Tastes

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Rating system: 5 = outstanding ; 4.5 = excellent ; 4 = very good ; 3.5 = good ; 3 = above average ; 2.5 = average ; 2 = acceptable ; 1.5 = adequate ; 1 = inferior ; 0.5 = very poor ; 0 = undrinkable

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  1. TINCUP American Whiskey

    Other Whiskey — Indiana (bottled in Colorado), USA

    Tasted July 15, 2021
    3.25
    3.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Light creamy orchard fruit. Floral rye spices, aromatic bitters, brown sugar and a little vanilla appears as it opens. I don’t get smokiness, I think any suggestion of that is coming from rye spices. Palate: Soft, slightly caramel arrival that turns just a little spicy as it develops with caraway and fennel seed appearing next to some brown sugar. Sweet, comforting and very easy to quaff – it’s like a liquid banana split. The texture is OK but not remarkable. Finish: Medium. The brighter rye spices emerge right at the end – anise, menthol, peppermint – along with a lingering aftertaste of orange zest. No bitterness at all. Neither boisterous nor banal, this is an honest, everyday American whiskey (bourbon + malt) with a pinch more rye than average. The malt content is not obvious except in the mouthfeel and some background notes. It’s not a premium whiskey but you have to judge it against the pricepoint and by that reckoning it’s good value. This has just appeared in our market and I’m glad it has. It could well become my new go-to light whiskey for summer session drinking and mixing. I’d particularly recommend this to bourbon novices and scotch drinkers who are not generally partial to bourbon. Oh, and as for the little tin cup on the top, some people find it naff but I kind of like it. It’s also worth noting that the bottom of the screw thread marks a precise 1 oz pour … just sayin 🙂 “Above Average” : a solid 3.25 stars
    56.0 AUD per Bottle
  2. Belgrove Peated Rye Whisky

    Rye — Australia

    Tasted July 14, 2021
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Immediately smoky with a sweet, full-bodied and fruity character (barbecued apricots, pineapple and mango). Some vanilla and trademark rye spice notes (mint, cloves, allspice, licorice, linseed). Gentle and soft but not at all shy. It has an earthy, ashen quality but it is not cold or austere. A delightfully balanced smoke aroma. Palate: Sweet and mildly spicy arrival. Baked stone fruits, caramel and ginger chunks in syrup with baking spices in the development but the standout feature is the smoke character. It’s earthy, clean, ashy, leathery and woodsy like a forest that was burnt-out a few weeks ago but has since had a cleansing fall of rain. Petrichor, grass and fragrant herbs with lifted fruity notes. The texture is rich, oily and suave. Finish: Medium/long. Smoky, earthy and herbal on the aftertaste with a background note of menthol. A different type of smoke character to any Scottish peated dram, but not at all like wood-smoked whisky either. It’s something quite unique and probably the most nuanced and sophisticated peated Australian whisky that I have tasted. Peter Bignall has hit one for six, again, right over the stands. This was the last of 24 drams I tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show in May this year and it was a very satisfying conclusion to the afternoon. Of all the whiskies I sampled on the day the Belgrove expressions were the most consistent and interesting. This peated expression is recommended, as is everything produced by Belgrove, particularly the cask-strength ryes and the oat whisky. I see that Peter has also been turning his hand to fruit spirits, white rye and liqueurs recently but I’m sure that will not distract him from his whiskies. This tasting was of Release 4 which was a single-cask outturn, 2-3 years old and bottled on 27 August 2020 at a strength of 50% abv. As with every Belgrove whisky this is a small batch product so the next peated release may be different in profile, but what is absolutely certain is that whatever it is, it will be worth tasting and worth the wait. “Very Good” : 4.25 shining stars
    155.0 AUD per Bottle
  3. Belgrove Oat Whiskey

    Other Whiskey — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted July 13, 2021
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Sweet, soft and complex. Warm oatmeal cookies with red currents and dried cherry pieces. Delicate hints of floral and fruity fragrances reminiscent of rosé, elderflower liqueur and tropical fruit wine. The floral qualities expand as it opens in the glass and with a dash of water. It gains complexity over time. Palate: A rich, rounded cereal arrival with roasted almonds, hazelnuts, vanilla and red berries. Brown sugar, golden syrup, black coffee and a passing thought of red-wine. The texture is warm, creamy and comforting. Finish: Medium/long. Mocha coffee and toasted banana bread with a smear of raspberry preserve. This review is specific to Batch 5 of this oat whisky, which was created from a combination of two casks, a refill malt whisky cask and an ex-pinot noir cask. It was bottled on 15 April 2021 at 52.3% abv when it was somewhere around 2 years old (the minimum time for whisky maturation in Australia). As with all Belgrove whiskies the proof varies with the batch and the profile can be quite different as the casking changes. There really should be a separate entry on Distiller for each batch from Belgrove but due to the limited availability and the small number of reviews I won’t complicate things with a new listing. The mashbill is generally around 60-65% oats, the remainder being more-or-less equal amounts of rye, barley and wheat. The first batch (released 2014 I think?) was 42% but the proof has crept up over time. The previous batch was 59% but I thought this Batch 5 to be the best yet and the strength is just right. The nuttiness and creamy quality of the whisky has been constant but where that was originally enlivened by tropical fruit notes Batch 5 has taken a turn towards berries and red fruits. The expressions have also been getting creamier with time as Peter has mastered the ingredient. This is a seriously good whisky and not one to consider in haste. Taste it casually and you might dismiss it as just another whisky but if you give it time to open (and a dash of water is particularly recommended) you will be surprised by how much it evolves and delivers. I like this just as much as Belgrove’s rye whiskies, maybe because Batch 3 of the oat whisky was the first Belgrove product I ever tasted and I fell in love with it immediately. Who knows. Tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show, 15 May 2021, my tasting #23 of the day. “Very Good” : 4 stars
    155.0 AUD per Bottle
  4. Belgrove Hopped Malt Whisky

    Other Whiskey — Kempton, Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted July 11, 2021
    2.5
    2.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Elderflower, chamomile, honeysuckle, vanilla, eau-de-Cologne. An intensely floral nose with beery undertones. Palate: The arrival is equally floral and hoppy with malty herbal flavours. There is not much development apart from some cereal flavours reminiscent of white-bread toast and a little malt extract. The texture is full-bodied. Finish: Medium/long. Fruity, floral and malty. An interesting experiment but after the very good 100% rye whisky and the even better 100% rye cask-strength expression I found this a bit weird and unsatisfying. I’m not at all a fan of hopped whisky, having tried several such drams now, and this came across as little more than a curiosity. It was diverting to try on the day but I had no impulse to buy a bottle. This was created from several combined batches of IPA made by Tasmanian micro-breweries that were distilled and matured at Belgrove distillery. It says on the distillery website that “the beers were not up to their normal standards and would have gone down the drain if they had not been rescued”. The distillate may have been crafted in pursuit of a philosophy of zero-waste and self-sufficiency, which is all well and good, but that does not guarantee a great whisky. This expression was bottled on the 11th of February 2021 but there was also 61.7% version two years earlier. I don't know whether they were entirely separate products or if this current expression is a diluted, more mature version of the first one. Tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show, 15 May 2021, my tasting #22 of the day. “Average” : 2.5 stars
    129.0 AUD per Bottle
  5. Belgrove Rye Whisky Cask Strength Heartwood “Any Port on a Storm”

    Rye — Kimpton, Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted July 11, 2021
    4.5
    4.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Honey, baking spices, a touch of mint. There is an earthy tobacco-like note and spicy stone fruits as well – like apricots and plums stewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The alcohol is noticeable but not intrusive however the nose is a little tight when neat. A dash of water expands the sweet aromas and tones down the spice just a touch. Some cereal, citrus and coffee notes are apparent after the whisky has had a chance to stand and open. Palate: Fruity and honeyed on the arrival, sweet and full-bodied with flavours of stone-fruits, glacé mixed fruit and almond brittle. Spice notes emerge on the development with caraway, dill seed, powdered ginger and allspice detectable. There are nutty flavours (peanuts and walnuts) and a presence like toasted rye bread. The texture is rich and oily, with a satisfying heaviness. There is a little heat but this is not surprising given the high proof. Water mutes the heat but don’t add too much as it will spoil the mouthfeel. Finish: Long. Hot spices and cereal, tailing out to an earthy aftertaste with a touch of honey and fruit. An excellent whisky that is, like all Belgrove ryes, identifiable as rye spirit but not quite like that produced anywhere else. It has the same light, fresh crispness as the standard 100% rye expression (which is at 44-46%), but there is more body and complexity here. Belgrove Distillery is small scale and extremely artisan in approach. They produce only in small batches and expressions such as this are of limited availability (for more notes about the distillery and Peter Bignall see my review of “Belgrove Rye Whisky”). Like all Belgrove rye whiskies this was produced from 100% rye. Peter follows an unusual regime when making all his whiskies by not drying the malted rye before grinding, and it is only small scale and batch production that makes this possible. He allows the moist grist to ferment in the open air so it can be influenced by wild yeasts (but also adds commercial yeast) and fermentation is allowed to run into the secondary lacto-bacillus phase and then cease naturally. This approach decreases alcohol content but maximises flavour complexity. The wash for this batch was distilled in his home-made direct-fired pot still and then casked in a barrel obtained from Heartwood independent bottlers. This cask was originally an ex-port barrel which had then been used to mature Heartwood’s “Any Port in a Storm” blended malt whisky. The final result was bottled on 23 December 2019. This was the second of five Belgrove whiskies I tasted at the 2021 Sydney Whisky Show, and was my tasting #21 of the day. “Excellent” : 4.5 stars P.S. Please note two small errors in the listing details: It should read “Any Port in a Storm” not “Any Port on a Storm”, and the distillery is located at Kempton, not Kimpton. Thanks, auto-spell 😡
    200.0 AUD per Bottle
  6. Belgrove Rye Whiskey

    Rye — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted July 11, 2021
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Bright, crisp and spicy with pickle water, spearmint, peppermint and sourdough bread the first aromas to be noticed. These are balanced by softer buttery and herbal notes. There is a sweet background hint of candy cane and a slight whiff of tobacco. Palate: The arrival is light and delicate with a character very like the initial nose – crisp spice, mint, dill and caraway seed but also a sweet note of honey. The development brings out more intense spices including walnut oil, white pepper and oak tannin. The texture is silky soft to begin with but it becomes drier and more tannic over time with over-brewed black tea astringency appearing, however it also manages to retain an oily character. Finish: Medium. Oily/dry and mildly tannic but it eventually segues into a warm, soft aftertaste. This is a very good rye whisky but different to any other I have tasted. It has a lightness of character that is almost disarming and a fresh, crisp quality that is very different to the big, dark rye monsters produced by some distilleries. It is elegant and poised but also full of flavour and complexity. You need to put aside preconceptions about rye when tasting this and judge it on its own merits. Belgrove distillery is located just north of Kempton in Tasmania, about 50km north of central Hobart. It is owned and operated by Peter Bignell who is one of the founding fathers of modern Australian whisky. The distillery is so artisan it makes Springbank and Daftmill look like Macallan in comparison Every part of the production cycle is undertaken personally by Peter. His farm produces the grain, and the production and process water is collected from rainfall. He malts, mashes, ferments and distills entirely in equipment he built himself. This includes the stills which were made from recycled copper and are direct fired using waste cooking oil from a food shop in the nearby town. All power for the distillery is from bio-fuel. He coopers and chars his own casks, bottles the whisky and hand-writes the labels. I would strongly recommend doing a search on Youtube for “Belgrove Distillery” - it has to be seen to be believed. All of this would, of course, amount to little more than a curiosity for passing tourists but for one thing – Peter’s whisky is very good. Belgrove’s production runs are small and true batch production. The Distiller listing for this expression states that it is 46% but this varies from batch to batch, as does the exact profile. The batch I tasted was 45% and bottled on 19 March 2020. It is always 100% rye in content with no added enzymes and is fermented using the old-school sourmash technique of the 1800s. It can be difficult to obtain Belgrove whiskies, even locally, as they disappear quickly when released. The distillery has a fanatical cult following among hard-core Australian whisky enthusiasts and I doubt that you will ever see any in overseas markets, but if you are visiting Australia at any time you should try to taste some if possible. Peter was presenting what is more-or-less his core range at the 2021 Sydney Whisky Show, and I’m concluding my tasting notes from the show with a review of 5 expressions. This was my tasting #20 at the event. “Very Good” : 4 stars
    150.0 AUD per Bottle
  7. Cromwell’s Royal

    Blended — Scotland

    Tasted July 4, 2021
    0.25
    0.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Privet, bicycle inner tube, yeasty bread. A faint trace of generic cereal and apple aromas. A dash of water completely obliterates the nose, which is an improvement. Palate: Sweet-sour and hot on the arrival. Ethanol and nebulous flavours reminiscent of scotch whisky. The texture is thin. Water does nothing to improve it. Finish: Short. Hot, thin and bitter with a sour woody note at the end. This sad excuse for a blended scotch is distilled and blended in Scotland (probably from distillery reject malt and the cheapest available grain whisky) then exported in bulk to France where it is bottled for mainly European distribution by the GCF Group. Pray to whatever deity you worship that it never appears in a store near you. It is worse than either Castle Rock or Highland Earl and, most terrifying, you can buy it in supermarkets in a 3 liter cardboard box of the type used for cheap bulk wine. I’m giving it 0.25 stars, the lowest rating I will award (a rating of 0 from me means it will actually send you blind, and I don’t think this is quite that bad). I'm also awarding it 4 "upchucks" 🤮 a new rating I'm introducing for genuinely vile swill. It is almost the cheapest blended scotch you can buy over here but for literally $1 more you can get Johnnie Walker Red Label (which is *far* better) or for a mere $3 more Loch Lomond Reserve which is like nectar of the gods in comparison. Do not buy this dreadful whisky and hopefully it will disappear from the shelves. “Truly awful” : 0.25 stars and 🤮 🤮 🤮 🤮
    37.0 AUD per Bottle
  8. Roborel de Climens 2016 Finition Sémillon du Château Doisy-Daëne

    Single Malt — Alsace & Bordeaux, France

    Tasted June 28, 2021
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Apricot, honey, almost over-ripe orange. An earthy quality with soft, light peat smoke. Palate: Delicate and sweet arrival with malt extract, honey and ginger oatcakes. The development delivers preserved tropical fruits but the outstanding characteristic is the texture. Creamy, velvety, oily and full – it has a mouth-coating heaviness that is reminiscent of dessert wine or PX sherry but without the intense sweetness. There is also a touch of peat smoke on the palate, more noticeable than the smoke on the nose, but still mild and reserved. Finish: Medium. Fruity, sweet and malty, fading to a wisp of smoke. Roborel de Climens is a recently formed company based in Bordeaux. The owner, Aymeric Roborel de Climens, is an experienced winemaker who has turned his attention to whisky production. The company is not a distillery but rather an independent producer that sources new-make spirit and matures it in selected, top quality French oak casks. The maturation process involves two phases. First, new-make spirit (sourced from Distillerie Artisanale HEPP in Uberach, Alsace) is matured in a combination of new and refill French oak casks (about 80% are refill casks and also come from the HEPP distillery). This phase lasts 3-4 years and provides structure and body to the whisky. The whisky is then finished for 6-12 months in ex-wine casks, each expression being matured in a specific type of cask. This expression was finished in ex-Semillon casks from Château Doisy-Daëne, a Sauternes-Barsac Grand Cru Classé. Note that this is not a dry, light Semillon but rather an oxidized sweet botrytis wine. The new-make spirit was also distilled from grain peated to 20ppm (a moderate level by Scottish standards, a little lower than the peat level in Bowmore) and it was bottled at 46% which has added significantly to the whisky’s presence. Tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show, 15 May 2021, my tasting #19 of the day and the last of the four Roborel de Climens expressions I tried. I was very impressed with this new brand and I later discovered they have a wider range available than was featured at the Whisky Show, including more highly peated expressions (40ppm) and cask-strength bottlings. At AUD$153 for a 500ml bottle this is not “value” whisky but an artisan product that is priced accordingly. It is supurbly crafted but whether or not it is worth the price would depend entirely on individual taste. “Good” : 3.75 stars
    153.0 AUD per Bottle
  9. Roborel de Climens 2016 Finition Merlot du Château Guadet

    Single Malt — Alsace & Bordeaux, France

    Tasted June 28, 2021
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Cherry Danish, plum conserve, rhubarb tart, mild baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), milk chocolate and fresh oak cask. There is a constant note of red wine but it’s not intrusive – just fundamental to the profile. Palate: Red berries, red grapes, malted cereal. A pleasant mouthfeel with medium density and silky oiliness. Some spicy notes emerge in the development together with a little coconut and milk chocolate. Finish: Medium. Fruity, spicy and refined with elegant spice on the aftertaste. There is often a point during a vertical tasting session where you feel that you have “arrived”. It’s the impression you get when tasting Glenfarclas 25 after the 10 year old, or Laphroaig Lore after Laphroaig Select. For me that moment happened with the Roborel de Climens whiskies when we tasted this third dram. Although the first two expressions were enjoyable I would not want to buy a whole bottle of either. However this whisky is a considerable step up, showing more weight, complexity, presence, balance and overall character. I remember saying “ah, that’s it” out loud when I tasted it, and it reminded me immediately of Bruichladdich Classic Laddie. This was the first of this producer’s whiskies to present a noticeable malted barley quality and even though it was quite sweet, and the wine finish relatively intense, it has balance. Roborel de Climens is a recently formed company based in Bordeaux. The owner, Aymeric Roborel de Climens, is an experienced winemaker who has turned his attention to whisky production. The company is not a distillery but rather an independent producer that sources new-make spirit and matures it in selected, top quality French oak casks. The maturation process involves two phases. First, new-make spirit (sourced from Distillerie Artisanale HEPP in Uberach, Alsace) is matured in a combination of new and refill French oak casks (about 80% are refill casks and also come from the HEPP distillery). This phase lasts 3-4 years and provides structure and body to the whisky. The whisky is then finished for 6-12 months in ex-wine casks, each expression being matured in a specific type of cask. This expression was finished in ex-merlot casks from Château Guadet, a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé. The initial maturation was for 4 years (rather than 3 as was the case with the first two expressions I tasted) and it is bottled at 43% rather than 40% which I thought made a significant difference. Tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show, 15 May 2021, my tasting #18 from bottle 353/700. The registered retail price is $142 but I’ve seen this available from $120-155. At around $120 it represents value and is worth buying. I picked up a bottle myself on the day. “Good, approaching Very Good” : 3.75
    142.0 AUD per Bottle
  10. Roborel de Climens 2017 Finition du Château Sainte Marguerite

    Single Malt — Alsace & Province, France

    Tasted June 24, 2021
    3.0
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Nectarine, peach, apricot, brioche. Toasted almond, grassy notes and fresh oak cask aromas. Palate: A delicate arrival with a hint of acidity and some light spice, but squarely focused on fruity flavours. Slightly drier on the palate than the sauvignon finished expression I tasted prior to this, not as soft but elegant and crisp. As it sits on the palate it gains a hint of sweetness. The texture is pleasant with a poised and reserved oiliness. Finish: Short. Elegantly fruity with a touch of oak tannin in the aftertaste. Roborel de Climens is a recently formed company based in Bordeaux. The owner, Aymeric Roborel de Climens, is an experienced winemaker who has turned his attention to whisky production. The company is not a distillery but rather an independent producer that sources new-make spirit and matures it in selected, top quality French oak casks. The maturation process involves two phases. First, new-make spirit (sourced from Distillerie Artisanale HEPP in Uberach, Alsace) is matured in a combination of new and refill French oak casks (about 80% are refill casks and also come from the HEPP distillery). This phase lasts 3-4 years and provides structure and body to the whisky. The whisky is then finished for 6-12 months in ex-wine casks, each expression being matured in a specific type of cask. This was the second Roborel de Climens whisky I tasted at the Whisky Show and in this case the finish was in ex-rosé barrels from Château Sainte-Marguerite, a Côtes de Provence Cru Classé. It shares many characteristics with the sauvignon-finish whisky but given the youth of both expressions and the lightness of their respective finishings that is not surprising. This had an earthier and slightly heavier character with better balance, but the light floral notes, the prominent stone-fruit aromas and flavours, and the mouthfeel were all similar. The finish is still short but just a little longer than the sauvignon-finished expression. Overall, I thought it was the better whisky, not by a long margin but sufficient to justify summarising it as “above average”. At the asking price it just barely qualifies as reasonable value and once again it is regrettable that it is bottled at only 40% abv. I'm certain that a few degrees more proof would allow greater complexity to show through. Tasted at the Sydney Whisky Show, 15 May 2021, my tasting #17 from bottle 409/750. “Above Average” : 3 stars
    129.0 AUD per Bottle
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