Kilchoman 2008-2013, 4yo, 61% – OB for The Whisky Show 2013

The third sample in a row from The Whisky Exchange. This time a Kilchoman from a bourbon cask, specially released for their The Whisky Show.

I’m not going to talk too much about Kilchoman since everybody has already done that and since they only opened a couple years ago, there’s not much to tell anyway. Their whisky’s surprisingly good for it’s age.

The main reason I’ve never really hooked on to the distillery is the price of each bottle. I’ve bought a couple when they initially started releasing their first bottlings. I already sold most of what I bought since the prices became rather ridiculous and the whisky wasn’t that good.

They’re currently releasing quite a few bottlings over the year with a fairly big number of private casks too. They usually clock in just below € 100. This is exactly where my personal issue with the distillery starts.

I like their whisky. It’s lovely. I also find it very, very expensive. On the other hand, I love what they’re doing and that they built the place from scratch. But still, a hundred bucks for a 4 or 5 year old whisky? I have trouble shelling out like that. On the other hand, this plays right in the cards of the eternal NAS discussion, since we can easily state that these 100 euro 5 year old whiskies are as tasty, if not better, than many more expensive whiskies.

Kilchoman for TWE. Great stuff

Kilchoman for TWE. Great stuff

Sniff:
The peat is very present, but very clean and gentle. Heather, light vanilla, meadow flowers. There’s also some mint there. Quite spicy, but I’m having a hard time pinpointing the scent. Peaty lime if that is a thing.

Sip:
Ridiculously sharp at first, but while the heat lingers, the other flavours become more gentle. Syrupy vanilla, white pepper, alcohol. Also heather and peat, so Islay in a glass, more or less. Sweeter lime and some candy sweetness.

Swallow:
The peat is very Ardbeg-like here. Clean, strong and slightly ashy. Again, the Islay flavours of heather. Oak, vanilla, rather floral.

Maybe I should start paying more attention to Kilchoman again. Maybe I should shell out for these bottlings, since they are rather epic. I think, although it would still sting to spend a hundred bucks on stuff that’s just barely legally whisky, this stuff is pretty awesome.

It’s not overly complex, but the flavours that are present are quite pronounced, and there is something to discover. As in, not overly complex, but neither is this a simple dram. I like that this is how I always expect good Ardbeg to taste (at younger ages) but Ardbeg is somehow off my drinking radar too (‘investment’ radar is different).

So in short, this is awesome whisky. I stand corrected in my Kilchoman statement.

Kilchoman 2008-2013, 4yo, 61%, bourbon cask, OB for The Whisky Show 2013. Surprisingly it’s still available at TWE for £ 75

Again, thanks to Billy and The Whisky Exchange for the sample!

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Ledaig 16yo, 1997-2013, 56.8% – Gordon and Macphail for The Whisky Exchange

Ledaig and Tobermory, a distillery that supposedly releases some kick-ass drams every now and then, but one that I’ve never fallen in love with. I’ve tried quite a lot of the young Ledaigs from a couple years ago and can’t say I really enjoyed any of them. Some were more acceptable than others, but none were truly stunning.

Anyway, another sample sent to me by Billy Abbott, of blogging, twitter and The Whisky Exchange fame. I love trying stuff that’s out of my comfort zone and sometimes you encounter really cool and tasty stuff. Like yesterday’s Glentauchers.

Ledaig currently is popular again. A few years ago every bottler and their brother was bottling 5 year old single casks. Currently they’re highly popular with festivals and other, more private, bottlers. At 8 years old so you’d expect the production being ridiculously high in 2006.

I wonder if there’s going to be any casks left over for longer aging so there can be any comparisons. This one, however, is quite a lot older than those many bottlings, since it’s from 1997 and bottled at 16 years old. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had one this old. I’m pretty sure I haven’t tried any of their famous 1973 bottlings. Let’s dive in!

Ledaig 1997 by TWE

Ledaig 1997 by TWE

Sniff:
Much lighter in the smoke department than I expected. The smoke surely has picked up on the sherry and, like yesterday’s Glentauchers, is rather barbecue-y. Rather gentle with wood char, sweet barbecue marinade, brown sugar, ash. Maybe some grilled paprika / bell pepper / capsicum.

Sip:
Here the alcohol kicks in, with ashy smoke, lots of charred oak and charcoal. Quite some alcohol burn, with toffee sweetness and barbecue. Some thick syrupy caramel sauce. Pretty tasty.

Swallow:
The finish is gentle quick, but does leave some burn in your throat. Pretty long with some dates and toffee, on top of the rather coarse smokiness.

It’s a strange one, this one. With 16 years, a lot of alcohol and an active sherry cask, you’d expect a true bomb. And, in a way, it is exactly that. It’s just that in a different way. There’s not a HUGE amount of sherry going on, not too much fruit and spices, but quite some smoke and wood. Again, like yesterday, not a whisky that’s been overpowered.

I’m quite enamored with this dram. It’s fierce, and I don’t think you’ll find a lot of depth if you try it again and again, but it is incredibly drinkable. You’re in for an experience and a rather tasty one if I may say so.

It’s sold out, and bottlings like this are not very fashionable in auctions so I think you’ll be having a hard time finding one if you want to. I know I’m keeping my eyes peeled for this, and the Glentauchers. If the price is right of course.

Ledaig 16yo, 1997-2013, 56.8%, Gordon and Macphail for The Whisky Exchange. It’s about € 66, according to Whiskybase.

Thanks for the sample, Billy and TWE!

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Glentauchers 16yo, 1997-2013, 54.3% – Gordon and Macphail for The Whisky Exchange

The  long titles to blog posts seem to be becoming a theme. Maybe I should just review some drams that were regular OBs instead of private casks by independent bottlers.

Anyway, Glentauchers is a distillery that’s mostly used in Ballantines and is not available regularly. Not from themselves, and occasionally from indies. I could start rambling on with all kinds of uninteresting facts, but to be honest, I don’t have much to say about it except that I drove past it during our 2012 family holiday.

I’m slightly ashamed by it since we were just driving around looking for another distillery, I think it was Strathisla. In the end we never got there because Ot, my then seven month old daughter got tired of being stuck in the car for daddy’s hobby.

Credit where credit is due: I got these samples a long time ago from Billy Abbott. I wanted to taste them earlier, but there was no commercial pressure since they were already sold out. Then they got swallowed up by the massive amount of stuff in the ‘to taste and review’ stack.

Glentauchers for TWE, by Gordon & Macphail

Glentauchers for TWE, by Gordon & Macphail

Sniff:
Big sherry and big alcohol. Quite a dry and nutty scent to it, with some sherry spices. Some dates and raisin twigs. Slightly bitter and sweet. Quite a hearty scent, but I really like it so far. Nutmeg and burnt caramel.

Sip:
The palate is rather fierce, drying and very sharp with alcohol burn. There’s a lot of sweetness and that slightly bitter note behind it. There’s a lot of bittersweet sherry, caramel and brazil nuts, hazelnuts.

Swallow:
The finish goes mostly toward the nuts, dates and sherry, and is very warming. Surprisingly, it’s not a very long finish, but it is tasty. Slightly barbecue-y with lots of charcoal and sweetness.

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much. That might be a tad cynical because the guys at The Whisky Exchange are not known for picking mediocre casks. This one is one of those casks that restores a bit of faith in a distillery usually blended away and not ‘shown’ to the public.

This is a surprisingly good dram, if you’re into big sherry. It’s not very big on things other than the sherry, while it’s not just sherry on steroids. The bitterness is something I’m into at the moment so this one comes at exactly the right time. Good stuff!

Also, at not even € 70, I wish I had picked this up. Bummer. I should pay more attention. But then again, there’s a dozen shops and bottlers I should pay more attention to and we can’t have them all, can we?

Glentauchers 16yo, 1997-2013, 54.3%, Gordon and Macphail for The Whisky Exchange, sold out.

Thanks to Billy and The Whisky Exchange for sending a sample!

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Westward Whiskey, 2yo, Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey, 45% – House Spirits Distillery

Another one of those long titles for a simple review. I have to admit I had never heard of this distillery before my whisky buddy Shai sent me this sample. Not hearing of the distillery automatically means never hearing about the whiskey either. I even had to look up what Straight Malt Whiskey meant.

In this case, it’s a Malt Whiskey. Just like Scottish Single Malt, but just two years old. I find these indicators in the USA rather confusing, since in this case they could have called it single malt. The straight indicator is used similarly to bourbon, since it’s two years old.

The distillery is located in Portland, Oregon, smack in the middle of American Suburbia. I wish we had more distilleries in cities like this. Or at least, in my vicinity like in Zaandam, or Alkmaar or so. It would be even better if they actually made some good stuff there, but let’s keep the wishful thinking for another time and see what those folks in Portland are up to.

Sniff:
It’s very gentle, with soft oak notes on the nose. Quite a bit of vanilla too. No surprises so far. Some cinnamon and clove for spices, and behind that you get a whiff of the raw spirit. It’s very smooth, but not completely tamed. I have to admit, so far, so good, it’s better than I expected / hoped for.

Westward Whiskey!

Westward Whiskey!

Sip:
The palate is dry and slightly peppery with crushed black pepper. It’s sharper than I expected with a bit of character. Thick syrupy sugars and vanilla. Some spices again, the cinnamon and clove. Maybe some dried ginger too. The vanilla is almost custard-like but never overpowering. The pepper keeps building up and getting more intense.

Swallow:
Rather oaky again, more so than on the palate. The spices are still here, and there’s a slight burn in my throat, but in a good, masculin way. The finish isn’t too long but the stickiness remains longer than the flavours.

Batch 1!

Batch 1!

I love tasting whiskies like this. It’s reminiscent of a Scotch, but also has some American bits, like the oakiness and big vanilla notes. And, in this case, contrary to a lot of those really young distilleries and whiskeys, this isn’t all bad. I actually quite like it, although it’s a fairly simple dram.

But, compared to some others I’ve tried that were this young, this is recommendable. Getting back to me wanting more distilleries around, if a local still house produced stuff like this around here, I’d be a fan. Now, since it’s small batches and from across the world, it’d be way too expensive to get hold of here. But, still, if you’re in the area there, go try it out!

Westward Whiskey, 2yo, Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey, 45% – House Spirits Distillery. When in the USA, it should be available around € 35 / $ 46

Thanks for the sample, Shai!

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Glen Grant 1985-2012, 26yo, 55.6% – Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Company

A while ago I went to a club meeting and Leon Zonneveld, of “Uw Top Whisky” fame (which is considerable among whisky geeks in The Netherlands) brought me some bottles. I paid for them, and shipping which I didn’t need. Instead of paying me back, I opted for him to bring some samples. I like surprises like this.

He brought a varied pack of things I can’t even remember all, apart from that there also was an oldish Glen Moray which I, in the end, didn’t really love. It wasn’t bad, but it was nowhere near as good as I had hoped.

Anyway, this one was also in the pack and it’s been forever since I tried Glen Grant. It’s bottled by David Stirk, in the Exclusive Malts range, which is the range I prefer (Exclusive Casks is usually finished, Exclusive Range is good too but not as ‘exclusive’). Let’s dive in!

Lots of these available from UwTopWhisky

Lots of these available from UwTopWhisky

Sniff:
Much more powerful than I’m used to from Glen Grant, maybe even a little bit austere. It’s a rather typical dram of Stirk’s with some peaches and other fruits, but on a background of what I would imagine is American oak. Quite a lot of it, actually. Very gentle, very easy going. Some dried peaches too, and a hint of leather. Dried herbs, mint I think. The oak is very much present, but not overpowering.

Sip:
The palate is thick and buttery at first, but it does reveal the alcohol after a couple of seconds with some peppery and spicy heat. I just had a ‘Bastogne‘ cookie (a cookie packed with baking spices, we Dutchies seem to love that shit) before and those flavors come rushing back now, so backing spices for sure. The syrupy structure comes back after about thirty seconds of swimming, but it does remain sharp. Fresh peaches, candied fruit and oak. Some vanilla cream and white pepper. Maybe a little too much oak?

Swallow:
The palate has a strange youngish oakiness. A bit like there’s some virgin oak involved, which there is not I presume. The finish is rather long but a tad flat after the rich palate. Oak, some spices and some dried fruits. Not very rich, but still rather tasty. Slightly drying towards the end.

This is a bit of a strange one. While I like the flavors mostly, I do feel this whisky is a bit over oaked. There’s not much info on the bottle, but I assume this was matured in a sherried hogshead. There’s 203 bottles of it, so 26 years in a 250 liter cask support that guess.

Anyway, in a way I like this whisky. I’d give it some extra credit for showing David’s preferred style of whisky (based on what I’ve tasted) which is cool. On the other hand, mainly on the palate this feels like it’s been in oak a little bit too long and the spirit wasn’t strong enough to cope with the wood in the end.

Glen Grant 1985-2012, 26yo, 55.6% – Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Company. Available for € 125 from The Whisky Specialist.

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Radio Silence #2

In October 2012 I posted the first part of “radio silence”. This occurred in the days after my daughter Ot was born. This time the cause is similar, but the details differ:

Last Sunday at 0:49 my son Moos was born.

Moos

Moos

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Rosebank 25, 1981-2007, 61.4%. Part 3

Where is part two you might ask. Well, I kind of screwed up on my last post about the Rosebank 25. Apparently I had already reviewed it almost four years ago when I just opened it. I forgot, I didn’t check.

What I did do after finding out is re-reading my post from 2010 (in Dutch), to see how my tasting notes add up. Or how my nose and palate add up, for that matter. I have noticed over the course of a couple of years that I tend to pick up certain scents and flavors more than others, and that those flavors vary from time to time. A couple of years ago I picked up a lot of bread-like scents, then came fruit, now I seem to get pepper in almost every dram I try.

Combine this with the fact that I wrote quite different tasting notes for the same dram at two different points in time and you can easily realize this warrants further investigation.

Now, what did I do? I poured myself another glass of Rosebank 25 and sat down to try it. Again. Of course, having just tasted it, and just read my old tasting notes, I might be a bit ‘directed’ to which scents and flavors I should be picking up, I still think this is an interesting way of going at it.

Rosebank 25, Again?!

Rosebank 25, Again?!

Sniff:
Dry and flowery, with straw and barley/wheat ears. Some daffodils too. It’s more fruity than I thought two days ago, with galia melon. Some fresh orange juice too, with hints of vanilla custard and baking spices. Wet grass, alcohol and some hospital-like ether behind all that. Must be the vast amount of alcohol. It’s drying and chalky.

Sip:
The palate is dry, strong and sharp. The powder found inside Napoleon candies (the lemon ones). Orange, chalky/dusty with straw, barley and white pepper. Alcohol and a drop of vanilla.

Swallow:
The finish has a tiny whiff of peat but that is gone quickly. Sharp, peppery with vanilla and straw. Not too complicated, but long and delicious.

World famous in NL at least.

World famous in NL at least.

To try something else entirely, I also tried it with a splash of water (some 25-30% I guess).

On the nose it stayed rather sharp with more focus on straw and vanilla. A bit more typically Rosebank. Slightly more focus on the spices too with curry powder and ginger. Some pepper too with lemon drops. The palate is sweeter but still sharpish. Warmer, more custard. Vanilla, pepper, alcohol and heather. The finish is dry and less sharp, but there’s still some alcohol burn left. Daffodils and an earthy undertone.

I tried it again while upping the water/booze level to about 50/50 but that destroys this dram. I wrote no tasting notes since it would not make any sense to do so.

To review this tasting experiment, I’m going to do two different things. First, in short, the tasting notes themselves, then the experiment itself. I think that’s the most interesting part.

The tasting notes I made this time are more or less in the middle of the first and second try. I realize I am less tired now than I was earlier this week around 11 PM, and therefore that makes quite the difference. So, first conclusion is to value my reviews when not tired more highly than the ones I do on a random moment when I’m postponing my bed time.

Then, what does this teach me?

Several things, to be a tad more exact.

The most important thing this tells me is something Jon Beach told me last year when we were chatting in his whisky room after some other whisky experimenting. He told me he didn’t believe in tasting notes because “by the time you really get to know a whisky is when you’ve finished more than half the bottle”.

This tells me that all us whisky bloggers are a idiots to try to make sensible tasting notes based on a 2 cl sample of which you don’t know how it was stored, for how long and at what temperatures. It also tells us that if you knew all these factors, you still would only be describing your take on the ‘whisky’ instead of actually describing it in depth.

Of course, that would result in not making any decisions based on tasting notes. Even our own tasting notes. Unfortunately those are all we have if we are lucky. Most of the time you’re not able to taste something before you decide whether or not to buy a bottle and you only have the hype, the marketing blurb and maybe someone else’s description of it.

Kind of a bummer, but since this is all we have to go on, we might as well make the most of it. It also summarizes neatly why I find the ‘explorability’ of a whisky so important. A dram might be all nice, but if I’m spending some serious money on it I want there to be some bits left to be discovered. Of course, not all whiskies have that kind of depth, but it’s not necessary all the time. When I pick up my nth bottle of Maker’s Mark I want a whisky for drinking in summer, with ice while barbecuing. No depth required. Tastiness is key at such times.

So, not all that eye opening, and most of us know this stuff already. But the proof is here again. Our (bloggers’) tasting notes are just indications of a whisky, not a definite guide. We are off some times too, not every situation is comparable to another, however many variables you eliminate.

It makes sense to try as many whiskies yourself before taking anyone else’s ideas as a guideline so you compare your findings to that writer/blogger/pr-dude’s. If you like similar drams, you know you can put some trust in it. Also, pay more attention to the description on a website than to the actual rating. If someone likes peppery whisky and you don’t, you’re not going to find that out by just looking at Talisker’s high scores everywhere.

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