Flor de Caña 18yo Centenario Gold (40%, Nicaragua)

A long time ago in Master Quills Rum Week, I already reviewed the Flor de Caña 12yo Centenario, and as far as Rums go I wasn’t too impressed by it then. Funny enough, another rum from that week, The Diplomático 12yo Reserva Exclusiva, really grew on me over time, and is one I like a lot better these days. Flor de Caña actually is said to be a Rum for Whisky drinkers, since it isn’t too sweet. So almost two years later, and a lot more experience with Rum, lets give another, even older, example of Flor de Caña a chance. By the way, the looks of this particular bottle have been revamped lately, so this is a review of an older bottling (Code: AE-020U10CG/X), so take it away Master…

Flor de Caña 18yoColor: Orange Copper

Nose: Sweet sugared oranges mixed with nice wooden notes. Caramel and toffee. Vanilla, like you have finished your ice-cream dessert and the rest of it dried out in the bowl. Not very complex. It’s about wood, toffee and a little bit of vanilla (and some citrus skin). Good balance though.

Taste: Much drier than expected, well maybe not from Flor de Caña. Wood. Oak and cedar. Vanilla again, and actually pretty light. Tree sap and the slightest of bitters. Very easily drinkable and in no way would I have thought this was 18yo. Most rums at this age have more wood.

No over the top sweetness, nice woody notes and good balance. Pretty light yet well-balanced. That’s Flor de Caña 18yo in a nutshell. Good sipping rum. I think I should have another go at the 12yo, to see how I would like it now.

Points: 81

Macduff 10yo 2000/2011 (46%, Dewar Rattray, for Specialists Choice, First Fill Sherry Butt #5788, 360 bottles)

Macduff 10yo 2000/2011 (46%, Dewar Rattray, for Specialists Choice, First Fill Sherry Butt #5788, 360 bottles)Finally a younger expression of Macduff. Not one I predicted in the last Macduff review, would be from the nineties, but already one from the new millennium. We’ll see what happens next time. All the Macduffs I reviewed up untill now were all in their thirties, this time we go back to basics with a good old ten year old from the year 2k. Lets see if the computers monitoring the distillation process didn’t go berserk.

Color: Copper

Nose: Raisins and fat Sherry. Pencil shavings. Creamy oranges. Nice soft and velvety wood. Milk chocolate and warm chocolate milk. Hint of cranberry. Pretty meaty if you ask me. Curious mix of red fruit with spicy wood and chocolate. Licorice root. Intriguing.

Taste: First a short, sharp, spicy and slightly bitter bite, than the (slower) sweetness comes into the mouth. Again pencil shavings and licorice. Excellent sweetness and the pencil shavings are great. Also some ashes. Lots of not too dark chocolate although later on, the wood turns a little bit bitter turning the milk chocolate into a darker kind. Also over time, the sweetness seems to be more and more out-of-place, disturbing the balance a bit.

A nice daily drinker or a Sherry grenade. Well, it’s not a Sherry bomb, and I feel the reduction worked well this time. I obviously haven’t tasted this at a higher strength, but I have noticed that adding water to a first fill red Sherry, gives the Whisky a sharp edge. This example is far from sharp. Very drinkable and very nice nevertheless.

Points: 84

Bowmore ‘Black Rock’ (40%, OB, for Travel Retail, 1 Litre)

This year Bowmore introduced, just like Macallan actually, a series of three bottles for travel Retail, without age statements but with names, and not any name, but names based on colors. Macallan tried it with the following nouns: Gold, Amber, Sienna (is that a color?) and Ruby. Bowmore are using the colors more as an adjective: Black Rock, Gold Reef and White Sands. The first two being also litre bottles. Non of the bottles have a great reputation and in case of some of these Macallan’s I have found out first hand that…well not that great. Now here is one of the three Bowmores, the most affordable of the three.

Bowmore 'Black Rock' (40%, OB, for Travel Retail, 1 Litre)Color: Red orange gold, cognac

Nose: Nice peat and maritime smoke, rubber and tires, but mixed with some strong acidic fruitiness. lots of earwax too. Salty, tarry ans smoked dried fish. Vanilla. The longer the glass breathes the more pronounced and likeable the fruit notes get. Starting with your typical red sour berries and moving into the black fruits Bowmores have long been known for. That can still be done Excellent nose if you ask me.

Taste: Ashes and watery. Oh no, it’s too thin! Brief dry Sherry attack, which quickly dissipates and transforms in paper and ashes. Actually behind this is a (burnt) caramel note, and quite a lot of it. The back label states that is has been “treated” with E150, but I get a lot of this. Damn shame. Bowmore have become so good they don’t need that! The taste is very simple and the Sherry didn’t handle all the water used for reduction too well. It shows potential but driven by the decision to bottle this at 40% ABV (Economics I guess), they somewhat ruined it. A little bit of Rochefort under my tongue.

Easily drinkable due to the strength, but ruined a bit by reduction. Still underneath (and the nose still shows it), this was a good Bowmore.

Points: 81

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

After the excellent Dailuaine by Gordon & MacPhail why not try another one. This time one by dutch Indie bottlers The Ultimate. Gordon & MacPhail are known for controlling the whole process from acquiring the cask, storing the filled cask, right untill bottling of the Whisky. With this they hope to achieve the highest quality possible. The Ultimate have a slightly different approach, a very Dutch one.

Dailuaine 14yo 1997/2012 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, Hogshead #6012, 372 bottles)

First of all the final product cannot cost too much, having said that, they really try to get the highest quality they can get. No money is spent on designing a fancy label, nor on a fancy glass bottle.  A long time ago a picture of Bushmills distillery was found and placed on the label and never again was money spent on design. (By the way, Bushmills was never bottled in this series). If you want your bottle in a (simple, white) box, you’ll have to pay extra. The only money spent is on buying good Whisky. The Van Wees company has many contacts in Scotland dating back to the sixties. Most, if not all, of the recent casks are bought from Andrew Symington (Signatory Vintage). Just have a look at the casks from 1997. The Ultimate bottled #6012 and #6017, Signatory bottled #6015, #6016, #6018 and #6020. The Ultimate bottled #4229 and #4234. Signatory bottled #4228, #4230, #4231, #4232 and #4233.

Color: Light Gold

Nose: Fruity and buttery. Quite a strong aroma. Nice spicy and grassy wood. Just like it’s brother from Gordon & MacPhail, a nice sweet vanilla note. Eggnog. Lots of influence from the wood, without overpowering the distillate. Nice sappy oak and also a little bit of cardboard. With some air a more dry and powdery turn. A lot less apple, but still there. Somehow the alcohol is more upfront.

Taste: Sweeter than I imagined. Again a pretty nice aroma. Vanilla with candied apples and even some raspberry. Excellent stuff. A paper note, but also hints of burnt sugar mixes in with the toasted oak. Very nice and drinkable, with a sweet and warming, and dare I say, hoppy finish. The Whisky is pretty straightforward and nicely un-complex.

Dailuaine is a pretty nice distillate, will have to keep this one in mind and investigate further.

Points: 85

Dailuaine 14yo 1995/2010 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AJ/AAFI)

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection UltraUnlike Benrinnes, Dailuaine has been featured a few times already on Master Quill, the last one just a month ago, so it doesn’t need a big introduction, nor does Gordon & MacPhail, the big Scottish independent bottler with an even bigger reputation doing things yet even bigger. We all know Gordon & MacPhail have a lot of series like the Distillery Labels, Connoisseurs Choice, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve and Private Collection, to name but a view. Now there is even a bigger choice with four new, very old, Whiskies in the Private Collection Ultra.

Hey, what’s in a name! I was fortunate enough to have been able to try, three of the four, recently: The 61yo Linkwood (88 Points), the 62yo Glenlivet (89 Points), the 57yo Strathisla (88 Points) and finally there is also a 63yo Mortlach. Well these four are obviously very expensive and extremely rare. For us “normal” people who can’t afford those Ultra’s, here we’ll be reviewing a hopefully very good Dailuaine, one of my favorite amongst the rather unknown distilleries…

Dailuaine 14yo 1995/2010 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AJ/AAFI)Color: Gold

Nose: Floral and spicy. Dusty and spicy wood. Try to imagine the cask from the outside. Hints of mint. Icing Sugar and even some dried tall grass. Malt and honey. Quite some vanilla. After the Benrinnes I reviewed last here we have another refill Sherry cask that impairs a lot of vanilla to the Whisky. Sometimes it smells a bit like a rum with oranges. More fruit with apple skins. Apple pie, yes also cookie dough and with that the spice wood note. Acidic cinnamon. Very good!

Taste: Sweet. Apples, Apple skin, warm apple sauce. Spicy wood. Extremely nice. Well balanced stuff this is. Nutty wood. Nice hint of sweetness that complements the full aroma. I really like this one. I thought the Benrinnes was good, but this is even a little bit better. Spicy wood. Hints of nutmeg and plain oak. Sugared apple. Caramel. Sweet woody caramel and a tiny hint of bitter wood (sap). Not a very long finish, but very tasty. The finish resembles the body. Well made and very tasty stuff.

There you have it. A young and reduced Dailuaine, which when looking at scores is almost as good as the new Ultra’s. This is a new kid on the block, a teenager, and doesn’t have the experience and sophistication of the old Ultra’s. Although the price difference is staggering, there is something to say for both. (If you have the cash).

Points: 86

Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AA/ABJG)

This time I’ll have a look at a bottling from a distillery which “works for me”. I tend to like Benrinnes, so I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this distillery never featured before on these pages!

Benrinnes was founded way back in 1826 by Peter McKenzie, but destroyed within three years. Most distilleries that are destroyed somewhere in their history, are destroyed by fire, but Benrinnes was destroyed by water (flood), but don’t forget about fire just yet. Five years after the flood, a new farm distillery was built a few miles away and was called Lyne of Rutherie. This distillery changed hands a few times eventually David Edward became the owner. He renamed the distillery Benrinnes in 1864. In 1896 the distillery was almost completely wiped away by…yes, a fire. When David passed away, his son Alexander takes over. Alexander also founds Craigellachie (1891), Aultmore (1896) and Dallas Dhu (1898). Alexander also purchased Oban in 1898. Quite a busy decade for Alexander.

Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AAABJG)From 1955 through 1956, the distillery is again completely rebuilt, this time because of economics, not disaster. In 1966 the distillery is equipped with six stills, but are not configured in the expected three pairs which a normal double distilling distillery would have. Benrinnes have two groups of three stills which makes for a partial triple distilling configuration (sounds a bit like Springbank doesn’t it?).

Color: Gold

Nose: Full on aroma, flowery and perfumy Sherry. This leaps out of the glass and grabs you by the…nose, in a non-agressive way. Fruity sweet, dusty toffee. Tiny hint of roofing tar. Oxidized Sherry. Fino Sherry probably. Grassy and still floral. Horseradish. A promise of sweetness. There is some wood in here but it comes across as virgin oak, which also gives off some vanilla notes, so it seems to me this is from a Fino Sherry American oak hogshead.

Taste: Again lots of aroma. Sweet hops, Beer. Yes! Creamy sweet toffee and a hint of cardboard. Nutty, which again makes me think of an oxidized Sherry. When this is from refill Fino Hogsheads it picked up a lot of color, without it being reddish from Oloroso and such. Since this is from multiple casks, I’m wondering now if they would mix casks from different types of Sherries for this series, I’ll have to ask). The hoppy beer note stays well into the finish and that may be considered unusual and light, Late in the finish I also get some tangerine, with quite some vanilla. Interesting bottling. By the way, this one needs air and time.

The back label states this has a light body, but I sure beg to differ. Pretty special stuff if you ask me. The profile of this Whisky leaves me with some questions, so I’m not quite done with it yet. With bottlings like this I always wonder how the Whisky was before reduction, especially the finish. Benrinnes suits Gordon & MacPhail, would be a nice Whisky next to Benromach.

Points: 85

Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (56.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 164, 318 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (56.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Cask CM 164, 318 bottles)Another House of MacDuff bottling and yes, another Bunnahabhain from this independent bottler. The one I reviewed earlier was distilled in 1972 and bottled at 40 years of age! This again is a fairly light-colored malt, so it seems like a not so active cask. Still, knowing who picks the casks I still have high hopes for this one. It can’t be bad. It seems to me that Bunnahabhain is a very popular distillery for this independent bottler since they have managed to bottle already five Bunnhabhains, this one from 1997 was their first.

Color: Light gold

Nose: Lots of fatty peat. Crushed beetle. Dark black tea. Spicy and very nice woody notes. Tarred rope. The whole smells like a fishing boat, maybe without the fish. Citrus. Bonfire on the beach, but not salty. It doesn’t smell of sea wind that is. Hint of dried orange peel and some ginger. In the back some dried meat and old paint (from the fishing boat). A very romantic peated malt.

Taste: Lemon, cream and licorice. A stick of licorice “zoethout”. A very nice and laid back Islay malt. Lightly sweet icing Sugar underneath. Toffee, vanilla and smoke, even some ashes. Light fatty peat if given some time to breathe. Dries the lips. Salty. Smoked meat and a return of the dried orange peel.

yes another peated Bunnahabhain. It may surprise you so much peated Whisky is released from Bunnahabhain, but truth be told, Bunnahabhain have something of a shortage of unpeated Whisky on their hands, so expect a lot more peated stuff from this distillery. Beware, because not every bottler mentions on their labels that their Bunnahabhain is peated…

Points: 86