Scapa Skiren Review

“No Substitute for the 16 Years” 

Whisky Review # 633

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Scapa Skiren - Batch SK01
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Bourbon Casks 
Chill Filtration: Yes  
Price Range: US$ 60-70 (August 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative. Let's wait for the return of the 16 Years! 

Colour: Golden(Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: The first very clear impression is of Malt Biscuits. I found something quite similar in the Cardhu 12 Years. Barley Juice I called it on that occasion. There is also a quite clear note of New Oak that I regularly encounter in West-European mainland Malts. After a while I also get Buttered Toast, Wax, Heather-Honey, Toffee, Straw, Butterscotch, Green Apples, Apricot Marmalade, Toasted Salted Almonds, Citrus Peel, White Wine and Fresh Herbs. The Alcohol remains in the background. On the Nose, the Skiren is not bad but a bit dull and lifeless. 

Palate: The delivery is a little Thin due to the low ABV. It remains Malty and Waxy with Sweet Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Brown Sugar, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Almonds, Heather-Honey, Apple, Pear, Lemon-Peel, light Pepper, Cinnamon, Salt, Cloves, Dusty Road, Sour Grapes, Resin and hints of Milk Chocolate and Sweet Artificially Flavoured Banana Ice-Cream.       

Finish: Bitter-Sweet, Middle-Long, a little Edgy and with a light Metallic off-note right at the end. It stays Malty and Creamy with Puff Pastry filled with Apples, Butterscotch, Toffee and Malt Biscuits. I also find Caramel, Toasted Almonds, Vanilla, Citrus Peel, Heather-Honey, Wax, Cinnamon, light Pepper, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Salt and Cocoa Butter.  

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and the Skiren turns into a Malt flavoured Floral Perfume. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81.5           

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

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The Distillery was founded in 1885 by John Townsend and his business partner MacFarlane in St. Ola, close to Kirkwall on Orkney. It was mothballed a couple of times over the years but since it was bought by Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) in 2005 things started to improve. A large part of the production disappears in Blends like Chivas Regal and Ballentine's. Scapa did appear on the Single Malt map though in 2008 when the 16 Years was launched. This Malt became quite popular but unfortunately it has been discontinued in 2015 and replaced by the Skiren I'm reviewing today. You can still buy a 16 Year old Scapa named Jutland at the distillery. Scapa derives from the old Norse word Scalp that means boat. It currently produces around 1 million liters per year. 

The Skiren (Norse for Glittering Bright Skies) was launched in 2015, the same year the distillery opened for visitors.

Picture Credit: Tjederswhisky

🍷  The Spirit 

Scapa only operates one pair of stills. The Wash still is one of only two surviving Lomond stills. The Lyne arm of the Spirit still points slightly upwards at first and produces a rather light, Floral and Grassy spirit. The water is sourced from the Lingro Burn.

Picture Credit: Richard Thomas

🌲  The Wood:

The Skiren matures in First Fill American Oak Bourbon/Whiskey casks purchased in the US states of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Drinking Experience: Average and Disappointing. 


Apparently, the Skiren is one of those Single Malts born out of necessity rather than free will. Dwindling stocks and increased demand must have lead Scapa to discontinue the 16 Years and replace it with the Skiren. And while the price of the Skiren is almost identical to the old 16 Years, it can not compete with the latter in terms of Aromas, Flavours and overall quality. There is an artificial feel to the Skiren and the Metallic off-note in the Finish is slightly off-putting. I fully understand the necessity of distilleries to cope with decreasing stocks. I do not agree however when younger, rather immature Malts like the Skiren are released as a replacement at the approximate same price. Despite the fancy name and the nice presentation and packaging. I really can't recommend the Skiren at this price level and I anxiously await the return of the 16 Years!     

Jan van den Ende                                                                   August 17, 2017

Glentauchers 6 Years Review

“Sherry Oh Baby”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Glentauchers (UD Bottler - Bottled for Whisky Partner)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 6 Years
ABV: 61 %
Date: 29/03/2014

Beach Hotel, Juquehy

I've not been posting for a couple of days as I was out of town as you can see above. I know it's hard to believe but actually I was there to work. But we had some fun as well as you can imagine! Well, Back to Life as Soul II Soul taught us in 1989.

Colour: Chestnut/Oloroso Sherry

Nose: This Glentauchers is naturally coloured and its dark Chestnut colour leads me to assume that it matured in an Ex-Oloroso Cask. The Nose confirms this. At first I find Sherry, Orange, Dried Fruits, Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Powder, Malt,   Tobacco, Vanilla, Toasted Cereals and Butter. After a while I also encounter some nice but rather quiet Fruity tones. Alternately I smell Pears, Peaches, Plums and Red Apples. Some Perfume as well and traces of Dried Herbs and Espresso. The Alcohol is strong of course but it's not too difficult to find your way around it. It's hard to believe this Single Malt only matured for 6 years. It seems to have been a well chosen Cask. The only reference to the Spirit's relative youth is this Yeasty Bread Dough tone that pops up every once in a while. I can't find any real surprises but on the Nose this Glentauchers is sufficiently solid. 

Taste: Lots of Sherry and Spices like Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Pepper. At this point the Alcohol gets quite strong. I also find Dried Fruits, Oak, Treacle, Dried Herbs, Malt, Dried Banana and Red Apple.

Finish: Middle-Long and Sweet with Fruit Cake, Raisins, Dried Banana Bars and Oloroso. Spices like Nutmeg, Pepper and Cinnamon balance the Sweetness. I also find light Oak and Dark Chocolate tones. The Finish is quite smooth and that's remarkable given the high ABV. 

I added a little Water and Floral, Malty and Perfume-like tones take over while the Sherry retreats. On the Palate and in the Finish the Spices are reinforced while some Licorice and Menthol pop up. I prefer to sip it neat despite the high ABV as the character of the Spirit is better preserved that way.

Rating: 85

Nose: 22 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21

General Remarks: I can't tell you a lot about this limited expression I'm afraid. It was distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2012 exclusively for the Whisky Partner Cask Strength Collection. It's Naturally Coloured and Non-Chillfiltered. Some 360 bottles were commercialized apparently, roughly at 70 US Dollars a bottle.

The Glentauchers Distillery was founded in 1897 by James Buchanan and W.P. Lowrie. Today it is owned by Chivas (Pernod-Ricard). At this moment, almost all of the spirit is used in Blends like Chivas and, especially, Ballantine's. As far as I know, no Distillery Bottlings are available at the moment.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: I find it difficult to determine the final note on this Glentauchers. I like the Nose and I find it sufficiently interesting for a 6 Year old. In a blind tasting I would have easily guessed it to be between 10 and 12 years. It's on the Palate where I get a bit confused. Why should a 6 Year Old Single Malt have an ABV of 61%? What's there to hide if anything? Because the Alcohol really starts to dominate the other Flavours. And when you add Water, the Spirit gets a bit off-balance. The Finish is remarkably smooth again despite the high ABV. This is my first Gentauchers so I don't have any references. But I believe this Single Malt would have benefited from a lower ABV of say around 46%. As it is I would not consider drinking this high ABV Glentauchers on a daily basis although I enjoyed the Tasting Experiment.

P.S: "Cherry Oh Baby" was a big Hit single for UB 40 in 1984!

Jan van den Ende                                                                March 2014

Glenfarclas 2002 (Whiskyherbst) Review

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”

Whisky Review # 632

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Glenfarclas 2002
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 9 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 56.1%
Maturation: Sherry Casks 
Chill Filtration: No 
Price Range: An average US$ 175 (August 2017)
Sample received from Jan Bronkhorst, the Netherlands. Many Thanks! 
Buying Advice: 😐 Good Single Malt. Quite Expensive. Christmas Gift! 

Colour: Mahogany/Dark Brown (Natural Colour)

Nose: The colour suggests active casks and this is confirmed by the Nose. Very rich, lightly Sweet and oily Oloroso Sherry is the main driver here with an array of Dried Fruits, Nuts and Spices. I find Figs, Dates, Raisins, Sultanas, Almonds, Chestnuts, light Clove, Cinnamon and Ginger. Other Aromas include Sweet Barley, Straw, Grass, Buttered Toast, Blackberries, Port Wine, Heather-Honey, Salted Caramel, Brown Sugar, Mint, Peach, Orange Peel, Balsamic Vinegar, Oak and hints of Dusty Road, Chocolate and Rum. Perhaps some very faint Sulphur and Varnish notes but they are very nicely integrated. The Alcohol is noticeable but does not spoil the party. The 2002 feels certainly older than its 9 years. Good Cask Management.

Visit May 2014

Palate: The delivery is Powerful thanks to the high ABV. Full, Rich and Mature despite its young age. I find Toasted Barley, Golden Syrup, Brown Sugar, Dried Fruit like Figs, Plums, Raisins and Apricots, Roasted Nuts, Caramel, Marzipan, Treacle, Heather-Honey, Oak, Orange-Peel, Pepper, Clove, Salt, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Mint, Tobacco and Dried Herbs.   

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Spicy and Oaky. Again,you would guess this to be much older than 9 years. Quite Dry and with some clear Peppermint and Menthol notes towards the end. I also find Toasted Barley, Dried Fruit like Figs and Apricots, Nuts, Marzipan, Milk Chocolate, Orange Marmalade, Dry Earth, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Tobacco, Port Wine, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom and Aniseed. The Alcohol is quite strong and I also find some traces of Sulphur. Nothing serious though.

Drinking Advice:
Due to the fact that I only had a small sample at my disposal I merely tasted this Glenfarclas neat. 

Rating: 88          

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

Bottle # 250 out of 672

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in 1836 by Robert Hay in Ballindalloch (Banffshire). It was bought by the Grant family in 1865 and it remains in their possession until today. The core range consists of the 8, 10, 12 , 15, 21 and 25 years, the 105 CS and the NAS Heritage. The Glenfarclas Malt is also used in Blends like the Isle of Skye. Glenfarclas produces around 2 million liters per year. The distillery only uses Ex-Sherry casks to mature the Spirit. 

The Glenfarclas 9 Years I'm reviewing today was bottled at cask strength in 2011 exclusively for the German whisky fair "Copenicker Whiskyherbst" that has been organised in Berlin since the year 2000. Since 2013 the venue is an old Malt factory. The fair attracts around 3500 visitors every year.

🍷  The Spirit 

Glenfarclas operates 3 pair of directly fired stills. They are the largest stills on Speyside. The Lyne arms mostly point downwards. The stills produce a full, nutty, lightly peated and sherried Spirit. The water is drawn from the Green Burns.

Visit May 2014

🌲  The Wood:

The Glenfarclas 2002 Whiskyherbst matured in First-Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks. A total of 672 bottles were filled. Despite a few light Sulphur notes, the cask(s) have wonderfully interacted with the Glenfarclas Spirit. It proves that you can produce good and relatively young whisky when using quality casks. 

Drinking Experience: Good

Conclusion: You're already thinking about Christmas and you don't know what to ask Santa? In that case, a bottle of the Glenfarclas 2002 Whiskyherbst might be an interesting proposition. There are still some bottles for sale on the Internet. It's a very nice Whisky to enjoy after a nice Christmas dinner. And, who knows, with a good Cigar for company. It's not a perfect whisky as the Alcohol is a little Edgy at times and there are a few light Sulphur/Varnish notes  around. But on the whole this Glenfarclas 2002 shows what can be done in a relatively short time with a good quality Spirit and some good casks. Well done Glenfarclas and well done Whiskyherbst. I'm ready for Christmas. When drinking this Malt I can almost hear the Jingle Bells!    

Jan van den Ende                                                                   August 14, 2017

Visit May 2014

Johnnie Walker Red Rye Finish Review

“Great Value For Money”

Whisky Review # 631

Country: Scotland
Brand: Johnnie Walker Red Rye Finish (Blender's Batch)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Bourbon - and Rye Whiskey casks  
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 25-35 (August 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😉 Positive. A winner at this Price Level!

Colour: Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Soft and Sweet, almost like a light Bourbon. This is completely different when compared to the harsh Grain Alcohol of the regular JW Red. Thanks God for that! To be fair, I don't get many Rye influences at this moment. So either the six months Rye Finish was too short or the casks weren't very active. The Alcohol is well-integrated to the point that you hardly notice any at all. I find  Corn Flakes sweetened with Honey, Caramel, Toffee, Butter Biscuits, Vanilla, Straw, Apricots, Orange Peel, Sugared Almonds, Warm Apple Sauce, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger and faint hints of Nail Polish, Caffe Latte and Mint.       

 Port Dundas Grain Distillery closed in 2010 (Wikimedia)

Palate: The delivery is rather Thin and a little Watery as a result of the low ABV. Again I can't pick up any relevant Rye influence. The Alcohol is slightly more noticeable but never gets too Sharp. It's all a bit dull and I was expecting more after the pleasant Nose. I find Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Caramel, light Vanilla, Toffee, Roasted Nuts, Straw, Orange Peel, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom, Blueberry Muffins, Honey, light Oak and hints of Menthol and Dried Herbs. 

Finish: Not overly Long and a bit Thin. Mainly Sweet and Medium Spicy. A light Bitterness towards the Dry end. I find Sweet Cereals, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Blueberry Muffins, Nuts, Heather-Honey, Orange Peel, light Oak, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, light Pepper, Menthol and a hint of Milk Chocolate. The Alcohol is more noticeable now but never aggressive.  

Drinking Advice:
No need to add Water to this Blend.

Rating: 78.5    

Nose: 21 - Taste: 19 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

General Remarks:

Johnnie Walker Red Rye Finish was launched in 2016 and is the first of the new JW Blender's Batch range developed by Master Blender Jim Beveridge with the aim to explore new - and innovative Flavour profiles. The Red Rye Finish is inspired by Jim's fascination for American Whiskeys that was developed when he worked in the Bourbon industry in Louisville, Kentucky some 25 years ago. After many attempts using over 200 Grain - and Malt whiskies, the final recipe for the Red Rye Finish consists of three Grain Whiskies including the now closed Port Dundas and the Speyside Single Malt Cardhu. The small batches used for this Blend firstly matured in first-fill American Oak Bourbon casks before being finished for up to 6 months in former Rye Whiskey casks. The next releases in the Blender's Batch range are the Bourbon Cask and Rye Finish, a 40% Blend of Malt- and Grain Whiskies (Sounds similar to the Red Rye Finish!) and the Triple Grain American Oak, a 41.3% Blend of Barley, Wheat and Maize Whiskies that matured in first-fill Bourbon casks.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Good

Conclusion: First of all congratulations to Diageo and Jim Beveridge for trying out new ways and delivering a reasonable quality at a reasonable price! To be honest I was expecting a regular JW Red with a touch of Rye but that's not the case. No harsh Grain Alcohol whatsoever to be found here. Not much Rye as well to be honest. What remains is a Soft blended Whisky with some clear Bourbon characteristics. The Nose is quite good actually. Palate and Finish are a bit too Dull and Thin to be really interesting but I didn't find any off-notes and the Blend never gets aggressive at any point. You can enjoy it neat, over Ice or in a Cocktail. At this price level you can't go wrong with the JW Red Rye Finish. I'm looking forward to the following expressions of the Blender's Batch series!

Jan van den Ende                                                                August 10, 2017

Cardhu - Visit May 2014