Ardbeg 5yo “Wee Beastie” (47.4%, OB, 05/05/2020)

Looking at Ardbeg’s core range (at the time of writing), one release was missing on these pages. After An Oa, this 5yo Wee Beastie is the latest member of the Ardbeg core clan. Since demand has risen considerably for Single Malt Whisky, one of many reactions of the industry was to expand the NAS portfolio, to be able to sell younger Whiskies and lay down larger ageing stock for the future. The public however, as often the case with changes, wasn’t very keen on NAS bottlings, feeling the consumer would be paying a higher price for younger Whiskies, which is largely true anyway. To give an example, Talisker “Skye” or “Storm” or “Port Ruighe” actually were new NAS bottling sold for more than the original 10yo. In the end, the consumer kept asking for an age statement, and in the process was already warming up to Whiskies with a low age statement. When Benromach released their 5yo a while back, the move towards a low age statement, compared to other NAS bottlings with a funny (Gaelic) name was welcomed beyond belief. Industry baffled. So low age statements are now rather accepted, and with Islay Whiskies, younger expressions are also interesting because the peat should be more pronounced,fresher and heavier than in well aged releases (peat gets softer over time). Ardbeg, always being different in their ways, saw the time fit for a new addition to their core range, and thus one with a low age statement (5yo) ánd a name (Wee Beastie), thus promising hefty peat!

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Appetizing peat yet not really beastie, more of a gangnam poodle style. Tiny hint of smoke from the fireplace. It doesn’t hit you in the face like Iron Mike would. No, quite the opposite actually. It’s rather friendly, warm, dusty and citrussy. Like Iron Mike hugging you in the ring, you feel the soft gloves in your back. Mike is whispering peaceful words in your ear, in stead of biting it off. Surprising, so not really beastie to me. Iodine, perfumy smoke and cold ashes from the fireplace. Remember Christmas when it’s cold outside with lots of snow? Salty and soapy. Sometimes some battery acid, acidic fruits, black and white powder and licorice. Sometimes milky (this is the youth showing, we know this from young Lagavulin’s and other mostly NAS peated whiskies, (there will be some more reviews of this “effect” in the near future, I can tell you that). The citrus bit is borderline milky, new make spirit and it is a big part of the freshly opened bottle. Luckily, this acidic fruity milky bit wears off a bit when this gets enough time to breathe. Doing the dishes with pink or yellow rubber/latex gloves. If fire would have a smell, this might be it. Ardbeg Fire, which is still a masculine name. After a while more, the fruit shows itself, with crushed beetle. Quite a soft and friendly nose with lots of aroma’s. Appealing, definitely young, but given time it gets balanced. I like it very much, smells tasty! So not really a wolf in the nose but more a domesticated poodle wearing a Christmas jumper. Adorable.

Taste: Sweet, young (but not milky), malty and biscuity. A lot of sweet black and white powder from the nose, sweet smoke, licorice, warming. Plastic, stormy seaside, sea spray laden with salty air. Soap powder. Burning garden surplus off. Slightly less balanced than the nose. Still this soapy, slippery feel on my palate and tongue. The soapy taste is kept in check though. Licorice with crushed beetle. Black tea, fruity. Quite nice and somewhat different than expected. Beast? A very friendly beast! Young but not too young. Very appetizing. The taste may be a wee bit too young though, with a little bit of new make spirit to it, slightly underdeveloped. Just like the nose, this wears off after a while in my glass. Through the fruity bit some slightly bitter and slightly prickly wood emerges and this soapy edge stays behind in your mouth (a.k.a. the aftertaste).

Maybe they should add an 8yo expression which would make an interesting comparison with this 5yo, or maybe a cask strength version of this Beastie as well while they’re at it? Yes, in the end this is yet another very good core range bottling. If you have this Wee Beastie, Corryvreckan and an Oogie, what else do you need from Ardbeg, apart from their beautiful older bottlings? A big compliment is due for Ardbeg, for keeping a very high standard in their core range. Amazing, so not only Kilchoman does well @ 5 years. Although Kilchoman at this age shows no milky new make bits at all. You just gotta love Ardbeg, for the first time ever, a distillery puts out a core range that might be better than most of their NAS special releases. In this day and age, that is truly amazing. In my opinion both Ardbeg and Kilchoman do a lot better at this young age than f.i. Lagavulin. In a way, far fetched as it might be, this Beastie reminds me in a certain way of Perpetuum, has it something to do with that? Is it some sort of younger version of it?

After a few hours, the empty glass smells of soft iodine, smoke and burnt plastic.

Points: 85

Thanks again to Nico for the sample!

Clément 5yo 2010/2015 Très Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.2%, Bourbon Cask #20100409, Moka Intense, 412 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Earlier, I reviewed both the 100% Canne Bleue (the original single cask bottling) and the first variation upon the single cask theme, called Vanille Intense. Where the first version was marketed with the emphasis on the sugar cane variety (Canne Bleue), the second, or so it seemed to me, more marketed towards the wood, since vanilla is an obvious marker of American oak, but sure, it can emerge from the Rhum as well. Here we have the next variant called Moka Intense, boasting mocha and coffee notes. I’m a big fan of coffee, so this variety is most welcome. However in the back of my mind the Vanilla Intense variety wasn’t quite as good as the original 100% Canne Bleue was, so I’m really expecting something along the lines of Vanilla Intense. Still these are single cask bottlings so it isn’t said that all 100% Canne Bleue are better than every Vanille Intense bottling. This Moka Intense is half the age of the other two. Maybe the coffee notes are more obvious in younger Rhum?

Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Soft, vanilla, slightly nutty. Lozenges and soft wood. Nice Agricole notes. Sometimes it’s too soft really. Hint of sugared orange skins and cherry liqueur with some dark chocolate. Black tea, infused for a short while, with lots of sugar in it. Mocha? maybe, not now at least. Coffee, nope, sorry. Very soft and un-complex. Its really simple really. Sugared. Wait a minute, I do get a sweet coffee note somewhere in the back, but actually it is a note that can be found in many other R(h)ums. So not a coffee that stands out. Mocha is softer and definitely present. I have to admit this Rhum does need some breathing. It opens up nicely and starts to show more of the above but now with better balance. Nose-wise this is now better than the Vanille Intense was. It has a very appealing quality to it, but it does need a lot of time to get there. Nice stuff nevertheless.

Taste: Not cloying, but definitely sweet. Warm going down, with bitter notes from the wood, maybe that’s why it was bottled earlier than the other two examples. Canne Bleue underneath but cloaked. Some notes of diluted sugar in warm water, without the taste being overly sweet. Just like some Whiskies go soft and smooth by caramel colouring. Personally I steer clear from distillates that are called soft and smooth. Never a good thing. On the palate this is definitely a wood driven Rhum. Even after extensive breathing that helped the nose forward, it doesn’t bring complexity to the palate. Alas. The body of the Rhum is black tea, typical Agricole notes, somewhat nutty, with a slight acidic edge. Lacking a bit in balance to be honest. Finish is not very long, and even less balanced. Is this the age? Sure it is. Aftertaste, some more typical Agricole notes and some sugar, that’s more or less it.

Since this is younger than the other two expressions I expected something more raw and bold, but au contraire, it turns out to be quite austere. I was afraid this next variant would be somehow less good than the original and it is. Although this still is not a bad Rhum, not at all, but both the Vanilla and especially this Moka Intense, seem to be out of their depths compared to the original single cask 100% Canne Bleue. This is a softer version, but with that, also more boring than the 100% Canne Bleue and even less interesting than the Vanille Intense. Now that I have reviewed all three, I’m now very interested how another batch of 100% Canne Bleue would perform. Anyone? For now, I would recommend you get the 100% Canne Bleue and forget both variants which add nothing more to the world of Clément single casks to warrant you, buying all three.

Points: 83

This one is for Lance who had to wait a long time for me to review a R(h)um again!

Monymusk 5yo (46%, Renegade Rum Company, JMA, Tempranillo Finish, Jamaica)

Renegade Rum Company. What might that be? If you are familiar with Single Malt Whiskies, then the name Bruichladdich should mean something to you. In fact it will mean the world, since it is one of the famous Whiskies from the Isle of Islay. Home of the best peated Whiskies in the world, only historically, Bruichladdich is more famous for its unpeated Whiskies than for their peated Whiskies. To put an end to that, master distiller Jim McEwan started to make Port Charlotte, a heavily peated Single Malt Whisky (around 40 ppm phenols) and the astronomically peated Octomore (up to 258 ppm, which is a lot more than 40 ppm). There is no normal way to peat Whisky that high, so in comes the skill of Jim. Bruichladdich is also the home of The Botanist Gin, made up with botanicals from Islay, and also of Renegade Rum. Jim supposedly hand-picked casks of Rum and hand-picked Wine casks to finish those Rums in. Expect relatively young Rums, all finished in some sort of Wine cask. All reduced to 46% ABV, in my book better than the usual 40% ABV. Anything below 40% I don’t even consider buying if I have to be honest. In everything Jim does he pushes the envelope, so prepare yourself, as will I, for an unusual Rum experience…

monymusk-5yo-42-renegade-rum-company-jma-temperanillo-finish-jamaicaColor: Light gold.

Nose: Yep, funky Jamaican style. I love the high ester quality it has to it. Easy to recognize. Fresh cookie dough. Extremely creamy. Already the promise of a cloying syrupy Rum. Wait a minute… A drier note emerges. Old raisins and some wood. There is a note here I struggled for a while to identify, so common, but what is it? Its Grappa! The Temperanillo cask infused a Grappa note to this Rum. Grassy, hay-like. Clay, butter candy and a more vegetal note. If you have ever sticked your nose in the hole of an empty Red Wine cask, you’ll recognize its strong spicy notes in this Rum as well. Nice and quite unusual for a Rum. Amazing how the finish is taking over the Rum when you let it breathe for a while. When nosing this the high ester Jamaican smell is retreating quickly (move it around a bit so it gets some more air, and it briefly returns). With the Grappa nota also a more nutty aroma emerges as well as some warm butter. So it starts big, funky and creamy but after a while it has this well-balanced dryness combined with a nice warm butter note. This is the most two-faced Rum I have smelled untill now. A bit unusual, but I like it. Pushing the envelope a bit. If you love Grappa, you’ll love this nose.

Taste: Here the funky part is even shorter. Upon entering your mouth, for a brief moment, you think you are drinking a typical and clean and simple example of a Jamaican Rum, but it turns around rather quickly. Lots of wood and heaps of acidic woody notes followed by strange red fruit acidity from stale Wine. It doesn’t have the taste of wood itself though. It also lacks the bitterness of clean wood. No, its different. What it also lacks is the Grappa I found on the nose, for some that is a good thing, but it also makes for a somewhat unbalanced Rum. Well it’s not really a Rum either, especially a Jamaican Rum. What it does have is some nice exotic spices, dare I say Indian again? Also slightly soapy and floral, and it has some notes of Foursquare as well, which is a Rum, although not Jamaican. A long time after swallowing, a very discrepant winey, acidic and fruity note re-appears, combined with toasted cask, well hidden into the background. Can’t really say that the finish is well-balanced. It’s like a race where all the competitors cross the finish well apart from each other, running different distances as well. So unbalanced it is, and definitely the weakest part of the whole experience.

This bottle is clearly an experiment. Where for me it works wonders on the nose, it doesn’t actually work that well when tasting it. Somehow the finish overpowers the young Jamaican Rum. Maybe this experiment would have worked better if the Jamaican Rum was older, bigger, more of a match to the Tempranillo?

So there it is. I love Jamaican Rum to death, I love Jim McEwan and I love a good experiment, and that is what experiments are for. You try something that is usually out-of-the-box. It might work or not. Here it clearly works on the nose, but less so on the taste. So not the best of Rums around, and the score will reflect that, but because of its out-of-the-box-ness I still would buy one, although many of the Renegades are sold out by now…

Points: 81

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 5: Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Hogshead #761, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

We’ll continue our journey with this Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo, the brother of the Zuidam Oude Genever 5yo. Korenwijn (grain wine) is a Jenever, very similar to the 18th century style Jenever, and is often matured for a few years in an oak cask. It is made from grain only and  contains a minimum of 51% Malt Wine and up to 20 g/l of sugar. Caramel can be added for coloring and added sweetness. Caramel that is, not E150 which is used in coloring Whisky and doesn’t add sweetness. If the Korenwijn is distilled from Malt Wine only, it can be called a Malt Wine Jenever (Moutwijnjenever).

In the case of Zuidam, The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo was distilled three times without spices, and this Korenwijn 5yo was distilled four times, before the fifth distillation with the added spices is carried out. According to Zuidam this raises the fruitiness and makes for a more delicate Jenever. The ingredients here are the same as in the Zeer Oude Genever, so rye, corn and malted barley. Spices are also the same, juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. According to the Zuidam website, newer bottlings of the Zeer Oude Genever and Korenwijn are matured solely in virgin oak barrels, which is obviously not the case with this older bottle from 2013 which contains Korenwijn matured in a (Whisky) Hogshead. The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo I reviewed by the way, was aged in a used Bourbon barrel.

Zuidam Korenwijn 5Color: Full gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Much, much more aromatics than its little brother. Loads of soft spices and some (dry) green notes. Mocha, vanilla and toffee. Wax and wood. Oak and cedar. The occasional whiff of an unlit Cuban Cigar. Nice. Thick and chewy. Almost like a candy store or grocers shop from a hundred years ago. (Indian) Spices, old sweets and cookie dough. Cinnamon, cloves and crushed beetle. If you’ve experienced that smell, you’ll know what I mean, if not, don’t go out hurting animals now. Old wet wood and burlap. Sweet mud and some fermenting clay. Animalesk. The fruitiness moves into the realm of sugared citrus skins, but also some warm apple pie. Orange zest (not lemon, since it lacks the freshness and the sharp acidity). For me this is definitely a step up from the 5yo Zeer Oude Genever. Much more happening, wonderful interaction with the wood, and way bigger. Maybe a tad too big for lovers of Jenevers? Wonderful.

Taste: Sweet on entry but also plenty of wood and wax again. Sawdust and freshly cut wood. Sugar-water and creamy latex paint. More green leaves and garden waste. Believe me it smells better than it might sound right now. Again, just like the nose, much more aromatics going on, compared to it little brother. Small hints of nuts and coffee, and also lots of fudge. Toffee and caramel happening again. Not of the added kind of course, mind you! This is definitely sweeter, bigger and more chewy compared to its twin from another egg. So not really delicate as Zuidam puts it. Light milk chocolate and to liven things up, a nice acidic note is present as well. The finish is reasonable for something that has a an ABV of only 38%, which is quite common in the Jenever business. It sure would be nice for once, to try a higher strength version of this, and I don’t mean 40%. What do you say Patrick? By the way, this is labeled as a “Single Barrel” (although note every cask found in this series yielded from a Barrel). This Korenwijn, for example, came from a Hogshead that previously held Whisky). Since different types of casks were used in this series, the outcome is different every time, so you’ll never get the same if you buy another bottle.

By now you know I prefer the Korenwijn version of Jenever over the Zeer Oude Jenever. Or do I? When I had the chance to talk with a lot of the Dutch Jenever drinking public, some told me they found the Korenwijn too sweet. Some even preferred the 3yo version over the 5yo version. The Zeer Oude Genever is lighter and a tad simpler and more towards vanilla than to the sweetness itself. Both can coexist very well next to each other. They are quite different. I’m not sure anymore if I prefer the Korenwijn over the Zeer Oude Genever. It is a welcome distraction when I try it right after the Korenwijn and does holds it own, even when lighter in style. It’s a breath of fresh air. There are enough moments I want the Zeer Oude Genever more. In a direct H2H, it is the bigger taste and the quality that makes me score the Korenwijn higher, but I really like the Zeer Oude Genever as well, no question about it. I’m more than happy to have both bottles open on my lectern.

Points: 83

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 3: Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Barrel #178, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

Since the previous review was about the Rye Jenever from Zuidam, for this Zeer Oude Genever we can stay in beautiful Baarle-Nassau, because here is another Zuidam Jenever. This one classifies as an “Oude Jenever”. So no funny business with a single grain version or the addition of an unusual spice. By the way, the word “Genever” is sometimes used as a synonym for Oude Jenever.

Oude Jenever must contain at least 15% Malt Wine, and no more than 20 g of sugar per litre. Yes sugar. It is not uncommon to add caramel to Jenever to enhance the color and to sweeten it up a bit. Oude Jenever must have a minimum ABV of 35%. Compared to Jonge Jenever, Oude Jenever has a smoother, more aromatic taste with malty flavours. Oude Jenever is often aged in wood. Some others are finding that its malty, woody and smoky flavours resemble whisky a bit, but personally I would say that it is a distant relative at best. Different grains can be used in the production process, such as barley, wheat, corn, spelt and rye.

For This Zeer Oude Genever Zuidam uses the same amounts of rye (spicy), corn (giving sweetness) and malted barley. The Jenever is distilled three times. In the fourth distillation run the spices are added. Juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. In general it is possible however that the spices are distilled separately and blended together in the final product or some or all spices are redistilled with the Malt Wine. Finally, the spirit is reduced to 45% before entering the cask. Casks are newly made American oak barrels. a.k.a. Virgin oak.

As I already mentioned in the first review of this week, old doesn’t mean the Jenever has aged for a long time, rather means it is made in the old style. This doesn’t mean the Jenever is not aged for a prolonged amount of time, since a lot of Jenevers in this style get (long) ageing in oak.

Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yoColor: Light gold.

Nose: Grainy, floral and fruity, so all is here. Silky soft and somewhat sweet. Smells like an old well made grain distillate. Old as in, not modern. Like the combination of a dusty alley and a slightly damp alley. Clean alleys from the past, that is. Quite romantic. Old parcels come to mind next, those with the brown paper held together by a piece of string. Brought to you by way of steam train. That’s the kind of romantic feel I get from this. Yellow fruits and somewhat waxy. Hay and dry wild grass. Distant apricots and hints of lavender and jasmine. Perfumy. Crispy citrus is present as well. Well balanced stuff, all fits together well. Hints of wood, soft and silky. Fresh oak and some tree sap. Vanilla, so no doubt this being from an American oak barrel, also helped by the fact that the label mentions this particular Genever was aged in a 190 litre cask. Overall quite light and friendly and a very nice distillate to smell.

Taste: Light, sweet and a bit thin. Starts out with some oaky bitterness, but also some spices are noticeable right away. Sugar water with lots of toffee and caramel. Fruity, warming and well-balanced. Both the nose and the taste fit together very well. Creamy vanilla with hints of added anise. Almond like nuttiness. Fits the warming quality this Genever has. Even after 5 years, the wood didn’t leave an overly woody taste behind. Overly? It’s hard to detect any wood at all! Hardly any bitterness whatsoever. However, after 5 years I expected a bit more complexity to be honest, but then again this is not a Whisky and its bottled at 38% ABV. Not very complex, but very likeable nevertheless.

First of all, with this you get a nice, light and well made Genever. Your first dram of the day. Enjoyable. Second, if you can find it where you live, this comes at quite a nice price, especially when compared to today’s Whisky, and you’ll get a whole litre to boot. Other sizes like 0.5 and 0.7 litre bottles are in existence as well.

Points: 82

Cognac Week – Day 3: Château Montifaud VS (40%, OB, 2001/2006)

Cognac Week LogoDay Three already of Master Quill’s Cognac Week. Today, and tomorrow, we’ll have a look at Château Montifaud. Château Montifaud was founded in 1837 by Augustin Vallet, and by now the sixth generation of Vallet is with the company: Laurent Vallet. In between came Pierre, Maurice, Louis and Michel. Where Jean Fillioux has sort of a super premium reputation, Château Montifaud has lots of fans with the public. You get quite some quality and the Cognacs are very reasonably priced and most of the time get longer ageing than similarly named Cognacs from the big brands. Take this VS (Very Special) for instance. The youngest component of a VS is required by law to be at least two years old. The VS of Château Montifaud is five years old, and is made with grapes from the Petite Champagne region. You’ll see this “overageing” throughout the range.

Chateau Montifaud VSColor: Orange copper gold

Nose: Slightly winey, light, dusty and sweetish. Young, with already a nice depth to it. Licorice. Abundant sugared fruits. A nice one to smell vigorously. Wonderful nose, but a little bit restrained. It doesn’t leap out of the glass even after some time exposed to air. Definitely more complex than the A. de Fussigny Superieur.

Taste: Quite light. hints of licorice. Sugary sweet and fruity. Syrupy and the sweets are like half crystallized light honey. Maybe too young, but it tastes too thin. I know 40% ABV is typical for Cognac, but it just is too light. Very mellow, nothing sharp at all. Short finish, but whats there, is very nice.

Young, good stuff. Excellent daily drinker Cognac. Very friendly, not very complex, light and mellow. Great balance. If it’s there it’s in the right place. Well made and Montifaud is definitely worth exploring further. I’ve also tried a more recent version (2014) of this very Cognac, and that one seems stronger, is more aromatic, but also tends to be somewhat simpler, less complex and even thicker in its sweetness. The quality is unmistakably there though, and it still would get the same score as this earlier bottling.

Points: 83

Plantation Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Barbados)

Lying on a Bajan beach suits me, albeit only in my mind that is. That’s enough reason for me to stay on the beach for a while longer and dig up some more Bajan Rums from the sand. Today we’ll take a look at another independent bottling. This time Plantation, the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand from France obviously. Italy’s Fabio Rossi (Rum Nation), who actually comes from Wines and Whisky, found a passion for Rum. Now the same goes for Cognac Ferrand as well. They also found a passion for Rum. The people of Cognac Ferrand buy aged Rum’s from several Caribbean distillers, ship them to France and finish them for a couple of months in Cognac casks before bottling. This 5yo Grande Reserve is no different, it gets the same treatment as the others, except this blend of Bajan Rum’s has aged less than other Plantation expressions.

Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Plantation, Barbados)Color: Gold.

Nose: Quite closed at first and light. Fresh and fruity. Later more sweet and waxy, with hints of vanilla, yet still light and fresh. Vegetable and leafy, combined with a flowery breath of fresh air. Very friendly. Minute hints of mocha coffee, toffee and cow dung (you must think I’m mad by now). Orange flavored powdered candy. The orange note for me is to weak and to synthetic for it to be real orange. Remember this is quite light and none of the aroma’s really stand out. It’s a very introvert Rum. Let it breathe some more and yes some soft orange peel shines through.

Taste: Again quite light, weak black tea with sugar. This has enough character though. Slightly burnt sugar. Fern and a proper sweetness, although the burnt cask note hides part of its sweetness. It’s quite alright. Sometimes this reminds me a lot of Cognac. For me this is a young rum, which hasn’t picked up a lot of sweetness yet and other typical Rummy aroma’s and has quite some Cognac influence, more than other Plantation bottlings, like the Old Reserves. Medium to short finish with notes of runny caramel with a slightly burnt edge which stays well into the aftertaste. Very likable though.

A young Rum with obvious young Rum traits. Lacks a bit of depth like many of its older brothers and sisters have. Its playful and nice. Likeable and cute, with a nice dark ridge of burnt sugar and cask toast. So it’s not all lovely and cute but also has a bit of Chucky to it. So in the end this is a well made although, young and undemanding and underdeveloped Rum. I still say you should get it because it costs next to nothing and is very well made.

Points: 83

English Harbour 5yo (40%, Antigua, West Indies)

And here is another Rum in a dumpy bottle. This time, just like the El Dorado, we have a Rum with an age statement that really does mean that the contents have been aged for that period of time. Where the El Dorado is 15yo, this English Harbour only has 5 years under its belt.

Antigua Distillery Ltd. is established in 1932 with a 3-column Savalle still from France placed one year later. In 1943 Antigua Distillery Ltd. buys the Montpellier sugar estate with 2500 acres of cane field. We have to wait until the fifties to see the first Rum called Cavalier Muscavado Rum. The first Rum that was called English Harbour was released in 1990. Today the portfolio holds the 5yo we’re about to review, a 10yo, but also a 1981 vintage. This 1981 Vintage is the last of the Rum distilled on the original Savalle Still from 1933, which was eventually decommissioned in 1991…

English Harbour 5yoColor: Light orange gold.

Nose: Sugary sweet, nutty, fresh and fruity. Appetizing. Slightly dusty and some woody dryness. Fresh sugarcane-juice and hints of Bourbon. Typically vanilla, toffee, caramel and a hint of roasted coconut to finish it all off.

Taste: On entry first quite thin, but just right after that a slow, caramelly, sugary sweet sip slides down my throat. lots of toffee and creamy notes. Nougat (with hazelnuts). A distant laid back fruitiness emerges, which I can only describe as the marriage of sweet sugared cherries with dried apricots. It’s neither of the two but some sort of marriage of the two. Half long finish with a light backbone of oak, leaving a very pleasant, and slightly hot, after taste.

For the cost a very good Rum you can do anything with. The work-horse of your collection. It’s a very nice un-demanding sipping Rum, but will work excellent in cola and cocktails. Yes is may be slightly simple due to its youth, but it is highly drinkable, not too sweet, not to woody. Everything seems in its place and has no off notes whatsoever. Good stuff.

Points: 83

Chairman’s Reserve (40%, St. Lucia)

Sydney Fireworks2015 is upon us! Happy new year! This side of the planet that means that the new year starts off rather cold. Therefore this month I will pay some more attention to one of the warmest of distillates; Rum. In my opinion definitely worth checking out outside of your cocktail. Yes sipping rum to get through the cold as opposed to avoiding scurvy. Rum to be enjoyed to the max I say! Got Rum?

The story is that the chairman of St. Lucia Distillers Laurie Bernard wanted a quality rum made with aged rums from continuous and pot stills. In 1999 this rum was born. At first only for the local market but soon internationally. The blend is circa 5 years old has been matured in barrels that previously held American Bourbons and Whiskey from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace. The aforementioned rums are blended and married together then put back into the barrels for six months.

Chairman's ReserveColor: Full gold

Nose: Nice and thick, but quickly more green and leafy. Syrupy smelling and very nice, aromatic. Thick and funky. Pickles from a jar and hard candy powder. I like this very much. If nosed blind I would sometimes call this Jamaican (but not often). The initial fatness and funkiness wears off and changes into something more dry and dusty, yet preserving its initial impression. Small hint of smoke and some mild tangerine skins ánd curiously, the smell of someone preparing a steak. Nice woody touch with dirty smoky honey.

Taste: Nice light and refined taste, with only a sweetish start and then into a more aged and dry rum. Thin yet very appetizing. Cold black tea and lots of honey. When swallowed and when it leaves my mouth it dissipates quickly, leafy a slight oaky bitterness behind. Although very light and thin, I do like it. Very tasty.

Definitely a rum worth sipping. It has a certain character though, that makes is very suitable for cocktails. St. Lucia Distillers themselves recommend it with coconut water.

Points: 81

Akashi 5yo ‘White Oak’ (45%, OB, 500 ml)

Next up a Japanese 5yo Single Malt Whisky from the Eigashima Distillery. Please don’t confuse this with the 5yo Akashi “Blended Whisky”. This peculiar blend is not a blend as we know it. The Malt Whisky isn’t blended with Grain Whisky but with a Spirit. The Malt Whisky itself is not only Malt Whisky from Eigashima, but also contains imported Whisky. Altogether there is 34% Malt Whisky in this Blend. The Spirit part (66%) is made with Spirit from molasses, partly barrel aged. There is some controversy about the Spirit used, and calling this a Blended Whisky. Alas no controversy about our 5yo Single Malt. Besides both 5yo Whiskies, there is also a 12yo Akashi Single Malt. Code on the inside of the front label is: 112102.

Akashi 5yo 'White Oak' (45%, OB)Color: Gold, with a tinge of ocher (dandruff)

Nose: Worcestershire sauce. lactic acid and right after that virgin oak and cigarette tobacco. Cooled off warm milk. Extremely funky and yeasty. This Whisky oozes aroma, and you have to sniff it all out to get to the woody part and the feeling you are nosing a Single Malt Whisky. Warm dry forest floor and the fruitiness comes from ripe apple skins. This apple note is connected to a powdered sugar sensation. For best results let this breathe for a while. Small hints of menthol and spicy wood tends to play a greater role.

Taste: Extremely malty and after that paper and oak. Dried leaves. Some sweetness from sweet tree sap (I imagine). Very naturally occurring sweetness like stevia. The wood becomes slightly bitter and next comes a slightly peppery attack. Tiny hint of burnt plastic and the bitterness stays. It tastes a bit like sake. The finish disintegrates leaving you with the bitterness and a funky kind of acidity, in part cow dung. The finish is definitely the weakest point of this Whisky.

Very simple, immature and straightforward Whisky, that doesn’t come to us without flaws. Some strange aroma’s in here that to me seem like distillation faults. Having said that I don’t dislike this, but I most definitely like the first half better than the last half.

Points: 71