Speyside Region 1973-2016, 43yo, 49.2% – The Whisky Agency

The series this whisky is in is called ‘Good Vibes’. Generally that quite correct as to what I’m getting when having a dram of 1970s whisky.

The whisky was distilled at an undisclosed Speyside distillery, which generally means Glenfarclas, but we can’t be 100% sure. Add to that the rather stellar reputation The Whisky Agency has and you’re good to go!

When this one came out I was undecided between the 1975 and this one at just two years older. In the end I picked the Fino Sherry Butt from 1975, but Teun was kind enough to give me a sample of this one.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
The first thing I notice is that there’s a pretty, ever so slightly salty sherry hint on the nose. Some white fruits too, dragonfruit and white grapes, I think. After that the ‘older’ hints start coming through. Leather, oak, bread and barley. Quite complex with more sweet fruit too, I’m guessing guava and grapes.

Sip:
The palate is very intense, without being all encompassing. Lots of fruit, with leather and bread. Grapes, dragonfruit, cactus, lemon and/or lime. Some creamy and salty notes as well.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit drying with lots of fruit again. White fruits and sponge cake. It’s lasts for quite a while too.

Such an awesome dram that ticks a lot of boxes in just the right way. The complexity, although it’s mostly fruit and oak. The intensity without being a punch in the face.

It’s simply awesome. Literally everything works for me and the only way it could have scored higher, I think, is when it would have had some of that old Brora waxiness, but that’s just wishing for the moon…

93/100

Speyside 1973-2016, 43yo, “Good Vibes”, 49.2% – The Whisky Agency.

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Tomintoul Tlàth, 40%

Tomintoul is a brand of whisky describing itself as ‘The Gentle Dram’. Under that moniker they have released Tlàth, which is Gaelic and means ‘gentle’. So, this whisky is a gentle dram under gentle drams.

When they released this last year the folks of the Highland distillery asked if I was interested in getting a sample for reviewing, which I was. Especially since I’ve not reviewed that many Tomintouls over the years. They’re not overly prolific, and there aren’t many bottlers overdoing it with Tomintoul either.

The whisky has matured solely in bourbon casks, probably second fill. If my guess means anything.

tomintoul-tlath-whiskySniff:
On the nose there’s a lot of moss and malt. Some icing sugar and some green notes. Very gentle, as expected. There’s not a bit of tingling at all.

Sip:
The palate is incredibly gentle too, with no oomph upon arrival. Barley and a bit of oak, with the green hints of moss and ferns. Simple syrup and a tinge of black pepper.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more dry with a nice flavor of malted barley.

From my perspective, a whisky that’s overly gentle often gets a bit boring too. In this case that’s not entirely the case. While this whisky is very gentle and it won’t work as a second dram of the evening.

Regarding the flavor, it’s actually quite nice with a good combination of oaky and malty flavors. When I picture Tomintoul I think of temperate forests with a lot of damp soil and ferns and green trees. This is exactly how this whisky tastes, which means it’s incredibly well made as a representation of the brand. Kudos there.

Having said that, it is a whisky aimed at novice drinkers who are still wrapping their taste buds around higher ABV drinks. A more experienced taster will not get as much satisfaction out of this as from some other drams.

Great price though!

80/100

Tomintoul Tlàth, 40%. Available from Master of Malt for £ 26.17

Thanks to Tomintoul for the sample! I quite enjoyed it!

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Uisge Beatha Taigh, 13 year old Irish Whiskey, 2001-2014, 60% – Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis

Uisge Beatha Taigh is a brand created by Jurgen van de Wiele of Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis in Belgium. I’ve met the guy a couple of times, both as a guest on the Whiskyfair in Germany, or manning a stall at various whisky festivals.

I’ve come to know the guy as a man with great taste in whiskies with some good recommendations up his sleeve. He recommended me a sample of the best whisky I tried at the Hielander Whisky Festival (a 1982 Clynelish bottled by Silver Seal) and sold me a bottle of 1988 Macallan after talking about how shit the brand had become in recent years (also by Silver Seal…).

Anyway, he also bottles the occassional cask of whisky he sources (by Dewar Rattray). The first one was a 25 year old Ardbeg that was miles out of my league, financially. The second one I tried in Alkmaar in 2014, and comes from an Irish distillery that’s not named. I tried it, the next day I ordered a bottle. Especially since it’s also quite affordable for these highly popular whiskeys from the Emerald Isle.

99895-normalSniff:
The nose is gently fruity and some barley. Pineapple, but also some chalky notes. Mango, papaya and white pepper.

Sip:
Initially this doesn’t feel like a 60% ABV whiskey, but there is some build-up in alcohol based heat. It never reaches the expected level though. Chalky, dusty notes. Pineapple, mango and white pepper. Late the heat shows itself some more and there are some notes of oak.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly less sharp, and focuses more on warmth instead of heat. Also slightly less fruity, and more focus on barley. Oak and fruity notes.

I’ve had some better Irish whiskeys, but also a lot worse ones. As in, sometimes these whiskeys are chemically sweet and they can taste a bit of plastic winegum bags. This one doesn’t have that, but it also doesn’t taste solely of straw, barley and oak.

So, I generally love this dram, and I quite happily finished my bottle. A bottle of this was also bought by my father in law, so there’s quite a lot of love going around for it. Good stuff, and contrary to a lot of good bottlings, there’s still some of them available.

88/100

Uisge Beatha Taigh, 13 year old Irish Whiskey, 2001-2014, cask 9787, 60%, Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis. Available for 81 euros.

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Heaven Hill 2001-2016, Islay Cask Finish, 53.8% – Malts of Scotland

Malts of Scotland have released quite a few Heaven Hills over the last couple of years. I know there was a sherry cask finish, a regular one and this Islay cask finish. I think there also was a port finished one, but I skipped that one. I expected that one to be a bit too sweet for me.

This Islay cask one was a bit of a no brainer for me since I generally like Heaven Hill’s bourbons, I know Malts of Scotland to be a very good bottler, and my bourbon stock was running low.

Also, a 15 year old one is quite an oldie for bourbon, and if you buy an American bottling, this kind of stuff is ridiculously expensive. Somehow, this one went for € 120, which is quite acceptable in the current whisky climate.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Sweet corn at first, and quite a rich nose. Oak and a light trace of smoke. The smoke will probably slip you by if you don’t know you have to look for it. Smooth and slightly drying. Some nuts and some red fruits.

Sip:
Sweet and dry on the palate, and rich. Slightly coarse, but in a good and drying way. The dryness increases with some swimming. Strong, but not sharp. Some earthy peat notes, but almost no smoke.

Swallow:
The finish is rich and dry, with a bit more sharpness than before. Some heat from the alcohol and oak, the latter of which is quite well represented.

As expected with an older bourbon, the oak is quite ‘present’. To say the least. This is not something I dislike, but it might not be for everyone. The smoky influence of the Islay cask has been very gently applied. It is noticeable, but you have to know what to look for. If you think it’s a regular bourbon, you’ll miss it.

So, not an overly complex bourbon, with a very, very gentle smoky influence. Still, quite a tasty dram and if you want to try an older bourbon, this is an acceptably priced one. Not really cheap though.

86/100

Heaven Hill 2001-2016, 15yo, Islay Cask Finish, 53.8%, Malts of Scotland. Available from Van Zuylen for € 120

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Bowmore 16, 1998-2015, ‘Seaside Smoke’, 55.9% – SMWS

The previous review of an SMWS whisky was that weird Glen Moray from a gin cask. I didn’t really care for that one. Let’s try and see if this Bowmore from a regular bourbon cask suits me better.

As with Glen Moray, the SMWS normally bottles stunning Bowmore. This made me quite interested in a sample of this one, and as with yesterday’s Caol Ila, I brought it on the train with me as a warm up for the Winter Whisky Tasting at De Whiskykoning.

I have to admit that, with the exception of bottlings from the 1980s, Bowmore is one of my favorite distilleries. They have done some wine cask experiments that I don’t really care for, but generally they’re an all-round Islay distillery. Regular bourbon and sherry matured whiskies work well, and they’re also able to do those drams in overdrive like the Devil’s Casks.

Luckily, their dirtier side is coming back with some bottlings from the nineties. Let’s see where this one sits.

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Image from BensWhisky.com

Sniff:
The smoke is very gentle, but clearly present. After that there’s a lot of ripe fruit and a nice, not-too-heavy sweetness. Apple, grapes, passionfruit. A light acidity that makes this a rather crisp dram. Some icing sugar as well. Wow!

Sip:
The palate is quite sharp, which isn’t quite surprising at almost 56% ABV. Lots of flavors of candied fruit, with dried passionfruit and the acidity that goes with that. Mango, pineapple. A light smokiness again.

Swallow:
On the finish the light smoke, a hint of alcohol and fruit go a little bit more towards the perfumy bottlings of the 1980s, but nowhere near as full frontal as those (thank god). Some hints of oak too.

Well, this one just ticks all the boxes, doesn’t it? There’s fruit, smoke, oak. It’s complex and not too strong on the palate. A really good whisky if you ask me. Especially the slightly acidic fruitiness is what Bowmore does very well, and this bottling fits that bill. I don’t often get passionfruit notes from a whisky, but when I do I am a happy camper (generally).

This one has it all, in my book. If it had a bit of that farmy notes that Bowmores sometimes have, this would have gone overboard. But still, if you see a bottle of this somewhere, I highly recommend it!

89/100

Bowmore 16, 1998-2015, Refill Ex-bourbon hogshead, 55.9%, SMWS 3.241 ‘Seaside Smoke’

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Caol Ila 25, 1991-2016, 50.2% – Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection

A while ago I took the train to Den Bosch for a whisky tasting there, and with the other two guys I was on that train we decided to have a dram underway. This was interesting since it was rush hour and it was properly crammed. Luckily we could get on the train before it got really crowded and we could sit.

I brought this 25 year old Caol Ila from Cadenhead’s of which I picked up a sample in the months before then. About two centiliters were held back for reviewing from home, which is what I did during another part of the weekend.

Caol Ila is in a bit of a strange spot at the moment. Their older bottlings are awesome, especially when from the eighties. The official 25 year old is quite bland for such an old whisky from such an interesting distillery. Luckily, regarding those much older whiskies, Caol Ila is a relatively affordable whisky to buy. Compared to many other distillery’s outputs, the 198x bottlings go for a lot less than, let’s say, Bowmore.

 

Sniff:
There’s a really thick, heavy smoke on the nose. But also some oily, creamy scents like olive oil and whipped cream. A bit of engine grease comes after, as well as a bit of a machine-like, diesel-y smoke. Straw and hay with some herbs. White grapes and rotten leaves.

 

Sip:
At first the whisky is quite smooth. It sharpens quickly with hints of oak and spices. Also quite dry and light with notes of barley and smoke. White grapes, rotten leaves and forest soil.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more default for Caol Ila with some oak, smoke and that oily/creamy thing happening again. Quite long and dry.

Strangely, I did not like this whisky. While all the markers are there to make for a great dram, not unlike the Caol Ila that ended the ‘winter tasting’ in Den Bosch that night, with the Mezcal like smokiness. However, in this case the kind of oiliness, and the kind of creaminess just didn’t work for me.

Also, there are so many flavors in this dram that it started to feel a bit cluttered. A bit inconsistent. The crisp fruitiness with the heavy forest soil, for example. It just didn’t work.

So, while the tasting notes would make me want this dram, the general feel I have after drinking it says I don’t.

83/100

Caol Ila 25, 1991-2016, Bourbon Hogshead, 50.2%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection

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Glen Moray 13, ‘The Dunnage Bakehouse’, ex-gin cask, 58.3% – SMWS

A while ago, on ‘The Spirits Business’ there was an announcement for a bottling by the SMWS that was drawn from a gin cask. As far as I (and they) know that’s a first, and that peaked my interest. I decided to buy a bottle and bottle-share it. Mostly because I expected it to be more interesting than delicious.

I kind of like gin, and I also have tried some cask aged gins, to varying success. For this whisky to mature in a gin cask, the gin must have been in there first. My guess is that the gin went into a new oak cask which had previously not been used for any other booze.

Also, there is no information on whether this is a finished whisky, or one that matured on a gin cask. However, based on how this tastes and the way gin matures (quickly, in a few months) I assume that this was a finish of a year or so.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Very spirity with a lot of spiciness that reminds me of some rye whiskies I’ve had, like Old Potrero from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Slightly grassy but mostly just very spirity. Lots of new oak and some lemon like scents.

Sip:
The palate is sharp and tingling, with lots of bitterness and spices. Sweet citrus, that even adds to the sharpness. Slightly meaty too, somehow, with leafy herbs, new make spirit and a bit of oak.

Swallow:
The spirit is even more pronounced on the finish, with that crisp hint of gin (like the citrus notes from before). Some oak, with sweet sevillle oranges. Not very long.

I think to properly review this there has to be a bit of contemplation.

Since this is a first ever, from a gin cask, I think there’s a certain innovative value to this which I think is a good thing. Mostly because I think Scotch is a very stagnant industry and while that can be a good thing, it’s not used as such.

By that I mean that if the stagnation (in regards to innovation) would lead to better whiskies to the same recipe and production methods, that would be nice. And while the whisky produced is better for distillers (higher yield, more consistency), it does tend to make the experience slightly more bland for us consumers. We actually prefer the more rugged whiskies of yonder year, with more randomness and distillery character.

Unfortunately, the stagnation leads (from my perspective) to more marketing efforts trying to sell the same stuff in different guises, and whisky being less distinctive and individual than it could be. Also there’s far more generalization happening with almost all dsitillers switching to the same type of barley, the same type of yeast, malt from the same maltings, and so on.

This bit of innovation is therefore welcomed since it does something that is not done before, instead of recreating something that’s old hat.

However (there’s always a ‘however’), I doubt gin casks is the way to go. What has happened here, by assumption, is a new oak cask in which gin has sat to mature for up to a year or so.

This does two things to the whisky (and SMWS generally bottles stellar Glen Moray):

First, you undo a bit of the maturation, where alcohol and spirit notes get mellowed by time and oak and oxidation, by reintroducing it to an almost new spirit, like gin.

Second, because the oak is so new, the oak influence is much more rough and sharp than an ex-bourbon or ex-sherry cask.

So, a bit of maturation is undone and the whisky is therefore, I think, not as good as it could be. Although I find the gin influence very interesting, I’m not quite swayed with the result. This whisky is one to taste, maybe taste twice, and then move on. I, for one, am glad I don’t have the entire bottle for myself.

79/100 for flavor. 86/100 for novelty.

Glen Moray 13, ex-gin cask, 58.3%, SMWS 35.178 ‘The Dunnage Bakehouse’. Sold out.

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