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.
Extremely sweet on the nose, but upon closer inspection there’s not a lot of things happening. Slightly dry, a little bit papery.
The palate is surprisingly rich. There’s a little bit of chili heat, with some sweet fruits, tropical. Mango and chili peppers, syrupy sweetness.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Tullibardine 15, 43% – Jock Shaw
Honeycomb, butterscotch, rather sweet and pastry like. After a while there is some straw like dryness, with a hint of oak.
Dry with a slightly glue-y hint. Some fruit, with honey, caramel, honeycomb. Hay and grass, slightly floral with dried flowers.
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.
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.
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).
Quite some pepper and alcohol on the arrival. Slightly green with hints of grass, black pepper, potato chips, pineapple, apple, pear. Yellow fruit galore!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!