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

Borgoe 8yo “Grand Reserve” (40%, Suriname)

Borgoe is one of a few (Rum) brands of Suriname Alcoholic Beverages (SAB for short). Other Rum’s made by SAB are Mariënburg and Black Cat. Both are White Rums. SAB is foremost a producer of Rum, but also some Vodka is made. Besides this, SAB also functions as an importer of several foreign “alcoholic beverages”. SAB was founded in 1966, but its predecessor was founded in 1882 as the “Suikeronderneming Mariënburg” and today is one of the most succesful enterprises of the country. To commemorate its 40th year of existence, the 8yo Borgoe was released in 2006. Borgoe 8yo has fully aged in American oak barrels straight from Kentucky.

Borgoe 8yo Grand Reserve (40%, OB, Suriname)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Nicely sugared, hints of fruit and full on aroma, that leaps out of my glass. Lively and leathery. Sunny and happy, this want to be drunk (pun intended). Heavy fruit syrup and elegant wood. The heavy nose is not always sweet, It has its dry spells. After a while, the wood starts to play a bigger role, but foremost a sort of vanilla powder, locked into the woody backbone is present. Wet warm cotton with a meaty twist to it. Powdered coffee creamer. Sometimes the heavy aroma retreats and it allows some notes of black tea and licorice to escape from the glass. When this happens, the fruit takes a back-seat as well and a more floral note appears, honeysuckle, so not typically flowery-floral. Sawdust, new wood, not particularly an oak aroma though, and a tiny hint of ashes. Even though I used many words up ’till now to describe the nose, I wouldn’t say it’s as complex as it seems. Medium complexity it is then, but, there is evolution in the nose. The sweetness retreats even more, the “wood”, played its part and now a more plant-like aroma emerges. Dried and fresh. It’s a more overall feel, so hard to pin anything down, although lavas seems to be one of them, as well as italian laurel (licorice). Funky.

Taste: Caramel, wood, burnt sugar and toffee, but the sweetness speeds down my throat, and a more watery episode follows. In that watery, and thus, thin episode, the licorice from the nose pops up. Sugar water with toffee aided by a wooded note, nothing more really. The nose presents itself as syrupy and heavy, but the taste and especially the mouthfeel is not. Definitely getting more oaky now, but not fat succulent old oak, but a younger type of oak, young, fresh and slightly acidic. Tree sap. Quite a short finish, also slightly unbalanced. Overall it tastes nice, but quickly gone. The, slightly bitter, Italian laurel licorice really shines in the aftertaste.

Tasty stuff that could have been more like a Pussers or Demerara style of Rum, judging by the nose alone. It isn’t, and maybe it shouldn’t. Where in Demerara the nose, the taste and the body are heavy, here it comes across as too much reduced, where some aroma’s even seem to be stripped, thus missing some complexity. I can’t explain that. The watery part is obvious, but missing something from the body is a first for me. Still, it’s a nice sipper, easy-going and easy drinkable. Although it looks like a premium Rum, it drinks like a daily drinker, a sipper, not a mixer. But for the money I expected a more complex Rum. Nevertheless, good stuff, so no cause for alarm, although I feel SAB can still improve on this Borgoe Grand Reserve, and turn it into a really good Rum.

Points: 80

Glentauchers 8yo 2005/2013 (46%, Dewar Rattray, For the Specialist’s Choice The Netherlands, Sherry Puncheon #900389, 403 bottles)

We are now in the middle of the rise of NAS Whiskies and very soon most Whiskies in our regular shops will have a names instead of a number or a vintage even. Whiskies that do have an age statement will be confined to airports and other travel retail outlets. But that’s only one of a few possible futures. What will happen to the Independent bottlers? Will they have a way to survive. Today many of them are capable of releasing pretty good Whiskies, although mediocrity is creeping into their products as well. How long will casks of Whisky be available to them? Are we going to see only affordable yet young Whisky from them as we already see with NAS Whiskies from the distilleries themselves. After the Ledaig I reviewed last, here we have another young Whisky coming from a Sherry cask. Glentauchers this time. Earlier I reviewed an older Glentauchers. also from a Sherry cask that was pretty good to say the least…

Glentauchers 8yo 2005/2013 (46%, Dewar Rattray, For the Specialist's Choice The Netherlands, Sherry Puncheon #900389, 403 bottles)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Sherried, creamy and fresh. Herbal and woody. Nice creamy oak, yes creamy oak. Fruity candy. Very likeable. Powdered. Quite a lot of vanilla. It really smells like a Sherry cask made with American oak.

Taste: Creamy and funky Sherry. Real acidic fruitiness right from the start. The creaminess and fruitiness don’t necessarily mix together well, especially when a paper-like note appears. In time that strange mixture passes and reveals more sweetness with the vanilla coming back here too. Paper and cardboard make up the finish, but not by itself. Notes from wood, mocha, Cappuchino, cigar box and creamy vanilla are also here to stay but mainly the fruity acidity returns with a vengeance. Whisky candy. Do you know those fruity gello’s in dark chocolate. That kind of fruity acidity contrasted by sweet dark chocolate. Accept this and you’ll be ok. Interesting stuff.

Although this has some flaws, it is also highly drinkable. This may not fetch the highest score, but it most certainly is nice to drink. Don’t analyze this to death, just grab it for the fun of it. Make it your daily drinker. I often rant a bit about reducing Whiskies, because sometimes the reduction makes the Whisky thin and watery. This time however I will hold my tongue, since I don’t feel reduction hurt the final product. It is good like this. I’ll stop now and pour myself another dram.

Points: 84

Glen Moray 8yo (40%, OB, Circa 2013)

After almost two years’ time another Glen Moray graces these pages. Glen Moray used to be the poor Whisky that was used as a guinea pig for Whisky experiments by Dr. Lumsden. Sounds like a horror story doesn’t it? Bill probably is a nice guy and poor old Glen Moray was sold off in 2008 to stand on it’s own. The Glen Moray we’ll be focussing on this time is a Glen Moray 8yo. This Whsiky is a very cheap Single Malt Whisky. Cheap sounds a bit harsh, so lets say this Glen Moray costs next to nothing or is inexpensive. Can it still be good?

Glen  Moray 8 yoColor: White wine

Nose: Malty! Yes lots of malted barley on its nose, and like the Macallan 10yo I reviewed earlier, this is pretty sweet. It even has some spices. Dried grass and crushed beetles. Cardboard and very young smelling. It’s barley spirit with a little bit of vanilla and some sugar.

Taste: Barley again and even a little bit peppery. Also the sweetness comes through. Obviously un-complex, but very honest tasting. This Whisky probably hasn’t seen the inside of a Sherry cask, but compared to the aforementioned Macallan, that’s no problem. Even the finish seems longer than the Macallan had, but it’s still short.

Nothing to brag about. This is an extremely simple Single Malt Whisky, but it does come with an extremely simple price-tag. Barley, sweet and typical refill Bourbon cask matured young Whisky, nothing more. What you expect is what you get, the only thing not expected was the hint of pepper in the taste.

Points: 77

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)

Craigellachie was founded in 1891 and designed by Charles Doig. The first spirit is distilled not earlier than in 1898. Smooth sailing from there, with some minor changes in ownership. In 1964 the distillery is hauled over and the stills are doubled taking them from two to four. In 1998 Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla are sold by UDV (now Diageo) to Bacardi (Martini). Its closest neighbour is The Macallan.

More than two years ago I reviewed one of my own bottles a Craigellachie that was distilled in 1982. Today we’ll have another go at Craigellachie and this time one that was distilled 20 odd years later. The Craigellachie at hand is a mere 8 years old, and was matured in a Sherry Butt.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Malty and quite sweet-smelling. Hot sugar solution. Toffee, caramel and most definitely some vanilla (American oak?). Also a hint of mint and some elegant (old) oak. Next to that some fresh air and herbal traits. Dried grass. The wood changes a little into the smell you get when you are sharpening a pencil, but also cask toast. Probably a Refill Butt that once held Fino Sherry. The sweetness that was there in the beginning dissipates a bit to let those woody and drier notes to display themselves some more. After a while a hint of licorice and lemon curd.

Taste: Malty again, and somehow it doesn’t taste ready, not as balanced as the nose is. It is underway yet not finished. Small bitterness and also some paint notes. The maltiness and oak hide the sweetness that is absolutely there. Butter cake and a touch of honey. Given some time the sweetness emerges better but the whole gets more balanced by a creamy note and milk chocolate. The finish is quite long and adds a bitter burnt note that wasn’t there before. It adds to the character and balances the (late) sweetness. Interesting.

I usually wine that a Whisky was reduced too much. This one yielded almost 900 bottles, so this must have been a Whisky that was high in alcohol. It was reduced to 46% ABV, yet it still carries a nice punch and I’m guessing the flavours are better displayed at this strength than it would have been at Cask Strength. Lovely and honest Whisky, easily drinkable and a nice addition to a lot of official bottlings you might own in the same price-range.

Points: 84