Burnt Ends, Blended Whisk(e)y, 45%

I managed to get a sample of this through NR, who I used to be in a whisky club with, some years ago. So thanks where thanks is due!

This thing is called Burnt Ends to tie in with the popularity of barbecue, with a lot of whisk(e)y folks. I put the ‘e’ between brackets since this is in part American whiskey, and scotch single malt whisky.

With an old fashioned label suggesting some devilish liquid that would go well with a pulled pork bap. Not unlike barbecue sauce. I saw this pop up a while ago and wanted to try it, however, Master of Malt makes and sells it, and they’re not shipping to The Netherlands.

Therefore, I didn’t get a bottle but did get a sample, and I think I’m quite glad with that.

Sniff:
On the nose it has the typical nose of rye whiskey with lots of spices and grain. Mint, lots of rye grains, ginger, freshly cut oak. The single malt scotch only comes through with a lot of effort. There’s something fruity in the background not unlike apple sauce and peach.

Sip:
The palate shows the combination of whiskies more clearly. Lots of rye, but also lots of other grains. Spicy and sweet, with some fresh oak, peach, sweet apple and pear. The spiciness comes through in ginger, cinnamon and menthol.

Swallow:
The finish has something Campari like, with the massively spicy notes, with quite some bitterness. The fruitiness is obscured by that, and there still is a lot of grain and oak.

This stuff is an interesting take and I can see this going down well with some grilled pork indeed. However, as a ‘tasting’ whisky, this is a bit clunky and too raw. If I had bought a bottle of this, I would have finished it on the camping with some mates and Pulled Pork.

75/100

Burnt Ends, blended small batch whiskey, 45%. Available from Master of Malt for £ 30 for 50cl

Posted in - American Whiskey, - Blended Whisky, - Rye Whiskey | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Waterford Bannow Island and Ballykilcavan

Waterford has been sometime coming. The entire production of the distillery, and the three years wait until the whisky was released was broadcasted through various social media channels, magazines and other media on a level that is unheard of.

Normally when a new distillery is announced, the planning permission, construction commencement and first new make is made public, but the rest is generally done on the down-low. Even high profile distillery rebuilds like Port Ellen and Brora are done without much fanfare, since the announcement.

Waterford was not such a low key happening. From where I stand this is because it started with Mark Reynier starting Bruichladdich, and that being sold with his vote being against the sale. Then he went on with the search for terroir in whisky, and how Bruichladdich was run before the sale helped with making his voice very well known in the world of whisky.

I’m not going into the rather unique production process at Waterford distillery, and the construction of it, because Billy did a pretty good job at that already.

Normally I don’t read tasting notes of whiskies I’m about to review, since I don’t want to be influenced by them before I post my own findings. But, with the anticipation that happened around Waterford, it was kind of hard to be on the internet without reading anything about it since the bottles were released.

I do want to get one thing off my chest regarding these two initial regular releases (there’s another one available only in Ireland, and some other farms are indicated on the website). I cannot state how much I dislike the cask usage in these whiskies.

The entire concept of Waterford’s Terroir, the single farm origin, can only shine by giving them as little make-up as possible. If you want to be able to compare between one farm and the other, you have to have the same parameters except the farm. Much like BrewDog did years ago with their single hop IPAs, for example.

However, the Bannow Island matured in American oak, American virgin oak, French oak and sweet wine casks. The Ballykilcavan is almost similar with American oak, French oak and the Vin Doux Naturel casks. So no virgin oak in the second.

Personally, and I have to admit that I say this with no practical knowledge on maturation at all, I would have gone for just American oak casks. Just to have this as straight forward as possible.


Waterford 3 years old, Ballykilcavan, 50%

Sniff:
Sweet, with some wine like influence. Lots of fresh barley and greenmalt. Some oak but not a lot, quite some fruit too. Grapes, pear, pear skin.

Sip:
A tad sharper than expected, with lots of dry barley. The sweetness kicks in right after. Cracked black pepper and wine gums. Some banana.

Swallow:
The finish is sweet, grainy and green. Some fruit, wine gums, pepper, banana. Not too long though

The wine is quite pronounced on this one and I find it makes for a bit more convoluted dram than I would have preferred. Having said that, for a three year old whisky this is already very good. Also, you probably need younger whisky if you want to really taste the barley anyway.

Off to a pretty good start, but I don’t regret not having an entire bottle to myself.

85/100

All this whiskey’s specifics are here.


Waterford 3 years old, Bannow Island, 50%

Sniff:
Massive notes of barley, quite weighty. A hint of glue, crisp alcohol. A deeper noseful gives pineapple, grass, apple cores.

Sip:
The palate is quite like fresh crusty bread. Oven baked sesame seeds, barley. Quite crisp, but not too green. Gentle oak.

Swallow:
The finish shows that green note, with a hint of glue again. Not very long, but with barley sugar and some wine gums.

I have the feeling the barley shines more in this whiskey than in the other one. An absolutely lovely dram at a ridiculously young age. If this is the level of quality we can come to expect from Waterford, we’re in for a treat the coming years!

The wine casks were a lot more subdued than in the Ballykilcavan, and that’s a good thing. It’s therefor less sweet and gives some more room to the barley.

87/100

All this whiskey’s specifics are here.


My closing thoughts on what Waterford has shown us thusfar, is that they mean business. The Bannow Island is a whisky that is absolutely great for the age, and priced decently, compared to many other new distilleries.

I hope the cask randomness is going to be toned down a little bit without getting to a Bruichladdich-esque idiocy and us punters now being able to see the forest for the trees.

It’s quite miraculous how complex these whiskeys already are, and I think they can get overpowered by wood quickly. Of course, they can be absolutely fantastic at 12 years old or older, but it’ll be another decade before we will know that.

Unfortunately, the popularity of these bottles has not gone unnoticed, and prices have already doubled in the week that they’ve been out…

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Ledaig 25, 1995-2020, 48.5% – The Whisky Agency

It’s been a while since I had anything from The Whisky Agency, but recently I got the opportunity to buy some bottles and I did. I bought the 25 year old Ledaig, and a 23 year old Ben Nevis. The review of the latter one will follow sometime reasonably soon.

Ledaig, as we know by now, is peated Tobermory, and with our current holiday plans for spring next year, I decided to educate myself a little bit in regards to this distillery. Any excuse for a dram, right?

Let’s dive right in.

Sniff:
Lots of coastal notes right away, with the surf rolling in on the beach, marram grass and flotsam. A gentle peat smoke, much less prominent than I expected, even after 25 years in oak. Fresh grass and some minty notes too. Leafy greens, straw, apple and cracked black pepper. Later on I get white grapes too.

Sip:
The palate continues with the black pepper, with a slightly sharp edge. Dry oak, with apple and pear, melon and smoke. Salty smoke, with grass and washed up wood again.

Swallow:
The finish shows a hint of vanilla that I hadn’t noticed before. Syrupy sweet, with apple and pear and oak. Lightly smoky, and slightly less coastal.

It’s become very mellow in the quarter century in a cask, much more so than most other Ledaigs I’ve had over the years. It does show that peated whiskies change quite a bit over their maturation, and it is very much a dram to sit down with. Not just something you quickly chug back for an impression and then move on.

All in all it’s a great dram, with a lot of complexity. Initially I thought it was merely ‘very good’, but a second and third glass proved me wrong and I got more and more enthusiastic about it. A shame my share is already gone!

89/100

Ledaig 1995-2020, 25 years old, Hogshead, 48.5%, The Whisky Agency Spring 2020.

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Vallein Tercinier 53 years old, 1967, 47% – Wu Dram Clan

Again, it seems Wu Dram is forever. Or at least for 53 years now.

I’ve never had much Cognac before. I tried some Armagnacs and my father-in-law had me try some Cognac in the past, but I never got into it.

I generally find it too weak, too focused on smoothness, and because of it being blended most of the time, not having enough variety.

Then comes this stuff. A single cask, from a single house, at cask strength. Consider my interest peaked! I tried bottle-sharing this in my little Facebook group, but I didn’t get enough people enthused to warrant buying a bottle. As you might expect, this isn’t exactly bottom shelf pricing we’re talking about.

Still, compared to whisky, this stuff is almost free. A 53 year old single cask beverage below € 300 is a steal in the world of whisky.

Sniff:
Lots of wood. Both old woody notes, but some hints of fresh oak are still present. Ground bitter almonds and almond paste. Slightly sharper than I expected of something at 47%, but not harsh at all. Blue grapes and some cedar.

Sip:
The palate is also rather intense. Warming with lots of oak. Dry, fruity with grapes and sour cherries. Some hints of bitterness with twigs and almonds.

Swallow:
Again, sour cherries but I also get raspberries and blue grapes. Again there are nutty notes with mostly bitter almonds and almond paste.

Well, I think I should have bought a bottle when it came out after all. This stuff is truly stellar. There is a lot going on without ever feeling out of balance or strange. It’s consistent but consistently great with a lot of interesting flavors. Especially the almonds and sour cherries (which I happen to like a lot) are great.

I tried this with my father-in-law, a benefit of getting a 5cl sample is the ability to share. He also loved it and wrote the tasting notes with me. He didn’t get the sour cherries though.

91/100

Vallein Terciner 53 years old, 1967-2020, 47%, bottled by Wu Dram Clan. Still available through some creative buying from Whiskytempel in Germany, at little under € 350.

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Blended Scotch Whisky, 20yo, 1998-2019, 44.6% – Cadenhead’s Club

The Cadenhead’s Club is a club I became aware of some two or three years ago. It’s similar to the Springbank Society (no surprise there, them being run from the same building, by the same owner), with a £ 50 lifetime membership.

The benefits were some bottlings here and there, and a heads up of new Cadenhead bottlings. Of course there was the option to order them before anyone else could. By about a week or so.

Pretty decent benefits, especially when you take in account that the club bottlings were ridiculously cheap. 25 year old Glen Grant for 75 quid, anyone?

However, Cadenhead only recently opened a proper web shop. Before that you had to write back that you wanted a bottle and hope the prices wasn’t too high. Any inquiry beforehand could cause you to be too late for some really popular ones.

Image from Whiskybase

Secondly, ever since Mark Watt left some time ago, it’s become very, very quiet. Of course, Corona hasn’t helped in the last couple of months, but it’s been some time since the last club bottling, or outturn email. I’m not sure if there’s any causality between these things, but I did notice the change in behaviour from Cadenhead.

Anyway, I had this blended, which comes from one sherry butt and one sherry hogshead sitting around and last weekend I decided it was a good time to empty it.

Sniff:
Lots of fruit and lots of malt. Peaches, oranges, barley sugar, slightly fatty, somehow.

Sip:
Fruity at first, but quickly becomes focused on the malt. Lots of dry grains, the oiliness that comes with it. Some fruit remains. Apricots, orange and the oiliness of its skin.

Swallow:
Lots more oak on the finish. Lots more straight forward sherry. Fruit, some baking spices and barley.

This is very much a drinking whisky. Easy going, not overly complex, but tasty enough to stand out from a lot of others, especially at the price point. I believe it cost 45 pounds when it came out, and that’s ridiculously cheap for a 20 year old whisky however you put it.

Good stuff, not stellar. A purchase that made me happy with some decent value for money. Which is rare, nowadays.

87/100

Cadenhead’s Club Blended Scotch Whisky, 20 years old, 1998-2019, 44.6%. No longer available, of course…

Posted in - Blended Whisky | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in - Blended Whisky, Benrinnes, Blair Athol, Caol Ila, Linkwood, Strathmill | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

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