James Eadie bottlings, guided by Trademark X

Ages ago, a while before this entire Corona period started, a representative of the Dutch importer for James Eadie whiskies came by and gave me some samples for reviewing.

We talked whisky a little bit, and got to the brand quickly.

James Eadie’s great-great-grandson revived the brand with Trademark X leading the way. It’s a blended whisky based on the recipe of the whisky that was there a hundred years ago. Some distilleries still exist, some don’t, but by approximation this whisky resembles what existed then.

Of course, this is largely a marketing story since just about everything in the whisky industry has changed in the years since. Malting, barley species, yeast strains, the entire production process. Everything is different in the details.

Still, a comparison between then and now can be made, and that is at least something.

Apart from the Trademark X there are some single cask bottlings that I tried as well. Reviews of all of these whiskies are below.


James Eadie’s Trademark X, 45.6%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very light, in very old fashioned blended whisky way. Lots of grain, and some oak too. Some orchard fruits, apple, pear, grape.

Sip:
The palate is slightly syrupy, with barley sugar, applesauce, and hints of vanilla. There’s a bit of bite from the youthy alcohol.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more dry, and a bit less fruity. The sweetness is a bit more peardrop like.

This is what you hope to find in blends of this price level, however, you do need to go to the indie producers for it. A recommended blend for ‘daily drinking’.

Unfortunately, the whisky seems to be sold out and that is reflected in secondary market pricing.

84/100


Caol Ila 9yo, 2009-2019, 46%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Typical smoke, with a slight milky scent to it. Very Caol Ila. Twigs, heather and slightly earthy.

Sip:
The palate has a bit of a creamy texture. Smoky, with apples, barley, brine and oak. Quite dry after a few seconds, with sawdust, and black pepper.

Swallow:
A warming finish, with mostly barley, dry spices and some oak. A bit of straw, sawdust.

I’ve expressed that I generally not a huge fan of young Islay whiskies. By that I don’t mean that they’re uninteresting or bad, but they’re rather generic. Especially since virtually everyone got their hands on some casks, and is bottling them.

This one fits that mold as well. A decent whisky, nothing spectacular, but a dime a dozen.

85/100


Linkwood 10, 2019, 46%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Slightly dry, with hints of granite and slate. Earthy notes, with dirt and hay. A touch of vanilla from the oak.

Sip:
The palate shows heaps of vanilla, grass and moss. There’s oak and quite some sweetness. Bread, and light mineral hints.

Swallow:
Dry, with hints of sawdust, burnt crumbs like you you clean out a toaster. Vanilla and pastry cream.

A very gentle whisky. Unfortunately, at only 10 years old the cask has more or less taken over the entire whisky and it’s insanely vanilla driven. And therefore, very ‘vanilla’. Not a ‘bad’ whisky, but utterly uninteresting.

80/100


Benrinnes 10, 2019, 46%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
A very gentle woodiness with moss, straw and grass. The spirit is clear with a pear drop sweetness. A bit of weight with scents of coconut husks.

Sip:
The palate is a bit thin and rather fiery with quite a lot of crushed peppercorns. Some oak and green spirit with straw, moss, and a candy like sweetness.

Swallow:
The finish shows a bit more balance, with some heat, quite some wood influence and vanilla. The spirit shows with moss and pear drops.

This goes in another way than the Linkwood. This cask was a lot more timid, and while that should result in a whisky I rate higher, I think it’s a bit too thin for a small batch whisky.

80/100


Blair Athol 14, 2004-2018, 59.8%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Malt, honey, soft oak and a whiff of vanilla. Very gentle with a hint of banana, baked apple a d some cinnamon.

Sip:
This is where the ABV announces itself. Not overly so, but it’s strong. Again, the baked apple, soft and pulpy oak, honey sweetness. Lots of maltiness too.

Swallow:
A nice afterglow, with some more vanilla and a bit drier in the oak part.

We get into the more fierce end of the range. The cask strength whiskies are truly strong, and this one clocks in at almost 60%. It’s matured in an ex-sherry cask and that’s rather noticeable. There still is some vanilla on the nose but there’s a lot of other things happening too.

Not a bad dram, in the end.

83/100


Strathmill 10, 2008-2018, 59.3%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very strong and alcoholic, much like cleaning spray. But with wood, grain and orchard fruits. There’s some baked apple, cinnamon and pear.

Sip:
Dry and sharp with apple crumble. Sweet custard, cinnamon rolls.

Swallow:
Sharp again, a massive afterburner. Then fruity, pastry like. It mellows quickly and leaves a nice warmth, with apple oue and booze flavors.

Another belter, but a very different one than the Blair Athol. This one matured in recharred casks and therefore is a lot more unique. It shows lots of wood spices, grains and some fruits. The balance between these layers of flavors is really good, and makes for a very interesting dram, although it could use a drop of water.

In the end this turned out to be a dram I gladly drink and wouldn’t mind trying a few more times!

87/100


James Eadie, as a brand, lives in the same conflicted situation as many other ‘new’ brands.

By that I mean that it’s main reason for existing is whisky’s immense popularity right now. The drawback of that popularity is that there are way too many single cask bottlings out there, and therefore it’s slim pickings for bottlers.

I think that most of the whiskies I tried in this line-up are victim to not being first picks. There’s a lot of genericness, too much vanilla.

Having said that, we should keep in mind that the prices of these bottlings are rather low compared to other bottler who DO get first picks. So, the audience for these whiskies is much more in the category of whisky aficionados that have tried some different malts, and are now getting into the world of independent bottlers.

For that audience, these drams are great.

For more seasoned drinkers, it might be better to save the money of two of these bottlings and buy something else. Unless you want the Strathmill. That’s a very good whisky indeed!

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Lagavulin: King of Islay… and Feis Ile 2020

And for the second day in a row, Tom reviews a Feis Ile 2020 whisky. This time it’s the Lagavulin. A 20 year whisky at a significantly lower price than the 21 year old single casks that were released through private bottlers a few years ago. Still, the £ 190 per bottle is not something to make light of.


There was quite an uproar when the 2019 release of the special editions from Diageo appeared in a whole new package. I actually liked the uniformity with those beautiful bird tubes in which for instance the Lagavulin 12 Years Old was packaged.

I can not remember ever seeing Lagavulin being branded as “the King of Islay”. Seems like nonsense to me anyway, as I consider my whiskies to be female, unless they sport a manly name like Johnnie. But here it was, a fitting surname for a whisky that can make a man sing and write and dance. The most recent release is the Feis Ile bottling of 2020, a whisky that matured in refill and PX/oloroso matured hogshead. A little confusing, as the labels mentions the refill and the sherry as two separate things, as to me it sounds as 1) refill hogsheads, 2) PX treated hogsheads and 3) oloroso treated hogsheads. But okay, let’s have a taste of this new giant. 

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2020, 20 Years Old, Distillery Exclusive Bottling, at 54% abv.

Nice build up since a few years, 18 in 2018, 19 in 2019 and 20 in 2020. Does this mean we get a 21 year old Lagavulin next year? Fingers crossed, last years Jazz Festival Edition was a stunner too. 

Sniff:
Oh, it is grand! A perfect integration of spirit that can withstand heavy sherry influences. Both shine comfortably when you put your nose in the glass. Earth that sighs relieved after it got rain at the end of a three week heatwave. Wooden floor, black pepper and licorice. I am pairing this with a 1998-2014 Distillers Edition which is more influenced by PX-casks and therefor sweeter. If that is too sweet for you, this Feis Ile is a much better balance. The peat is allowed to dominate, standing on the solid sherried shoulders.

Sip:
Amazingly soft mouthfeel. It does get a little more spicy after keeping it on the tongue for a few seconds. I am delighted that the sherry is very subdued. Knowing the good people at Lagavulin, I also would not be surprised if some older casks went into this vatting. Of course, they never tell such things unless they take you on an Islay road trip and you sign a declaration of secrecy. Other notes are mostly of cooled down Americano coffee, smoked wood and cocoa powder. 

Swallow: 
A mouthful of peat and then a long and lingering smoky finish. A little drying and notes of ginger and dark chocolate bitterness. A very mature and extremely balanced send-off. It proves yet again the advantage of batch whisky over single cask whisky. This is extremely well integrated. 

The last few years I was not swept away by the Lagavulin Feis Ile bottlings. They were all excellent but always had the shadow of the irreplaceable 2014 and 2015 editions looming over them. The 2020 is as much a classic as those editions. It reminds me of older standard 16 Years Old expressions and the rather aggressive 25 Years Old from 2002. The key is in the balance between the refill and the sherry treated oak. This is an A+ example of blending.

92/100


About Tom van Engelen

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.

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Guest post: Caol Ila Feis Ile 2020 edition brings the festival on your doorstep

Tom picked up his pen once more to supply us with a review to a rather interesting whisky. Reviewed within a day of arriving at his doorstep, and one of the first reviews of this whisky online, if our Google search tells us anything.


The Islay Festival of Malt and Music, better known as the Feis Ile, is not a yearly item in my agenda. First of all, I need to save up a little money to get there every once in a while, and second: I want to keep it special. I do know a great many friends who were especially heartbroken about the cancellation of this year’s festival. We did get a few bottlings to mend our broken hearts, and one I will be reviewing today. It is the bottle I look forward to most every year, ever since I tasted the absolutely stunning 2009 edition at the pier near the distillery. That happened to be the first ever festival edition from Caol Ila.

This morning I found the 2020 expression in my mailbox.

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2020, 16 Years Old, Distillery Exclusive Bottling, at 53,9% abv.

Already the third selection by hands of Distillery Manager Pierrick Guillaume. He raised the bar rather high after last years 22 year old, and the special hand-filled 28 year 1990 vintage. This year’s expression is a 16 year old that had a finish in “Amoroso-treated hogsheads”. I tried to uncover what the subtle differences are between all the different fortified wines, but I think we can safely conclude this one is a close cousin to the more regular Distillers Edition of Caol Ila.

Sniff:
As expected, firmly rooted in peat land but with a sweet layer keeping it in check. I never paid attention if there is a candy shop on Islay, but it should smell something like this. Very fresh, outspoken, and besides lollipops also lots of herbal notes too. Bath bombs. A glass you could easily sniff for hours. Gets a little grassy after a while. A summertime Caol Ila if there ever was one.

Sip:
The influence of the Amoroso-finish is clearly detectable in this one. It does not hide a rather floral stamp on the taste buds. Very interesting, it makes for an a-typical Caol Ila for sure. (I have not tasted the DE for years now, so it might be similar.) It even reminds me of some 1980s Bowmore on the brink of collapsing into the wrong soapy direction. This one luckily keeps a perfect yet delicate balance.

Swallow:
Quite sharp to down, here is where the peaty DNA of the distillate lashes out at you. A true Islay spirit. At the same time it is impossible the miss the pleasant oiliness that Caol Ila is known and loved for. A smokey taste lingers on forever.

It is nice to have a variation on the very well-known style of Caol Ila and this is why I
love the Feis Ile expressions so much. They do not always try to be what you can find on the shelf in abundance. Having said that, Caol Ila has more to offer with regular bourbon maturation. The Amoroso sweetness takes it down a few steps from the 90-point mark other bottlings did reach. An interesting and rewarding dram nonetheless.

86/100


About Tom van Engelen

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.

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Bruichladdich 27, 1998-2016, 50.2% – Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection

I love Cadenhead’s and I love Bruichladdich. Not everything from both these places is awesome, but when Bruichladdich comes from a ‘normal’ cask, my level of trust rises.

I got this when it came out years ago and have slowly been sipping away at this bottle since. I also used it in one of the “#StayTheFuckHome” tastings I’ve been hosting since the lockdown prohibited us from doing almost all other types of tastings.

It was rather well received even though it’s a tad mellow for a normal whisky tasting, where taste buds get overstimulated quickly.

Sniff:
Warm bread, lots of barley and gentle oak. A certain creaminess, with hints of Gouda cheese, earthiness and a whiff of diesel. Very classical, and very interesting.

Sip:
The palate start of slightly sharp and quite dry. Lots of oak and sawdust, and grist. Barley, pear drops, rye bread. The earthiness and some heather make this a very typical whisky that sits very well in the unpeated Islay category. After a while a herbaceousness comes through, like thyme and dried rosemary.

Swallow:
The finish shows more barley and oak, with a bit more juicy apples and pears, so more fruity than before. It’s a nice twist that actually combines very well with the dried herbs from before. A long finish too.

This is the style of whisky that is exactly in my wheelhouse. A lot of maturation has happened without the cask overpowering the spirit entirely, and therefore there are a lot of flavors to be discovered. Very old fashioned, and a timid dram instead of a massive bruiser like so many modern-day whiskies.

Stunning stuff.

90/100

Bruichladdich 27, 1988-2016, Bourbon Hogshead, 50.2%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection. Still available through various stores, starting at € 166

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The Six Ambassadors Tasting

Last Thursday I participated in an online tasting based around six whisky ambassadors from the Netherlands. Each of them ‘brought a bottle’ and shared that with the audience. The six whiskies will be reviewed below, with a bit of a review on that part of the tasting as well.

Six ambassadors which I have met all in person. At least, to some degree. Most of them I met at festivals, but of some I’ve enjoyed tastings in the past.

Keep in mind that the selection of the whisky was based on what their company imports, and which these ambassadors market on a daily basis.


Tullamore Dew XO, 43%, Caribbean Rum Cask – Dennis Hendriks

Dennis did a tasting during the ‘detox walk’ at Maltstock a few years ago. I was quite hungover at the time, as was everyone else. I remember not really wanting a dram at the time. This time it was different, obviously.

Sniff:
Extremely sweet on the nose, but upon closer inspection there’s not a lot of things happening. Slightly dry, a little bit papery.

Sip:
The palate is surprisingly rich. There’s a little bit of chili heat, with some sweet fruits, tropical. Mango and chili peppers, syrupy sweetness.

Swallow:
The finish is a little bit thin again. Some sweetness and fruity. Banana and a whiff of coconut. Mango again.

The whiskey was too sweet for me and slightly lacking in other departments. There is very little depth to be had, I think the rum casks overpowered the rather subtle whiskey of Tullamore Dew

I think Dennis did his very best in marketing this whiskey, but got carried away some times and oversold it a little bit. Everyone knew this wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread, and therefore the overselling kind of lost its impact.

What was fun though, was that there were some tips in regards to food pairings. Unfortunately these were all sweet additions like stroopwafels or grilled pineapple. While I love both of these things, I would have loved something else than more sweetness.

75/100


Glenfiddich Project XX, 47% – Tony van Rooijen

Tony is a very well known whisky ambassador in The Netherlands. He just might be the most famous one. I’ve met him several times and even though I had never been to one of his tasting, he’s always up for a chat, or a prank.

He comes across as a bit of a joker, but apparently when it gets to the whisky his talking about the jesting part is quickly left behind and a true passion bubbles up.

This Glenfiddich is a mix of 20 casks selected by a lot of brand ambassadors from a preselected set of casks in the warehouses. Tony selected a bourbon cask, but there’s also port, sherry and possibly others (the website is down at the time of writing).

Sniff:
Less sweet but more intense than the Tullamore DEW, with more vanilla. A lot of different scents, because the lot of different casks. Some fruit, some oak, some spices and herbs. Cloves, black pepper.

Sip:
Gentle on the palate, but with more sweetness than I expected. Slightly chemical, like wine gums, with fruit candy and some spices. Cloves, cinnamon, bark, black pepper.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit sharper than the palate. Quite long with some dryness towards the end. Sweetness from honey and wine gums.

Slightly too mixed up and therefore a bit lacking in specific character. I wonder if all these wonderful casks they selected weren’t wasted on something like a mix of all of them. However, with Glenfiddich these would have never become available as single casks regardless.

Tony was really passionate with his description of how this whisky came into being, some information on the distillery and the region. Even though the whisky isn’t really for me, it was a joy listening to it explained while tasting it!

82/100


Tullibardine 15, 43% – Jock Shaw

Sniff:
Honeycomb, butterscotch, rather sweet and pastry like. After a while there is some straw like dryness, with a hint of oak.

Sip:
Dry with a slightly glue-y hint. Some fruit, with honey, caramel, honeycomb. Hay and grass, slightly floral with dried flowers.

Swallow:
The finish takes the dried flowers further, with a bit of weeds, straw, hay. Slightly ‘rotten’. Pastry like.

Not overly complex, but a step up from what I know from the distillery. I like that for their first 15 year old in a long while they’ve opted for a pure whisky. By that I mean that it’s not some ridiculous wine casks to obfuscate what the distillery is all about.

Having said that, Tullibardine is a bit of a disregarded whisky and they still have some ways to go to redeem themselves.

Jock then. He’s an awesome little fella, with no pretense and a lot of humor, often directed at himself. He brings that all to the presentation, with lots of information about the whisky, the distillery, but also lots of fun anecdotes. If there’s ever a change to participate in one of his tastings, I cannot recommend it enough.

83/100


Craigellachie 13, 2006-2020, 54.6% – Erik Molenaar

Nowadays it is quite rare to find Erik not peddling his Wagging Finger products. While there are good and a whisky should be in the make, this was not about his own distillery. He also imports Golden Cask, one of the brands of ‘The House of Macduff’. A rather unknown brand in The Netherlands, but I’ve had some good drams from them at festivals.

Sniff:
Pineapple, apple, pear, dry coconut mats. Some oak, and after a while it’s get very grassy, with a slightly coastal note (which is strange).

Sip:
Quite some pepper and alcohol on the arrival. Slightly green with hints of grass, black pepper, potato chips, pineapple, apple, pear. Yellow fruit galore!

Swallow:
The finish follows up on the fruity notes. Dry with a hint of minerals. Iron, basalt.

Fantastic fruitiness, but could do with some more ageing. It’s still a bit young. However, more aging adds the risk of this getting more hints of vanilla. I have absolutely no complaints of this whisky.

Erik did a fine job talking about his history with the brand and the whiskies. He took some time explaining where Craigellachie usually ends up (in Dewar’s blends) and how an independent bottler works. Good to have an indie bottling in a tasting like this too!

86/100


Talisker Distiller’s Edition, 10yo, 45.8% – Dennis Mulder

I remember Dennis mostly for giving me my first dram of Brora ever, at a whisky festival in Vlissingen over a decade ago. Back then, a dram of the 30 year old cost € 6. That’s how long ago that was.

Interestingly, this whisky was labeled as ‘Breath of Skye’, like it is some Adelphi bottling. Apparently that has to do with some legal bullcrap about this not being an official sample and therefore cannot bear the official name. Of course, during the tasting that took all of three seconds to be cleared up.

Sniff:
A bonfire with some straw, twigs, eucalyptus and a certain coastal smoke. Cracker black pepper, marram grass. A tad thin, with some more sweetness than the regular 10yo. Some menthol like smoke.

Sip:
The palate has some peppery sharpness. Cracked black pepper, salt sea air, a sugary sweetness. Strangely, quite a focus on the alcohol. There’s sherry, but not overly so.

Swallow:
The finish is dry and a lot more intense than I expected. Almost all the sweetness is gone and that’s a savior for this dram. It’s not all gone, but there is a charcoal harshness, which works.

A drinking whisky, and then it makes sense. As a tasting whisky it’s a bit harsh and unrefined. Also interestingly, you notice it’s a lot sweeter and rather different from the regular 10 year old, but I did miss something in the sherry finish. That didn’t really shine, strangely.

82/100


Spey 5yo, 2014-2019, for the Benelux, 57.1% – Frank Handgraaf

Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Speyside distillery. That’s harsh, but so far I’ve not come across (m)any whiskies from there that were interesting enough to remember. I *think* there was one in a Whisky Import Nederland release a few years ago, but even that one was a bit overly sherry, much like this one.

Frank has been with WIN for a few years now and also was present at the Adelphi tasting two weeks ago. He’s an opinionated guy, which I like, even if I disagree with him. It made for an interesting whisky to taste, and to hear their selection process behind it.

Sniff:
A massive hit of sherry, but very modern with ‘sherry infused casks’ instead of actual long matured sherry casks. Lots of dark dried fruits. Slightly bitter with some spices.

Sip:
The palate continues the bitterness, with lots of almonds, plum stones, date stones, cracked black pepper. Rather sharp, with lots of chili pepper. It doesn’t let up after a while.

Swallow:
The finish goes back to that oily, insanely sherried notes. Too much for me, and it pushes the spirit completely into oblivion.

A very drinkable drink, but it could be any distillery. Too sherried, which is strange. It might be interesting after some more tries…

81/100


Concluding, the best whisky of the evening was quite obviously the Craigellachie. However, this last Spey whisky was also rather interesting. Not particularly good, but I would not mind trying it again, because it was so weird. There’s so much sherry that you get a very freaky fruity whisky, mostly cask driven stuff.

I wouldn’t mind going through a larger sample of that, and considered bottle sharing it. But with everything that’s been coming in lately, I have to lay low for a month or two. Or three.

In general, the tasting was mostly aimed at slightly more novice aficionados, I think. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. It was good to see all these ambassadors catching up and joking about virtually everything. A fun night was had by all!

Posted in Craigellachie, Glenfiddich, Speyside, Talisker, Tullamore DEW, Tullibardine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bunnahabhain 1989-2018, 28yo, 42% – King’s Court Whisky Society

This whisky, which is technically undisclosed and named as ‘From the northernmost distillery on Islay’ is, of course, a Bunnahabhain. The entire fact that it’s from the late eighties and unpeated made that clear without any further thought.

I got sent the sample last week by Nils Reinaerts, who has been a member since forever. I joined the club for a little while back when I moved to Krommenie. However, with Haarlem being relative close (except when trying to get there without a car) I cancelled my membership after two years of not joining any activities.

Anyway, late eighties Bunnahabhain, from a first fill sherry cask should be good, right? I’ve had a few in the past that were well worth their money. Of course, that money has increased over the years and this bottle now sets you back € 215. Compared to some other releases that’s not too bad, but it’s not exactly cheap either.

Oh, on a side note, the low ABV of 42% is still cask strength. It must have been some porous staves in that cask.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
It starts with a good combination of cask and grain. Quite a lot of barley, straw but also some fruit. Old, drying oranges, apricot. The sherry adds some spices too, I’m getting clove and cinnamon.

Sip:
The palate is rather dry with a lot of fruit and grain again. Quite some oak, more than on the nose. Soft oak notes, with some complexity from the sherry. Dried apricots, nuts and baking spices. Slightly earthy later on.

Swallow:
The finish is suddenly a lot more fruity, with grainy notes in the form a rather not-sweet pound cake. Slightly buttery, with a earthy and salty note.

Well, this is quite cracker. It’s exactly what you hope Bunnahabhain from this age to be. Fruity and slightly dry, with a good balance between really good spirit, and a, luckily, not too active cask.

I like the fruity notes that aren’t too prominent, and not too sweet. The barley is still prominent. A very, very good pick!

90/100

Bunnahabhain 28yo, 10/1989 – 07/2018, 1st Fill Sherry butt 23003, 42%. Bottled by King’s Court Whisky Society. Available from Best of Whiskies for € 215

Sample kindly provided by Nils Reinaerts of KCWS.

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Adelphi / Whisky Import Nederland Virtual Tasting

Last Friday I participated in the first virtual tasting for Adelphi and Whisky Import Nederland. The tasting was hosted by the Dutch importer and joined by Alex Bruce and Connal Mackenzie from Adelphi.

We tried five different drams, four ‘whiskies’ and one armagnac. Whiskies is between quotes since one of them was technically still a spirit, at just two years old.

Let’s do tasting notes first!

The Glover, 5th batch, 4yo, 54.7%

We started with the most recent batch of The Glover. This whisky is only four years old and consists of two casks of 6 year old Chichibu, and two casks of 4 year old Ardnamurchan. One of the Ardnamurchan casks is peated, so a whiff of smoke is bound to be there.

Sniff:
Lots of dry grain, with notes of barley. Pretty light with hints of oak, straw. Dried apple, apple peels, pear peels. Sponge cake too.

Sip:
At first it is quite smooth and gentle, but it builds with some heat from the alcohol. Hints of apple, pear, straw, barley and oak. Slightly coastal with a touch of salinity.

Swallow:
The finish shows a bit more of the spirit, without neglecting the few years in oak it had. Warming and smooth, with a touch of vanilla.

Throughout it is the tiniest whisp of smoke. Supposedly there’s a lot of lemon and citrus in there, but I can’t find it. Maybe some lemon pith on the palate.

Not overly complex, but it tastes much more mature than expected from a four year old. The biggest problem this whisky has is that it costs € 170. Technically you can’t taste price, but for a five year old, it’s ridiculous.

86/100


Ardnamurchan 2017-2019, 2yo, 1st Fill Sherry casks, 57.4%

One of the Ardnamurchan releases Adelphi has been doing for the last few years. It’s very young but does contain some actual whisky. The cask make-up is quite complex, but they’re trying to blend towards something that’s like their aimed-for product.

Sniff:
Smooth spirit, with lots of sherry cask influence. Lots of dried fruits, some baking spices. Very cakey, Christmas cake, raisings, angelfood. More earthy than smoky. Slightly meaty like cured ham.

Sip:
The peat is much more clear on the palate, as well as the youth and the sharpness. Still quite a lot of sherry with dried fruit. Plums, dates, raisins. A slight bitterness like raisin twigs, date stones. That meaty note is here too, hammy.

Swallow:
The finish shows a bit too much sherry, with loads of dried fruit. Luckily, a few seconds later the smoke, earth and feinty spirit. Some charcoal, even.

While this is very young, once again the casks make themselves known and it tastes much more mature than just two years old. Going by this sample, Ardnamurchan is a distillery to keep an eye on when their first official release will be coming out later this year!

86/100


Bas Armagnac France 1994- Scotland 2020, 25yo, 55.1%, AM1/20

Sniff:
Not even too typical for a fruit distillate. Lots of wood, with some fruits. Quite rich on the floral side. Certainly some glue. Some mint, later on.

Sip:
The palate is very gentle, after the Ardnamurchan, with lots of dry, old oak. The glue comes through next, with hints of perfume. Creme Brulee, for a bit. After a while the fruity spirit starts coming through. Fermenting grapes.

Swallow:
The finish is much more typical for Armagnac with lots of fruit, fruit spirit, fermenting grapes, and quite some glue.

The one non-whisky in the tasting. It’s a bit of a strange armagnac. As in, it’s quite gentle compared to the whiskies surrounding it, but it didn’t taste like most 25 year old armagnacs I’ve had. There certainly quite a lot of wood influence but it’s not as dominant as I expected.

It’s rather complex with lots of directions it goes in, but in the end I found the glue notes and rather heavy pot-pourri a bit too much for me. Once again, this comes in at the very high price of € 190. I’m not entirely sure how that is justified. In France, even older armagnacs like this are a lot cheaper.

85/100


Linkwood 2008-2020, 11yo, First Fill Oloroso Hogshead, 54.7%

Sniff:
You have to fork bits of this into your nose, that is how massive and solid this is. Beef and marinade, with candied orange, walnuts, dates and plums and raisins. Super rich.

Sip:
The palate starts of with chili peppers and lots of oak. Lots of dried dark fruits with heaps of ‘sea banquet’, milk chocolate and mocha.

Swallow:
The finish is quite hot, with a decent afterburner. Meat and marinade, with certain umami notes.

There’s no balance to this. It’s interesting for sherry heads, but there’s no Linkwood left over. There’s no spirit, no ‘beeriness’, which I normally associate with Linkwood. It’s one of those whiskies that I’d initially rate highly, but would get bored with quite quickly.

87/100


Caol Ila 2007-2020, 13yo, First Fill Oloroso Hogshead, 50.8%

Sniff:
The barbecue-y style of Caol Ila! Not for everyone, but I like it. Diesel smoke, soot, charcoal. Some iodine smokiness, kippers, umami.

Sip:
Cigars, bbq pork belly, charring marinade, hot and cold at the same time.

Swallow:
The finish suddenly shows leather and diesel smoke, with lots of furniture polish and charry pork.

As with the Linkwood, there’s not much balance here, but I think Caol Ila can handle that much better. The solid sooty smokiness fights back a little bit and shows the style of the distillery at least a little bit, through the sherry that has almost overtaken the entire dram.

This is quite a good and enjoyable dram, and a solid end to the evening!

87/100


I was especially impressed by the Ardnamurchan. In style I think it goes a bit towards what Benromach is doing, and I love that distillery. This is very promising for future releases. The Glover was rather impressive too, for just five years old.

However, reviewing this tasting, a few nights after it has happened leaves me with some strange impressions. First of all, the event itself was pretty awesome, with lots of fun anecdotes and stories by the Adelphi guys.

It wasn’t as interactive as I’d hoped, but with 50 people in a Zoom call, that might be impossible without it turning into a shouting match.

Then there’s the price of the bottles. Adelphi has always sat at a slightly higher price point than its competitors, but that always translated into better whisky. It was worth it. I think now, the prices have increased more rapidly than they should have, and I don’t think the quality level has risen with it.

It’s all nice and dandy to have a very solid five year old blended malt whisky in your inventory, but that should never cost € 170. I don’t even think it should cost half that. The same goes for the Armagnac.

The level of quality doesn’t match the price, which once again proves that tasting before buying is a very clever thing to do. Apparently I’m a deviant in thinking this since all bottles had sold out before the tasting even started.

Posted in - Armagnac, - Blended Malt, Ardnamurchan, Caol Ila, Chichibu, Linkwood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ben Nevis 23, 1996-2020, 46.1% – WhiskyNerds

As with practically any 1996 Ben Nevis, and any WhiskyNerds bottling, you’re in for a treat. Now when these two forces combine, expectations get incredibly high.

I recently received this samples from Floris and Bram, the WhiskyNerds themselves, and I was able to secure a bottle with a little bit of help from ‘De Whiskykoning‘. Quite a few of them are sold through ballots, since there are only 75 bottles of this stuff, and at least ten times as many people want it.

My bottle has been shared and it took all of five minutes to fill up, so there’s no more where that came from either.

As far as I know, this is from the same batch as the recently released The Whisky Agency bottling (not reviewed yet, but had I a drop and it’s gorgeous). Strangely, those 75 bottles are either a split cask, or it happens to be a cask that was rather leaky. With the ABV being only 46.1% the last bit would not be impossible.

Of course, I asked this question (two minutes ago) and the answer is yes on the split cask. However, even to the WhiskyNerds it is as of yet unknown who owns the rest. Keep your eyes out for cask 954 from 1996, if you want…

Before diving into this sample, my hope is that it’s more fruity than the Whisky-Doris sherry cask, since there the cask had a bit too much influence compared to the normally fruity spirit. That one was very, very good too, but I prefer bourbon casks.

Sniff:
It’s quite spirit driven, but the cask has added notes of straw and white oak. It’s quite dry, but has notes of dried apple peels, apple cores and grape twigs. There are quite some hints of things visible around the distillery: moss, slate, heather. After a while it gets slightly sweeter (but still, this is not a sweet whisky) with hints of white grapes, and some floral notes.

Sip:
The palate is, not unexpected, very gentle. Some tingling hints of black pepper, but further there’s oak and heather. Apples, pears, grapes, and straw. The floral notes and the minerals are more subdued here. After a while the black pepper starts building a bit more. A whiff of mint and star fruit when I let it sit for a few minutes.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more fruity and a bit richer. More hints of oak and straw, with dried apple and heather again. I am getting moss and dried flowers too. Apples, unripe pears, fresh leaves.

It’s a very different whisky to what I was expecting. Much more gentle, and more ‘Fort William’-like, and not as fruity as I would have guessed. That is absolutely not a bad thing, since it is a very classical whisky with lots of gentle, old fashioned flavors.

It is absolutely a winner, but one to start a night with, instead of one to end it with. The spirit is king in this whisky and after a few other drams I would guess this is too gentle to stand-up, or at least it doesn’t shine to its fullest.

An awesome pick, and I’ll gladly go through more of this, with my part of the bottle-share!

91/100

Ben Nevis 1996-2020, 23yo, Bourbon Hogshead 954, 46.1%.

A sample was kindly sent to my by the WhiskyNerds. The bottles never hit the shelf, since they sold out instantly. It used to clock in at € 200.

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Recalibrating my own sample usage

Yesterday I was out on the hunt for a new car. This has nothing to do with whisky except that I got near Rotterdam and picked up some bottles from Whiskybase. After that I drove to Den Bosch to visit Whiskyslijterij De Koning for another pair of bottles and quite some samples, for two online tastings. That still has nothing to do with what I want to write about here.

What it triggered, however, was that I finally had some time to myself, and after about half an hour you find the peace and quiet to do some thinking. Go where the mind takes you, so to say. Without trying to sound too ‘new age’, here’s where my mind took me:

This blogging thing is confusing my priorities in whisky.

Yet more bottle-shares…

Why?

Because if I would want my blog to be more relevant, I have to blog about whiskies that are relevant. And that generally means new stuff, or ridiculously old stuff. Generally, I do the bit in the middle.

However, if I want to blog about new stuff, I find that I would have to review samples right away. Right when they come in, preferably very soon after they’re released. With the commercial samples that I sometimes get, that’s not a problem since they’re generally about 2 to 5 centiliters and easy to finish in one sitting.

But, with all these weeks at home, no commute and generally not much time spent elsewhere, I’ve come to do (too?) many bottle shares. What I realized is that when I review a sample, even if I have 10 centiliters to go through, the sample loses its value after writing the review.

A few months worth of caps.

This, of course, is a mindset and not an actual issue, but still. I’ve found that oftentimes, after penning down my tasting notes I just drink the rest of the sample like it’s a bottom shelf blend. I still enjoy it a lot, but I don’t cherish it.

The result of this weird mindset of mine is that some reviews I write here actually cost about € 25, when that’s the price of the sample. This is something I should change.

Especially since I don’t generally care about the hits my blog gets too much. I’m not marketing it, and I’m certainly not monetizing it. I started this whole charade from a desire to keep track of what I’m tasting and hopefully protect someone out there from buying shit whisky if I happen to find one.

Of course, this nonsense is fueled by a desire to not have a hundred samples lying around, and actually have some space left in the house for, you know, kids and such. But, I’ve noticed that I sometimes barely remember drinking something amazing, except for when I was writing the tasting notes. Where did the other 7 centiliters of that sample go?

This is a bit of an odd moment to realize this, with about nineteen of my own bottle-shares pending, and yet to be reviewed. Also, there’s a few more coming up in the next month or so. Add to that that I have about 30-ish samples for online whisky tastings to go through, and some 30 or so samples from earlier purchases that just sit there.

The revelation/worry I had about devaluating samples like this was triggered by tonight’s Adelphi / Whisky Import Nederland tasting. I’m in that and I am looking forward to it, but I reserved a set of samples before proplery enquiring about the price.

When I found out the set would be € 70 I was quite shocked, but I considered Adelphi’s premium price bracket and the fact that they’ve got some amazing bottles, I was slightly soothed. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be 30+ year old stuff, but rather younger stuff, with the youngest being 2 years old spirit from their own Ardnamurchan Distillery.

The price was justified by the samples being 5 centiliters. For a tasting. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I will NOT be drinking 25 centiliters of whisky in a tasting. Or any event. (You wouldn’t be, Sjoerd, there 5cl of Armagnac and 5cl of not-yet-whisky in there…)

Thank God I knew a guy who wanted half of the samples so we could split the price. Else I’d be drinking most of these samples in a late night Youtube session where I learn how to build a canoe out of Legos and chewing gum. Or something else you end up watching because of some inexplicable algorithm.

What to do about it? First of all, screw the hits I get on a daily basis. I shouldn’t care about this, since it doesn’t matter for this blog. Second of all, accept that samples are going to take up space. Third, drink the stuff, but appreciate it properly. Take some time away from computers and phones and TVs.

This last one is a bit of a weird one since I also appreciate my booze most when writing about it, and forcing myself to appreciate and assess it properly. Oh, I’m never going to get out of this, am I?

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Croftengea 15, 2005-2020, 49.3% – Michiel Wigman

Michiel Wigman, for those of you that don’t know the man, is a very famous Dutch whisky collector. He’s been one of the founders of ‘Dutch Whisky Connection‘ and is lovingly known as ‘Mr. Springbank’ to whisky fanatics across the globe.

If you’ve ever been to a whisky festival in The Netherlands or Germany, you’ve probably seen his stand filled to the brim with the mose fantastic old bottles, varying from a few Euro per centiliter, to sometimes five tenners for a drop of liquid gold.

Every time my and my in-laws go the the Hielander Whisky Festival in Alkmaar, we always agree to ‘end up’ at his stand. However, over the years, ending up has changed from ‘the last half hour’ to at least an hour and a half.

Anyway, it’s safe to say I know to trust the man and his palate. Only one dram of the dozens and dozens I’ve bought from him was disappointing (an Old Guns blend from the 1970s).

One thing changed in early 2020, though: There suddenly were bottlings of casks selected by Michiel Wigman. Of course, I had already spent all my money on random stuff I now don’t even remember, so it had to be a bottle-share. By the time I had arranged that, the ‘Secret Highland’ had sold out and I only got a sizeable share of the Teaninich 19.

I didn’t want to miss out on future releases, so I signed up for the participation programme, and last week two new bottles were delivered: A ‘Secret Speyside’ from 1993, and this 15 year old Croftengea. Peated Loch Lomond, from someone like Michiel Wigman. It’s short to say I was surprised. My experiences with anything from Loch Lomond (except a few Inchmurrins, also bottled by friends) has been quite the let down. Often the spirit is watery without much flavor to it.

And now, the man with, maybe, the palate I respect most, selects a cask from exactly that distillery. Might my prejudice be wrong?

Sniff:
The peat is very timid for a 15 year old, heavily peated whisky, with mostly earthy aromas. Briny, dried sea weed, a beach bonfire. There’s a hint of goat’s cheese, some unfamiliar spiciness and star fruit. Rather crisp, with hay and menthol.

Sip:
The palate is gentle, and sits just under 50% (my sweet spot, I think). There’s a hint of vanilla, with earthy peat and some coastal flavors behind it. A slightly cheese like flavor again, not unlike pecorino. That sharpness, with quite a lot of salinity. Eel grass, sand. Quite beach-y.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more highland like, with more oak and more fiery peat. Bonfire and a hint of charcoal. Barley ears, white oak and nice, salty smoke.

I didn’t really know what to expect, but I think this is a whisky that tastes a bit more mature than I expected. It’s not unlike 18-ish year old Talisker in style, and since that’s something I quite like, I’m a happy camper.

It’s quite complex, with the combination of coastal style with highland influences (or the other way around). Very enjoyable indeed! And a good pick by Mr. Wigman!

I’m very much looking forward to what’s to come!

Available through the Dutch Whisky Connection webshop for € 120

88/100

Posted in Croftengea, Loch Lomond | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment