Once more, Tom writes a guest post on some recent discoveries he did. In this case, something truly new: Dalmunach whisky!
Dalmunach was erected on the site of the much beloved yet quite unknown Imperial Distillery. As a whiskynerd interested in the releases by new kids on the block, I bought a few young expressions bottled by Cooper’s Choice. Besides 4 official bottlings and quite a few Duncan Taylor offerings, mainly from octave casks, there is not much Dalmunach around. Both bottled in 2020, one early in the year and one in fall. Let’s have a look!
Peach Parfait – 61% abv – madeira cask finish
Sniff: The name is well chosen. A sensation of walking among the trees with overripe fruit just waiting to be picked by hungry hands. Peach indeed, but also plums and a hint of strawberry. Underneath these layers I detect new make spirit, a strong malt spirit longing for maturity.
Sip: Incredibly subtle, the Portuguese wine has truly enveloped the malt spirit to great effect. Sweet and soft to taste, no bad influence from a rather high strength.
Swallow: Of course, here the alcohol breaches your taste buds but in a warming, pleasant matter. The departure is deliciously fruity from the wine influences. These kind of fortified wines are sometimes overpowering, but here it serves the distillate very well.
Attractive and already an established product. Seems that the Dalmunach spirit holds its own against a strong cask influence. Let’s test that with the next expression.
Sniff: Wow, a strong breeze of vinegar! Seeing as Marsala is made on Sicilia, one easily thinks of thick, mouthwatering olive oil. I wouldn’t immediately think of fruit. Some flowers emerge after a little breathing. Water helps to uncover red apples. Okay, fruit basket it is.
Sip: Damn, nothing left of anything that resembles MALT whisky. A very sweet and overpowering taste. If the objective was to give a very young spirit lots of flavour… mission accomplished Very spicy, sour too, and this underlying feeling of vinegar which puts me off. Water is truly needed to get back to the idea you are drinking a whisky. It cleanses away this offnote just enough.
Swallow: Quite gentle, even undiluted it is friendly. With water this Dalmunach gets more attractive and you experience a rich fruitiness from juvenile new make malt spirit.
A mighty interesting experiment, too sweet for me but good for at least one hour of playing, sniffing and tasting how it changes all the time. In that regard, something for nerds! Isn’t that what we look for, despite the lower quality score? I am glad I have a bottle, and if you want one too, it is still available at ‘t Bockje in Bathmen.
I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.
Earlier this week I got a sample in the mail of a to-be-released GlenAllachie, and today is the day that it’s available from various shops. Let’s start by expressing a bit of gratitude towards Nils of Best of Wines/Best of Whiskies.
Then, GlenAllachie. A distillery that no one paid any attention to until it was bought by Billie Walker, of BenRiach/GlenDronach/GlenGlassaugh fame. He sold the three distilleries to Brown Forman a while ago and has since bought GlenAllachie.
They’ve been releasing fairly awesome single casks since, with quite a few releases for specific markets. It seems some money was needed to pay the bills…
Anyway, a distillery that has become quite popular in my little circle of geeks, and rightfully so. Not everything is solid what comes out, but most of it is worth the money and quite good. Unfortunately the older single casks are unaffordable. The regular 25 clocks in over € 200, which I think is too expensive for what it is. Similarly aged single casks cross the € 300 line.
This one then, comes in at € 200, which is affordable for what it is. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap since there’s a lot of money involved, but it’s comparatively affordable. Which is nice, in this day and age.
This cask was picked by Mark Watt, of Watt Whisky, and a previous post on this here blog. This makes my expectation of it even higher, since I know and appreciate the man’s palate.
Let’s see if it lives up to its price point!
Sniff: Gentle on the bourbon cask with a good balance between cask, barley and spirit. Autumn leaves, puff pastry, moss. It’s quite light with some very crisp herbaceous notes.
Sip: The palate is a bit hotter than I expected. Dry, with some freshly sawn oak. Black pepper, dried breadcrumbs, puff pastry. Some vanilla, moss and ferns, autumn leaves. I get dried apple peel and a whiff of bitterness later on.
Swallow: The finish shows a bit more cask. Some vanilla, pastry cream, sawdust.
Yes, this does live up to the price point. It’s just shy of a 90-pointer for me, but I love that the time in oak has done a lot for the whisky without overpowering it. It’s still very much about the balance between oak and spirit, which is what whisky is about.
It seems like, just like with their rums, these guys know what they’re doing.
I got a wee sample of this from the guy who owned the cask, and he asked me to review it. Of course I didn’t do that right away, since that’s not really how I operate. Shameful, but true…
A 13 year old Kilchoman, of which there are only three so far, if I’m not mistaken. This one is from a fresh bourbon barrel distilled in 2007, and bottled for Max & Julia. That doesn’t tell most people much, those names, and that’s okay.
Let’s just dive right in, since there’s good stuff ahead!
Sniff: Kilchoman is maturing very nicely. This one shows signs of smoke and oak, with barley and some bakery sweetness playing second fiddle. It has an oily scents on the nose. Sun seed oil, grassy peat and a bit of engine grease.
Sip: There’s quite a lot of black pepper and sawdust on the palate. The scorched flavor of when wood is sawed too hot. Toasted oak I guess. So, smoke, oak, barley. Some heather, earthiness.
Swallow: The finish goes directly back to the sun seed oil with quite a lot of peat smoke. Heather and oak. Quite a long finish, with mostly drier and drier peat remaining.
Somehow this reminds me of how I liked Caol Ila when I just started drinking whisky. It’s not that it tastes similar, but it does make me enthusiastic in the same way.
This is a very complex whisky that breaks the mould for what I find typical of Kilchoman. Generally it’s a bit more fruity and lighter than this one. But, having said that, this does go in the direction of older Caol Ila a little bit with the notes of engine grease. I absolutely love it.
Of course, compared to the other ‘oldest’ single cask I tasted last year, which was a 12 year old at € 60, this is a lot more expensive at almost € 160. However, I think it can compete with virtually any Islay whisky up to € 200-something. This will be on my shelf someday soon.
The cask owner was bold enough to tell me he expected that I wouldn’t have to lie when I said I liked it. He was right.
I’ve not really kept track of it, but as far as I am aware, the following five whiskies were the second batch of bottlings that were made available recently. An easy check of their website says the following whiskies are all from the November 2020 release.
Of course, Mark Watt is quite well known from his time at Duncan Taylor. Even more so from his time at Cadenhead until he started his own whisky company quite recently.
With someone this popular becoming a bottler there’s always a lot of excitement, but also a bit of apprehension. Will the whisky be good enough? Will prices be acceptable? And specifically, will it be able to compete with what came before at Cadenhead?
With Mark’s palate being quite renowned, I think that we can have some confidence in the whisky itself. In today’s market, prices can go in any direction so we’ll have to see where that goes in the future. So far, it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.
Sniff: A lot of fruit, dried apple and even a whiff of dried pineapple. Quite a mature scent, with gentle oak and mellow barley. Tree bark, mulch, the tiniest whiff of of glue. Some minerals to make it even more like you’re in a forest.
Sip: The palate has a bit of a sharp edge, but that’s just some alcohol heat. Not overly peppery, so to say. Quite some oak, with more yellow fruit, both fresh and dried. A hint of coconut husk, some minerals. Quite old fashioned. The wood is quite mulch like.
Swallow: The finish continues down the same path with oak, old yellow fruit like apple, pear, some dried pineapple, some coconut.
This is very similar to the WhiskyNerds bottlings of a little while ago, and it’s just as good. Lots of fruit, very foresty and with some minerals. It’s surprisingly mature for a 23 year old, with a very balanced nose and palate.
Sniff: Wow. Not entirely sure what’s happening here, but there’s some heavy leather on the nose, as well as a massive load of vanilla. Old oak and dunnage warehouses. Walnuts, too.
Sip: The palate is hot and dry, with oak and alcohol. Chili pepper like heat, with lots of leather and some orchard fruit. Apple and pear. A hint of rubber, like All-star shoes. Old walnuts. After half a minute or so (that’s a challenge with this heat) it gets a bit more sweet with some sugar syrup.
Swallow: The finish continues to be very heavy, weighty. Notes of leather, gym shoes, some fruit syrup.
I don’t even dislike the flavors too much, but it’s a bit too heavy. Generally there’s some fruitiness or other bunch of flavors to offset that weight, but this one lacks that.
Available for € 70 in Belgium
Girvan 19, 1991-2020, Bourbon Barrel, 56.5%
Sniff: The first thing I notice is a typical grainy sweetness with lots of barley sugar and vanilla. There’s a whiff of mint and licorice too. Some marzipan too.
Sip: The palate is a lot more dry than the nose suggests. Quite some oak, peppery heat, sambal. Licorice, peppermint, vanilla and some creamy richness.
Swallow: The finish is surprisingly mellow and nicely warming. Some wine gums, pastry cream with vanilla. Some licorice with oak and a whiff of black pepper.
Pretty decent and quality grain, but it’s just too narrow, a bit too sweet. Also, I generally don’t care for grain whisky all that much, so that does not help.
* Keep in mind that people who really like grain whisky will probably rate this higher.
Sniff: Old oak, with some moldy scents. Old apples, a whiff of heather. Soil, shrubs, moorland in general. The moldy, old scents give it a bit more maturity than its 14 years would normally. It’s quite heavy because of it, though.
Sip: The palate is more fresh with some crisp apples and unripe pears. Heather, oak, shrubs, some peppery heat later on. It gets some thickness because of a syrupy flavor that pops up after a while, honey like.
Swallow: The finish is a bit of a mix of the palate and the nose. A tad drying because of the alcohol, with shrubs, heather, some honey, highland earthiness.
This is a decent dram and a bit better than I expected from Inchgower at this age. It shows some quite typical Highlands flavors, which I think is a good thing. But, after all is said and done it stays in the middle of the road. A good drinker, but not a whisky I will remember.
Sniff: It’s very fruity, but not overly Port like (except the color). It has a whiff of smoke along old wood with dunnage warehouse dirt floors. This is very typical for port casks, but it’s not too forced. There’s a bit of honey and heather too. Some barley in the background.
Sip: The arrival is very fierce, even though I had a sip of a warm-up whisky. Very dry with the alcohol. Some pink peppercorns and old, dry oak. Dried red fruits, with some dried plums too. A bit of honey sweetness, and more dryness like heathery shrubs.
Swallow: The finish is a lot more mellow than the palate, although quite warming still. More focus on oak and barley, a bit of smoke and heather. Almost like the cask takes a step back to show more of the typical Highland Park flavors.
Holy shit, this is a hot whisky. I bet I feel it burning all the way until it’s in the toilet. Apart from that it’s a bit of a weird one, which is not strange thing from a whisky finished in a Port cask. With only five months in Port, it’s not overpowered and there’s a surprising balance between the cask and the spirit. I am liking this more than I expected.
If this is the level of whisky that we can expect from Watt Whisky, I bet they’re here to stay. Of course, the challenge is to keep this up, and also not overextend.
Comparing this to what Cadenhead has been up to the last couple of years is not entirely fair since they’ve been around for over 175 years. This means their stocks should be impressive. However, they’ve changed gears since Mark Watt left and I’ve not been able to verify where they’re at now. The newsletters do not make me thrilled to spend money there.
But, back to this batch. The Allt-a-Bhainne is the more impressive of the bunch, but with this being so similar to the WhiskyNerds one, that’s not too surprising. The rest is a bit more middle of road, but still quality booze.
Several years ago I participated in a Calvados bottle-share from one of my then-booze-sharing-buddies. The group I was part of has long since died out, most likely because of overstimulation.
I like Calvados. I generally like brandy in many ways, but I think Calvados is my favorite style. With it being from Normandy it’s quite close to an English style drink, and I’m honestly quite surprised that the UK doesn’t really have a “Whatever Calvados from the UK would be called” industry. I know that especially the south west of the UK has a massive apple and cider industry, and the interest is there.
When we decided to holiday in Bretagne some years ago I was planning to visit some Calvados distilleries myself. Apparently, Normandy is pretty big and it was a two hour drive to get to the right area, and with two infants (then 1 and 3) that didn’t come across as a viable option.
Anyway, someone from that sharing group went to Normandy. He brought back a load of Calvados and shared it. I participated, and there were some seriously old vintages in there.
Let’s dive right in, since I don’t have any interesting stuff about the brand that I don’t google myself.
Marquis de la Pomme 20 years old, 42%, btld. 2016
Sniff: Robust with quite a lot of oak. Planks, shavings of old wood. There’s a clear apple forward distillate, with lots of fruity sweetness. Some bitterness, copper and minerals.
Sip: Some peppery heat and cloudy apple juice at first. The slightly bitter notes of apple seeds, with mineral notes like iron and granite come through next. Rather mellow, but with subtle notes and complexity.
Swallow: The finish is a lot dryer than the palate, with corky apple. Quite a lot less crisp than the nose.
Good stuff and a good entry point for the range. It puts the bar reasonably high. Very easy drinking with enough complexity to stay interesting for a while.
Marquis de la Pomme 30 years old, 42%, btld. 2016
Sniff: Very heavy, without being overly woody. The fruit is suppressed by the oak, but it’s not ‘only’ oak you get. There’s a very old school distillate scent to it. With some time almost all fruit goes away.
Sip: The palate is, again, very wood driven, but very very gentle and smooth. There’s a tad of fruitiness behind it, but hardly recognizable as apple. Except for the fact that it lacks the weight of grapes.
Swallow: The finish is slightly lighter with a whiff of dried apple peels, but otherwise still mostly good quality oak.
Very nice to see that the brandy itself can stand up to more time in wood, compared to the 20 years old. It has added a lot more wood influenced flavors, obviously, and the apple is still present, but is starting to become quite timid.
Marquis de la Pomme 1972-2011, 42%
Sniff: Lots of oak and lots of fruit. Strikes quite a nice balance. Quite intense, with lots of apple and a hint of copper.
Sip: Again, that hint of copper, but after that there’s heaps of crispy apple, dry apple cider, flowery blossom. Later I get dry oak planks and some black pepper.
Swallow: A long finish that goes full on the coppery fruity notes of brandy. Lots of apple with some sawdust and cinnamon.
This is absolutely cracking stuff and quite a step up from the 30 years old, even though it’s roughly the same age. It seems that a more limited edition like gets a different approach than the ‘regular’ one.
Marquis de la Pomme 1971-2007, 42%
Sniff: Warming and pastry like, with hints of cinnamon, apple pie. Quite bitter, with some almond hints, but mostly apple seeds and cores.
Sip: Sweeter, rather bitter, nutty and woody. Very dry with huge layers of oak, almonds. Apart from that, it’s a tad thin in other flavors. Apples, apple cores.
Swallow: The finish brings a lot of cider like flavors, with much more apply sweetness. Some bitterness. It quickly mellows, apple wood.
Compared to the 1972, this isn’t ‘as special’ with the Calvados having less depth and complexity. It’s very apple forward, and doesn’t strike the same balance as some of the others.
Marquis de la Pomme 1968-2011, 42%
Sniff: Proper, gentle Calvados. Not overpowered by oak and with loads of apples, and dried apple peel, specifically. A whiff of glue, some oak, lots of wood spices like cinnamon.
Sip: Very dry, with corky apple and some peppery heat from the alcohol and oak. Especially dry apple, peels, seeds. Quite some bitterness.
Swallow: The finish gives a bit of a kick before going down very warmly and comforting. More apple and very fruit driven. Quite some oak, but it keeps playing second fiddle.
Glorious, old and big. Not overly complex, but a great combination of fruit and wood. Strangely, the addition of the cinnamon and glue notes give it a bit more depth and ‘weight’.
Marquis de la Pomme 1956-2014, 42%
Sniff: Dry and very fruity on the nose. Apple, obviously, but lesser hints of star fruit and pear. Quite some very gentle oak. Very crisp, with ‘snowy air’, if that’s a thing.
Sip: The palate is light, crisp and fruity. It takes a while before the dryness and oak come through. Fresh oak, with a sharp edge, even after 58 years in a cask.
Swallow: The finish blasts the dryness to a whole new level, with much more oak, and dried apple, dried pear. Even some woody spices. Thyme twigs, cinnamon.
As with the 1968, this one is awesome. Even though it’s older, it has more complexity than any of the previous ones. I would say this was either a more intense batch of brandy or a bunch of ‘lazier’ casks.
After dabbling in some gin, mezcal, and with a few bottles of rum open for an upcoming tasting, I have the intention to refocus on whisky, since that’s where the core of my booze-fanaticism lies. However, after posting these notes, and remember the joy these brought when tasting them, I want some more Calvados too.
I might have to keep this in mind for the upcoming summer holiday to Bretagne (again). There’s bound to be some nice bottle shops where I can find a bottle or two. Or three.
This whisky is a recipe for success. The two main reasons for that are the fact that Kilchoman generally makes good whisky AND I love Fino Sherry casks used for whisky.
Combine those two, and you get the coastal notes of the Fino on top of the coastal notes of Islay whisky, so it might be a bit much. Or does it?
Sniff: Pretty crisp and mossy from the start, with hints of barley, slate and a whiff of coastal salinity and quite some smoke. The sherry brings a lot of these flavors. Very fino-esque. Later, after a few minutes I start getting dried prunes, too.
Sip: Pretty sharp, a youthful sharpness. Lots of barley, a bit of oak. Dry sherry and coastal notes. Dried apple, some baking spices, sawdust, grist. Salinity, smoke.
Swallow: A warming finish with a slight edge. Spices, salinity, smoke, barley, sawdust and grist. Some fruit too.
I really like how this one focuses mostly on the crisp notes. It does bring a quality of Islay and its whiskies to the front that isn’t always obvious. So, coastal notes galore without overdoing it.
All in all, this is a very solid whisky. It could have been better with a bit more age, I think. My guess is that this is some 6 to 8 years old. A bit more cask influence, and a bit more maturity would have gone a long way. Still, solid stuff.
I’m not entirely sure how gracefully elegant a 58.1% whisky will be, especially not as a first dram, but let’s give it a go.
It’s been a while since I had an SMWS bottling, and I didn’t doubt long to get a sample of this. It’s few and far between that I get to see a Glenmorangie from an independent bottler. And it being from a sherry cask, at full strength only heightens my anticipation!
The initial cask was a 2nd fill bourbon cask, before being transferred to a 1st fill PX barrique. According to notes by the SMWS the finish was for two years, so not something overly rushed. Quite promising!
Sniff: The nose is very rich with this filling the room with a fruity, cake like scent after a few minutes. Upon closer examination there are some interesting, one might say weird, scents of barbecue sauce. There’s dry barley and a whiff of oak too. Quite strong, to no one’s surprise. Lots of complexity with spices, fruit and wood influences.
Sip: The initial arrival is insanely strong. Even for a first whisky at cask strength. If you’d have told me this was 65% I’d have believed you.
It starts with warm tropical fruit like mango and papaya. Quite rich with some baking spices. Lots of oak, massively fruity. A hint of tomato, or maybe ketchup. I guess that’s the barbecue sauce thing from before.
Swallow: The finish still is a little hot, but less so. A bit charcoal like, but without the smoke. The fruit is a bit less present than on the nose and the palate, and there’s a bit more focus on the wood and the barley, with a hint of vanilla. Quite long, and a bit dry.
Well, this is quite a lot better than I hoped for. The fruit is great on both the palate and nose. I like that in the finish there’s some more focus on the typical Glenmorangie notes. An absolutely gorgeous whisky.
Eight different American whiskies on a Sunday afternoon, right between Christmas and New Year. Sounds good to me!
Especially when Norbert of Whisky4All organizes it, since I’ve not had any disappointing tastings with him. Sure, there was some money involved, since this is by no means a run of the mill line-up. Some $ 500 bottles were planned, both old and new stuff!
Let’s dive right in!
Fleischmann’s Select, 4 years old, 43%, bottled in 1973
Sniff: Lots of wood at first, with some grain and corn right after. Some vanilla sweetness, but not a lot. Charred sawdust, Brazil nuts, some charcoal.
Sip: Quite some dryness, a lot of oak. Chili pepper heat. Fairly straight forward, dry tobacco leaves. Cherries in syrup.
Swallow: The finish is surprisingly soft and sweet. Corn, cornbread, a whiff of apple, vanilla.
Interesting and absolutely not bad, but the nose, palate and finish don’t really line up. It’s a tad inconsistent.
Ironroot Harbinger XC, Cognac Cask 20A, 45%
Sniff: Insanely dry on the nose. Lots of dry grains, with hints of dried mint leaves. “Crafty”, somehow. Dried herbs, putty, a hint of glue. Granny Smith apples, licorice.
Sip: The palate is quite a lot softer than I expected. Still dry, young, crafty. Some heat, cherry stones, almonds. Slightly bitter.
Swallow: The finish is, if possible, even more dry. Lots of oak, some dark chocolate, suddenly. Mocha, cold brew coffee.
Quite typical for crafty and young bourbon. Almost like the oak was forced onto the whisky. That’s not a bad thing, but just something quite different to what’s happening at the big old distilleries.
Whistlepig 18, Double Malt Rye, 46%
Sniff: Strangely, the initial scent is that of a glue and washing-up-liquid. I tried a second glass to make sure that it wasn’t the glass. Maybe it needs some time. Veers towards minty chocolate, bay leaf, marzipan, lots of oak.
Sip: The palate is very gentle, but does build up in heat a little bit. Some After Eight, chili peppers, oak. ‘schuimblok’. Bay leaf.
Swallow: The finish brings back that slightly chemical note of the nose, but in a more candy like way (schuimblokken). Bay leaf and a very slight acidic note.
This quite typical Dutch candy note was a tad suggestive with someone else in the group naming it first, but after that there was no way around it.
Also, this whisky starts really weird on the nose. At first I was a bit disappointed, but it got massively better with air, and by tasting it started to make a lot more sense too. Great stuff!
Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel, New Toasted Oak, 47%
Sniff: Sweet bourbon, with quite a lot of depth. Some sweetness, some cherry. Almonds, puff pastry, vanilla. Orange rind, Triple Sec.
Sip: The palate brings a lot of oak, very dry with sawdust, some charcoal, vanilla and oak. Cherry syrup, slightly sugary, custard. Later it gets quite a lot of black and chili pepper.
Swallow: The finish is quite oaky, and tones down the sweetness. Sawdust and very oak forward. After a few seconds there’s quite a lot of fruit with raisins and cherry.
The main thing (the only thing?) that’s different compared to the regular Elijah Craig is the way the oak was treated. And what a difference that makes!
The normal (formerly 12 year old) is a very solid bourbon by any means, and this one is very much hit or miss, according to reviews. I’m on the ‘hit’ side of things. The toasting brings a lot of new oak driven flavors, without this being too oaky.
Blood Oath Pact 6, Cognac finish, 49.3%
Slightly barbecue-y, brown sugar and oak. Some honey and licorice, vanilla and cherry. Orange liqueur, with hints of cinnamon.
Very sweet, quite strong and therefore rather hot. Oak, hints of flowers, insanely dry. Orange juice and barbecue notes.
The finish has some nice dry notes with the savory barbecue notes, some dried flowers.
The barbecue-y hints are like when I’m making my own sauce. The moment I add the onion powder and brown sugar. People thought I was going insane when I mentioned it, but that’s the note I got.
To me this is a very solid whisky once again. There’s quite some age to the bourbons used, and as it turns out, bourbon works very well with brandy and cognac casks.
Catoctin Creek Cask Proof Rye, Roundstone Rye, Batch B15E1, 58%
Sniff: Nail polish remover, glue. What the actual fuck? Pine, lemon. All purpose cleaning liquid.
Sip: Gentle for the ABV, but with quite some chili heat, simple syrup, nail polish remover, glue. Becomes very hot after a while.
Swallow: The finish shows some oak, wine gums, licorice. Very chemical.
I really wanted to like this, but I don’t. I even tried pouring it into a fresh glass in case the one I used was somehow not clean. It did not matter. I really think this stuff is wrong. I finished my sample, just to check if it didn’t grow on me, but I can’t bring myself to like this.
Four Roses 12 years old, Limited Edition Small Batch 2020, 55.7%
Sniff: Lots of brown sugar with a slight savory note. Some oak, a lovely sweetness, milk chocolate, caramel. Some warm fruit like papaya and mango.
Sip: The palate has quite some heat, but there’s a lot of tropical sweetness. Lots of fruit like mango, papaya, tinned pineapple. Dry oak after a while, with chili heat.
Swallow: The palate has some toast and jam at first, but goes towards pepper and oak right after. Fruity with lots of sweet tropical fruits.
This, dear reader, is absolutely gorgeous. Luckily I own a bottle although I’ve not taken the time to sit down with/for it yet. I know I gladly will sometime in the future.
The tropical fruit works really well for this whisky and adds a layer of flavors that I don’t often find in American whisky. Glorious stuff.
Kentucky Owl Batch 9, The Wiseman’s Bourbon, 63.8%
Sniff: It has the typical bourbon notes of brown sugar, corn and oak. But also a slightly weird note of glue. A bit of burnt butter and Scottish tablet.
Sip: Very dry, with a building heat. Vanilla and cherry sweetness, with caramel and puff pastry. Molasses and burnt sugar. Buttery.
Swallow: The finish has a bit of heat, but lingers mostly on the caramel, oak and molasses. Slightly rummy.
With an absolutely mental ABV, this one hit hard even after all that came before. The entire whisky is a bit weird with the buttery and rum like notes, but somehow it works very well. Again, one that stands out among the crowd. Once again, a shame it’s so expensive.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone that this was an awesome tasting! I had a great time and (except one) great whisky. Some scored as expected, one scored massively lower than I hoped, and some were way above average.
It goes to say that American whisky has a lot more to offer than most people I know think, which is a shame. Then again, do we really need more fans of the stuff with prices as they are?
The clear winner of the night was the Four Roses, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with another glass of the Kentucky Owl, Whistlepig or Blood Oath at all!
When things are announced as a ‘sherry beast’ you can generally tell they’re going to sell well. When they are also a Mortlach, you can bet they’re going to sell even faster.
But honestly, when something is a sherry beast, my first thought tends to veer in the direction of ‘there’s no distillery character left’. Of course, that too, tends to change with it being a Mortlach. Mortlach has such specific flavors that it could stand up to the violence that is inflicted on this spirit.
There’s no age stated on this bottle, and based on the initial price of some € 70, you can already tell it’s not going to be older than some eight or nine years. Maybe even less.
On Whiskybase this scores over 87 points on average, with over a hundred votes. This is quite significant, I think. When there are so many votes for a whisky, the average tends to become relevant.
Sniff: Brownie crust, apple treacle, a hint of coffee. Black pudding, dark bread, very meaty. Charred pork. Starts getting a bit soupy, brothy after a while, lovage.
Sip: The palate obviously is quite hot, but it also feels a bit thin. Again, sweet and meaty. Barbecue with brownie. Minerals, black pudding, broth.
Swallow: The finish shows a lot more typical sherry and whisky notes. Spices, barley, oak. But still a lot of iron, blood, apple.
This is an insanely weird whisky. It has the very typical meatiness of Mortlach, with the typical heavily sherried flavors from a fresh cask. This results in a very interesting whisky but, at least to me, not a very tasty whisky.
It’s all a bit too much. Too much alcohol, too much meaty flavors with the black pudding and blood flavors coming in too strong. Then the massive notes of the chocolate brownie not combining too well.
It’s all just too weird.
Strangely, it all gets easier when you don’t pay too much attention to the whisky. When you ‘just’ drink this, it’s pretty fine. There’s a lot of alcohol to get through, but at the end of a night, it’s just fine.
Let’s do some reviewing of 2020, shall we? Of course, there’s a million other pages out there doing that, going on about how Corona affected their lives and their livelihood and such. I’m not going to skip all that entirely, but I’m going to try to keep it a bit closer to home, and a bit more related to booze. Or at least, that’s my intention.
In February last year I started at a new company after my previous endeavor hadn’t gone too well. A pretty happy start to the year, if I might say so. I thoroughly enjoy working at We Are You and hope to do that for many years to come.
In a way, I found my way back since with only a little creative thinking, it’s more or less the company I started my ‘career’ at in 2006. Back then called Lectric, due to some mergers it’s now the same group of companies. Anyway, a very good beginning.
Of course, after almost two months Corona hit and I had to start working from home and have been doing so since. I work closely with quite a few people I’ve never seen in real life, and the ones I have seen in real life I’ve seen for all of 20 minutes or so. Still, things are well.
Normally, I would have written, or am about to write a top 10 of my favorite records of the year. With 9 months of working from home, you’d think I’d have ample time to listen to new music and think about which records I prefer over others.
Strangely, I happen to work in a team that does ‘mob programming‘, so I’m in conference calls about 6 hours per day. When I’m not, I’m just happy to have a bit of silence. So, my ‘to listen’ list is huge at the moment, and I haven’t even kept track of what came out the last couple of months.
However, I can disclose that something very strange must happen for Ian Noe’s ‘Between the Country‘ not to be the number one.
I just didn’t make it. I hoped to get to 2500 unique beers on Untappd before the end of the year, but ended up at 2463. Of course, no one gives a flying fuck about whether or not I get there, but somehow it crept in my mind and it worked out differently. The missing 37 check-ins could probably have been fixed by Borefst Festival, but that got cancelled due to obvious reasons.
Anyway, I have become a bit more picky in one way, and a bit less picky in another. I’ve become more picky when it comes to just drinking random stuff that comes out. I want beers to be very good, and bring something new to the table. On the other hand, I’ve become a bit less picky about styles. I stopped caring for a lot of the modern hazy IPAs, but have redeveloped an interest in modern day Triples and Doubles. It seems the Belgians have decided it’s finally time to up their game.
Of course, the most relevant topic to this here blog.
I’ve had quite a few this year. Not in the least because of all the online tastings, but more on that later.
I honestly can’t say which one was best. I would have to go through 12 months of blog posts and check all scores to see which one I liked most. Also, with me having had a cold since summer until fairly recently, I posted quite some notes I wrote in 2019 or sometimes even in 2018. Should these drams count?
Whisky is, to me, at a bit of a crossroads. On one hand, I’ve found that there is still a lot of gorgeous stuff out there that is relatively affordable. You don’t have to shell out 300+ Euros to find a 90+ points whisky. So, compared to previous years, I think the average cost per bottle has gone down in 2020. At least, the money I spent on a bottle on average.
On the other hand, prices keep soaring. Whereas I previously thought some ceiling had been reached, whisky appears to have broken through. Sometimes very sneakily. By now we have come to expect things to be ridiculously expensive, so even when a whisky comes out that is 30 Euros less expensive than expected, it can sometimes be 30 Euros more expensive than a similar release a year before. So the climb continues.
With this happening it sometimes is very hard to keep the ‘quality over quantity’ adage alive. If you want something exceptionally good, you have to spend several month’s worth of budget on it. And it’s questionable that it is four times as good as a semi-affordable bottle.
From that point of view, whisky sucks.
Bourbon and Rye
From Europe, Bourbon and Rye whisky might even suck more. Logically, most marketing and the largest chunk of their fanbase comes from the United States.
Unfortunately American whisky is much, much more expensive here than it is there. What is considered a solid ‘value for money’ bottle there, might set you back just shy of € 200 here. Looking at you, Old Forester 1920!
“But Scotch is much more expensive there than it is here”, I hear someone say. Yes, but the difference is in the benefit of the USA. Solidly.
Anyway, regardless of this pricing struggle, and a bigger struggle to hit an acceptable price vs quality mark, I’ve become quite enamored by both Bourbon and Rye again. It was quiet for some years, but not anymore.
Even in the online tastings I tend to have at least one Bourbon or one Rye in the line-up. Even though a lot of the participants would have rather had another single malt. Variance is the spice of life.
Initially, three tastings had been planned for 2020. The Bad-Ass Tasting, and the Winter Tasting at Whiskyslijterij De Koning, and the annual Blog Barbecue Bash. The latter would have had it’s tenth iteration this year.
Obviously, these events couldn’t happen. The winter tasting was a bummer, but especially the other ones are the ones I regret not happening. Because of that, I didn’t even remember the 10th anniversary of this here blog until it was a week after.
From De Koning, I enjoyed several other tastings instead. From a set of samples, at home. Very different, but still very enjoyable. I also participated in several tastings from Norbert, AKA Whisky4All. Between the two of them, it’s some 30 American whiskies tasted already!
Also, I started organizing the ‘Stay the Fuck Home’ tastings since April or so. There’s eight tastings in the bank already, with another one lined up for January. Even though it’s been a shitload of work to get everything in, then sampled, then delivered or sent, it’s been great fun!
Through these (very) informal tastings I’ve been able to keep in touch with people I normally only see in a whisky context. It also helps that I don’t do these tastings for free and I was able to buy some bottles for these tastings. More new things to explore together with 5 to 11 other people (depending on the event). Thanks to all who participated!
That’s quite enough for this post, don’t you think?
Thanks to everyone who helped shape this year into anything else than a huge pile of steaming shit!