Showing posts with label Tasting Notes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tasting Notes. Show all posts

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

The Chita Single Grain Review



”Big in Japan”

Whisky Review # 885

Country: Japan
Region: Central Japan (Honshu)
Brand: The Chita
Type: Japanese Single Grain Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Mix of Sherry, Bourbon and Wine Barrels of White and Spanish Oak
Chill Filtration: Yes
Sample provided by Mauricio from Brazil. Many thanks!
Price Range : US$ 50-70 (August 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎 Way too expensive for what it offers!
Buying Advice: 😒 Not good enough as a sipping whisky. Too expensive for Mix!

Colour:

Light Golden (Artificially Colored)

Nose:

An initial waft of Varnish/Nail Polish suggests the possible use of some Fresh Oak in the maturation process. It diminishes rapidly though but remains somewhere in the background. The Nose is Young, Light and mainly Sweet. There's quite a lot of Fruit to be found but it does smell a little artificial. The Grain Alcohol is less harsh than the variety usually found in Blended Scotch. The Nose is okay but not much more than that.

Main Aromas:

Honey Nut Breakfast Cereals, Buttered Cake, Corn, Caramel, Vanilla, Pineapple, Lemon, Mandarin, Coconut, Cinnamon and Nutmeg.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Banana-Flavored Ice Cream, Pear, Green Apple, Nectarine, Orange, Mango, Grass & Straw, Floral Soap, Varnish/Acetone, Wood Shavings, Slivovitz, Ginger, Herbal Tea, Cinnamon, Pepper, Empty Green Vegetable Cans that contained peas or something like that and Tobacco.


Palate
:


Young, Light, Sweet, Thin and a little "Funky". A light Metallic Off-Note. Again lots of Sweet rather Artificially Flavored Fruit. The Alcohol is more noticeable at this point. This is not really my thing!

Main Flavours:

Sugared Honey Nut Breakfast Cereals, Cake and Cream, Butter, Caramel, Vanilla, Green Apple, Slightly Bitter Orange, Mandarin, Banana-Flavored Ice-Cream, Wet Earth, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Milk Chocolate, Coconut, Pineapple, Mango, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Floral Soap, Wood Shavings, Pepper, Menthol, Cloves, Salt, Varnish/Acetone and Herbal Tea.  

Finish:

Light, Young, Short/Medium-Long and Sugary Sweet. I mean really Sweet! A few Bitter, Sour and Salty notes provide a minimum contrast. The Alcohol kick at the end is slightly "Hot". I find extra-Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, Cake & Cream, slightly Bitter Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Green Apples, Unripe Apricot, Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, Ginger, Menthol, Varnish/Acetone and Herbal Tea. After a while hints of Licorice and Espresso.

Drinking Advice:

Added Water helps to calm down the Alcohol but that's about it. The Finish becomes almost non-existing this way.

Rating: 77.5

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 18.5 - Overall: 19

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay at the most

Conclusion:

The Chita distillery was founded in 1972 and is located at the Port of Nagoya Sun Grain facility in the Chita district of the Aichi Prefecture. It's the only major Whisky distillery in Japan that is specializing in Grain Whisky. It's owned by Suntori, the company that also runs the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries. Until 2015, the grain whisky was used only in Blends. Since then however Suntori is positioning Chita as a Single Grain Whisky as well. Suntory's chief blender Fukuyo Shinji and his crew use no less than 10 different grains for The Chita.

I can't tell you a lot about this Chita other than that I don't like it very much. It's very Young, very Light, Thin and Funky. The latter referring to a few light off-notes. It's okay for mixing I suppose but it's way too expensive for that. Everybody wants to ride the huge waves of enthusiasm for Japanese Whiskies in general but this one simply isn't good enough as a sipping Malt. This one might be Big in Japan but at this price level I feel a bit "Chitad"😂.

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                          August 3, 2020

Chita Distillery

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

Girvan 1989 ( Celebration of the Cask) Review


“I Love a Grainy Night”


Whisky Review # 882

Country: Scotland
Region: Lowlands
Brand: Girvan 1989 - Distilled on April 17, 1989
Bottled by: Morrison & MacKay (MMcK) on February 20, 2017 - 120 Bottles
Series: Carn Mor (Celebration of the Cask Series)
Type: Single Grain Single Cask Scotch Whisky - Cask # 37527
Age: 27 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 47.5% - Cask Strength
Maturation: Bourbon Barrel
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 130-170 (July 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐Okay. You can't expect 27-Year old Whisky to be cheap. 
Buying Advice: 👍if you're a fan of Grain Whisky.

Colour:

Light Gold  (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Be sure to give this Girvan sufficient time in the glass before Nosing. The first waft of Varnish will diminish with time. Initially the Nose reminded me strongly of a plate of Honeyed Breakfast Cereals with Dried Fruits. With some patience you will be able to narrow that down a bit and also find Nutty and Dairy notes. The Alcohol is there but it doesn't spoil the Nosing fun. The Nose is still quite Fresh given its 27 years.

Main Aromas:

Sugared Cereals, Vanilla, Syrup, Honey, Grass, Fresh & Dried Fruit such as Apples, Pears, Bananas and Raisins, Coconut Milk, Candied Almonds, Charred Oak, Cloves and Polished Wood.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Buttered Toast, Toffee, Cake topped with Cream, Nutella, Peach-Flavored Yogurt, Nectarine, Lemon, Grapefruit, Dried and Fresh Herbs, Ginger and Varnish.


Palate:

A mix of Bitter-Sweet and Sour notes. Good contact between Cask # 37527 and the Spirit. Grain Whisky is not my favourite type of Whisky but this Girvan tastes okay. Medium-Creamy. The Alcohol remains noticeable though.

Main Flavours:

Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Toffee, Vanilla, Apple, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Nutella, Marzipan, Nougat, Charred Oak, Varnish, Pepper and Dried Herbs.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Honey, Sultanas, Raisins, Banana, Bounty Bars, Licorice, Aniseed, Nutmeg, Ginger, Menthol and Cloves.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Medium-Dry & Bitter-Sweet. A few Sour notes pop up as well. Medium Creamy. The Alcohol remains noticeable throughout the tasting session. The Oak comes to the front now along with its Spices. I find Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Vanilla, Toffee, Apple, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Seville-Orange, Floral Notes, Milk-Hazelnut Chocolate, Dried Apricot, Coconut, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Curry, Mint, Varnish, Dried Herbs, Bounty Bars, Charred Oak and Caffe Latte.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little water and the Alcohol naturally steps down. I get extra Cream and Peach Jam on the Nose. It helps to calm down the Palate and Finish as well but you will lose some Flavors there. I would suggest to add just 4 drops to a small dram.

Rating: 83.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

Girvan Distillery was founded in Girvan (South Ayrshire) in 1963. It is owned by William Grant & Sons. Most of the production is used in the William Grant Blends like Grant's and Clan MacGregor. The Grain Whisky is produced with 91.5% Wheat and 8.5% Malted Barley. The distillery has six Column stills with a total annual capacity of 115 million litres. The distillery also produces Hendrick's Gin.

It's generally accepted that 65 to 70% of the Flavors of any Whisky are formed by the contact of the Spirit with the Cask during maturation. I would guess that this percentage is even higher for Grain Whisky. That's why many Single Grain Whiskies go the market with over 20 Years of Cask time. The Girvan I'm tasting today did certainly mature in a good cask. There are sufficient Creamy Flavors around to justify its existence as a sipping Whisky. Adding Water is as always a personal thing. You can add a few drops but I prefer it neat. If you're into Grain Whisky you will certainly like this Girvan. I must admit that Grain Whisky so far does not really ring all my bells but this Girvan is certainly one of the better ones I've tasted so far.

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                              July 6, 2020

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

Johnnie Walker 18 Years Review


“Who’s Johnnie”

Whisky Review # 879

Country: Scotland
Brand: Johnnie Walker
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Probably a Mix of Ex-Bourbon Casks and some Sherried Wood
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Ratio : US$ 55-75 (June 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😀Okay if you can get it at around US$ 50
Buying Advice: 😑It's okay but Black and Green have a better P/Q ratio.

Colour:

Rich Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

It's a pity that even the higher-end JW Blends are bottled at 40%. The 18 Years at least requires 43% and probably a bit more. As it is the initial feeling on the Nose is a bit Weak and Thin. It's not bad but just too Light. The Grain Alcohol is notable of course but in a Softer way. The Nose is basically Sweet with Fruits, Cereals and Caramel in the lead.

Main Aromas:

Soft Cereals, lightly Salted Caramel, Butterscotch, Apple-Strudel, Apricot-filled Puff Pastry, Citrus Peel (Orange, Lemon, Mandarin), Oak, Ginger, Cinnamon and Floral notes.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Sweet Barley, Toast, Heather-Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Toasted Pineapple, Herbal Tea, Mint, Maraschino Cherries, Banana Yogurt. In the distant background a little Smoke, Earth, Ashes and Varnish.

Glen Elgin

Palate:

A bit on the Thin side again due to the low ABV. The Palate is quite Clean without any off-notes. The Grain Alcohol is more noticeable here than on the Nose. The Palate is Sweet with a very light Bitter touch for balance. Soft Spices enter as well.

Main Flavours:

Soft Cereals, Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Wax, Apple-Strudel, Apricot/Peach filled Puff Pastry, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin), Charred Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon and Ginger.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Salted Butter, Plum Jam, Salted Almonds/Peanuts, Herbal Tea, Mint, Dusty Earth, Smoke and Orange-Flavoured Dark Chocolate.

Finish:

Middle-Long and (almost Sugary) Sweet. There's more Spice in the Finish and the Grain Alcohol is more noticeable here. I find Toasted Cereals, Sweet Barley, Salty Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Heather-Honey, Floral notes, Citrus Peel, Nuts, Fruit Cake, Charred Oak, Pepper, Orange-Flavoured Chocolate, Cinnamon, Ginger, Mint and hints of Smoke, Dusty Earth and Varnish. Medium-Dry.

Auchroisk
Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and on the Nose the Malt advances with a clear nod to the Cardhu Distillery. The Grain Alcohol & Pepper become more evident in the Finish. I prefer it Neat but you can certainly play with a few drops here.

Rating: 84

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Drinking Experienceon the Rocks: Good

Conclusion:

The Pursuit of the Ultimate 18 Year Old Blend is the full name of this 18 year old Blend of up to 18 different Grain/Malt Whiskies prepared by Jim Beveridge, Master Blender at Diageo. The basis is Speyside with Malts like Cardhu, Glen Elgin and Auchroisk. It is enhanced by Highland Malts like Blair Athol & a bit of Smoky Island Malt, probably Talisker. This 18 year old is in the fact the revived Platinum that received new packaging, name and bottle. It's possible of course that minor changes have been made in the blend depending on the availability of certain Single Malts.

The 18 Years is indeed quite similar to the Platinum. This Blend is okay but suffers from the low ABV and the, IMO, slightly too high Speyside (Cardhu) component. It would be much better at 43-45% with a higher percentage of Highland & Island (Talisker). As it is, it's okay if you can get it at around US$ 50. Above that, the Green and even the Black and Double-Black are the better JW options.

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                         June 15, 2020

Cardhu