BenRiach Heart of Speyside Review

“Simple Entry Level Speysider”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highlands - Speyside
Brand: BenRiach Heart of Speyside
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age:  NAS
ABV:  40% 

Colour: Golden/Light Amber

Nose: Light, Mild and Crisp Speyside Nose with Honey, Heather, Wet Grass, Malt, Buttered Toast, Fresh Pastry, Pears, Mandarin, Lemon, Vanilla, Flowers, Oak, Cloves, Cinnamon and a little Salt. Hints of Banana and Milk Chocolate. 
Pleasant but nothing to get overly excited about.

Palate: Young, Thin and Bitter-Sweet with Honey, Heather, Earth, Buttered Toast with Orange Marmalade, Malt, Refill Oak, Vanilla, Stewed Apples, Pepper, Cinnamon and Cloves. A hint of Espresso.   

Finish: Short and slightly Bitter with Honey, Heather, Dried Fruit, Vanilla, Malt, Refill Oak, Pear flavoured Candies, light Menthol, Nut Shells and Pepper.  

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose you get more Malt, Fruit and some Cocoa Milk. Palate and Finish become too Thin though. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20

General Remarks: The BenRiach distillery is located in the heart of the Speyside between Elgin and Rothes. It was founded around 1898 by John Duff, the owner of the nearby Longmorn distillery. Today it's one of the few distilleries with its own Malting Floors. Since 2004, it is independently owned by BenRiach Distillery Company. Most of their production goes into the Chivas Regal Blend but more than enough is left for the many Single Malt Expressions. The Heart of Speyside is their Entry Level NAS Single Malt. I would think it mainly matures in 2nd and 3rd Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks but it's possible that the occasional Ex-Sherry Butt is used as well. The Heart of Speyside is relatively cheap at around 40 US Dollars (May 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good 

Conclusion: The Heart of Speyside is a Mild and pretty Simple true to style Single Malt at an attractive price-level. Very nice for starting Whisky drinkers. Especially the Nose will scare off no one. Perhaps it's a tad too Bitter on the Palate and in the Finish. More experienced Whisky drinkers should probably look elsewhere in the BenRiach portfolio as the Heart of Speyside is a bit too simple and predictable.

Jan van den Ende                                                                    May 21, 2015

First Cask 1990 Isle of Islay Review

“Sherry and Mighty Oak”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: First Cask 1990 Isle of Islay
Bottled By: Whisky Import Nederland
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 20/21 Years
ABV: 54.2 %

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: Heavy Sherry, Oak and loads of Dried Fruits such as Raisins, Plums and Figs. I also find Malt, Toast, Butterkekse, Orange Marmalade, Espresso, Cocoa Powder, Tobacco, Cinnamon, Menthol, Dusty Earth, Old Leather and traces of Burnt Straw. I hardly detect any Coastal influences and only a very faint Peat note. It all points in the direction of Bunnahabhain. Unfortunately, the Alcohol is still not fully integrated. This is a Nose for the Sherry Bomb fans among us. 

Palate: Following the Nose with loads of Sherry, Raisins, Plums, Oak, Christmas Cake, Orange Marmalade, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Dark Chocolate, Creme de Cassis, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Old Leather, Straw, Malt and Dirty Dry Earth.

Finish: Long and Dry with serious Oak, Sherry, Dried Fruits, Strong Black Tea, Bitter Oranges, Dark Chocolate, Cloves, Nutmeg, Pepper, Licorice, Menthol and Dry Earth.

I added a couple of drops of water. On the Nose the Alcohol retreats and the Dried Fruit notes become more transparent. I find some slightly Sour Cherries.
Palate and Finish do not change drastically but you certainly can add a bit Water to your taste.

Rating: 86 

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

General Remarks: The First Cask Isle of Islay Single Malt was distilled by an undisclosed Islay Distillery on the 24th of December 1990. It matured in a First Fill Sherry Butt with Cask # 12 and was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland at Cask Strength on the 27th of June 2011. Exactly 300 bottles were drawn from the cask. This First Cask 1990 is naturally coloured and Non Chill-Filtered. It is sold at around 110 US Dollars (May 2015). I'm pretty sure this First Cask was distilled at Bunnahabhain.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good.

Conclusion: Excellent Single Malt if you like Sherry Bombs. Very consistent from Nose to Finish. The price is quite reasonable as well considering its advanced age. However it's not quite my personal cup of Whisky. It's very Heavy on Sherry, Dried Fruits and Oak. These three are in complete control and only with enough time in the glass you will be able to find additional Aromas and Flavours. You will need to overcome the strong Alcohol as well and most of you probably would want to add a bit of Water. In short, if you like Heavy Sherry, this is an excellent proposal. If you don't, better stay away from this First Cask.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                       May 18, 2015

Benromach Organic 2008 Review

“When Speyside Meets Kentucky”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Benromach Organic 2008
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Around 6 Years)
ABV: 43%
Sample provided by the Benromach Distillery. Many Thanks!

Colour: Golden Yellow with a hint of Orange

Nose: Unpeated, Malty and Fruity with Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Buttered Toast, Puff Pastry filled with Stewed Peach and Apricot, Pineapple, Orange, Banana Ice Cream, Rum Soaked Raisins, Toffee, Cocoa Butter, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Floral notes and Lemon-Grass. The Virgin Oak certainly left its mark and the Nose of the Organic reminds me of Bourbon every once in a while. Despite the youth of this Spirit, the Alcohol is nicely integrated.  

Palate: The Delivery is on the Thin side and Bitter-Sweet. I find Malt, Cereals, Butterscotch, Coconut, Oak, Almonds, Banana Ice Cream, Pineapple, Pepper, Nutmeg, Clove, Ginger, Cinnamon, Lemon and light Licorice. On the Palate the youth of this Spirit is more eminent.

Finish: Middle Long, slightly too Thin and Bitter Sweet with ample Bourbon references. I find chewy Malt, Vanilla, Toffee, Brown Sugar, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Dried Herbs, Lemon-Grass, Oak, Banana and a hint of Tropical Fruit.

Relaxing at Benromach VC

I added a few drops of Water and Barley and Floral notes are enhanced. Some extra Malt and Spices on the Palate and in the Finish. I prefer it neat but you can add a few drops at a time if you like.

Rating: 84

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

General Remarks: The Benromach Distillery is located in Forres (Morayshire) 
and was founded in 1898 by the Benromach Distillery Company. Benromach was mothballed from 1931-1937 and from 1983-1993. In 1993, Benromach was bought by Independent Bottler Gordon & MacPhail from United Distillers and since 1998 the Distillery is up and running again. The Benromach Organic was launched in 2006 and is made of certified organic ingredients. The production process is certified Organic as well. The whisky matures in Virgin American Oak Casks and is stored in the traditional dunnage warehouses. The sample I'm tasting today was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2014. It is not Chill-Filtered and costs around 60 US Dollars (May 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: A nice all-round Speysider with quite a few Bourbon characteristics. This Organic Malt will please Whisky drinkers who prefer a Soft and Easy Going Whisky. It's not without some little flaws though. It could do with a Sherry Cask Finish as the Virgin Oak is quite present. I also found it a tad too Thin on the Palate and the Finish could be a bit longer as well. For the time being, the 10 Years old remains my favourite Benromach.

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 14, 2015

The Stills at Benromach

Glenkinchie 1999 Distillers Edition

“ All Quiet on the Edinburgh Front”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Lowlands
Brand: Glenkinchie 1999 Distillers Edition
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: Roughly 13 Years
ABV: 43 % 

Colour: Dark Gold

Nose: Cereals, Floral tones and Citrus are my main impressions. I find Buttered Toast, German Butterkekse (Butter Biscuits), Charred Oak, Honey, Heather, Floral Soap, Grass, Nuts, Vanilla, Orange, Banana Ice-Cream, light Spices, Malt and a hint of Espresso Coffee. The Alcohol is not totally integrated. There's nothing wrong with the Nose but it isn't very exciting as well. It has a Highland feel to it.  

Palate: Light and Sweet but with a little Bitterness as well. I find Cereals, Malt, Tangerine, Pear Drops, Nuts, Raisins, light Aniseed, light Menthol, Licorice, Cinnamon, Pepper, Oak, light Vanilla, light Sherry and hints of Espresso and Chocolate.  

Finish: Short, slightly Edgy, Spicy and Herbal with Oat Porridge, Oak, Raisins, Toffee, Nuts, Grass and Straw, Pepper, light Menthol, light Vanilla, Licorice, light Citrus and light Chocolate. Quite Dry in the end. 

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose the Floral notes become even clearer. But Palate and Finish simply disappear. Better sip this Glenkinchie neat.

Rating: 83 

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

General Remarks: The Glenkinchie Distillery was founded in 1837 by John & George Rate. It is located in Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian. It's close to Edinburgh hence Glenkinchie is nicknamed " The Edinburgh Malt ". Today it is owned by Diageo. Most of Glenkinchie's output is reserved for The J. Walker and Haig Blends. The core Single Malts are the 12 Years that is part of the Classic Malt line up and the Distillers Edition. The 1999 Distillers Edition I'm tasting today was bottled in 2012 and was finished for around six months in Spanish Amontillado Casks. It costs between 50 and 80 US Dollars depending on where you live (May 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: This is only my second Glenkinchie but I have to say I'm not really impressed so far despite the fact that this Distillery produces Spirits that are more Highland than Lowland in character. I've had the 12 Years and now this Distillers Edition that is slightly older and was finished in Ex-Sherry casks. Both are not bad and can be considered as an every day whisky but they also lack depth and complexity. I can see why Glenkinchie is important raw material for Blends but I simply do not find their Spirits interesting enough as a Single Malt. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                   May 11, 2015

Natu Nobilis Review

“Not Quite As Noble As The Name Suggests”

Country: Brazil
Brand: Natu Nobilis
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol: 39%

Colour: Deep Copper (Caramel is added for colouring)

Nose: Nose: Alcohol, Refill-Oak, Nut Shells, Dried Fruit, Toast and Margarine, Treacle, Toffee and traces of Green Apple, Malt and Honey. I must say I've smelled far worse at this Price Level. It's all very Thin of course and it's really Borderline Whisky as the Industrial Alcohol is in full control.

Taste: Edgy, Hot, Thin and Watery. The Alcohol stings a bit. I find Refill-Oak, Sugar, Toffee, Nut Shells, light Licorice and Sharp Wood Spice.

Finish: Short, Sharp and Bitter-Sweet with Alcohol, Sugar, Refill-Oak, Toffee, Nut Shells, light Licorice and Pepper.

Rating: 63.5 

Nose: 17 – Taste: 16 – Finish: 15  – Overall: 15.5 

With added Water the Heat dies down but I wouldn't call it Whisky anymore.

General Remarks. This Blended Whisky is bottled in Brazil by Pernod Ricard Brasil. It contains imported Malt Whiskies from Scotland that are supplied by J.E. Seagram. I would presume that these Malt Whiskies are produced by one or more of the Pernod Ricard distilleries in the Highlands. Locally distilled alcohol and water are subsequently added by Pernod Ricard Brasil. Natu Nobilis was launched in 1969 and it's still one of the Market Leaders, especially in Southern and Central parts of Brazil.

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average.

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Just barely acceptable but without giving any real pleasure.

Conclusion: If you're looking for relatively cheap Alcohol with a nice Caramel colour and packed in a nice bottle, Natu Nobilis might just be what you're looking for. If you want to appreciate a nice Blended whisky though, go look somewhere else.  Of the whiskies elaborated in Brazil, Natu Nobilis is the "best" so far. The Nose is acceptable in this Price Class. But Palate and Finish are Edgy, Sharp and Bitter and are completely dominated by the industrial Alcohol. If you must drink Natu Nobilis, better drown it in ice. These days, it's nearly impossible to find a cheap good whisky. The best alternative still is a standard American Bourbon or Whiskey!

Jan van den Ende                                                                       May 7, 2015