Age vs. NAS round 5: Macallan Fine Oak 10 vs. Macallan Gold

At the time of tasting I didn’t know what these were of course, but it’s an interesting experiment for sure. If I would’ve gone into this tasting with knowledge of the samples, things might have been different since those Macallans come with a reputation.

The Macallan Gold from the recent color scheme whiskies or whatever they named the series, together with Amber, Ruby and Sienna. Gold is supposed to suck. I hadn’t tried it before although they tried to sell me one as an exclusive when I hopped through the shop two years ago.

Then again, Fine Oak also comes with a reputation of actually being quite shitty Macallans and the first step of Macallan’s decline in popularity with whisky geeks. It came as a bit of a surprise after years of marketing ‘the best Sherry casks and only Golden Promise barley’ they suddenly had bourbon casks and Image from Whiskybasesupposedly inferior barley, and suddenly that was the big innovative thing.

And, lets be honest, great Macallans are sherried Macallans. The old ones preferably.

Sample 1: Macallan Fine Oak 10, 40%

It’s quite spicy on the nose, with a lot of malt. There’s some straw and some grass. Minerals, not bad but a tad thin. The palate is also slightly mineral like. Slightly waxy with oak. Some fruits too, banana and apple. The finish is consistent with the palate and fairly rich.

Image from WhiskybaseSample 2: Macallan Gold, 40%

The nose is more flat than the previous one, but also a bit warmer. Grains, but watery. The palate is slightly gritty with some sawdust. Relatively rich and dry with oak. Sweet and slightly spicy. The finish is rather good and quite long.

I preferred the second one. I preferred the Macallan Gold. So much for reputations. Well, I didn’t finish any of the samples. These were not really bad whiskies, but neither of them was particularly interesting.

The Macallan Fine Oak is, in my opinion, an overpriced series of whisky that tries to fill its older brother’s shoes but doesn’t manage. The Macallan Gold is quite acceptable for a supposedly inferior NAS. It’s cheaper than the Fine Oak and therefore would have my preference, since I also think it’s a tastier whisky.

In the end, I think for good Macallan we have to look at the indie bottlers, or be willing to overspend.

Short review: I didn’t finish either sample. The Macallan Gold is better than the Fine Oak 10.

Macallan Fine Oak 10 years old, 40%
Macallan Gold, 40%

Concluding the Big Blind Tasting we can state the following, from my experience after these comparisons:

NAS is not necessarily better than entry level whiskies with an age statement. Neither is it worse. Also, I’m not very good at guessing entry level drams and NAS whiskies side by side. But, nobody will be surprised by my lack of blind-tasting-abilities.

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Age vs. NAS round 4: Cardhu 12 vs. Cardhu Amber Rock

The penultimate round of the Big Blind Tasting by Oliver Klimek brings us to a distillery that is barely ever encountered from indies, and neither are there many official bottlings.

I think I have seen an 18 year old apart from the 12 and this Amber Rock. I also have to admit that I’ve not tried any Cardhu in ages. It’s one of those standard bottlings that’s most likely been in everyone’s collection at some point, but for most of us that was it.

It’s funny how some distilleries are huge in one country and barely amount to anything in another. I know Glen Grant is huge in Italy, Aberlour in France and Cardhu seems to be the market leader of single malts in Spain. Honestly, I wouldn’t know which brand is biggest in The Netherlands. Probably Glenfiddich, like almost eImage from Whiskybaseverywhere.

Anyway, this Speysider has been around for ages, but it’s Amber Rock compatriot has only been introduced early last year. I honestly have no idea to how it was received.

Sample 1: Cardhu Amber Rock, 40%

On the nose this whisky quite malty, and very gentle. A touch of oak with some apples and pears. The palate is thin, but slightly sharp and a tad bitter. It gains some weight after a couple of seconds but is still smooth. The finish is back to the malt. Some spices. Boring but not bad.

Image from WhiskybaseSample 2: Cardhu 12 years old. 40%

This nose is a lot sweeter with more fruit. A lot less flat. Spices, oak. The palate has some pepper, oak and spices. It’s quite a bit sharper and slightly rough even. The finish is peppery, and a lot sweeter than the palate. Pepper, oak, spices.

Because of the spiciness of the second dram I thought that was the younger one. The more spirity one. I made the mistake of attributing these spices to the spirit instead of the oak. So, once again I was wrong. I did prefer the second dram, however. It shows more depth and is quite a bit more interesting than the first one, which was fairly boring.

I’m not entirely sure what else to say about these whiskies. The most interesting one, the 12 year old is a whisky that’s interesting for people who’ve never had it and are just starting to get interested in our favorite drink. The other one I’d not recommend. It’s more expensive and hasn’t got a lot to offer.

Short review: both went down the sink. The second one only because I had to go through tomorrow’s samples too (the last round of this event).

Cardhu Amber Rock, 40%
Cardhu 12 years old, 40%

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Age vs. NAS round 3: Glenlivet 12 vs Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

We’re already halfway through the Big Blind Tasting as Oliver Klimek has dubbed this experiment. At first I was very enthusiastic about joining it, but when the samples arrived I couldn’t really get myself to try them. Mostly because I don’t want to drink too much and there is so much to try that’s a lot better than entry level stuff that we tried a decade ago.

Of course, I had to put all snobbery aside to see if my tasting skills actually amount to something. The club‘s Blind Tasting Competition has told me it doesn’t when it’s random. Now it’s less random and I am only at a 50/50 score.

The third round was a very standard Glenlivet 12 and their newest counterpart, the Founder’s Reserve. This is an interesting one since contrary to the previous two rounds where the whiskies are allowed to coexist, in this case the 12 year old is being phased out from certain markets due to supply problems (and money, most likely).

Image from WhiskybaseWhile I have never bought much Glenlivet (some indies, a Nadurra here and there) I actually quite like the distillery’s product. I think I’ve never had one that was bad, and while not all of them are overly interesting, it’s a very consistent product of a company that seems to deserve being one of the larger ones.

Sample A3A. Glenlivet 12 years old, 40%

The nose didn’t have much vanilla, which might happen in those standard releases. Lots of citrus fruits, sweet with lemon curd. Also some spicy herbal notes, heather mostly. The palate is smooth and rather sweet. Fruity with more lemon curd. Heather, soft bread and oak. The finish is a little more spicy, pepper. Less lemon than before and of medium length.

Image from WhiskybaseSample A3B. Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, 40%

This nose has more oak and is a bit sharper. More spirity with mostly oak, and a hint of vanilla. The palate is gentle with some pepper and oak. It does have some sharpness, and is rather simple with a touch of grass. The finish suddenly has more weight and shows a hint of chocolate.

In this case I didn’t really have a preference. The first is a very well made dram with a high level of consistency. The second is more spirity (and obviously the NAS one, in my opinion) but also has some interesting bits. It’s less consistent but not bad at all.

So, no preference and a guess to which is the NAS whisky. In this case I think we might be lucky that the Glenlivet 12 is not being pulled from Dutch markets, as far as I know. So far only the United Kingdom and Germany are getting cut from their supply.

I am not entirely sure, but I think at the time of tasting I thought this might be Glenlivet since the 12 year old is a quite lemony dram, as I seemed to remember. Good stuff, this!

Short review: I drank both of them.

Glenlivet 12, 40%
Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, 40%

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Age vs. NAS round 2: Dalmore 12 vs Dalmore Valour

The second round of NAS vs Non-NAS (or Age Stated) is another pair from around the tiny speck of the North Sea that ends in the Moray Firth. That’s a very creative way of saying that they’re not too far from each other (as the crow flies). It’ll take you a while to drive from A to B though.

Dalmore is not a whisky I try often. Mostly because there’s not much to go around at indie bottlers. And, let’s be honest, the official Dalmores that are interesting are out of most folks’ range. The ones that we can afford are mostly watery NAS whiskies with some kind of freaky cask finish.

Image from WhiskybaseHonestly, outside of a bottle share (and I even doubt that) I’ve never spent money on Dalmore, except for one masterclass with whisky-tasting-legend Richard Paterson. That was an awesome tasting as he had brought a bunch of cask samples of the non-blended whiskies that went into the King Alexander III, which has six cask in it.

Sample A2A. Dalmore 12 years old, 40%

The nose of this whisky is sweet and woody, and light. Slightly chemically fruity. Thing, but mostly those artificial flavors are not really to my liking. The palate is slightly malty. Some candy sweetness and honey licorice. Sweet, sugary and some oak. The finish very similar but slightly less licorice like.

Image from WhiskybaseSample A2B. Dalmore Valour, Matusalem Oloroso casks, 40%

There a little bit of oak on the nose, and it smells less chemical. More focused and weighty. Fruity with some apple and some peach. The palate is smooth and slightly creamy. Fruity, some peppery spice and oak. The finish is slightly oaky. Raisins, quite long and sweet.

In this case I was mistaken to guess the NAS one. I guessed the first since it lacked some depth compared to the Valour. I preferred the latter but scribbled in my little notebook that it still wasn’t all that good. Neither of them are whiskies I’d like to buy.

The short review of those would be that the second sample was slightly better in my opinion, but since I was behind on tasting these drams and had more to go, both went down the sink.

Dalmore 12 years old, 40%
Dalmore Valour, Matusalem Oloroso casks, 40%

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Age vs. NAS round 1: Glen Moray 12 vs Glen Moray Port Finish

With all the NAS releases being done over last couple of years, and the flack the industry is getting for doing those instead of ‘properly aged whisky’ there was bound to be someone to do a comparison.

Of course, a comparison by one person wouldn’t really matter, so Oliver Klimek invited 70 friends along for the ride. We could become part of the testing panel and try five pairs of whiskies from one distillery. Each pair would be the distillery’s entry level dram and a similarly priced NAS whisky from the same company.

While you’ve probably read about the results being practically a draw and there not being any significant favor for either the age stated or NAS whisky, I still think this is a slight loss for NAS. Well, actually, more for marketing departments that have been rambling on about NAS being better. They charge more for most NAS whiskies because they are more flavor driven and therefore should be better. The shackles of the age statement have been removed, so they say. Apparently, it doesn’t really matter when compared low-end booze.

I mean low-end with respect, since most whiskies in this competition are from very decent distilleries and not just some random branded crap from the bottom shelf of the supermarket. Low-end means, in this case, the cheapest expressions from a distillery.

Oh, and obviously, this was all done blind. The only thing we knew was that each pair was from the same distillery, and that it’s from Scotland. Which was which was for us to figure out.

Sample A1A. Glen Moray Port Finish, 40%

Sweet and wine-like. A tad malty on the nose. Mostly light, with some alcohol and red fruits. The palate was a bit sharp from the alcohol. Sweet, fruity, malty and gets heavier after a while. The finish is short and simple. Just the sweetness lingers a bit.

Sample A1B. Glen Moray 12 years old, 40%

Less sweet on the nose with more clear oak influence. Heavier and a bit more depth. Dusty, chalky, barley. The palate has pepper and barley, and tastes less alcoholic. Wood, chalk, licorice, peppermint and malt. The finish is a lot longer with oak, licorice, malt and apples.

I clearly preferred the second sample and thought the first tasted mostly like they put in a lot of effort to make something of the whisky, but ended up with something that tastes too much like trickery. Like the over active oak is used to mask something. Not very refined at all.

The second sample is still a very basic whisky, but at least it tastes a lot more like whisky. Like wood, and patience, and being okay with waiting a little bit. Quite acceptable booze, to be honest. And cheap!

 

Short review: I drank the 12 year old, and poured the other down the sink.

Glen Moray Port Cask Finish will set you back € 27
Glen Moray 12 year old will cost you € 25

 

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Benromach 15, 43%

On Tuesday I was welcomed home by a big brown envelope. Normally when you say brown envelope you start thinking of discreetly packed goods you don’t want your neighbors to know about, but in this case I don’t really care. There were samples inside!

The new Benromach 15 had arrived. I was looking forward to trying it but since I’ve put my whisky spending on hold for a while I have not ordered a bottle yet. I knew there might be a sample coming, but otherwise I would have aimed for a sample at Maltstock. With 200 whisky geeks there’s bound to be someone who brings a bottle…

Since the release of the new Benromach 10 last year the guys from Forres are on a roll. They’ve collected many awards and lots of praise from bloggers and aficionados. Probably from magazines and companies too, but I try not to follow that too much.

It’s not very strange that this sudden love for the brand and the distillery has emerged since they are doing what a lot of disitilleries are moving away from. This might be a little influenced by marketing, but I do have the feeling that they’re giving the whisky an old fashioned production process instead of cutting corners to get to the next NAS release just a little bit quicker.

Sniff:
The heavy, somewhat dirty old fashionedness we’ve come to expect from Benromach is here too. Just like in the 10, 100 proof and Organic. The sherry is more prominently present which might be because of the longer maturation or different cask usage. Oloroso with peach, mango, a lot of fruit. Orange oil, the fatty, estery stuff.

Sip:
The palate is fatty and quite dry. Sherry, oak and orange. Some mango and peach here as well. A touch of smoke and peat? Not too oaky, but it is oily. After a while I get strawberries and rhubarb.

Swallow:
The finish has those strong Oloroso notes. It’s not very long but has lovely fruity flavors. It’s full, rich, a little bit dirty. That dirtiness here reminds me of engine oil or grease.

Like the organic from a little while ago, and both ten year olds from longer ago, this is a great dram. It’s quite different, but also similar. The similarity is mostly in the very old fashioned flavors, or at least a modern take on those. All of the whiskies I’ve had so far had that.

The difference between the younger versions and this is that this has much more cask influence compared to the others. The spirit has been subdued a little bit more and the sherry casks are more prominently showing their flavors. This results in much more fruit and (luckily) not just a lot more wood.

But, anyway you put it, this is a very tasty dram. It might not be as iconic as the 10 year old, or as intense as the 10 year old 100 proof, but it is delicious in its own way.

As was to be expected, the price of this is slightly higher than all others they have in their standard line, at € 80. In the current climate this is not really surprising, of course.

Benromach 15 year old, 43%. Available in most good liquor shops at € 80 or so.

Thanks to Benromach for sending me this sample!

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Macduff 1980-2011, 30 years old, 54.1% – Malts of Scotland

I really love old Macduff. I love old Macduff from bourbon casks even more. I’ve tried a couple of them over the years and all of them have been incredibly good. Subtle fruit and malt and oak matured to near perfection.

This one I tasted blind, as the last two reviews. In this case the sample also came from whisky buddy MZ. As I said before, I should taste more whiskies blind and buy based on that instead of a tasting with which I already have a prejudice about the booze.

Macduff is a bit of a fun one. Mostly because almost everything that’s been bottled from the distillery is either from around 1980, or 2000. From in between those years there most likely are bottles around, but the ones that get recognition and fame are from around those two vintages.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Green malt with freshly cut oak. Tree bark and other green scents. Quite bitter, apple and pear skins. Slowly it’s getting warmer with more malty and fruity notes.

Sip:
Lightly bitter still, but less so than on the nose. Gentle with oak and pepper. Some hints of caramel too. Soft, ripe pear and some lychee. The caramel becomes stronger as you drink it.

Swallow:
The finish is very nice with green tree bark again (the mossy kind facing north, you know). Lightly malty, some white fruits (pear, lychee). Quite long and smooth.

This whisky probably is not a favorite for every one. There are some demanding flavors and the bitterness on the nose is not something that’ll make many friends upon a first try. I think a whisky like this won’t do very well at a festival with too many easier drams surrounding it.

However, when you sit down for it, as I happened to do, it’s really rewarding. There’s a lot of discover and it goes slightly off the beaten track. The fruits, with the green malt and foresty flavors combine very well and make for a consistent, delicious experience.

When I tried it I thought it was a Glen Elgin, since they can also have this green flavor going on, but I was wrong about that. In the blind tasting competition I would at least have gotten some points for the region.

Apparently, when I read reviews of this by others (at Whiskybase for example) they got a lot more fruits from it than I did. Not sure what’s happening there, but I didn’t really get the papaya, mango and melon thing. That does not mean I like it less, though!

Macduff 1980-2011, 30 years old, 54.1%, Bourbon Hogshead, Malts of Scotland. Sold out.

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