Stronachie 18 Years (A.D. Rattray) Review

“It’s Graining Again”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Stronachie Small Batch
Distilled at: Benrinnes
Bottled by: A.D. Rattray Ltd. 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
ABV: 46% 
Chill-Filtration: Probably 
Whisky Review # 606
Buying Advice: 😑 Neutral. Price is okay. Malt is okay but forgettable. 

Colour: Pale Gold (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Based on the Colour and the Aromas I believe that this Stronachie mainly matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. There are some light Refill Ex-Sherry cask notes as well but they are a minority. My first impressions are Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Grass, Wax, Heather/Honey, Vanilla and some Citric notes (Lemon). The Alcohol is not fully integrated so avoid sticking your Nose in the middle of the Glass. After a while I get some Orange, Caramel, Milk Chocolate, Stone Fruit and Banana Ice Cream. Then light Spices like Pepper and Ginger and a hint of Dusty Charred Oak. On the Nose, this Stronachie is a bit simple and slightly boring but not totally unpleasant. The casks weren't very active ones if you ask me. It's a bit like the Cardhu 12 Years I reviewed earlier.

Palate: Sweet with some Bitter, Herbal and Spicy notes. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Toffee, Buttered Toast, Banana Ice Cream, Stone Fruit, Heather/Honey, Grass and Hay, Citrus (Lemon and Orange), Nuts, Wax, Dusty Road, Pepper, Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger and hints of Milk Chocolate and Charred Oak. 

Finish: Light and on the short side. Mainly Sweet but with a light Bitterness and some Mineral tones as well. The Barley plays its important part right until the end. I also find Peach flavoured Yogurt, Brown Sugar, Milk Chocolate, Vanilla, Honey, Orange, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Menthol, Aniseed, light Licorice and Lemon-Tea. 

I added a little Water and the Nose is basically reduced to Barley. Palate and Finish become quite Floral and you'll get lots of Fresh Mint in the Finish. You can carefully experiment with a little Water in this case. But be careful not to drown the Spirit.

Rating: 82.5   

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

General Remarks:

Stronachie was a Highland distillery that was active between 1890 and 1928. The Scottish agent for this whisky, the Independent bottler A.D. Rattray Ltd. has launched a small range under the Stronachie name. This Single Malt is actually distilled at Benrinnes, close to Aberlour. A.D. Rattray purchased a 1904 bottle of Stronachie  and compared it to lots of samples from many Highland distilleries. Benrinnes came closest to the original Stronachie Aroma and Flavour profile. The Stronachie 18 Years was launched in 2010 and matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon and Refill Ex-Sherry casks. It is not really expensive and is mainly priced in the 40-70 US Dollar range depending on where you live (March 2017). The other Stronachie in the range is the 10 Years old.

The Benrinnes Distillery was founded in 1826 by Peter McKenzie. It was destroyed twice in its early years, once by a flood (1829) and a fire (1896). The present distillery complex was built in 1955/1956. The current owner is Diageo and almost all of the production is destined for Blends like Johnnie Walker, J&B and Crawford's 3 Star.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good but a little Boring!

Conclusion: I can see why the Benrinnes is a good component for Blends. It has lots of Creamy Cereals, a little Fruit, a little Spice, a bit of Citrus, a few Herbs and some Floral notes. A reliable partner! On the other hand none of those Aromas and Flavours really stand out with the exception perhaps of the Barley. As a result, the Stronachie/Benrinnes is an easy going dram but without much depth and personality. Likable but boring at the same time. It's not expensive for an 18 Year old but always remember that (relatively) low prices won't buy you first class casks. In my opinion this Stronachie suffers from the use of many 3rd or 4th Refill casks. It could have been a better Singe Malt but as it stands it is most certainly drinkable but also extremely forgettable. 

Jan van den Ende                                       March 30, 2017 and June 24,2017

Amrut Intermediate Sherry Review

“Red Red Wine”

Country: India
Region: Southern Part
Brand: Amrut Intermediate Sherry
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Probably Around 5 Years)
ABV: 57.1% 
Chill-Filtration: No
Whisky Review # 605
Buying Advice: 😀  Positive if you like Sherry - and Port finished Whisky.

Colour: Deep Gold with a hint of Copper (Natural Colour)

Nose: I immediately sense the Virgin Oak Casks. It's a sort of Varnish Aroma that I always find when nosing Whisky that (partially) matured in this type of Wood. The Ex-Sherry - and Ex-Port casks influences are there as well. Despite the high ABV, the Alcohol is reasonably well-integrated. On the Nose, this Amrut reminds me of the Asian cuisine. A combination of Sweet and Sour with some Spices. I find Toasted Malt, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Vanilla, Blueberry Muffins, Unripe Banana, Pineapple, slightly Sour Grapes, Raisins, Tutti Frutti Bubblegum, Plum Jam, Citrus, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cinnamon, light Menthol, Oak and hints of Damp Leafs, Tobacco, Espresso and Leather. The Amrut Intermediate Sherry is not a classic Sherry Bomb but it does have strong Fortified Wine influences.

Palate: Strong delivery thanks to the high ABV. It's impossible to ignore the Alcohol by now. On the Palate, this Amrut is rather Dry and Bitter-Sweet with some Sour and Spicy Flavours in the mix as well. I find Toasted  Barley, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Banana, Grapes, Plum Jam, Dark Red Fruits, Honey, Nuts, Chocolate, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, light Menthol, Licorice, Aniseed, Grapefruit, Orange, Bourbon and hints of Tobacco, Leather and Espresso.

Finish: Quite Long, Fruity and Spicy. Again this combination of Sweet, Sour, Oak and Spices. The Alcohol is even more noticeable at this point. I find Sweet Malt, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit and Nuts, Orange - and Lemon Zest, Dark Red Fruit (Berries), Banana, Red Wine, Honey, Coconut, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ginger, light Aniseed, Nutmeg and hints of Bourbon, Dark Chocolate and Espresso.

I added a little Water and I found some extra Citrus on the Nose. On the Palate and in the Finish the Alcohol becomes less strong of course and Bananas invade your mouth. This Amrut certainly accepts some Water.

Rating: 87

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

General Remarks:

The first Amrut Distillery was founded in 1948 in Bangalore by the Jagdale family. They only started to distill Whisky for Blends in the 1980's. Their main products are Rum, Gin and Vodka. The first Single Malt was launched in 2004. As the climate in Southern India is very hot and humid, the spirit matures much faster than in Scotland. Most Amrut Malts are bottled after 4-6 Years. The oldest one is the recently released Greedy Angels 12 Years. The name of course refers to the high Angels Share that is lost each year to evaporation on account of the climatic conditions.

The Intermediate Sherry that I'm reviewing today is an annual limited edition. The sample I'm using was part of a batch bottled in 2014. The Spirit for this Malt firstly matures in a mix of Ex-Bourbon and virgin Oak casks. Subsequently it is transferred for 1 year to Ex-Oloroso casks from the South of Spain and probably Port Pipes from Portugal. Finally the Spirit returns to Ex-Bourbon casks for the final maturation before being bottled at- or near Cask Strength. The Amrut Intermediate is not cheap and usually sells at around 100 US Dollars (March 2017).    

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Amrut Intermediate Sherry is a well-crafted Single Malt. I must admit though that I would probably recognise it as a Port Finished Whisky in a Blind Tasting. The Fortified Red Wine influence seems to overpower the Sherry casks. Still there's enough to discover, both on the Nose and on the Palate. I do wonder how this Single Malt would taste without using Virgin Oak casks. To be honest, I'm not too fond of that characteristic Varnish Aroma. But all in all the Amrut distillery shows (like Kavalan from Taiwan) that it's quite possible to fully mature a Whisky in a relatively short period of time if your distillery is built in a region with a hot and humid climate. If you like Fortified Wine finished Whisky you should give the Amrut Intermediate a try. Unfortunately, this Single Malt can't be cheap considering the high Angel's Share. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 27, 2017

Campbeltown Loch 21 Years Review

“Indifferent Wood If You (C)Ask Me”

Country: Scotland
Region: Campbeltown
Brand: Campbeltown Loch
Produced by: Springbank Distillery, Campbeltown
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 21 Years
ABV: 40% 
Chill-Filtration: Information not available. 
Whisky Review # 604
Buying Advice: 😞 Negative. Too expensive for what it offers.

Colour: Pale Gold/White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose: Some Sweet Earthy Peat in the background suggests a bit of Longrow in the mix. I would assume that most of the Malt used for this Blend was matured in Refill Ex-Bourbon casks but there is a little Sherry influence as well. On the Nose, this Campbeltown Loch is not very outspoken. You would expect more depth given its age but on the other hand it is probably fair to assume that the best Springbank casks are used for the Single Malts. The Grain Alcohol is noticeable but a lot less than in your average Scottish Blend. I find Toasted Cereals, lightly Burnt Toast, Grass and Straw, Toffee, Vanilla Flavoured Candles, Caramel, Dried Fruit, light Honey, Grapefruit, Dried Banana Chips, Lemon Grass, Cinnamon, Salt and hints of Leather and Cardboard. You have to dig deep though to find some of these Aromas. The casks used were certainly not very active.    

Palate: Thin delivery. I'm glad to learn that the more recent 21 Years is now bottled at 46%. Although a higher ABV is sometimes used to hide weak Spirit. In the case of the 40% I'm tasting today there is nowhere to hide though. And unfortunately, the 21 Years does not convince me on the Palate. It's  Thin and there are some light Rubbery - and Metallic off-notes. I also find Sweet Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, light Earthy Peat, light Honey, slightly Bitter Salted Almonds, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice, Tobacco, Grapefruit Juice and a hint of stale Coffee. 

Finish: A little Thin, Middle-Long and mostly Bitter Sweet with some Sour - and Herbal notes as well. The Grain Alcohol is more noticeable at this point. Quite Dry towards the end with a light Metallic Off-Note. I find Toasted Cereals, Tea, Dried Herbs, Sweet Cereals, Caramel, light Sweet Peat, Refill Oak, Grapefruit Juice, Tobacco, light Leather, Pepper, Licorice and an unexpected hint of Salted Meat.  

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

Rating: 81.5   

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

The Springbank Distillery is one of the very few remaining producers of Campbeltown Single Malt. It's owned by J & A Mitchell & Co. Ltd. and produces three types of Whisky namely Springbank, that is distilled 2,5 times, the peated Longrow that is distilled twice and the unpeated and triple-distilled Hazelburn. Most of the Spirit is sold as Single Malt but a small quantity is reserved for the House Blends Campbeltown Loch (5 and 21 Years) and Mitchell's (12 Years). The Campbeltown Loch 21 I'm tasting today is said to be made of 60% Single Malt (Springbank and others) and 40% Grain Whisky (Girvan). Prices vary a lot from place to place as the 21 Years at 40% has been discontinued in the meantime. They are usually in the 80/160 US Dollar range (March 2017). In 2013, a new 21 Years was launched with new (Springbank like) packaging and an ABV of 46%.

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay 

Conclusion: I was expecting a lot more from this Campbeltown Loch 21 years, more so as I thought the NAS (5 Year Old) expression to be an edgy but honest young Whisky with a good Price/Quality ratio. In my opinion the Spirit has not at all benefited from an additional 16 years in the casks. This says something about the casks I'm afraid. It's impossible to create a good mature whisky using inactive - and/or indifferent casks. And in my opinion that's the case here. It's good that Springbank felt the need to give this Blend a face lift and I will try to get a sample of the 46% to see if the Distillery has succeeded in improving the quality of this Blend. As it stands I can't recommend this "old" 21 years bottled at 40%. Better buy a Springbank Single Malt!    

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 23, 2017

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997 Review

“Sweet Sixteen”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997 (Batch 4/502)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 16 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 603
Buying Advice: 😊 Positive. Good Malt although I personally prefer the regular 16 Years.

Colour: Rich Gold (Artificially coloured) 

Nose: This is only my second Lagavulin and I'm nosing and tasting this DE right after having reviewed the Lagavulin 16 Years for the second time. On the Nose, the 1997 DE is a bit shy in comparison. So be sure to give it enough time in the glass before Nosing. The PX finish did add some Aromas but also slightly diluted the Islay character of the Lagavulin. The Cold Smoke and Earthy Peat are still there off course but they remain in the background together with the soft Tar, the Soot, the Salt Water, the Fish and the Iodine. I find Toasted Barley, Brown Sugar, Treacle, Pine Resin, Dried Fruits (Raisins, Plums and Apples), Lemon, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Sour Red Grapes, Tobacco, Herbal Tea, Leather, Salted Almonds, Cinnamon, Cloves, Mint, Oregano and Dark Chocolate. The Nose is Sweet but not overly so and does present some Mineral notes as well. The Alcohol seems more present than in the 16 Years. Remarkable! It's a pleasant Nose but it is a little Shy and Laid-Back, especially in the direct confrontation with the 16 Years. 

Palate: Slightly Thin and quite a bit Sweeter as expected. The PX casks did their trick and manage to adjust the Islay features. If that's a good thing or not is up to one's personal taste. For me it's perhaps a little too sweet. I find Toasted Malt, Vanilla, Dusty Peat, light Cold Smoke, Ashes, Tar and Brine, lightly Smoked Fish or Shell Fish, Wet Grass, Tobacco, Leather, Herbal Tea, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Figs and Apple, slightly Sour Red Grapes, Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Mint, Licorice and hints of Cocoa and Dark Chocolate.  

Finish: Middle-Long and slightly Thin but pleasant and Well-Balanced with a good combination of Sweet, Sour, Salt, Oak and Spices. Perhaps a little Bitter towards the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Butter, Cold Smoke, Dusty Peat, Ashes, light Iodine, Green Apple, Lemon, slightly Sour Red Grapes, Tobacco, Salted Butter, Leather, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Licorice, Menthol, Oak, light Tar and a hint of Bitter Chocolate and Espresso.   

This Lagavulin does not like added Water. Better sip it neat!

Rating: 85.5   

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

General Remarks:

The Lagavulin Distillery is located near Port Ellen on the island of Islay. It was founded in 1816 by John Johnston. It's part of the Diageo Group. The distillery has a very limited core range i.e. the 12 Year old CS, the 16 and the Distillery Edition that was launched for the first time in 1998. It is basically a standard 16 Year old that matured in Ex-Bourbon casks before being finished for a couple of months in Ex-Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. Prices are usually in the 70-100 US Dollar range (March 2017). 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Lagavulin DE 1997 is a good Malt and an almost perfect way to start appreciating Islay Malts. It's a pleasure to sip this Malt and it is extremely drinkable. But it has some flaws when compared to the regular 16 years. The Nose of the DE is quite introvert and it needs a lot of time to open up. I also believe that any Sherry cask finish should enhance the character of the Spirit but not change it too much. In this case however the PX casks did their job a little too good in my opinion. As a result the Lagavulin DE 1997 became a very pleasant Single Malt that many people will enjoy. I did as well but it's a bit too much Middle of the Road. I miss the Edge and Bite of the regular 16 Years. With this statement the prosecution rests and will enjoy another dram. Because it is very drinkable!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 20, 2017

Royal Lochnagar 2009 Selected Reserve Review

“Royal Prices”

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands
Brand: Royal Lochnagar 2009 Selected Reserve 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 43% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 602
Buying Advice: 😃/😟  Positive as it's a nice Single Malt although it has its flaws. Worried, as it's currently too expensive.

Colour: Light Mahogany (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: The Sherry Cask influence is clear. There is a little bit of Sulphur around but it doesn't spoil the party. My first impression is a walk in the forest after a rain shower. Damp Leafs, the wet Stones on the path, the wet Moss, Resin and some Mushrooms. After a while we're back to Sherry basics with Brown Sugar, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apricots, Toffee, Caramel, Treacle, assorted Nuts, Plum Jam, Sweet Apple, Blueberries, Vanilla, Buttered Toast, Toasted Barley, Cinnamon, very light Pepper, Ginger, Oak, light Citrus and a hint of Tobacco. The Malt is certainly mature and the Alcohol is reasonably well integrated. This Royal Lochnagar deserves a slightly higher ABV.

Palate: Slightly Thin delivery on account of the relatively low ABV. On the Palate this Royal Lochnagar is mainly Sweet with some Fruit, Oak and Spices. I find Toasted Barley, Brown Sugar, Toffee, Caramel, Blueberry Cupcakes, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apple, light Citrus, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, very light Menthol and Latte. 

Finish: Mainly Sweet but with a few Sour notes as well. Slightly Thin and a bit too short. The Oak and Spices are quite obvious by now. I also find Toasted Barley, light Vanilla, Toffee, Sweet Red Apples, Dried Fruit, Latte, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cinnamon, Hazelnut-Chocolate and a hint of Orange Blossom.

I added a little Water and on the Nose you get images of a Latte accompanied by some Apple Pie and Cream. Palate and Finish do not change significantly but you can certainly experiment with a little Water here. 

Rating: 85.5   

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

Picture Credit: henridh

General Remarks:

The original Royal Lochnagar Distillery was built in 1823. It was destroyed by fire twice, respectively in 1824 and 1841. In 1845 it was rebuilt by John Begg. It was Queen Victoria's favourite distillery and received its Royal Warrant in 1848. It is located in Lochnagar, Royal Deeside near Balmoral Castle. The current owners are Diageo. Most of the production goes into Blends like Johnnie Walker Blue and Black and Windsor, the most popular Blend in South Korea that was launched in 1996. The core range consists of the 12 Years and the Selected Reserve.

The Selected Reserve is a limited yearly edition of specially selected casks of different vintages. It is launched to commemorate the very day that Queen Victoria visited the distillery in 1848. All bottles are individually numbered. The 2009 release numbered 2982 bottles. It most likely matured in a mix of Ex-Sherry and Ex-Bourbon Casks. This edition is said to contain Whisky of 18 years or older. It's quite expensive and is usually sold in the 150/200 US Dollar range (March 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: This Royal Lochnagar is a pleasant enough Single Malt but it should have been bottled at a slightly higher ABV. The price would surely justify that. As it is, Palate and Finish are on the Thin side and that's a pity because otherwise this Malt makes a mature and well-balanced impression. A good mix of Sweet and Sour, Fruit, Oak and Spices. I enjoyed the sample and would not mind buying a full bottle. The problem however is the price. It's way too expensive! I would kindly suggest Diageo to at least increase the ABV to 46% and present this Single Malt without added Caramel and without Chill-Filtration. It would result in a better Whisky that would justify its price! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 16, 2017


Dear Whisky Friends,

You may have noticed some problems with the Lay Out. We are trying to solve the issue as soon as possible!



Huxley Blend Review

“A Missed Opportunity”

Country: Scotland/Canada/USA 
Brand: Huxley Rare Genus Whiskey
Type: Blended Whisky/Whiskey
Age: NAS
ABV: 42% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 601
Buying Advice:😑 Indifferent. It's not expensive but it's boring and without any Wow factor.

Colour: Amber (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Young distillate. The Grain Alcohol is quite noticeable. Still, I have Nosed worse Whisky at this price level. Cereals, Hay and Toffee are the main drivers. I also find Buttered Toast, Yeast, Vanilla, Caramel, Wood Chips, Refill Oak, Dried Fruit (like Apples, Plums and Raisins), light Citrus, light Cinnamon, Mint, Resin and a very faint hint of Horse Saddles. It's not really bad but rather boring. I kind of expected more from this interesting experiment.

Palate: Slightly Thin and Harsh Delivery. On the Palate, the Huxley is Sugary Sweet with some Bitter, Spicy and Herbal elements. I find Toasted Cereals, Toast, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Toffee, Lemon, Grapefruit, Refill Oak, Sultanas, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cinnamon, Dried Herbs and a hint of Bananas.

Finish: Short, Spicy and Hot with Toasted Cereals, Toast, Toffee, Brown Sugar, Caramel, light Vanilla light Salty Licorice, Ginger, Pepper, Nutmeg, Lemon Juice, Grapefruit Juice, light Cinnamon and a faint hint of Burned Bananas.

The Huxley does not improve with added Water except for the fact that you take out a bit of the Harsh Alcohol. It does get very Thin though.

Rating: 76

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19 - Finish: 18.8 - Overall: 18.5

General Remarks:

After Boxing Hares and Smoky Goat, Diageo's Whisky Union Team launched the Huxley Rare Genus Whiskey in July 2016. All three of these experimental Whiskies were designed to invite the consumers to "uncharted territory". This latest expression is named in honour of T.H. Huxley, a 19th century anatomist. The label features a "Mobsprey", a mythical hybrid beast that is part Moose, part Osprey and part Bobcat. This makes sense as the Huxley is a combination of Whisky/Whiskey from Scotland, Canada and the USA. The Scottish part in the mix contains both Malt - and Grain Whisky. The Huxley was primarily released in Austria and Germany to test the market. In the meantime it's available elsewhere as well. Prices are usually in the 25 to 30 US Dollar range (March 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay but no more than that!

Conclusion: On paper, the Huxley experiment sounds interesting enough. Indeed I believe it's the first time that somebody officially mixed some Scottish, Canadian and American Whisk(e)y and brought it to the market. Full kudos for the initiative! But the makers also wanted to keep the price as low as possible. And a quality Whisky at a low price is impossible considering today's market circumstances. The Huxley clearly shows this dilemma. I mainly detect Scottish Grain Alcohol and Canadian Whisky. It's almost impossible to clearly identify Malt Whisky and Bourbon. And the Refill ex-Bourbon casks used are of indifferent quality. The end result is not really bad but extremely boring, slightly harsh and overall disappointing. In my opinion, Diageo should review this idea and experiment with better ingredients and active casks. As it stands, Huxley is a good idea but also a missed opportunity!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 13, 2017