Tamdhu Batch Strength II

Today I will be reviewing a dram from what has become one of my, and many others, favourite distilleries, Tamdhu. Tamdhu has grown to great fame in the last few years since it came under the control of Ian Macleod Distillers. The distillery was mothballed in 2010 and Ian Macleod Distillers brought it back to life in 2012 by recommencing production, and launching their first bottling, a 10 year old, the following year.

What we are looking at today is their Batch strength version, a non age-stated dram presented at natural cask strength and colour. This batch, batch 2, comes in at an impressive 58.5% and is incredibly drinkable even at that strength. Matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks this is a powerful dram with a huge amount of flavour and character, and was the winner of the 2017 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festivals NAS category. If you like your cask strength sherry bombs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh’s, Glendronach CS or Glenfarclas 105 then look no further than this!

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I have enjoyed a few of these over the festive period and thought it was past time that I wrote a review on this one before the bottle is completely empty!

Nose

This is a hugely sweet and fruity dram. You can smell fudge, red apple and pears before your nose even gets near the glass! Once you stick your nose in the high alcohol makes itself known, a whopping 58.5%, though, as strong as it is, the massive sweetness easily counteracts this. Once you get past the intense sweetness and power of this it just screams complexity, it’s very interesting and changeable. There’s floral sweetness with honeysuckle and heather one minute with dried apple rings and citrus peel. Then the next, vanilla ice cream, syrup sponge pudding and cinnamon. Then builders’ tea, coffee and dark chocolate, incredible. With time the apples become more stewed and are joined by raisins and red berries. More savoury notes start to emerge with pecans and toasted soda bread. If I had to sum the nose up with two things, cinnamon and toffee baked apples and pecan pie. What a nose!

Palate

The first thing you will get when you try this dram is how silky it is on the palate. I had to take a second look at the label when I first tried it as I couldn’t believe it was 58.5%! It is nowhere near as sweet and fruity as the nose but it is rich and creamy. The palate begins with an intense wood and spice assault, with nutmeg, garam masala and pepper. The alcohol begins to build through the development, overpowering the spice, and is joined by fizzy wood tannins. Water opens up the palate severely and drives more sweet and fruity notes forward with the stewed apples from the nose and dried currants. As well as a creamy butterscotch and earthy manuka honey-like character.

Finish

Long, warming, and packed with spice. This dram is like central heating, you can just feel the warmth in you from the spice and alcohol. Heavily toasted malt, red apple peel and golden syrup compete against a plethora of savoury and woody spices. Again, garam masala but nutmeg and black pepper also.

This dram is simply a knock out and it has made this a very good festive period indeed. My bottle is now almost done but hopefully I can get a second ordered before the batch is fully sold out. For £55-60 you can’t go wrong with this, and I am really struggling to find any faults. If I get a second bottle of this it will be an investment bottle. By that I don’t mean buy it and sell it on later, that’s not what whisky is about. I mean buy it, keep it safe, and invest in a very enjoyable experience with good friends in the years to come when I crack it open – you’ve got to treat your future self. Gorgeous!

Sláinte

Gary

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Eden Mill Art of the Blend, Batch 4

Today we have a sample of the new Eden Mill, Art of the Blend Whisky, Batch No. 4, which I was given by Lara, one of their ambassadors. I have been wanting to try some of their batch releases for a while but somehow haven’t got round to it yet – so many whiskies, so little time!

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Now if you know much about Eden Mill then you will know that they started producing whisky and Gin in the tail end of 2014 – their gin has been hugely successful, and very tasty I must say! As they only started producing a short while ago their malt spirit isn’t quite old enough yet to be called whisky, I believe they are planning on releasing their first single malt in the first half of 2018, so what we have here is from their small batch blend series. This is the 4th batch released by Eden Mill, and sees the blend being finished for a period of time in European oak, ex-port casks. It is an NAS blend, presented at 51%ABV, and is priced at £45. Limited to only 1,100 bottles.

Over the last year or so I have been getting more and more into my port cask matured and finished whiskies so I’m really looking forward to this!

Nose

This is very fresh, delicate and winey upfront on the nose, it is somewhere between a crisp dry rose wine and a sweet prosecco. The wine is accompanied by a punch of alcohol, though for 51% it is to be expected. After a few moments in the glass it does settle down, and brings out a lot of sweetness. There is icing sugar, Caramac bars and vanilla custard with a slightly burnt caramel sauce (crème caramel pudding). This mingles well with the wine characters of mulled wine and red berries from the cask, resulting in an impressively busy nose for what I would guess is a fairly young whisky – if I had to guess I’d say somewhere between 5 and 7 years. As the sweetness dies off we are left with peppermint creams, white chocolate sauce and perfumed lemon grass.

Palate

Wow, now that is a gorgeous arrival! Really soft for 51% but packed with flavour! There is a warming port sweetness upfront with a sweet, tannic, grapey syrup, rich stewed plums and mulled spice. Then through the development the port calms down as more classic ‘whisky’ characters come through. Soft malt leads into lemon rind and dried mixed peel, which is accompanied by an array of warming wood spice; vanilla, black pepper, nutmeg. Towards the back of the palate there is a fizzy raspberry sherbet note as well as strong milky coffee and dark chocolate.

Finish

The warming spice from the palate continues on, as does a lot of red fruits, with cherry jam and dried cranberries. The port comes back in the finish bringing a slight tannic grapyness and more richness, as well as a strong oaky character. The Finish for me is like having a black forest gateaux, sprinkled with pepper, served up with a milky breakfast tea.

I must say, I really enjoyed this, so thank you so much Lara for giving me the opportunity. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when this arrived in the post but it certainly wasn’t this. Yes it is young, but the intense port character masks that very well and provides a lot of interesting depth, yet at the same time isn’t overbearing at all. I did think it seemed a bit expensive at first (£45, it does come with a glass), but when you consider it is a batch release, of only 1,100 bottles, it is actually a steal for the quality of the product! I know their previous batch releases have been snapped up quick so you had better move fast if you want to try this

Sláinte

Gary

Benromach Chateau Cissac

I was recently lucky enough to be selected for another tweet tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. It was a Benromach new release tasting, which, as soon as I learnt this, I had to apply for. I’ve always had a love of Benromach so being able to try these new releases was a real treat. In the tasting we were given the chance to try two new expressions. One was a triple distilled edition, while the second was the latest in their wood finish series, finished in Chateau Cissac cask. In this review I will be taking a look at the Chateau Cissac cask finish.

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The latest of Benromach’s wood finish series, which will be released for sale later this month, see’s a continuation of their use of wine casks. This time the spirit has been finished in a cask which has previously been used for the aging of Chateau Cissac wine, which comes from the Haut-Médoc wine region of France, near Bordeaux. The spirit was laid down for an initial maturation period in first fill bourbon barrels back in 2009, and then transferred into these red wine casks for a finishing period of 25 months before disgorging for bottling. This release is limited to only 4,200 bottles and after tasting this, and based on a price of only £39.75 RRP, I would recommend getting one ordered quick before you miss out. Presented at 45% ABV this is another excellent addition to the wood finish range from Benromach.

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Nose

This has a very vibrant nose with a lovely balance between the classic characters of Benromach with sweet fruits and berry influences from the cask. The first thing that leapt out of the glass for me was red apple peel, though this quickly became intertwined with the classic smoke character you get with this distillery. A dry, peat smoke, as well as gentler notes of rolled tobacco leaf and aged leather. Then the fruit powers through again with a huge array of flavours. Red currants, raspberries, nectarines, poached pears and a soft grapeyness. Then I got a rather odd note of Heinz tomato ketchup flavoured walkers crisps! – I do love a weird tasting note. This has an incredibly busy and interesting nose, wow!

Palate

If I thought that the nose had a lot going on then I was in for a surprise when I took my first sip! This has a big and sweet arrival with mixed berries, vanilla spice and barley sugar sweets. The arrival and development are loaded with redcurrants, cranberries and a crème de mûre (a thick and syrupy blackberry liqueur), all of which have been smoked. The spice builds through the development as does a slightly meaty and savoury note, backed up with bitter lemon rind. Warming cloves and nutmeg are joined by peppercorn sauce and a smoked cheese-like character – thanks to my fellow tweet tasters for that one, definitely in there! Then at the last, a rich, almost savoury, dark chocolate note and a building heat of pepper and dry peat smoke.

Finish

Hot and fiery spice is joined by a fading wood smoke, like a dying bonfire, which brings a lot of dryness to the finish, and a sappy green wood/grassy note develops. There is a load of warming wood spice going on here which keeps going in what is a surprisingly long but increasingly bitter and savoury finish. With pepper, over brewed breakfast and peppermint tea’s and some bitter bay leaf.

Well, I think this is another very interesting bottling from Benromach. In the tweet tasting it was a bit of a mixed bag as to which everyone preferred, for me it was definitely this. The balance between the distillery characters, wood and wine-driven flavours is pretty spot on. I found the ever-changing flavour profile of this dram very interesting and really enjoyed savouring it. I think for the price of around £40 when this is released you can’t go wrong. I know I will be trying to get my hands on one.

Sláinte

Gary

 

North British 27yo (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Today we will be having a look at another grain whisky. I am getting quite partial to my grains of late, it’s a nice refreshing alternative to a malt and lets you really experience what a cask can give. This is a sample that I got from Drinks by the Dram a while ago and never got round to opening, until now. It is a 27yo, cask strength, North British, and it is rather good!

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North British has an interesting story; I won’t go into it in too much detail as it has a long history but you should have a look into it. It was founded by a group of independent blenders and spirits merchants in 1885 as a way of countering the monopoly that was D.C.L. (Distillers Company Limited). At this time most of the big Grain distilling companies merged together to form D.C.L. and because of the huge stake they had in the industry they could effectively set the price and quality of what was going onto the market. By building this distillery the independents were able to ensure some level of quality and price control of what was being produced by D.C.L. and ensure the stability of the market.

The North British that we have today is a bottling from That Boutique- Whisky Company (TBWC). This is their 3rd batch from North British, and is presented at 27 years of age and at 56.3% ABV. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love the value for money that you get for single grains. This is 27 years old, and only 760 bottles were released! Yet a bottle, 50cl, only cost £53.

Nose

You can instantly tell when you put your nose in the glass that this is a grain whisky. It is so much lighter than a malt whisky or a Bourbon. It’s delicate and floral but still has a huge amount going on. There is a lot of sweetness upfront, as you might expect from ex Bourbon barrel maturation, runny honey, burnt caramel sauce and white chocolate are prominent here. In addition to this there is also icing/powdered sugar and a sweet acetone-pear drop aroma. On the subject of fruits there are plenty of those too here with cantaloupe melon, red apples and nectarine. A delicate sweet spice comes through towards the back of the nose with fresh vanilla pods, a dash of cinnamon and a good amount of nutmeg. It reminds me on the nose of a custardy pumpkin pie with dried mixed spices sprinkled on top, served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Palate

Well, now more of the alcohol comes across, it was so fresh and delicate on the nose but the 56.3% shows a lot more of its strength here. As you might expect there are a lot of similarities with Bourbon. It is even quite corny tasting like Bourbon, I believe North British have a quite high corn content in their mash bill which would explain why. It also has that thick and creamy and luxurious mouthfeel that you get from Bourbon. But this has a much more refined character, likely the result of sitting for 27 years in a cask. Big alcohol and spice hit upfront on the palate with loads more cinnamon and cloves than on the nose. After the spice attack dies down the sweetness and fruitiness returns. With toffee apples, vanilla custard and an earthy honeyed note. A touch of water brings out burnt caramel and butterscotch but it does detract a lot from the other characters on the palate. Towards the back of the palate the wood tannins become the dominant character with old toasted oak, leather and a flash of dried orange peel.

Finish

The finish is relatively short, surprisingly so for the strength, but it leaves you wanting another sip. The tannic woodiness and the dried mixed peel continue from the palate, and it is joined by a caramel waffle sort of taste.

This is lovely, and offers a really unique experience which is totally different from malt whisky. Grain whisky is so underrated as many people see it as only being fit for filler in blends, but it can offer equally as enjoyable of an experience as a malt. And for a very good price too, this bottle, for a 50cl, comes to only £53! It is sold out now unfortunately but if you have a bottle at home, or see it in an auction, get it and crack it open. You won’t be disappointed!

Sláinte

Gary

BenRiach 16yo

In my last review, of the Balblair 99 Vintage, I said that that was going to be my ‘summer dram’ for 2017, but this is certainly a contender for the top spot! I will be reviewing a delightful little dram from Speyside this time, from the BenRiach Distillery, the 16yo.

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BenRiach is a Speyside distillery, located just south of Elgin, and was founded like so many in the 1890’s with the whisky boom at that time. Sadly though BenRiach has had somewhat of a sad past, only 2 years after it was completed it was mothballed, the result of the Pattison crash. When the whisky industry collapsed so did the fortunes of many whisky companies and distilleries and BenRiach was one of that number. It would remain closed for the next 65 years. Most distilleries in this situation would have been demolished but fortunately BenRiach’s sister distillery and neighbour, Longmorn, had a hungry requirement for malt, and so BenRiach was saved as a result of its malting floor! It has changed hands several times since it recommenced production, including a very successful spell under Billy Walker’s stewardship, and is now owned by Brown Foreman. Hopefully this means this distillery will remain open from now on, and going by the quality of what it is producing that is almost a certainty! Anyway, let’s get on with the tasting. Today we are having a look at the BenRiach 16yo, presented at 43% it comes in at around £55 per 70cl bottle generally, which is pretty reasonable. I couldn’t find much in the way of maturation information, if anyone knows then please do let me know, but I would have to guess a combination of refill casks, manly bourbon barrels but with a few refill sherry butts thrown in for good measure. Let’s see what we get.

Nose

To me on the nose this represents what I would consider to be a classic Speyside; sweet, floral and fruity. Upfront there are apples, red apple peel and sticky apple sauce, bruised conference pears and a suggestion of stewed fruits in the background. Toffee, honey and powdered sugar begin moving the fruitiness of the nose to more earthy and rich notes of dunnage warehousing with aged oak, a slight dusty/pencil shaving/sawdust type aroma and that smell of the angels share you get when you are in the bonded warehouse, and a slightly peppermint-like menthol aroma too. It’s quite sharp on the nose with the alcohol showing itself, not too overpowering, but it’s definitely there, and is joined by notes of pear drops and cumin.

Palate

This has a fizzy and sweet arrival with again apples, and a good amount of citrus, orange peel, and maybe a touch of green banana. Sweet malt with a wisp of smoke leads the development through an array of spices with vanilla and a touch of nutmeg, and some alcohol prickle. Toffee apple and Scottish tablet keep the sweetness rolling as more woodiness takes hold making the palate more drying and astringent. All backed up by an earthy undertone with leather and tobacco leaf.

Finish

Quite a woody and spicy start to the finish with cumin again and a delicate clove-like spice. Drying malt and tannic woodiness dominate here with flashes of dried orange peels and raisins every now and again and a subtle lick of smoke at the last.

This is a big old toffee apple of a dram and I love it…well…a toffee apple that has been dropped in the dirt, but in a good way, the earthy, dunnage-like sense that comes with this adds a huge amount of depth and complexity, lifting it above a lot of similarly placed whiskies. If you haven’t tried this dram then I would highly recommend it, BenRiach is a whisky which maintains a consistently high level of standard and this is certainly no exception. Especially for £55.

Sláinte

Gary

Balblair 99 Vintage (2nd Release)

Today’s dram is one that I haven’t enjoyed in quite a while, I had a bottle but sadly reached the bottom of it last year and didn’t get round to replacing it, but finally I have and my goodness I have no idea why it took me so long to do so! It’s another vintage release from my favourite distillery, it is the Balblair 99 (2nd release).

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Ever since I first tried Balblair at an Inverhouse tasting, in the Royal Mile Whisky shop, I have always had at least one bottle on my shelf – usually more (I currently have 5 I believe!) – and I have yet to find a vintage that I didn’t enjoy. It pains me to say that despite Balblair being my favourite distillery I still haven’t been up to see the distillery itself, but I am making it my mission for 2017 that I will get up there! I reviewed the 05 vintage a few months ago which you can see here, where I also talk about the distillery, but let’s get straight into the good bit.

First released mid 2014 the 99 vintage replaced the 97, and uses a combination of both American and Spanish oak, unlike the 05 release which is solely American, and there is a huge difference coming through as a result. The bottle I am tasting here is the 2nd release of this vintage, the second batch to be bottled so it is slightly different to the first, bottled in 2016, so let’s see what we get.

Nose

Classic Balblair sweetness with butterscotch and apples upfront the on the nose, with a lot more alcohol than I remember, this subsides quite quickly though as the dram settles in the glass. There is quite a lot of citrus too, grapefruit rind and lemon oil. It’s quite light and youthful but there are heavier notes which give away its age with leather, cedar wood and a rich earthiness too, all of those notes that remind me of being in a dunnage warehouse. Sweetness begins to cut through the earthiness bringing manuka honey and again that butterscotch note forward as well as a hint of sherried fruits. Then at the last a delicate peppery spice which is joined by an array of summery smells with sweet malt, red berries, hay and a summers meadow (fresh and floral with lots of pollen, wild flowers and grass).

Palate

A big and powerful arrival, wow, there is just a big smack of flavour. Fizzy citrus dances along the edges of the tongue as cinder toffee, slightly burnt caramel and warming spice fill the mouth. Through the development the fizzy character dies off and there is just wave after wave of flavour, citrus, sherry, honey in an ever sweetening palate. It has a big cereal character too with sweet malt, toasted oats and freshly baked Rye bread. The rye spice is accompanied by black pepper and a mustard seed ‘hotness’, then a curl of wood smoke at the last which is intertwined with a hint if cinnamon. Delicious.

Finish

Rich, dark chocolate coated raisins and milky coffee start the finish. It is silky and smooth yet intensely flavourful. Sweet dried apple rings and an earthy sweetness just goes on and on for what seems like an age. The finish gets increasingly grassy and hay-like as time goes on, and is joined by a slight copper/metallic note.

I really don’t know why it took me so long to replace this bottle; it is a simply awesome dram and is incredible value for money, usually coming in at around the £55-60 mark. I think this is going to be my ‘summer dram’ this year. I feel that the 99 is a great middle ground for Balblair, not only pricewise but flavourwise within their range too. The 05 is fresh, light and youth, with lots of American oak sweetness, while the 90 is a sherried delight. What a well-balanced and elegant dram this is!

Sláinte

Gary

Aberfeldy Distillery Exclusive – Cask 21426

For my next review I will be taking a look at a whisky from a distillery very close to my heart, the Aberfeldy Distillery. I was born and raised in Aberfeldy, in highland Perthshire, and the distillery plays a big part in the local community. From being the largest employer in the area to sponsoring countless local events it is an ever present feature in the community. I remember going on walks with my family in the woods behind the distillery when i was younger, the smell of the fermentation drifting through the trees. I absolutely hated it – believe it or not I wasn’t a big whisky drinker aged 6! – but the distillery was a part of growing up in the town. It’s nice that a distillery, even when owned by one of the largest companies in the drinks industry (Bacardi), is so involved in a small rural community.

Aberfeldy is owned by John Dewar & Sons, part of the Bacardi group, and is the only distillery to be built by the Dewars family. When John and Tommy Dewar’s took over the business from their father in the 1880’s their sales were on the rise. They took a lease at the nearby Tullymet distillery in order to meet fillings for theirs blends but within time the demand outstripped it’s capacity. So in 1886 the brother enlisted the famed architect Charles Doig to design their distillery, purpose built for creating their blends, half a mile outside of Aberfeldy. The first spirit ran off of the stills 2 years later, in 1898, and ever since the malt has been used as the heart malt of all of the Dewar’s blends. Only relatively recently has this whisky been available as a single malt, and in my opinion the best are the distillery exclusive single cask bottlings which are always of a high standard. Today we will be tasting the latest of these exclusives, a 2001 vintage (so a 15/16yo depending on distillation date) single cask Aberfeldy bottled at 56.95% ABV from an ex Bourbon barrel. This particular cask is cask number 21426 and is a refill barrel. Let’s get to it.

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Nose

Plenty of sweetness upfront on the nose, and a heavy, fatty note of almonds or almond butter. There is a strong, bitter note too of tannic wood and a fresh sap-like aroma. Muskier notes mingle with the wood, reminiscent of being in a dunnage warehouse, with earth, oak, tobacco leaf and an ashy, dying bonfire, note. It has a nice floral acidity to the nose with wild broom, gorse, pine needle tea, grape fruit rind and hay. Icing sugar/powdered sugar brings more sweetness through the slightly acidic and sappy aromas, and is backed up with white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It’s also really hot and spicy on the nose with fiery ginger, green chilli, and black pepper. The spice, wood and alcohol give this whisky quite a closed off nose but water dramatically lifts this. With a splash of water a lot more citrus fruits come through with more sweetness but the usual honeyed characteristic that you get with Aberfeldy seems to be absent. There also is a sweet carrot-like note which, with the spice, gives an impression of carrot cake mix.

Palate

This has a huge arrival, and the strength of the whisky comes across a lot more than it did on the nose. On the palate there is plenty of sweetness and citric fruits upfront. The sweetness of caramelised demerara sugar and sugar syrup mix with notes of Seville oranges and candied mixed peel. This is a thick and viscous dram, which has a very luxurious mouthfeel. Through the development it becomes almost fizzy, as well as being quite bitter and acidic with lemon sherbet and rich oak tannins. This fizzy oak character dominates the palate but as with on the nose a drop of water has a huge effect. More sweetness comes across with a slight dilution with an earthy honeyed sweetness, dark chocolate liqueurs and a curl of wood smoke at the last.

Finish

On the finish the sweetness builds from the palate with a real hit of dried orange rings and cinder toffee. The oak is ever present with this whisky, and it is joined by an ashy/wood smoke note that I always get with aged Aberfeldy. The Finish is medium in length with a nice sweetness, which helps to balance the intense spice and wood.

Another very good distillery exclusive from Aberfeldy. They always have 2 different options at the distillery, one which has been matured in a refill barrel and the second is some form of Sherry matured Aberfeldy, be it finished or fully matured in ex Sherry Butts. This bottle of cask 21426 costs £90, which for a 16yo official single cask bottling is actually really well priced. If you are ever in the area I would definitely recommend popping in for a visit as it is a gorgeous distillery, even if just to check out what exclusives they have on offer at the time.

Sláinte

Gary