Review: JAMESON Gold Reserve – #79 hit

Jameson Gold Reserve challenges the stereotypical consensus that all Irish whiskeys are smooth one-dimensional spirits that are to be enjoyed only in a mixed drink or a shot glass.jameson_gold_reserve

Ironically, to me at least, the regular Jameson Whiskey, which accounts for far most of the 20 million bottles sold annually – and thereby puts Jameson as the best selling Irish whiskey in the world, is not only the most popular but also the worst. When I say worst I clearly mean worst in the Jameson family. The quality doesn’t even come close to what you get from the 12 year old, 18 year old, and Gold Reserve bottling. Of course, this is not unique to Jameson. Most whiskeys, although there are quite a few exceptions I must add, gain in quality as they age. What I am trying to convey here is not that the regular Jameson is bad, but rather that the rest of the family stand superior – especially the Gold Reserve.

One of the most striking differences with Gold Reserve compared to the rest of the Jameson family is that it has been matured in American virgin casks. This explains the astringent taste imparted by the tannins, defining the palate just after a wave of vanilla and scrumptious marshmallows. As the whiskey poured into my mouth this bittersweet mix of dry herbaceous notes with soft vanilla and fudge culminates almost synergistically into a very rewarding and long finish. The softer notes disappear towards the end and are replaced by pines, citrus, and wet mossy soil.

I love it! The taste is so unique with its combination of extreme sweetness and bitterness where neither becomes too dominant. The balance and complexity here is astonishing – one of Ireland’s finest!

VERDICT: Given that I am genetically dispositioned towards Irish whiskeys it comes as no surprise that I am highly addicted to this particular bottling. The bittersweet combination, that defines this whiskey, is very rare and perfectly executed. I highly recommend Gold Reserve, especially if you are into the Irish drams.



Review: RUM COMPANY Aficionado – #78 hit

Never would I have thought that my favorite Rum would come from a European country. Least of all Germany. Aficionado is a blend of 3 to 25 year old Rums and slightly reminds me of the 12 year old Dictador with its characteristic burnt and roasted flavor. Even though there is some resemblance Aficionado has a lot more going on; instead of following a single line this rum implements both sweet and sour notes of caramel, spicy vanilla, fudge, and cocoa into the very predominant taste of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate. You can easily discern the different layers that work so wonderfully together.  A very unique experience indeed.rum_company_aficionado

This Rum was originally intended to be enjoyed with a cigar. Taken that I am not a cigar enthusiast – yet – I cannot say how they work together. What I can say however is that Aficionado works VERY well without a cigar. It is deliciously smooth and full bodied, almost syrupy, and has an exquisite complexity that will fulfill most rum lovers demands. The only reason why you would not enjoy/buy this rum would be if you are poor (it is pretty expensive), not into dark rums with burnt flavors or hate coffee.

VERDICT: This Rum reminds me of the 12yo Dictador, just a sweeter variant with more complexity. Its ability to combine different flavor profiles, like coffee and caramel, without ruining the experience is truly impressive. GREAT complexity, GREAT balance, GREAT Rum period!


Review: BUSHMILLS 16yo – #77 hit

While being the oldest licensed distillery in the world – granted by King James I in 1608 – the Old Bushmills Distillery is also the only operating whiskey distillery left in Northern Ireland. You would think that having 406 years in mastering the art of whiskey-making would generate pretty damn good whiskey!?  bushmills 16

I want to start off by stating that I SIMPLY LOVE the 16 year old Bushmills! I think it had me even before I opened the bottle with its mouthwatering text, “Aged in oloroso sherry and bourbon casks, then finished in port wine casks for a combination of rich fruitiness and malty nutiness”. I must stress however that this Irish Single Malt is not for everyone. I have had friends that were not too impressed with the taste. You may argue that they weren’t “experienced” enough but in the end it all comes down to the subjectivity of taste. Personally I have never come across a whisk(e)y like this (or even close). Like with all unique flavor profiles you either love it or hate it.

What makes the 16 year old Bushmills so special in my opinion is the remarkable synergy that has been achieved by combining two completely different flavor profiles. On the one hand you have mahogany wood, earthiness and Hazelnuts. Then on the other you have black currents, caramel, fudge, peaches and hints of vanilla. All these different notes work so well together and form an extraordinary experience. On top of all this the finish is very very very long.

VERDICT: Not many whiskeys can boast about being matured in three different casks. The end result is a very unique whiskey with a myriad of flavors were you get the best from both worlds. The Bushmills 16yo does not get the attention it deserves in my opinion and I can highly recommend it.


Review: GREEN SPOT – #76 hit

For a long time Green Spot and Redbreast were the only two Single Pot Still (SPS) whiskeys commercially available. However the interest in SPS whiskeys has been growing and in 2011 Powers John’s Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy joined this exclusive club. SPS whiskey uses a mixed mash of malted barley and unmalted green barley that are tripled distilled. Since this process is very different to the making of Single Malt whisky you would expect a completely different end product. This is also the case.Green Spot

If you were to place all the worlds whiskies on a “flavor map” Green Spot would be far away from the rest. Some would probably also mistake it for being something completely else than whiskey; it is THAT different. It is one of those drams you either love or hate.

I love Green Spot but it took me some time to get used to the unusual taste. If I were to describe its complexity in one sentence it would be “a whiskey filled with vegetal notes”. More specifically barley, green grass and citrus fruits. At the same time various spices and cereal flavors appear on the palate. The combination works well and considering it is a below 10yo whiskey it is surprisingly smooth (even for a triple distilled).

VERDICT: You want to try this SPS whiskey if you are ready to try something completely different to what you are used to. It cannot be compared to Redbreast or anything else I have tried but is very good nonetheless. Price is also reasonable around 60-70$.


Review: FLOR THE CAÑA 18yo – #75 hit

The 12 year old Flor the Caña did not leave any lasting impression; at least not a very good one. Hence the expectation level for this 18 year old Nicaraguan rum was relatively low! While being one of the most popular rums in Central America Flor the Caña has also won more than 100 international awards since the year 2000. This is pretty impressive! Why all this recognition?Flor the Cana.

As a rule of thumb I would always say that rum gets better the more time it spends in the barrel – granted there are exceptions. Because of this I was surprised to read that the majority of people prefer the 12yo Flor the Caña over the 18yo.  Again my expectations were lowered. Now, after having tasted it, I can honestly say that I couldn’t disagree more. The 18 year old is definitely superior in my opinion.

Even thought there is a resemblance in taste between the 12yo and 18yo the latter is far smoother, creamier and more complex. One thing that I especially appreciate is the dryness that appears because of the longer maturation process. Common notes of cocoa, vanilla, spices, dark chocolate and hints of leather come together in a very balanced way. The flavor of this rum is not revolutionary in any way and actually pretty common I would say. Still the balance between the different flavors is superb and combining that with the creamy texture and lack of alcoholic punch I can almost understand why it is so popular. The only thing that curbs your enthusiasm is the short and vague aftertaste. Almost watery.

VERDICT: The 18 year old Flor the Caña is a good everyday rum. I could imagine that some people would be put off by the leathery notes and dry taste but in my book this is just extra points. I still can’t grasp its huge success though. Especially considering its brief and watery finish.


Review: GLENFARCLAS 105 Cask Strength – #74 hit

Glenfarclas, my favorite Speyside distillery! I had high expectations for this one, maybe too high!?

My first thoughts were “where did all the alcohol go”? I had some water ready close by in case of emergency but this was clearly not needed. This is without a doubt the smoothest 60% abv. whisky I’ve ever come across. In comparison to Aberlour A’bunadh – another heavily sherried Cask Strength Speyside – this is fruit juice. Okay maybe exaggerated a bit but honestly this is Cask Strength at its smoothest.glenfarclas-105-cask-strength

Since my current Speyside favorite is the 12 year old Glenfarclas I unavoidably start comparing these two editions. I immediately fell in love with the mossy taste of the 12yo but, to my slight disappointment, this is nowhere to be found in the 105 Cask Strength. Still you don’t want the two to taste alike; I mean what is the point to that!? Instead of the mossy heathery taste you have delicious candied black fruits on top of a piercing bed of sherry and spices. It is amazing how different the 105 Cask Strength taste compared to the 12yo. This is not said in a bad way, I really like this dram. It might even be my favorite Cask Strength whisky, primarily because of the extreme sweetness and sherry notes that are dominating the palate.

I ended off by adding some drops of water. I sincerely don’t think this helped, on the contrary It felt more dull. My recommendation therefore is to enjoy Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength neat.

VERDICT: This is definitely the smoothest Cask Strength whisky I have tasted and also one of the few that do not improve when adding water. Sherry is the keyword here, loads of it. I can warmly recommend this Speyside if you are searching for a combination of high alcohol content, sweetness, and loads of sherry.


Review: RUM COMPANY Cocorange Old Rum – #73 hit

3 weeks ago while attending a Rum & Whisky Festival in Copenhagen I stumbled (literally) into this unique newcomer; Rum Company.  It had been a long afternoon and I had reached around 17-18 tastings so my taste buds (as well as my view) was severely damaged at this point. Still I practically ended up staying at this booth until they closed down. Long story short I had more than a few tastings and eventually staggered away with 4 bottles: 2 x Cocorange Old Rum and 2 x Aficionado, both from Rum Company. If you have never heard about Rum Company before I don’t blame you. Neither had I 3 weeks ago.Cocorange

Rum Company was established by three German rum enthusiasts in 2009. Since then they have released several different blends as they import already matured rum from The Caribbean to Germany and blend it themselves.

My first impression of this rum was Pyrat XO with a small amount of Malibu Black. I guess it seemed reasonable at the time given the strong aroma of freshly crushed coconuts and chopped orange peel. After tasting it however I realized how wrong my assumption was. Obviously more sweet than Pyrat XO but I would also go as far as to say that the taste of citrus fruits (especially oranges) is more pronounced or maybe even more authentic than in Pyrat XO. Is it more on the citrus fruit or coconut side? This is hard to say but I would probably describe the taste more as freshly pressed oranges spiked with coconut milk than the other way around.  Mid palate is more on the citrus fruit side whereas coconut is dominating towards and during the finish. The balance between the two is perfect. The texture is creamy and the 40% abv. is nicely concealed. I believe this rum is going to be very popular and it is already harvesting medals around the world. Next stop Aficionado!

VERDICT:  Originally my intention was that Cocorange Old Rum would be for the female guests. However Gollum has come over me and I keep it to myself now. It is undoubtedly the best of the sweet rums I’ve tasted and you should definitely try it if you like Pyrat XO (even though it tastes nothing like it) and coconut rums.


Review: BOWMORE 1992 bordeaux cask 16yo – #40 hit

French Whore’s Perfume?

French Whore’s Perfume is a term coined to certain Bowmore bottlings that was considered to be of very poor quality due to notes of lavender, soap, violet and other strong perfume fragrances. It is said that the notorious era of FWP (French Whore’s Perfume) stretched from the early 80’ies to the early 90’ies. This leaves this edition in the danger zone and I actually wish I hadn’t heard about FWP as it prevents me from being completely unbiased in this matter. So should I pass this bottle on to my grandmother or is it worth a space on my shelf?Bowmore 1992 16yo

Phew! This bottle has not been compromised. Or maybe I should say not completely compromised because the floral fragrances are certainly present, just not to the extent of ruin. Considering that this limited edition 1992 vintage single malt  has aged in bourbon casks for six years and then ten years in Bordeaux wine casks there is no wonder that floral and fruity notes would appear on the palate. With most Islay whiskies the sweet fruity flavors that may be present are often concealed by a heavy layer of peaty smoke. This is not the case here however and I am actually a bit surprised by the relative absence of the familiar bonfire taste. Instead of smoke you are overwhelmed by waves of seasalt, pepper, and minerals; especially towards the finish. I find the entry more round, creamy and gentle with hints of sherried fruits and walnuts. I really like the balance in this single malt.

VERDICT: This Bowmore has not been FWP’ed and gives you a unique experience with its combination of maritime notes and red fruits. It packs a punch with its 53,3% abv. yes, but not enough to justify adding water in my opinion. All in all a good Islay dram.


Review: PÉRE MAGLOIRE XO – #45 hit

Pére Magloire XO has all the hallmarks of well crafted calvados; freshly baked apple tart sprinkled with crushed roasted nuts and cpere_magloire_xoinnamon. Matured at least 10 years in oak casks this Pére Magloire is as soft as a baby blanket with its rich and round entry. On top of this you will find that this is one of the creamiest calvadoses on the market. Multiple layers of caramelized ripe apples appear on midpalate and slowly fade while giving room for marshmallows and baking spices. It concludes well with a more organic finish of nuts and oak. Delicious!

VERDICT: Creamy and soft with distinct under-ripe apple notes ending off with a roasted nut finish. How can you not like this? I love this apple brandy and can highly recommend it!


Review: BOULARD XO – #43 hit

Founded by Pierre-August Boulard back in 1825, calvados Boulard has been running in the family business for five generations. It is now the biggest producer, in terms of volume, as well as the biggest exporter (approx. 80%) and has around 31% of the U.S. Ccalvados-boulardalvados market. Claiming the title of Best Brandy and Best Calvados in the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, this apple brandy has much to live up to.

Wonderful! It is much less aggressive than Grand Solage with its smooth caramel like entry. Baked apples are everywhere and yet appearances of both oaky dried fruit and grilled almonds are neatly keeping the mature apple flavor at bay. It is far from a harsh drink and has great complexity with its touch of spices and dried fruits. Compared to Grand Solage it is much darker/roasted in taste which I really like. Without a doubt a gold medal, or two, worthy.

VERDICT: No wonder why it has about third of the U.S. market, this is Calvados at its best. Good complexity, smooth, dark and not to forget those deliciously baked apples.