Showing posts with label Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review. Show all posts

Laphroaig 1997 (Sansibar)


”Money Money Money”


Whisky Review # 890

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Laphroaig 1997-2016 - Limited Edition
Bottled By: Sansibar, Germany - 241 Bottles
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Scotch Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 53.4% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Cask
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 300-350 (September 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎I like it but it's really expensive.
Buying Advice: 😋 Not the best matured Islay I've tasted but very nice anyway!

Colour:

Chardonnay (Natural Color)

Nose:

Well-Matured Islay Malt. This Laphroaig still possesses most of the maritime notes of a young Islay but it presents them in a more warm and mellow way. The Nose is mainly Sweet but there are some lightly Bitter and Sour notes for balance. It's not sensational but certainly pleasant.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Campfire Smoke, Maritime Peat, Burnt Rubber, Cigar Ashes, Iodine, Hospital, Bacon and Pork on the BBQ, Lemon, Grapefruit, Red Apple, Damp Dunnage Warehouse, Salted Nuts and Menthol.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Biscuits, Wet Grass, Freshly printed Newspaper, Tar, Soot, Leather, Tobacco, Dark Chocolate, Dried Apricot, Herbal Tea, Pepper and Ginger.


Palate:

I really like fully matured Islay Whisky and while this Laphroaig isn't the best I have tasted so far it is certainly pleasant enough. It's probably a tad too Sweet to be a real winner but I love the coating mouth-feeling that matured peated Islay Malts offer. Only the price prevents me from sipping a dram of this type of Whisky every single day. But you should certainly enjoy one if you have the chance to go to Islay. I've been lucky enough to visit Islay in 2014 and 2017 and I can only recommend it with all of my heart.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Campfire Smoke,  Maritime Peat, Cigar Ashes, Iodine, Red Apple, Lemon, Grapefruit, Menthol, Pepper, Licorice, Herbal Tea and Damp Wood.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Toffee, Dried Apricot, Straw and Grass, Bacon on the BBQ, Salted Nuts, Tobacco, Leather, Aniseed, Cinnamon and Ginger.

Finish:

Middle-Long/Long. Sweet with a few Bitter and Sour notes for balance. Medium-Dry towards the end. I find Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Butter, Vanilla, Dried Apricot, Campfire Smoke, Maritime Peat, Cigar Ashes, Soot, Rubber, Tar, Charcoal, Bacon on the BBQ, Leather, Iodine, Dusty Oak, Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange-Flavored Bitter Chocolate, Cinnamon, Pepper, Ginger, Menthol, Licorice, Aniseed and Ginger.


Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to this Laphroaig.

Rating: 87.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

Laphroaig is located a few miles outside Port Ellen on the island of Islay and was founded in 1815 by Alexander & Donald Johnston. It was bought by Beam Suntory in 2014. Since, the distillery has launched a number of NAS Whiskies that received mixed critics. I find this a pity as I used to consider Laphroaig one of my favorite distilleries. The 10, the discontinued 18 and the old 15 Years are some of my all time favorites. I also love to visit the place and the people. I really hope Laphroaig is not steering too much towards mainstream Whisky but at the moment it kinda looks that way.

Sansibar Whisky is a German Indie bottler founded by Jens Drewitz and others who taste and hand-select almost all casks they buy at the distilleries.

Fully-Matured Islay Whisky is probably my favorite type of Whisky. There's no other Whisky that gives me this complete feeling of well-being on the Palate. And while this Laphroaig is a little too Sweet for me I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting session. It can't be cheap of course but US$ 300 or more is a really steep price. Do as I did and try to get a sample somewhere. It's worth the investment!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                               September 21, 2020

Glenfiddich 18 Small Batch Reserve



”Eighteen Without a Bullet”


Whisky Review # 889

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Glenfiddich 18 Small Batch Reserve - Batch # 3464
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Mix of Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Oloroso Sherry casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 70-90 (September 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 Okay
Buying Advice: 😔 Nice for Beginners. Not really interesting for the long-time fans

Colour:

Mahogany (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Can a Scotch Single Malt smell like Comfort Food? Probably not but it was the first thing that came to my mind when smelling this Glenfiddich. The comfortable but not overly exciting Aromas of a well-matured modern mainstream Malt. It's agreeable and forgettable at the same time. The Sherry notes are present but not in a very pronounced way. The Nose is Medium-Sweet and ever so slightly Meaty.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Toffee, Marzipan, Sweet Apples & Pears, Dried Fruit like Figs, Raisins and Apricot, Grass and Straw, Nutella, Dusty Casks and Wood Shavings, Cinnamon, Mint and Ginger.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Demerara Sugar, Salted Caramel, Marshmallow, Honey, Vanilla, Wax, Floral Soap, Ripe Banana, Mixed Citrus Juice, Bounty Candy Bar and Pepper.



Palate:

Arrival and Mouthfeel are quite Thin. It should be a crime against the Whisky-loving community to bottle an 18 year old Single Malt at 40%. It's a damn shame! This would be so much better at 46%! Otherwise the Palate is friendly enough to appeal to beginning whisky drinkers. For the advanced fans it holds few secrets like most modern mainstream Malts. The Palate is mainly Sweet with a few light Bitter and Sour notes for balance.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Toffee, Bounty Candy Bars, Rum-Soaked Raisins, Dried Apricots/Figs, Orange Peel, Sweet Apples/Pears, Nutella, Dusty Casks, Cinnamon, Ginger and Licorice.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Honey, Salted Caramel, Marzipan, Fruit Cake, Straw, Wax, Espresso, Mixed Citrus Juice, Pepper, Nutmeg and Mint.


Finish:

Short/Medium-Long, Thin and mostly Sweet. A little bit Dry towards the end. I find Toasted Barley, Toffee, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Honey-Nut Cereals, Fruit Cake, Rum-Soaked Raisins, Orange Peel, Bounty Candy Bars, Dried Apricot, Sweet Apples & Pears, Dusty Oak, Herbal Tea, Tobacco, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mint and Licorice. After a while some Strawberry Cake and Espresso.

Drinking Advice:

This Glenfiddich does not need added Water.

Rating: 84

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Good

Conclusion:

Glenfiddich was founded in Dufftown in 1886 by William Grant. It's one of the few distilleries that is still in the hands of the founder's family. In the year 1963 it became the first whisky that was marketed worldwide as a Single Malt. It was the first Single Malt to appear in the Travel Retail and Duty Free shops as well and the chance is huge that Glenfiddich was your first Single Malt. It was mine! It is also the first distillery that opened a visitor centre, back in 1969. The current core range consists of the 12, 15, 18, 21, 26, 30  and 40 years old. We visited the distillery in May 2014 and May 2019. Despite the large number of visitors they still do a good job on the Tours.

After Maturation, Malt Master Brian Kinsman hand-selected 150 exceptional casks and married those in large wooden tuns for another 3 months. So the distillery goes a long way to present this Small Batch Reserve. And then bottles it at 40%! Does that make sense? To me it doesn't! Better to use this fine new bottle and packaging and present a truly up-graded 18 Years with 100% First Fill casks, Natural Color, No Chill-Filtration and a decent ABV of 46%. Now that would make an impact. As it is though the Small Batch Reserve is a nice gift for beginning whisky fans but that's about it. Come on Brian, think this one through again!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 September 14, 2020

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2019

Bruichladdich Octomore 07.3 Review


”Octomore Than Words”


Whisky Review # 886

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bruichladdich Octomore 07.3 (169 PPM) - Islay Barley
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Limited Edition
Age: 5 Years (2010-2015)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 63% (Around Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon American Oak Casks + Spanish Red Wine Cask Finish
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 200-240 (August 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👍It's too expensive given its age but it's delicious!
Buying Advice: 😍 Great Octomore. The best I had so far!

Colour:

Pale Straw (Natural Colour)

Nose:

You would expect an explosion of Peat & Smoke given the 169 PPM but that's not the case. It's prominent of course but in a sort of laid-back style. Quite pleasant. Of course you can feel the high ABV but again it's not overwhelming. The influence of  the Red Wine Finish is limited but it does bring a little Berry Sweetness to the peat bog. It's all well-balanced and the smell of freshly polished old Leather reminds me of those private gentleman's clubs in London. In short, I like it!

Main Aromas:

Malted, Toasted Sweet Barley, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Toffee, Vanilla, Coastal Peat, Cold Smoke, Soot, Brine, Honey Glazed Bacon, Green Apple, Banana, Polished Leather, Dried Herbs, Wood Shavings, Blueberry Muffins, Mint & Tobacco.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Caramel, Butterscotch, Demerara Sugar, Yeast, Ashes, Iodine, Straw/Cow Manure Mix, Fish and Shellfish on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon, Nuts, Pear, Nectarine, Mushrooms, Violets, Vegetable Oil, Nougat and Pepper.


Palate:

The ABV is quite high of course and that might turn off a few of you. But if you like strong peated Whisky this Octomore is a real treat. What a pity that Bruichladdich doesn't fully mature this range or at least some like the 07.3. Give this some 15 years in good casks, apply the same Finish and I'm pretty sure the result would be stunning and would go straight to # 1 in my Top Whisky list. But it's only a 5 Years old Malt and you can tell at this point. It's still pretty good though!

Main Flavours:

Sweet Toasted and Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Coastal Peat, Cold Smoke, Soot, Ashes, Brine, Green Apple, Nectarine, Grapefruit, Shellfish and Fish on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon, Herbal Tea, Blueberry Muffins, Toasted Pineapple, Leather, Tobacco, Mint, Licorice, Ginger and Nutmeg.
  
Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Demerara Sugar, Nougat, Iodine, Tar, Straw mixed with Cow Manure, Wood Shavings, Damp Dunnage Warehouse, Pear, Honey-Glazed Pork, Diesel Oil, Pepper, and Cinnamon.


Finish:

Long, Sweet, Powerful and Creamy. The Alcohol is quite strong at this point. Some Sour, Bitter and Mineral notes as well towards the Medium-Dry end. Its Youth is more obvious here as well. What a pity! Imagine a fully matured Octomore 07.3! That would be great! Back to reality: I find Sweet Malted & Toasted Barley, Toast, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, Fudge, Demerara Sugar, Coastal Peat, Cold Smoke, Ashes, Soot, Iodine, Tar, Brine, Toasted Pineapple, Green Apple, Nectarine, Fish & Shellfish on the BBQ sprinkled with Lemon, Honey-Glazed Bacon, Straw mixed with Cow Manure, Vegetable Oil, Leather, Wet Rocks/Sand, Herbal Tea, Wood Shavings, Strong Espresso, Pepper, Cinnamon and Ginger.

Drinking Advice:

I added Water and although that helps calm down the Alcohol it also awakens some less wanted notes like PVC Pipes, Rubber and Green Garden refusal on the Nose. Palate and Finish become easier to drink but it does take away a lot of the strong Magic. If you can handle it, sip it straight!

Rating: 90

Nose: 23 - Taste: 22.5 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Excellent

Conclusion:

Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by Barnett Harvey. During its history it was mothballed various times, the last time in 1998. In 2012 the Islay distillery was bought by Remy Cointreau (France). Since, Bruichladdich is showing a healthy growth again. The distillery produces 3 types of Single Malt, i.e. the unpeated Bruichladdich & the heavily peated Port Charlotte & Octomore. The basic core range includes Classic Laddie, Islay Barley 2010 and Black Art 5. The annual production amounts to around one million litres.

The Octomore 07.3 was distilled with Barley from James Brown's Octomore farm (Lorgba field) on the island of Islay. It was harvested in 2009, distilled in 2010 and bottled in November/December 2015. The spirit matured on Islay in American Oak Ex-Bourbon casks that were married with Tempranillo Red Wine casks from the Northern Spanish Wine Region of Ribera del Duero (Castile & Leon).

Viva Bruichladdich! This Octomore 07.3 really did it for me despite its youth. I can only imagine how good this would be after 15 years or so. I really hope the distillery will at least fully mature one Octomore some day! Still, the 07.3 is a very good Malt if you like strong peated Islay. This is certainly not for everybody but during the Tasting session this 07.3 took me back to the Rhinns of Islay on a fresh and windy day in 2014. And I loved every minute of it. Back then and now!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                        August 10, 2020

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2014

Fettercairn 1988 (Antique Lion's of Spirits) Review


“ Jailbreak”


Whisky Review # 884

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands
Brand: Fettercairn 1988 (Birds Label)
Bottled By/For: Antique Lion's of Spirits in 2016 - 292 Bottles
Type: Single Malt (Single Cask) Scotch Whisky
Age: 28 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50.6% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon cask
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 310-340 (July 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😔It's quite interesting but it's a lot of money. A sample will do!
Buying Advice: 👍It's got character and it's different. Unusual in 2020!

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Color)

Nose:

Make sure to give this Fettercairn some time in the glass before Nosing to get rid of the initial strong waft of Varnish. Once gone the Nose makes a balanced but quite straight-forward impression. It's Medium-Sweet, Buttery & Fruity but also provides Dairy, Grassy and Floral notes. Quite pleasant with well-integrated Alcohol.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Toasted Barley, German Butter Biscuits, Vanilla, Apricot-Flavored Yogurt, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Pineapple, Forest Floor after Rain, Grass & Straw, Milk Chocolate and Polished Leather Upholstery.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Buttered Toast, Heather-Honey, Bread, Yeast, Wax, Toffee, Nectarine, Green Apple, Pear, Marzipan, Caffe Latte, Salty Bacon, Wet Paper, Slivovitz, Cigar Ashes, Banana Ice-Cream and Cinnamon.



Palate:

Bitter-Sweet, Fruity and Herbal. A few Sour and Dairy Notes as well. Wood and its Spices are more noticeable now and so is the Alcohol. It's got quite some character of its own, something you hardly find in modern whiskies anymore. This is far from Mainstream Malt and also quite different from the mediocre Fettercairn introduction Malts.


Main Flavours:

Sweet Malted and Toasted Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Yeast, Grass and Straw, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Green Apple, Marzipan, Apricot-Flavored Yogurt, Green Apples, Pineapples, Milk Chocolate, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper and Cloves.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Buttered Toast, Wax, Golden Syrup, Slightly Sour Berries, Slivovitz, Rum-Soaked Raisins, Banana Ice-Cream, Damp Wine Cellar, Caffe-Latte, Nutmeg, Mint and Leather.



Finish:

Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry. The Bitterness increases towards the end. The Cask speaks louder here along with its Spices. The Alcohol is also more noticeable at this point. It's quite different from your average Single Malt vintage 2020 and that's a big plus. You could argue though that it overstayed its time in the cask with a few years. I find Sweet Malted and Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Pineapple, Banana-Flavored Ice-Cream, Milky Way Candy Bars, Salted Caramel, Honey, Wax, Yeast, Grass and Straw, Marzipan, Dusty Oak, Citrus Peel, Green Apple, Plum Jam, Leather, Yogurt, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper, Cloves and Mint.

Drinking Advice:

This Fettercairn does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 86.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

The Fettercairn Distillery was founded in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsay and is located in Fettercairn, Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire in the Eastern Highlands. It changed hands many times in the past but mainly belonged to Whyte & MacKay that was bought by Emperador Inc. in 2015. The two pairs of stills produce around 1,5 million litres of Alcohol per year. The core range exists of the 12, 28, 40 and 50 Years.

The new core range was launched in 2018 to put Fettercairn back on the Single malt map. As known, this Malt is mainly used for the Whyte & MacKay blends. We visited Fettercairn in May 2019 and it's well-worth the effort of getting there. Wonderful small, picturesque distillery. The visitor accommodations are still rather primitive but the Tour is quite nice.

Antique Lion's of Spirits is a recent collaboration between Lion's Whisky, Whisky Boutique (Italy) and Jens Drewitz from German Indie Bottler Sansibar.

I really enjoyed tasting this Fettercairn although I felt it somehow didn't give me its full potential. Personally I would have bottled it a few years earlier in order to get a better balance between cask and spirit. The Cask did give the spirit character and a mind of its own and that's great & a rare thing these days. But I got the impression that the spirit got slightly "mad" and unbalanced in its wooden prison. Well, maybe that's just me. In any case this Fettercairn is really nice to sort out and try to find its soul. It can't be cheap of course but it's well worth the ride.

Jan van den Ende                                                                            July 20,2020

Bowmore Vault Edition Second Release Review


“Smoke on the Water”


Whisky Review # 883
Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore Vault Edition Second Release "Peat Smoke"
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50,1%
Maturation: Probably Ex-Bourbon Casks with a short Sherried Wood Finish
Chill Filtration: Information not available
Sample provided by Mauricio from Brazil. Many Thanks!
Price Range: US$ 80-90 (July 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 Okay. Much better priced than the 1st Release.
Buying Advice: 😀It's different and worth a try. Under-matured though!

Colour: Golden with hints of Orange and Brown (Artificially Colored)

Nose:

Well, Peat Smoke it is. Much more so than your average Bowmore Single Malt. The Nose has a very distinctive "Burnt" character. It's also rather Young, mostly Sweet and quite Herbal. Some Funky and Dusty notes complete the picture. It's not bad but rather straight-forward. The Sherry influence is limited.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Toasted Barley, lightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Toffee, Sweet Peat, Smoldering Driftwood, Ashes, Brine, Smoked Bacon, Dunnage Warehouse, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Polished Leather Upholstery, Dried and almost Burnt Herbs, Mint, Wet Sand and Espresso.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Salted Caramel, Dusty Track, Tar, Iodine, Fish and Shell Fish on the BBQ, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas and Figs, slightly Sour Berries, Mustard Seed and Pepper.


Palate:

Again I have the feeling that this could have been a very good Single Malt if and when matured sufficiently. It shows glimpses of quality but its inherent Youth spoils a bit of the fun. The Palate is Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry with a few Sour and Dusty/Musty notes. Quite Peaty indeed for a Bowmore. I kinda like that. The Alcohol is noticeable. Only a mild Sherry influence.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Malted and Toasted Barley, Salted Caramel, Sweet Peat, Smoldering Wood, Tar, Ashes, Iodine, Band-Aid, Cherry-Flavored Cough Syrup, Bacon, Fish and Shell Fish on the BBQ, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas and Figs, Polished Leather, Mint and Pepper.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Cranberries, Grapefruit, Lemon, Nutella, Cocoa Powder, Aniseed, Ginger and Freshly Roasted Coffee.


Finish:

Middle-Long and mainly Sweet with a few Bitter, Sour and Salty notes. Again, quite Peaty and Herbal. The Alcohol is noticeable at this point. I find Sweet Toasted Malt, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas and Figs, Nutella, Sweet Peat, Cold Smoke, Iodine, Soot, Tar, Ashes, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Lime, Polished Leather Upholstery, Fish, Bacon and Shell Fish on the BBQ, Charred Oak, Cocoa Powder, Strong Espresso, Wet Rocks and Sand, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Mint, Grapefruit, Cranberries and Herbal Tea. Medium Dry towards the end.

Drinking Advice:

I added a bit of Water and the Nose becomes more Malty and Coastal. Palate and Finish move to the more regular Bowmore profile of Sugary-Sweet Herbal Tea. I clearly prefer it Neat but you can carefully add a few drops if you like.

Rating: 85.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

Bowmore is the oldest Islay Distillery and was founded in 1779 by David Simpson. It changed hands a couple of times along the years but since 1994 the Japanese Suntory group controls Bowmore. Bowmore still malts around 30% of the Barley on their premises. They currently produce around 1,8 million liters of Alcohol. The core range includes the NAS # 1, the 12, the 15 Darkest, the 18 and 25 Years. Some of the Bowmore Spirit is used in Blends like Rob Roy and Black Bottle. We visited the distillery in 2014 & 2017. I absolutely love the Malting Floor. Nice Shop and Visitor-Centre. Certainly well-worth the visit.

The Vault Series started a couple of years ago with the Atlantic Sea Salt. The series will consist of four Single Malts that will each present one of the four main Flavour profiles of the Bowmore Malts. Atlantic Sea Salt of course represented Salty and the Peat Smoke I'm reviewing today will naturally address Peat Smoke. # 3 and # 4 will respectively show the Fruity and Sweet side of Bowmore. The one thing they have in common is that all 4 will mature in Bowmore's No. 1 Vaults warehouse that was constructed in 1779 below sea-level.

I was surprised by this Bowmore. It's indeed more Peaty and Smoky than most of the regular Bowmore Malts and that's not a bad thing. I kinda liked that. It only does not score higher because of its inherent Youth. It sort of makes a half-finished impression and that's a pity. I really would like to see Bowmore venture a bit more into this direction and come up with a fully matured Smoky expression. I think that would be a stunner!  

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                           July 13, 2020

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2014

Aberlour A' Bunadh Alba Review



“On the Road To Find Out”


Whisky Review # 881
Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Aberlour A'Bunadh Alba
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Batch 01
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 57,1% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: First-Fill Ex-Bourbon Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Sample provided by Mauricio from Brazil. Many Thanks!
Price Range: US$ 70-90 (June 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐Borderline okay at US$ 70. It's a Young Whisky after all!
Buying Advice: 😐Interesting experience. I will wait for a mature Alba though!

Colour: Chardonnay (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young and Sweet. Loads of Vanilla from the First-Fill casks. Lots of Fruit reminding of New Make Spirit. Some Floral and Dairy aspects as well. The Alcohol is quite present but that's no surprise given the high ABV. A little bit of Varnish and Acetone in the background.

Main Aromas:

Barley Sugar, Vanilla, Buttered Bread, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Yogurt with Tropical Fruit Flavors, Apple, Pear, Grass, Floral Soap, Fresh Wood and Wood-Shavings, Raisins, Caffe Latte, Cinnamon, Pepper and Nutmeg.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Caramel, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Yeast, Dusty Earth, Forrest Floor, Bounty Candy Bar, Nougat, Ginger, Mint, Varnish and Acetone.


Palate:

Young, Nervous, mainly Sweet and slightly Hot. You would never recognize this as an Aberlour in a Blind Tasting. One of the Young NAS Glenlivet Malts came to mind. The Alcohol is really strong, almost in an uncomfortable way. This needs a bit of Water.

Main Flavours:

Barley Sugar, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Apple-Strudel, Yogurt with Tropical Fruit Flavors (Mango, Pineapple, Papaya), Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Red Berries, Coconut, Grass, Oak, Pepper, Ginger, Caffe Latte and Tobacco.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Buttered Bread, Toffee, Caramel, Butter Biscuits, Nougat, Dusty Earth, Cinnamon, Mint, Nutmeg, Acetone and Tin cans.


Finish:

Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet. Medium-Dry. The Alcohol is ever present and a bit on the Hot side. It's all a bit off-balance and under-matured. I find Sweet Barley, Nuts and Nutshells, Brown Sugar, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Buttered Bread, Grass, Dusty Earth, Floral Soap, Stewed Apples and Pears, Citrus Peel, Caffe Latte, Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Menthol, Milk Chocolate and Tobacco.

Drinking Advice:

I added a bit of Water and that helps calm down the Alcohol. I get Breakfast Cereals with Assorted (Tropical) Fruits and Nuts on the Nose. Quite a lot of Barley and Vanilla as well. Palate and Finish benefit as well but to a lesser extend. The Alcohol remains very strong. You can add more Water of course but that kills this Aberlour. But a few carefully added drops really help in this case.

Rating: 83.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good but the ABV is simply too high.

Conclusion:

The Aberlour distillery was founded in1879 by James Fleming and is located in the little village of the same name in Banffshire, Speyside. Since 2001 it is owned by Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard). The capacity of Aberlour is around 3,8 million litres per year. The core range includes the 12,16 and 18 Years as well as the A'Bunadh and the Casg Annamh.

The Alba is both named after Scotland & the type of White Oak used for maturation. (Quercus Alba). A'Bunadh means The Original by the way. This is of course not the first time that Aberlour experiences with Ex-Bourbon casks but this seems to be the first serious attempt to try and avoid the ever more serious lack of authentic and very expensive Ex-Sherry casks. You can season any Wood with Sherry or Sherry By-Product of course but that's certainly not the same thing. It's only natural that Aberlour is looking more serious to Ex-Bourbon casks. And I would urge them to continue to do so as it seems an interesting path to follow. My only argument would be to extend the maturation time as this Alba smells and tastes way too Young. A high ABV can't hide this I'm afraid. If Aberlour succeeds in producing well-matured Ex-Bourbon cask Single Malt Whisky I predict that would be a huge success. I would not be surprised if Macallan would be one of the few, if not the only one, who would use Ex-Sherry casks on a large scale in 10 years or so. Unless Sherry becomes very popular again of course. Let's wait and see!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                          June 29, 2020

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2014

Highland Park Valkyrie Review


“Okay is Not Good Enough for Odin’s Hall of Fame”


Whisky Review # 880

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park Valkyrie
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 45.9%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Casks and American/European Sherry-Seasoned Oak
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 60-80 (June 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎 Young and Thin. Don't let the seductive hype fool you!
Buying Advice: 😐 It's okay but you're better of with the core range!

Colour:

Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Quite Young and on the Thin side. The Alcohol is noticeable. The Orkney Peat is there but stays nicely in the background. There's a bit of Sherry influence in the form of Dried Fruit. Together with Dark Berries, light Spices and Straw they are the main components of the Nose. Not unpleasant but nothing special as well.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Straw/Grass, Cold Smoke, Dusty Earth, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricots, Red Berries, Citrus Peel, Milk Chocolate, Dried Herbs, Mint, Nutmeg and Tobacco.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Slightly Burnt Toast, Butterscotch, Toffee, Vanilla, Salted Butter, Cooked Apple, Mandarin, Toasted Pineapple, Candied Almonds, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper, Clove and Leather. There are some distant hints of Floral Soap and a Butcher Shop.


Palate:

Thin mouthfeel. The overall Thin feeling of the Valkyrie is without any doubt the main flaw of this Highland Park despite the higher ABV & the increased percentage of peated Malt. The Palate and also the Finish basically follow the Nose so it's quite consistent in this respect. Mainly Sweet with a few light Bitter and Sour notes.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Grass & Straw, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricot, Red Berries, Cooked Apple, Citrus Peel, Dusty Earth, Cold Smoke, Leather, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Licorice and Mint.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Slightly Burnt Toast, Ashes, Smoked Ham, Iodine, Wood Shavings, Tobacco, Iron, Fresh Coriander, Salted Almonds, Cloves, Curry and Cardamom.


Finish:

Middle-Long and mainly Sweet. The high ABV and the increased amount of peated Malt can't hide the fact that we are talking about a Young Single Malt. A light Bitterness towards the Dry end. It remains a bit on the Thin side. The Alcohol is quite noticeable and even a little Hot at times. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Grass and Straw, Cold Smoke and Dusty Earth, Ashes, Red Berries, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricot, Citrus Peel, Cooked Apple, Cocoa Powder, Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cloves, Mint, Leather, Tobacco and Wood Shavings.


Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to this Valkyrie. It's Thin enough as it is.

Rating: 84

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Thin but Okay

Conclusion:

The distillery was founded in 1798 by David Robertson. It is located in the small town of Kirkwall on the isle of Orkney.  Orkney is still quite strongly influenced by its Viking past and the distillery has increasingly used this past as a rather successful marketing tool. Highland Park currently produces around 2.5 million litres of Alcohol & is owned since 1997 by the Edrington Group. The core range basically consists of the 10 years (Viking Scars), the 12 years (Viking Honour), the 18 years (Viking Pride), the 25, 30 and 40 years.

The Viking Legend Series consists of the Valkyrie, the Valknut and the Valhalla, made in partnership with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild who was responsible for the bottle and box design. The Valkyrie is made with 50% peated Malt. According to legend, Valkyries would plunge down from the skies on horse back to look for the bravest dead warriors in order to take them to Valhalla, the great hall of the Norse God Odin. Valkyrie was launched in 2017.

We visited Highland Park in May last year and I really enjoyed the visit despite the terrible weather. Orkney is a special place and I understand the tradition and the bond with the Viking ancestors. It's such a pity that the distillery distorts this picture with the series of mediocre and expensive "Cult" Single Malts they have released over the last 10 years or so. If they would just make one great standard line-up of good whiskies of different age and maturation and link each of them to the Viking Legend that would really represent the character of the Whisky I would be their greatest fan. For instance Odin for their masterpiece and Thor for their strongest/peatiest Malt. Instead we have to live with expressions like the Valkyrie which is not really bad but expensive and way too Young and Thin to be allowed to enter Odin's Hall of Fame. It's a pity!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                           June 22,2020

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2019