Calvados Week – Day 4: Lemorton Vieux Calvados Réserve (40%, AOC Domfrontais, 2012)

Logo Calvados WeekYet another Calvados in this Calvados Week, but this time it is something different. Lemorton comes from the Domfront region. For this AOC, at least 30% pears must be used in the distillate, but often this number is much higher. Single Distillation is done in a column still.

The Lemorton domain is located in Mantilly near the town Domfront, name giver of the AOC. Mantilly has a terroir of clay and limestone, perfect for pear trees. Lemorton Calvados is not made from pears only though. It’s made from 70 % pears and 30 % apples. The Cider is first aged for 11 months in oak barrels and undergoes a single distillation in a small alambic armagnacais. Distillation takes place, once a year, and the distillate is then put into old neutral casks to let the fruity distillate speak for itself.

Lemorton Vieux Calvados RéserveColor: Red brown.

Nose: Thick apple butter and heavy pear syrup. Nice concentrated fruits with lots of depth. Dusty and very aromatic. It’s almost pear and apple Marmite. Borders on good Pinot Gris and even Gewürztraminer. Fruity acidity. Lovely stuff. Compared to a “normal” Calvados made only from apples, this Calvados which is more pear than apple, shows, how nice and complex the aroma’s of pear can be in a distillate. Honey and a tiny hint of toasted bread with hot butter on top. Small lick of lemon curd. Wonderful nose. After this, it still goes on. There is also a meaty component. Smoked very dry meat, but also some elements of cold gravy. The honey part grows if you let it breathe for a while.

Taste: Sweet and right from the start, you know this isn’t as complex as the nose. The nose itself was rather perfect to be honest. The taste isn’t as thick and aromatic and especially not as syrupy as expected. It’s thinner, more acidic and somewhat watery, but still with some woody bitterness and quite dry. Lacks some sweetness. As said above, this does have some White Wine acidity to it. Not bad, but the nose was better. Dissipates towards the finish, getting more acidic, stays dry and gains some bitterness. The finish is the least interesting part of this Calvados.

Compared to the products of Château du Breuil, Lemorton is quite expensive, especially considering the Lemorton Réserve is their entry-level Calvados. Smells like a very expensive distillate though, which oozes quality. The taste, not so much, alas. Although I loved pears before I liked apples, this Réserve is not my favourite Calvados I’ve tasted so far. Pears in Calvados have proven their worth to me, but maybe 70% is just a bit too much. Let’s look for an apple and pear Calvados, but this time a bit less rich in the pear department…

Points: 77

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Caol Ila 13yo 1990/2003 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, Cask #1114, 283 bottles, JC/GF)

I got up this morning seeing that it is a nice and sunny day, just with a chill in the air. Ice on the windscreen, and couldn’t be bothered de-icing the car, so I did the school run on foot. Luckily no wind so it wasn’t so bad. Walking towards the winder I did pick up the inspiration to review some Islay Whisky. Yeah! Rummaging a bit in the sample bank I dug up two Islay babies, that will together well, or make for interesting comparison. Once not so readily available, today impossible to miss. Caol Ila is the name and peat is the game. I love Caol Ila because it ages really well. So lets educate myself and have a look at a younger example of Caol Ila. This 1990 Caol Ila was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2003. The outturn was 283 bottles at cask strength, and considering the color and wood management policies at G&M, I would be surprised if this wasn’t matured in a remade Bourbon Hogshead although a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry hogshead is also possible. Two of its sister casks were also bottled in 2003: #1115 (JC/AEG) and # 1116 (JC/CEB). More sister casks exist. In 2011/2012 at least three more were bottled: #1120 (for La Maison Du Whisky, France), #1121 and #1122 (both for Van Wees, The Netherlands).

Caol Ila 13yo 1990/2003 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, Cask #1114, 283 bottles)Color: White wine.

Nose: Dry and smoky peat, with an underlying sweetness. So it’s not the fatty peat you sometimes get. This is drier and a wee bit more spicy. Cow organics in cold weather. With hints of hay and quite some buttery and lemony notes as well as hints of shiny aromatic apple skin (not acidic). Some flowery elements were present in the peat, lavender as well as there is some crushed beetle (sounds strange doesn’t it?). Vanilla and more creamy, fresh buttery notes. The wood smells a bit meaty and well aged, so not young and sappy. Hints of cured meat. Smells a bit toned down and maybe older than it actually is. Very well-balanced. More about fresh and fruity notes than heavy peat. Accessible. Garden bonfire burning off old branches combined with powdered vanilla and powdered coffee creamer. It’s not really a big Whisky, but a well constructed one. Wonderful nose, especially by the wonderful vanilla and floral nose. I would say Fino Sherry hogshead. made from American oak.

Taste: More peat and quite sweet, which works quite well this time. There is enough going around to balance the sugary sweetness out. Burned leaves and a lot of vanilla and clotted cream, custard, pudding. These notes are quite big and it takes a while for those to pass, to let a more paper and (spicy) wood note through. Distinct hints of soap. It breaks down a bit in the finish, with a creamy note that goes down my throat, but in the same time a more acidic wood note stays behind in the roof of my mouth, the soap also has some staying power under my tongue. These flaws are easily forgivable, looking at the whole. Good Caol Ila.

This went under the radar a bit when it came out, as well as its sister casks, but what a treat this is. Definitely American oak and probably Sherry that aged under flor instead of Bourbon. All aroma’s work together well. I wish I had more of this, but at least I had the experience of a whole bottle of this. Worth seeking out at auctions, but a lot of it was probably drunk back then.

Points: 87

The Glenlivet 15yo “French Oak Reserve” (40%, OB, 09.11.2009)

After the oldie from 1975 and the two recent “special” releases, Alpha and Guardians Chapter, here we look into a more “normal” release by The Glenlivet. This is a 15yo standard release Glenlivet, where the tipple came in contact with some French oak. French oak is known for impairing a slightly more tannic flavour to Whisky, whereas American oak usually gives off a more Vanilla or Toffee note. I expect a very easy drinkable Whisky with maybe a little “bite”.

Glenlivet 15yo "French Oak Reserve" (40%, OB)Color: (Light) gold, slightly pink?

Nose: Altogether light and slightly malty. Nice hints of wood. A little bit of toffee, vanilla and sweet apple. Very middle of the road, but also decent and pleasant. It smells like a good daily drinker. A little bit of dust on wood and nuttiness. Picture dust floating in the air in the sunlight in a room with unpolished wooden furniture. Also a touch of oil from tangerine-skins. Nothing out of the ordinary for a decent Single Malt Whisky, yet nice nevertheless.

Taste: Sweet, creamy with toffee and vanilla. A little tannic bite from the wood. Otherwise again very pleasant and very middle of the road. Slighty malty and nutty. Daily drinker written on its forehead. Slightly bitter on the finish, like licking walnut skin for a moment. Obviously from this particular type of oak, French you know.

A very reasonably priced 15yo, which offers a middle-of-the-road experience, with a little bite from the French oak. Pleasant but hardly entertaining, good but nothing special. Especially since it has aged for 15 years, in a time where all Whiskies are released without an age statement. It probably sells a lot, and why not. There is nothing wrong with it and it isn’t a bad Whisky either. Bang-for-your buck material, or a starters Whisky at 40% ABV  if you are interested in the effect tannins can have from French oak. Good but a bit boring (for me).

Points: 82

Kopke Christmas (Reserve Ruby)

Kopke logoJust in time for Christmas, or should I say, just in time for last-minute Christmas shopping, another Kopke Port. The Tawny Kopke I reviewed last, turned out to be quite good, and doesn’t break the bank, so why not try another Kopke, but this time a Ruby. They call this a ‘Reserve’ to distinguish it from more generic rubies, and considering this is for a special, festive occasion, this (young) Ruby should be quite good also, and again this is a pretty inexpensive Kopke. Should you buy this for Christmas?

Kopke Christmas Port (Reserve Ruby)Color: Ruby red, with lost of purple near the edges of the glass.

Nose: Raisins and fresh, typical Ruby if you ask me. Very fresh (fresh air) young and lively, but also promising a lot of sweets. Thick, fat and buttery with heaps of raisins, something you would expect from a PX Sherry (the raisins). The whole does not smell like a PX at all. After all this, it smells more like a “red wine”. Cheesecake, a little bit of wood and some acidity and mustiness later on, so the smell does develop a lot in the glass.

Taste: More of the same, young and fresh, sweet and sour. Distant hint of bitter wood (walnuts), but the note is not dominant. It does fit the nose, but the taste is not very complex, and does seem a bit unbalanced. In this case the sweet and the sour don’t like each other very much. And the bitterness (not only walnuts, but also earwax), well, also not completely in harmony. The fruits in this Port are more of the half-sweet black and red summer fruits, and do I detect some tannins drying my tongue? Yes. This finish is half-long, but also a bit anonymous. This Port almost seems stopped dead in its shoes in its transition from a Red Wine to a Port. It’s still too much a Red Wine.

After my comments especially those for the taste, one might think It’s not a very good Port, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s a nice Ruby Port, not extremely special, but very drinkable. I suspect this to be very young. It’s alright, but if you like your ports a bit more special, a bit more festive, and a bit more “Tawny” I would recommend the Kopke 10yo matured in wood I reviewed last some more. For me Warre’s Warrior is also slightly better and especially a more balanced, somewhat sweeter, example. ABV for this Christmas Kopke is 19,5%.

Points: 82

Warre’s Warrior (Reserve)

And finally a Port emerges on these pages and since it took so long, it might come as a surprise that I really like Port. I normally do not like sweet drinks, but reading back on these pages it should become clear to you, that I do like (overly) sweet Sherries like the PX’s, but also Port. Due to some issues with shelve space I do not have a lot of Sherries and Port’s open, nor should I, since both Sherry and Port shouldn’t be kept open for too long, it’s not Whisky you know.

As with lot’s of Port “houses” it has a long, very long history. Even this Warrior has a long history. Warre themselves claim that: “[Warrior] is the oldest brand of Port in the world, having been shipped continuously since the 1750’s”. The company that became Warre’s was established in 1670, but the first Warre came to the firm in 1729.

Let’s start of with Warre’s Warrior. I’d like to start with Warre since a long time ago, Warre’s Otima 10 (or 20) was my first bottle of Port ever. Warre’s Warrior comes from Quinta da Cavadinha and Quinta do Retiro Antigo from the Pinhão and Rio Torto valleys, also the home of Warre’s Vintage Port.

Color: Deep red and thick.

Nose: Very sweet and raisiny. It definitely smells like a Port to be had as a dessert, or with a dessert. For me it smells like a warm summer, mellow and toned down. I can imagine drinking this in summer, slightly chilled. It smells nice, but lacks complexity, it isn’t very pretentious, but easily drinkable.

Taste: Ahhh, very fruity and aromatic, much more of a flavor explosion than the nose suggested. Various red fruits. Sweet raspberry mostly. The nose suggested an extremely sweet Port, heavy sweetness and raisins, but on the contrary. Even though it shows long legs and smells of raisins, it doesn’t taste like that. This Warrior is fruity! Half-sweet and has a very nice balance with its (sometimes sharp, but refreshing) acidity. A little bit of oil from orange skins. Tannins play a role too, they’re drying the tongue. Last but not least, the finish, it’s short. Slightly woody too. If the finish was longer and a little bit sweeter, this would really be perfect, but as it is, it still is a steal.

Thick Ruby Port that sticks to the glass. Even though it has a lot of balance, the nose and the taste seem to be two different wines in one (ain’t that a contradiction!). It’s a surprise, but treat it as a present, since we’re getting two types of Port for the price of one, and it’s dirt cheap to boot. Due to a lot of regulation and control from the Port Institute, only Ports with a decent quality are released. This Warrior is definitely worth looking into for an inexpensive daily drinker. ABV is 20%.

Points: 83

Lochside 18yo 1991/2009 (56.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, Refill Bourbon Barrel #15220, 106 bottles)

Yet again we have one of the many 1991 Lochsides, and one of the many that were issued as a Gordon & MacPhail Reserve. This one was picked by Dutch retailer Van Wees. Gordon & MacPhail code for this one is JI/ACAC. The spirit was distilled on September 18th, 1991 and eventually bottled on October 15th, 2009. Picked by Van Wees in July 2009. Those of you that meticulously read this blog probably had a Deja Vu experience. We know this bottle, we know this lay-out. Well yes and no. February 4th 2013, I published a review of quite a similar Lochside, opened by Master Quill’s Apprentice (like this one). That was Cask #15217, here we have sister cask #15220, distilled and filled on the same day. This one was bottled some five months earlier, so here we have a chance to compare the two, to see what the effects are of another, but similar cask, and almost half a year of maturation…

Color: Gold (ever so slightly fuller in color)

Nose: Clean and fruity. Distant wood. Clay and organic. Dusty with smoked ham. All in good balance, but nothing pops out. A very quiet Lochside. The esters I remember from the “other” Barrel, are here too. Vanilla from the wood. The yeast is way down in this one, and there is no peat, rubber or petrol. It’s easier on the nose (more balanced), more rounded out, but also less complex. When nosing this a long time, slightly more (sour) oak comes along, but still not a lot, and it gets fresher, but in a mint and menthol kind of way. Also cherry liquor bonbons. The chocolate from them are in this Whisky too.

Taste: Sweet and farmy, with a great sweetish attack. Definitely less woody, at first, than the other Barrel. A nice peppery bite, next to the sweetness and the fruity, farmy notes. Again a nice big body, aided by the ABV. Honey and a great balance. Here too a chocolate liqueur bon-bon. Big body with a matching long and balanced finish. The wood is a lot more contained within this Lochside. Less vanilla though, so the wood reacted differently, it gave slightly more color, but less wood and vanilla. If you let it breathe for some time, the wood does play a larger role, and overall this is less “deep”.

You can’t go wrong with these kinds of Lochsides. There are a lot of 1991 bottles around, but they all are slightly different. sure the family resemblance is there, but I’ve tasted more of the 1991 G&M Reserve, and they all are variations of a theme. I feel it’s safe to say that some four or five months of extra maturation has a smaller effect on the maturation of a whisky, than te particular staves that were used making the barrel. Maybe I’m wrong. I just can’t imagine that the differences between cask #15217 and #15220, come from the small difference in maturation time. Here the “younger” one is more balanced but also less complex. For me I prefer the nose of barrel #15220 over #15217. Considering the taste, this one is easier, and less complex, but it has a better balance. All in all it’s definitely the same family, but the easiness, better balance and containment of the wood, the added farmyness and the difference in fruityness, makes me score this even two points higher. I just like this one better!

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Erik for providing yet another Lochside sample.

Glen Keith 38yo 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, for La Maison Du Whisky, Refill Sherry Butt #3876, 215 bottles)

And then there is Glen Keith. Glen Keith lies a stone’s throw away from Strathisla. The spirit from Strathisla was pumped to Glen Keith for filling into casks, but also the boiler at Glen Keith warms water for Glen Keith’s production. Glen Keith’s production started in 1958 with three stills (triple distillation). In 1970 the first two stills in Scotland that are heated by gas were installed. Soon after that, the distillery stopped the triple distillation. In 1983 a sixth still is installed. The distillery is mothballed since 1999, but plans are to restart the distillery next month (April 2013).

Chivas Brothers (owned by Pernod Ricard) already opened two of their mothballed distilleries. Allt a-Bhainne in May 2005 and Braeval (a.k.a. Braes of Glenlivet) in July 2008. If memory serves me well, Chivas Brothers also have Imperial. Alas, Imperial was considered not economically viable for reopening. (It was “old” and had the ‘wrong’ capacity, to small for a company like Chivas), so Chivas presented plans in 2012 for a new distillery to be built at the site of the old Imperial distillery. So the demolition of Imperial started around december 2012 and is now also gone for good.

Color: Copper, cloudy.

Nose: Musty Sherry with a lot of wood. Dried oranges, and sugared orange skin. Crushed dead insects, well they really don’t make them like this anymore! Cloves which fits the orange skin perfectly. Mocha with orange cordial. A forest in the rain. Oak planks. A Whisky with character.

Taste: Old bottle effect. Very spicy oak but not over oaked. It’s heavy on the wood but that not a bad thing here. A lot of wood and paper. Along comes wood spice and some bitterness. It is so clearly a Whisky from another time, that this one needs it. Luckily the rest of the body is quite ‘heavy’ too, but not in your face. It’s a rather quiet malt. Hot butter, sugared oranges and some coal. It actually is pretty sweet, but the sweetness is hidden well behind the wood and oranges. A bottled antiques shop with a long warming finish.

This is now my favorite Christmas malt. Just smell that dried Orange in combination with the cloves. It’s not a perfect old bottle though, but it’s so clearly a time capsule. It’s impossible to not love this. I was always a big fan of Strathisla of the sixties and seventies and this Glen Keith is therefore really no surprise at all. Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 92