Port Charlotte, 13yo, 2001-2015, Fresh Oloroso cask, 61.6% – Private Cask for Aart Appeldoorn

It’s been a while since I tried a Port Charlotte. It also seems the private casks and indie bottlings have gotten fewer in the last couple of  years (maybe since Remy Cointreau took over?), but I got this sample from buddy Jon Beach when he sent me some stuff from bonny Scotland.

The fun thing is that it’s a Dutch bottling from a fresh Oloroso Cask, which has been a guarantee for success in the past. Port Charlotte + some decent age + a fresh sherry cask. I’m game!

This one was bought by a group of whisky fanatics quite some years ago. It should have been bottled in 2013, but somehow that got pushed back to 2015. I don’t think anyone regrets it having spent another two years in oak. Generally that’s not a bad thing.

Image stolen from Whiskybase

Image stolen from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Big, fat sherry up front. There’s no way around it. A smack of smoke in the face too. On that front it has already delivered to anyone’s expectations. Lots of fruit too, with plums, strawberry and even some rhubarb. Quite simple, but there’s a LOT of everything.

Sip:
The palate is sharp (not surprising at 61.6% abv!) with lots of rich sweetness, oak, sherry and smoke. Peat, chili peppers, both red and dried fruits.

Swallow:
The finish mellows rather quickly, but the smoke lingers quite well. Flavors of peat, oak, fruit. It’s long and rich.

Well. Yes. This one works like a dream. It does everything you expect and it does it well. I don’t think anyone expects this to be an overly complex dram, and it isn’t. It’s full frontal sherry and smoke and that’s a lovely combination if there ever was one.

Thanks to Jon for sending this, it made a dreary night quite a lot better! Oh, and as expected with anything tasty these days, the price has gone up to some 230 euros. I’m not sure what it started at, but since it was an early bought private cask, it was probably quite a bit under 100 euros.

Anyway, great dram!

89/100

Port Charlotte, 2001-2015, 13 years old, Fresh Oloroso Cask 1025, 61.6%. Private cask for Aart Appeldoorn, The Netherlands.

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Tomintoul 40, 1972-2012, 48.5% – Maltbarn

Tomintoul is one of those distilleries that’s been around forever, but has only a very limited number of releases. Somehow, I have not even tried those. Also, from independent bottlers I’ve not tried many, and I don’t think there are an awful lot of them available.

Add to that that Maltbarn is not regularly available in a lot of shops in The Netherlands, which means this bottling has never been on my radar. Luckily I was able to get a sample from whisky mate MZ and I got around to trying it last weekend.

According to my information the vast majority of Tomintoul’s output goes towards the blending industry, but since it’s owned by Angus Dundee I don’t have a clue which blend this is.

Sniff:
Lots of old barley, but it’s gentle and smooth. Soft oak, sawdust and wood mulch. Some tree bark and baking spices. The focus goes more and more towards the oak. Slightly dry with hint of fresh peach peels.

Sip:
The palate is dry and a bit sharper than the nose was. More fruit and some grains again, with oak and juicy fruits. A hint of spiciness with a flavor of white pepper.

Swallow:
The finish is quite rich. The tiny sharp edge of the palate is gone and the flavors are very comparable. Quite long.

I’m not sure what to think about this one. On one hand it’s a very tasty drink, but it doesn’t do enough for me. There’s some fruit, some spice and some wood, but it’s all quite simple and lacks a bit of depth. And even when not regarding the price (which wasn’t too high back in 2012) I expect more of a 40 year old whisky.

88/100

Tomintoul 40, 1972-2012, bourbon cask, 48.5%, Maltbarn.

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Port Ellen 1976-2001, 25yo, 50% – Old Malt Cask

It’s been a while since I tried a Port Ellen, but my mate Jason gave me a sample of the bottle he opened for his 40th birtday, earlier this year. It’s not just any Port Ellen but one from the mid-seventies, which should mean it’s a bit more typical of the distillery style than 1980s releases. The last couple of years of the distillery’s existence were a bit more random than before, with some great bottlings, but also some less interesting ones.

In case of Old Malt Cask bottlings, a whisky released at 50% means that it was at least that when coming out of the cask, but most likely a bit higher still. I don’t think they’ve bottled much over the 50% mark, but I might be wrong. I do know there are some tremendous drams from the brand, of which we don’t get to see many since the split between the Douglas and Hunter Laing companies.

Sniff:
The nose is old and oily. Quite unlike any modern whiskies. The smoke is gentle with lemon candies and shammy leather. Real Port Ellen. Some white pepper, white oak and leafy green scents.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sip:
The palate builds up and is quite intense. There are flavors of leather, smoke, lemon and oak. The lemon and leather notes keep building, but there aer also green leaves and some spices noticeable.

Swallow:
The finish is a tad more simple. Quite long, but more straight forward. Some of the more nuanced flavors are gone quickly. The oak, leather and lemon linger quite long with the gentle smoke.

Yup. This one works! It’s a really, really good one with a great balance of flavors. Nothing dominates the palate or nose and the smooth smoke is a reason to shell out for old Islay whiskies instead of the more monotone belters of peaty sharpness that are released nowadays.

The biggest drawback of this kind of whisky is that you want more of it and it’s now some 600 bucks in shops. The shammy leather, lemon and smoke combination is a really unique thing of Port Ellen and something to be treasured. Great stuff indeed!

90/100

Port Ellen, 03/1976 – 04/2001, 25yo, 50%, Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask

Thanks Jason!

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Benromach 1974, 41yo, Sherry Cask, 49.1%

Finally, I decided to try this baby. G&M/Benromach sent it to me a few months ago, right about when all the other reviews came online. Somehow I’ve not been tasting a lot of whisky lately and I wanted to properly sit down for something of this caliber.

This single cask official release (you don’t see too many of these…) from Benromach should be quite awesome. Mostly since everyone likes older whiskies, and Benromach is a pretty great distillery itself. A combination of that which should work out.

And as well it should be great. This baby clocks in at £ 1200 (currently some € 1450) which is just about as much as I care to spend on bottles in a far longer period. Let’s say a year or more. But we can’t really blame them can we? Us whisky geeks have been overspending for years so the producers would be mad not to cash in on this trend!

Sniff:
Rich with lots of barley coming through. Lots of oak too, but it’s not overshadowing the other flavors. The chaff of grains, that coarseness. Also dried peach, baking spices with ‘speculaas’, and cloves showing. A very different style of whisky from the current 10 year old. More focus on the cask, but smooth and gentle.

Sip:
The sharpness here is not from the alcohol but more the flavor of red peppers and grains, although it’s not at a low ABV. Oak, spices, and a bit of fruit. Peach, some almonds with their bitterness.

Swallow:
The finish shows a bit more age, with more flavors like you’d expect from a 40+ years old whisky. Quite long with lots of focus on the cask. Wood spices galore, and hints of dried fruit.

Well, it’s not as ‘old’ as I expected, with the obviously old and spicy notes becoming prominent only on the finish. They’re there before, but not in a way you’d expect from something that’s been waiting to be drunk for over four decades.

Is it good? Sure it is! Is it £ 1200 good? Meh. Apart from the fact that I have never and (hopefully) will never spend that kind of money on whisky, I think this is pushing the boundaries of what’s credible, even in this day and age.

On the other hand, it has sold out in many locations, so apparently they’ve priced it quite acceptably. Still, it’s just shy of greatness with the ‘before-G&M’ style Benromach not producing as powerful a spirit as they could. I think if they release something like this with the spirit that they’re producing now in three decades, I’d sell a kidney for it.

89/100

Benromach 1974-2016, 41yo, Sherry Butt 1583, 49.1%. Available at The Whisky Exchange.

Thanks to Benromach and Gordon & MacPhail for sending a sample!

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More bottle shares

The whisky season is hitting the ground running with some really interesting releases.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t want to try a lot of them, so there’s about to be a lot of bottle shares happening as well.

Here’s the ones that have some spaces available:

Compass Box ‘3 Year Old The Luxe’

1% 3 year old Clynelish, and the other 89% of malt whisky is much older whisky from Clynelish and Talisker. There’s some grain in there too. Pretty interesting, if you ask me.

10 cl: € 42.50
5 cl: € 25

Compass Box ‘Spice Tree Extravaganza’

10 cl: € 20
5 cl: € 12.50

Heaven Hill Islay Cask, 2001-2016, finished in Islay Casks, Malts of Scotland

10 cl (only one share left): € 22,50

Posted in - American Whiskey, - Blended Malt, - Blended Whisky, - Bottle share, Compass Box, Heaven Hill | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cherry Spirit, 2003-2012, 51.9% – Beacon Spirits

Beacon Spirits is a new Belgian bottler of apparently not just whisky. This Cherry Spirit is not a typo for sherry, but an actual cherry brandy from Germany. It matured on oak casks for nine years so it’s far beyond the schnapps phase.

I have no real experience whatsoever with fruit distillates like this, since I’ve only dabbled in that sector since this year’s Armagnac bottle share and have not done much else to expand my understanding of any of it. With me trying to spend less money on booze it might also never happen.

Anyway, a fairly random thing to taste and review, and I won’t rate it since I can’t compare it to anything else. Apart from that I am going to give a fair opinion at the end.

Not my cup of (cherry tea)

Not my cup of (cherry tea)

Sniff:
On the nose it doesn’t smell like any brandy I’ve had before. The oak is very prominent and it takes a while for the spirit to make itself known. It would be excusable to mistake this for a very young whisky with a virgin oak maturation. Still fruit alcohol after the initial hit of oak, with quite some sharp edges. New oak. I don’t know if the cherry is suggested by the name or whether I’m actually getting it.

Sip:
The palate starts of on a generic note of fruit alcohol and loads of oak. After a bit of swimming I think I’m getting the cherries more prominently, with some other fruitiness as well. Very dry and a hint of leather. Pepper towards the end.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more fruity again. It seems it keeps opening up and it needs to do that to be a bit more enjoyable. Far more clear on the cherry hints.

Well. It’s hard to rate this as expected. I’m not a huge fan because I think the oak has been made too prominent on this, or the character of the spirit has been distilled out of it. I would find it interesting to know at how much ABV this came off the still.

Anyway, I read that a bottle of this changes ownership for 85 euros, which I find quite high. I understand that the production and maturation cost money, but I don’t think it’s represented in the end product enough. Harsh, but my money is on the whisky for Beacon Spirits, so far.

Cherry Spirit, 2003-2012, 51.9%, Beacon Spirits. Available there too.

Thanks to Bert Dexters for the sample!

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Tomatin 9yo, 2006-2015, Virgin Oak, 60% – Handbottled at the Distillery

When I visited Tomatin in a snowy November last year, with some mates, we had a great tour and did an extensive tasting of all Handfills available at the moment. This is a good thing because the things aren’t cheap and I would otherwise have left without any of the good stuff. The definition of ‘a good thing’ varies wildly between me and my wife.

This nine year old Virgin Oak hoggie was the penultimate whisky in the tasting, only to be followed by a 25 year old bourbon cask. It was also the strongest in the tasting, and contrary to my expectations, I loved it. I loved it so much that me and TT split a bottle of a one-hundred-and-ten pound, nine year old whisky. F-ing expensive, but we wanted it. Hell, we needed it.

At the distillery they told us that virgin oak casks are not always as virgin as you’d normally expect. I always wondered how the Scottish whisky industry knew how to get so many virgin casks nowadays without having a major logging industry like America has. Apparently, a recharred cask is considered a virgin cask, since it hasn’t been used since it was charred, and the layer of oak that actually was in contact with the previous contents is gone. Sort of.

It does explain to me how some virgin oak casks are almost like sherry casks, and others are far more like really intense bourbon oak. Interesting stuff, but also a tad confusing.

Sniff:
Lots of fresh oak obviously. A bit sherry-like with a rather sweet, dry nose. Some fruits, apple and grapes. Fresh herbs, some cherries and baking spices later.

Sip:
The palate is (very) sharp, sweet and dry. There’s lots of oak with a fresh, slightly ‘green’ taste to it. Very dry, slightly fatty. Fruits and spices. Quite like some stronger rye whiskeys.

Swallow:
The finish is very, very oaky with lots of wood and spices. Very sharp, and very dry.

This is a weird whisky. Very weird. It does grant some insight on the mellowness that corn brings to bourbon, compared to rye whiskeys where the grain leaves more room for the intensity of the oak.

Even though it’s only nine years old it’s insanely oaky and very, very strong. This whisky does NOT work when it’s your first whisky of the night. Or at least it doesn’t shine like it can further on in a line up. When I first tried it out of Scotland it was after the Tomatin Club bottling selection and it was awesome. I tried it later without first having some other drams and I was surprised by the dry fierceness it showed, and the vast amount of oak.

In the end, this one will take you by surprise if you don’t pay attention, but I think it’s an absolutely lovely dram and it shows an entirely different side of Tomatin. Kudos!

Not a clue if it’s still available. It also didn’t make it through the weekend, as you can see in the picture.

89/100

Tomatin 9yo, 18/1/2006-11/2015, Virgin Oak #69, 60% – Handbottled at the Distillery

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