De Whisky Academie

A perfect starter kit

A few weeks ago I was contacted by De Whisky Academie with the question if I would be willing to do a review about their “start” tasting set. This set contains five drams of whisky, representing five of the most popular categories: Bourbon, Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey, Speyside Single Malt, Highland Single Malt, and Islay Single Malt.

At this point I would like to point out that I pick what I review very carefully and I won’t just accept any offer to do a review. I want to provide everyone here with good and useful information and will never recommend something that is not up to snuff. This is also not a paid promotion, but I did receive a free tasting set so I could do a proper review.

Before accepting this offer I checked out their website and had a peek at the whiskies they chose for this starter set. And I had to admit that I couldn’t agree more with their choices. They picked drams that are excellent representations of the different categories. The drams they chose were: Buffalo Trace, Redbreast 12, Glenfiddich 12, Glenmorangie 10, and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I especially love the fact that they chose the Laphroaig Quarter Cask over the original 10, because I think it holds much better value and boosts better stats to boot.

But well picked drams aside, the ultimate reason I was eager to do this review was because of the philosophy behind it. They believe that there are loads of people looking to get into whisky, who don’t know where to start. Or perhaps even choose a bottle that puts them off whisky forever. That’s why I think this set is so well compiled.

All whiskies are good representations, and all of them are easily available. I think that’s important, because when you’re just starting out and find a dram you like, you’ll want to get a full bottle to explore the dram further. If they would have filled this package with hard to get (allocated) bottles, the frustration of finding such a bottle might still turn someone away from our beloved drink.

This makes for a great set to see if whisky is a drink you might grow to love. If none of these five offer something you like, whisky might just not be for you. If you only try a single dram to see if you like whisky, you might miss out. Because even if you don’t care for a Highland, a Bourbon or an Islay are vastly different drams. This set is a perfect representation of just how different drams of whisky can be. And it will make sure you’ll get to experience enough to properly decide if whisky suits you. So personally I think this is a perfect gift for anyone looking to explore whisky, or anyone who says they don’t like whisky but only ever tried something like Johnnie Walker Red.

I added the tasting notes of the different drams below. So you might get an idea of what’s in the different pours. And I’d like to give a recommendation. If you try this set and like one of the drams, by all means find bottles in the same category and explore it further. But the bottles in this set are big enough to save a little for later too, so do just that and come back to those drams a little later. Palates are ever evolving, and while you might be put off by an Islay (for example) at first, you might find a love for it when you come back to it later.

Finally I would like to leave you with some good news. De Whisky Academie are soon releasing more tasting sets, one focused on Bourbon and one on Islay drams. If these are as well chosen as the whiskies in this tasting set, they’ll definitely be something to look out for!

Tasting Notes: Buffalo Trace

Stats:

ABV: 40% (80 proof)

Age: NAS

Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery

Owned by: the Sazerac Company

Category: Bourbon

Awards: The American Whiskey Masters Gold (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), International Spirits Challenge Gold (2019), IWSC Gold (2019).

Chill filtered: Yes

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

This is classic bourbon territory, there’s loads of brown sugar and vanilla, some candied apple and a hint of cinnamon. It’s a very pleasant nose, in my experience some bourbons can have an overly sweet nose, this one is sweet but never overwhelming.

Palate:

The palate is a little watery at first. Unfortunately in Europe we get a lower ABV version, in the states they add a few more percent and I’ve heard it makes quite a difference. But thankfully the initial watery taste fades fast. Pepper and baking spices start popping up, along with vanilla and a little bit of green muscat grapes. It’s balanced, and not overly complex.

Finish:

A little bitterness appears on the finish, combined with it’s original sweet influences. This combination reminds me a little of licorice root. The finish is medium long and uncomplicated, it’s mellow and pleasant. Near the end there are hints of orange and mulled wine.

Verdict:

This is a great introduction into bourbon territory. This is not one of the most outspoken drams out there, but that’s a good thing because that way it doesn’t overwhelm newcomers. For roughly 25 euro it doesn’t break the bank either and I could recommend this to anyone looking to explore bourbon for (one of) their first time(s).

Rating:

79/100

Value:

A

Tasting Notes: Redbreast 12

Stats:

ABV: 40% (80 proof)

Age: 12 years old

Distillery: New Midleton Distillery

Owned by: Irish Distillers Ltd.

Category: Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey

Awards: IWSC Gold Outstanding (2019), IWSC Silver Outstanding (2013, 2014), The Whisky Bible “Winner” (2010), The Whisky Bible Gold (2014), WWA “Winner” (2013), The Irish Whiskey Masters “Master” (2019), The Irish Whiskey Masters Gold (2014, 2017, 2020), The Irish Whiskey Masters Silver (2013)

Chill filtered: Yes

Natural Colour: No

Nose:

The nose is light and sweet on this one, and it kind of reminds me of a vanilla milkshake. There are some red forest fruits as well, that are most likely provided by it’s maturation in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. It’s not very intense, but it does hold a subtle complexity.

Palate:

On the tip of the tongue it feels very light for a second but as soon as it spread through your mouth it becomes full bodied very fast. Raisins, dates and a little oak appear alongside the red fruits that appeared on the nose as well. There’s some added bitterness to it as soon as you swallow, but not an unpleasant bitterness in any way.

Finish:

The finish has a medium length. A little of the oak and berries linger. I would call it bittersweet. But as you let your palate rest a little, the bitterness begins to fade and the forest fruits start to play a bigger role.

Verdict:

This is perhaps the odd duckling out in the tasing set. It’s (in my opinion) a little less quintessential for the category than the others. Do count your blessings though, because this is one of the better Irish Whiskey’s out there and a big step up from the more standard offerings such as Jameson and the likes. Around here it goes for about 45 euro a bottle and while I do think it’s worth it’s price tag, I would definitely not consider this entry level for the category anymore. But like I said, the fact that it’s part of this set is a blessing. It’s a dram that can truly make you fall in love with the category and it’s a great representation of what the category is capable of.

Rating:

86/100

Value:

B

Tasting Notes: Glenfiddich 12

Stats:

ABV: 40% (80 proof)

Age: 12 years old

Distillery: Glenfiddich Distillery

Owned by: William Grant & Sons

Category: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Awards: The Scotch Whisky Masters “Master” (2014), The Scotch Whisky Masters Gold (2013, 2019), The Scotch Whisky Masters Silver (2015, 2018), International Spirits Challenge (2019, 2020), IWSC Gold (2013, 2014), IWSC Silver (2017, 2019), San Francisco World Spirits Competition Silver (2013).

Chill filtered: Yes

Natural Colour: No

Nose:

Green tea with a wedge of lemon is what first comes to mind. This is a very light dram that reminds me of a forest in spring. There are light floral notes and green apples. I would describe this nose as delicate and uncomplicated.

Palate:

The palate is very light and straightforward. Some of the tea mentioned earlier is there with some oak bitterness on the sides of the tongue. It reminds me a little of a Verdejo wine. And just like white wine I think this is a dram made for summer or to be paired during a meal with some fish.

Finish:

The finish is short, there’s some spice and apple and little bit of the aforementioned bitterness. Here once again I found myself penning down that it makes a great summer dram, but this time instead of comparing it to wine I wrote down “the pale ale of whiskies”. Oh well, wine or beer you get the idea.

Verdict:

This has never really been my kind of dram. I find it pleasant enough but also unremarkable. But that’s just my personal opinion. I like bigger and bolder flavours, a higher ABV. But then again, I find myself having a bottle of this whisky in my cabinet most of the times. Because it IS a great representation of the category, it’s widely available and affordable at roughly 35 euro. And because it’s a great “lighter” whisky to start a flight with. Just don’t expect to be blown away with it. Sometimes you need something uncomplicated.

Rating:

75/100

Value:

A-

Tasting Notes: Glenmorangie 10

Stats:

ABV: 40% (80 proof)

Age: 10 years old

Distillery: The Glenmorangie Distillery

Owned by: Moët Hennesy – Louis Vuitton

Category: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Awards: The Scotch Whisky Masters “Master” (2013), International Spirits Challenge Gold (2020), International Spirits Challenge Silver (2014, 2019),  IWSC Gold (2014, 2017), IWSC Silver (2013), IWSC Silver Outstanding (2019), San Francisco World Spirits Competition Gold (2013).

Chill filtered: Yes

Natural Colour: No

Nose:

This dram also has a light nose. There are hints of apples and oranges. Some flowers and a little muscat grape as well. It’s very fruity and notably clean, there are no off putting notes at all. According to Glenmorangie themselves that’s because they have the tallest stills in all of Scotland.

Palate:

The palate is light, sweet and a little bitter. In the Netherlands we sometimes drink licorice root tea and it’s reminiscent of that. There are some citrus and baking spices present as well. It’s a light dram and there’s vague familiarity to the Glenfiddich. Speyside and Highland whiskies aren’t as far apart from each other as some other categories, and that shows.

Finish:

The finish is medium but unremarkable. It’s easily my least favourite part of this dram. It’s mostly the bitterness that lingers with just a hint of lemon lingering on the back of the palate. All in all not really something to savor.

Verdict:

While I may have ended a bit on a negative note, this is actually a dram that I prefer over the Glenfiddich. It’s fruity, delicate and clean. It’s not something that blows you away, but it’s beautiful in its own right. The finish might be a bit of a letdown, but the nose and palate still make it an enjoyable dram. For roughly 40 euro I think there’s better to be had for sure, but I couldn’t pick a better entry level representation of Highland whiskies myself. I have recommended this to friends in the past and I’m sure I’ll do so again.

Rating:

82/100

Value:

B

Tasting Notes: Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Stats:

ABV: 48% (96 proof)

Age: NAS

Distillery: Laphroaig Distillery

Owned by: Beam Suntory

Category: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Awards: Whisky Bible Gold (2014), IWSC Gold (2017), IWSC Silver (2019), IWSC Silver Outstanding (2013, 2014), IWC 3rd Place (2015), San Francisco World Spirits Competition Silver (2013).

Chill filtered: No

Natural Colour: No

Nose:

On the nose there’s a mixture of peat, tar and iodine. Paired with a lighter side of citrus which probably comes from the Quarter Casks influence as that lighter side is less present on the original 10. There’s a nice balance to the two vastly different sides of this dram.

Palate:

Upfront the fruitiness becomes very clear, there are apples and apricots ripe for the picking. But as it spreads around your mouth the peat takes over and where the nose was still more peat than (wood)smoke, here the smoke starts playing a bigger role.

Finish:

The finish is long, the tar and iodine linger with a nice warmth like that of the smoldering remnants of a campfire. Some fruit (apples and apricots like before) still remain faintly but there’s a new element to the dram on the finish too. There’s a savory meaty presence here, which reminds me of glazed BBQ ribs.

Verdict:

This is one of my favourite peated Islay’s and I will always have a bottle of this at home. It far outshines the regular 10 (at least the European version which has a lower ABV than the American 10), which has to do with the higher ABV for sure. But I also like the added lighter side too, and though there’s such a contrast, they play nicely with each other. Like salt and caramel. For around 45 euro it’s about the same price as the original 10 and I always recommend choosing this one over the 10. Unless you have some additional cash to go towards the cask strength that is… that’s a different beast altogether.

Rating:

87/100

Value:

A-

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine rating and value.

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