Elements of Islay BN4 Bunnahabhain Review

“Peat, Rubber and Fruity New Make Spirit”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Elements of Islay BN4 Bunnahabhain
Bottled By: Specialty Drinks Ltd.
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 54.5 %

Colour: Light Golden

Nose: Heavy Sweet Peat, Wet Clay, Rubber, PVC Pipes, Resin, Toasted Barley, Old Leather, Salted Meat, Shell Fish on the BBQ, Heather and other Floral notes, Sugar, Vanilla, Lemon-Pepper and Dried Herbs. The Peat becomes more mellow once you let the Spirit get lots of air contact. The Floral notes become stronger as well. This certainly leaves the Elements more in balance but also a little less interesting. In any case, the difference is quite noticeable. The Alcohol is there of course but it remains within reason.

Palate: Sweet Peat, Smoke, Wet Clay, Rubber, Young Fruity New Make Spirit, Smoked Fish, Shell Fish on the BBQ, Salted Butter, Peanuts, Vanilla, Pepper, Licorice and Lemon. On the Palate the Alcohol is a bit more present. 

Finish: Sweet and Spicy. A little Bitter towards the end with Sweet Peat, Wet Clay, Smoke, Rubber, Fruity New Make Spirit, Salted Peanuts, Sugared Tea, Pepper, Lemon, Menthol, Licorice and a hint of Cow Manure. I think that the Finish is the best part of this Bunnahabhain.

I added a couple of drops of water. On the Nose the Spirit is a little less Edgy. I also get some more Salt and Dried Herbs. I also find a little extra Fruit on the Palate. But the Finish becomes too Thin for my taste. The high ABV allows you to experiment with a little Water though. 

Rating: 83 

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

General Remarks: The BN4 is the 4th Bunnahabhain release by Independent Bottler Specialty Drinks. Each release in this series is a Blend of between 5 and 20 casks, is naturally coloured, not Chill-Filtered and bottled at Cask Strength. The BN4 matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. It won't be easy to find a bottle right now but if you do you will probably pay an average 65 US Dollars for 0,5 liter.

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 than most of its Peated neighbours on the island. But they also produce peated expressions like this BN4. Their peated spirit is also used in the Black Bottle Blend.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: I must confess I'm not too familiar as yet with peated Spirits from Bunnahabhain. Judging by the Elements however peating at this distillery is a serious business. When I opened my little sample bottle the Heavy Peat Aromas spread rapidly through my room. They really dominated the Nose. Over time and with sufficient air contact however, the Peat retreats somewhat and as a result Peat and Fruity New Make Spirit become more balanced. There are other Aromas and Flavours to be found as well of course as you saw from my notes above. But they are all quite understated when compared to the main drivers Peat, Wet Clay, Fruity New Make Spirit, Rubber and Spices. Not at all a bad combination and quite drinkable. But the Spirit is also quite young and lacking depth and subtlety. For this reason the BN4 is perhaps a tad too expensive.

Jan van den Ende                                                                   March 26, 2015

Mackmyra Happy Hunting Review

“Too Young To Be Married”
Country: Sweden
Brand: Mackmyra Special # 5 "Happy Hunting"
Type: Single Malt Whisky 
Age: NAS 
ABV: 47.2 %

Colour: Golden Straw

Nose: The Fresh Oak, Resin, Vanilla and light Varnish immediately remind me of German and Dutch whiskies I have tasted recently. The Aroma is really quite different from your average Scotch Single Malt or Blend. It's young Whisky for sure and the Wine Finish must have been rather short. I find notes of slightly Sour Cranberry Juice, Grass and Straw, German Butterkekse (Butter Biscuits), Toffee, Lemon Pie, Aniseed and Dried Herbs. The Alcohol is quite present. I do not believe a young whisky like this benefits from such a relatively high ABV. The Nose is certainly not unpleasant but there's an unfinished feel to it. 

Palate: Young and Edgy. The Alcohol is a bit too strong in my opinion. I find Red Fruit, Sweet Barley, Creamy Vanilla, Oak, Toffee, Straw, Ginger, Pepper, light Menthol and Dried Herbs.  

Finish: Short, Spicy and Dry towards the end. The Alcohol stings a bit. I find Banana flavoured Candies, Toffee, Creamy Vanilla, Ginger, Pepper and Lemon Grass.

Lingonberries (Picture: Wikipedia)

I added a bit of Water and you get a bit more Red Fruit on the Palate. The Alcohol is of course subdued but the added Water leaves the Spirit without its identity. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81

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

General Remarks: The first Mackmyra distillery was constructed in 1999. Today it's being used for special expressions and marketing events only. The reason for this is that in 2012 a brand new distillery was built close to the old one.
The new distillery is quite high as it operates via the gravity principle. Water and and Malted Barley start the process on the highest floor and the product winds its way to the bottom floor where the stills are installed. The Happy Hunting is Expression # 5 of a Special series, launched between 2009 and 2013. It really is different from your usual Scotch in the sense that it matured in small casks made of Swedish Oak before being finished in Casks saturated with Lingonberry Wine. These berries are related to Cranberries and Blueberries. The Happy Hunting was inspired by an Autumn walk in the forest and is not artificially coloured It has now been discontinued but was sold at an average 80 US Dollars. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good  

Conclusion: I have tasted quite a few West European mainland whiskies in the meantime and I have acquainted myself to their specific Aromas and Flavours that are quite different from their Scottish brothers. The mainland Whiskies are almost always very young when they are bottled and mostly mature in new oak casks. No wonder they often remind me of Fruity Liqueurs or New Make Spirit with lots of Creamy Vanilla and Resin from the new Wood. But unfortunately they are not allowed to have more wood contact to extract additional Aromas and Flavours from the Casks. And, as is the case with the Mackmyra Happy Hunting, the Finishing in a different kind of cask is not long enough to add sufficient additional Flavour components. Like so many starting distilleries, Mackmyra needs to find a balance between the necessity to make cash to start paying back the high investment costs and the need of building up stocks of fully matured whiskies that would certainly please consumers. As a result of the above, most of the European mainland whiskies I have tasted so far, while certainly not bad, give an unfinished impression. Let's hope these promising new distilleries will be allowed to launch fully matured whiskies in the future, allowing them to show the consumer their real skills. I, for one, am looking forward to that moment!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 23, 2015

The First " Old" Mackmyra Distillery

Caol Ila 1995 (Anam Na H-Alba) Review

“Very Nice and Mature Islay Whisky”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay 
Brand: Caol Ila 1995 (Anam Na H-Alba)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 17 Years
ABV: 51.4 %
Sample provided by Tom from Germany. Many thanks!

Colour: Golden Straw

Nose: Lovely Sweet Peat, Cold Campfire Smoke, Ashes, Wet Grass, Salted Butter, Diesel Oil, light Iodine, Shell Fish, light Menthol, light Rubber, Vanilla, Sugar, Sweet Barley, Dried Herbs, Barnyard, Lemon-Pepper, Milk Fat and some Fruity notes. Difficult to say but think of Pineapple and Banana. Nice combo of Sweet and Peat. I like it! The Alcohol is quite present so you need to feel your way around it.

Taste: Sweet Peat, Cold Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Sweet Barley, slightly Bitter Oak, light Honey, light Vanilla, Lemon-Pepper, Salt, Apple Vinegar, Caramel, Aniseed and light Metallic notes.  

Finish: Long, Dry and Bitter Sweet with Peat, Cigar Ashes, Espresso Coffee, Sweet Barley, Salt, Lemon-Pepper, Menthol and Mineral tones.  

This Caol Ila accepts a little Water but as usual I prefer it neat. 

Rating: 89

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

General Remarks: The Caol Ila Distillery was founded in 1846 and is located close to Port Askaig on Islay. It was bought by DCL in 1927 and through some mergers is now part of Diageo. The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1974 and only one old Warehouse reminds us of former days. Traditionally, Caol Ila is an important component of Blends like Johnnie Walker, Bell's and White Horse. But during the last 10 years Diageo has made great efforts to position the Distillery as a Single Malt as well. The Caol Ila I'm reviewing today was distilled in 1995, matured for 17 years in a Bourbon Hogshead and was bottled in February 2013 by Indie bottler Anam Na H-Alba from Germany. Around 150 bottles went to the market and I was lucky enough to get a sample. This Single Cask is not Chill-Filtered, does not contain E-150 and was bottled at Cask Strength. The Bottles were sold at around US$ 105 a piece.

Drinking Experience Neat: Very Good

Conclusion: Very good Islay Spirit. On the Nose, the combination of Sweet and Peat is nicely done. I like young peated Islay a lot as it's Dirty and Rough. But I really love the combination of Mature Peat and Sweet tones you'll find in longer matured peated Islay whiskies. This Caol Ila could have scored even higher but for a few small details. There's a slight Bitterness of the Oak on the Palate and in the Finish and I found a very light Metallic off-note on the Palate. Still, this is a very nice Islay Whisky and I wouldn't mind at all having a full bottle of this Caol Ila in my cabinet. If you find it, buy it. You won't regret it!

Jan van den Ende                                                                March 18, 2015

Langs Supreme Review

“Great Value for Money”
Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: Langs Supreme
Blended, Bottled and Matured by: Lang Brothers (Ian MacLeod)
Distilled at: Glengoyne
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Full Gold

Nose: Light but Pleasant with Sweet Barley, Apple Pie with Raisins, Peach Cake, light Sherry, Nuts, Citrus Peel, Grass and other light Floral tones, Cinnamon, Oak, Caramel, light Vanilla and hints of Sulphur an Salted Butter. The (Grain) Alcohol is nicely integrated and the Grass and Apple Pie notes are pretty similar to those I found in the Glengoyne 10 Years. 

Taste: Light but Creamy with Sweet Barley, Fruit Cake, Citrus Peel, Oak, Grass, light Chocolate, light Vanilla, Cinnamon, light Ginger and light Pepper.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Sweet and Creamy with Sweet Barley, Fruitcake, Citrus Peel, Dried Fruit, Cinnamon, Toffee, Mint, light Licorice, light Pepper and Ginger.

Langs Supreme accepts a little Water but it does become a bit too light for my taste. 

Rating: 81.5

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

General Remarks: This Blend was first produced in 1861 by Alexander and Gavin Lang. Today it contains 25 Malt - and Grain Whiskies with Glengoyne at its heart. The Malt content is high for a Blend at around 40%. Mainly Highland and Speyside Malts are included. The whiskies used are usually at least 5 years old and are married for around 9 months before being bottled. In 1984 Langs was granted a Royal Warrant by the Queen mother. Today Ian MacLeod brings two expressions to the market, the 5 Years Supreme and the 12 years. The miniature I'm tasting today however does not carry an age statement so I must assume it was bottled a couple of years ago. Langs Supreme 5 Y is available at around 30 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good and above expectations!

Conclusion: When compared to your average Blended Scotch, Langs Supreme shows the positive effects of the higher Malt content. As a result there's a better balance between the Sharp Grain Alcohol and the Softer Malt Spirit. The Grass and Apple Pie notes reveal the presence of young Glengoyne in the Blend. I'm not quite sure if the NAS expression I'm tasting today is similar - or equal to the Langs Supreme 5 Year old that is available in the market today. If that's so, the Langs Supreme has a great Value for Money ratio. To be sure, I will try to get samples of both the 5 and 12 Years. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by Langs Supreme Blended Scotch!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 16, 2015

Strathclyde 1988 Review

“A Story of Varnish and Cooked Veggies”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Lowlands (Glasgow)
Brand: Strathclyde 1988 (Exclusive Grains Series) 
Type: Single Grain Whisky
Age: 26 Years
ABV: 54.6 %

Colour: Full Gold 

Nose: This is only my second Single Grain Whisky. I liked the Dumbarton 1986 I tasted last year. But the Nose of this Strathclyde is not making it easy for me. I find a strong note of Varnish to begin with accompanied by Charred Oak, Grain Alcohol, Nut Shells, Toast and Margarine and Wet Removal Boxes. Not exactly Aromas that turn me on. Be sure to give this Strathclyde enough time in the glass. After a while I get some Herbal notes, a touch of Citrus, a little Vanilla, Toffee, Cream, Mint and some Corn Syrup. It's not quite enough to save the day! As you may know, I always taste the Whiskies on two separate days before posting the Notes. On the Second day the Varnish note was less present. But instead I found a strong Cooked Vegetables/Potatoes note as well as a little Butter and a few Raspberries. The Rating for the Nose therefore is an average between the Varnish and the Cooked Vegetables days. The Cooked Vegetables note was similar to the one I so often find in the Single Malts from Jura.

Palate: Sweet Grain, Sharp Alcohol, Varnish, Cream, Toffee, Dried Herbs, Coconut, Menthol, Licorice, Aniseed, Cinnamon, Pepper and a hint of Nectarine. 

Finish: Middle-Long, Creamy and Spicy with Coconut, Dried Herbs, Licorice, Menthol, Varnish, Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Metallic notes and a hint of Nectarine. A tad Bitter in the end. A little Alcohol Burn as well.

I added a bit of Water and the Nose becomes a little more friendly as the Varnish retreats. You get a bit more Grain and a hint of Raspberries. But Palate and Finish do not benefit from added Water.  

Rating: 80.5

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

General Remarks: The Strathclyde Distillery was founded in 1927 by Seager Evans & Co on the banks of the river Clyde. It changed hands two times before Pernod Ricard from France bought the distillery in 1975. Today it basically produces Grain Whisky for their Chivas Regal Brand. Only on rare occasions small quantities reach the market as Single Grain Whisky. The Strathclyde I'm tasting today was distilled on the 9th of June, 1988 and was bottled at Cask Strength in 2014 by the Creative Whisky Company. It is Naturally Coloured and Not Chill-Filtered. It matured in an Ex-Bourbon Cask with # 62107 selected by David Kirk. It costs around 110 US Dollars (March 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Disappointing 

Conclusion: This Strathclyde is not an easy Whisky to judge and rate. First of all it's important to give this Whisky lots of time to develop in the Glass. On day one I opened the sample and poured half of it in the glass. After an hour or so I started Nosing and the main Aroma I found was Varnish. On the second day I poured the other half of the sample in the same glass (rinsed with water the day before) and this time the main Aromas I found were Cooked Vegetables and Cooked Potatoes. Palate and Finish were more consistent during the two days. In any case I don't want to smell lots of Varnish and/or Cooked Veggies when I'm nosing whisky. On the Palate and in the Finish it's Sweet Grain and Alcohol that dominate accompanied by Charred Oak, Herbs and Spices. Not quite my idea of a great Whisky. I was certainly disappointed with this Strathclyde and I am glad I didn't spend 110 US Dollars on a full bottle. 

Jan van den Ende                                                              March 12, 2015