Waldviertler Pure Rye Malt, 41%

I think I have begun most of my recent post with ‘So, …’, which means I have to diversify. Also in terms of what I’m reviewing, and in this case it’s an Austrian rye malt of undisclosed age. It’s probably young, but it has a nice color to it.

Anyway, this might be my first Austrian whisky, booze from the birth country of Hitler, as I’m often reminded of by my Jewish friend DSA, who currently lives there. All nonsense aside, rye malt from Austria.

The distillery has been operating since 1995, but the farm where it’s based has been around for 110 years. The last decade they also have something called Whisky Adventure World, which hopefully sounds more awful than it is.

European rye spirits are a bit risky. Especially when coming from a company that also distills all kinds of fruit liqueurs. Generally I consider stills to have some kind of memory since most whiskies I’ve had from stills that normally have fruits in them are hideous.

I’ve tried some rye whisky spirits from France, Belgium and Holland. Apart from the ones from Zuidam they’ve not been good. There might have been some from Germany and Sweden, but I don’t remember those.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose is spirity and rather sharp. A quite heavy spiciness that is typical for rye spirits. The oak influence is rather heavy, to an almost Armagnac like level. A hint of wet oak and a crisp hint, almost like there’s some mint in it.

Sip:
The palate is much lighter than the nose with a hint of light fruits and chili powder. There are hint of dry spices and apple cores (including the bitterness of the seeds).

Swallow:
The finish is smoother and more crisp. Lots of rye flavors and some oak. Quite well balanced.

What an interesting dram. Not a great sipper, but I can see this stuff working wonders around a campfire. It’s rather strong and masculine, with quite a lot of rough edges, although it’s not completely unrefined. The hints of rye, spices and fruit are nicely matched by the oak, although that last one is on its way to overpower the spirit.

Not overly complex, but rather drinkable.

85/100

Roggenhof die Waldviertler, Pure Rye Malt, 41%

Thanks to Jon Beach of Fiddler’s for the sample!

Posted in - Rye Whiskey, - World Whisky | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The state of the internet. Sort of…

So, this is going to be a sort of a contemplative post.

About a month ago I wrote how blogging became somewhat less of a priority, with things being busy in just about every other aspect of my life. While I was writing that, and the weeks leading up to that point in time I was mostly focused on work, writing stuff for our club’s magazine, the kids and lots of other things.

During our holiday in France I didn’t check Facebook once. I didn’t check Twitter once. In short the only things I did online was checking my bank account, logging the beers I was drinking and bragging about the massive steaks on the barbecue via Instagram.

It gave me some necessary distance to things. Interestingly, I realized, that while I did also check my feed reader, I mostly read things not about whisky.

Offline, I did whisky things. Drinking it. Not overthinking it, not writing tasting notes and not thinking about how not writing tasting notes also means finishing a bottle without having a review on this here blog.

The only ‘reviewing’ of whisky I did was a simple consideration: I bought this bottle for amount X, and now I’m drinking it. Was this worth the money? Shamefully, the results were not good. This had to do with two things:

  1. My taste has evolved. I wanted to write ‘changed’, but that didn’t cover it. I have become more picky, and want better whisky for my money.
  2. Prices have become ridiculous.

I might have to put that in perspective, since what I find ridiculous might be off the charts for someone else, or simply ‘just another bottle’.

I brought these bottles:

  • BenRiach 25, 50%
  • Auchentoshan 16, Fresh Bourbon Matured, 53.7%
  • “Islay Whisky”, 7 years old for the 10th anniversary of Whisky Import NL, 50%
  • Candid, 49% NAS by Michel Couvreur

The first one is, by a mile or so, the most expensive one at € 150. This was also the best whisky of the bunch, with the Candid by Michel Couvreur coming in second. These are whiskies I gladly spend the money on a second time, and in the case of the BenRiach I just might sometime.

Quality and money

The Auchentoshan and the Islay whisky, which supposedly is young Lagavulin, clock(ed) in at about € 80 and € 90 respectively, are less good. Unfortunately, that seems to be the entry level for a lot of independent releases, or somewhat special releases by distilleries themselves. Simply put, this is too expensive for the kind of whisky you get.

The supposed Lagavulin is more like peated gin, and the Auchentoshan is vanilla juice. Somehow I think this is quite representative of the world of whisky in 2016.

Lots and lots of whiskies are averagely aged drams with far too much wood influence, mostly from overactive American oak. And a lot of other whiskies are potentially good drams that just weren’t given the time to properly develop over the years.

I don’t mind potentially good drams, like Wolfburn’s 3 year old. I don’t mind these since it’s a brand new distillery that hasn’t had the time to get any older whisky out yet. However, with Lagavulin (if it is Lagavulin!) and their 200 year anniversary, it just doesn’t cut it.

Compared to others, like Oliver Klimek, I’m not as negative. I think I still can afford some really good drams, but the ones that truly thrill me are few and far between. Also, it’d be smart to downsize both my collection and (mostly) my spending.

Marketing

What also got my so jaded is the marketing engine that’s trying to mold us into believers of anything they say. While I find the marketing aspect of the whisky world interesting, I am becoming more and more skeptical as the years go by. This coming from me (I am a cynic SOB) means something I think.

There currently is a rather complete lack of transparency regarding products of a lot of big companies, and the majority of bottlers releases random single casks of average quality like there’s no tomorrow. This, while trying to have us believe that their new single cask or small batch is the be all end all of unique whisky.

This results in me not paying attention to any marketing I come across, and skipping at least half the articles in magazines and on blogs. I do like to read interviews and opinion on all things whisky (and other booze, by the way), but in this I prefer to read opinion from ‘outside’ as well. Opinion from other bloggers, reviewers and people not on anyone’s payroll. As with those bang-for-your-buck-whiskies, these are few and far between.

Blogging

Blogging, for me personally, is in flux at the moment. I’ve come to a place that’s a bit of a Limbo regarding blog posts about whisky. Simply put: I don’t like reading most blogs, since I don’t really care about tasting notes. I do like reading opinion pieces but these are quite rare.

The problem with this is that while I don’t like reading tasting notes, I keep on writing them. I think that has to change a little.

So, I am going to try to write far less posts, but make them more interesting. More in line with what I personally like to read. So maybe a bit more background and opinion. And why I want to review that whisky, instead of something else.

This, in part, is caused by several factors:

  • I personally don’t value other people’s tasting notes as I used to.
    I do look them up when selecting new whiskies for a tasting or so, but between all samples I buy, I come across enough good whisky to make personal purchases based on that.
  • The explosion of whisky blogs.
    When I started blogging six years ago I didn’t know I could add something to the online whisky experience. I think I did quite well, but ever since the amount of blogs has simply exploded and since 98% of those blogs focus on tasting notes, I think this here blog has become far less relevant.
  • The time-consuming-ness of writing tasting notes.
    Writing a tasting note per day isn’t really something I get around to. Maybe I should change my setting and make sure I have a proper set up to do so, but generally I write my notes while on the couch, in a note book. Then the following morning I type them in WordPress. Doing everything twice isn’t really working out for me and currently there’s not much of an alternative, unless I distance myself from the rare free time my wife and I have.

Positive note

To end on a positive note, which I think I have to do to not sound like a nagging idiot who doesn’t know how to enjoy awesome booze, I think a lot of things are interesting too.

If you know how to filter a lot of things from the internet before it reaches you, a heap of nice things happen. There are awesome bottle share(r)s out there that enable us to taste stuff we would normally not even know about, or that would otherwise be far too expensive.

This results in a lot of fun discussion with whisky buddies all over the place. The same is true for festivals like Maltstock (to which I can’t go this year, unfortunately*1) where you get to meet a lot of people you know from the interwebz, but not yet in real life.

 

*1: If someone is up for beers in Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, I’m game!

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Beers of June (and a bit of July)

So, I’ve been on holiday for two weeks, and just before that I didn’t get around to blogging much. Also, our laptop broke, which leaves me not many means of blogging. Add to that the fact that I got a bit fed up with blogging for a bit and suddenly weeks and weeks have passed with virtually no posts, compared to my earlier regimen.

Anyway, I spent my holiday in France, so the beers I had there were all kind of crappy, with a few minor exceptions. French beer is a bit like Dutch wine, I guess. It exists, and it’s potable, but that’s about it.

So, holiday beers first:

Brasserie ‘R de Ratz‘ is a brewery that’s been running since 2001, according to their website. I found their product in the supermarket in Villefranche-de-Rouergue and picked up the Blanche, Ambree and Blonde. That was all that was available. Apparently there are quite a few specials available elsewhere too. Quite a shame, since all those specials look far more appealing than those three I had. These were all rather middle of the road, in the safest of styles.

Then, on a market in St. Antonin-Noble-Val I picked up two beers by Merchien Brasserie, the Noire and their Ambree. The Ambree was slightly more interesting than R de Ratz’s, but the Noire was actually a rather good beer. I was surprised, and it came in a nice 0.5 liter bottle too! Good stuff!

I had some ciders too, since I kind of got the hang of that last year in Brittany. These were fairly random, simply based on what was available in supermarkets and in bars.

  • Cidrier Breton Brut – Loic Raison
    Forgettable, but not bad.
  • Val de Rance Cidre De Bretagne Brut – Les Celliers Associes
    This is a very good one. It’s dry and it is far more interesting than just spiked apple juice!
  • Reflets de France Cidre de Normandie Brut – Cidrerie de Livarot
    This, however, is a shit cider. It’s pushed as a ‘reflection of France’, but it’s not a very shiny reflection.

During the second half of our trip we went back up north to Burgundy, and while we were obviously in wine country, I did pick up some beers from Brassereie de Vezelay. I only tried their Stout and their Bio IPA, and both were very good. Not too exceptional compared to some more exotic English concoctions, but very, very good beers nonetheless. Highly recommended if you’re in the area!

Than some random ones…

  • La OiB – Brasserie Les Plains Monts
    Not sure what this is supposed to be, but it’s utter crap. Sickly sweet and therefore really cloying. Everything a lager style beer should not be. I dumped it in the river. Literally.
  • Thomas Becket Blonde de Bourgogne – Brasserie Larche
    Not sure why I tried this. I knew the brewery makes uninteresting beers, but somehow I gave them another shot. I shouldn’t have bothered.
  • Shilbrau – Brasserie de Saint-Omer
    This was the first beer available to me, when we arrived at our first campsite. It’s really, really cheap lager, but the beer was cold, and the weather was anything but. It worked, but not based on flavor.

Obviously, I was home for most of June, so beers were had. The weather was quite kind, so some were had in the garden, on our new garden bench, with the sun in my face. Times can be good in The Netherlands.

  • Flink – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
    Not remarkable, but far from bad either.
  • Open Rock’n’Roll – Birra Baladin
    My wife brought this from Rome. Never heard of it before, but it was very nice, with some peppery notes on the palate. Good stuff!
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12, 2010 – Sint-Sixtus Abbey
    Well… I think this is here just to brag.
  • De Strijdende Kater – Ramses Bier
    A beer to remember a famous Dutch beer fanatic who passed away last year because of ALS. I believe there’s some charity involved, but the beer itself is rather good too. I missed the fact that it’s an Amber IPA or something, but it sure was good. Big flavors, big hops, big alcohol.
  • Ale Epeteios – Left Coast Brewing
    Good stout. I had a big bottle so this kept me busy for a large part of the evening and the beer suits that slow kind of drinking. Big, thick and rich. Great stuff.
  • Black Bear XX – Alameda Brewing Co.
    Slightly less intimidating and impressive than Ale Epeteios, but still good.
  • Oude Geuze 2008-2009 – Brouwerij Boon
    Awesome, awesome old Geuze. I found a bottle at The Old Pipe, stashed in the back of a cupboard, to the dismay of the owner of the shop who missed that one… It has far more depth than recent editions, and those are already good!
  • IPA 395 – Mammoth Brewing Company
    A really good double IPA, with big and dry hoppy flavors. Worth the tenner (I think) I had to pay for the bottle (it’s a big one)

And my latest homebrew came on steam! I hadn’t been brewing for about four years, so to get back into it carefully, I bought a kit and made that. It turned out as a nice, but not overly rich 80 Shilling Ale, to the Scotch style. I really enjoy
this stuff, so it seemed like the right pick.

Scottish 80/- Shilling – Cocky Rooster Brewing

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Strathisla 1967-2015, 43% – Gordon & MacPhail’s

In the very first bottle share I ever did, which was a Gordon & MacPhail themed one, I had a bottle of 30 year old Strathisla, at 43%. Since that was about six years ago that still was distilled a decade after this one.

Gordon & MacPhail sent me this one for their ‘The Wood makes the Whisky’ campaign, and as usual I am quite late to the party with everybody having reviewed this already. I don’t think that matters much, and I wanted to wait for a moment in which I had the peace and quiet to properly sit down with/for this dram.

A quick calculation gives us the result of this being at least 47 years old. That is properly ancient, by anyone’s standards (when it comes to whisky that is). I doubt many Strathislas from that era were laid down in bourbon casks, so this probably sat its entire life in proper, old sherry casks. It does explain the colour, of course.

Getting back to that first bottle share. From the top of my head there also was a 50 year old Glen Grant (costing only € 200 at the time…), a 33 year old St. Magdalene and a lot of others, of which a lot were really good. Looking back at the post, I think I did a nice assessment of the whiskies and that 30 year old Strathisla ended in the upper part of the list. I really like the profile of those slightly dirty, oak heavy, sherried Speysiders. And old Strathisla does that very, very well.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose is heavier and more intense than you normally expect from a 47 year old, 43% whisky. It’s quite dirty and earthy with dead leaves on a forest floor, cigars and tobacco. There’s a lot of oak and some pickled fruits. Strangely there is a whiff of a mezcal like smokiness, which only adds to the dirtiness of the whisky. Some minerals and a tad acidic.

Sip:
The palate betrays the lower ABV by being quite smooth. It does not relent on the side of intensity, weight and richness. That mezcal smokiness of minerals, and maybe a whiff of diesel, is back again as well. Lots and lots of oak, dead leaves and some black pepper. A bit oily on the tongue.

Swallow:
The finish is quite unrelenting on the oak front. Lots and lots of wood, on a very ‘Armagnac’ like manner. Even slightly overpowering, but very likable too. The finish is really long and that whiff of smoke lingers loooong.

This, dear reader, is insanely good. It does everything I expected of an old Strathisla, and more. The mezcal-esque smokiness is an true addition to the whisky and it makes it far more interesting that I had dared to hope. The light acidity cuts the weight of the whisky a bit which also makes the almost overpowering oakiness a lot more bearable.

To be honest, everything about this is awesome. I wonder how this would have tasted at cask strength, and I know I’m going to be on the lookout for stuff like this in auctions. Hoping against hope that it’s a bit more affordable there, since this one clocks in at € 700 a pop.

I am considering a bottle share of this bottle, which is probably not going to work out at € 100 per 10cl share…

93/100

Strathisla 1967-2015, 43%, Gordon & MacPhail’s retro labels. € 700 or so in various stores.

Thanks to G&M for sending the sample. Much, much obliged!

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Recalibration

As you might have guessed, blogging has become less of a priority of late.

Whereas I normally posted about four to five times per week, I’ve only posted some six times in the last three weeks. That’s 60% less than I usually would.

This has a plethora of reasons:

  • My own laptop is broken, which means I have to use a computer (and time) at work
  • We’ve been ridiculously busy at home
  • This results in me not having many reviews to post

The biggest reason, however, is that I don’t really feel the urge to blog about every dram that I drink lately. I’ve got quite a few samples lined up, but sometimes you just want to drink a whisky instead of going through to the trouble to write tasting notes and rewrite them online.

Too many bottle shares. This was just last month

Add to that that I barely know where to begin. Some samples have been waiting to be tasted for years, some bottle shares I did a year and a half ago have not been wrapped up. Without wanting to sound like a nervous wreck, it’s becoming quite overwhelming.

So, based on that, I’ve decided to get a bit more focus in what I’m trying to do here. The result will be less posts. The posts I will publish will be of drams I really find interesting. This does not necessarily mean the best of the best, but just stuff that’s not ‘generic’.

I think those reviews are for more interesting to read as well, since you can read about the next ten year old <enter distillery name here> from bottler <enter bottler name here> anywhere, and it’s not very relevant anyway.

In a way, it’s going to be the same as my personal collection: Quality over quantity.

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Wolfburn 3yo, 46%

Wolfburn is one of the newest kids on the block that has come on steam three years ago. They recently released their first real whiskies, with this one being the first normal release. There was a inaugural release, but from my perspective that was sold more as a collector’s item than anything else, since the price was really high for a three year old. Also, there was the wooden box and all kinds of luxury.

Anyway,  the first three year old. No small thing for a new distillery to get to that milestone. As far as I know they didn’t market the this out of it and just announced that the whisky would be there.

Clever guys as they are, they sent out some spirit samples a few years ago to show how promising everything already was, and it was promising. They try to make whisky in a slightly more old fashioned style, like it might have been a hundred years ago when there also was a distillery in Thurso.

Sniff:
It’s still young and spirity (really, Sjoerd, really?) but much more rich than I expected. Lots of straw and grass. Some dried herbs and some oak. Slightly earthy with dead leaves.

Sip:
The palate is a bit sharp and light, but not thin at all. Slightly tingling and dry, again with those leafy herbs. Some sawdust, straw, barley and dry, dusty dirt. There is some oak, but not much of it and I don’t think they tried to force it onto the whisky to make it taste older.

Swallow:
The finish is nice and quite consistent with the palate. It’s a bit more sweet than before and there’s a touch of vanilla. Quite long, for such a young whisky.

While this obviously is a very young spirit, it is a very nice one. Every bit of it is really promising and if they keep the oak in check they might be on their way to a really good, spirit driven drink.

I love the fact that the straw, barley and light herbs are driving the flavors of this dram and that it’s not some overly vanilla-y whisky that are so popular right now. I think there’s mostly refill bourbon casks in the mix and that’s a clever choice. Great stuff, recommended!

85/100

Wolfburn ‘Hand Crafted’, 3yo, 46%. Available everywhere for just under 50 euros.

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Two Scallywags, 46% and 54.1%

Last week the guys at Douglas Laing organized a Facebook Live event, in which they broadcasted a guided tasting of some of their range. Fred Laing and Jan Beckers talked us through five drams in a rapid fire session, it took about an hour.

It was a first for me regarding Facebook Live and it works quite nicely, although there is far less interaction than during a Twitter Tasting. The benefit is, however, that it doesn’t take forever. Somehow on Twitter most tasters think they have to write a book about every single dram, which means it sometimes takes half an hour to go through one. I find that less and less appealing and find that I’m not trying to get in any Twitter Tastings because of it.

Scallywag then. It’s one of their regional blended malts, like Rock Oyster, The Epicurean and Big Peat. This one is the Speyside one, and as with most blended malts, you don’t know what goes in the mix.

The 46%, which was the first release under the brand, has been around for about two or three years. They added a cask strength edition last year and now they’ve released batch two of that. The difference in ABVs of the cask strengths indicates it’s really cask strength, not just high strength (then they’d probably have kept it at the same level).

Scallywag, NAS, 46%

Sniff:
Sweet with a scent of barley at first. I then get sweet smelling flowers, some oak. There’s a hint of orange and more and more barley.

Sip:
The palate is slightly dry. As on the nose there’s a lot of barley and grains and a lot of sweetness. Slightly sharp with hints of orange, sweet citrus fruits, some pepper and baking spices.

Swallow:
The finish is light, a bit sharp still. There are some baking spices and I get some vanilla, and some oak.

A nice enough dram, but more an easy drinker than a whisky for tasting or exploring, in my book. I find it not as layered as I’d like and the whole feels a bit thin, even though it’s at 46%. So in short, it’s far from bad, but it also not something I’d buy.

81/100

Scallywag Cask Strength, batch 2, 54.1%

Sniff:
The bourbon influence is a bit bigger here. It’s richer, sweet and fruity with lots of barley again. Orange, alcohol and slightly bitter.

Sip:
The palate is sweet and fruity, and slightly more smooth than I expected. There’s orange and peach. That bitterness from the nose is here again and I think I get some anise.

Swallow:
The finish is a slightly sharper version of the regular Scallywag.

It’s interesting that the finishes are so similar, while the palate are far more different. This one is slightly better than it’s 46% brother. It’s not as thin and a bit richer every step of the way. Having said that, it still isn’t the most interesting dram you’ll try.

This one will be released soon, I’ve not found it in any shops yet.

83/100

The regular Scallywag will set you back a little over 40 euros, and the cask strength comes in at about 65 (based on the prices for batch one)

Thanks to Douglas Laing for sending samples!

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