Old Keeper Review

“Please Keep This Away From Me“

Country: Scotland
Brand: Old Keeper
Region: Distilled and Blended in the Highlands
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Produced By: Abbeyhill Distilling Co. Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Age: NAS (3-5 Years)
Chill-Filtration: Yes
ABV: 40%
Whisky Review # 551

Colour: Light Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Young, Sharp, Dusty and not very pleasant. Grain Alcohol and something I can only describe as a mixture of Varnish and Nail Polish are the main drivers. I also find Sugar, Burnt Grass, Refill Oak, Sweaty Feet and traces of rotten Fruit, Bitter Herbs and Vanilla.

Taste: Young, Sharp, Bitter and Sugary Sweet. I find Grain Alcohol, Bitter Herbs, Refill Oak, Burnt Grass, Pepper and a little Honey and Vanilla.       

Finish: Short and Sharp with Alcohol, Bitter Herbs and Pepper leading the way.

Added Water does not improve anything. 

Rating: 65 

Nose: 16 - Taste: 17 - Finish: 15.5 - Overall: 16.5

General Remarks: The Old Keeper is sold in Germany by the Supermarket Chain Aldi (Sud). It´s very cheap with prices between 10 and 15 US Dollars (July 2016). I´m sure it contains at least 70% 3 Year Old Grain Alcohol. It´s not possible to determine any specific Malt Whiskies used in this Blend.

Drinking Experience Neat: Unpleasant

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Borderline drinkable but without providing any satisfaction. 

Conclusion: The only positive aspect of the Old Keeper is its low price. I´ve seen it as low as 7 Euros. Other than that, this Blended Whisky is better left alone. If you are low on cash, Bourbon and Vodka are much better options. It really hurts to know that some Single Malt(s) are used for the Old Keeper!

Jan van den Ende                                                                   July 18, 2016

The Famous Grouse 12 Years Review

“This Bird Has Flown”

Country: Scotland
Brand: The Famous Grouse
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 40%
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 550

Colour: Deep Gold (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Just like in the 15 Years that I reviewed earlier I find a peculiar Aroma in the 12 Years that I can't quite place. It's something that reminds me of Cooked Vegetables with a little added Sulphur but that doesn't make a lot of sense, does it. Anyway, it's clear that there are some Refill Macallan Ex-Sherry casks in the mix. The rest is mostly Glenrothes I think while it's very hard or even almost impossible to detect Highland Park. Is there the faintest puff of Smoke in the background? It could be but I'm not gonna put a lot of money on that. On the Nose, this Famous Grouse has Sweet notes but there's a slightly Sour touch to it as well. I find Toasted Barley, Toast with a mix of Butter and Margarine, light Honey, Toffee, Caramel, Hay, Dried Apricot, Apples, Plums, Nuts, light Vanilla, Orange, Nougat and hints of Espresso and Milk Chocolate. The Alcohol is not fully integrated. At this price level, it's not at all bad but objectively speaking there's not too much of interest going on.

Taste: Not unpleasant but slightly on the Thin Side. The Oak, Spices and Alcohol are more noticeable now. I find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Oak, Toffee, Caramel, Cocoa Powder, Dried Fruit (Apricots and Raisins), light Sherry, Apples, Tutti Frutti Bubble-Gum, Orange, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon and traces of Chocolate and Sulphur.      

Finish: Middle Long and Bitter Sweet with Oak and Spices leading the way. I find Toasted Barley, Dried Fruit, Walnuts, Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, light Honey, Toffee, a little Sherry, Vanilla and traces of Aniseed, Licorice, Cocoa Powder, Tutti Frutti Bubble Gum, Orange and Rum. 

I added a bit of Water and you get more Barley, Vanilla and Apples on the Nose. Palate and Finish become too Thin. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81 

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

General Remarks: The Famous Grouse 12 Years Blended Malt was a limited Travel Retail edition at first. Today you can buy bottles in other places as well but the number is dwindling as the Edrington Group discontinued the Famous Grouse Expressions with Age-Statement. 

It is said to contain Malt Whisky from a/o Glenrothes, Macallan, Glenturret and Highland Park. These are all distilleries owned by the Edrington Group. The price can vary depending on where you live but it's usually around 30 US Dollars. (June 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good  

Conclusion: It's a pity for us consumers that the Edrington Group discontinued this Blended Malt with Age-Statement as the Price/Quality ratio is excellent. I would prefer this Famous Grouse 12 years over most of the well-known Blended Whiskies anytime. It's a very easy going Blended Malt that reminds me mostly of Glenrothes. A little Macallan is there as well but its hard to detect Highland Park. It's quite similar to some of the recent mainstream NAS Single Malts from the Speyside area. But with a much better Price/Quality ratio! What a pity this Grouse won't fly anymore! You should not expect a very complex Whisky but if you find it at around 30 Dollars just buy it!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 30, 2016


The Dalmore Luceo Review

“Modern Mainstream Malt”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Northern Highlands 
Brand: The Dalmore Luceo
Type: Single Malt Whisky 
Age: NAS 
ABV: 40%
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 549

Colour: Mahogany (Artificially Coloured with Caramel E 150A)  

Nose: Quite Sweet. The effects of the Sherry Finish are clearly noticeable. It's a pity that this type of Whisky is artificially coloured. Quite unnecessary! I find Sweet Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Almond Liqueur, Dried Fruit (Raisins), Toffee, Maraschino Cherries, Marzipan, light Vanilla, Mandarin and traces of Espresso and Milk Chocolate. The Alcohol is mild. It's not bad but I can't get excited about it either.

Palate: Slightly Thin Delivery. Again, the Sherry cask Finish is clear. It's mostly Bitter Sweet with Barley Sugar, Raisins, Plum Jam, roasted Nuts, Marzipan, Orange, Cocoa Powder, light Cinnamon, light Ginger, light Pepper, Espresso and traces of Milk - and White Chocolate. 

Finish: On the short side, a little Thin and Bitter Sweet with Toffee, Sweet Barley, Raisins and assorted roasted Nuts, Demerara Sugar, Marzipan, slightly Bitter Oranges, Cocoa Powder, light Cinnamon, light Pepper, light Ginger, fresh Espresso and Milk Chocolate.  

I added a little Water and you get some more Malt and a little Honey on the Nose. Palate and Finish become too Thin. 

Rating: 82

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

General Remarks: 

The Dalmore Luceo is one of four NAS Dalmore expressions created by Richard Paterson and called The Fortune Merita (Fortune Favours the Brave) Collection. Initially they could only be acquired in Travel Retail shops but now they are widely available. All four have matured in Ex-Bourbon casks made of American White Oak. The difference lies in the finish. All four are finished in different Ex-Sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass, a long term partner of Dalmore. The Regalis is finished in Amoroso, the Dominium in Matusalem, the Valour in a mix of both Matusalem - and Port Wine and the Luceo in First-Fill Apostoles. The latter is in fact a 30 Year old Palo Cortado, sweetened with PX. The Luceo was named after the clan MacKenzie motto "Luceo Non Uro" (I Shine) and was launched in late 2014/early 2015. It costs around 110 US Dollars (June 2016). 

In 1263, King Alexander III was almost gored by a mighty Stag. One of the ancestors of the Mackenzie Clan saved him with a single arrow shot. As a reward the Clan won the right to bear a Stag's Head with twelve (Royal) points to its antlers in their Coat of Arms. The Mackenzie Family later became the owners of The Dalmore Distillery and added the Stag emblem to their bottles. The Distillery was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson and is located in the town of Alness in the Northern Highlands. In 2014, Emperador Inc. bought the distillery from United Spirits - Whyte & Mackay.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good but a bit Boring!  

Conclusion: Undoubtedly, Richard Paterson is a very skillful blender of Grain- and Malt Whiskies. With the Dalmore Luceo Single Malt he follows the same principle, namely how to design a whisky that will appeal to the mainstream public and won't scare off anyone. I must admit he succeeded. The Luceo is Sweet but not to Sweet, Bitter but not too Bitter, Thin but not too Thin and Spicy but not too Spicy. And the Sherry Finish delivers some nice additional "Christmas" notes like Dried Fruit, Marzipan and roasted Nuts that most people will like as well. The downside is that as such the Luceo is a very predictable Single Malt without any real highlights and certainly without the "Wow" factor. 
And it's quite expensive for a NAS Single Malt at over a 100 US Dollars. To sum it up, this every body's friend that comes in a very nice bottle and is coloured at will might appeal to a lot of people. Personally, I'm disappointed as this Luceo is yet another example of the current trend to launch average and quite expensive Modern Mainstream Malts. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 27, 2016

Dalmore Distillery (Picture Credit: Bestdrink CZ)

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!


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