Whisky Reviews

Whisky Review #102 – Austria Single Malt Keckeis

If you have yet to hear about Austria single malt whisky, this is a post that you can spend some time on. Flora and Choc visited our friend, Daisuke-san, at his bar La Terre recently and discovered this gem of a whisky. The uniqueness of the malt excited Flora almost immediately and the good price point at the bar added the appeal. So, we ordered a dram of this to see where it will take us.

Unfortunately, my friend Google has not been very helpful in helping me understand this distillery well, as there is hardly any information available online! Whatever I can find are mostly in German, and I can’t read the language. 🙁

Keckeis single malt comes from a distillery named Harald Keckeis. Located in Rankweil, Austria, it produces whisky, gin and beer. They should have about three expressions, with the core range named Keckeis Single Malt, and two distillery bottlings with cask names Forever No. 1, and Forever No. 2. Well, that’s all about it that I can understand. Hahaha!

Anyway, let’s get on with the review. The bottle I had is a single cask distillery bottling. The cask name is Forever No. 2. It is kinda weird to call a bottle “forever no. 2”, but I suppose it could be an issue with translation?

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Rich Gold
ABV: 42%

Nose: Intense cherry and flowers mixed with a slight Nippon paint note hiding behind. Interestingly, the paint note does not make the nose bad, but on the contrary, it is pleasant and inviting. Slight spice lingers in the background, but it wafts in and out, never overpowering the sweetness that goes on and on. There is a fruitiness to it as well, almost like baked apples. Overall, it has a fantastic nose. (18/20)

Palate: Thick and rich palate, almost syrupy. Baked apples, boiled sweets and cherries coat the palate nicely. There is a pleasant warmth too; nothing sharp. As I swallow the whisky, I taste sweet cherry jelly and an amazing burst of cherry fruitiness! Wow! (18/20)

Finish: Long and sweet finish with a superb cherry sweetness and slight astringent note. The sweetness lingers all the way to the end. (17/20)

Body: This is an interesting whisky, especially when it is not a traditional Scotch. I am very excited to try and it does not disappoint. Wow! Considering that it is only 42% abv, the delivery is nothing short of fantastic. Nonetheless, it is a simple whisky without too much complexity. I believe the distillery will do well moving forward and I look forward to trying more of what this distillery can offer in the future. (35/40)

Total Score: 88/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: I am happy with this whisky. Simple and easy to drink with an excellent delivery of uniqueness. I would look forward to other expressions in the future. 

Geek Choc: Flora decided to try this whisky before I could say that I wanted a dram, so we shared the dram instead. It was purely for a trial, but we were glad that we did try. Excellent dram to conclude our night at La Terre!

 

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Whisky Review #101 – Port Charlotte 2004 Highland Laird

 

When it comes to Bruichladdich distillery, most people tend to overlook Port Charlotte as a brand and instead focus on the non-peated version – Bruichladdich and the ridiculously peated version – Octomore. Port Charlotte is the middle sibling, and as all middle siblings know, they are often overlooked. However, the distillery produces fantastic Port Charlotte and those who have not taken the time to discover Port Charlotte; you should seriously do so.

We drank many expressions from Port Charlotte, especially the official bottling. The peak of our Port Charlotte adventure, however, came in the form of the abovementioned bottle – the Port Charlotte 2004. A 12 years old expression bottled under the Highland Laird label by Bartels Whisky, it is a beast of a Port Charlotte! Bottled from a single bourbon barrel (#900) at cask strength, only 225 bottles are available worldwide.

We tasted it blind, and these are the reasons why it impress us so.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Light Gold
ABV: 57.3%

Nose: Cereal notes are prominent at the first nose, sweet and fulfilling. It reminds me of a beautiful Bruichladdich I once had. I thought it was a Bruichladdich, but then the peat smoke appears after a couple of minutes. Gentle at first, and then slowly gaining prominence. Floral notes, vanilla cream and lemon peels surface after the peat smoke, and the cereal notes continue to linger. All of these beautiful aromas mingle delightfully to give a fantastic nose! (18/20)

Palate: Sweet cereal notes, gentle peat smoke and floral notes come together at first with a tinge of sharpness from the high abv. Then vanilla cream and lemon peels come in to add complexity to the already beautiful notes. As I swallow, the peat smoke expands to engulf the palate for a while before mellowing down back to sweetness. At this point, I am no longer in doubt that this is none other than a peated Bruichladdich – Port Charlotte! (18/20)

Finish: The finish is long and yet subtle. The sweetness lingers from the palate, and there is this oakiness to the finish. However, it is not astringent or dry, making the dram extremely satisfying. It took me more than a couple of minutes to identify its identity as a Port Charlotte due to its complexity, but it is fantastic! (18/20)

Body: It is a superb balanced dram that is easily one of the best Port Charlotte I ever had so far. Well-rounded and balanced on all its notes, it also is a fitting expression to represent the distillery. (37/40)

Total Score: 91/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is one of the best Port Charlotte I ever had. The other one which impressed me much was a MoS Port Charlotte, but this easily tops that with the amazing complexity. I suppose Port Charlotte still works best in a good ex-bourbon barrel, and perhaps, the guys at Bastel Whisky get this right on every note! Well done! Now, please excuse me while I go hunt for a bottle or two of this to bring back home.” 

Geek Choc: “I never like Port Charlotte – I think it has this baby puke note in it. Flora put me through many torturous drams of Port Charlotte, and I never like any of them – until this one! We tasted it blind, so that may have helped to reduce my bias, but this is the best dram of PC I ever had! It changes my opinion of Port Charlotte, and I think I will be happier to try new PC that Flora puts in front of me in future.”

 

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Whisky Review #100 – HNWS x Maltman Speyside 1995

Did you know that there is a whisky shop in Taiwan called HNWS? The owner is a veteran in the whisky industry with more than 15 years of experience. Besides running a whisky shop, he is also an independent bottler using his brand of HNWS. Over the years, HNWS gains the reputation of an excellent independent bottler and consumers in Taiwan, and Hong Kong are always excited whenever the brand launches something new.

We are also equally excited when we get to try one of their latest bottlings – a Speyside (distillery) 1995 finished in a Caol Ila Cask. Its unique positioning as a whisky from Speyside and getting a finish in an Islay cask got us all curious. In case some of you are confused, this bottle comes from the Speyside distillery, and not just from the Speyside region. The distillery is one of the most beautiful in the area and makes one feel like walking into a fairytale.

How does this taste like? Let’s dive in.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Gold
ABV: 54.2%

Nose: Vanilla custard, sweet berries and gentle peat surround the nose immediately. Then a light spice, almost wasabi-like, wafts up to the nose! After that, there are light green apple and citrusy notes behind, swirling around. With water, the gentle peat becomes more prominent, and notes of unripe bananas join the rest, mingling harmoniously.

Palate: The mouthfeel is very oily, and spice engulfs the palate for a while before it mellows into soft sweetness. Light vanilla ice cream, green apples, citrus notes and a little coastal brine appear at the back of the palate. With water, the spice mellows out beautifully, and slight peat becomes obvious. Vanilla notes engulf the whole palate, and then the coastal brine comes back to the forefront.

Finish: Long finish with drying, sweet oakiness and slight spice. The dryness lengthens the finish and makes it very tasty when the gentle peat turns up at the end of it all. With water, the finish is softer and less drying. More sweetness appears in the finish, and a lingering light spice concludes the dram exceptionally.

Body: It is a balanced dram with interesting notes from both Speyside and Islay influence. While the Caol Ila cask did not extend a massive impact, the light citrusy notes and peat do wonder to add layers of complexity to the dram.

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I did not score the review because we are selling this bottle. It is, however, sold out and can only be savoured by attending our tasting events that are coming up!”

Geek Choc: “I think this is quite an exciting dram for me. Do try it if you can.”

 

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Whisky Review #99 – Westland Peated Single Malt

This is the other American whiskey that we tried at the Secret Mermaid. It is Geek’s Choc’s choice as he does love his peat. It was also a safe choice as he had tried another expression from Westland previously at The Wall SG.

This expression is a Westland single malt peated whiskey. Being a non-chill-filtered whiskey adds creditability to it, and we thought that it was indeed a safe dram to order. Let’s see if we are right!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Sweet, ripe pears, bananas, peat smoke and a hint of cinnamon spice hit the nose immediately and remains constant throughout. It almost reminds us of a Scotch! It is charming to me, and I could nose it all day. However, it is one-dimensional and proves to be somewhat unexciting. (16/20)

Palate: Sweet pears and light banana notes are prominent as the liquid stays in the mouth. A whiff of smoke passes in the back of the throat as the liquid goes down, and disappears immediately once we swallow. Again, it remains us of a young and light, ex-bourbon matured Scotch. The bite of the spirit is not sharp, but evident in the palate. (16/20)

Finish: It has a medium finish with lots of oak and subtle sweetness on the side. (15/20)

Body: It could be more balanced if the finish does not disappoint. However, the finish is lacking, and this dram becomes one-dimensional and straightforward. Gentle on the nose and palate, it is a good starting dram or an introduction to peat for a non-peat drinker. I also find it too much like a Scotch, even though it is an American whiskey. So, while I would like to give it a higher score, I hold back because I think it can be better in its category as an American whiskey.  (31/40)

Total Score: 78/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I like this whiskey! It is almost Scotch-like, and it has the usual flavours that I like in my peaty whisky. However, I need to remain myself that it is an American whiskey – a category that is supposed to give more sweetness, more flavours. This is a very mellow dram. I am torn between giving it a higher score and the score I eventually gave because I think that while bourbon drinkers who love the strong flavours will find this interesting, it will not be a dram they will return to very often. On the other hand, Scotch drinkers will like this but still will return to Scotch.”

Geek Choc: “It is a whiskey that I don’t mind drinking at all. Too much like a Scotch, but it can be a refreshing change especially if the cost for a bottle is lower than a typical Scotch. However, just like what Flora said, I would eventually still return to my favourite Scotch.” 

 

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Whisky Review #98 – Belgian Dark Strong Style

I am not an American whiskey fan generally due to my aversion to things that tasted too sweet. The unfortunate fact remains that American whiskey, as a group, is often too sweet for me and my tolerance to it is probably just a half pour at a bar. Nonetheless, there are some whiskeys which are delicious to me; State 38’s bourbon and rye, for example, as well as famous Maker’s Mark!

I always wanted to try other whiskeys because I have friends who love bourbon and encourage me to try them beyond the usual. So Geek Choc and I had some crazy ideas last week and decided to pay a visit to an American bar in search of crafted bourbons. We walked into The Secret Mermaid, and after getting seated at the bar, we were offered a cocktail menu. It took some time and lots of efforts to attract the staff at the bar before we got the proper whiskey menu. As there were no recommendations forthcoming even though I mentioned it was our first time, we ordered something that sounds interesting.

One of the whiskeys we ordered is this – Belgian Dark Strong Style. Crafted by the Chicago Distilling Company, it is a single malt whiskey! To be honest, I went with some expectations. I was hoping to be convinced. Was I convinced?

Let’s find out!

Tasting notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV: 45%

Nose: Strong notes of dried preserved plums come head on right from the start, with sandalwood following right behind. There are some orange notes and burnt sugar in the back. It defines itself as an American whiskey right away, and there is no doubt that I am possibly not going to like the palate very much. Objectively though, the nose is exciting and it does make me want to taste it. (17/20)

Palate: Sandalwood, burnt sugar, and cloves combined to give an awkward taste to the palate at first, but then oakiness comes forth with a touch of dried preserved plums as the liquid went down the throat. I would say that, objectively, the palate is strange but not unpleasant for those who like bourbons. I like how the dried preserved plums surface at the back of the throat and soothe out the bite from the cloves. (15/20)

Finish: The finish is relatively short in terms of flavours in the palate. Some saltiness at the back of the throat and a tiny burst of sweetness before everything ends prematurely. However, the warmth of the liquid lingers in the throat for quite a while, giving us a pleasant warmth. (16/20)

Body: To be fair, it is a balanced dram. I think that as a bourbon, it has outdone some of the others which I had tried. Maybe it will taste better (to me) on the rocks. The sweetness is not overpowering but I still find the notes too strange for my liking. However, the saltiness of the dram adds a touch of surprise in an otherwise simple dram. For that, I must give it credit! (33/40)

Total Score: 81/100

Disclaimer: I think I may be biased here, but it is my honest opinion. I do welcome those who had tried this to give their thoughts about it on our Facebook post!

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I failed to like this, even though I tried very hard. The style is too different and while I find myself falling in love with Welsh whisky, English whisky and even Nordic whisky, I cannot bring myself to like American whiskey too much. Thankfully, there are still some which I can enjoy, like State 38’s DC Loveday Bourbon and Maker’s Mark!

Geek Choc: “I think I like this. While I agree with Flora’s review of the whiskey, I think this is an interesting dram and one which brings a different feel to my usual whisky choices. While it will not be my first choice of whisky, I do not mind having it now and then.” 

 

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Whisky Review #97 – Benrinnes 17 Years (Vive La Vie)

This is a bottle of Benrinnes from yet another independent bottler named Vive La Vie. The label showcases a Japanese woman with a painting behind her. It looks somewhat Japanese and gives off an air of elegance. The expression is a 17 years old Benrinnes distilled in 1997. Bottled in 2016 at 57.6% abv, the cask yielded 194 bottles.

How does this measure up? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 57.6%

Nose: Vanilla and coconut waft fragrantly into the nose, with gentle spice in the background. Hints of green fruits seem to be in the back but do not come forward. The overall notes are soft and delicate. After airing, banana chewing gum replaced the coconut notes. The green fruits also become more prominent but still hiding in the background. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with light and delicate vanilla notes come together with a gentle spice that engulfs the palate warmly. The coconuts notes appear towards the end of the palate and take over the vanilla freshness. The overall notes are sweet with a light peppery spice. After airing, the spice intensified. (17/20)

Finish: Medium finish with delicate vanilla and coconut notes lingering until the end. After airing, the finish becomes spicier. (16/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram but nothing over the top. There are no wow factors. It is rather one dimensional with very typical bourbon notes.  (32/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “It is an easy dram to drink, but I think it is not complex enough to be a challenge. Nonetheless, if you are looking for something easy to enjoy, this expression is gentle and approachable.”

Geek Choc: “This is suitable as a daily dram for me. Simple, easy to drink and yet enjoyable. Nothing over the top and comfortable.” 

 

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Whisky Review #96 – Clynelish 19 YO (The Water Margin)

We love the independent Taiwanese whisky labels for their interesting designs. Most of them showcase either the Chinese history or myths that we enjoy as kids. We found this particular bottle in The Malt, Taipei, and it is a label of a character from The Water Margin ( 水滸傳 ), one of the four Chinese Literature Classic. The expression is a Clynelish 19 years old, bottled by The Whisky Agency for The Drunken Master. It is distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2016. Matured in a hogshead, this expression has only 108 bottles.

How does it taste? Let’s find out!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dull Gold
ABV: 57.1%

Nose: Fresh vanilla pods, hints of coconuts and fresh grass in a spring meadow waft gently to the nose first. Sweet green fruits surface after a short while, and gentle spice flirts in and out from the background. (18/20)

Palate: Fresh grass, sweet vanilla and peppery spice are in the forefront while coconut lingers in the middle of the palate, bursting forth as the liquid goes down to the throat. (16/20)

Finish: Medium finish with sweet vanilla stays for a while. Spice takes over too soon and then it gets oaky and remains so till the end. (17/20)

Body: The whisky is not as balanced as I hope it would be. The palate is disappointing considering the excellent nose we got. The finish was also too oaky and borders on a slight bitterness. Overall not a bad Clynelish but lacks the waxy feel of a typical Clynelish. (32/40)

Total Score: 83/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was quite disappointed with the palate because the nose promised such excitement. It is also not the typical waxy Clynelish that I like so much.”

Geek Choc: “Well, it is not as tasty as some of the other Clynelish that I have tried before, but I don’t think it is a bad dram. Overall, it is easy to drink and complex enough to enjoy.” 

 

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Whisky Review #95 – Rosebank 1990 – Blackadder

I am not fond of Blackadder as an independent bottler. I had tried more than a couple of Blackadder’s bottles, and none of them has impressed me too much. However, it changes with this one bottle of Rosebank 1990. I was completely bowled over and forced to admit that it is good. Nonetheless, I am still not convinced that Blackadder is consistent. I shall wait and see.

This review is another Rosebank expression distilled in 1990. It is a cask strength bottling from Blackadder’s Raw Cask series and only matured for 14 years.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dirty Gold
ABV: 56.3%

Nose: Sweet fresh berries such as cranberries and strawberries waft in before the sweetness of peaches comes for a visit. Vanilla, honey and hints of coconuts come after. Gentle spice hides in the background, a reminder of its high abv. (18/20)

Palate: Fresh cranberries and strawberries in the forefront before peppery spice assault the palate. A light sweetness of peaches appears for a brief moment before vanilla engulf the entire mouth. (17/20)

Finish: Long finish with vanilla cream lingering all the way to the end. Some fresh berries in the middle before it develops into a pleasant oakiness. (17/20)

Body: It is an interesting dram because the profile is far from its Lowlands characters. There are notes of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry which makes the dram both balanced and complex. The notes of sherry/bourbon influence also keep replacing one another, making this dram exciting and fascinating to enjoy. (37/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I avoid Blackadder’s bottling usually because I never enjoyed any of them. However, this bottles came highly recommended by the owner of The Malt, Taipei. After trying, I got to admit that it is good, and hence, I will strive to keep my options open when I happened upon another Blackadder’s bottling.”

Geek Choc: “I love Rosebank, so I must try all the expressions that I came across. When the owner of The Malt recommended this, I jumped at the chance of trying it. I only regret that I cannot bring the whole bottle home.”

 

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Whisky Review #94 – Rosebank 21 (Cask Strength)

Rosebank…”The finest example of a Lowland malt” (Michael Jackson) is a whisky which creates many emotional outbursts amongst whisky lovers. Rosebank shares typical Lowland characters of grassiness, fruits and flowers with other famous Lowland distilleries such as St Magadelene and Littlemill.

Recently, we got lucky and tasted two Rosebank expressions bottled in the 1990s. Both of them are 21 years old, bottled at cask strength. The bottle that we tried in The Drunken Master Bar was from the 1992 bottling while the other one that we had in The Swan Song was from the 1990 bottling.

This review showcases the Rosebank 21 Years Old distilled in 1990 and released in 2011. Part of the Rose series, this expression is a heavenly dram which represents all the Lowland glory of Scotland.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 53.8%

Nose: Glorious Lowlands notes are immediately apparent. Grassy, herbal and slightly cereal. Then after a few minutes, the sweetness of fruits surface. Green apples, sweet pears and a hint of melons. Mintiness also appears with the grassy notes going into the background. Peppery spice combines with the grassy notes to give an extra complexity. (19/20)

Palate: The palate is herbal, grassy and fruity all at once. Green apples, sweet pears, peppery spice and mint come together after that. The oak influence becomes more prominent after a while and creates a slightly drying palate. The fruitiness of the dram combined with the gentle spice gives a comfortable feel to the overall experience. (18/20)

Finish: It has a medium to long finish that is oaky, minty and sweet. The drying effects from the grassiness of the dram lengthen the finish. (17/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with typical Lowlands notes. The identity is Rosebank from the nose to the finish. Excellent dram! (36/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was not a Rosebank fan previously, but after drinking this expression, I was converted. It is light and floral but yet, complex. I especially love the minty notes that we get, as it is quite special to me.”

Geek Choc: “I am a Rosebank fan and can only love Rosebank more with every expression that I tried. Rosebank produces good quality whisky, and I am looking forward to the new Rosebank distillery.”

 

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Whisky Review #93 – Dramfool Port Charlotte 15 Years Old

 

There isn’t much information that I could find online about Dramfool. What I do know is that Dramfool is the brand name of an independent bottler and that the owner’s name is Bruce Farquhar. According to Bruce’s LinkedIn Profile, he is an experienced engineer who is now the director of Dramfool.

This review focuses on one of Dramfool’s recent releases for the Islay Whisky Festival Exclusive Bottling that happened to be Dramfool’s 13th release. It is a Port Charlotte, distilled in December 2001 and bottled in December 2016. Dramfool bottled the whisky at cask strength of 58.3%. There are only 195 bottles available.

How does it taste like? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: White wine
ABV: 58.3%

Nose: The first notes I got was coastal salt and peppery spice. There is light vanilla cream in the background. Sweet barley notes surface after a few minutes. Gentle peat (soot?) wafts into the nose after 10 minutes, and lemony notes appear underneath the peat. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet barley comes quickly but peppery spice attacks right after the sweetness. After the spice mellows, coastal salt, vanilla cream and lemon notes appear all in succession. The gentle peat comes at the back of the throat. (16/20)

Finish: Medium finish with sweet barley and hints of vanilla. (16/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with a typical Port Charlotte profile. It is decent, but not something that I would wow over. It is probably not something that I would want to spend money to buy a bottle. Nonetheless, Dramfool sounds like an interesting IB, and I would want to explore more of its releases. (33/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, it was a nice dram, but not something that gets me excited. A typical Port Charlotte profile is pleasurable but not fantastic. I guess I was looking for more as I had a great experience with the MoS Port Charlotte previously. You can find our review here

Geek Choc: “Port Charlotte was not high on my list usually, and this is no surprise. I think it is a simple dram, balanced but not complex enough.”

 

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