Teacher's Golden Thistle



”There’s No Thistle Without Thorns”


Whisky Review # 927

Country: Scotland
Brand: Teacher's Golden Thistle
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Mix of American & European Oak with Islay Cask Finish (Laphroaig)
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range : US$ 17-23 (August 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👍 Very competitive at this Price Level
Buying Advice: 😐 If you like Teacher's you should surely give this one a try. 

Colour:

Amber (Artificially Colored)

Nose:

The Nose is mainly Sweet and on the Thin side. The Grain Alcohol is noticeable but not in an aggressive way. I can't find any disturbing off-notes. We can safely state that the Islay Finish must have been short and that 3rd and/or 4th refill casks were used as the coastal peat element is basically non-existing. There is a very faint hint of Peatsmoke but it's of the earthy Ardmore variety. Still, I have nosed far worse at this price level.

Main Aromas:

Malted Cereals, Toast & Margarine, Caramel, Sugar, Grain Alcohol, Unripe Orchard Fruit, Peanuts, (Dried) Red Fruit and Leather.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Sweet Barley, Treacle, Citrus, Peat/Smoke, Cocoa Powder, Straw, Mint, Licorice and hints of Cooked Vegetables/Potatoes.


Palate:

Rather Thin. A mix of Sugary Sweet, Sour and lightly Bitter notes. The Alcohol is more noticeable now but given its price class it stays within reason. The overall picture is less aggressive when compared to the Highland Cream and the Clan.

Main Flavours:

Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Caramel, Grain Alcohol, Peatsmoke, (Dried) Red Fruit, Green Apple, Lemon, Nut Shells, Pepper, Licorice and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:
   
Vanilla, Toffee, Syrup, Straw, Sweet Barley, Cocoa Powder, Peanuts and Leather.

Finish:

Short/Middle-Long, rather Thin and mainly (Sugary) Sweet. A few Bitter notes from the casks and a little Heat caused by the Grain Alcohol. This is easily the worst part of this Blend. I find some Sugared Grains, Grain Alcohol, Toffee, Caramel, Wax, Refill Oak, Peatsmoke, Nut Shells, Menthol, Pepper, Licorice and Leather.

Drinking Advice:

A little Water enhances the Fruit on the Nose but totally kills Palate and Finish. I will finish this bottle on the Rocks as it's the most agreeable way to enjoy this Thistle.

Rating: 76.5

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 17.5 - Overall: 19

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay

Drinking Experience On the Rocks: Good

Conclusion:

When William Teacher commisioned his new Office in Glasgow in 1875 he used the national flower of Glasgow, the Thistle as a key design element on the front of the building symbolizing strength & beauty. The building, made with Golden Sandstone is still a very recognizable Glasgow icon and a long standing tribute to W. Teacher's famous blend. Teacher's Highland Cream is one of the best selling blends in Brazil, especially in the North-East. Brazil and India are two of the main markets for the Golden Thistle 12 Years. The Grain Whisky and the Malt Whisky with Ardmore and Auchentoshan as the main ingredients are matured, blended & finished in Scotland before being shipped in bulk to Brazil where the blend is diluted to 40% and bottled.

Let me start by saying that the presentation of this Thistle is quite nice. Box, Bottle and Label are all a big step up when compared to the standard Teacher's. The 2nd positive thing to mention is its price. Quite competitive in the battle with JW Red and the likes. And quality wise it's a little step up when compared to the Clan and the Highland Cream. Quite enjoyable on the Rocks as well. But still too Thin, too Bland and too Edgy to enjoy as a sipping Whisky. I'm not a huge fan of Teacher's in general but this is the way forward in my opinion! Let's see if the sales figures confirm my view!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                        August 26, 2021

Ardmore, the spiritual Home of Teacher's

Bowmore 25 Years



” Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”


Whisky Review # 926
Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: 25 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Mix of Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry Casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 320-380 (August 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎 Way too expensive for what it offers!
Buying Advice: 👎Quite Thin and all-around disappointing for a 25 Years!

Colour: Mahogany (Artificially Colored)

Nose:

The delivery is a bit on the Thin side. A Single Malt this old should at least have an ABV of 46% or, preferably, Cask Strength. Corporate minds produce corporate Malts that obtain corporate profits. It's a pity really! The Nose is mainly Sweet but a few Sour and Salty notes offer some balance in this department. The Peat and Smoke are still there of course but the years have mellowed them down considerably. The Nose is okay I suppose with some Coastal, Floral, Herbal, Sherry & Fruity notes but I was expecting much more.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, (Dark) Red Berries, Plum/Strawberry Jam, Campfire Smoke, Forest Floor, Strong Tea/Espresso, Dark Chocolate, Tobacco, Dried Herbs, Floral Soap and Cinnamon.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Lemon, Grapefruit, Green Apple, Iodine, Leather, Wax, Dried Fruit/Nuts mix, Cloves, Mint and Old Wood.


Palate:

Quite disappointing really. I'm a huge fan of well-matured Islay malt with its Creamy mouthfeel, perfect Wood and laid back Peat/Smoke but this one is simply not working for me. Way too Thin and Bland. I absolutely would not give this 25 years in a Blind tasting! The palate is an unassuming mix of (Sugary) Sweet, Bitter and Sour notes. Not really bad but again I was expecting much more. Bowmore is not my favorite Islay Malt and this 25 Years does nothing to change my mind. If you like mature Bowmore, better go for the 18 Years.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Toasted Malt, Burnt Toast, Salted Caramel, Hazelnut/Raisin Dark Chocolate, Campfire Smoke, Forest Floor, Strong Tea/Espresso, Dried Fruit like Plums & Figs, Mixed Nuts (Hazelnut, Walnut), Floral Soap, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon and Cloves.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Vanilla, Cotton-Candy, Cocoa Powder, Lemon, Grapefruit, Dusty Oak/Cellar, Cigar Ashes, Iron, Mint and Cherry-Flavored Cough Syrup.


Finish:

Middle-Long and on the Thin side. Mainly Sweet with a few Sour and Bitter accents. You hardly notice the Alcohol. The aftertaste quickly becomes quite Dry and slightly Metallic like when you've bitten a coin. Not that I do that a lot of course but...you get the picture. The Finish is easily the weakest part of this Bowmore. I find Toasted Malt, Burnt Toast, Burnt Heather, Salted Caramel, Herbal Tea, Campfire Smoke, Garden Compost, Strong Stale Espresso, Dried Fruit like Prunes & Figs, Mixed Nuts, Dark Chocolate, Cigar Ashes, Soot, Lemon, Grapefruit, Mint, Dusty Oak, Leather, Tobacco, Soap and Cherry-Flavored Cough Syrup.

Drinking Advice:

It's no use adding Water to this Bowmore. It's already too Thin as presented.

Rating: 85

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Not bad but thoroughly disappointing!

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 2 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.

I was really looking forward to tasting this 25-Year old Bowmore and given its salty price-tag I was expecting a lot. Unfortunately though, I don't think I've ever been quite as disappointed when tasting a mature Islay Malt. Let me start by saying that it's not a bad Single Malt but at this age and this price level it should be nothing else but great and it isn't. Way too Thin and, yes, boring. Indifferent casks as well. And we're expected to pay over 300 Dollars for this. No way! Bowmore can produce great mature Malts and the late great but extinct 17 Years is one of my all-time favorite Single Malts. But this 25 Years old hurts and not only your wallet!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                        August 11, 2021

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2014

Laphroaig Four Oak Re-Visit August 2021


”Water of Life”


Whisky Review # 925

History:

On February 8, 2019 I reviewed a sample of the NAS Laphroaig Four Oak, bought from my reliable Dutch supplier Whiskysite. I was not impressed to put it mildly and it was one the worst Laphroaig expressions I have tasted so far. Let's start with an edited shorter version of the above mentioned Review. You can see the complete review here.

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Laphroaig Four Oak
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Bourbon, Quarter, Virgin American Oak, European Oak Hogsheads
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 55-75 (February 2019)
Buying Advice: 😡Come On Laphroaig, you can do much better! P/Q ratio: 👎

Nose:

Young, Light, Sour and Dusty. Some of the famous Laphroaig Aromas are there but in a Watered-Down form. Re-Fill Wood and New Oak are noticeable and so is the Alcohol. The Nose is not really bad but it kinda smells like work in progress.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Cereals, Slightly Burnt Toast, Dirty Peat, Cold Smoke, Caramel, Lemon Ice Tea, Grass, Green Apple, Unripe Banana, Wood Pellets, Smoked Fish, Floral Soap, Salt and Espresso.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Iodine, Soot, Ashes, Tar, Plastic, Rubber, Gas Station, Cheese, Mineral notes, Bounty Candy Bars and a hint of Sweaty Feet.


Palate
:


Young and Thin. A mix of Sugary Sweet and Sour notes. Lots of Alcohol. Again this feeling of Unfinished Business.

Main Flavours:

Peated Grist, Dirty Peat, Cold Smoke, Salted Caramel, Floral Perfume, Smoked Fish and Shellfish, Green Apple, Pear, Green Banana, Lemon, Licorice, Pepper & Nutmeg.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toasted Nuts, Vanilla, Soot, Ashes, Tar, Plastic, Rubber, Iron and Espresso.

Finish:

Middle-Long and very Thin. A mixture of Sugary Sweet & Sour with some Bitterness that develops with time. Medium Dry. I find Peated Grist, Salted Caramel, Dirty Peat, Cold Smoke, Soot, Ashes, Brine, Iodine, Floral Soap, Lemon, Grapefruit, Smoked Fish & Shellfish, Vanilla, Espresso, Licorice, Pepper, Nutmeg and Casted Iron. Clearly a very young Islay Malt. The Alcohol is still noticeable.

Rating: 78

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

Conclusion:

Whisky derives from the old Scottish Gaelic word Uisge-Beatha, Water of Life. It seems to me that Laphroaig takes this a bit too literally with this Four Oak. You use Water for making Whisky but it should not taste as such! Laphroaig used to be a Single Malt that you either liked or hated. With Single Malts like the Four Oak that's not the case anymore. This is overpriced young Islay malt that should probably convince newbies that Peated Whisky is not something you should be afraid of. I know there's a shortage of aged Spirit and I know there's a shortage of good and affordable casks. But I also know that you can't (yet) replace sufficient maturation by New Wood and Smaller Casks.  The Four Oak is a good example of that. It smells and tastes like a rush job. I don't think that Laphroaig is doing itself and the market a favour by releasing Single Malts like this. This is not the way to go. Laphroaig should not be a whisky that's kinda Peaty, kinda Light, kinda Watery and kinda okay.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Re-Visit Laphroaig Four Oak

About a month ago I received a full bottle of the Four Oak as a gift. It was bought at the Travel Retail Shop of the Frankfurt Airport in Germany. I opened the bottle and decided to give the Four Oak another chance. Here are my findings:

Nose:

Not much to add or subtract to my original findings. I think they're spot-on. I do find it a little less Dusty and I will add 0,5 points to the Nose accordingly.

Palate:

It's almost a Peat-flavored Gin. Okay, perhaps I'm exagerating a little but you get the picture. My notes of two years ago totally stand.

Finish:

Very Thin and the worst part of this Laphroaig. No reasons to change the score.

Conclusion:

The Laphroaig Four Oak deserved a second chance on account of the fact that sometimes you will find differences between samples and a full bottle. But that's not the case here. The Four Oak simply isn't a well-made Single Malt and I can't begin to understand why such a fine Distillery would launch a mediocre Malt like this if not out of necessity for lack of aged Spirit and good affordable casks. In any case I do believe that the Whisky Industry should not extensively enter this Road to Nowhere. I added half a point to the Nose so the final score of this Re-Visit is 78.5. And that's not something that Laphroaig should be proud of! 😠

Rating: 78.5 

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

Jan van den Ende                                                                         August 4, 2021 

Maker's Mark 101


”Love on the Rocks”


Whisky Review # 924

Country: USA
Region: Kentucky
Brand: Maker's Mark 101
Distilled at: Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto, Kentucky
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Age: NAS (said to be around 6 Years)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50.5%
Maturation: Fresh Charred American Oak Bourbon casks
Chill-Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 35-50 (July 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👍
Buying Advice: 👍 Delicious on the Rocks!

Colour: Bronze (Natural Color)

Nose:

Vanilla and Fruit-filled Puff Pastry are the first impressions. It's quite Sweet but in a sort of relaxing way. The extra Alcohol provides some steroids and my advise would be to Nose along the edges of your glass. You will get much more Fruit that way. I like the Nose of Maker's Mark in general and this is no exception.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Corn, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Toffee, Creme Catalan, Fresh Peach-filled Puff-Pastry, English Breakfast Orange Marmalade, Sawdust, Cinnamon, Cloves, Aniseed and a few Fresh Herbs. 
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Sweet Barley/Grain, Honey, Caramel, Demerara Sugar, Golden Syrup, Cooked Apple, Strawberry Yogurt , Resin, Milk Chocolate, Charred Oak, Leather and a pinch of squeezed Lemon.


Palate:

The Alcohol is noticeable and Wood and Spices come to the front at the expense of the Fruit. Sweet, Bitter and Sour notes are all part of the mix.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Corn, Vanilla, Caramel, Cherry Mint, Apple, Orange Marmalade, Resin, Charred Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Menthol and Aniseed.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Grains, Demerara Sugar, Vanilla-Flavored Pipe Tobacco, Honey, Toasted Nuts, Pear drops, Slivovitz, Lemon, Leather, Fresh Herbs and Black Tea.

Finish:

Middle-Long and quite Dry. A mix of Sweet, Sour and Bitter notes. The Alcohol is noticeable. Wood and Spices are in a constant battle with the Sweeter Grain notes and tend to be on the winning side for most of the time. I find Caramel, Sweet Grains, Toffee, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Buttered Toast/Honey, Orange, Baked Apple, Charred Oak, Straw, Nuts, Cocoa Powder, the Famous Dutch Chocomel, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger and Mint/Aniseed.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and that helps to mellow out Palate and Finish. It shows that the ABV of the 46 is the correct one for Maker's Mark Bourbon in my opinion.

Rating: 85.5

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Drinking Experience On the Rocks: Very Good

Conclusion:

Maker's Mark is America's only handmade Bourbon with each individual batch less than 19 Barrels. The distillery still uses the Sour Mash method where they start each new batch fermentation by using a little of the last. This results in a consistent final product. They rotate the barrels during the season for that same reason. The Mash Bill consists of Corn (70%), Malted Barley (14%) & Red Winter Wheat (16%). By not using Rye, a sweeter and softer profile is created. I have previously tasted the Standard Maker's Mark and the Maker's Mark 46, both of which I liked. In fact, Maker's Mark is my to go to everyday Bourbon. The 101 I'm tasting today, initially was served only to select visitors at the distillery. But in 2018 it was launched as the brand's first exclusive Global Retail bottling.

You can't go wrong with any Maker's Mark edition if you like your Bourbon a little Sweeter and without the Rye component. I like the standard Maker's but it misses a little Punch that both the 46 and 101 provide. The 46 is the best sipping Maker's of the three if you ask me as the ABV is spot-on. The 101 accepts a little Water and therefore it's my favorite Maker's on the Rocks. Simply delicious! With Maker's Mark you'll never enjoy " A Shot in the Dark" 😜 

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                           July 28, 2021


Miltonduff 1988 (Carn Mor)


”Green Green Grass of Home”


Whisky Review # 923
Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Miltonduff 1988 - Distilled on October 27, 1988
Bottled by: MMcK - Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask Series - bottled : 06/10/2014
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Scotch Whisky - Cask # 9954 - 144 Bottles
Age: 25 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50.1% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 240 (July 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 Okay for a 25 Year old Single Malt.
Buying Advice: 👍 Certainly if you like your Single Malt Grassy, Citric and Herbal!

Colour: Chardonnay (Natural Color)

Nose:

Please give this Miltonduff enough time in your glass before Nosing as it opens very slowly. Even after a while however this Speyside Malt presents itself as an introvert Spirit. Quite Green, Floral and Grassy. The Oak is noticeable but that's no wonder after 25 years. Still, I wouldn't call Cask # 9954 an extremely active one. It's all very laid-back on the Nose. Not unpleasant though.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, German Butter Biscuits, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Grass & Straw, Pear, Apple and Nectarine, Fresh Oak, Fresh Herbs, Green Tobacco, Cinnamon, Pepper and Wet Newspaper.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Toffee, Heather-Honey, Bounty Candy Bars, Fresh Pancakes with Golden Syrup, Resin, Wax, Peach-Flavored Yogurt, Floral Soap, Marzipan, Wet Forest, Ginger and Aniseed. A distant hint of PVC Pipes.


Palate:

The Oak and Spices come to the forefront in a combo with Green, Citric and Herbal notes. A nice Salty touch can be noted as well. A mix of Bitter, Sweet, Salty and  slightly Sour notes. It's not your everyday Single Malt profile but I would not mind enjoying a glass every once in a while.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Grass & Straw, Marzipan, Wet Forest, Dusty Oak, Lemon, Grapefruit, Salted Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Nutmeg & fresh Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Wax, Bounty Candy Bars, Green Apple, Nectarine, Fresh Herbs, Green Tobacco, Strawberry-flavored Yogurt, Tutti-Frutti Bubble-Gum, Clove and light Licorice.

Finish:

Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet. Some Citric notes as well. Lots of Dusty Oak & Spices at this point but not over-the-top. The Green, Floral and Herbal notes still shine as well. There's a hint of the PVC Pipes again but it's not enough to consider it to be an off-note. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Grass & Straw, Lemon and Grapefruit, Strawberry-flavored Yogurt, Dusty Oak, Milk-Hazelnut-Chocolate, Marzipan, Floral Soap, Fresh Herbs, Iron Bars, Green Tobacco, Pepper, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Ginger, Nutmeg, Menthol, Tutti-Frutti Bubblegum and light Licorice.

Drinking Advice:

A little Water helps to calm down Wood & Spices although the Finish becomes very Minty. I like it both ways though.

Rating: 86

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

Drinking Experience Neat:

Good.

Conclusion:

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. The capacity of the distillery is around 6 million litres per year. The only official bottling is the 15 Years.

Quite a different story when compared to today's Mainstream Malt. This Miltonduff centers around Green, Grassy, Oaky, Herbal and Spicy notes. It's not a complicated Whisky and certainly a bit shy on the Nose. But it's got character and that's very important, at least for me. Not for everyday but certainly nice to sip occasionally. If you like Clynelish, this might be an alternative. It's time that the distillery shows a bit more action on the Single Malt market. Such a pity that most Miltonduff is used for second division blends like Ballantine's Finest. 😡

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                            July 14, 2021