Bottle Polishing 2020: April Malternatives

Another cognac to start, why not.

Camus XO SMWS C1.2 Deep as the Fountains of Sleep [444 bts] 48.2% PS4/5 BW

This is a full bottle review of a cognac I had a glass of at the Vaults in August 2019 [WLP88/87].

Vaults bar

  • N: I’ll stick with my ‘light floral-grape sugars’ and ‘subtle earthy tones’. Alongside that moreish tempered sweetness, there’s slightly funky slightly scorched/toasted note. Then we move into delectably ripe and slightly fusty grapes, fruits, jams, macaroons with a touch of waxy/plastic-y rum & Drambuie alongside more of those earthy tones and splintered oak as well as soft-fresh hints of green grass, thyme, sage & strawberries [adding those last two as a combo to my cookbook],….. beautiful!

Camus SMWS C1.2 Deep as the Fountains of Sleep [444 bts] 48.2%

  • T: A touch of water in the mouth brings a satisfying chunky-soft tempered sweet chew on a subtly stodgy combo of berry-fruit sugars and a few figs. Soon it becomes [oak?] bitter and equally, turns molasses > caramel/bitter > sweet with a chalky and slightly milky-dry mouthfeel.
  • F:Longer travel’ indeed on vine & confectionary-bitter-berry cough sweets, only a small hint of medicinal plasters and a resembling touch of sour rhum agricole. This sustained finish further offers a deep rootsy-ness – whether that be from the vines or the trees – something that taps low-end whilst fusty higher-growing vine fruits continue to ooze. Concludes slightly medicinal < < fusty fresh with nut-dry grape tannins at the death, totally in keeping with a largely un-tinkered product.
  • C: When cognac is good [and not just a one-trick pony], it’ll give any spirit a run for its money. Buy!

Scores 88 points


Diamond 9yo TBWC Guyana Batch 1 [btl #265/461] 55.9% [50cl] WF91 tOMoh6

I took a punt on this based on a Serge review, though high-scoring Serge reviews of affordable & available spirits rarely feel like punts.

  • N: Over-ripe milky sour-sweet candied banana, > [chalky mildly-ripe] pineapple daiquiri and a >> husky coconut-y milky [Appleton-esque] pina colada in a glass  – hmm hmm! It’s salty and potently grainy/wheat germ/bready/yeasty/ester-y with cashew nut butter and baking references thrown in for good measure. Undertones speak of [now I’m getting the fish] tinned sardines and/or plastic-wrapped Albacore tuna steaks with Japanese tube balloon plastic settling underneath a medjool date-laced spotted dick. Also, the white spirit and metallic paint notes can’t be ignored.

Diamond 9yo TBWC Guyana Batch 1 [btl #265:461] 55.9% [50cl]

  • T: Serge is spot on with the ‘p-e-a-r-s.!’ – tinned pears for me – and [only] with water as the French genius indicates. As for pomegranates, I get the dry white fibrous bits that hold the seeds in place against the bitter firm skin. From the nose we’ve more of the bananas and pineapples as well more industrial notes in the form of boot polish, a drop of Swarfega, a touch more white spirit, and a light brush of Osmo. Then again, Thailand’s bready Chalong Bay rum [WLP] also rings true as does an old-yet-still vibrant dried fruit & nut bag combo.

At the heel of the bottle, we’ve an ester-y plastic-wrapped slightly butyric-festering < certainly more pear-like and plum-ey [between the purple and Victoria-type] fruity rum arrival with ‘traditional lemonade’-soaked gala melon, fusty apricots=elderflower, a touch of over-ripe dried-out mango and a slight saltiness overall. Only an underlying sourness and slight butyricness make this a personal struggle, reminding me of a lemon sorbet aluminum-metallic pisco that doesn’t exist, probably.

  • F: More [metallic & milky] over-ripe bananas on the turn, followed by plum tannins and vibes of [Plantation’s] pineapple-infused Stiggin’s rum, as well as a greenish sour chalky > mildly sweet, dry and salty complexity. Coupled with the metallic quality, ‘fishy’ banana skins are surely only an associated sensation with say, canned tuna. I don’t actually get any more fish but samphire isn’t far off.
  • C: I imagine this is one that could be perceived on many different levels. For me, it’s a fabulously challenging and involved BFYB rum.

Scores 89 points


Doorly’s 14yo [2019] Ob. 48% WF78 RR8.3[9] tFRP4/5 WLP86

More rum. This is a review of two bottles bought a few months apart and from the same batch.

  • N: An abv of 48%?! You’d never guess given the softness. Descriptors talk of soft whipped vanilla & sweet cinnamon-seasoned icing/cream, additional with white pepper, toffee, leather, a touch of dry-ish coconut, earthy sultanas, hints of boozy carrot cake… It’s sweet yet grassy also with hints of coffee-caramel waxy-easter egg chocolate and plenty more besides, all backed by a solid/firm oak support. The fruits are vague to me, but vanilla-ed banana plays its part. A soft sweet earthy slightly fermented pong hovers above. 

Doorly's 12yo &amp; 14yo

  • T: Adding water simplifies the whole thing and returns it to a sweet fruity essence of sugar cane, but rather loses our on the gear shifting narrative. In light of that, neat: a soft-oomph which neatly reflects the abv and the controlled aged softness. Hold & chew for a fruity-sweet yet underlying butyric peppery sour arrival [lessened with water however], before a more concentrated cask-resinous > bitter-woody < sweet to = grassy > waxy > savoury=dryness.

After leaving this bottle for a few months, a buttery mouthfeel emerges beyond the dryness, the madeira and cask tannins just about behaving themselves. This certainly leans towards the sweeter & cask tannic end of the spirits spectrum, not something I usually go for but coupled with that sweet fruity array, some citrus tartness, the oak, the waxy butteriness,… this one certainly floats my boat.

  • F: Stays waxy [cellulose-waxy] and mild-savoury grassy with a sustained white pepper > root ginger > lemon & < cinnamon comfort blanket finish. It’s a finish that some will hate, but one I relish in this instance, given its raw and natural appearance. Mainly oaky/bitter < sweet caramel > molasses at the tail, the essence of sugar cane remaining at the death as well as a touch of madeira-laced barley sugar.
  • C: Praise be, a complex yet effortlessly drinkable cocktail-in-a-glass malternative!! The key components here are the abv and control despite active resinous & sweet cask [& contents] activity, whilst the essence of sugar cane remains.

Second bottle:

Doorly's 14

  • N: Soft/well-aged with resinousness & madeira sweetness reasonably tamed/embedded. Whipped icing cream [again], waxy paint-like fermented fungal, vague yet dense and consolidated fruitiness. An elusion of dunnage-y maltiness resides also. The nose is right up my street.
  • T: More fruity on the arrival with a varied mouthfeel and chew. The journey is sweet > > bitter-sour oaky < resinousness, becoming chalky,…
  • F: Remains resinous, chewy and white pepper-like with moderately sweet wine-like vanillins, all very soft and barley-sugar chalky overall. Just when you thought it was all over, it becomes juicier with some coffee liqueur. Those madeira casks sure talk but are well controlled and consolidated, the resinousness staying just inside acceptable lines.
  • N: Precarious success, but success nevertheless, though I can see why this troubles many. Thankfully those madeira casks have been well utilised. It could have turned out so differently. Highly recommended drinking & sipping rum.

Scores 87 points


Overholt 4yo [1980’s] Straight Rye Whiskey Ob. Soffiantino Import 86 proof/43degrees [75cl] WB0 [WF]79

Mellon-family Overholt 1909
  • whiskyrant: ‘,… it was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favourite whiskeys’.
  • whiskyauctioneer: ‘At the close of Prohibition the brand’s owners, the Mellon family, sold Old Overholt to National Distillers who continued to produce it for the next half century despite declining popularity in rye whiskey in US after the second world war. National Distillers closed their last Pennsylvania distillery in the 1950s, so it is unclear where they were distilling the brand by this point, but it was bottled at their DeKuyper Cordial plant in Cincinnati, Ohio‘.

Old Overholt today is produced alongside Old-Grandad by Jim Beam who acquired both brands from National Distillers in 1987.

Overholt 4yo [1980’s] Straight Rye Whiskey Ob. Soffiantino Import 86 proof:43degrees [75cl].JPG

  • N: Just like the Guillon-Painteraud cognac [WLP189 & WLP289], the Camus [above], and the Deanston [coming soon], I’d drunk 4/5th of the bottle before taking a single note – a theme perhaps? Like the Guillon-Painturaud, this is a soft low-abv expression. This particular bottle has also faded and probably never had a great deal of weight behind it, to begin with. Despite its shortcomings, there’s plenty to tap into. Of note, on the herbal front we’ve dried oregano, mint and spearmint with caramel, dry oak, floral into peach, dried clementine. ginger, cinnamon/aniseed perhaps, rum & rhum, a suggestion of sweet Swarfega, eucalyptus-based gym aromas, onion rye bread, sour Mr. Kipling’s,… In short, basic on first contact, more impressive behind the scenes.
  • T: Over the nose, it’s considerably faded/flat with a thin weak body and some weary OBE. Given how lacklustre it is, what then is the appeal? Once you’ve accepted the bottle for what it is, it’s a palate pleaser. You just need to layer it up. That means taking a few slugs and saturating the palate. Once done, presented is a uniquely tasty succinctly complex soft bitter-fresh herbal and light molasses > caramel sweet rye, which really frames this one’s appeal. A subtle yet complex ice-cream cinnamon candy and clementine sweetness is ever-present, along with a dry herbal & peppermint/mint fusty note, a hint of eucalyptus and > Lynx. The short journey only encourages more frequent sips = dangerous!

palate senses

  • F: It soon fades after the arrival and brief unravel, becoming more caramel-ed and with a hint at some old charred casks that probably now sit in halves in someone’s garden. Finishes super-light yet without incident. There’s no tannin whatsoever nor contemporary vanillins. It simply buzzes softly with a mix of four of the main palate senses, without the presence of umami. At the death, oregano, Italian herbs and soft-oaky-dry mildly sweet fusty herbal mint/spearmint-fresh with a thin spread of ginger < orange peel & caramel ice cream. It’s one of those light [blend-like] finishes that just begs for one more small pour, just to make sure.
  • C: This bottom shelf budget bourbon has a minimal reputation amongst the bourbon community, but it’s a refreshingly soft old skool bourbon style that’ s not available today. I’d be happy with another bottle, but I can really see this one dividing a room. I’d imagine things might be different had this been bottled at 46%. Maybe Ralfy’s pure alcohol boosting would be an idea?

Scores 84 points


Next time, we return to Scotchland!




Bottle polishing piano

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