Bunnahabhain 30yo 1979/2009 (45.5%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, European Oak Sherry Butt #9622, 612 bottles)

Back to some wonderfully Sherried Bunnahabhain. Most of the last few bottles of Bunnahabhain I reviewed were younger and much paler (and peatier) than the bottle I’m about to review. Here we have an independently bottled Bunnahabhain from a highly active European oak Sherry butt. Even though this has aged for a respectable 30yo, and was bottled 10 years ago, I still feel 1979 is not that long ago. If you try this particular expression, it seems to come from another century, or another dimension altogether. I’ll keep it short here, because I feel a lot of words will be needed th describe the complexity of this Malt.

Color: Dark Brown.

Nose: Fresh sea air. We didn’t see that one coming now didn’t we? Remarkably fresh, mint, yup mint. The mint you get from those hard mint sweets, not freshly cut mint, you make tea of. I did think it would be a cloying heavily Sherried Malt, but it’s not. Hints of toasted oak, charcoal and tar. Creamy vanilla powder, milk-chocolate, or better, plums in chocolate and a little bit of honey as well. Old distinguished wood. Wood polish without the petroleum smell, although very far back this does seem to have some petrol fumes going on. Caramel, tar, and some bits from an ashtray. Lots of Sherried notes obviously. Soft burnt sugar and a whiff of french cheese. Sherry and tobacco. It smells like it’s from another century altogether. Doesn’t really smell like a Whisky anymore. This must have been a very active cask. Still, nicely balanced and very chic. Fruity and coal, reminding me of early seventies Longmorn mixed with well aged calvados, since it has this apply feel to it as well. Just this bit though, not the whole experience, reminds me of Longmorn. Lots and lots of aroma’s and quite complex. Log fire and hints of fatty soft smoke. You can smell this one for hours before even thinking of taking a sip. You need to be alone for this one, and certainly not rushing it. If you smell it vigorously, it becomes meaty (gravy) for a brief moment, and some unexpected citrussy notes emerge as well. Beautiful wood notes re-emerge. Hints of old warehouse with old cardboard boxes in it. Dusty, quickly masked by the toffeed fruit. Although it doesn’t seem like it at first, this is a very high quality nose, which is immensely complex and has a lot to give. Wonderful.

Taste: Quite dry and woody, but also very tasty. Slightly soapy on entry. With lots of spices and borderline bitterness. Again you’re in for a treat. I have smelled this for quite a bit now, and doing so, I warmed the glass up in my hand. Fruity, but not much. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of fruit it would be. This has been a long time in cask. Tar and tobacco and maybe some leather. Not very heavy due to the relatively low ABV. Dusty and deep. So definitely a Malt that shows the Whisky can be about the wood it matured in. The creamy vanilla from the nose is lacking here, but definitely here, is the dry tannic wood and slight bitterness. Definitely not a chewy Whisky. Old and distinguished. Like an old mens club. Phileas Fogg style. The body falls back a bit. Finishes great, which makes up for the dry start, with a nice warming aftertaste. I like it. It’s a choice. Sure this could have been bottled (much) earlier. I don’t know if it was chance or choice, this has been allowed to age further, drying out considerably, yet picking up in “style”. It will be remembered for its great finish and the fabulous nose.

If you just pick this up and drink it, and don’t give it the attention it needs, you won’t pick up half of what its got to offer. If you do give it attention and time, wow! The more air it gets though, makes this Whisky less fruity and more about the wood, so know what you’re in for when allowing it to breathe for a while. Still, this is a wonderful malt either way, that develops enormously in the glass, so I can forgive its dryness with ease.

Points: 91

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Paul John 2009/2015 (58.4%, Malts of Scotland, Peated, Bourbon Barrel, MoS 15068, 156 bottles)

Paul John already had some Whiskies reviewed on these pages, but up ’till now they all have been the official deal, and making up the standard range. Brilliance, Edited and Bold, are the trinity of entry-level Malts from Paul John, where the peat level rises gradually from left to right.

Sometimes a malt is so good, I finish it before I even get the chance to review it, or sometimes I think I reviewed it, remembering the words, and it turns out that I haven’t. This is a bottle I got because the owner wasn’t all that fond of it, even though it was half empty (or half full, depends how you look at it), and thought the stuff he got in return was better. Right now I can’t remember with what I traded it. This bottle is soon to be empty, meaning it’s good! I give you that already. Before moving on to more of the official stuff, here is the first independently bottled Paul John on these pages. This is one of four casks bottled by Malts of Scotland. Three casks from 2009 (#15065, #15067, peated and #15068, also peated) and one from 2011 (#15066).

The officially released Single Cask bottlings of Paul John, were all very nicely priced, and people picked up on them, as well as the more available bottlings. When the independent bottlers started to release Single Cask bottlings of Paul John, they upped the game asking a (much) higher price than Paul John did themselves. Luckily the casks that went to the independents all turned out to be very good casks as well, so they are worth your money. Having said that, all the official Single Casks released were pretty good as well.

When independents started asking higher prices, Paul John followed suit and new releases are more expensive than they were before. I understand Paul John asks a bit more from independents as well, so if my information is right, Malts of Scotland won’t be releasing more Single Cask bottlings of Paul John for a while. Never say never again ‘eh.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Soft peat and meaty. A little bit of barley and a tiny hint of dry orange skin and varnished wood. We’re talking luxury department here. Already this smells like near perfection. This is bottle is empty so soon, because I have fallen in love with how this smells. Luckily I was able to replace it another bottle from the same cask. Deep fruits and spicy warm air. A slightly sweet edge. Big nose altogether. Hints of black fruits from old Islay bottlings, salty. Fresh mint and unlit tobacco. Licorice and warm butter. The wood adds notes of pencil shavings and smoke now, adding to the spiciness of the Whisky. Stunning nose. Not a lot of development though, so maybe even in India (almost) six years is (almost) six years. Reluctantly I have to move on, but to be Frank (Not John) I can’t stop smelling this, and have a hard time moving on to taste it. (If I would score noses by itself this would get 95 Points, maybe more, utterly wonderful stuff).

Taste: Sweetish, syrupy and woody. Slightly waxy even. Not even the peat comes first, but rather the big and bold body. Wood, pencil shavings but not exclusively, and various yellow fruit marmalades, bitter orange marmalade first, followed by dried apricots. Several different bitters coming from wood and smoke. That’s about it first time around. The end of the body well into the finish seems a bit thin, but the aftertaste gets the big body back and has a lot of length, keeping you warm and giving you subliminal images of warmer places. Give it time and air to breathe folks. It doesn’t taste like 58.4% ABV. Again, this might not be the most complex stuff around, but what’s there is very good, albeit not as good as the nose though. But when you’ve swallowed this, and enjoying the long lingering aftertaste and thén smell the glass, Ahhhhh, bliss. This hits the right spots with me.

This was the deal breaker, after this one, I had to make more room for Indian Malts on my lectern. What an experience! A word of caution. I have ready and spoken to enough people to know that this might not be for everybody. Indian Malts are not Scottish, Six-row barley gives a lot of exotic spiciness compared to the barley’s used in Scotland, as well as the conditions of maturation on this continent. As I said before, the previous owner of this bottles wasn’t such a big fan of this as I am, so proceed with caution, but keep an open mind.

Points: 91

This one is finished now, and took a while to write, since I couldn’t stop smelling this. I replaced this stunning MoS bottling with another independent bottling of Paul John, a 6yo Cadenheads bottling released this year. Can’t wait to open that one.

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!

Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009

Bolívar LogoAhhh, finally a Bolívar. This is a first one on these pages. Bolívar isn’t a big global brand for Habanos, but it is available in a lot of markets nevertheless. Not a big brand, but it has a specific and fanatical following under seasoned Cigar smokers. Bolívar is known for heavy and strong Cigars.

This 2009 is the first of two Edición Limitadas there are. In 2014 the second and last was released, which was a Super Corona. Don’t think that this means there aren’t a lot of special releases around, because there are. A lot of Edición Regional versions were made. These are limited editions, released in specific countries or markets. In 2006 the first was released for the German market only, and since then 25 more saw the light of day.

This Petit Belicosos is just like its bigger brother the Belicosos, just 15mm shorter. Another difference is that just like other Edicíon Limitadas the tobacco was aged for two years. As far as I know this Petit Belicoso is made in three different factories and thus boxes exist with three different codes: STA MAY 09, OMA JUL 09 and LRE AGO 09.

Bolívar Petit Belicosos EL 2009

Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009 (52 x 125mm, Petit Belicosos, Petit Pyramid, Box code unknown).

Color & Looks: Oscuro. Dark brown. No veins, quite stiff to the touch. When it warms up it becomes more flexible.

A cru: Strong leather smell. Cigarette ashes, mocha coffee and dark chocolate. Sawdust and (old) wood in general. Promising power.

Taste: Good smoke and the draw is good as well. Dark taste with hints of petrol. Stong mahogany wood. The whole is also quite on the woody side. It lacks the creaminess we know from Hoyo de Monterrey, but both brands couldn’t be further apart. This Bolívar is dry and sharp. Heavy indeed. Maximum strength dark chocolate. No stuff for beginners. This definitely isn’t one to start the smoking season with, so to speak. Strong powerful stuff, but by now I believe you get the picture. Extremely dry and woody, almost hard to smoke by itself. I wonder with what to combine this to balance the strength out a bit.

To be honest this doesn’t show a lot of development, even after six years in my humidor. Over halfway through some soapyness appears. The dryness is aided by some herbal notes like cumin and some restrained basil. These are all mere hints since the whole is wood, even more wood and some paper. I don’t know if my palate was anesthetized by this Cigar, but even given its power it doesn’t even have a long-lasting aftertaste, like I had with some Partagás from the past, which I could still taste the next day.

Well built and smokes very easily, but it does burn unevenly. It has a thick wrapper. Luckily the uneven burn is easily corrected. In the end I expected more of this. Ashes is darkest grey, black and brown. No white ashes at all. All the way through I had a craving for apple pie with lots of cinnamon, which I don’t even eat that often, so what does that mean? Will it go nicely with pie? I can tell you it went well with very strong coffee, two hammers, hammer as one.

What can I say. This is a heavy Cigar, and for me it was too much. Did I recognize the quality then? No, not really. I found it harsh, lacking development and it didn’t have a long and lasting aftertaste. Having said that, people who like these heavy Cigars do like this one very much, so I won’t argue with that. It probably is not for me. I have still a few of these lying around, so I’ll let them age more, and see what will happen. Maybe the Cigar will change or maybe I will.

Points: 77

Plantation Guyana 1999 (45%, Old Reserve, 2009, Guyana)

Walk into a spirits shop which sell quite a few Rum’s, you have a big chance to find at least a shelf worth of Plantation Rums. I don’t know if this is true in all the corners of the world, but here in Europe I feel it is. There are several reasons for this. They look quite interesting, quite a lot of Rum producing countries are available, and the price is quite nice. Especially if you are a novice it ticks all the boxes you care about. Having tried a few of those, I can also say that they are definitely not bad, not bad at all.

Who is Plantation? Plantation is the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand. Cognac Ferrand being the mother company that has quite a few brands in its portfolio. If you punch in Cognac Ferrand in your browser, you are quickly transferred to Maison Ferrand and there you can see that Ferrand is definitely more than Cognac alone.

Back to Plantation Rum then. Plantation buys casks of Rum and ages them where they have found them. At the end of maturation, the casks are transferred to France, where they receive a second maturation for up to 18 months in small oak casks. Although it is not said that the cask previously held Cognac, we do assume that’s the case most of the time.

Here, we’ll be looking at one of the vintage releases from the Plantation Old Reserve. This particular example comes from Guyana, but according to the website there are six more Old Reserves available: Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and Trinidad. I don’t know if they discontinued some versions, but I do have a St. Lucia version as well. All are vintage releases, so there are multiple vintages available. I have tried several of the vintages of the Jamaican version and found that not only is there batch variation between the vintages, but also that there can be more than one batch of only one vintage. Jamaica 2000 comes to mind…

Plantation Guyana 1999Color: Full Gold

Nose: Big, fatty and yet not entirely Demerara. It has a high ester quality like Jamaican Rum, but in a different way. Quite fruity and has a strange acidity to it. Cognac? Yes, maybe. Not quite sure if I’d call it well-integrated. Probably not. The strange acidity reminds me of standing in the produce section of an outdoor market in the cold. Hmmm, never saw that before in a tasting note, Crazy Quill. Since these bottlings have seen wood that previously held Cognac, I’m guessing, that’s its origin. Slightly dusty and yes some wood obviously. Hot oak. Old oak planks, freshly sawn. Soft Rum, but now for sure the acidic note is an off note. Hints of orange juice and banana. Dry soft wood and old toned down sawdust. Black slightly sweet tea and hints of licorice. The acidic off note takes a bit of a backseat and the fruity notes start to integrate better after prolonged breathing. The fruity notes themselves seem to take a back seat as well, giving way to a more thicker, nutty, waxy and toffee character. Ok, let this breathe.

Taste: Wood and extremely syrupy at first. Sugar and burnt sugar. A bit hot. Chewy and tasty, in a complex way. It’s not typically toffee of caramel, more like a combination of earwax and toffee. Slightly bitter. It’s in there but its more complex than that. Now its (sweetish) Demerara. Again not perfectly integrated and it never will. With this one I’m not sure the second maturation suits the original Rum. Wax with bitter notes of burnt sugar and burnt wood. The body is thick and in your face, but towards the finish that loses ground. It breaks down a bit in the finish, which otherwise has quite some length to it. Nice note of almond in the aftertaste. Not bad, but Demerara can be better, but you will be hurting your wallet these days to try some. At this price point, it would be hard to find a better deal. This is in no way perfect, has a good drinkablity, and I believe is very, very fairly priced. Good ABV as well. Not every Plantation Old Reserve is bottled at 45% ABV though.

This is an older bottle, from, April 9, 2009 (laser printed on the bottle), and has a slightly different look from current bottlings, which have a thicker glass base and a different icon on the shoulder.

Points: 84

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (60%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Virgin Oak & First Fill Bourbon Barrel #3445, 172 bottles)

Maybe Amrut is a true Malternative, because it’s another Malt Whisky. If you love Scottish Single Malts best, why look at other distillates? They are just different. Other distillates can broaden your horizon, but will not replace your Single Malt that has become too expensive. For instance look outside of Scotland.

Looking back I seem to like Amrut. This is now the third review, and after the Intermediate Sherry (87 points) and the Portonova (88 points), this is something of a speciality. Maybe I should take that back. Most Amruts are in fact specialities. Something out of the box is often done. Maturing on two continents, or blending many different casks together, to name but a few of things Amrut does.

This time a single cask bottling. Often, you will have a Whisky that has matured in a first fill or second fill Bourbon cask, barrel or hogshead, but no, Amrut had to do it differently. This particular example was first matured in charred virgin oak and then transferred into a first fill Bourbon barrel. Barrels being the original casks Bourbon matures in, where hogsheads are remade casks from the staves of barrels. Hogsheads are bigger than barrels. Most barrels are shipped in staves anyway.

There is some additional useful information on the label as well. I like that. In the four years this Whisky has been maturing, 42% has evaporated over time, as compared to around 8% in that evaporates is Scotland over the same period of time. By the way, unpeated (six row) Indian barley was used.

Amrut Single Cask #3445Color: Gold.

Nose: The first whiff that enters my nose is of virgin oak. Creamy sawdust and vanilla. Although only four years old, at the fast forward maturation rate, this can be called a woody Whisky. The typical American oak notes are here, but I actually miss the typical Amrut spiciness. Amrut is indian, and Indian Whisky should be a bit exotic, not just another copy of Scottish Whisky. This Amrut does hide it Indian. After some vigorous movement in the glass and some patience, there is exotic spice emerging and apart from that the Whisky becomes a bit dusty.

Taste: Initially hot and then an explosion of sweet Vanilla. When the thick vanilla, travels down, quite some (virgin) oak, emerges here in the taste as well. So we have wood and vanilla. What else? Over the top vanilla combined with hot butter. Just as with the nose this needs air to show some exotic spices. Luckily it’s Indian-ness is here at last. Spicy hot sawdust from Massaranduba. A very hard tropical wood. It’s so hard in fact that you can’t cut it without the saw charring the wood. This slightly sour odour is very similar to the spiciness of this Whisky, especially in the taste of it.

I mentioned decanting Whisky before. This Amrut is one that needs a lot of air as well to fully blossom. This is still a pretty full bottle, but already there is a difference to the first taste of the freshly opened bottle. I will score it now (after lots of air in the glass), but I feel this will grow even better and more balanced over time. This may very well be an example of a Whisky where the last drop from the bottle will be the best drop.

Points: 88

The initial score was 86 points, but as I expected, this got only better over time. The bottle is gone now, but the last third scored an easy 88 Points. Again lesson learned. Give it time to breathe…

Glenallachie 13yo 1995/2009 (46%, Kintra, Refill Sherry Butt #17, 36 bottles)

Rummaging through the unsorted part of my sample collection I found this Kintra from 2009. Another Glenallachie and that’s great! Kintra’s big cheese, Erik started releasing Kintra Whiskies in 2009 so this is one of the first bottlings, and who knows, maybe even the very first. 2009 saw the release of a 1996 Ben Nevis, a 1997 Clynelish, a 1984 Macduff and in June, this 1995 Glenallachie.

A mind boggling amount of 36 bottles were released of this Glenallachie, so this is a collector’s item for sure! I don’t think this was from a small cask, probably only part of a cask, just like the Ledaig he bottled in 2010.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fatty and fruity. Some butter and wood smelling like jasmine. Thus quite floral and spicy. Fresh air. Hints of white pepper and again and again this florality whiffs by. Pencil shavings come next. A lovely nose. Nice added depth from the Sherry cask, not only giving it some mustiness, but also some fruit. When smelled more vigorously, whiffs of toned down peppermint pass by, but also some hay, dry raisins and cardboard. If I would hazard a guess, I would say Fino Sherry?

Taste: Spicy first but quickly turning into sugar water sweetness. Dare I say it has some peat to it? The spice and the sweet balance each other out, so it’s not overly sweet. Warming going down. Hints of milk chocolate and a slightly burnt note. Still, lovely stuff, but also a bit unbalanced. Highly drinkable and enjoyable nevertheless. The sweetness makes way for a more woody, and acidic, dryness towards the finish. The finish itself is of medium length and pleasant, but doesn’t leave a great aftertaste, since especially a weak wood and cardboard note stays behind for a short while.

This is one of those highly drinkable Whiskies, where the weakest link is the finish, and especially the aftertaste. To get past that you tend to take another sip, and yet another sip, and yet another, so you’ll finish your glass rather quickly and after that you ask yourself where has the bottle gone? Maybe not my favourite Kintra bottling, but still very good and entertaining.

Points: 84