Bladnoch 19 Years Review

“Interesting Rebel Without a Cause”

Country: Scotland
Region: Lowlands
Brand: Bladnoch 
Bottling Series: Belted Galloway Cattle Label
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 19 Years 
ABV: 55% 
Chill-Filtration: Likely.
Whisky Review # 598
Buying Advice:😐 Neutral. Interesting but Expensive. Not my Style. 

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: The Alcohol is quite strong and it's not easy to find your way around it. Be sure to give this Bladnoch enough air contact. Malt and Straw are the main drivers on the Nose but a few surprising artificial Tropical Fruit notes appear as well. I find Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Heather-Honey, Dried Grass/Straw, Vanilla, Yeast, light Sherry, Mixed Citrus Peel, Hazelnut-Chocolate, Oak, Floral Perfume, Cinnamon and hints of Cardboard, Mint, Coconut, Pear, Pineapple and Mango.

Palate: Dry, Malty, Oaky and Spicy. The Alcohol remains very present. I find Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Grass and Straw, Vanilla, Toffee, Green Coffee Beans, Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, Floral Perfume, Tutti-Frutti Bubble Gum, Coconut, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Oak, Hazelnut-Chocolate, Heather-Honey and a sprinkle of Mint. 

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and Spicy. Very Dry towards the end. I find Toasted Barley, Toast, Grass/Straw, Nuts, Vanilla, Toffee, Lemon, Grapefruit, Herbal Tea, Oak, Coconut, Pear, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom and light Menthol.  

I added a little Water and on the Nose you get more Malt, Citrus and Perfume. On the Palate, the added Water helps to kill the Alcohol bite. The Finish gets a bit weak though. My advise is to carefully add a few drops at a time until you find the perfect balance. 

Rating: 82.5  

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

The Bladnoch Distillery is located in Bladnoch, Wigtown and was founded in 1817 by Thomas and John McClelland. It changed hands various times before being mothballed by United Distillers in 1993. A year later it was bought by Raymond Armstrong but unfortunately the distillery went into administration in 2014 and was put up for sale again. In 2015 it was bought by David Prior, an Australian businessman who wants to put Bladnoch on the whisky map again. The 19 Years I'm tasting today was distilled around 1990 and bottled in 2009. It most likely matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon and Refill ex-Sherry Casks but I'm not absolutely sure about that. It's quite expensive and prices are usually in the 150/200 US Dollar range (February 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Quite interesting. It's not my style though.

Conclusion: This is my third mature Bladnoch and I am pretty sure now that it's not my favourite style of Whisky. I must admit though that's it's interesting and different. But I find it a bit too much Rebel Without a Cause. My main problems with Bladnoch are the lack of Balance and the very present Alcohol. A little Water helps to control the latter but also takes away quite a bit of the character. Because this Single Malt certainly does not lack personality. You will remember Bladnoch once you've tasted it. It doesn't quite work for me but do give it a try when you encounter it as taste is of course a very personal matter. It is quite expensive as it has become a bit of a cult name in the Whisky world. Let's see if the new owners with their new equipment can come up with a slightly more balanced Whisky in the future without compromising the "old" Bladnoch style too much.

Jan van den Ende                                                               February 27, 2017

Miltonduff 1987 (Private Cellar) Review

“The Heart of Ballantine’s”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Miltonduff 1987
Bottled By: Forbes Ross & Co Ltd, Rutherglen (Private Cellar Series)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 20 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill-Filtration: No 
Whisky Review # 597
Buying Advice: 😒  Negative. Too expensive for what it offers.

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Based on Colour and Aroma I assume that this Miltonduff matured most likely in Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks. Be sure to give this Malt enough time in the glass as the Aromas are liberated quite slowly. My first impression is Strawberry Yogurt and that's quite unusual. On the Nose this Miltonduff is quite Light and a bit Introvert. The casks have not been very active. I further find traces of Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Honey, Vanilla, Pancakes with Maple Syrup, Citrus Peel, Apple, Pear, Banana, Pineapple, Peach, Resin, Floral Perfume, Grass, Nutella, Oak, Wax and Cinnamon.  

Palate: The Delivery is on the Light side. This Malt would have been better when bottled at 46%. On the Palate this Miltonduff is Bitter-Sweet and presents some Toasted Cereals, Barley Sugar, Vanilla, Caramel, Salted Almonds, light Honey, Lemon, Grapefruit, Oak, light Licorice, light Aniseed, Pepper, Cinnamon, light Tobacco, Wax, light tropical Fruit (Pineapple or perhaps Banana) and Cocoa.   

Finish: Rather Short, Bitter-Sweet and slightly Herbal with some Acid - and Metallic tones as well. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Almonds, Grapefruit Juice, Vanilla, Oak, light Tobacco, Dried Herbs, Pepper, light Menthol, light Aniseed, light Licorice, Lemon and, after a while,  Strawberry-Flavoured Milk Chocolate. 

I added a little Water and on the Nose you will get more Malty and Floral notes. Some Banana Ice Cream as well. Palate and Finish do not improve however.

Rating: 83.5 

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 21

General Remarks:

This distillery was founded in 1824 and is located in Elgin. A huge reconstruction of the distillery took place in 1974. It changed hands various times over the years but since 2005 it is owned by Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard). Most of the production is destined for the Chivas blends. More specifically, Miltonduff and Glenburgie form the heart of Ballantine's. You don't encounter many official Distillery Single Malts so you need to look for Indies. Forbes Ross was founded in 1953. Their current status is dissolved however. You can still find this Malt on the Internet. I've seen prices in the US Dollar 100/150 range (February 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good but without any Wow factor.

Conclusion: I'm not impressed by this Miltonduff, especially when you consider the current price level. It's not bad but it misses character and personality. I can see why most of the output of the distillery disappears in the Ballantine's Blend. Not at all my favourite Blend by the way. Some excellent casks could have given the Spirit a Face lift. I must conclude however that the casks weren't very active. This was only my first mature Miltonduff so unfortunately I can't make any comparisons. I will try to get some additional samples from more renowned Independent Bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail. Maybe that can change my mind about this Distillery. For the time being however I can't recommend this Single Malt as it is currently too expensive for what it offers.

Jan van den Ende                                                               February 24, 2017

Bruichladdich 1991 (WM Cadenhead) Review

“Licorice Laddy”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bruichladdich 1991
Bottled By: WM Cadenhead (Authentic Collection) 
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 21 Years
ABV: 52.1% 
Chill-Filtration: No 
Whisky Review # 596
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Good Price/Quality Ratio. Interesting but not exactly my type of Malt. 

Colour: Pale White Wine  (Natural Colour)

Nose: Very Light and Crisp for a Single Malt of this Age. Both the Colour and the Nose suggest a rather inactive cask. I pick up a little Varnish right at the start so it's important to give this Bruichladdich sufficient air contact. The Alcohol is quite strong at first and you need to find your way around it when nosing this Malt. On the Nose, this Malt is Floral, Fruity and Mineral with only the faintest note of Smoke. Quite a bit of Salt though. Other than that I find Malted Cereals, Toast, German Butter Biscuits, Grass, Wet Stone, Lemon, Pear, Vanilla, Nougat, Fresh Mint, Oak and hints of Canned Pineapple and Tobacco. A very Fresh and Medium-Creamy Bruichladdich without too much Depth and Complexity. 

Palate: Bitter-Sweet, Medium-Fruity, Malty and quite Mineral with Sweet Barley, Caramel, Vanilla, Apple, Pear, light Honey, Nougat, Lemon, Grapefruit, light Licorice, light Pepper, Salt, Mint, Oak, Herbal Tea and a very faint Smoky note.

Finish: Quite Long and Creamy. Too much Licorice as far as I'm concerned. I also find Malted Cereals, Barley Sugar, Grass, Mineral and Herbal notes, light Menthol, Pepper, Salt, Oak, Lemon, Grapefruit, Peach and light Nougat. Quite Dry in the end. This is my least favourite part of this Malt.

Due to the fact that I merely had a small sample at my disposal, I only tasted this Bruichladdich neat.

Rating: 84.5

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

General Remarks:

Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by Barnett Harvey. During its history it was mothballed various times, the last time in 1998. In 2012 the distillery was bought by Remy Cointreau. Since, Bruichladdich is showing a healthy growth again. The distillery produces three types of Single Malt, i.e. the unpeated Bruichladdich, the heavily peated Port Charlotte and the peat monster Octomore. The Bruichladdich I'm reviewing today was distilled in 1991 and matured for 21 Years in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead before it was bottled at Cask Strength in October 2013 by WM Cadenhead, the oldest Independent Bottler in Scotland that was founded in 1842 by William Cadenhead. Only 276 bottles went to the market and some bottles are still available at prices that are mostly in the US 90/130 range (February 2017). Not that expensive for a quality Single Malt of this age!  

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. A bit too much Licorice in the Finish for my taste!

Conclusion: This is an interesting Bruichladdich. It is similar to the 22 Years I reviewed earlier but it's not quite as good due to some details that might have been caused partly by the indifferent cask. In my opinion, this Cadenhead expression is not as complex, less Fruity and less Well-Balanced. The Licorice in the Finish is a bit too much for me. It's just not my kind of Whisky. Having said that I found the Nosing and Tasting experience quite interesting as I kept discovering new Aromas and Flavours all the time. They might not form a very coherent combo but they are there nevertheless. To sum it up, I liked the Tasting Experience but I wouldn't buy a full bottle. If you like the Aroma- and Flavour profile I have described however you could give it a try as it's reasonably priced for a 21 year old.

Jan van den Ende                                                               February 21, 2017

Dalmore 18 Years Review

“What If…?”

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: The Dalmore
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 595
Buying Advice: 😕  Negative. Good Malt but way too expensive. 

Colour: Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: The Sherry Cask influence is quite clear. I also pick up a little Sulphur but it's not really a problem here. I would have expected for the Alcohol to be fully integrated but that's not the case. It's quite noticeable actually. On the Nose, the Dalmore 18 Years is Rich and Sherry-Sweet with some Sour and Herbal notes as well. I find Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Brown Sugar, Butterscotch, Treacle, Toffee, Dried Fruits (Raisins, Sultanas, Apricot), Stewed Fruit (Apple, Strawberry and Pear), Red Wine, Vanilla, Orange Peel, Peanut Butter, Christmas Cake, Oak, light Licorice, light Aniseed, Cinnamon, light Ginger and hints of Dark Chocolate, Leather, Tobacco and Espresso. There's more than enough to discover on the Nose but the combo is slightly on the Heavy side. It might do well though as an after-dinner Whisky accompanied by a nice Medium-Strong Cigar. 

Palate: The Delivery is a little Thin. This really should have been bottled at around 46%. On the other hand the Alcohol itself remains quite noticeable. I know this sounds a bit like a paradox but I can't find a better way to describe it. I also find a light Sulphur/Rubber note again. Nothing too serious though. On the Palate this Dalmore is mostly Sweet and offers Malted Barley, Caramel, Stewed Apples and Pears, Plums, Dried Fruit (Raisins, Sultanas), Nuts, X-mas Cake, Marzipan, slightly Bitter Orange, Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Mulled Wine (spiced with Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove and Nutmeg), Licorice, Aniseed, Ginger, Mint and a few Herbs.   
Finish: Quite Long, Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Spicy. The Oak influence is quite clear by now and the end is a bit Dry and perhaps a tad too Bitter. I find Malted Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Treacle, Butterscotch, Bitter Orange, Marzipan filled with Almonds, Stewed Apples and Pears, Cocoa Powder, Mulled Wine spiced with Pepper, Clove, Cardamom and Cinnamon and hints of Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Plum Jam, Aniseed and Tobacco. The Alcohol remains noticeable.

Added water does not improve the Dalmore 18 Years in my opinion. I got some more Orange and Nuts on the Palate and some extra Tobacco in the Finish. My advise is to sip it neat. 

Rating: 85 

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

General Remarks:

The Dalmore distillery is located in Alness in the Northern Highlands. It was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson. In 2014 Emperador Inc. bought the distillery from Whyte & Mackay. The core range basically consists of the 12, 15, 18 and 25 Years Old plus the 1263 King Alexander III and the Cigar Malt. The 18 Years I'm tasting today matured for 14 Years in Ex-Bourbon Casks, followed by 3 Years in Ex-Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butts. Finally, the Spirit was married for another year in upstanding Ex-Sherry butts. The 18 Years is quite expensive at an average 140 US Dollars (February 2017). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. The Finish is perhaps a tad too Bitter.

Conclusion: Let me start by saying that the Dalmore 18 Years is not a bad Single Malt. Certainly not if you're into Sherried after dinner Malts. But it's quite expensive and at this price level it should have been bottled at at least 46%, it should not have been artificially coloured and it should not have been Chill-Filtered. The use of only first class casks could have saved us from the Sulphur notes and the slightly excessive Bitterness in the Finish. There are too many ifs and buts to fully recommend this 18 Years. Better stay with the Dalmore 15 Years if you want a better Price/Quality ratio. You might also consider the very easy-going Dalmore 12 Years if you want to try out this Distillery.

Jan van den Ende                                                               February 13, 2017

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Review

“Tears in Heaven”

Country: USA
Distillery: Heaven Hill, Kentucky
Brand: Rittenhouse Straight Rye
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Age: NAS (Said To Be Around 4 Years)
ABV: 40% 
Whisky Review # 594
Buying Advice: 😑 It's Okay if you're on a tight Budget. A Bit Young and Rough though. Good for Mixing! 

Colour: Dark Amber

Nose: Light and Young. Initially, I found some Varnish but it disappears over time. Both the Rye and Corn are noticeable. I also find Biscuits, Honey, Vanilla, Yeast, Brown Sugar, Toffee, Fresh Oak, Malt, Dusty Road, Compost, light Citrus, light Ginger, Cinnamon, Mint and some Floral notes that I can't exactly identify. It's not bad, certainly not at this Price Level. But there's an unfinished feel to this Rittenhouse. It's all a bit Young and Nervous. The Alcohol is not integrated which is no surprise at this age.  

Palate: The Arrival is a bit on the Thin side. On the Palate, this Rittenhouse is Bitter-Sweet with Rye, Corn, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Toffee, Caramel, light Citrus, Grass and Earth, Charred Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger and Gin infused with Herbs.  

Finish: On the Short side, Bitter, Herbal and Yeasty. Dry in the end with a light Metallic Off-Note. I find Rye, Dusty Road, Dirty Earth, Yeast, light Licorice, light Cinnamon, light Clove, Menthol, Pepper, Herbal Tea and a hint of Cocoa Powder (Toddy).

Due to the fact that I merely had a small sample at my disposal, I only tasted this Whiskey neat.

Rating: 80

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

General Remarks: Before the Prohibition (1920-1933), Rye Whiskey was mainly produced in Pennsylvania and Maryland. After the Prohibition Rye Whiskey practically disappeared but in the last 10 years or so it has become popular again. In the USA the law prescribes that Rye Whiskey is made from a Mash Bill that contains at least 51% Rye. The other ingredients are usually corn and a bit of Malted Barley. It is distilled to no more than 80% ABV and matures in New and Charred American White Oak barrels. Rye Whiskey that matured for at least 2 years and was not blended may be called Straight. Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey is nowadays produced at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown and is usually sold in the 18-25 US Dollar Range (February 2017). There's also a 100 Proof Bonded Rittenhouse Straight Rye available. I assume that the higher ABV will enhance the overall Aroma and Flavour Profile. Let's see if I can find a sample somewhere.

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: If you consider the price level, the Rittenhouse Straight Rye 80 Proof is not bad. It's very hard to find decent Scotch at this Price Level. On the other hand there's a Young and Edgy feel to it. An unfinished product if you will. I only had a small sample so I didn't try it out but I can imagine that this Rye would cool down over a bit of Ice. You can sip it neat but it's Borderline. The Finish is the worst part of this Whiskey and I didn't like the light Metallic Off-Note. If you're on a tight Budget, the Rittenhouse Straight Rye is certainly an option, especially if you use it for mixing purposes. I do feel however that the 100 Proof would be a big step forward.   

Jan van den Ende                                                                February 6, 2017

Cutty Sark Storm Review

“Great Value For Money”

Country: Scotland
Region: N/A
Brand: Cutty Sark Storm
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 593
Buying Advice: 😀 Positive. Good Price/Quality ratio. Just don't expect miracles! 

Colour: Light Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Mainly Sweet with some Sour and Salty accents. The Grain Alcohol is very present. A tiny bit of Smoke and Sherry in the background. I also find Toasted Cereals, Toast and Margarine, Earth and Grass, Brown Sugar, Treacle, Caramel, Butterscotch, some Nuts and Dried Fruits (Sultanas and Hazelnut), a little Fruit (Pineapple or perhaps Mango and overripe Bananas), light Citrus, Refill Wood, light Spices (Cinnamon and Nutmeg) and a hint of Tobacco. I can't get excited about this. It's still quite similar to the standard Cutty Sark I reviewed earlier. A bit more Fruit perhaps.     

Palate: Slightly Thin delivery. Light, Bitter Sweet and mildly Spicy. On the Palate and in the Finish, the Single Malt component is more noticeable. I find Toasted Cereals, light Honey, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Caramel, Dried Fruit (Apricot and Sultanas), Pear, slightly Bitter Orange, Vanilla, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mint, light Licorice, Charred Oak and a hint of Tobacco. The faintest puff of Smoke from a very distant fire.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and mildly Spicy. Dry towards the end. I find Sugared Cereals, Vanilla, Charred Oak, slightly Bitter Orange Juice, Menthol, light Licorice, Caramel, Corn Syrup, Sultanas, Pepper, light Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and a hint of Tobacco. On the Palate and in the Finish the Storm clearly beats the standard Cutty Sark.

Due to the fact that I merely had a small sample at my disposal, I only tasted this Blend neat.

Rating: 79.5

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

General Remarks:

The first Cutty Sark blend was created in 1923, at first especially for export to the USA during the Prohibition. The logo represents a drawing of a Sailing Ship constructed in Scotland in 1869 that bore the same name. Today the blend is still popular in the USA but also in countries like Spain and Portugal where it is often mixed.

In 2012 Cutty Sark's Master Blender Kirstin Campbell created the Storm. It has a higher Malt content than the Standard Cutty Sark and the Malts used are older as well. The blend consists of Grain Whiskies from Edinburgh's North British Distillery and is said to contain around 20 Single Malts, mainly from Speyside. At its heart lies Glenrothes. Other renowned contributions might include Tamdhu, Highland Park, Macallan and Bunnahabhain. The Grain whiskies are blended together and so are the Single Malts. Afterwards they are then “married” together. Cutty Sark is currently owned by the Edrington Group. The core range consists of the Cutty Sark, the Cutty Sark Storm and the 12 and 18 Years. The Storm is quite affordable and is usually priced in the 25-30 US Dollar range (February 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: The Storm is indeed an improvement over the regular Cutty Sark. Not so much on the Nose but certainly on the Palate and in the Finish where the higher Malt content is noticeable. I also didn't find any off notes in the Storm. At an average 25 US Dollars, the Storm has an excellent Price/Quality ratio and it easily beats most of the Bottom Shelf Blends. It's one of the few cheaper blends that you can actually enjoy neat although it's a bit Thin on the Palate. Don't expect Whisky Heaven when you buy the Storm because that's impossible at this price level. But it's an acceptable Blend with an excellent P/Q ratio. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Jan van den Ende                                                                February 2, 2017