Deanston 1997 Review

“A Rebel Cask”
Country: Scotland 
Region: Highland (Pertshire)
Brand: Deanston 1997 (Archives - The Fishes of Samoa)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 15 Years
ABV: 55.8 %

Colour: Chardonnay

Nose: The Alcohol is quite strong so be sure to give it enough time in the glass to open up. Even so, it's quite Sharp and it certainly differs from your average Highlander Aroma. There is some Heather, Honey and Grass but they remain in the background. I find mostly notes of Malt, Dough, Yeast, Toast and Lager Beer. It must have been an active and well-charred Cask as well because Wood, Vanilla and Wood Spice are certainly present. I also find a little Lemon, some slightly Sour Pineapple, Salted Butter, Nuts, Dried Herbs and some Mineral - and light Metallic notes. Underneath it all I find a light Fruity Note, probably Apple. As I already mentioned above, the Alcohol is not at all integrated and that spoils a lot of the Nosing Fun. It's not really bad on the Nose but it's kinda weird!

Palate: It tastes younger than I would have expected after Nosing. Again, the Alcohol is very present and reminds me a bit of an Alsatian Fruit Liqueur. Quite Sharp, Hot and Spicy with Malt, Beer, Yeast, Dough, Charred Oak, Vanilla, Toffee, Straw, Pear, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, light Menthol, light Licorice and a hint of Yogurt with Berry sauce.    

Finish: Short, Dry and Slightly Bitter with Malt, Yeast, Lager Beer, Metal, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Dried Herbs, Charred Oak and light Vanilla.  

A bit of added Water helps to soften up the Nose. It does become extremely Malty though. It becomes more Fruity on the Palate and the Spices in the Finish are more balanced. In this case I would recommend to add a little Water to the Spirit.

Rating: 82 

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: The Deanston Distillery was founded in 1965 and is located in Deanston, Pertshire. It closed in 1982 but was bought by Burn Stewart Distillers in 1990 and resumed production in 1991. In 2013 Burn Stewart was sold to the South-African Distell Group. The bulk of the production still disappears in the Scottish Leader Blend. The core Single Malt is the 12 Years that I have reviewed earlier.

The Deanston I am reviewing today was distilled on the 10th of December 1997 and was bottled at Cask Strength on the 28th of October 2013. It matured in a Hogshead with Cask #1959 out of which 327 bottles were commercialised via Indie Whisky Bottler Whiskybase in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Archives is their relatively young own label. This Single Cask Single Malt is uncoloured and not Chill-Filtered. It's still available at Whiskybase and will cost around 60 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Different but not bad. The Alcohol is a bit too strong though. 

Conclusion: This was not at all a boring Nosing - and Tasting session. It took more than 1,5 hour as well, as the Spirit needed an hour or so in the glass to open up. When it finally did it revealed a Spirit with a mind of its own. On the Nose it's extremely Malty and all the time my mind wandered off to Beer-like Aromas. But there are enough other notes to be found once you manage to deal with the Strong and Sharp Alcohol. And all along there is a slight Metallic note that bothered me from Nose to Finish. Underneath it all there is Fruit and Honey but you'll need to dig for it. On the Palate it is surprisingly young for its age, not unlike a French Eau de Vie Poire. The Finish is Short, Dry and slightly Bitter. When Nosing I felt that the Cask had probably been quite active as Wood and Wood Spice were quite present. But the relative youth of the Spirit on the Palate made me start wondering again. This Deanston is not at all your average Highlander, that's fore sure. Quite interesting to appreciate a sample but too weird to consider buying a full bottle.

Jan van den Ende                                                                   May 25, 2015

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