Deanston 10yo (46.3%, OB, Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Finish, for Travel Retail, 2019)

Deanston, once the ugly duckling of the Scottish Whisky world, its reputation then just a hair better than that of Fettercairn (no offence), but look at Deanston now. Deanston, may have started the race from the pits, after yet another engine change, but are making their way up the field in an impressing manner. If you look closely it is easy to see they took a hard look at what Springbank is doing (right). Maybe even asked for some advise, and if so, they clearly got the point as well. They left nothing to chance. First of all, the quality has improved a lot. Quality sells by word of mouth, because I don’t see a big marketing ploy behind either Deanston nor Springbank, and Deanston surely has grown a lot more popular.

Besides the quality, Deanston is issuing very good Whiskies in different price brackets, and the amount of single cask, or small batch releases have grown. Next, where Springbank is (again) successful with “Local Barley”, Deanston plays the “Organic” trump card. (Bollocks, Trump, these days this is almost a dirty word). Even the new bottle design of Deanston resembles the Springbank bottle a bit. Just look at the base of the bottle where words show up in the glass itself. So they adapted a successful formula and rightly so. It clearly works. Even the people I know are into Springbank (I’m one of them), are now also very much interested in Deanston, and liking it. Did I already mention, that the keys to the success of Springbank and thus more recently, Deanston, are its people? They are! Kudo’s to you!

Color: Orange gold, no red hue (looks like a Bourbon)

Nose: Wonderful creamy notes with nice red fruity notes, tiniest hint of apple pie and a sharper woody note. Floral as well. Smoky toffee. Very creamy in fact. Nothing Wine-like at all, although, maybe just a bit. Would I still feel the same if I had smelled this without knowing it was a Wine finish? Maybe so, yet the more this breathes, and if you are patient enough to let is sit in your glass for 10 to 15 minutes, the Red Wine nose becomes more pronounced. There is this slightly burned and slightly tarry aroma from the wine cask and this unmistakeable red fruit candy aroma, that always pops up with Red Wine cask finishes. We are still just starting with smelling this Malt and it already smells like something that was finished for just the right amount of time. Also, the base Whisky that was finished like this must have been of pretty high quality as well. Definitely American oak came first, it’s creamy with vanilla underneath. People at Deanston are really knowing what they are doing now, with a smell like this, and this after a Bordeaux Finish. In the early days of finishing, Red Wine casks, weren’t my favourites, not by a long shot. They were often severely overdone. Lets get back to smelling. Next a nice fresh green note. Plants on the window sill on a warm day. Lots of creamy warm milk chocolate. Quite soft after the sharper (oaky) start. The oak is still here, by the way. Within the soft notes some wet cardboard emerges, along with more sweet red fruit water. Forest strawberry lemonade. Well balanced altogether and smells very distinguished and mature. Is this really only a 10yo with a Bordeaux finish? It seems just too good for that. It surely doesn’t come across as such. I really like the smell of this. Amazing accomplishment.

Taste: Soft wood, thin, runny caramel, toffee and Winey red fruits, sweet and sour. Lemon acidity. American toasted oak vanilla with chewy toffee but also spicy wood and spicy spices. Yet the whole is still quite soft. Soft, warm milk chocolate and fresh almonds. Here the Wine finish is on top of the toffee and milk chocolate. Seems slightly less balanced than the nose was. Its a liquid Mars bar, Twix and Ferrero Rocher in one! The Wine finish is done with taste so it must have been used sparsely. Nothing wrong with this Wine finish. This Malt drinks like chocolate milk, dangerously easy going. Wine in the finish, as well as some hazelnuts and toast. Dare I say it also has some soapy notes? It does, is that a problem? This time it isn’t. As long as you don’t start foaming from the mouth (I didn’t). Somewhat simpler in the taste than the nose was but still a good and accomplished Malt. After sipping this, the nose becomes even better. Warming going down, like warm chocolate milk. Medium finish at best and finally a creamy aftertaste. One bottle of this isn’t nearly enough. Costs next to nothing compared to what you are getting for your hard earned cash, (I got it even on sale). Get more, should still be widely available. Finally a word of warning. This actually deteriorates a bit (even more soft, even sweeter and a bit too velvety) with air, so don’t have it in your glass too long. It’s best when freshly poured (spicier).

There is a danger to this Malt. When I opened this, I was really surprised how nice this is. Liked every drop of it, and the first half of the bottle went pretty quick, and all of a sudden I had enough of its big, sweet, tarry and winey profile. I had to push it to the back of the lectern to get away from it for a while, so lesson learned and just don’t overdo it. It is a good Malt, with an in your face profile, which can take you hostage for a while. If this happens to you, don’t worry, just press “Pauze” and after a while you can press “Play” again, and all is back to normal. Good one for a more than decent price. Like it.

Points: 86

Laphroaig ‘Brodir’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L8239, 2018)

We can now conclude our Laphroaig Travel Retail Trilogy with a rather recent batch of the Laphroaig ‘Brodir’. ‘Brodir’ looks more like a Laphroaig we know so well with its pristine white label and black lettering, but this time with a big fat bordeaux colored band on it. ‘Brodir’, not unlike other bottlings, starts its life in ex-Bourbon barrels and is finished in Port pipes made of European oak. Beforehand this seemed to me to be the one of the Travel retail Trilogy to be the safest bet buying a whole bottle of. The ‘Cairdeas’ from 2013 (also a Port finish), as well as previous batches of Brodir, gained a lot of fans.

If I’m not mistaken, the first ‘Brodir’ that saw the light of day was the one bottled for Viking Line in 2012. The next try was the 2013 ‘Cairdeas’ already mentioned, although ‘Brodir’ was not on the label since ‘Cairdeas’ already was. In 2014 ‘Brodir’ Batch 001 surfaced, Batch 002 in 2015 and since 2016, no batchnumbers were given. Odd, since, batchnumbers are pretty popular with the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ versions, but there probably is a reason for this.

Color: Orange gold with a reddish hue.

Nose: Some peat but way more smoky than it is peaty. Right from the start a bit harsh. Winey and industrial. Very smoky indeed yet also a breath of sharp and fresh sea air. Ever been under water too long? Remember the moment you sniffed up some water right before coming up a bit too late. Well, this smells like that to me. Like breathing in water. Metallic. Hints of licorice. Italian laurel licorice. Warm log fire. Smoked mackerel. A harbour with some motor oil floating on top. The Port seems well integrated and used with taste. After it had some time to breathe, this develops a more perfumy edge to it.

I can’t help but feel that even though the Port did it’s work, this shares some common ground with the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’.

Taste: Starts with smoke and almonds. Ash tray. A bit raw. Meaty maybe. Burnt paper, ashes, bitter licorice. Hints of vanilla way back. Coal and steam. Plastic and rubber. Not bad. Although a NAS bottling, in no way does it come across as too young. It has quite some complexity, and seems to be a nice version of Laphroaig. A sort of Industrial Revolution version of Laphroaig. The licorice turns sweet a bit. The sweetness, which doesn’t reach ‘Lore’ levels, adheres to the smoke and to a lesser intent, the peat. It doesn’t taste like Port sweetness. But then again, this doesn’t feel very “Porty” to me.

Personally ‘Lore’ is an all-right yet a-typical Laphroaig. The ‘1815 Legacy Edition’ turned out to be quite a surprise, after all the on-line negativity. Since I liked ‘An Cuan Mor’, I expected a weakened or ruined version of the ‘An Cuan More’, but au contriare. So very nice it is, and worth the reduced price it is sold for today. The original price, which most markets still have, is a bit too much compared to the competition. Finally here we have this ‘Brodir’. A Laphroaig that feels like having some proper Laphroaig under the bonnet, just differs on the outside. ‘Brodir’ is nothing to scoff about even though the first batches are said to be better. There are many aspects I like, so I’ll remember this one fondly. In the end I guess I may have liked the ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’ best, but this one is hot on it’s heels, and sometimes I feel it might be even better. If you try these Whiskies in the order published, all goes well, however for me the ‘1815’ is lost when tasted after ‘Brodir’ making the ‘Brodir’ the bigger Whisky. I’m not even trying the ‘Lore’ after ‘Brodir’.

Points: 85

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

Tomatin 14yo “Port Casks” (46%, OB, Tawny Port Pipes Finish, 2016)

I come from a time when Distilleries started experimenting with other casks than the usual Bourbon and Sherry casks. When Whiskies finished in Wine casks, Port casks and Rum casks popped up in the market, I actually preferred the Rum cask versions the most. I didn’t particularly like the Wine and Port finishes. It’s not because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of change, because today there are lots of these finishes around that are pretty good, but when I taste back the first examples they still are not-so-good. Port was an easy choice for distillers and blenders I guess, since it is related to Sherry and both are fortified Wines. However Sherry casks and Port casks yield very different Whiskies.

I guess the early versions were finished in casks that previously held Ruby Port. Young and bold stuff, which made for a very raw and harsh Whisky, especially when finished for too long. The U.K. loves Vintage Port which are excellent Ruby Ports, 2 years old, so the obvious starting point for experimentation with finishing. Today we see more and more Port finishes done in Port Pipes that previously held Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are older Ports, that turn (reddish) brown from oxidation. For this 14yo expression Tomatin first matured the Whisky in Bourbon barrels and for the finish they used Port Pipes that previously held Tawny port for 50 years! The 14yo Tomatin was first introduced in 2014, a replacement for the 15yo, which came from Bourbon casks only. Tomatin also discontinued the 25yo which also was from Bourbon casks only. In 2016 we saw a complete revamp of the design, so this review is for the “new”14yo, number four in the core range preceded by the “Legacy”, the 12yo and a Cask Strength version without an age statement (We’ll get to that one later).

Tomatin 14yo Port Casks 2016Color: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Musty and definitely recognizable as a Port finish. It is quite obvious to say the least. Also the color gave it away. You don’t get this pinkish hue, from caramel coloring, and wine finishes smell differently, however it also reminds me a bit of a Jenever fully matured in a Bordeaux cask. Apart from the typical fruity Portiness there is an unusual hay-like aroma, like Grappa has, it is different from your usual Whisky. In the back there is also a more creamy, vanilla note, softening the whole up. Nice soft wood as well. Although the finish is quite strong, it isn’t overpowering, and the Whisky remains balanced. Nevertheless, the finish ís strong enough not to let Tomatin’s signature tropical fruitiness through.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. Chewy. Here the finish isn’t as strong at first like in the nose. Here it starts with sweet and creamy Bourbon cask notes, but the Port quickly exerts itself. I don’t know yet if the burnt note I get, comes from toasted oak, or from the Port pipes (or both). A fruity acidity lies on top, so less balance here than on the nose. Hints of paper (not cardboard, which is heavier and less likeable). The whole is quite creamy and friendly. Well made and quite bold to let the Port finish speak its mind. Creamy, fruity, slightly burnt and some nice wood. That sums it up. Medium finish.

This is daily drinker material. Something I would reach for quite often. Sure you can analyze it to death, but why should you. I already did that for you. Not very expensive and fun to drink and definitely different from most other expressions in the shops today.

Points: 84 (same score as the previous version)

Glengoyne 12yo 1994/2006 (43%, OB, SC, Rum Finish, Cask #909310, 348 bottles)

Just like the 10yo Edradour I just reviewed, Glengoyne also has a 1994 vintage, which was used for a lot of different cask finishes. Claret, Madeira, Manzanilla, Muscatel, Cornalin and a lot of Rum finishes were released between 2005 and 2008. Some were bottled at cask strength, and some were reduced to 43% ABV. All the other Rum finishes have a cask number of 5 digits, so this one was probably cask #90931. Maybe they have added an additional “0” to distinguish this bottling from the rest since this is the only one that has been reduced. Maybe an administrative mistake was made…

Glengoyne 12yo 1994/2006 (43%, OB, SC, Rum Finish, Cask #909310, 348 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Excellent full-on Rum smell. Spicy, fatty dirty. I’m guessing high ester Rum. Jamaican? Hard to tell. Sugar cane and very leafy. For some this may be finished too long, but I’m not one of them. I love the synergy between Rum casks and Single Malt Whisky, but I may have said that before. Extremely deep. What a nice combination of smells. Wonderful depth and a wealth of complexity with lavas and balsamic vinegar. Where did that come from? The Whisky, The Rum or the wood? If it’s the wood, the wood turns to a more cleaner oaky note. Fresh windy forest and some warm butter on toast (not burnt). Even a slightly soapy note.

Taste: Well this is less complex than the nose is. Where the nose explodes with aroma, the taste is much simpler. Most definitely a sweet Whisky. Sugar water and yes, some nice leafy wood influence. Paper and floral cardboard, whatever that is. The taste is built around some different wood flavours, sugared tropical fruit, dried orange skim and cold black tea. The finish is quite long, but again pretty simple a bit bitter and buttery.

Not so long ago I reviewed a few Rum finished Whiskies and I said I have always liked them. This one is no different. Fantastic nose, and the taste is good. However, this one is not a daily drinker. For that it is too fatty and sweet.

Points: 84 (but with a 90’s nose, if you like Rum)

Thanks go out to René for providing the sample (a while back).

Spey 12yo (40%, OB, Selected Edition, Virgin Oak Finish, 8.000 bottles)

When the Speyside distillery was sold to Harvey’s of Edinburgh in 2012, the new owner changed the name of the Whisky to “Spey” and by 2014 released three new versions: Tenné, this 12yo and finally a 18yo. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the Tenné. Let’s see if this 12yo is any better. The Tenné is a rather young Whisky, finished in Port pipes. The 12yo is…well, 12 years old and was given a finish in new wood. Strange enough this older Whisky was given a lower ABV than it’s younger sister Tenné. 40% ABV compared to 46% ABV. For me that is usually not a good way to start…

Spey 12yo (40%, OB, Selected Edition, Virgin Oak Finish, 8.000 bottles)Color: White wine, much less color than pictured here.

Nose: Fresh, citrussy with hints of smoke (probably from toasted wood). Fresh oak and toasted fresh oak. Clean but also a dirty edge to it. Mocha and milk chocolate. Powdered sugar. Maybe simple but well-balanced. Leafy and dry grass. No off notes whatsoever. Shows a lot of potential, but, it’s already 12yo and it smells much younger. Young but without the typical smell or even hints of new make spirit. Hints of pencil. Not only shavings of the wood, but the whole pencil with the painted wood and the lead. Very interesting and surprising compared to the Tenné. Seems to let aroma’s pass in layers.

Taste: Sweet and barley. Sugary sweetness, which matches the powdered sugar from the nose. Malted barley. These two notes make up the taste. Again this seems very young without even hinting at new make spirit. (I recently reviewed The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, thát has the notes of new make spirit). Clean and grainy spirit. Sweet and vegetal. Has some staying power. Virgin oak and tree sap, reminiscent of ripping a branch of a shrub or tree. Although low in ABV, this Whisky doesn’t seem to suffer from it. Hints of sweet apple juice, freshly pressed at home, and a flowery note, Jasmin.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I like this. The sugar levels are just in check. It is no high-flying Whisky, but it has some lovely aroma’s to it. This time, I won’t even ramble on about the low ABV. This does nicely at 40%. Fruity and likeable. Surprising stuff. Who would have thought this about a Whisky from a young distillery, which found it necessary to finish its aged Whisky in new oak. Interesting. Almost ten points more than the younger offering called Tenné.

Points: 82