Port Charlotte 8yo 2007/2018 “CC:01” (57.8%, OB, Heavily Peated, Cognac Casks, 18/006, 2018)

Those of you who have checked the title meticulously will have a question. How can this be 8yo (so stated on the bottle), when this is distilled in 2007 (so stated on the bottle) and bottled in 2018 (so stated on the bottle)? Has it been transferred into glass after 8 years or as often happens, the Whisky in the bottle is (and is allowed to be) older than the stated age. We may never know. This expression is abbreviated as CC:01, meaning that this is the first (01) release of Whisky, fully matured in Cognac Casks (CC). I’m sure there will be more of these abbreviations reviewed on these pages in the foreseeable future.

Finally, this is one of those bottles which I almost missed reviewing before it is gone. One of those bottles I reach for easily, despite the high ABV. One of those bottles I believe to have reviewed earlier already, even being surprised I can’t find the review on these pages. So from the last drops in the bottle, here it goes.

Color: Gold

Nose: Bonfire, spicy wood, creamy but not really vanilla like. Big. Paper and smoke. More bonfire. Beautiful, perfumy smoke notes. Wonderful smelling Malt this is. Hints of medium sweet Rhum Agricole. (J.M style). Next leafy, autumn garden. Extremely well balanced and very appetizing. All just fits together so well. Some breaths of fresh air, bonfire smoke next, with a luxury feel to it. And this nice lazy hidden sweeter and fruitier note (lime juice). Lazy, because it lets me know its there, but allows me to enjoy the other notes first. Soft yet spicy wood. In no way harsh. Creamy, leafy with mocha. It keeps developing. Black tea. Dry, old, dusty oak. Hints of raspberry ice-cream, the vanilla notes emerge after all just before the first notes of pencil shavings. Good one, I love it. No it’s not finished yet. Notes of well aged Calvados now. Will it ever end? Let me just say, nothing really Cognac-y or winey or peaty. Capiche?

Taste: Spicy and sweet on entry. Skip that last remark though, maybe there is some Cognac to it after all. Quite hot going down. Some indistinct fruity notes come next, on top of dry oaky notes. Both are on top of each other, so a bit less well integrated, or maybe the cement between the bricks is missing. Sweetish yellow fruits, partly dried, combined with a nice ashy note and maybe some old licorice. Notes of bitter oak towards the finish and a bit of waxiness emerges. See Lagavulin, this is younger than your 10yo and no milky, too young tasting Whisky here. Nice restrained smoke. Earthy or maybe grounded is a better word. Slightly less balanced than the nose, and also less beautiful, but still very good nevertheless. Fairly long finish, but after that it all went down, leaving just a medium amount for the aftertaste.

Well, what can I say, me likey. It didn’t take me all that long to buy me another one of these. Very good Port Charlotte. I Hope Bruichladdich will do more Cognac Casks in the future (and release them, obviously).

Points: 88

Crabbie 8yo (46%, OB, 2018, L7290)

Nope, this is not a new Whisky hitting the markets, well, actually it is, but the brand is old. The John Crabbie mentioned on the label was born way back in 1806. Together with a bloke called William Cree, John started a drinks trading business. When Cree passed away, John renamed the business after himself, and steered the business more towards Scottish Whisky. He created his own blends, rented time at well known distilleries to distil his own spirits and even bought a grain distillery called Haddington. In 1885, John, together with Andrew Usher and William Sanderson (look them up), founded the North British Distilling Company. North British is a grain distillery near Edinburgh and is still in operation today. The distillery is now owned by Diageo and Edrington through a joint venture. Back to John. John, himself, passed away in 1897 and left the business to his two sons and by the 1970’s the Crabbie brand disappeared…until now! Resurrected by the new owners, Halewood. In 2018 this Crabbie 8yo and a Crabbie 12yo were released as well as a 30yo later. More has been released or is on it’s way, like a 25yo and a 40yo as well as a NAS bottling called Yardhead. Halewood is also busy with building their own distillery, Bonnington, near Leith, but since that is not finished yet, they already started Malt and Grain Whisky-production last year in their Chain Pier distillery in Granton (Edinburgh). Making it the first Malt Whisky production in Edinburgh since 1925 (Glen Sciennes, was the last one closed), remember that one?

Color: Gold

Nose: Malty and actually smells a bit like a work in progress to me. Under aged and funky. Unbalanced. Something is not quite right. It smells lactic and acidic. Paper and cardboard are here as well. Soft wood notes. But also, dusty and slightly Sherried. Smallest hint of smoke, and again greenish (after the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak, which also had (entirely different), green notes). Not bad, but not without its flaws. Sure there are some very appealing elements to it, but the milky and sour combination puts me off a bit. Luckily this bad side does tone down considerably when it gets some time to breathe. Meaty notes emerge next. Still, young overall and after a while this Whisky still manages to vent off some more off notes. A sulphury compound being one of them, if I’m not mistaken.

Taste: Very malty, light, fruity and again, this time a more fruity acidity. (rotting) Banana’s. Also an earwax-like bitterness masked quickly by a sweeter note. Light, simple. The unbalance is here on the palate as well. Seems Sherried. Artificial citric fruitiness. Some sweet malt. Some toffee, especially in the finish. Almonds emerge in the aftertaste. Slightly warming. Chalk. Funky and weird. The bitter note dominates the finish with this milky baby vomit note hovering above it. I already used the words “strange” and “funky” now didn’t I. Unbalanced.

Where the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak was a bottle I emptied rather quickly because it was so nice, this Crabbie’s is just the opposite. This is not my type of dram. It’s not because of it’s youth, because I have tried some really young Laddies I like, as well as several young Campbeltown Malts which are really good. The basis of this one is all right, but has some faults on top of it. These off notes to me are a bit off-putting. This Crabbie’s is a strange one. I’m focussing on the good bits, finish it quickly and then forget about this one in a hurry.

By the way, when I bought this bottle in London, it was whispered in my ear that Crabbie’s 8yo is in fact a Macallan, and the 12yo expression a Highland Park, both owned by Edrington, which also owns, as we already know, half of the North British distillery founded by John Crabbie et. al.

Points: 76

Rum Nation Peruano 8yo (42%, Single Domaine Rum, 2011, Peru)

For one reason or another, many Rums that were on my lectern were emptied around the same time. No, not down the sink, just finished them the proper way, enjoying them. Meaning, lots of new Rums got their corks pulled out lately! This Rum Nation Peruano 8yo is the indirect replacement of the Rum Nation Martinique Hors d’Âge I reviewed earlier. An indirect replacement in the sense that it is just a bottle from the same bottler. The true direct replacement is obviously another Rum from the island of Martinique. Which one? Well, we’ll get into that in due course.

Here we have a Rum from the-not-so-caribbean-island of Peru, yes I mean the South American country. Just goes to show that Rum is made all over the world, and why not, there are more South-American countries known for having a sugar-industry and subsequently making Rum, or Ron as they call it. You must have heard of Guyana, Brazil and Surinam? The Rum I’m about to review, was made at the Cartavio plant in La Libertad, where mainly sugar is made as well as ethanol. The facility is built and guarded like a fortress. Looking at the plant, I have never seen so much barbed wire since WW II. So, don’t climb over the wall, because you will be shot! I’m not kidding people, this message is painted on their wall. I guess they don’t like corporate espionage at Cartavio. I’m amazed Fabio got out of there alive, especially since they make their own brand of Rum called Cartavio. Soleras yes, but also with a minimum, yes, a minimum age statement. Not only did Fabio get out of there alive, he got out of there with enough Ron to produce his own brand of Ron Millionario, with the Solera 15 (no age statement intended) and the XO. Since both are quite the success, in 2008 Fabio issued a true 8yo fully matured in Bourbon barrels. So let’s have a look at the 2011 model, shall we?

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: This one starts out with a mix of fruit, paper, wood, leather and loads of fresh air. Underneath already a deeper, warmer more brooding note. Hot rainforest with some florality to it as well. Will it be sweet? I say this because the nose presents itself as a whole, rather than (many) distinct aroma’s. Usually this happens when a Rum has sugar added somewhere in the production process. Syrup and it even smells a bit sticky. Corn syrup with a refreshing vegetal note and some more fresh oak and an unexpected peppery note. More spices show themselves as well as wood and even some slightly scorched wood. Well integrated red fruit notes, like children’s lemonade. So again, I fear the sweetness this might have. Not very complex yet well-balanced.

Taste: Initially, and luckily, not as sweet as I feared, although it does taste sugary. It has some sweetness, and that may very well be (in part) added. Is it a problem? No, not really. Right after the sweeter more smooth part, there is a slightly bitter, oaky backbone, which stays around for a while. Some sugared yellow fruits. I struggle a bit to pick up the aroma’s in this, since, like the nose, this Rum presents itself as one whole. So added sugar, it must have. It’s friendly and nice. Simple, but definitely a sipper. I did use this recently to make my first brownies ever, which says more about the other Rums on my lectern than this particular one.

This is considered to be yet another entry-level Rum from Rum Nation and that is what it is. It’s might be rather simple, lacking a bit of complexity if you are a true aficionado. On my lectern this is the Rum I start with. It’s the easiest sipper, it’s good but it is also a bit unadventurous, smooth (usually spells sugar) and actually at times a bit boring as well. Due to a lack of complexity I like to follow this up with the El Dorado 15yo, which has more complexity (and definitely more sugar), but both go together remarkably well. Enough said.

Points: 83

Worthy Park 8yo 2006/2015 (50%, Rum Nation, Pot Still, Oloroso Sherry Finish, Release 2015, L-15-020, Jamaica)

I just finished both bottles from Foursquare, Doorly’s 12yo and Foursquare 9yo Port Finish. Both close connected and although the latter is an exceptional cask selection, I did not really prefer it over the 12yo. Both were (too) easy drinkers @ 40% ABV. After trying whole bottles of both, I have to admit, I also got a bit bored with them, lacking in strength and development in the glass. For me it was clear, both suffered from too much reduction, since the potential was there. Sure, hot, cask strength Rums aren’t for everyone, but for a (sipping) Rum to carry its aroma’s well and excite, I would say 46% (to 50%) ABV is better, if you want to reduce it. Forget about 43%, just skip it and go straight for 46%. Both were enjoyable nevertheless because the Foursquare spirit is a good one, with lots of potential, so I will definitely seek out other expressions of Foursquare in the near future. Preferably cask strength ones, like the official 2004 vintage or one from an independent bottler, because Foursquare is hot these days.

Well, empty bottles calls for replacements, so one of the new ones I picked from my stash is this Rum Nation Jamaica Pot Still Rum 8yo, which, in the shops, has already been replaced by a 5yo expression, again with a Oloroso Sherry finish. Look, here we have a reduced Rum bottled at 50% ABV. I expect a better aroma transport system (ATS). since this seems to me to be the ideal drinking strength for a sipping Rum. With Jamaican Rum being a favourite (style) of mine and this one is seemingly not reduced to death, I expect quite a lot actually. Not sure about the Oloroso finish just yet. It works for Whisky, but we’ll see if that works for this Rum as well.

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Big Jamaican funk shooting out of my glass, bold and eager. Nice dry woody notes and overall it doesn’t come across as very sweet and creamy. Dark chocolate and sandal wood. Images of sand and pan flute music. That’s a good start. Medium cream then and also a bit dusty and yes, a bit alcoholic as well, but that’s what we wanted, right? Hints of a well-integrated acidic wine-note on top. Nutty. It seems to me the Oloroso was matured in European oak. Licorice, toasted cask, black coal and hot asphalt. Wow, I love that! Lots of toffee combined with hidden vegetal notes. Dry leaves and even some burning leaves. Indian spices. Love how this smells. There is and indescribable and extremely appetizing note I recognize from a Cadenheads bottling of Enmore I have. This strikes a chord with me, because that was the first real Rum I bought based on its nose alone. Amazing nose on this Jamaican, where many different aroma’s just switch on and off, all the time.

Taste: Initially quite hot and funky, but that is only a short burst. Vegetal right from the start. Nice beginning with vanilla, toffee, honey and caramel, with the leafy bit in here as well. Cigarette ashes and cinnamon. Not as funky and big as the nose promised though, which is a bit of a shame really, especially after a few seconds. Turns quite dry with a paper-like quality. Less balanced as well. Medium sweet, or even less than that, since the dryness (wood) starts to dominate. Definitely less boring than both Foursquare bottlings mentioned above. Hints of wood sap, soap and blue ink with an additional bitter edge. The body dries out, and the finish is quite short, with hardly anything staying behind in the aftertaste, amazingly. If anything, I would say a small sour note from the Sherry. Character building stuff though. 50% ABV really helps this Rum forward. A shame though, the Jamaican funk got lost in the body and finish of this Rum. Take small sips in short succession to deal with this “problem”.

I understand this got replaced with a similar 5yo. Worthy Park again, as well as the Oloroso finish. It is said that the younger Rum is even more funky, which should be able to deal with the Oloroso finish better. It should also be more typically Jamaican on the palate. I guess this will help the taste reach a better balance, but we’ll have to see how the nose worked out. For me the Oloroso finish on this 8yo worked wonders on the nose, but was maybe a step too far on the taste. Probably the reason to repeat the experiment with a younger, bolder, Rum from the same distillery. Maybe they also tweaked the amount of time of finishing.

Points: 85

Bunnahabhain 8yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail’s Collection, Refill Sherry Butts, Heavily Peated)

Let’s continue with a Margadale. You might have never heard of Margadale, but that is how the heavily peated Bunnahabhain spirit is actually called. Margadale has a peating level between 35 and 40 ppm. Bunnahabhain means “mouth of the river”, now guess the name of the river itself… I would have liked it if they really would have called it Margadale, just like Tobermory and Ledaig. Now, the peated spirit Bunnahabhain produces is called Margadale, but when the spirit becomes Whisky, the bottled peated Bunnahabhain is called Moine. That’s probably a name you have encountered before. Only Berry Brothers & Rudd have once bottled a peated Bunnahabhain with a mention of Margadale. Bunnahabhain used to be an (almost) unpeated Islay Whisky, even the water used didn’t ever flow over peated land, but when the going got tough, aided by some changes in ownership, they started to make peated Whisky as well…

Bunnahabhain 8yo The MacPhails CollectionColor: Straw, light gold.

Nose: Fatty and buttery. Nice Islay peat. Sea breeze, salty and warming, but also with a soft quality to it. Peat, smoke, crushed beetle and tar. Burning newspaper. Hidden sweetness and florality. Effective and typical. Everything is there, but nothing is overpowering the rest. I would say elegant, as far as heavily peated Whiskies can be called elegant. Nice citrussy note, giving some freshness on top of the peat, smoke, tar and saltness. The floral and fruity notes are deeper and heavier and lie more on the bottom, or in the depth of the nose. Balanced and fine. With some more air it dumbs down a bit. Hints of (burning) paper (again), and the fruits come more to the fore. Dried apricots and white grape. Here you can see how the Sherry casks worked. It adds fruit and a nice woody spiciness. It somehow lacks the obvious vanilla you get from American oak Bourbon casks, although most Sherry casks these days are made with American oak as well. Sometimes you could guess its relative youth, but on the other hand, this shows enough complexity to be considered and older Whisky. Good ‘un. Nice distillate.

Taste: Right from the start we get some separation. The aroma’s aren’t very well-integrated. Interesting. Starts off with smoked salt and creamy butter and a nice White Wine acidity. Fatty peat, very fatty and buttery indeed. Licorice, sweet wood and honey sweetness. Sweetness there is, but not your regular white sugar sweetness. Yes runny thin honey it is. All the way through it keeps not integrating well. The acidity is displaced and hangs around too long in the back of my mouth, and the sweetness is trying to get too much to say underneath. Not sure this Sherry is a perfect match for the peated spirit. The more it breathes, the more it actually develops in the wrong way.

Nice stuff at 43% ABV. Sure, in times it is a bit thin, but I have no problem with the reduction. It makes this Islay Whisky very accessible. Don’t let it breathe though. It allows the acidity to develop and hold it hostage. The wood makes the Whisky, but in this case the wood broke the Whisky. It’s not terrible, but especially in the details this Whisky fails a bit.

Points: 80

Millstone 8yo “100 Rye” (50%, OB)

Millstone 100 is a small batch Dutch pot still distilled Rye Whisky (without an extra “e”). This is a review about one of the earlier bottlings, because by now the look is different. The glass bottle is the same, but the label is now black, more in line with the rest of the Millstone Whiskies, although across the line some different shapes of bottles are used. The new black label informs us of the many different guises of the number “100”. The whisky is a minimum of a 100 months old and is bottled at 50% ABV. (The American 100 proof), and the Whisky is made from 100% Rye and only filled into new American oak only (100% again). The use of the American proofing system and the use of American new oak casks makes it obvious what kind of style of Whisky to expect. 100 Rye is made from 49% malted Rye and 51% unmalted Rye.

Zuidam Distillers was founded in 1975 by Fred van Zuidam under the name Baarle International. Earlier, Fred worked some twenty odd years at De Kuijper in Schiedam after which it was time to start for himself. He bought a piece of land in Baarle Nassau and built his distillery there, starting with a range of high quality liqueurs, basing his recipes on the best ingredients he could buy. Next step was the distillation of the traditional Dutch drink: Jenever, the spirit Gin was derived of, both sharing juniper berries as an ingredient. 

Today the distilling is done by Patrick van Zuidam, the son of Fred. Gilbert, the other son is handling the business end of the distillery. Patrick had a passion for Jenever and Korenwijn and from that started experimenting with his dream drink: Whisky, resulting in the Millstone line of Whiskies. By now a lot of Millstone expressions have seen the light of day, of which this 100 Rye is a very succesful one.

Millstone 100 Rye 8yoColor: Copper orange brown.

Nose: Sweetish and thick in its aroma, straying away from the American Rye’s which for ma always have a sort of florality in the nose. This one is very clean and closer to a fruity nose. Initially maybe even sweet, with a lot of wood influence. Pencil shavings. The wood is easy and in no way overpowering. Small hint of soap. Well integrated aroma’s, but not very complex. The thick aroma from the starts dissipates a bit and dries out the whole, but memories of it come in and out. If smelled for a prolonged time, it reminds me a bit of Rum, or Rhum Acricole. Dry Rum obviously, including hints of red fruits and a fresh citrussy note. Lime and some delayed mint. Deep and fruity altogether.

Taste: Starts with wood and some sugary sweetness. Quite hot on entry with a nice bite. Here a little soapy florality is present. Rye it is then! Nice dusty wood. Sawdust and nuts. For those of you that also have tasted Patrick’s Jenevers and Korenwijn, there is some of that in here too, unmistakable. For me this Whisky has a special effect as well. After the big body, the finish seems a bit weak at first, but after that a bigger aftertaste emerges. And a very tasty aftertaste it is, with some sweet orange, nice. Over time the finish grows bigger too. This Whisky need some time to breathe to grow a bigger finish, but I have to say that more air also hurts the balance a bit, since the dryness and the wood really take over and the florality stays soapy.

Ain’t this something. It has hints of Jenever and Korenwijn, smells a bit like a Rum, but is a Rye Whisky with quite some evolution over time. Well done, I have to try a newer bottling to see if Patrick has dealt with the soapy florality, then again, maybe it’s just me.

Points: 81

Jim Beam “Black” 8yo (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

Jim Beam white was my first Bourbon ever, in fact is was my first Whiskey ever! Especially for the money I always considered the bulk produced White quite decent. Later in my “career” I bought this Black label, which looks more serious and brooding. Just like a bride stands out next to the Terminator. This used to be 8yo, and it said so on the label, but todays version became a NAS. I don’t think it got much younger, but this way, I guess, the company has the possibility to mix in some 6yo and 7yo Whiskies.

Jim Beam BlackColor: Light copper orange.

Nose: Honey, and lots of it. Nice creamy wood. Vanilla. Very friendly and appetizing. Whiffs of burning newspaper, and sometimes a tiny, tiny whiff of fireworks. Toasted cask, but again, not much. The honey never takes a step back, its omnipresent. The more time you are able to give this the more the wood comes to the front. At twice the age of the “White” that should hardly come as a surprise. Well balanced stuff. Still, after the wood, caramel and toffee show themselves more as well as some white pepper and some, wait for it… rural organics. This is pretty good, considering the price and the industrial amounts that are made of this.

Taste: Quite light. Floral. Honey again. After a short delay that warm honey runs down my throat, quickly turning into slightly burnt sugar and oak. Very friendly and not the big hitter the label seems to promise. Definitely family of the White label, with more of everything, just maintaining the friendliness of it all. Extremely easily drinkable. Creamy vanilla and honey again. Quite sweet and lovely, with nice woody characteristics. Oak stays behind after you swallow. Not very complex, but very well-balanced. Especially when given some air and time. Mellow stuff.

The profile of Jim Beam Black fits that of Evan Williams Single Barrel, but half the price. I have to say I don’t know how a more recent “Black” will perform, but this 2004 bottling performs just nicely. Compared to Binny’s Buffalo Trace, the “Black” has way more honey, and seems soapier, which is something I haven’t picked up on, trying it by itself. The Buffalo Trace is more strict and in a way more fruity and even better balanced. I guess now it becomes a comparison of yeast strains. Jim being more floral and the Buffalo being more fruity.

Points: 80