Music of 2018

Normally I blog about the records I liked best in the week between Christmas and New Year, but this time around I didn’t. Things were insanely busy during these days, and I didn’t get around to sitting down for a longer post for which I can’t just dump a few tasting notes from Google Keep and be done with it.

Also, I didn’t even have the list ready by that time. Now I do, for about three minutes or so. My shortlist was 14 records and while I couldn’t really rank them before without a lot of consideration, I now just picked the ten I liked best and was done with it. Ordering them took another minute or two.

#10: Old Crow Medicine Show – Volunteer

This record came hot on the heels of “50 Years of Blonde on Blonde” I didn’t rank it any higher than tenth. It’s a good record, but it’s a bit too enthusiastic. Almost up to a level that I skip it because I want something a bit more quiet, and a bit more accommodating than ‘everything at 11’.

#9 Tyler Childers – Purgatory

When this was announced I fully expected it to be my number one album of the  year, but it had a massive drawback. It got released a year late in Europe, and because of that nothing on it was new. All tracks were on Youtube before, and a lot of them featured on EPs that came out in 2017. It almost felt like a greatest hits. So, great songs, great record. Just too late.

#8 My Brightest Diamond – A Million and One

My third favorite record of 2014 (I had to look it up) was by Shara Nova. This one came out in November or December, and I gave it a couple of spins right away. Thoroughly enjoyable, even though it didn’t make as big an impact on me as the previous one. Still great tunes, and far more electronic and ‘modern’ than anything else.

#7 Eels – The Deconstruction

A very old fashioned Eels record, compared to the previous few. And an old fashioned Eels record is something to keep an eye on. Quite upbeat even. For me and for Eels.

#6 Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

I loved her previous record which only came out last year. It even took the number one spot back then. The second record is almost as good, which is quite an achievement. It’s a bit different, with a different style to it, and it didn’t have Table for One on it, which I still think is an epic song.

#5 Gretchen Peters – Dancing with the Beast

This record… If you’ve not heard it, go give it a listen. It is a bloody amazing one. All songs are good, and it certainly has that darker mood that I seem to love (no surprise to anyone, I guess). Strangely, it feels like a record made thirty years ago, but with just some contemporary edges to pull it into 2018…

#4 Carter Sampson – Lucky

When the first Carter Sampson record of 2018 hit Spotify I was very happy, until I realized it was yet another record with old songs. Somehow that’s a thing for her/her record label. A few weeks later Lucky was released, and it did not let me down.

I really enjoy these Americana/Country (not sure where one ends and the other begins) records that tell stories about weird peope. The fly-over-state version of Tom Waits, so to say.

#3 Karen Jonas – Butter

I don’t even really know why this one is so high, but I keep replaying this album. It took some getting used to, and it’s rather different than most things I like. It’s a bit more brash, and a bit more fun, maybe.

The surprising combination of Karen’s voice, with how not-so-big she is was surprising, to say the least.

#2 Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains

This was one I was waiting for, and a bit afraid for. It’s been a thing the last couple of years that follow up album are a bit of a letdown. This is not one of them.

It’s a farm-country record, if that’s a thing. Which is not strange since Colter Wall herds cows too, if I’m not mistaken. Also, it makes me want to go to Canada for a road trip. That voice, then. Keep in mind the guy was born in 1995.

In less than two months I’m going to see the guy live too. Very much looking forward to that!

#1 John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness

Another artist I’m going to see live this year! I’m glad I’m able to do so, since he isn’t the youngest anymore!

John Prine released his record early in the  year, after years of not releasing anything and me being completely oblivious to him and his songs. I fixed that this year and have listened to his music a lot, especially this record. I walks the line between addressing issues in the world and his life, and being funny and not serious at all.

His voice is great, especially if you consider his history. His song writing is old fashioned, yet relevant. My favorite record of the year!

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Cadenhead’s bottle-share

Towards the end of last October I did yet another ‘last’ bottle share of the year. The last one because I had been stressing my wallet, and everyone else’s in my sharing group. Of course, that wasn’t true and I did another share right after with Springbank’s Latest Local Barley release.

Ever since I became a member of the Cadenhead’s Club early last year I finally managed to put them on my radar. I knew it was a great bottler for longer, but every time I found some cool bottlings I had flamed through my budget already, or was in such a spot to not be doing any bottle-shares. That finally changed.

What also helped was their presence at Maltstock, where I tried some stunning bottlings from their range. Amongst these was a Paul John whisky from India, and there’s one in this share too, because the first one was amazing.

I planned to do five bottles in the share, but the Laphroaig received less than enthusiasm in the sharing group and pushed the price up too high for some of us, so I didn’t get that in the end. I did manage to get a sample which I’ll review shortly.

This share contained a 25 year old Glen Grant, 24 year old Glenlossie, a 6 year old Paul John and a 9 year old Inchgower. All from Cadenhead’s Single Cask and Small Batch ranges.

Glen Grant 25, 1992-2018, Bourbon Barrel, 50.4%, Cadenhead’s Single Cask

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Sweet bourbon cask, earl grey tea. Some banana, stewed apple with some cinnamon. Quite a bit of vanilla, but also a bit dry. Crumble pastry, candied orange peel.

Sip:
More smooth than expected. Quite some oak, cinnamon. Apple, orange and tea again. Apple chutney, with some spices. Rather dry with oak and wood spices.

Swallow:
A lot more typical cask influence than before. Vanilla, apple, white oak, crumble pastry, custard. Hits of cinnamon and tea.

88/100

Lots of nice flavors, a bit predictable and generic. But tasty and good. The tea note on the nose was a pleasant surprise, although the vanilla throughout this whisky made it a bit too contemporary for a higher rating.


Glenlossie 24, 1993-2018, Bourbon Hogshead, 53.6%, Cadenhead’s Single Cask

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Dry bourbon cask, lots of wood with some crisp fruity notes. Dried lemon and fresh apple. Unripe pear, apple. Somehow, water running over mossy rocks. Mountain streams.

Sip:
Dry and slightly sharp. Dry hessian, dry oak, dry autumn leaves. Apple, pear, lemon and even dried, dusty pineapple cubes. Also, some malty notes.

Swallow:
More malty with some alcohol heat, based on the big sip. A long lasting finish with dried yellow fruits. Apple, pear, pineapple. Some icing sugar.

88/100

I got triggered to buy this based on how amazing the Glenlossie was that FV and I had during their warehouse tasting in April. Luckily, this is in the same vein, but slightly less impressive. I am sure that if rated rationally the other one would be like this one too, except for the fact that I tried that in Campbeltown and it was an amazing trip and that makes me giddy.


Inchgower 9, 2009-2018, Sherry Hogshead, 56.5%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Heavy, leathery sherry. Some baking spices, prunes and dates. Fruit and wood. Slightly waxy behind all the sherry violence.

Sip:
Quite sharp with lots of oak, pepper and a bit more alcohol than I expected. Dry because of the sherry, but with a lot of flavor.

Swallow:
Strong woody flavors, with sherry, spices.

85/100

This wasn’t a very expensive bottle at some 50 pounds or so. It is very much worth that, even though I think the distillery character is a bit overwhelmed by the cask. But high quality Inchgower and a high quality cask. What’s not to love?

 


Paul John 6, 2011-2018, 1 Bourbon Barrel and 1 Bourbon Hogshead, 56.6%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very spicy, with a lot of dry barley and oak. Very concentrated on the nose, not too strong. Lots of wood spices, baking spices, grilled fruits.

Sip:
It’s sharp on the palate. Again, dry and spicy. Lots of baking spices, not sweet at all. Nutmeg, dry clove, hot cinnamon. Quite some oak.

Swallow:
The finish has something very unscottish. Something very spicy. Dry and oaky.

89/100

Damn tasty. Super spicy. Slightly bitter. This is a thrill ride, in a very unique but very delicious way. I had to get used to this before I loved it, but it’s worth getting into. A shame Paul John is getting so expensive, especially these casks that have been in Campbeltown for a year or so.

Wrapping up

So, this was a very fun share. I had some sizeable samples for myself, I believe I ended up with 18cl of each, after all shares had been poured out. Normally I would mind that, because that also means extra money sunk into it. However, in this case I didn’t really mind the bit of extra dough at all, since these whiskies were very, very good.

I can only suggest giving Cadenhead some love, since they deserve it. I guess they love the world of whisky too, since they keep releasing these whiskies, mostly at rather acceptable prices compared to what some other bottlers think they can ask!

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Bowmore Warehousemen’s Selection, 17yo, 1999, 51.3%

When I was on Islay, of course I didn’t just buy a shared bottle of Bunnahabhain Marsala Cask, we also went to Bowmore. We obviously went to Bowmore since we could see the distillery from our cottage, and it’s a great distillery to boot.

At the time they didn’t have a cask out for a handfilled Distillery Only bottling, which was a shame. They did, however, have this Warehousemen’s Selection available. A 17 year old whisky, matured in. This looked very appealing, but that may be the case because I was all giddy about being on Islay and being at Bowmore. I couldn’t remember for the life of me that this was matured in wine casks, as well as sherry and bourbon. I generally don’t like wine casks, and Bowmore’s wine casks have done nothing to change that opinion.

When I found this out, when I printed the label for my share, I was a bit apprehensive about trying it. Not entirely without reason.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Smoke with fruity wood notes. A bit like a burnt cake with red fruits. Almond ‘spijs’, nuts, dark and sugary bread.

Sip:
Quite sharp, with lots of sweet fruit on the arrival. It builds to a lot of chili heat, which gives it some sort of urgency. Red fruits, almonds, very dessert like. But with oak and smoke and barley.

Swallow:
The finish is strangely warm, with little to no typical Bowmore flavors. Lots of red fruits, stewed strawberries, sweet blackberries, maybe even rhubarb.

There’s a certain weirdness that’s not bad, but just weird. It makes it hard to love this whisky. The combination of flavors is a bit off whack, and the fact that the heat on the palate makes me want to finish is quickly is not a good thing.

So, there’s positives, with it being a complex whisky with lots of flavors. And there’s negatives with this being a very weird whisky that I couldn’t really find enjoyable. Bummer.

Apparently, I’m an outlier here, since it gets almost 90 points on Whiskybase, with almost a hundred ratings.

83/100

Bowmore Warehousemen’s Selection, 17yo, 1999, Bourbon & Sherry & Wine casks, 51.3%

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Lagavulin 12, 12th release, 56.1%

At one point, the Lagavulin 12 cask strength, the one that is released annually by Diageo, was going to be the thing I would collect. Every year it’s a top scoring whisky that’s truly amazing for it’s money, and it’s an overseeable amount of bottles you’re collecting. I wanted focus.

However, as the years progressed and I bought the annual bottling, and sometimes an older one through the secondary market, the prices of the first few releases started to go up, with me stopping to check once they reached some € 400 for the first two releases.

What happened in more or less the same period, was that I tried the 12th release next to the 17th release. They were virtually the same. Kudos to Diageo for consistency, utterly boring to collect. A side by side tasting would be the most boring tasting ever.

Then and there I decided to sell most of what I had collected over the years, starting with the once I had twice, and some of the ones that were actually worth something. Shit hit the fan when someone bought 6 of them and PostNL lost the package. I got most of the money back so it all ended up fine, but it took six months, a lot of stress and I still lost over a hundred Euros.

Anyway, that 12th release I tried next to the 17th was nearing its end, so I wrote notes and emptied the bottle. Here we go!

20190112_210033Sniff:
Quite fuel like. A massive smack of alcohol, with loads of smoke, diesel and brine. Some very light fruityness with grapes, unripe pears and apples. A bit of pine.

Sip:
Quite strong and very consistent with the nose. White grapes and unripe pears. Brine and smoke and sea weed. Very much Lagavulin as you’d expect it.

Swallow:
A bit sea wwedy again, lots of brine. Quite vegetal with some floral notes too. Smoky, slightly diesel like, some oak. Grass, brine.

So, all is well in Lagavulin Land. This is a tremendous whisky with everything that you want there. It ticks all the boxes, if you know what you’re looking for in a 12 year old Lagavulin. Quite strong, but with a very coastal and harbor like character. The brine, the sand, the fishing nets, the smoke from the boats’ engines. Gorgeous stuff.

89/100

Lagavulin 12, 12th release, 56.1%. Still available for around € 140 in shops, and € 125 in the secondary market.

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De Whiskykoning’s Bottoms Up 2019

As is tradition for Rob Stevens of De Whiskykoning, he hosted his annual Bottoms Up tasting yesterday. The second Sunday in January is an afternoon to be reckoned with, and this year was no different from before.

Of course, it’s really tricky to blog about this afternoon, since Rob always puts in a lot of curveballs, depending on how much time he has beforehand. And by curveballs I don’t mean an unexpected whisky, but whisky’s swapped between bottles, or sometimes swapped with something else entirely.

A few years ago there was a tail end of ‘Ardbeg Kildalton’, the original from 1980, which turned out to contain Wenneker Jenever that was finished in an Islay cask.

Here’s some pics of what we supposedly had.

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This wasn’t really this. The Winter Storm was somewhere on the table, but I doubt I had it.

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This was nice!

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Hidden in a tiny sample bottle, we ended this quickly after finding it. Such a good dram!

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A bottoms up bottle of which the seal wasn’t broken. Interesting, and not a bad whisky either.

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Also hidden in a sample bottle. A bit strange on the nose, but a very tasty whisky.

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Even though it’s an old bottling, it wasn’t very good. Didn’t finish it.

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This one was also hidden in a different sample bottle. I put the original upside down to finish the last five drops. Stellar stuff.

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Strong, but tasty.

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This wasn’t this either.

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This wasn’t this either. 

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This legendary whisky was in on of the two bottles above and it was epic. Since nobody was looking at it twice, I finished it all.

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This was whisky too. Not very good, but not too bad either.

In between these I got handed a couple glasses from obscured bottles, since JP was trying to try all the ones in tin foil. There was a very tasty Springbank 25 in there, but a lot of them were so-so.

All in all, by the time the tasting was nearing it’s end I was very much done with the amount of different flavors that had been barraging my palate for about two hours. I did have some epic drams that weren’t going to be topped anyway. I think we headed off little before the official end of the tasting, and we weren’t alone.

Pizzas were bought and Magic was played for the rest of the night. In short, an epic Sunday.

Thanks to Rob for inviting us over once again!

Posted in - Blended Malt, - Blended Whisky, - Grain Whisky, Belgian Owl, Bladnoch, Bourbon, Bowmore, Elijah Craig, Finlaggan, Floki, Glen Drummond, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, Longmorn, Port Dundas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kilkerran 11, 2007-2018, Sherry Butt, 58.1% – Cadenhead

I just opened up the stats on this Kilkerran on Whiskybase and it’s currently going for € 162. It was released in July, and back then it was not even € 80. It has already doubled in price. Maybe at some point that used to be shocking, but since we’re in 2019 now and this is a single cask, cask strength, full sherry Kilkerran, it’s not as mental as you’d guess.

I don’t have much else to say except to just get into the fray. It is, after all, a single cask, cask strength, full sherry Kilkerran!

Sniff:
Big sherry, with spices, dried fruits, earthy notes and some very heavy, slightly sulphury notes. I think the ‘pro tasters’ won’t really like this one. Some burnt pork fat, the stuff that sticks to the barbecue grill. Lots of meaty notes. Dates and figs too, all big notes.

20190111_225042.jpgSip:
It’s slightly sharp, but only because it’s not my first whisky of the night. If it was, and I’ve tried, it’s insanely harsh. The fruits are a bit more prominent on the palate compared to the nose. It’s also not as meaty and as heavy as expected. Even though I like these big whiskies, I think that’s a good thing.

Swallow:
The afterburner is quite something in this dram. Even though the palate can be a bit harsh (depending on the prep) this is just hot at first. The flavors, luckily, are big enough to combat the heat with some really big, heavy and feinty notes. Earthy, barbecue char on pork drippings.

This is quite something. It’s a massive dram. It doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not, so you are actually drinking a not-too-old massively sherried Kilkerran. But it is insanely tasty if had late at night. It absolutely is not a starter, and when I did try it without warming up properly, I actively disliked this whisky because of it’s harshness. Keep in mind this comes from a guy who virtually never adds water to even the strongest whiskies.

The whisky itself brings a lot of heavy flavors and especially the barbecue-y notes are a nice change of pace. A decade ago they seemed to be everywhere, but now it’s been a while since I had a really meaty whisky like this. So, highly recommended, but do warm up.

88/100

Kilkerran 11, 2007-2018, Sherry Butt, 58.1%, Cadenhead’s Wood Range

 

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Tomatin 1997-2014, 51% – The Whisky Agency / Liquid Library

When this came out I was planning a trip to Scotland with a couple of friends for the end of 2015. Also, Tomatin was suddenly widely available with some really good bottlings, so I decided to pick one up. What helped is that The Whisky Agency is a very good bottler with above average results in what they release.

I never did a write up of that visit to Tomatin, because the Usquebaugh Society chose a Tomatin as their next club bottling in early 2016, and I did a write up in the club magazine. I might translate it at some point and put it on the blog…

So, a fairly random 1997 Tomatin, at 17 years old. It was drawn from a refill hogshead, which I consider to be, in general, quite a good way of maturing whisky. It it not too intense, which means the spirit gets some room to shine. It’s also not too flat so you’re not drinking 17 year old new make. Luckily, Tomatin has a very nice vegetal spirit that can take a beating.

I emptied the bottle last Maltstock, except for the sample I am emptying tonight. So, a bit of live blogging here, that also gets me a bit closer to my goal of emptying loads (half, at least) of the things I’ve amassed over the last few years.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Some barley sugar and malty sweetness. A bit vegetal, like expected. Some hay, ferns, slightly green with some moss and algae. You know, the north side of a tree in the northern hemisphere. Almost no oak, although the spirit is quite tamed. All typical for a refill hogshead.

Sip:
Quite sharp, even though it’s ‘just’ a 51% whisky. Dry, grainy notes. Freshly fallen leaves, forest floor, a bit of oak. A bit sweeter than I expected initially, even though the sweetness was there on the nose too. So, green with a lot of grain. Typically Tomatin.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit warmer than the palate made me expect. Still some sweetness but it’s  a bit more woody and goes in the direction of cooked apples, some baking spices, bread and butter pudding. Not overly long.

So, this is absolutely not a bad whisky. It’s maybe a bit predictable, although there’s enough happening to keep one interested for a while. I think to go through an entire bottle is a bit much, but it’s far from bland.

A typical Tomatin, albeit a bit generic and one that does not stand out from any other 12 to 20 year old single cask, in my opinion. Enjoyable and not something you’ll regret, but not remarkable either.

Maybe not surprisingly, it’s still for sale for some € 100

84/100

Tomatin 17yo, 1997-2014, Refill Hogshead, 51%, The Whisky Agency / Liquid Library

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