Malecon Reserva Imperial 25yo (40%, Panama)

Malecon was featured almost four years ago on Master Quill with a very light 12yo Reserva Superior. We’re four years on and still it is quite hard to find any information about the brand. What we know is that the Rum comes from Panama and that it is made in the cuban style, as stated on the Malecon labels. So its safe to hazard a guess and say that the Rum is probably made by the people behind the Abuelo brand, although they themselves don’t put “Cuban style” on their labels, so maybe they make this in a different way, or is it just a matter of cask selection?

don-panchoThe brand, as well as Malteco, is owned by Caribbean Spirits and worldwide distribution lies with Italian outfit Savio s.r.l. owned by jet-setting spirits importer Marco Savio. Although the Savio website isn’t completely clear, I’m guessing that Caribbean Spirits is also owned by Savio. We can also read that Marco hooked up with the legendary Cuban Rum-maker, Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez Perez. We know Don Pancho is Cuban, and we also know that he worked a long time as master blender at Varela Hermanos S.A. in Panama (Abuelo). So now you can do the math about Malecon.

Don Pancho is also the blender for Ron de Jeremy (and probably many other Rums). Since 2000, Don Pancho oversees production in the resurrected Panamanian distillery, Las Cabres de Pese, owned by Proveedora Internacional de Licores, S.A. (PILSA), located not far from the distillery of Varela Hermanos, so it is possible that younger expressions of Malecon are produced at Las Cabres than at Varela, but I’m only guessing here.

PILSA is also responsible for Panama Red, Caña Brava, Selvarey and the Origenes Rums and boast producing Rums in the Cuban style. Rums like Zafra, Panamonte, Debonaire and Bohemio are also produced at Las Cabres de Pese although the brands are owned by other companies than PILSA. PILSA’s Origenes Rum is marketed as “the ultimate expression of Don Pancho´s vision and a lifetime dedicated to the production of the world´s finest rums”, So cheers to that and Don Pancho, who seems to be responsible for our Malecon 25yo as well…

malecon-25-reserva-imperialColor: Copper brown orange.

Nose: It starts out with glue, and yes this does remind me more than a bit of Abuelo. Fruity and also the Abuelo 7 yo’s acidity. Next some cereal and vegetal notes. Cookies and fudge. Dry leaves and a little bit of hay. Sawdust. Hints of gravy even. Maybe herein lies the age? A very vibrant Rum nevertheless, because I expected a more dark and brooding Rum after 25 years in wood. It doesn’t even have a particularly woody aroma and does smell a bit sweet and syrupy. Toffee and runny caramel.

Taste: On entry a decent but very diluted taste. This type of Rum does need a bit of strength to it, but at 40% ABV. It completely lost its oomph. I hope this isn’t the way they want to reach cuban lightness, because it doesn’t taste like a Cuban Rum at all. If I want a Cuban Rum right now, I’d rather have me a Cubay. Its obvious right now that the Metodo Tradicional Cubano mentioned on the label refers to Don Panchos schooling! Back to Panana then, as did Don Pancho. Again I smell this Rum has a lot in common with Abuelo, but not with the Abuelo Centuria, which also consists of some pretty old Rums. No it smells and taste younger than the 25yo it is. There are some burnt notes, burnt wood (cask) and burnt sugar, giving the Rum a nice backbone and some character. Still, the Abuelo fruity acidity lies on top. Short finish, leaving hardly any aftertaste.

Tasting this I would definitely say Abuelo, although not such an old one. How funny would it be if it wasn’t an Abuelo! It tastes like an Abuelo to me, just watered down too much. Did they think they would scare the public with some more alcohol, or was it an economical decision? At least it not very expensive for the age.

Points: 82

Glenmorangie 25yo “Quarter Century” (43%, OB, Circa 2012)

And here is another entry-level malt. Anyhow, it is when you give your wife a Luis Vuitton bag very month. If you’re more middle class, or like me, no class at all, you might want to get the 18yo “Extremely Rare” which isn’t actually extremely rare but compared to this 25yo is extremely affordable and quite nice. The 18yo scored a quite nice 87 Points. The 18yo has spent all of it’s time in Bourbon casks, save for 30% of the Whisky which was transferred into Oloroso Butts (or Puncheons) after 15 years, to get a three-year Oloroso finish. This 25yo is a blend of Whisky from Bourbon and Oloroso casks, but also contains Whisky from casks that once held Burgundy Wine. Pinot Noir (red) and/or Chardonnay (white). It is unclear if the Burgundy part is a full maturation or only a finish, well the same goes for the Oloroso Sherry as well.

Glenmorangie 25yoColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Waxy, dusty with old wood. Old bottle. Well if anything, this does show its age.  A sharpish winey note. Burnt oak and a distinct sweetish toffee note. Very creamy mocha and milk chocolate with hints of creamy latex paint. Duo Penotti. Hints of oak, cigarette smoke and wine acidity. paper dust. The aroma’s seem to weaken with time. Fragile.

Taste: Strong sweet entry. Red sweet and sugared cherries, so quite some wine influence. Toffee is in here too. Liquid candy. Light, slightly too low in ABV if you ask me. Similar burnt note to the nose. Old wood. Easily recognizable is the American oak ageing. Creamy vanilla and mocha coffee. Slight hint of oaken bitterness. Easily drinkable. Seems simpler that I initially thought and the finish has medium length.

This proves is for me. If you want a Glenmorangie from the current range, I prefer the ones with an age statement, the older ones that is, over the ones that are named after Hyundai cars. The secret here is that the 18yo is maybe a better and definitely much affordable Whisky than this 25yo. Sure, this 25yo is a great piece of work and compared to the 18yo is slightly more complex, but the 18yo seems to be the better balanced Whisky of the two. Did I mention the humongous price difference between the two?

Points: 86

The New Zealand Whisky Collection The 25yo (46%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, 2013 Pré Release)

In October 2013 I met Greg Ramsay (a.k.a. The Tasmanian Devil) and his Master Distiller Cyril Yates.  Three years earlier he bought the New Zealand Malt Whisky Company and all of its remaining stock of 450 casks. Under the new regime several new releases saw the light of day. Some reduced to 40% and some at cask strength. When Greg and Cyril came to London (where I met them), they also had a pré release version of their 25yo with them. They brought some sample bottles bottled at 46% ABV and asked a few people what they thought of it. Yours truly got on his high “reduction” horse and opted that all future releases should be 46% ABV as probably many others did. Yes I understand that reduction to 40% means lower tax and more output, but the Whisky tasted so much better. Earlier I reviewed The South Island 18yo and the South Island 21yo, which both are pretty good, but which I thought, suffered a bit by reduction to 40% ABV.  By now the 25yo has been released at 46%, but here I’ll review the sample I got of the pré release version. It should be the same Whisky.

The New Zealand Whisky Collection The 25yo (46%, The New Zealand Whisky Company, 2014)Color: Almost full gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic and super fruity. This brings back memories, because in London I liked this so much I couldn’t help myself and try it several times. Tropical fruits abundant. Sugared pineapple, mango and passion fruit. Old bottle waxiness. This leaps out of your glass with a big smile. Hints of bourbon vanilla and elegant wood. The wood here is just lightly present in no way does it interfere with the fruit, nor giving a big backbone, although it adds a little spice. No, this is another kind of Whisky.

Taste: Fruit and cream, Whipped cream and vanilla pudding. All of the fruits above but also maracuja. So much better at this strength. Warming and obviously a bit hotter. Slight hints of sawdust, slightly bitter oak and soapy florality. This one has it all. Slight nuttiness from the wood. Towards the finish a new kind of fruit enters the fold: citrus fruit. I get the smallest hints of red oranges and grapefruit (not the bitterness especially, that is still more woody). In the finish there are also hints of banana and banana foam candy, yes both. How is that for a fruit basket. Get me this when I ever wind up in hospital. This Malt has excellent balance and just tastes fabulous.

This is a again a step up from the 21yo. Although that one was very good, when you compare that one to this 25yo, wow what a fabulous Malt this turned out to be. This Whisky needs the higher strength. Guys 46% is the way to go. Wonderful.

Points: 89

Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)

Here is another Ultimate bottling I tried recently. Dutch outfit Van Wees are getting some pretty good bottles released recently and there is a buzz going on about this 25yo Blair Athol. Blair Athol isn’t a very popular distillery, so when something like this is “buzzin'” we can’t ignore it now can’t we? This is from a refill Sherry Butt number 6918. More casks from this series are bottled this year by Van Wees: 6922, 6927 and 6928. All reduced to 46% ABV. Meanwhile in Scotland…

In 2014 Andrew Symington is releasing 25yo Blair Athol’s from 1988 too. Signatory Vintage, his company, is releasing some pretty good Cask Strength Blair Atholls with the following cask numbers: 6914, 6919, 6920+6924 and 6925. Seems like some sort of gentleman’s agreement doesn’t it? Well nothing wrong with having some good friends. I’ve tried one of these and it was very good. Now let’s see how Blair Athol behaves when Van Wees add some water to it…

Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Intense Sherry nose, and I don’t mean Fino people. Floral and perfumy. Nice and laid back. Funky wood and also some sulphur. Hard candy powder. Toffee and black fruit. Blackcurrant and blueberries. Nice fruity sherried Whisky. Well balanced nose. Dry and aromatic and with some hints of soap. No sight of raisins or cloying sweetness in this dark-colored malt. Otherwise a typically dark sherried nose, with some acidic oaky notes.

Taste: Toffeed Sherry, yet it doesn’t seem sweet. It does have its Sherry-sweetness but that is pushed back by the dryness of the wood. The taste is quite dry (the wood again) but all seems to be in check. Not a very sweet and cloying malt. In the distance some notes of coal and elements of old malts. The dark fruits return in the finish, which makes for an excellent finish. Still it’s not over the top. It’s not overly woody, and the fact it’s not sweet makes for an easier drinkable Sherry malt.

This is a pretty funky Whisky, if you ask me. The funkiness is there when it’s freshly opened, but also when it’s freshly poured into a glass. I hope you don’t drink your Whisky from the bottle now don’t you? This tells us the Whisky needs some air, and time, to breathe. The air gives it a more elegant feel, but also more balance, the aroma’s tend to fit better to each other. I must say, al be it from a sister cask, I like this one, way better at higher strength, but this reduced one is also pretty good by itself, uncompared. Recommended!

Points: 86

Glenrothes 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 600 bottles)

Hello everybody! How is this new year treating you? I’m totally fine, thank you. Let’s start this new year off on Master Quill with another oldie, bottled by Douglas Laing. The last Whisky I reviewed in 2013, was a very young and recently bottled Tamdhu by fellow indie bottler The Ultimate (Van Wees). This time however we will take a look at a 25 year old Glenrothes from 1975. If only this would have been a 25yo Ardbeg from 1975, bottled by the same outfit… Maybe by saying that, I’m doing Glenrothes wrong, so lets not waste any more time and have some Glenrothes please!

Glenrothes 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 600 bottles)Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fresh and funky at the same time. Minerality and flor from Fino Sherry. Probably from a second fill cask. Smells sweetish and very lively, maybe even young, from a less than active cask. Nutty, roasted and fresh almonds, which for me is also quite typical for dry Fino Sherries. Nice distant maltiness. Nose develops nicely too.

Taste: Great, or maybe even fantastic fruit candy sweetness, very unique. When that dissipates a nice soury and woody touch matched with some nice creaminess. Vanilla Ice-cream. Slightly bitter black tea, and a bit salty on the lips. The wood gives off a little bite, which I like. All in all, it’s quite mild and tasted blind I would have never guessed it has 50% ABV. Nicely balanced, and very Fino.

The bitterness that is there has two functions. It gives some oomph to the fresh, fruity and lively profile (which is good), but also dominates the finish a bit (which is not so good). Nevertheless, the whole is very a-typical for a Glenrothes, and I can easily understand why this didn’t fit the profile for an official release, or why it wasn’t used for a blend. On the other hand, this is exactly why, especially the earlier bottlings of Douglas Laing are so popular. It is a chance of a lifetime, to taste some Whiskies from distilleries who do not resemble the products of their makers. Somewhat similar to the Douglas Laing Taliskers, or Tacticals if you prefer. Most of those are not very obvious Taliskers too. This is a very nice Glenrothes and for me better than a lot of the official Glenrothes, even though in the end I’m not the biggest fan of Fino Sherry Casks being used for Whisky, I prefer Oloroso, but that’s a matter of taste obviously, having said that, this Glenrothes managed to get:

Points: 88

North British 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #10451-10454, 1300 bottles, 75cl)

Well lets end this month with something different. Wow! Look at the label. Pure Grain Scotch Whisky! Today we call this a Single Grain Whisky. North British was founded in 1885 and lies near Edinburgh, on the site of a former pig farm. North British is a joint venture between Diageo and The Edrington Group. I don’t think Diageo needs an introduction, but the Edrington Group today is best known for their Highland Park and Macallan distilleries and The Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blends.

Grain whisky is usually made in a continuous column still. Most important is that this still operates continuously as opposed to a pot still. The alcohol from a continuous still is much cheaper to make. The spirit is made at a higher strength (ABV) and has less flavor, more neutral. This kind of whisky is made for blended whisky, and is not often bottled by itself. If bottled by itself, like this single grain, almost all of it is aged for a prolonged period of time, to get as much flavor as possible from the cask is matures in.

Color: Gold

Nose: Clean sweet rum. Not overly woody, but the wood speaks. Fantastically old and creamy. Lots of vanilla. Spicy and floral. The floral part does remind me of roadside flowers in bloom. A very summery feel, and we need summer just about now. Fresh butter, cookie dough, creamy and very lively. If I could, I would eat this!

Taste: It’s the hint of clean yellow, light rum, the nice wood, the creaminess and the vanilla that come right through into the taste, but that’s it, nothing more. It is great as an example of an old grain, and it’s likable and utterly drinkable. A whisky lemonade, gone before you know it. Just hook this up to a soda machine that adds bubbles to your drink. This will be your summer refreshment! Alas in a bit of a diluted fashion. This should have been cask strength probably. It’s fabulous and very, very, simple.

As I have found in the past, old grains usually do smell the part, but lack a bit in the taste department. This smells fantastic but has a very simple taste, with a finish to match. I found this whisky to gain a lot of taste and balance from a lot of breathing. Do you like it? You bet I do!

Points: 84

Thanks to Michel for providing the sample!

The Balvenie 25yo “Single Barrel” 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13285)

Well, actually the Balvenie 25yo I reviewed earlier, was quite a disappointment. I have another single barrel here, so let’s see if this one is any better… By the way, again I couldn’t find a picture of a Balvenie 25yo Cask #13285, so here is a picture of the similar looking cask #10139

Color: Gold.

Nose: Waxy, sweet white sherry. A nice old, dried leaves and wood combination in the nose. Again you sense this is an old bottle. Vanilla and lemon freshness. This nose is less complex than cask #13282. The vanilla that’s in here is similar to the vanilla notes I got from Angostura rum 1919. I guess cask #13282 has a more refined nose, but this is equally exciting. More raw and different from the other one. I think this one is better, it is less complex, but has more to it. Wood and almonds come out when you sniff this vigorously, still it is not bad wood. Hot butter and some funky farminess, how’s that for a Balvenie! Lovely oldness to it all.

Taste: Sweet and even slightly acidic, and no heavy wood attack like cask #13282, hurrah. Fatty and mouth coating wax. This one is immediately a lot better. The wood is here and very noticeable. The dry leaves are here too, but this doesn’t attack you with that unrelenting bitterness. This cask has also a lot of wood to it, but the bitterness is held in check. It does lack a bit of complexity though. There isn’t a lot more to it than this. Nice old Balvenie.

Great to try these Balvenies so close together. These are sister casks, but do show quite some difference. It’s not only the bitterness that is obvious. Comparing these two there is infinitely more. That goes to show, how big the differences can be between two similar bottles, and how buying without tasting is so tricky. I would also like to point out that the reduction that obviously took place here isn’t a problem, this Whisky holds the fort. Actually it’s the best Balvenie I had in a very long time. Still no 90’s score though…

Points: 88