About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Friday, 5 February 2016


Early in the 1980s, the production team at Benromach laid down some of sherry casks that has gone onto to becoming the new 35yo Benromach. Very few casks from that era remains as Benromach Distillery in was mothballed in 1983 and for that reason we're now looking at a production gap from 1983 until 1998 when Gordon & Macphail started production there again.

On its way to the retailers now are the Benromach 35yo which will land at a price of around £425 depending on where in the world you are. Its beautifully packaged and if you ask me, it could have been a lot more expensive than it is, when you compare it to similar bottlings from other distilleries... that said, the price tag still places it in the premium range of whiskies out there.

So, what's all the fuzz about, you ask?

Picture by G&M

Benromach 35yo 43% - Distillery bottling

Colour is Amber

The first thing that comes to mind is just lovely old mellow whisky. There's a bit of lacquer, lots of overripe fruit - some very tropical in style, orange peel, honeycomb, barley wine, a noticeable smoky/burnt note in there as well along with a very present cinnamon note.... there's something about this whisky that reminds me of Xmas :-)
Picture by G&M

Again very mellow, brown banana, fresh raisins, honey cake, marinated pear, some resin, slightly musty, more oranges and chocolate. On the finish, some toasted oak and traditional tobacco shop along with a refreshing hint of mint

This is great whisky from when I was still in school - time flies!


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Monday, 1 February 2016


The Benromach Distillery Company Ltd. today reveals one of their rarest expressions to date, Benromach 35 Years Old, an exclusive whisky crafted at the distillery before the Urquhart family, owners of leading whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail, revived it in 1998.

Handcrafted using the finest natural ingredients at the Forres distillery, Benromach 35 Years Old is an exceptional whisky with real heritage and an original tale or two, having been laid down to mature in the 1980’s.  
Golden amber in colour, Benromach 35 Years Old (ABV 43%) is a most satisfying Speysider with cinnamon hints and beeswax polish, stewed pear and a delicate charred Oak edge.

The bespoke decanter style bottle protecting the precious whisky is encased within a wooden presentation box, reflecting the various elements which have gone into making the whisky; the copper stills, the dark, grained wood of the original washbacks, and the white of the limewashed distillery walls.

This rare whisky, dating back to a time before Benromach was restored in the ‘90s, exudes the heritage of the Speyside distillery. Created under the watchful eye of Donald MacDonald, former Distillery Manager, the casks this whisky was matured in have long been a part of the Benromach history. Willie McArthur, former malt man and warehouseman, was one of the workers responsible for protecting the precious casks remaining in the bonded warehouses.  

Benromach Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank said: “Benromach 35 Years Old is a very special whisky for everyone at the distillery, as very few casks of Benromach remain from this time period. “Benromach today is created respecting the traditional working practices of yesteryear and is lovingly handcrafted by sight, by sound, and by touch, using the finest natural ingredients. The 35 Years Old is the perfect dram to toast the past, present and future of Benromach.”

Official Tasting notes:

Benromach 35 Years Old, 43% ABV

Colour: Golden amber

Aroma without water: Rich sherry influences with orange marmalade, kiwi and grapefruit aromas, complemented by gorgeous cinnamon spice

Taste without water: Initially, it is sweet on the palate with honey, fruitcake, ripe banana and melon flavours. Watch out for the smooth white chocolate edge as it develops, combined with a soft menthol note, giving a full body and long and smooth fruity finish

Aroma with water: Sherry influences with honey, blackcurrant and beeswax polish aromas, complemented by a subtle hint of cloves

Taste with water: A fabulous combination of white pepper followed by dried tobacco, dewy stewed pear, raisin and zesty orange peel flavours, heightened by a delicate edge of charred oak… the result of lingering for over three decades in oak casks.

Benromach 35 Years Old is available to purchase at specialist whisky retailers with an RRP in the United Kingdom of £425. Prices may vary in international markets due to duty and import taxes. For more information on Benromach, and to explore the wide range of expressions available, please visit www.benromach.com

About Benromach

Originally built in 1898, Benromach Distillery was brought back to life when leading whisky specialists Gordon & MacPhail purchased it in 1993. The distillery was extensively re-equipped over a five-year period before it was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.

In reopening Benromach Distillery, Gordon & MacPhail decided to create a classic Speyside single malt – a style that draws its influence from Speyside whiskies pre-1960s.

Benromach Distillery is located on the outskirts of the ancient market town of Forres. A four-star visitor centre is open to the public throughout the year for tours and tastings. Benromach Distillery is a member of the world famous malt whisky trail.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


One of the upcoming releases in February is the Ailsa Bay Single Malt from Ailsa Distillery in Girvan in the Scottish lowlands.

Ailsa-what some of you might say?? Well, its the Wm. Grants & Sons (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie, Girvan) new powerhouse of a distillery, neighbouring the Girvan Grain Distillery. It was built back in 2007 and was up until August 2013 equipped with 12 washbacks and 8 stills when another set of each was put into production, bring it up to 24 washbacks and 16 stills with a total capacity of 12.000.000 liters of spirit annually.

The distillery produces 4 types of spirit on its Balvenie-style stills. One light and fruity, one slightly more sulphury and 2 peated spirits... one medium peated and one heavily peated, around 50ppm.

The one in the review below will be the medium peated version on 21pp, around the same as Bowmore Distillery on Islay. This version was actually released in Denmark at the start of November 2015 and since its official release is coming up, it'll be a good time to review it here...

The Ailsa Bay Bottle, January 22nd 2016 © The Malt Desk 2016

Ailsa Bay No-age-statement, 48,9%, 21ppm, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

A lovely sweetness at first, vanilla, grist, pot ale, some floral notes (fabric softener?) and a few feinty notes peeking through - nothing offensive though... and then there's the smokiness. Its always there and present from the first nosing - complimenting the sweetness quite well.

How old is this stuff? 6-7yo maybe? if so I'd say it has been in some very active casks... It has quite a decent arrival on pear notes, grass, custard, ginger, hints of white wine, lots of honey, fresh flowers from the garden and a very noticeable smoke (not peat), followed by a oaky/peppery rush. It reminds me of something in between an Arran and a Glenlivet with added smoke, so that isn't at all bad, right?

Now, regular readers will know I'm not a fan of NAS whisky unless its priced accordingly to whats in actually in the bottle - so is this one?? No, its too expensive if you ask me, at least here in Denmark where its just under £70

Is it good? Yes, its a nice fresh young whisky in a style that I could get used to... had it been at a better price.


Finally, big thanks to Adrian for the sample

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


Quite often we see that the maturation of peated whisky in sherry casks turns out quite well, in fact there are already a few contemporary classics out there to prove that already - bottlings like Ardbeg 76 Manager's Choice, the Lagavulin 1985 21yo and the Talisker 1981 20yo. These are all island whiskies, which are often known for their peated style, but there's also distilleries on the Scottish Mainland that produces peated whisky - and one of them is Ardmore Distillery in Kennethmont in the East Highlands between Aberdeen and Huntly.

This particular expression is also matured in refill sherry hogsheads and is bottled by Gordon & Macphail, carrying the G&M Distillery label - a label expression also done by G&M with Glen Grant Distillery.

This whisky is a part of the Gordon & Macphail 'The Wood Makes the Whisky'-campaign... Here's my take on it...

Ardmore 1996 1996/2013 43%, refill sherry hogsheads, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is light amber

Picture by G&M
Very sweet, yet distinctly peaty. Not heavily Islay-style peat but a rather delicate, yet noticeable one delivered with intertwining vinous notes. Quite delicious, actually. There's apple and some pepper in here accompanied by some lovely sweet candied and nutty notes

Peat and a clear apple/pear theme and slightly burnt pastry. Quite some peated caramel notes and some warm banana over a bonfire. The finish reveals slight citrus notes and then heads towards thick toffee caramel notes and some spicy oak.

I'm most fond of whisky with an abv of 46+ because with those I can add the amount of water that fits my palate.... but one of the things that Gordon & Macphail seems to be quite good at is making sure that the flavour delivery in their whiskies almost never comes across thin. A big pad on the back to the folks at Gordon & Macphail for that... just remember to keep an age statement on your releases in the future too ;-)


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Another whisky featured by Gordon & Macphail in their 'The Wood Makes the Whisky'-campaign comes from Speyburn Distillery. Hidden away on the outskirts of the village of Rothes, you can catch a glimpse of it of you look to the right when you reach the top of the hill on the A941 road to Elgin. Not much single malt comes from here though... you mostly only seen the their own 10yo and their NAS expression called 'Bradan Orach' and the rest finds its way into blended whisky.

Luckily we have companies like Gordon & Macphail, who over the years have bottled around 3 hand fulls of Speyburn. 

Again no bottling year is given on this sample, but this one is bottled in the 'Connoisseurs Choice'-series, a series that has been around since the mid-60s, albeit with different designs. It has also been bottled at a slightly higher strength of 46%.

Speyburn Distillery, August 26th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Speyburn 1991, 46%, Connoisseurs Choice, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is white wine

Similar picture by G&M, showing a 1989
As mentioned above this carries no exact age statement, but rather a vintage, but my best guess would make this around 23-24yo. It's fresh, yet mature with citrus, a little honey and some floral notes. If served blind, I'd have guessed Glenlivet by the nose alone. I also detect a little banana in here.

A lovely slightly dry and acidic arrival. Lots of barley sweetened lemons, more honey, vanilla and also a little rosehip, something I don't find much of in whisky. Only on the finish a little spicy fresh wood and ginger notes appears along with vague hints of mint.

A very straight forward light-in-style Speyside dram, an easy drinker, summer aperitif - very good!


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Elgin-based independent bottler and Distillery owner (Benromach), Gordon & Macphail has launched a campaign to enlighten people's perception on how much the cask means for the maturation of whisky.

The campaign is called 'The Wood Makes the Whisky' and comes complete with a booklet and a website (www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood
explaining the casks are chosen to match a specific spirit and how the wood interacts with the spirit and resulting in that lovely tipple we all enjoy so much. All the very well made angles on maturation incl. wood types, time and cask sizes are covered in both the booklet and on the very well made website - good job!

'The Wood Makes the Whisky' also comes with almost a handful of samples and I'll start in the deep end with this Glen Grant. No bottling year is given on the sample, but looking at bottling dates for the released versions, this is probably around or just over 50 years old.

The still at Glen Grant, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1954 40%, 1st fill sherry butts, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is chestnut

Picture by G&M
This just reeks of old whisky. Lots of red fruit and figs soaked in alcohol. Given some time the whole experience turn more towards tropical fruit, a direction I didn't expect from this old sherried number. Also in here are freshly polished hardwood and a little licorice.

Quite a powerfull presence and incredibly mouthfilling even at only 40%. Overripe/browned apple, dark honey and Wiener Melange but heading in a spicy/herbal direction. Dark fruits, moist raisins springs to mind later. There's a mint theme popping up on the finish along with what can only be described as an almost smoky/toasted feel, which suits this oldie quite well as everything is very well integrated. This finish just goes on and on... and on :-)

This is most certainly a blast from the past - amazing stuff!


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Its time for the last Cadenhead review this time around, but don't worry - more are coming soon :-)

As I mentioned in my Benriach review from 4th October, I was looking for something special to take home for the Cadenhead tasting and this Highland Park was it... It was first tried in a warehouse in Campbeltown where Mark Watt took us through a few of Cadenhead casks and my choice fell on this Highland Park, even though there were other very good offerings :-)

Mark Watt doing what he does best, May 7th 2015 - Photo by my whisky-compadre Johnny Rose

Highland Park 1988 27yo 52,6% ex-bourbon hogshead 1988/2008+ sherry hogshead 2008/May 2015, Cadenhead Cask Ends

Colour is dark mahogany

Thick heavy molasses syrupy notes, a slight dirty, smoky musty note as well, burnt caramel and figs and black cherries. The sherry is just about over the top and leaves no room for other than some dark chocolate notes as well...

Again heavy, lots of dirty notes bordering on sulphury but the again not, especially when allowed to breathe a bit. Notes of strong espresso, black olives, soy sauce and a the obvious wine/sherry and a slight charred finish.

This is big whisky, though not an incredible complex one...
You'll need to be into massive sherry bombs to appreciate this one, but then who doesn't like a whisky like this from time to time.

Again lovely stuff, this time directly out of the Cadenhead Warehouse in Campbeltown.


Thursday, 5 November 2015


Auchroisk Distillery, located not far from the small village of Mulben in Speyside, must have what is probably one of the quirkiest designs of a distillery ever. Its Architecture is inspired by a Gothic style and along with its sheer size (warehouses included) it could have doubled for a medieval castle had it had a wall and moat and been all black. The Distillery and especially the warehouses, however, are slightly blackened with fungus from the maturing whisky on site.

And there is quite a lot of whisky there. Owners Diageo have around 250.000 casks maturing there from various distilleries and further warehouses are planned on site. Warehousing is not the only thing bit at Auchroisk. The production is close to 6 million liters of spirit annually and there has been talk of an expansion in that area too.

Auchroisk Distillery and one of the warehouses behind it, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk
Auchroisk 1989 (xx.xx.1989/xx.03.2014) 24yo 57,5%, 2 sherry butts, 1140 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light amber

Nutty and slightly sulphury in style but not enough to put me off. It also has a faint metallic note. Stale/brackish water, earthy notes and some orange. It then takes off in a herbal direction after a while, maybe juniper? It sounds kinda freaky, but it works...

Pleasant arrival on toffee, fruit and nuts before the alcohol rushes in reveals a slight sulphury edge on the palate along with malt and crusty Danish. Mind you, the sulphur is still not strong enough to put me off. I'd say the main there here is toffee/candied apple - it doesn't really stray far from that.

OK, maybe not a whisky that would inspire you to start sprouting poetry, but still pretty decent - and I really like the funky nose on this one :-)


Tuesday, 27 October 2015


Its been 10 months since I last reviewed a Balblair so its about time to do so again. Like I mentioned in my previous review from January, I really like the style of most of the North Highland distilleries so I had high hopes for this expression... Balblair and Cadenhead - that can't possibly be a bad combination, eh?

Even though this expression carries a colour that could easily be mistaken for a sherry cask, it is actually matured in an ex-bourbon barrel - a fact that made me just a tiny bit worried that this would be overly oaky.

So was it? read below...

The very crammed stillhouse at Balblair, August 23rd 2012 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 1990 22yo (xx.xx.1990/xx.07.2012) 57,4%, ex-bourbon barrel, 192 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is amber

Ohh, lovely!
Quite some cappuccino notes extending all the way to hot chocolate. The alcohol seems a little aggressive at times, but eventually calms down, leaving rooms for more delicate notes of overripe apple and earthy notes. Also in there are heavy, 
sometimes slightly burned caramel notes and a little orange peel and clove - sounds kinda Xmas'y, don't you think?

The oak shows itself a bit more on the palate, but its doing it in the nicest way possible. Again there's the apple, hints of mushrooms and what it must feel like to lick a hardwood floor. Time lets an understated vanilla and cinnamon theme and dark honey/slight syrupy notes come through. The medium long finish gives away to some peppery oak and a little mint.

This whisky comes and goes when you drink it and I quite like that.It also shows that even though the colour hints at some big oak influence, its not the case (here, at least)

Great stuff!