Vallein Tercinier 1975-2021, 51.7% – Grapediggaz

With Wu Dram Clan and Kirsch Import getting a bit of an increasing focus on Cognac, it’s not too surprising there’s a separate brand for these bottlings. And, with Grapediggaz being that brand, they’ve chosen a rather epic name, if I may say so.

What I’ve seen so far from Wu Dram Clan, and now Grapediggaz they’re in, what I call, ‘whisky drinker’s Cognac’. These Kirsch bottlings from a while ago, the 1967 for Wu Dram Clan, that 1967 one for Wu Dram Clan and Passie voor Whisky (not yet reviewed) and this one are definitely Cognac, but in their specific style they’re not the smooth, oak focused drink that I know from my father in law.

The style is a little bit more sharp, a bit more rustic and rugged, and has more of a bite than ‘old fashioned’ Cognac. In short, I love the stuff.

The premise is to make Cognac, and Armagnac later on, more available to whisky drinkers. With a plan to release a new cask every few months and bottling it as naturally as possible. No sugar, no boisé, no caramel.

On a personal note: A few years ago I dabbled in Armagnac, Mezcal and last year seems to have been the year of rum. I somehow expect to have a bit more of a focus on Cognac this time around. No idea how that has kicked off…

Today sees the release of the first Grapediggaz bottling. A Lot 75 Vallein-Tercinier from the Petite Champagne subregion of the Cognac area in France. Bottled at 51.7% (also very un-Cognac-like) it brings a bit of punch, even at some 45 years of age. These ‘lot 75’ statements mean that it was from the 1975 vintage.

Sniff:
This is rather timid on the nose. There’s soft notes of pound cake although I guess that’s more a whiff of vanilla than anything else. A hint of milk-chocolate, and some ‘old wine’ notes too. The age is noticeable, and the ABV is nowhere to be found on the nose.

Sip:
The palate gives us dry oak, mediterranean fruit like grapes and candied orange, some charred mango, with the fruit sugar being caramelized. Hot chocolate with a buttery note.

Swallow:
The finish continues with the buttery caramel notes, together with some charred tropical fruits. Hot chocolate, oak, vanilla.

Once again, it’s not a very typical Cognac, although the smoothness on the nose was rather surprising. The notes of chocolate and fruit work very well together and make this dangerously drinkable!

88/100

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Burnside 25, 1996-2021, Hogshead 2176, 54.7% – Archives

And not just any Archives, but a bottling for the Canadian market. It’s not labeled with a Samoan fish, which seems to be the main go-to style. This one has a British dragonfly on the label.

Image from Whiskybase

Burnside then. This isn’t a distillery and is usually used for tea-spooned Balvenie. This means that it, for tasting purposes, can be regarded as an independent Balvenie. However, for legal purposes, there’s a tea spoon of Glenfiddich added to it, which makes it neither a Balvenie nor a Single Malt, officially.

Interestingly, the whisky industry has more or less agreed upon the names for tea-spooned malts like this. Burnside is Balvenie, Westport is Glenmorangie, Wardhead is Glenfiddich. There probably are more that I can’t remember at the moment.

Sniff:
Brioche and honey, a surprisingly sweet single malt. Toast with apricot jam and, somehow, pine cones.

Sip:
Gentle without being weak. There’s a tinge of a dry, oaky bite. Definitely some sweeter oak notes, with the apricots from before. Not the toast though. Honey sweetness, pine and resin, with a syrupy mouthfeel.

Swallow:
The finish brings a different kind of wood. More like old casks, some vanilla and dunnage warehouses. Still that pine and honey combination.

Generally I don’t like too sweet whiskies, but this one… damn. Perfectly balanced between all kinds of flavors, with that honey sweetness to bring it all together.

90/100

Available in the secondary market for around € 250

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Tullamore 20 years old

There’s virtually no information in the title of this post. No ABV, no bottler, no specific vintage or year of bottling. None of that information is available on the label of the bottle.

What I do know is that this stuff is ridiculously old. Bottled some 70 years ago according to Whiskybase, and distilled 20 years before that, it’s almost a shame to drink it before it’s at least a hundred years ago it was created. But then again, I’m not going to sit on this for a decade and have the sample go bad on me.

To the whisky peeps who know me personally, it will come as no surprise this sample comes from MvZ.

Actual age

There is some discussion on how old this actually is. On the label it doesn’t say ‘DEW’ after Tullamore, and the brand has consistently done so since 1932. This would mean that this was bottled in or before 1932, and that would mean it is distilled in 1912, at the latest.

Immediately this makes my initial point of it just being shy of a century old moot, since now it was distilled ONE HUNDRED AND TEN YEARS AGO (Intentional online shouting).

Distilled before the first world war. Before the Spanish Flue. The year Titanic sank or before that. Older than so many things. Older even than the country it comes from. The Republic of Ireland was proclaimed at least four years after this was distilled.

The distillery it comes from closed down in 1954, so even for Irish standards this is an early closure. The brand never really went away, and has been made at John Powers since the 1960. This happened mostly because the whisky used in the ‘Irish Mist’ liqueur was running out.

The history of the distillery makes the expectation of this whisky being distilled a lot earlier than the 1930s (which is on Whiskybase) likely, because the place was closed between 1925 and 1938. This closure happened because of the rise of blended scotch whisky, prohibition (and therefore having no legal customers) and the Anglo-Irish Trade War.

Tasting notes

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
There’s a lot of OBE (Old Bottle Effect) which always makes a whisky smell like rusty iron. Luckily it is far from all-encompassing. Hints of sweet barley and some vanilla. Other baking spices like clove and cinnamon. It’s very ‘Irish’ in that old pot still style, with green malt as well as malted barley. Quite a lot of gentle fruits too, very different to how fruity whisky tastes nowadays.

Sip:
The palate is rather light, with a little bit of a grainy dryness. Again, much like Irish whisky, with malted and unmalted barley. It does take a minute of ‘swimming’ before it starts to reveal its full potential, initially it seems a bit flat. However, if you give it that minute it becomes a glorious combination of barley, wood, baking spices and fruit. There’s a whiff of OBE still, but that only adds a layer of ‘interestingness’. Dry grape seeds, tropical fruits without being typically sweet.

Swallow:
The finish is rather similar to the palate. Not overly long, but in style it veers a bit more towards Single Malt than I’d expect. So, less ‘fresh barley’ like.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I poured this sample. Whisky of this age is more often than not completely destroyed by being in a bottle for too long, and not being properly stored. Now I’ve seen images of the bottle itself I could have guessed it to be in rather good condition since not a lot has evaporated.

This is stunning stuff. If it was a Marvel comic, it would have been called ‘unobtainium’, but I’m very thankful for having been able to try this.

The age shows nicely in the whisky and has given it time to coax out the fruity flavors that combine so well with the spirit. I also love that it is very unlike modern whisky in any category. There’s far less cask influence than there would be now, and therefore the barley and greenmalt get a bit of a spotlight. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

91/100

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Strathisla 13 and Miltonduff 13 for Van Wees

Van Wees, a very well known bottle-shop and importer of various kinds of booze celebrates their 100th anniversary. Officially that happened last year but the plague got in the way of timely celebrations.

So, last week they released their anniversary bottlings. There were five whiskies, and some other drinks as well (at least a rum and a grappa) and these two bottlings are the first of them to be reviewed here.

I don’t expect to see the 31 year old Glenfarclas and the 25 year old Arran popping up soon. These bottles were quite out of my league at € 700 and € 350, but the Benromach will be reviewed soon.

Interestingly, when I did the bottle share with these bottles last week, most people were interested in the Strathisla, even though the glory days of that brand seem to be a few decades ago. These 60s and 70s bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail (here, here and here) were absolutely epic, but newer stuff has never been able to really sway me.


Strathisla 13, 2008-2021, First Fill Shery Hogshead, 57.7% – Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees

And no, ‘shery’ isn’t a typo on my part. It actually says that on the label. I would expect a brand like G&M to have templated stuff like that to avoid typing errors like this, but it turns out to be a human effort after all. Anyway, in the end it’s the liquid that counts, and we’re about to find it whether it does.

Sniff:
Lots of sherry, but not completely overpowering the spirit. There are still quite some notes of barley. Dried apple and apricot, almond paste. Some cinnamon sticks too.

Sip:
Quite dry with some coarseness and a pretty fiery character. Oak and barley, with dried yellow fruits. Peaches, apricot, apple.

Swallow:
The finish is still rather fierce, and quite long. A rather lovely flavor remains of oak, dried apricots, almond paste.

When I think of Strathisla I think of two things. These insanely high rated bottlings I wrote about in the intro to this blog post, and everything that came after them. This newer style of whisky is a very solid Speyside whisky, which works very well with sherry (or shery) casks. In this case, it does that very well too, but on the other hand, it is just exactly that. A good Speysider with sherry maturation.

I’m glad there’s still some notes throughout, because I think this was on the brink of being ‘just cask’. A very good whisky, but not exceptional. It just lacks that ‘one thing’ that makes you remember this for a while.

87/100


Miltonduff 13, 2007-2021, First Fill Sherry Hogshead, 59.7% – Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees

No typo here!

Sniff:
Lots of oak and barley, a hint of baking spices and leather. Some vanilla, peaches, pear skins, sand biscuits, toasted bread.

Sip:
Dry and fierce, with some biting hints of chili pepper. Pear skins, dried apple, peaches. Sawdust and grist. Barley with a touch of vanilla.

Swallow:
The finish is a touch more focused on notes of pastry, but suddenly adds some blackberries.

The combination of the dryness on the palate, the barley notes throughout and the dried peaches and pear skins make for a very interesting whisky. A lot more unique than the Strathisla. The addition of blackberries on the finish helps too!

88/100


So, when regarding the current whisky climate, so pricing and availability, I think both are well priced and the Miltonduff just trumps the Strathisla. I think it’s a more interesting whisky, and it’s a bit cheaper as well. (€ 85 vs € 100).

Anyway, I think Van Wees has selected two very decent casks of whisky for their anniversary. If the other ones are just as impressive at their respective price points, there’s nothing to comlain about!

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A batch of sherries

About a million years ago, in April of 2021, the second year of the plague, I was fortunate enough to try several sherries, courtesy of Ruben (of both Sherry Notes and Whisky Notes).

After getting some information for a sherry tasting I hosted around the same time he was kind enough to show me a bit more of the breadth of Sherry. I was out of office for a couple of days, and with no one to bother me and nothing to do, I decided a night on my own was a very good moment to sit down and try some unfamiliar drinks, with unfamiliar flavors.

I have no idea why it took me so long to write this post about those sherries, so sorry Ruben, but here it goes anyway!


Almacenista Palo Cortado ‘Vides’ (Lustau)

The nose of this almost 20 year old Sherry starts off the night with a funky note. Hints of chocolate and something woody. It’s quite rich, with virtually no sweetness and quite some cask, and a hint of mint. The palate is much more light, and goes more in a slightly vinegary direction. Still, quite some wood driven notes, with walnuts, cola and rancio. The finish gives me more fruit, and adds complexity with some spicy notes. Walnuts again.

In case you might misinterpret me, these notes of vinegar are absolutely not a bad thing. It’s just a more acidic undertone that is not uncommon in sherry, unless you’re talking about Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel.

I really enjoyed this one!

Ruben’s much better review is here


Marqués de Poley Amontillado Selección 1951 (Toro Albalá)

The notes of vinegar are held back, so it’s less acidic and a bit more wood focused. Not surprising with a wine that spend many decades in a cask. Pickled fruit and nuts, yeasty and moldy. A continuation after the Palo Cortado, but with a redirection towards oak. Still bone dry with spices and a hint of chocolate. The palate is rather gentle, dry and ‘old’, with notes of pickled walnuts, lots of wood spices and a touch of acidity.

The age of this stuff is incredible, and noticeable on both the nose and the palate. I love dry drinks at the best of times and this one seems like a culmination of that. But, apart from the dryness there are layers of flavors to peel back. Indredible!

As far as my internet-search-skills go, Ruben hasn’t reviewed this one yet, so no link there.


Cream VOS (Bodegas Tradición)

Another rather old sherry, at approximately 20 years. I don’t think I’ve had a cream sherry before and as far as I know it’s a mix of dry and sweet sherries. In this case, based on Ruben’s review, it’s around 70% 35 year old Oloroso, and the rest is made up of a five year old Pedro Ximenez. The math of sherry astounds me…

There’s dried fruits with raisins and plums, and dark toast on the nose. After a while there’s oranges, Cap Corse and myrtle. The palate is a combination of mostly sweet, fruity sherry like PX, but there’s a hint of dryness too. Raisins and oranges, and a touch of pithy bitterness.

Interesting, even though I don’t understand the age statement on stuff like this. It’s mostly very sweet, and it seems that 30% of PX easily trumps the 70% of Oloroso. Not my favorite of the bunch, but dangerously drinkable.

Ruben’s much better review is here


La Bota de Oloroso 63 (Equipo Navazos)

The estimated age of this one around 80 to 100 years old. Something about a Solera system not being refreshed for a long time, but let’s not go into detail. Let’s just let that 80 to 100 years sink in for a second.

It starts gorgeously with ‘age’. There is no mistaking that this wine is ridiculously old. In terms of aromas I get cherries and nuts, caramel brownie and cocoa powder. Flour, wood spices, and wood mulch. The palate is rather heavy and dry, richness in a different way that whisky can be rich. I guess it’s more intensity than actual richness. Nuts, aged balsamic vinegar, cherry stones and cherries. The finish turns a little bit leathery.

This is an incredible wine. There is so much happening, which isn’t too surprising if you let something oxidize since the second world war. Stunning stuff!

Ruben’s much better review is here


La Bota de Pedro Ximénez 56 (Equipo Navazos)

Once more, according to Ruben’s research (I’m leeching of his work, I know) this Pedro Ximénez is well over 40 years old by conservate estimates. I wonder how something with the sweetness of PX ages, when it’s given this much time, especially since PX generally (to my layman’s knowledge) is drank quite young, comparatively.

The typical syrupy sweetness is present, but somehow it feels a little bit lighter. Whether or not that is because of the aging, or because of how this particular bodega makes their wine compared to what I know, I will probably never find out. There are raisins, oranges and chocolate. Cap Corse again, so myrtle too. Herbs and wood spices. The palate brings more raisins and oak, with orange syrup, chocolate. There are lots of little hints and nuances, more so than with younger PX, but it’s still very much PX.

Ruben’s much better review is here


When comparing ridiculously old Oloroso to what I know of the style, and ridiculously old Pedro Ximénez to what I am familiar with, I am much more impressed with the dry Oloroso. This comes as no surprise, since that happens to be a favored category anyway.

Of course, when trying these sherries I had quite recently hosted a sherry tasting and read some stuff about the wines, their origins and production methods. The wines I got in this ‘care package’ trumped all of the ones I had in the tasting. There’s a lot to be said for spending a bit more money to get higher quality wines, and I already went quite a ways beyond supermarket stuff.

What I’m trying to say is that sherry is a very interesting drink with huge variation in flavors, styles and quality. Especially the older ones show immense depth and lots of layers of flavors to be peeled back.

Thanks once more to Ruben for this bit of education!

Images used with permission 😉

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Springbank 8, Refill Bourbon + Fresh PX casks, 56.5% – Springbank Online Tasting Week 2021

Springbank went online after several of their whisky festivals in spring didn’t happen. I never participated due to some weird credit card / web shop mishap, and after that because of Brexit.

However, through others, I was able to get my hands on a sample of some of the bottlings. I believe I was so anxious to get my hands on some samples, and so forgetful at the same time, that I ended up with at least two of each. Luckily, the whisky isn’t too bad.

Springbank generally uses a mix of casks for their bottlings. Virtually everything that they’ve released over the last couple of years is a mix of sherry and bourbon, or bourbon and port, or some other combination of casks. Virtually everything, unless otherwise stated, of course.

It usually works well for the brand. It adds layers of complexity to an already very interesting spirit and, unless the addition of usually port makes the whisky a bit too sweet for me, I generally love what they’re doing. Let’s see where this one sits!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose starts with a full on assault on your nostrils. Not because of some high level of intensity, but because of all the things happening. Instantly I get some austere notes of slate and basalt, some fruit, a bit of moss, ferns, and oak and barley. A lot is happening. There’s a note of coffee and hessian too, but it shows up a bit later.

Sip:
The palate is pretty strong and dry, with chili heat. There’s ground almonds, dried plums, a bitter note too. It’s quite hot if you let it swim for a little while. Red peppers, oak and a dry note of barley.

Swallow:
The finish shows an entirely different aspect of the whisky. It mellows quickly, but there’s a hint of flint on top of the scents I got on the nose, of slate and basalt. It’s slightly coastal, with a bit of salinity.

It’s a bit clunky, but that’s not entirely unexpected from this age and distillery. Between the palate and the finish it is a little bit inconsistent, but I think that’s not too surprising with a wild whisky like this.

Of course, by now this has gotten quite expensive and is only available through the secondary market for about € 320 (at the time of writing). Don’t expect that to go down ever. Springbank has more than enough fans to always find takers for collection completion.

88/100

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Ailsa Bay NAS, bottled in 2015, 48.9%

In my mind, Ailsa Bay is one of those new big distilleries that mainly exists to supply blenders with components for their blends. In that regard it is similar to Roseisle distillery, which is Diageo’s counterpart to William Grant’s Ailsa Bay.

The fact that single malt is being bottled as such is quite remarkable, and a bit of a rarity.

What also is a thing with these blending-component-suppliers is that their main angle is to distill whisky to very narrow specifications. In the case of this distillery they call it precision distilling, and that does ring rather true.

Ailsa Bay is the whisky that supplied peated single malt for blends, so this is actually a peated Lowlands whisky. This used to be a rarity but is becoming less weird with regional whisky differences blurring more and more over the last decade or two.

Image from Whiskybase

This older bottling came from a sample I found when rearranging my home office, and I decided to try it recently. I have no idea how long it sat on the shelf, and I could probably find out but I don’t think it matters that much. Let’s see if it is any good…

Sniff:
There’s nothing but earthy smoke on the nose, initially. It’s all about the peat. For peat’s sake, so to say. It’s rather spirity, but also quite nondescript. The usual suspects are there, a whiff of vanilla, quite some barley and a bit of oak. These notes show up after a minute or so, but it’s still peat first and foremost.

Sip:
The palate is very light, althoug rather peaty. It’s slightly grassy, with hints of hay, grass, barley. There’s some oak, and an earthy smokiness.

Swallow:
The finish is a continuation of what came before. It’s slightly more papery than before, and therefore a bit more dry.

It’s very, very clean, and I understand the ‘precision distilling’ they talk about. This whisky gives a blended whisky its peated component, but does very little else, and while that definitely has its purpose, and it does it very well, it is ridiculously boring as a single malt whisky.

Keep in mind, this is absolutely not a bad whisky, every box is ticked, except for the fact that apart from ‘generic barley spirit’ and peat, there’s nothing to find here.

78/100

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The best of 2021, part deux

Apart from last week’s post on what whiskies were strictly the best according to my rating, there are two lists that I still want to get out there.

The first is the ‘not best but very impressive otherwise’ whiskies, and the best malternatives I tried. The last ones are not necessarily from last year, but if start splitting them up similarly to whisky, the lists will be very short.

Where 2015 was the year in which I tried a load of Mezcal, last year was the year in which I tried more rum than ever before. Towards the end of 2021, rum started to be overtaken by Cognac, with a new style of Cognac being released.

From my perspective, the Cognacs that have started to be released during 2021 are more focused towards whisky drinkers. As in, the Cognacs I got to try are such drinks. They’re very atypical for what I, and some others around me consider Cognac to be. I very much prefer this new style, with a more clunky approach. It’s not all smooth and gently woody, with fruits. There are some more harsh notes in there that are very similar to what makes Single Malt stand out from the rest.

In regards to rum, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to become very picky with that too. There are some distilleries and brands that stand out way above the rest, and while I’ve tried quite some rums over the last couple of years, I find that most readily available rum isn’t very good. Of course, this is a massive generalization, but the stuff in the € 40 to € 80 category, where most rums sit, just isn’t very interesting. Surprisingly similar to whisky, right?

One more thing before we get into the lists. Last week’s list of ‘best whiskies I tried that were released before 2021’ had a huge omission. I made the list on Christmas Day, and had this whisky on Boxing Day, which still is 2021. The 1981 Lochside by Lombard Jewels of Scotland should be on that list, in the second place too!

One of the five most impressive drams of the year and I forget to list it… Silly me.


The most impressive whiskies based on arbitrary criteria

  • A Fine Christmas Malt 2021, 16, 53.2%, The Whisky Exchange
    This one makes this list because to me, it is quite off the beaten path. There’s rusty iron and gunpowder, which I don’t generally find in single malt whiskies. Because of that I really enjoyed this one, and am still trying to figure out how to get a bottle, without ridiculous shipping costs and excise to be paid upon arrival.
  • A Tennessee Distillery 13, 2003-2017, 50.7%, The Whisky Agency
    This somehow Greek themed Tennessee Whisky really worked for me. It did all the things bourbon should do, without being overly sweet. Also, it hit the balance between flavors and intensity quite right. Immediately after reviewing this I tried finding it, but couldn’t. Luckily, that’s changed, although it wasn’t exactly cheap.
  • Distillery 291, “Colorade Rye Whiskey”, 50.8%
    This one stood out because of it’s unique approach to whisky making. The additional staves added to the casks, the IPA distillage used in the mashbill. This made this whisky take a different turn from everything else I’ve tried this year, and I love it because of that. I really hope this stuff becomes more available here, but I very much doubt it.
  • Kingsbarns Family Reserve, Bourbon and STR Wine Casks, 59.2%
    I still regret that Rosebank closed 30 years ago. Of course, I wasn’t drinkin whisky back then, but I still regret it nonetheless. To me, that distillery was the culmination of what a Lowlands whisky should taste like and while some currently operational distilleries try to approach it, they always fall short. Daftmill gets close, but has a bit too much vanilla. Kingsbarns get close but is more fruity than grassy. However, with this being only a few years old, I do have high hopes for what this distillery can produce in the future!
  • Cadenhead’s Anomaly Blended Malt, 26yo, Bourbon Hogshead, 49%
    This green whisky (the color, not the taste) is something else entirely. A very strange dram that is technically, I guess, simply wrong. A whisky that shouldn’t exist, but does. And it’s quite tasty again too. Once more, something completely weird, but highly enjoyable.
  • The Alrik, First Fill European Oak Sherry Quarter Cask, 56.5%
    A wood-smoked whisky from Germany, which I simply got because of ridiculously high reviews on Whiskybase. Of course, Heavily sherried whisky that’s popular in Germany should come to the surprise of approximately no one, but still. Again, a very strange product that has no similar product in Scotland. It’s weird and expensive, I didn’t even notice it being a 50cl bottle until I unwrapped it at home, but I’m glad I got to share it with some people.
  • Kyrö 2016-2021, Barrel 16037, 54.6%, Berry Bros. and Rudd
    Finnish Rye Whisky. That sounds like something I would enjoy, and I did. Several times, actually. While this Nordic Casks bottling by BBR was the best of the bunch, the others weren’t stuff to forget either. Of course, the whiskies are rather similar to American Rye, and similarly priced too (luckily), I absolutely love that they try to keep things as local as they can. I’m keeping my eye on this distillery and hope it becomes more available.
  • Myken 2017-2021, Barrel 15, 61.4%, Berry Bros. and Rudd
    A second bottling from The Nordic Casks. Another youngster, obviously, and while they really stick to the Scottish method of distilling grains and making something delicious, the level of quality is ridiculously high in this bottling. Another local product, from a rather unique location, and one I’m definitely keeping my eye on once again.
  • FEW ‘Cold Cut’ and FEW ‘Immortal Rye’, 46.5%
    FEW is a distillery I’ve become familiar with through some bottle-shares I did years ago, but through a tasting by Whisky4All I got to try these whiskies. A bourbon cut from cask strength to bottling strength by adding cold brew coffee, and a rye that used Chinese Oolong tea to do the same. If made in Europe, it couldn’t be called whisky. However, both were utterly charming and I’m still thinking about doing bottle-shares with these, because of how awesome I find this kind of stuff.
  • Springbank 10, 46%
    The one and only classic whisky on this list and I don’t think I could face myself if I didn’t include it somewhere. I’m very much convinced that while whisky has become quite homogenized over the last couple of decades, the entry level whiskies by several distilleries are of outstanding quality. Think Talisker 10, Benromach 10, Clynelish 14, Lagavulin 16. This list would be very incomplete without Springbank 10.
    If you can get this for what it should cost, just below € 50, it’s a steal and I don’t think you can do better. However, with Campbeltown whisky becoming increasingly scarce, prices have started to soar, unfortunately. Still, for what it is, this has so much to offer. Every drop should be savored.

Best Malternatives of 2021

This list then. Stuff that is not whisky. Rum, Calvados and Cognac made the list this year. And that’s mostly because I don’t think I properly reviewed Armagnac, or Mezcal. I know I have some crackers lined up in those categories.

Wait, I did review Mezcal, during Meug and Palenque’s Mezcal tasting last spring! Some good ones in there, if I remember correctly. I didn’t include them here because I think the other drinks were better, although Vida by Del Maguey is a bang for your buck drink that everyone should try at least once. Preferably more than once, because Mezcal is something different, and you might need a few sips to adjust.

  • Marquis de la Pomme 1968-2011, 42% (Calvados)
    It’s not a hugely complex drink but it shows you what old Calvados can become when people leave it alone for several decades. Contrary to some very old Armagnacs I’ve tried, this one isn’t completely dominated by the wood, and what the wood brings merges seemlessly with the apple brandy.
  • Marquis de la Pomme 1956-2014, 42% (Calvados)
    An even older Calvados than the one above. I expected this to be a drink of splinters and sawdust, but nothing was less true. It shows huge complexity and remains surprisingly crisp, which you want apples to be. I guess the casks weren’t brand new, and that worked miracles.
  • Foursquare Sagacity, 12yo, Madeira Cask, 48%
    Foursquare is a people pleaser, and in such way that these Sagacity bottling are quite hard to get. I used one for a tasting after seeing a high scoring review on Whiskyfun and didn’t regret it. Generally I sell samples of the stuff that was in said tastings, but with this one I kept it to myself and happily went through my bottle over the following months. Cracking stuff indeed!
  • Finest Jamaican Rum, Over 25 Years Old, 50.1%, Wu Dram Clan
    Ah yes, back to Wu Dram Clan (not the last appearance either). This one was gone more or less instantly when it showed up in stores, even though it wasn’t exactly cheap (as said, similar to whisky). However, this showed an entirely different aspect of rum, compared to the Foursquare, and the rums that will follow. Fruity, dry and not too sweet. I love this for the same reasons I love Rosebank whisky, I think.
  • Caroni, Trinidad, 1998-2021, Cask #2109, 62.2%, Wu Dram Clan
    It’s a bit more classic, it fits the old fashioned rum mould better than the 25yo Jamaican, but it does it in such a way that it blows everything else out of the water. It’s 1997 sibling was of a similar approach but doesn’t soar as high as the 1998 one does. Of course, this one sold out in negative time. As in, it was gone before it was available.
  • Beenleigh 13, 2007-2021, Cask 38, 63.4%, The Duchess
    Both this specific rum has to be on this list, and The Duchess has to be here.

    The Duchess because they’ve bottled quite a bunch of awesome rums last year, some were technically better than this Beenleigh, and in general I think all of them were at least as good. I went through quite a few bottles, and after Wu Dram Clan I think The Duchess is the most impressive bottler of malternatives of 2021.

    This Beenleigh is weird. The story behind the distillery is awesome, but the rum is weird. It starts off with a lot of glue-y and paint-like off-notes, but with a few minutes of air it unfolds into all kinds of glorious fruit notes, with the strange beginning only adding to its complexity and deliciousness. Thrilling stuff, this!
  • Early Landed, Late Bottled Brandy, 1993-2020, 51.9%, Thompson Bros. for The Netherlands
    This is technically not Cognac because it didn’t mature in France for its entire life. It went on holiday to Scotland and decided to stay a while. However, it resulted in a cracking dram which I bottle-shared and immediately got myself a second bottle of after trying it.

    I guess that says enough?

  • Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet, Lot 71, 1971-2021, 50yo, 52%, Passie voor Whisky
    Lots of citrus notes (which I like), almonds (which I like) and proper aging (which I like). Another surprising drink at 50 years old, which wasn’t completely dominated by the cask it matured in. Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet is one of those Cognac producers which I think appeal more to whisky drinkers than to traditional Cognac drinkers, but I could be wrong. In retrospect, I think I should have gotten a bottle, even though it was quite a lot of cash…
  • 2 Cognacs by Kirsch, a 2006 Organic and a 1941/1943 mixed vintage
    These two are great for different reasons. The 2006 Organic one because it’s quite wild and takes Cognac in a (to me) new direction. I’m still trying to get a bottle.

    The 1941 vintage is one that forces you to sit down and shut up for a while. It demands contemplation. Apart from that it is ridiculously delicious, with notes of gun metal and all kinds of layers of flavor that need to be peeled back. I don’t think I can express how good this is in a way that makes sense…

If you ask why Michiel Wigman’s Cognac isn’t here, or why that bottle of 1957 Calvados I still have sitting somewhere isn’t here, it’s because I’ve not gotten around to reviewing them yet. The Same goes for that Jean-Luc Pasquet 1967, Boogieman and Wu Dram Clan’s Prunier 1967 and so on.

Is this intentional? Yes, I have to leave something for 2022, right? Of course it’s not, but I can’t try everything. So these will show up sometime during this year. And it’s likely they’ll be on this list next year if I write such a list.

Once again: There is so much awesome booze…

Posted in Alrik, Beenleigh, Caroni, Distillery 291, Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet, FEW, FEW Spirits, Foursquare, Kingsbarns, Kyrö, Lochside, Marquis de la Pomme, Myken, Springbank, Undisclosed, Vallein Tercinier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The best of 2021

Apart from looking back, using hindsight to evaluate what happened on a more generic level, there was of course a lot of booze last year.

In The Netherlands bottle-shops are in the same legal category as supermarkets and other foodstuff shops, and are therefore considered essential. Looking back at 2021, and 2020 for that matter, they might actually be that.

So, yeah, a lot of booze. A lot of whisky, a lot of beer (almost 300 new check-ins on Untappd…), quite some rum and a surprising number of cognac, even.

I’ve decided to separate the best of lists you’ll see below into four different categories. All lists are based on the rating I gave a dram, unless otherwise stated

  • The best new releases
  • The best older releases
  • The best non-whisky
  • The most surprising stuff, without it being about rating.

The last one is the odd one out. If you start looking solely at ratings, some really good and impressive stuff doesn’t make the cut. Stuff that stands out without it being better than anything else. When listing these, I’ll state why it made the list.


The best new releases

The first seven were easy, those were statistically the highest rated newer releases. So, anything from the second half of 2020 onwards, more or less.

After those seven there are the 90 point scoring whiskies. This is when things get a little bit more tricky. There’s another nine in that wee list alone. Varying from ridiculously old grain whiskies by Boogieman Import, to one of the two oldest ever Ardmores, but also some more surprising ones. A 12 year old Mannochmore by Fable Whisky, a 12 year old GlenAllachie by The Old Pipe and an Old Rhosdhu. The list:

By now, if I did a ‘bottler of the year’, it should be rather obvious that that ‘honor’ would go to Wu Dram Clan. I’ve yet to place some cognac reviews of stuff I also bought last year, but it would only increase their lead.

Let’s keep it simple and say that there was quite a lot of really good whisky released in 2021. Let’s NOT talk about whisky prices. That’s for another post…


The best older releases

Then the favorite older releases of 2021. As in, they’re not releases of 2021, but things that came out before and I only reviewed them during last year. There’s quite a range of stuff with things from all over the place, from various sources. Some come from my own bottles, some from samples I bought, some from Jon Beach’s awesome Advent Calendar. So, slightly more random that the above list.

That Springbank was a chance buy quite a few years ago and around my birthday in November, I finally emptied it, and wrote the review. One of the few not-cask-strength drams on the list, but it was everything you hope a whisky to be, apart from it probably having been better at a higher percentage.

I think the most surprising one in this list is the Elmer T. Lee. I didn’t really know what to expect from this, when I saw it in last year’s Advent Calendar, but expectations were high. It did not disappoint. It seems there is a category of bourbons out there that do very well with people that love single malt whisky, and it’s those more complex and less sweet ones.

I have some others lined up that might have made the list, if I had gotten around to trying them last year. Luckily, this tells me that in about 12 months, I have another list to write…


Let’s keep the ‘other booze’ and other ‘impressive whiskies for different reasons that their high score’ for another post. I guess most people have stopped reading by now… It’s been a rather long one.

Posted in Ardbeg, Ardmore, Ben Nevis, Bowmore, Buffalo Trace, Cameronbridge, Clynelish, Elmer T. Lee, Four Roses, Girvan, Glenallachie, GlenDronach, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Kilchoman, Ladyburn, Laphroaig, Ledaig, Loch Lomond, Longmorn, Mannochmore, North of Scotland, Old Rhosdhu, Port Charlotte, Port Ellen, Rare Ayrshire, Redbreast, Rosebank, Springbank, Tobermory, Undisclosed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

That went horribly wrong…

2021 has been a bit of shit show, in certain ways. Some of them obvious to the entire planet, some of them private, but in regards to booze, it hasn’t exactly been shit, but I didn’t stick to any of the plans I had in the beginning of 2021.

The obvious plan was to diminish the amount of bottles, both full-sized ones and samples, to a far more manageable amount. I failed horribly in both categories. There’s more samples now than there have ever been, and the amount of full-sized bottles has grown significantly too.

What’s even worse, most of these full-sized bottles are open too. So no keeping for later, except one of the Springbank Local Barleys, that is.

Especially before summer, when everyone was staying home anyway, I hosted quite a few tastings and for tastings you need booze. Add to that, that most of the participants are the same from tasting to tasting, and you need NEW booze for all these tastings.

Some simple math, 10 participants, 2cl samples, and you get stuck with approximately 6 x 50cl of whisky after each tasting. Samples were shared, of course, but most of them are still next to me in my home office. I’ve been exploring other options to offload some of the booze, but that’s not going too fast yet.

My wife, being the ever sensible one of us, keeps telling me that I should really empty quite a few bottles before adding new ones. I have yet to tell her that there’s two new bottles arriving tomorrow…


The biggest drawback, and that is closely related to writing a sort-of-daily blogpost, is that whisky starts to exist to be tried once. If my share of a bottle-share is 10cl, and I’ve tried two or three centiliters, the rest of the bottle is in the way, because it doesn’t add anything to my online exploits anymore.

This results in me trying to get through it quickly and that results in drinking more than anticipated (not to dangerous levels, don’t worry too much), just to get rid of the almost empty bottle. This, of course, is not a good way to have a whisky hobby.

A few years ago I wrote about being tired of having a whisky collection. With a few more years of experience and contemplation under my belt, I think this is what is causing this aversion of too many bottles.

Apparently, I have a very hard time changing directions, since this has been a recurring thing for the past seven years. For some reason, ‘this time will be different’.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Attributes to Albert Einstein, although it’s unlikely he ever said that.

Apart from monetary objections to ‘just getting rid of stuff’ there is the lack of respect to the spirit and its creators. They spent years, if not decades honing their craft, carefully creating and maturing spirit, and I just sit there ‘getting rid of it’.

This is something that has got to change. Whisky is, in my mind, a drink to be tasted, tried, assessed, shared and enjoyed. It’s something that warrants a bit of attention, of contemplation.


This contemplation is something that I plan to be doing not only when actually drinking whisky, but also before puchasing more. There has to be more than ‘this looks interesting’. I want to consider what itch it will scratch. What does it add to my collection? Does it fill a void? Does it bring something new to the table? Will it actually be good enough?

I assume this will result in me missing out on some bottles that sell out before I make up my mind, but with there being dozens of shops in The Netherlands alone that have over a thousand bottles available, I don’t think that’s going to be too much of an issue.

What I’m trying to say is that I am desperately wanting to refocus on quality over quantity.

This all starts with a change of mindset, which I described above. This will, if I can rein in my enthusiasm a little bit, result in there being less bottle-shares than there were last year. I have a hard time imagining there being as many or more, to be honest. Last year did kind of go horribly wrong.

This massive amount of bottles isn’t making you happy. You were far happier with your collection when you had just a few very good bottles.

The missus

So, while I’ve not mentioned any ‘new year’s resolutions’ yet, I generally don’t do that. I can be a sucker for semantics, and a resolution sounds like something final. And as time has shown me, that’s not how things work. So instead of resolutions I do plans, because plans can change and adapt.

I plan to:

  • do less bottle-shares
  • reduce the amount of open bottles in a sensible way
  • drink most of the samples I already have
  • think before I click on check-out buttons

I guess this will also have an effect on this whisky blog that I’ve been writing for over 12 years now. I have some plans there too, of course.

The daily review of whisky that not many people care about will be going on for a while, but it’s not a goal in itself. Consistency is something I prefer, but not when that means going through loads of stuff I don’t want to go through.

Also, I have noticed that I barely ever read someone else’s whisky reviews, so I can imagine (and statistics show my assumption to be at least partially correct) that not many other people care about random reviews like I’ve been doing.

In regards to posting on MaltFascination, I’ll be trying to go for quality over quantity there too. I’m not entirely sure how that’s is going to work or what it’s going to look like, but I’ll try.

This does NOT mean, however, that I’ll stop reviewing whisky. I’ll just do it in a slightly different way than “I have this bottle and these are my tasting notes”. Somehow.

Happy new year!

Posted in - Opinion | 2 Comments