Review: MATUSALEM 15yo – #49 hit

The company behind this rum introduced Matusalem in 1792 but was forced into exile after Castro gmatusalem-15-yo-gran-reserva-cuban-rum-70cl-40-abvained power in Cuba. In 2001 the brand was relaunched and achieved Double Gold Medal at San Fransisco World Spirits Competition in 2008. I am not as overly enthusiastic about this rum as most people are. It reminds me of the 21 year old Malecon; predominated by toasted flavors, a bit dry and spicy and with an oaky finish. As this might sound good my biggest concern is its lack of character which makes it come across as a bit indifferent.

VERDICT: Despite all the fine medals and reviews this rum has received I have yet to call it a personal favorite.

  (6.3/10)

Review: PLANTATION 20th Anniversario – #28 hit

Okay I admit, this review is extremely biased by the fact that I am a complete sucker for coconuts. When that is said, I still believe that most people would enjoy this rum (unless you don’t like coconuts of course). Let me start by clearing something out this is NOT a 20 year old rum as many mistake it to be. The 20th refer to the number of years Alexandre Gabriel had been president and owner of Cognac Ferrand. The rum itself has Plantation barbados 20“only” matured around 10 years in bourbon casks and then about 2 years in Pierre Ferrand – Grande Champagne – Cognac Casks. Not surprisingly it enters with waves of sweet coconuts almost concealing everything else. At the same time your mouth is coated with brown sugar while traces of vanilla, orange marmalade and cinnamon linger on the palate. This is coconut rum at its best! The only concern I have is that it becomes too sweet if you drink too much (which I have a bad tendency to do by the way). Therefore I would suggest savoring this in moderate quantities.

VERDICT: This is one of the more sweet coconut rums I have tasted but it still manages to keep within an acceptable range. A must buy for coconut enthusiasts!

  (7.8/10)

Review: BENROMACH 10yo – #68 hit

benromach_10So I finally got around to tasting the last bottle of Benromach I had on my shelf. Having tasted the Organic and Peat Smoke editions I had already grown fond of this very small distillery. I did however expect this one to be a bit less interesting. Indeed, it lacks the character found in the special editions but is definitely still worth the money. Like other Speysides it is malty and sweet and opens up with traditional notes of citrus and pepper. Hints of orange peel also appear along with caramel and mild vegetal notes. I tried adding a bit of water which really worked to its advantage. I like it despite its lacking complexity and even though it is nothing extraordinary it still rises above most 12 year old or less single malts available on the market.

VERDICT: A good traditional Speyside.

  (5.6/10)

Review: ARDBEG 10yo – #11 hit

At 46% abv. & non chill-filtered this whisky is supposed to be the peatiest, smokiest and most complex single malt in the world. If I hadn’t tasted or heard about Ardbeg before I would have regarded this as pure bragging. I guess it is still bragging but maybe in a justified kind of way? I mean guys like Jim Murray can’t be wrong. Can they?

If we get a bit nerdy we find out that Ardbeg is far from the most peaty whisky available on the market. As you might know the peating level is expressed as phenols in PPM. The 10 year old Ardbeg contain a phenol level of 52+ PPM whereas the 5 year old Octomore Edition 5.169 of Bruichladdish reach an impressively 169 PPM. Hence there is no question that Octomore claim first place in the smoke category (with at least four different editions). To Ardbeg’s defense the Supernova edition is next in line with 100 PPM. Still you can find Speyside, Campbelltown and Irish whiskies with higher phenol levels than the 10 year old bottling of Ardbeg.ardbeg-10

Nonetheless this dram is very close to perfection. While the wide range of smoky flavors develop in my mouth I picture myself standing on a shore with waves coming in with oily remnants entangled in dark brown seaweed. It IS a smokebomb compared to other Islays like Laphroaig which makes perfectly sense given that the most peated Laphroaig (10yo edition) contain 40-43 PPM phenols. It is not all about smoke and peat though. There is a freshness to it emerging as sea salt and different grassy notes. You also find traces of vanilla and citrus vaguely appearing at the end. The finish is short and there is a moderate after-bite which in my opinion is neglectable.

VERDICT: There isn’t anything not to love about this whisky. The finish may be a bit too short but I don’t think this ruins the experience. Is it the most complex dram in the world? I think this is hard to say, especially considering that I have a long way to go before I’ve tasted all the whiskies out there! At this point I will leave this question to the experts.

  (8/10)

Review: GLENFARCLAS 12yo – #67 hit

The other day when I bought this 12 year old Glenfarclas I thought I added another Highland single malt to the collection. Then I looked into its background and realized that the distillery is actually deeply rooted in the Speyside region. I find it a bit misleading to state “Highland Single Malt” on the label when it is really a Speyside. Not that it matters much I was just a bit puzzled by that. Anyways I had read several good reviews about this particular bottling on the web and I also noticed that it won gold at the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival in 2007 and 2008 which in itself was enough incentive for me to run down to the liquor store and spend my last 40 bucks. Was it worth it?Glenfarclas_12

I think it was BUT…

In contrast to how this whisky is described elsewhere I don’t find it remotely sweet, fruity or sherried. Okay maybe a bit sherried but not considering it being matured in sherry casks. What I do find is an intense mixture of heather, moss, and oak. It has a very organic feel to it which is hard to describe. On the softer side you will find butterscotch and nuts lurking in the background and it is also a very creamy, none-harsh and round bodied whisky.

VERDICT: I like the mossy and organic taste. I like the fact that it is thick and creamy. Actually I like everything about this whisky. It is currently my nr.1 Speyside and I highly recommend it to people who want to taste something different.

  (7.7/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG 10yo – #66 hit

Laphroaig is one of the oldest distilleries on Islay, if not the oldest, and since I am a dedicated Islay lover I had really high hopes for this one.laphroaig_10

Just before I poured my first glass I noticed it said “the most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies” on the bottle. This is really putting the bar high I thought. I guess it all comes down to how you define “richly flavoured”. It certainly has a distinct taste if that’s what it means. Anyways I love this dram. It starts off with notes of citrus and spring grass along with caramel that quickly turns into something reminiscent of freshly paved tarmac and burning tires. All along the caramel notes linger in the background and perfectly balances the peat and smoke. The finish is soft, light and rather short but still enjoyable. There are no excessive alcohol flavours in this ten year old bottling and it is one of the most approachable Islay whiskies I’ve tasted. Highly recommendable.

VERDICT: I really like the way it enters all sweet and caramel like before it hits you from behind with tarmac and burned rubber. There is good complexity, softness, and sweetness in this very accomplished Islay single malt.

  (8/10)

Review: JIM BEAM Black – #54 hit

In this price range this is clearly one of my favorite bourbons. It also got its recognition last year at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition where it pulled home a gold medal. When comparing it to Jim Beam White the main differenJim Beam blackce is in the age while the distillation process is the same. Jim Beam Black Label ages for eight years rather than four years. Due to this the differences in flavor comes more from the longer aging than anything else. Taking my first sip I expected the usual alcohol punch you normally receive from these relatively cheap bourbons. Nothing came. Instead my mouth was filled with buttery and creamy brown sugar accompanied by mellow notes of spices. The finish is delicious with a combination of caramel and hints of cherry. This is truly a soft and straight forward bourbon. Perfect as an everyday drink.

VERDICT: This is some smooth stuff! Not much character though, but at 25 bucks that is perfectly alright.

  (6.8/10)

Review: RON ZACAPA Centenario 23yo – #23 hit

At 2,300 meters above sea level close to the Pacific coast of Guatemala you will find the origin of this high quality rum. Here it matures for up till 23 years in casks that previously stored bourbons, sherries, and wines. My expectations were extremely higron-zacapa-solera-centenario-23-gran-reservah for this one. A rum that can claim the first place five years in a row (International Rum Festival : 1998-2002) must be close to perfection. For some reason I do not share the popular opinion here. Yes this is certainly good rum. I would even say great rum. But a masterpiece? Well not if you ask me. But then again I like rums with more edge and character; smooth rums are good but kind of dull in the long run I think. It should be mentioned that my review is based on two or three tastings. Maybe this is just one of those rums that will grow on you with time. We shall see.

VERDICT: This is a wonderfully smooth and delicious rum but lack complexity in my opinion.

  (8/10)

Review: TOMINTOUL Peaty Tang – #65 hit

“The gentle dram”, it says on the bottle! I couldn’t agree more.tomintoul-peaty-tang-whisky

The Tomintoul distillery is mostly known for producing whisky for various blends and personally I had never heard about it before accidentally stumbling into it on a whisky run to Germany. Originally released in 2007 Tomintoul Peaty Tang uses peated malted barley which is pretty unusually in the Speyside Glenlivet region. I had my doubts with this one, primarily because I have never tasted a good peaty smoky whisky outside Islay before. Would this be the exception? Well yes and no.

To me Peaty Tang is better than most young none-Islay whiskies. But I am also a sucker for everything that tastes like bonfire, seaweed, peat, ocean yeah you get the point. BUT it does not qualify into my top 10, mainly because it is too light-bodied and watery. I prefer them thick, strong and complex. Peaty Tang is just the opposite. Still this makes it a great everyday drink and as I said I do prefer it over many other whiskies.

VERDICT: Tomintoul Peaty Tang is a great entry into the world of peaty smoky whiskies and at its price definitely recommendable. Pros: easy to drink, peaty, and the nose is amazing. Cons: a bit watery, very short finish, one dimensional.

  (6.7/10)

Review: JIM BEAM Red Stag Black Cherry – #64 hit

Where I come from Cherry Coke and Dr. Pepper is not very popular. I only know one person who actually like that stuff and that is me. Why that is I don’t know but I have always had a thing for cherry flavored drinks. So naturally I had to try Jim Beam’s Red Stag.jim-beam-red-stag

My first thought was “this must be the most viscous whiskey on the market”. You can almost chew on it! Also you don’t think of whiskey drinking it. Instead of whiskey I would more describe it as melted caramel mixed with sugar and dried red fruits. The traditional bourbon taste is almost absent and has been replaced by black cherry and heaps of glucose. Don’t get me wrong I like sugary stuff but Red Stag really tests my limit. If I was drinking it on the rocks without knowing what it was I would have put it at around 30% abv certainly not 40%. It is so unbelievably smooth. No wonder it is trying to target the female audience.

Disregarding the fact that Red Stag does not really taste like traditional bourbon, I love it. Maybe a bit too sugary but if you keep to a few glasses it should be fine. There is no question about it, I like this bourbon for the same reasons I like Cherry Coke and Dr. Pepper; It is sweet and tastes like cherries.

Red Stag was launched in 2009 and last year Jim Beam came out with two more natural flavored bourbons: Red Stag Honey Tea and Red Stag Spiced. Maybe it is about time to try them as well.

VERDICT: Even though Red Stag never intended to impress whisky enthusiasts like myself I am slightly impressed. However the sugary notes quickly become too overwhelming so my advice is to drink small amounts at a time.

  (6.9/10)