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…

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (60%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Virgin Oak & First Fill Bourbon Barrel #3445, 172 bottles)

Maybe Amrut is a true Malternative, because it’s another Malt Whisky. If you love Scottish Single Malts best, why look at other distillates? They are just different. Other distillates can broaden your horizon, but will not replace your Single Malt that has become too expensive. For instance look outside of Scotland.

Looking back I seem to like Amrut. This is now the third review, and after the Intermediate Sherry (87 points) and the Portonova (88 points), this is something of a speciality. Maybe I should take that back. Most Amruts are in fact specialities. Something out of the box is often done. Maturing on two continents, or blending many different casks together, to name but a few of things Amrut does.

This time a single cask bottling. Often, you will have a Whisky that has matured in a first fill or second fill Bourbon cask, barrel or hogshead, but no, Amrut had to do it differently. This particular example was first matured in charred virgin oak and then transferred into a first fill Bourbon barrel. Barrels being the original casks Bourbon matures in, where hogsheads are remade casks from the staves of barrels. Hogsheads are bigger than barrels. Most barrels are shipped in staves anyway.

There is some additional useful information on the label as well. I like that. In the four years this Whisky has been maturing, 42% has evaporated over time, as compared to around 8% in that evaporates is Scotland over the same period of time. By the way, unpeated (six row) Indian barley was used.

Amrut Single Cask #3445Color: Gold.

Nose: The first whiff that enters my nose is of virgin oak. Creamy sawdust and vanilla. Although only four years old, at the fast forward maturation rate, this can be called a woody Whisky. The typical American oak notes are here, but I actually miss the typical Amrut spiciness. Amrut is indian, and Indian Whisky should be a bit exotic, not just another copy of Scottish Whisky. This Amrut does hide it Indian. After some vigorous movement in the glass and some patience, there is exotic spice emerging and apart from that the Whisky becomes a bit dusty.

Taste: Initially hot and then an explosion of sweet Vanilla. When the thick vanilla, travels down, quite some (virgin) oak, emerges here in the taste as well. So we have wood and vanilla. What else? Over the top vanilla combined with hot butter. Just as with the nose this needs air to show some exotic spices. Luckily it’s Indian-ness is here at last. Spicy hot sawdust from Massaranduba. A very hard tropical wood. It’s so hard in fact that you can’t cut it without the saw charring the wood. This slightly sour odour is very similar to the spiciness of this Whisky, especially in the taste of it.

I mentioned decanting Whisky before. This Amrut is one that needs a lot of air as well to fully blossom. This is still a pretty full bottle, but already there is a difference to the first taste of the freshly opened bottle. I will score it now (after lots of air in the glass), but I feel this will grow even better and more balanced over time. This may very well be an example of a Whisky where the last drop from the bottle will be the best drop.

Points: 88

The initial score was 86 points, but as I expected, this got only better over time. The bottle is gone now, but the last third scored an easy 88 Points. Again lesson learned. Give it time to breathe…

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 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).

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

Irish Whiskey Week – Day 7: Connemara 15yo 1992/2007 “Single Cask” (46%, OB, Cask #K92/34 4126)

Irish CloverThis will conclude our Irish Whiskey Week, a week that was lurking in the mud and only came into fruition when it was almost too late. I already published the first Tyrconnell review here and was writing the second Tyrconnell review (The Port one) when it hit me that I could make this into a Irish Whiskey Week. Irish Whiskey deserves that. In the end Ireland only has three distilleries that are “big”, Bushmills, Midleton and Cooley. No Bushmills Whiskey was reviewed here this time, Midleton was only featured with Jamesons 18yo and the rest are all really Cooley Whiskies. Even The Wild Geese are supposed to use Whiskey made by Cooley. Maybe I should have called this a Cooley Whisky Week…

Let’s finish this week off with a hopefully nice Single Cask Connemara, or peated Cooley Whiskey if you prefer. Strange enough this and a lot (but not all) of its brothers and sister single casks were bottled at 46% ABV instead of Cask Strength. When I look around, even all these Single Cask Connemara’s are sold out, so if you happen to find one get it if you’re interested.

Connemara Single Cask (with a different cask number)

Color: Light gold

Nose: Very light peat, creamy with vanilla. I smell more smoke than peat actually. Again a very elegant peated Irish Whiskey. Clay (a fresh uncolored clay brick kids play with). Very deep, toned down wet wood. Smoked kippers. Needs some air to open up, but I really like what I smell. Behind the smoke there is also some nice sweet fruits and salty licorice and mint. Meaty.

Taste: Sweet almonds. Sugared nuts. Small hint of peat, very elegant and toned down. Warming. Great balance. Ashes and a tiny amount of wood bitterness. Definitely a very tasty whisky, a mile (not miles) away from the regular young Cask Strength version, which is a lot cleaner, but also full of aroma, with less complexity. The finish is long and goes down the throat like a syrup, slowly and warms you up nicely. It leaves you behind with salty lips. I called this more complex than the cask strength version, but in itself it is not very complex, shall we say medium complexity?

Again we have here a very good Irish Whiskey that is impossible to buy these days. Not a lot of Connemara is bottled as a single cask and I’m wondering why. It is great stuff, even when its reduced to 46% ABV. I hope more bottling will be made like this. It’s a shame it’s that scarce.

This is the end, Irish Whiskey Week is over. A final comment? I have to say that this final Connemara is very different from my beloved Redbreast 15yo, and maybe even a tad better, what lovely stuff. I was surprised at the quality of the Jameson’s 18yo and how it reminded me of the Redbreast. Another plus was the quality of the Kilbeggan 15yo blend and the quality of both Connemara’s. But the sad thing is that all the good Irish stuff is hard to come by. Kilbeggan and Connemara Single Cask are both almost impossible to come by, and that’s a shame.

Points: 88