Glenglassaugh Revival Review

“Bad Moon Rising”

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands bordering Speyside
Brand: Glenglassaugh Revival
Type: Single Malt
Age: NAS  
ABV: 46%

Colour: Copper

Nose: The Oloroso Cask Finish left some Sulphur but also provided a little bit of depth to the Revival. Otherwise it would have been mainly Young and Sharp Alcohol. I reviewed the successor to the Revival (Evolution) earlier and I must say that they are worlds apart. I liked the Evolution despite it being just as young as the Revival. But I'm not at all impressed by the Revival. It rather feels like an "unfinished" New Make Spirit, thrown onto the market to make some quick cash. I understand the need of new operations to make cash but it's really a Thin Line Between Love and Hate. If I wouldn't have tasted the Evolution earlier, the Glenglassaugh would have made a bad first impression. But let's proceed with the actual Nosing. I find Pear Drops, slightly Sour Berries, Citrus, Nectarine, light Vanilla, Dough, Barley, Buttered Toast, Burnt Sugar, Oak, Nuts, Raisins, Herbal Tea, Grass and traces of Varnish, Menthol and Ginger.     

Taste: Watery, Bitter-Sweet and slightly Sour with Orange, Alcohol, Buttered Toast, Candle Wax, Grass, light Sulphur, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Nuts, Malt, Dried Fruit, Plum Jam, Cherries, Brown Sugar, Oak, Licorice and traces of Cooked Vegetables.

Finish: Short with Caramel, Toffee, Artificially Flavoured Bubble Gum, Milk, Citrus Peel, light Vanilla, Ginger Ale Diet, Stale Espresso, Nuts, Bitter Oak, light Pepper, Licorice and Cinnamon. A light Metallic aftertaste. Dry in the end.    

I added a few drops of Water and I get lots of Cooked Vegetables and Potatoes on the Nose. Otherwise, the Revival becomes too Thin. Better sip it Neat if you must.

Rating: 78 

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

General Remarks: The Glenglassaugh Distillery is located in Portsoy, Banffshire and was founded in 1875 by James Moir and his two nephews William and Alexander Morrison. In 1892 the distillery was sold to Highland Distillers and it remained in their possession until 2008. It was closed three times in its history, most recently between 1986 and 2008. In 2008 it was revived by the Dutch Scaent Group. Finally, in 2013, Glenglassaugh was bought by The BenRiach Distillery Company that also operates BenRiach and GlenDronach. 

The Revival was launched in 2012 and was the first Glenglassaugh expression. being released by the Distillery after having been mothballed for over 20 years. It's a 3 Year old Whisky that matured in a mix of Ex-Bourbon and Ex Red Wine Casks before being finished for 6 months in Ex-Oloroso Butts. The Revival is naturally coloured and not Chill-Filtered. It, costs on average 50 US Dollars (October 2015). The sample I'm tasting today was likely distilled around 2008 and bottled around 2012.

Drinking Experience Neat: Not Very Inspiring.

Conclusion: A Revival usually represents a Return to the Good Old Days. I don't think that's the case with this Glenglassaugh although I am not familiar with the Whiskies of this distillery that were produced before 1986. As so often is the case, starting or re-starting whisky operations have the need for Cash Flow to reduce the financing costs. In my opinion it would be better to produce Gin or a similar Spirit rather than being forced to launch young, not fully matured Single Malts. This could so easily cause an adverse effect on the reputation of the distillery involved. Luckily we know that the follow up to the Revival is truly an Evolution when compared to the former. So while we eagerly await a future where fully matured Glenglassaugh Malts will be available, we will comfort ourselves for the time being with the Evolution and leave the Revival alone!    

Jan van den Ende                                                                October 8, 2015

Big Peat Review

“Divided We Stand, United We Fall”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Islay
Brand: Big Peat Small Batch (Batch # 31)
Bottled by/for: Douglas Laing, Glasgow
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
ABV: 46 %

Colour: Very Pale White Wine 

Nose: Young and most certainly Islay. With Caol Ila and Ardbeg in the lead. In fact I find only mild traces of Bowmore and less so of Port Ellen. I do find the usual Islay Aromas like Wet Peat, Mud, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Tar, Soot, Iodine, Smoked Fish, Leather, Rubber and Varnish. But they are not as fiery as the name and the package of Big Peat are suggesting. This is much closer to Caol Ila than Laphroaig. There is some slightly Artificial Fruity Sweetness as well with Pineapple, Citrus and slightly Sour Cherries. And, finally, some Nuts, Barley, light Vanilla, Pepper, Mint, Aniseed and Ginger. After fifteen minutes or so I get a little of the Herbal Tea Notes I often find in the Bowmore malts. The Alcohol is there of course but it does not significantly disturb the Nosing.     

Palate: Adequate delivery thanks to the ABV of 46%. The Youth of the Spirit becomes more evident. On the Palate this Big Peat is slightly Edgy with some Artificial Sweetness and a rather present Plastic note. A bit disappointing after the Nose really. I find Medicinal Peat Smoke, Tar, Soot, Rubber, Ashes, Petrol, Tobacco, Fish on the BBQ, Lemon, Barley, light Vanilla, Toffee, Herbal Tea, Pepper, Licorice and a hint of Dark Chocolate. 

Finish: Middle-Long with Earthy Peat, Wet Grass, Brine, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Plastic, Fish or Shellfish on the BBQ, Lemon, Sugared Orange Peel, Toffee, Licorice and Pepper.   

With added Water the Big Peat becomes slightly more elegant but it also loses  
some of its personality. Try it out and see what you like best! 

Rating: 84

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

General Remarks: Big Peat was launched in 2009 by Douglas Laing as the first in their Remarkable Regional Malts series. It contains Single Malts from Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. The Big Peat has a solid ABV, is naturally coloured and Non Chill-Filtered. Judging by the Aromas, Flavour and Colour I assume that the Spirit used for Big Peat matured in Refill Ex-Bourbon casks. In my opinion the Bottle and Packaging are slightly flamboyant to put it mildly. Big Peat is widely available and costs around 50 US Dollars. You can also find a Big Peat with an ABV of 50% as well as a special annual Christmas Edition, bottled at around 53%. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Big Peat is not a bad Blended Malt but it's not better than the Standard expressions of the Distilleries that supply the majority of the Malt for this Blend. The Nose is the best part of the Big Peat but on the Palate and in the Finish I find this Blended Malt wanting. I clearly prefer the likes of Ardbeg 10 or Caol Ila 12 over this Big Peat. And thus I put a question mark to the necessity of this Blend, the more so when I consider its price. Remember the song "Even Better Than The Real Thing" by U2? Well, the opposite is the case here.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                  October 5, 2015

Urquhart Castle 12 Years Review

“The Castle is a Ruin but the Whisky isn’t”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Urquhart Castle
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 46%

Colour: Golden Sunlight 

Nose: Sherry, Sulphur, light Varnish, Refill Oak, Warm Custard, Buttered Toast, Milk Chocolate, Honey, Plums, Peach, Dried Fruits, Orange Peel, Nuts, Barley, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Toffee and Spiced Wine. The Nose reminds me of a 10 Year Macallan that matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Sherry - and Refill Ex-Bourbon casks. I sense some Virgin Oak as well. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Taste: Sherry, Sulphur, light Varnish, Sweet Barley, Dried Fruits, Marzipan, Nuts, Citrus Peel, Red Grapes, Vanilla, Milk Chocolate, Caramel, light Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Menthol and slightly Bitter Refill Oak. 

Finish: On the Short Side with Sweet Barley, light Sherry, light Sulphur, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Marzipan, Red Grapes, light Honey, Orange Peel, Pepper, Licorice, Ginger Ale, Menthol, light Varnish and traces of Cinnamon. 

I added a little Water and as the Alcohol retreats, the Fruit, Honey, Vanilla, Caramel and Milk Chocolate gain some ground. Palate and Finish do not show remarkable differences. You can definitively add some (Loch Ness) Water to this Urquhart Castle.  

Rating: 81.5 

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

General Remarks:

The Urquhart Castle is located on the shores of Loch Ness in the Highlands, a little over a mile East of the village of Drumnadrochit. The ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, built on the site of a medieval fortification. It was practically abandoned in the 17th century and placed in state care in the 20th century. It is now open to the public and it's one of the most visited castles in Scotland. 

The Urquhart Castle Speyside Single Malt is part of a Gift Set of 5 launched to promote some of the Historic Sites of Scotland. The other 4 are: Edinburgh Castle (Highland Malt), Stirling Castle (Speyside), Iona Abbey (Islay) and Skara Bray (Islands). As can be seen in above picture, the Urquhart in the new set is a 10 Year Old Speyside Single Malt. The Miniature I'm tasting today is likely to be an earlier version. I bought this miniature during my trip to Scotland last year and I'm not sure where I bought although it could have been the Dallas Dhu Gift Shop. I have no other information on this "Mystery" Malt. So this is almost a Blind Tasting. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good 

Conclusion: The Urquhart Castle is not an easy Malt to score. On the one hand people that like Sherried Speysiders might fancy this Malt. I like them as well but only if the Wood Management is perfect. I am very sensitive to Sulphur and there's too much of that here. I also get some Varnish that I usually find in West European whiskies that use Virgin Oak to mature their Whiskies. I could live without that as well. But other than that this is certainly not a bad Speyside Malt. I have absolutely no idea what distillery could have produced this Spirit. But with a knife on my throat I would guess Macallan or Dallas Dhu. If anyone can give additional information on the Urquhart Castle 12 Years, please leave a comment or send me a message. Appreciated!

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 30, 2015

Caol Ila Moch Review

“Only Mild Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila Moch
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%

Colour: Light Gold 

Nose: Light but Pleasant. The Smoke and Coastal Peat are there but they do not dominate but support the other Aromas such as Sweet Barley, Toast, Burnt Straw, light Tar, Soot, light Rubber, light Iodine, Sea Water, Vanilla, Herbs, Toffee, Lemon-Grass, Ginger Bread, Honey and traces of Pineapple Jam, Cured Meat and Wet Stone. The Alcohol is not yet fully integrated. 

Palate: Light and mostly Sweet with well-integrated Peat and Wood Smoke. I also find Tar, Soot, Rubber, Burnt Toast, Malt, Wet Grass, Sea Water, Lemon, Green Apples, Pineapple, Honey, Vanilla, Herbs, Pepper, Menthol, Licorice and Aniseed.

Finish: Light but with good Length. Sweet at first but Dry and slightly Soapy towards the end. I find subdued Peat, light Smoke, Soot, Ashes, Malt, Vanilla, Lemon, slightly Bitter Grapefruit, light Oak, Pepper, light Menthol, light Aniseed, light Licorice and traces of Fish or Shell Fish.       

I added a bit of Water and on the Nose I unexpectedly found Pencil Shavings. On the Palate you will get some extra Fruit but the Finish becomes too Thin. Still, you can carefully add a couple of drops at a time and see what happens.

Rating: 82

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

General Remarks: The Caol Ila Moch (Dawn) was launched in 2011. Initially it was only available in a number of West-European countries to the Friends of the Classic Malts. It's the first Caol Ila that was selected on the basis of Taste alone, without considering Age, Cask, Wood and ABV. The Malts used in the Moch are most probably between 5 and 10 years old and matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. The Moch is usually sold at prices in the range of 55 to 70 US Dollars (09/2015).

Caol Ila (Gaelic for Sound of Islay or Islay Strait) is located on the Strait that separates Islay and Jura. The Distillery was founded in 1846 by one Hector Henderson. After changing hands many times, the Distillery now belongs to the Diageo Group. Caol Ila supplies lots of Malt Whisky to known Blends like Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle but also produces many great Single Malts.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: The standard 12 Years Caol Ila is a solid way to start tasting Islay Malts as it represents all that Islay has to offer but in a soft and subdued way. In fact a bit too subdued for my personal taste. And, in my opinion, the Moch smells and tastes even Lighter and Younger than the 12 Years. Since the price difference is not very significant, my advise would be to stick with the 12 Years. Still, both of them are good places to start your Islay adventure. Hard core Peat Heads and Smoke Adepts however will probably look elsewhere on this beautiful Island for their Malt pleasure as the Moch is on the very Light Side of the Islay spectrum.

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 28, 2015

Glenfiddich Caoran Review

“Smoking Is Not Allowed”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highland/Speyside
Brand: Glenfiddich Caoran
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 40 %

Colour: Yellow Gold (Contains E-150) - Chill Filtered.

Nose: The Alcohol is quite present so be sure to give the Caoran enough time in the glass to develop its Aromas. On the Nose, there are certainly similarities between this Caoran and the standard 12 Years. I find Sweet Barley, Butter Kekse, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Heather Honey, Grass, Oak, Orange Peel, Strawberry Jam, Nuts, Pear, Apple, Cinnamon and Ginger. Additionally, the Caoran offers very mild hints of Earthy Peat, Smoke and Salt. 

Palate: Thin and Watery Delivery as was to be expected at 40% ABV. On the Palate, the Caoran is Bitter-Sweet with Dirty Earth, Barley, Heather Honey, Refill Oak, light Vanilla, Orange Peel, Lemon Juice, Pear, PVC Pipe, Nutmeg, Pepper, Cardamom and Licorice. The Palate does not deliver what the Nose promises. No balance at all actually.  

Finish: Short, Dry and slightly Bitter towards the end with Malt, light Vanilla, Caramel, Burnt Straw, Dried Fruits, PVC Pipe, Dirty Earth, Licorice, Oak, light Pepper, light Cardamom and light Nutmeg.

The New Packaging

The Caoran does not improve with added Water. It's already too Thin as it is.

Rating: 79 

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 20

The Original Packaging (A Collector's Item)

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. The Caoran (Peat Embers) revives the Whisky made by Grant in the later stage of World War II when more Peat was used to dry the Barley on account of the shortage of Coal. The Caoran was launched around 2002. I'm tasting a sample today and it does not specify when this batch was bottled. Probably somewhere between 2005 and 2009. During the years two different packaging styles were used. The original "Silver" packaging has become a Collector's Item, even more so since it became known that the Caoran was to be discontinued. Bottles are still available in various places at an average 135 US Dollars (September 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay

Conclusion: Other Speyside and Highland distilleries have experimented with Peated Barley lately so it's understandable that Glenfiddich tried it out as well. Some of these experiments work and some don't. The latter is the case with the Caoran. The (partly) Peated Barley does not add value to the Glenfiddich Spirit. The Peat and Smoke are hardly noticeable but somehow manage to take out some of the Crisp and Clean characteristics of the Glenfiddich Spirit. No balance whatsoever to be found as well. The Nose is still okay but on the Palate and in the Short Finish this Glenfiddich simply disappoints. The Caoran has been discontinued in the meantime and quite rightly so. No way you should spend over a 100 US Dollars for a Malt like this. Unless you collect rarities!

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 24, 2015

"A Sunny Day in Speyside"