Kavalan released an ex-bourbon expression for their Belgian importer The Nectar. I’m not sure why it doesn’t say Solist on the label, as far as I can tell it is a single cask release?
There’s also a new brandy cask release for TastToe (59,4%).
Kavalan ex-bourbon 2009 (54,8%, OB for The Nectar 2014, cask #B091103031A, 193 btl.)
Nose: starts a bit woody, but in a fresh way. A lot of vanilla, hints of caramel and banana. Fresh coconut. A bit like light American whiskey, if not for the tropical touches (pineapple, mango). Some toasted oak and ginger. Mouth: really sweet and fairly oak-infused again. Vanilla, coconut, pears and oranges (sweet ones at first, bitter ones as well). Lots of punchy spices, like ginger, mint and pepper. A high pressure cooked American white oak infusion. Finish: long, still some bitterish echoes but also sweet vanilla and golden syrup.
Parts of this Kavalan are really great (the fruitiness, the pure focus on what American oak can impart) but sometimes I feel its too simple and too woody. Good but not worth the price. Around € 135.
Ah, another one of these GlenDronach 1993 single casks distilled in January of that year. This time Oloroso butt #23 bottled for Whiskybase in The Netherlands.
As a side note, I’ve heard all remaining casks from 1993 are currently ‘on hold’. None of them will be bottled for clubs or stores, all that is left will only be used for the official releases.
GlenDronach 21 yo 1993 (52,1%, OB for Whiskybase, Oloroso butt #23, 681 btl.)
Nose: rich and expressive. A kind of juicy plum and bramble aroma, with rummy overtones. Cinnamon. Big nutty notes (roasted chestnut, walnut) and leather. Slightly dry. Dark chocolate and toffee. After a while it becomes a bit minty, with just a slight mustiness in the background. Mouth: punchy, with a sweet and sour base of cherries, plums and raisins. After that it moves to chocolate and mocha notes, as well as herbal notes and a faint gingery heat. Toffee, dates and tobacco. Pepper. Mon Cheri. Finish: good length, not too dry, entirely on dark chocolate, spices and coffee.
A really nice GlenDronach 1993 again. This is one of the heavier versions I’ve come across, with lots of dark chocolate and a bit less of the bright fruity notes. Still available from the Whiskybase shop for € 135.
Smooth Ambler is spirits company founded in 2009 in West Virginia, USA. Their brand is an ensemble of different things. They’re best known for “scouting” bourbon and rye whiskeys from external stocks, in a series named Old Scout, but they’re also producing spirits in their own still (gin, vodka, wheated bourbon). It’s not a temporary solution: they’ll continue this ‘independent bottler’ story, even when their own stock is mature enough.
Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old is a straight bourbon whiskey produced by MGP in Lawrenceburg (Seagram’s at the time). It contains 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. It won a Gold Award in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015.
Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old (49,5%, Smooth Ambler 2014)
Nose: sweet but also quite savoury. Lots of pencil shavings and cinnamon powder. Cashews. Peppermint and hints of eucalyptus, even a few ether-like top notes. Some rounded caramel and sweet cherries underneath. Mouth: sweet, with hints of vanilla syrup, although the dusty / dry notes are prominent again. Lots of mint / mint tea and ginger, as well as a bit of tangy lemon and pine wood. Pepper and nutmeg. Tobacco leaves. A bitter edge in the end. Finish: long, dry and ‘refreshing’ in a way (bags of mint and eucalyptus). Cinnamon powder.
A nicely dry and spicy bourbon, marked by the high rye content. Give it a try when you like minty flavours. Around € 60 from Master of Malt, or as part of their Dramcrackers of course.
The chaps at Master of Malt come up with some of the most refreshing ideas in the world of spirits. A classic for this time of the year are the Advent Calendars, available in different themes and price categories.
This Christmas, they’re promoting the Drinks by the Dram Dramcrackers. They’re sold in a package of six Christmas crackers (€ 48). You pull them apart, they generate a huge explosion (well, not quite…) and your reward is a 3cl sample of an interesting spirit or liqueur, with tasting notes. AND a paper party crown. AND a crap joke. Bring it on!
You can win 10 sets of these Dramcrackers! Master of Malt will be organizing a Cracker Pullin’ Tournament, starting December 1st. Keep an eye on the videos (like the one below) and participate by letting the guys know who will win each round via Twitter or Facebook.
Cadenhead’s Cask Ends is a series of leftover bottlings. In their Campbeltown store, they have small casks with taps from which you can hand-fill your own bottle. Sometimes in 70cl bottles, sometimes just 20cl if there’s not enough, they finish off casks this way.
This Dallas Dhu 1979 is one of these Cask Ends. The spirit was distilled 8th of June 1979 and filled into a bourbon hoggie. Mark Watt brought it to Spirits in the Sky in Brussels and it turned out to be the kind of dram everyone was talking about.
Nose: very fruity and aromatic. Lots of fruity notes like yellow plums, apricots, pineapples and papaya. Hints of meadow flowers (buttercups). Frosted cereals and vanilla ice cream. Behind this warm fruitiness there’s also a great waxy layer and soft grassy notes (hay, green tea). Walnut oil. Mouth: a bit drier, with more green tea, hints of grapefruit and hints of eucalyptus or chlorophyll. Tangerines. Becomes rather herbal and slightly bitter. Some sappy pine wood as well. Mouth: very long, showing mint, nutmeg, plain oak and green tea.
Have you ever tasted a really great Dallas Dhu? Right. So maybe this is one of the best expressions from this distillery ever to be bottled. It used to be available for € 185 in the store. Now for the frustrating part: the cask is empty… Thanks Danny!
In the seemingly endless stream of Kilchoman bottlings, there are two PX finished versions for Belgium.
One is the Kilchoman 2009 cask 576/2008 for TastToe & Broekmans. There must be some kind of error on the label because the cask reference (2008) and the vintage don’t match. I believe this is actually a 2008 vintage as casks #575 (for LMdW) and #577 (for Whisky Import Netherlands) are distilled on the same day in 2008.
The other one is Kilchoman 2009 cask 262/2009 for two whisky clubs (2009 for real this time). This is a 100% Islay version.
Kilchoman 5 yo 2009
(58,2%, OB for TastToe & Drankenshop, cask #576/2008, PX finish, 231 btl.)
Nose: deep smoke, soot and earthy notes first. Blackberries, roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate are on a second level here, contrary to some other PX finishes I’ve had from this distillery. Some After Eight and cigar leaves. Hazelnuts. Nice balance of dry peat, roasted notes and rounder sherry notes. Mouth: again very much focusing on its sooty side. Big peat smoke. Hints of chocolate coated cherries, dates and black tea. In a way this is like a young Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition. Then some caramelized nuts. The PX blends nicely with the peat. Finish: long, warm, more sugary notes now.
One of the best sherried Kilchomans I’ve come across. Make that one of the best Kilchomans.
Kilchoman 5 yo 2009 (55,2%, OB for De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden & Whiskyclub Luxembourg, cask #262/2009, 100% Islay cask PX finish)
Nose: although both profiles are obviously very similar, this one comes across slightly more oaky. Definitely more iodine / menthol. There’s also more rhubarb and lemon, and a slightly sharper hint of green chilies. Less of the rounder tobacco. But closely together. Mouth: again a slightly sharper version, more coastal and medicinal. Less Lagavulin, more Laphroaig? The chocolaty roundness is overtaken by a minty freshness. Finish: long, interesting balance of medicinal high notes and a sugared base.
Choosing one of these whiskies would come down to personal preferences, I guess. Both are two interpretations of the Islay style. Both are impressive five year-olds.
Nose: fairly neutral and spirity. Plenty of apple peelings, with some raw yeasty notes and light mineral touches. Soft vanilla marshmallow and honey. Citrus. Hints of overripe banana skins and other vegetal notes in the background. Not bad, just a little youthful. Mouth: oily and sweet, very malty. Apple pie, pineapple and whiffs of charcoal smoke. Shows more oak spices (ginger) and becomes herbal with a light bitterness and a young harsh note. Some spirit sulphur indeed. Finish: medium long, with some drying oak, liquorice and the same hint of smoke.
A young Speysider, fairly neutral but certainly not bland, thanks to the weight of the spirit. Nothing very special though. Around € 50.
Released exclusively for the Taiwanese market, this was the second oldest Karuizawa ever (at the time), and the only cask left of the 1967 vintage.
It was presented at Whisky Live 2012 in Taipei and then released to the market at the beginning of 2013.
I’m sure visiting Asia makes you understand this kind of whisky even better.
Karuizawa Vintage 45 yo 1967 (59,6%, OB for Taiwan 2012, Aqua of Life, sherry butt #2725, 310 btl.)
Nose: typical solventy ebony, cedar and sandalwood. Old leather. Mild ashes / incense. Reminds me of Asian temples (the dark Emperor Jade Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh comes to mind). Dried herbs (ginger, aniseed). Cigars. Also bramble, black cherries, figs, prune preserve. High-end Oloroso. Lacquered barbecue meat. Excellent. Mouth: strong and concentrated. Heavy oak, pine resin, fruit stems, very dark pu-erh tea. Dry alright, a bit tannic, but there’s also plenty of chocolate chips, liquorice candy, raisins and toffee to bring a little roundness. Sandalwood and leather again. Green tea. Mint and menthol. Hints of ponzu acidity. Walnuts and hazelnuts. Finish: very long, dry with toasted oak, dark dried fruits but this hint of acidity as well.
Up there with the best Karuizawas I’ve tried. It’s quite stunning how they can combine extreme complexity with such an amazing strength. I’ve seen different prices ranging from € 3500 to € 8000. Thanks my Taiwanese friend!