Bottoms up! at De Whiskykoning

Just a bit of bragging, now. Yesterday the annual Bottoms Up tasting at De Whiskykoning took place. All kinds of scraps from his tasting room were available for one last hurrah!

Of course, you have to be suspicious of things that are too good to be true. Sometimes he puts something else in a great bottle, or puts something great in an average bottle.

Point in case: The bottle of Talisker Port Ruighe contained Talisker 30, and the Port Ruighe was put in the hit-or-miss sample bottles strewn around the table.

2018-01-14 14.40.42

A rather good AnCnoc, very likeable and a nice warming up!

2018-01-14 14.49.34

Epic stuff, this.

2018-01-14 15.01.49

This probably contained something else, but I think it was still Springbank…

2018-01-14 15.09.37

A very solid and earthy Clynelish

2018-01-14 15.25.30

From an unmarked sample bottle: 30 year old brandy from Jerez

2018-01-14 15.35.27

Not very good.

2018-01-14 15.44.04

Tasting leftovers in a tiny cask. A shit whisky.

2018-01-14 15.47.19

Yup! Very good and rather recognizable as Irish.

2018-01-14 15.54.54

The actual Talisker Port Ruighe wasn’t very good.

2018-01-14 15.57.11

This one, however. This one was not to be topped during the afternoon.

2018-01-14 16.16.03

Okay, but not great.

2018-01-14 16.26.22

I was very enthusiastic about this one! A very solid Pulteney!

2018-01-14 17.02.20

20 guys can do a lot of harm to a table of bottles.

In the end I had some random other stuff, but after the Talisker things started to wind down. It felt a bit futile to keep rummaging around for something else that was in that league.

Advertisements
Posted in - News and Announcements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Springbank Local Barley 10, 57.3%

Funnily enough, when this got released in December, there was a mad scramble to get our hands on a bottle. My Bottle Share group on Facebook was mad about getting one and links to UK webshops were posted as soon as someone found stock.

Now, we’re a couple of weeks further along and when I just checked Whiskybase there’s quite some available stock in quite some countries. This stock, however, can be sub-divided into two categories: shops in countries that don’t ship abroad and shops that are trying to get some extra profit out of the fans by upping their prices.

Bottles in the first set are between 80 and 100 euros, and some shops in The Netherlands and Belgium have gone up to 140/150 euros a pop. So far, I’ve managed to get my bottles (one for sharing, one for later) somewhere between those prices. Luckily.

Anyway, I’m not sure if Springbank’s Local Barley range needs introduction. It’s a cycle of five whiskies released over five years (more or less). The first one was a 16 year old and my whisky of last year. The second was 11 and now there’s a 10 year old. There’s two more coming in, I guess, 2018 and 2019.

The reputation Springbank is cleverly using is that of their ancient Local Barley bottlings from the mid-sixties, bottled around the millennium at some 35 years old. Those were stunning and way out of the league of mere mortals by now.

Luckily, at semi-decent prices, they’ve managed to not botch up the reputation the range had built by releasing at least two very good ones. I hope to review last year’s 11 year old soon-ish.

The 10 year old, distilled in 2007 and bottled at the end of 2017 clocks in at a whopping 57.3%. Not there are no stronger whiskies out there, but Springbank has a tendency of having cask strength bottles at lower than expected ABVs, over the last couple of years.

Also, as with a lot of Springbank releases nowadays, the bottling consists of 70% bourbon casks, and 30% sherry casks.

Sniff:

167842-big

Image from Whiskybase

On the nose there’s a mountain of barley, but it’s rather quiet at first. It takes a bit of time to get going. Somehow, there’s a promise of a big and oily whisky. Some vanilla crumble, and strangely (never had this before) some thistle oil. Thistles, rushes, and other plants you don’t want in your field. Stale bread, toast, and the tiniest whiff of smoke.

Sip:
Very warming and dry, with a very oily mouthfeel. It feels a bit like a mix of thistle oil and a more machine oil flavor. Barley and other ‘wild flowers’. I can imagine flavors like this coming from a kintyre field. As said, oily, big, dry. A touch of vanilla and smoke, with some peppery heat as well.

Swallow:
The finish gets a bit more bright, but it never leaves the oiliness behind. The barley is a bit lighter, as is the sudden hint of dried apple. The warmth of the alcohol lingers, but it doesn’t stay sharp, which it was a bit on the palate. Dry, with hints of oak and white pepper.

In short, this is a cracker. More in line with the 16 year old than with last year’s 11 year old. That might be because last year’s whisky used bere barley instead of more modern varieties. It’s a very big whisky, and due to it being only ten years old there’s not a lot of oak taking up space of the spirit. Big and oily, as you’d expect if you’ve seen the distillery.

I really suggest trying to get one if you’ve not already done so. It’s not cheap for a ten year old whisky, but you’d be supporting a bit of provenance, a kick-ass distillery and proper craft when making whisky.

90/100

Springbank Local Barley 10, 2007-2017, 57.3%, available at widely varying prices. Check Whiskybase

Posted in Springbank | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two older Springbank 12, Cask Strengths

At some blurry point in my personal whisky history I decided it would be a good idea to start collecting something specific. I decided it would be the Lagavulin 12 releases, but more on that in a later post. It also would be all batches of Springbank 12 Cask Strength.

This latter choice was the more viable one, since they’re not overly rare and not overly expensive. However, I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t continue this, mostly because I couldn’t be arsed to take money out of other stuff to buy the Springbanks.

The result of this revelatory decision was that I could use the three bottles I already had in a bottle share to collect some then much needed dough. Also, I could review them on my blog. Because I needed more tasting notes to type out (not…).

The bottle that made me make the initial decision to collect was a 2013 batch that was reviewed here. The ones that follow are a 2012 and 2014 release, batch 5 and 9 respectively.

Springbank 12, Cask Strength, Batch 5, 2012, 52.2%

75205-big

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
On the nose there’s a sharp edge with some fiery, flinty notes. It’s rather funky (as it should be) with wet-and-then-dried paper, soil and wood pulp. Some dusty hessian/jute and mushrooms.

Sip:
The palate is very consistent with the nose, and the flavors found make this a rather typical Springbank. At least for the 12 year old Cask Strengths. The sharp edge is gone, and it’s slightly more focused on the funky, mushroom like notes. Still rather dirt-y with notes of wood pulp too.

Swallow:
The finish shows a bit more oak, and in a more typical way too. Not the pulp, but casks. A hint of vanilla shows up, but the mushrooms and dirt are not gone.

Well, this is exactly what you could hope for! I expect a bit of a dirty, lightly sherried Springbank when I open a bottle of the 12 year old Cask Strength and this delivers exactly that. I don’t think there’s much at this price point that is better. Especially when it was released at some 50-60 bucks.

89/100

Springbank 12, Cask Strength, Batch 5, 2012, 52.2%. Available for about 75 euros in Italy


Springbank 12, Cask Strength, Batch 9, 2014, 54.3%

Sniff:

91647-big

Image from Whiskybase

The second on is a bit more careful on the funk. Slightly more cask focused, so to say. There’s still jute and mushrooms, but also some more clear sherry notes, with pecans and walnuts. Some barbecue char, barked pork and a hint of vegetable stock.

Sip:
The palate is quite dry with a lot of oaky texture. The flavor is slightly moldy after a while, with some oaky notes too. Some earthy flavors, with the walnuts and pecans.

Swallow:
The finish is quite gentle and fades rather quickly. There’s nuts and sherry, with oak and soil.

This one is a bit more complicated than the first one. I opened the bottle and am far from disappointed, although I realize it’s not the best of the bunch. Actually, it’s the least impressive of the three Springers. Still, very high quality for the 60 odd euros it cost back in the day.

87/100

Springbank 12, Cask Strength, Batch 9, 2014, 54.3%. Available in the secondary market for little over 90 euros.

Posted in Springbank | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Springbank 21, 1996-2017, 58.1% – Whisky Nerds

My friends Floris and Bram, to some better known as The Whisky Nerds are on a roll. Coming of the high that was their trio of great Inchmurrins, they selected another cask to release in the waning of 2017. This time their pick is a Springbank 21 years old.

I got the tip that I really needed to sit down for this whisky instead of doing a more ‘first impression’ kind of review. This turned out to be a good tip.

Springbank is one of my favorite distilleries and whiskies so I was quite happy to see them bottle a cask of it. I’ve had several different expressions in the past and they generally are awesome drams. Initially I was worried they put the bar too high for themselves. But then again, they want something special

Sniff:

170110-big

Image from Whiskybase

At first the nose of this dram starts with a lot of dry barley, and after a few seconds the barley is joined by hints of flint. There’s dry oak with dried apple and other non-tropical orchard fruits. Pear skins, and some chalk. There’s a tiny hint of hessian/jute too, and some saltiness.

After about ten minutes the fruit gets turned down, and it becomes more about the traditional Springbank nose with more hints of barley, grist, oak and some salinity. More coastal, so to say.

After another ten minutes it starts to develop a whiff of smoke and soot.

Sip:
It’s not exactly fierce on the arrival, but it is intense. The dry barley and grist are the main flavors initially. There’s quite a lot of oak too, with some white pepper.

A second sip is slightly more sweet with barley sugar and some gentler warmth. Softer oak, with malt sugars. The heat from the white pepper gets some more flavor and goes to black pepper instead. More fresh apple instead of the dried notes from the nose. Some wood spices too.

The palate keeps developing over time, and there are some more sweet notes after a while. Apricot jam, orange jelly (like in those orange sticks). I’m not getting any peat, but there is a certain sootiness. The greasy stuff on the inside of the fireplace.

Swallow:
The finish is very warming with slightly more earthy flavors. Lots of malt, oak and some mineral notes. Apple, pear and simple syrup. A whiff of black pepper and salt too.

Thijs said it was better than he could have hoped for. He is right. It’s a great combination of the typical Springbank flavors and little extra hints here and there. It truly warrants exporation and patience.

Even though after 21 long years the ABV still is almost 60%, you don’t really notice that and it’s dangerously drinkable. I especially loved the tiny hints of soot combined with the gentle fruitiness.

All in all, a truly great way to start 2018! As with practically all Whisky Nerds bottlings, this is already sold out, even though it clocked in at some 300/325 euros.

92/100

Springbank 21, 1996-2017, Hogshead 471, 58.1%, Whisky Nerds

Sample provided by The Whisky Nerds

Posted in Springbank | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Music in 2017

Yay! The annual music review for all three people that actually check it! Says cynical me.

Anyway, I’ve been doing this post since the first Christmas since I started blogging, so I just keep at it. ‘Last year’ I only posted this in March because I kept discovering new things during December. That happened mostly because other sites and blogs publish their top 10s, and I listened to a lot of stuff I missed before.

This year is different because I’ve not gotten around to listening to anyone else’s top 10 list yet. I probably have missed things, but I’ve not found that out yet. I hope to start catching up to a lot of podcasts and bookmarked links in January, but with the way things are I sincerely doubt it.

Oh, and a warning. If you’re not into Americana, Folk and/or Country, you can just close this tab and do something else. There’s nothing for you here if that’s the case.

Since a couple of years I’ve been listening to American folk and rock music more and more. Add to that that a lot of the names I had on my radar didn’t release anything or released something that just didn’t grab me as much as I expected.

Among these names are Hiss Golden Messenger, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Laura Marling, The Waifs, Future Islands and some others. Other records were good but the following list were simply better. Think of Valerie June, Ryan Adams, Alt-J, Torres, St. Vincent and The National.

My 2017 on Spotify is a lot longer than that, and I really enjoy each record in there. Maybe the latest additions slightly less since I’ve not really gotten around these yet, but there’s a lot of good music in there.

Anyway, to make a short story not too long, let’s get to my top 10 for the year.

#10: Johnny Flynn – Sillion

Flynn’s voice takes a bit of getting used to, but after some random encounters in playlists I listened to, I started liking it. A lot. It is kind of moody, which I like as you might know.

#9: David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanack

I first heard of David Rawlings when he joined Gillian Welch on stage in Paradiso a couple of years ago. He’s not overly prolific, and I didn’t really like his record before then. Recently he released a new record and I do like this one! It’s a fairly recent discovery, and to say it’s been on repeat since is exaggeration. It’s been a regularly played one though.

#8: Feist: Pleasures

The only non-country record in my list this year. But it’s Feist and I think I like everything she’s done so far over her carreer. It’s a bit jumpy but thoroughly enjoyable to listen to a lot of times.

#7: Nikki Lane: Highway Queen

A record I really didn’t like at first, somehow. The only reason I listened to it was that on every music channel I follow online it kept popping up. She also headlined a small ‘festival’ in Paradiso in spring and I dismissed it because I didn’t like Nikki Lane. Now I regret I didn’t go.

#6: John Moreland: Big Bad Luv

There was a John Moreland on my list in 2016 too. It seems the man has a lot of things to process through music since he’s been releasing a lot of records. I missed all his shows in The Netherlands this year due to other stuff like being on holiday and having a baby. Luckily, he’s coming back in 2018!

#5: Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway

In a way this is the best record on this list. However, the best doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most enjoyable in my book. This record has stunning lyrics and music and is also sort of significant since Giddens doesn’t shy away from addressing all kinds of wrongs in society.

#4: Sean Rowe: New Lore

If you check the comments in most of Sean Rowe’s Youtube videos, a lot of people came there by watching The Accountant. Somehow I watched The Accountant because of all the comments on Youtube. A good movie, but the music is better.

Mr. Rowe has a bit of a strange voice that takes some getting used to, like Johnny Flynn’s, but when I found a previous record of him on Spotify somehow, I really enjoyed it right away.

We even used a line from the below song in the birth announcement card of our youngest.

And the track that’s used in The Accountant, as closing credits if I’m not mistaken:

#3: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell is a champ and has produced some awesome records over the span of his career. Somehow his previous record never made my list, and I think that’s because I found out about it too late. Quite a shame since there’s a few cracking songs on it. This year I didn’t make that omission and The Nashville Sound makes it here.

It’s a bit more pumped up than his previous couple of records, and a bit more ‘American’ too. Just like his show I saw last autumn. Great, but rather ‘American’. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I guess you’d know if you saw it.

#2: Old Crow Medicine Show: 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde

I’m not even going to explain this. It’s Old Crow Medicine Show releasing their take on Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. What more could you want?

#1: Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life

I’m not even sure when I found this record. What I do know is that when I first heard it I knew this was going to be on this list. The only reason John Moreland was higher on my list according to Spotify (based on songs played) is that he has more songs out, but this is the record I played most over the last twelve months.

I saw her perform live in Amsterdam last summer (Paradiso again) and I absolutely fell in love with her/the music all over again. She’s coming back to Amsterdam in April, which is a shame since there’s no way I’ll be able to make it to this gig. But I’m not going to cancel my trip to Scotland for it…

Based on my list and relistening to a lot of my 2017 playlist I can only conclude that 2017 was a very good year for music I like. However, most of the stuff I really enjoyed came from unexpected and unknown artists.

NB: The only reason Purgatory by Tyler Childers is not on number one is that it’s not officially released in Europe yet. Since I heard the record a couple of times, and saw most of it performed live this summer, I expect that would have at least moved number 2 to 10 down, and maybe number one as well.

Posted in - Music | Leave a comment

Whiskies of the year: Runners up

I published the post with my whisky of the year last Monday. Generally I do the runners up first, or all in one post or so, but in this case it was a brand new whisky that I had not reviewed yet and I thoroughly liked. I decided to change things up a bit.

Just before publishing last Monday’s post, I checked the entire year in reviews to see the other scores. As announced earlier in 2017 I published less reviews than in years before. There was a plethora of reasons for this, but that’s not what this post is going to be about.

I think, after tallying up the scores of the last twelve months, I should divide the whiskies into two categories: Released in 2017, and released before 2017. In both categories there are some terrific whiskies that appeared on my wee blog.

2017’s releases

2017-10-17 10.38.03

Interestingly, almost all of the most interesting releases of the year are from Dutch bottlers. I was lucky enough to receive some true crackers from Archives, The Whisky Nerds and The Duchess.

The Whisky Nerds released their Trio Usquebaugh around summer (literally around summer) with the two single casks coming out first, and a blend of the single casks following in October. All three versions were received incredibly well everywhere, and rightly so. Bram and Floris (the Whisky Nerds) seem to be on a roll and I considered myself lucky to be able to get a bottle of each one.

I scored bottle 1, 2 and 3 at 90 points each. I just couldn’t pick a favorite. Keep ’em coming guys!

Unfortunately for all those that missed out: The bottlings have all sold out rapidly and have now hit the secondary market at prices of twice or thrice the initial tag.

Speyside 2Then there was Archives! A lot of whiskies came from their headquarters in Rotterdam with a major batch of releases around their Whiskybase Gathering. The Clynelish is great, but hasn’t received a proper review from me yet. So I’m limiting myself to the threesome of 1973 Speyside whiskies. One was reviewed as whisky of the year two days ago. The earlier two were scored at 90 and 91 points and were great whiskies in their own right. I’m not sure why the third one struck a chord with me, but it just ticked all boxes.

Luckily, if you’re not in the mood to spend 400 euros on a bottle of whiskies, a lot of other whiskies are very good too, and much more acceptably priced. Generally I find Archives not too expensive compared to some other bottlers.

I hope they are able to keep this up, especially the Whiskybase Gathering festival, since that’s simply awesome!

151727-big

From my whisky buddy Nils, who works at Best of Whiskies in Bussum has been focusing on the shops whisky inventory and has bottled a few single casks in the last couple of years. This year saw the initial release of their Shieldmaidens series, with a 25 year old Ardbeg. Officially it was bottled in 2016 but I didn’t see a release until 2017 (I might be wrong). It’s another expensive release at just under a grand now, but that’s what Ardbeg is about nowadays. Unfortunate, since the whisky is stellar!

It had been years since I tried an Ardbeg of this level, and when I did it mostly were older releases and none from the last few years.

One of the most impressive other releases was a fairly random Cask End from Cadenhead’s. I was lucky enough to be able to buy a sample through a bottle share club I’m in. This particular one is a Highland Park 1988 at 29 years old. It was a truly stunning dram example of what properly aged Highland Park is capable of!

I’m going to Campbeltown in April, and I can only hope stuff like this is available then!

Older releases

  • Lagavulin Feis Ile 2016, 49.5%
    17834064_10154967942231210_1741051014235439499_oIt’s always a bit of a surprise how good the Lagavulin edition for the annual Feis Ile is. Some are better than others, but they are always in the 90 points range. The 2016 was no exception with a proper 18 years of aging.
  • Glenglassaugh 1986-2015, Gordon & MacPhail’s Rare Old, 46%
    It had been ages since I had a Glenglassaugh from before the closure in 1986. This one came from the last year of production before a long period of non-functioning of the Portsoy distillery. Even though this is a 500 euro whisky, I seriously considered buying it.
  • Benrinnes 1982-2009, The Bottlers, 57.4%
    By the colour you’d say this is as fresh a sherry butt as they come, but it’s a refill. I guess the first fill was in there for all of ten minutes or so. It reminded me of good Japanese whiskies of a much high price category. Since tasting it I saw this one in a secondary market sale at about 500 bucks, so I’m not the only one thinking this quintessential sherry cask is great.
  • Lagavulin 12yo, Rotation 1978, 43%
    86604-bigIt’s Lagavulin. Distilled in the sixties. What else could you want? (Apart from a lower price per bottle…)
    This is just everything you hope older Islay whisky is, and with all the standardization that’s happened over the decades, a character that’s simply gone. A shame, since it’s a dram I’ll remember for years to come.
  • Glenlochy 1977-1996, 18yo, Cadenhead, 60.5%
    I was lucky enough to be able to get this bottle in auction at a price point that made me doubt my decision, until I opened it. It’s a character from a distillery that no longer exists. That goes for both the character and the distillery. It’s a fierce one, but one worthy of exploration. If you read The Sponge’s posts on whisky being of the land in yonder year, I imagine he’s talking about stuff like this.
  • Springbank 1969-2004, 35yo, Adelphi, 58.5%
    A rather straight forward and even a bit predictable Springbank, but with a distillery like Springbank that is mostly a good thing. Just like this one. Everyone who’s ever had a Springbank from the sixties talks about it forever, and this one shouldn’t be handled any different. It’s stunning.
  • Mortlach 1954-2012, 58yo, Gordon & MacPhail’s Rare Old, 43%
    I’m not even going to talk about this again. It’s Mortlach. From 1954. Deal with it.

 

And, to conclude this post. Dare I say it? No NAS releases. A lot of stuff with some decent age to it. Might that be important after all?

Posted in Ardbeg, Benrinnes, Glenglassaugh, Glenlochy, Highland Park, Inchmurrin, Mortlach, Springbank, Undisclosed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whisky of the Year: Speyside 1973-2017, 44yo, 49.4% – Archives

Just before Christmas I got a surprise package from the mailman, containing a sample of Whiskybase’s newest release. Following their earlier 1973 releases which sold out more or less instantly, they made another one available. By now it’s a year older than its predecessors, but at 44 years old it still clocks in at a very solid 49.4% ABV.

I remember the previous two pretty well, since they were great whiskies. And receiving this one on the brink of Whiskybase’s 100000th bottle on the wall (at the moment of writing they’re at 98864) was fairly surprising. Especially since they could have released it to some great fanfare during the Whiskybase Gathering, in late November.

Anyway, an undisclosed Speyside distillery generally means Glenfarclas, and at this age that is even more likely.

168725-bigSniff:
The nose starts of with an indication that this is going to be a treat. It’s very deep and offers an indication of the vast amount of scents that are possible to find in here. (See how I avoided the word ‘complex’…). It’s not over oaked and even quite crisp, especially for a 44 year old. Aniseed, oak, dried apple with a dusting of wood spices. Star fruit, and a scent that reminds me of Fino cask matured whiskies. Not necessarily Fino sherry though. After a while there’s a whiff of flowers and varnish. All in a good way, of course.

Sip:
The palate is slightly more hot than I expected, but that’s just the arrival. The heat, well, warmth, gives way to smooth and slightly sweet flavors. There’s a hint of bitterness too with quite some oak here. There’s fruit, flowers and spices. Dried apple, pear and peach, with a hint of syrup. That Fino thing from the nose is here too, with some salinity.

Swallow:
The finish is very gentle. The sweetness lingers longest, and the oak gives away the whisky’s tremendous age. Old fruit and a dusty spice cabinet. Absolutely gorgeous, but not very long.

When I nosed the whisky I knew it was going to be a treat. What I also knew was that this would be a serious contendor for whisky of the year. This morning I spent some time looking through the reviews I did this year and there were some good’uns, but not this good.

The complexity is fantastic, without ever being over the top. The oak is present, but not overpowering. It’s not tired or stale or anything. If anything, this whisky is a serious financial danger since I’ve been racking my brain to see if there’s a way to validate spending 400 euros on a bottle of hooch at this moment.

I loved the hints of fino sherry cask maturation, which might be my mind playing tricks on me. It just reminders me of the 40 year old one I tried late last year. What an awesome dram.

94/100

Speyside, 44yo, 1973-2017, Butt 160000001, 49.4%, Archives – Echinoderms from Australia. Available from Whiskybase for € 395. And worth it.

Posted in Undisclosed | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments