Glen Elgin 19yo 1991/2010 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt #2324, 412 bottles)

After the amazement of the Glendronach I recently reviewed, here is another shock (at least for me it is). I’m actually baffled I didn’t throw in Glen Elgin earlier on these pages, since it is one of my secret loves. Every Single Malt aficionado knows which Malts are just the best, but one always has a secondary, more personal, list of Single Malts. Everybody just loves Brora, or at least knows its one of the best around. However, not a lot of people would pick f.i. Teaninch as such, which is one of my other favorites. Usually it is a Malt with a less “easy” profile that somehow manages to tickle one’s fancy. It’s personal.

Glen Elgin. I love it. Many times it just floats my boat, and this one is no different. I brought it with me as a favorite to my Whiskyclubs gathering in Hamburg, where it failed to get the applause, I thought, it deserves. Yes, again, my opinion. The same club presented me a while back with a sister cask of this one, bottled something around the 61% ABV mark, and since then, I was looking out for a bottle of my own. This cask #2324, in Hamburg, was deemed too extreme and hot by many, but after a 1990 Family Cask of Glenfarclas, the Elgin was retried and deemed more accessible and creamy. So, remember, when tasting a lot of Malts in short succession, it is important where it is placed in the line-up, what you had to eat, how tired you are, and understand how your palate works. It all depends…

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Sherry, nutty, creamy with lots of soft vanilla notes. Soft wood fiber, but right from the start, not the usual oak aromas. I get hints of Rhum Agricole. Storm by the waterfront. Waterfront organics. Reed. Old air-dried oak (the outside of the cask). Vanilla, cream and wood, but not very fruity yet. Spicy and slightly grassy (wet). Sometimes hints of licorice (wood). Otherwise thick and syrupy with the sugar smell you get from a freshly opened sugar packet. The Rhum Agricole notes stay around, rendering the smell more dry. Add to this another layer of an acidic red berry smell (and some gravy) for complexity. Greek yoghurt? Only hints of sugared and dried yellow fruits now, but I couldn’t tell you which ones (dried papaya and pineapple come to mind).

Taste: Short attack. Big. Starts with some vanilla sweetness mixed with paper or cardboard. Wood, nuts and fruit. Fresh almonds (chewed). Creamy and dusty. Nutty and a medium wax aroma. Altogether a medium and very pleasurable body. The big start soon gets smaller. Fruity acidity on top, from red fruits. Berries. The acidity is quite unexpected and doesn’t fit the nose all that well, or the Whisky as a whole for that matter. Hints of Beer. Finishes (long) on the fruity acidity adding some light bitterness for the first time. The bitterness makes up the aftertaste as well.

I have to be honest. I don’t like it as much now as I did in the beginning. It is definitely one you have to work with, but you also need to forgive some minor flaws (like the acidic top note). I also fear this suffers a bit from oxidation. This is a bottle I often grab when I want a few cask strength Sherry expressions, so it is already 2/3 down, lots of air to play with.

Points: 85

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Glenallachie 37yo 1973/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Bourbon Hogshead #6746, 266 bottles, 500 ml)

After all those fairly recent distillates, I guess its time to look at something older. This time we’ll have a look at a 37 year old expression of Glenallachie bottled by the Dutch Whisky Investors: The Whisky Talker. The Mo Òr line of Single Malt Whiskies was thought of as an investment, or as a luxury gift for business people. Sometimes you can even encounter a bottle like this in a super-duper hotel bar. Yes, Whisky is the new Swiss Watch or a premium golf-set. Glenallachie though, is one of the workhorses of Pernod Ricard, a laborer, meant for the Clan Campbell blend, not really a luxury brand isn’t it? But if you are worrying about the size of your next yacht, who cares? Ignorance is bliss. Let’s see if this old Glenallachie is any good.

Glenallachie 37yo 1973/2010 (46%, Mo Òr, Bourbon Hogshead #6746, 266 bottles, 500 ml)Color: Almost gold.

Nose: Soft and fruity. Next, some old bottle effect and great Speyside seventies fruity wax. Anoraks know this from Caperdonichs from 1972 and Tomatin’s from 1976, to name but a few. Vanilla plays a nice part in keeping the whole together. Definitely a (second) refill Hogshead. The cask wasn’t very active, but over almost 40 years, the wood did play it’s part in ageing this Whisky. Just let this breathe and it gets even better and better. Hints of old soft (sugared) mint in the background. Almond cookies with a bit of dust on them. Old wooden floor and a very distant smoky touch. The mint holds its ground and keeps accompanying the rest of the aroma’s from the nose. Great old malt, but it has its limitations. Lacks a bit of development compared to some of the (non-Sherried) greats from that era, but the whole is still fantastic and a treat to nose. Don’t get me wrong. Maybe this one shouldn’t have been reduced, although at 46% it’s still no dud.

Taste: Quite light and fruity. Sure, Speyside peach from old American wood. Hints of paper. Slightly sweet black tea with raspberry flavour. Especially here tasting it, the reduction shows itself. Making the whole a bit thin and shortening the finish. Also the cask seems to have been a bit tired. Hints of wood and sawdust and a hint of white wine. Sweaty high quality Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. The wood shows a more soft mocha note now. Sawdust and pencil shavings. The mint from the nose stays behind in the back of my throat.

Whisky from a great time, but not the best expression from that time though. Probably a bit too tired a cask, and certainly should have not been reduced. It may have been already a bit frail and reducing it may have dulled it down. However, it still is an example of aged Speyside Whisky from the era, with this wonderful fruitiness and lighter style. I don’t know why, but this screams for some Roxy music from 1973. “The Bogus Man” sounds just right.

Points: 87

Followed this up with the 1976 Benromach. Both are 46% ABV, and both score 87 points, but the The Glenallachie is lighter, and smells more like a Whisky from another time. I would prefer the Glenallachie, especially for its nose.

Bulleit 6yo “Frontier Whiskey” (40%, OB, Circa 2010)

Bulleit is a brand owned by Diageo. Diageo is the biggest drinks company in the world and they are known for loving to make a buck. Nothing wrong with that. Making booze is not a charity you know. In 1983 sensible economics made Diageo close a lot of distilleries in Scotland, and Diageo are also the ones who closed the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, their only distillery in the US, correct me if I’m wrong. Why then put out a Bourbon Brand? Economics, getting a foot in the door? The regret closing Stitzel-Weller? Who cares what the reasons are. They decided to put out a brand of Bourbon and had it made by Four Roses. The mashbill contains around 28% Rye, which is right in the middle of Four Roses’ own B (35% Rye) and E (20% Rye) mashbills. And at Four Roses they know what they are doing. By the way, The old Stitzel-Weller distillery is now a centre for promoting Bulleit.

Bulleit BourbonColor: Light orange gold.

Nose: For me, Rye Whiskies always smell a bit floral, even though they (should) have a taste with a bite. I don’t know how to describe it differently. This isn’t a Rye Whiskey, but it does smell like it, sort of. High Rye mashbill it is. Dusty, floral and vegetable. Buttery with dry leather. Delayed mint. Funky stuff like crushed beetle and cold dishwater. Old honey and do I detect a wee whiff of urine in there? Well, don’t be fooled, this smells rather nice, but we already know, Four Roses know what they are doing, but i might have said that already. Powdery and dry with some charcoal. Well balanced, especially considering its age.

Taste: Smoother than the nose led me to believe. Slight dryness, but also quite sweet. Sugar water. Funky rural toffee and a bit of leather. Some toasted oak, but the focus lies more on the toast then the oak. Nevertheless, the oak is there, but it’s hardly woody at all. Creamy, but a bit too thin. I believe 40% ABV. is a bit too low. Spicy and chewy Rye. Light, but good. Medium to short finish, with a slight bitter edge towards the aftertaste. I do believe the distillate to be promising, but it is a bit killed by the low ABV.

I didn’t like it when I first opened it, but I warmed up to it now. I remember I didn’t like the pronounced florality of it, and it may have been slightly soapy when it was freshly opened. In the end Four Roses make a pretty good Whisky, even if they do it for Diageo. I would ditch the 40% ABV version and get the 45% ABV version if you have the chance, but it isn’t available in all markets.

Points: 81

Linkwood 18yo 1991/2010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)

Another Linkwood then. Linkwood is quite a difficult distillery for me. Somehow I don’t seem to like Linkwood that much, and I don’t buy any of Linkwood without tasting it first. This one I did buy blind. First of all I like Raymond Armstrong (the former owner of Bladnoch Distillery) and just like Dutch independent bottlers The Ultimate were/are able to bottle some great Whisky at very fair prices. Luckily a lot of my tasting is done blind, so it’s not the name that makes for a lower score. Don’t get me wrong, I did come across some good Linkwoods as well. So with an open mind let’s have a got at this 18yo Linkwood.

Linkwood 18yo 19912010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Acetone, unmistakable. Nail polish remover. Lots of sappy leaves too. Quite nutty as well. Well not dull isn’t it. This spirit jumps right out of my glass. The acetone seems to “remove” itself, but it’s just me not smelling it anymore since it tries to anesthetize me. Put it away for a minute and smell it again, and you’ll be hit in the head again. Even though some might like it, it most definitely is flawed. Nice wood underneath it all. Coffee, cloves and some mocha-cream. Hazelnut pastry. Vanilla, hints of lemon and even a bit perfumy after a while. If you factor out the solvent, this is quite a bold body from a highly active and spicy cask. Quite nice but with a rather unusual defect. No I don’t hate it. Maybe this needs to oxidize a bit?

Taste: For a brief moment there is a solvent. It is quite hot, but the solvent (not ethanol) is quickly replaced by a more woody and leafy aroma. Woody and nutty. Sweet, with a lot of vanilla. Even though the solvent part seems to dissipate for a while, the whole stays quite hot and overpowering, just as it did with the nose. Freshly painted wood and freshly sawn, not entirely dry, oak. The feeling something other than Whisky is going down my throat. Medium finish.

In a way this was difficult to score (but not really). First of all I liked it maybe a bit more than I scored it, but I don’t think this isn’t one to finish quickly. Quality wise this couldn’t score very high since it has some obvious flaws, not exactly from the middle cut maybe? (although hard to imagine).

Points: 79

Rum Nation Panama 18yo (40%, Single Domaine Rum, Release 2010, Panama)

All four Ron Abuelo’s have been reviewed now, but there is still one ace up my sleeve. An independent release of an Abuelo Rum. Lance (The Lone Caner) reviewed this very same Rum and mentions this is an Abuelo Rum, so let’s go with that. Rum Nation is the Rum brand of Italia’s one and only Fabio Rossi, most of us also know from the Independent Whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan. Fabio also has a passion for Rum and is able to source some very special Rums for his own label. Besides this 18yo, Rum nation also has a 21yo Panamanian Rum, which according to Lance, even surpasses the Centuria in quality. I have the 21yo in storage somewhere, so I’ll probably review that one too in the near future.

Rum Nation Panama 18yoColor: Reddish orange brown.

Nose: Powdery and dusty. Radish (Rettich). Cold gravy and leather. Laid back, and yes, still middle of the roadish. Soft old oak. Soaked oak. Lots of toffee and custard. Some sulphur and a meaty note come flying by after a while in the glass. Next some smoky honey, white pepper and candied lemon skins and bitter oranges.

Taste: Half sweet toffee and some wood. Sweetish and the typical Abuelo red fruity acidity is in this one too. Better integrated than in the 12yo. The body has quite some wood and spicy wood, licorice. but the wood is still soft. The end of the body and the finish tell you more. The wood stays on and becomes more spicy, the Rum gets a bit hot for a while, finally some action! Red peppers, and somehow it lacks a bit of complexity. The finish itself is rather short. When I come to think of it, the spicy bite seems to be a bit sulphury. But the finish is about wood and its light walnut skin bitterness.

Quite soft and well-behaved for a 18yo Rum, and quite inexpensive to boot. You know Rums in the hot Caribbean age quite quickly, so when a Rum is still so smooth and easily drinkable after 18 years is quite a feat. I have made quite a dent in this bottle already, and I’m still trying to figure out what it’s all about. It is in part similar to the 7yo and 12yo Abuelo offerings. The heritage is apparent, but it is all a bit to anonymous for me, it doesn’t bring a smile to my face, as in great, I love this, I need more of this. I can easily live without the Añejo, the 7yo and the 12yo, heck, even the 18yo I can do without. The Centuria, however, is from another Panamanian planet and is the proof great Rums can also be made in Panama. I’m wondering about the Rum Nation 21yo now…

Points: 81

Abeille-Fabre Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 Vignoble Abeille

Lots of information about the wines marketed as Château Mont-Redon, but not a lot about this particular wine. Château Mont-Redon is owned by Jean Abeille and Didier Fabre, they are the third generation of wine-makers, but already the fourth generation is awaiting. This particular wine is from the Vineyards of Jean Abeille. Château Mont-Redon’s vineyards are 174 ha big, of which a nice 100 ha lies in the AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape

This white Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourboulenc, 20% Clairette, 10% Picpoul Terret and finally 5% Roussane. Well, not your every day Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, isn’t it! By the way, these numbers may vary with every vintage. Around 450.000 bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced annually, of which a hefty 100.000 is of the white variety.s

Abeille-Fabre Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 Vignoble AbeilleColor: Straw yellow, light.

Nose: Very aromatic, fatty, buttery and nicely fruity. White peach. Mineral but also fruity, white peach in sweet yoghurt. Very appetizing. What I especially like about this one is the slightly industrial, rubbery and maybe gout de petrol like quality this wine has.

Taste: Thick vanilla, wood and warming, what? Warm stones. Mineral and earthy. Slightly waxy and soft lemon juice on top. Gooseberries and grapefruit! Acidity kept in check. Nicely balanced Wine. Vanilla and wood in the nose and now again some vanilla and wood in the taste, this must have seen some wood. Slightly bitter finish, which passes through the mouth leaving a nice taste behind. Well made.

Starts very fruity and aromatic, changes into a more serious nose with petrol. Same with the taste, ending in a slightly wooden bitterness. Not harsh in any way. The finish is long and the bitterness passes into something more woody-fruity and fatty. Fresh butter. High quality. 13.5% ABV. Don’t drink this too cold, when it warms up in your glass it still gives of a lot of aromatics.

Points: 86

The English Whisky Co. 3yo 2007/2010 “Chapter 6” (46%, OB, American Standard Barrel #001-011)

Next stop is in Roudham, Norfolk, UK. Although close to the source, from a Scottish perspective, this is a World Whisky. The English Whisky Co. is the brand name and the distillery is called St. George’s Distillery. Founded by James and Andrew Nelstrop, its location was chosen because of clean and pure water, and well Barley and Norfolk, need I say more? Initially they wanted to build a micro distillery, but customs and excise wouldn’t have it, they wanted a big distillery, otherwise they wouldn’t bother giving off a licence. In december 2006, distilling commenced under the supervision of Laphroaigs one and only Iain Henderson. 29 barrels were filled. This particular Whisky was distilled two months after opening by Iain, aged for three years so it is barely legal…

The English Whisky Co. 3yo 20072010 Chapter 6 (46%, OB, First Fill American Bourbon Casks #001-011)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Extremely malty, and noses like new make spirit. White bread used for sandwiches dumped in water. I guess the eleven casks used weren’t very active. Grassy, lemongrass and sugar. Hay and all sorts of grass plants. Citrussy. It will remain the new make spirit it essentially is. Malt, bread and Vodka. That’s it. Sure, noses like this are part of the Whisky industry as a whole, so you “gotta love it”. But I don’t like it when I buy a bottle of a finished product. I’m not nosing this and enjoying myself, to be honest.

Taste: Soft and sweet. At least the taste shows some potential. Well rounded, and just the right amount of sweetness. Taste wise no off notes whatsoever, just plain young and massively un-complex. Enjoyable? Very! Toffee and vanilla. light and sunny. You get my drift.

Nosing this stuff I really asked myself why would anyone bottle this when it is clearly not ready. This is why they came up with the rule that Whisky must be three years old. Well, if you make stuff like this in a cold climate with inactive casks (first fill, really?) and it reaches three years of age, then it hardly meets requirement doesn’t it. Tasting it is a different story completely. Good potential, and I’ll be watching this Whisky grow. I hope they will succeed. Good luck!

Points: 75