Worthy Park Quatre Vins 2013 (52%, OB, Cask Selection Series #8, Ex-Bourbon 4 years & Ex-Monbazillac, Ex-Sauternes, Ex-Moscatel & Ex-Jurançon 2 years, 1.318 bottles, Jamaica)

As we saw in the previous review, Worthy Park, as it is now, is a relatively new distillery, with the first distillate running off the still in 2007. As we all know, new distilleries sell a lot of young stuff, so there are a lot of rather young independent bottlings to be found, as well as a lot of the releases of the distillery itself are quite young, like most of these Cask Selection Series. By now, there is our Single Estate Reserve as well as a few 10yo’s (again finishes like the Madeira and the Port, both bottled @ 45% ABV.) and a 12yo bottled @ 56% ABV. So, since the distillery isn’t operational for all that long, it simply doesn’t have older stuff to release. A new distillery has to reach a lot of people to get some of the invested money back quickly to survive, so a distillery like this won’t be going for an extreme and funky style (yet). Non of the Worthy Parks I have tried until now, came across as a high ester Rum in taste (and nose). So for a Jamaican Rum, Worthy Park isn’t about all that super high ester stuff, like we saw with Hampden (or Long Pond).

By the way, Monbazillac, Sauternes, Moscatel & Jurançon are all sweet White Wines. Moscatel is fortified and Jurançon exists also in a dry version as well but then it is called Jurançon-Sec. However, I don’t think they used the dry variant here, since the rest is Sweet, but you can never be sure now can you. Since the previous review and the one below are from the Cask Selection Series, here is a list of the eight releases I know of:

Worthy Park 2012 Marsala Cask Selection Series #1 for La Maison Du Whisky, France, 60%, 319 bottles, 2017
Worthy Park 2012 Oloroso Cask Selection Series #2, 59%, 428 bottles, 2017
Worthy Park 2013 Sherry Cask Selection Series #3, 57%, 1.148 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2013 Madeira Cask Selection Series #4, 58%, 677 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2008 Port Cask Selection Series #5, 56%, 585 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2013 Virgin Cask Selection Series #6 for The Nectar, Belgium, 55% 342 bottles 2019?
Worthy Park 2013 Oloroso Cask Selection Series #7, 55%, 1.612 bottles, 2019
Worthy Park 2013 Quatre Vins Cask Selection Series #8, 52%, 1.318 bottles, 2019

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: This one starts with a nice funky caramel, like Jamaican funk toffee (if it exists). Clay, fatty and creamy. Honey, nutty, unlit tobacco, slightly burnt toast and warm plastic or polyester even. Organic and slightly grassy. Paint with a hint of solvents and vinegar made from Wine. Chocolate Rum beans. Spicy and obviously a bit winey yet also meaty. Gravy, dry and dusty. Nice fresh oak, in part a bit like plywood. Hints of Alsatian Gewürztraminer, but also the flinty bit of a Pouilly Fumé. Both wines, strangely enough, not one of the Quatre Vins. A fast flowing gutter in the rain. What? Yeah, well, the Wines give this Rum a bit of a combined note that is hard to put into words. Red fruit candy without the sweetness. Dusty, as well as some mocha and vanilla powder. Do you remember the smell of a bowl that had vanilla ice-cream in it a few hours ago? So, from this big funky start it first turns fruity and next, more dry and spicy. A lot of the complex initial smells wear off a bit. Stock cube, with hints of toasted oak and licorice. The development is not all that dissimilar to the previously reviewed Oloroso version. No doubt about it, this is a very good quality Rum, yet again, lacking a bit of the Jamaican funk, I’ve come to expect from a Jamaican Rum. It is almost closer to, yet another, rather new, high quality Rum that is Foursquare from Barbados, than to its Jamaican brother from another mother, Hampden. Traits I’m actually looking for in a Jamaican Rum. When you have a few open bottles of Rum around, like me, sometimes you feel like having a nice Rhum Agricole from Martinique, Guadeloupe, or Reunion. On other occasions, Jamaican Funk or a nice Demerara is the way to go. Worthy Park is very good Rum, but it isn’t old skool Jamaican in style. Jamaican funk without the funk is like chicken without the jerk, but I may have mentioned something like this as well about the Oloroso bottling. So sometimes when I want to go Jamaican, I tend to go for something like Hampden or Long Pond, more outspoken and yes, sometimes hit or miss, like the Hampden from Cadenhead I just reviewed. That one is just strange (in a good way), but therefore not for everybody/anyone. Apart from the nose not being quintessentially Jamaican, it definitely is a rather good nose though, lots happening and very fine. I have to say the Wines do lift this nose beyond the nose of the Oloroso version, the Quatre Vins smells rather exciting, and in comparison, the Oloroso can smell young and unfinished.

Taste: Big, fatty and sweet at first, yet quickly (in a millisecond or so) turning dry, spicy and winey. Although more of the Red Wine kind, than Sweet Whites (because of the sour notes). Herbal, medium bitter, green and somewhat hot. Flinty and with a slightly burnt edge to it. Licorice upfront as well as some bicycle inner tube rubber seems to be associated with it. Warming. Maybe slightly Jamaican in the beginning, but not really actually during the rest of the experience. As I said, short lived. Wax and almonds. All those different casks got very busy, but here in a somewhat disharmonious way. For me, it worked a lot better in the nose. Just like the Oloroso version, it thus starts big, funky and fatty, and it turns more dry, austere, herbal and spicy, rather quickly, which might seem odd. People tend to believe Rum is a sweet distillate, since is it closely associated with sugar as well as the fact that this has been finished in casks that previously held Sweet Wines, so one would expect something sweeter than this. Hints of latex paint. Where the Wine-casks helped the nose past the Oloroso, here on the palate, the Oloroso clearly worked better. Which is a shame really, because the nose of the Quatre Vins is much better. Well, one supposedly can’t have it all. In the finish, obvious notes of slightly milky, Red Wine notes, Merlot, this time and again not one of the Quatre Vins, and yet another Red, how peculiar. Hints of toasted oak, European oak, spicy and tannic. The finish, with some plastic/polyester and bitter notes, is short and quickly moves into the aftertaste. Which is unbalanced, actually it falls apart into a woody (bitter) bit and an acidic, winey bit, making this one somewhat less tasty to drink. Still a shame really, since the nose is really good and interesting as well.

First of all, if you want old skool Jamaican funk, than maybe you should reconsider buying a Worthy Park just yet. Do you want to buy a good Rum, than Worthy Park is happy to oblige, why not, it can be, and usually is good stuff, even though this Quatre Vins is something of an strange beast. Which one to get is up to you. Between the two, the Oloroso version is better and easier to get through, although somewhat sweeter (and more of the burnt notes) and with a (slightly) less interesting nose than this Quatre Vins offering. This one in particular is let down a bit by the taste, with the Wine casks playing a dubious role, and definitely overpowering the Ex-Bourbon cask maturation.

Points: 81

Worthy Park Oloroso 2013 (55%, OB, Cask Selection Series #7, Ex-Bourbon 4 years & Ex-Oloroso 2 years, 1.612 bottles, Jamaica)

Since we already are on a roll with nice Rums, why not just continue and go on? I’ve got no choice actually, since some of the Rums I have, already have a dangerously low filling level, so they need to be reviewed before they are gone. After two Hampdens, and understanding better what kind of Rum Hampden actually is, maybe it is a good idea, to stay on the island of Jamaica some more and look at another example from one of the other distilleries, which in this case is Worthy Park again. I say again, because it already featured on these pages before, with the Single Estate Reserve and a Oloroso finished Rum Nation release. What was lacking in those reviews was maybe some more information about the distillery itself.

Although the year 1670 is put prominently on all the Worthy Park bottles, The first mention of distilling comes from 1741. As we all know, the Sugar industry in the Caribbean hit upon hard times for reasons mentioned before, so no use going into that again here. Fast forward several centuries. Worthy Park stopped distilling in 1960. Fast forward some decades to Gordon Clarke, member of the family that owns Worthy Park since 1918. We have seen Matt’s pictures of Hampden, a place that oozes the feel of steam punk and abandoned places. Hampden was revived to a workable state, essentially not changing much. It still looks 200 years old and dilapidated, which is a big bonus for us Rum aficionados. We love that kind of thing as we are utter romantics. Long Pond is another example, also an old distillery. Worthy Park, even though steeped in a similar century old history, was not revived as it was, no, Gordon Clarke decided to build a hyper modern, new distillery in 2005. Modern, efficient and clean. In it, a single 18.000 litre Pot Still built by Scotland’s pride: Forsyths. The first Rum from this distillery was bottled in 2007 as an unaged Rum. Personally, I’ll treat this as a new distillery, not feeling romantic about it at all. However, even with this sense of history gone, this surely doesn’t mean that the distillery is bad, far from it, we have already encountered some pretty decent Rums from Worthy Park.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: What can I say, this reminds me of the Rum Nation version I reviewed 5 years ago big time, albeit dryer and more dusty and cardboard-like. Very light Jamaican funk (only), and even this wears down after some time in your glass. Slightly creamy, with raisins, pear, milk chocolate and some vanilla from the American oak. Wood and toasted cask. The “Oloroso” itself comes somewhat later. Next, lots of fresh and acidic citrus notes show themselves. Overall quite dry smelling. Sinaspril (very artificial orange flavoured head ache medicine for small children) and sometimes it seems like a grassy note whiffs by. Occasionally a whiff of cigarette smoke from further up this grassy field. Quite a spicy and austere Sherry note, starts dry, but over time, (in the glass), becomes more jam-like. Red Wine-like with a nearly ripe red fruit mix. Although both come from the same island, Jamaica, this is no where near Hampden in style. This is much cleaner and more modern, just like the distillery itself, almost completely lacking Jamaican Funk altogether. The nose is not really quintessentially Jamaican to me, maybe only that moment, right after pouring. If I would smell this not knowing what it was, on a bad day, not picking up at the traits that are arguably Jamaican, I could have easily gone for maybe Foursquare (from Barbados). Seems to me the base Rum was quite light and the finish quite heavy. Medium complexity.

Taste: Slightly sweet (but only right from the start) and spicy, quite some, again modern, wood influence. Somewhat hot going down. Vegetal wood, in part leafy, in part waxy, almost like virgin oak. This fresh wood influence is quite large to be honest. Licorice, and dull red fruit. Dusty and toned down fruit. Dry and woody and not at all that complex. Not very bitter wood though, which might be masked. After some breathing, the jam-like fruit separates into jam-like fruit and an acidic top note. This does liven the Rum up a bit, makes it fresher and distracts from the wood. I’m not sure, in this case, if this takes a way from the balance a bit. The aftertaste seems quite short, and fades away rather quickly and shows some hint of machine oil and vegetable oil. Nevertheless it is a highly drinkable Rum, even at this ABV. A fun bottling. I need to find out though how an older official Worthy Park would taste to see the influence in this Rum of its youth. 6 years is not much if you ask me, but then again, it is tropical ageing isn’t it?

If memory serves me well, I think the Rum nation offering pleased me slightly more. It was also older, so maybe the youth of this Worthy Park has something to do with it. Compared to the Single Estate Reserve the Oloroso does seem to add something to the whole, another layer, coming from the Oloroso finish. The label on the back of the Single Estate Reserve states that the Rum has aged 6 to 10 years in ex-Bourbon barrels, so mathematically it is older than the Oloroso finish. So the Oloroso finish trumps the extra ageing of the Single Estate Reserve. Well, therefore I still need to try the 12yo to have a better understanding of what ageing does to Worthy Park Rum.

Points: 83

Kilchoman 5yo 2008/2013 (60.7%, OB, Bourbon Cask #146/2008, for The World Single Malt Germany, 252 bottles)

Although not bad, I don’t really have a fond memory of the early blue labelled Spring 2010 and Summer 2010 bottlings, both are decent but not there yet. Both are showing their youth, and I’m not particularly a fan of Whiskies that still show their new make side. Aren’t all beginnings hard? However, I do have a fond memory of the previously red labelled Single cask bottling for Belgium. All three distillates are more or less from the same period of time, but this red labelled one is just a bit older, not reduced and from a single cask. In my mind, after tasting such Kilchoman’s, the red ones were the ones to go for. I like single casks especially at cask strength, warts and all. In the case of Kilchoman, usually there are no warts. Not a lot anyway. Pretty amazing considering the aforementioned single cask expression isn’t even 5yo and already very, very good and mature for its age, and remember this was matured in Scotland, not the tropical shores of Goa (India, in case you failed geography). So no surprise then, that the next Kilchoman I opened was another red labelled one. Yes, another ex-Bourbon single cask expression, why not. This time a red labelled one bottled for Germany. Let’s see if the Germans got an even better deal than the Belgians did. For starters, the German one is older, it is just over 5yo.

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Soft warming peat, glowing embers, fine bonfire smoke, flinty, with citrus fruit upfront. A combination of lemon, lime, unripe pear, sweet spearmint and menthol. Just sniff it, put it away, wait a minute and start breathing through your nose. Are you getting the menthol now? Soft wood, creamy, toffee and clay. Slightly perfumy and slightly meaty as well. All combined with smoke. Paper and dust. Fresh and spicy. Cedar wood, vegetal. Christmassy smoke emanating from a chimney, that’s it, with more fresh acidic fruit notes. A dram for a silent, snowy evening. Mocha, vanilla powder and maybe even a hint of an unlit Cuban cigar. Next, the promise of sweet, jam-like fruit, as well as a breath of fresh air, significantly different from acidic fruit, although both bring freshness to the Whisky. Smells appetizing and lively, yet also mature. No signs of new make spirit to be found. When snorted most vigorously, a more deeper and brooding animalesk kind of note emerges. I think this smells amazing for a 5yo Malt. Very mature. This must be quality, achieving this, in so little time and in a cold climate. It also has an unexpected depth to it, like Alice’s rabbit hole, the deeper you go, the more mesmerizing are its aroma’s. Take your time with it, it’s really, really good.

Taste: Wood and paper. Sweet red fruits. (Menthol) cigarette smoke in the wind, and more sweetness than expected. Milk chocolate and liquid bonfire smoke, with maybe some plastic in the back? All elements well balanced. It’s even slightly syrupy. Soft white pepper attack combined with fresh, green and sappy oak. Waxy, with a tiny hint of rubber in the back, and a short bitter note that is soon joined by sweet yellow fruits, candied fruits and some more of this peppery attack. Lemonade. The bitter and the sweet go together well. A lot is happening at once, so I’m almost struggling to keep up and write it all down. Speaking of down, this is quite warming going down. Pencil shavings, licorice and slightly tarry. The wood note comes late and when they occur in the taste, it starts to play a bigger part in the nose as well. Slightly less complex than the nose (or is it?). This one shows most of what its got, right from the start, but doesn’t lack in the evolution department either. Towards the aftertaste, the lemon and lime returns, wonderful. Really good stuff this.

This is a really good Whisky which makes me happy. Amazing result after some 62 months from a relatively new Islay distillery. Instant favourite. The bottle is half empty, and I’m not entirely sure, it was already this good when freshly opened, so this seems to be another example of a Whisky that needs to breathe a lot.

Points: 89

P.S. The empty glass smells of black coal, peat, smoke and some plastics, more than the day before, (when the glass wasn’t empty).

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (59%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Charred American Virgin Oak & Port Pipe #2712, Peated Barley, 357 bottles)

What again? Yes here is another tandem Malt. After last weeks Amrut here is another one. This time not a direct comparison, there was no reason for that, but I did compare both behind the scenes, to assess which one is better and for the height of the scores. I do love Amrut. Most Amruts I have tasted are at least good, and some are better than that. Lovely stuff and definitely a different and exotic take on Single Malt Whisky. Maybe the people at Amrut don’t even know how to produce a bad Whisky, or maybe they are out there, but I haven’t encountered them yet? Who knows. Amrut is most welcome to the world of Single Malt Whisky, since they do bring something new into the fold.

In 2013 a few single cask bottlings emerged, especially bottled for Europe, but there should be versions for other markets as well, even bottled in a different year. Earlier, I already reviewed a virgin oak and first fill Bourbon barrel version and a charred American virgin oak and PX Sherry butt version. All good things come in threes, so the third version they released that year is this Charred American Virgin Oak and Port Pipe. This time the barley was peated. Amruts standard is so high, that even the “simple” and affordable peated and especially the unpeated cask strength versions turned out to be very tasty, and in hindsight the charred American virgin oak and PX Sherry butt version may have been somewhat less than perfect, still it was slightly better than the peated cask strength version. The peated cask strength version is my lowest scoring Amrut on these pages, and it still was a Whisky I liked. I will probably buy it again sometimes, just to see how it fares.

Color: Orange-brown gold. Bourbon.

Nose: Initially fruity and milky. I often have this Malt right after the Kadhambam, and it definitely has this milky quality to it. Even some expressions of Paul John tasted right before or right after this one makes that evident. Don’t worry though, in the nose the milky bit mostly wears off. I’m guessing this is from the Virgin oak. Fruity and very PX-like. Nosed blind I would have guessed PX instead of Port. Dusty, deep, dark and brooding. Some underlying heavy sweetness, like warm syrup and tarred wood. Treacle. No Indian spiciness, so for me the cask overpowered the original Malt. Mind you, this wasn’t initially matured in Bourbon casks, but rather in virgin oak casks. Red fruit lemonade. Strawberry and raspberry syrup, with still this tarry and treacle note underneath. Fire place smoke, yet hardly peaty. Not peaty at all actually. Pencil shavings and crushed dry leaves from trees. A more fresher citrussy note emerges next, as well as some faint mackerel in oil aroma. Since this was matured in a hot climate, the virgin oak works differently, compared to its Scottish counterparts. No harsh, creamy or sappy wood, we can pick up from Scottish Single Malts matured (in part) in virgin oak. Maybe here the milky bit is the way the virgin oak exerts itself? Also a floral bit now. Soft and delicate rose notes combined with sharper whiffs of smoke from the fire place. This is a winter Malt, bordering on Christmas. Certainly brings you in the mood. It’s a big Malt this. The aroma’s are big and bold and never stop giving…

Taste: Tarry wood. Spicy autumn leaves. Quite sweet and prickly (smoke). Treacle and cookies. Black coal. Carbon powder, gun powder. Big, very big. Almost a bit like Rhum Agricole mixed with a heavy Demerara Rum. Steampunk locomotive. Yes Port, but again, it is also not that far away from a heavy PX cask. Well balanced. Chocolate and Brownies. Candied cherries. Licorice and smoke, but also a green note. Oak, but not like the virgin oak we know. No vanilla notes to be honest. Red fruit syrup towards the finish, warming log fires as well. Some residual bitterness, from burnt down logs of wood. Since I got this heavy Rum note, its hard to picture it without it. This has a very long finish, very warming and a perfect aftertaste of everything mentioned before. All is here and all stays with you for a long time. Very good stuff.

Here a lot of the aroma’s are quite big and overpowering, so it is near impossible to make out the Spicy Indian Spirit. So for me maybe less typical than other expressions, but nevertheless a very tasty piece of work again. The beauty lies in the details, but here the details are masked. Luckily the result is still quite nice. There were more casks bottled like this. I bought cask #2714 as well. I’m especially curious now if that one will have this milky note as well as this one. Something we’ll find out in the future…or not…

Points: 89

Inchgower 1998/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Butt, AC/JIID)

Inchgower is not often encountered and therefore this whisky is often one of the great unknowns. Very understandable, when you consider the fact, this Malt is made for three well known blends: White Horse, Bell’s, and last but not least, Johnny Walker. Considering the cases sold of these, it’s almost a miracle they bottle Inchgower officially or even sell casks to independent bottlers.

Up ’till now, only two Inchgowers have graced these pages before, a Bladnoch Forum bottling and a Dewar Rattray bottling. Luckily for us, both have scored well above average. When reviewing the bottling at hand, there is only something like 30% left in the bottle, so it had some air to work with. At 46% ABV this is usually one of the first Whiskies I grab when taking a dram, and it is quickly surpassed by almost all of the follow-up drams. After all these drams from this Inchgower, I still don’t have a mental picture in my head how this particular Malt actually is, almost as if it just doesn’t leave an impression, unremarkable, forgettable. No, I don’t have a drinking problem, because I can fondly remember many, many different drams I had over the past 20 years or so. But let’s get back to this Malt we’re reviewing here, whatever it is…

Feeling an independent bottler as big as G&M probably don’t have just the one cask, I went out surfing to find another G&M Inchgower from 1998, and yes, there is. G&M have bottled another Single Cask, #11275 to be precise. It was distilled on 15.12.1998 and bottled in October 2011. That was a refill Sherry Hogshead @50% ABV. If our Connoisseurs Choice bottling is from the same distillate, our Malt is a 14yo.

Color: Dark Gold, hint of copper

Nose: Light, Sherried, very fruity and also a bit musty. Musty yes, farmy even. Still, there is this breath of fresh air to it as well. Fanta Orange and sinaspril, bordering on sulphur. Fresh and bubbly, appealing and likeable. Toasted almonds, but foremost, lots of citrus fruits. Zesty, apples. Warm apple compote. Very friendly and appetizing. Well balanced. Maybe slightly meaty, although it does retain its fruity freshness. Slight hint of oak and paper, but not a lot. Slightly smoky, whiff of cigarette? Licorice, and toasted oak. Also some black coal, mixed in with ahorn syrup on a bit of cardboard. Warm cooked vegetables. The breath of fresh air from the start returns a bit like menthol. Although there seems to be enough happening here, because it is an impressive list of smells, the whole does seem a bit simple, and light, too light. Strange, because it is really a wonderful nose, thin, simple and sharp. Lacks a bit of sweetness, roundness. Could have been more supple. All three words hated by connoisseurs, because, what do they mean? Still, a good nose though.

Taste: Half sweet tea, but not enough sweetness for this Sherried, fruity profile. Fruity acidity. Unripe pineapple. Caramel, toffee and toasted oak, yet not big nor sweet. Lacking depth. lacking development. Thin. It just shows you right from the start what it is, goes down well, and just waits, sits there like a puppy, waiting for you to take another sip (throw the bone). Its nice, but too narrow and too simple and it really, really lacks development. Very drinkable yet also quite simple and thin. It is a narrow path ahead, not a wide motorway of aroma’s. Pancakes with ahorn syrup. After tasting, the nose opens up a bit more, and there is nothing wrong really. Lets say this has a short finish, it isn’t even a medium fish. Slightly hot, but it might be me, this evening. Forget about the aftertaste, it was all washed down, nothing left for the aftertaste. This is why it is, and stays, anonymous and this is why next week, I will have forgotten, yet again, how this tastes. Nothing wrong, no off notes, no too young Whisky, just narrow, short and simple. Forgettable. Some moments later, this review still open on my laptop… dare I say that after all that, when casually sipping on, watching a re-run of Frasier, some sweetness does finally emerge and the finish becomes a wee bit longer? A tiiiiiny bit of oaken bitterness moves into the…..aftertaste? yes, an aftertaste, finally! So, maybe all is not lost after all.

Maybe the anonymity of this bottle was also brought upon by the Crabbie I reviewed earlier. I always started with that one, and since that one was essentially not OK, it may have ruined this one in the process, since I always grabbed this Inchgower next. The Crabbie is gone now, so maybe the bit that is left in this bottle gets the respect it deserves. Even though the nose it quite rich, it also predicts some sort of narrow Malt. Tasting it proves it. It is a narrow malt. It has the sharper notes, from toasted oak to Sherry oak and acidity, but it really lacks something bigger, no sweets no vanilla notes we know from American oak. Essentially, this Whisky lacks some more wood influence, so despite the color, the cask didn’t bring what it was supposed to. Not bad, but nothing you really need in your life as well. This one let me down a bit, but didn’t damage my faith in Inchgower. Bring on the next one please!

Points: 82

Glen Garioch ‘Virgin Oak’ (48%, OB, 2013, L132293)

Whisky is already around for quite a long while. Just pick up any general Whisky book, have a look at chapter one and the first year mentioned is definitely a long long time ago. In all that time, Single Malt Whisky was always about ageing in previously used casks. Oloroso Sherry casks turn out to give nice results, but also the abundance of Bourbon casks showed us, that wonderful Whisky could be made with those as well. So, Single Malt Whisky is to used casks what Bourbon is to new casks. For centuries and centuries this situation stayed like that. It was traditional and just the way it worked, why change it? Many variants were tried before and these two were the ones that worked best. However, the world is ever changing, and the demand for Sherry casks has risen considerably, since Whisky isn’t the only distilled spirits industry interested in these kinds of casks. Also, I guess, the consumption of Sherry is lower than it used to be in the 60’s and 70’s. In comes the adventurous modern Whisky drinker and the modern Whisky industry, both with modern ideas (and facing shortages and steep prices for Sherry casks). Modern marketing is all about product diversification, catering to the adventurous or novice Whisky drinker. In time there just had to be someone, sooner or later, who would come up with the novel and outlandish idea of putting Scottish new make into a virgin oak cask. How bold!

The use of virgin oak is one of the steps taken by the industry alongside f.i. the explosion of NAS bottlings. Some virgin oak casks were blended in to the final Single Malt Whisky expression to add an element to the Whisky, or used merely as a finish. Laphroaig ‘1815’ and Ardbeg ‘Corryvreckan’, to name but two (again), are known for using, in part, virgin oak. Sometimes with European and sometimes with American Oak. Maturing full-term though, was initially unheard of! Nevertheless today there are several full-term matured virgin oak bottlings, and this Glen Garioch from 2013 is one of them, fully matured in North-American white oak. Deanston has another. Glen Garioch calls this an artisanal small batch release. The public calls this a “Bourbon”…

Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Grassy and sappy oak. Green. Sweet and fresh. No signs of new make or under-matured Whisky, but there is some resemblance to the honeyed nose of a Bourbon. Lots of fresh woody notes. Sawdust, caramel. Sweet ginger and some more wood spices. Milk chocolate and oak sap. Green leaves. After these expected suspects, come in the more fruity notes, well one actually. Dried orange skins, quickly to be overtaken by more wood and paper notes. So yes, lots of woody notes, but nothing too spicy or too overpowering. Its fresh, green, sweet and fairly simple.

Taste: Sweet, creamy and slightly bitter, (fresh tree sap). Spicy right from the start. Sweet at first and wood-spice next. Warming going down, giving dried ginger, sugared nutmeg, spicy cinnamon and half-dark chocolate notes in return. The nose wasn’t all that complex and the taste is even less so. It shows you all its got right from the start. No development over time. Quite green and vegetal tasting as well. Like eating the cuttings from your early summer garden. Have you ever cut off a small branch from a shrub or small fruit tree? Remember the smell of the fresh wood, the sappy bit? Well, this tastes a bit like that smells. Towards the finish, still warming and with even more length to it than I expected. Quite spicy, again on cinnamon and the medium bitterness has a lot of staying-power as well. A shame really that the sweetness in the finish is gone. Also it seems to lose a bit of balance towards the end. The finish is not the best part of this Whisky.

So there you have it. A fully virgin oak matured Whisky. Now you know which element this brings to other Whiskies that only use partial maturation in virgin oak. Interesting, yes, there is this dreaded I-word. Full maturation virgin oak is an education. It is something you should fathom, when you want to know stuff about Whisky. To be short, it gives us a rather un-complex Whisky. Wood, spices, and some nice sweetness to balance it out, just lacking in the finish. Slightly fruity but not much.

I always liked Glen Garioch. It is one of those Malts that suit me. Glen Garioch is somehow a powerful Malt, with many possibilities. So if any distillate could handle Virgin Oak, Glen Garioch should be one of those. This is a nice experiment of which recently a second attempt was released.

Points: 81

Even though this score might be somewhat low, I have to admit that I’m amazed this bottle is already empty. No, it isn’t one of those malts you are drinking to get out of the way and replace by something new (and better). I do have fond memories, already, of this one. As I said before, an interesting Malt and and most definitely an education. Goodbye sweet Geery. See ya around.

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (62.8%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Charred American Virgin Oak & PX Sherry Butt #2701, 301 bottles)

After the long overdue reviews of Port, even two of them, from Kopke and Warre and to a lesser extent, a Bourbon, Evan Williams, let’s stay away a little bit longer from Single Malt Whiskies from Scotland. Yes let’s look at some Single Malt Whisky from India! OK, so not completely different, it’s still Whisky, but don’t you worry, I plan to review some other non-Scottish stuff as well. Nevertheless, lets start with this Amrut.

In 2013, (and other years as well), some single casks were bottled for Europe, in three varieties. The Bourbon version I reviewed earlier, this Virgin Oak/PX-Sherry combination we are going to look at right now, and last but hopefully not (the) least (of the three), a peated Whisky matured in a Port pipe. I’ll open this last one soon, right after I finish the Whisky I’m about to review now, and there isn’t much left in the bottle I can tell you. Amruts never stay long on my lectern…

Color: Bright gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Dry, Indian, exotic (cinnamon) and winey. Lots of dusty barley notes, somewhat enhanced by funky PX. Caramel and toffee notes without the sweetness. Reminds me a bit of Port finished Whisky. Sometimes its like the smell of blood up my nose. Meaty notes as well. Fatty gravy. Soft wood now, a bit cardboard-like. Even if I wouldn’t know it, it is easily recognizable as Virgin oak. Nose-wise not the most balanced of Amruts. Like PX and the Indian Barley/Virgin Oak really don’t like to work together and don’t see each other out of the office. This Amrut needs a team-building session. Funny how up front this sensation is, because I get this instantaneously. Still dusty and drying, with hints of dry clay. Yes Wine, Port, PX. That’s it. If I’m honest, I would say that the virgin oak even overpowers the PX-finish. I’m sure this would have worked better if it started life in a nice American barrel, used before, so not virgin. Maybe then the PX finish would have worked better. I like the use of virgin oak in some Whiskies like Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Glen Garioch Virgin oak as well, but this time in my beloved Amrut, not so much. Nevertheless, still a good Whisky, just not so good as Amrut can be.

Taste: Very hot and stingy. An explosion of flavour. Bitter wood. Cherry liqueur, dark chocolate and even more oak. Unsweet caramel again, mixed with alcohol. Wait a minute, unsweet? There is also this sugary sweetness to it. Warming going down, well, hot going down might be a better way to describe it. Just like the nose, it lacks balance. Everybody was put on this team, but they really just don’t want to work together. Even before I can start to take in the aroma’s, the lack of balance and the apparent simpleness of the Whisky comes to the fore. Lots of wood, overpowering and ruining the balance a bit. Again this is still a pretty good Whisky, it’s just not quite there. After some breathing, the first sips become somewhat sweeter. Lots of virgin oak in the body too. Short, bitter-ish and very hot finish. Wood for sure. Virgin oak in the aftertaste as well. I think we all got a bit surprised by the activity of this wood. What about the PX in this bottling then? not so sure, because this Whisky is so wood-driven. Maybe it’s not the Virgin oak and yet the PX-cask gave off a lot of tannins, or maybe both?

Nope, I can tell you already that for me the Amrut distillate works better with the previously reviewed ex-Bourbon casks, like the Single Cask (with Virgin oak as well, just less of it, apparently) and the regular (or so you would think) unpeated Cask Strength version. Sherried versions like the Intermediate are also pretty good.

Points: 84

And with that this is the “worst” Amrut I ever had. It’s not bad, but there are a lot more of better Amruts to be found. nope, this one is not my favourite expression…

Highland Park 25yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 2 Sherry Butts, 1086 bottles, 13/242)

This is part three (of four) in Erik’s not-so-run-of-the-mill left behind bottles series. This time a super dark heavily Sherried offering from Cadenhead and Highland Park. Highland Park always went well with ex-Sherry casks. I used to be a big fan of Highland Park, one of the first I considered to be of the highest class available from Scotland. It is such a great tasting Whisky, honest, honeyed and humble. At least it used to be. It didn’t shout off the rooftops how great it is, and still managed to have a pretty solid fan-base around the world. Today however, Highland Park (and The Macallan) are part of a humongous marketing machine, which I tend to distrust. Sure the Whisky is still good, and there are still many, many, amazing bottles to be had (for a price), but the feeling is different, the feeling’s gone, sorry Highland Park. Just compare it to the way Springbank and Bruichladdich are marketed. The feeling is entirely different with these. Yet here we have an independent offering of Highland Park.

Cadenhead, by the way, thanks to Mr. Watt, seem to have reinvented themselves for many years to come. This bottling, it doesn’t say so on the label, seems to be the result of marrying two Sherry Butts together.

Color: Very dark orange brown, just shy of a mahogany hue.

Nose: Deep and dark, lots of oak, making it fresh. Toasted oak, and some warm plastic, which fades and disappears luckily. Fruity heavy Sherry. Meaty oak, and licorice. The wood also has quite a big floral component. Perfumy even. Next I got some Rhum Agricole “sweetness” mixed with dark chocolate. This one is neither red/black fruity, as old Longmorns nor thick and cloying. In the end it has more of the latter than the former. Elegant wood, yet definitely not old skool. Good Sherry, but modern. More and more whiffs of Rhum Agricole and cold gravy. Also drier spicy notes when you let it stand for a while.

Taste: Starts sweet and very nutty. With emerging bitterness when swallowed. A Doppler effect of bitterness. The bitterness is kept in check, so no problem here. Good tannins, not drying the mouth. Silky texture. Hints of vanillin and milk-chocolate pudding. Fruity and again this bitter end of the body. And a big body it is. Well it has been in rather active Sherry casks for 25 years, so no surprise here. Paper and clear glue. Honey, the stuff of bees, not your darling, I hear you ask? Nope, no not really, although it does remind me of licorice candy made with honey. Hardly a Highland Park. Its about the Sherry cask this one. Black tea bitterness, but with a nice edge of coal. Steam punk, but not old skool. The more this breathes in my glass the “older” it gets. More coal, and more steam (and motor oil). It may lack a tiny bit in complexity, but it makes up for it with development (in my glass). The finish is simple and again bitter (medium), but the body is very good (it finally does get into the realm of Longmorn after extensive breathing). Long aftertaste of oak, licorice and black fruits and yes, the bitter bit has the longest breath of all the notes. So it has its good and less good points. Maybe this should have been bottled a few years earlier?

Letting it breathe is a must for this Whisky, it makes all the difference.

Points: 87

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

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

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

Color: Full gold, with some orange.

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

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

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

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

Points: 89

Longmorn 20yo 1992/2013 (52.3%, Kintra, Bourbon Hogshead #86624, 132 bottles)

Longmorn probably was one of the best Whiskies coming out of the sixties and seventies of the previous century. There are so many remarkable bottlings coming from that time, it’s nothing but amazing. Because of this, it also might be its curse. It is almost impossible to drink something like this (a Longmorn from the eighties and later), without having high expectations and looking back to the old stuff instead of comparing it to its contemporaries. Sure we all know stuff from “back then” is different from the stuff today, but still, Longmorn, has a special place with me…

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fruity, biscuity and malty. Fruity it is. Passion fruit and some pineapple, mixed with vanilla powder. Sugared and dried yellow fruits, but also a more waxy note. Meaty as well. Old warm dusty warehouse, more like a Kentucky warehouse than a cold and damp one in Scotland to be honest. So a lively, sunny, and dusty Whisky, from a dry warehouse with a summery feel to it. Nice fruity aromatics aided by a more creamy and vanilla note, backed by dust and oak. Character building. Nutty, with hot water. Overall laid back with a quiet disposition.

Taste: A sweet, nutty and spicy entry. Sometimes with a beer-like and hoppy note to it. The woody bit can taste this way when you try this early in the morning, when your palate is till fresh. In the evening its woody and spicy, nothing more. Typical Bourbon Hogshead Whisky. Funky green sweetness from the start, and even though not extremely high in alcohol, it does exert itself. Definitely fruity and nuttier than the nose. passion fruit again with old apricots next. Hints of toasted oak, this time more warming than sharp. Hints of clear glue and lots of fruits, apricot and to a lesser extent: peaches, even dried pineapple comes to mind. Nice touches of sweet vanilla and ice-cream, but never turning overly sweet and dessert-like by the backbone of spicy oak and toasted oak. Nice development though. It evolves over time.

Nice Longmorn, nice Whisky, but also almost anonymous. It could have been anything, apart from the amount of fruit in this one, which gives it away a bit. Keep in mind that this is from a Bourbon hogshead, so the distillate hasn’t been masked by Sherry or some kind of finish. This is pure Whisky. Its good, it does the job, however it’s almost not a ‘Longmorn” to me. Maybe I’m a bit harsh, maybe I’m a bit prejudiced and maybe I’m not truly objective as well. Am I capable to let the memories of old Longmorn go, for a review like this? I don’t know. This is a good one, but not a must buy for me, sorry. Come to think of it, this does have some similarities to the profile of the old Longmorn 15yo OB. That one is good as well, but also a bottling I don’t neccesseraly need to have. it doesn’t completely click with me. So If you really like the 15yo, by all means get this one as well when it pops up at an auction somewhere. For me, I’m glad I’m taking notes here, because after some time, I might forget how this tasted like, but thinking of the 15yo I’d probably remember.

Points: 85