Monday, 26 July 2021

Scheduling conflicts: Tomintoul and Glencadam samples



I was suppose to taste these whiskies as part of a virtual tasting lead by Tomintoul Master Distiller Robert Fleming, but I suppose I missed something when I signed up for the tasting, because I don't think I would have registered knowing it was happening at 11am on a Tuesday. I'm dedicated, but not that dedicated. What follows then is my impressions of these whiskies.


Tomintoul 10 Year (40% abv)


I can't find much information on the cask types used for maturation of Tomintoul 10. The website doesn't even mention "finest oak casks" so I'm a bit worried over here. Are the folks at Tomintoul using whatever's lying around? Ok, I'm kidding. I can't go a whole blog post without a little wink at the marketing folks now can I?
  • Nose (undiluted): honey jumps out of the glass, quite floral, baked apples, a bit of vanilla
  • Palate: gentle arrival, light bodied, toffee, red apples, more honey, a bit of pepper
  • Finish: on the short side, oak, a little bit of pepper, some malt notes, more toffee
  • Thoughts: This is much better than I was expecting from an entry-level whisky bottled at 40% abv. I'm guessing most of the casks are refill ex-bourbon casks because the malt character comes through beautifully. Yes, it's fairly light in the mouth, but the flavour isn't shy. The nose, in particular, is sweet and inviting. The downside, at least here in Ontario, is the price point. As of this writing (July 2021) Tomintoul 10 sells for $78. Comparable whiskies all sell for significantly less money. Glenlivet 12, Aberfeldy 12, and Glenfiddich 12 all sit at about the $66 mark. While Tomintoul is pleasant, I'm not convinced I'd pay a $12 premium for it.
  • Score: 4/10

Glencadam Origin 1825 (40% abv)


If you've ever read this blog, you know I'm wary of anything labelled "Founder's Reserve" or "Origin" or anything along those lines. To me, those lines are usually code for "not our best stuff". You may think that's unfair of me but my experience has lead me to where I am. Glencadam brands themselves the "Rather Elegant Highland Single Malt" which is less over the top than "luxury" or "finest" or what have you. They also came onto many single malt enthusiast's radar when Ralfy named Glencadam 15 Year Old his whisky of the year back in 2017 or thereabouts. And what followed was predictable. The whisky became more or less unfindable and just about every other whisky enthusiast took one of two positions; 1. Ralfy is a genius and this whisky is the nectar of the Gods or 2. Ralfy is an idiot and this stuff is overrated. Anyhow, Origin is NOT that whisky so let's see what it's all about.
  • Nose (undiluted): a bit shy at first, some cinnamon, raw red apples, light honey, a touch of banana
  • Palate: gentle arrival, pears, bananas, a touch of pineapple, more honey
  • Finish: rather on the short side, light oak, some milk chocolate, a bit more pear and banana
  • Thoughts: The write-up accompanying the samples mentionned sherry cask finishing or maturation but I don't get a ton of the typical dried fruits on the nose of this whisky. That's not necessarily a bad thing just a curiosity to me. Glencadam Origin sells for about the same price as Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12. Its character is a bit different than those malts so this may be worth checking out if you like a touch of tropical fruit character in your malt. I'm not running out the door to stock up on Glencadam Origin but I wouldn't be disappointed to receive it as a gift either.
  • Score: 5/10 

Tomintoul 16 Year Old (40% abv)



The bottle reads "Tomintoul Speyside Glenlivet" which may lead to some confusion. As far as I know there is no corporate marriage between Tomintoul and Glenlivet. There is a history of other Speyside distilleries using a hyphenated "Glenlivet" name but the legal details aren't really that interesting to me. According to Tomintoul's website this is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, something that's far too rare these days in my humble opinion.

  • Nose (undiluted): a bit shy at first, honey, green apples, some banana, pears
  • Palate: richer than I expected, a bit creamy (if only it were bottled at a higher abv ! -ok, I'm stopping now), nutty (hazelnuts), vanilla, toffee, more pears
  • Finish: medium length, malty, a touch of citrus zest (lemons and oranges), a bit of vanilla custard lingers
  • Thoughts: If I'm drinking unpeated whisky, this type of dram is right in my wheelhouse. The distillate character is present, the whisky is gentle (a little too gentle at 40% abv) yet it isn't invisible.
  • Score: 6/10

Tomintoul Peaty Tang (40% abv)

I found this one the most curious of all the samples I received. With Tomintoul branding themselves as a "gentle dram" I wasn't expecting a peated whisky. Bully for me, I guess.
  • Nose (undiluted): much peatier (earthy peat) than I expected, light smoke, orchard fruits, honey, ginger
  • Palate: very gentle arrival, earthy peat, smoke, pears, malty, nutty (hazelnuts)
  • Finish: long and lingering, ashy campfire, light iodine
  • Thoughts: I'm on the fence between a 6 and a 7 here. The peated barley really works beautifully with the "gentle dram" that is Tomintoul. It would be a no-brainer 7/10 if this were bottled at 46% abv, but it's just a bit diminished by the lower abv. It sells for $71 at the LCBO and that's not a terrible price; it's about on par with Laphroaig Select.
  • Score: 6/10

SCORING BREAKDOWN

  • 1/10 – Really bad. "Drain pour" bad. I've only tasted two whiskies this bad.
  • 2/10 – I hope to avoid ever drinking this again. I'd use this for shots if I had to drink it.
  • 3/10 – This is either not great or astonishingly dull. Either way, I won't buy a bottle. I might accept a free glass if you offered me one. Maybe.
  • 4/10 – Sub-par. Not awful, but more bad (or disappointing) than good. Alternately, an average whisky at an above-average price point.
  • 5/10 – Average. Certainly not a bad whisky, but not one I want to stock all the time. 
  • 6/10 – Above average. Worth a glass now and then, maybe worth buying if the price is right.
  • 7/10 – Very good. Worth stocking regularly if the price is below $100
  • 8/10 – Excellent. Something I never want to be without, if possible. If it’s under $100 you shouldn’t think twice.
  • 9/10 – Exceptional stuff. The missing mark is probably because I'm shallow and pedantic.
  • 10/10 – Mind-bending, life-changing stuff. Whisky has no business being this good. An absolute must-taste. To expect more would be soulless and churlish.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Out With the Old? a review of Rock Oyster 18 Year Old

The old version

I've enjoyed every Douglas Laing blended malt I've tried. Whoever is responsible for the cask selection over there is doing a fantastic job. Rock Oyster is a vatting of malt whiskies from the various islands on Scotland's West Coast. Curiously, this offering was recently renamed "Rock Island" because, according to some internet sources, the name "Oyster" put some people off. Weird. Oh well. Changing a name isn't as big a deal as, say, removing Non-Chillfiltered from your official packaging (I'm looking at you, Glendronach). Rock Oyster 18 Year Old is bottled at 46.8% abv, natural colour (no E150a) and it is not chill-filtered (HUZZAH!!!). According to the interweb machine, this is a blend of whiskies from Arran, Islay (Laphroaig? Caol Ila? I don't know), Jura and Orkney (Highland Park? Scapa?).


Tasting notes


  • Nose (undiluted): vanilla, peaches, melon, salty and/or briny, iodine, light smoke and campfire ash, a bit of ripe banana
  • Palate: medium bodied, smoke on arrival, brine, iodine (Laphroaig? Bowmore?), some lemon zest, cashews, leather, banana skins, and as weird as it sounds...I'm getting a bit of raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Yum.
  • Finish: long and warming, briny, light oak tannins, tobacco, leather, sugar cookies and a malty finish
  • Thoughts: The longer this lingers in the glass, the more I'm convinced there's some Bowmore in the mix. That's a good thing for me since I love Bowmore. The blend is rich and well balanced. No element dominates or feels out of whack. Another winner from Douglas Laing. I'd love to try the newer releases as the re-named "Rock Island" line contains a NAS, a 10 year, and a 21 year version.
  • Score: 7/10 

SCORING BREAKDOWN

  • 1/10 – Really bad. "Drain pour" bad. I've only tasted two whiskies this bad.
  • 2/10 – I hope to avoid ever drinking this again. I'd use this for shots if I had to drink it.
  • 3/10 – This is either not great or astonishingly dull. Either way, I won't buy a bottle. I might accept a free glass if you offered me one. Maybe.
  • 4/10 – Sub-par. Not awful, but more bad (or disappointing) than good.
  • 5/10 – Average. Certainly not a bad whisky, but not one I want to stock all the time. 
  • 6/10 – Above average. Worth a glass now and then, maybe worth buying if the price is right.
  • 7/10 – Very good. Worth stocking regularly if the price is reasonable (to you).
  • 8/10 – Excellent. Something I never want to be without, if possible.
  • 9/10 – Exceptional stuff. The missing mark is probably because I'm shallow and pedantic.
  • 10/10 – Mind-bending, life-changing stuff. Whisky has no business being this good. An absolute must-taste. To expect more would be soulless and churlish.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Rye and Spice and Everything Nice

There are times I try to get clever when publishing one post with multiple reviews. This is not one of those times. I'm not feeling all that creative these days, so here are the reviews. 

Lot No.40 Cask Strength 2019 Release (57% abv)


Lot 40 Cask Strength has generated plenty of interest and enthusiasm since the first release, a 12 year old in 2017. I liked 2018's 11 year version even more but both were fantastic pours. The 2019 release (I know I'm late to the party) received mixed reviews. I'm not sure if it was the lack of an age statement or the use of French Oak casks, but it wasn't quite as widely acclaimed as the first two. Let's see what it's all about. 

  • Nose (undiluted): caramel, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, vanilla, a floral note (lavender or lilac maybe?), and with time in the glass I'm reminded of those Bazooka Joe bubble gums that came wrapped in a little comic.
  • Palate: easy arrival, caramel and marshmallow vanilla at first, oak, rye spices (pepper and cloves mostly) something that reminds me a bit of sandalwood, dusty oak (sawdust?), powdered sugar
  • Finish: long and warming, a slight farmy note at first (wet hay?), black pepper, cinnamon hearts, damp oak
  • With water: The nose changes significantly with the addition of water. It's much fruitier and more floral now; blueberries, violets (lilacs? I'm no florist), red fruits, some red grapes, oak tannins popping through. The palate is a bit more tannic as well with water, though the cinnamon plays nicely with those blueberry notes. The French Oak presence isn't overhwelming but it isn't subtle here either.
  • Thoughts: I first tasted this in November of 2019 and it felt a bit strange to me then. I don't know if samples are subject to "Old Bottle Effect" but I seem to enjoy this Lot 40 more now than I did back then. I still think the 2018 release was my favourite but this one is interesting in its own right. If some were available at a decent price it would be an interesting whisky to use in home blending experiments. I'm getting less of the "over-steeped black tea" notes that I loved so much in the previous releases of Lot 40 Cask Strength but the French Oak notes are an interesting addition nonetheless.
  • Score: 7/10


Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond (50% abv)



Rittenhouse is a polarizing American rye here on the interweb machine. Search Reddit and you'll find opinions varying from "the best bang for your buck in all of rye-dom" to "this is pure trash". What's a guy to do? Why taste it for himself of course. I've got a bit of a rocky, storied relationship with Heaven Hill products. I was very disappointed when they dropped the 12 year age statement from the standard Elijah Craig bourbon as that was one of my go-to bottles. The first bottle of Elijah Craig Small Batch (NAS) I owned was awful. Or maybe it was too different from the old 12 Year version. Or maybe it was my subconscious playing tricks on me. Either way, I've owned a few bottles of the Elijah Craig Small Batch since and it's still pretty darned good now that my anger has subsided. Let's see what Rittenhouse has going on:
  • Nose (undiluted): the first thing that hits me is Cherry Coke, syrupy sweet caramel corn, then some typical rye spices (cloves, cardamom, a little bit of allspice), vanilla, with time there's a bit of leather coming through as well
  • Palate: rich, oak-forward, heavy on the rye spices (cloves and cardamom), some paprika, a bit of corn sweetness, some vanilla and caramel too.
  • Finish: long, slightly tannic (but not too tannic), with plenty of tobacco and cherries, with oak and vanilla lingering. Yummy.
  • With water: Ok I didn't add water to it, but I have had this rye in a lot of different cocktails and it works beautifully. It's especially good in a Vieux CarrĂ©.
  • Thoughts: This is good. This is very good. No really, I can see myself always having this rye on hand, kind of like Wild Turkey 101.
  • Score: 7/10 

Milk and Honey Classic 3 Year Old (46% abv)


This Israeli single malt is aged in ex-bourbon and STR Red Wine Casks.

  • Nose (undiluted): red apples, vanilla, honey (the power of suggestion?), some red fruits (strawberries and raspberries perhaps?)
  • Palate: rich arrival, red fruits reminiscent of better batches of Glendronach 12, slightly peppery, a touch of cinnamon, something slightly floral, some oak
  • Finish: long lasting, red Twizzlers, cinnamon, a bit of milk chocolate, a touch spirity at the tail end but nothing too distracting (nowhere near the bitterness I get on the finish of some recent Forty Creek releases)
  • With water: the nose gets a touch darker, with dates and figs replacing the strawberry aromas, maybe a bit of chocolate as well, there's also something a bit earthy on the nose, dried leaves perhaps. Interesting. It's much maltier in the mouth with the addition of water but some of the richness is lost. I suppose there are always tradeoffs.
  • Thoughts: This is a fascinating and well-executed young malt from Tel Aviv's first whisky distillery. This whisky shows a lot of promise and works quite well in its own right.
  • Score: 6/10 


SCORING BREAKDOWN

  • 1/10 – Really bad. "Drain pour" bad. I've only tasted two whiskies this bad.
  • 2/10 – I hope to avoid ever drinking this again. I'd use this for shots if I had to drink it.
  • 3/10 – This is either not great or astonishingly dull. Either way, I won't buy a bottle. I might accept a free glass if you offered me one. Maybe.
  • 4/10 – Sub-par. Not awful, but more bad (or disappointing) than good.
  • 5/10 – Average. Certainly not a bad whisky, but not one I want to stock all the time. 
  • 6/10 – Above average. Worth a glass now and then, maybe worth buying if the price is right.
  • 7/10 – Very good. Worth stocking regularly if the price is below $100
  • 8/10 – Excellent. Something I never want to be without, if possible. If it’s under $100 you shouldn’t think twice.
  • 9/10 – Exceptional stuff. The missing mark is probably because I'm shallow and pedantic.
  • 10/10 – Mind-bending, life-changing stuff. Whisky has no business being this good. An absolute must-taste. To expect more would be soulless and churlish.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

A few rum reviews

 WARNING: I AM NOT A RUM EXPERT !


I love rum and I'm learning more about it all the time, but my views and reviews come from a whisky lover's perspective. Please don't send me hate mail telling me my opinions are worthless because I haven't tasted the first Foursquare ever released or the actual rum that Henry Morgan drank on the day he died in what is now Jamaica. If you want to read stuff from people who actually know what they're talking about, check out Rum Revelations , Roob Dogg Drinks , The Lone Caner, or The Fat Rum Pirate. The people writing those blogs know far more about rum than I ever will. As much as I like to think of myself as CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow, my personality is undoubtedly more akin to Joshamee Gibbs.


The Real McCoy 12 Year (40% abv)



The Real McCoy name is based on the story of Bill McCoy, a rum runner of the Prohibition era. McCoy made a name for himself because he never adulterated the alcohol, allegedly. Other rum runners allegedly diluted their alcohol with turpentine, wood alcohol and prune juice, McCoy never did. The sullied products were nicknamed "hooch" and "rotgut," while McCoy’s quality spirits became known as "The Real McCoy." That's the story anyway, and it might even be true. Real McCoy is produced at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, so there's no adulteration; no added sugar, no syrups, no flavourings, no glycerine, etc. It isn't cheap here in Ontario, especially considering it's bottled at the legal minimum abv, but what can you do?

  • Nose (undiluted): caramel, leather, vanilla, oak, some generic "rumminess" (yeah, I just wrote that)
  • Palate: light to medium body, vanilla, a little chocolate, coconut, soft spices, a bit of orange zest
  • Finish: medium length, vanilla, oak, tobacco, a touch of barrel char lingering.
  • Thoughts: this is an ideal rum for a whisky drinker who wants an introduction to sipping rum. I'd like to try the 46% abv version but this is a lovely rum nonetheless. It isn't cheap but I bought a bottle to replace the one I finished so take from that what you will.
  • Score: 7/10

Havana Club 7 Anos


Havana Club Rum is an interesting brand. In most of the world, the rum sold under the Havana Club label is produced in Cuba. In the United States, however, Bacardi has been involved in a trademark dispute for a long time. I don't know where it stands today, and I don't care enough to Google it. All I know is that our American friends can't legally get the real deal from Cuba anyway because politics and embargos.

  • Nose (undiluted): a hint of ethanol, leather, dark roast coffee, vanilla, raisins
  • Palate: fairly light-bodied but with a dark character, brown sugar, raisins, bananas, molasses
  • Finish: medium length and drying, with oak char, molasses, brown sugar, and a bit of dark chocolate
  • Thoughts: I first tried Havana Club 7 when someone left a bottle at my place in late 2019, aka "the before times". He lives in Calgary (I'm in Ontario) so I assumed he wasn't coming back for it.   I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It works well neat or on the rocks, as well as in a rum Old Fashioned or a rum Manhattan. Interesting enough to sip on its own and affordable enough to offer to your friends and relatives who will drown it in Coca-Cola.
  • Score: 6/10

Flor de Cana 12 (40% abv)


Flor de Cana is an interesting case study. The "12" on the bottle is NOT an age statement but a "flavour profile" or an "average age profile". They took some heat a few years ago when it was discovered that their treatment of workers was, well, not great. They've since made strides to improve working conditions among other things. Flor de Cana advertise themselves as carbon neutral and fair trade certified. It's progress I suppose. They also get points for putting out an unadulterated rum.

  • Nose (undiluted): This rum is VERY ethanol-forward. It’s hard to get anything other than nailpolish remover on the nose. There’s a bit of oak, vanilla, and some nuttiness but it’s hidden behind an aggressive onslaught of ethanol.
  • Palate: It’s quite light bodied, yet sharp for something that’s only bottled at 40% abv. There's some vanilla, apples, oak, and a bit of honey.
  • Finish: short and drying, more oak, honey, and some ethanol lingering.
  • Thoughts: This isn't a bad rum and the ethanol does dissipate with time in the glass. It's a light, crisp rum that probably works best in a highball or a Tiki cocktail calling for an aged, column-still rum (If you follow the Smuggler's Cove classification guide, which I tend to do). That said, $45 for a mixing rum might be a bit steep when you can get Appleton 12 Year for a few more bucks or Appleton 8 Year for a few dollars less. I enjoy both of those rums more than Flor de Cana 12, but your mileage may vary.
  • Score: 4/10

SCORING BREAKDOWN

  • 1/10 – Really bad. "Drain pour" bad. 
  • 2/10 – I hope to avoid ever drinking this again. I'd use this for shots if I had to drink it.
  • 3/10 – This is either not great or astonishingly dull. Either way, I won't buy a bottle. I might accept a free glass if you offered me one. Maybe.
  • 4/10 – Sub-par. Not awful, but more bad (or disappointing) than good.
  • 5/10 – Average. Certainly not a bad rum, but not one I want to stock all the time. 
  • 6/10 – Above average. Worth a glass now and then, maybe worth buying if the price is right.
  • 7/10 – Very good. Worth stocking regularly if the price is below $100
  • 8/10 – Excellent. Something I never want to be without, if possible. If it’s under $100 you shouldn’t think twice.
  • 9/10 – Exceptional stuff. The missing mark is probably because I'm shallow and pedantic.
  • 10/10 – Mind-bending, life-changing stuff. Rum has no business being this good. An absolute must-taste. To expect more would be soulless and churlish.