Tomintoul 1969 KIW Review

“Walking on the Moon”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highlands - Speyside
Brand: Tomintoul 1969 (KIW - Kintra Whisky)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 42 Years
ABV: 44.3 %
Date: 16/04/2014

Colour: Amber

Nose: At first I get loads of Sweet Fruit and assorted Fruit Candies. I find Banana, Orange, Orange-Melon, Papaya Cream, Pineapple and Maraschino Cherries. But it doesn't take long before Oak, Dried Apricots, light Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Orange Marmalade, Tangerine and Buttered Toast arrive to take control. Hints of Wood Polish and Heather. The Alcohol is beautifully integrated. The ABV is just about right. The Nose of this Tomintoul could have been truly great if not for the fact that some of the Fruit Flavours are a bit artificial. Still, very Fresh and Lively for its age. Well Done!

Palate: Not at all as interesting and balanced as the Nose. Oak, Caramel and Spices are the main flavours. I find White Pepper, Nutmeg, Cloves, Mint and Dried Ginger Powder. Some of the Fruit is still there, mainly Apple, Orange Marmalade, Ice Tea Lemon and Tangerine. Hints of Mint and Walnuts. On the Palate, the many years in the Cask begin to tell!

Finish: Middle-Long, Spicy and (Bitter) Sweet with Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, White Pepper, Citrus, Maraschino Cherries and light Licorice. After a while a hint of Pine Needles. The Nutmeg and Cloves flavours are very clear.  

I added a bit of Water that enhances the Fruit on the Nose. On the Palate and in the Finish it does not do a lot of good as the original ABV is almost spot on. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 85

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks: The Tomintoul we are tasting today was distilled on the 26th of February 1969 when the Distillery was still owned by Hay & MacLeod & Co. It was bottled at Cask Strength by Independent Bottler Kintra Whisky (Deventer, the Netherlands) in January 2012. It matured in a Bourbon Hogshead with Cask # 1196. The whisky has not been chill-filtered and is 100% naturally coloured. It costs around 240 US Dollars. I'm not sure whether it's still available. I got a sample at Whiskybase in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The Tomintoul distillery is located in Ballindalloch, Banfshire and was founded in 1964. Since 2000, the Distillery is in the hands of Angus Dundee Distillers PLC who also own Glencadam.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: It is not everyday that I get to drink a whisky that was distilled in 1969 when Zager & Evans ruled the Charts with "In the Year 2525", when the world saw three days of Love, Peace, Music and Mud in Woodstock, when Armstrong and Aldwin walked on the moon and when I was "Only Sixteen"! It was certainly an interesting Tasting Session that started off well with the very nice Nose despite some slightly artificial Fruit aromas. But on the Palate and in the Finish the years began to tell and Oak and Spices became very dominant. I'm sure lots of people would love that but I believe that this Tomintoul did overstay its time in the Cask somewhat. The Nutmeg and Cloves on the Finish are quite remarkable and seem to linger on forever. If Palate and Finish would have followed up the Nose with some nice Fruit I would have been glad to pay 240 US Dollars for this dram. As it is however, I'm glad I only bought a sample!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 April 2014

Yellow Spot 12 Years Review

“Spot On”
Country: Ireland
Brand: Yellow Spot
Type: Single Pot Still Whiskey
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol: 46%
Date: 13/04/2014

Colour: Amber

Nose: The typical Clean, Fruity and Creamy Nose of a Triple-Distilled Spirit. The Ex-Bourbon Casks mark their presence with Vanilla, Creme Brulee, Cinnamon and lightly Charred Oak. I also find Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apricots, Toffee, Caramel, Malt, Yeast, Butter, Toast, Banana, Apple Pie, Peach and Lemon. It's not quite as Fruity as the Redbreast 12 years and the Oak influence is stronger, particularly the Ex-Bourbon casks. Still, a very fine Nose and the best part of this Whiskey! The Alcohol is better integrated than in its sister, the NAS Green Spot.

Taste: Slightly disappointing after the Wonderful Nose. Much more Spice and Oak than the Nose would want you to believe. I find Cinnamon, Pepper, Ginger and Nutmeg, alongside Malt, Vanilla, light Honey, Lemon, Charred Wood, Milk and Butterscotch.

Finish: Middle-Long, Sweet and Spicy with a slight Alcohol Burn. I find Sweet Barley, Almond, Apple-Pie, Marzipan, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Pepper and Nutmeg. Slight Metallic After-Taste.

I added a couple of drops of Water and you get more Fruit and Apple-Pie on the Nose. But Oak and Spices become even more dominant on the Palate and in the Finish. Still, the Yellow Spot 12 years allows you to play with a couple of drops.

Rating: 86 

Nose: 22.5 – Taste: 21 – Finish: 21 – Overall: 21.5

Pot Still at Lagavulin (2002 Finlay McWalter)

General Remarks: This older brother/sister of Green Spot is produced at the Pernod-Ricard owned New Middleton Distillery, Cork for Mitchell & Sons of Dublin. It’s the only Irish Brand that is thus distributed by an independent spirit merchant. The Yellow Spot matures in a combination of American Oak Ex-Bourbon Barrels, Spanish Oak Ex-Sherry Butts and Spanish Malaga Casks. It’s triple-distilled using both Malted and Unmalted Barley. The Yellow Spot is not Chill-filtered. It's not cheap but prices vary significantly, depending where you are. Anywhere between 50 and a 100 US Dollars. It is difficult to find this dram outside Ireland. But the new parent company Pernod-Ricard will most likely increase production as demand is steadily growing!

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: Certainly at par with the Redbreast 12 Years, my favourite Irish Whiskey so far. The Redbreast presents more Fruit while the Yellow Spot has a more Oaky feel to it. I'm not a convinced fan of Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey in general but both the Redbreast and the Yellow Spot are the exceptions to the rule. If you put a gun to my head I'll go with the Redbreast because of its fantastic Nose. But there's little in it really! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                   April 2014

Mitchell & Sons, Dublin

Ardmore Traditional Cask Review

“A Great Alternative for the Fans of JW Black on the Rocks”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Speyside
Brand: Ardmore Traditional Cask
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
Alcohol: 46%
Date: 10/04/2014

Colour: Slightly Dark Gold

Nose: The combination of relatively young spirit (5-10 years perhaps) and the accelerated maturation in the Quarter Casks is certainly interesting. We might see this more often, at least as long as demand exceeds supply. It's a Nose you have to get used to. It resembles a mix of Alcohol, Vanilla and Creamy, Burnt Driftwood. It's a bit Thin. Despite that I find Smoked Fish sprinkled with Lemon, Leather, Salted Butter, Caramel, Nut Shells, Toast, Yeast, light Earthy Peat, Wet Grass, Green Apples and Grapefruit Juice. Hints of Burnt Tyres and Apple-Vinegar. The Alcohol is not at all integrated. Finally, it's important to give this Ardmore enough time in the glass before Nosing.

Taste: Young, Light, Edgy, Oaky and Yeasty. I find Cereals, Alcohol, Tobacco, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Smoked Meat and Fish, Drift Wood, Bitter-Lemon, Pepper, Caramel, Toffee, light Vanilla, light Honey and a sprinkle of Salt. 

Finish: Middle-Long. Sugary Sweet at first but quickly becoming Sharp and a tad Bitter. I find Sweet Grain, Alcohol, Dried Fruit, Nut Shells, light Smoke, Ashes, Caramel, Toffee, Pepper and a hint of Aniseed. Again, too much Oak influence for my taste. 

I added a few drops of water and on the Nose you will find some Milk and White Chocolate. On the Palate and in the Finish you take out a bit of the Edgy character of the Spirit. You can carefully experiment with a couple of drops. As you know I usually prefer my Single Malt neat but this Ardmore is not really good enough for that. My advice: Enjoy it on the Rocks!

Rating: 83

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

General Remarks: The Ardmore Distillery was founded in 1898 by the son of William Teacher called Adam. It is located in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire and is owned by Jim Beam Brands since 2007. Ardmore is the home of Teacher's Highland Cream and most of Ardmore's output is destined to be part of this Blend. In 2007 however the Ardmore Traditional Single Malt was released, in fact the first Single Malt of this Distillery to be produced in large quantities. The Traditional is not Chill- Filtered, lightly peated and matures firstly in Refill Ex-Bourbon American Oak Barrels before being finished for around another year in traditional 19th Century style Quarter Casks. Usually it sells at around 40 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Very Good!

Conclusion: An interesting tasting experiment. There are not that many peated Speysiders around. And Ardmore, like Beam sister-distillery Laphroaig, is busy experimenting with the Quarter Casks. The Nose of the Traditional is okay when given enough time to open up. It's not overly sophisticated but there are just enough Aromas to keep you busy for a while. Palate and Finish are a different story altogether. The Oak overwhelms the other Flavours and the Tannins leave you with an overall Bitter impression in these Departments. I would therefore not qualify the Ardmore Traditional as an adequate sipping Malt. However, since I bought a full bottle of this peated Speysider in the Airport Duty Free Shop, I tried it out on the Rocks as well. And..... I liked it a lot! I gave it an extra half point for that. What a great alternative if you are a Johnnie Walker Black on the Rocks fan like me! And given its fair price I'm sure I will buy me another bottle next time I'll fly away.

Jan van den Ende                                                                April 2014

Highland Park Harald Review

“Toy Soldier”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highland-Island-Orkney
Brand: Highland Park Harald
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40% 
Date: 06/04/2014

Colour: Yellow Golden 

Nose: Very similar to Svein. Quite Light and Floral with Honey, Heather, Pine Needles, Straw, Oak, Malt, Cereals, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Orange Peel, Red Apples, Coconut, Mint, Treacle, light Vanilla, Soft Peat Smoke and assorted Spices including Cardamom. Traces of Ginger-Ale, Vinegar and Soy Sauce. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.  

Palate: Light with Dried Fruits, Nut Shells, Berries, Orange Peel, light Licorice, light Honey, light Vanilla, Toffee, Treacle, light Cinnamon, light Pepper, light Smoke and Nutmeg.

Finish: Short with Toffee, Caramel, Treacle, Oak, Dried Fruits, light Smoke, light Pepper and Cloves.

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose you get a tad more Smoke. But Palate and Finish become too Watery. Better sip Harald neat!

Rating: 82.5

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

General Remarks: Highland Park was founded in 1798 by Magnus Eunson and is the most northerly distillery in Scotland, It is located on the Orkney Isles, off the North-East coast of Scotland. Highland Park is one the very few remaining distilleries that malts (at least part of) the Barley on its own malting floor. The distillery uses local Orcadian Peat, that mostly consists of Heather and other Plants. Only a limited amount of the Malt is dried with Peat though. Highland Park is owned by the Edrington Group. In 2008 the very nice Visitor Centre was upgraded.

Together with Einar, Svein, Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn, the Highland Park Harald is part of the Warrior Series, released in 2013, initially via Travel Retail. All six are named after Viking warriors with the idea to match the whisky with the characteristics of the warrior in question. Harald is named after Harald Fairhair, Norwegian King and founder of the Orkney Earldom. He is said to have been responsible for developing the Viking Armies that spread so much terror in Northern Europe. The Harald is sold at between 75 and a 100 US Dollars and matured in an almost equal mix of American Oak and European Oak. Roughly 50% of the casks used is first fill.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good.

Conclusion: I'm Sorry but Harald should not be part of a Warrior Series. The spirit reminds me more of a tired elderly lady selling Honey, Dried Fruits and home-made Raspberry Jam at the local fair. Harald is a very light, floral and fruity Single Malt that suffers from the low ABV and a too dominant Toffee and Caramel profile. It's dangerously drinkable but also extremely forgettable! 

Jan van den Ende                                                               April 2014