Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (62.8%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Charred American Virgin Oak and PX Sherry Butt #2701, 301 bottles)

After the long overdue reviews of Port, even two of them, from Kopke and Warre and to a lesser extent, a Bourbon, Evan Williams, let’s stay away a little bit longer from Single Malt Whiskies from Scotland. Yes let’s look at some Single Malt Whisky from India! OK, so not completely different, it’s still Whisky, but don’t you worry, I plan to review some other non-Scottish stuff as well. Nevertheless, lets start with this Amrut.

In 2013, (and other years as well), some single casks were bottled for Europe, in three varieties. The Bourbon version I reviewed earlier, this Virgin Oak/PX-Sherry combination we are going to look at right now, and last but hopefully not (the) least (of the three), a peated Whisky matured in a Port pipe. I’ll open this last one soon, right after I finish the Whisky I’m about to review now, and there isn’t much left in the bottle I can tell you. Amruts never stay long on my lectern…

Color: Bright gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Dry, Indian, exotic (cinnamon) and winey. Lots of dusty barley notes, somewhat enhanced by funky PX. Caramel and toffee notes without the sweetness. Reminds me a bit of Port finished Whisky. Sometimes its like the smell of blood up my nose. Meaty notes as well. Fatty gravy. Soft wood now, a bit cardboard-like. Even if I wouldn’t know it, it is easily recognizable as Virgin oak. Nose-wise not the most balanced of Amruts. Like PX and the Indian Barley/Virgin Oak really don’t like to work together and don’t see each other out of the office. This Amrut needs a team-building session. Funny how up front this sensation is, because I get this instantaneously. Still dusty and drying, with hints of dry clay. Yes Wine, Port, PX. That’s it. If I’m honest, I would say that the virgin oak even overpowers the PX-finish. I’m sure this would have worked better if it started life in a nice American barrel, used before, so not virgin. Maybe then the PX finish would have worked better. I like the use of virgin oak in some Whiskies like Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Glen Garioch Virgin oak as well, but this time in my beloved Amrut, not so much. Nevertheless, still a good Whisky, just not so good as Amrut can be.

Taste: Very hot and stingy. An explosion of flavour. Bitter wood. Cherry liqueur, dark chocolate and even more oak. Unsweet caramel again, mixed with alcohol. Wait a minute, unsweet? There is also this sugary sweetness to it. Warming going down, well, hot going down might be a better way to describe it. Just like the nose, it lacks balance. Everybody was put on this team, but they really just don’t want to work together. Even before I can start to take in the aroma’s, the lack of balance and the apparent simpleness of the Whisky comes to the fore. Lots of wood, overpowering and ruining the balance a bit. Again this is still a pretty good Whisky, it’s just not quite there. After some breathing, the first sips become somewhat sweeter. Lots of virgin oak in the body too. Short, bitter-ish and very hot finish. Wood for sure. Virgin oak in the aftertaste as well. I think we all got a bit surprised by the activity of this wood. What about the PX in this bottling then? not so sure, because this Whisky is so wood-driven. Maybe it’s not the Virgin oak and yet the PX-cask gave off a lot of tannins, or maybe both?

Nope, I can tell you already that for me the Amrut distillate works better with the previously reviewed ex-Bourbon casks, like the Single Cask (with Virgin oak as well, just less of it, apparently) and the regular (or so you would think) unpeated Cask Strength version. Sherried versions like the Intermediate are also pretty good.

Points: 84

And with that this is the “worst” Amrut I ever had. It’s not bad, but there are a lot more of better Amruts to be found. nope, this one is not my favourite expression…

Dos Maderas PX 5+5 (40%, Spain)

Well after the fairly unusual rant of the last post lets leave the Whisky (business) behind and focus on some Rum. My other favorite distillate. A wonderful complement to the Whisky world. Oh yeah! This time around we” have a look at a Spanish Rum, although the Rums themselves come from Barbados and Guyana, places we know make excellent Rum, so if you can’t make top-notch Rum yourself, buy the best you can.

Dos Maderas is the Rum brand of Spanish Sherry producers Williams & Humbert. Williams & Humbert have a long history already, which, if you’re interested can be found all over the ol’ interweb. Remember, Google is your friend. Alexander Williams and Arthur Humbert started their wine-business in 1877. By 1972 the company was sold, and since then two times more. Current owners are the Medina’s who worked at the bodega and wanted it for themselves.

As I mentioned above, Williams and Humbert buy their Rums from Barbados and Guyana. Both Rums are approximately 5 years old. In Spain they are aged further for three years in cask that previously held a Palo Cortado Sherry. Part of this is bottled as the 5+3 expression. Another part is then further aged for another two years in casks that previously held PX Sherry, thus giving us the PX a.k.a. the 5+5. By the way both Sherries mentioned above, aged for twenty years in these casks, so these casks should impar a lot of aroma. Let’s see…

Dos Madeiras PX 5+5Color: Dark copper brown.

Nose: Smells extremely sweet. But also the liquid makes you believe that, since it is very syrupy. Hints of burnt sugar and definitely some Pédro Ximenez. Besides the depth this Sherry gives, it also impairs a fruity acidic note. Hints of paper and cardboard in the back and even some raisins. Not a lot of development and overall quite simple. Its like the sugar content this must have stopped its evolution and hides any possible form of complexity. Given the fact this contains 5 year old Rum from Barbados ánd Guyana, both highly aromatic Rums, the PX finish is a bit overpowering. That’s not bad, but its more about the PX, than it is about Rum. Altogether nice, but in a flavoured kind of way.

Taste: It starts with Rum, where the nose was more PX. Burnt sugar and Demerara qualities. Heaps of sweetness. It’s a light Demerara style which leaves room for the Bajan Rum as well. However, the PX takes the driver’s seat rather quickly and puts both Rum’s in the back to come along for the ride. Toffee, sugar and caramel, partly burned. Luckily there are some hints of vanilla and green olive (towards the finish). Hardly any wood. Finish is PX again. Aftertaste is PX as well.

I havent tried the 5+3 expression yet, and thus I don’t know if that one has some finesse to it. In this 5+5, the PX overpowers everything. I do like my PX’s, so I kind of like this, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with Rum. Maybe a shorter finish in the PX casks would have been better, and then they should be brave enough to call this 5+4 or even 5+3 1/2. But who am I to say so. Still good stuff though.

Points: 80

A.H.Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum (40%, 875 bottles, 2013, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)

Albert Heinrich Riise was born on the 11th of September 1810 on the Danish Island Ærø. In 1932 he graduated as a pharmacist in Copenhagen. In 1838 he followed his dream to work as a pharmacist in the Danish West Indies in St. Thomas. In 1842 he married Henriette Marie Worm (1821-1889) on St. Croix. The couple had 13 children. I guessed he felt at home in the Carribean! In 1843 he had his own pharmacy which he turned into a succesful business. Being an excellent pharmacist Riise used Caribbean plants and herbs for the manufacture of pharmaceutical alcohols and cosmetics. He especially was succesful in selling Riises Bay Rum, yes you guessed it, a perfume! He also started distilling Rum and bitters as medicine. Way to go Albert. In 1868 an epidemic broke out of cholera, yellow fever and smallpox. No Rum would cure that, so the family decided to go to Denmark for a year, but in the end never returned to live on St. Thomas. Albert passed away in 1882 and his wife Henriette followed him in 1889.

A.H. Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum has aged up to 20 years, and was finished in PX Sherry casks. Each bottle comes from a single cask.

A.H.Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum (40%, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)Color: Brown with an amber hue.

Nose: Nice Demerara type of Rum nose with notes of cloves in (partly dried) orange skin and cinnamon. Old wood, speculoos cookies and very festive smelling. Its like visiting and old distillery museum where a lot is done with spirits and spices or a bakery museum where all the spices are stored for making cookies. Vanilla, hot butter and fruity acidity. Very aromatic. Also hints of ginger, cardamom, dust and nutmeg. Very nostalgic, appetizing and tasty. Based on the nose alone a must-have so lets see if it also tastes as good…

Taste: Thick and sweet. Syrupy. Sugared red fruits. White pepper and some wood. Fresh cookie dough. The orange skins are present too, but without the cloves. Noticeable is the finish in PX casks. Not the longest of finishes, but warming and just right. The part that stays on the longest is the fruity acidity, but wait…the cloves return for the finish, excellent!

The nose alone puts me in a melancholic mood and puts me in a bakery or Jenever distillery where spices and botanicals are used for the spirit. It makes me feel like it’s the 1930’s again (or so I imagine, since I wasn’t born yet in the 1930’s). The nose is very nice and suits the Christmas name they use for this Limited Edition. The taste is somewhat simpler and the finish shows that 40% ABV was  a little too light for this kind of rum. On the website the claim is made, or maybe that’s just how I read it, that the typical aroma’s come from the PX casks that were used for the finish and not by added spices, so it should not be a spiced Rum. In the end that’s not entirely important, since it is a very nice Christmas Rum, and even if it was spiced, isn’t Christmas a time to forgive? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 87

Glengoyne Week – Day 4: Glengoyne 20yo 1986/2006 ‘Peter’s Choice’ (51%, OB, PX Butt #433, 603 bottles)

Well here you go, day four and here is the third and last of the Mashman’s choices from Glengoyne. Hardly a surprise after the last two days, isn’t it? This time a Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt. Pedro Ximénez or PX for short, is a very sweet dessert Sherry. Oloroso Sherry were always considered to be the best for maturing Whisky, but it turns out that PX Casks are very good too. Let’s see how this PX-Glengoyne will do.

This is wat Peter had to say about his choice: “sweet, rich, wonderful and moves beautifully when shoogled*, just the way I like my whisky and my women!” So Peter shoogles his women? I mush have a go and shoogle my granny then!

Color: Sparkling copper brown, almost with a red tinge.

Nose: Quite fresh and light, but also raisins and alcohol. Dusty powdery wood. Utterly balanced, but not very outspoken. Charlie’s choice was definitely more ‘heavy’, this is friendlier. Dry meaty and slightly woody. Very slick and elegant yet again. Not a sherry monster. Honey sweetness and leafy.

Taste: Again very elegant, and sweet, easily recognizable as a PX Sherry. There is wood, but not very much, also something hoppy, with a hint of soap. The body is firm enough to withstand the soap, so don’t see that as a problem. The whole is thinner than Charlie’s choice though. The finish here is again beer-like and a bit sour. If that had stayed more fatty and sweet, that this would have been a score into the 90’s.

A very nice pick by Mashman Peter, may the shoogle be with you! This is the last of the Choices from personnel of the Glengoyne distillery, tomorrow the choice is mine again! Nosing the three Mashman’s choices, I would say the best nose is on Charlie. Tastewise it is a tie between Charlie and Peter, where Charlie is more brutal, or sporty, and Peter is more dressed to the occasion, so to speak. Both score the same and which one is better is dependent on how you feel. So two ties here, one between Charlie and Peter and a second between Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Points: 88

* Shoogle is a Scottish word which means to gently shake or agitate.

Gonzalez Byass Cristina Oloroso Abocado

Some casks of Gonzalez Byass lying around...

Gonzalez Byass is an often seen cask in Scottish warehouses. These casks already find their way into making some excellent whisky. As we all know, the best results come from Oloroso casks, so here we have the opportunity to try a nice Oloroso from Gonzalez Byass.

This Oloroso is made of Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez (both white grapes!). Up to 95% of all grapes used for sherry is Palomino. Since this Sherry is sweetened with the PX-grape, this is essentially is a cream sherry. Usually three types of Palomino are grown: Palomino Fino, Palomino Basto, and Palomino de Jerez. Of which the first one is considered the best for making Sherry and especially today the latter two are grown less and less. Besides these Palomino’s, only Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes are used for Sherry.

Gonzalez Byass Cristina Oloroso AbocadoEssentially, there are three types of Sherry:

1. Fino (including Amontillado and Manzanilla)
2. Oloroso
3. Palo Cortado

Fino Sherries arise under flor. This means that when the must is fermented a ‘flower’ of yeast (flor) grows on the surface, and no oxygen can pass through. This also causes the finished wine to have that fresh yeasty taste.

In Oloroso (‘Scented’) Sherries the flor is suppressed by fortification at an earlier stage. Since the lack of this layer of flor, the Sherry comes in contact with air through the porous walls of oak casks, and undergoes oxidative aging. Due to the ageing, the wine becomes darker and stronger.

Palo Cortado is a rare kind of Sherry and is placed between Fino and Oloroso. Palo Cortado resembles Oloroso in color and taste and has the aromatics of Amontillado (sort of long aged Fino), and it doesn’t arise under flor.

Color: Golden Brown. Amber.

Nose: Nutty and fragrant. Diluted PX, so notes of raisins. Very floral and maybe some fresh wood and vanilla. Toffee. Baked banana. Actually quite nice.

Taste: Sweet and sour, with lots of depth. Clean lemony acidity. Not cloying, thin compared to PX. So I guess not a lot of PX was used, nor should it have been used, to me this seems just right. Actually I quite like this. Easily drinkable and for me a thirst quenching Sherry. Recommended.

I’m quite new to Oloroso’s. I just had only one before and that was a bone dry one. This one, at 17% ABV, has some PX thrown into the mix and therefore is more palatable than the dry one I remember. Time to expand more into Oloroso Sherry, since a new world has just opened itself to me.

By the way, I found out that good bottles of Sherry are far less costly than the most recent offerings of whisky, which seem outrageous. Today a new 21yo Lagavulin (yes Oloroso Casks) costs almost 700 Euro’s. I think I’ll buy some more Sherries tomorrow.

Points: 87

PX Sherry: Valdivia Pedro Ximénez Dulce

Some casks of Valdivia lying around...Valdivia was founded by a supplier of building materials in 2003. He bought an old property in Jerez and completely renovated it. Next was locating some old stock to be able to release a series of old Sherries. This Series is called Sacromonte and are made up of 15 year old Sherries. Here we will try a PX from the ‘standard’ series. The modern look is aimed at the new trend-conscious generation. In its young history, Bodegas Valdivia already has its third owner.

Valdivia Pedro Ximénez (Muy Dulce version)Color: Mahogany. Dark brown with a fabulous red hue.

Nose: Wood, leather, raisins and figs, Lavas. Old books and syrup (not as strange as it seems). Hint of smoke and tar. Smells sugary sweet with a promise of nice acidity. Greenish. Fresh cut shrubs (a smell of working in the garden trimming various plants). Fabulous balance. It doesn’t smell only thick, as some PX do, nor has it a kind of mustiness, still it does smell elegant and ‘fresh’.

Color: Mahogany. It’s essentially dark brown with a fabulous red hue.

Nose: Wood and leather. Raisins and figs. This has even some lavas notes. Old books in syrup (what?). A hint of smoke and tar. Smells sugary sweet with the promise of nice acidity. Green. Fresh cut shrubs (a smell of working in the garden trimming various plants). Fabulous balance. It doesn’t only smell thick, as some other PX do, nor has it only a kind of freshness, but it does smell like a modern and elegant,’fresh’ PX.

Taste: Wow what a texture. Modern tasting. Sweet, but not raisiny as most others are. Some asphalt in the mix, but mostly clean sugar syrup and cough syrup. This should go over pancakes. Definitely a Sherry to accompany (sweet) foods, not only after dinner or as a dessert. The body is quite mild and the finish is short. Not what I’ve expected.

It’s good. Compared to the Lustau reviewed earlier, this is a less typical PX, less old skool and thus more modern. Even though it’s quite thick It lacks a bit in the taste department if you sip it like I’m used to. This one should be taken in big gulps en then, and only then, does this Valdivia show what it’s made of. Even the Elite I’ve tasted earlier has more going on in the taste department, what is a surprise considering the Elite had an ultra thin, velvety, texture.

Valdivia PX Dulce LabelFor me the nose is fabulous, and the taste a bit thin and short. Lacks a bit of complexity. When I finish this bottle, I will try the 15yo Valdivia.

Points: 83

PX Sherry: Lustau Pedro Ximénez “San Emilio”

Lustau LogoEarly November I started a series to support the drinking of sherry to get more good sherry casks for the whisky industry. For reasons not even science can wholly explain, I picked PX Sherries as a starting point. As mentioned before, PX or Pedro Ximénez is the most syrupy and sweet Sherry around, and is considered an after dinner Sherry or one to accompany a nice (sweet) dessert. Goes well with ice-cream.

Lustau PX San EmilioEmilio Lustau was founded in 1896 by Don José Ruiz-Berdejo who was an Almacenista himself. He made Sherries and stored them for a while, after which he sold them off to larger companies, thus adding value. In 1940, his son-in-law and name-giver for the company, Don Emilio Lustau Ortega moved the Bodega to the old quarter of Jerez. Since then the company wanted to be the best and expanded by offering high quality Sherries.

This “San Emilio” PX (17% ABV) is from the Solera Reserva range which has it’s heritage in the original Stocks of Don José Ruiz-Berdejo. His stocks were combined with special Sherries from different “Almacenistas”,  small independent wine-producers. Besides this Solera Reserva range, where casks of the same type of Sherries are blended, there is also a very interesting Almacenista range. In this series, Lustau selects small batches of high quality sherries which have been made and matured by small independent producers, or “Almacenistas”, who often make Sherries as a hobby.

Color: Almost black mahogany.

Nose: Very elegant syrupy Sherry which has a nice dry whiff of paper over it. Grassy with cloves. Dried apricot and raisins, also a more spicy element which you get when putting parsley in broth. A hint of yeast and/or flor (Marmite), so not only syrupy and sweet. For me also hints of lavas.

Taste: Sweet (sometimes sugary), but accompanied by a nice acidic touch, which is a great effect on the palate. The acidity reminds me a bit of the lemon part of cola. I Love SherryYes the apricots are there and some vibrant freshly made raisins and maybe some dates. Very lively and never dull, heavy or dusty.Very well balanced. Actually, this is blended so well to a nice harmony, that it’s almost hard and not even fair to look for separate markers or hints of it. The sum is so great.

Easily a favourite of mine when looking at PX Sherries. Excellent and an easy recommendation. Oops, another “San Emilio” finished…Next bottle!

Points: 89