Ardbeg Perpetuum Review

“An (Ard) Bag of Licorice”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Perpetuum
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Natural Colour - NCF)
ABV: 47.4%

Colour: White Wine

Nose: Young, Light, Medicinal, Grassy and slightly Sour. The Peat and Smoke are there of course but the Perpetuum is certainly not as Peaty as for instance the 10 Years. I find Sweet Barley, Ashes, Soot, Iodine, Hay, Toasted Nuts, Oak, Toffee, light Vanilla, Caramel, Sour Apples, Lemon Peel, Mint, light Licorice, light Aniseed, Wet Stone and hints of Espresso and Leather. The Peat is more Earthy and Floral than Coastal and reminds me of Cooked Vegetables every once in a while. It's clear that mainly Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks have been used to mature the Perpetuum. I hardly smell any Sherry Cask influence. A bit of Dried Fruit perhaps but nothing significant. It's a strange Nose for an Ardbeg. It's not bad but I miss Power, Depth and Complexity. In all honesty I find it boring.   

Taste: Young, Sharp and slightly Medicinal. I find Dirty Earth, Charcoal, Burnt Toast, Toasted Nuts, Smoked Meat, Citrus Peel, Grapefruit, Apple, Pear, Tea, Licorice, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cloves, Espresso and a hint of Leather.  

Finish: Rather Short, Bitter-Sweet and Dry in the end with Tar, Brine, Ashes, Dirty Earth, Charcoal, Dried Herbs, Malt, Menthol, Pepper, Lemon Peel, Bitter Chocolate, Salty Licorice, Cloves, Espresso and a light Metallic Off-Note.

Unfortunately I merely had a small sample so I only tasted the Perpetuum neat.

Rating: 82

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

General Remarks: To celebrate 200 Years of Ardbeg, the distillery launched the Perpetuum earlier this year during Feis Ile. It was created by Ardbeg's Bill Lunden and is a mix of old - and recent Ardbegs in order to represent Past, Present and Future. The Perpetuum matured in Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry casks. The "original" Perpetuum DE had an ABV of 49.2% and was only sold at the Distillery. It's not available anymore unless you want to pay absurd prices. The Perpetuum I'm tasting today was released soon after Feis Ile for a broader market and at a lower ABV of 47.4%. I'm told there are additional differences between the two expressions other than the ABV. Most likely, the demand was so high that Ardbeg had to provide additional batches. In any case, this "regular" Perpetuum is probably sold out in many places as well but in other places it might still be around at a price of around 120 US Dollars (September 2015).  

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good   

Conclusion: The name Perpetuum stands for "Ardbeg Forever". I drink to that but I do hope Ardbeg does nor plan to go on forever with Malts like this. So far, four Ardbegs have made it into my all time Top 20 but this Perpetuum is not gonna join them. In fact this is the first Ardbeg that I have tasted that I don't care for. The Nose is okay but boring and Palate and Finish are forgettable unless you love Licorice. All in all, it's not totally bad but it's an odd mix of Aromas and Flavours without a lot of coherence and direction. It's really hard to describe this Perpetuum. It's certainly not a fiery Peat Bomb and it's obvious that most of the whisky used in this expression is quite Young. It's also hard to trace any Sherry Cask influence. It all smells and tastes like a Rush Job to me. Hardly a whisky to celebrate anything. I promise you a better whisky on the 200th anniversary of Best Shot Whisky Reviews!   

Jan van den Ende                                                               September 3, 2015

BenRiach Curiositas 10 Years Review

“Neither Fish Nor Fowl”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Speyside
Brand: BenRiach Curiositas 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 10 Years
ABV: 46% 

Colour: Light Gold/Straw

Nose: Light and Young but certainly not Unpleasant. There is a Meaty - and slightly Medicinal feel to the Curiositas. The Peat is different when compared to the Islay Single Malts. It's more Earthy and a bit Dusty. It's a young Single Malt so the Alcohol is there of course. Be sure to give the Curiositas some time in the glass. I find Toasted Barley, Grass, Straw, Charcoal, Heather, Roasted Peanuts, light Tar, Meat on the BBQ, Toffee and light hints of Wet Newspaper and Plastic. After a while I get Citrus Peel and Buttered Toast with Pineapple Marmalade. Despite the fact that I find traces of other Aromas as described above, the Peat is slightly dominant as is often the case with young peated Malts. With more time in the cask the peated Spirit and the Wood create more Harmony. Still, it's not bad considering age and price. 

Palate: The Delivery is a little Thin despite the good ABV. On the Palate, the Curiositas is Bitter Sweet, Waxy and Malty. I find Earthy Peat, light Smoke, Charred Oak, Nuts, Sugared Espresso, Barley, Citrus Peel, Sour Apples, Vanilla, Pepper, Licorice and a hint of Leather.

Finish: Short, Bitter Sweet and a little Dry towards the end. A clear Licorice note is present while I also find Charred Oak, Dirty Earth, Barley Sugar, Vanilla, light Smoke, light Tar, Leather, light Pepper, light Cinnamon, Grapefruit Juice and Sugared Espresso. 

I added a bit of Water. On the Nose, the Peat/Smoke retreats and some Floral and Fruity notes become evident. Palate and Finish however do not benefit from the added Water. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 83

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

General Remarks: The BenRiach distillery is located in the heart of 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. A lot of their production goes into the Chivas Regal Blends. The Curiositas 10 Years was launched in 2004 and is distilled with heavily Peated Barley (Around 55 PPM). The Spirit matured in Ex-Bourbon Casks and sells at an average 45 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: BenRiach is one of my favourite distilleries and the 16 Years is one of the best Single Malts I have tasted so far. But I'm not too excited about the Curiositas 10 Years I'm reviewing today despite the fact that the Price/Quality ratio is good enough. The Nose is the best part of this Curiositas with a gentle combo of Barley, Peat/Smoke and Fruity elements. It's not perfect though as I also find some hints of Medicine, Plastic and Wet Paper. But on the Palate I find the Curiositas to be Young and Thin and I'm not too fond of the Sugary Licorice note that returns with full strength in the Short Finish. The good thing about the Curiositas is its price but it can't beat young Islay Malts like the Ardbeg 10 or Laphroaig 10. And if you're a pure Speyside fan you might not like the peaty character of the Curiositas. And that's sums up the problem I have with this BenRiach expression. It's neither Fish nor Fowl.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 31, 2015

Benromach Peat Smoke 2004 Review

“Benromach Goes Islay”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Benromach Peat Smoke 2004
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 9 Years
ABV: 46%

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine

Nose: Quite similar to a young peated Islay Malt although the Peat is more Earthy than Maritime. Despite the high PPM, the Peat and Smoke are quite mild. Make sure to give this Benromach enough time in the glass to give it a chance to release its other Aromas as well. I find Toasted Barley, Hay, Heather Honey, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Dirt Road, light Soot, light Ashes, Smoked Ham, Mixed Citrus Peel, Caramel, Green Apple, Dried Herbs and light Spices. It's not earth-shaking but well-balanced. It invites you to take a sip. Given its age, the Alcohol is reasonably well integrated.  

Palate: Sweet at first but Dry and Spicy towards the end. I find Toasted Barley, Hay, Earthy Peat, light Smoke, Cigar Ashes, light Soot, light Menthol, Licorice, Cinnamon, Pepper, Grapefruit Juice and Mixed Citrus Peel. On the Palate it's more clear we're dealing with a Young Single Malt.

Finish: On the short side with Sweet Barley, Dirt Road, Dusty Vanilla, Ashes, Lemon Juice, Orange Peel, Pear, Smoked Meat, Licorice, Cinnamon, Pepper, Dried Herbs, Charred Oak and hints of Milk Chocolate, Acetone and Fish Oil.

I added a few drops of Water and the Nose becomes more Floral. On the Palate I get extra Citrus, Cinnamon and Sugar. I prefer it neat but you can carefully add a few drops if you like.

Rating: 86

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

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 I'm tasting today is a Small Batch release, heavily peated at 53 PPM. It was distilled in 2004 and matured for around 9 years in a First Fill ex-Bourbon Cask before being bottled in 2014. It's not Chill-Filtered and naturally coloured. On average it costs a little over 50 US Dollars (August 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: Nice effort from Benromach. In my opinion the Benromach whiskies benefit from the use of Peat Smoke in the production process. It does not have to be 53 PPM(*) as the well-balanced standard 10 Years shows. Although the Benromach Peat Smoke 2004 is heavily peated, it's not a Peat Bomb like for instance the Ardbeg 10 that has a similar PPM. Somehow, the Benromach Peat is more subtle and subdued. It does not totally dominate the other Aromas and Flavours.  But if you like Caol Ila 12 or Lagavulin 16 for instance you won't be disappointed by this Benromach. The Price/Quality ratio is correct. I can't help but wondering how good this whisky could be when it would mature a little longer. But that's day-dreaming. For the time being I still prefer the 10 Years but the Peat Smoke is certainly a worthy addition to the Benromach portfolio! 

(*) The 2005 version of the Peat Smoke even shows an impressive 67 PPM. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 27, 2015

Some Cask Types used at Benromach

The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Review

“Up in a Puff of Smoke”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Northern Highlands 
Brand: The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve
Type: Single Malt Whisky 
Age: NAS (Probably 10-15 Years)
ABV: 44% 

Colour: Amber/Copper (Clearly Artificially Coloured)  

Nose: The Cigar Malt Reserve needs some time in the glass to open up. I find clear Sherry notes, light Sulphur, Malt, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Butterscotch, Orange, Lemon, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Treacle, Yeast, Chocolate Cake and Winter Spices like Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger and Cardamom. The Cigar Malt Reserve is quite Sweet on the Nose and there is a Young feel to the Spirit. The Alcohol is not fully integrated. After a while I find some traces of Leather Upholstery, a Dirt Road in the countryside, Menthol and a few Red Grapes.     

Palate: Quite Sweet in the beginning but some Spices and Oak provide Balance and a little Bitterness towards the end. I find Butterscotch, Toffee, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Honey, light Sherry, Orange, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pepper, Ginger, Dry Earth, light Licorice and light Menthol. 

Finish: Almost Sugary Sweet with Treacle, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Butterscotch, light Honey, Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Grapes, Orange, Licorice, Cinnamon, Ginger and Cloves. A hint of Mocha after a while.

No need to add Water to The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve.  

Rating: 84

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

General Remarks: 

The Original Cigar Malt with an ABV of 40% was discontinued in 2007 but in 2011 this new version was released at 44%. The Original version was said to have contained Malts in the range of 8 to 14 Years. In this new version a few older whiskies have been included as well (10-15 Years). The revised Cigar Malt Reserve matures in a mix of Ex-Bourbon (20%) -, Ex-Oloroso Sherry -  (70%) and Ex-Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Casks (10%). The new Cigar Malt is way more expensive than the old one and costs around 100 US Dollars (August 2015).

In 1263, King Alexander III was almost gored by a mighty Stag. One of the ancestors of the Mackenzie Clan saved him with a single arrow shot. As a reward the Clan won the right to bear a Stag's Head with twelve (Royal) points to its antlers in their Coat of Arms. The Mackenzie Family later became the owners of The Dalmore Distillery and added the Stag emblem to their bottles. The Distillery was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson and is located in the town of Alness in the Northern Highlands. In 2014, Emperador Inc. bought the distillery from United Spirits - Whyte & Mackay.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: I never tasted the original Cigar Malt so I can't compare the two. The Cigar Malt Reserve follows the style of the Dalmore 12 - and 15 Years with lots of Sweet Barley, Caramel, Orange and Spicy Fruitcake. It's okay but there is nothing special to it in my opinion and therefore it's way too expensive. I would look to Malts like Glenfarclas, GlenDronach or Glenmorangie for similar Aromas and Flavours at a better price. Or, if you like Dalmore, stay with the 12. I rarely smoke a cigar but if you would ask me, I'd say that the Cigar Malt Reserve will probably pair well with a Medium Light, Smooth and Creamy cigar.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 24, 2015

Hammer Head 1989 Review

“Hammer and Sickle”

Country: Czechoslovakia
Brand: Hammer Head 1989
Type: Single Malt Whisky 
Age: 23 Years
ABV: 40.7% 

Colour: Golden

Nose: The Wood is quite present but I certainly would not have given this Hammer Head 23 Years in a Blind Tasting. The Nose is mostly Sweet but also slightly Sour at times. I find Dark Fruit like Plums or Berries, Citrus, Papaya, Malt, Buttered Croissant, Nuts, Vanilla Ice Cream, Fresh Herbs, Dirty Road, Polished Wood, Ginger and a hint of Licorice. Even at 23 Years, the Alcohol is not fully integrated. I kept thinking that the young German Slyrs Whisky might smell somewhat like this after a maturation of 23 years.  

Palate: There is a slight off-note but I'm not sure what it is. It reminds me of an Impregnating Agent for Wood. At first I thought of Varnish but it's stronger than that. Other than that, the Palate is quite Creamy and Bitter-Sweet with Vanilla, Toffee, Malt, Dark Fruit, Nuts, Oak, Orange Peel, Bitter-Lemon, Honey, Aniseed, Licorice and Cinnamon.   

Finish: A bit on the Short side, Creamy and Bitter-Sweet with Butter Biscuits, Malt, Oak, Vanilla, Dusty Road, Cigar Tobacco, light Pepper, Licorice and some Menthol. After a while I get a hint of Espresso.  

The Hammer Head does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 82.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: The Hammer Head 23 Years was distilled shortly before the fall of communism and the division of the country. It was distilled in the town of Pradlo, close to Plzen from local Barley and it matured in Czech Oak Casks. The Barley was milled with an old Hammer mill if you were wondering where the name came from! It was bottled in 2012 by the new owners of the Distillery (Stock Spirits from the UK) to avoid that the ABV would fall below 40%. It is sold at prices that range from 50 to 70 US Dollars (August 2015).  

Drinking Experience Neat: Good with the exception of the Off Note on the Palate. 

Conclusion: First of all it's a nice feeling to taste a Whisky that was distilled before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And in Czechoslovakia of all places. A country that's more famous for its Beers. And that did not change when the country was split up in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is some local whisky to be had nowadays but it's certainly difficult to find outside the production areas. With the exception of the Hammer Head of course. A 100% local whisky that was distilled with local Barley and Water and matured in local Oak. And the end product is certainly not bad. The Nose is the best part with nice ripe Fruit, Dusty Vanilla and Butter. On the Palate I found this slight off-note that turned me off a little bit although its impact decreases with sufficient air. Other than that the Palate is quite Creamy with Dark Red Fruit, Vanilla, Aniseed and Licorice. The Finish is a bit on the short side for a Single Malt of this age but there are some nice notes of Cigar Tobacco, Licorice and Menthol. It's a pity really that the production of Single Malt was discontinued at the Pradlo facility after the fall of communism. The Hammer Head clearly shows the potential of this distillery had it been given the opportunity!

Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 20, 2015