Ben Nevis 10, bottled in 2001 for the 175th anniversary, 46%

Time for a dusty! This 10 year old Ben Nevis has been in a bottle for over two decades, and was bottled for the distillery’s 175th anniversary.

I just love it that there’s a whole bunch of distilleries in Scotland celebrating anniversaries like that, or even like the south coast of Islay a few years ago, their 200ths. Imagine if the founders knew their companies would last two centuries!

Image from Whiskybase

What just popped up in my head is that this also means that Ben Nevis will be celebrating their 200th in 3 years! I’m suddenly looking forward to the celebratory releases then!

Old bottle effect, leather, lots of porridgy barley notes. A hint of vanille and dry barley too. Oak shavings, soil. Not overly complex, but quite good at what it does.

The palate brings a bit of a chili pepper bite, together with the leather and sawdust notes from before. Hay, porridge and oatmeal. Lots of barley too. Very grain driven.

The finish is suddenly quite different. It’s still quite funky, but brings slate and a type of earthy peatiness.

The old bottle effect really helps this one. Otherwise it might have been a bit simple, and I think based on the current 10 year old, that the new one might be strictly ‘better’. Although, as just said, the age of the bottle really helps this one. It makes it extra funky, extra interesting. Also because ‘Old Bottle Effect’ is something more commonly found in blended whiskies, simply because they are way more available.

Good, and fun stuff!


Still available in France for € 60, but more expensive on the secondary market.

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Tomatin Cù Bòcan, Creation #5, Colombian Oak, 46%

Finished in the incredibly rare Andean Oak, or Colombian Oak, and winner of gold awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Those are two of the main USPs for this whisky, on the Cù Bòcan website.

To be honest, that award doesn’t mean all that much to me, since there are way too many of them given out to matter. The oak is a bit of a different story. That is indeed not a common tree, since it only grows in Colombia and Panama. More info on, obviously, Wikipedia.

Image from Whiskybase

Cù Bòcan is said to be an experimental highland malt, but with it having been around for years, I think the malt itself isn’t all that experimental anymore. It comes down to ‘peated Tomatin’. A lovely Highland Distillery just off the A9. And by lovely I don’t mean it’s picturesque, but more that what they produce is nice and the place is kind of impressive. In all its industrial and concrete ways.

A combination of warming fruit and smokiness. Lightly peaty, with barbecued mango, fruity marinade. A bit of straw too.

The smokiness is a little bit more straight forward. More spirit, more oak, more straw. Less fruit, but there still is some. More grilled fruit, pineapple skins, a very slight bitterness too.

The finish lands in the middle of the nose and palate. More fruity, a bit more sweet. Quite long and with a whiff of smoke.

Since I’m me, I didn’t really investigate what this whisky was about. I only got a sample since my friend Tom recommended it. I know he’s a bit of a Tomatin fan, mostly because of the name I guess, but still. He won’t recommend shit whisky.

And in this case, he didn’t indeed. It’s a nice dram with a lot of sweet fruitiness going on. The whiff of smoke keeps the sweetness in check, though. Quite well priced too, at about € 65 in The Netherlands.


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Speyside 8, 2014-2023, First Fill Moscatel finish, 51.7% – Dràm Mòr

Image by Tyndrym Whisky

Recently I was sent some samples from Dràm Mòr’s newest release by Viktorija Macdonald for reviewing. Of course, I am willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good, so here’s the first one!

Some years ago I met Viktorija’s husband Kenny at Maltstock. We had an awesome semi-drunk chat in which the man tried to teach my and my friend JP some Gaelic. But, at that point I was barely able to speak coherent Dutch, so it’s a miracle in itself that I remember this…

This isn’t an undisclosed Speyside whisky, it is actually from Speyside Distillery in, you guessed it, Speyside. This one specifically was finished in Moscatel casks which tends to make things a bit sweeter. I am curious to find out how this turns out with a youngster like this!

Quite some sweetness with hints of barley, charcoal and some honey. Brazil nuts, with their dryness. Almonds as well.

The palate follows the nuttiness of the nose. Quite a dry one, but there’s fruit salad too, the tinned kind. Barley and a bit of porridge with honey.

The finish has a youthful sweetness that shows the alcohol. It’s not hot, but it is young. Some nuts, pastry notes, a bit of fruit salad.

The rather amped up nuttiness of the whisky keeps the sweetness in check. I don’t mind that the youthful alcohol is noticeable. When a whisky is on the younger side, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to actually taste that. I prefer that to massive woody notes that haven’t integrated well.

The combination of the sweeter honey notes (but not too sweet) with fruit salad and nuts works really well. I’m very positively surprised by this one!

It’s available in Scotland for about £ 61, at The Green Welly Stop / Tyndrum Whisky, for example.


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Islay 1992-2002, 59.9% – James MacArthur’s

Image from Whiskybase

Interestingly, even with our current drive for information in the world of whisky and the flack that a lot of whiskies, brands and distilleries get for not disclosing enough, this doesn’t seem to have been a problem two decades ago when this was enough.

Islay, cask strength. That’s the info you’re getting. Although this one is highly unlikely to have come from anything else than a refill bourbon cask. Also, it is considered to be a Laphroaig.

I bottle-shared this one a year ago, but have only been able to pick it up a week ago. Shamefully, I hadn’t been at De Whiskykoning since forever, even though I love the shop. Sometimes things don’t just go according to plan.

Peaty, with an intense but gentle smokiness. By that I mean it’s not sharp. There’s a salt and iodine mix. A lot of licorice, straw, and some tar.

Far more gentle than the 59.9% would suggest. There’s a lot of white pepper, dry salinity and licorice. Some smoke and tar.

The finish veers back to tarry ropes, peaty smoke. A big finish, with classical notes of Islay.

As said, even though it’s ridiculously strong, it feels much gentler on the palate and finish. What is also lovely is that in 10 short years the peat and smoke notes of the whisky have been tamed significantly. This tastes a lot more mature and ‘ready’ than a lot of other products nowadays. A really classical Islay whisky.


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Springbank 12, Cask Strength, Batch 24, 54.1%

Are we first? Did I publish in time and did Tom write in time? That’d be something, right?

The review of the most recent Springbank 12 Cask Strength is here!

Perfumed Pebbles

Dubbed ‘batch 24’, this is the newest edition of Springbank cask strength, aged for 12 years in a mixture of bourbon (60%) and sherry (40%) casks and bottled at 54,1 % abv. Thanks to lightning-quick delivery via the hands of friends, this landed on the desk and puts us in the position of sharing first impressions.

In lockdown days, I had the opportunity to collect quite a few samples of the more recent batches, roughly between 16 and 21, and almost tasted them all by now. This particular expression is a weird sheep among the Springbank flock. It has not the straightforward (orange) fruitiness of the 10 years old, neither the full-blown sherried hit-to-the-jaw of the 15 years old. More so, batch variation is very noticeable, in my experience. Let’s see where this one lands.

It needs time to open up, and probably some water too, but let’s first do a round undiluted. From what I do get, the sherry is very dominant. The liquid’s color of beautiful gold seems to confirm this. So, a vague fruitiness, mixed with the damp fumes inside a dunnage warehouse. Behind it are some classic sherry notes, raisins, plum, rum even, but also industrial smells like car workshop. Consistent with earlier batches actually. Later-on, I detect something that can only be described as perfumed pebbles. With water it turns full throttle to classic mineral notes (sans perfume). The sherry influences kicked back into the corner. Now it is an amalgamation of senses, truly blooming to full potential.

Surprisingly smooth and quite a bit of oily texture. Knowing the SB10 so well, you can easily detect the oranges and tangerines in the depths, once you get through the alcohol layer. It has turned to blood oranges. Good wood spices, subtle milk chocolate notes, nothing too extreme. Makes me think the wood was all second fill. With water this Springbank gets extremely quaffable and much sweeter too. You will down a bottle of this while playing poker with your friends before you can say ‘all-in’.

Almost friendly, a bit of a kick from the alcohol, and very long. Warming the chest. The sherry once more takes center stage, but the bourbon makes it rounded. A good balance, this 60-40. With water truly magnificent chocolate notes that were not detectable when undiluted.

A rather stubborn Springbank that needs some help to reach the 90 points level. But
with patience and some water it really gets there, and then you are in for a treat. If you do not care
too much about nosing your whisky, just put it in a tumbler and go nuts. This malt can deliver on all


About Tom van Engelen

Tom is a whisky enthusiast since the beginning of this millennium, not only savoring the taste of the drink but also the soul of it. Malt whisky from Scotland therefor remains his favorite focus. As former editor of the oldest Dutch whisky magazine he found a passion in writing about whisky too, with a mild preference for the nostalgic. He lives between the big rivers of the Netherlands with his wife Dasha, daughter Sasha and cat Amour.

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Benromach 21, Bottled in 2004, Tokaji Wood Finish, 45%

Tokaji finishes are always a huge risk, if I’m honest. The good ones are very hard to come by, and most of them are at best interesting. I seem to remember an interesting Longrow of which, more than a decade after trying it, I’m still not sure whether I really enjoyed it or not.

It tends to bring really big and slightly funky flavors to a whisky, with lots of overripe fruit, leather and hessian. Add to that that Benromach already tends to be big and rich and often also funky. It might go over the top. Let’s find out!

Image from Whiskybase

Strangely sweet with lots of overripe fruit. Funky too, with honeyed porridge, a slight rubbery note like the noses of all-star sneakers. Lots of wood, fresh shavings and hot sawdust. Very rich.

The palate is still rich, but far less intense than the nose. The lower abv is quite noticeable. Less sweet too. Still focused on oak and fruit, dry fruit. Not dried.

Back to leather, rubbery things, overripe fruit. Far less oak, very strange.

So, a lot of predictability here. Very heavy and rich, with overripe fruits as expected. Lots of oak too. The lower ABV doesn’t really help the whisky, a bit more alcohol might have offset some of the sweeter notes. The rubbery note is the thing I have the most issues with. It pops up randomly and doesn’t really help with the balance and enjoyment of the whisky.

But, having said all that, as far as Tokaji finishes go, it’s not too bad at all. The richness of the Benromach does help a bit, so it’s not completely overpowered by the cask.


Surprisingly, this is still for sale for € 269 in Germany

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Arran 18, Sherry casks, bottled 2021, 46%

Image from Whiskybase

Even though the distillery isn’t even 30 years old, I think Arran have been on the right track for quite a while. They’re not really doing anything all that different from many of the other distilleries, but they do things well. It’s quite rare to have an Arran that’s not good.

And, having visited the distillery twice, I can say I really like the place. There’s a nice cafe, the surroundings are awesome and it’s really nice to get in for a burger, tour and tasting after doing the Laggan Circuit in the morning.

Baked apples, straw, barley, quite a bit of oak. Raisins, mango, dried peaches.

A gentle palate with fresh black pepper, oak, almonds, dried fruit. Baked apples and baking spices too. Brown sugar for sweetness.

The finish is surprisingly dry and focuses more on the almond and straw aspect. Quite long, with some spices and oak.

The very typical American oak + Sherry combination of Arran whiskies is quite noticeable in this one. The notes of baked apples and a focus on barley, combined with dried fruit. In my book that works rather well.


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Glen Moray 14, 2007-2021, Hogshead 6305, 51.7% – Catawiki

Catawiki released this series of ‘Catawhisky’ last year for their avid auction bidders. I believe it was stated that the first 1000 people to spend € 1000 on their auction site would get a batch of samples from this. What was left over got spread around to garner some interest.

Commercial stuff:

What is nice about Catawiki is that they’re indicating what good prices would be for a bottle. This is an actual process based people knowing their stuff, contrary to having to go by historic data that might be hugely outdated.

Also, at least in The Netherlands, they’re involved in all kinds of festivals. So, it’s not just there for the money but also for the community.

Image from Whiskybase

Glen Moray, like I always say in similar reviews, ages rather well, if the cask isn’t too influential. As in, the cask tends to take over since it’s a very gentle spirit. But, when being drawn from a hogshead, like this one, it can be an utterly nice whisky.

Quite a green whisky for its 14 years old. Also a bit of vanilla and sweet baking spices with apple. Maybe because it’s the first one, it’s a little bit hot on the nose.

Slightly more thin than I expected from the rich and sweet nose. By that I mean the vanilla is toned down and it’s less sweet, and more dry. That gives the spirit a bit more room and also shows a more oak. White pepper, green apples.

Oak, white pepper, a slight bitter note not unlike gin-tonic and grapefruit.

A rather okay whisky with more to be discovered than you’d expect from a 14 year old Glen Moray! I like that there’s that grapefruit note on the finish, and that after the nose the vanilla is kept in check. Of course, since this isn’t commercially available, I have no idea to value for money, but I really liked the whisky!


Thanks to Catawiki for giving me the chance to try this!

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BenRiach ‘The Smoky Ten’, Bourbon & Rum & Virgin Oak Casks, 46%

Because it is not enough to have a regular bottling and a smoky version of that bottling. You also need to use every cask under the sun when doing so.

Of course, there are far more types of casks available than these three, but it seems a bit arbitrary. Were they going for oak driven (with the virgin oak), sweetness (with rum and bourbon casks) or a smoky diversion from the regular BenRiach whisky?

I got my hands on this bottle when I organized a whisky tasting at work a while ago. When I do such a thing, I like to introduce people to it by going for contrasts. Pit a young and an old whisky against each other to see what aging does (Glenfarclas 8 and 25). Pit a sherry and a bourbon cask matured whisky against each other (in this case 2 Arrans). I picked the BenRiach because it offers both peated and unpeated whiskies from the same distillery.

This one was quite popular, but general popularity and standing up to scrutiny from (without trying to be arrogant) someone who has a bit more experience are two different things. I was quite curious though, because the BenRiach Curiositas was very good value for money some years ago!

Image from Whiskybase

Straight forward vanilla focused whisky, with a definite peaty edge. Apples, applesauce, oak, straw. Lots of yellow things. After a while there’s some lemon curd as well.

Much like the nose, it’s very straight forward, and therefore a bit bland. There’s nothing happening that makes this whisky stand out from comparable stuff. However, I have to say, it tastes like it is quite well made. Apples, oak, only a whiff of smoke.

The finish is slightly bitter. Not nutty, but there’s a bitterness. Some oak, some vanilla. Some grass and straw too.

The smokiness gets a bit too gentle towards the end. The spirit is good, but there’s nothing about this whisky that I’ll remember in a week. I think the virgin oak and bourbon casks have imparted a boatload of vanilla, which is already a sweet flavor. Add the rum cask to that and we’re in rather syrupy territory quickly. A bit too much so, if you ask me.

I think the Curiositas, even though it has the same cask mixture, was a lot better. Maybe that’s just my memory of it, because it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s all the same stuff. But at least there, in my memory, it’s better.


Regularly available for about € 45

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Kilkerran 11, Open Day 2017, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel, Triple Distilled, 60.3%

Image from Whiskybase

By now it’s almost six years ago I got these samples from Ben Cops’ ‘Campbeltown Mega Share’, back when that particular bottle-share group was still active. He also used to run a whisky blog but that seems to be on hiatus also.

Anyway, there were a lot of Open Day and Distillery Only samples involved. I reviewed most of them by now, but this one still sat on my shelf. It’s not always I get around to 60+% ABV whiskies.

It’s a bit of a weird one, because it’s a triple distilled Kilkerran. The people at Springbank and Glengyle distilleries usually save the triple distillation for Hazelburn, where Kilkerran (from Glengyle Distillery) usually follows a more Springbank-y regime.

The alcohol is noticeably strong. The spirit itself is light, with quite a good helping of cask influence. Vanilla, alcohol, fresh American oak.

Quite a bit of icing sugar, vanilla, puff pastry. Some wood, and otherwise alcohol. It’s a bit more dry than the nose, but that’s the alcohol speaking.

A finish that narrowly follows the palate. Spirit, but quite generic, some oak, lots of vanilla.

The drawback of triple distillation is that it removes more character from the spirit, and is a little bit closer to neutral grain spirit. In this case I feel like that’s the case as well. It’s mostly strong alcohol and strong cask influences like vanilla and wood, with quite a bit of sugary sweetness.

Having said that, the whisky itself is very well made and in a way there’s nothing to complain about. I just prefer Kilkerran products in a different way.


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