Westport 1997 (Wilson & Morgan) Review


“Glenmorangie in Disguise”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highlands
Brand: Westport 1997 (Wilson & Morgan - Barrel Selection)
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: 16-17 Years
ABV: 48%
Chill Filtration: No

Colour: Full Dark Gold (Natural Colour) 

Nose: Full and Mature. Good Balance as well. The Alcohol and Oak are nicely integrated. The Glenmorangie Oranges are certainly there and I also find Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Butterscotch, Sherry, Dried Apricots, Almond, Mandarin, Heather-Honey, Peach Jam, light Vanilla, Espresso, light Pepper, light Mint, Cinnamon and hints of Tobacco and Leather. There is a Sweet Floral note too but I can't put a name to it. After a while I get some Plums as well. This Malt is well-made and not too Sweet despite the long years in the Sherry casks. Good Wood management.      

Palate: Pleasantly Sweet with nice Spices. I find Toasted Barley, Butterscotch, Orange, Mandarin, Sherry, Dried Apricot, Walnuts, Floral Tea, Cherries, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom and hints of Leather and Wet Stones.  

Finish: Quite Long. A nice combination of Bitter-Sweet, Spicy and Sour notes. Again nicely balanced. I find Toasted Barley, Oak, Orange, Mandarin, Lemon Zest, Sherry, Walnuts, Nutmeg, Ginger, Pepper, Cinnamon and a distant hint of Leather.

With some added Water the Nose gets more Malty- and Floral notes. The Peach develops as well. Palate and Finish do not really improve with added Water but you can carefully play with a couple of drops at a time. Don't overdo it though! 

Rating: 87 

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 22


General Remarks: Westport is of course not an existing distillery. This blended Malt is in fact a Glenmorangie mixed with a tiny bit of Glen Moray. The reason for this is that Glenmorangie does not allow Independent bottlers to print the Distillery name on the label. So while this is technically a Blended malt, it is in fact a Glenmorangie Single Malt. This Westport was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2014 for Independent Bottlers Wilson & Morgan in the Barrel Selection Series. It matured in Refill Ex-Sherry Butts # 3358 and 3359. Only 1292 bottles went to the market. It costs around 70 US Dollars but the availability is limited. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Very Enjoyable. 

Conclusion: Very nice malt. It shows once again that carefully chosen casks make all the difference. The Westport maintained the Glenmorangie Distillery profile while the Refill casks added a gentle touch of Sherry and nice Spices. It's Sweet but not cloyingly so and there are no Sharp edges. The Alcohol and the Wood are nicely integrated and there's balance between Sweet, Spicy and Sour Aromas and Flavours. It's not an extremely complicated Malt but it's well-made and very tasty. I wouldn't mind owning a bottle or two of this Westport. It makes a great after dinner Whisky. Congrats to Wilson & Morgan for a job well-done! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                     May 30, 2016

Label 5 Classic Black Review


“On the Border”

Country: Scotland
Brand: Label 5 Classic Black
Type: Blended Whisky
Produced By: Glen Turner Company, Bathgate, Scotland 
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Light Gold (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Light, Sweet and Young with Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Grain Alcohol, Toast and Margarine, Dough, Refill Oak, Straw, Forest Soil in Autumn, Toffee, slightly Sour Apples, Brown Sugar, Nut Shells, Cooked Vegetables/Potatoes, light Floral tones and a little Ginger. There is a very faint hint of Woodsmoke. The Alcohol is quite noticeable. There are no real Off-Notes but neither do I find interesting Aromas.

Taste: Thin and Sugary Sweet. The Young Grain Alcohol is all over the place. I find Sugared Breakfast Cereals, a little Malt, Straw, Toffee, light Vanilla, Dirty Earth, Tea, Green Apple, Lemon, Pepper and Ginger.      

Finish: Short and Sugary Sweet. Slightly Bitter in the end. I find Grain Alcohol, Malted Cereals, Brown Sugar, Refill Oak, Pepper, Ginger, Lemon, Dirt, Rusty Iron and a distant hint of Factory Smoke.

With a little Water, the Label 5 becomes very Thin but also a little Cleaner and less Rough. You might consider adding a few drops in this case. Or better, serve it over Ice or use it in Cocktails. 

Rating: 70  

Nose: 18 - Taste: 17.5 - Finish: 17 - Overall: 17.5 


General Remarks: La Martiniquaise, located in France, was founded in 1934 by Jean Cayard and developed into an importer and distributor of Spirits like Rum, Cognac, Kirsch, Calvados, Madeira, Port and, since 1969, whisky. Initially, the whisky was bought in Scotland from third parties and blended and bottled in France. But in 1981 a Scottish subsidiary (Glen Turner) was founded but only started operations in 2004 when a Maturation/Bottling facility was constructed in Bathgate (West Lothian). In 2008, the Group bought the Glen Moray distillery from Glenmorangie and a new Grain Distillery was developed in Bathgate with production starting in 2011. Label 5 Blended Whisky was launched in 1969 and is the world's 9th Best Selling Scotch Whisky (May 2016). The core range also includes the 12 Years Extra Premium, the 18 Years Extra Rare and the Gold Heritage. Glen Moray and other Speyside Malts form the heart of the Label 5 Blend while the Grain Whisky is of course produced at the Grain distillery Glen Turner. Label 5 is really cheap and sells at between 18 and 25 US Dollars (May 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Okay

Conclusion: Label 5 is one of the best selling Whiskies in the world. This shows that many Whisky consumers are driven by price and use the product as a basis for their cocktails or sip it on the rocks. In that case Label 5 is indeed a good option as it's very cheap in most places and without real noticeable off-notes. If you're looking for interesting Aromas and Flavours however, you should look elsewhere. It's almost impossible to detect the Glen Moray that must be buried somewhere in this Young Grain Alcohol. And that was, as Lou Bega sang a while ago: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Label Number 5"!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 26, 2016

Bushmills Irish Honey Review


“No Man’s Land”

Country: Ireland
Brand: Bushmills Irish Honey
Type: Whiskey containing Irish Honey and other Natural Flavours.
Age: NAS
Alcohol: 35%
Whisky Review # 541.

Colour: Pale Gold 

Nose: Young, Fruity and Mellow. The first thing that calls the attention is the fact that this smells like a Whisky rather than a Whisky Liqueur. The Honey is present of course but it remains nicely in the background. As it should be in my opinion. I find Sweet Barley and other Sugared Cereals, Toast and Margarine, Vanilla, Grass, Heather-Honey, Tangerine, Lemon, Banana Ice Cream, Sweet Apple, Varnish and a touch of Cinnamon. The Alcohol is not totally integrated. This is certainly the best part of this Bushmills.    

Palate: Young and Thin. On the Palate and in the Finish the Honey is much more present than on the Nose. I also find Young Grain Alcohol, Sugared Breakfast Cereals like Snowflakes, Apple, Tangerine, Lemon, Vanilla, light Pepper and light Cinnamon. A little Oak in the background. 

Finish: Short and Thin. Sugary Sweet at first but with a slight Bitterness towards the end. Some Sour notes as well. I find Honey, Young Grain Alcohol, Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Dough, light Vanilla, light Cinnamon, light Pepper and hints of Orchard Fruit, Oak and Lemon. 

Added Water does not improve this Bushmills. You can add some Ice if you like.                                                            
Rating: 74 (Whisky Liqueur Note)  

Nose: 20 – Taste: 18 – Finish: 17.5 – Overall: 18.5


General Remarks: Bushmills was founded in 1784 and ownership changed a couple of times over the years. It was bought in 2005 by Diageo and it made sense that they too wanted to be part of the growing market for Irish Whiskey. But in a surprising move Diageo sold Bushmills to well known Tequila producer Casa Cuervo in 2014. In this deal Diageo a/o acquired the remaining 50% of Cuervo's second Tequila brand "Don Julio". Could it be that Diageo is impressed by its declining Whisky sales? Bushmills Irish Honey was launched around 2012 as an attempt to enter the growing Flavoured Whisky market following brands like a/o Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace. It is a blend of the well-known Bushmills Original, Irish Water, Irish Honey and additional, non-specified natural flavour components. It's not really expensive at around 25 US Dollars (May 2016). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average. Okay with some Ice.

Conclusion: The Bushmills Irish Honey certainly differs from its American peers. It's a lot less Sweet and on the Nose it is a whisky for sure and not a liqueur. I was disappointed by the Palate and Finish though. Quite Weak and Thin. Here the American peers are certainly tastier if you are into Sweet Flavoured Whisky.
The Bushmills Irish Honey struggles quite a bit with its identity taste wise.  In my opinion it's neither a true Whiskey nor a Whiskey Liqueur. It situates itself somewhere in no man's land and that's a dangerous place to be in as far as I am concerned.

Jan van den Ende                                                                     May 23, 2016

Clynelish 1997 (Casqueteers) Review


“Same Spirit, Different Casks”

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Clynelish 1997 (Cask # 6942 Casqueteers)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
ABV: 56.1%
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 539
Sample provided by Adri from the Netherlands. Many Thanks!

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Sweet and Mature with some pleasant Sour Aromas in the background. The Oak is certainly there but not in a terribly dominant way. I would say this Clynelish was bottled at about the right moment. I find Sweet Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Straw, Vanilla, Caramel, Nectarine, Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Pineapple, light Cinnamon, Mint and traces of Milk Chocolate, Tobacco and Green Apples. The Alcohol is present so be sure to avoid sticking your Nose in the middle of the glass. I usually find the best Aromas, especially the Fruity ones, along the edge of my Copita.     

Palate: Much More Oak and Wood Spice than the Nose suggests. Here the long years in the Cask become quite clear. I find Sweet Barley, Buttered Pastry, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Nectarine, Orange, Grapefruit, Banana, Mineral tones, Pepper. Menthol, Nutmeg, Gewurztraminer and some traces of Chocolate and Tobacco. I like the combination of the Sweet and Sour flavours.         

Finish: Middle-Long, Mineral, Fruity, Bitter Sweet and Sour with Malted Barley, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Toffee, Nectarine, Melon, Green Apples, Pear, Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Oak and hints of Tobacco, Chocolate, Banana Ice Cream, Menthol, Minerals and Espresso.   

 
Picture: Whiskybase

I added a little Water and the Nose becomes very Fruity indeed. A bit of extra Cinnamon as well. I almost always prefer to drink my Single Malts neat but in this case you can certainly play with a little water.

Rating: 86 

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks: This Clynelish was distilled on the 14th of July 1997. For 18 long years it matured in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead with Cask # 6942 before being bottled at Cask Strength on the 16th of July 2015. The final price for the participating Casqueteers is roughly 90 US Dollars (May 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: There are a lot of people who love Clynelish but generally speaking I'm not one of them. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised by this Single Cask. In fact it's my highest score for a Clynelish thus far. It all starts with the Nose that shows a very nice balance between Sweet and Sour Aromas. And there's a lot of Fruit out there as well. On the Palate, the Fruit is still there and I like the balance between Sweet, Sour and Mineral Flavours. But here and in the Finish the Oak and Wood tend to take the upper hand. This Clynelish was bottled in time although I personally think that it could have been bottled a year or so earlier. Still, I believe that the investors in this cask will be quite pleased with the end result and the reasonable price given today's market circumstances. 

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Casqueteers 

In 2011 three Whisky fans from the Netherlands jointly decided to buy a cask of Bunnahabhain 1986. The experiment was a success and the idea was taken a step further. Other selected casks would be bought and each cask would be offered up for sale in a limited number of parts per cask. The idea was to have a relatively small number of owners per cask that would facilitate joint tasting sessions. In the meantime 200 owners from Europe and Asia possess 45 casks from distilleries like Clynelish, Tomatin, Littlemill, Wolfburn, Strathearn, Isle of Harris, Tormore, Mortlach and Miltonduff. If you are interested to participate in this project, please visit their website: www.casQueteers.com


Clynelish

The Clynelish Distillery was opened in 1819 and rebuilt in 1896. In 1968 a new Clynelish Distillery was erected nearby and the old Distillery was renamed Brora (The Bridges River). Brora was closed in May 1983 and part of the buildings are used by Clynelish, now owned by Diageo. A lot of the production is destined to be part of the JW Blends.


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Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Clynelish 1997 (Cask # 6935 Casqueteers)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
ABV: 52.1%
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 540
Sample provided by Adri from the Netherlands. Many Thanks!

Colour: Amber (Natural Colour). Cask # 6935 definitively gave more colour to the Clynelish spirit.

Nose: Quite different from Cask 6942. It's a Rich and Mature Nose but I don't get as many Fresh Fruit notes. I rather find Red Berries, Dried Fruit and Nuts that I would normally link to a Sherry or Red Wine Finish. Interesting! I also find Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Toffee, Marzipan, Honey or Beeswax, lightly Charred Oak, Straw, Mandarin, Apple, Banana Liqueur and light Varnish. On the Nose, the Alcohol is nicely integrated.      

Palate: The Wood and Wood Spices are taking the lead here. It's all a bit Edgy and Fiery for my taste. I find Toasted Barley, Charred Oak, Toffee, Mandarin, Lemon, Apples, Ginger Ale, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Dried Herbs and some Mineral notes.       

Finish: Quite Long and Dry. A slightly Hot and Rough Alcohol bite towards the end. I find Toasted Barley, Charred Oak, Nuts, Mandarin, Orange, Apples, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom and Dried Herbs. 

Picture: Whiskybase

This Clynelish does not improve with added Water. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 82.5

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

General Remarks: This Clynelish was distilled on the 14th of July 1997. For 18 long years it matured in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead with Cask # 6935 before being bottled at Cask Strength on the 16th of July 2015. The final price for the participating Casqueteers is roughly 90 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: It is generally accepted that more or less 70% of the Flavours and Aromas of a Whisky are generated by the contact between the Spirit and the wood. That makes the Cask all important. When Nosing and Tasting these two Casqueteers samples it becomes clear what the different Casks have done to the same Clynelish spirit that was distilled on the same day back in 1997. Cask # 6942 was slightly less active and in that way more Fresh Fruit Aromas were preserved. Cask 6935 was a more intense cask and the Wood not only left more colour but also more Wood and Wood Spice and, surprisingly, some Aromas and Flavours that would suggest some Wine influence. In the end I find that both Whiskies have matured well and could have been bottled slightly earlier. For the rest it's, as always, a matter of taste. My personal favourite is cask 6942!    

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 19, 2016


Teacher's Highland Cream Review


“Not Hot For Teacher’s”

What Happened Earlier!

On January 18, 2012 and again on September 27, 2013 I tasted the following version of Teacher's Highland Cream: 

Country: Distilled, Aged and Blended in Scotland. Mixed with water and bottled in Brazil by Allied Domecq Brazil.
Brand: Teacher’s Highland Cream (Wm. Teacher & Sons Ltd.)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: Unspecified but probably between 3 and 8 Years
Alcohol: 40%

This is what I thought about it:

"I really don’t know if, and if yes, what happened with this whisky between it being distilled in Scotland and bottled in Brazil. Is only water added to the mixture received from Scotland? Because I find it hard to believe that I am drinking the same whisky that is highly praised in so many parts of the world. Or did I get a bad - or falsified bottle or something? I tasted a second bottle in September 2013. I wasn't that horrified this time, slightly adjusted the Tasting Notes and increased the Final score to 63 points. Still well below average of course. Not a Blend I can recommend, at least not the way it's marketed in Brazil"

Bad Stuff! But now I've been able to secure a sample of the Original Teacher's (New Label) via Masters of Malt in London. This version of course was bottled at origin in Scotland. I am really looking forward to taste this one so here we go:

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Country: Scotland
Brand: Teacher’s Highland Cream (2015 Packaging - Wm. Teacher & Sons Ltd)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%
Colour: Pale Gold (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Grain Alcohol and Refill Wood are my first impressions. A faint hint of Smoke in the background. I also find Toast and Margarine, Straw, a little Malt,   
Peanuts, Toffee and a touch of Lemon and Green Apple. There is a little off note as well. It's not easy to describe but it's something between Cooked Vegetables, Plastic and Sweaty Feet. Overall, Teacher's is Thin and slightly Edgy on the Nose. Still, it's by far not as bad as the "Brazilian" version. After 15 minutes I find a light Leather Aroma as well.

Taste: Very Thin and Sugary Sweet with Grain Alcohol, Toffee, Caramel, Straw, Refill Oak, Licorice, Pepper, light Menthol and hints of Peanuts and Leather.  

Finish: Short and Sugary Sweet at first but with a little Hot Bitterness that pops up towards the end. I find Grain Alcohol, Sugar lumps, Toffee, Refill Oak, light Menthol, Licorice, a faint Smoke and hints of Leather and Candle Wax.

Added Water completely kills this Blend.  

Rating: 70 

Nose: 18 - Taste: 17 - Finish: 17,5 - Overall: 17,5


General Remarks: Teacher’s Highland Cream was elaborated for the first time in 1863 by William Teacher. It is said to have a Malt content of around 45%, very high for a blended whisky. At its heart is the peated Ardmore Highland Single Malt. Glendronach used to be another important ingredient but it's not anymore. Could that be the reason that many people complain that the quality of the Blend suffered greatly over the last few years and even more apparently since the new packaging was introduced in 2015? Certainly something the company needs to look in to if it doesn't want to lose market share.

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average 

Conclusion: I was really looking forward to Nosing and Tasting the Teacher's Highland Cream as it used to be praised by many Whisky fans while at the same time I was appalled by the lack of nice Aromas and Flavours in the so called Brazilian version. The sample I nosed and tasted today was not as bad as the Brazilian version but also not as good as it apparently was a few years ago. It is very cheap of course so you can't expect a great whisky. But my advise to Teacher's would be to look for a worthy replacement of the lost Glendronach component, even if that would mean that the price would go up a bit. That's much better than endangering the Brand's good name by including perhaps less expensive Malts in the formula. In the meantime I would really love to taste a Teacher's Highland Cream from say 10 years ago to be able to make a final comparison. If someone has a sample to spare please let me know!  

Jan van den Ende                                                                   May 16, 2016

Stills at Ardmore

Braeval 1994 C&S Braes of Glenlivet Review


“Too Much Wood Will Kill You In The End”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Speyside
Brand: Braeval 1994  (C & S Braes of Glenlivet - Dram Collection - 197 Bottles)
Bottled by: The Scottish Liqueur Center Ltd, Perth
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 19 Years
ABV: 54.4% 

Colour: Pale Straw/Light Gold (Natural Colour)

Nose: Sweet, Malty, Fruity and with a nice underlying Oak Aroma. The Alcohol is quite strong so you will have to wind your way around it. I find Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Grass, Straw, Oak, Vanilla, Caramel, Dried Fruits (Apricots and Raisins), Honey Nuts, Pineapple, Banana, Tutti-Frutti, Orange, Lemon, Peach, Apple and Pear. All the time I find different Fruit Aromas. It's really like a Fruit Cocktail. The Oak Aroma reminds me of Cognac from time to time. Finally I get some Herbs and light Spices like Ginger, Cinnamon and Nutmeg.   

Palate: Sweet at first but quite Woody, slightly Sour and Bitter afterwards with Charred Oak, Toasted Barley, Straw, Toffee, Vanilla, Lemon, Apple, Mandarin, White Grapes, Honey, Dried Fruit, Sour Berries, Pepper, Nutmeg and Licorice. 

Finish: Middle-Long. Bitter Sweet at first but Dry and a little Hot towards the end with Toasted Barley, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Orange, Mandarin, White Grapes, Dried Fruit, Chocolate, Pepper, Nutmeg, light Menthol and Licorice. A little Off Note that reminds me of plastic (PVC) pipes of all things.  

I merely had a small sample at my disposal so I only tasted this Braeval neat.  

Rating: 83 

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5


General Remarks: This Braeval was distilled on the 8th of December 1994 and was bottled at Cask Strength on the 8th of September 2014. It matured in an Ex-Bourbon Barrel with Cask # 159158. This Single Cask expression is Non-Chill-Filtered. It's still available, a/o at Whiskybase in Rotterdam, at around 90 US Dollars.

The Braeval distillery is located in the Braes of Glenlivet and was founded by The Chivas and Glenlivet Group in 1973. Originally the Distillery was named Braes of Glenlivet but it changed to Braeval in 1994. Pernod Ricard bought Chivas Brothers in 2001 and mothballed Braeval from 2002 to July 2008 when it started producing again. Most of the production is destined for the Chivas Regal Blends. There are no Official Distillery Bottlings under the name of Braeval so we depend on Independent Bottlers like C & S.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good, especially on the Nose. A bit too Woody on the Palate and in the Finish for my taste.

Conclusion: This is only my second Braeval and once I again I find it a pity that practically all its Spirit disappears in the Chivas Blends. This distillery certainly could produce a successful standard Single Malt. I think that a 12 - and a 15 Y would make a perfect core range. Even at 19 years it's still very good on the Nose but on the Palate and in the Finish the Wood and Wood Spice become too dominant as far as I'm concerned. If you don't mind the Wood and have 90 US Dollars to spare I can assure you that you will enjoy pleasant moments when nosing this Braeval. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 13, 2016