Girvan 10yo 2006/2017 (50%, Creative Whisky Company, Single Cask Exclusives, GV005)

Five years ago I wrote about a North British Single Grain Whisky. There, I briefly explained what a Single Grain is. Most of you will know their Blended Whisky (Blends as we anoraks call them) and Single Malts. But lesser known are probably the Blended Malt Whiskies (Vatted Malts to us), and Grain Whiskies. The latter is used as the basis for Blended Whisky with some Single Malt added.

The North British, I reviewed earlier, was a decent example of a well aged Grain Whisky from yesteryear, since It was distilled way back in 1964. Now we have the chance to look at a very modern Grain Whisky distilled at Girvan. Girvan is a grain Whisky you will find, for example, in Grant’s Blended Whisky. Yes Girvan has the same owners as Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie (closed) and Ailsa Bay (new). Another fun fact is that Hendrick’s Gin is also made at Girvan, although I doubt I will find any cucumber in this 10yo Girvan.

Color: Straw

Nose: Sweet and bread-like, cookie dough. Very friendly and lively. Floral, perfumy, soft, laid-back and restrained. Toffee, caramel and slightly grassy. Some whiffs don’t even smell like Whisky to me, but closer to an aged Wodka, Gin, Calvados or even better: Jenever or Korenwijn. No evolution in the glass whatsoever, it stays the same through several minutes of breathing. Smells nice though, appetizing and sweet, but a Single Malt it is most definitely not. We have landed on a different planet altogether, folks.

Taste: Sweet on entry, with nice soft wood notes. Lots of caramel and toffee, and again, aged Gin notes. Slightly burnt edge from toasted oak. The texture isn’t cloying nor syrupy and isn’t sugary sweet as well, so if I would like something sweet(er), yet not really sweet, this would do the trick. If I would like something really sweet I still wouldn’t reach for a Liqueur but rather go for a PX-Sherry, but that’s me. Apart from that, I really don’t have a sweet tooth to boot.

So, this is sweet and creamy on entry, helped by the slightly higher than normal ABV. For me the 50% works very well. in fact, this isn’t for Liqueur or PX-drinkers at all, it shows too much spicy, and fresh, wood for that. It’s a Whisky after all. After the full-on entry, the body itself is already less big, creamy or sweet, yet somewhat hotter and drier. Reminds me a bit of a Brazilian Rum, something like Epris maybe. Hints of fruit emerge, candied ones obviously. Amazingly, since the entry is rather big and creamy, the body still holds its own. The finish itself is a bit hot and quite “small”. All seems gone for a moment, but it comes back in the aftertaste of which still has medium length.

Quite a surprise if you are expecting a Whisky. It’s still a Whisky made by the wood it was aged in. This was, again like the North British, a learning experience as well. Better, but also different, than expected and not very expensive, so try it if you dare, it won’t break the bank.

Points: 82

Advertisements

Talisker “Port Ruighe” (45.8%, OB, 2017)

This is another recent “NAS” Talisker, released in 2013, right after “Storm“. The bottle reviewed here is a newer batch from 2017 (L7317CM015). Back in 2013 when all these NAS Taliskers arrived on the market, a lot of people feared for the classic 10yo to be discontinued or moved to a market different from ours (This happened to the JW Green label), but it didn’t happen. In 2015 the same exercise happened again with the release of “Sky”. We’re in 2018 now and there is still no sign of the 10yo being discontinued or even an “update” of the price. The 10yo is still going strong and usually is still well priced below all these NAS bottlings. And I believe it is also still better than all these new NAS-sers.

Port Ruighe was matured in refill casks (of both American and European oak). It was then transferred to deeply charred casks and yet again transferred to receive a finish from Port Wine (infused) casks. That seems like a lot of ado, to give this, probably young Talisker, its own aroma. Is it an experiment of sorts? Let’s see…

Color: Copper gold, but not the pinkish hue you tend to see with Port finishes.

Nose: Starts with peat. Nice fatty peat. Toned down obviously, since this is not a heavily peated Malt. I mention peat a lot right now, because since this is a NAS bottling, this could also have smelled “young” and it doesn’t. “Storm” had that, but this doesn’t. Thus, nice peat, a little bit of smoke and butter, so a bit of youth is there nevertheless. Since it is a Port finish, it could have smelled winey and sweet, but it doesn’t at first. It starts simply with peat. No storm, just a calm sea. Easy and quiet. The protection of a harbour, or port maybe? Could it be thát designed? Next some soft notes, reminiscent of a claret matured Jenever I have, (the acidity). Nope, still bobbing in the harbour with our soft peat. No dark storm, no storm even, just me and this peaty breeze. Hints of vanilla and honey emerge and some sort of sweet cloaking perfume, yup, we have our Port here. Turns sharper and a bit more warming as well. Hints of Malt and vanilla powder. This is spicy as well. Nice soft wood and the slightly burned cask. It may be NAS, but it shows complexity and I feel everything works well in the nose-department of this Malt. Still no really true Port notes, and maybe that is a good thing, since Ruby Port casks can easily overpower a Whisky. Wonderful nose, I kid you not.

Taste: Already sweet, creamy and quite fruity when it touches my lips. Peated Whisky with some smoke and a big fruity follow-up. Sweet, buttery, yet also young, and strange enough, right beside the sweetness, also a brief watery edge. Where the youth was absent from the nose, it is definitely here, but to a lesser extent than in “Storm”. It is also less complex than the nose. Bolder and more simple with a slight burnt-spicy edge to it. Increasing with air are the winey notes, but still well in check, although there is an overall sweetness and waxiness to it, that gets in the way of drinking more than one dram of this at a time. At the same time the complexity, that already wasn’t great to begin with, decreases. This is a shame because the Whisky takes a turn where you don’t want this to go. The road of NAS, simplicity, lack of complexity and the mismatch with the promising nose. The finish is medium at best, and to be honest, falls flat on its face. It disintegrates when hitting the ground. Aiii. Some peat, but very sweet and winey. Too much. It has been overpowered by the Port, which probably says a little about the quality of the Port, or the wood used, but maybe more about the age of the Whisky itself, because one might expect Talisker to be able to handle a little bit of Port now, don’t we?

It is nice to have had the opportunity of yet another take on Talisker, but this is one I’m not keen on repeating (buying another bottle, that is). “Neist Point” although more expensive in many markets, and too expensive in some, it is definitely a better experiment than this one imho. Neist Points was released right on the heels of “Storm” it is nevertheless different from Storm. This is way more mature. Is it older Whisky (guess not) or did the Port finish hide the “young-Malt experience”? Although criticized by many, I have no real beef with this pair of 2013 NAS-releases from Talisker, but I do understand a lot of the comments made.

So this is young Whisky, in the end overpowered by the Port, however, based on the nose alone, there was a lot of potential, maybe if the Whisky was aged longer and the Port and/or the casks it aged in was slightly better, this might have been a great Whisky, and we may see one like this in the future.

Points: 83

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky “Inaugural Release” 2014/2017 (46%, OB, First Fill Bourbon Barrels, 4000 bottles)

Every year our team attends the Whisky Show in London, and every year we come across something that surprises us. Usually it is a particular distiller. One time it was the range of Tomatin, and more recently we really liked the stuff of Indian Distiller Paul John. For example, last year, the only bottle I bought was a single cask Paul John. This year we found that the crux of the festival seemed not to be a particular distiller or brand, rather than the high quality of young Whiskies and/or new distilleries. Sure, there was a plethora of amazing old Whiskies on the Gordon & MacPhail stand and there is always nice super-premium stuff at the Diageo stand, but for us this year was about very nice young Whiskies. And guess what, they all came with age statements! Yes, it can be done! Funny enough, also young Whiskies coming from distilleries, people, (including me), tend to ignore. So, this year, I returned home with an 8 year old Tamnavulin, an 8 year old Glen Moray, a 10 year old Glenlivet and finally a 12 year old Tormore. All young, age stated, single casks and all from independent bottlers. Highly affordable as well. Before I forget, equally amazing was the Ailsa Bay and the man behind it. Today we are going to look at another young Whisky. The first release of an English Single Malt Whisky from the Cotswolds.

In my mind when a new distillery opens, it’s the brain child of two blokes who think they can do things better and try to conquer the world. Yes, I’m a romantic. Not true here, the two blokes thing, that is. This Whisky isn’t made in a shed in the Cotswolds. No, the Cotswolds distillery is the brain-child of Daniel Szor. A New York banker from Polish descent. Unfortunately his parents never learned him the language. Believe me, I tried, nope, Cotswolds is definitely not a shed. It’s a full fled distillery with tours and everything and a lot of staff, a lot, so I guess mr. Szor has some big plans, and is here to stay!

Color: Gold.

Nose: Floral, zesty, young and very perfumy. Big aroma. Cinnamon, cinnamon (again), more cinnamon and bread, cereal, sawdust and lots of notes from first fill Bourbon casks. Vanilla pods and Sinaspril pills. So yes, a nice acidic note as well. Insence sticks. No off-notes whatsoever and hardly any trace of new-made spirit. Nice wood, beautiful wood actually. Dry leaves and toasted toffee. Hints of candied yellow fruits in the distance. Spicy like an Indian Malt. Not sure this comes from the wood or are they using indian six-row barley at Cotswolds? The florality reminds me of Indian Whisky as well. Very appetizing. Well balanced and again a very big nose. Wonderful aroma’s coming together nicely. Still young and it already shows a lot of potential, which doesn’t mean this inaugural release isn’t worth it, because it is! Well done team!

Taste: On entry a wee bit thinner than expected and after that, an elegant and mouth coating young Malt emerges. Slightly sweet, slightly bitter, with toffee and caramel notes, and a lot of aromas coming from the first fill Bourbon casks. Making the body “bigger” than the entry was. Not as sweet as the nose promised. Already some nice yellow fruits though, as well as a hint of latex paint and machine oil? Wow. A desert in itself. Sweetish. Vanilla with a spicy note added to it. Just like the nose, quite Indian in style. Very appetizing stuff. The wood is almost virgin now, with a sharp spicy edge to it. Oats and crackers. Cigarette ash and toasted oak mixed with light fruity acidity. Again, lots of balance for such a young malt from a new distillery. Nice aftertaste.

Amazing inaugural release of Cotswolds. I’m told this is three years old plus one day, (some mentioned four days, but who is counting days in Whisky?). Amazing Indian style nose reminding me of some Paul John releases but foremost of this Amrut.

As mentioned in the introduction. Distilleries these days, are able to put out some very nice young Whiskies, even the ugly ducklings of yesteryear, you know, those anonimous distilleries distilling for blends only, like the aforementioned Tamnavulin. Amazing stuff, but on the other hand, we the consumer, we also had some time, by way of NAS-Whiskies, to get used to the taste of younger Whiskies. Maybe we just needed some time to adjust, and accept the times they are a-changing? Really old Whiskies these days cost the same amount of money as a new car, and something a bit younger still costs about the same as a nice vacation. So yes, we did get used to the taste of younger Whiskies, but nevertheless, there is much good stuff going around, just different from the stuff we bought 10 or 20 years ago…

Points: 84

Bowmore 18yo “Deep & Complex” (43%, OB, for Travel Retail, Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez Sherry Casks, 2017)

Lets start this review with a confession. I’m a faulty human, and I admit to having prejudices. I don’t know where they come from, I didn’t invite them into my mind, but still they are there and I am battling them. The prejudice I have is that I have a more than healthy suspicion towards travel retail bottlings. Compared to this, my feelings towards NAS-bottlings are pretty mild, since there are enough good NAS bottlings around. Bowmore travel retail bottlings are an excellent example why I have this prejudice. A few years back I wrote a review about the Bowmore “Black Rock“, and it is travel retail at its finest. First it comes in a big litre bottle and second, it was almost reduced to death by bottling it at 40% ABV. So to celebrate your trip you bring back a souvenir of a weak Whisky and a lot of it. When tasting bottles like this, I just knew I had to stay away from such bottles, and I still will steer clear of litre bottles bottled at 40% ABV.

In comes Nico. Nico is one of the founding fathers of the Whisky club I am a member of, and he invited me over to bathe in the excellence of one of the latest batches of The Balvenie “Doublewood“. Taking about ruining a perfectly good Whisky! Since we both are very keen on Whisky, obviously the evening didn’t end with several Balvenies. We had plenty more adventures in Whisky. Funny enough, the surprise of the evening (for me) was a Bowmore travel retail bottling! Nope not this 18yo Deep & Complex but the 17yo “White Sands” of the previous travel retail series.

In 2014, Bowmore released a trio called “Black Rock” (litre, 40% ABV), “Gold Reef” (litre, 40% ABV) and “White Sands” (70 cl, 43% ABV) and I should have known better. “White Sands” wasn’t a litre bottle, was the only one of the three with an age statement (17yo), and the ABV was slightly higher as well. Tell-tale signs that there was a possibility it would be a good one. Good? I loved it! I have met (the wonderful) Eddie MacAffer (voted Whisky distillery manager of the year at Whisky Magazine’s 2013 Icons of Whisky Awards) and “White Sands” is a favorite of his, so I definitely should have known better!

So why isn’t this review about “White Sands” then? Relax, I’ll get to that shortly. Probably in the next post. When I found out how good “White Sands” was, I ordered a few of those. At the same time, I got a pretty good deal on this “Deep & Complex” (What’s in a name), and knowing now that the top offering in Bowmore’s travel retail series might be quite good, I ordered it as well. So, let’s do this new one first and we’ll get to the old one later…

Color: Copper.

Nose: Sherry all right. I would say the PX is upfront. It smells sweet and dessert-like. Caramel. Cherries on syrup. Candied orange skins. Sweet alright. Raisins and dates (freshly dried). Fresh macadamia nuts. A nice typical smokiness (birch) I get from “White Sands”as well, although that is an entirely different bottling. Garden bonfire. Wood smoke. Lovely smoke aroma’s all over. Charred wood. Nice ripe black and red fruits and definitely more smoke than peat. Excellent balance. Vanilla and dust. Islay in the summer. Tar with hints of peppermint and menthol.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. Round, they call it. Half-sweet Cherries and only some wood and peat. It has an even deeper lying smoky bit, but again a nice smoky bit. A bit thinner (and fruitier) than expected. Burning newspaper. Nice warming quality though. Warm wet earth and the fresh macadamia’s are here as well. Not too bitter dark chocolate, wood and toffee. Tar and coal. Licorice. Surprisingly short to medium finish and not a lengthy aftertaste as well. What happened over those 18 years? I’m trying this before breakfast so I have a fresh and eager palate, but still the Whisky is too weak. It’s lovely, but too weak, so don’t drink this in small sips, it won’t work as well that way.

It is somehow suggested and assumed this was matured solely in Oloroso and PX-casks, but I do have my doubts. In a way it’s almost like a “White Sands” with a Oloroso and PX-finish. Wonderful stuff, but like the 40% ABV travel retail versions. It’s a bit too thin. Even at 43% ABV, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It has the potential of being a wonderful Malt (scoring in the lower 90’s). It is actually a wonderful malt as is, but it could do so much better if it had some more oomph, something more to carry it. Now its like (white) sand running through my fingers…

Points: 87

P.S. In a head to head (H2H) with the 1995 Lagavulin its easy to see what I mean. The Lagavulin has only 5% ABV more, but it does so much more for the Malt. It gives it power and length. It even brings out the aroma’s more. I’m not afraid to say that this Bowmore, if it was 46 or 48% ABV like the Lagavulin, would even be better than it. Now, the Lagavulin beats it (just). Nevertheless both are damn good drams and easily worth your money. I’m enjoying them both.