Heelslaying, or bottle ends in March

When the year started I announced how much smaller my collection had to be by the end of the year. Then, as more people were planning such escapades there was a twitter hashtag with updates on emptied bottles. I posted there too but haven’t in a while.

March, obviously, was not spent detoxing but things went as they also do. With a dram here and there. I managed to go through some samples and some bottle ends, sometimes by hilariously underestimating how much booze fits in the bottom centimeter of a bottle, and thereby drinking quite a bit more than I anticipated.

By sometimes drinking too much on a school night, I managed to finish:

(Apparently, I forgot to review the Hibiki and the P&M…)

Also, I went through some samples. Some commercial ones and a couple I traded or bought myself. In both categories were some awesome ones with one review pending for tomorrow.

Let’s say it hasn’t been a bad month. My whisky collection is shrinking nicely and almost needs a shelf less than it did when the year started. Of course, I’m nowhere near completion and that still is going to be challenging. But, when I finally get around to hosting that Bottoms-Up tasting I’ve been planning it should all work out, or at least help tremendously!

Also, just to rub it in. Some of these whiskies are bloody awesome. I’ll miss the Clynelish and GlenDronach most I think. And of some of those samples I wish I had a bottle…

Posted in - American Whiskey, - Blended Whisky, - Japanese Whisky, Blair Athol, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Convalmore, FEW, GlenDronach, Glenlochy, Glenugie, Hibiki, Inverleven, Linkwood, Undisclosed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Arran 14yo, 2000-2015, 55.7% – Private Cask for Whisky in Leiden

A rather stunning whisky shop in Leiden has been running its own festival for a couple of years. Every year, of course, accompanied by a festival bottling. I seem to remember a cracking Clynelish from a couple of years ago (split cask), and this year they’ve just released a bottling from my new favorite distillery (that’s a growing list, yes), Arran.

They decided to have a sherry hogshead bottled (#2000/128) in February, just 14 days before it would turn 15. This most likely has to do with the deadline for the festival, and apart from a number it probably doesn’t change a thing.

Somewhere in my mind there’s a slightly nagging little voice that tells me I would have prefered a bourbon cask but that is just based on one pair of bottlings done last year in October by Van Wees, the Dutch imported of Arran. They then released ‘The White Wizard’ and ‘The Dark Lord’, respectively from a bourbon and a sherry cask. That bourbon cask is awesome. I still haven’t reviewed it, but I wish I had bought more than half a bottle…

Anyway, a new bourbon cask is bound to arrive in The Netherlands and I’ve already been in touch with the importer to secure a pair of bottles from it. Fingers crossed for success on that front.

This one then. A sherry hogshead so I expect a combination of sherry and American oak goodness. 55.7% is pretty steep, but nothing unmanageable.

It’s quite mellow and waxy at first, with a hint of peaches on syrup behind it. Some hessian and pepper follows. Quite sharp with nice dried fruits, but those notes are rather faded. I find this surprisingly waxy, especially for an Arran. Some honey, beeswax. Quite sweet so no candles or anything like that.

The palate is surprisingly soft at first, but there’s quite a lot of black pepper that starts biting after that. It’s still waxy but less so and there’s a touch of sherry and bitter caramel now too. Still quite sweet and fruity. Peaches, apricot and plums. The oak is quite light and the fruit gets bigger and bigger if you let it swim for a while. Mostly peaches and apricots after some 15 seconds.

The finish is heavier on the oak. The oak, peaches and wax make for a syrupy after taste. There’s also sweet caramel and it goes quite far to ‘stroopwafels’. But with extra flavors. Dessert like and really drinkable. Much more gentle than the peppery heat that suddenly popped up on the palate suggests.

I expected much more sherry, much much more. There’s just not that much of it, which I like. It’s a sherried whisky alright, but it’s not doling out raisins and dates and figs everywhere. It’s more the gentle hint of fruits with some peaches and apricots in the mix. Mostly behind that you’ll find American oak goodness like beeswax and honey. Surprisingly, no vanilla.

The dessert like caramel on the finish is lovely too and even though there’s lots of different flavors going on it doesn’t feel all that chaotic. It’s more like progression from A to Z. In short, this is a lovely dram. And for ‘just’ € 60 it’s very affordable for a cask strength, limited release from a distillery themselves (that not being an Indie bottler).

Get one while you can!

Arran 14yo, 24/2/2000 – 10/2/2015, 55.7%, Private Cask for Whisky in Leiden 2015. Available only from Whiskysite.nl for € 60

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Bowmore 1995-2014, 19yo, 57.2%, ‘The Rock Pool’ – Wemyss

The last one of the three samples I got from Wemyss, and if the online availability is anything to go by, this is a cracker. It was released last week on Thursday or Friday and has already sold out. And that at € 150 a pop.

Bowmore has been in a love/hate relationship with me for a long time. When I started with whisky I was never a fan, except for the occasional bottle. In general I didn’t think much of it for quite a while. When I started with whisky a decade ago, most ‘aged’ Bowmores were still from the 1980s and as you might know, that wasn’t a very popular period for Bowmore to be from.

In those days, even though the tour guides will tell you nothing has changed in 200 years, the whisky was hideously perfumy. Laundry detergent and softener, mountains of lavender and violets. Just no. It’s not for nothing they’re described as having too much FWP (French Whore Perfume).

Recently, more or less anything that was distilled after 1990 and hasn’t been finished in some weird wine cask, has been awesome. From their more or less 6 year old 100 Degrees Proof, to Tempest, Devil’s Cask and Laimrig. It’s all A-level whisky. Let’s see where this one sits!

The name ‘The Rock Pool’ does not need explanation with this baby going the way of sand, salt and minerals. Very much rocks on the beach. There’s quite some peat but it is light in kind. Not all encompassing. Heather is there too and a slight hint of lavender, but nowhere near 1980s levels. Apart from the ‘crisp winter morning’ scents of the rock pool, there’s also something warming with a tiny hint of bourbon cask maturation quintessentials. Some caramel, vanilla and pastry.

It’s pretty sharp on the palate, but that’s no surprise at 57.2% ABV. The minerals are here too, backed up by the Bowmore style of peat. Heather, salt, marram grass/sand reed, but the minerals lead the charge. The pastry and caramel are a bit stronger here, but the vanilla isn’t. Cookie dough, with a touch of sugar.

The finish is slightly more wood driven with the puff pastry and cookie dough being more prominent. It’s rather long with hints of salt, heather and minerals sticking around, as does the peat.

This is a gorgeous whisky. When I found out about the price tag I was bummed out since I reckoned that would be too much for any 19 year old Bowmore, but today I regretted to find out it has all gone. Maybe just as well, since my wishlist is already nigh endless.

The minerals and heather flavors are no stranger too Bowmore, but it generally is much more wood driven and I like the fact that this one isn’t. I normally don’t mind for, say, The Tempest since that screams ‘American Oak’, this one is much more timid in that area.

The flavors are just gorgeous, wintry and crisp. I think they suit the distillery very well and I hope to find many more of this kind of Bowmore. This stuff is just awesome.

Bowmore 1995-2014, 19yo, 57.2%, ‘The Rock Pool’, Wemyss.

Thanks a million to Wemyss Malts for sending this!

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Arran 18, 46%

Woohoo! It’s here.

The new Arran 18 has been released over the last week and today it arrived in Krommenie at our local bottle shop. Jolanda, who owns the place got nine bottles and I sure as hell am happy about asking her to hold one for me, because they sold out in a few hours.

For a place with a big internet presence like The Whisky Exchange that wouldn’t be too much of an achievement but for a small town shop who mostly runs on locals it’s quite something. Kudos to Jolanda.

But, as said, she held one back for me and I went to pick it up for multiple reasons:

  1. It didn’t feel right to let it just sit there while she could’ve sold it easily
  2. I really felt like opening something cool
  3. I wanted it
  4. I’m hosting a tasting tomorrow in which this will be a highlight.

Arran distilled their first spirit in August of 1995, which means there can technically already be 19 year old spirit out and about, and there’s an SMWS one, but just one. Unfortunately for Arran, their 18 year old isn’t the first 18 year old Arran, but it is the first ‘generally available’ one. There have been some 16 others (according to Whiskybase, so there might be more) that already have a bottling out. The distillery released one last year as well, at 52%, for their Malts & Music festival in June.

But still, this thing was highly anticipated by quite some folks on the interwebz, and most likely even more that aren’t as prolific about their desires online as some of us are, me included.

There’s vanilla custard, with a thin dusting of baking spices and caramel. A hint of stewed apple and golden syrup and treacle. Honey too and a slight floral note behind it all. Straw too, all very well integrated and gentle.

The palate is drier than expected, and has more bite too. A dusty feel of toasted oak, with caramel candy, Scottish tablet and butterscotch. Treacle, latte machiato, golden syrup and apple strudel. Some almonds too, and brown sugar.

The finish goes back to the slightly stronger notes of vanilla I got on the nose, but the dryness stays, as does the dusty, toasted oak feel. It’s very warming and long with gorgeous notes of everything that came before.

This is a true milestone for the distillery. I love what they’ve done with the brand without going completely overboard. They were fooling around a bit much with cask finishes a decade ago, but that was born out of necessity. They’ve limited that significantly nowadays, but I keep finding that I much prefer the sherry and bourbon cask matured ones. The bourbon ones most, although this baby is a bit of a mix-up since it’s from sherry hogsheads, so sherry, from American oak.

The whisky then. It’s gorgeous. It’s absolutely delicious. It might not be the most complex 18 year old whisky around, but the flavors are all there and they’re all lovely. I love the baked apple, butterscotch combination. The vanilla notes are kept in check so this whisky doesn’t become, well, vanilla.

In short. If you have the chance of getting one, do yourself a favor and order it now, while there is still some left.

Arran 18, 46%. Prices vary from € 82.50 to € 100. Check for availability on Whiskybase

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Blair Ahtol 1991-2014, 46%, ‘Foraged Fruit Fool’ – Wemyss

The second Wemyss review this week, and the third will follow soon (of the new Bowmore called ‘The Rock Pool’). This Blair Athol comes in a period of about a year or so in which quite some independent Blair Athols have been released.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t miss most of them. I only tasted one from Dutch bottler The Ultimate and I really didn’t like that. Way too sweet and too much like the syrup you create when making stewed pears. All flavors were pear, cinnamon and cheap port wine. Not my cup of tea.

Then this one from the Highland distillery. A fruit fool is an English dessert of fruit and custard. I just looked this up since I didn’t get the name and now the name seems a lot more appropriate than before.

It’s quite malty at first, with some white oak in there too. I get hints of vanilla and creme brulee. It’s very fruity with galia melon, Doyenne pears and a hint of chili pepper heat. It gets more sugary and sweet after a while.

The palate is warming with flavors of San Francisco biscuit (this is a vanilla flavored biscuit you can get here). A light hint of pepper, malt. Hints of white bread and corn bread. Pear again, as well as melon but with the addition of more tropical mango and papaya. Creme brulee and strudel with vanilla sauce.

The finish is very consistent with the palate and just gently fades all those flavors. It is slightly lighter though with a new fruity hint of white grapes. Quite long.

Apparently my hints of fruit are not the same as the tasting panel’s at Wemyss. At least I don’t generally reckon mango and melon to be forageable fruits. Anyway, the vanilla flavor and slight layer of bready flavors send me more towards biscuits than to custard, but I can get into that.

It’s a really good dram, this. The fruits are great and diverse. The background of those fruits it lovely with malt, bread and pepper. There’s quite something to discover here and I really enjoy that. Tasting this blind I don’t think I would have guessed this at 46% but slightly higher, towards 50 or so.

In short, I love this one!

Blair Ahtol 1991-2014, 46%, ‘Foraged Fruit Fool’, Wemyss. It was released in the UK only yesterday and the price sits at £ 112 (slightly over € 150)

Thanks to Wemyss for the sample! Loved it, guys!

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Glenugie 1980-2010, 29yo, 43.4% – SMWS (99.11 Tickled by ‘monstera deliciosa’)

Glenugie bottlings are incredibly hard to come by. While the distillery closed in 1983 like some 25 others there never was much of this to go around, far less than Port Ellen and Brora and the likes. And those two are also of the more rare kind of whisky than some others that closed.

The distillery has long since been demolished and in its spot now sits some kind of church and a vacant lot, with some houses around it (approximately).

I tried my first Glenugie at the Lochranza Hotel in 2010, on my first trip to Scotland, and was blown away by it. And by the vast dram I got for just five quid. I still regret not buying the rest of the bottle, since that 1968 one by Gordon & MacPhail was just plain awesome.

Since then I’ve managed to buy two bottles of Glenugie, of which one has been finished last year or so. That one was another 1980-2010 bottling from SMWS, the cask following this one (99.12 that would be). I traded a sample of that for a sample of this with Ben, who’s blog you’ve probably seen by now since I’ve been linking to it a lot.

This bottle comes from refill bourbon hoggie, which doesn’t say much but probably lets the spirit speak loudest. Let’s dive in.

Old and overripe fruit, with an almost cloying sweetness. Lots of good oak, but not overpowering in any way. Lots of furniture polish and leather. The fruity scents are like mango peel, brown banana and there’s a hint of walnut. Lots and lots of aromas. Sweet bread, like a brioche. It’s heavy, fruity and feinty.

The finish mellows very quickly, but that’s not too surprising with only 43.4% alcohol in here. It is of medium length, and fruity and feinty. Exactly as expected.

This is a very interesting dram. One I wouldn’t regret owning a bottle of and drinking it with pleasure. It is, however, slightly less complex and enticing as the 99.12 with the flavors being more bold, in your face and heavy.

I do love the combination of heavy fruits and the feinty hints of leather and polish. It makes for a nice combination of flavors and for something you don’t come across every day. A gorgeous whisky, but just shy of greatness.

Glenugie 1980-2010, 29yo, 43.4%, SMWS, 99.11 Tickled by ‘monstera deliciosa’.

It used to be around £ 75 according to WhiskyBase, but expect to pay much more now. Last November it auctioned in the UK for £ 325

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Aberfeldy 1999-2014, 46%, ‘Toffee Tuile’ – Wemyss

This week my first ever pack of samples from Wemyss arrived. A while ago I asked them politely if they were willing to include me on their sample list, as they do with many other bloggers. They kindly agreed, after some pruning of my blog I think.

The pack was incredibly well wrapped and had three samples in it. This Aberfeldy, a Bowmore and a Blair Athol. Those others will be reviewed shortly.

Now, Aberfeldy. One of the distilleries I have never bought anything of, except a sample of the 21 year old to get that crossed off from the first 101 Whiskies to try before you Die by Ian Buxton. It was nice, but you really had to search for individual flavors. It was so timid and gentle that I called it a whisky for people who don’t like whisky.

After that, I only had a bottling by David Stirk, which was rather good. Then it got quiet. They revamped their brand recently, and more things happened of course, but I couldn’t really be bothered. It’s not really my cup of tea, Aberfeldy is.

It’s got lots of oak and butterscotch. There are spices, toffee and crusty bread. It’s rather sweet and biscuity, with baking spices, but also some apple and some ‘green’ notes.

The palate is dry and has quite a lot of baking spices to it. Rather sharp for a 46% whisky too, but in a good way. Butterscotch and toffee again, hazelnut too. That green note is here again, green malt and granny smith apples. Because of that it comes of as slightly younger than 15 years old. Quite some oak though, and slightly bitter with caramel.

The finish is medium long with a bigger focus on the biscuits and bread crust, and other malty flavors.

I have to be honest and say that I was a bit skeptical about this whisky. Mostly because of my previous experiences with Aberfeldy. This one however, is at least aptly named since there are lots of crusty, biscuity flavors with heaps of butterscotch and caramel and toffee.

I love the slight bitterness on the finish too, and all flavors are well integrated with a nice progression from nose to palate to finish. This might not become my favorite whisky of the year, but it sure is nice.

This whisky is part of the March 2015 releases, but I haven’t been able to find it online yet, and don’t know what it’s going to cost yet.

Aberfeldy 1999-2014, 46%, ‘Toffee Tuile’, Wemyss

EDIT: It just became available at The Whisky Exchange at £ 80.95

Thanks to Wemyss for sending me this sample!

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