Tomatin 14, 2008-2022, Cognac Barrique finish, 50% – Thompson Brothers

Some time ago I was talking with my in-laws about whisky. My father-in-law and both brothers-in-law are quite enthusiastic about whisky too, so we tend to end up drinking a dram and chatting about good booze quite often.

In this specific conversation I’m referring to, we started yapping about which kind of casks are used, and it was mentioned that there aren’t too many Cognac casks going around in the Scotch whisky industry. I know they exist, but they’re quite rare compared to other slightly less standard casks like fortified wines and such.

Of course, as fate would have it, the next day or so a newsletter dropped that had this Thompson Brothers bottling available, from a Cognac cask. A bottle-share was quickly arranged.

I think Tomatin is a good whisky to showcase different casks, since it’s a pretty high quality spirit, but one that does leave quite some room for the cask to shine. Let’s see what a 27 month finish in a Cognac Barrique does to a gentle spirit like Tomatin!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
There’s a sharp oakiness, which I find on virtually all Cognac casks, as far as they exist. So, a lot of wood on a very gentle spirit. A scent of quill too (the wet-ish hay to feed animals in winter), and some copper. A bit of orange pith, and after a while it smooths out a little bit. The start is slightly harsh on the oak.

Sip:
The palate has that oaky harshness too, but not in a bad way since the ABV is rather toned down at a nice 50%. Slightly creamy, hay. That orangy note too, with the bitterness. It does start building some heat after half a minute with hints of white pepper.

Swallow:
The finish is quite dry, and brings that same heat and bite that the palate ended with. Nice and warming.

It’s a strange whisky, that only slightly works because of the not-ridiculous ABV. A bit higher and this would have gotten too harsh. Now it’s not a very complex whisky, but I do think it nicely shows what a Cognac cask does to a gentle spirit.

On Whiskybase I see that not a lot of people like it, and some actively dislike it. While I think it’s not actually that bad, I do get the lower rating. Cognac casks are hard to work with, or so it seems, and you need a more forceful spirit to stand up to it. In this case, the oaky harshness doesn’t really work and there’s not a lot going on to counteract the bitterness.

81/100

Still available for about € 80

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Kilkerran Sherry and Port Cask, 2022 releases

The Kilkerran Sherry Cask was part of the Blind Tasting Competition, as it turns out. I had tried it before some six months ago, but didn’t recognize it. Obviously.

I also had a sample of the Port Cask with tasting notes written but not yet published, so this is as good a shot as any to do both of them!

Kilkerran 8, bottled 2022, Port Cask, 57.9%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
While all Campbeltown distillates tend to be rather funky (maybe except Hazelburn) this one pushes it to the limits. Slightly sulfury with a combination of funky Kilkerran and funky port cask influence. Old oak and red fruits that are well past their best-before-date. Rather jammy as well, but it’s mostly the port cask that’s dicating the nose.

Sip:
The arrival is deceptively gentle, but kicks in after a couple of seconds. Then it gets rather hot with alcohol (it’s a first dram of the day situation, though). Red fruits, lots of old oak and chilli peppers. Apart from it being a bit hot eventually (as in, it becomes less hot) there’s a syrupy mouthfell which goes nicely with the fruits. The massive funkiness of the nose isn’t all here, but there’s a bit of old oak and moldy attic going on.

Swallow:
The finish mellows quickly and leaves the typical port-cask flavors behind. Lots of stewed red fruits, lots of old oak

Massively funky but it is surprising how well port casks are handled by Kilkerran and Springbank whiskies. Even though the funkiness might not be for everyone, it does have its fair share of fans, and in this case it’s a rather good example of what it can bring in terms of unique flavors and layering of depth. Good stuff!

86/100


Kilkerran 8, bottled 2022, Sherry Cask, 58.1%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very intense on the nose, and the sherry leaps out of the glass. Pecan pie with dates, and a little bit of yeasty funkiness. Barley and oak, true to Kilkerran’s character. It is not overly clearly a sherry cask to me. The increases funkiness could also be port, so I was slightly mislead during the Blind Tasting Competition. Stewed forest fruits, blackberries, strawberries.

Sip:
Quite a biter, with some chilli pepper heat to indicate where you have any tiny cuts or scrapes in your mouth. Lots of funky sweetness, pecan pie with pecan paste, sweetened pastry, maple syrup. Some oak and yeastiness too. Stewed red fruits again, with more pepper. It stays hot, with a ‘fortified wine’ funkiness. Rather charry, the black bits on a flame grilled steak kind of note.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more dry, and shows more notes of oak, and a sudden whiff of mocha to go with the pecan pie. Charry beef with stewed red fruits.

A bit of a strange one that leans a bit towards the port cask version, more so than I expected. But, when you can get this around its release date for the original price it’s a tremendous dram to sit down with. It might not be the most complex or not as ridiculously good as the regular Springbank 10, for example, but it sure as hell is entertaining!

87/100

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Clynelish 18, Refill Bourbon Barrel 26.70, 54.7% – SMWS (Gobstoppers in the Headmaster’s Office)

Yes, one of those names that doesn’t mean anything to me unless I Google it. And even then relevance is highly limited. But in the end, it’s what in the bottle that counts.

Interestingly, this whisky is a bottle I had on the shelf for a very long time but the reviews weren’t too good on Whiskybase so I didn’t open it for quite a while. In the end I did open it for a whisky tasting during the pandemic. Now, when writing the review, I looked back once again to the Whiskybase page and the rating has gone up significantly. And understandably so…

But, in the end I see that most of the reviews are based on that tasting, so I was holding back on opening this bottle based on practically no one’s opinion. Silly me.

Sniff:
An extremely waxy and surprisingly mature Clynelish. Honey, candles, barley and oak. Warming with a bit of soft apples, and a bit of pie dough.

Sip:
Barely any sharpness or heat. There’s waxy honey and a pastry sweetness. It’s offset by a very dry kind of barley ears and chaff. After a minute or two there’s some white pepper.

Swallow:
The finish brings some heather on top of a less waxy background. Still dry with oak and grain.

Rather quintessential Clynelish that really let’s the spirit shine. Quite mature, but the cask plays second fiddle. It does very well what you hope Clynelish will do. Waxy with a light undertone of honey sweetness. Of course, most of these bottles are long gone, but if you can get your hands on one, I would do so.

90/100

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Glentauchers 21, 1997-2019, Barrel 3833, 49.3% – Archives for CaskAid

CaskAid is a Belgium NPO that sells independently bottled whisky for charity. That sounds like a good way of raising money to me, and when combined with Archives, we should be in for some good stuff!

Image from Whiskybase

Archives is the independent bottling line from Whiskybase, and have been on quite a roll lately. Over the last couple of months I think there are more releases than there are months going by, so keeping up is challenging (and not happening any more for me…).

Glentauchers is a whisky distillery in Scotland’s Speyside, and one with many faces. Most of their outturn goes into blends as far as I know, and when there’s a single malt bottled you never really know what you’re going to get until you try it. So, let’s do exactly that!

Sniff:
This is a rich dram, and a much more complex dram than I expected from Glentauchers. Then again, it’s Archives… A slightly dry nose with a hint of vanilla behind the oak and the straw. Melba toast, oven baked sesame seeds. Dried apple skins.

Sip:
The palate is pretty strong for a sub-fifty percent ABV. Luckily, it mellows quickly. Quite a woody dram, with oak shavings and sawdust. Dried apple skins too, so all in all there’s definitely some bitterness. A pound cake’s crust too.

Swallow:
The finish is dry with the same bitterness as before, but rather gentle. Not very long, but it’s nice with that dry fruity note.

If I’d bought a bottle of this, I’d not regret it. There’s some flavors to discover and it has a nice age to it. And, I love these balanced bitter notes.

87/100

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Two brandies with Wu-Dram Clan involvement!

Recently the guys behind Wu-Dram Clan released an old Cognac. A Jean-Luc Pasquet, which has proven to be a rather noteworthy Cognac house that works really well for whisky fanatics. More or less at the same time they released an Armagnac with Kirsch Import, under the GrapeDiggaz label. The first one is from 1958, while the second one is a lot younger but still has the respectable vintage of 1995.

I was lucky enough to get samples of both and last weekend I sat down to try both of them on a (rare) quiet moment.

Jean-Luc Pasquet 1958-2022, Cognac Grande Champagne, 43.1%

Image from Whic (bottle available there too)

Sniff:
Massive notes of soft oak and orange. Metallic notes of copper and iron too. It’s rather high on minerals as well, with some grapeseed oil.

Sip:
The palate is rather light and crisp on the arrival. Some pepper and bit of fruity richness follows. Oak, iron, minerals and grape stuff. Both grape seeds and grape skin, in texture. Black pepper too.

Swallow:
The finish is surprisingly intense with lots of iron and oak. Lots of grape things again, like on the palate.

This is a very layered Cognac! It’s very classical on one hand, but rather crisp notes keep it very interesting. The huge age on this brandy does not make it over aged, or dusty or boring at all. It’s very interesting for a deep dive, and very good to drink. Lovely stuff!

89/100

Available here for € 360


Maison Aurian 1995-2022, Bas Armagnac, 48.9%

Image from Passie voor Whisky (bottle available there too)

Sniff:
Well, compared to the Cognac, you get the traditional increased richness from a Armagnac. There’s quite some oak on this one, mostly notes of European oak (that would be my guess anyway). Spices and candied orange, black pepper and chocolate.

Sip:
The black pepper comes forward on the palate as well. There’s a fruity, orangy sweetness with a bit of pith bitterness behind it. White chocolate and espresso.

Swallow:
The finish is very dry, much more than I expected from the palate. There’s some chili pepper heat with orange and apricot. Some cocoa powder too.

The scents and flavors of this Armagnac is all over the place, but feels anything but inconsistent. It’s just quite complex and shows a lot of different flavors. A gorgeous brandy with lots of things to be discovered.

90/100

Available here for € 125

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Glen Garioch 10, 2011-2022, Bourbon Cask, 53.4% – Michiel Wigman

Image from Whiskybase

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that virtually all of Michiel Wigman’s whiskies have been reviewed here. I bet I missed some, and I do know I have some other spirits of his left to review, but the whiskies in their various guises have seen the light of day here.

Generally, I like his personal style and preferences. Therefore even though some whiskies have been Caol Ila matured in sweet wine casks, or port matured Glentauchers, I still quite like them. This one though…

It was part of the Blind Tasting Competition and I hadn’t had it before. Let’s just dive in.

Sniff:
Shoe polish and forced oak, a very young dram. Hot engine parts, scorched plywood. Lots of glue and nail polish remover. A pastry sweetness in the background.

Sip:
Again, very young with a lot of sharp oak notes. Shoe polish, copper and hot engines. Freshly sawn plywood, including the sawdust and glue. The dryness, with heat and a whiff of bitterness are a little bit pithy.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more sweet, but still very clunky and young. Very unrefined. Copper, metal.

Let’s disclaim that there’s always the off-chance that a sample got screwed up between being bottled and being tasting. I strongly doubt that, but it is not impossible. If something like that happened here, it would explain a lot.

But, most likely, this is just a whisky that is absolutely not for me. It tasted sharp and hot, and far younger than it’s actual ten years. In my mind this was definitely a very young (read 3 or 4 years old) whisky with far too much oak influence without actually maturing.

So, in short, I didn’t like it at all. There are some notes that are interesting, don’t get me wrong, but all of them combined together made up for a weird mix of scents and flavors that I couldn’t really handle.

78/100

This bottle is still available via Best of Wines for € 115. For full disclosure: Everybody else seems to like a whole lot better than I do!

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Macallan ‘Rich Cacao’, The Harmony Collection, 44%

Image from Whiskybase

The fifth of twelve whiskies in this year’s Blind Tasting Competition. Because age-guessing is part of the game, I never think of NAS whiskies. But, apart from that, I would never have guessed Macallan. Just on principe. Value for Money things and such.

Somehow, one of the most iconic distilleries of Scotch Single Malt Whisky is not on my radar. At all.

This ‘Rich Cacao’ version matured for an unknown time in Sherry seasoned European and American oak casks. While that sounds impressive to me it just says ‘it’s not a proper sherry cask’. Forgive me my cynicism but I’m just not a fan of trying to market these choices as something beneficial or thought-out.

Anyway, I’m just not a fan of brands like Macallan that are so swamped in marketing. And don’t get me wrong, there used to be a LOT of awesome Macallan available, a decade or two ago. I just don’t like where the brand has gone since.

Let’s see what this one did, when tasted blind.

Sniff:
There is a LOT of sweet sherry on the nose with a bit of a funky edge to it. Stewed red fruits, baked apple, baking spices too. A fairly timid distillery character apart from the funkiness. There’s a spicy heat in the background, black pepper and chilis. A trace of bitterness too, dark chocolate and fruit stones. With more time notes of fudge become more and more prominent.

Sip:
The palate is very consistent with the nose, with the same peppery bite and otherwise a rather light character. Chilis, a bit of a funkiness of those stewed fruits and baked apples. Some oak, but not a lot. As in, the fruitiness feels wood-driven, but there’s not a lot of ‘direct’ oak.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more rich, and a bit more dry. Some peppery spices again, some fruits, fudge and caramel. A slight coastal note too.

So, lots of sherry, but not the style of sherry I enjoy. Similar in style to the Hazelburn Oloroso cask that is released annually. Too sweet, at least for me. Of course, it’s not all bad, because there are similarities with Hazelburn (which was my guess initially, until the day before this it turned out to be Springbank). Some funky notes and some spices too.

83/100

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Fettercairn 14, 2007-2021, Oloroso Sherry Puncheon 1823, 55.2% – Infrequent Flyers

One of those blind-spot whiskies because I generally don’t care about the distillery’s output. This one wasn’t that bad at all, but because of my limited knowledge, I never even really considered Fettercairn.

Image from Whiskybase

I randomly guessed BenRiach, because it was a bit of a strange profile and BenRiach is not the most consistent of distilleries. Especially when looking at the independent bottlings out there.

Let’s just dive into day 3 of the Blind Tasting Competition!

Sniff:
Initially I thought it was sherry, but upon nosing it a little bit I’m confused. I’m thinking more in line of a port cask now. Very strange. Black cherries, dried plums, wet casks.

Sip:
The palate starts off rather gentle compared to the earlier two of the evening. It’s not as fruity as I expected, although there is a slight note of cherry and plum. Rancio, wet casks, quite a bit of old oak. Still not sure about the cask type.

Swallow:
The finish is still rich and heavy, with a bit more bite than I expected. Still, not a lot of heat though. Again, very rich and heavy, some cherry and plum notes.

I’m sticking with sherry. Not 100% sure either way, but it’s not a very confident port cask either. Not very tawny-red fruit forward, so to say.

The fortified wine is pushed forward quite a bit. And in combination with the spirit it makes for a bit of a weird flavor profile. As I said, not a very clear sherry cask at all (to me). But, on the other hand, a rather tasty Fettercairn, and that’s not a regular thing either!

86/100

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Lagavulin 12, 56.5% – OB Special Releases 2021

On the second of the Blind Tasting Competition, we went to Islay. That much was pretty clear from the first sniff. I also figured out we went to the south of Islay. It could have been Bunnahabhain, but I didn’t recognize this as Caol Ila, Bowmore, Bruichladdich or Kilchoman. Laphroaig seemed a stretch too.

Image from Whiskybase

It turned out to be Lagavulin, but my guess went to Ardbeg. There was a certain ashy flavor that I don’t know from Lagavulin. Also, with the always lauded 12 year old, I liked to have tasted this blind without any preconception of what it could be.

It did decrease my score for what I would expect to rate this at. As in, generally the Lagavulin 12 is considered an 88 to 90 point whisky, but in this blind tasting, it didn’t quite get there.

Sniff:
A heavy kind of peat smoke, with more peaty notes than crisp smoke. Floral and grassy too, with straw, dried flowers and hay. Soil, peat, dried lemon.

Sip:
Ah yes, the peat is very much at the fore-front here too. Quite a peppery dram, in a very punchy way. Little oaky notes, but there is some bitterness, and lots of grass and straw. I would not be surprised if this is a virgin oak cask, even though it’s not overly oaky. It does have that sharpness that sometimes (often?) comes with the territory.

Swallow:
The finish only lingers in the front of your mouth and barely touches your throat. Brine, rocks and slightly mineral like, with peppery heat and lots of peat.

I liked the ashy bit, it makes for a very typical dram. I do feel it’s not as complex as I like whiskies to be, especially whiskies that set you back significantly more than € 100…

86/100

Available for € 140 at Best of Wines

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Mannochmore 22, 1997-2020, First Fill Sherry Butt 12098, 55.8% – Gordon & MacPhail

This year’s Blind Tasting Competition has started, and it has done so in a great manner!

Image from Whiskybase

Best of Wines started their sample kit with this rather well aged Mannochmore for which virtually no-one scored a lot of points. I scored a whopping 0 out of a 100, mostly because I am utter trash at blind tasting competitions, and this is a left field whisky if there ever was one!

Sniff:
Rather old fashioned on the nose, with hints of gentle sherry. Oak, hessian and a whiff of cardboard. Wet soil, a bit of funk, dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Some oranges in the back.

Sip:
Very dry and rather sharp. Hessian, cardboard, white pepper, and sawdust. A hint of vanilla with some chocolate and orange pith. There’s a bitter edge to it, but in a good way. I think I’m getting some coastal notes of salinity too.

Swallow:
It stays old fashioned throughout, but the finish focuses on those slightly funky notes a bit more. Old barley, sawdust and dunnage warehouses. Orange pith, white pepper, a bit of sherry fruitiness too.

I really love this dram and I regret it only came in a 2cl sample. I still am not sure whether this should be an 89 or 90 pointer in my book. There is a lot of complexity to peel back and get to all the different layers of flavor.

Gorgeous stuff and quite regularly available still! Lately, as in, the last couple of years, I think G&M is on a roll with their Connoisseur’s Choice bottlings. There have been many semi-affordable gems from this range!

89/100

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