Havana Club Selección de Maestros

A short while ago Shai, from Israel, sent me a sample of Havana Club’s Selección de Maestros. It’s Havana Club’s new premium rum. He had been given a bottle to spread among the more public drinkers amongst his friends. I guess bloggers are part of that demography.

Anyway, the Selección de Maestros is Havana Club’s premium end of rums, apart from maybe the 15 year old and the Extra Añejo. It’ll set you back slightly over € 50 at Master of Malt, so it’s not overly expensive, but generally more than people spend on rum.

Strangely, Havana Club is a bit like the rum version of Canadian Club to me. They are a big corporate entity producing decent booze, but not something you generally warm up to. Bacardi has that too with their focus on premixed Margaritas and white rum. When at IJmuiden’s Whisky & Rum festival a couple of years ago I tried some very tasty stuff from Bacardi, so my preconceptions were proven misconceptions. I guess that’s true for most producers of booze that also have a premium range (Diageo, anyone?).

So, what did I think?

Havana Club Selección de Maestros

Havana Club Selección de Maestros

Demerara sugar and some oak at first, with a touch of ethanol when just poured. After a second I get hints of sweet apple and orange, even some slightly bitter pineapple. There’s a mature spiciness going on too, with crisp mint in the background.

Slightly drying, but sweet, spicy and fruity nonetheless. Some sweet citrus fruits and a hint of pepper and cinnamon. Even a touch of ginger? Not so much demerara sugar as a developing flavour of the actual sugar canes, but sweet.

The finish is mostly similar but the sugar cane scent grows more prominent. Rather long, by the way.

As you might guess, I really like this stuff. It has some age but not too much. I find older (20+) rums usually tasting of rotting wood, barnacles and just random decay. This doesn’t have that.

The combination of fruit, spices and sugar comes from a fine blending trick that the six blenders of Havana Club have pulled. Very, very good and a great combination of maturity and youthfulness, sweetness and spices. It ticks all rum boxes for me! And it’s affordable.

Havana Club Selección de Maestros, 45%, available at Master of Malt at € 54

Thanks to Deia from Havana Club for the sample, and Shai for sending it!

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The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 4, 50.9% – The Blended Whisky Company/Master of Malt

As I’ve said plenty of times before, Master of Malt is not only a shop but also a bottler. Although, between the stuff they produce, have produced and bottle under one of their labels, you’d start to think it’s the other way around.

Of course, with their sights on also selling their stuff they’ve put some of their brands out there through a subsidiary, like Maverick Drinks and The Blended Whisky Company. But, who are they kidding, right?

Anyway, when they won their millionth award recently (congrats), this time for the Lost Distilleries Blend, they also sent out samples. Yours truly was among the happy recipients. Ridiculous buzy-ness and me trying to cut down on blogging and drinking made me stash this sample for a short while. Now is the time to post the review.

The whisky consists of Rosebank, Littlemill, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Keith and Port Ellen. This would make a Blended Malt, but I believe there is also some Port Dundas in there.

Master of Malt's The Lost Distilleries Blend

Master of Malt’s The Lost Distilleries Blend

I’m not sure what’s going on at Master of Malt, but on the nose I find that fennel-like smell again. It does, however, fade quickly to show hints of virgin oak. Strange, for a whisky made up of whiskies that are all over 20 years old! It starts showing barley, strong malt and some butteriness after that.

This is where this baby really starts pleasing. The nose didn’t do much for me but the palate sure makes up for that. It’s very sharp, but in a good way. It still leaves room for flavours of white pepper, new oak, cane sugar. It’s drying with a malty quality to it. After a while of it ‘swimming’ I started getting strong hints of various fruits. Plums, pineapple, orange. Very nice!

The finish has oak too, but much more mature. Grains, sub tropical fruits as above. It’s not too long but very yummy.

I have to excuse myself for generally not being a huge fan of blended whiskies. That might be unjust, and come off snobby, but it’s not in that way. I usually find the mix of various distilleries to produce an overly complex flavour palate in which none of the whiskies involved really get to shine.

In this case, I’m not sure that’s happening. I do find the nose only so-so, but the palate and finish more than make up for that. But, I still can’t fathom what’s going on with Master of Malt and fennel. Maybe that Cold Distilled Absinthe tainted some of their equipment? I guess that’s not possible.

After reading up on Port Dundas, I understand that was closed only in 2010. There might be some very young whisky in this one to explain the fennel and virgin oak flavours. I often mistake ‘virgin oak flavours’ for new whisky. And the other way around.

Anyway, I do like this whisky. I can see it winning awards, but to come to a proper conclusion I would need to taste all the contestants separately, and blind. That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?

I think I still haven’t given a proper ‘comment’ on the whisky like on most whisky blogs including my own. That’s because I’m not entirely convinced. The fruits and oakiness on the palate and finish were awesome. I just can’t shake the new oak feeling on the nose that reminds me of under age whisky, or that Old Potrero I recently finished.

Add to that that this baby will set you back over € 400…

Then again, people who do understand Blended Whisky said this was great…

The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 4, 50.9%, The Blended Whisky Company/Master of Malt. Of course, it’s available there.

Thanks to Master of Malt for the sample!

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Bowmore’s Piece of Islay Twitter Tasting

Yesterday Bowmore organized a Twitter tasting with three new whiskies they’re releasing in Travel Retail. There was some confusion to what was exactly happening since there was some unclear communication about several events they are organizing. After that was cleared up everything was set to go at 8pm.

Booze and chocolates sound nice enough. If the chocolates are from an ‘artisanal chocolatier‘ and the booze is from Bowmore, that is kind of promising. It’s also a bit of treacherous ground Bowmore is getting on because of all the flack Travel Retail is getting lately. There’s a variety of blog posts stating ‘the amount of Travel Retail‘, the general crap quality of whiskies there and the high prices asked for it.

Anyway, I’ve been an avid fan of Bowmore recently, with the recent releases having a rather stunning level of quality. From the NAS 100 Degrees Proof to the Tempests and the Laimrig. I love them. I must admit I have not tried any of the 1980s releases both because of price and the fear of FWP.

Now, on to this Twitter Tasting. The pack looked stunning when it came in. Three samples in a nice and shiny box. Some chocolates in the bottom (after some searching), and a few postcard-like info cards.

Gold Reef
On the nose the first whisky I got lemon curd, a hint of shammy leather and some peat. It’s pretty sweet but also some mineral quality of basalt and coal. Someone suggested popcorn and that was true. The palate was sharper than expected with white pepper, salted caramel, peat and vanilla. Later, there’s honeydew melon. Dry and creamy at the same time. The finish is a bit thin at first, but then shows pepper, minerals, stone and salt.

With the salted caramel and dark chocolate the sweetness of the whisky is masked but the pepper, oak and minerals are heightened.

White Sands
The one with an age statement in this tasting is 17 years old. A 17 year old Bowmore has some reputation to live up to. It actually smells like sand, charred oak, apples, pears, melon peel and toast. Just a touch of smoke and mostly yellow fruits. On the palate, there’s cappuccino with sugar, treacly coffee and ‘stoepkrijt‘ liquorice. Also ginger, dry oak and a hint of vanilla. A chalky dustiness, but also creamy. Some cappuccino and a hint of smoke. The finish is more standard Bowmore-like with more smoke and a bit more floral too.

Black Rock
There’s peat, but the fruitiness of the sherry is massive. Lots of dates, figs and maraschino cherry. Rather earthy on the nose as well, it reminds me of warehouse 1. The palate is slightly sharper than expected. Black pepper, treacle, dates and vanilla cream. The finish has more peat than earlier on, coarse and dry. Later it gets back to dates and oak.

The chocolates bring out the coffee and chocolate flavours of the whisky. It also loses some of the fruity flavours, unfortunately.

Now, of course, I have to decide which is my favourite, but I can’t. I think they’re all on par. The White Sands has some nice age to it. The Gold Reef is nice and bourbon cask-y. The Black Rock is the biggest surprise since I don’t enjoy most of the younger sherry releases. This one, however, is stunning. The date flavours are great, and I love it. So, maybe I want that one most.

  • Bowmore Gold Reef, 43%, +/- £ 59.99 for a liter
  • Bowmore White Sands, 17yo, 43%, +/- £ 79.99 for 0.7l
  • Bowmore Black Rock, 40%, £ 44.99

Now that last one’s a surprise regarding pricing. The rather aweful Old Pulteney sherry lighthouse was far more expensive. Unfortunately they’re only in Travel Retail, but I’ll sure be on the lookout the next time I’m in an airport!

A lot of thanks to Bowmore for hosting a great event and sending out free booze!

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We fought the NAS but the NAS won

We’ve all been nagging on and off about NAS whiskies, their exorbitant pricing and lack of quality. And yes, that’s a massive generalization but that’s what it boils down according to many.

This discussion didn’t get a lot of traction until Lukasz joined the fray. This was the first time an industry professional agitated against something that his direct employers were also doing on a fairly large scale. A gutsy move.

Of course, the SWA acts like they’re in an ivory tower, but this tower is heavily supported by many of the larger players in the whisky industry. Now, a source close to the SWA has informed me that guidelines will be adopted to prevent this NAS versus age statement discussion will ever happen again and they’re going for the middle ground.

According to my source (who, of course, wishes to remain anonymous) the following will be applied from the start of 2015. Labels will have to indicate in which of the following categories a whisky falls:

  • Whisky Labels will not display the age of the spirit in years.
  • A label can contain  only the following information regarding “age”
    • NAS (meaning: we do not disclose any information about the whisky inside, save that it’s 3 years and older)
    • Young (3-8 years)
    • Mature – (8-18 years)
    • Old (18-30 years)
    • Very Old (30 years +)

The SWA prides themselves that they guard the ‘tradition’ of whisky making and are limiting new inventions to guard the style and technology that made Scotch what it is today. This falls in their portfolio too, since labelling whiskies with an age statement is something that only became popular after World War II and before that was only marginally applied.

Before prohibition it was generally not done to state an age on a whisky bottle, mostly since casks were only used for transportation. According to the SWA: “Age statement is really a new phenomenon, which started mainly in the 20th century”. By going for the above categorization, they indicate that age will no longer be stated, but an indication will be given to a whisky’s maturity. According to my source in the SWA, a lot of producers that have been approached by the SWA, many see the merits of these new rules.

I’m not sure what to think of it, since I like whiskies with an age on it. Also, what does stand out to me is that there is no mention of a vintage no longer being applied. It’s just concerning the age of a whisky, not the year it was distilled in. It seems that there still is a way to be a bit more exact on a label after all.

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Regional tasting Noord-Holland, by the Usquebaugh Society

2014-03-30 13.35.21 2014-03-30 13.47.37 2014-03-30 14.10.49 2014-03-30 14.24.49 2014-03-30 14.37.02 2014-03-30 15.00.04 2014-03-30 15.11.53 2014-03-30 15.28.06 2014-03-30 15.40.30 2014-03-30 15.49.09 2014-03-30 16.03.10 2014-03-30 16.18.21 2014-03-30 16.52.21 2014-03-30 17.06.11 2014-03-30 17.17.21 2014-03-30 17.28.20 2014-03-30 17.37.44 2014-03-30 17.45.12 2014-03-30 17.54.03 2014-03-30 18.07.49 2014-03-30 18.29.26 2014-03-30 18.58.56 2014-03-30 19.34.02 2014-03-30 19.34.16 2014-03-30 19.45.50 2014-03-30 20.13.39

Posted in Aberlour, Amrut, Ben Nevis, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Dailuaine, Four Roses, Glen Scotia, GlenDronach, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Glenrothes, Inchgower, Linkwood, Littlemill, Macduff, Port Ellen, Springbank, Strathisla, Strathmill | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blogger burn-out

I already announced something on Facebook and Twitter earlier today.

I have gotten tired of continuously being on the edge of my seat for new whisky releases, writing tasting notes of stuff that comes out or has been/is no longer available for ages.

I want to get back to simply enjoying whisky, sharing experiences with friends and going to tastings. It feels more and more like a job instead of a hobby and while I wouldn’t mind being part of the industry, the way things are now I’m getting a bit overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time.

Overwhelmed by the amount of time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, whisky sites and browsing shops. Underwhelmed and disappointed by the vast amount of energy it costs me, not to speak of the money sink a hobby like this is.

This energy drain is something I find hard to deal with. There’s too many releases that I find interesting and after I’ve spent my cash and something more interesting comes out, I already regret buying the previous bottle.

So, what I’m going to try and do for a while is lay low. Trying to visit less shop sites, not reading bottle-share offers for a bit, and blog less about whatever is happening on the whisky related internet.

My reasons for this are two fold:

Personal in which I have to find a way to get out of my own sphere of negativity and get rid of the feeling of blogging being a chore instead of a hobby. Personal in which I really have to start saving some money for other upcoming expenses instead of burning everything on bottles and samples. Personal in which I find I have more than enough whisky that I like to drink but to which I don’t get by the sheer amount of sample I ‘have’ to review.

Outward in which I find the whisky fabric being very negative at the moment (although I agree with the negative arguments for about 99% of the time). Outward in people bitching to each other on items of blogger integrity and people’s opinions. Outward in me being weak and wanting to buy more than I can.

Of course, I have only myself to blame for owning more whisky than I can drink in a decade. Still I feel like an idiot for having this big a collection. I want to limit my buying too.

Currently I just buy random things that seem interesting at the time. I want to set some new rules for myself:

- I’m only buying if I would also find the whisky worth it if it costs € 10 more
- I’m only buying if I want to open the bottle when it comes in. (I have too many bottles ‘that seemed interesting at the time’)

Of course, I will keep my blog updated with things I find interesting, reports of tastings and trade sample reviews if I get any. Other than that, I’m just going to enjoy the stuff I’ve bought over the years.

Sorry if this rambling seems incoherent. I’m trying to make sense of it as well, and I’m trying to get my bearings again in this tumultuous hobby environment. Feel free to comment!

Posted in - News and Announcements | 6 Comments

Springbank 12, Cask Strength, 2013 edition, 53.1%

I started to type up this whisky review vigorously, when I decided to see how this bottling compares to the earlier one I had tried, about a year ago at De Whiskykoning.

As it turns out, it’s exactly the same release, which made me remember that when we ordered it for the Emakina tasting a couple weeks ago, we had to change batch numbers since the one we wanted was out of stock.

Still, I did a small comparison on the tasting notes, and I’m pleased to say that the notes I took were very similar between both versions. I didn’t get the cheese note this time, and wrote down hay some more. But apart from that, I should have known.

Anyway, a nice chance to look up an older release, which still is ridiculously good.

The drawback of not writing this post, is that I don’t have any notes left to write down quickly…

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