Bushmills Irish Single Malt 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary, for Whiskysite.nl and The Single Malt Whisky Shop)

Usually, independently released Irish Malts are sourced from Cooley, especially the peated ones. This time it’s not. Many 1991 peated Irish Malts that were released independently in 2015 were from a batch of peated Bushmills, although you won’t find the name Bushmills anywhere on the label. This particular bottling was done for the Dutch Whisky-shop Whiskysite.nl and Belgian outfit The Single Malt Whisky Shop. let’s see what Jürgen offers us now…

The Whisky Mercenary IrishColor: Gold.

Nose: Nice elegant peat, which rules out Cooley right of the bat. Cooley has a more fatty and rough kind of peat. This smells more refined and a bit sweet. Fruity (yellow). Sure there is this clay element in the peat, that is also present in Cooley, but it still is different. Hardly any smoke although the first sniff was quite sharp. If it’s there it’s already gone. This is a wonderful smelling Malt. The wood shows itself next and it reminds me of pencil-shavings combined with some fresh oak. Again, all kept very much in check. Vanilla is present but again, not in a big way. Deep underneath the hints of red fruit, is also a sweaty element. Animalesk and organic, which only adds to the complexity of this Malt. Well integrated. On top a more heavy aroma emerges, fresh butter. So we have some peat, some wood, some vanilla and some butter and all is nicely held together with a very appetizing fruitiness. If this will taste anything like it smells we’ll have a winner here.

Taste: Ahh my favorite red berry flavour is there. I also find it, and love it, in the 2005 batches of Redbreast. Quite funny since Redbreast isn’t produced at Bushmills, but rather at Midleton. Maybe its Irish. The fruit combines really well with a warming, but still fresh peat. Creamy and with some vanilla, but also a slight hint of burned kerosene, mixed it with the toffee. Pencil-shavings are in here as well. The peat is again light and elegant. Great. Almonds and some wax are next. Almond-milk, mixed with latex,quickly followed by red fruit juice. What a wonderful Malt this is. It smells great, tastes great, up ’till now this is so good that I would even forgive a short finish. Short it is not, but it is of medium length. The aroma’s leave my mouth one by one. The aftertaste is about fruity wax and, a little bit of peat and the memory of red fruit and a light bitter edge to hold it all up.

This is wonderful stuff and yes, Jürgen has done it again. What a wonderful selection. By now long gone, but can be found at different auctions across Europe. Just be ready to dish out quite some money for this, since most aficionado’s know this is excellent. It was quite expensive to boot, and even more now, but it also is quite excellent, so this time you will get what you pay for, and in today’s market, notwithstanding the origin of the Malt, you get more quality out of this for this kind of money, than most other Malts. So a no brainer for me (and I don’t sit on heaps of money)…

Points: 90

I had to do a H2H with a 2005 batch of Redbreast. The Redbreast smells oilier and somewhat less fresh. I would almost say, more Rum-like. It seems to smell a bit of petrol and exhaust and overall seems less complex. Caroni anyone? Don’t underestimate the power of H2H’s. The Bushmills smells more organic and definitely fruitier. Although the difference in ABV is only slightly more than 6%, it makes the Redbreast much softer than it actually is. Again in comparison, the Redbreast has some gout de petrol (like you can find in excellent Rieslings). I scored the excellent Redbreast, 86 points, but today I would score it higher…(but not 90).

Bushmills 12yo “Distillery Reserve” (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

1608. The Old Bushmills distillery got its licence in 1608! It was King James I who then issued the licence to distill to Thomas Phillipps. As most of you very well know, this makes The Old Bushmills distillery the oldest licensed distillery…in the world (Jeremy Clarkson voice-over). Try to imagine how long the distillery may have even existed before that. Since then the distillery was in and out of production many times.

More recent history then: Diageo bought the distillery in 2005 for £200 million, only to trade it with José Cuervo (Tequila) for their 50% share in Mexico’s Don Julio Tequila brand, making Diageo the sole owner of Don Julio. Don Julio was founded in 1942 and is the eleventh largest Tequila brand in Mexico. For the time being I prefer 1608 over 1942…

Bushmills 12yo Distillery ReserveColor: Full gold, slightly “red”

Nose: Creamy with lots of vanilla ice-cream soaked into some shiny cardboard. You must know Vanilla ice-cream from a paper cup. Cheap milk chocolate or fake milk chocolate. Give it a minute and a more fruity note appears. Red forest fruit. Mint infused warm chocolate. Weak after eight. The mint fondant nose stays on. Hint of funky red Sherry. The whole is very restrained. It almost because the glass won’t let it go, or smelling the spirit through a neutral cloth. Molten ice-cream, weak milk chocolate and mint fondant, that this nose in a nutshell. Oh, and some cardboard…

Taste: Fruity and quite sweet. Fruity toffee, which should have been sticky, but tastes watery here. Again a Whisk(e)y that should have had a higher ABV. Remnants of fortified wine. Red berries and black currants I also get from Redbreast 15yo. Here also quite some vanilla. Tiny hint of burnt wood, but also the big paper note from the nose. Recognizable as an Irish Whiskey, but for me it’s also a bit flawed. It has a great side to it, but also a not-so-great side. Paper disturbs me, and takes away from the pleasure of drinking this. It wants to be a Redbreast 15yo or a Jameson’s 18yo, but falls rather short. Equally annoying is the finish, or lack thereof.

If you concentrate a bit, you can taste the sheer potential of this Whiskey. It could have been great since there are many likeable notes in here. Alas some off notes (paper) and the weakness of the whole ruin it for me. I hate to play the where-is-the-finish game. A damn shame, for I believe a potentially great Whiskey was ruined.

Points: 77

John Jameson & Son 7yo “Three Star Pure Old Pot Still” (43%, Bow St. Distillery, Dublin Whiskey, 75 cl, Circa 1965)

Who would have thought I’d still have an ace up my sleeve considering Jameson’s? The title seems a bit of a mouth full, but when you are identifying old bottles like these, you have to identify minute differences on the labels to carefully date them. I don’t know when exactly they started to use this exact label, but I do know the last year they used it was in 1968. So “circa 1965” is a carefull guess.

The Bourbon world has adopted the old “Stitzel-Weller” distillery as the ultimate Bourbon heaven on earth. Similarly, the Irish have the old “Bow Street” distillery that was/is situated in Dublin. The Bow Street distillery started working in 1780 with John Jameson acting as General manager. John bought the distillery in 1805. The distillery was eventually was closed in 1971. Since 1997 it is opened again, but alas only as a “tourist” attraction.

John Jameson & Son 7yo Three Star Pure Old Pot Still (43%, Bow St. Distillery, Dublin Whiskey, 75 cl, Circa 1965)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Extremely fruity steam punk kind of Whisky. Hints of old paint. Even if I would have tried this blind, you know when you have an old Whisky on your hands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; They don’t make them like this anymore, and the other Jameson reviews just prove that. Wonderful old dried fruit intertwined with almonds and wax. It really smells of steam and coal and a bit of old engines. Warm machine oil and vanilla. Very appetizing. When you let it breathe the fruit gets less pronounced and a more dusty creaminess starts to emerge. A dustiness which seems to be coming from wood. A wonderful experience.

Taste: Quite different. It starts with old newspaper and luckily the waxy fruitiness hold it up. Still, somewhat lighter than the nose. The nose is special and quite “thick” this is less so. paper and wood but both are light and well-balanced with the rest of the aroma’s. Slightly warm apply note comes next. Those of you who are regular Calvados drinkers will recognize this apply note, and now that I recognize it, it’s there in the nose too. Hints of caramel and slightly burned caramel emerge, which is noticeable on the tongue. Not everything stays behind for the finish, but still a nice, but short finish, but we are left with a nice aftertaste. Good, but not as special as the nose was. The nose really oozes with times long gone.

The current Jameson and this Jameson are both tasted early in the morning before breakfast. The current Jameson is a nice aperitif. It’s niceness is in the detail, which is much easier to pick up in the morning, than in the evening, when you have just eaten and your palate is tired. The current Jameson has lost much of it charm when I tried it in the evening, after finishing the previous review. Tasting this, I fear this one will be better in the morning too…

Points: 87

Jameson (40%, OB, Circa 2012)

Today if anyone mentions an Irish Coffee, you say Jameson. If you say Irish Whiskey, you still say Jameson, unless you’re an anorak, than you might say something different, like Connemara, if you like it peated, or Teeling, or Middleton. Enough to choose from and Irish Whiskey is on the rise again, and that is really great! It’s the ancient battle between the Scottish and the Irish, where Whiskey originated from, so why then is the Scottish Whisky so big and why was the Irish Whisky nearly dead in the recent past? There are enough examples of fabulous Irish Whiskeys and there is this Jameson. The oldest and best known of all Irish Whiskeys. Again a bottle you see in all the hotel bars and restaurant and in many homes as well.

When I started getting interested in Whisky in general, a long, long time ago, it started with Jim Beam White, the obvious Jack Daniels, Scottish blends like Teachers and Grant’s, and this Jameson. I hated Jack Daniels and Jameson actually, so I moved quickly into Single Malts and was immediately sold on Aberlour and Laphroaig. The rest is history.

Jameson (40%, OB, Circa 2012)Color: Gold.

Nose: Toffee and caramel. Grainy, fruity and quite fresh. The fruity note is quite lovely. Actually it reminds me of Gin a bit. The fresh, juniper like smell with some well hidden clean alcohol. Definitely grainy and seems to me in part like a sweet Dutch Jenever. It also has a paper like quality. This really smells nice, and I don’t recognize the nose from the first bottle of Jameson’s I had. Is that saying something about me, or is that saying something about Jameson? When the Gin aroma’s dissipate a bit, it at least smells like a Whiskey. And a very pleasant one too. Hints of spicy wood, paper and light wax.

Taste: Paper soaked in sweet apricot water. Definitely a bigger and sweeter body, than I remember from my first encounter with this Whiskey. Yes, slightly fruity sugar-water, with a hint of Whiskey. This sounds pretty negative, but let me tell you it is tasty (in a way). It is nice, very light and extremely simple stuff, but tasty nevertheless. No real off notes, not even the paper notes. but also hardly a Whiskey I guess. Short warming finish, with a short but nice aftertaste. Should work well in Irish Coffee! Otherwise, this is only suitable as an aperitif. If you use this as an after dinner dram, you’ll lose a lot of the subtleties.

This actually smells quite nice, I’m surprised. It is something you could drink easily. How is easy. Anything goes. Mix it, drink it straight out of the bottle, use a straw, you name it. It’s the Whisk(e)y-worlds lemonade, and not as horrible as I remember it. Compared to the “Select Reserve” this is more vibrant and a tad more fruity and playful which suits this destillate. I prefer this one, but the 18yo is way better, way more special, and costs more. If you’re interested in the Jameson 18yo, you’d probably do better with a Redbreast 15yo, but I think I mentioned that before.

Points: 72

Teeling Small Batch (46%, OB, Rum Cask Finish, February 2015)

Last month I reviewed a single cask bottling of a Teeling Whiskey for the Dutch market finished in a Madeira Cask. Nice stuff, but for some, hard to get. The most widely available Teeling should be this Small Batch. This is a blended Whiskey finished in Rum casks.  Since 2013 many batches were released and for some batches, if not all, casks were used that held Rum from Flor de Caña (Nicaragua). Flor de Caña is known for an accessible and rather dry Rum.

Teeling Small BatchColor: Gold. (Thick legs in the glass)

Nose: Sweet. Sweet and sugary and smells very much like the sweet, middle of the road Rums like Abuelo Añejo I just reviewed. Brown sugar. Its Rum and Rum, after a while some more notes are discernible. Toasted wood, and sugary wood. Vegetal and whiffs of sulphur. I’m working hard at it, but I can’t recognize any Irish Whisky in this yet, let alone a Blended Irish Whiskey. Leaving the glass to breathe for a while, yes you might say it has some traits of Irish Whiskey. Some dry, woody milk chocolate enters the fold and it gets more dusty.

Taste: Again lots of Rum, just here it is a little drier and more leafy than an actual Panamanian Rum I mentioned above. Sugar right from the start. Also the body is all about Rum. The finish is the only place where you can actually taste the Irish Whisky. Sweet grain. The finish is quite short, a bit thin also and again sugary and Rum-like. Wow, were the Rum casks really empty, when they were put to use finishing this Irish Whiskey? Given some time the Rum wears off a bit and Whiskey seems to shine through, although it also could have been a dry sugar cane distillate now. A bit gritty, vegetal and woody. Notes of sweet red fruits more common to some Rums than Whiskey.

Wow, this actually is closer to a Rum than Irish Whiskey! Blended or not. Just look at the legs in the glass. Just smell this and taste this. luckily I have the bottle here. because if this was from a sample, I wouldn’t have written this review thinking the sample was mislabeled! This Teeling isn’t very expensive, but if you want a distillate that tastes and smells like this, get yourself the Abuelo Añejo it’s even less expensive than this Teeling Rum finished in Irish Whiskey casks. This actually is pretty funny! Were all the batches like this?

Points: 77

After finishing this review I filled my glass with the Abuelo 7yo. It is thicker and fuller and way more vanilla to it, but in taste quite similar to the Teeling. Amazing. It should be even more similar to the Añejo, but I don’t have that one here anymore for a proper H2H same for Flor de Caña 12yo and Flor de Caña 18yo I reviewed earlier, both gone…

Teeling 13yo 2002/2015 (55.5%, OB, Single Madeira Cask #935, 311 bottles)

In 2012 Jack Teeling sold his Connemara distillery for €71 million to Beam Inc. and everybody, especially Jack himself, thought that would be his end in the Whiskey business. Back to buildings and properties or so it seemed. But Jack wouldn’t be Jack and Whiskey wouldn’t be Whiskey, so Jack hatched a new plan for a new brand and a new distillery that has just been opened this month in Dublin. Up ’till now, the standard range consists of a Small Batch release, finished in Rum, a Single Grain, finished in Red Wine casks and a Single Malt Whiskey that is surprisingly not finished! (At least it doesn’t say so on the label). Also three super premium Whiskies are released. A 21yo (Silver, Sauternes finish), a 26yo (Gold, White Burgundy Wine finish) and finally a 30yo (Platinum, like the Single Malt, unfinished). These three don’t come cheap. This year Teeling started to release Single Cask bottlings in Germany, Belgium and this release for the Netherlands for the Specialists’ Choice. All again finished in different casks: Port, Rum, Carcavelos and today’s special: Madeira. By the way the picture on the left is from another Single Cask release, since I don’t have a picture of the new release just yet…

Teeling Single CaskColor: Reddish orange gold.

Nose: fresh air, new wood, not necessarily only oak and definitely notes of a sweet wine. Milk chocolate, mocha and luke warm coffee with lots of milk. Slightly oxidative, spicy and creamy. Paper towel with a tiny hint of soap. Young, spicy and vibrant. With young I don’t mean that it reeks of new make spirit. I mean vibrant, lively. Very appetizing. Lovely nose. It reminds me a bit of Single Malt Whisky, when it was new to me. Barley, sappy oak, grassy, creamy vanilla, some mint, red lemonade and a fresh pot of coffee.

Taste: First is a hot mixture of oak and sweet white wine, biting each other a bit. Its sweet and has notes of acidic oak, but also spicy oak and paper. Another layer contains hints of hard to get red and black fruits, something not quite uncommon to other Irish Whiskey’s like Jamesons 18yo and Redbreast 15yo. It seems a bit disjointed, especially when the sweetness is pulsating and the wine turns from a sweet entry into something a little bit more sharp. But you can’t not like it. It’s really an enfant terrible, but it still charms you into liking it and forgiving it. When it’s faulty it’s a lovely fault. Slightly bitter in the finish soon overpowered by different shades of wood, spicy and acidic, add to that the contributions of the Madeira and you have something you can’t put down, but is not entirely easy.

For me this is an example why Whiskies like this should be cask strength. The aroma’s seem enhanced by the higher strength and a Whiskey like this should bite you back a bit. It’s not your simple entry-level Whiskey. Are you experienced?

Points: 85

Jameson “Select Reserve” (40%, OB, Small Batch)

In the Irish Whiskey Week I reviewed the surprisingly wonderful Jameson 18yo. I also stated that up ’til then I never came across a nice Jameson, that scored over 80 points. Thus the 18yo was a surprise and comes highly recommended.

Jameson Select ReserveLet’s give Jameson another shot, although this “Select Reserve” is another NAS Jameson and not very expensive to boot. I feel my old prejudice itching again. I shall not scratch, since I have found that there are quite a few very nice Irish Whiskies around, but I have to say upfront, that I don’t have very high hopes for this one. I hope I’m wrong.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet, light and powdery. Small hints of vanilla, cream and toffee. Sort of a Irish Latte Macchiato if you ask me. Probably excellent for an Irish Latte! Slightly fruity and cleanly alcoholic. No sign of wood but there is some forest floor shrubbery present. Smells very young. Not a lot happening in fact, but also nothing wrong (with the nose, nothing wrong with the nose).

Taste: Very light indeed. Grainy, alcoholic and maybe a bit too sweet. Vanilla, toffee and caramel, with hints of honey and luckily the sweetness quickly leaves the stage. Some bitterness and strangely enough, some cardboard, sawdust and grenadine. Here it is grenadine, but Jameson always have a nice fruity edge. Again very simple and it has a pretty short finish. Passes by quickly, but doesn’t leave a bad impression.

When the normal Jameson is considered a Whiskey for Irish Coffee, I most definitely would put this in something too. Irish latte anyone? Yes, this may be a mediocre Whiskey, but this is still a lot better than a lot of other distillates, so it’s not for nothing, we have a 100 point scale. As an (Irish) Whisk(e)y you can do a lot better.

Points: 70