BTC 2016, sample 1: Tomatin 11, 60%, OB for the Usquebaugh Society

During previous BTCs we (me and other participants) have discussed the difference between a whisky from a bottle and whisky that’s been sampled before. We don’t have a clue what causes it, and there might be several, but there is a difference.

Today’s dram is more proof to that point as the BTC started off with our very own club bottling and of all 60-something participants only one got it right. That one person is NOT me.

The reasons for this difference might be oxidation during sampling, all the jostling it goes through, less air tight sealing in a sample bottle. Maybe others, I don’t know.

You can check the old tasting notes here, and the new ones below:

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Pretty sharp and dry. Slightly grassy and resinous. The outside of coconut. A slightly musty, recognizable scent that I cannot pin down. Also some oak, a very classical whisky.

After about half an hour there’s suddenly a hit of caramel that wasn’t there before.

Sip:
Pretty sharp, as on the nose. Some bite from the alcohol. Quite light on the palate, grassy notes and some dry coconut. Old fashioned with some hessian as well, maybe it’s that instead of the coconut. A touch of oak, but very gentle. Maybe some lactic acid too?

Swallow:
The finish is gentle and quite warming. Oak, some straw, quite a long finish.

Young, and at high strength. I don’t think this is older than ten years or so. Because of the mustiness and a hard to describe milkiness on the palate I went for Bladnoch, 10 years old, 56.3%. It also helped that this came out a short while ago and therefore it might have been available to the organizers.

It turned out to be our club bottling, as said above. So I only got 30 points for being close to the correct age. Still 30 is above average for me.

Still 86/100, by the way.

Tomatin 2004-2016, 11yo, First Fill Bourbon Barrel 35281, 60%, OB for the Usquebaugh Society. It’s still available for 68 euros here.

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Zuidam Millstone 2009, 7yo, Rye, 52.7% – OB for The Whisky Exchange

The Whisky Exchange have a knack for finding some good casks in distilleries that aren’t that common to find in shops like The Whisky Exchange. They seem to have a preference for Zuidam’s Millstone too, since this is already the second single cask they’ve bottled.

The first one was an amazing 10 year old that I bottle shared and reviewed little over a year ago. Now it is time for it’s younger brother at seven years old. Also a rye whisky, which I don’t find surprising since even Americans seem to love the stuff they put out!

Of course, a 10 centiliter sample (which was all I had) is gone quickly and this one was gone in a single night. But that’s just getting ahead of myself.

Sniff:
The nose is a tad sharp and spirity, but it’s young and it’s not in a bad way. Quite some oak, with some grains and spices. I would have expected this to be a bit sharper than it actuall is.

Sip:
The palate is sharp and quite fierce, which suits the style. Spirit, crushed black pepper, sweet spices with some sponge cake. Rye grains and quite some richness.

Swallow:
The finish is very consistent with the palate, so grains and spices, with some oaky notes too. Slightly sweet and spirity, and not overly long.

Well, the 10 year old from 2015 was better. Which is not to say this isn’t good, but the 10 year old had a bit more to offer than this one. This is a fairly simple whisky with straight forward and honest flavours and scents. I do love this. It’s a spicy whisky, much like some of the more spicy American rye whiskies, but without the expected sweetness that sometimes overpowers those.

Mind, it’s still sweet but the wood and spices add some bitter notes which creates a nice balance between those flavors. It is a dry and quite young whisky though. But, after all is said and done I am considering getting myself a bottle. It’s very good, and quite affordable.

87/100

Zuidam Millstone 2009 Rye, The Whisky Exchange Exclusive, 52.7%. Available for 55 quid.

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Irish Single Malt, 1988-2015, 26yo, 50.7% – The Perfect Dram

The Perfect Dram is a quite presumptiously named brand from The Whisky Agency. The experience is that it’s not necessarily untrue since they use some of their best casks, and The Whisky Agency itself is already a cracking bottler.

This whisky came out sometime last year, when Irish single malts ranging from their early 20s to some 26 or 27 years old were popping up everywhere. They have been hugely popular (Trump would say ‘yuuuuuuge’), but not all of them. Somehow The Whisky Exchange had one of their own bottlings available for a year or so, and they are not a bottler to scoff at either.

Anyway, maybe they’re more popular on the continent than on the British isles. Here, if you want one of those 20-something year olds you have to be F5-ing the website when it comes out.

I got a sample of this one somehow, probably from Teun van Wel, but I’m not entirely sure. I should write that shit down, but I’m a lazy mofo.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The typical, slightly chemical sweetness of winegums and winegum bags (the plastic ones) is here. Pear drops too. Very sweet with some oaky notes.

Sip:
On the palate it’s enormously sweet too. There’s some salmiak too and dryness, oak and pepper (both black and red). But, mostly it’s all very, very sweet like it was on the nose.

Swallow:
The finish too is dry and sweet, albeit a tad less sweet than it was before. Some grassy notes and winegums. Quite long.

As you might have guessed from the review, I’m not a huge fan of this whisky. I find it far too sweet, with those chemical notes of winegum and peardrop. There are some other notes but all of them are inferior to the sweetness. Apparently though, I am one of the few people around that doesn’t like this one since the Whiskybase review after 41 votes is over 91 points!

85/100

Irish Single Malt, 1988-2015, 26yo, 50.7%, The Perfect Dram. Available on Whiskybase for 400 euros as we speak.

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Glen Elgin 1991-2007, 16yo, 46% – Cooper’s Choice

Somehow I have never owned a bottle of Glen Elgin. I think I’ve just never been able to find one that suited me, since I generally like their bourbon cask whiskies. They tend to be slightly green and grassy but with a typical ‘Highland spiciness’ to it.

This one is from a sherry cask, although you wouldn’t directly say so by looking at the color. Bottled almost a decade ago (2007 is almost a decade ago. Let that sink in). Bottled at 46% it’s most likely not going to a scorcher.

What’s more interesting is that this is bottled by Cooper’s Choice. Cooper’s Choice is a bottler that has been around for a while, but have always been rather quiet about their business. That is, until last year or so when they started pushing some high end whiskies at high end prices. Since then I’ve seen them pop up in shops more and more often, in a completely redesigned bottle. I find it interesting that these things happen.

Sniff:
Initially it’s quite sweet, but it becomes a bit sharper with a bit of airing. Also a bit less smooth. Spices and sherry on the nose, with roasted barley and cinnamon. After that is goes a bit more smooth again with scents of banana, and a bit of a milky, buttery aroma. Also dates, and something more light, like a grain whisky.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sip:
The palate is peppery and sharp, with a rich sweetness. Puff pastry, sugar and baked apple. Some cinnamon when it becomes dryer.

Swallow:
A dry finish with spices and baked apple (appelflappen) with cinnamon and raisins. Quite long.

It’s a bit of weird one, this. Every part of tasting this gives some nice scents and flavors, so in that regard it’s quite good. It is, however, incredibly inconsistent with the sherry notes and more typical notes of Glen Elgin (dry spiciness) being all over the place.

So, yeah, it’s a nice whisky for drinking, but not so good for reviewing. Methinks. Still, not bad though.

86/100

Glen Elgin 1991-2007, 16yo, Sherry Cask 6009, 46%, Cooper’s Choice

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Port Ellen1982-2010, 27yo, 55.5% – Old Bothwell

A week without a new post has gone by, and I’ve decided to catch up on some notes I’ve written ages ago. The first ones I came across in my little booklet were these of an early eighties Port Ellen (yes, there is no other part of the eighties for Port Ellen).

Generally speaking the eighties Port Ellens are a bit less interesting than the late seventies ones. Luckily, there are exceptions. I’ve been lucky enough to pick one of these up a few years ago from Berry’s, and I’m hoping this one joins those ranks.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose on this quite strong whisky is very gentle. Intense, but smooth with smoke. Rich with quite some oak, soft leather. A bit like suede and shammy leather. Autumn leaves, the wet and dying kind. Slightly spicy and a touch of lemon.

Sip:
The palate is sharper, and dryer. Some oak and only a little bit of smoke. Dry leather and leaves. Oak, black pepper. It’s not a very easy whisky and it demands attention. And it’s right to do so at almost 700 bucks a pop.

Swallow:
The finish suddenly is what I call a quintessential old Islay whisky. Light smoke with hints of barley and slightly tangy fruit. Notes of oak and spices too.

In short: Yup! This one works!

Slightly longer: While it builds somewhat into the palate, the balance of this wee dram is great. The spices and fruit, with oak, smoke and barley works very well. The typical Port Ellen flavors of shammy leather and sweet lemon are present too, although not as prominent as in some other bottlings.

92/100

Port Ellen1982-2010, 27yo, cask 2558, 55.5%, Old Bothwell. Expect to pay between 600 and 700 in auction.

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Longrow 2001-2015, 13yo, Chardonnay Cask, 56.7% – Springbank Society

I’ve been a member for the Springbank Society for about seven or eight years now, and while I did miss out on some bottles, most of them have found their way to my shelf.

Most of them have also been good whiskies, with a variety of casks being used and maturation ranging from eight years, to fifteen and over. Generally the whiskies aren’t very old, but when you know current prices of older bottlings, that might be a good thing.

When this came out I was a tad skeptical, since I generally don’t care much for wine cask usage. Even though the Longrow Red series have been quite acceptable, a chardonnay cask is something else entirely.

Luckily, I thought of this bottle when looking for something to open during last summer’s Blog Birthday Bash, so it actually gets reviewed at a reasonable time after its release. It’s only been a year or so!

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
There’s a whiff of sweet smoke with a slight salty edge. Some basalt and/or slate as well, and white grapes. A slightly buttery note is behind this all, which makes it a bit funky. A small acidic note makes this a Longrow with a rather ‘regular’ base but with some weird edges.

Sip:
The palate is sharp and rough, again with the acidic note. The basalt notes are present, as is the salt. There’s a sugary sweetness with a hint of unripe grapes. Buttery again too, so rather consistent.

Swallow:
The finish is very consistent with the rest of the ‘experience’, but is maybe a little bit more grainy. Quite funky again.

Well, let’s cut through the bullshit. I don’t like this whisky. A shame, since the last couple of Longrows I had from the Society were fairly epic. This one has such a strange combination of flavors that it doesn’t work for me. What also doesn’t help is that the flavors in themselves aren’t very nice either.

Funkyness in itself can be great, but not in combination with either butter of acidity, and both are here in ample supply. Bummer.

Oh, by the way, the generaly reception during the Blog Birthday Bash was timid, at best.

70/100

Longrow 2001-2015, 13yo, 7 years in a Bourbon cask, 6 years in a Chardonnay Cask, 56.7%, Springbank Society

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White Horse, OB,1960s, no ABV

This sample comes from Jon Beach (of Fiddler’s fame), from a 6 liter bottle. Jon opened it during this year’s Feis Ile and sold samples for the Beatson Cancer Unit in Glasgow. A nice gesture if there ever was one, especially since he sold 10cl samples of this liquid gold for only 20 quid.

Obviously I had to get myself one and have been thoroughly enjoying it for a while. It’s gone now, and has been for a while but I just realized this morning that I hadn’t put up my review yet.

A 1960s blend with a good proportion of Islay whisky in it. Serge thinks there must be Malt Mill in here, and there might be. We’ll most likely never know for sure. Nor do I really care, since what I care about in this case is how good this wee dram tastes!

Sniff:
There’s a touch of Old Bottle Effect (OBE) at first, but it’s quickly replaced with a very creamy aroma. Oak, cinnamon and ‘Zeeuwse Bolus‘. It’s very rich, with hints of toasted barley like in a stout beer.

Sip:
The palate is rich and has a bit of bite to it. It’s smooth and sweet like cotton candy and marshmallows. Again, the Zeeuwse Bolus so caramelized sugar and a touch of baked lemon zest. Lots of barley and some oak, slightly fatty.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly warming, with fatty popcorn and some sugary sweetness. Marshmallows, cinnamon, oak and barley.

It’s funny how Serge’s tasting notes are so vastly different then mine, but I also know that we have hugely different references and palates. What he does agree on with me is that this is an awesome whisky and should be appealing to beer drinkers as well as whisky drinkers.

Unlike in some modern stouts (more on that in a later post) there’s not too much of the candy (marshmallow, popcorn and cotton candy) happening to overpower any of the other flavors and it makes for a very well balanced and ridiculously tasty dram.

It truly tastes old and the gentle, fatty smoke (which I didn’t even mention before) work very well together and are so vastly different than today’s Islay whiskies. Highly, highly recommended.

92/100

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