Highland Park 25yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 2 Sherry Butts, 1086 bottles, 13/242)

This is part three (of four) in Erik’s not-so-run-of-the-mill left behind bottles series. This time a super dark heavily Sherried offering from Cadenhead and Highland Park. Highland Park always went well with ex-Sherry casks. I used to be a big fan of Highland Park, one of the first I considered to be of the highest class available from Scotland. It is such a great tasting Whisky, honest, honeyed and humble. At least it used to be. It didn’t shout off the rooftops how great it is, and still managed to have a pretty solid fan-base around the world. Today however, Highland Park (and The Macallan) are part of a humongous marketing machine, which I tend to distrust. Sure the Whisky is still good, and there are still many, many, amazing bottles to be had (for a price), but the feeling is different, the feeling’s gone, sorry Highland Park. Just compare it to the way Springbank and Bruichladdich are marketed. The feeling is entirely different with these. Yet here we have an independent offering of Highland Park.

Cadenhead, by the way, thanks to Mr. Watt, seem to have reinvented themselves for many years to come. This bottling, it doesn’t say so on the label, seems to be the result of marrying two Sherry Butts together.

Color: Very dark orange brown, just shy of a mahogany hue.

Nose: Deep and dark, lots of oak, making it fresh. Toasted oak, and some warm plastic, which fades and disappears luckily. Fruity heavy Sherry. Meaty oak, and licorice. The wood also has quite a big floral component. Perfumy even. Next I got some Rhum Agricole “sweetness” mixed with dark chocolate. This one is neither red/black fruity, as old Longmorns nor thick and cloying. In the end it has more of the latter than the former. Elegant wood, yet definitely not old skool. Good Sherry, but modern. More and more whiffs of Rhum Agricole and cold gravy. Also drier spicy notes when you let it stand for a while.

Taste: Starts sweet and very nutty. With emerging bitterness when swallowed. A Doppler effect of bitterness. The bitterness is kept in check, so no problem here. Good tannins, not drying the mouth. Silky texture. Hints of vanillin and milk-chocolate pudding. Fruity and again this bitter end of the body. And a big body it is. Well it has been in rather active Sherry casks for 25 years, so no surprise here. Paper and clear glue. Honey, the stuff of bees, not your darling, I hear you ask? Nope, no not really, although it does remind me of licorice candy made with honey. Hardly a Highland Park. Its about the Sherry cask this one. Black tea bitterness, but with a nice edge of coal. Steam punk, but not old skool. The more this breathes in my glass the “older” it gets. More coal, and more steam (and motor oil). It may lack a tiny bit in complexity, but it makes up for it with development (in my glass). The finish is simple and again bitter (medium), but the body is very good (it finally does get into the realm of Longmorn after extensive breathing). Long aftertaste of oak, licorice and black fruits and yes, the bitter bit has the longest breath of all the notes. So it has its good and less good points. Maybe this should have been bottled a few years earlier?

Letting it breathe is a must for this Whisky, it makes all the difference.

Points: 87

Jim Beam “Signature Craft” 12yo (43%, OB, Small Batch)

Marketed as the super premium “Top Shelf” Bourbon in the Jim Beam range of Bourbons. No don’t worry the Small Batch series isn’t discontinued, just they are seen as Bourbons for aficionado’s and less for the “people”. Second the Signature Craft’s will bear the Jim Beam name as opposed to the Whiskies released in the Small Batch series. Bearing the Beam name is also the reason this Signature Craft Bourbon doesn’t break the bank. It’s an easy access brand. For those who don’t know The Small Batch series, it comprises of: Bookers, Baker’s, Basil Haydens (Old Grand Dad recipe and yeast strain) and Knob Creek.

Jim Beam Signature Craft 12yoColor: Copper gold.

Nose: A lot of honey and the typical Jim Beam yeast strain. Wow, really very honeyed. It’s hard to get past that. This needs to breathe for a while. Quite mellow for a 12yo Bourbon that has spent all of its life in new wood. The wood starts to work here, and adds vanilla and a teensie bit of spiciness to the whole. Honey still, but becoming more dry. Hints of a Cognac-like fruitiness. Hints of dry powder and old leather. More hints can be found, but in the end it’s all creamy vanilla with loads of honey.

Taste: less sweet than expected. More (new) wood influence here and quite warming. Runny caramel with hints of burnt sugar. Added character by the honeyed, woody bitterness in the finish. Toffee. Also a hint of menthol seems to be here, chilling my lips. The finish itself isn’t very long, and that’s quite surprising for such an old Bourbon. Well balanced though.

Somewhat sweeter than the Four Roses Single Barrel and Buffalo Trace. Super Premium, well maybe. I have to say that this is a well-balanced and very easily drinkable Bourbon. Sometimes surprising to be 12yo, since the wood isn’t always there overpowering the whole by it prolonged maturation. Although not super premium by my book, I do still like it. It stands shoulder to shoulder with both Bourbons mentioned above. By the way The Signature Craft series do remind me a lot of Four Roses. The look and feel, not the taste that is…

Points: 83

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…

Glenfiddich 18yo “Married in Small Batches” (40%, OB, Batch #3404)

Slowly but surely we move on up (and down) the rather large collection of Glenfiddichs, the mother of all malts. Earlier we’ve already covered the 12yo “Special Reserve” (80 Points), the 15yo “Solera Reserve” (82 Points) and the 15yo “Distillery Edition” (83 Points). The odd one out was a Vintage 1974 (91 Points) bottled for the nice people of La Maison Du Whisky in Paris, France. This time around we’ll up the age again and move from 15yo up to 18yo and with that, we arrive at a bottle that was married in small batches. The latest offering of this bottle is now called Small Batch Reserve, maintaining the 18yo age statement.

Glenfiddich 18yo "Married in Small Batches" (40%, OB)Color: Full gold

Nose: Malty, waxy (like in old bottles), and very fruity. A fruit mish-mash since no specific fruit is discernable. A vegetal and new wood smell. Nice and elegant. Dusty but also creamy. Nice combination between vanilla and the waxyness I mentioned before. Not overly complex for a malt of this age, but it does have great balance and is well made around good maltiness, the wax and the fruit.

Taste: Waxy and lots of woody notes. Wood, oak, cardboard and just the right amount of bitterness. Next toffee, caramel, creamy not sticky nor sweet. Hints of the wax is in here too. Malt and old cellar notes. Peanut skins and maybe walnut skin bitterness right at the back of my tongue. Vanilla, but typical vanilla you get from American oak. Definitely a Glenfiddich with some (wooden) balls. OK at 40% and definitely is presented as an old (18yo) malt. Like the nose, this is not overly complex, but very drinkable (even with this wooden bite). This lacks the fruit I got in the 15 Distillery Edition, and lacks the acidity I got from both 15yo’s. This is definitely older and spicier (like it should) and placed in the range as such. Despite the oak, this has a short finish.

Often scuffed at and I never got that. Even if it would taste lots worse than it actually does, I still love the history and the pioneering work done by this malt. But it doesn’t taste bad, and it is pretty good stuff. Why does it have a bit of a reputation then? Sure the 12yo is pretty simple, and most of them are bottled at the lowest strength possible. Most anoraks prefer “the other” Grant brand Balvenie. Yes it’s not complex, but very enjoyable nevertheless and very inexpensive to boot.

Points: 82

For Tony, Mr. Glenfiddich!

 

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

Noah’s Mill (57.15%, Batch QBC No. 14-28, 750 ml)

Happy New year! Yet again! I’m writing this, since this review of Noah’s Mill is essentially the first review I’m writing this new year 2015. Looking back I didn’t even write a review about a Bourbon in a long while. Bourbon’s have stayed off of these pages for 2,5 years now. So this Noah’s mill is long overdue.

On the label the producer of this Whiskey is Noah’s Mill Distilling Company, but af far as In know, this is not an active distillery, nor a closed one. Noah’s Mill is a brand owned by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) from Bardstown KY, which was founded in 1935. It is owned by the Kulsveen family.

Since this is a recent bottle, no mention whatsoever about the age of this Whiskey, although the label mentions that it’s not young. If memory serves me well I believe that the first batches of Noah’s Mill did have an age statement, or we were told that the Whiskey was 15yo, but that may or not be the case with this newer bottle. It is believed that most of the Whiskies of KBD are made by the Heaven Hill Distillery (half a mile further down the road).

Noah's MillColor: Orange copper gold

Nose: Dry and woody. Vanilla. Dusty vanilla pudding. Custard. Paint. Fresh forest floor plants. Leather (old well-kept saddle). Nutty, dry roasted almonds. Old log cabin offers a different take on oak. Sawdust mixed with a touch of machine oil and hints of cold bacon and toffee. A hint of honey and perfumy too.

Taste: Leather and solvents again, not necessarily a bad thing though. Hot, woody and quite dry, surely not as sweet as I expected, even if this ís 15yo. Vanilla and clean oak. Freshly stripped off paint dust and wood spice. Bitter oak finish, but just to make a statement, and if you are an experienced taster/drinker, you’ll manage with the oaky bitterness and fresh tree sap note it leaves. Cold black tea and cask toast. Fern and half-dried cut grass. Apart from the bitterness in the finish, the body starts with a funky acidity that dissipates into the hot, peppery vanilla and oaky body and finish.

Some might argue that this is too dry, not sweet enough so plainly too old, but I have to say, probably from my Malt Whisky background, that this is pretty nice. May be a bit unusual for a Bourbon, but I like it. maybe not for everyone.

I have a much older bottle of this that I hope to review soon, but untill that time, I believe this Whiskey will show some batch variation.

Points: 83

Craigellachie 18yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, Bourbon & Sherry Hogshead, 432 bottles)

Hey, let’s try another Craigellachie. I’ve just reviewed the new official 13yo, and got a taste of what the official Craigellachie tastes like. That one seems to me to be only from Bourbon casks, and this Cadenhead expression is not only from a Bourbon, but also from Sherry Hogsheads. Craigellachie is often a very nice distillate, meaty and funky, so I have high hopes for this, so without further ado…

Craigellachie 18yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, Bourbon & Sherry Hogshead, 432 bottles)Color: Copper gold

Nose: Velvety, vegetal and occasionally soapy. Strong. Gin botanicals. Sweet smelling (funky and sweet lavas) and extremely fresh at first. Menthol. Lots of oak. Next a lot of development. The menthol and other “fresh” components dissipate and a funky and oaky sweatiness takes over. Sweet dusty licorice and slightly rotting oak and the sharper wood odor of pencil shavings. Yes you’ve guessed it, a very interesting Craigellachie! Buttery vanilla. and sweetish wet fern leaves. Lots happening here. Not a nose for the faint hearted. Complex stuff.

Taste: Sweet at first but very quickly turning into something dry. Nice oak again with pencil shavings and tiny hints of cannabis in vanilla ice-cream. Very aromatic. Warm coffee (with milk), wood and dark, but not too dark, chocolate. Well balanced and very interesting aroma’s thrown together. Funky beerlike finish. Animalesk. Mocha, toffee and salty caramel are there too. I feel this Whisky changes a lot along the way.

Probably a Whisky for connoisseurs. I like it a lot, but I don’t think newbies will be positive since accessibility is not the priority for this Whisky. The complexity and amount of aroma’s are just shy of being overwhelming.

Points: 87