Six Irish Whiskeys at De Whiskykoning (2/2)

The second three whiskies were number 3, 5 and 6 of the tasting. Rob decided that the first higher strength whisky was very good, but couldn’t stand up to Teeling’s flavour rampage. Anyway, it was a good call, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not good.

Tullamore DEW Phoenix

Tullamore DEW Phoenix

Tullamore DEW Phoenix, 55%
Not cask strength, but very high nonetheless. This whiskey was made to commemorate the hot air balloon accident that nearly destroyed the town of Tullamore in 1785. Some 44 years before the distillery was built. So, a nice story, but not something that has anything to do with this whiskey, if you ask me. If the town hadn’t been rebuilt, the whiskey would probably have been named Kilbeggan DEW. Oh. Wait.

On the nose it’s very light and dusty and even slightly ashy. Ashy without the smoky part that is. It does build in intensity with lots of alcohol and a weird sharpness. Very, very timid on the scents part.

The palate is very quiet for a 55% whiskey, but again shows quite some intensity. Gentle, slightly syrupy with ripe apple and pear. Some peach too and a touch of oak. The finish is sweet and long, with some honeyed sherry.

A nice whiskey, and it’d be lovely if it would have been more flavourful. All bits and pieces of this whiskey are lovely, but just too thin and with so much alcohol going on it can barely withstand its own heat. Strange…

I don’t think this one’s for sale anymore.

Writer's Tears CS

Writer’s Tears CS

Writer’s Tears Cask Strength, 53%
Writer’s Tears. The regular one has been around for a while but I’ve never come around to tasting it. There’s that Irish whiskey blind spot again. I seem to remember it being promoted or at least mentioned by Hans Offringa at some point. Due to the writer reference I guess.

The normal one is a relatively cheap bottle of hooch and since I tasted a wee drop after the tasting it’s not bad. I still would save up the money for something a bit more impressive. I generally go for the not so gentle and timid whiskies since they entertain for longer, in my humble opinion.

On the nose it’s fresh and delicate, flowery even. There is some alcohol but it’s trumped by melon and pineapple scents. A very Lowlands like whiskey.

The palate has quite a punch and has that grassy, floral note again. Slightly spicy too with some chalk, peardrops and Napoleon lemon candy, the powdery one. The finish is long and has a lot of the peardrops and lemon candy going on again. Rock melon too.

This is an absolutely gorgeous dram. There’s enough flavour to cope with the alcohol and the light fruits are a nice encounted compared to the heaviness usually encountered in others.

What is a bit strange, however, is that this one feels more like a Rosebank, or Saint Magdalene. In short, a very good Lowlands whisky. From Scotland. In one way that’s a shame since it doesn’t show that Irish quality as much as it could. On the other hand, where do you get such a stunning whiskey for about € 90? Not from Scotland at least!

Highly recommended, € 95 at Whiskykoning

Redbreast 12 CS

Redbreast 12 CS

Redbreast 12, Cask Strength, 58.6%, 2013 edition
Who doesn’t love Redbreast? Apart from the ridiculously long commercials in WhiskyCast, they’re pretty epic. I’ve only tried their regular 12 extensively but according to the rest of the planet the 15 and 21 year olds are pretty kick-ass too. This one should be no exception.

They are also the one Irish whiskey brand that everybody has tried apart from Jameson. They are not my blind spot. I guess almost every liquor shop that has a decent booze selection has some of their range on the shelves. And rightly so.

On the nose this version of the Pot Still whiskey from Midleton is REALLY dry, with straw, barley and some green malt too. I get a weird scent of raw mushrooms too. Also custard powder and dry leaves.

The palate is really dry again with more vanilla than I expected. Strong, but with some fruit, some crispness. Lots of alcohol and spices. Rather nice though! The finish mellows quickly and goes towards the more regular flavours of Redbreast with custard. It also is rather metallic and minerally.

Again, a really nice dram. I usually love dry-ish whiskeys, and the ones that are more on the spicy side too, but how dry this one is is too much for me. You really need a glass of water next to this one to keep hydrated and not necessarily because of the alcohol percentage.

Although, it’s still nice. The flavours are all there and I like it when there’s something new to taste every now and then, and the mushrooms on the nose sure deliver that.

This one is around € 76

The overall winner of the evening was the Writer’s Tears, with the Teeling coming in close second. This was announced after the prices were given so I think that has something to do with it. Especially to the guy next to me who has to buy his wife shoes whenever he buys a bottle over € 100. Clocking in at € 95 is nice then.

Posted in - Irish Whiskey, Redbreast, Tullamore DEW, Writer's Tears | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Irish Whiskeys at De Whiskykoning (1/2)

Last Friday I went to a whiskey tasting in Den Bosch, at De Whiskykoning, of which I was slightly skeptical. The theme was Irish whiskeys, and I don’t have much experience with those. There are some nice ones, some great ones and some average ones I’ve tasted, but I can’t say I’ve had many.

What did set my mind at ease was the fact that the tasting was at De Whiskykoning, and Rob has never let me down before. The tastings are always affordable and very well worth the money. You tell me where else you can get six Feis Ile whiskies for € 27.50!

I’ve split up this post into two separate ones since I find it a bit much to review six drams at once. I’ll pick up the ‘drinking strength’ ones first and the higher/cask strength later.

Powers' Gold Label

Powers’ Gold Label

Powers Gold Label, non-chill filtered, 43.2%
The first dram was the slightly more luxurious one of the regular Powers blend. This one being at a different ABV and being non-chill filtered made this one light, but rather aromatic on the nose. There’s unmalted barley, white bread and a hint of plastic too. A very green scent too, because of the unmalted barley, but also other plants.

The palate is sweet and tingling, slightly peppery with toffee and bread crust. The finish is long and rich with malt, toffee, honey. Slightly crisp too.

A very surprising dram. It’s not overly exciting, but for the price (€ 23) it’s really good. Lots of nice flavours and there actually is nothing to not like about this one.

Paddy Centenary

Paddy Centenary

Paddy Centenary, 43%
Another special version of a regular Irish suspect. This single pot still whiskey was created for the centenary celebration of Paddy, in 2013. It’s 7 years old and created to resemble the style of whiskey made about a hundred years ago. The label is styled to resemble that too and I really liked how it looked. A lot more distinguished than the current one, albeit old fashioned.

On the nose it had sweet salted caramel, oak and a slight saltiness overall. There’s also something strange. Something I’ve never smelled before and I really like it. It had a slightly metallic quality, but not iron-like. More like patina on the still in the distillery.

The palate, unfortunately, didn’t carry that patina flavour through. It’s slightly tingling, but less so than the Powers. Sweet and sugary, honey and simple syrup. The finish was gentle and honeyed with tinned fruit salad.

A nice dram but I would be raving about it more if the ‘strange’ scent everyone picked up would have been present on the palate and in the finish too. The nose was awesome but the rest did let me down a bit. And at € 88 I found this too expensive for what it represented.

Teeling 21 Vintage Reserve

Teeling 21 Vintage Reserve

Teeling 21 year old, Vintage Reserve, Sauternes finish, 46%
The most expensive whiskey of the evening was the Teeling 21 year old. While the entire whisk(e)y world is raving about Teeling’s whiskeys, I hadn’t had one until this night. And to start with the 21 year old feels a bit decadent, I didn’t mind at all though.

While Teeling doesn’t really disclose where their whiskey comes from, I can make an educated guess about it being Cooley. This because the guys running Teeling used to run Cooley before Beam took over.

The nose was overpowering from the start. There’s so much going on and the scents don’t have to be lured out of hiding. They attack your nostrils with a full frontal assault. In a good way. There’s rich, leathery tobacco at first, which quickly veers towards oily banana with curry spices and lots, lots of fruit.

The palate is BIG, but gentle. Fruity again, with banana, fresh, bitter pineapple and some spices. Milk chocolate and pastry cream. The finish is, if possible, even more fruity. On an old Lochside level. Pear, peach, dates. Incredible.

The general remark I wrote down for this one is “Damn!”. This one took me by surprise! The guys at Teeling sure know what they’re doing and the fruity scents and flavours indicate a Cooley distillate even more to me. I remember trying some Connemara ones that were incredibly fruity too, and some indie bottlings as well. This is an epic whiskey and worth every penny of the +/- € 150 asked for it.

Posted in - Irish Whiskey, Irish Distillers, Midleton, Paddy, Powers', Teeling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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