Finlaggan Whisky Review


“The Name is Smoke, Peat Smoke”

Country: Scotland
Brand: Finlaggan The Secret Islay
Bottled By/For: The Vintage Malt Whisky Company Limited, Glasgow
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Light Gold

Nose: Young Dirty Peat, Rubber, Burning Newspapers, Wet Tarmac, Ashes, Toasted Oak, Smoke, Band Aid, Plastic, Iodine, Salty Water, Apple Vinegar, Compost, Grass, light Leather, Malt, Mint, Licorice, Unripe Bananas, Aniseed and Lemon. I know this looks rather unappetising but in fact it's not that bad at all! It's a very basic young Islay spirit with Peat and Smoke all over the place. 

The Remains of Finlaggan Castle in the Rain!!

Palate: Slightly Thin and Watery Delivery. It's quite Dry and the Alcohol stings a bit. I find Wet Clay, Wet Grass, Ashes, Rubber, Smoke, Plastic, Salt Water, Pepper, Nutmeg, Artificial Sweetener, Vinegar, Malt, Nuts and Lemon Zest.   

Finish: Quite Long actually. Sugary Sweet and Sour at the same with Wet Clay, Ashes, Burnt Toast, Charcoal, light Plastic, Pepper and distant tones of Lemon and Milk Chocolate.

Welcome to Finlaggan!

This Finlaggan does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 80.5  

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

Beautiful Islay!

General Remarks: The Finlaggan Old Reserve "Secret of Islay" Single Malt is distilled in one of the Distilleries on the Island. Which one is a real secret, only known to a few. This Whisky is named after the ruins of the Finlaggan Castle. It was constructed in the 13th Century and served as the home of The Lord of the Isles and the Clan MacDonald. It is located on a little Island called Eileen Mor in Loch Finlaggan. Finlaggan means Fort of the Island. It was demolished in the 15th or 16th Century. There are other expressions in the Finlaggan series being the Original Peaty, the 10 Years Lightly Peated and the Cask Strength at 58%. The Old Reserve sells at an average 45 US Dollars, but it can go as low as 18 US Dollars depending on where you live. That consistent low price makes you wonder if the Spirit always comes from the same Distillery as the makers of Finlaggan keep telling us. Because a dependence on one Distillery alone would normally lead to price differences depending on the availability of sufficient Spirit. Unless you always have lots of it like Caol Ila does. Well, the mystery is part of the fun so let's not dive too deep!

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good  

Conclusion: It's pretty straight forward Young Islay Spirit with very dominant Smoke and Peat on the Nose. At least for me this Spirit needs more Cask time to get rid of the Rubber and Plastic tones. I also miss Fruit or Sherry tones. I would guess that this Spirit matured in second and third refill Ex Bourbon Casks.
Finlaggan Old Reserve is certainly drinkable if you're an Islay fan and Ardbeg 10 is too expensive. And if you can get it at around 20 US Dollars it's a great bargain! This Finlaggan contains Caramel so the Colour gives you no clue as to where the Spirit was distilled. After Nosing I ruled out Bowmore, Kilchoman and Bunnahabhain. After Tasting I would put my money on either Ardbeg or maybe Lagavulin although I have to admit I'm not very familiar with young Caol Ila or Bruichladdich. Oh well, let the mystery live on forever!

Jan van den Ende                                                            October 29, 2014

The Famous Round Church in Bowmore!

Benromach 10 Years Review



“Great Value For Money”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Benromach
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 10 Years 
ABV: 43%

It's Always Good To Feel Welcome!
Colour: Golden Sunlight

Nose: My first impressions are Dusty Wooden Shelves, Mild Juicy Peat, Charred Oak and light BBQ Smoke. It's Dry, Spicy and Herbal rather than Sweet. The Alcohol is not fully integrated and you need to be patient to find the full Aroma profile. After a while I identify light Brine, Soot, light Honey, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Toasted Barley, Toffee/Butterscotch, Pina Colada, Citrus Peel, Cinnamon and Mint. It's quite different from your average today's Speysider but back in the 1960's the use of lightly Peated Barley was common in the region. Benromach is reviving the past and I like that! It's a quite balanced Nose. After Nosing for 15 minutes or so I get visions of a slice of Fat Bacon marinated in Sherry and a tablet of Dark Chocolate lying side by side on a piece of muddy Islay football pitch. Not bad at all for a 10 Year old Speysider!

Part of the Distillery in the Blistering Heat!

Taste: Nice delivery that would be great with an ABV of 46%. This Spirit truly deserves that. I find Malt, Oak, Raisins, Nuts, Buttered Croissant, light Vanilla, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Licorice, Demerara Sugar, Bitter Citrus, Rum, Toffee and Cocoa Powder. And all of it coated with some Sherry and a light BBQ Smoke.  

Brother in Law Jan in front of the Cosy VC!

Finish: Quite Long, Dry and Bitter Sweet with light BBQ Smoke, Charred Wood, Sweet Barley, Bitter Orange, Leather, Wet Earth, Oak, Fresh Ginger, Pepper and light Mineral tones.

The Boby Mill

I added a few drops of Water and you will get more Malt, Brine, Pina Colada and Charred New Oak on the Nose. On the Palate, Smoke and Spices tend to slightly dominate. Better sip it neat!

Rating: 88.5

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 22 – Finish: 21.5 – Overall: 22.5

From Barley to Grist!

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 10 Years was released in 2009 and is part of the Core Range. It matured in a hand-selected mix of Ex-Bourbon Casks (80%) and Ex-Sherry Casks (20%) before being finished for 1 year in First Fill Ex-Oloroso Casks. On average, it costs around 50 US Dollars.

The Stills at Benromach!

Drinking Experience Neat: Very Nice. This is great Value for Money!

Conclusion: When nosing and tasting this Benromach I wondered why on earth lightly peated Malted Barley basically disappeared from Speyside. Based on this Benromach, the combination of Speyside Spirit, Mixed Casks and lightly Peated Barley seems to work out quite nicely. It's great that Gordon and MacPhail decided to bring back the past. The Benromach 10 Years I'm tasting today is not a perfect whisky. In my opinion it deserves an ABV of 46% and a couple of extra years in the Cask. But it's a great standard Single Malt nevertheless and it's got an excellent Price/Quality ratio. It's a great day-to-day Whisky and I can't find any reason why you should not have this Benromach in your Whisky Cabinet. I fully recommend it.

Types of Casks Used!

Some Data: The name Benromach means Shaggy Mountain. The Distillery is located on the Eastern outskirts of Forres, just off the A 96 from Inverness to Aberdeen. Almost all Spirit is sold as Single Malt. Only a minor portion is used in the Gordon and MacPhail Blends. It's the smallest working Distillery in Speyside and possesses 1 Semi-Lauter Mash Tun, 4 Wooden Wash Backs (Larch) and 1 Pair of Stills. In 2013 their total production capacity amounted to 500.000 litres. Only about 25% of that capacity is used however as the owners want to build up Market Share first. But as of 2014, production will be doubled and a couple of new Warehouses will be constructed. 

There's no Whisky without Water!

The water for the distillery is sourced from the Chapleton Spring. The Malt from Benromach is usually lightly peated and matures in a mixture of Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry Casks. From May to September, the Benromach Distillery opens from Monday to Saturday from 9.30 to 17.00 hours and from June to August also on Sundays from 12.00 to 16.00 hours. From October to April it only opens from Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 14.00 hours. The Standard Tour costs 3,5 Pounds. The cosy Visitor Centre was opened in 1999 and you can watch a video telling the story of Benromach.

A selection of Casks in the Warehouse!

We visited Benromach on a very rainy Wednesday May 21, 2014. We were early and were the only visitors at that time. So we got ourselves a very nice and informative private tour with a knowledgeable male guide. At Benromach it feels like time stopped in the 1960's. The owners want to keep it that way and I'm not complaining! After the tour we enjoyed 4 drams, the Traditional, the 10 Years, the Organic and the Peatsmoke. Benromach is well worth a visit when you're staying around Elgin. Talking about Elgin, don't forget to visit the local  pub called The Granary for excellent Food and Beer!

A Well Deserved Dram after the Private Tour!

Jan van den Ende                                                           October 25, 2014

Dry Fly Washington Wheat Review


Picture from "The Manual"

“Bread and Butter”
Country: USA
Brand: Dry Fly Washington Wheat Batch #41
Type: American Whiskey - 100% Wheat 
Age: NAS (Said To Be: At Least 2 Years)
ABV: 40%
Sample provided by Derek from the USA. Many Thanks!

Colour: Light Golden Amber

Nose: Light but interesting. Different from your usual Bourbon Nose. I find Sweet Grain, Puff Pastry prepared with full Cream Butter, Butterscotch, Toffee, Nectarine, Orange, Banana, Coconut, Syrup, light Vanilla, Hay, lightly Charred New Oak, light Varnish and light Mint. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Taste: On the Palate, the short Wood contact and the low ABV start to tell their limited stories. It's not as "neutral" as Gin or Vodka but it doesn't present us with a lot of Flavour as well. You can compare it with some of the younger Whiskies from say France, Belgium or the Alpine countries. With some effort I find Bread and Yeast tones, Wheat Biscuits, light Licorice, Pepper, Orange Peel, Toffee, Nuts, Young Oak and Menthol. The Alcohol is quite present. 



Finish: Middle-Long with Lightly Charred Oak, Toffee, Pepper, Cinnamon, Grass, Menthol and Alcohol. Still, the Finish does invite you to have another sip!  

With a bit of Water you will find more Bread, Biscuits and Dried Fruits on the Nose. But on the Palate it becomes more of a Spicy Fruit-Flavoured Vodka. The Finish gets a bit more Citrus, Toffee and Vanilla. You can certainly experiment with a few drops.

Rating: 80 

Nose: 21.5 – Taste: 18.5 – Finish: 20 – Overall: 20

Derek's Bottle and the Sample!

General Remarks: Dry Fly is a craft distillery located just outside Spokane in the state of Washington. It was founded in 2007 and is owned and operated by 2 fly- fishing pals, Kent Fleischmann & Don Poffenroth. The Christian Carl Pot Stills from Goppingen Germany produce Gin, Whiskey, Vodka and Bourbon. The total current annual output is small at around 150.000 bottles. The Soft Winter Wheat is bought from small local sustainable producers. Dry Fly Wheat matured for around 2 years in new Medium-Charred American White Oak Casks from the Bluegrass Cooperage in Tennessee. It's mostly available in the native State for the time being and costs around 50 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: Does anyone remember the Hit Single "Bread and Butter" released by the American group the Newbeats in 1964. It went all the way to # 2 in the Billboard Top 100. I had to think of this song when Nosing and Tasting the Dry Fly Washington Wheat. Bread, Dough, Wheat Biscuits, Butter, Butterscotch and Toffee are all over the place, especially on the light but pleasant Nose. 2 Years however is not enough to extricate lots of Flavours from the Cask and the low ABV does not help out either. The Finish is not overly long but effective. All in all an interesting experiment that has my full support. I would love to Nose and Taste a 6 Year old Dry Fly Washington Wheat with an ABV of around 46%. I do hope Fleischmann & Poffenroth will get to this stage. Good Luck! 

Jan van den Ende                                                            October 21, 2014

GlenDronach Octarine Review



“GlenDronach Tangerine”

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands  
Brand: GlenDronach Octarine
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 8 Years
ABV: 46%
Sample Provided By: Marcus, Germany. Many Thanks!

Colour: Copper

Nose: An initial Wave of Citrus including Nectarine, Tangerine, Orange and Lemon is followed by Dried Fruits like Apricot and Raisins, Canned Pineapple, Almonds, Hazelnuts, White Chocolate, light Vanilla, Cherries, Cinnamon, lightly Charred Oak, Marshmallow, Strawberry Preserve, Wood Polish and Straw. It's quite a Nose for an 8 Years Old Single Malt. I believe there's a trace of Sulphur noticeable. And, unfortunately, the Alcohol is not fully integrated.  

Palate: Young, Medium Sweet, Herbal and Dry. Again, there is lots of Citrus like Tangerine, Orange and Lemon. I also find Marzipan, Milk Chocolate, Sherry, Toffee, Butterscotch, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Ginger, Cinnamon and Pepper. The ABV of 46% is perfect but the Spirit would have benefited from a few extra Cask years.

Finish: Middle Long, Sweet at first but Dry and slightly Bitter towards the end. I find Almonds, Creme Brulee, Butterscotch, Peanut Butter, Tangerine, Lemon, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger and Licorice.

With a bit of Water the Nose gets more Vanilla, Malt, Apricot Preserve and Honey. Despite the added Water, the Alcohol is still too much present. On the Palate and in the Finish, Toffee and Butter become quite noticeable. I suggest you try it out both ways!

Rating: 82.5

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

                                     Marcus's Bottle that produced the Sample!

General Remarks: The GlenDronach Distillery was founded in 1826 in Forgue (Aberdeenshire). It was sold in 2005 by Pernod-Ricard to the owners of the BenRiach Distillery (Billy Stewart and partners). The GlenDronach Octarine (Colour of Magic) was launched in 2010/2011, initially only for the Carrefour Supermarket Chain. But it didn't take long before it was widely available. It matured in a mix of Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Oloroso and Ex-PX Casks. Prices vary in general between 45 and 60 US Dollars. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Nose of the GlenDronach Octarine is astonishingly diverse for an 8 Years Old Single Malt. Certainly the result of the variety of Wood used to mature this whisky. Unfortunately, this mature density is not maintained on the Palate and the Finish is a tad Bitter. Still, if you like Sherried Speysiders and are not allergic to Citrus Fruit, the GlenDronach is a great alternative given its very good Price/Quality Ratio. 

Jan van den Ende                                                           October 19, 2014