Millstone 2014 Cask Sample Review


“Active Little Cask”

Country: The Netherlands
Brand: Millstone 2014 (Sherry Octave Cask # 3 Casqueteers)
Type: Single Cask Sample
Age: 2 Years
ABV: Not Provided 
Chill-Filtration: N/A
Whisky Review # 548
Sample provided by Adri from the Netherlands. Many Thanks!

Colour: Mahogany/Chestnut (Natural Colour - Very Active Cask)

Nose: The Spirit is certainly maturing rapidly. The Casqueteers are considering a total cask time of 3-4 Years and that seems indeed adequate. The influence of the Sherry Wood is very clear, both in Colour and Aromas. The first impressions are Toasted Barley, Plum Jam, Fortified Wine (Oloroso Sherry, Port Wine), Oak and Wood Stain. I also find Buttered Cake, Coconut, Dried Fruit (Raisins and perhaps Apricot), Ripe Banana, Puff Pastry and some traces of Spice, Espresso, Chocolate, floral Perfume and Bitter Orange. The Alcohol is not fully integrated as is expected at this stage. The octave is a small cask and the Wood-Spirit contact is intense. A larger cask might provide a better balance between the character of the Zuidam Spirit and the Sherry Wood. Certainly something to consider. As it is, Cask # 3 seems to develop into a rich and full after dinner Whisky in the line of Brandy or Port Wine. 

Palate: Here the youth of the Spirit is more noticeable. And so is the Alcohol. On the Palate, this Millstone is Bitter-Sweet, slightly Sour and Spicy. I find Sweet Toasted Barley, Caramel, Oak and Wood Stain, Assorted Dried Fruits and Nuts, Sherry, Port Wine, light Honey, light Vanilla, Coconut, Bitter Orange, Grapefruit, Pepper, Cinnamon and Cloves.

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and slightly Sour. Medium Spicy and with a light Alcohol Bite. I find Toasted Barley, Buttered Cake, Wax, Oak and Wood Stain, Nuts, Butterscotch, Orange, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pepper and traces of Milk Chocolate, Coconut, Espresso and Vanilla. Quite Dry in the end.

I added a little Water and the Spirit calms down a bit as the Alcohol retreats. I find a little Porridge with Butter and Milk showing a bit more of the original Distillery characteristics. A little Honey as well. Palate and Finish become less "heavy" too and the Spices develop nicely now. Nosing and Tasting are less intense this way. I certainly recommend to add a little Water, at least at this stage of maturation.   

Cask # 3 (Picture Credit: The Casqueteers)

General Remarks: The Zuidam Distillery was founded in 1974 by Fred van Zuidam and his wife Helene and is currently run by their sons Patrick and Gilbert. It is located in Baarle-Nassau on the Dutch-Belgian border and is the main Distillery in The Netherlands that ferments, distills, ages and bottles at its own premises. Next to Malt Whiskies, Zuidam also produces Rye Whisky, Gin, Rum, Genever and Liqueurs. The name Millstone derives from the Windmills that are used by Zuidam to mill the Malted Barley. The distillery has been expanding rapidly during the last couple of years. Their range includes a/o the 5 Years (in a peated and unpeated version), the 10 Years American Oak, the 10 Years French Oak, the 12 Years Sherry Oak and the 100% Rye.

Early 2014, the Casqueteers acquired 3 octaves of around 50 litres each of Millstone Spirit. The octaves were made of used Sherry Wood. The three casks with Cask # 1,2 and 3 were filled on February 10, 2014. They will most likely mature for a period of 3 to 4 years. Samples were drawn in February 2016 and today I'm reviewing a sample of cask # 3. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good  

Score: N/A. I only score bottled Whiskies.

Conclusion: Cask # 3 is without any doubt a very active cask. I have tasted quite a few Millstone whiskies in the meantime and I'm familiar with the Distillery characteristics. As I wrote above, the small cask allows a very intense contact between the Spirit and the Sherry Wood. In my opinion, the Wood might start to dominate the Spirit, certainly considering the fact that the Spirit will mature for an other year or two. The end result will likely be a very Full and perhaps slightly "Heavy" after dinner Whisky. During the Nosing and Tasting, images of mature Port Wine appeared in my mind all the time. My advise is to taste the Spirit again in early 2017 to decide the best time for bottling. Also I think that on another occasion, a larger cask might provide a better balance between the Fruity, Malty Distillery character and the active Sherry Wood. In any case, Good Luck and Cheers!

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

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 23, 2016

The New Pot Stills at Zuidam.

Abhainn Dearg 3 Years Review


“Promising Nose But Mostly Immature”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Lewis 
Brand: Abhainn Dearg 
Type: Single Malt (Single Cask Bottling)
Age: 3 Years
ABV: 46%
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 547

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Colour) 

Nose: The first strong Aromas I get are the Barley Sugar and the Vanilla from the cask. It's quite different from any Scotch Single Malt I have nosed so far. Some Swiss - and German Single Malts have similar characteristics. Give it some time in the glass to give the Fruity Aromas the chance to develop. Next to the Barley and the Vanilla I find Buttered Toast, Toasted Cereals, Dough, Straw, Honey, Green Apple, Pear, Nectarine, Apricot, Sugar Coated Roasted Nuts, light Oak Char, Ginger, Cinnamon and light Herbs. There's a Fatty -, Creamy - and Oily feel to the Nose. The Alcohol is quite present of course but it doesn't really interfere with the Nosing pleasure. I really would like to review a fully matured Abhainn Dearg in the future as the Spirit shows some promising features.

Taste: Young, Rough and a little Hot. The New Make Spirit feel is much clearer now. I find Toasted Cereals, Burnt Toast, Burnt Straw, Vanilla, Honey, Toffee, Varnish, Citrus (Bitter Orange and Grapefruit), Fresh Oak, Green Apple, Lemon-Pepper, Nutmeg and some Dried Herbs. 

Finish: Rather Short. Bitter-Sweet at first. Quite Dry later on. The Bitterness increases towards the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Dough, Burnt Toast, Sugar, Burnt Grass, Mineral notes, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Green Apples, Pear, Alcohol, Varnish, Grapefruit, a little Toffee and Vanilla and a sprinkle of Lemon. 

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Malted Barley develops even more. The Palate and Finish become too flat for my taste. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 78

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 19 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5



General Remarks: The Abhainn Dearg (Red River) Distillery was founded in 2008 in Uig on the island of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) by Mark Tayburn. It's a farm distillery with a current capacity of only 20.000 litres. In 2011, a first 3 Year old Single Malt was released, the one I am reviewing here today. A Cask Strength version (58%) followed in 2012. The Distillery also offers a very young New Make Spirit called Spirit of Lewis that matured for a couple of months in Ex-Sherry casks. Abhainn is planning to release a 10 Year old Single Malt in 2018. The distillery uses mostly Ex-Bourbon but also some Ex-Sherry casks. The Barley used for the Whisky is sourced on the island itself. The 3 year old Single Malt is a Single Cask bottling so some differences may appear depending on the cask. Unfortunately, the miniature I'm using does not indicate a Cask number. It solely matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. Unfortunately, it's very expensive at over 200 US Dollars per 500 ml bottle. (June 2016). I understand the need for cash of young distilleries but this seems to be a bit over the top. When compared to Kilchoman for instance, the latter has a much better Price/Quality ratio for its young Whiskies.

Drinking Experience Neat: Promising on the Nose but quite disappointing on the Palate and in the Finish.

Conclusion: Abhainn Dearg is a very young distillery and I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate owner Mark on this initiative. We all know that investing in a distillery, even if it's a small one like Abhainn Dearg, costs a lot of money. And part of the loans need to be repaid before the produced Spirit is fully matured. This creates the necessity to make cash rapidly. Some of the distilleries do this by selling New Make Spirit and/or Gin. Personally I think that is better than launching very young Single Malts. Abhainn Dearg chose for the combination of New Make Spirit (Spirit of Lewis) and the 3 Year old Single Malt I'm reviewing today that is also available in a Cask Strength version. The 3 Y (46%) shows some promising features on the Nose but disappoints otherwise. It's too Young, too Rough and too Hot to be really enjoyed. As such, the Price-Quality ratio is way out of line. All we can do now is wishing Mark the best of luck because I am really looking forward to taste the 10 Year old in 2018!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 20, 2016

A very remote location indeed!

Ledaig 2005 (Chester Whisky & Liqueur) Review


“Mull Meets Islay”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highland - Island - Mull 
Brand: Ledaig 2005 
Type: Single Malt
Age: 8 Years
ABV: 52.7%
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 546

Colour: Very Pale White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose: Young, Fruity & quite Peaty. There's still a New Make Spirit feel to this Ledaig and it smells very similar to young Islay whisky from the Southern part of the island. I find Toasted Cereals, Tarmac, Soot, Cold Smoke, Rubber, Wet Clay, Salt, slightly Burnt Toast, Black Olives, Wet Stone, Dried Herbs, Lemon, Grapefruit Juice, light Licorice, light Aniseed, Sour Apples and a touch of Vanilla. The main Aromas are Peat, Toasted Cereals, Soot, Sour Fruit and Salt. It goes without saying that the Alcohol is quite noticeable. It's still a relatively Young Spirit and thus the Nose is not very complex. Still, it's not unpleasant. 

Taste: Fruity and surprisingly Creamy for a Whisky of this age. The Alcohol is quite present of course. I find Wet Clay, Tar, Soot, Ashes, Cold Smoke, Brine, Salted Fish, Grass, Toasted Barley, Lemon, Grapefruit Juice, Pear, slightly Sour Apples, Pepper, Soy Sauce and Ginger. It's a little Soapy from time to time. 

Finish: Quite Long with Wet Clay, Cold Smoke, Soot, Brine, Ashes, Salted Fish, Dried Herbs, Grass, Sweet Barley, Pepper, Ginger, Lemon, Grapefruit Juice, Pear, slightly Sour Apples and Vodka.

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose Wet Clay and Salted Fish move to the front. On the Palate the Fruit is enhanced and the New Make Spirit feel is quite present. The Finish gets more Pepper and Licorice but also becomes a little Bitter. I prefer it neat but you can carefully experiment with a few drops.  

Rating: 85

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

Picture Credit: The Whisky Cask

General Remarks: The Tobermory Distillery is located on the Hebridean Island of Mull. It was formerly named Ledaig and was founded in 1798 by John Sinclair. Nowadays it is owned by the Distell Group that bought Burn Stewart Distillers in 2013. The Distillery produces unpeated Malt under the name Tobermory and peated Malt under the old Distillery name Ledaig. The whisky is mainly used in blends like Black Bottle and Scottish Leader. The Ledaig we are tasting today was distilled in 2005 and matured in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead. It was bottled at Cask Strength by Independent bottler Chester Whisky & Liqueur Company Ltd, Chester (UK) in 2013. Unfortunately, this company closed its doors in the same year. It costs between 60 and 85 US Dollars but it will be very difficult to find as only 238 bottles went to the market (June 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: Before I started Nosing I wasn't expecting a lot to be honest. Young peated whiskies tend to be a little Sharp and Monotonous. But I was pleasantly surprised by this Ledaig expression. It's a young Spirit of course and you can't ignore the Alcohol (Vodka) as it's all over the place. But there's something very interesting going on here. It's like the Whisky tells you "This is the way I am mate, take it or leave it". And I must say that it works for me. You should not buy this Ledaig if you're only starting to get familiar with peated Whisky. But if you adore young Ardbeg or Laphroaig you might want to give this a try. It won't be easy to find but you won't regret the effort!  

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 17, 2016

BenRiach Birnie Moss Review


“Peated New Make Spirit”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highlands - Speyside
Brand: BenRiach Birnie Moss
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Probably 4-5 Years)
ABV: 48% 
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 545

Colour: White Wine (Chardonnay) - Artificially Coloured

Nose: Young and Fruity with a New Make Spirit feel to it. The Earthy Peat and Cold Smoke are there of course but in a mild way. Nevertheless, they are the main Aromas on the Nose. I also find light Tar and Ashes, Dusty Road, light Plastic, light Meat and Fish on the BBQ, Toasted Cereals, Yeast, Grass, Straw, light Floral notes, light Vanilla, Lemon, Peanut Butter, Tobacco, Green Apples, light Pepper and some Herbs. Speyside Peat isn't the same as Islay Peat of course but I do find some Medicinal notes that remind me of the latter. The Alcohol is not fully integrated. Most of the above mentioned Aromas are merely hints by the way. It's all a bit plain and not very exciting. 

Palate: Young and Hot. The ABV is too strong for the Young Spirit in my opinion. I can't help but thinking that the Peat and high Alcohol mainly serve to hide the young Spirit. I find Sweet Peat, Dirty Earth, Cold Smoke, Tar and Ashes, light Vanilla, Toasted Cereals, Salted Meat, slightly Sour Green Apples, Lemon, light Pepper, light Licorice, Charred Oak, light Leather and Black Espresso. I would guess that the Birnie Moss matured for 4 to 5 years in Refill Ex-Bourbon casks.          
Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Edgy and Hot. Quite Dry towards the end. The Alcohol stings a little. I find Dirty Earth, Cold Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Charred Oak, Toasted Cereals, light Vanilla, Pepper, Licorice, Grapefruit Juice, Green Apples, Salted Meat and distant hints of Leather and Black Espresso.  

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose the Peat and Smoke retreat a little and make place for more Vanilla and Floral notes. A bit of Honey pops up as well. Palate and Finish become too Thin for my taste. However, you can cautiously add a few drops to see where it leads you.  

Rating: 81.5 

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


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 was independently owned by the BenRiach Distillery Company that also owns Glenglassaugh and GlenDronach. In April this year however, the Walker family and their partners sold the BenRiach Distillery Company to the US drinks giant Brown-Forman, the owner of Bourbon brands like Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve. A lot of BenRiach's production goes into the Chivas Regal Blends but more than enough is left for the many Single Malt Expressions. The Birnie Moss was released in 2009 and is named after a rugged moorland close to the distillery. It is peated at 35ppm and costs between 40 and 45 US Dollars (June 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay.  

Conclusion: I am disappointed with this BenRiach. It's too Young and quite Raw so in that respect the name is well-chosen at least. It comes close to being a peated New Make Spirit. The high ABV and the Peat dominate all the rest and perhaps that's the idea behind the Birnie Moss. It's not very expensive of course and the Price/Quality Ratio is not too bad if you like rough young Spirit. For me however this formula does not work very well!

Jan van den Ende                                                                       June 8, 2016

Havana Club 3 and 7 Years Review


“The Sweet Escape”

Short Introduction:

Lately, some very esteemed Whisky Bloggers have released articles where they question if they should continue to write Whisky Tasting Notes as they feel that those might support an industry that is currently overflowing the market with NAS Whiskies of indifferent quality and at very high prices. Next to the fact that they get bored with writing about uninteresting Malts. Many consumers seem to agree and venture into other spirits such as Brandy, Armagnac and Rum. As a Whisky Blogger I have always given my personal opinion on Whiskies and I will continue to do so. If I think a Whisky is indifferent or inadequate I will write exactly that. I can only hope that the market circumstances will return to normal at some point in time as they have done in the past. I must admit that I am a bit concerned in the short term however as the large whisky producers tend to aim at producing mainstream whiskies for large groups of consumers. While I will continue to write my Tasting Notes on interesting Malts and boring NAS stuff a-like, I have always wanted to try out writing a Review of another strong Spirit. For some time already I had two bottles of Rum in my cabinet so finally I have decided to give it a try. I'm really looking forward to this so here we go!

=================================================

Country: Cuba
Brand: Havana Club
Type: Plain White Rum
Age: 3 Years
ABV: 40%
Charcoal-Filtration: Yes
Rum Review: # 1

Colour: Pale Straw (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Young, Light, Fruity, a little Rough and mostly Sweet. The Alcohol is quite noticeable as could be expected at this age. My first impressions are Banana, Canned Pear in heavy Syrup and Vanilla. The Havana Club Rum ages in casks made of American White Oak. As Cuba was not able to buy these casks in the USA on account of the Trade Embargo, they probably purchased 2nd and 3rd refill casks in the Caribbean region from other Rum producers. I also find notes of Toffee, Molasses and Marzipan. It's funny that I keep looking for the usual whisky Aromas but I can't find a lot of them. Although this is a very young Rum I need to consider the fact that Spirit matures much quicker in tropical regions. I do find some traces of Charred Oak as well as a bit of Citrus, Grass and light Ginger. There's not too much going on but the Havana Club 3 Years does have a little personality on the Nose. More than I expected actually as this Rum was created as a mixing component rather than a sipping Spirit. 

Palate: Light, Harsh and mostly Sweet but with a slight Bitterness towards the end as well. Grapefruit Juice comes to my mind. But I mainly find Toffee, Sweet Molasses, Vanilla, Banana, Grass and Straw, Lemon, light Menthol, light Pepper, lightly Charred Oak and light Cinnamon. The Alcohol remains very present.    

Finish: Short and surprisingly Dry. The Alcohol is very present and stings a bit. This is easily the worst part of this Rum. In the end you're stuck with an after- taste that reminds me of Artificial Sweetener and Rubbing Alcohol. Before that sets in however I perceived little hints of Vanilla, Toffee, Banana, Lemon, Ginger and Menthol.     


Added Water completely kills this Rum. I tried it over Ice as well but that did not work for me either. This is indeed a Rum intended for Mixing.   

Rating: 71   

Nose: 20 - Taste: 17 - Finish: 16 - Overall: 18

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average    

Conclusion: So there it is, my first Rum review! I really liked the experience. I chose this simple 3 Year Old Mixing Rum on purpose to have a reference of young White Rum. I could have chosen Bacardi as well but I happened to have the Havana Club 3 Years in my cabinet. From my above notes it's quite clear that this Rum does not qualify as a sipping Spirit. It's too Young and Harsh and does not show interesting Flavours on the Palate and in the Finish. The Finish is indeed the worst part and the Artificial Sweetener Flavour lingers on for a while. But on the Nose I detected some pleasant Sweet notes like Pears, Bananas and Vanilla. They were underdeveloped in this Young Havana Club but they make me curious enough to taste other - and perhaps better young Rum. 


=================================================

General Remarks: The Arechabala family founded a distillery in 1878 in the city of Cardenas, Cuba. The Havana Club brand name was launched in 1934. In the year 1960, Fidel Castro nationalised the company. As a result, the Arechabala family left Cuba. They went to Spain at first but later moved on to the USA. Exports of Havana Club started in 1972, mainly to Russia and Eastern-Europe in general. In 1977, the production moved to a new plant in Santa Cruz del Norte. In 1994, the Cuban government closed a 50/50 Joint Venture with Pernod Ricard. Since then, the product is exported to 120 countries all over the world. Recently Cuban Rum is allowed in the USA again. In the USA, Havana Club is produced by Bacardi, authorised by the Arechabala family. For many years, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi are fighting it out in court as to who may use the brand name. As I write, HC is the 5th largest rum brand in the world. Well-known expressions include the 3 years, the 7 years, the 15 years, the Maximo and the Seleccion Maestros. The 3 Years costs around 20 US Dollars while the 7 years is also relatively cheap at around 30 US Dollars. (June 2016).

This is what the producers say about the production process of the Havana Club 3 Years old:

"Havana Club 3 Years is the result of blending aged and aromatic Sugar Cane Aguardientes with extra light Sugar Cane distillates to produce a selection of young Rums. These Rums are then allowed to rest in White Oak Barrels after which the Maestro Ronero chooses the best barrels and blends the final 3 Year Old Rum which is again set to rest before being filtered and bottled"

=================================================


Country: Cuba
Brand: Havana Club
Type: Plain Molasses Rum
Age: 7 Years
ABV: 40%
Charcoal Filtration: Yes
Rum Review: # 2

Colour: Caramel (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: The Alcohol is noticeable but it is much better integrated than in the 3 Years. It's different from Bourbon and Brandy of course but there are some similarities as well. Despite the longer maturation, the 7 Years is still a bit Rough on the edges. My first impressions are Sweet Molasses, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Banana, Raisins, Wood Polish, Wax and the Wooden boxes where my late Grandfather used to keep his Pipe Tobacco. I also find hints of Grass and Straw, Toffee, Caramel, Treacle, Bitter Black Espresso, Dirt Road, Roasted Almonds, some Herbs and light Spices such as Nutmeg and Clove. The 7 years need time to open up so give it at least half an hour in the glass before Nosing and Tasting.  

Palate: A little Thin for my taste. I think this would be much better at 46%. This is quite Dry actually. I didn't expect that to be honest. I find Sweet Molasses, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Toffee, light Vanilla, Raisins, Plums, Charred Oak, Pipe Tobacco, Leather, Licorice, light Pepper, light Nutmeg, light Cinnamon and Banana.         

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and a little Sour towards the end. Like was the case with the 3 years, this is the weakest part of this Rum. The main drivers are Sweet Molasses, Treacle, light Vanilla, Charred Oak and Pipe Tobacco. I also find a little Pepper, Nutmeg and Cinnamon as well as traces of Dirty Earth, Leather, Straw and Yeast. Quite Dry in the end. The Alcohol stings a bit as well.  


I Added a little Water and I found some more fruit on the Nose. Banana and Pineapple mainly. Some extra Toffee as well. It's certainly less Rough this way as far as Nosing is concerned. Palate and Finish become too Thin for my taste but you can carefully experiment with a few drops. I tried it over Ice as well but that did not convince me. Finally I tried it mixed with Coca Cola and that tasted quite good albeit a little Sweet!

Rating: 82   

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good    

Conclusion: This is quite a different Rum when compared to the 3 years. It is certainly a Rum that you can sip and it would combine well with a nice cigar. It's much darker than the 3 years and not only in colour! The 7 years offers lots of Molasses, Treacle, Raisins, Earth, Black Espresso and Tobacco. It does still feel a little underdeveloped and rough. I also think that an ABV of 40% is not quite adequate for this type of Spirit. So while the Havana Club 7 years is not a bad Rum, I'm sure there must be better stuff around. If I can find something of interest here in Brazil I will review it somewhere in the future. Until then!   

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 6, 2016

The Production Facility in Santa Cruz del Norte