t do that in the same tasting without losing something that both Rums offer. That far apart are both distillates, and so broad is the scope of Rum.

Since I still have it around, I compared it directly to the Guyanan offering I reviewed earlier: The Guyana seems more organic. More smells from the earth in that one. Flora and fauna and a wee hay-like Grappa note. Both share the same waxy notes though. In the taste the Guyana is a bit sharper and hotter. Similarly dry and influenced by wood. In fact, both are similarly good, and if you have one of them, you don’t really need the other as well.

Points: 84

Bowmore 12yo 2000/2012 (46%, The Whisky Mercenary, 42 bottles)

What time is it? It’s Jürgen time! Those of you who regularly read my reviews will have come across Jürgen quite a few times by now. Click here for a round-up of all Whisky Mercenary bottlings I reviewed up untill now. Today we’ll have a look at one of the first Whiskies Jürgen picked, maybe even thé first. Alas, this will be a review for your reading pleasure only, since only 42 bottles of this were made in 2012 (and by now most of the were consumed). Jürgen got some help from fellow Belgian independent Whiskybottler The Maltman. Usually this means that a cask was shared, and looking at the releases of The Maltman we can find another quite small release of only 65 bottles (done with Whiskysite.nl). That one is bottled at cask strength at 57.1% ABV. Now we have a total of about a 100 bottles, so probably even more bottles were filled from that particular cask by yet another party.

Bowmore 12yo The Whisky MercenaryColor: Light gold, vibrant.

Nose: Sweet peat with hints of smoke. Very appetizing. Refreshing citrus. Clay and toffee. Malty. Green and black tea. Cold fresh (and untreated) almonds and dried meat (not salty nor spicy). Light rubbery peat and subtly smoked. Toast and sweet malt again. Slightly burnt cable of an electrical appliance. Tiny hint of sawdust. Very nice nose, especially when inhaled vigorously. Chalk. Fresh, friendly and fruity.

Taste: Malty and smoky. Earwax with its typical bitterness. Late sweet attack with ashes. Cold black tea. Lemonade fruitiness. Licorice root. Waxy again. Paper and half-dry leaves in the forest including the odd crushed beetle. Tastes reduced, a bit too thin, with nothing left which made the nose and the plethora of tastes when the Whisky enters your mouth so great. BUMMER!

Although 46% ABV is not a bad strength, this seems to me like a perfect example of a Whisky that should have remained at cask strength. The nose shows lots of potential as do the entry into the mouth (excellent!) and the start of the body (niiiice!). Quickly, the body becomes a tad simple and thin. Especially the finish shows the fault of reduction in this one. It really needed some oomph. Very nice Whisky. Reminds me of old Islay Whiskies that are usually around 25yo, (Caol Ila). I didn’t care for the reduction though. Stellar stuff that has been ruined by the second half and the weak finish.

Points: 84

Macduff 10yo 2000/2011 (46%, Dewar Rattray, for Specialists Choice, First Fill Sherry Butt #5788, 360 bottles)

Macduff 10yo 2000/2011 (46%, Dewar Rattray, for Specialists Choice, First Fill Sherry Butt #5788, 360 bottles)Finally a younger expression of Macduff. Not one I predicted in the last Macduff review, would be from the nineties, but already one from the new millennium. We’ll see what happens next time. All the Macduffs I reviewed up untill now were all in their thirties, this time we go back to basics with a good old ten year old from the year 2k. Lets see if the computers monitoring the distillation process didn’t go berserk.

Color: Copper

Nose: Raisins and fat Sherry. Pencil shavings. Creamy oranges. Nice soft and velvety wood. Milk chocolate and warm chocolate milk. Hint of cranberry. Pretty meaty if you ask me. Curious mix of red fruit with spicy wood and chocolate. Licorice root. Intriguing.

Taste: First a short, sharp, spicy and slightly bitter bite, than the (slower) sweetness comes into the mouth. Again pencil shavings and licorice. Excellent sweetness and the pencil shavings are great. Also some ashes. Lots of not too dark chocolate although later on, the wood turns a little bit bitter turning the milk chocolate into a darker kind. Also over time, the sweetness seems to be more and more out-of-place, disturbing the balance a bit.

A nice daily drinker or a Sherry grenade. Well, it’s not a Sherry bomb, and I feel the reduction worked well this time. I obviously haven’t tasted this at a higher strength, but I have noticed that adding water to a first fill red Sherry, gives the Whisky a sharp edge. This example is far from sharp. Very drinkable and very nice nevertheless.

Points: 84

Bowmore 12yo 1988/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Sherry, 702 bottles)

The Master of Malt version of an eighties Bowmore did not turn out to be a FWP-Bowmore after all. Looking though the whiskies that have accumulated at Master Quill’s castle, I found another eighties Bowmore. This time an oldie by Douglas Laing. At one point in time, the Laing Brothers thought they would have to show the public what are the ‘young’ whiskies in their Old Malt Cask range, so decided on red lettering and a red tube. Somehow this ‘experiment’ didn’t last for very long, so this look is rather scarce. Lets see if this time we have a genuine FWP-Bowmore on our hands? Is it lavender & violets or peat & smoke?

Color: Light Copper Gold.

Nose: Butter, popcorn, quite some hints of flowers, but not like a FWP. Peat and a decent amount of smoke. Deep almost brooding kind of licorice. Clay, smelly pond in summer, probably a sulphur compound. This organic smell is actually great in this Whisky. Ashes and gravy, meaty.

Taste: Nice elegant Islay. Soft tasty peat, with smoke on top. Lots of caramel, toffee. Nothing is over the top. Perfect non-sugary sweetness in the background. But as with the Master of Malt version, it breaks down a bit towards the end, and has a sweet yet ‘light’ finish. There is something else that is pretty similar with the Master of Malt bottling. Again, the acidity quickly follows the sweetness. They somehow are linked. Do I detect some soap at the end of the finish? If it’s there it doesn’t hurt the whisky much. On occasions it takes the properties of a rum.

Not a perfect Whisky. Has some distillation faults (butter) and some issues with the finish and stability (with air), but overall it’s a very drinkable and likeable Whisky. Again not a victim of FWP.

Beware, this whisky doesn’t take air very well, let this breathe and you’ll see how it breaks down in your glass. Break open a new deck of cards, invite some (lady) friends over for a nice and friendly game and drink the whole bottle in one evening, you’ll do yourself and the Laing Brothers a big favour.

Points: 88