Ledaig 15yo 1997/2013 (59.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, for Van Wees, Refill Sherry Hogshead #464, 262 bottles, AC/JICD)

Well, this should be interesting! Fall 2015 saw me doing a review of a sistercask (#465) of this Whisky. The cask next door, so to speak. It was filled the same day with exactly the same distillate, in just another refill Sherry hogshead, but with, probably, a different result, since no two casks are really alike. Both were distilled on 23/10/1997, #464 was bottled 01/08/2013, and #465 was bottled on 30/10/2013. Bottled only three months later but making one a 15yo old and the other a 16yo. #465 is also the darker of the two, but the difference looks bigger than the aforementioned 3 months. Maybe the two casks contained different Sherries. Maybe one cask was more active, or had a deeper char. All can be true.

#465 was bottled for The Whisky Exchange (of London), and #464 was bottled for Van Wees (of Amersfoort). Both casks were refill Sherry hogsheads. I’m opening this #464 now, since #465 is almost empty and it’s time to “kill” it. Don’t believe for a second, since it lasted me this long, it wasn’t any good. It is actually so good, I didn’t want it to be empty soon, second it isn’t really a daily drinker type Whisky to boot. It’s a big, big Whisky. So today I still have a chance to compare the two. Just bear in kind, one has had plenty of time to breathe and the other is almost freshly opened.

Color: Full gold, with some orange.

Nose: Funky, dusty and meaty. Big and sweet-smelling. Fatty, dirty, meaty peat. Almost like an animal was turned into peat along with the plants. Nothing bad here, just very animalesk. Crushed beetle and gasses bubbling up from a pond. Expect no clean earthy peat, or just bursts of sharp smoke. Yes, smoke is here, as well as peat. Smoke from wet wood. Marshland wood. Earthy. Wet and dirty peat. Earthy sweet peat. The smoke is soft. Spicy, vegetal and highly aromatic. Hints of liquorice and dust, mixed in with toasted oak. Vanilla, mocha and more drier wood and sharper smoke. Hints of Rhum Agricole if you ask me. Hints of peppermint immersed in mud. Very organic mud. Do I detect some sulphurous compounds in the back? Wonderful balance though.

Taste: Starts sharp and quickly turns to sweet, with a peppery attack, quickly followed by peat and sharp smoke. Its like the initial sweetness coats the mouth and when that recedes, the sharper element comes to the front of the stage. Maybe fruity even, I’m sure of it actually, but that part is overwhelmed by the rest of the big aroma’s this Whisky has. Licorice power, sweet licorice wood. Ashes, even cigarette ashes. Extremely warming, I can feel it going all the way down. Never get that a lot, not even from cask #465. Sweet, lots and lots of almonds and even hints of anise, barely noticeable: acetone based nail polish remover, and the crushed beetle is here too. This may seem strange and quite off, but let me assure you, this is all positive for the whole of this Whisky. Give it some time and more fruity notes start to develop. Red and yellow fruits. Sweetish, but also slightly acidic. Nutty and waxy. Hints of burnt plastic. Lots of smoke in the taste, along with some cow dung in the finish. Very rural and farmy. Salty lips. What a wonderful Whisky again, utterly complex. There is so much happening. It’s only slightly less balanced than the nose, and cask #465 for that matter. This imperfection is best noticeable in the aftertaste.

In a direct comparison, it is obvious to me that #465 is the more civilized of the two. The same notes appear, but turned down quite a bit. It’s not as “loud” as #464. It’s fruitier, with apple notes and some more red fruits emerge as well. More elegant and less broad, less sweet. Slightly sharper and more acidic. Better balance in the taste and definitely more elegant and less dirty. So not identical twins. #464 is bigger, bolder and has a longer finish. The sulphurous bits of #464 are easier to detect in a direct comparison, since #465 seems to have much less of it, or lacks it altogether.

I love both these Ledaigs, and if you have a preference, it’s because one of the two better suits your profile )of the moment). More elegant or more rough, cases can be made for both. Personally today, I might prefer #465 (it shows coal and black fruit, which I love), however tomorrow I might prefer #464 (big and bold). It just depends. #465 will score higher because it does show a bit more quality and balance, with more of the aroma’s I like, but, who knows, maybe some more breathing will bring out even more in #464. I’m in for a treat the next months/years…

Points: 89

Advertisements

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

After the excellent Dailuaine by Gordon & MacPhail why not try another one. This time one by dutch Indie bottlers The Ultimate. Gordon & MacPhail are known for controlling the whole process from acquiring the cask, storing the filled cask, right untill bottling of the Whisky. With this they hope to achieve the highest quality possible. The Ultimate have a slightly different approach, a very Dutch one.

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

First of all the final product cannot cost too much, having said that, they really try to get the highest quality they can get. No money is spent on designing a fancy label, nor on a fancy glass bottle.  A long time ago a picture of Bushmills distillery was found and placed on the label and never again was money spent on design. (By the way, Bushmills was never bottled in this series). If you want your bottle in a (simple, white) box, you’ll have to pay extra. The only money spent is on buying good Whisky. The Van Wees company has many contacts in Scotland dating back to the sixties. Most, if not all, of the recent casks are bought from Andrew Symington (Signatory Vintage). Just have a look at the casks from 1997. The Ultimate bottled #6012 and #6017, Signatory bottled #6015, #6016, #6018 and #6020. The Ultimate bottled #4229 and #4234. Signatory bottled #4228, #4230, #4231, #4232 and #4233.

Color: Light Gold

Nose: Fruity and buttery. Quite a strong aroma. Nice spicy and grassy wood. Just like it’s brother from Gordon & MacPhail, a nice sweet vanilla note. Eggnog. Lots of influence from the wood, without overpowering the distillate. Nice sappy oak and also a little bit of cardboard. With some air a more dry and powdery turn. A lot less apple, but still there. Somehow the alcohol is more upfront.

Taste: Sweeter than I imagined. Again a pretty nice aroma. Vanilla with candied apples and even some raspberry. Excellent stuff. A paper note, but also hints of burnt sugar mixes in with the toasted oak. Very nice and drinkable, with a sweet and warming, and dare I say, hoppy finish. The Whisky is pretty straightforward and nicely un-complex.

Dailuaine is a pretty nice distillate, will have to keep this one in mind and investigate further.

Points: 85

Fettercairn 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Bourbon Barrel #408, 226 bottles)

Careful readers of the last few reviews have noticed there are some entry-level malts there and the odd Irish stuff. Coincidence or not, there were some points given in the 70’s. Like for instance The Macallan 10yo and Inchmurrin 15yo. Through the wonderful medium of Facebook I got comments like “did you lose a bet?” or “got some imposition?” or “What’s next: Fettercairn?” I initially wasn’t planning on reviewing Fettercairn just yet, but with comments like that who could resist. I have to be honest, I don’t own a bottle of Fettercairn. I had no money left when I spent it all on Brora. Luckily in the ever-growing bank of samples I did have a sample of this Ultimate Fettercairn. Hurray! Yes, you read correctly between the lines. Fettercairn isn’t a very popular Whisky, but is that fair? When I look at my list of previously tasted Fettercairns, I actually haven’t scored one below 81 points, so it can’t be bad, right?

Fettercairn 16yo 1995/2011 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Bourbon Barrel #408, 226 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Creamy vanilla. Ice cream, but also small hints of a whiff of (burnt) garbage. What!?!?! Let’s put that particular smell away and move on. Spicy wood, dark chocolate, nice oak actually. With some air, pencil shavings and more floral and slightly soapy. Move the Whisky around in your glass and you’ll pick up the more floral bit. Wet flower-pot soil and half-dried grass. I’m thinking first refill (not first fill) Bourbon barrel. Apart from the little off-note I picked up earlier (I actually did just take the garbage out), there is nothing out of the ordinary here. It smells like a typical Whisky from a Bourbon barrel.

Taste: Somewhat sweeter initially than I expected. Creamy vanilla. Warming and quite some wood, less of the oak, but more of the pencil shaving that are there in the nose, but also cardboard. Pepper and a hint of acidity (also from oak, that reminds me again of garbage. What!?!?! No, I’ve never eaten garbage in case you’re wondering). Small amounts of the vanilla/caramel/toffee group are rightly detected. Warming finish that is a little bit hot (and woody).

So why does Fettercairn have such a bad reputation? I honestly couldn’t tell you, since I have only tasted a mere five expressions. I have tasted this independent bottling now and another one from Cadenhead’s (a 10yo from 1993, 81 points). The other three were the official 24yo (85 points) and 30yo (82 points), both from 2009, and the 30yo “Stillman’s Dram” from 2005 (83 points). It seems to me older is not always better with Fettercairn.

Points: 81

Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)

Next we’ll have a look at an indie Ben Nevis. I love Ben Nevis, it usually is a malt that strikes a chord with me. For me Ben Nevis is still a distillery working today that is able to churn out very good Whiskies, and for sure is one I’ll always keep an eye out for. That said I also am realistic. Not every indie Ben Nevis is good. It isn’t a distillery I would buy indie bottles from without tasting first. Although pretty good, The Golden Cask Ben Nevis I reviewed earlier, did have a strange, funky finish, which makes it, in my opinion, less of a daily drinker. The Ben Nevis we have at hand here was sourced from Signatory. Just have a look at the cask numbers The Ultimate and Signatory are putting out from 1992.

Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)Color: Light gold, with a slight pink hue

Nose: Yeah, now we’re talking. Fatty, buttery, vanilla and fruity. Lots happening and everything seems to fit together quite nicely. Fantastic fruitiness, all sorts of mixed up fruits, red, black and yellow fruits. Almost impossible to discern any of them. Caramel, mocha and strawberry combined with sweat. The wood shows itself here as nutty. Yes this is very special. Do I detect some old school Whisky here?

Taste: Sweet but also a little bit acidic. Very appetizing. Some burnt notes and quite spicy without it being woody. Marzipan and again lots of fruits with some nuts. Highly complex, and I’m imagining this amount of flavor and its complexity might not be for everyone. Hints of smoke, and it has a curiously hidden sweetness to it. Maybe its high in fruits that it only seems to be sweet. Pure enjoyment. Is it without flaws than? Yep this Whisky suffers a bit from a weak finish. Everything that is so well-balanced in this Whisky is absent from the finish. It has some power but after the big body, the finish is a bit weak, and missing some of the big flavors that were so apparent in the body. But hey, this to me is still a pretty good Whisky.

I have to admit, I love Ben Nevis. Most of the times I encounter one, albeit blind or not, I seem to like it. It has characteristics I do like personally. I rated a full bottle of this 86 Points. This review is written about the last drops from the bottle. It is excellent and since I’m going to score this even higher, I’d say this needs some air people.

Points: 88

Bunnahabhain “Moine” 5yo 2008/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Peated, Bourbon Barrel #800011, 341 bottles)

Just the other day, Jan from Best Shot Whisky Reviews reviewed a nice 5yo Islay peated whisky, so why shouldn’t we do just the same. Why? Because we can! Next up a Moine. A Moine say you, yes a Moine, the peated Bunnahabhain. This is bottled by dutch indie bottlers Van Wees under their Ultimate Label. Unchillfiltered and uncolored. Van Wees already bottled quite a few of these Moines, and if you are interested, get one quick since the latest expression bottled in 2014 costs a tenner (in Euro’s) more than the earlier bottlings…

Bunnahabhain Moine 5yo 2008/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Peated, Bourbon Barrel #800011, 341 bottles)Color: Very pale straw yellow and/or greenish. Almost colorless.

Nose: Fat and fruity peat. I certainly have smelled this before. Than more peat and after that even more peat. Although this has lots of peat, I wouldn’t call this “heavy”. It has some smoke obviously, but you never know, they don’t always come together. The smoke part is light, as is the wood and toast. The fruit plays a big role in this Whisky as does its youth. Sweet licorice and spice. Black tea leaves and green plants. Given some time, it becomes less fatty and gets more floral even (and soapy) and the peat gets more meaty. Little bit of bonfire and coal dust. Not bad, not bad at all.

Taste: Sweet with delicate smoke and peat. Cardboard, plywood and sugar. It’s an almost lovely peated whisky lemonade. Extremely appetizing. Fern and tree sap. After several sips, you get the (thin) sweet watery feel, with tasty peat, but it is highly un-complex. Finishes on citrussy peat and a little bit of bonfire with ashes.

These Ultimate Moines are dirt cheap and sell well, but are not very highly regarded. Yes, at first it is peat peat peat and it looks like a vodka that has aged for a week in stainless steel with a blade of grass thrown in for color. But just forget about your typical peated Islay Whisky. It’s not a heavy peated Whisky, with sea spray and Iodine. Nope, it’s a more easily drinkable, fruity and sometimes floral, modern Islay Whisky. It fits right in with the newer easy drinkable and easy accessible expressions of the big boys like Laphroaig Select, Bowmore Small Batch and many Caol Ila’s. Those are easy drinkable too, but this has more peat to it and still is like a peated lemonade. Don’t expect a lot of complexity. It didn’t do a lot in the cask except for marrying its flavours, and its only 5 years old. But who cares, this is to drink and lie back, it’s about enjoying life. Peat reinvented and very easy drinkable. No high marks here, but still I enjoyed it a lot, and isn’t that the most important?

Points: 82

For fun, I did a head to head of this Moine with the Kilchoman Spring 2010, and found the Kilchoman at 3yo to be more balanced, smokier, less sweet yet more interesting and funkier (the Oloroso Sherry finish probably did that). More happening, more flavor. It’s more of everything actually.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)

Craigellachie was founded in 1891 and designed by Charles Doig. The first spirit is distilled not earlier than in 1898. Smooth sailing from there, with some minor changes in ownership. In 1964 the distillery is hauled over and the stills are doubled taking them from two to four. In 1998 Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla are sold by UDV (now Diageo) to Bacardi (Martini). Its closest neighbour is The Macallan.

More than two years ago I reviewed one of my own bottles a Craigellachie that was distilled in 1982. Today we’ll have another go at Craigellachie and this time one that was distilled 20 odd years later. The Craigellachie at hand is a mere 8 years old, and was matured in a Sherry Butt.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Malty and quite sweet-smelling. Hot sugar solution. Toffee, caramel and most definitely some vanilla (American oak?). Also a hint of mint and some elegant (old) oak. Next to that some fresh air and herbal traits. Dried grass. The wood changes a little into the smell you get when you are sharpening a pencil, but also cask toast. Probably a Refill Butt that once held Fino Sherry. The sweetness that was there in the beginning dissipates a bit to let those woody and drier notes to display themselves some more. After a while a hint of licorice and lemon curd.

Taste: Malty again, and somehow it doesn’t taste ready, not as balanced as the nose is. It is underway yet not finished. Small bitterness and also some paint notes. The maltiness and oak hide the sweetness that is absolutely there. Butter cake and a touch of honey. Given some time the sweetness emerges better but the whole gets more balanced by a creamy note and milk chocolate. The finish is quite long and adds a bitter burnt note that wasn’t there before. It adds to the character and balances the (late) sweetness. Interesting.

I usually wine that a Whisky was reduced too much. This one yielded almost 900 bottles, so this must have been a Whisky that was high in alcohol. It was reduced to 46% ABV, yet it still carries a nice punch and I’m guessing the flavours are better displayed at this strength than it would have been at Cask Strength. Lovely and honest Whisky, easily drinkable and a nice addition to a lot of official bottlings you might own in the same price-range.

Points: 84

Tamdhu 6yo 2004/2011 (52.9%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #5439, 680 bottles)

Just before Christmas I reviewed a young Tamdhu bottled by The Ultimate (Van Wees, The Netherlands). That one was only 8 years old and I dared to mention in that review that at 8yo that Whisky was maybe bottled to late, since a lot of wood was present in that bottling. Luckily the wood gave the Whisky a lot of character, but I hoped it would have been a wee bit sweeter. Now look here. I’ve got an even younger Tamdhu bottled by The Ultimate. This time I’ll have a look at a 6yo Tamdhu from 2004 (the second of the six, bottled in 2011), and have a look how the two compare. How was your Christmas, by the way?

Tamdhu 6yo 2004/2011 (52.9%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #5439, 680 bottles)Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Definitely a less full on nose. Less powerful, dryer and somewhat more floral than cask #347. Again nice woody notes, but less prominent. Still a lot of pencil shavings though. This one needs a little breather. I just opened the bottle. Good balance and again a very likeable smell. Appealing. Somewhat cleaner this one is (thanks Yoda). When smelling these two H2H, is think this younger example is even more complex, since the 8yo is all wood.

Taste: Sweet and creamy and delayed pepper, but overall a weaker body than the 8yo. Now you all are going to think that I’ve lost it, but this 6yo Tamdhu is more complex than the 8yo I reviewed before Christmas. On the taste lots of nice aromas have lined up and come through one after the other instead of all at once. Black and white powder, vanilla pudding, elegant wood, licorice, and some yellow fruits even. What a treat. The finish isn’t longer, but has some more aroma’s and this one is heavy on cask toast and a little bit of sulphur, but again not dominant, so adding to the character. A nanosecond of sweet on the entry, than quickly into wood and then the workings of layers when the Whisky is swallowed. These young Tamdhu’s are hidden treasures!

The whole is more toned down compared to cask #347, but this one has some more going for it. It is a bit sweeter (as I hoped), but the sweetness is a bit funky, so I’m glad is isn’t sweeter than it is. The Whisky is only 6yo, but still it seems to be more complex than it’s older sister. I like the finish better too, although it has some sulphur, but that gives it even more character. As I said, more going on in this one. Time will tell what extra air will do for this Tamdhu. For the time being, a well urned:

Points: 88