Laphroaig 20, 1995-2015, 58.4% – SMWS (Essence of Islay)

Yet another completely random sample that I most likely got from a Bottle Share. As you can see by the year of bottling in the title, this has been collecting dust for about four years, with me completely forgetting about it.

What also didn’t help is that I find most recent Laphroaigs rather lackluster, with them being fairly generic. Yet another peated whisky that I can forget about right after tasting it. Of course, this point of view makes me miss out on some really good ones too. However, with the current price point of Laphroaig, at least the properly aged ones, it’s quite the risk to randomly buy one…

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very gently smoky with soft pears and wild peaches. Don’t get me wrong, it’s smoky, but not the ‘punch in your face’ style that’s so prevalent. A fruity sweetness, with a fattiness of wax coats.

Sip:
Drier than expected, but also slightly less sharp. Wood-, alcohol-, and chili heat. With the fruity backdrop and a bit of coastal notes. Brine and sand, mostly. Again, those waxcoats, or canvas.

Swallow:
The finish is merely warming, but leaves a burn on your tongue for a while. Wintry, with pears, stewed apples, wild peaches, porridge and smoke.

Well, contrary to the introduction of most Laphroaigs being only so-so, this is a cracker. An absolutely great whisky with lots of depth and lots of character. The fruitiness and far more gentle peat smoke than I’m used to makes for a much more interesting whisky that is a lot more drinkable than its 58.4% makes you expect.

Essence of Islay seems about right, as far as SMWS naming goes…

90/100

Laphroaig 1995-2015, 20yo, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 58.4%, SMWS, 29.171 ‘Essence of Islay’

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Kavalan Solist 2010-2016, B101217032A, 58.6%

Ah, who doesn’t remember B101217032A? It’s one of those iconic cask numbers that makes most whisky lovers drool.

But no, it doesn’t really resonate, these eleven characters which most likely only mean something to the distillery’s barcode scanner. It also makes navigating the Kavalan Solist range pretty hard, apart from bottlings for certain outlets. “That Kavalan bottled for shop X” is far easier to remember.

Now, onwards to the whisky. I have a hard time with Kavalan. As in, most are really good, but I find that a country like Taiwan, which manufactors a lot of low end goods for Europe makes 5 year old whiskies that warrant € 100 price tags.

Also, and I know I’m a bit contrary in this, I quickly tire of Kavalan. As in, when I drink a glass of it, I really enjoy it, but when I have a second it gets a bit predictable. I’ve had this over the past couple of years with more of these bottle-shared bottles. Luckily, when bottle-sharing, you only have 10cl.

This one then…

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very rich and fruity with lots of banana, banana candy, mango and papaya. It gets drier after a little while, but there’s also more vanilla coming through. It’s very sweet with lots of pastry like notes.

Sip:
It starts quite gentle, but builds up in intensity, strength and dryness. It’s quite sweet, fruity and pastry like with the cask leading the parade. Lots of vanilla and bourbon-cask-based-fruits like banana, papaya and the like.

Swallow:
It’s a bit sharper on the way down than I expected, even though I knew it was almost 60% ABV. The fruitiness remains as does the dryness of the palate. Lots of straw, pineapple and banana notes. Some apricot jam and freshly cut oak.

As with most of the Kavalans I’ve had over the years, I find this whisky very good, but a bit too cask driven. If you want a lot of ‘maturity’ in a few years, you need active casks, and they sure know how to pick them. I think that is why I tire quickly of them.

So, lots of cask influence, lots of fruit, lots of flavors, but there’s not much to be discovered in glass two or three.

87/100

Kavalan Solist, 5yo, 2010-2016, Ex-Bourbon cask B101217032A, 58.6%

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Heaven Hill 2001-2015, Sherry Hogshead, 48.9% – Malts of Scotland

Apart from the fact that this is neither a malt, nor from Scotland, it’s still a pretty interesting twist on things. A pretty well matured Bourbon (at least 13 years old, but matured in a sherry hogshead! That is something normally reserved for single malts and blends, but not for bourbons!

This immediately caught my fancy when it came out in 2015, even though I was slightly apprehensive about the exact thing that made it stand out: the sherry cask maturation. Bourbon tends to be rather sweet, and a lot of sherry matured whiskies are too. Would it double up on the sweetness or would something else be created?

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
At first the sweetness of the bourbon hits, and then there’s a little extra layer of a candy like fruitiness. It almost reminds me of Kriek beer, or Rodenbach red ale. After that, it get’s very strangely beef stock like.

Sip:
The palate is gentle. Sweet and savory at the same time. Fruity, again like the red cherry ales. Oak, corn syrup, some autumn leaves, but all with that strange layer of sherry sweetness, with all its weirdness.

Swallow:
The finish is a little bit dry, compared to before. The savoriness is a bit less too. So, dry with both sherry and bourbon, which is something new to my palate. Still, it’s weird, but in a very interesting way.

Interesting is the word that best describes this whiskey. It’s not necessarily something I would care for enough to buy another bottle, even though it could be entirely different. In this case, the sherry and the bourbon don’t really mix. The sweetness is inflated, but not unbearinly so. It’s just that there’s that savory layer which can work in single malt, bourbon AND sherry, but here it just doesn’t.

Today’s soup might indeed be whiskey with H2O croutons…

75/100

Heaven Hill 2001-2015, Sherry Hogshead 15041, 48.9%

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Springbank 12, Burgundy Cask, 53.5%

We’re venturing into dangerous territory. Y’all know I absolutely worship Springbank for more or less everything they do. However, every now and the a wine cask release pops up and it’s getting sketchy.

Mostly, because in general wine cask usage is a bit sketchy (some exceptions exist), and it’s not always that it works with Springbank’s spirit. Let’s see how this one turned out.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Funky with lots of wine cask. The funkiness is typical for Springbank, with hessian, attic mold and old grain. Fruity and woody, spices and a small whiff of smoke.

Sip:
Strong and pretty sharp, before fruitiness and some sweetness kick in. Chili heat, lots of rancio and oak.

Swallow:
A warming finish that is suddenly a bit meaty, with lots of oak, and moldy fruit. That weird sweetness…

That weird sweetness that’s not normally there in Springbank whiskies tells me that this is a bottling I’m glad I didn’t buy. I would have probably finished it at some point but with everything else the distillery releases, I guess I’d rather have any other Springbank.

Having said that, though, it’s not exactly a bad whisky. It’s just not overly interesting and has some weird flavors that don’t work well for me.

82/100

Springbank 12, 1st Fill Burgundy Casks, 2003-2016, 53.5%

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Johnnie Walker Black Label, 1970s bottling, 40%

20190915_135522About a decade ago, you could buy random bottles like this in auction just to spread the shipping costs over more than one bottle. I looked it up in the backlog of the auction site where I got this one from, and I paid € 21 for the bottle.

Twentyone euros for a bottle of blended whisky bottled in the seventies. Which put distillation of this in the early to mid-sixties. For that money I’m in!

I think I’ve only had one older Black Label and that was bottled in 1958 and was approaching Brora like levels of intensity and flavor. Short to say, I loved that!

20190915_135515Sniff:
Lots of that very old blend character. Dunnage warehouses, with wet soil and cement, mold and fungus. Old barley, thick porridge, some oak.

Sip:
Quite intense without being sharp. Some sweetness from grains and alcohol. Very consistent with the nose. Quite rich on grains, wood and those hessian, moldy, leathery flavors.

Swallow:
A very smooth and warming finish. Quite long with a bit of dryness of the grain and oak.

Better than the average contemporary single malt. So much depth, and character. It’s not as good as the 1958 one, but it’s almost 20 years newer so I didn’t expect that either. This is a cracking whisky and there’s not much stuff bottled today that reaches the uniqueness of this, nor the intensity of it (except when bottled at high strength, but that’s not what I mean).

I might have to get to checking auctions again, and see if stuff like this is still around…

90/100

Johnnie Walker Black Label, bottled in the (mid?) seventies, 40%

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Glen Scotia 15yo, 2001, Mashman’s Reserve, 58.2% – Distillery Only

As with most Distillery Only bottlings, you actually have to go to the distillery to pick it up. Which is yet another good reason to visit such a little piece of heaven on earth.

I picked this one up at an ‘after hours‘ tour during our trip to Scotland in April 2018, together with a Sherry Cask that had just been released too (which I apparently still have to review).

This one was bottled to celebrate the mashman that works the distillery. An amazing guy which we were lucky enough to meet. A farmer as well with, according to the stories, a very good stamina with little to no need for sleep. Callum told us he runs the farm as well as the mashing at the distillery, even in spring when the sheep are having their lambs and he gets only about four hours of sleep. Anyway, great chap, let’s celebrate by drinking whisky!

20190914_195005Sniff:
Sweet with very malt driven scents. Lots of barley, porridge, bread, without being one-dimensional. Twigs, oak, some vanilla. In the background I get some lemon balm, thyme, focaccia.

Sip:
The palate is rather intense, but there’s a line of sweetness that keeps it in check. Pastry-like with lots of bread, pastry cream, some herbs as well. Quite some white oak, focaccia or ciabatta, flour and the burnt bits. Thyme, rosemary, olive oil.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more sweet and vanilla like. It goes back to the porridge flavors, more so than the bread from before. Slightly cornflake like too.

So, this is an interesting whisky to say the least. I’m nearing the end of my bottle which has influenced the palate a little bit. I still love it, but it was better half a bottle ago.

I do like that there’s those bready flavors in there, but rather different than I get most of the times. The olive oil and focaccia with some herbs gives a nice twist on a familiar theme. Add to that the quality spirit of Glen Scotia and you’ve got a happy camper in me.

The only drawback is that this 15 year old whisky set me back over a hundred quid, which is a bit steep, if you ask me.

89/100

Glen Scotia 2001-2017, 15yo, First Fill Bourbon Barrel 626, 58.2%, Mashman’s Reserve

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Kilchoman Inaugural Release, 2009, 3yo, 46%

Little under a decade ago I was about to move to Krommenie, and my wife went on a short holiday with her sister. Which resulted in me finally finding the time to drive to Sint Oedenrode and visit The Old Pipe with my friends TT.

I had been collecting some bottles that needed picking up and paying for. This one, honestly, was one of the least interesting ones, even though it was the very first ‘whisky’ from Kilchoman ever to be tried. The others were OB Brora’s from 1974, and two 1981 Rosebanks from the Rare Malts series. This one got lost in that violence.

But, after a long while I finally opened my bottle and only this week I finished it. The bottle has long been recycled, but I still had a sample of it lying around which, as with these samples of the last few weeks, I had completely forgotten.

Since 2009 I’ve tried numerous Kilchomans, which isn’t hard since the distillery is rather prolific, with loads of strange casks coming from it. Of course, the sherry and bourbon casks are the best (imho), but there’s a market for anything from Islay, and they need the cash flow, so who can blame them.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Quite smoky, with lots of barley and brine. Very coastal, and very Islay-like. Lots of straw and dry grass, lots of sand, lots of salinity.

Sip:
The palate is not too sharp, but you do taste the youthfulness of this first release of Kilchoman. Very grassy, lowlands-like, but with a significant amount of peatsmoke. So, typical for Islay, I’d say. The smoke is a little bit sharp, but there’s barley and salinity to give it a bit of depth.

Swallow:
The finish has a flavor of “a dying bonfire on a beach”. So, charcoal, salt, brine, sand, oak, fire and smoke.

It’s pretty promising (and we’ve seen by now this is not wrong), but still too young and not with enough depth. I would never have guessed this was a sherry finish, because even that doesn’t come through.

Strangely, even for a promising like this, it is only promising since it is only three years old. Apart from that it’s rather underwhelming. Currently only available through the secondary market, for about € 200, I honestly would have expected a higher price tag since it’s a first, of a whole line of new distilleries.

80/100

Kilchoman 2006-2009, 3yo, Inaugural Release, Oloroso Sherry Finish, 46%

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