Tasting: Eden Mill Burns Day 2017 2-yo spirit

Dram data:
Distillery: Eden Mill
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: 2015
Bottled: 2017
Age: 2 yo
Limitation: 500 20 cl bottles
Casks: US Virgin Oak
Alcohol: 43%
uncoloured
Whiskybase link

It’s always fun to taste spirit which can not yet be named whisky because it’s too young. This sample at hand comes from the young Eden Mill distillery in St. Andrews, which I visited in June 2017. I took a sample with me to assess in my usual tasting environment.

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light gold
The nose is an obvious vanilla bomb, thanks to the quarter cask virgin oak casks being used. Custard cream and flambeed vanilla pudding meet fresh oak juice. Whoa, that’s intense at just 2 years of age. In the background you can still nose the fresh new make and only a slight metallic note, but the oak has really taken over already. Actually, I’m impressed how clean this noses at just 2 years. Also in the background is a caramel and malty note which I would at least in part attribute to the (for a Scotch) very unusual grain bill, including Crystal and Brown malt. There’s a herbal, spicy side to it as well – fresh juniper berries and allspice, I’d say. Actually, this reminds me of a vanilla-flavoured winter warmer tea with an added shot of alcohol. Quite a bit strange and unconventional, but they are in their experimentation phase right now!   Continue reading

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

2017 Whisky adventures part 6: Fife – Lindores Abbey, Eden Mill, Artisan and more!

Just a few years ago, when I first travelled to Scotland, Fife was pretty much non-existent on modern whisky maps, even the rogue farm distillery at Daftmill was only known to a handful of geeks. These days it could count as a whisky region of its own, with quite a few new distilleries starting up. Amongst them is the first stop of the day for Jo and myself – Lindores Abbey.
Sit back, pour yourself a dram and join us on the journey!

Lindores Abbey

Et per liberacionem factam fratri Johanni Cor per preceptum compotorum rotulatoris, ut asserit, de mandato domini regis ad faciendum aquavite infra hoc compotum, viii bolle brasii.

“To Friar John Cor, 8 bolls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae for the King.”

The date was 1st of June, 1494, and this phrase is to be found on a piece of parchment, an Exchequer Roll. It marks the first recorded history of distillation of “aqua vitae” in Scotland, the “water of life”, the unaged equivalent of what we call “new make” today before it goes into casks.
523 years later, to the day, Jo and I are given a very warm welcome by Drew McKenzie Smith, Managing Director and Gary, distillery manager, at the gates of the former Lindores Abbey on Lindores Farm, in the possession of Drew’s family for over 100 years. Distillation is about to be resumed at the time of writing (August 2017), at what they call the “spiritual home of Scotch Whisky”. Now, we’ve seen a lot of new distillery projects these past few years and everybody tries to find a unique story, a unique selling point, some so far-fetched it’s borderline comical, but the same can not be said about this place. Actually, the project has been (on and off) in the making for many years, way before the current distillery boom had started.

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

The new distillery is being built across the road from the abbey’s remains, where formerly farm buildings – built from Abbey stone – stood. It might not be visible anymore today, but digs carried out when constructing the distillery, revealed the ground where the distillery now stands once was part of the abbey itself, which was founded in 1191 by Benedictine monks from the Order of Tiron. The monks were known for medicinal skills and horticulture and the abbey grounds once were home to an impressive orchard – about 3000 fruit trees can still be found in town, originating from the Abbey’s orchards. Now, why is this important? Every new distillery project needs an income stream before they can sell whisky after a minimum waiting time of three years and a day. Many sell products like gin, vodka or young whisky, or even new make. Drew’s vision for Lindores is slightly different and a clever integration of the site’s heritage: He plans to sell aqua vitae, which once was new make improved with all sorts of herbs (and honey). The visitor’s centre will feature an apothecary where visitors will be able to create their own version of it, with Lindores new make and selected (some even locally grown) herbs. They also plan on selling a commercial aqua vitae. Depending on how their own spirit matures and how well sales of the spirit product are, the first whisky release is planned to occur at about 5 years of age. The sale of aqua vitae is not the only homage to the distillery’s past, there will be a refactorium, used as a dining area, with huge, rustic oak banquet tables, for instance, and more details for visitors to explore during a visit. Continue reading

Stillhouse at Highland Park

2017 Whisky adventures part 5: The Orkneys and Highland Park

Orkneys day 3

Preparing breakfast in the Kirkwall youth hostel (a cooked full-Scottish one, of course), Jo and I could already see the first destination for our last full day on the Orkneys in the distance: Up on the hill on the other side of Kirkwall, smoke emerged from the pagodas of the Highland Park distillery. Having heard many good stories from delighted visitors, this distillery was high up on my “bucket list” for a long time. Now, as some of you know, I’ve voiced my criticism about Highland Park before, especially concerning a few of the rather expensive and marketing-driven, “collectable” releases of the past years. A distillery almost hidden behind a thick layer of branding, like a veil. Marketing aside, the distillery produces a great distillate and by visiting I was hoping I would get to lift the veil, to see the “real” Highland Park. So, I was excited and ready to have my preconceptions shattered!

My designated driver Jo - with Highland Park in the distance up on the hill

My designated driver Jo – with Highland Park in the distance up on the hill. Selfie courtesy of Jo.

Highland Park distillery

Obligatory picture by the distillery sign

Obligatory picture by the distillery sign

Upon striding through the iron gate bearing the distillery’s name, one can see the immaculate state the distillery is kept in. Impressive stone-wall buildings, flowers everywhere, the place is kept to impress, as is the stylish, dark, themed visitor’s centre. Thanks to an arrangement by Nicola (shout out!) we were set to go on a separate tour, led by Mark, joined by a visiting group of distributors. When you’re trying to get a feel for a place and get as much information as possible for an article, it’s always good to get the extra time for pictures, questions and sticking your nose into places and things. It also helps when the tour is held by a knowledgeable person, which Mark certainly turned out to be!

Our designated guide, Mark

Our designated guide, Mark

Continue reading

Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Tasting: Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Caperdonich
Bottler: Cadenhead
Distilled: 1977
Bottled: 2017
Age: 39 yo
Limitation: 462 bottles
Casks: Butt
Alcohol: 50,4%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

This is the last one in the trilogy of whiskies distilled in the 1970s at now “lost distilleries”, bottled for the 175th anniversary of the independent bottler Cadenhead’s. Unlike the Convalmore, I’ve got a slightly bigger sample, so let’s give it a thorough taste!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 mahogany
This is the most heavily sherried whisky of this release! The nose is immediately filled with deep, dark, bold aromas. Oak floorboard polished with wax (but not too oaky!), liquorice, cherry and plum syrup, herbal Swiss cough drops rubbed in allspice and forgotten for a few years in a rusty tin box. In fact, can I please call this a fruity cough syrup for grown ups? In a good way, of course! Not much sweetness going on, which is good, but the cask is definitely strong and not much distillery character remains – which is to be expected from a sherry monster of such a calibre. Still a very good balance between oak and fruit, this has not yet gone overboard! Let’s check the palate!  Continue reading

Ledaig 10 yo

Tasting: Ledaig 10 yo

Ledaig 10 yoDram data:
Distillery: Tobermory
Bottler: original bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2015
Age: 10 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 46,2%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

I’ve reviewed quite a lot of “special” whiskies lately – it’s time to look at the “daily dram” category again. This one fits the bill nicely, affordable, and presented the way we like it (no chill filtration, no fake colour). Oh, and it’s been called “the new Ardbeg” by some. Let’s verify that claim!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 green barley
The nose is just how I like a relatively young, heavily peated dram to be! Peat bonfire smoke (is that even a thing?) up front, like a South coast Islay, with phenols, dirty oil rags and a hint of iodine. Well, no wonder, since the malt is supplied from the Port Ellen maltings on Islay. It is, however, not only just smoke and a whole lot of nothing – there’s more going on! Fresh ginger, pepper and eucalyptus provide a welcome punch, after which sweeter notes start to appear. There are hints of fudge, vanilla, sugar-coated shortbread and a touch of flowering herbs. Vibrant, kicking, young, yet with a good balance, I can see why people compare it to Ardbeg 10. Continue reading

Scapa distillery on approach via the coastal path

2017 Whisky adventures part 4: The Orkneys and Scapa

Orkneys – Day 1

The Orkneys have been on the very top of the list of places to visit in Scotland for many years, yet I had never managed to do so – until 2017. It’s way up in the North of Scotland and not exactly easy, or quickly, to get to. If you don’t want to depend on the small aircraft and don’t want to take the overnight ship from Aberdeen, there’s no other way than driving up the beautiful east coast of Scotland, to take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness. That’s the route Jo and myself took in her little sports car, after spending the night in Inverness. The only stop was to enjoy a cuppa tea and a healthy (read: Full Scottish) breakfast along the way at a little tea room in Dunbeath.

The ferry ride over to the “Mainland”, the name of the largest of the Orkney Isles, was rather unspectacular. The vessel took the longer, more sheltered route due to the rough sea. What started out as a rainy, cold day, actually turned into a quite pleasant and partly sunny day, when we disembarked the MV Hamnavoe in Stromness. Being the gringos we were, we decided to “head into town” first. Well, the streets in Stromness were seemingly built for horse-drawn carriages, not for cars. Very narrow streets, and people staring at us. Thank god Maizy is a very small sports car, so we did manage to find our way out of town and onto the main road.

 

Arriving at Stromness

Arriving at Stromness

With time to kill before checking in at the youth hostel in Kirkwall, a detour to the prehistoric village of Skara Brae was a welcome change. We had spent many hours in the car and on board the vessel. Definitely worth the visit, the place has a kind of magical feeling about it that’s hard to put into words. Starting the visit on the island(s) by getting a sense of the history of the place gets you grounded and excited for more! Enjoying a wee dram in the dunes isn’t a bad start to that leg of the journey as well. Continue reading

G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French Whisky

Tasting: G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French Whisky

G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French WhiskyDram data:
Distillery: G.Rozelieures
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: –
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Ex-Sauternes
Alcohol: 40%
unknown chill filtration / colouring
Whiskybase link

France is the biggest importer of Scotch whisky in Europe – but as a whisky-producing country it’s relatively unknown, except to insiders. I certainly have never heard of the G Rozelieures products from the Lorraine region before, until blogging colleague Franck from lecavedecobalt.com asked me whether I wanted to try their wares. Oh yes, I don’t mind if I do! Peated French whisky, distilled from self-grown, local barley and double-distilled in traditional French “Cognac style” stills, that does sound interesting!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 orange gold
The nose is definitely smoky, no doubt about that! I would call it cold bonfire smoke, rather than your typical Scottish peat, but that might just be due to the type of peat being used – and the strong wine-cask influence trailing the peat! Smoky, sweet grapes, slightly bitter grape seeds and hulls, gooseberries, mirabelles, light, fresh kitchen herbs, a touch of cracked pepper, orange peel and a hint of soap. Interestingly enough, this reminds me strongly of the Lost Spirits Bohemian Bonfire – which was also matured in French casks. Quite interesting and fresh, definitely not your typical whisky by any stretch of the imagination! Very hard to score, but I do see it slightly above average compared to my average benchmark whiskies. Continue reading

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead's alternative tasting

2017 Whisky adventures part 3: Campbeltown malts festival Glengyle open day

After enjoying a very sunny, hot, relaxing Springbank open day, the third and last day of the Campbeltown whisky festival was on: Glengyle open day. Boy, what a day it was going to be, filled with events and tasting after tasting! Let’s just say this up front: There were those who had sample bottles (including yours truly) and there were those who didn’t… ahem.

First breakfast

With a whole day’s worth of dramming in front of the six of us, a fully cooked Scottish breakfast, enjoyed outside in the sunshine, was just what we all needed to get going. Okay, we never had anything else for breakfast, but, hey, any excuse, right?
Soon enough it was time to call a taxi (no walking this time!) for a ride into town – for the first event of the day:

Second breakfast – alternative tasting

The folks at Cadenhead’s are well-known for bottling fine whisky, but they’re also bottling Gin, Rum and Cognac, and that’s what the (m)alternative tasting with chief booze flogger (inofficial title I just made up!) Mark Watt was all about. After tasting the standard Old Raj gin (which went very well with the tonic water on the table – kidding, it’s a very good gin!), we were in for a treat: A cask-matured gin! They filled a firkin with very high ABV gin (someone ignored or forgot orders to dilute before casking…) which apparently led to a bizarre situation when Mark poured samples straight from the cask for a few visitors. Whilst Mark thought it had “a bit of a kick”, allegedly some of the guys were gasping for air… Sadly we did not get to taste this 92,3% ABV version, but a “slightly” watered down one – which was still very impressive – and didn’t agree with tonic water at all. A gin for sipping on its own!
Moving on, we got two samples of a 30yo and a 50yo Cognac from the Distillerie Charpentier in the Petit Champagne. Both were very excellent “Cognacs for whisky drinkers”. Personally, I liked the 30yo a tad more – it just had a bit more going on, but both were really, really good and have since been released (and probably sold out now).
At the end of the tasting we finally tapped into the Rum supply, with the first one being the “Classic Rum” (which I thought was okay, but it didn’t really connect with me), and the second one an 18yo Caroni. Such a gritty, dirty, oily, greasy (think tampered-with German diesel engines) dram – but in a really good way! Also probably sold out worldwide by now, sorry. This tasting highlighted the quality of “malternative” distillates out there – it definitely pays off to look at other (and, these days, more affordable) spirits as well. I mean, a 50yo Cognac for 135£… that’s a steal!

Sniffy and Islay enjoying the (m)alternative tasting

Sniffy and Islay enjoying the (m)alternative tasting

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead's alternative tasting

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead’s alternative tasting

Continue reading

Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Tasting: Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Convalmore
Bottler: Cadenhead
Distilled: 1977
Bottled: 2017
Age: 40 yo
Limitation: 522 bottles
Casks: Butt
Alcohol: 56,8%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Another whisky in the stunning lineup to celebrate Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary! I only have a very small sample left, so I’ll make the best of it to get my first tasting notes for a Convalmore up!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is still surprisingly vibrant and alive for a 40 yo whisky! Definitely not an overoaked, dead dram (hey, I’ve seen it happen, they usually come in crystal decanters and expensive lacquered boxes!)! A massive waft of orange peel up front, mixed with gooseberries, apricots, mangos, sweet grapes, pickled ginger – let’s call it a seasonal (summery) fruit basket. But there’s more to it! A few mint leaves rubbed onto a lacquered oak box (ahem) held together by a leather belt, a cinnamon stick and a pinch of ground allspice. Noses more like a 25 yo whisky at first, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, does it? Give it time and time and time again, and it settles down, with the fruity notes getting darker / more condensed. Continue reading

Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDW

Tasting: Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDW

Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDWDram data:
Distillery: Westland
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: Summer 2016
Age: NAS
Limitation: 232 bottles
Casks: #397
Alcohol: 54,4%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

It’s the 4th of July – Independence day in the US. Why not taste something different then? Like a single cask American single malt? Sounds good? Let’s go!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light maple syrup
The nose is quite different from your usual American whiskey – no wonder, it’s all malted barley. Quite a whiff of alcohol (with menthol) at the beginning. When it does fade a bit (it never goes away completely), the nose is met with loads of oak cask goodness – caramel, liquorice and maple syrup. A sneaky chunk of toffee has also found its way into the glass. There’s more lurking in the background behind the bold, big flavours. A whiff of cask smoke, fresh ginger and herbal cough syrup. Very oak-forward and only the freshness and alcoholic kick remain from the distillate, but every bit as enjoyable (if not more) as a high-quality bourbon of a similar, young age. With water, an additional component emerges – fresh, sweet flower petals! Interesting!   Continue reading