Port Charlotte 10yo (46%, OB, 13/153)

Many people like Springbank very much and some of those people, the likes of bloggers and vloggers and die-hard aficionados, call out to other distilleries to look more at Springbank as an example how they feel things have to be done. In that respect, hiding in plain sight is Bruichladdich, who are doing things like Springbank but in their own way. For one they have multiple brands: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore and more interestingly they are doing the “Local Barley” thing as well (f.i  the Bere Barley and Islay Barley bottlings). Both series contain rather young Whiskies, which are surprisingly good. Personally, even more exiting is the batch variation, which I find, adds to the adventure in Whisky, although I don’t think they change the composition as much as Springbank between batches. They even code like Springbank (here: 13/153). The first official Port Charlotte 10yo was bottled in 2012, so this is not the first batch of the first release, but it is still the first release, since in 2016 an official second release came out bottled at 50% ABV.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat, and dare I say it has a Sherried note? Honest and slightly sweet. Full-on aroma. Slightly sweaty and floral at the same time. Soft as well. Dusty. Clay and finger paint. Pencil eraser. Medicinal. Cold gravy. For me, very special stuff with quite some unusual markers. This big synergetic aroma easily overpowers the soft peat. Maybe not overpowers, but it sure works well in tandem with it. Nice development and evolution of the nose. Every sniff seems different from the last, unless you are sniffing continuously. Appetizing stuff.

Taste: Peat, wood and some fruit in the background. The fruit shows quite some acidity. Starts out sweet, caramel, toffee, but that isn’t here to stay. Well, the aromas stay but the sweetness retreats a bit. Licorice wood. More (different kinds of) licorice combined with milk chocolate mousse. Some soap in my toffee now, as well as some mints (mint candy). Is this the taste of the floral part? Where the nose had a big aromatic presence, the body of this Whisky isn’t as big. Alas the taste cannot keep up with the nose, but the potential is there. If the quality of any of the younger distillates is anything to go by I’m predicting the future of the 10yo to be a bright one. Just compare it to, the sweeter by the batch, offerings of Laphroaig and Ardbeg 10yo’s.

Yes even by today’s standard, 40 ppm phenols is heavily peated, even though by now we are used to the insane peating levels of Octomore, where 167 ppm is just the start.

Bruichladdich might not be the most original distillery around, although Octomore sure is as original as it gets, but it might very well be the most progressive of the bunch today. Springbank is a main stay for me and I guess Bruichladdich can be added to that list now as well. Don’t worry, these two aren’t the only ones on that list. Not by a long shot.

Points: 86

The Glenlivet 13yo “Zenith” (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, Cask #8024, 2013)

It was that other well-known Speyside distillery which between 1999 and 2004 released a few Exceptional Single Cask bottlings. Some of which I tasted and were very…exceptional indeed. Alas the bottles were a mere 500ml. The Glenlivet liked that idea and somewhere around 2005, started bottling their own exceptional single cask bottlings. For the first decade, releases were kind of sparce, but more recently, many more bottlings have seen the light of day. I’ve tasted quite a few by now, and some are really exceptional and some are less so. Still good, but nevertheless, not all that exceptional in my book. Proceed with caution I would say, especially when most of them are pretty costly even the young ones.

Another remark. Although it seems quite some information is put on the label I still miss a lot. Although the label does show a cask number (here: #8024), not stated is what kind of cask it came from. And what a about distillation year? pretty basic information most other single cask bottlings show. By the way, since most of these bottlings are quite expensive to boot, where is the wooden coffin? Even the Glenlivet 21yo has that and costs less than half. Sure you can’t drink the wooden box, but it would look nice wouldn’t it. Just look at the picture below. The bottle looks great, but the cardboard box next to it… not so much (at this price point).

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fresh with nice citrus notes countered by some smooth vanilla and soft oak. Very pleasant right from the start. Some distant fruit. Dusty mocha, aspirin powder and spicy oak. Yes the oak definitely asserts itself. Typical notes for a Whisky from a refill hogshead made from American oak, and as such, reminds of many fairly young Cadenheads bottlings from ex-Bourbon casks (remember those tall green bottles?). However, this one is not that hot. Again, there is some dried yellow fruit in the back. Well hidden but definitely noticeable. Hints of salt and pepper. By now the citrus notes have gone.

Taste: Here the fruit is more upfront, but the oak is as well. Not an instant-pleasure fruit-bomb you’ll like right away. After the initial fruity aroma, it has a sharp and slightly bitter attack of oak. Slightly soapy as well. Floral without ruining it. Just like the Glen Elgin I just reviewed, this seems to be one of those Whiskies you’ll have to work with. Definitely not a casual Whisky. It needs your full attention. So don’t distract yourself with loud music or some reading, since you would miss the essence of this Whisky. Spicy and bitter wood definitely take over from the initial aroma. Nutty as well. Fresh soft almonds. If you are patient and let the Whisky breath a while in your glass, the spicy oak, and especially the bitterness get softer, leaving more fruit to develop and reach a better balance. Still, the more this breathes the better it gets. Surprisingly it only has a medium finish, with a tad of  bitterness. Peanut butter and walnut skins in the aftertaste.

If you have a collection of these Single Cask bottlings, this one can serve as a contrast to some others, but if you buy just the one, I don’t think this is exceptional enough. What might be exceptional is that this is a non-Sherried, cask strength Whisky, which stays soft almost all the way through.

This one was bottled in 2013 and resurfaced in The Netherlands in 2016 with quite a discount. No wonder it sold out rather quickly. I guess it might be worth the price I paid (less than a 100 euro’s), but I would be very unhappy if I bought this, without tasting it first, for the initial price. Recent single casks, age notwithstanding, cost more than the very good XXV bottling. Something worth to consider.

When comparing similar bottlings I have open, sure the Lochside and the Caperdonich are better but also older and more rare. Compared to readily available Malts with a similar profile that I have, I would rather go for the Glen Keith, but this Glenlivet is nothing to scoff at though.

Points: 85

Benriach 36yo 1976/2013 (40.1%, OB, for Whiskysite.nl, Refill Hogshead #3012, 118 bottles)

After reviewing the Arran, a more recent Whiskysite bottling, I remembered I have already reviewed some other Whiskysite bottlings, like this Bushmills and this Port Ellen, but there are still more out there, even a Karuizawa! However, I have yet another one up my sleeve to review, and since I found out in the previous review I’m getting old, there is no better time than now for yet another Whiskysite bottling. Not just any other bottling I might add. Nope this time a 1976 Benriach. This was bottled for the boys from Leiden way back in 2013, and even then, sold out quite fast. Why? Because Benriach from 1976 have some sort of reputation, just like Tomatin’s from the same year. When we talked to Douglas Campbell (Master Distiller at Tomatin), he told us there was nothing special going on at the time, just a lot of distilling being done, as in the years before and after 1976. Any cask they could get a hold of was filled and later, when money was needed, a lot of that particular vintage was sold off, which might explain why a lot of 1976 Tomatin’s exist. However we also heard some compelling stories about fruity yeast strains and an exceptional summer making for super fruity barley.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Ahhh funky, old Whisky funkiness. Heaps of fruit with and edge of vanilla, more than an edge actually, giving it a creamy texture you can smell. You’ll never get this out of a NAS or otherwise young distillate. Sugared pineapple, dried and sugared papaya, lychee combined with refined creamy vanilla. Definitely a Hoggie remade with (mostly) American oak staves. Back then they didn’t care about 100% correctness, so when remaking the Hogshead, and if it would fit, the occasional European oak stave would find its way into a cask like this very easily. The wood note in this is very soft, not spicy. More about nuttiness than the wood-notes themselves. Uber-fruity with nice vegetal notes. Some less obvious notes emerge as well, hints of cardboard, lavas, coffee with lots of milk, mocha and latex-paint come to mind, but mind you, they only add to the complexity and do no harm to the whole. So don’t be alarmed. By the way, for all it’s fruitiness, this is not the most fruity smelling 1976 single cask Benriach, by far.

Taste: Oh my God this is good! Starts out with short bursts of the sugared and/or the dried yellow fruits I mentioned in the nose. When the body moves, rather quickly, through the cavity of your mouth it starts to develop black fruits in large amounts. Wonderful. This is what you look for in a 1960’s or 70’s Malt. The holy grail, at least for me it is! Also quite unexpected, since the blackcurrant and super-ripe blackberries are nowhere to be found in the nose. What a wonderful surprise.

I mentioned that the body moves rather quickly, What I mean is that it seems to have a start and a finish, but the body itself is very short-lived. It’s a bit thin and fragile, which can be attributed to the low ABV, but not only. The fragility of this malt has something to do with this specific single cask offering, since it is not always like this with older Malts or even sister casks. Luckily the black fruit thing is what makes up the finish, which is of medium length at best and should have lasted forever. Excellent! In the end a wonderful Malt, with alas a weak side. It should have had a little more oomph and staying power. It could have done with a bigger body, but in the end it is a remarkable, yet thin, Whisky. The aroma’s are wonderful and that also is worth the price of admission, although there are obviously better examples to be found. Don’t take too long since otherwise most of these Whiskies will end up in collections only, and therefore will cost more by the day.

Sure Whiskies like this will cost you a pretty penny (at auction), but its history in a bottle. More recent Whiskies will never smell and taste like this, it simply cannot be achieved, and if something like this would be marketed today in today’s market, it will be over 40yo old, and it will cost you 40 cars at least, and I don’t mean Dinky Toys! You have to taste something like this to be whole I guess.

Points: 92

Talisker “Storm” (45.8%, OB, 2013)

Time for another Talisker, and quite a controversial one. Talisker have a very competitive 10yo on offer. One that did change over time. Just compare recent ones to those of ten years ago or twenty, or thirty… Nevertheless, it’s always good and always affordable. Then the time arrived for the NAS expressions, and for Talisker, this Storm was one of the first, and certainly the first that got some big marketing behind it. I remember you could go to your local Port where you could get a dram of “Storm” for free and whilst you were trying it, they aimed their wind-machine at you and threw buckets of water in your face. Talisker is probably the biggest Single Malt brand Diageo own, so a lot seems to be riding on this.

When in 2013 “Storm” arrived, as did “Dark Storm” in travel retail and The Port finished “Port Ruighe”, fans of Talisker were fearing for their beloved 10yo. Surely it would be discontinued? But the faithful 10yo soldiered on. In 2015 Talisker “Skye” arrived, yet another NAS offering, again priced slightly above the 10yo. Are they now going to kill off the 10yo? Nope, it’s still around, although I do still fear for it a bit, and occasionally buy the odd 10yo that is even  on sale quite often. Quite strange, considering discontinuing it would be caused by scarcity. Nevermind.

Earlier I reviewed ‘Neist Point”, a travel retail expression that wasn’t very cheap in some markets. Out came a rant against NAS, but I finished the bottle rather quickly and I have to say I liked it a lot, although a bit overpriced.  “Storm” got a lot of heat from Whisky-drinkers for being more expensive than the 10yo and definitely worse overall. Some even called it the worst whisky they have tasted in a particular year. Today I’m going to have a look at the first batch of “Storm” bought just when it was released. Often first batches tend to be the best…

talisker-stormColor: Light gold.

Nose: Barley, whiffs of new make spirit. Only whiffs, so no cause for alarm. Not bad, but there is some youthfulness noticeable. Nice smoke mixed with some sweetness. Quite lovely. Soft, wet, green and vegetal peat. Not coastal or iodine driven peat. Not Islay. Nutty, a bit of cardboard and fresh. Sweetened black tea, with peach and fern, growing on the forest floor. Quite fruity underneath. Nope, not very complex at first, but it is appetizing and does evolve a lot with some breathing. It is less powerful than the 10yo, although that one also lost some oomph through the years. Nevertheless a quite appealing storm. I like it. It may be younger than the 10yo, but it is well made and balanced. However after giving this Talisker its bold name, the brutal images of heavy waves pounding on jagged rocks and a lion with a fish-tail made of lightning, I expected something of a heavy hitter with lots of heavy young peat, but actually it could be a Talisker, you buy a dram off, at the local ballet school bar. Still beautiful and nice, but Storm? No, a warm breeze at best. Which is excellent, only different. When you smell it proper, it does tick all the boxes. Smoke, peat, fruit, sweetness, well-balanced. Nice development with air, very nice. Excellent nose.

Taste: Barley and cardboard. Sweet and mouth coating. Very nutty, fruity, nutty again and slightly peaty, band from the start, already some balance, but not as much as the nose has. Behind this, quite a lot of sweet, ripe yellow fruits and some minor cardboard again. Not heavy, but the aroma’s are quite big and warming. Just like the nose, it definitely tastes like a Whisky with a good portion of young Whisky blended in. It has an edge tasting like new make. Where the nose reached complexity after breathing and was well-balanced, towards the end of the body the balance is getting a bit, ehhh, unbalanced. Luckily the sweet and fruity aroma’s are big enough to carry it, those are the ones with staying power and make for a nice finish, but the finish itself is not very long. Yes, there is a baby-pepper attack in the finish, typical for Talisker. Especially near the end of the body, and in the finish, the NAS-element shows it’s (ugly) head. I guess it’s this some people scoff at, but calling it their worst? Please dilate your mind!

The 10yo is on offer lots of times, making it even less expensive than all other NAS offerings put on the market by Diageo. So, should you even consider buying one of these NASses? I read a lot of posts on social media of people scoffing at the “Storm”. Well for me this isn’t about winter storms it more of a Whisky for the first colder nights on the end of summer. Sure different from the 10yo, but I’m not sure if it is worse. I actually believe this is a well made Whisky. Compare this to a youthful Springbank and it is maybe just as good. However Springbank as a family owned operation, do get a lot of love from the public. I love Springbank because of its history but also because them make one of the best Whiskies in this modern age. Talisker are owned by Diageo, which is a big, very big, huge money-making drinks giant, and because of that, they don’t get a lot of love. Just look at my reviews of “Neist Point” and this “Storm”, there is a lot of sepsis. When Talisker is viewed by itself, seen apart from the marketing, just looking at the history and the place it comes from, it also is a very good distillery making good Whisky and easily another of my favorites. Both distilleries mentioned use some peat and the profile fits me just right. So I’m not going to criticize this Talisker because there is no need to. It maybe NAS (and easily recognizable as a NAS, especially if you try it after a few other and older Whiskies). It maybe Diageo and it maybe heavily marketed, but the Whisky itself is definitely worth it, especially when you drink it by itself or if it is the one to start you off, but if I had to choose, and considering the price I would prefer…the other one.

Points: 83

Clément 10yo 2003/2013 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.8%, Bourbon Cask #0310054, Vanille Intense, 459 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Alas, my 100% Canne Bleue version of a single cask Clément is almost gone. Damn small those 50cl bottles. I said I liked the smaller size of these bottles, because it would give us the chance to buy a bottle from another cask. True, but when they are as good as the first one, less definitely is not more. So what should I replace it with? Well, what about another version from Cléments single cask series. Yup, let’s do that. Sounds like a good idea. In comes the second version released: “Vanille Intense”. I don’t know about you, but somehow I’m expecting a R(h)um that is full of, well, vanilla notes. Where the previous one was all about the Canne Blue sugar cane variety, this time it’s all about the wood, or at least so I imagine. Sure R(h)um by itself can have enough notes of Vanilla, but here, I guess, it’s also the vanillin that came into the mix by way of the wood of the cask. It’s from a Bourbon cask, so American oak, which gives off vanilla notes to enhance the vanilla notes from the R(h)um. Expect intense vanilla notes.

By the way, a third version has been released recently, called “Moka Intense”. Interesting, but lets not get ahead of ourselves, and have a go at this “Vanille Intense” first, shall we?

clement-vanille-intenseColor: Copper golden brown.

Nose: Cookie dough. Luke-warm sweetened black tea. Vanilla. Only after this creamy start, the typical Rhum Agricole notes emerge, although throughout the whole experience, they are pushed back well into the background. So we are definitely in the territory of some active Bourbon casks here. Floral, honey and licorice. Nice (Indian) spicy wood, plywood and pencil shavings, although I don’t think they have used the latter two for this Rhum. Well integrated, a faint, but nice and sweet red fruit aroma. Leather and quite dusty. Next comes the sweetness, brown sugar and slightly warm toffee. This one really gives it up in layers. Is the vanilla intense? Well, not as much as the label suggested, but it is definitely a smoother and sweeter smelling Rhum, compared to its 100% Canne Bleue sister. It’s not the vanilla ice-cream I somehow expected. For me, especially the elegant woody notes are the best. Quite a nice nose, almost not a Rhum Agricole, but I like it!

Taste: Very soft, dull, dusty and sugary sweet. Simple. Warm sugar syrup with pencil shavings, cardboard and indian spices. Toasted cask. Lots of diluted toffee, watery caramel, licorice and vanilla. Spicy backbone from the oak, even a slight bitter vegetal note, with a late return of sugar. You can really taste the pencil shavings now. Remarkably soft and simple compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version. So it’s not about the vanilla after all. They just picked smooth, creamy, sweet and simple casks to avoid the potential rawness of the previous version I guess. Short finish as well, where the woody bitterness has the longest staying power. A bit disappointing really. Where the J.M 2002 and the Clément 100% Canne Bleue had something extra, this Vanille Intense does not. I think the Rum Nation Martinique Hors d’Âge is just as good and way more affordable.

Compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version, this one is less raw. More civilized and simple. Also toned down a bit. The 100% Canne Bleue seems to explode with aroma. Dare I say that the Vanille Intense is a bit boring? I just did, didn’t I? I don’t know if the lower ABV has something to do with it, or maybe it is just the profile of this Rhum. Also remember these are single cask bottlings and there should be a difference from cask to cask. Going on these two I will probably buy another bottle, bottled from a different cask, of the 100% Canne Bleue version (Brown label) and pass up on another Vanille Intense (Green label). Don’t get me wrong, the green ‘un is still good, but not as good as the brown ‘un…

Points: 85

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 6: Zuidam Korenwijn 14yo 1999/2013 Oloroso Sherry (38%, Special #3, Cask #1649 & 1650, 491 bottles)

Jenever Week Logo

On the sixth day, God created… This actually is the last review I’m writing for this series of Dutch Jenevers. To be honest, I almost never write reviews in the order of publication. Especially with the Master Quill Weeks. At some point in time, I find a “logical” progression in which to order the seven days of the Master Quill Week, not necessarily by ascending scores, mind you.

This is the fourth (!) offering by Zuidam in this week, another Korenwijn, and I promise you, it’s the last in this series. Tomorrow we’ll see another offering from Rutte (again). Now don’t start thinking now that Rutte and Zuidam are the only distilleries in The Netherlands producing Jenever. There actually is a long list of companies around, many of which are several centuries old.

The history of Jenever started in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both port towns. Other cities like Groningen and Leeuwarden (in the north) also have a Jenever history. Making Jenever turned out to be a smelly business, so with time the production of Jenever moved into neighbouring cities with some more room. Weesp (near Amsterdam) and Schiedam (near Rotterdam).

From Amsterdam I’d like to mention Lucas Bols (1575), Wynand Fockink (1679) and Van Wees (1782). From Rotterdam I’d like to mention Onder De Boompjes (1658), Nolet (1691), De Kuyper (1695), Wenneker (1693), Herman Jansen (1777) and Dirkzwager (1879). Most of them produce Jenever under different brand names.

Rutte was never located in Rotterdam itself. Rutte has always been from Dordrecht. Finally Zuidam itself is more recent. It started doing business since 1975 in the town of Baarle-Nassau near the Belgian border.

Zuidam Korenwijn 1999Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Closed at first. Some wine related notes, fruity. Needs to move around in my glass some more. Yeah development commences quickly. A deep thick aroma, countered by sharp woody dry notes. Some ground white pepper and clear glue which dissipates quickly never to return again. Also a slightly burnt and tarry cask note. Sawdust and toffee for short. The whole smells rather laid-back and calm. Subdued yet big. Happy about itself. Sawdust and pencil shavings and underneath some hints of new wood. All very spicy but well in check. It has a very specific fresh and fruity acidity to it, I also got from tomorrows offering, although not in such a big way, and way more balanced as well. Here it must be from the Sherry cask. The nose is an amalgamation of Jenever, the Sherry cask and oak, and I must say the Sherry cask really did its work here.

Taste: Creamy, buttery and very fruity. Very nice and very appealing. It starts out sweet. Toffee, mocha and runny caramel. When that subsides, and it does that quite quickly, it makes room for a very nice fruity aroma. You could almost call it a “special effect”. Nice wood as well, sometimes bordering on cardboard and old paper, but it works quite well. However, I feel it is hardly recognizable as a Korenwijn. At least when I compare it to it younger Brother, the Korenwijn 5yo I reviewed earlier. it almost seems like a hybrid with Whisky, Cognac and other distillates. Taste this blind and try to find out what this is. Again an entirely different product from Zuidam. Nice. The finish has medium length and finishes with the warmth of the Toffee/Caramel and some sharpness of wood. Chewy. This is definitely after dinner. It’s a dessert all by itself. Nicely soft and lively, even though the basis is quite sweet, as all Zuidams seem to have. Likable and dangerously drinkable.

Quite a small outturn, considering this came from two Sherry casks ánd the Korenwijn being reduced to 38% ABV. Nice expression from Zuidam though, and its clear to me why it was chosen as a special release. This one is quite expensive. Its more than twice the price of the Korenwijn 5yo, but when compared to the Korenwijn 10yo and 20yo, Zuidam also produces, the price seems to fit right in.

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