Highland Park Spirit of the Bear Review


“Teddy Bear”

Whisky Review # 834

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park Spirit of the Bear
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Mix of Bourbon Casks and Sherry Seasoned American Oak Casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 45-60 (September 2019)
Price/Quality Ratio: Okay if you can find it at around US$ 45
Buying Advice: 😔It's not bad but better stick with the HP 10 or 12 Years

Colour:

Golden Straw (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young, Light, Thin, slightly Musty, Mineral and Sweet but not in an unpleasant way. Smoke and Peat (Dry Earth) are quite present and so is the Alcohol. There is some Sherry Wood influence but the 40% waters that down considerably.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Apple-Filled Puff Pastry, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Mixed Dried Fruit like Raisins and Prunes, Orange Peel, Cinnamon and Ginger.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Salted Caramel, Nuts and Nutshells, Wax, Lemon, Pear, Coconut, Gooseberry, Wet Stones, Iron, Caffe Latte, Wood Pellets, Nutmeg, Pepper, Banana-Flavoured Yogurt, Menthol and Leather.



Palate:

Young, Thin, Watery, Bitter-Sweet and Medium Dry. It doesn't taste bad but it's so Watered Down it looses all energy. The Alcohol is not really integrated.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Toast, Vanilla, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Grass and Straw, Nuts & Nutshells, Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pepper, Ginger and Herbal Tea.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Iron, Wet Stones, Lemon, Tart Apple Juice,  Bacon, Caffe Latte, Cocoa Powder and Tobacco.


Finish:

Short/Middle Long and Bitter-Sweet. This is the most forgettable part without any doubt. Really Thin. I find Toasted Malt, slightly Burnt Toast, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Grass and Straw, Seville Orange, Nuts and Nutshells, Lemon, Herbal Tea, Licorice, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Tobacco, Cocoa Powder and Toasted Oak.

Drinking Advice:

This Bear does not need added Water. It's Thin enough as it is.

Rating: 80.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 20

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

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 2.3 million litres of Alcohol and is owned since 1997 by the Edrington Group. The core range consists of the 10 years (Viking Scars), the 12 years (Viking Honour), the 18 years (Viking Pride), the 25, 30 and 40 years.

The Story behind this Single Malt is the following: Many Viking warriors believed they could channel the Spirit of the Great Forrest Bear by assuming its form wrapping themselves in Bear skins. Bears were admired for being resilient and self sufficient with a highly developed instinct for survival.

The Spirit of the Bear was released in 2018 as a part of the revived Travel Retail range. I'm not gonna start raving again about Highland Park's Viking obsession as my opinion on the subject is well-known. But I can't help noticing that this Spirit of the Bear is another one of this endless stream of Highland Park malts that are not better and usually more expensive than the core range. It's not a bad Single malt but it smells and tastes so utterly watered down that you will loose interest quite quickly. I don't see much similarities with Great Forrest Bears either. This is a Teddy Bear at best!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 26, 2019

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2019

Ardnamurchan 2018 AD 03 Review

Image result for ardnamurchan spirit 2018 03

“Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Whisky Review # 833

Country: Scotland
Region: Western Highlands
Brand: Ardnamurchan 2018 AD - Limited Release # 03 - 4916 Bottles
Type: Spirit - Bottled: 2018
Age: NAS (Around 1 Year)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 55.3%
Maturation: Vatting of 29 1st Fill Ex-Sherry Oloroso and PX Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 65-85 (September 2019)
Price/Quality Ratio: Negative. Way too expensive for such a young Spirit.
Buying Advice: 😐Interesting but very young Spirit. Buy a sample first! 

Colour:

Dark Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young, Edgy, Fruity and slightly Thin Spirit. The Alcohol is certainly noticeable. I must admit though that it's hard to believe we are nosing a 1 Year old Spirit. The First-Fill casks did a really good job here. On the Nose this Ardnamurchan presents mainly Sweet- but also a few Sour notes. On the whole a very positive surprise considering its short maturation.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Toffee, Mixed Fruits and Nuts including Raisins, Dates, Hazelnuts and Peanuts, Seville Oranges, Yeast, Factory Smoke, Dirty Earth, Leather, Wet Rocks & Cinnamon.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Cake, Caramel, Sour Berries, Tinned Pineapple, Apple-Vinegar, Mango-Flavoured Yogurt, Varnish, Iron, Pepper and Nutmeg.

Image result for ardnamurchan distillery

Palate:

Young, Sharp, Dry & Smoky. It not unlike a Young Islay actually. On the Palate you will find an array of Sweet, Sour and Bitter notes. The Alcohol is very much present.

Main Flavours:

Toffee, Salted Caramel, Factory Smoke, Dirty Earth, Ashes, Soot, Wet Rocks, Red Apple, Seville Oranges, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Gooseberries, Wax and Pepper.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Sweet Barley, Dried Fruit like Sultanas and Plums, Apple-Vinegar, Cheap Red Wine, Wood Pellets, Tinned Pineapple, Pork on the BBQ, Licorice and Menthol.

Finish:

Short to Middle Long with Sweet, Sour and Bitter notes. Its Youth is clear now and the Alcohol is quite Strong. Quite Dry in the end as well. Peat and Factory Smoke are more pronounced than on the Nose. I also find Sweet Barley, Toffee, Salted Caramel, Wood Pellets, Apple-Vinegar, Gooseberries, Cherry-Flavoured Cough-Syrup, Bitter Orange Juice, Varnish, Iron, Ashes, Soot, Menthol, Pepper and Licorice.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and that tames the Alcohol of course which by itself is a good thing. You're left with a sort of Fruity Peat-Water mixed with Porridge. Palate and Finish relax a bit with the added Water although the overall Aroma and Flavour profile does not change dramatically. There's room to experiment with a few drops.

Rating: 81.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay. Good when you consider the terribly short maturation.

Conclusion:

Ardnamurchan was founded recently in 2014 in Glenbeg, Ardnamurchan, Argyll, just north of Mull. It is owned by the independent bottler Adelphi Distillery Ltd. Production started in July 2014. Annual production will amount to around 420.000 litres. Half of the year the distillery produces unpeated Spirit while during the other half peated Spirit is produced (30-35 PPM). Adelphi plans to release a mature Spirit each year until 2021 when the first Single Malt will be bottled. Today we are tasting the 2018 Edition # 3 that included both unpeated and peated Barley in the mash-bill.

I was really surprised with the Aroma/Flavour level of this Spirit given its ultra-short maturation. These Sherry-Flavoured casks have really done a good job. I am impressed. Nevertheless it's still a young Spirit and you can't and shouldn't compare it to a fully matured Single Malt. But it's sufficiently interesting to look forward to the first fully matured Ardnamurchan Single Malt. I have a feeling it will be quite good if and when the distillery continues to work with good quality casks. In any case I wish the team of Ardnamurchan the best of luck!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 23, 2019

Image result for ardnamurchan distillery

Queen I Review


Image result for queen I album

“A Queen is Born”

Album: Queen I 
Artist:  Queen
Released: 1973
Producer: John Anthony, Roy Baker and Queen
Label: EMI

The Band:
Freddie Mercury Vocals, Piano
Brian May Guitars, Vocals, Piano
John Deacon Bass
Roger Taylor Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Songs: Keep Yourself Alive, Doing All Right, Great King Rat, My Fairy King, Liar, The Night Comes Down, Modern Times Rock & Roll, Son and Daughter, Jesus, Seven Seas of Rhye. 

Type of Music: Hard Rock/Metal/Glam Rock

Comments:

If you don’t own this album, it’s quite likely that you will only know one track. All Classic Rock stations play Keep Yourself Alive regularly. I also doubt if Metal fans of bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or even Judas Priest have ever considered listening to Queen’s debut album. In short, few people will know this album in a thorough way. 
We shall therefore try and reveal the first public performance of our beloved Queen.

In fact they were already touring for a couple of years before releasing their first album. The album took about two years to make as they could only afford to hire the studio at night at lower costs.

When I first listened to this album I was quite surprised. On the surface it appears to be a straight (Hard) Rock Album that must have inspired bands like the Scorpions, the Michael Schenker Group and others. Few songs are really bad but none of them is really great as well. 

After a second and a third listen you will appreciate however that all the ingredients that will eventually lead to A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races are already there: Brian’s guitar, Freddie’s Drama, the solid rhythm section, the complex melodies, often with Spanish and Arabic influences and the somewhat theatrically styled lyrics. And always a balance between rockers and ballads.   

So the ingredients are there to produce a great album. And the band would do so in the future. Queen’s debut album however can be compared with a rough diamond. It glitters but it still needs a lot of polishing and craftsmanship to really shine. 

On the other hand, the album has a rough enthusiasm that would disappear on future records. And that makes it an interesting listen for sure. Best songs are the ballad Doing All Right that reminds me of Yes, and My Fairy King and Liar. These last two songs clearly point in the direction of a certain Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Conclusion:  Queen’s debut album is a Hard Rocking effort with all the ingredients of future success but lacking strong melodies and hooks. And the production is extremely muddy. Be sure to get the Re-Mastered version.

Rating: Maximum Points                          

Average Song Quality                          5,50 10
Production/Sound Quality                     6,00 10
Do I want to hear it again soon?           5,50 10

Who should buy this Record: Only For Queen Fanatics and Hard Rock/Metal freaks.
Image result for queen I album

Roe & Co Batch 1 Review


“The Irish Walker”

Whisky Review # 832

Country: Ireland
Brand: Roe & Co. Batch # 1
Distilled: Unknown
Bottled By: Roe & Co, Dublin (Diageo)
Type: Blended Irish Whiskey
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 45%
Maturation: First Fill and Refill Ex Bourbon casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 25-35 (September 2019)
Buying Advice:😒There's good well-priced Irish Whiskey. So why go for Roe?

Colour:

Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Young, Light and Sweet. The Grain Alcohol is clearly noticeable. There's not a lot of Depth on the Nose. Hints of Rye Whiskey and Peppered Vodka.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Grains, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Artificially-Flavoured Candies (Pear, Apple), Dusty Wood, Dusty Track, Varnish, Dried Herbs, Rye, Pepper, Ginger and Menthol.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Caramel, Toffee, Molasses, Honey, Orange, Banana Leaves, Lemon-Flavoured Detergent, Nut Shells, Caffe Latte, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Tobacco.

Image result for st,.james gate distillery
Design of the New Still House
Palate:

Young and Sugary Sweet with a few Bitter and Sour notes. The Grain Alcohol is way too present & it tastes like a combination of Blended Scotch, Rye Whiskey, Slivovitz and Peppered Vodka. It didn't really invite me to have another sip.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Grains, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Green Apple, Unripe Banana, Bitter Orange Juice, Dusty Oak, Grass, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Cinnamon and Menthol. 

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Molasses, Honey, Nut Shells, Lemon, Pear Drops, Bounty Bars, Dusty Earth, Nutmeg, Rye and Aniseed.

Finish:

Short and Sugary-Sweet. Increasing Bitterness and Sourness towards the end. Quite Creamy though. I find Toasted Grains, Grain Alcohol, Burnt Toast, Toffee, Honey, Dried Herbs, Rye, Green Apple, Unripe Pear, Bitter Orange Juice, Dairy, Dusty Oak, Iron, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Nut Shells and Menthol.

Drinking Advice:

Added Water weakens this Blend even more. This is not a sipping Whisky.

Rating: 79

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Regular

Conclusion:

The Brand Roe & Co was launched by George Roe & Co in the 19th century. Its Distillery in Thomas Street, Dublin was the largest in the country at that time. The Brand name was bought by Diageo, losing out on the Irish Market after having sold Bushmills a few years ago. Diageo is also building a new distillery to be called St. James's Gate and situated quite close to the site of the old George Roe distillery. In anticipation, Diageo launched the Roe & Co Blend in 2017. It's a Blend of Grain and Single Malt Whisky and a high number of First-Fill Bourbon casks are said to have been used for maturation. The Blend is bottled at 45% and is not Chill-Filtered. Every bottle mentions the Batch # and Bottle Number. Various distilleries supply the ingredients for the Blend.

Diageo presents this Roe & Co as a luxury Blend, especially suitable for cocktails and long-drinks. Bottle and Presentation are certainly nice but since I'm not really much of a cocktail fan I wouldn't know about the mixing qualities. I do know it's not a sipping Whiskey! It's very Young & Sugary Sweet and the Grain Alcohol rules. I can't detect any substantial Malt influence. It smells and tastes like a mixture of Bottom Shelf Blended Scottish Whisky, Rye Whiskey, Slivovitz and Peppered Vodka. In short it's not my thing. Johnny Walker Red goes Irish! Help!!!!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                          September 17, 2019

Image result for st,.james gate distillery

GlenDronach 10 Years Forgue Review



“The Road To Hell”

Whisky Review # 831

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands
Brand: GlenDronach Forgue
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Bottled: 2018
Age: 10 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Ex-Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 50-70 (September 2019)
Buying Advice👎 The 12 Years is better and cheaper!

Colour:

Pale Copper with shades of Orange and Brown (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young, slightly Thin & Fruity. Sweet and Sour tones. The Sherry cask influence is not overwhelming. Probably 2nd and 3rd Refill casks. Perhaps a little Sulphur but nothing serious. On the Nose this Forgue presents a combination of Fresh and Dried Fruits, Nuts, Barley and Spices.

Main Aromas:

Malted Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Grass and Straw, Fruit Cake with Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricots and roasted Almonds, Mulled Wine spiced with Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg and Cloves, Dark Red Fruit, Orange and Toasted Oak.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Syrup, Brown Sugar, Milk Chocolate, Red Apple, Peach,  Caffe Latte and Dusty Road.



Palate:

Sweet, Fruity, Spicy, Young and ever so slightly on the Thin side.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Toffee, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas and Apricots, Orange, Dark Red Fruit like Berries and Cherries, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Cardamom, Caffe Latte and Milk Chocolate.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Syrup, Butter, Nutella, Straw, Yeast, Red Wine, Peach, Dusty Track, Tobacco and Bounty Bars.


Finish:

Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet. A little Alcohol kick right at the end. Wood and Wood Spices take control over the Fruit. I find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Caramel, Toffee, Milk Chocolate, Caffe Latte, Orange, Grapefruit, Gooseberry, Raspberry, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Cardamom, Toasted Oak and hints of Tobacco and Tea.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and the Fruity tones develop. Peach and Apricot become quite clear. The Oak and Spices take maximum control on the Palate and most of all in the Finish. You can carefully add four drops of Water but no more than that.

Rating: 82.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

GlenDronach was founded in 1826 by James Allardice in Forgue, Aberdeenshire. It changed hands various times before being acquired in 2016 by Brown Forman. The core range consists of the Hielan 8 Years, the 12 Years, the 18 Y Allardice, the 21 Years Parliament and the 25 Years Grandeur. In 2018 two Travel retail expressions were launched being the 10 Years Forgue I'm reviewing today as well as the 16 Years old Boynsmill. We visited the distillery in May this year and we had an unforgettable time there. I will treasure this memory for always. A very nice Tour and a tasting that included the whole range of the distillery plus some extras. Great! I can only fully recommend a visit!

The 10 Years old Forgue is an attempt to put GlenDronach on he Travel-Retail market. It's Non Chill-Filtered, does not contain artificial colouring and is bottled at a reasonable 43% although 46% would have been better of course. It's not a bad Single Malt but it's not as good as all the other GlenDronach Malts I have tasted with the exception of the 8 Year old Hielan. But I quite clearly prefer the 12 Years and, believe it or not, the last one is cheaper than the Forgue. That does not make sense and I hope that GlenDronach (one of my favourite Malts) will review this policy in the future. GlenDronach always put Quality first and Marketing second and I do hope it stays that way. Too many popular distilleries have gone the other way around unfortunately!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                            September 12, 2019


All Pictures were taken during our visit to GlenDronach in May 2019