Dingle Single Malt, 46.3%

Yesterday a new Irish Single Malt whiskey was released by Dingle. It’s their first core whiskey, and therefore they released it with the hashtag #heretostay.

There have been Dingle Single Malts before (Dingle Malt?) but those were batched released instead of a core expression. A step in the right direction to finally have a regularly available whiskey from one of Ireland’s newer distilleries.

In the Netherlands Dingle is imported by Whisky Center and they were kind enough to send me a sample a little while ago (thanks DJK!).

Maturation of this approximately six year old whiskey happens for 61% in PX sherry casks, while the rest of the whiskey is drawn from bourbon casks. Let’s find out what this all means in terms of scent and flavor!

Geen fotobeschrijving beschikbaar.
Image by Dingle Distillery

Sniff:
The nose starts noticeably young, but not harsh. There’s a clean spirit, and both the bourbon and PX cask haven’t overpowered this youngster. Lots of bready notes with a small note of baking spices. Powdered clove and ginger. The spirit isn’t sweet at all (how un-Irish?), with mostly hints of moss and ferns. After a while I get a hint of coffee.

Sip:
The palate is quite smooth and there’s a little bit more sweetness here. A hint of crushed black pepper, with some espresso like dryness. Behind it is some barley sweetness, with hints of fresh white bread with poppy seed crust. The foresty note is still there, but is much more timid.

Swallow:
The finish is, again, a little bit more sweet than what came before. More typically Irish because of it. More focus on the barley, the breadiness of it. Still some hints of black pepper and the dryness of an espresso. Some other spices than pepper too, that ground clove and ginger.

Not bad at all, and the youthfulness of it is actually quite likeable. I’m very glad the whiskey hasn’t been overpowered by the use of so many PX sherry casks, which had me worried for a little bit.

I’m very curious to see where this goes with some more aging, as I expect there to be a 10 year old in a few years either. So far, they seem to be on the right track with this tasty dram!

85/100

Available at Whisky Center and other retailers in The Netherlands since yesterday (officially) for about € 55

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Clynelish 24, 1996-2020, Bourbon Hogshead WN001, 54.9% – WhiskyNerds

There’s a couple of these newish bottlers out there that are going for quality instead of quantity. Of course, officially they all go for quality, but I think y’all know what I mean when I say this.

Most of them want exposure and want to cater to a lot of different audiences, while the bottlers I’m considering don’t really care if they miss the < € 100 audience, as long as everything they bottle is the best thing they can get their hands on.

Apart from WhiskyNerds, I’m thinking The Duchess, Michiel Wigman, Wu-Dram Clan and the like. I’m obviously missing a few and people have been raving about Asta Morris and The Whisky Jury too, but I’ve not had much, if anything by these guys at all.

Anyway, when an indie Clynelish comes out, I always get a bit giddy. When it’s from one of these kick-ass bottlers I really want to taste it. And when it is the favorite distillery of one of the guys behind the brand, I sort-of must have the bottle.

The massive drawback of this ‘quality first’ approach is of course the price tag, and therefore I don’t have a bottle of this, but I do have half a bottle. TvE was kind enough to split one with me!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Initially I get a note of acetone and lots of light fruitiness. The waxiness of apple skins, honey and beeswax, strawberries, and gentle notes of American oak. With some time the waxy notes get a bit stronger and focus more on the beeswax. There’s a whiff of salinity too.

Sip:
The palate let’s you know it’s a cask strength bottling, with a bit of heat to back up the oak. Slightly spicy without being a clear peppery note. A different kind of waxiness, more like textural than the beeswax and apple skins from the nose. Dried apples, yellow wine gums, dark toast with butter.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more lively than the palate with the strawberries making a come-back, and the apple being more prominent. The spiciness remains although the beeswax returns as well. Honey, oak, barley, a bit of toast.

I guess € 300 is what we have to pay for this kind of whisky nowadays. The Nerds aren’t even that exceptably priced, with long-time bottlers like Signatory quickly approaching these price tags as well.

Also, if I get whisky like this, I guess I don’t mind the money that much. Of course, it’s a shitload and you can also get very good whisky for less, but old Clynelish is something else. Much like old Springbank, for example. Shit’s expensive, yo!

A ‘verdict’ then! While Clynelish from the 80s and 70s was a lot more waxy, this represents the distillery very well, and that’s already a great thing. The fact that it’s a rather fruity dram with some spices behind the wax and fruit for complexity makes it even greater!

I absolutely love this bottling. It’s gorgeous and I was going to say ‘get one while you can’, but you can’t anymore. In the secondary market it’s already at € 500 after just being out for a week and a half or so.

But holy shit this is good.

92/100

Sample provided by The WhiskyNerds themselves.

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Secret Islay 2007-2021, 14yo, Monbazillac Cask, 51.7% – Michiel Wigman, They Inspired II

Just to clear some things up, Monbazillac is a French dessert wine, a sweet wine not unlike Sauternes or Muscat. As proven by Caol Ila’s Distiller’s Edition, this works quite well, generally.

This Secret Islay is truly secret, Michiel Wigman also doesn’t know what distillery this is from, but after tasting it there is a bit of a guessing game going on, of course.

So, after the Ben Nevis that recently was released by The Duchess, another wine cask matured whisky. Is this a new thing that there now are good wine casks out there? It would be an interesting development, and you would expect that to happen sooner or later.

Of course, one of the benefits of peated whisky is that it generally works better with wine casks than unpeated whisky, but the truly good ones are few and far between still.

Let’s just dive in!

Sniff:
The nose starts slightly fruity with an aroma of heavy smoke. The sweet wine is quite noticeable too, with hints of Muscat and overripe grapes. The sweetness also comes through with hints of smoked crème brûlée. Hints of straw and marram grass, and after a while a note of smoked cheese pops up. Not too surprising with the creamy notes that came before.

Sip:
The palate is largely similar. Sweet and smoky, with typical notes of Islay whisky. Marram grass, salinity, heavy smoke, some feinty notes as well. Overripe grapes, seaweed, even some tar and bandaids. A minor note of diesel in the background and oak.

Swallow:
The finish brings the fruitiness to a bigger intensity. Again, lots of grapes, lots of smoky creaminess. Fruit, hessian, hay.

So, to ‘pass judgment’ on this whisky, we have to look at some different angles.

First of all, there’s the wine cask. It feels really well integrated with the whisky so I would guess this is a 14 year maturation instead of a finish. It fits. It works quite well too, to be honest. There’s some expected sweetness, but the Islay whisky stands up to it nicely.

Second, there’s the Islay side of things. As with yesterday’s Ardmore, this whisky has mellowed with time. Not as much time as the Ardmore, obviously, but for a 14 year old Islay whisky, I expected a lot more oomph. Having said that, there’s enough left to entertain the whisky drinkers that love to get their smoke on. Good stuff again!

Now, for the bit of a guessing game. My guess, based on how it tastes and smells is that this is either Lagavulin or Laphroaig. And since Lagavulin (AFAIK) only works with bourbon and sherry casks, my money is on Laphroaig. It fits the feinty notes, the band-aids, the tar.

In short, this is a very solid whisky and a very entertaining one too. I’m liking it a lot.

88/100

Available from Dutch Whisky Connection for € 155

Sample provided by Michiel Wigman. Thanks a million!

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Ardmore 1988-2021, 32yo, 48.6% – Michiel Wigman, They Inspired II

One of the brightest stars among the firmament of new bottlers that have popped up the last couple of years must be Michiel Wigman. He’s world famous in The Netherlands and some countries around it for having one of the most awesome stands at whisky festivals, massive knowledge about whisky and an impressive knack for loving Springbank.

Since early 2020 he’s been releasing his own bottlings, and so far I’ve loved all of them. Last year’s ‘They Inspired’ was themed around political leaders and it seems this year’s theme is going to be either Jazz musicians, or musicians in general.

Anyway, in the first batch of 2021 we find this 32 year old Ardmore. The age isn’t ‘stated’ but calculated on Whiskybase which makes this an educated guess, but together with another recent release by The Nectar of the Daily Drams, this is one of the two oldest Ardmores ever to be released!

Sniff:
It’s very gentle, more like a caress than an oomph. The smoke is not overly powerful, but what is that is quite heavy. Not a light smokiness, but a gentle one at that too. It’s very highland like with hints of heather, oak, hay and grass. A hint of honey adds itself to the nose. The ‘lightness’ is because of great and long aging.

Sip:
The palate is, as expected, as gentle as the nose. A combination of old age and an almost Lowlands like style. Gentle oak, tamed peat represent the age, while hay, heather and a note of dried wildflowers bring a bit of a Lowlands style. Added to that are hints of apple and pear skins, old lime and just a touch of black pepper.

Swallow:
The finish continues in a similar vein. There’s a touch of vanilla that wasn’t there before, and the pepper lingers here too.

Because I never had Ardmore this old, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. However, compared to many other peated whiskies, it turns out old Ardmore becomes very, very gentle. Due to that I had to recalibrate a little bit since my expectations were wrong, and that took a sip or two.

I realized a long time ago that age and maturity are not the same thing, and this one proves that again. I would have believed if someone told me this was 40 years old. It’s incredibly smooth and gentle, although I wouldn’t recommend trying this at a festival, or after more than one other whisky.

If you give this whisky the respect and attention it deserves, you’re rewarded with layers of gentle flavors that are typical of the distillery. Even after 32 years the spirit of Ardmore isn’t completely replaced by wood influences, and that is a good thing. All in all, this is a great whisky.

Apart from the price tag, this is also my ‘issue’ with this whisky, if you can call it that. It’s feels a tad fragile and if you do not give it the love and respect it deserves, it doesn’t draw your attention. It’s a whisky to analyze, and not just to drink.

As you might expect, the drawback is that great whisky at a great age comes at a significant price tag. This one is available for pre-ordering at Dutch Whisky Connection for € 480.

90/100

Sample provided by Michiel Wigman. Thanks a million, gorgeous stuff!

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Back to basics with Glenfiddich

Sometimes you have to recalibrate your palate. All these bloggers tasting all kinds of exclusive whiskies, you can lose track of what the current standard is. We call stuff ‘good’, but what do we compare things to?

Some tasters do this by always starting with a benchmark whisky, just to know where you’re coming from, but I’m not a professional like that. I just try to occasionally sit down with a sample of stuff I liked when I started this whole journey of organoleptic discovery.

And a few weeks ago, when Whisky Center sent me their first sample pack containing their own Craigellachie and ‘Burnside‘, the other samples were the ‘standard’ range of Glenfiddich from the well known 12 year old to the rum cask finished 21 year old.

While these are not the most ‘wow-factor’ whiskies, I was quite thrilled to retry them after some years of not even considering them for a sit-down. Here it goes!


Glenfiddich 12, ‘Our Original Twelve’, 40%

Sniff:
A tad thin at first, but where are hints of apple, pear and bread-and-butter-pudding. Quite some sweet and gentle pastry notes.

Sip:
The palate is a bit more dry than the nose, but it remains very apple-y and pear-like. A candy like sweetness runs through, but with hints of French bread with butter.

Swallow:
The finish is not very long, but it gets notes of iron, so a tad metallic.

It’s not going to blow your socks off any time soon, but with a whisky like this at about € 30 it’s not surprising at all that the brand is so big and so popular around the world. A very solid entry level dram that sits in the middle of the road. Very un-offensive, so to say.

82/100


Glenfiddich 15, ‘Our Solera Fifteen’, 40%

Sniff:
The base of aromas is very similar to the 12 year old, but it’s just a bit more rich and a bit more sweet. More baking spices and some peaches on top of the apples and pears.

Sip:
The palate is as sweet as the nose, but it does have some hints of white and black pepper.

Swallow:
The dryer notes continue, as do the sweet notes. Some pound cake, peaches, pear and apple. Also, there are some more clear notes of barley.

This is definitely a step up from the 12, both in price and in character. Still very true to Glenfiddich, but the use of sherry casks adds a bit more excitement and complexity.

84/100


Glenfiddich 18, ‘Our Small Batch Eighteen’, 40%

Sniff:
With another three years of aging, the maturity of the whisky increases significantly. There’s a lot more oak influence, and it had hints of dried apple.

Sip:
The palate is a bit lighter, and still thin (46% would work miracles, I guess). The increased time in oak shows itself by adding flavors of mulch and forest floor, quite autumnal.

Swallow:
On the finish there’s a bit more dryness than before, and a hint of light spices. Apple and pear too.

This is a huge step up from the 15 and a very enjoyable dram. My only issue with it is that it’s still bottled at 40%. I understand it from their perspective, with their clientele and target audience, but I would love to try this at a higher ABV. Still, a very solid dram!

86/100


Glenfiddich 21, ‘Gran Reserva – Rum Cask Finish’, 40%

Sniff:
The oldest of my samples is, again, a bit lighter than the one that came before. Also, a bit more thin than the 18. Somehow it seems a bit off balance between spirit and cask, but that might be the rum finish. It’s gone a bit dull.

Sip:
The palate is rather sweet with lots of fruit. However, it’s more like the fruitiness of wine gums, a tad chemical and artificial. With some time in the glass, there’s more dryness.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit of a let-down. It shows hints of grain, oak and fruit, but it’s all a bit generic.

This one doesn’t really work for me. It’s like it’s a sweetened, but muted version of the 18, with hints of artifical sweetness, and not much that warrents the 250% increase in price at all.

84/100


Even though the line-up was a little anti-climactic, I do like to recalibrate my palate like this. It was a fun evening with some quality drams, and especially the first three have a really good value-for-money rating.

Thanks to DJK from Whisky Center for sending the samples!

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Ardmore 21, 1997-2019, Bourbon Hogshead 901456, 49.4% – Whisky-Doris

Lately I’ve been becoming a bigger and bigger Ardmore fan, I realize. I’ve always liked peated whisky but I often find, after years of trying shitloads of drams, that the more gently smoked whiskies offer greater depth and complexity and a properly aged Ardmore fits that category nicely.

What also helps to make it stand out is that it’s a different kind of peated-ness than Islay. A difference between inland peat, or coastal peat, so to say.

So, when I was at Whiskybase some months ago and I saw this one on the shelf, it stood out because of the label. Upon further inspection it turned out to be an Ardmore and a 21 year old at that. I didn’t have to decide for long until it ended up on the counter.

Image from Whiskybase

And now, about half a year later, it was time to finish the bottle. I’ve used it in a tasting and shared it with some friends in a more casual setting. High time to write a review and empty it, so to say!

Sniff:
A gentle smoke of hay and moss. Very green in it’s smokiness. There’s also heather and honey. Some apples and a whiff of chalky white wine.

Sip:
A rich palate with hay and earthiness, heather, honey and pinecones. Forest floor, dried moss, some peat smoke. Barley and oak.

Swallow:
The finish is dry and sweet. Earthy with flavors of decay in all the right ways. Dead pine needles on a wet forest floor. Moss, heather, honey sweetness.

This is exactly what I hope to find in an Ardmore. A peated whisky without the seaweed, the salinity or the medicinal notes that are more common in Islay whiskies. Here it’s slightly more woody, mossy and heathery, and that’s great.

I love that the cask hasn’t been too influential on the whisky and the rather clean spirit of Ardmore still comes through nicely. A highlight!

90/100

Available at Whiskybase for € 160

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Guest post: Strathean 3, 2016-2019, Single Malt Batch 1, 46.6%

If I had known Ruben was going to publish his tasting notes to the first batch of Strathearn, I would not have sat on Tom’s notes on the same whisky one day too long.

In short, it would have been more fun to post these yesterday, but here they are anyway!

Tom wrote this, so it’s another guest post!


Strathearn is a new kid on the block, as being born in 2013 is still infancy in the whisky world. But it was a frontrunner in the opening of a lot of new distilleries in those days. They call themselves a craft distillery and the sweet little Hoga Stills underline that. Go check out their story.

I bought batch 001 of their NAS Strathearn single malt whisky. Looks like a clean break with the million “private casks” they released. A handsome bottle and spirit matured in European oak and ex-sherry casks. The colour of the whisky underlines these influences. Let’s see if we can detect some Perthshire character from Strathearn. A new sibling to Blair Athol, Aberfeldy and Edradour?

Sniff:
Spicey layers over warm maltings. Some cinnamon and tobacco leaf. Very modest.

Sip:
Very rounded mouthfeel, the spices are there again, but now also a pleasant sweetness that was not foretold by the smell. What I admire is the absence of youth. This tastes quite mature already, like a decent 10 years old. The Hoga Stills at work here? Nice, fat spirit that dances easily with the powerful casks. Strong impressions of tobacco and copper coins. Tea of which you have forgotten to take out the bag.

Swallow:
Dark tones of pure chocolate and coffee. Good wood influence. Very smooth, even though the flavours are very outspoken.

There is a lot going on, impressive whisky, the only thing missing is a bit more integration and complexity. The parts are there, with a few more years the sum will make for a outspoken total.  

82/100


About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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Ben Nevis 9, 2011-2020, Bourbon Barrels, 46% – Signatory Vintage

When a new Ben Nevis pops up, I am automatically enthusiastic, since most of them are very good nowadays. When that one is young I get a little bit less thrilled, but when it’s only about € 40, that kind of makes up for that.

So, on a recent visit to De Whiskykoning I picked one up for a tasting, sold some samples and emptied the bottle myself when writing a review.

Sniff:
There’s youthful alcohol, with some orchard fruits. Apple, pear. A whiff of vanilla and puff pastry too. Still, it’s quite an astringent whisky, with some iron and minerals.

Sip:
The palate is light, but the astringency stands out a bit more. There’s a bit of a wine gum like sweetness, although that dissipates with more oxygen. Apple, pear, white grapes, iron, slate.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit sweeter, and a bit more pastry like. More vanilla, more puff pastry. Not very long.

Of course it’s young, but luckily the casks haven’t made it into a vanilla bomb. It’s also quite sweet because of the spirit still being quite prominent, but otherwise a fine whisky.

It’s a ‘little’ whisky, easy drinking but very little complexity. Well priced, though. For the money, it’s quite some value, actually.

Now I’m interested in the sister cask that has come out since…

85/100

This one is from casks 157 and 158. More info can be found here.

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Balmenach 13, 2008-2021, Oloroso butt, 53.3% – Hart Brothers

I’m not sure if it is me, but I had the idea Hart Brothers was a bottler from years ago that had more or less ceased to bring out new bottlings. Until last year that was, since there suddenly was that GlenDronach Sherry cask for the Netherlands.

Apparantly, when I think a little bit harder, I realize I’m quite wrong since I also had a bottle of Bowmore that I bought after tasting it at Hielander some years ago. So, Hart Brothers never really left, but they didn’t get much attention either. At least, not in The Netherlands.

Anyway, now there’s this Balmenach, from a first fill sherry butt. I’ve not had many Balmenachs over the years, but I do fondly remember an SMWS one at a ridiculous ABV that I found really good.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
This strangely smells like a very young brandy from virgin oak instead of a 13 year old whisky from sherry casks. Lots of fruit distillate, with quite some hints of copper. Fresh oak with some ginger-like spiciness.

Sip:
The palate brings more typical whisky flavors, with a very and peppery dryness, as well as oloroso spiciness. It’s quite hot for a whisky at ‘just’ 53%, with chili peppers. There’s a slight bitterness that combines with dried prunes. After a little while it gets a bit more syrupy and thick, and sweet.

Swallow:
The combination of the palate and the nose makes the finish. The sweetness and fruit from the palate and the brandy like dryness from the nose. It works quite well here.

I really have to think about whether I like this whisky or not. In a way, it’s not bad, but it’s also not what you would expect from any whisky, especially not a scotch. If tasted blind, I would have guessed it to be some weird French distillate instead of a single malt scotch.

Individually, there’s something to say for the nose, the palate and the finish, but especially between the nose and the palate, there’s just a huge gap in flavors. That makes it a very unbalanced dram.

In short, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t make any sense. If I want a sherry cask matured whisky, this is not what I mean.

80/100 I guess

Available in The Netherlands for around € 100

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Secret Highland 12, 2007-2020, Hogshead, 47.8% – The Whisky Agency

As far as bottlers go, The Whisky Agency operates in the top layer of them. There’s some others up there, but not many. So, when a joint bottling with Heads & Tails came out, I got a little bit thrileld.

In part because ‘Secret Highlands’ have been good the last couple of years, and in part because their previous joint bottling with the Canadians was rather awesome. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve never reviewed that here, but the notes must have gotten lost in a pile somewhere.

Anyway, a 12 year old. Sort-of affordable at € 90. Bourbon cask. All sounds good to me.

Sniff:
Very light, with some chalk, a touch of vanilla and some minerals. A bit of dried pineapple and a tin of boiled candy.

Sip:
The palate adds a bit of sweetness and some white pepper. A bit more vanilla than before.

Swallow:
On the finish it gets a little bit more weighty, a bit richer. Some oak, vanilla custard, biscuits, and white pepper.

I bottle-shared most of this bottle and then used the remainder in a tasting, so when I sat down for it I had just tried in a line-up the night before. In the tasting this didn’t do anything, and on it’s own it’s only slightly better.

You really have to work for some flavors to come out and if you don’t it’s just too bland a whisky. A bit of a shame, really, but it’s just not very good.

83/100

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