Last month I reviewed the first of two casks of Lous Pibous 20, 1996 from the Armagnac bottlers, L’Encantada, who are all the rage in American brandy circles these days. That was cask 187 and I liked it quite a lot even though I didn’t find a whole lot of complexity in it. Here now is cask 188. Both samples came to me from Sku who was involved in the selection of these casks for the American market. I have no further introductory patter, so let’s get right to it.
Lous Pibous 20, 1996, Cask 188 (53.6%; L’Encantada; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Orange peel, cola, cinnamon, raisins, caramel. Not much change really with time. With water the stickier notes get a little more emphasis and the oak/cinnamon recedes a little. Continue reading
L’Encantada appear to be the major independent bottlers of Armagnac these days, or at least the ones who thrill the hearts of whisky geeks the most. They are a group of brandy enthusiasts themselves who some years ago began to purchase and bottle casks of Armagnac from small producers in Gascony. You can read a little more about them on the K&L blog. (That write-up is by Sku, who now writes occasionally for K&L and who is also the source of this sample.) These Pibous releases established the L’Encantada reputation in the US, coming at a time when many American bourbon mavens were, if not making a move to Armagnac, beginning to drink it in a bigger way. There were a few of these Pibous casks selected by and bottled for a private group of brandy geeks; a small number of bottles from each cask made it to retail at K&L, who’d facilitated the sale (given the laws in the US, private citizens cannot purchase spirits directly from importers or distributors). Sku was a part of this group, I believe. Since then a number of other L’Encantada casks have hit the American market (see, for example, this one). Anyway, I’ve been meaning to taste and review these Pibous casks ever since Sku passed these samples on to me; here now are my notes on cask 187, a 20 yo distilled in 1996 and bottled at cask strength. Continue reading
Yesterday I reviewed a 19 yo Golden Devil exclusive rum for K&L. That one was from Guadeloupe. For this review let’s leap over to Guyana and go up a few years in age. This is a 25 yo Enmore, referred to by some—and few less enthusiastically as the people selling it—as the Port Ellen of rum. I’m not really sure what that means. Enmore and Port Ellen are closed distilleries but so is Dallas Dhu; why is Enmore not the Dallas Dhu of rum? I demand answers! But seriously, you can’t expect me to get excited about something that’s not the Pappy of its category—Driscoll must have been slacking on the job that day.
The history of the Enmore distillery and of Guyanese rum in general is complicated. All the Guyanese distilleries were consolidated into one in the mid-1990s and even before that Enmore produced both column still and pot still rum. This particular release is a single cask of pot still rum and it was bottled at a whopping strength of 63%. I have, as it happens, had another 25 yo Enmore bottled for K&L—that one was from their less fancy Faultline label (is that still on the go?) but I liked it a fair bit. Will this be as good? Let’s see. Continue reading
From Cognac to rum. This is another K&L selection and another sample from Sku. I know only a little more about rum than I do about Cognac and so I can tell you that Bellevue is a distillery in Guadeloupe (a word that is very hard to spell late at night) but I cannot tell you very much more than that. This was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Golden Devil series—I think that’s the name used for their Kill Devil line in the US (is that because there’s an American producer named Kill Devil?). Anyway, I know nothing about the characteristics of Guadeloupean rum and so am curious to see what this is like. Let’s find out.
Bellevue 19 (59.7%; Golden Devil; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A little blank at first but then there’s a pretty standard if muted dark rum profile laced with aniseed and an herbal character (sage?). As it sits it begins to open up with more caramel. Let’s see what water does. Not very much really—no interesting change to report. Continue reading
Last week I had a review of a K&L exclusive Bowmore that I rather liked. May as well take that as a spur to do a week of reviews of K&L exclusives. And as that Bowmore was a bottle recommended by Sku, I might as well make it a week of K&L exclusives that I received samples of from Sku. First up is a Cognac. I know very little about Cognac—as I’ve said before—and so I cannot tell you anything about Duodognon (presumably the producer). I do know that the Napoleon designation means that the brandy is at least six years old. However, I cannot tell you why this is called Duodognon Napoleon II, though I’d guess the prosaic answer is that this is the second Duodognon Napoleon bottled by/for K&L. This was issued in 2016. Sku reviewed it then and seemed to like it: he said it was “nice” and he must have thought so: the review contains more than 10 words, a rarity for Sku. Anyway, I am looking forward to trying a younger Cognac, the two others I’ve reviewed so far having been a lot older. Continue reading
Here is only my second Cognac review and it is also my second review of a Cognac from the small house of Vallein Tercinier. I tasted a sample of their Lot 70 and loved it, bought some for myself and recommended it to friends. This one—also bottled for/by Flask in California—is quite a bit younger though not young per se. It’s a Lot 90, distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2018, making it 27 or 28 years old. The Lot 70 was 47-48 years old and barely bore any trace of long maturation in oak. Though as I write that I seem to remember reading that it is not unusual for older Cognacs to have been stored in glass for years before being bottled—meaning that the presence of a vintage but not a specific age statement may be meaningful. So while this was distilled 20 years later for sure, it’s not as clear how much less time it may have spent in an oak cask. If you can shed light on how this works, either for this house or the category in general, please write in below. In the meantime here are my formal thoughts on this bottle which I opened about a month ago and found to be quite a bit oakier than the Lot 70 which was just a tropical fruity delight. I’m curious to see what a bit more air in the bottle may have done for this. Continue reading
Here is your second rum review for the week. Like Monday’s rum this is from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. It is a year younger and was distilled two years later. The label says it was “aged in the tropics”, presumably in Jamaica before being bottled by Habitation Velier, an Italian outfit that has become one of the bespoke independent bottlers of high quality rums made without artificial flavouring and colouring and so on. Excitingly, this was one of a few releases that made their way to the US in 2018. I purchased this along with another Worthy Park and a Hampden from Astor Wines & Spirits in New York; I’m not sure if they were more widely available as well. At any rate, wherever they were available, I hope they sold out quickly, thus encouraging Velier and any other bottlers who may be watching about the prospects of selling non-mainstream rum in the American market. God knows we’re closer to the Caribbean than is Italy—there should be a way to get us more good rum. Then again it’s not even possible to have booze shipped to me from Illinois, just one state over from Minnesota…Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as Monday’s excellent Cadenhead release. Continue reading
More Armaganac. At the end of January I had a review of a 33 yo Baraillon distilled in 1985 that I thought was just okay—drinkable but nothing special. After reviewing that sample I realized that I actually owned a bottle of another 33 yo Baraillon, this one distilled in 1984. I’d purchased it about a year ago along with some other Armagnacs and forgotten all about it (and the others too). I have to admit the 1985 did not make me feel very enthusiastic about opening the 1984 but, as you know, I am committed to positivity. And so here we are. Unlike the 1985, which was a K&L exclusive, this 1984 was a general release. Or so I think anyway. I bought it from Astor in New York and I don’t remember the listing trumpeting it as an exclusive cask. Will this bottle restore my confidence in Baraillon or will it shake it further? Let’s see.
(It strikes me that I am going backwards in time with my Baraillon reviews. The very first one was of a 1986 cask—that was also a K&L exclusive. Alas, I don’t have any 1983 casks lined up and nor do I know of any available in the US.) Continue reading
More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Speaking of things I have been buying but not reviewing, here is a rum. I’ve not reviewed very many rums and most of those that I have have been insane Hampdens from Jamaica. This is a rum from Barbados. Foursquare—like Hampden–is a working distillery but unlike it, has an official presence in the US. A number of rums from the distillery have been released here and they’ve been fairly priced. This 11 yo from 2004 is still available and can be found in the $60 range. That may seem like a very high price to those who’re accustomed to thinking of rum as a rough spirit to be mixed with Coke but this is a good sipping rum, and the price is very good compared to a lot of single malt whisky. The Springbank 12 CS, for example, goes for $80. This rum is, I believe, a blend of pot and column still distilled rums and like all of Foursquare’s rums is made without the addition of sugar or any other sweeteners prior to bottling. It’s one I really enjoy and it’s about time I posted a review. Continue reading
Okay, here’s another brandy. This is not Armagnac, however; it’s Cognac, Armagnac’s more worldly cousin, the one who gets into all the clubs. I know little about Armagnac and I know even less about Cognac: only that the stuff that’s widely available is considered by aficionados to be inferior, usually artificially goosed-up brandy designed to appeal to people who just want something easy to like. God, I sound like an asshole. Anyway, small estate Cognac is said to be very different and this is an instance of small estate Cognac. The “Lot 70” in the name apparently signifies that this was distilled in 1970; as it was bottled just last year that means it is 47-48 years old. It was bottled for Flask, a store in California and it seems to still be available. The price is not low but if it’s good and if you’re looking for something very old then it is, again, affordable compared to single malt whisky of much lower age. And as I am Lot 70 myself, it might be hard for me to resist a bottle if I do in fact like this a lot. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Having noted that I’ve been buying Armagnac but not actually opening very many of those bottles, here is one that I purchased just about a month ago and have now opened. While Sku suggested that I try the Baraillon 33 before buying, this one he recommended highly. It is one of several K&L exclusives (I think) bottled last year. L’Encatada, as far as I can make out, are a sort of independent bottler of Armagnacs, purchasing barrels from small producers—which are legion in the world of Armagnac—and making them more widely available. Prices for Armagnac are slowly rising—it wasn’t that long ago that K&L sold a 30 year old Baraillon for $80; now the 33 year old that I reviewed last week is going for $125. And this Bidets (which is still available) is at $140. Then again, compared to the world of Scotch whisky and bourbon this is still a great value for the age. However, the value for the age doesn’t mean a whole lot (as with the Baraillon 33) if what’s in the bottle isn’t anything to write home about. Let’s see if I like this one more. Continue reading
It’s been almost two and a half years since my last Armagnac review. I think that’s a pretty good allegory of how my almost-love affair with brandy has gone in the last few years. I’d say that it’s a pretty good allegory of how the average whisky geek’s relationship with brandy has gone in that period as well, but that would be too presumptuous. Maybe it’s because Sku retired his blog but it hasn’t felt for a while that whisky geeks are still excited about brandy in general and Armagnac in particular. Am I wrong? (And if not, is that true of rum as well?) Well, to tell the truth, it’s not that I haven’t been buying any Armagnac in the last two and a half years—it’s more that I don’t seem to get around to opening any of what I have bought. Maybe I should do that before buying any more. Speaking of which, I was going to buy a bottle of this K&L exclusive Baraillon, but when I was in L.A recently, Sku suggested I taste a sample first and passed one on to me (along with a few others). Let’s see if I should have ignored him. Continue reading
I have been slow to board the rum boat. I’ve only reviewed three rums till now. In the meantime, Serge V.—who all but singlehandedly got whisky geeks around the world to start drinking rum—has already reviewed more rums than I have whiskies in the entire time that I’ve been reviewing whiskies. This is not an exaggeration.
One of the problems with being late to the party is that most of what first got people excited is already gone and prices have begun to rise. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with whisky. Hampden is a cult distillery, for instance, and this 18 yo, released last year, is still around and costs far less than the Highland Park 18. Of course, the bigger problem for those of us in the US is how little interesting rum is available here. K&L in California were the only ones committed to a rum program but the new limitations on inter-state shipping may have put paid to that: large numbers of bottles of a Hampden they brought in early in the year and expected to sell out in a day or two are still sitting on their shelves (well, it’s possible that asking $70 for a 9 yo rum may also have something to do with that). Anyway, there’s an opportunity here for independent bottlers who already have distribution channels across the US: if you make good rum available to us widely, we will buy it. Continue reading