Amber Glen Classic Blend and Amber Glen Speyside Single Malt Reviews

Amber Glen.
Amber Glen is an Independent Bottler, Distributor and Exporter of Amber Glen Blended and Single Malt Whisky, distilled, matured and bottled in Scotland. The company was founded in February 2013 by Samuel Minionis and offers a wide range of Blended - and Single Malt Whiskies. They are specialised in bottling Small Batches in the Amber Supreme series that include young Single Malts from from all the five Scottish production areas. The Supreme expressions are naturally coloured, Non Chill-Filtered and have a higher ABV of 46%. From time to time Single Casks are offered as well. Amongst others, Amber Glen buys their Malt from Macduff, Glenallachie, Glentauchers and Miltonduff. Amber Glen will focus their sales efforts on the large group of new Whisky consumers, mainly in emerging markets. Amber Glen send me two samples to review. Many Thanks!

Country: Scotland 
Brand: Amber Glen Classic
Bottler: Amber Glenn Scotch Whisky Co. Ltd., 
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40 %

Colour: Yellow Gold.

Nose: The Grain Alcohol is quite present so you need to find your way around it. Give the Amber Glen enough time in the glass. I find slightly Burnt Toast with a little Margarine, Raisins, Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Bread Dough, light Vanilla, Refill Oak and hints of Rum Soaked Apples and Varnish. None of the Aromas is very pronounced as they are dominated by the Sharp Grain Alcohol.

Palate: Young and Sugary Sweet with Breakfast Cereals, Toasted Grains, Toffee, Nut Shells, Sharp Alcohol, light Refill Oak, light Licorice, Nutmeg and Pepper. 

Finish: Quite Short and Rough. Sugary Sweet at first but a little Bitter towards the end with Corn Flakes, Almonds, light Refill Oak, light Licorice and Pepper. 

I added a bit of Water and the Sharp Grain Alcohol retreats somewhat. I also find a little Dried Apricot on the Nose. If you choose to drink this Blend neat I would advise you to add a couple of drops of Water although Palate and Finish become rather Thin.  

Rating: 71 

Nose: 18.5 - Taste: 17.5 - Finish: 17.5 - Overall: 17.5

General Remarks: The Amber Glen Classic Blend consists of 20% Malt Whisky and 80% Grain Whisky. Usually, less expensive Blends use around 30% Malt Whiskies. It costs around 30 US Dollars (April 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average. 

Conclusion: This is very young whisky that matured in 3rd and/or 4th Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks. The Nose is the better part but on the Palate and in the Finish Sugared Breakfast Cereals and Sharp Grain Alcohol rule. This Amber Glen Blend noses and tastes almost like a slightly younger version of Ballantine's Finest Blend. I must assume that this Amber Glen Blend is mainly produced for Mixing Purposes. Because the combination of a large percentage of young Grain Alcohol and a small percentage of young Refill Cask Malt Whisky does not produce a spirit that is interesting enough to drink neat. Nice presentation and bottle though!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    April 23, 2015

Country: Scotland 
Brand: Amber Glen Speyside
Bottler: Amber Glen Scotch Whisky Co. Ltd
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Golden Amber 

Nose: Young, Light, Sweet, Fruity and Floral with Pear Drops, Sour Apples, Nuts, Beeswax, light Honey, Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Tired Cask, Lemon and Wood Spices. After a while some Dried Apricot and Orange Marmalade. The Alcohol is not fully integrated and there's a light Sting.     

Palate: Light, Young, Watery and Medium Spicy with Orange Marmalade, Malt, Alcohol, Pepper, Cloves, Nut Shells and Toffee.    

Finish: On the Short side with Orange Marmalade, Grassy tones, Toffee, Malt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cloves, slightly Bitter Almonds and hints of Aniseed and Mint. 

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose you get more Pear Drops and Honey. The Oak softens up somehow. It does become a bit Thin though. On the Palate you get more Orange Marmalade. The Finish disappears however.  Although the Spirit becomes rather Thin when adding Water, it also softens up and smells and tastes more friendly. I advise you to experiment with a couple of drops a time. 

Rating: 80.5

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20  - Overall: 20 

General Remarks: Amber Glen Speyside is a young Single Malt that matured for around 5 Years in Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks. It costs around 50 US Dollars (April 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: The Glen Amber Speyside is a very Young Single Malt that won't scare off beginning Whisky drinkers as it's Light and easy to drink, especially when you add a little Water. So it's okay for the probable target group. But that same youth makes it quite uneventful for more regular Single Malt Heads. The Nose is okay although the Alcohol stings a little. But on the Palate there's not much to discover and the Finish is quite Short. If Glen Amber Speyside was a Boxer, he/she would fight in the Featherweight Division. 

Bottom Line:
Today I tasted two of the young Amber Glen expressions. They are both quite light and the Speyside is very easy to drink. That makes them quite suitable for the intended target groups. They lack the depth and character however to attract more seasoned whisky drinkers on a daily basis. I do hope I will be able to taste some more mature expressions from the Supreme series or a Single Cask as well. Thanks for sending me the two samples and the best of luck to Amber Glen!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    April 23, 2015

Aberfeldy 1994 Old Malt Cask Review

“A Touch Too Much”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highlands - Pertshire
Brand: Aberfeldy 1994 (Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age:  18 Years
ABV: 50 %

Colour: Golden

Nose: Rather Floral with Heather and Pine Needles. The Alcohol is quite strong so you need to find your way around that. I also find Malt, Honey, Buttered Toast, Vanilla Custard, Nectarine Preserves, Pineapple Sweets, Oak and mixed Spices. 

Palate: Strong Delivery. This Aberfeldy is Malty and Spicy with Sweet Barley, Orange, Nectarine Preserves, Buttered Toast, Oak, Honey, Pepper, Cinnamon and grated Ginger. Wood and Wood spice are a bit too dominant.    

Finish: Middle-Long, Oaky and quite Spicy with Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Toffee, Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon and Dried Herbs. Dry with a bit of Dusty Earth towards the end. As on the Palate, Oak and Wood Spice are quite present.

With a bit of Water, the Alcohol retreats and the Nose becomes Sweeter and almost Creamy with Barley, Honey, Vanilla and Fresh Apricots. On the Palate and in the Finish I do not detect significant changes but you can certainly experiment with a bit of Water.

Rating: 83.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 21 

General Remarks: The Aberfeldy Distillery is located in Aberfeldy (Pertshire) and was founded in 1896 by John and Tommy Dewar. Today, John Dewar & Sons is part of the Bacardi Group. A lot of the Malt production goes into Dewar's Blends like the White Label, the 12 Years, the 18 Years and the Signature. The Single Malt core range consists of the 12 Years, the 21 Years and the 18 Years Travel Retail expression.

The Aberfeldy Old Malt Cask I'm tasting today was distilled in June 1994 and bottled by Douglas Laing in June 2012. It matured in a Refill Hogshead with Cask # DL 8264. This Single Cask Malt is naturally coloured and not Chill-Filtered. It sells at around 90 US Dollars (April 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: This is my first Aberfeldy and the 1994 Old Malt Cask seems to follow the house style with lots of Fruit, Honey, Malt and Spices. But 18 Years of Wood seems to be a bit overdone for this Spirit as the Refill Cask provided more than sufficient Oak and Wood Spice. It's not a bad Single Malt but you need to like this Flavour profile to fully enjoy this Single Malt. For me personally the Cask gave " A Touch Too Much"   

Jan van den Ende                                                                     April 20, 2015

Flaming Heart 4th Edition Review

“A Potential Cracker”

Country: Scotland 
Brand: Flaming Heart (4th Edition)
Bottler: Compass Box Whisky Co.
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 48.9 %

Colour: Straw/Yellow Gold

Nose: Wet Earth, Slightly Medicinal Peat, Tar, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Shell Fish, Wet Newspaper, Malt, Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Diesel Oil, Lemon, Walnut Shells, Vanilla, Perfumed Soap, light Honey, Caramel, ripe Banana, Pineapple, Sweet Cherries, Straw, Charred Oak, Menthol, Pepper, Salt and Nutmeg. It's a well-balanced Sweet & Peat combo but it lacks intensity. It's rather Light and there's a Young feel to the Spirit. The Alcohol is reasonably well integrated.  

Palate: More Citrus than on the Nose, especially Lemon and Grapefruit. I also find Sweet Peat, Cold Smoke, Brine, Ashes, Charred Oak, Salted Butter, Shell Fish, Apple, Vanilla, Green Olives, Espresso Coffee, Medicinal notes, Sugared Cereals, Nut Shells, Straw, Pepper and Nutmeg. The Alcohol is noticeable here as it is in the Finish.  

Finish: Quite Long and Salty with Lemon, Cherry, Licorice, Sugared Tea, Wet Clay, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Shell Fish, Charred Oak, Menthol, Pepper and Green Olives.  

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose the impression of a Young Spirit with a high ABV increases. I find some Meaty notes as well as a bit of Tropical Fruit. I don't think added Water improves the Palate and I get too much Sugared Tea in the Finish. But the Flaming Heart gives you some space to experiment with a couple of drops at the time.

Rating: 85

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5 

General Remarks: This is the 4th Edition of the Flaming Heart Expression by Compass Box. It was released and bottled in August 2012. Only 9147 bottles were made available. Like all whiskies released by Compass Box it's Naturally Coloured and Non Chill-Filtered. The Single Malts used to compose this Blend mainly matured in refill Ex-Bourbon Casks and New Heavily Toasted French Oak Casks. For the first time Compass also included some Ex-Sherry Casks in the composition. The 4th Edition consists of roughly 2/3 Clynelish, 1/3 Laphroaig as well as a bit of Malt from Speyside and the Islands. It is sold at around 110 US Dollars on average. (April 2015). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: This is my first Flaming Heart so I can't compare this 4th Edition to its predecessors. Let me start by saying that this is a solid Blended Malt that offers a nice combination of Sweet Highland and Peated Islay. It's quite well balanced. The ABV is a tad too high in my opinion and it seems to cover up the relative youth of the Malts used in this Blend. The Heavily Charred New French Oak tends to do the same. In the end I miss the Intensity and Depth that would come with a longer more natural cask maturation. Just imagine this blend if it would be bottled at around 15 Years. I think it would be a complete cracker! As it is, it' still good but considering its relative youth it's quite expensive at over a 100 US Dollars per bottle. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                    April 16, 2015

The Breeders Choice Review

“Too Much Grain, Too Little Malt”

Country: Argentina
Brand:The Breeders Choice
Elaborated and Bottled by: J. Llorente y Cia S.A., Escobar (BA)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Golden Amber

Nose: Not too Aggressive Grain Alcohol, Refill-Oak, Grass, Dirty Earth, Toast, Cereals and a little Wood Spice. It's practically impossible to detect the Malt content so I must assume that either the Grain Alcohol percentage is higher than the average 70% we find in Scottish bottom shelf Blends and/or the Malt matured in third or fourth Refill casks. On the Nose, the Breeders Choice is quite inoffensive but that's about all there is to say. 

Taste: Thin and Watery delivery. The Grain Alcohol is very present now and is accompanied by Sugared Cereals, Nut Shells, Caramel, Bitter Refill Oak and a bit of Pepper. Again, it's difficult to detect any significant Malt content.

Finish: Short and Watery with Sugared Cereals, slightly Bitter Refill Oak, light Licorice, Alcohol, Pepper and a little Dusty Earth.

I added a little Water and on the Nose the Grain Alcohol retreats and very light notes of Honey and Fruit become noticeable. Palate and Finish become almost nonexistent though. Still, the Nose of the Breeders Choice slightly improves with Water and that's a surprise.

Rating: 64

Nose: 17 - Taste: 15.5 - Finish: 15.5 - Overall: 16

General Remarks: This whisky was launched in 1967 to honour the tradition of Argentine cattle-breeding and more specifically the import from the United Kingdom of three bulls from well-known races. The first bull was Tarquino of the Shorthorn race, imported in 1823. It was followed in 1862 by Niagara of the Hereford race and Virtuoso of the Aberdeen-Angus race in 1879. These three bulls are represented on the label of The Breeders Choice. The Malt content of this Blend matures for around 4 years in Scotland in American White Oak casks. These casks are then exported to J. Llorente y Cia in the city of Escobar, not too far from the capital Buenos Aires. Dufftown, Inchgower and Blair Athol are said to be among the distilleries that supply Malt whisky for The Breeders Choice. In Escobar, the Malt whisky is married with locally produced Grain Alcohol and brought to an ABV of 40% by adding pure Water. Today, the Breeders Choice is market leader in Argentina. It's extremely cheap at an average 10 US Dollars per bottle.

Drinking Experience Neat: Unsatisfactory

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Unsatisfactory

Conclusion: The Breeders Choice is a very cheap Blended Whisky. As such, it appeals to many people who can't afford expensive Scotch whisky, certainly not on a regular basis. That explains the success of this Blend in the local market. It is difficult for me however to judge the Breeders Choice as a Whisky properly speaking as it simply lacks sufficient Aromas and Flavours as a result of the low percentage - and/or indifferent quality of the Malt content. It's the same issue I encounter when nosing and tasting cheap Blended Scotch Whiskies. Drinking the Breeders Choice neat does not offer any real pleasure. With water it improves a bit, especially on the Nose. But in my opinion it is better to use it for mixing purposes only. It's less Aggressive on Nose and Palate than some of its Brazilian peers. Still, if you're short on cash, just save a little longer and buy yourselves a standard American Bourbon/Whiskey like Jim Beam or Jack Daniels instead.

Jan van den Ende                                                                      April 13, 2015