The King’s Tasting

It’s already been four years since Whiskyslijterij De Koning in Den Bosch celebrated some sort of anniversary. I have to admit I fail to remember what the anniversary was, but it’s either him being of some age, the shop being of some age, or him being in the business for some amount of years. There have been quite a few anniversaries the last couple of years.

Anyway, I couldn’t make it to the tasting back in 2015, but Rob (the owner of the shop) was kind enough to give me a set of samples which I tried over the summer holiday. As you might realize by this statement, I am not only behind in writing tasting notes, but also in publishing them on the blog.

However, I am currently catching up a little bit, and this is one I had on my list for a while!

The theme of the tasting was ‘The King’, since the shop is commonly known as ‘De Whiskykoning’, or The Whisky King. Old blends with ‘king’ in the name. Let’s dive in!

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King’s Crown, 4yo, 43%, +/- 1975

Sniff:
Quite some Old Bottle Effect, with a hint of staleness. Lots of old malt and a rich kind of beer. After a few minutes it gets a bit sweeter, with more straight forward malt.

Sip:
A bit fiercer on the palate than I expected. Lots of sweetness. A bit more modern than the nose suggested. Lots of grain, barley and wheat or corn.

Swallow:
Again, a bit stale, with loads of barley and a bit more oak than before. A short finish, though.

Typical for the seventies style in which things already got a bit more like in the eighties. A bit on the light side, with a decline in malt used, compared to grain whisky. More neutral.

80/100


King’s Ransom, 12yo, 43%, +/- 1960

Sniff:
Lots of crisp grain and malt. Unmalted barley, some dry oak, rather fresh. A whiff of funkiness from the old style distillate.

Sip:
Rather sweet with barley sugar and wine gums. A hint of the plastic bag the wine gums come in. Some dry oak, oak shavings.

Swallow:
The finish shows the age of the bottling. That old style funkiness, some oak and lots of malt. Quite long, and lovely.

Almost Irish in style, with the wine gums and wine gum bags. However, the style of malt jerks it right back across the Irish Sea. Great stuff, and an indicator of why blended whiskies were awesome back in the day.

87/100


King George IV, 43%, +/-1973

Sniff:
Properly old and funky blend, with hints of leather and hessian. Old malt, and some copper. Old casks in dunnage warehouses. Some soot and dirt and cement.

Sip:
The palate shows dirt and soot, but with quite a lot of fruit. Apricots and figs. Some oak, barley, hessian and straw. Very gentle, but with lots of flavor.

Swallow:
Very similar to the palate, but slightly more dry. Very gentle, with mostly fruit, barley sugar and some of the funkiness remaining.

Cracking stuff. A bottling from the early seventies, so distillate from somewhere in the sixties, and early- to mid-sixties.

88/100


King Edward I, 40%, 1967-1975

Sniff:
Sweet and heavy, with a lot of fruity Speyside style. Lots of sherry, but rather well balanced. Dates, peaches, hints of mocha.

Sip:
Very smooth, slightly less sweet than the nose, but not less fruity. Peaches and apricots. Some barley and vanilla. A whiff of mocha again.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more flat, but still fruity. Still with peaches and apricots, with a slightly bitter edge.

Another very good example of old blends that are really, really good. The complexity is a lot more impressive than the more bland whiskies of today, and there are flavors in here that are no longer present in any contemporary whiskies. The benefits of more unique barley strains, a variety of yeasts and older casks.

87/100


King Henry VIII (dumpy), 43%

Sniff:
Full on with the old blended whisky style. Funky, heavy with leathery and malty notes. Quite floral with daisies and hay.

Sip:
Dry and a bit sharp with barley. Fresh oak, apples and pears. Straw, hay, dried flowers. A bit of vanilla custard.

Swallow:
The finish gives a lot of vanilla and sugary sweetness. Pastry cream, crumble pastry, custard. Very sweet with a hint of oak.

It’s a bit inconsistent, which isn’t uncommon with these old blends. Sometimes that just happens with a bottle that’s been around for 60 years. Unfortunately, it shows in this one. Still pretty good though.

83/100


King Henry VIII (tall bottle), 60s

Sniff:
Very different, with a lot more malt driven whisky than before. A hint of smoke, and salinity. Some heather, grass, green malt and fresh oak.

Sip:
Quite a bit more sugary and malty than I expected. Very typical for an old blend. The hint of smoke is still here, but much more timid than before. Some slate, grass, heather and honey.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit bland, to be honest. There are some flavors happening, but it seems not to go in any particular direction.

The nose is what makes this whisky. The palate has gone stale over the many decades on a shelf somewhere. The finish is all over the place, but it’s completely out of sync with the palate and the nose.

80/100

So, six whiskies and four years later, I’ve finally gone through the tasting that I wanted to blog about for a while. The main reason I’ve not done this earlier is that there’s just not that many evenings on which I have the time for six drams, on my own. Of course, there’s some, but you also have to remember the samples waiting patiently in your cupboard…

All in all, George and Edward were the most impressive whiskies of the lot, but the overall level of all these old 40 and 43% drams was quite high. It shows that a tad more malt and more diversity in distillation of said malts make quite the difference to a dram. But of course, ‘the recipe hasn’t changed in decades’ if you believe the big blenders…

Thanks to Rob Stevens of Whiskyslijterij De Koning for the samples, and sorry for the ridiculous delay in reviewing them!

 

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Cragganmore 12, 58.4% – Diageo Special Releases 2019

This little Cragganmore caught most people off guard, as far as I know, because it’s a peated Cragganmore. While it is fairly safe to assume that most distilleries do some experimentation with peating their whisky, I didn’t know they did so too at Cragganmore.

It’s a bit of an overlooked distillery, from a fanatic’s perspective. I think this is mostly the case since there are virtually no bottlings available except for the regular 12 year old and the annual Distillers Edition. And, honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with either when I tried them years ago.

Then this one came along. At a whopping 58.4% ABV, and peated. That I found interesting and luckily, RvB bought a bottle to share, and I got 10cl from that.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
A warm barbecue grill, with some stewed apples, and lots of sweetish smoke. Earthy, woody, slightly grassy, but ultimately quite flat.

Sip:
The palate starts off a bit thin, but it gets very strong and fiery, very fiery. A tad grassy, with apples, smoke and oak.

Swallow:
The finish highlights the smoke even more, without much regard for the other flavors.

I’ve done my best but without exaggerating and getting overly lyrical I couldn’t really make more of it. It’s bit like they dialed up the regular not-so-interesting Cragganmore, and added some peat.

Also, it’s just too thin, too fiery. These two factors push out almost all other flavors and therefore I quite dislike this whisky, to be honest. Gimmicky, but apart from that it’s not much. If you really want to try this, I suggest finding a sample, or a shop with an open bottle.

77/100

Cragganmore 12, Diageo Special Release 2019, 58.4%. Regularly available for around € 85

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Secret Highland 1983, 35yo, 48.2% – WhiskyNerds

This second cask of the Secret Highland whiskies from the WhiskyNerds is a joint bottling with Liquid Art from Belgium. It’s a tad older than the other one, but it’s also from a much less sherry focused cask.

As with the other one there’s not much introduction possible since we only know it’s from a Highland distillery and we don’t have anything else to go by.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very old fashioned, with lots of gentle oak, dried apples and a certain waxiness. Some struck matches, with hints of menthol and wholemeal bread. Very smooth, and quite rich.

Sip:
The palate has a bit more impact than I expected based on the nose, and it’s quite intense too. Rather dry, with oak and barley, waxiness, apples, some hints of raisin twigs and cork. Again, the wholemeal bread, with a tiny whiff of peat smoke.

Swallow:
The finish is, again, very fruity with lots of apple, dried apple, pear skins and a whiff of smokiness. The oak is very pronounced and the age shows itself here. Very old fashioned and very rich.

These notes might not be much to go by. For some reason I always have a hard time identifying flavors in these old (refill, I guess) sherry butts, but I sure do love them. It reminds me of certain older Clynelishes (minus a bit of waxiness) and Inchgowers from the same vein.

This one, compared to those, is a bit more timid, but still very rich and utterly delicious. I really appreciate the tiny hint of bitterness to give it a bit of extra depth. All is very well balanced with no flavor gaining the upper hand over the others. Awesome stuff this, and very much worth the price tag, in this day and age.

91/100

Secret Highland 1983-2019, 35yo, Sherry Butt 82, 48.2%. Available at The Old Pipe for € 300

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Secret Highland 1987, 31yo, 49.6% – WhiskyNerds

The previous WhiskyNerds bottling was a cracking Caol Ila with a significant price tag. While the whisky was awesome, people had trouble shelling out like that, and I’ve seen the bottles discounted over the last year.

The strange thing of a € 500 bottle of booze is that it skews your perspective. When this one came out, ‘only’ costing € 300, my first thought was ‘that is pretty reasonable’. Without having tried the whisky…

So, I tried it last week to see where we stand on that ‘reasonable’ bit.

Also, Bram (one of the WhiskyNerds) told me they too don’t have a clue which distillery this comes from. While that might be the case, he might also say that to prevent me from asking over and over again.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Lots of complexity to be disassembled, and quite a lot of sherry from the get-go. Chocolate and instant coffee. Some stone fruit, with grilled peach, unsweetened apricot jam (so, stewed apricots…). A hint of menthol too.

Sip:
The palate is a bit sharper than I expected, but that’s welcome to combat the sweetness a little bit. Behind the syrupy fruitiness there’s oak and barley and a lot of dryness. Some chili heat, some dates, some raisins.

Swallow:
The finish loses a bit of the dryness that I liked so much on the palate. A bit more milk chocolate-y than before, and a bit sweeter. Compared to the ‘actual’ dried fruits on the palate, the finish goes more towards the red fruit wine-gums.

I find this to be a bit of a troublesome whisky to rate. I recognize the quality of the whisky, and the age and proper maturation, but it isn’t exactly my style of sherry cask. I find it a bit on the sweet side. There is some dryness, but I’m missing the spices to give it a little bit more depth.

Still, all nagging aside, this still is a cracker of a whisky and I think most people like this better than I do. And I still rate it quite highly.

89/100

Secret Highland 1987-2019, 31 years old, Hogshead 27, 49.6%. Bottled by WhiskyNerds and available at most of the usual suspects in The Netherlands.

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Secret Speyside 2007-2018, 10yo, 55.2% – The Maltman

I’ve been told this bottling is a ten year old Macallan, but with how rare these things have become over the last couple of years I’m not 100% sure about that. Still, there’s a distinct possibility for it to be true.

I’ve had quite some drams from The Maltman over the last couple of years, but I’ve never bought a bottle. Somehow, when push comes to shove I generally find the brand to be too expensive compared to other releases of comparable distilleries, age and quality. What might make them stand out is the high average level of whiskies they bottle.

This indie from a sherry butt might be an exception to the pricing rule. It’s currently available for just over € 100 in the Whiskybase Market, and that’s not too expensive for a cask strength whisky, of a renowned bottler, from a sherry cask. It still more than I like to spend on ‘just’ a ten year old, but still. A sign of the times…

SecretSpeysideSniff:
A whopping lot of chocolaty sherry notes. Some barley, spices and fruit. Raisins, blue grapes. Hazelnuts. It reminds me of the raisin and hazelnut chocolate bars from Aldi my mum used to buy.

Sip:
Quite gentle for the ABV, rather dry and some chili heat. Some oak and barley.

Swallow:
Strangely, some glue-y notes on the finish. More heat and dry sherry. The nuttiness remains.

Yeah, where to go with this. The ABV was quite acceptable, and the sharpness that came along with it not too much. However, the sweet, chocolate-y notes on the nose, the rather flat palate and the glue-y notes on the finish is something that I can’t really wrap my head around. None of these are flavors I really dislike, but it just doesn’t seem to add up in this case. No balance, little to no consistency.

Strangely, this weirdness, combined with the nuttiness on the nose and finish do make this more like Macallan than I expected. So if that’s you’re profile, you might like this a lot more than I do.

80/100

Secret Speyside 2007-2018, Macallan, 10yo, Sherry Butt 10900, 55.2%, The Maltman. Available at The Old Pipe for € 110

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Inchmoan 2007, 12yo, 54.9% – OB for The Whisky Exchange

Yet another, but for now the last, sample from a The Whisky Exchange exclusive bottling.

In this case it’s an Inchmoan whisky. Inchmoan is one of the brands of Loch Lomond Distillery, in this case the heavily peated version of their distillate. It matured for 12 years in a bourbon cask and became available sometime around the end of summer. As with the recently reviewed Ballechin, it was given to me by TWE, so a big thank you is in order!

Also, similar to the Ballechin, it’s from a distillery that’s making waves recently, after having long since established a reputation for churning out ‘average at best’ whisky. Edradour was known for many cask finishes and pretty shit spirit. Loch Lomond for not standing out from anything and producing very forgettable whisky.

Luckily, they’re doing their utmost in changing themselves around. Edradour mostly with their Ballechin brand (or at least, I’ve not recently had an Edradour to validate the regular turn-out). Loch Lomond by having significantly better cask selection and making a lot of single casks available (the threesome from The Whisky Nerds comes to mind, here and here).

icmob.2007Sniff:
Quite a lot of peat, but not sharp. Rather youthful and not as oak driven as many modern malts. More oak later on though, with hints of vanilla. Apple sauce, wood, barley. Very classical.

Sip:
Light, but very smoky, with some bite from the alcohol. The typical notes of grain and wood come through. Apples, straw, very ‘northerly’ with some herbs and fruits.

Swallow:
The finish continues down the smoky path, with a heavy smokiness, but not sharp at all. Oak, barley, apple.

This is a well balanced dram. It has impact but it’s not overpowering and very old fashioned. The spirit is quite light, but that’s what Loch Lomond does. The smoke gives it some weight, and makes it a rather lovely dram. What also helps is that it’s not too expensive for a single cask at £ 75.

85/100

Inchmoan 2007-2019, 12yo, Cask #96, 54.9% – The Whisky Exchange’s 20th Anniversary. Available at The Whisky Exchange for £ 75

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Evan Williams 9yo, 2004-2013, 43.3%

A bit of a disclaimer first:

I only bought this bottle to get a bit more value for money on shipping costs from a whisky auction. I did buy it several years ago and it just sat on my shelf with me not caring about it at all. I only opened it a while ago because I needed to bring something to a weekend with friends, and apart for a small sample to write the below tasting notes, we finished it then and there. In short, there is zero emotional value with this bottle.

Now, I could start yapping about who Evan Williams was, and why this is one of the major Heaven Hill brands, but for some reason, I just don’t care. I would be perfectly happy if the label just said ‘Heaven Hill 9yo, cask 68’ instead of all the random branding that happens stateside. Of course, for comparing it makes sense to have some sort of categorization, but that can also be done the Four Roses way: recipes.

Anyway, yet another random bourbon review.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Sweet corn, cigars, oak. Quite a nose on this one. Very big scents for such a timid bourbon. Cinnamon, wet wood pulp, not too sweet with lots of autumn leaves and wood spices.

Sip:
Very gentle and very dry. Cigar leaves, wood spices. It’s a bit overpowered by lots of oak. Quite a bit of black pepper too.

Swallow:
The finish is gentle and slightly sweet. Again, quite some oak, pepper and autumn leaves.

So, the nose was the best part of this bourbon. The rest is quite forgettable, and even a bit overpowered by the cask, I’d say. Of course, there’s millions of people out there that prefer these oak heavy drinks, but I think it’s a bit too much.

Having said that, the nose saves it, and apart from that it’s quite forgettable.

80/100

Evan Williams 9yo, 2004-2013, Single Barrel 68, 43.3%

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