Tomatin 16, 2001-2017, Bourbon cask 1153, 52.5% – Cooper’s Choice

Tomatin is one of those distilleries that makes rather okay whisky, never bad, but also not often stellar. However, they do some very interesting things every now and then. They did a range of different sherry casks a few years ago, their Decades bottlings are quite good and the combination of a whisky and the accompanying sherry (both a PX and an Oloroso set came out) were awesome.

Image from Whiskybase

However, the most consistent part of Tomatin is their quite good bourbon cask whiskies. Their spirit is well made, in a rather cool distillery, so that helps too.

So, when a sample of this bourbon cask was offered from a bottle-share, I got a sample and hoped for this to be very good. The reviews on Whiskybase weren’t overly promising, but I don’t always agree with those. Let’s see where this one lands.

Sniff:
Tinned pineapple and thinner. Some acidity, barley, and a dusting of icing sugar. Becomes a bit more toast-like after a few seconds.

Sip:
The palate has some peppery heat, and quite some oak shavings. The fruit flavors are more in the background. Very oak-driven. White pepper, black pepper, some licorice.

Swallow:
The dry flavors come through, but get more mingled with the sweeter scents from the nose. Pineapple and pear-compote with oak shavings, straw and barley.

It’s quite cask driven, but there’s not too much vanilla to be found. It’s a tad sweet, so if that’s your thing, you’ll probably like this. I do enjoy the whisky too, and I love the fruitiness, but the sweetness is a bit much and that takes it down a notch or two.

86/100

Still available in Austria for € 99

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Ben Nevis 19, 1999-2018, 46.5% – WhiskyBroker

WhiskyBroker is one of the more affordable bottlers out there, together with brands like The Ultimate and such. The brand started its existence when the Bladnoch Forum bottlings stopped, which also was a rather erratic, but always affordable bottler.

The erraticness hasn’t changed, prices are still quite okay too, even the website is still quite hard to navigate. Great service though, even when I got a completely smashed package with this one in it, they nicely replaced everything that was broken.

Image from Whiskybase

Anyway, properly aged Ben Nevis, from a mix of casks, from an erratic bottler. And an erratic distillery, although that seems to be more and more consistent in more recent years.

Sniff:
Wood and malt, with slightly funky hints of vanilla. Gentle, some pastry cream and a strange combination of leather and tree bark.

Sip:
The palate continues down the same street, mostly. It still has the funky vanilla, but is a lot more dry. Coarse wood flavors, cracked leather.

Swallow:
The finish is seamless with the palate, and the slightly bitter oak and spice works well with the vanilla.

This is an interesting one to rate. It’s never a bad dram, and the funkiness teeters on the brink of ‘too weird’. It’s quite unlike any Ben Nevis I’ve tried in recent years, which makes it a lot more like Ben Nevis a decade or so ago.

Having said that, I quite enjoyed going through my bottle, but it’s not a ‘great’ dram. It’s not bad either, it’s just a tad weird. So it suits the bottler and the reputation of Ben Nevis a few years ago.

86/100

Available in the secondary market for € 160, at the time of writing. That’s too much though.

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Glen Elgin 1998-2014, Sherry casks, 46% – Gordon & MacPhail

Generally, I consider Glen Elgin to be a nice and gentle whisky, with fruity notes and some nice freshness to it. In the back of my sample cupboard I found this 15 year old (or 16) from Gordon & MacPhail that I got from the bottler years ago. Seven years, likely.

These random sample bottles are great for on holiday, since I don’t intend to reuse to bottles and I can finish them in one go. A nice clean-up session, if you will.

Image from Whiskybase

So, a very renowned bottler bottling something from sherry casks, at a reasonable age. Sounds good, right?

Sniff:
Lots of grain and sweeter citrus fruits. Dusty barley with a dusting of oak sawdust. Orchard fruits with a slightly bitter hint of apple seeds.

Sip:
Barley, cracked black pepper corns, dry oak. Some lemon, the pulp, the seeds and the pith. Dry, old apples, red citrus, oak.

Swallow:
The finish is very similar to the palate with the balance between fruit, spice and oak being very well done.

I didn’t get any of the sherry cask notes I was expected. However, I liked this whisky anyway. It has the expected fruity notes, some bitter notes and quite some oak influence. A combination of flavors that work well.

It’s still available for some 115, which isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s also an older bottling. I do expect, though, that you can get this profile from Glen Elgin a bit cheaper.

87/100

Thanks to G&M for the sample, and sorry for the ridiculously late review…

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Hampden 8yo vs Hampden LROK

Hampden is a Jamaican rum distillery, and apart from profiting from the rum renaissance that’s been happening ever since whisky got so ridiculously expensive, they’ve been producing quality hooch for years.

What’s more interesting from a geek’s perspective is that they also produce a limited distillate called “Light Rum Owen Kelly”. But what does this mean, I hear you asking…

Well, that bit of information is a bit harder to come by. Practically all websites state that this is a low-ester rum. While I initially read somewhere this is a high ester rum, and therefore fruity, some research indicates that this is actually rather low giving more room to fruity notes instead of the more funky notes often found in rum. This is achieved by a difference in the distilling process and/or fermentation.

However, why this is, how this is and exact numbers are harder to come by. There’s a lot of information on this website, though. I might have to dive deeper into this, though, to reach a higher level of understanding what the actual fuck I’m on about.

Having said that, the initial thing to go by is taste. And to do that properly I didn’t only get the LROK bottling, but also a regular one for comparison.


Hampden 8yo, 46%

Sniff:
Lots of sugar cane, the green kind. Also molasses. A dry and spicy mix of oak, slightly acidic with resin and some over- and underripe fruits. Green banana with sweet mango.

Sip:
Oak and molasses, with the dry, green hint of sugarcane and reed. Quite strong for the abv, some red chili pepper. Astringent and fruity at the same time.

Swallow:
The finish mellows, but does bring done more chilis. Dry oak, dry cane, sweet molasses with burnt sugary caramel. Green banana too.

Rather good, but not a very deep and conforting rum. More challenging than comforting, so to say.

84/100


Hampden 2010-2021 LROK, 47%

Sniff:
Very different than the regular one, a lot more chemical. Chemicals like cleaning agent, but also lemon, lime, grapefruit. Strange, but very interesting.

Sip:
Again light, but with an interesting hint of white chocolate and lemon. Grapefruit pith, lemon seeds but also some sweeter orange. Oak, sugarcane and grass too.

Swallow:
The finish brings a whiff of charcoal, and stays with the lemons and oranges. Quite a long finish.

It’s very different and a lot more interesting than the regular Hampden. Or any other rum I’ve tried over the last few years, actually. It doesn’t make it the best thing, but interesting nonetheless.

87/100


Both rums are available from Passie voor Whisky

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Rosebank 21, 1992-2014, 55.3%

Rosebank… One of the first closed distilleries I tried, and one I didn’t buy enough of in the past. It’s become such a rarity now, even more so because the quality is quite patchy.

Official bottlings and most things released by Old Malt Cask and SMWS are pretty good, but there’s a whole slew of 10 year olds by Signatory that were almost like alcoholic water.

This official release from 2014’s Special Releases by Diageo currently sets you back some € 1500, and for that price you’d have to travel. Luckily I was able to get a sample and try it.

On a side note: Currently reconstruction of Rosebank distillery is happening, although I’m a tad skeptical to what they are going to release in a few decades time. The entire distillery is newly built and apart from the brand name and some approximation of the distilling process, it’s going to be a different process.

Image from Whiskybase

I’m curious to find out, and I expect that they’re going to try and be as close as possible, but 100% similar is not going to happen. Although, I’d be quite glad with an 80% overlap, I guess.

Sniff:
Strangely, it starts off with a hint of glue, before getting a bit more typically grassy. Hints of wildflowers and strawberries, hay and grass. It needs a bit of time to open up. After a few minutes of rest it does go more in the direction of hay and dried flowers, but the note of vanilla pops up, which I didn’t get before.

Sip:
The palate starts with some vanilla, before the slightly more astringent floral notes kick in. It has some honey sweetness, quite a lot of white pepper for heat, and oaky dryness after that. Straw more than hay, dried flowers.

Swallow:
The finish starts with vanilla again, but that quickly gets taken over by some apply and straw. Strawberries, pepper and oak.

Not the most typical Rosebank, I think. It’s a bit more fruity and less floral than I remember them. Of course, it’s been quite a while since Rosebank releases are few and far between, and when they show up, they’re way out of my league.

90/100

Available randomly.

Thanks to Fred B. for the sample!

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Scapa 20, 2000-2021, Refill Sherry Hogshead 1096, 55.3% – Gordon & MacPhail

Scapa 2000 GM

It’s been years since I reviewd or tasted a Scapa. The ‘other’ Orkney distillery that doesn’t have famous official bottlings and is quite a rarity for independents too. All undisclosed Orkney whiskies are supposed to be Highland Park, and after tasting this and another Scapa recently, that only strengthens that belief.

However, in early spring I suddenly found myself in the possession of two bottles of Scapa. My first two bottles of this distillery, to be precise. A review of the other one will follow at some point, but let’s do this modern sherry bottle from Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseur’s Choice rnage now.

20 years old a sherry cask sure left a color to this, even though it was a refill cask. It’s not dark as cola but there’s no mistaking it. Let’s find out if that translates to the palate too!

Sniff:
Lots of baking spices with black pepper, ground ginger and clove. Quite spicy, but also an interesting scent of honey glazed ham, somehow. It becomes a little bit more sweet with some time. Not unlike gingerbread.

Sip:
The palate starts with that same flavor of honey glazed ham, but with spicy sherry and some dry peppery heat. Dry oak, lots of spices and gingerbread. There’s also a bit of a chocolatey sweetness, with some syrupy thickness.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more typical for a sherry cask whisky, but it keeps the slightly meaty edge to it. Quite a long finish that sticks with cocoa powder, honey and spices.

The distillery character is quite trumped by the whisky, or maybe that’s Scapa’s trick, that they provide a canvas for the cask.

It’s quite unliky virtually all whiskies I’ve had in recent memory, and because it’s a very tasty thing, I am quite liking this. More than I expected to like anything that is so cask driven.

88/100

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Linkwood 11, 2009-2021, Rum Cask Finish, 58.2% – King Cask

So this, in a way, is a weird one.

Image from Whiskybase

I know that the cask was transported out of Scotland and into/onto Terschelling, one of the Dutch islands in the north of the country. It was recasked there in a rum barrel for another 10 months before being bottled.

This should raise all kinds of alarms, since it’s no longer a Scotch Whisky. Then again, apart from mentioning the distillery, King Cask never says it’s a scotch whisky. I don’t even think they mention it being whisky or single malt at all. Clever.

King Cask is a Dutch bottler that is quickly gaining momentum. So far, I’ve tried two of their whiskies and a bottle of rum should be on its way. The whiskies are very good (yes, including this one), but not 90+ points stuff. However, where they gain a lot of fans is that their prices are rather acceptable.

This bottle sold/sells for around € 65 if you can still find it, which is rather cheap for an 11 year old Linkwood.

Sniff:
There’s a sweet edge to the normally quite ‘beery’ Linkwood. It’s quite dry and malty with lots of barley driven scents, and a whiff of green herbaceousness. Hints of brown sugar after a minute of air.

Sip:
The palate is consistent with the nose. Lots of barley, a whiff of oak, and quite a sweet edge to it. The brown sugar sweetness doesn’t overpower the whisky, luckily. Some molasses, green herbs, old hops, sugarcane, grass.

Swallow:
The finish brings some more attention to the rum with more molasses, some cola and a dryness that’s quite sugarcane-like. Also the old hops and barley driven beer flavor lingers.

This is a very Linkwood-y Linkwood. A lot of recognizable flavors, with a rum edge to it. I think the combination of the distillery profile with a not too powerful finish works really well for this whisky.

88/100

Available in the secondary market for € 69

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Ardmore 24, 1977-2004, Sherry Butt, 58.6% – Cadenhead

Generally I love Cadenhead. And also, I tend to love Ardmore. So when MvZ was pruning his collection and I could buy this bottle from him, quite a bit below current retail value, I jumped on it.

Ardmore 1977 CA
Image from Whiskybase

Of course, it wasn’t the only bottle and the lump sum only increased with every bottle bought, I did a bottle-share and used it in a little tasting with friends a while ago. Still, there’s a bit left for myself, which I’ll leisurely enjoy over the coming months.

After all, you don’t get to try 1977 Ardmore all that often, right?

Sniff:
Warming with hints of honey and licorice, a gentle whiff of smoke behind it. Bayleaf, oak, some salinity. Some mint powder, sweet orange grapefruit. Some ash too.

Sip:
The palate is quite sharp, but continues with the sweet grapefruit, mintiness and ash notes. Quite a lot of heat, and therefore dryness.

Swallow:
Sweet citrus, ash, lemon balm. Grassy, some honey. A long and drying finish with a bit of an afterburner.

It’s not the most complex of old whiskies. Also, I don’t think the strength of near 60% ABV helps it a lot. However, it does what it does very well. There’s some personal preference here, but I like the smoke and citrus flavors this one brings. Of course, a dry whisky helps anyway, but I love it in it’s simplicity.

88/100

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2 new Caroni, 1997 and 1998, by Wu Dram Clan!

Getting to try Caroni is, by now, the rum equivalent of getting to try a new Port Ellen or Brora, except for the fact that it’s about 10% of the price.

So, when Wu Dram Clan offered to send me a sample of these two new bottlings that (should?) have released this week, I was barely able to contain my giddiness!

Two single casks, one from 1997 and one from 1998. Both at whopping strengths of above 60% ABV, I didn’t wait long to try them.

Pretty!

Caroni, Trinidad, 1997-2021, Cask #59, 60.6%

Sniff:
Quite a lot of molasses and brown sugar, before oak and spice kick in. Cracked leather and fresh red peppers. It’s quite fiery when you stick your nose in, which isn’t that surprising of course. Grilled banana with some dark chocolate.

Sip:
Quite hot,but not without flavor! Dry molasses and burnt sugar. It gets more sweet with some swimming. Grilled fruits, mango, banana. Caramelized fruit sugar. Some baking spices, cinnamon and clove.

Swallow:
The finish is surprisingly gentle, long and sweet. Dried fruits, molasses, caramel, oak. A bit of black pepper.

Interestingly, this rum is a little bit predictable. It does what you would expect a Caroni to do, but it does it exceptionally well.

This is a gorgeous rum, and more or less a quintessential one.

89/100


Caroni, Trinidad, 1998-2021, Cask #2109, 62.2%

Sniff:
Lots of dry sawdust and peppery heat. White pepper and chilis. After a while I start getting stewed red fruits with red cinnamon. Stewed mixed berries. Brittle caramel, and a bit of treacle.

Sip:
The palate is not very sweet. A whiff of bitter caramel. Quite some oak and the brittle caramel again. ‘Grey’ pepper. More fruity after a while, blackberries, strawberries. A bit of treebark.

Swallow:
The finish veers more towards the caramel, with some cocoa powder and a bit of irony minerals. It’s strange that it’s so different from the palate, but doesn’t contrast.

This one then. Holy crap this is good. The combination of that ‘classic rum’ backbone, with the spices, cocoa and fruits on top of it. This might just be the best rum I’ve had to date.

Strangely, the nose, palate and finish differ quite a bit, but it’s more like a journey than a contrast, and that makes for some awesome drinking!

92/100


My expectation is that these have sold out by the time they’re officially released. I don’t think they’ll hit the shelf in any shop.

Images supplied by Wu Dram Clan, as are the samples. Much, much obliged!

Wu Dram is forever! Caroni Rules Everything Around Me

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Bruichladdich Islay Barley 7, 2011-2019, 50%

Before you start nagging, this whisky indeed states that it’s six years old. But, being distilled in 2011 and bottled in 2019, it can only be 6 years old if they kept it in plastic, steel or glass for a year. I strongly doubt they did that, much more so than making a typo from another copy-pasted label.

Apart from that, it’s one of these Islay Barley releases, where they started exploring whisky’s terroir. Of course, Mark Reynier pushed that to another limit with Waterford, but Bruichladdich is where it started.

They approached 18 farms on Islay to produce barley for their single malts, so each should differ in their details. Of course, Islay is already a rather limited terroir, so most differences probably come from the species of barley used and not one peaty bog to another.

Anyway, generally I know I like these. Apparently not a lot of people do, since the price still around the original € 60 (in The Netherlands).

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
It’s quite contrary since normally when whiskies are this briny, they’re also peated. In this case the whisky is rather tight and gives a lot of room to the brine. So, surf and sand, sea weed, and a light barley. Not a little barley, but a light one. It has a bit of the Bowmore lemony ammonium scent, which is not common at all.

Sip:
The palate is light, but rather sharp. It’s young which comes with a bit of austerity. Slate, lichen, some seaweed and a bit of grass. Quite coastal with a hint of brine and sand. Not a lot of oak, but later on there’s a whiff of vanilla.

Swallow:
The finish has a bit more warmth, but dials up the ‘local’ flavors from the palate. Rocks, lichen, moss, barley. Maybe a bit less coastal, but rather more based on the creeks running to the sea on Islay.

What I love about this whisky, but that goes for a lot of Islay drams, is that they make such a local dram. It shows its provenance, it shows the location of the distillery and the farms. Of course, on Islay everything is rather close to the sea and they’re not afraid of showing that off.

The briny scents on the nose, with the palate and finish going more inland step by step is quite nice. Good stuff, especially at the price!

86/100

Available at WhiskyBase for € 60

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