This is a bottle I recently used in a tasting. I got it based on the fact that it scores ridiculously high on Whiskybase, if you know where to look.
As it turns out, this is a split cask between Blackadder itself, used for the 25th anniversary of the brand. The other participant in the cask split is the ‘Southern Drammers Whisky Club‘ in Israel. The pure Blackadder one scores 87.18 (88 when I bought it, before the tasting), but the Israeli one scores over 90.
Of course, people tend to rate things they chose themselves higher. If it was my cask I might be more thrilled with it too. But anyway, an average of a high 88 for an 8 year old whisky by a brand that had slipped down my rankings over the years is interesting. Let’s investigate!
Sniff: Lots of sharpness and leather, charcoal. Very dark on the fruity side, so the raisins, the plums and the dates, all with seeds, stones and twigs for bitterness. Almond paste too. Far in the background there’s a whiff of chlorine or something chemical.
Sip: The palate still has a lot of sharpness and fierceness but there’s also a lovely sweetness. Not youth and pastry notes but more like candied pecans and dates. Even though it’s a sherry’d single malt, it’s not unlike some bourbons. Quite some oak, almonds, and no trace of that chemical stuff.
Swallow: The finish shows some more leather than the palate did, with hints of twigs and seeds. A long lasting flavor of dried fruits and spiced cake. Dried fruits, definitely sherry and deliciousness.
This whisky is ridiculously clunky, but it’s also very tasty. Clunky in the way that it’s far from smooth or gentle, or even comforting. This is a fight, in a way, but a good one. You’ll have to get over the initial blast of fierce leather and sherry.
I don’t think it’s good enough, or complex enough to warrant the 90 points, but I am on the fence between 87 and 88. I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. When tasting this in a line-up it’s a fun and impressive dram. When settling down for the night with a book it’s too brash.
When lightly following The Bourbon Junkies on Youtube, you hear Kentucky Owl mentioned occasionally. Of course, that normally means that there’s something rather available in the USA that will never reach retail markets in Europe, unless you’re willing to shell out through all kinds of ‘investment’ websites.
That sort-of is true for these bottlings too. The ‘Confiscated 1916’ edition is available for prices of around € 125, which isn’t too bad. It’s also rather widely available, which makes ‘price obscurity’ less of a thing. As in, if it was just one shop, they could ask what they want, because you cannot compare prices…
Kentucky Owl ‘The Wise Man’s Bourbon’ is quite a bit more rare in Europe. It’s available, but since it’s a bottling for the American market, prices have soared and this will set you back more than € 300. All availability is through ‘hard to find’ and ‘exclusive’ whisky shops. No surprise there.
Let’s just see where these bottlings sit, in regards to taste, then!
Kentucky Owl ‘Confiscated 1916’, 48.2%
Sniff: There’s a sweetness of corn spirit matured in fresh oak. Cigars, autumn leaves, some dried fruits like peach and dates. A whiff of wood smoke too. Dark cherries, with quite some dryness too.
Sip: Bitter orange at first, with quite some peppery heat. Lots of oak, dark chocolate, dark cherries, peach. The autumnal notes of fallen leaves is there too, and there’s a not of dark rye bread.
Swallow: The finish brings some more typical bourbon sweetness with lots of oak and barbecued apple. Brown sugar, cherry pie and tree bark.
Well, upon tasting this blind I would have guess this was a higher ABV, but all in all I find this is a very appealing bourbon. It’s quite complex and brings loads of different flavors to bear, without feeling unbalanced.
Sniff: Very stereotype on the nose, with lots of oak, lots of dry corn flour. Baking spices with a focus on a red cinnamon heat, and some dry ginger. Some cigars or even vanilla pipe tobacco.
Sip: The palate, when tried after some other cask strength whiskies, arrives deceptively gentle. After a few seconds, though, it starts kicking and screaming. It’s dry, it’s hot, it’s peppery. There’s chili peppers, red cinnamon, lots of fresh oak. Some corn flour, some red fruits in the background, with cherry stones, cigars and vanilla.
Swallow: The finish, again, starts deceptively gentle after you’ve worked your way through the palate. However, as before, the heat does come back. Not for too long though. The finish shows some heat with a hint of chocolate milk.
It’s very hot but there’s a lot of flavor to counteract that. However, behind that it’s a ‘very good bourbon’. In my book that makes it very drinkable, but not overly rememberable.
Last February I reviewed a Girvan, of which I had gotten a sample in Fiddlers’ Advent Calendar. Contrary to what I expected, I really loved it and even got myself a bottle.
Teun van Wel, of Maltstock fame, saw my ‘this is the exception to the rule’ style of post and must have have thought to change my beliefs.
Two very different angles of Teun thinking ‘this will not stand’.
Anyway, I reviewed them sometime during the summer holidays, and then completely forgot where I put the list. Luckily Teun kept a copy of what he sent, or else I wouldn’t have been able to make any sense of this post.
To whom it may concern:
Grain whisky is the style of whisky that makes up blended whiskies, together with malt whisky. Generally grain whisky is seen, and used, as a rather industrial product. It is produced in distilleries that look more like an oil refinery than what you’ve come to see as a distillery. Also, it is distilled to a much higher ABV (90+%) and needs much longer aging if you want it to be good as a single grain whisky.
Sniff: Typical grain whisky with lots of sweetness, a whiff of glue, and wine gums. A lot of vanilla, wood and sap. A bit of maple syrup too.
Sip: The palate is quite fierce, with some alcohol heat that tastes like chili. Sweet, again, with grainy sugar, wine gums, and more chili pepper.
Swallow: The finish mellows quickly with the slightly biting dryness of the palate lingering the longest.
This is where we get into grain whisky territory, and this is generally why I dislike them. It’s all very sweet, and adding a sherry cask to something that I generally think too sweet already doesn’t work for me.
Sniff: Full on sweet wine gums and grain sugar. Pound cake, icing sugar, butter cream. Vanilla cheese cake.
Sip: Slightly dry and more grainy, white pepper and oak shavings. Still quite sweet but more cake like, instead of wine gums.
Swallow: The finish continues with the same flavors as the palate, although the sweet and the dry seem further apart.
Out of balance, and a tad inconsistent. Not bad, though. Interestingly, I had already tried this before and rated it quite a bit higher than I did this time around. Just goes to tell that (at least me) tasting whisky is very subjective. It does surprise me a bit though. Generally I’m a bit more consistent. Maybe too many variables changed? Setting, weather, ‘nasal conditioning’…
Cambus 26, 1993-2019, Sherry Butt 48094, 55.4% – James Eadie
Sniff: Massive hints of sherry, leathery with dried prunes. Lots of grainy sweetness, not surprisingly.
Sip: Quite smooth, with a bit of a bitter note. Prune stones, with dry oak. Dusty tree bark, the sweetness is still here, but overpowered by other flavors.
Swallow: Here the balance between bitterness and sweetness is restored. Still some leathery notes too, and more focus on the dried fruits.
This whisky from the last year the distillery was operational has a of sweetness, but in this case the sherry casks brings more bitterness, which I like.
Sniff: Vanilla ice cream and malt shake. It veers towards wine gums and peaches afterwards, but the vanilla stays.
Sip: The palate adds a peppery bite, not completely surprising. It stays with the vanilla sweetness, some caramel too. Malt shake again, maybe some root beer too.
Swallow: The finish is a lot sweeter again, some dry pepper and fresh tree bark. Vanilla, peach, caramel.
For a sherry cask, this had quite a lot of vanilla all the way through. The creaminess was also a bit surprising, but not completely unpleasant at all.
Invergordon 32, 1988-2020, Brandy Butt, 50.1% – Electric Coo Series
Sniff: This could very well be a wine cask. Red fruit, tannins, grape stems and seeds. Some thin milk chocolate notes too.
Sip: The palate is a tad flat at first, but some dryness and astringency builds up after a while. The flavors never get very pronounced though.
Swallow: More of the dryness follows, with a hint of rancio on the finish.
I have no idea what this is. And that’s the friendly way of putting this. A weird jumble of flavors without any balance. This is, I guess, where the brandy butt comes in. I had no idea what to make of this one but it tries to be everywhere at the same time. Not my cup of tea at all!
Let’s just say I’m not convinced. Some grain whiskies I don’t mind, some I do. Even fewer I really love, and it doesn’t all have to do with age, as we say with these early vintages here.
These Cadenhead bottlings are always interesting. Most of what I tried from this era was at cask strength, and they all shared a sort of ‘razor sharp’ profile, whether it was a Rosebank, a Bladnoch, or a Laphroaig. When I started being interested in whisky, I rather quickly realized Cadenhead’s bottlings weren’t for me.
Of course, when Mark Watt took over things picked up massively and they went from an often disregarded bottler (by me, that is), to the most interesting one based on quality and price.
Interestingly, since Mark Watt left a couple of year ago, things have been far less interesting again. Of course, Brexit and the complete ridiculousness of getting bottles from the UK to the Netherlands didn’t help, but most of the releases that have been done since were far from enticing. Prices went up, ages went down, the ABV was often reduced to 46% instead of the natural cask strength that came before. And, also interestingly, it seemed the selection of distilleries to bottle casks from was focusing more on the lesser rated ones.
Then, RvB gave me a sample of this, which he used in a tasting that I couldn’t be part of because of shit planning on my side. A Caol Ila from an era that I generally quite like, and one that makes me ever so slightly nostalgic, since one of the first Islay bottlings I ever bought was of similar vintage and age. Let’s see where this one sits!
Sniff: A sweet peat that’s surprisingly earthy, for an Islay whisky. Some pastry notes with pie dough, and later on there’s a hint of seaweed and brine. Some salinity and charcoal as well.
Sip: The palate is warm and has some notes of salinity. IT’s soft and gentle, with brine, oak and quite some smoke. Vanilla and brioche buns.
Swallow: The smoke, brine and even a bit of fishiness round off this whisky. It’s less sweet than it was before, and more coastal.
When I drink a whisky that was bottled 20 years ago, I expect some form of ‘old bottle effect’ and this one is lacking that. Which, in result, makes it taste more like a contemporary bottling, since it doesn’t have much age either.
Having said that, it does feel like a rather generic Islay whisky. It has some sweetness and peat, and I would expect more notes of straw and grass from the region. It also doesn’t really show the typical Caol Ila notes of diesel and engine grease. A bit too clean to stand out, for me.
I don’t really try whiskies from the Maltman that often. It’s one of those bottlers that I know exists and releases rather high-scoring drams, most of the time. But when push comes to shove I often have to make a snap decision, and with prices as they are, I don’t want to take the generally rather expensive guess.
I guess that’s one of my peeves with the brand, that they’re a bit on the expensive side. And while that generally results in high quality whisky, you don’t really need to take the expensive guesses and therefore the bottles are not often on my shelf. More or less the same story for Adelphi, for example.
This Blended Malt was the third whisky sample I got from BvdP, like the Rare Ayrshire and the Benromach, and was tasted blind. Because of the blind tasting thing, I also didn’t know the ABV, and this came last, following the almost 60% ABV Benromach, so that might not have been the best idea, but you can’t undrink a whisky anymore than you can unsee your nan in her knickers.
This 27 year old Blended Malt consists of Caol Ila, Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Bruichladdich, Tomatin, Cardhu, Pittyvaich and Glenallachie. So there’s even a closed distillery in there. I always wonder, and not necessarily from a skeptical point of view, why one would blend a cask of Pittyvaich into something like this. The same goes for Aberfeldy, since that’s not known as the most charachterful whisky, so what would it bring to a blend like this?
I guess we’ll never know. What we might know, is what the result tastes like…
Sniff: Tropical fruits with lots of oak and baking spices. Some walnuts and hazelnuts, spiced cake and milk chocolate.
Sip: A lot more thin than I expected based on the nose (there’s the low ABV for you). Some dry, mulchy oak for a bit of bite, with dried apricots, figs and dates.
Swallow: Again, dry with spices and fruits. Tree bark, baking spices and a bit of a dark chocolate bitterness.
This one definitely didn’t benifit from being third in line, but even then it did make itself known. So, there’s quite enough flavor in general, despite being a tad thin on the palate.
It’s a very traditional sherry’d whisky with lots of baking spices and dried fruit. The tree bark notes indicate some European Oak casks to me, but I might be wrong there. All in all a very solid whisky with some decent age to it.
At the price it’s not exactly a bargain, but with 27 years of age and knowing the track record of the bottler, it’s not too bad either. It’s still available for about € 165 in The Netherlands.
Another single cask from Benromach distillery! Don’t mind if I do!
And while I say that, let me also tell you that I tried this one blind. It was another sample I got from BvdP, and I tried it right after the Rare Ayrshire from last week. I can tell you this was a change of pace compared to that one!
It was interesting to try this blind, and while the flavor profile led me to think about Benromach, I couldn’t really place the fierceness of the whisky. Generally, the sherry casks I’ve had were a bit more gentle than this one, even though the bourbon casks normally aren’t.
Sniff: Leather, shoe polish, furniture wax, wax coats. But also dates and plums, and a bit of charcoal in the background. It’s very dark, and I don’t mean the color. Barbecue soot and burnt marinade.
Sip: The palate is more dry than I expected, and more spicy than the nose was as well. A lot of peppery heat to go with the barbecue soot, and the sweetness of the marinade. Leather, furniture wax, dates, plums and charcoal again.
Swallow: The finish is slightly more focused on the dark fruits, and mellows rather quickly. The soot and charcoal linger and some pepper remains long.
It’s interesting that there are the typical notes of sherried Benromach, but it’s also different enough to not make me be 100% sure when tasting it blind. Especially since those barbecue-sherry casks are so influential on the spirit it could go either way.
What’s also a thing is that these drams are generally very divisive, and while I tend to like them, there are many others who don’t, which is reflected in the score on Whiskybase.
I tried this sample blind. And now that I’ve looked up what it is, I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity to try it by BvdP. It’s not every year you get to try Ayrshire whisky. And as the years go by, I expect the interval might even get longer, if it ever comes by again!
Ayrshire whisky is a brand name used for whisky from the long-gone Ladyburn distillery. Ladyburn was a single malt producing ‘distillery’ within the Girvan complex in Ailsa Bay. That same Ailsa Bay is now a brand of single malt whisky produced at Girvan, but from an entirely new setup.
The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the age that gave it birth comes again.
Or, more appropriately, the distillery is long dismantled when the owner who built it starts building it again.
Anyway, extremely rare stuff. Tasted blind.
Sniff: Orchard fruits on a bed of straw. Lots of apples, pears and even a lot of melon. Some slate and oak shavings too. After a while it becomes a little bit more tropical with notes of pineapple and a bit of chalk. Towards the end there’s a whiff of fresh ginger.
Sip: The palate is quite intense, but not hot. There’s pepper, oak, dry barley husks and straw. Some fruity sweetness is behind that all. Apple, pear, pineapple, melon. Again, some white pepper and ginger towards the end.
Swallow: The finish is a little bit sweeter, and seems to integrate the fruit and the sharper spices better than it did before. Melon and apple, some oak and straw.
The better integration of flavors towards the end is not something I noticed a lack of before. It just stood out that it worked so well. The result is greater than the sum of its parts, so to say. I love these fruity whiskies and this Lowlands style is not something you encounter often.
Now if only this was still available at the original price, I’d buy a bottle. Or two.
One of these samples that I found on my sample shelf, and a grain whisky to boot. Apart from ‘SMWS G1.15’ there was nothing on the label, so I had no idea about age or ABV going in, and that was an interesting experience, as most blind tastings are.
Grain whisky distilleries don’t tend to be the photogenic white walled places that a lot of single malt distilleries are. Generally, they look like they could be refining oil or making plastic at the same time. Not much charm, so to say.
North British Distillery is owned by Diageo and Edrington combined, and makes whisky mostly for blended whiskies like Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal, J&B and, apparently, Isle of Skye. It’s located in Edinburgh, but obviously, not in the city center.
There’s a 3d model of the distillery available here.
Sniff: The nose is very dry for a grain whisky, but in hindsight that could also be the insanely high ABV. Based on the dryness I figured it was more like wheat than corn, but that seems wrong, based on the factoids on ScotchWhisky.net. A bit of fruity sweetness, unripe mango and pear. It shows some strange armagnac like quality, unaged armagnac, that is.
Sip: The palate is razor sharp with chili heat and lots of pepper. Unripe magno and green banana peels, a sharp fruitiness. A bit of simply syrup and some grains.
Swallow: Here, on top of some lingering heat, there’s the typical grain whisky sweetness. Lots of pastry notes and some baked fruit and wine gums.
I would never have guessed this to be 25 years old. Of course, if they casked this at some 90% ABV the alcohol should remain high for a very long time, but the weird cask might have had something to do with it as well. All in all, this is not necessarily a bad whisky, but it’s also not really comfortable to drink it either.
This single barrel is a bit of an oddity in my book. A distillery I’ve never heard of selling single barrel rye whisky at pretty steep prices. Or at least, in Europe the bottles go for pretty steep prices.
This specific one, without a barrel indication on the front label that I can spot (here, to be precise), was made from a rye malt mash, an underwent an ‘Aspen Stave Finish’.
Here’s me being an idiot once more though. I initially figured ‘aspen staves’ were just some undisclosed kind of tree they got from Aspen, the skiing town. Obviously, giving it about 1 second of thought, it is quite a bit more likely they actually used staves from the aspen tree. Look at me being anything but a botanist.
Anyway, I got a sample of this, because it was so obscure to me.
The distillery is founded by Michael Myers, a photographer originally from New York. He indicated that, after watching the events of 9/11 first-hand, he decided New York wasn’t the place to raise his family and he set out for Colorado Springs.
Ten years ago the distillery was founded and has been making all whisky himself, instead of starting with sourced spirits. Everything is made in quite small batches with inspiration for the mash bill coming from Thomas H. Handy Rye, one of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection.
The whiskey ages in 10 gallon barrels (less than 40 litres) for around a year. The aspen staves come into play after this initial maturation. With this being a single barrel product, that means there’s not even 60 bottles per batch.
What’s also interesting and something that would immediately disqualify the product as whisky, had it been made in Europe, is that in the mash a portion of boiled IPA is used. The alcohol is cooked off and the remaining liquid is used in the mash. Distillery 291 is the only one doing this, and they dubbed this the ‘El Paso County Process’.
Sniff: A very fruity distillate in the way the new oak combines with the sweetness found in the spirit. There’s hints of acetone and paint, but also apricots, cherries, green tree bark and some wood smoke.
Sip: The palate brings a bit of a fatty grain style with hot pepper and lots of ‘fresh wood’ sharpness. Not necessarily virgin oak, since I guess the aspen staves come into play here too. Brown sugar, cherries and some vanilla.
Swallow: The finish brings the woodiness again, but slightly sweeter this time. Red chili pepper, wood spices, brown sugar and caramel. Some cherry syrup even.
Obviously, this is quite a weird product with all its gimmicks and trickery. Had I been more of a purist I would have said this doesn’t really qualify as whisky within any other whisky category I know. However, I’m not that purist. And I love this whisky.
It’s quite young and therefore fiery, but with all its sharpness, the combination of fruit, spices and raw spirit scents I think it offers far more depth and layers than you’d normally expect. Very, very good stuff indeed!
It’s not often that I get to taste Japanese whisky that actually makes sense. That’s quite a bold statement, but my case is this:
A lot of contemporary and available Japanese whisky are cheaply made and try to profit of the stellar reputation the style got ten years ago. The great Yamazakis, Yoichis, and dare I say Karuizawas boomed the Japenese whisky to a number one position.
Currently, most (not all) available Japanese whisky is a blend of things that aren’t really tasty. Heck, a lot of them aren’t even Japanese. They sometimes have an age statement, but that too is no indicator of quality.
However, when a Yamazaki comes out, or a Miyagikyo, or anything from the old brands, it still is quite good. Sometimes great, but mostly quite good.
And then there’s Chichibu.
On one hand it is a new brand. It’s been around for about 15 years. On the other hand, the brand was conceived by Ichiro Akuto. The same man who ran Hanyu for the last years of its existence. A great brand if there ever was one, and for many on par with Karuizawa.
Note: After a very justified comment by Niels Viveen (a Japanese whisky connoisseur), I have to add that Ichiro Akuto didn’t run the Hanyu distillery. His grandfather did. Ichiro Akuto was heavily involved in selling the whisky in the years after the distillery closed, though.
So, while it’s new, it’s run to the standards of old. And while that feels a bit ‘Last of the Mohicans’ and a dying breed, it’s far from without merit. I fondly remember an IPA Cask from some years ago. I’ve had others too, but never reviewed them.
Let’s see where this one sits!
Sniff: Some oak, some straw, some vanilla. Not an awesome lot of smoke, but there definitely is some! A bit of seaweed and brine. Unripe pear, pastry cream.
Sip: Not very strong, but it is quite dry. A hint of straw and hessian at first. Some vanilla sweetness, pastry cream. Banoffee pie, smoke, some oak shavings.
Swallow: The finish continues with the sweetness, the banana cream, some caramel toffee. Of course there’s some smoke.
It becomes sweeter after a while, which isn’t uncommon in peated whiskies. The sweetness pushes the more complex flavors to the background.
While it’s not my favorite Chichibu, it’s a step in the right direction. This has mostly to do with the slightly lower ABV. Some years ago, these peated whiskies all clocked in at 60-odd%, and as a result it would by default be the last thing you’d taste that day until you brushed your teeth.
With this one that’s no longer the case, and with some more years of aging they’re really on the right track.
Currently available for some € 400, but that’s the case with all ‘proper’ brands of Japanese whisky