Balblair 2000 1st Release Review - Tullibardine 1993 Review - Tomatin Cu Bocan Review - Tomatin 1994 (Berry's) Review


“Highland Special # 2”

Introduction:

Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. I usually buy these in Holland and sometimes in Germany or the UK. Sometimes I receive samples from friends or readers or independent bottlers. In only two cases I received a few samples directly from distilleries. When planning my reviews for the coming months I always try to give attention to all Scottish Whisky regions as well as other Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon producing regions all over the world with special attention to the USA, Ireland and Japan. And last but not least the blends. At the request of many readers I give preference to more recent expressions. As a result, my backlog of older samples has increased quite a bit. To do justice to those samples I will review them in the format of Specials. These specials will deal with a specific region like today or with specific bottlers, countries or distilleries. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate on the Whisky and won't touch too much details about distilleries, maturation etc. I do hope you will like these Specials just as much as my regular reviews and I look forward to your reactions and suggestions. In this special I will review four Highland Single Malts. Enjoy!
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Whisky Review # 738

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Balblair 2000 Vintage - 1st Release - Bottled 2010 - Discontinued
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 10 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: First-Fill Ex Bourbon Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 60 (June 2018)
Buying Advice: ๐Ÿ˜’ Negative. Alcohol and Bitterness are in control.

Colour:

White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Relatively Young, Medium-Sweet, Floral and quite Malty. The casks haven't been very active as there is still a New Make feeling to this Balblair.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Wheat Biscuits, Yeast, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Floral Soap, Green Apple, Banana, Caffe Latte and Bounty Candy Bars.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Pear, Tinned Pineapple, Charred Oak, Dusty Road, Dried Apricot, Herbal Tea, Lemon and Milk Chocolate.


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet, Young, Edgy, Floral, Malty, Yeasty and Hot.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Heather-Honey, Yeast, Grass, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Lemon, Bitter Orange, Floral Soap, Cinnamon, Pepper and Nutmeg.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Salted Caramel, Banana, Bounty Candy Bars, Cheap White Wine, Charred Oak, Tinned Pineapple, Green Apple, Pear, Nuts, Ginger and Cocoa Powder.

Finish:

Middle-Long and quite Hot. The Alcohol is rather present. Sugary Sweet at first but with increasing Bitterness towards the Medium-Dry end. I find Malt, Honey, Yeast, Grass, Straw, Charred Oak, Floral Soap, Caramel, Grapefruit, Lemon-Flavoured Detergent, Bitter Dark Chocolate, Pear, Green Apple, Bitter Orange, Pepper, Nutmeg and Ginger.



Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and you will get a bit of extra Fruit on the Nose. Something like Unripe Peach. Palate and Finish become Thin though and begin to resemble German Fruit Liqueur (Obstler).

Rating: 79

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

Drinking Experience:

Okay. Not really Pleasant.

Conclusion:

Balblair is located in Edderton (Tain) and is one of the oldest Scottish distilleries. It was founded in 1790. Since 1996 it is owned by Inver House Distillers, a part of the Thai Beverages PLC. In 2007 the entire range was relaunched on the basis of Vintages instead of Age Statements. Glenrothes does this as well. The Spirit is also used in Blends like Hankey Bannister and Inver House. The visitor centre was only opened in 2012. We visited this great looking distillery in May 2017 and did a very nice tour. Extra attention is paid to the fact the distillery was part of the set for the movie "The Angels Share" released in 2012.

The Balblair 2000 Vintage was released in July 2010. I must admit I didn't enjoy it at all. There's a New Make Spirit feel to this Malt and the Alcohol spills a lot of the Nosing and Tasting Fun. It tastes like a Half-Finished product if you get my rap. It's relatively Light with lots of Floral and Citrus notes which would make it suitable as an aperitif whisky on a warm Summer day if not for the Bitter notes that pop up all over the place. It has been discontinued in the meantime and that's quite okay as far as I'm concerned. Not a Single Malt I would recommend.



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Whisky Review # 739

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: Tullibardine 1993 Vintage - Discontinued.
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Probably around 12 Years old)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Most Likely Refill Ex-Bourbon casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 40-48 (June 2018)
Buying Advice: ๐Ÿ˜ Not bad but utterly forgettable.

Colour:

White Wine (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Light, Floral, Fruity and slightly Mineral. A typical Summer Dram. The Alcohol is noticeable.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Orange, Green Apple, Refill Oak, Lemon, Milk Chocolate and Grass/Straw.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Caramel, Pear, Floral Perfume, Almonds, Cinnamon, Tinned Pineapple, Bounty Candy Bars and Marzipan.


Palate:

Light, Bitter Sweet and a little Thin. Later versions have been bottled at 43% and that would seem just about right for this Spirit.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse, Vanilla, Grass/Straw, Green Apple, Orange, Refill Oak, Milk Chocolate, Pepper, Cinnamon and Mint.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Caramel, Porridge, Heather-Honey, Almonds, Grapefruit, Pear, Green Tea, Alcohol and Fresh Herbs.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Malty and Sweet. A light Bitterness towards the Dry end. I find Toasted Barley, Porridge with a dollop of Butter, Vanilla, Caramel, Green Apple, Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Honey, Refill Oak, Caffe Latte, Cocoa Powder, Pepper, Mint and Ginger. The Alcohol is still noticeable. Hints of Wet Newspaper and Licorice after a while. The 40% ABV leaves it all a bit Thin.



Drinking Advice:

This Tullibardine does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 82

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

Drinking Experience:

Okay/Good. A little boring!

Conclusion:

Tullibardine is a relatively young distillery, located in Blackford (Pertshire). It was founded in 1949. It changed hands a couple of times but since 2011 the distillery is owned by Picard Vins et Spiritueux from France. It produces around 3 million litres per year at the moment. We visited the distillery in May 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the tour!

In 2014 I bought a miniature of the 1993 Vintage and I'm using that in today's Tasting session. I think I bought it in Elgin but I'm not absolutely sure. The label of this miniature bottle does not mention when it was bottled. Since it carries the old label and a 40% ABV it's highly likely it was bottled in or around 2006. So I will assume it's in fact around 12 Years old. I also don't have information with respect to maturation but based on Colour and Nose I will assume that this Tullibardine matured in Ex-Bourbon casks.

The Tullibardine 1993 Vintage is not really bad but it's a bit boring and utterly forgettable. The low ABV, the Chill-Filtration, the added Caramel and the so-so casks are to blame for this acceptable but lackluster Single Malt. Later versions were bottled at 43% and that's at least something. The 1993 Vintage has been discontinued in the meantime and a new core range was introduced in 2013. This new core range includes the NAS Sovereign and it's quite similar in profile to this 1993 Vintage. So go for that one if you liked the above Tasting notes!


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Whisky Review # 740

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: Tomatin Cu Bocan - Lightly Peated (15 ppm)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Casks (50%), Sherry Wood (30%) & Virgin Oak(20%)
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 40-55 (June 2018)
Buying Advice: ๐Ÿ˜‘ Okay at 40 Dollars. Peat lovers should look elsewhere!

Colour:

Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Light & Young. The Virgin Oak is easily recognisable. Only modest Peat/Smoke. On the Nose, the Cu Bocan is quite Citrusy. Some Mineral, Green and Sour notes as well.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse, Butterscotch, Heather-Honey, Grapefruit, Orange, Lemon, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Sultanas, Banana, Nuts, Coconut Milk, Mint, Milk Chocolate, Papaya Cream and Caffe Latte.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Smoke, Earth, Grass, Straw, Floral Perfume, Pear, White Wine, Sour Berries, Fresh Herbs, Wet Rocks, New Oak, Pepper and Ginger.


Palate:

Young and Light. A little bit more Smoke now. Mainly Bitter-Sweet. A few Sour and Yeasty notes as well.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Virgin Oak, Seville Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Green Apple, Milk Chocolate, Caffe Latte, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Smoke, Earth, Dusty Road, Salty Caramel, White Wine, Sour White Grape, Pear, Nuts, Bounty Candy Bars, Grass, Straw, Heather-Honey and Tropical Fruit.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Edgy and Artificially Sweet. A light Bitterness towards the Medium Dry end. The Alcohol is rather present. This is still a Young Whisky. I would think it's 6-8 Years old. I find Toasted Cereals, Virgin Oak, Caramel, Herbal Tea, light Peat and Smoke, Dusty Road, Orange, Grapefruit, Honey, Sour Grapes, Pepper,  Salt, Cinnamon, Ginger and Menthol.



Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and you'll get a bit more Malt and Smoke on the Nose. Heather-Honey and Seville Oranges as well. Palate and Finish don't take Water very well. Better sip it Neat.

Rating: 81

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

Drinking Experience:

Okay/Good.

Conclusion:

Tomatin was founded in 1897 by the Tomatin Spey Distillery Company. In 1985 the distillery went into liquidation and was bought in 1987 by Takara Shuzo Co. and Okara & Co, both from Japan which was quite remarkable at that time. In fact, Tomatin was the first Scottish distillery that became fully owned by Japanese companies. Currently the shares are being hold by Takara Shuzo (81%)  Marubeni (14%) and Kokubu (5%). Tomatin has always been a distillery that produced large quantities of Spirit for Blends but in the last 10 years they started to concentrate on producing and marketing Single Malts. As a result, the production decreased from well over 10 million litres in the 1970's/1980's to around 1,7 million litres this year. They still produce Blends as well though. (Antiquary, Big T and the Talisman). Today's Single Malt core range includes the NAS Legacy, the Cu Bocan, the 12, 18 and 36 years. In 2016, new packaging and bottles were introduced for the entire core range.

During one week in every year, the distillery produces a peated Single Malt. The lightly peated Cu Bocan (15 ppm) I'm reviewing today was launched in 2013. According to the legend, the name refers to a ghostly dog that roamed Tomatin and surroundings for many years. A distillery worker once saw the beast. As he wanted to touch its skin, the dog went up in a puff of ghostly smoke. What a story! Around 13.000 bottles are released every year.

The Cu Bocan is another one of these Young and Modern Malts. Nothing special but with a nice story, a little Peat and some Virgin Oak. It's okay I guess but that's about it. Nothing to get excited about. No Wow factor, no surprises, no Depth. Okay if you can pick it up at around 40 US Dollars. Next patient!



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Picture Credit: The Whisky Specialist

Whisky Review # 741

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: Tomatin 1994
Bottled By: Berry's (Berry Bros & Rudd) in 2014
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky - Cask 6393
Age: 20 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 51% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Info not available. Most likely: Refill Ex-Bourbon cask
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 140-150 (June 2018)
Buying Advice:๐Ÿ˜€ Nice Highlander. A touch too much Wood & Spice!

Colour:

Pale Gold (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Quite Fresh for a 20 Year old. Sweet and Sour. A few Dusty Dunnage Warehouse and Mineral notes. The Alcohol is there but not in an annoying way.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Vanilla, Green Apple or Apple Vinegar, Dusty Oak, Caffe Latte, Milk Chocolate, Cinnamon, Orange and Mint.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Corn Flakes, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Pear, Banana, Lemon, Aniseed, Dusty Road  and Floral Soap.


Palate:

A combination of Bitter, Sweet and Sour notes. The Alcohol, Wood & Spices are much more noticeable than on the Nose. A little Mineral as well.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit, Honeydew Melon, Cinnamon, Pepper, Milk Chocolate and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Mandarin, Floral Soap, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Papaya Cream and a very distant puff of Smoke.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Fresh, Spicy and Fruity. A nice Combo of Bitter, Sweet and Sour notes. The Alcohol and cask are much more noticeable by now but not in a bad way. Quite Dry in the end. I find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Marzipan, Nuts, Lemon, Green Apple, Bitter Orange, Grapefruit, Nectarines, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Menthol and a very faint Smoky note.


Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and the Nose becomes more Malty and Floral rather than Fruity. Palate and Finish basically stay the same but the Alcohol retreats of course. This is a matter of personal taste. You can certainly add a few drops although I prefer to sip it without added Water.

Rating: 84

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

Drinking Experience:

Good

Conclusion:

A nice Bourbon cask matured Tomatin. I think a slightly lower ABV would have benefited this Spirit. In fact I would have loved to taste this expression as a 16 Year old with an ABV of around 46%. As it is presented, Wood and Spices start to slightly dominate the Fruity Tomatin Spirit. Especially so on the Palate and in the Finish. Still, it's a quite nice Highlander and one of the better Tomatins I've tasted so far. It can't be cheap of course but it's worth having a go!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 11,2018

The Pictures were taken during our visits to these distilleries in May 2017.
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