Arran “Batch 4” (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)

After the Bruichladdich that was bottled more than ten years ago, we move on to a more recent bottling distilled on a different Scottish Island. It’s an Arran. Well that’s about it, we don’t know a lot more. OK, let’s try a little harder then. It’s obviously an NAS Arran, that was bottled at 52%. It might be cask strength or not. Anything goes I guess. looking at the whole range, some big names, like Macallan, have pretty low ABV’s. We also don’t know the distillery date, but we do know this was bottled in 2014. We also don’t know if it’s a single cask bottling or not and what kind of cask was used, but I understand that most, if not all come from multiple casks. We also know that this was bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, yes that’s its name. We’ll call it TBWC to reduce the chance of getting RSI. TBWC can be linked to UK drinks retailer Master of Malt (MoM), just click on the link and you’ll see why. Since 2012 MoM started with their TBWC, issuing a lot of Single Malts and some other stuff in nice looking 50 cl bottles with comic book labels. This Arran reminds me of Tin Tin.

Arran Batch 4 (52%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1270 bottles, 2014, 50 cl)Color: White wine.

Nose: Malty and unusually fresh. Sweetish and fruity. Yellow fruits you get from candy. synthetic pineapple. Grainy and gritty, which gets less over time. Some citrus, lemon and lime, mixed in with a more creamy vanilla note. Already thinking refill Bourbon, are you? The whole seems pretty light and a bit young, but not in a way it should remind you of new make spirit. It’s overall pleasant, but not very complex nor does it evolve a lot, but yes its nice. Given some time and movement, to aireate the Whisky, more spicy notes from oak presents itself, as well as some floral notes, so now its nice and lovely. Whiffs of alcohol you get from smelling a well made wodka, and that is not the same as the new make spirit I mentioned earlier. So no off notes, and also nog big bomb in your glass. Restrained and elegant. Feminine if you allow me to say it.

Taste: Again fresh and fruity, malty and fresh. Toffee and vanilla, but also a sappy and leafy vegetal quality. Young wood? Paper and dried peach with ice-cream. Licorice and hazelnuts, with a hint of Cappuccino and mocha. I like the strength of this, especially combined with the profile it has, but it is a bit hot. It reminds me a bit of old bottlings of young Lowlanders.

Sure this may be from re-re-refill Bourbon casks, hence the color. Hell, maybe even the casks were tired. Sure, in many ways its simple and smells of alcohol. It doesn’t show a lot of evolution and so forth, but it’s so damn drinkable! OK, I’ll stop swearing now. I especially like the fact it does remind me of old Lowlanders, that is something that took me by surprise.

The bottle looks great, but sometimes that means that what’s inside is not so nice. This time however, TBWC have managed to source a very interesting and different take on Arran. Highly drinkable and in a way reminds me of yesteryear. Maybe its a profile for aficionado’s since the lowland style is almost gone, and is getting extinct. Therefore I can imagine a lot of people not liking this. Having said that, this is also not a typical Lowland style Whisky. It lacks a more pronounced citrussy feel and especially the grassy notes to be a true Lowlander. To be on the safe side: yes I know Arran is an Island and not part of Lowland.

Points: 85

Bowmore 26yo 1982/2009 (53.4%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 195 bottles)

And here is another Master of Malt bottling. Earlier I reviewed a reduced Tomatin, that was a true disappointment. I didn’t even know it’s possible to ruin a Tomatin, since usually I like Tomatins. So with this one I do worry a bit. This also is a Bowmore of the eighties, which quite often turn out to be your better hand-soap (lavender and violets come to mind). I once tried a 1989 Berry Bros. & Rudd bottling that made me physically ill. That was a first for me, so I tried that one half a year later and it happened again.

Color: Gold

Nose: Powdery and sweet. Not very Islay to be frank, hardly any peat or smoke. Lots of flowers though, soap, also some clay and thick, so it seems to have body. When freshly poured it is very closed. After a while some smoke trickles trough. Hey, waiting even longer there is peat too. All in minute quantities. Again not very Islay-ish. Is this really a Bowmore? Wet paper and a small hint of licorice. It’s not bad, but not very balanced either. Now we have sour oak. It’s fresh, fruity and floral, luckily not over the top lavender-soap eighties Bowmore.

Taste: Sweet and syrup, with ash and some wood. It actually attacks you in the beginning. The sweetness disintegrates quickly into something acidic. It’s like a syrup that shows, when stripped from your throat, some lemon. The attack is nice, and the middle is also quite nice, but bold tastes fade and leave you with a fairly dull and anonymous finish. What can this be, a strange and unusual Bowmore distillate in a Fino Sherry cask? Well, let’s leave it at that.

In the end it’s not a FWP-Bowmore from the eighties, but it also isn’t recognizable as a Bowmore either. It’s ok on the nose and when it enters your mouth is shows some promise. Halfway through though and especially the finish are a bit weak, which is a surprise after the bold body. But the most remarkable achievement is making and finding a Bowmore that has nothing to do with…Bowmore!

Points: 84

Tomatin 19yo 1989/2008 (40%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 399 bottles)

I caught a cold last week, which is very unfortunate when you try to write tasting notes. Fortunately my nose is back in business now, and in the process ‘got a rest’. Let’s start whisky reviewing again, with an example of a whisky that should be light and is ‘low’ in ABV.

There are two versions of this, one reduced to 40% ABV (this version) and one at cask strength, that was 57.6% ABV. This example was bottled by Master of Malt, maybe the biggest competition for The Whisky Exchange. Just have a look at their website for quite a nice collection, just don’t be fooled, a lot is sold out and stated as such. Looking around the net a bit, I already got a sense that the cask strength version should be much better. Those of you that are used to my reviews, know already that I don’t like reduction a lot, but I do admit that it sometimes cán work, let’s see if that is the case with this Tomatin.

Color:  White wine.

Nose: Toffee with some acidity. Seems sweet at first, but quickly turns into something dry. Cardboard like woodiness. Fern with a hint of licorice, toast and ash. Quite floral later on, but the cardboard doesn’t give way. Not bad, but atypical Tomatin, for this lacks the (tropical) fruityness, we all know. Apart from the cardboard it is powdery and slightly mouldy.

Taste: Again dry, woody and mouldy. Ear wax. Wood spice and slightly bitter. Watery. Nothing more to it really. I hope the cask strength version is (a lot) better, because this is nothing special. Maybe this was reduced to death? Very atypical for a Tomatin, since it lacks all forms of fruityness…

For me a completely uninteresting Tomatin. This must be a cask that was sold off for blending. Would be interesting to try the cask strength version though, because at 40% ABV… well you get the picture…

Points: 80