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

Bladnoch 1990 ED Review

"Expensive Apples and Pears”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Lowlands
Brand: Bladnoch 1990 (Edition Spirits - The First Editions)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age:  21 Years
ABV: 58,3 %

Colour: Pale Gold/Straw

Nose: I would have expected a more powerful Aroma after 21 years in the cask. But the Nose of this Bladnoch is quite subdued and it needs lots of time in the glass before opening up a little. When it does you get quite some Vanilla as well
as Grass, Straw, Malt, Orchard Fruit, Perfumed Soap, Lemon, Orange, Unripe Peach, Buttered Toast, Oak, Dried Herbs, Bourbon and a light hint of Perspiring Feet. All in all a bit disappointing for a 21 Year Old Single Malt.

Palate: The Alcohol is quite present. The Palate more or less follows the Nose with Apples, Pears, Vanilla, Malt, Sugared Lemon Peel, Orange, Hay and Oak. It's quite Spicy as well with Pepper and Cardamom.

Finish: Not overly Long with Pear, Apple, Lemon, Orange, Pepper, Cardamom, Oak and Menthol.

With some added Water you get more Citrus on the Nose and on the Palate. But the Finish practically disappears. You can experiment with a few drops but be careful not to drown the Malt.

Rating: 83.5

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

General Remarks: This Bladnoch was distilled in 1990 and bottled at Cask Strength in 2011. It matured in Ex-Bourbon Cask # ES 005/01. This expression is part of The First Edition Series. It's not coloured artificially nor Chill-Filtered. It costs around 105 US Dollars but the availability is limited. 

Edition Spirits is an Independent bottler founded in 2010 by Andrew and Scott Laing. Nowadays it's part of Hunter Laing.

The Bladnoch Distillery is located in Bladnoch, Wigtown and was founded in 1817 by Thomas and John McClelland. It changed hands various times before being mothballed by United Distillers in 1993. A year later it was bought by Raymond Armstrong but unfortunately the distillery went into administration in 2014 and is currently for sale.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: This is my first Bladnoch and I can't say I'm very excited about it. It's not bad but it's a rather simple Single Malt and I would not give it 21 Years when tasted blind. The Orchard Fruit is quite Fresh given its age and the Wood does not dominate the overall Aroma and Flavour Profile. But besides the Fruit there's not too much to discover. A bit of Grass and Hay, Citrus and Spices. And that's about it. Too little for a Single Malt that would cost you more than a 100 US Dollars! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                      April 8, 2015

Poit Dhubh 8 Years Review

Country: Scotland 
Brand: Poit Dhubh
Bottler: Praban Na Linne Ltd. 
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: 8 Years
ABV: 43 %

Colour: Dark Amber

Nose: The influence of some Ex-Sherry casks is noticeable. I also find the same Cabbage note that I encountered in the 12 Years and in Island Malts like Arran and Jura. I used to think it was Sulphur but I have come to believe it is part of the Island Peat Aroma structure. Over time and with sufficient air contact, this Cabbage note becomes weaker. I also find Dried Fruit, slightly burnt Toast, Oak, Nut Shells, Sweet Malt, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Toffee, Citrus, Leather, Honey, a sprinkle of Salt and some Talisker Pepper. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Palate: Sweet and slightly Thin Delivery with Toffee, Caramel, Wet Earth, light Smoke, light Sherry, light Honey, slightly Bitter Oak, Licorice, Orange, Menthol, Nuts, Cocoa, Salt and Pepper. 

Finish: Short and Bitter-Sweet with Cocoa, Toffee, Earth, light Smoke, Licorice, Medicinal tones, Citrus, Pepper, Salt, Oak, Toast, Menthol and Floral Perfume.

I added a bit of Water and the Nose gets a little extra Honey, Citrus and Floral tones. Palate and Finish however become too weak. 

Rating: 80.5

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

General Remarks: Poit Dhubh (Gaelic for Black Pot or Illicit Still) is Blended Malt Whisky, partly matured in Ex-Sherry Casks. It was released in 1984 and is Non Chill-Filtered since 1992. It costs around 45 US Dollars. It is bottled by Praban Na Linne Ltd, located on the Isle of Skye (Hebrides) and founded in 1976 by Sir Iain Noble. It's still a family-owned company. There are also 12 - and 21 year old expressions of the Poit Dhubh. The 8 Years is not Chill-Filtered and sells at around 45 US Dollars (April 2005).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: Easily the less impressive of the Poit Dhubh expressions. I suspect a higher percentage of Speyside Malts, matured in second or third refill casks. The Talisker influence is less noticeable when compared to the 12 - and 21 Years. As the price difference between the 8 and 12 years is not very significant, I advise you to stick with the 12 years. More value for money!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     March 6, 2015

Photo credit: Whisky Journal DE