Caol Ila 10yo 1996/2006 (57%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #732-735)

Here is an old one from the dungeons of Master Quill’s castle. (Independent) Caol Ila #11, yes another Independently bottled Caol Ila. The eleventh already on these pages, and I have yet to review an official bottling of the stuff. It’s not as if there aren’t any around now, aren’t there. Although it is a sunny day today, the nights are still cold, so no problem whatsoever to pick me another peaty dram. This time we’ll have a look at a Caol Ila bottled by independent bottler Berry Brothers & Rudd. Although it was distilled back in 1996, it is a mere 10 years old. Young Islay Whisky with a healthy ABV. I expect a nice peaty Whisky. I remember a 1996, which was also 10yo, bottled by Cadenhead’s which I liked very much. I have one of those lying around, so if this Caol Ila turns out to be great, maybe I’ll break out that one as well. Or is it time for an OB? Only time will tell.

Color: White Wine, straw.

Nose: Peaty, but in a christmassy way. Dried orange skins with cloves. Spicy. Otherwise clean. Slightly sweet, aromatic, yet light. Soft wood, almost like cardboard. Definitely refill Bourbon, and the color shows for it. Hints of pepper and overall very friendly. I no way does this smell like a Whisky with lots of alcohol or peat. Appetizing. Next the usual suspects when reviewing Whisky aged in refill American oak. Soft wood, butter, creamy and vanilla. Hints of coal and dust. What’s especially nice is the peppery bit. It suits the nose well, pulling it more to the middle, away from too much creaminess or sweetness.

Taste: soft spices, hints of cannabis and crushed beetle. I only got cannabis in some Bunnahabhains up ’till now. Nice balance. Wow, very soft indeed. Creamy and ashy. Here the ashes replaces the pepper from the nose. Nice green notes as well. Even an Islay profile like this, seems to be already gone from modern peated Whiskies. It doesn’t smell like a high ABV. Whisky, but it also doesn’t taste like one. The profile is so soft and warming. The peat is soft as well, so no heavy hitting Islay here. Spicy, green, ashy and now also fruity. There is an acidic note and the fruit closes to the aroma I pick up on is apple. Green apple, but also cooked apple. Apple sauce. However, this Whisky has also a soapy trait, like cold dishwater at the end of the body, well into the finish. This brings the whole down a notch. There is this brief moment I have to “get through” before the finish picks itself up for the very rewarding and warming aftertaste. This Whisky has a summery feel to it. Countryside in the sun, with fruity and floral bits thrown in.

Amazingly soft and totally different from what I expected. No heavy peat, no heavy alcohol, and not big at all, but friendly stuff, with a kind heart. Smells great. This has a lot of nice and almost rare aroma’s to it. It seems like something distilled longer back than 1996. Yes I’ve got it, this is a melancholic Whisky, which is able to move you, when remembering the carefree good ol’ days…

Points: 85

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Tobermory 1995/2006 (55.6%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #744)

The last Tobermory I reviewed was one of the stellar 32yo’s that have quite a reputation. How to follow-up on one of those? Today we’ll be looking at and independently bottled Tobermory. The bottler being Berry Brothers & Rudd and the year of distillation 1995. Tobermory has a rocky past and for a while even was converted into a power station. The reputation of the distillate was even shakier. In the past this stuff could really be hit or miss, so not something you would buy untasted. It could be really bad and funky, strange even. On the other hand, if it was good it could be really good, surpassing most other Whiskies, so the potential is there. Today that reputation is different. Tobermory and Ledaig are getting better by the year, and every new release is something that interests me a lot. Still no easy Malt, but if you get it, you’ll get it. In the day where everything starts to taste a bit similar and official bottlings are becoming younger and NAS-ser, an independently bottled Tobermory or Ledaig could very well be your best choice. At least it often is different from the rest. What more could you want these days?

Tobermory 744Color: White wine.

Nose: Heaps of barley. Damp hay. Citrussy fresh. Lowland style. Lemon grass, lemon curd, all kinds of sweet lemon, without being overly present and thus overly acidic. Hints of new-made spirit even. Old vanilla. Very light. Hints of a salty sea breeze. Very light peat as well. Smells chewy. Sappy, spicy, fragrant and vegetal wood in the background. Garden bonfire, burning off some dry grass. The initial barley note wears out, for a more coherent smell. I’m not sure if this is perfectly made Whisky, but after I got used to the Bladnoch 8yo I reviewed earlier, I seem to like this one as well. Just like the Bladnoch, this profile grows on me.

Taste: Very sweet entry. Sugary sweet. Sweet barley. Most definitely some hints of Grappa. Toffee, but also a sharper and drier element. All sorts of lemon again, combined with toffee and some dry wood. Otherwise not very fruity. A plethora of different dry grasses. Fatty and hints of cold dish water you forgot. Faint soapyness, like the paper wrapper that came off a bar of soap years ago.

Excellent entry and body, aided by this very typical profile. Nice stuff. The finish is not so strong and concentrates around two or three distinct markers from the body. Slightly soapy barley, wood and paper. As well as a tiny bitter note. The sweetness is gone, although hints of toffee reappear in the aftertaste.

Not a very easy Malt, but definitely one you would like to try, since it is different from many other malts. Quite the learning experience, because it’s almost like an unpeated, peated Malt. It’s how a peated Malt could be underneath. Although this is also no Lowlander, it is nice to have since it has a second face as a Lowlander. True Lowlanders like Rosebank and others are becoming more and more scarce and expensive. Besides this Tobermory, I hope for a bright future for Bladnoch as well, but if not, try something like this before the profile becomes extinct.

Points: 85

The Michael Jackson Special Blend (43%, Whisky Magazine & Berry Bros. & Rudd, 1.000 bottles, 2009)

The late Michael Jackson, born 27th of March, 1942, was a writer who was mainly known for writing about Beer and later in his career about Whisky. Like many Whisky aficionado’s or anoraks, his Malt Whisky Companion was my first book on the topic. Michael JacksonNot a lot of books like that existed back then, and it opened a world for me. I almost wore the book out. In hindsight I liked his book on Belgian Beers better, due to its thorough research and obvious love and passion for the subject. The Whisky Companion itself started to gather some dust since a lot of the scores in the book weren’t very realistic to say the least. Just look at the scores for the Macallan Traveller Series to name but four. In 2009, the Whisky Magazine and Berry Bros & Rudd blended the remains of his collection of open bottles together and other Whisky was added to “correct” the result. A proportion of the profits raised with this bottling was donated to The Parkinson’s Disease Society, an illness Michael suffered from, for more than a decade.

The Michael Jackson Special BlendColor: Dark Gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, quite dark and brooding. Sweet tea, wax and lots of cask toast and (burnt) caramel. Slightly rotting apples and other creamy fruits. Hints of smoke and rubber tires. Quite special and waxy. Lots of wood, caramel and toffee, but also a fresher, more fruity side. Sweet grain. I have to say I quite like the way this smells. This must have some pretty high quality and old components. Vanilla with pencil shavings and slightly animalesk (probably a non-existent word). Meaty and flowery. It seems endless. Very nice nose.

Taste: Spicy and woody, licorice, but also quite sweet. Very aromatic. Right off the bat, a tad too low in ABV. This probably would have been better at 46% ABV if possible. I guess the sweetness comes from some younger (grain) whisky used to balance the whole out. Pretty fruity but also hints of paper and cardboard. Spicy and a bit dusty. Hints of mint from toothpaste. Very easily drinkable. Toffee and almonds. Very distinct nuttiness. Well balanced, but it is the kind of balance usually achieved with caramel coloring, it seems that way, but it doesn’t have to be true. Overall not very complex, medium (beer like) finish that is a bit bitter, but still quite nice and drinkable.

This is a piece of history. Especially the nose shows that some pretty awesome Whisky was put into this blend. I’m glad it is a decent dram, because Mr. Jackson deserves a farewell with a Whisky like this. Not for collecting but Whisky made for drinking. In a way Michael is sharing a dram with friends for the last time. Michael died of a heart attack on the 30th of August 2007.

points: 79

Hampden 17yo 1990/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Jamaica)

Quite nice trying some Rums in a row, something I haven’t done in a while, and I have to admit it, it’s quite a lot of fun. After the white Plantation, and the brown Cockspur 12, let’s try a super premium high ester Rum from Jamaica, bottled by the old Wine and Whisky traders, Berry Brothers & Rudd.

Hampden Distillery from Jamaica is known for heavy pot still Rums a.k.a. high ester Rums. A lot of effort is made in the workings of yeast in the production process using century old fermentors, and of course, they use their own cultured yeasts. Hampden has a reputation to uphold when it comes to this kind of high ester Rum.

Hampden 1990 BBRColor: White wine.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Lots of esters. Extremely funky and dense. I really love Jamaican Rum, and this is exactly why. I recognize the typical Jamaican smell from the Plantation Jamaican Rums. Its thick and chewy. Rum with raisins or raisins full of Rum. It reminds me of a lot of things but I can’t put my finger on it what it exactly is. Christmas cake. Vanilla Ice cream with raisins in it. Reminds me of Napolitanean cassata ice-cream. That’s it. Loads of vanilla and new (bicycle) tires, where do you get that! Great funkiness. After a while a bit dusty. This is reggae in a bottle. Excellent stuff, I need it.

Taste: Sweet (just right for me) and lots of fruity acidity. Which is a great addition that prevents this Rum from becoming too heavy or cloying, what is even worse. So it has a lot of the Jamaican funk, but it is also super fruity. Unbelievable. Heaviness I can deal with, I love it actually, but overly and sugary sweet, nope, not my cup of tea. This Hampden ís my cup of tea. Give me the whole pot! Clean (no, not clean actually) and funky, slightly Industrial. But I like Industrial notes in Rum. You can find it in Caroni from Trinidad, but also in Rum Agricole. Good drinkability at 46% ABV. Lovely stuff. Sipping away at this, the added acidity stand out in the finish, defining it, and sometimes can be too much.

I don’t want to add too much to what I’ve already written above. This is great Rum and I really like this style. For a Jamaican, it could have been dirtier even, and bottled at a higher strength even, but I’m not complaining. this is wonderful stuff, with more than usual fruitiness, and a nice fresh acidity. All that after 17yo! Wow. I can almost cry this isn’t available anymore.

Points: 89

Port Morant 15yo 1992/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Islay Cask, Guyana)

This Demerara Rum from Port Morant was bottled by Berry Brothers & Rudd and somewhere in its life came in contact with a cask that once held Islay Whisky. The label doesn’t state from which Islay distillery the cask came…

BBR Port Morant 1992 Demerara RumColor: White Wine with lots of viscosity.

Nose: Very aromatic with lots of petrol and tar, paper and cardboard and you know we like this in a rum. Vanilla, caramel, Demerara sugar. Industrial at first and not very fruity, Solvents, but not the usual stuff. Small hint of mint and a good body of wood, but nowhere near the amounts of wood that can be found in aged Rums. Fantastic balance, but wait. A lot more is happening here after a while. The wood opens up and the whole becomes more floral and adds notes of dry leaves. That’s a first for me with Demerara’s. Next are some spices, cardamom, white pepper and it finishes of in great funkiness. Actually it never ends, put it away and pick it up again and you smell new things. Wonderful stuff. Although this comes from an Islay cask, meaning peat I guess, I can not detect any peat at all but there is a tiny, tiny hint of smoke. Can’t imagine they would use an unpeated Malt Whisky cask for this.

Taste: Yes there is the peat! Very up front and comes sailing in on a wave of restrained sweetness. Nice. Fits the toasted wood note that comes next. Mocha, toffee and chocolate (not the darkest kinds though), hints of cucumber, can it get any crazier than this? The wood and the peat give off a slightly disturbing kind of bitterness to this not-so-sweet Demerara. The jury is still out if it actually fits the Rum. Sometimes this note resembles an electrical fire. Still, it oozes character and proves again that Demerara’s are a force to recon with. Alas, most distilleries are closed by now, luckily most stills have survived…

It reminds me a bit of a Cadenhead Enmore, also a Demerara Rum from Guyana which will be reviewed in the future. Talking about Cadenheads, also a Scottish independent bottler, that also used some Islay casks, but from them we know they were Laphroaigs, one of the most heavily peated Islay Whiskies.

Points: 87

 

Glenlivet 1975/2006 (54%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #10846)

Well here is an example of the mother of all Single Malts. No it’s not the oldest distillery in Scotland, nor is it the first in anything. The oldest being Ferintosh at Ryefield (from 1689). The oldest still working distillery is Glenturret (1775). But once there was a time a lot of others added the “Glenlivet” to their own name to benefit from the success, and the known quality of Glenlivet, and who doesn’t know Glenlivet? Started in 1817 and ‘founded’ in 1824 when George Smith was one of the first to obtain a licence for his distilling. All of his illicit distilling neighbours, wanted him dead for it. Traitor! In 1845 George leased Minmore farm, which he bought in 1858. Minmore was renamed Glenlivet a year later and is the site of the current distillery. Funnily enough, Cadenheads also state the name “Minmore” on their Glenlivet offerings. George died in 1871. Long live George and to his health we raise the glass with this Berry Brothers & Rudd Glenlivet. Slainthe George.

Color: Orange Brown.

Nose: Fresh and spicy. Lots to smell here. Sour oak and honey, very “Bourboney”. Later on more elegant, refined, not very bold, even though there is a lot coming out of the glass. Distant smoke with powdery dryness. Apples and cloves. And something meaty, steak, gravy.

Taste: Initially, thick and spicy, minty and sweet. Later some tar, acetone with cookies (dough and baked chocolate chip cookies together). Medium wood, with its bitterness in place. Fine and elegant. Applesauce, almonds and cherried rubber tyres. Finishes dry.

A grand old whisky with a lot of quality to it and with a woody punch. This is unique for me since it is bold and chewy at first but quickly transforms into something more fine, refined and elegant. Just a wee bit too bitter for me, hence no score into the 90’s. probably was aged for too long.

Points: 89

Glen Grant 1972/2006 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #1982)

Glen Grant came to life in 1840, and is being famous for being the first distillery with electric lights! (in 1861 already). But after that it’s very quiet. Apart from distilling not much happening here. In 1961 a descendant of the original founder made a deal with Armando Giovinetti which made Glen Grant the most sold Single Malt in Italy and as far as I know that maybe even true today. Half of what Glen Grant makes went to Italy. Since 2006 Campari is the owner of Glen Grant, so its even became Italian! The Italians love their whiskies young and the Glen Grant 5yo seems to be very popular over there, together with a version without an age statement.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: At first fresh and sea like, but that quickly transforms into wax, wood and spice. A dab of dried yellow fruits, but not much. Definitively a 70’s nose, a bit like Caperdonichs from 1972. Probably no coincidence that Caperdonich was founded as Glen Grant 2. Altogether dryer and more cold tea like. Yep, more spicy and some light mocha and raisins. Also a slightly floral and perfumy side to it (and some tar). So after some time in the glass, it distances itself from the typical Caperdonich nose.

Taste: Initially full-bodied, spicy yet not overly woody. Some wax and ash, but that’s also gone very soon. Also some distant tar and a little bit of coal. Yeah that’s the stuff you get from an old malt. Some sourness from the oak. You wouldn’t have said that it was reduced. In the middle and in the finish though, it ís a bit thin, and reducing probably wasn’t a good idea. The wood comes very late and is the main part of the finish.

It’s a decent Glen Grant, but nothing stellar. When I come to think of it I don’t even think its very balanced. I see this going for up to 250 Euro’s at Whiskyauction, and I can think of hundreds of other bottles for that kind of cash, that would outperform this Glen Grant. A nice piece of history from the seventies, but nothing more.

Points: 86