Evan Williams 9yo 2000/2010 (43.3%, OB, Single Barrel #379)

Sometimes Master Quill tends to repeat himself, well, not really this time. Yes, In the fall of 2015, The Master did do a review of an Evan Williams Single Barrel bottling, and now here is yet another, but not a repetition, because luckily this “new” one is from a different vintage. The former review was this spicy 2003 vintage and this time we’ll have a go at a 2000 vintage. Is older better? I understand that the mash-bill for Evan Williams Single Barrel looks something like this: 78% corn, 12% barley and 10% rye. Lots of corn and not a lot of rye in this mash-bill. The “vintage” range already saw the light of day in 1986, so with this 2000 expression, Heaven Hill already had some 15 years of experience bottling this. So without further ado: take it away Evan, ehhh Master, ehhh Quill. Nevermind. Go, just take it away…

Color: Light orange brown.

Nose: Wood, lots of fresh cut oak. Perfumy. Sweetish and even more floral. Wood driven, but with lots going for it. Balanced and likeable. Greener notes come next, some hay and grass, oak and latex wall paint. More cuttings from the garden and after a while some more fruity notes appear. Slightly acidic and fresh, only adding to the balance. Hints of toffee and caramel. Excellent nose if you ask me. One moment fresh and lively and the next, deeper and more brooding. Definitely some Rye in here, but less so than expected, even though I didn’t expect a lot. After some more breathing, honey notes come forward. Smelling this after some sipping only enhance the honey notes that were almost absent from the start. Interesting.

Taste: On first entry, a bit thin to be honest. I prefer Bourbons at high strength, because especially Bourbons release their intricate aroma’s better at a higher proof. That said, this Single barrel smells very good and is definitely interesting (there is that word again), even when you like your Scotch Whiskies. Another sip. Well, this does the trick, beyond the low proof, some nice aroma’s emerge. Wood, latex paint again. Honey, hints of toasted oak and a tiny hint of leather. Definitely not as sweet as I would imagine, even though this Bourbon saw lots of corn. A slightly bitter note comes next, oak, tree sap, wax. The finish has less length than the nose and is also less complex. medium at best (and it has paper notes). Today the bitterness has some staying power which was less so on other days, so it depends on the taster (as always), time of day and the moment trying it. Aftertaste somewhat indistinct, so it definitely suffers from reduction to 43.3% ABV. Nope, in the taste department, this turns out to be much simpler than the nose promised.

For a nice evening with some Bourbons this is the starter. Well priced, and interesting, but I prefer other, (higher strength) Bourbons more. Compared to the earlier review, this 2000 example is softer (weaker is maybe a better word this time around) and less spicy, and also is lacking the licorice and cherry notes of the 2003. The 2003 is definitely a step up from the 2000. So yes, the date makes a difference. So choose your single cask vintage Evan Williams wisely!

Points: 81

Macallan 9yo 1999/2008 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt, for Van Wees, First Fill Sherry Hogshead #12378)

Wow, look at his colour! I’ll explain shortly what I mean. Also, unusually dark for a Speymalt from this vintage. For those of you who don’t know, here we have an independently bottled Macallan. Maybe this is the way to go for the non-millionaires amongst us, since the owners of Macallan seem to have gone completely over-the-top bonkers with the “brand”, super premiumizing it, crystallizing the bottles, teletubbying the distillery and… well you know what I mean. Let’s shy away from the marketing and focus on quality then. The quality of Macallan’s distillate, the quality of what we’re getting, putting this quality distillate in a quality Sherry cask the good people of Gordon & MacPhail provided for this distillate and reviewing this drinkers’ Macallan…

Color: Vibrant mahogany! No it’s not just orange-brown, it’s mahogany, and it’s only mahogany when it has this redness to it, a red flame if you wish.

Nose: Restrained for a short while. Wonderful Sherry and woody notes. Ever so slightly waxy and also fresh and airy. Milk chocolate, with a tiny hint of smoke, which most likely came into the mix from the burnt insides of the cask. Next, some pencil shavings. Smells fantastic. Quality Sherry cask. Classic Macallan. Not a lot of vanilla, so, I’m hardly guessing, this was matured in european oak, although I do pick up on a slightly creamy note as well. Hard to explain why, but this smells luxurious, elegant and perfumy. Reminiscent of the great Macallans from earlier decades. Remember the times before Fine Oak, and all the stuff that came after that. Remember the days of, “…which science can’t wholly explain…”? Elegant and fruity and in no way, harsh nor overpowered by the first fill Sherry. Not cloying nor heavy. Excellent cask.

Taste: Smoky and slightly tarry. Black coal. Thin honey, yet not a lot of vanilla sweetness. Initially very, very nice. Reminds me of the Macallans, Strathisla’s and Longmorn’s, when Gordon & MacPhail bottles still had screw caps and were bottled @ 40% ABV. (…and still had enough power)! The body is about Sherry and wood, beautiful spicy, and perfumy, wood, and shows a little bit of nice woody bitterness as well. Soft and silky bitterness, which adds to the overall flavour of the Whisky. Quite fruity and almost drinks like red fruit lemonade. Nice notes of mocha and coffee with milk. Rather short finish though. This is where the relative youth comes in, but I don’t think this should have stayed in cask longer. First fill Sherry can be a brutal thing! Short bursts of warming and red fruity notes. And the aftertaste lingers longer than the finish was. Again classic style.

On the other hand, maybe, this could have stayed in cask longer, since in no way it is overoaked. The flavours could have been more powerful, and the cask itself seems very elegant and good. Or maybe it should have been bottled at cask strength, who knows. This might have had some more to it in the end. For me the best bit of this Whisky is the start, when you take a sip and keep it in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Nice woody and licorice notes start emerging that way. Tar and coal. Wonderful stuff. Tiny hint of the typical acidity from rather new oak, which is a different note from fruity acidity, mind you.

The ABV, is slightly higher than the regular expression of the Speymalt from 1999/2008 which was bottled @43% ABV. Darker as well. Still it manages to come across a bit thin. Would it be too harsh at cask strength or is it an economical move by Van Wees? As in, if you dilute it with water you get more bottles from the hoggie? Probably not since it’s a Speymalt. All things considered, this is a classic Macallan. Wonderful stuff. Sure, maybe more could have come from this, maybe not, but I’d still get it as it is. Most definitely I would. Much better than many, and I mean, many modern Macallans, bottled by the (owners of the) distillery themselves. Highly drinkable, so a bottle of this wouldn’t last long…

Points: 89

Highland Park Week – Day 5: Highland Park 9yo 1988/1997 (59.6%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #10700, 630 bottles)

Lets backup in time even some more. We stay in the land of the independent bottler, this time Signatory Vintage. We are going to take a look at another Highland Park matured in a Sherry cask, a butt even. This one is an even younger example at 9 years of age. The G&M/Whisky Mercenary bottling was 20yo, The Wilson & Morgan was around 14yo, and this Signatory Vintage bottling is a mere 9yo. Highly unusual back then, not so unusual today, since demand has risen dramatically. There is no time anymore to age the bulk of Whisky when there are so much of you around, dear readers. We’ll also go back in time bit since this was distilled in 1988. That is almost 30 years ago!

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, but this time with some quality behind it. Meaty and buttery as well, with some nice distant fruit going on. Dusty mocha and milk-chocolate. Dark chocolate as well. Steam, sowing-machine oil. Clean toilet notes, not to be mistaken by a freshly cleaned toilet odour. I know this sounds pretty peculiar, but I get it in this, so I couldn’t help myself and had to write it down. Deeper and more brooding. Probably Oloroso. Cedar wood with an oriental spice-mix and pencil shavings. Even though it is a young Whisky, it already smells like something from another era. Christmas spices. Christmas cake. Dusty and very thick. luxury and velvety, just like the box. The more it breathes the better is gets, give it lots of room for development. A much better Sherry cask than the one, the 1992 Wilson & Morgan expression matured in. After this, forget about that one.

Taste: Well this is almost 60% ABV and that shows. Its big, thick and a bit hot, but also very fruity (meaty blueberries), and amazingly pretty woody as well, but not too much. Luckily it also has some toffee sweetness to it, to balance it all out. Steam and coal. You are conned, by the initial sip, this is going to be sweet, but the sweetness is shoved aside by bullying tannins and Italian laurel licorice. I’m guessing this came from a first fill Oloroso butt, which impaired enough onto this Whisky, so it could be used as a very nice refill cask the second time around. Long oaky finish, with an even longer aftertaste full of black fruits and (cedar) wood. It isn’t all that complex, but when a Whisky is as tasty as this, it doesn’t need to be. It’s only 9yo, but it is bottled at the right time, believe me. Probably Oloroso, but Cream Sherry or PX might be possible as well.

Ohhh, I want one of these. 1988, wow, 9yo, wow-wow. This in my glass and some 80’s music, and I’d have a great day.

Points: 90

Foursquare 9yo Port Cask Finish (40%, R.L. Seale, Foursquare, Blend No. 162, Exceptional Cask Selection, 2014, Barbados

I had planned to open a bottle of Plantation St. Lucia Rum after I finished both the Plantation Jamaica and Guyana, but after the Doorly’s 12yo I reviewed last, I just had to open a bottle of the Port Cask Finish as well. I just couldn’t help myself, I was so curious, especially after all the rave reviews. The St. Lucia just will have to wait a little longer. Port cask finish? The Rum is 9 years old, of which the “finish” took a whopping 6 years. The start was carried out in a Bourbon cask.

But first we have to get back to 1926. Back then, Reginald Leon Seale started the R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd. A company that is of interest to us since it was trading Rums. Sir David and now his son Richard are the Seale’s that also started distilling their own Rums in 1996 after they bought a defunct sugar factory a year earlier. Simply because it is better to trade Rum you made yourself, than constantly sourcing other Rum’s.

Although Foursquare is a Bajan Rum distillery, molasses are mainly imported from Guyana and the yeast used for fermentation is South-African. Foursquare Rums are blended from a pot still and a two (or three?) column stills. The copper pot still even has a copper column fitted on top, which looks funny for one that is used to Pot Stills with lyne arms on them.

ColoFoursquare Port Cask Finishr: Orange gold. A tiny fraction darker than the Doorly’s 12yo. No red hue.

Nose: Toffee and caramel. Fresh wood, sappy and spicy. A breeze across a dry grass field on a hot and silent summer’s day. Distant fruit (more red this time) and a definite winey note, with slightly burned wine cask notes). On top of the medium sweetness lies a nice acidic red fruit aroma which is different from the 10% Madeira (a sweet fortified white wine) you can find in Doorly’s 12yo. The fruit is redder. The is also a nice nuttiness and dustiness surrounding this Rum, which mixes well with the medium sweetness and (red) fruity acidity. This Rum isn’t about finding lots of aroma’s and complexity. No, this one shines because of its balance. Well constructed, but is a bit middle of the road. It does its best to be liked by everyone. Although the label is pretty anorak, it really is a Rum for everybody, hence the reduction to 40% ABV. Luckily this Rum can handle the reduction, at least on the nose.

Taste: Ahhh here is the greatness. Spicy Indian feel, Cinnamon and exotic wood. This reminds me a bit of an Amrut I reviewed last. It’s still Rum by the way. Even though six of the nine years this was matured, was spent in Port casks, it hasn’t become Port of even Port dominated, but obviously the Port impaired some nice flavours to the Rum. I recognize the nuttiness and the hint of glue from the 12yo (the 12yo has more glue). Wow, amazing balance between the sweet and the dry. It is actually more dry than sweet, influence of the wood of both casks, again a bit virgin oaky, but the wood doesn’t dominate here as it does in the 12yo. Slightly longer finish than the 12yo, but still not very long. The Port starts to really assert itself way into the aftertaste, with the wood of the cask it came in. Nice fruity acidity. Very accessible and extremely drinkable.

This one is younger than the Doorly’s 12yo and therefore less heavy on the wood aroma’s. It seems perfect. Enough to give it character and a backbone, but never dominating the spirit like in the Doorly’s 12yo. Having this, it’s nice to have the woody 12yo open next to it. Personally I don’t have a problem with the wood in the 12yo. It fits the profile Richard went for blending the 12yo.

Highly drinkable, and well made. Not as complex as I expected, but good nevertheless. Again a bottle that will be gone soon I fear. 40%, yeah all right, it will do, but I would prefer a higher ABV. I understand the next Exceptional Cask Selection, The Zinfandel finish is 43% ABV and there will be a Vintage 2004 that will be much higher. I can’t wait. Good stuff especially considering the price. Daily sippers (at 40% ABV), both the Port finish as well as the Doorly’s 12yo, which is a bit more chewy, woody and somewhat sweeter and imho a bit bolder. I did several H2H’s with both and sometimes it’s hard to pick a favorite. Both are equally good. On some days I prefer the 12yo, and on others I like the Port better.

Points: 83

Heaven Hill 9yo (61.5%, Cadenhead, Individual Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 192 bottles, 2006)

All that talk about soapy florality in the Millstone “100 Rye”, made me remember this bottle of Heaven Hill bottled by Cadenhead. Actually this is a very interesting bottle since it is from Heaven Hill’s previous distillery. Heaven Hill Bardstown FireThe Heaven Hill distillery was located in Bardstown (DSP-KY-31) and it burned down on the 7th of november 1996. With the distillery, also 7 of the 44 warehouses were destroyed by the fire, containing some 90.000 casks. Even the water supply caught on fire. Since this bottle is 9 years old and bottled in may 2006, it is distilled somewhere between may 1996 and may 1997. The new distillery, Heaven Hill bought, is the former Bernhem distillery (DSP-KY-1), which is located in Louisville. The Cadenheads label clearly states that the distilling was done in Bardstown, so this means that this particular bottle is yielded from a single cask that was filled just before the fire and somehow managed to survive the fire, assuming it was ageing on site. One question thus remains, is this Bourbon going to be smoky or did it sleep through the fire?

Heaven Hill 9yo (61.5%, Cadenhead, Individual Cask, Bourbon Barrel, 192 bottles, 2006)Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Initially very floral, but that somehow manages to escape. Typically high Rye mashbill florality, or is it wheat, since this does remind me quite a bit of the very special Old Fitzgerald 12yo, also distilled by Heaven Hill. Otherwise not very “big” but soft and dry, dusty even. Caramel. Toasted cask. Hints of gravy and toffee. Soft oak and a bit sweet. Promises some sort of chewiness. Pretty is probably a good word for it. Give it some time, or better, al lot of time to breathe the more classic notes emerge, like honey, which finally defines the sweetness. The honey is well-integrated with the woody nose. Burnt wood yes (cask toast), but not smoky.

Taste: Quite a woody bite and there you have it, quite the soapy, floral Rye experience. A lot of flowers pass over my tongue. Lilac, lily-of-the-valley, lavender and tulips. Wow I never got this before! Grannies laundry. Very unusual stuff. The florality disappears down my throat, leaving me with a less floral finish than I initially thought. The aftertaste is more centered around a burnt toffee and creamy soft caramel, wood and soft leather. Only a mere hint of florality. Very unique and layered Bourbon. Never tried anything like this before. Even the most floral Four Roses, is not as floral as this. This one needs some time to develop and definitely needs time get used to. In no way is it a bad Bourbon though, but this will never be your average daily drinker stuff. Very educational. I’m pleased I came across this one.

Again a very good reminder that many Whiskies, whichever kind, need time and air to breathe and compose themselves. A lot is said about using water with Whisky, but air is just as important as water. I prefer giving Whisky some time. Maybe I should be starting to decant my Whiskies some more?

Points: 82

Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 “Port Wood Finish” (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #99/48 1.2, 2600 bottles)

Back to some Whisky. This time around we’ll have a look at a distillery not only closed, but also torn down and already replaced. That happened quickly. In 2012 Imperial ceased to exist and just a few years later a new distillery was finished occupying the same very site. Many have thought that the new distillery would be called Imperial as well, when in fact it is called Dalmunach after a nearby pool of the river Spey. Imperial wasn’t hugely popular as a Whisky hence the new name maybe, but Pernod Ricard (the owners) never ceases to amaze us, by installing new stills replicating those of Imperial. Well in some time we can taste the replicated taste of Imperial, but for the time being let’s taste the original, shall we?

Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #9948 1.2, 2600 bottles)Color: Full gold with a slight pinkish hue.

Nose: Winey and candied red fruits. Easily recognizable as a Port finish. Barley, paper. New oak and some pencil shavings. Fresh-air notes, with some sugary sweetness following suit. Nice creamy vanilla mixed with fruity acidity. Typical American oak (the cask it was in before it was finished) but also some sandal wood. The Port integrated well and is used well. In those days experiments with Port finishes often went wrong since the Whisky was left in the Port cask for too long. The whole however is pretty simple and young. What you smell is what you get. Don’t expect a lot of development, if any, but keep in mind that even with the Finish, this Whisky is only 9 years old. Fruity Whisky. Smells nice. ’nuff said.

Taste: Sweet creamy vanilla and candy sweetness. Hard raspberry candy and sugar. A chunk of toffee, molten ice-cream and nice toasted cask that gives it a back bone. Milk-chocolate. Actually pretty tasty. You can taste the potential harshness of the Port. Winey yes, a bit, followed by a somewhat burnt synthetic aroma. The slightly burnt note from the Port cask stays around. If this was finished much longer it would have been over the top. It was arrested in its development just in time, which was quite unusual in those days, but I may have said that already didn’t I? Soft, smooth and tasty young stuff with a pronounced weakness in the finish-department.

Simple yet well tasting stuff. If only the finish would have been stronger. I mean the finish of the Whisky itself, not the Port finish. Still, even for a Port finish from the start of the new millennium, there is nothing wrong with this. Buy a bottle of this and expect it to be empty quickly. This time also nothing wrong with the low ABV of 40%. A higher ABV may have lengthened the finish a bit, but I’m OK with it as is…

Points: 81

Clément 9yo 2002/2012 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (46.8%, Bourbon Cask #20070077, 100% Canne Bleue, 587 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

After the excellent offerings from J.M it would be a blasphemy not to recognize Homère Clément, the godfather of Rhum Agricole on Martinique. In 1917 Homère started his distillery on the domaine he acquired in 1887. With the death 0f Homère in 1923, the property with its distillery is taken over by Charles Clément. Charles started making Rhum under the Clément Brand in 1940. The Cléments were already making Rhum for about ten years but under the brand name of the domaine itself: Rhum du Domaine d’Acajou. Charles died in 1973 and the next generation Clément is taking over. It is the generation of George and Jean-Louis-José Clément who saved J.M from bankruptcy but don’t interfere with its Rhum making and management. Investing in the property and distillery, to allow the people behind J.M to make the best Rhum possible.

From Clément’s prestige range comes this single barrel. This “100% Canne Bleue”, non filtré is the first of two single barrel releases. Canne bleue is a cane variety that, apart for its blue color, is known to be the best sugar cane variety for producing Rhum Agricole. Not so long ago a second version in this series saw the light of day, called “Vanille Intense”. Not to be mistaken for a spiced Rhum. No vanilla and/or vanillin was added. Only casks were selected that had the natural potential of releasing slightly more than usual amounts of vanillin from the American oak, as opposed to European oak, which tends to release more tannins.

Clément 9yo 2002/2012 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (46.8%, OB, Bourbon Cask #20070077, 100% Canne Bleue, 587 bottles, Martinique)Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Fresh and smells of new wood. Also a leafy, plant-like quality. Caramel. Big, hefty aroma, sometimes a whiff of this reminds me of Jamaican high ester Rum, although the whole profile is quite different from that. In the distance even a red fruity aroma. Mostly berries. Burnt sugar with hints of spicy White Wine. Gewürztraminer. Sweet spices. Oregano and to a lesser extent thyme. Toned down vanilla ice-cream.

Taste: A very nice subdued sweetness. It’s like the sweetness has depth in part because its burnt sugar. Milk chocolate, some vanilla and a hint of a paper-like quality, cardboard, cola and lots of cask toast. Just like a great wine, this Rhum Agricole has perfect balance between the sweetness and acidity. The sweet is obvious, the acidity is from the oak. Just like the nose it has this great woody flavour, without it being too sappy or bitter, although the bitterness that is there stays on well into the finish, and even the hoppy aftertaste. The finish is long and has a tiny amount of soapiness to it as well as a bit of red berries and the burnt sugar. The burnt sugar retreats and lets a more creamy and toffeed layer take over for the aftertaste.

It’s really amazing how much color this Rhum Agricole got from only nine years in a Bourbon barrel. It looks like a stunning dark brown Rhum. That must have been very active casks. This is good stuff. Big aroma, big body, long finish. For some a bit too much of the burnt wood and sugar notes, but it comes with the territory. Good ‘un this is. Usually more is more, but I somehow do like the 50 cl size of this. It’s easier that way to get another “100% Canne Bleue” single cask, from a different cask naturally, for comparison. This is a big one. The J.M 2002 shouldn’t be tasted right after this.

Points: 87