Canadian Club Review

“More Vodka than Whisky in da Club”

Country: Canada
Brand: Canadian Club
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS (Around 3-5 Years)
ABV: 40%
Chill Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 560

Colour: Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured). Judging by the colour, more than sufficient E-150 Caramel was added.

Nose: Quite Thin and Weak. The Alcohol is very present. I find Cereals, slightly Burnt Toast with Margarine, Corn Syrup, light Vanilla, slightly Bitter Almonds, light Honey, Burnt Grass, Charred Oak, Brown Sugar, Young Rum, Vegetables, light Orange Peel, light Aniseed, light Mint and light Fruity tones. Banana and Pineapple come to mind. There's not much going on here but at least I don't find extremely annoying off-notes. It's the best part of this Whisky for sure. 

Taste: Thin, almost Watery Delivery. On the Palate it's hardly recognisable as a Whisky. It's more like a Peppered Vodka and not a good one at that. I find Alcohol, Grains, Corn Syrup, Brown Sugar, light Licorice, young Rum, Vodka, light Vanilla, Burnt Grass, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Pastilles, Nut Shells, Oak, light Citrus Peel, Pepper and light Cinnamon.       

Finish: Thin, Harsh, Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet. Alcohol and Caramel are the main drivers. I also find Cereals, Sugar, light Licorice, Grapefruit Juice, light Citrus Peel, light Cinnamon and Pepper.    

I added a few drops of Water and the Alcohol retreats significantly which is not a bad thing of course. But the Canadian Club also becomes extremely Thin. Like a Caramel flavoured Vodka really.

Rating: 70.5  

Nose: 18.5 - Taste: 17.5 - Finish: 17 - Overall: 17.5

General Remarks: Canadian Club Whisky was created by Hiram Walker in the year 1858 and has been produced ever since then in the Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery located in Windsor (Ontario). Nowadays, the distillery is owned by Pernod Ricard from France. The Canadian Club Brand however is owned by Beam Suntory. Corn, Wheat, Barley and Rye are all part of the mash bill for Canadian Club. It ages for about 3-5 Years in a mix of New - and Refill White Oak casks. You can find it at prices between 15 and 25 US Dollars, depending on where you live (September 2016). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average

Conclusion: The Canadian Club Whisky is not too bad on the Nose considering its low price. But on the Palate and in the Finish it has little to do with Whisky as we know it and love. It's closer to a Vodka, flavoured with Caramel and Pepper. This blended whisky is not good enough to enjoy neat or even on the rocks. The only way to drink this is bury it in Cola or Fruit Juice. Canadian Club is not a good ambassador for Canadian Whisky. As such, I can't recommend it to Whisky lovers.

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 22, 2016

Strathmill 1974 Archives Review

“Beautiful Nose”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Strathmill 1974 (Inaugural Release Archives)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Age: 37 Years
ABV: 44.5 %
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 559

Colour: Golden Amontillado (Natural Colour)

Nose: Mature but quite Lively! Sweet, Malty and Fruity with a few Spices and the correct quantity of Wood for Balance. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Warm Apple Pie sprinkled with Demerara Sugar and Cinnamon, a Fruit Cocktail (with Apple, Banana, Pineapple, Nectarine, Mango, Peach and Plums) and Citrus Fruit like Orange and Mandarin. The variety of Fruit (Fresh, Dried and Canned) is truly remarkable. I'm nosing this Strathmill for more than an hour already and all the time new Fruity Aromas pop up. Just a minute ago, I thought I smelled notes of Strawberries and Kiwi as well but I'm not sure. It's rare to encounter such a variety of Fruit in a Whisky. Near perfect interplay between Spirit and Cask. The Fruit rules but I also find some Honey, Fresh Mint, Nuts, Straw and a hint of Caffe Macchiato. The Alcohol is perfectly integrated. There is a light Sour note as well and Fresh Grapefruit Juice comes to my mind. On the Nose, this whisky shows a great balance between Sweet, Sour, Spice, Herbs and Wood. Well done. I don't think I ever nosed a Single Malt this long! 
Palate: As so often is the case, Palate and Finish can not maintain the quality of the Nose. On the Palate, the Strathmill is on the light side. It probably matured a bit too long as the Wood comes to the forefront and the ABV is a tad on the low side. The age is much more noticeable here than it was on the Nose. There is still a reasonable balance however between Sweet, Bitter and Sour. The Fruit is still there of course but not as explosive as on the Nose. I find Apple, Pear, Banana, Nectarine and Papaya. The Citrus influence becomes stronger with notes of Orange, Lemon, Mandarin and Grapefruit. I also find Toasted Barley, Honey, Nuts, Dusty Earth, Pepper, Mint Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom and Nutmeg. Wood and Spices tend to dominate the Fruit in this department. The most remarkable note I get throughout is Caffe Macchiato. Quite nice!            

Finish: Bitter-Sweet, Woody and Herbal but on the short side. The age of the Strathmill is much more obvious by now. Oak, Wood-Shavings and Dusty Road are in control. I also find Malted Barley, Sweet Honey, slightly Bitter Nuts, Tea, Puff Pastry with Banana, light Vanilla, Lemon - and Orange Zest, Mint, light Pepper, Ginger and light Floral notes. The Caffe Macchiato note returns at the end. Not bad but disappointing after the Nose.    

I only had a small sample at my disposal. Not enough to try it both neat and with added Water.  

Rating: 88

Nose: 23.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 22

General Remarks: The Strathmill Distillery is located in Keith and was founded in 1891 as Glenisla-Glenlivet. It was renamed Strathmill in 1895. It changed hands various times and through mergers became part of the Diageo Group in 1997. The distillery does not release many Single Malt Whisky as most of the production is destined for the J&B Blend. The Strathmill Single Cask I am tasting today was distilled in June 1974 and bottled at Cask Strength by Independent Bottler Whiskybase, located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in June 2011. It matured in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead with Cask # 1231 out of which 180 bottles were reserved for Whiskybase. It was sold at around 190 US Dollars but it will be very difficult to find at this point in time.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. Near perfect on the Nose. 

Conclusion: This was my first Strathmill and I was really looking forward to put it to the test. And it surely did not disappoint. I was completely blown away by the Nose. I don't think I have ever nosed a whisky with so many different Fruity notes. I simply couldn't stop nosing as new notes appeared all the time. And it showed beautiful balance as well combining Freshness and Age, Sweet and Sour and Spices and Herbs. As so often is the case, the Strathmill couldn't maintain the same balance on the Palate and in the short Finish. Here the Age, Wood and Spices took control although some Fruity notes managed to survive as well. I think it overstayed its time in the Cask. This quality whisky deserved a higher ABV. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this Strathmill and it's certainly a Distillery that has Single Malt potential. What a waste that most of it simply "disappears" in the J&B Blend. This Strathmill will be hard to find and it won't be cheap but if you should encounter it just buy it. You don't even have to drink it. The Nose alone will give you endless hours of Whisky Pleasure! 

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 19, 2016

MacArthur's Select Review

“Good Fighters, Mediocre Blenders”

Country: Scotland
Brand: MacArthur's Select
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Bottled By: J. MacArthur & Co. (Interbev Group)
Age: NAS 
Chill-Filtration: Most likely
ABV: 40%
Whisky Review # 558

Colour: Golden (Artificial Colouring might have been applied) 

Nose: Grain Alcohol and Refill (Ex-Bourbon) casks are all over the place. The MacArthur's Blend has a young and light Nose with some Cereals, a little Malt, Toast and Margarine, Nutshells, Straw, Vanilla, Sugar, light Honey, Pear, a bit of Pepper and some Citrus notes (Mandarin). It's all quite simple but I also don't detect annoying off-notes.  

Taste: A little Sharp and Sugary Sweet with Cereals, Nut Shells, light Grass and Honey, a little Barley, Citrus (Mandarin and Lemon), Caramel, light Toffee, light Orchard Fruit and Pepper.        

Finish: Short, a little Sharp and Sugary-Sweet with quite some Bitter Refill Oak popping up in the end. I find Sugar, Caramel, light Toffee, light Vanilla, Lemon, Mandarin, Pepper, Nutmeg and traces of Cigarette Ashes.  

Added Water does diminish the Grainy Fire somewhat and enhances the Barley. It also becomes very thin though.   

Rating: 72  

Nose: 18.5 - Taste: 18 - Finish: 17.5  - Overall: 18

General Remarks: This blend of Grain - and Malt whiskies was first released in 1877. It is named after the MacArthur clan of Argyllshire in Scotland that fought alongside Robert the Bruce in the war for Scottish independence. It probably contains malt from distilleries like Balblair, Old Pulteney, An Cnoc (Knockdhu) and Speyburn as these also belong to the Interbev Group. Mac Arthur's Select is quite cheap at around US$ 20. I have seen even lower prices on the Internet (September 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Below Average 

Conclusion: I certainly do not consider myself a Whisky snob and I quite enjoy my JW Black on the rocks on a regular basis. But it's cheap Blends like the one I am tasting today that make me desperate sometimes. Because while I can't find any real Off-Notes, I also can't find any reason why I should consider drinking this neat. And with added Water and/or Ice it becomes quite Thin. So the only reason to really consider MacArthur's is the price. Low prices however can't produce whiskies with great Aromas and Flavour. I keep repeating myself when I say that Bourbon producers do a much better job in this respect. To sum it up, the MacArthur's Select is drinkable but it doesn't offer any pleasure. Therefore, I can't recommend it.

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 14, 2016

Knockdhu (Picture Credit: Scotchwhiskynet)

Octomore 2007 RBTW Review

“I Want (Octo) More!!!”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Octomore 2007 RBTW Limited Edition
Distillery: Bruichladdich
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 6 Years
ABV: 64.5 %
Chill Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 557

Colour: Light Golden/White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose: Be sure to give this Octomore enough time in the glass. The strong Peat and Alcohol try to hide the fact that we are nosing a very young Whisky here. I must admit though that it works out quite nicely. I also find Burnt Straw, Burnt Toast, Smoked Bacon, light Rubber, Salted Nuts, light Leather, Fresh Herbs and Vegetables, light Vanilla, White Orchard Fruit, Citrus Peel, Marc d' Alsace, light Pepper, Mint and Oak Char. The Peat is quite strong at over 150 PPM and tends to dominate the other Aromas. Still, this young Octomore certainly shows some Character and Depth on the Nose. Well Done!

Palate: Strong Delivery as was to be expected. This is not a Beginner's Dram! I find Dirty Earthy Peat, Cold Smoke, light Rubber/Plastic, Soot, Charred Oak, Strong Black Coffee, Sour Apples, Pear, Lemon, Toasted Almonds, Fresh Herbs, Marc d' Alsace, Toffee, light Vanilla, Dried Grapes, Pepper, Ginger and Mint. This is a very strong Islay that packs a Punch despite its Youth. I can imagine me enjoying a dram or two after having strolled on the Island on a Misty, Rainy Morning!     

Finish: Extremely Long, Spicy, Malty and Bitter Sweet. Dry towards the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Malt Biscuits, Earthy Peat, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Rubber, Oak, Lemon, Green Apple, Pear, Almonds, Marc d' Alsace (Gewurztraminer), Pepper, Ginger and Menthol. This Octomore really keeps you busy here!  

Given the small size of the sample I only tasted it neat. I assume there is quite some space to add a little Water given the high ABV. Based on my experience with peated Malts I would say that Barley and Floral notes might come to the front, accompanied by a little Chocolate perhaps. 

Rating: 87.5    

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

General Remarks: Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by Barnett Harvey. The distillery changed hands various times over the years. It stopped producing from 1929 to 1936, from 1983 to 1993 and from 1995 to 2001 although it did produce a couple of months in 1998. In the year 2000 the distillery was bought by Murray McDavid who brought Bruichladdich back on the Whisky map. He did this so successfully that he was able to sell the distillery in 2012 to the French spirit giant Remy Cointreau. 

The Octomore I'm tasting today was distilled at Bruichladdich on the 19th of December 2007. It matured for 6 years on Islay in an Ex-Sauternes Cask with # R0000016751 and was bottled at Cask Strength by/for the Independent Bottler Fox Fitzgerald Whisky Trading under their Rest & Be Thankful Label on the 18th of November, 2014. Only 302 bottles went to the market. Some are available with prices that vary a lot from place to place but are usually in the US$ 220-290 range (September 2016).  

"The name Rest & Be Thankful comes from an inscription on a stone made by soldiers who built a military road in 1753 on the West coast of Scotland. The road out of Glen Crow was so long and so steep that it was almost traditional for travellers to rest on the top and be thankful for having reached the highest point. When drinking this Whisky, you might experience the same pleasure".

Drinking Experience Neat: Very Good.    

Conclusion: I was pleasantly surprised by this Octomore. I must admit I had my doubts given its young age but somehow this combination of heavy Peat, high ABV, a good Cask and young Bruichladdich Spirit works. The price of this Malt is quite high but if you have the cash to spare I can certainly recommend this Octomore if you are into heavily peated Malt. What I like most about this Single Malt is the fact that it's quite complex for such a young Spirit. It remains very interesting right from the Nose until the extremely long Finish. Imagine, if this Octomore would have matured for another 8 Years or so. I can only imagine the beauty of the balance of the Peat and the other Aromas and Flavours at such an advanced age. It would almost certainly have rocketed into my personal Top 5. The way it stands though, it's still a very nice and strong Islay malt. I will now Rest & Be Thankful.    

Jan van den Ende                                                              September 7, 2016

Mackinlay's Shackleton The Journey Review

“An Expensive Journey Through the Past”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands (Mainly)
Brand: Mackinlay's Shackleton The Journey
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Bottled by: Whyte & Mackay
Age: NAS  
ABV: 47.3%
Whisky Review # 556

Colour: Golden Straw

Nose: My first impressions are Dirty Floral Peat, Diesel, Tar, Ashes and Manure. Certainly different from our modern Highland Malts. It's very interesting to smell peated Dalmore. I also pick up light Jura influences. The Journey needs time in the glass to reveal additional Aromas. After a while I find Grass, Straw, Toasted Cereals, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Vanilla, Citrus Peel, Mandarin Juice, Licorice, light Vanilla, Overripe Banana, Toffee, Pineapple Jam, Orchard Fruit, Aniseed and light Spices. It's all a little Edgy, Dirty and Sharp. Unfortunately, the Alcohol is not fully integrated. It somehow smells "old" and authentic but I can't say The Journey smells extremely agreeable. I certainly was expecting a bit more.      
Taste: The Delivery is on the Thin side despite the adequate ABV. On the Palate, the Journey is Bitter Sweet. I find Dirty Peat, Factory Smoke, Citrus Peel, Oak, Dried Fruits, Nuts, Caramel, Toffee, Malt Biscuits, light Honey, Straw, Licorice, Pepper, Nutmeg, Menthol, Dried Herbs, Espresso and Dark Chocolate.       

Finish: Quite Long, Bitter Sweet, Medium-Spicy and Dry towards the end. The Journey retains its Rough and Dirty character until the end. I find Toasted Grain, light Honey, Caramel, light Vanilla, Dirty Earth, Factory Smoke, Lemon Peel, Peanut Butter, Dried Herbs, Grass, Grapefruit, Orchard Fruit, Tobacco, Aniseed, Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg and Menthol. I detect a light Metallic Off-Note.    

The Journey does not improve with added Water. 

Rating: 81.5    

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

General Remarks: Let's start with a little history that explains the release of this very special Blended malt:

In June 1907, the Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness, Scotland, received an order from the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton for 46 cases of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt, one of the more indulgent items included in the provisions designed to sustain his British Antarctic Expedition of 1907.

In 2007, a few crates of this Whisky were discovered in Antarctica. The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust requested Master Blender Richard Paterson to try and recreate this Blend. He succeeded and raised over 300.000 US Dollars for Charity in the process. This Blend was called Mackinkay's Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt "The Discovery".

In 2012, Paterson was approached again by the Charity and Ernest's grand-daughter Alexandra to produce a second edition of the Blended Malt, this time to coincide with the first authentic re-enactment of Shackleton's Antarctic Survival Journey of 1916. It's called Tom Jarvis' Shackleton Epic. Paterson accepted this new challenge as well and created "The Journey", using a rare 1980 cask of Glen Mhor, some peated Dalmore and malt from a/o Glenfarclas, Mannochmore, Tamnavulin, Ben Nevis, Aultmore, Fettercairn, Old Pulteney and Jura.

Unfortunately I have not yet been able to secure a sample of The Discovery, so I won't be able to compare the two expressions. For The Journey, Richard used whiskies in the 8 to 30 years range with Glen Mhor being the oldest. Both Ex-Sherry and (mostly) Ex-Bourbon casks were used in the process. Prices vary a lot depending on where you live. The average price is around 110 US$ (09/16). Bottle and Packaging are nicely done and based on the original.  

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Disappointing  

Conclusion: I know that this Whisky raised money for a good purpose and I'm sure that Richard Paterson put in a lot of time and effort. And I have to admit that there is an air of authenticity around. It smells and tastes "dirty" from start to finish. I can really imagine that Whisky tasted somewhat rough like this at the beginning of the 1900's. So in that aspect, the Journey gives us at least an idea. However, I also believe that a lot of young, indifferent Malt went into the Blend, leaving it Edgy, Sharp and without much balance. As such it is way too expensive for what it really offers despite the nice packaging and the fascinating story. Many people have commented on the fact that The Discovery was much better so I must try and secure a sample of that one to be able to compare the two Mackinlay's Shackleton expressions.   

Jan van den Ende                                                               September 5, 2016

Glenmorangie The Tayne Review

“The Sulphured Armada”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands 
Brand: Glenmorangie The Tayne
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
Chill-Filtration: Yes
ABV: 43%
Whisky Review # 555

Colour: Light Mahogany (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: The Sherry Cask influence is clear and I detect some Sulphur as well. Be sure to give the Tayne sufficient time in the glass. This helps to diminish the Sulphur notes. I know many people who are not bothered at all by the Sulphur but I'm not one of them. The Tayne is a relatively young Whisky but the casks have supplied sufficient Aromas to make it interesting. I find Toasted Cereals, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Dried Fruit (Raisins, Sultanas, Apricot, Figs), Dark Red Fruit, Assorted Nuts, Demerara Sugar, light Vanilla, Coffee with Milk, Honey, Butterscotch, Toffee, Canned Pineapple and light Herbs and Spices. The Glenmorangie Oranges appear but they quietly remain in the background. The Alcohol is there but it is sufficiently integrated with the other Aromas. After 15 minutes or so I find some Floral notes as well. On the Nose, the Tayne does not really disappoint but there is a certain "Middle of the Road" feeling to it.     
Taste: Mainly Sweet but also with a light Bitterness. The Sulphur is bothering me again I'm afraid. It's more Spicy than the Nose would let you to believe and the characteristic Orange notes come through now as well. I also find Toffee, Caramel, light Vanilla, Butterscotch, Demerara Sugar, Coffee with Milk, Dried Fruits and Nuts, Oak, Papaya Cream, Ginger and Pepper.   

Finish: Quite Long and mainly Sweet. More Dry and a little Spicy towards the end when a light Bitterness appears. The Orange Peel is quite noticeable by now. I also find the Dried Fruits and Nuts from the Nose as well as some Toffee, Butterscotch, Malt, Milk Chocolate, Caramel, Espresso, Oak, Sugar Soaked Ginger, Pepper and Clove.   

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Malt and Dried Fruits take control. The Water also takes out most of the Sulphur Aromas. On the Palate the Sulphur retreats as well and I also get some extra Tropical Fruit. The Finish becomes Short and too Bitter for my taste. There is room for a little Water but use it carefully.

Rating: 83   

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

General Remarks: Glenmorangie was founded in 1843 by William Mathesen. A nice Visitor Centre was opened in 1994 and a museum followed in 1997. Since 2004 it is owned by Moet-Hennessy. Glenmorangie has always been one of the pioneers to experiment with different Wood Finishes. 

The Tayne was launched early this year as part of a new Glenmorangie Series, initially only available in the Travel Retail Shops. As of March of this year it is widely available though. The price is usually in the 70-90 US Dollar range (September 2016). This is the story behind the Tayne as you can find it on the Web Site of the Distillery:

"Legend has it that just offshore from our Distillery (Firth of Tayne) is the shipwreck of a 16th Century Spanish Galleon. Once loaded with treasure, it is one of many ships lost when the Spanish Armada fled from the English Navy round the Scottish coast.
Glenmorangie Tayne captures this tale and is something of a Spanish treasure itself, having been aged in carefully selected Amontillado Sherry casks, a rarely seen finish in the world of whisky."

Drinking Experience Neat: Good, except for the Sulphur.  

Conclusion: The Ex-Amontillado casks have provided just enough Aromas and Flavours to the Glenmorangie Spirit to justify the release of The Tayne. It's a pity that the Sulphur is part of the deal. The Tayne is not a Sherry Bomb mind you. It simply is too Young for that. But if you like an easy drinking Middle of the Road Sherried Highlander, the Tayne might be an interesting alternative although the price is certainly too high. The Tayne is certainly meant to be a crowd pleaser and I can see why. But don't expect too much character and depth. And stay away from it if you're allergic to Sulphur!

Jan van den Ende                                                              September 1, 2016