A couple of Gordon & MacPhail Drams

Over the last couple of months I’ve been getting some G&M samples from random distilleries. The ancient Mortlach and slightly less old Benromach have been sitting and waiting for the right time.

However, the somewhat younger drams have been piling up too, and me not blogging as much as I used to doesn’t help one bit. So, contrary to my usual habit of not drinking on work days, I broke with that plan for a night and tried three of them.

Two of them are from Speyside (Glenallachie and Craighellachie) and one Highlander (Dalmore). I’ve not tried many of any of those distilleries, and the ones I did try in the past weren’t overly convincing.

Well, except for some Dalmore samples. I’ve tried some cask samples (which you can’t buy) and some older ones (which you can’t afford), but those were good. Unfortunately the affordable ones are mediocre, in general.

Craighellachie 1997, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2014)

On the nose it’s all quite spirity, but not necessarily in a bad way. Lots of oak nonetheless, but mostly sawdust. Some straw and moss and a bit of a slate like minerality. The spirit is a tad green, with some sugary sweetness. The palate has the same sweetness but it’s more upfront. Some plants, and mossy green flavors. A bit of oak, and a grainy mouth feel. Some brown sugar, as well as straw and hay. The finish is a bit more warm but quite similar. Not too short.

On its own it’s not overly convincing, but there is a certain appeal to it. I can see the concept of these bottlings as being an introduction into independent bottlings.

80/100

Glenallachie 1999, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2015)

This one is quite a bit lighter with more hints of vanilla. A touch of sugar too and some green scents, but different. More grassy, I’d say. The palate is quite sharp with some pepper and vanilla, and a syrupy mouth feel. Some pear and a soft fruitiness, with a hint of oak. The finish is light and a bit warmer again. Quite classic, with a bit of sweet wood and more richness than expected.

This one is slightly different in balance. Although the flavors are comparable, the focus is rather different.

81/100

Dalmore 2001, 46%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice (btld. 2015)

Dalmore then. Somehow I’ve been dreading tasting this. Mostly because my experiences are as described above. I generally don’t like them, and when I do like them I can’t get that one.

This one is much heavier on the nose, and warmer too. There’s hay and leather, some oak shavings. A nice spirit which has quite some autumnal scents to it. Some fruit, peach and pear mostly. The palate is sweet and heavy with hints of black pepper and hay. A bit of a gin like spiciness, but not without fruit either. More complex than expected. The finish has dry wood and focuses more on the spices again. It’s a bit short though.

Surprisingly, the Dalmore is the best one of the three. It’s a bit heavier, based on the distillery’s spirit, I’d say. In this case it works and it is a bit more complex because of it. Not bad at all.

82/100

The good thing about these bottlings is that they all show a different side of the distillery’s output. At least from what I know of each distillery. None of the first two are drams you encounter often, although the owner’s have been trying to remedy that.

Dalmore is slightly more common, but there’s quite some bottlings out there and the affordable ones are all pretty thin and watery and (I think) don’t showcase the distillery character all too well.

These bottlings are, as said, an introduction into independent distilleries. In the case of the Glenallachie the price is nice too. Clocking in just under 40 euros it is priced similarly to any other single malt of this caliber. Good stuff. The others I find a bit too expensive at just under and just over 50 bucks. A tenner less would have been more appropriate for the drams.

Thanks to G&M for sending the samples!

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Imperial 1995-2016, 20yo, 50.1% – Signatory for The Whisky Exchange

Before let’s say, 2014 or so, Imperial wasn’t on many people’s radar. They were a closed distillery but not one that had gotten a cult status, unlike Rosebank for example.

For me that changed during the Blind Tasting Competition on Christmas Eve of 2014 when that year’s competition closed out with that one. I was glad to order one right away since that awesome bottling suddenly sold out overnight. Much to the surprise of unsuspecting suppliers who had it on their shelves for months without anyone being overly interested in it.

Since then I have the feeling that everybody is trying to get their piece of the pie, and the bottlings have grown quite rampant. This one, from The Whisky Exchange, came in a while ago for reviewing.

Sniff:
The nose is sharp and malty with lots of barley. A minor whiff of peanuts, and white pepper. Some oak but not as much as almost 21 years generally smells like. The typical white wine (Chardonnay?) sweetness and crispness that Imperial often has.

Sip:
The palate is sharp, with a bit of alcohol. Quite a lot of white pepper and chili pepper. Fresh, dry oak and again that sweetness of white wine. Some vanilla, but not a lot.

Swallow:
The finish still has a bit of that sharpness, but is also warming. Grains, barley, grist and hints of pepper. Not overly long, but rather nice.

This one is very consistent with what I know and have come to expect from single cask Imperials. It’s got a lot of grainy hints, but also the hints of oak aged whitewine with a hint of vanilla sweetness. I like those flavors, so I think this is a good thing.

Also, since this one sits at 70 pounds at The Whisky Exchange, it’s priced quite acceptably. Especially now the morons in the UK voted for Brexit and the exchange rate has suddenly become much more viable.

87/100

Imperial 1995-2016, 20yo, Matured in Hogshead #50252, 50.1%, Signatory Vintage, bottled for The Whisky Exchange. Available for 70 quid.

Sample provided by The Whisky Exchange, much obliged, guys!

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Longrow 21, 46% – OB for the Springbank Open Day 2016

When this one was announced, I got all giddy on the inside. That was slightly lessened by the price of a bottle, but I still was enthusiastic about it. A 21 year old Longrow. There’s only ever been one Longrow that was older than this one!

It was released at the Springbank Open Day, last May, and I managed to get a sample. Well, two actually, I didn’t put my eggs in one basket since I felt a need to taste this one. At £ 250 I didn’t really feel the need to buy one, though.

That I love Springbank is no secret. I think it’s my favorite distillery in Scotland, maybe in the world, especially if I disregard closed distilleries (Karuizawa, Brora, Port Ellen, Rosebank, you know the drill).

I visited them in 2010, and I feel it’s been far too long already. I am planning a trip to Scotland with friends for 2018, but since that’s not even next year it’s far too long in the future. Luckily, there’s 2017 that’s still full of options for Scotland and awesomeness.

Oh, getting back to this whisky. There’s not much to say about it. There were 230 bottles, which probably means this is a single cask. It was distilled in November 1994, and bottled in May 2016. It comes from a refill bourbon hogshead.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
It’s very smooth on the nose with lots of warm grain. The typical light salinity of Springbank and even more so in Longrow is present. Some muesli (toasted grains, I guess). A slight smokiness and light hint of vanilla. Some spices, some sawdust, and after a while a hint of black pepper. Warm smoke.

Sip:
Spicy wood, but very smooth nonetheless. Even a bit creamy. Salt, minerals and slate. Some vanilla and white oak, with barley and toasted cereals in the background.

Swallow:
The finish is much more salty than I expected, with more minerals and slate as well. Quite interesting because of it. Wood, grains and some smoke.

The summary of how I feel about this whisky can be copy pasted from last week’s Tamnavulin.

It’s a very decent dram, rather good, but not exceptional. I don’t think it adds much depth on top the 18 year old (although I’ve not tasted the more recent editions of that). The finish is the most interesting bit with more salt and minerals detectable. The run up to that is fairly standard and should get its quality of the smoothness and ease with which this goes down.

However, if you take the price tag in regard, it’s just too ridiculously expensive. £ 250 when it came out and currently sitting at a comfortable € 479 in the Whiskybase Marketplace is just insane for this kind of whisky.

If I had the choice I’d instantly go for the not-even-€-100 18 year old.

87/100

Longrow 21, 11/1994 – 05/2016, 230 bottles, 46%, OB for the Springbank OB. Currently € 479 and up in the secondary market.

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Tamnavulin 1967-2010, 43yo, 41% – The Whisky Agency

A properly ancient whisky that I picked up for a bottle-share. Which, somehow, never filled up, so I had to drink it myself. Bummer.

It seems that most bottle-shares I do with those pricier, older whiskies never fill up. That’s annoying, sometimes, but in some cases it’s not too bad either. It’s more costly, but it also means I get to drink more awesome stuff myself.

This one, by now, is nearing its end and it won’t survive the coming weekend. I shared it with buddies during the Blog Birthday Bash last Saturday, and they were kind enough to leave me a heel to end on my own.

So, Tamnavulin then. A whisky that’s normally considered to be far from interesting and goes into blends for the vast majority of its production. There’s probably a lot in Whyte & Mackay, since they own the place. The distillery was closed between 1993 and 2007.

Sniff:
On the nose it starts with some oak. Not too much, but it’s there. A rich maltiness follows with a hint of vanilla. Barley and some chaff, but also dried apple and a slight toastiness. Candied lemon and bread too.

Sip:
The palate is slightly thin, even though it’s bottled at cask strength. Quite a lot of oak, with dry barley and a whiff of spicy, dry rub for barbecue meat. Toasted oak, barley husks and soft fruit. Stewed apples or so.

Swallow:
The finish is fairly predictable after the palate and doesn’t surprise me at any point. Slightly richer than the palate, and a bit more sweet too.

It’s not an easy whisky to rate. On one hand it’s pretty well made and shows some nice, classical flavors. But, on the other hand, it’s really boring and doesn’t surprise or wow me at all. The 43 years are not really noticeable, so paying extra for the age is not value for money either. Quite a bummer, even though the whisky is not bad.

Technically, I try not to taste the price tag of a whisky, but in the end I want to know if a whisky is worth the money and effort. While this is a good dram, well made, no gimmicks, it’s not worth € 250, which is what it used to cost.

87/100

Tamnavulin 1967-2010, 43yo, 41%, Bourbon Hogshead, € 350 in the current market.

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The sixth annual Blog Birthday Bash

This here blog has been around for six years already. The actual date was August third, but that passed rather eventless. However, last Saturday was the annual barbecue-and-booze celebration.

I made the fairly predictable huge hunks of pork again, although somehow they cooked but the core temperature didn’t rise, so it wasn’t pullable. Still damn tasty though.

The main thing that happened was the BYO tasting, just as it did all previous editions. I asked everybody to bring just one bottle, but somehow I have either very deaf friends, or very strong willed ones, since nobody did that. The final line up was 21 drams. Twenty-f-ing-one.

Thanks a lot guys. You just ruined my Sunday morning… Although, I couldn’t just passed on a few, but that wouldn’t be polite…

Luckily, we still have the photos. Courtesy of AdW:

From the early nineties, most likely. A very tasty starter

Lidl’s output from last year. I couldn’t resist since it my vintage, and I could buy around my birthday

The most impressive bottle of the evening. Early 1950s Jameson Single Pot Still. Unique in every way

A great brandy, but not in its element around all these whiskies.

Great stuff

More impressive than I expected, to be honest.

Nobody guessed either the distillery or the age. Nice, but no cigar.

Now this then. F-ing incredible stuff. Amazing depth and flavor

Simple and not people’s favorite of the night.

This one happened while I was prepping the food, so I didn’t pay it enough attention. I think it was good though.

Good stuff!

Really big flavors. More sherry and more peat than we’d expected from a Bowmore

A classic. I still regret not buying it when I had the chance.

This one didn’t work for us.

This one did.

This one didn’t either. It’s my bottle so I hope it shines better after it’s been open for a while.

A really good Benrinnes. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I ‘think’ I remember this being good.

My friend Henk’s club of gents bottled this. It’s surprisingly good for a Tullibardine.

One of the extras. Nice and fruity, but not showing the character or depth of a 43 year old.

After this I believe some people left, and others sat around with some more samples. I should’ve stopped here, but I didn’t.

I had an awesome night! Thanks a lot, Tom, Henk, Helen, Martin, Martin, Sebas, Teun, Antoine, and most of all Anneke (for putting up with this nonsense for all these years)

Posted in - Armagnac, - Blended Malt, - Blended Whisky, - Irish Whiskey, Ardmore, Benrinnes, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Glen Elgin, Glen Garioch, Glenrothes, Imperial, Jameson, Longmorn, Longrow, Tamnavulin, Tullibardine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beers of July

I kind of smuggled a bit of July into the last post, because our family holiday was overlapping between June and this month.

Also, it was done to get the shit beers of France out of the way, and the prospect of July was to try quite a lot of new things in various situations. July saw two weekends away with the family and friends, and an order from Brewdog to get my hands on their specials that aren’t normally available in The Netherlands.

All in all, even though there weren’t even 20 days in July that I hadn’t posted on yet, I got to 32 unique beers that were not listed before. That’s quite insane, but I think I can get away by blaming my friend Joost. Not sure how or why, but it feels right.

Brewdog

  • Candy Kaiser
    German style altbier, which I like. This one does well, but it’s not overly special.
  • Elvis Juice
    Grapefruit IPA. I had only one grapefruit IPA before and it was hideous. This one wasn’t, but it also wasn’t great. I don’t really see the point of this style.
  • Jet Black Heart
    Random stout.
  • Born to Die 18-08-2016
    This was the cause of the order from Scotland. I wanted to try it and got a load of mates involved to carry the shipping costs. It’s really good, but not unexpectedly so. I had hoped for it to be a bit more piney, and resin like, like the one they had this autumn.
  • Kingpin
    Craft Lager. I don’t see the point.
  • Black Hammer
    A great and bitter IPA. Really good black IPA. Thoroughly enjoyable with loads of bitterness and the roasted malts stand out too.
  • Monk Hammer
    A mix between Triple and IPA. The Triple, or just the Belgian style of it in general, makes it a bit sweeter than normal, and I don’t really like that in an IPA.

Lager, and hideous and/or pointless stuff

  • Brouwers Pilsener by Albert Heijn
    Holland’s biggest supermarket chain released a somewhat crafty lager. The void between regular lager and craft beers is about a € 2 hole. This one comes in at just under 70 cents for a half liter and it’s great for that money. Dry hopped lager works well, and especially at this price. Kudos!
  • Amster Radlers at 0.0% abv
    I tried both the Lemon and the Lime/Mint variety since they came with an order somewhere. Both of these things are utterly pointless and should not exist. The lemon one is just a lemon soda with a hideously sweet finish, and the lime/mint one makes even less sense. If you don’t want alcohol, and the taste of lemon, go drink soda.
  • IPA by Brand
    ‘The beer that makes Limburg proud’ is something they should not shout if this is the stuff they’re releasing. Their lager is fine by any standard. Unfortunately for their ‘special brews’ they hold brewing competitions. A nice idea, but in this case it’s more like they need this because of a lack of inspiration. The result is this weak willed IPA. Actually more of a hopped up lager. Again, there’s no point in this.
  • Hop Cider by Brothers Drinks Co.
    ‘Made by real brothers’. Like I care. Anyway, a nice enough cider, but the hop is barely noticeable, especially if you’ve had a beer before. I’ve had hopped ciders that were miles ahead of this one. A shame, really.
  • Chocolate Marble by Marble Beers
    Apparently a stout with coffee and licorice in it. The roasted malts overpowered the too gentle influence of either. And it was a bit too thin for my liking. Bummer.

IPAs

  • Pataskala Red X IPA by Stone Brewing
    Awesome beer. I have very little experience with Stone Brewing, except their Arrogant Bastard Ale, which I don’t really like. This one, however, hit every spot an IPA should hit. Massive flavor.
  • Arctic Berry Ale by Einstok Olgerd
    Strangely crisp with an unfamiliar fruity flavor. It does get boring very, very fast though. Shame.
  • Pesakond Black Forest IPA by Pohjala
    I’ve had this before this year, but I found them in a discount now. It’s a black IPA with spruce tops and blackberries. And it’s awesome. Highly recommended!
  • Viven Imperial IPA by Van Viven
    Not bad, but boring
  • IPA by Stone Brewing
    Very good, but not exceptional on any level. Still recommended if you’re looking for a very solid IPA.
  • Cannonball by Magic Rock
  • High Wire by Magic Rock
    The above two are all good but not exceptional
  • Rye IPA by Black Market
    I really like rye beers, and this one is no exception. Not as good as some others, but still very tasty.
  • Sikaru Green Griffin by Ninkasi Srl
    Brought by a colleague from Romania, this one can play with the big boys. Solid beer.

Sours

  • Petrus Aged Red by De Brabandere/Bavik
    A surprise of a cherry beer that I didn’t expect. If you expect a sweet Belgian brew, as I did, it doesn’t really appeal at once, but given some time to get to grips with the flavor, it’s actually pretty good.
  • Redwood 2015 by The Wild Beer Co.
    A many headed beast of sourness, fruit and barrel aging of all kinds. Sounds like a random thing but actually very good. One of the most interesting beers I’ve had in a while. Highly recommended.
  • Winnetou by Oedipus
    This is an interesting one by the Amsterdam brewers. They fermented their ale inside old Jameson whiskey barrels. I’m not entirely sure on their process but it resulted in a sour pale ale of some sorts. It’s quite gorgeous with the wood not playing too big a part, giving more room for fruity and sour flavors to shine. It sold out a while ago but if you can find it, I think you should try it.

Random

  • Viswijf – Vissenberg
    Forgettable
  • Piraat Triple Hop – Van Steenberge
    Forgettable
  • Dark Arts – Magic Rock
    Forgettable
  • P’tit Granit – Belgo Sapiens
    Forgettable, although the brewery name is awesome.
  • Smog Rocket – Beavertown
    Pretty well smoked and therefore quite lovely. It’s a fairly one-dimensional beer, but very good at what it does.
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard – Stone
    This is a bigger, sweeter and amped up version of the regular Arrogant Bastard. And I quite love it. Flavors are as you’d expect them of the reddish original with the sweetness of a bourbon barrel added. Still, it works well.
  • Holy Cowbell India Stout – Beavertown
    Forgettable

Vast amounts of beer, with quite a few new ones lined up for August. I keep telling myself I’ll drink (or at least buy) less in the coming months, but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen.

Beer of the month is a tough choice between Stone’s Pataskala Red X IPA and the Redwood 2015 by The Wild Beer Co. So, I decide a tie is possible too.

 

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Black Bull 40 #1, Black Bull 40 #4 and a rant on Black Bull 40

A lot of bull in this post, and that might be interpreted in multiple ways. Which is a good thing. A bit of ambiguity never hurt anyone.

I think it was last week that I saw announcements for the new release of Black Bull 40. The fifth edition by now.

It was announced with all kinds of superlatives like ‘much anticipated’ and ‘multi award winning’ and terms like ‘exceptional’ and ‘rare’ were sprinkled around like ‘hagelslag’ on a sandwich (which is a Dutch thing).

Of course, most of these things mean absolutely nothing in this marketing-driven era of whisky selling.

And believe me when I say it’s probably a good whisky. As long as it measures up to batch one and four. Containing Aberlour 1975, Macallan 1969, Glenlivet 1968 and more, a malt/grain ration of 86/14 it better be, right?

By the way. Can they actually disclose these ages? Didn’t Compass Box get into a lot of trouble for doing exactly that?

Anyway, that was the good stuff.

They call this whisky much anticipated and things like that, with the new edition clocking in at, hold on to something, £ 750 (€ 900). Without wanting to sound condescending, it still is a blended whisky, people.

The interesting bit about this much anticipated whisky that the world has been holding its breath for (if I may believe the PR) is that the fourth edition is still widely available at € 225 (£ 190).

So, the previous edition hasn’t sold out at a quarter of the price of the new one… I actually bought the fourth one for a bottle share. Back then it was discounted to 200 euros, and still it didn’t move fast/at all.

When I read PR announcements like this I often get the feeling that these marketeers live in a different universe. One that looks a lot like ours but is actually different in the small details. Details like the popularity of this brand.

The good thing about this release is that I wanted to write this post, and therefore I finally had to get around to reviewing batch one and four.


Black Bull 40, Batch 1, 40.2%

This blend consists of whiskies from Glenfarclas, Springbank, Glenlivet, Highland Park, Bunnahabhain, Tamdhu, Miltonduff and Invergordon. The malt/grain ratio is 90/10, with the age varying between 40 and 44 years old. 20% of the whisky matured in sherry casks, while the rest was drawn from bourbon casks.

Sniff:
Lots of oak and soft grains. Quite malty, like malting floors at a distillery. A light hint of vanilla. Some tree bark and sweet banana. Grist, a very light herbaceousness with dry thyme.

Sip:
The palate is smooth and gentle, but quite dry. Richer than you’d normally expect from a blended whisky. Some freshly ground black pepper, oak and sawdust. Some syrupy sweetness and a grainy sweetness too. Lots of malt, lots of flavor.

Swallow:
The finish is consistent with the palate, but slightly less sweet. The herbs get a bit more attention with dried Herbes de Provence. A long finish with not too much focus on the wood.

I find this an amazing whisky that is much richer than I normally expect from a blended whisky. Duncan Taylor have shown before that the are very capable to make up a nice mix of casks, and this is no exception. I love how the it gets less sweet while tasting it and the herbs get more and more attention. It’s smooth but not too smooth, and was very acceptable priced back then (something like € 125, I think)

89/100


Black Bull 40, Batch 4, 41.9%

This one has a different make up of either batch one or five, with whiskies coming from Glenlivet, Bunnahabhain, Glen Grant, Tamdhu, Invergordon and Port Dundas. The malt/grain ratio is 90/10 again, distilled between 1965 and 1972 (it was released in 2012).

Sniff:
Lots of oak, more than in the previous one. The grains are there too but different. In this dram they’re dryer, like they’ve already been dried instead of the wet malting floor. It has a bit of a sherry hint with the bitterness that comes with it. A whiff of smoke. A more classic approach.

Sip:
The palate is surprisingly crisp, with a sharpness of black pepper and oak. The smoke is present on the palate too, with grains and a dry sherry flavor too. The bitterness is back, like cherry stones or plum stones.

Swallow:
The sherry makes itself known on the finish as well. Slightly bitter but more like oranges instead of the fruit stones. Quite a lot of oak and dryness. Long as well.

After having tried the first batch this one was a bit less of a surprise. Still, I didn’t expect the focus to be more on the sherry casks, since the color of the whisky is about the same. Still great, with more dryness and bitterness. Normally that would win me over, but in this case I think I prefer the first batch over this one.

88/100

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