Glen Scotia 12 Years Review

“And Now For Something Completely Different”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Campbeltown
Brand: Glen Scotia (Old Version bottled between 2005-2012)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 40%
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 568

Colour: Dark Gold with a shade of Orange (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Mostly Sweet but with a light Bitter touch for balance. Glen Scotia usually matures their Whisky in Ex-Bourbon casks but the Dried Fruit and Nuts Aromas that I find suggest some Sherry influence. Remarkable. I also detect Toasted Barley, lightly Buttered Toast, Caramel, Marzipan, Toffee, light Vanilla, light Heather Honey, Straw, Dusty Shelves, Apple, Pear, Citrus, Pepper, Ginger, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon and Bitter Chocolate. In the background a little Earthy Peat, Soft Leather and Smoke from a distant fire. Hints of Diesel and Raw Meat. Some Mineral tones as well. The Alcohol is not completely integrated. This is certainly not an everyday modern Middle of the Road Whisky. It is a bit of a mixed bag but there's some authentic raw quality to it.  

Palate: Bitter Sweet, slightly Sour, Woody, Spicy and Herbal. The Dirty Earth and Factory Smoke are a bit clearer now. The Alcohol is certainly noticeable as well. I find Toasted Malted Cereals, Caramel, Candle Wax, Straw, Dried Fruit (Raisins), Salted Almonds, light Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Apple, Butterscotch, Citrus Peel, Ginger, Pepper, Cardamom, Dried Herbs, Tobacco, Aniseed and a hint of Dark Chocolate. An ABV of 43-46% would have greatly enhanced this Glen Scotia.   

Finish: Quite Long, Bitter-Sweet, Salty, Herbal, Spicy, slightly Sour and Dry in the end. A light Alcohol bite as well. I also find Wet Earth, Soft Smoke, Diesel, Charred Oak, Caramel, Heather, Straw, Nut Shells, Gin, Citrus Peel, Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom and a hint of Dark Chocolate.    

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose you will get some extra Herbs, Spices and Citrus. A hint of Caramelised Bananas as well. Palate and Finish become too Thin. Better enjoy this Glen Scotia neat.

Rating: 84.5 

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

General Remarks: The Glen Scotia Distillery was founded in 1832 and is located in Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsular. It's one of the three surviving distilleries in Campbeltown along with Springbank and Glengyle. The current owner is a Glasgow based Blending House called Loch Lomond Distillery. The 12 years I'm reviewing today was launched in 2005.  In 2012, a new set of core Expressions was released (10, 12, 16, 18 and 21 Years), all with an ABV of 46%. Finally, a new range was launched in 2015. It consists of the 15 Years and two NAS Expressions, the Double Cask and the Victoriana. The Old 12 Years is still around at places and today, the average price should be somewhere around 45 US Dollars. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Quite interesting and certainly not Mainstream! 

Conclusion: If you like Mainstream Modern Single Malt, I don't think you will appreciate this Glen Scotia. If you're looking for something more adventurous with an excellent Price/Quality ratio, this Glen Scotia 12 Years might be an interesting alternative. It has its flaws though. The Alcohol bite is noticeable despite the low ABV. And it lacks a certain balance. But on the other hand there is a Raw, Authentic feel to this Glen Scotia that you won't find anymore in the standard Distillery offerings of today. Enjoy it while it's still there! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                 October 24, 2016

The Chivas Brother's Blend Review

“Purple Grain”

Country : Scotland
Brand: The Chivas Regal Brother's Blend
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol: 40%
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 567

Colour: Full Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: I'm not a big fan of the original 12 Years so I'm really curious to see if there's any significant difference here. There's still a lot of young, indifferent Grain Alcohol around but I do get some Sweet Barley as well. I would assume that the Malt for this Blend matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry casks. I tasted the "old" 12 years back in 2011/2012 and I must admit that today I'm more able to recognise what I'm nosing and tasting. Next to the Alcohol and Barley, I find Caramel, Toast and Margarine, light Vanilla, light Honey, Straw, Artificially-Flavoured Tropical Fruit Candies (Papaya, Pineapple, Banana), Dried Apricot, Nut Shells, Pencil Shavings, Citrus Peel, light Peanut Butter, Bread Dough and the faintest hint of Smoke. There's a bit more to discover here than in the "old" 12 years and it feels less aggressive but I still can't get excited about this Chivas Regal Blend.   

Taste: The delivery is quite Thin and Sugary Sweet. The Grain Alcohol is very noticeable and so are the Wood Spices like Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon and Ginger. I also find Sugared Cereals, Sweet Barley, Caramel, Toffee, light Vanilla, Dried Apricot, Citrus Peel, Herbal Tea, Refill Oak, Artificially Flavoured Fruit Candies (Banana, Papaya) and light Licorice.  

Finish: Short, Sugary Sweet, Spicy and with a light Alcohol bite. I find Cereals, a little Toasted Barley, Toffee, Caramel, very light Honey, Refill Oak, Hazelnuts, light Vanilla, Salt, Pepper, Clove and light Licorice. Slightly Bitter towards the end. A very faint hint of Smoke.     

With added Water, the Chivas Brother's Blend becomes too Thin although I find some additional Floral notes. 

Rating : 77.5  

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19.5 – Finish: 18.5 - Overall: 19.5

Strathisla 2014

General Remarks:The Chivas Brother's Blend 12 Years was launched in October 2012, originally as a Travel Retail Expression. In the meantime it forms part of the Chivas Regal core range. It was created as a tribute to the two founding brothers James and John who started Chivas back in 1801. It is based on the "old" 12 years but it received a higher proportion of Malt Whisky, mainly from Strathisla and Longmorn. It sells at around 50 US Dollars (October 2016).   

Drinking Experience Neat : Okay  

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Okay. It gets a bit Thin over Ice.

Conclusion: Despite the slick presentation and packaging, the Chivas Regal Brother's Blend only improved slightly when compared to the "old" 12 Years. It's a little less Sharp and a little more rounded thanks to the higher Malt content. But the Young Grain Alcohol is still in control and the same type of Refill casks is used to mature the Malt for this Blend. Sugar, Spice and Artificial Fruit Flavours are the main drivers. If you find it at around 30 US Dollars it's an okay buy but at 50 US Dollars it's way too expensive for what it offers.

Jan van den Ende                                                                October 17, 2016

Glenfiddich 18 Years Review

“The Black Sheep of the Family”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highland/Speyside
Brand: Glenfiddich 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years ("Old" Version)
ABV: 40 %
Chill-Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 566

Colour: Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Pleasant but not very intriguing. There is some Sherry influence but it's all a bit quiet and underwhelming. The Alcohol is noticeable but not in a very annoying way. In fact, the ABV is certainly inadequate for an 18 Years old Malt. I find Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Mixed Dried Fruits and Nuts with Raisins and Hazelnuts in the lead, light Honey, Brown Sugar, Toffee, Salt, Pear Drops, White Grape, Sweet Apple, Grass, Straw, Wood Shavings, Herbs, light Vanilla, Cinnamon, light Ginger, Citrus and hints of Peach Jam and Mint. It's Sweet but not overly so. It's an okay Nose for Whisky Newbies but there's not much adventure to be had for the more experienced fans. Despite the bits and pieces of Aromas that I find, there's a bit of a Tired Refill cask feeling to the Glenfiddich 18 years.    

Palate: Quite Sweet but certainly too Thin. The ABV is absolutely inadequate for this Single Malt. The Oak is much clearer now. I find Toasted Barley, Toffee, assorted Nuts and Dried Fruits with Raisins and Almonds leading the way, light Honey, Orange Peel, light Vanilla, Sweet Apples, Pear Drops, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger, light Licorice and hints of Dark Chocolate and Espresso.  

Finish: Short, Medium-Sweet and on the Thin side. The Oak, Herbs and Spices are much more present now. I find Toasted Barley, Toffee, Rum-Soaked Raisin, light Vanilla, light Honey, assorted Nuts, Oak, Orange Peel, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, light Licorice, light Mint and hints of Tea and Cocoa Powder.

I added a little water and I get some extra Floral notes on the Nose. Both on the Nose and on the Palate I find a little Strawberry Jam as well. Remarkably, the added Water doesn't kill this Malt despite the low ABV. You can experiment with a few drops at a time.

Rating: 83  

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

General Remarks: The Glenfiddich (Gaelic for Valley of the Deer) Distillery was founded in 1886 by William Grant. It's still owned by the Grant Family today and Glenfiddich is the world's best selling Single Malt. The standard distillery range consists of the 12, 15 and 18 Years. The 18 Years expression matures in a mix of Ex-Sherry and Ex-Bourbon casks. Recently, Glenfiddich introduced the 18 Years Small Batch Reserve. I'm not sure if there is a real difference between the two except for the packaging and bottle. Both are being married for a short time in small batches before bottling. I will try to get a sample of the Reserve as soon as possible to be able to compare the two. The "Old" 18 costs between 60 and 100 US Dollars depending on where you live. The average price is around 85 US Dollars (October 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good and dangerously drinkable but not very exciting. 

Conclusion: The Glenfiddich 18 Years is a nice entry Malt for beginning Whisky drinkers but more experienced fans will be rapidly bored by this Malt. It's all a bit tired and predictable. In fact I question the necessity of this expression as it isn't an improvement over the 15 years. Maybe that's in fact the reason that the Distillery decided to introduce the new 18 Years Small Batch Reserve. I really must try to get a sample of this "New" 18 years expression. Let's hope the distillery did a good job in revitalising their 18 years Single Malt. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Because the "Old" 18 Years is a bit of a Black Sheep in the Glenfiddich Family!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 October 13, 2016

Glenfiddich May 2014

Bunnahabhain 1968 (Whisky-Fassle) Review

“We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Cask”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bunnahabhain 1968 (Whisky-Fassle Limited Edition) 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 42 Years
ABV: 43.8 %
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 565

Colour: Light Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Quite Fresh and Light given its age. This is certainly not a Sherry Bomb. The relatively Light Colour of the Whisky also indicates that the Refill Ex-Sherry cask hasn't been extremely active. On the Nose, this Bunnahabhain is Fruity and Floral but with a few Sour - and Mineral notes as well. Make sure you give this Malt enough time in the glass. I find Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Demerara Sugar, Vanilla, Honey, Candied Almonds, Mint, Dusty Shelves, Straw, Cocoa Powder, Espresso and light Spices. And then there's the Fruit of course, the main driver of this Bunnahabhain. There's both Sweet - and Sour Fruit. I am nosing this Malt for more than half an hour now and every time new Fruity impressions pop up. On the Sour side I find Lemon, Grapefruit and Green Apples. The Sweet notes are mostly Tropical such as Papaya, Mango, Banana and Pineapple. But also Pear and Melon. It's quite a Fruit basket. The Oak is there of course but it doesn't dominate at all. The ABV is quite low of course and the Alcohol is fully integrated. After quite a while, a few Herbal notes appear. Despite the fact that the Nose is quite Light for its age, there is enough to discover here if you have some patience. The Aromas don't hit you though. You have to carefully sort them out. I like it that way!    

Palate: A little on the Thin side. The low ABV doesn't help I'm afraid. The Fruit is still there but more in the background. Wax, Oak, Herbs, Grass and Spices come in play. It's a little disappointing after the excellent Nose. I find Toasted Cereals, Wax, Grass, Straw, Resin, Oak, Bitter Salted Almonds, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Ginger, Licorice, Honey, Orange, Grapefruit, Pear and a hint of Tobacco.  
Finish: Middle-Long, a little Thin and Bitter-Sweet. The Oak is quite noticeable by now. I find Sweet Barley, Honey, Vanilla, Orange Peel, Mixed Dried Fruit, Grapefruit, Toasted Salted Almonds, Menthol, Licorice, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon and strong Tea.    

I only had a small sample and just smelled and tasted it neat.

Rating: 88   

Nose: 23 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 22

General Remarks: The Single Cask Bunnahabhain I'm tasting today was distilled in 1968. It matured for 42 years in a Refill Ex-Sherry Cask and was bottled at Cask Strength in 2011 by German Independent Bottler W-F (Whisky-Fassle) in a partnership with Whiskybase, Rotterdam. At the time of bottling it was sold at around 250 US Dollars but in the meantime it has become a very rare Malt and prices for the remaining bottles went up to around 700 US Dollars (October 2016). It won't be easy to find though!

Bunnahabhain (Mouth or Foot of the River) Distillery was founded around 1881 and is located close to Port Askaig. Usually, the Distillery dries the Malt with hot air or light Smoke, giving their whisky a more subtle flavour then most of its Peated neighbours on the island.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good  

Conclusion: This is one of the oldest Whiskies I have Nosed and Tasted so far so naturally I was very excited to try this Bunnahabhain. First of all it's amazing to note that such a whisky was produced on Islay. Because it has nothing to do with the Peat, Smoke, Iodine and such that this island is famous for. This is something completely different. Let's start with the Nose. It still has a Crisp and Fresh feel to it. With a little patience you will discover a wide variety of Sweet -, Dried - and Sour Fruit elements. Really nice but not in an overwhelming way. This Bunnahabhain is not at all a Sherry Bomb. The Palate and Finish pale when compared to the Nose. The main reason could be the low ABV. I firmly believe this Bunnahabhain overstayed its cask time. And the Ex-Sherry cask, I might add, was certainly not a very active one to begin with. As the result, Oak, Oak-Spice and Licorice dominate the Fruit on the Palate and in the Finish. More so, the low ABV gives a Rather Thin feeling to this Bunnahabhain. Mind you, this is still a very good Single Malt but it could have been much better in my opinion. As it is, I loved the Tasting experience but I would never spend 700 US Dollars on this Bunnahabhain.

Jan van den Ende                                                                 October 10, 2016

May 2014

Oban Little Bay Review

“Little Oban”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highland (West)
Brand: Oban Little Bay 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 43 %
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 564

Colour: Amber with a touch of Orange (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Quite Sweet and Malty with Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Whole Wheat Biscuits, Heather, Straw, Salted Almonds, Mixed Dried Fruits, Caffe Latte, Oak, Citrus, light Honey, Wax, Vanilla, Marshmallow, Caramel, Herbs, Menthol, Green Apple, Ginger and a distant hint of Leather. There is a bit of Earthy Peat and Smoke in the background. The Vanilla of the New Oak cask ends is certainly noticeable but the influence of the Refill Ex-Sherry Casks is small. The Alcohol is not fully integrated as might be expected of a relatively young Whisky. It's different when compared to the 14 Years. It's Sweeter, it's got more Cereals, less Peat and less Coastal influences. To sum it up, the Oban Little Bay is more mainstream. 

Palate: Young and slightly Edgy. It's basically Bitter-Sweet but with a few Sour components as well. I find Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Brown Sugar, Salted Nuts, Mixed Dried Fruits, Orange, Charred Oak, light Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Green Apples, Menthol, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Caffe Latte and faint hints of Chocolate, Smoke and Aniseed.  

Finish: A bit Short, Light and Medium-Spicy. Quite Dry and a little Acid towards the end. I find Toasted Cereals, light Honey, Salted Nuts, Mixed Dried Fruit, Oak Char, Green Apple, Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom, Citrus, Bitter Tea, Menthol and hints of Dark Chocolate, Smoke and Espresso.   

I added a bit of Water but didn't find any important changes. A bit more Cloves on the Nose and a little less Alcohol of course. The Finish becomes too Short. 

Rating: 82 

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

General Remarks: Oban (Gaelic for Little Bay) distillery is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland and was founded in 1794. It is located in the seaport of the same name on the frontier between the Western Highlands and the Isles. This is where Peat and Heather meet Salt and Seaweed! Oban is now owned by the Diageo Group. The Little Bay was launched in 2015 and at first tested in the Travel retail shops. In the meantime it's part of the core range of the distillery and it's likely to replace the 14 Years in due course. The Little Bay matures in a mixture of Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogsheads, Refill Ex-Sherry Casks and Refill casks with new Oak casks-ends. Finally, these Spirits are married in small 200 litres Ex-Bourbon barrels. It is sold at around 70 US Dollars (Oct. 2016). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good but nothing special. 

Conclusion: The Oban distillery has the potential to produce a Whisky that bridges Highland and Island Malts. And the 14 Years does that in a certain way. The Little Bay is not a bad Single Malt but I would not recognise it as Oban in a Blind Tasting. Too much Sweet Cereals and Vanilla and too little of Oban's familiar Coastal Aromas and Flavours. It's also relatively Young and even a tiny bit Sharp on the Palate. The Oban Little Bay is just another of the never ending wave of Mainstream Malts that hit our coasts these days. Harsh Whisky Reality I'm afraid. If you like Oban, stay with the 14 years as long as it's around. More so as the prices are quite similar in most places!   

Jan van den Ende                                                                   October 7, 2016