Craigellachie 21, 1994-2015, Sauternes Wine Cask Finish, 53.1% – Cadenhead

During a club tasting on a very sunny September afternoon we got to talking about wine casks and how they are generally quite crap. The host decided to give me a sample of a whisky that’s an exception to that rule which, apparently, all others present had already tasted at some point.

It turned out to be this 21 year old Craigellachie by Cadenhead, from their ‘Wood Range’. Interesting, since Craigellachie isn’t one of those distilleries that immediately comes to mind when buying something this random.

Like the Tomatin, this is a whisky that was finished in a wine cask, it being transferred in February of 2006. A nine year finish is not something to scoff at, but on the other hand it’s not a Cabernet Sauvignon so it might not be overpowered. Sauternes is used far more often for finishing that red wine casks, after all.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

The nose of the whisky is heavy and rich right away. Quite sharp, and it doesn’t immediately indicate ‘wine’ to me. Big and cloying fruit flavors and some oak.

The palate is sharp and rich. Fruity with hints of chocolate. Lots of alcohol, some pepper and oak. Stewed fruits.

The finish indicates the wine casks used most clearly with the fruitiness being a bit lighter and there being a slightly spicy edge. There’s some sharp alcohol edges, and it lasts quite long.

Well, point proven. This is a nice dram! There’s a good balance between the strong booze, the fruit from the wine cask and the oak itself. On the finish a bit of spiciness is added which only proves this further. It might indicate that I prefer Sauternes casks over Cab-Sauvignon casks, which doesn’t really surprise me.


Craigellachie 21, 1994-2015, Sauternes Wine Cask Finish, 53.1%, Cadenhead’s Wood Range. Initially priced at 92 euros.

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Tomatin 1995-2016, 21yo, Oloroso Sherry Finish, 46%

The third bottling from this year’s Limited Editions is also the oldest one. This wee baby was ‘only’ finished in Oloroso casks for three years after spending almost two decades in bourbon casks.

The story from Scott Adamson was that they bottled it now, because after tasting a cask sample they were worried that the sherry cask would start overpowering the whisky all together.

I don’t mind a big sherry hit in a whisky, but it’s not every day that a sherry finish of three years is on the brink of overpowering such a well aged whisky. As with the rum cask description I was immediately intrigued by this whisky and really wanted to try a sample.

I’ll tell you it didn’t last long!

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

On the nose I get a big sherry sweetness of raisins, dates and plums. Mostly fresh fruit in the beginning, but more dried fruit notes after a while. The oak isn’t overly noticeable, but there is a hint of graphite. Not too much though.

The palate is a bit more spicy than the nose is. Slightly peppery and sweet. The fruit and oak come hit a bit later. Quite juicy but with raisins and other dried fruits. Some dates too.

The finish is fruity and spicy again. Lots of sherry, and indeed on the brink of overpowering the gentle spirit. A lot more oak here.

This one is gorgeous. I think they were right in saving this from another couple of  years in sherry in which it would have become oversherried. Now it’s a lovely combination of gentle whisky with some spicy notes, and the sherry adds a lot of fruitiness.

As it happens, this one ticks all my boxes. I love fruity sherry, but not in a way that it’s the only thing you can taste and that is what is happening here exactly. Very well done, and not unexpectedly, this one was the first to go.


Tomatin 21yo, 16/06/1995 – 01/08/2016, 21yo, Oloroso Sherry Finish, 46%. Available for 130 euros at Dramtime.

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Tomatin 2002-2016, 14yo, Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish, 46%

The second Tomatin of the three Limited Editions of 2016 is a spirit that matured in refill bourbon and was transferred to Cabernet Sauvignon casks afterwards. You can see it by its color, since it’s got a lovely red hue to it.

The finish isn’t something done in a few months, which the guys at Tomatin view as something you do because you want to save a bad cask. This one was finished for five years since March 1st, 2011. The cask was made from oak harvested in the Allier forest in France, but whether it’s made from French Oak or something else is unknown. French Oak is not just ‘oak from France’, but a different species from American Oak (Quercus Robur and Quercus Alba).

Generally, I’m not a huge fan of wine cask maturation or finishing. Fortified wine is another story. Generally when some massive red wine is used, it tends to overpower a spirit, but this is by no means a given. Which means I keep trying them and occasionally find a good one (Auchentoshan Bordeaux Cask, Octomore Orpheus).

The nose is really big, heavy and atypically sweet. Lots of wine cask influence (not necessarily the same as wine influence). The wet oak and dirt floors. Old fruit, with red grapes and blackberries. Cherries on syrup.

The palate is rich and quite intense. It’s slightly drying with flavors of oak and wine. It gets drier as you let it swim for a bit. There’s an earthy hint of dusty dirt. Dried red fruits with some baking spices like cinnamon and pepper.

The finish shows a bit more of the spirit and is slightly more spicy than the palate was, with the fruit being almost gone entirely.

There are wine finishes that are in complete harmony with the spirit, and there are wine finishes that completely overpower the whisky they’re trying to enhance. Now I’ve found one that sits nicely in the middle. The spirit is still detectable, but mostly on the finish. The wine isn’t all encompassing and complex enough to add some nice flavors of not just fruit and wine.

Still, though, I’m not a huge fan. I think the wine is slightly too rich for the delicateness of Tomatin’s spirit, even though the spirit is still there. Mind, it’s not bad per se, and I can think of a few people who’d love a bottling like this. It’s just not for me.


Tomatin 2002-2016, 14yo, Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish, 46%. Available from Dramtime for 80 euros

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Tomatin 2007-2016, 9yo, Rum Cask, 46%

In the most recent edition of our club’s magazine ‘De Kiln’ we published a piece written by Scott Adamson of Tomatin distillery. We asked him what their views on ‘weird’ cask usage is, and the finishing of whisky in non-traditional casks after a certain amount of time.

What we got was a very interesting piece about selecting the most recent Limited Editions (rum cask, cabernet sauvignon cask and a sherry cask). Part of the article was a nice bit of opinionated writing about quick finishes to mask inferior whisky. No name calling so that graces him. In short, it was a great article. Loved it and thanks again to Scott!

What it also did was enthuse me about those three bottlings so I decided a bottle share was in order. I evened out the three ‘lower’ strength releases with our club’s bottling and a bottle of a 10 year old sherry cask, cask strength bottling for the Dutch market. Reviews of those will follow, but we’ll start with the Limited Editions first.

The first one I’m reviewing is a nine year old rum cask, which has matured for it’s full length of aging in a rum cask. A nice addition to the story was that, apparently, Tomatin used to use rum casks a lot in the 1920s, so in a way this bottling has some historical significance too.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

On the nose there’s a certain sweetness right away. A light oak and grain scent too. Sugary, with some straw a touch of sharpness. Some ‘Nizza’ biscuits (coconut biscuit, that is). It’s smooth but more complex than I initially expected. A light spirit with some grassy influences.

The palate is slightly spirity. Light and sweet with a grassy hint. Some coconut and shortbread again. More hay than straw this time, with some sugary sweetness. White pepper and a light hint of oak.

The finish is smooth and slightly spicy. Grass, hints of new make spirit.

This all is quite Tomatin like. Some of the younger bottlings out there, the grassy, spirity bit is recognizable. Even at just nine years old (thanks for not making this a NAS whisky) this is a surprisingly complex whisky, which I actually quite like. The rum cask usage makes this dram a bit more sweet and a bit more sugary than I’m used to from the distillery, but it’s not too sweet.

So, in short, a surprisingly good whisky, and a very acceptable price too (some 45 to 50 euros depending on where you get it). A good addition to the range and one I gladly finish my sample of!


Tomatin 2007-2016, 9yo, Caribbean Rum Barrels, 46%. Available for 50 euros from Dramtime.

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Invergordon 1973-2016, 43yo, 52.4% – Liquid Art with Beacon Spirits

A while ago I reviewed a German cherry brandy from Beacon Spirits. In that same batch of samples I got a 1973 Invergordon. A bottler suddenly bottling a 1973 Invergordon is no longer a surprise since there have been several over the last couple of months.

This sudden slew of ancient grain whiskies (ethanol, wood and time, as Serge called it) was recently topped off by Whiskybroker (AFAIK the supplier of all these casks) released two for his own label at just £ 90 a pop. In this day and age it’s a steal!

Not all of them were to my liking. The first one I tried came from Whiskybase and I enjoyed that one, although I was not unhappy with only having 10 cl. I think by this time I should say that I’m not overjoyed by grain whisky like quite a lot of others. I recognize the quality, but the combination of flavors is not something I crave in a whisky.

Anyway, on last week’s short holiday I decided to bring a few samples, and this one was in the handful I grabbed from my stash.

The typical grainy sweetness is present and very prominent. It’s not too prominent, mind. A light graininess, some oak. I also get a whiff of paint stripper, but it’s so light that it’s actually quite acceptable. Some coconut and a whiff of something chemical.

The palate is a bit more fierce than I expected after such a gentle nose. Sweet with flavors of wine gums, pear drops and canned pear. Some oak and white pepper, coconut, the chemical hint of thinner and a bit of a dry structure.

The finish is sweet, quite sharp and dry. Still rich though, with lighter hints of wine gums and pear drops. Oak, and a slightly warming feeling.

Well, in this case it might be so that the hint of paint stripper, or thinner, or whatever it is, is actually something that increases the complexity of an otherwise rather simple dram. It being simple is not a negative connotation, but something that is typical of grain whiskies in my book.

I think it’s a bit too sweet for my palate, but that’s mostly why I generally like grain whiskies a bit less than single malts, for example. This one, apart from the sweetness, is actually a quite lovely dram. I think the Belgians at Liquid Art and Beacon Spirits have picked a good cask from the bunch!


Invergordon 1973-2016, 43yo, 52.4% – Liquid Art with Beacon Spirits. Still available from Liquid Art for only € 165

Thanks to Bert Dexters of Beacon Spirits for the sample!

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Beers of September

This month can only be summarized by superlatives like ‘Ridiculous’, ‘Decadent’ and ‘Superfluous’. What made this month like that was a trip to a brewery, having a few nice beers with my mate Jason, and Wouter in Amsterdam, a camping trip with my in-laws and a last minute trip to Borefts Beer Festival by Brouwerij De Molen.

If something is organized by an epic brewery like De Molen, you know you’re in for a treat and my first ever trip to Borefts sure lived up to expectations. Below is a list of things tried over the last month.

The total count went over 60 different beers, but some were not had for the first time so I’ll skip those. Especially if they’ve already been on one of my monthly lists.


Framboos & Framblij – Brouwerij De Molen
A fun and fruity raspberry beer. I believe a lot of people didn’t like this one in particular but I thought it quite good. Not the best of the evening, but quite nice.

Wild West Blackthorn Edition 2015 – Brouwerij Alvinne
This nicely herbal sour beer is infused with Blackthorn and while I cannot say whether or not you actually taste that, it sure was a tasty beer!

Kriek van Mortagne – Brouwerij Alvinne
Nice and a fair level of cherry flavor. Not totally overpowered by the fruit though.

Top of the Morning – Brouwerij Kees
An oatmeal coffee stout. A breakfast beer if there ever was one, based on regular breakfast items. Quite good!

Ghost Town – Bakunin Brewing Co.
A slightly acidic porter style beer with some coffee flavors. This is an absolutely lovely beer. Glad to have found it at the festival.

Sverd i Fjell – Lervig
A triple IPA. Big flavors and an ABV that’s out of this world for an IPA. Lovely though

Iconoclast Quad – Lervig
Brett acidity but with the full malty flavor of a quadrupel. One of my favorite beers of the evening, and for a change it’s sort of affordable.

Kriek Ale 2015 – Cascade Brewing Company
A brewery from Oregon making really, really expensive fruit beers (think of almost 40 euros for a 75cl bottle). I was curious, and I was not let down. Big fruity flavors, a great sour backbone. An absolutely stunning brew.

Strawberry 2015 – Cascade Brewing Company
Slightly less stunning than the Kriek, since the strawberries and vanilla beans add a sweetness that I can do without. Still an almost-five-star beer, this.

Others from the festival that I was less impressed with. Still, almost all of them were very good:

  • Roest & Rogge – Brouwerij De Molen (a bit generic)
  • Tsarina Esra Eisbock BA – Brouwerij De Molen (the ABV trumps all)
  • Binkie Claws = Doggie Claws BA – Brouwerij De Molen (a bit generic)
  • Rudeen – Brauhaus Bevog (flat)
  • Kellerbier Ninja – Brauhaus Bevog (just slightly improved lager)
  • Ich Bin Ein Berliner Framboos – Brouwerij Alvinne (not overly impressive)
  • Sour’ire de Mortange Oak Smoked Peaches – Brouwerij Alvinne (initially interesting, but a second sip quickly turns sour, pun intended)
  • Cuvée Sofie Alvino 2015 – Brouwerij Alvinne (not overly impressive)
  • Magic Barrel Project – Brouwerij Kees (a combination of flavors that’s just a bit off)
  • Комендантский час – Bakunin Brewing Co. (too much peppers)
  • Fatamorgana – Omnipollo (not too hoppy)
  • Hypnopompa – Omnipollo (far too sweet)

Stouts and Porters

Barrel Project #04/2016 – Brouwerij Kees
As with most of the Barrel Projects from Brouwerij Kees, I’m not a huge fan. They’re not bad beers, and I love the fact that he’s experimenting, but it just lacks a bit of depth and complexity to keep me occupied. So far, I prefer his IPAs and some others I’ve tried.

3 Bean Stout – Lervig
I bought a couple of these based on some recommendations for Borefts Beer Fest, where they served the barrel aged version. Unfortunately they ran out right in front of me and only 20cl more would have given me a glass of it.
The regular one though, is an epic beer in its own right. The tonka beans really add a unique flavor that I’ve not had in any other beer to date. It’s inspired. The base stout is huge and big flavored, and the use of vanilla and cocoa beans add some depth. Then this all is covered in a big, fat layer of tonka bean weirdness. Epic, epic stuff.

Guinness Draught – Guinness
Not much to say apart from a bottle of ‘Guinness Draught’ (not a clue how that works) is not as bad as I remembered it. It used to be my go-to pub beer, but that’s been some years. This was in a steak house that assured me they served “Beers” (with capital B), but apart from 7 different styles of Heineken and Amstel lager, they only had this and Palm, which are all worse options.

West Indies Porter – Guinness
Guinness showing off that they can do great and far more impressive beers too. Recommended to try at least once, to compare to regular Guinness.

WhenFearsBecomePhobias – White Pony Microbrewery
A Calvados barrel aged beer from the Italian microbrewery. I thought this a huge let down and far less impressive than their ‘S… than ever’ Calvados BA beer (more on that in little under a month).

GROM – Brouwerij Bliksem
Another not so impressive beer, unless you really like liquorice flavors, and bay leaf. Not bad, but just so-so. Luckily, I think it wasn’t overly expensive.

Sunturnbrew 2014 – Nogne O
This might have been my first proper experience with Nogne O (actually with lines through the O’s but I can’t find the right key to do that). A big smoked porter, which just happened to be right up my alley. Tried again a week or two ago and again, I was very impressed. Recommended

Kompaan 39 Bloedbroeder – Brouwerij Kompaan
A big, heavy Imperial Stout infused with port wine. The port made it quite a bit sweeter and it was a nice beer, but somehow I expected more. Apparently I don’t really like port infused beers (like Broeder Jacob’s Double Port).

Tsarina Esra Reserva – Brouwerij De Molen
Tsarina Esra is one of De Molen’s more impressive beers. Which is saying a lot from a brewery like that. It’s huge in every possible way except the size of the bottle (25cl), but it’s enough. A sipper that’ll keep you occupied for a while. Highly recommended.

WRCLW Rye RIS – Browar Stu Mostów
My first Polish beer. I love rye. This one is no exception. A fairly regular (but good) RIS, which is slightly enhanced by the slightly more spicy rye flavors. A good choice from Browar Stu Mostów.


Taronja HoRyezon – Edge Brewing Barcelona
Another rye IPA. This just might be a style I’m diving into when possible. I absolutely love it, and this one is no exception. Great stuff from the American Spaniards.

Valravn – Thornbridge Brewery
I had this once before and when I found myself at the Thornbridge bar in Den Bosch once again, my choice was an easy one. This was available, this it had to be. Great depth, great flavors and just enough out of the box to be really, really interesting. With a nice bit of acidity.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace – Brooklyn Brewery
This is a shit beer. They’ve managed to cram so many lime flavored hops in there that it’s on the brink of tasting exactly like washing-up liquid. Steer clear. Although, you should leave the bottle/glass airing for a while and then it becomes acceptable. Still, that’s not they way of the IPA.

Twister Verbena – Edge Brewing Barcelona
Apparently I don’t like Verbena.

Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin – BrewDog
Oh look, a Rye IPA! And one that’s barrel aged as well. Right up my sleeve. Recommended if you can find it, because it’s friggin’ awesome.

Mosaic Pale Ale – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Of the regular IPAs this month, this is my favorite. Not exactly single hop, if I recall correctly. However, that shouldn’t spoil the fun, since it’s very well made, has a gorgeous label and is just bloody amazing.

#MashTag 2016 – BrewDog
A huge IPA with an ABV of 10.5%. Massive flavor, and really good. Yet, somehow, not one I will remember for long. While I do remember thoroughly enjoying the 2015 edition, I had to look this one up.


Good but nog great

  • Gollem’s Precious IPA – Brouwerij De Musketiers
  • Hop Zij Met Ons – Jopen
  • Vaporizer – Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom
  • Green Bullet IPA – Two Chefs Brewing
  • F*ck De Caravan Staat In De Fik – Brouwerij ‘t Uiltje
  • Den Dorstige Tijger – Ramses Bier

Brouwerij Hoop

I went to visit Brouwerij Hoop last month. It’s a new brewery which only opened in May or so. The guys who run also run Breugem across the street. This scared me a bit since Breugem mostly makes ‘not-so-interesting-beers’. However, Hoop does things a bit better if you ask me.
They run a nice looking building with a lot of seating available, and a closed off area so we could go there with the kids and not fear for them running off in the street. Good stuff! Especially since it’s only a fifteen minute bike ride from my home.

Kaper – Brouwerij Hoop
Their IPA, which is good but not great.

Waterwolf – Brouwerij Hoop
A very acceptable and drinkable saison. I enjoyed this one more than I expected. I love the twist with all the spices in the brew.

Bleke Nelis – Brouwerij Hoop
A pale ale (without the India bit) and my favorite of the afternoon. Enough hops for bitterness, but it wasn’t the only feature. Fruity because of the hops used. Really good!


  • Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale – Boulevard Brewing Co.
    Another saison, yet slightly smoky. Great stuff, especially since you can get it in the supermarket in Holland.
  • Orval 2015 – Brasserie d’Orval
    I’ve aged this for 17 months in the crawl space under my floor, and I think it developed a bit more depth because of it. Although, I might leave others in there for a lot longer.
  • Somerset Wild – The Wild Beer Co.
    A lemonade like beer with lots of lemony sourness. Thoroughly enjoyable and not overly sour. A good entry level sour, I think.
  • Grätzhainer – Freigeist Bierkultur
    The weirdest thing this month. A true German Gose, properly salty (unlike most sour-y Goses out there) made with smoked malt. It’s bacon in a glass, with beer. Enjoyable, but you get tired of it quickly. A one trick pony that’s worth trying once.
  • Coastal Gose – Jopen
    A not very impressive Gose. Not sure what their angle was with this one.
  • Voicemail – Oedipus Brewing
    A dry hopped Scottish Pale Ale. Not a clue what that means, and the beer wasn’t all that impressive either. Bummer.
  • Spontaan Pale – Brouwerij Eanske
    Another entry level sour. A bit wine like, somehow, with the acidity that resembles a sauvignon blanc. Quite good.
  • Nanny State – BrewDog
    I forgot how much flavor this wee baby packs. Actually thoroughly enjoyable, although I don’t see myself drinking multiples of those in a row.
  • Op & Top – Brouwerij De Molen
    An American bitter. Not sure what that means, but like most English bitters, it’s not overly impressive. I had my hopes up, but it didn’t deliver.
  • Zintuki – The Wild Beer Co.
    A blend of sour beers of which one was made with local Somerset apple juice. So some cider like hints were not unexpected. I quite liked this.
  • Dudziars – Profesja
    A Wee Heavy from Poland that took some getting used to. At first it tasted like an unfiltered home brew with lots of yeast sitting in suspension. However, after a couple of sips it started to grow on me and I actually quite liked this one. Still somehow a bit amateuristic.
  • Sangría Sour – Edge Brewing Barcelona
    Yeah. Well. Weird, and not overly interesting. It does exactly what it says it’ll do and somehow I expected more. Won’t return in my fridge.
  • Barley Bomb – Brouwerij De Molen
    Again, it does exactly what you expect it’ll do, and in this case that’s a very good thing. Massive, lots of barley flavors. Big in every way.

    Wee haevy. I chuckled.

Now I have to pick a favorite. In this case that’s almost like picking your favorite child. There have been so many great beers that I almost want to pick one per category, but I think that’s cheating.

In any given month, a lot of the above beers could have been monthly winners. ‘t IJ’s Mosaic IPA, BrewDog’s BA Albina Squid Assassin, Thornbridge’s Valravn, Lervig’s Three Bean Stout or Iconoclast, Cascade’s Kriek, Nogne O’s Sunturnbrew or Bakunin’s Ghost Town.

But, if I have to pick one it’s Lervig’s Three Bean Stout. That just has it all. It’s big, it has lots of depth and it tastes like something I’ve never encountered before. In short, it’s bloody awesome. Now the only thing left is getting some more of them. And all the others in the above list.

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Clynelish 1995-2014, 19yo, 52.7% – Whisky-Fässle

So this post has been long in the making. I started typing out the tasting notes almost a week ago, with the idea to finish it soon after. You know, during some down time at work, or at the latest after coming home again.

Obviously I didn’t, since it’s not last week anymore. Anyway, a sort of random Clynelish I found in my sample stack. I think I got it from buddy TK, but I can’t be sure without doing some investigation, and I don’t really care enough to invest the effort for that.

So, Clynelish then. One of my favorite distilleries in Scotland, and one that was planned to be expanded in 2014 and 2015. Due to a surprising slump in the Chinese economy, some of these projects were cancelled/postponed, and Clynelish was (if I’m not mistaken) one of them.

They are most famous for their waxy and sometimes austere whiskies, which I really enjoy and have done since I ‘discovered’ the distillery years ago.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

The minerality of nineties Clynelish is something that stands out to me from the start. Not as prominent as in some others, but it’s there. Also honey, beeswax, oak and candles (waxine).

The palate is sharp but warming with slate, honey and some more oak. There’s tropical fruit as well, so it’s quite sweet. Soft oak, shortbread and apple crumble.

The finish is a lot more gentle than the palate was, but also dryer and creamier. Some pastry, not a lot of vanilla, soft oak, honey and tarte tatin.

Well, this is a cracking dram. It’s not as austere as most other nineties Clynelishes I’ve tried, but that only gives the waxy notes some room to shine, and it is better for it. The minerals are certainly prominent on the nose, but not so much as in most of the 1997 range I’ve had.

In conclusion I can state that I should pay far more attention to whiskies like this when they come out. It’s been ages since I bought a cracker like this for my own collection, and every time I try something like this I regret that. What a whisky…


Clynelish 1995-2014, 19yo, Hogshead, 52.7%, Whisky-Fässle

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