About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts, though I may wander elsewhere from time to time. The views expressed here are entirely my own!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

GLENDRONACH 1993 21YO BATCH 10 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

I've already reviewed another bottle from this batch, a 2002 12 matured in a Pedro Ximenez cask - you can read that review by clicking hereIt's now time for a review of the one of only two Oloroso sherry casks released in the Glendronach Single Cask Batch 10... they were a 1992 and 1993 and this will be a review of the 1993, which proved to be, well, another excellent cask from 1993.

Sadly, recent dealings and correspondence with importers and owners Benriach Distillery Group has made clear that we'll not be seeing any more single casks of 1993 sold through individual dealers/shops etc.
Also casks from the 70s are under the same ban - apparently this is a move by the Benriach Distillery Group to preserve whatever stock left from those years. I will not be speculating any further into this, but my guess is we haven't seen the last... it is, as with everything else, just a matter of enough money being put on the table...

One can only speculate as to why the 1993 vintage from Glendronach seems to have pushed the boundaries and set the standard for how many Glendronach fans wants their whisky to be. Did they just make really good spirit at the distillery that year? Or is it the casks from that year? Did Glendronach source those from a specific bodega in Spain? and did that bodega have a good year too, getting good casks from their suppliers too? and did they have a really good wine they poured into their casks that year

Back then you also casks shipped to distilleries in one piece...you didn't break them down into staves and shipped them to save space and then have them re-coopered once they reached Scotland. Not disassembling them certainly help keep the casks fresh and made sure they wouldn't go through a new charring and scraping before being filled with spirit.

One things for sure, the casks play a huge role in the maturation of any whisky and getting the right sherry casks are a deal breaking demand for a distillery like Glendronach with their heavy sherry profile... Anyway, we'll probably never know as the possibilities are endless...

Meanwhile, lets enjoy some of the 1993s already released, most of them have been little crackers! :-)

Glendronach Warehouse Tour and an ex-bourbon cask Glendronach May 6th 2012 © The Malt Desk
Glendronach 1993 21yo (19.02.1993/xx.06.2014) 55,8%, ex-Oloroso sherry butt#494, 635 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark nutty brown

Nose:
Is this the Oloroso cask that wanted to be a Pedro Ximenez cask? its certainly very sweet and not the drier Oloroso I was expecting, not at all carrying that nutty or drying oak I was expecting on the nose...

Instead, its a much sweeter (you already said that!) I'm getting reduced tomato sauce, cloves, burnt candied almonds, nutmeg and fresh made cappucino and marinated plums (thanks for letting us try those recently Palle!)

Taste:
Fruity and honey'ed edge - again different from the profile I expected, but thats good :-)
Orange, peel, more coffee (latte), slight earthy notes, rum soaked raisins, candied and burnt/overcooked apple, Tiramisu and Creme de Chocolat and green Haribo wine gums (Don't know here they came from!) Finishes on a burst of oak and a dusting of paprika.


Another great, if a bit different, cask of 1993 Glendronach. I like the liquid sweet dessert style in this one... 

89/100!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

EVENT: DUFFTOWN AUTUMN WHISKY FESTIVAL 2014 - REPORT BY BRUCE CRICHTON

Again this year, Bruce Crichton attended the Dufftown Autumn Whisky Festival and, as the last couple of years, I'm publishing Bruce's account of the events of a few whisky filled days. Please excuse any formatting errors.


Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival 2014


Report by Bruce Crichton


After the series of bit parts I had recorded for ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ were cut, I headed to Dufftown. The surgeon was able to reattach and, with the foot literally on the other hand, the Autumn Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed and after many days of great whisky, food, music, tours, kiwis, wallabies, hakas and a bucket of Kininvie, here is my account of it.

This report is only a rough guide and may contain factual errors, for which I apologize in advance. Tasting notes are subjective and comment is added from experts present during note taking. Most often, I find myself able to describe the taste of sweets extremely well and the reader is invited to speculate how I have managed to reach adulthood with any teeth remaining. To shorten the report, I refer the reader to previous reports and tastings if a whisky re-appears. I also assume the reader is familiar with widely available bottlings mentioned. Any cask samples, discontinued releases and fill-your-own (FYO) tasted are described briefly, as these may not be available to buy. When water added was, literally, one drop and whiskies were 40%abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated.


‘It all started with a big dram’ at the Whiskyshop Dufftown

On Thursday afternoon, Whisky Shop Dufftown (WSD) owner Mike Lord presented 3 drams to begin the festival with. Mike had had a barren summer with cautious crocodiles wisely avoiding his waterhole because his death roll is a terrifying sight to behold and even Luis Suarez fears his bite. In this tasting, he presented the 3 most interesting whiskies he had come across recently.

After Mike emptied a bottle of Benromach’s excellent 10 year old into a giant snifter glass for a charity event over the weekend, we tasted Diageo’s flagship ‘Rare Old’ Mortlach, at 43.4%abv. A somewhat controversial release, this contains whisky between 6 and 21 years old with Diageo aiming to keep the product consistent. There was much less sherry character than the popular but discontinued 16 year old ‘Flora and Fauna’ bottling and I found the nose to be almost magical with sherbet and fruit crumble and there was some bourbon cask fruitiness present with the taste being both crisp and sweet. Mike commented that Mortlach has recently doubled in size and has gone from the smallest distillery in Dufftown to being the second largest.
  

As this was going on, Brett the kiwi made a surprise re-appearance, sparking a discussion that ended with the conclusion that the England rugby team should do a Morris dance when the New Zealand rugby team are doing their haka and should probably do a Morris dance before every match they play.

Highland Park ‘Dark Origins’, at 46.8%abv, had been taken from 80% sherry casks and did have a somewhat rubbery nose that dissipated with the whisky being given time to breathe. As Mike reminisced about the 1990’s releases from the distillery, I found this to have the taste of sweet, stewed fruits and shortbread with a touch of peat.

The third and final dram, a 1991 Glenfarclas Family Cask, exclusive to the WSD, at 53.8%abv, was reviewed in the spring festival report. As we tasted it, Mike told us of his campaign to make Dufftown a recognized whisky region and pointed out that, if he succeeds, it will be the third biggest whisky region.

Glen Elgin and Benriach tours

At Glen Elgin distillery, we were greeted by Kwanele, our guide for the morning. Glen Elgin contributes significantly to the ‘White Horse’ blends’, with the logo visible on entry. Glen Elgin is also component of the popular Bells and Johnnie Walker’s blends.

Belgravia and Concerto malts are used, from nearby Burghead, with 8.4 tons of malt per mash, at Glen Elgin, and the grist is split into 8 fractions instead of the usual 3 of husks, grist and flour. Diageo believe this gives them more information, reducing variability and giving them a better extract. Fermentation is a minimum of 90 hours with the aim of producing a fruity character in the spirit.


In 2012, the washbacks were increased from 6 to 9, the mashes increased from 11 to 16 and production increased from 5 to 7 days per week. Increased automation allows a single operator to work where, before, a stillman and mashman were required. On top of each washback is a soap dispenser that, in the event of a power cut, will dispense soap into the wash to prevent foam spilling over. The distillery has 6 stills and currently spirit is transported to Cambus, in Clackmannanshire, as the Auchroisk facility at Keith is at capacity. A distillery upgrade is planned for November 2014 with the spirit receivers to be replaced.

We tasted a sweet 1995 ‘Exclusive’ from Gordon and MacPhail (G&M), at 50%abv, which had the taste of fruit and boiled sweets. This bottling has long since sold out though the curious reader is invited to the G&M shop in Elgin as there will no doubt be future releases from the company. 

Moving on to Benriach, we met Ewan George who showed us a promotional DVD from the company that clearly been produced by the makers of ‘Police Squad’.  Last year, the distillery made 2.4 million litres of alcohol with a third being used for single malt and the rest traded as spirit. 175,000 litres of peated spirit were made and all was kept by the distillery. Interestingly, master blender Billy Walker was unaware when taking over the distillery in 2004 that he had inherited peated spirit dating back to 1972.

1994 was another landmark year for the distillery as then owners Seagram’s bottled Benriach as a single malt, one of the so-called ‘Heritage Selection’. Using Optic Concerto malted barley, the distillery uses 4 waters rather than the traditional 3, something done by both Chivas and Seagrams’, the previous owners.
The short stills have a slight reflux that Ewan says imparts fruity character. Foreshots are kept short at 13 minutes to retain the fruity esters while the cut is between 61 and 73 percent while peated spirit has a cut of between 60 and 73 percent.

Spirit intended for single malt is filled into first fill casks with a small percentage filled into refill casks that are intended for blending. Demineralized borehole water is used to reduce casks. For example, the award winning 12 year old Sherry cask matured release, mostly available in the Far East, is diluted to 47%abv and left for between 6 and 8 weeks before being bottled at 46%abv.

An impressive tasting lineup began with the 1999 virgin oak finish, single cask, at 46%abv. It was sweet with vanilla and cream notes and the finish was spicy. A 1997 distillery shop exclusive, at 59.2%abv, had spent 15 years in a bourbon cask before 11 final months in a Sauternes wine cask. Ewan finds that this cask gives the whisky a caramelized taste. I found that the taste of crème brulee and first fill bourbon was too hard to resist. A 1996 vintage, at 52.4%abv, matured for the final 3 years in a Pedro Ximenez cask had tremendous sweetness from start to finish.

A 1977 Rioja finish, at 44.1%abv, bottled in 2012, was the first ‘I was there’ moment of the festival. Ewan found the taste of sponge cake while I smelled stewed fruits and tasted raspberry ripple. Finally, we had the 25 year old ‘Authenticus’, at 46%abv which apparently contains some 1985 virgin oak finish. It smelled of mellow peat, tasted of smooth and sweet peat and the finish was long, luxurious and soft.


Session whiskies by Gordon and MacPhail

Mike Paterson of G&M took time to recount the company’s history, praising previous owner George Urquhart for being ahead of his time in laying down malt whisky for future with the motto ‘Tomorrow is shaped by today’s decisions, today is shaped by decisions of the past’.

The first of a series of possible session whiskies was a ‘MacPhail’s 15 year old’ mystery malt. This range was introduced in 1983. Mike himself does not know the distillery this whisky is taken from though he said that 40 percent of the whisky was matured in refill sherry casks. It had mint, sherbet and cheesecake on the nose though the taste was difficult to describe and festival regular ‘Boisterous Aberdonian’ reckoned it had a quick finish. Mike Paterson added that the bottles of this malt whisky can be personalized while Mike Lord said that the WSD does the same thing by sticking a post-it note to the bottle. As we were discussing this, gasps of amazement greeted the announcement that a legendary peaty whisky lover enjoyed this despite it not having any discernable peat.


George Urquhart introduced the Connoisseur’s Choice (CC) range in the 1960s to make available whiskies that were otherwise unavailable as single malts and, appropriately, a 2004 CC Balmenach, at a standard strength of 46%abv, was our next whisky. The distillery was owned by Diageo and current owners Inver House have never bottled it. The Balmenach had been matured in refill sherry casks and smelled of creamy soft cheese. The taste was of chewy pear drops and the spicy finish was very long.

The MacPhail’s collection range appeared in 1998 and an 8 year old Tamdhu, at 43%abv, needed time to breath but, having done so, I found light golden syrup and honey on the nose while water revealed fizzy sherbet. This had been matured in refill sherry and bourbon casks, giving it the taste of fruit salad chew bars with vanilla being revealed by water. This particular range bottles either as an age statement or as a vintage. Festival regular Danny Maguire found this particularly enjoyable as it took his mind of the fact that he has tennis elbow in his knees from playing golf.

‘Distillery Label’ Linkwood, at 43%abv, smelled of golden honey and sherbet and tasted lightly fruity with toffee notes. The finish was short and did have a bite to it. Mike Paterson thinks it has a little bit of everything and represents a classic Speyside whisky taken from both bourbon and sherry casks.

We ended with the widely available, recently repackaged Benromach 10 year old, at 43%abv, detailed later. Mike told us to look out for the upcoming 10 year old ‘100 proof’ addition to the range and an Hermitage wine finish. A 5 year old will replace the ‘Traditional’ while Mike said he was looking forward to future ‘Organic’ releases as the company can reuse the casks used previously in that bottling.


Whisky Corner – ‘Peat in Whisky’
Appearing at a festival for the first time were Stewart Craigon and Kirsty Clarke who have their own blog entitled www.whiskycorner.co.uk . Kirsty does most of the writing for the site while Stewart runs a whisky club and the couple are available for corporate events and PR.


Beginning with the Highland Park ‘Dark Origins’ tasted earlier, Stewart detailed the composition of Orkney peat which, unlike other parts of Scotland, has no trees. The ‘Fogg’ is the top layer of peat that gives the initial smoke, the ‘yahrpe’ layer gives smoke and heat and the ‘moss’ gives heat with prolonged but less intense smoke. The barley is dried for 36 hours with 18 of those hours done with peat and the rest done with coke. (My initial thought that they would get better results with Irn Bru was, on reflection, a bit daft). As we considered this, Boisterous Aberdonian started to act up, apparently the result of his trying to smoke a hashtag. Boisterous also reckoned the whisky had a quick finish but nonetheless held its own, something he has experience of, apparently.


Douglas Laing’s ‘Big Peat’ vatted malt, at 46%abv, smelled of toffee and mints, indicating that the nose was dominated by Bowmore. Light and sweet, the smoke gently tickled the palate.  Port Charlotte ‘Scottish Barley’, at 50%abv, had light smoke and icing sugar aromas with minty and soft smoke tastes while the finish had smoked fish and salt.

An Cnoc ‘Cutter’, at 46%abv, was the fourth in a series of highland malts from the Knochdhu distillery, all named after cutting tools, the other 3 in the series are the ‘Rutter’, ‘Flaughter’ and ‘Tushkar’.
Unusually, the distillery publishes the level of peat in the whisky instead of the barley. The ‘Cutter’ had just been released a few days beforehand with Kirsty and Stewart tasting all four of them, back to back with Kirsty reckoning this one had the biggest punch of the 4. After finding fizzy sweetness on the nose, I noticed chewy peat and smoked fish on the taste while water lengthened the finish.

The widely available Laphroaig Quarter Cask, at 48%abv, had the biggest punch of the tasting. A drop of water revealed smoked fish on the nose with smoke erupting on the palate with excellent chewiness and fresh wood present. As I chewed the whisky, Kirsty said she would like to see more companies state the level of peat in the bottle and, to follow, Boisterous changed topic by recommending ‘Charlie Barley’, purveyor of black pudding in Stornoway. At this point, I caution readers asking them to consider the fact that Boisterous was burned in a wicker man on his last visit to Lewis.

A bonus dram of the 12 year old Highland Park, at the very end, revealed itself to be back on effervescent form with lots of delightful, cheery sweetness, making it the most surprising whisky of the weekend.

Cheeky Drams at Glendronach distillery

Arriving at Glendronach on Saturday morning, we were greeted by Karen, our guide for the tour. I’ve reported on this distillery extensively in my reports for the autumn festivals of 2009, 2010 and 2012 so I’ll say only that it was not in production this particular weekend and add a few interesting factoids.

The distillery has increased production every year since 2008 when it was sold by Chivas to Benriach in 2008. The maltings closed in 1996 at the same time the distillery did and was not reopened in 2002 when the distillery was because the building is not strong enough. However, it is preserved as a museum piece. The washbacks are made of Scottish larch and the stills are oil-heated. In the warehouse, there are octave and quarter casks as well as butts and a trial sherry, not from Jerez, is currently being tested.


At our tasting, Karen told us that her favourite from the core range is the 18 year old ‘Allardice’ that she finds ‘cheeky’ and, that instant, she was proved to be correct as the whisky in my glass told me to sod off as I was nosing it. This 18 year old, at 46%abv, has improved recently and Karen finds it chewy. I found rich fruit and sherry with wedding cake and it was a fine benchmark to measure the other whiskies with.

A UK exclusive 1995, cask 3326, at 55%abv had been matured in a Pedro Ximenez (PX) cask making it taste sweet and velvety. 21 year old Oloroso cask 39, at 58.8% needed time to breathe and reveal thick treacle and coffee. A 2002 distillery exclusive, at 56.5%abv, had been matured in a first fill PX puncheon. Surprisingly light, it had hints of syrup, fizzy sweets and sticky toffee pudding. Steve Carr found it rather quiet and not assertive though this was by no means a negative in his view. Karen told us that those who tasted it blind had thought it was much older than 11 years old.



A 1993 oloroso matured, 18 year old at 56.1%abv, smelled and tasted of coffee and dark orange chocolate. A very big dram, it was both thick and chewy. The 1994 ‘Manager’s cask’ was available to fill by hand, at 58.1%abv. A drop of water revealed coffee again and the charming taste of Fry’s orange cream chocolate.
                                                   
Adelphi Tasting with Antonia Bruce

 After announcing that Adelphi’s Ardnamurchan distillery had opened in July 2014, we began with a 1992 Longmorn, at 53.6%abv, that smelled like fruit salad chew bars while Mark Watt found honey and cereal breakfast bars. The whisky had both bourbon and sherry characteristics, leading me to ponder if it had been re-racked. Vanilla and cereal notes were present throughout this tremendous whisky.

The latest ‘Fascadale’ release, at 46%abv, is a 14 year old Highland Park consisting of 2 bourbon casks and 1 sherry cask. Writer Charles Maclean gets red pippin apples and highland fudge while I found fizzy sherbet, apples and mints. Sitting beside me, Christian from Norway said that water revealed a lot of vanilla. On the palate, I got something between apple sauce and apple crumble together with shortbread and concluded that this would make a fine session whisky.

A 1993 Glen Garioch, at 59%abv, had come from a first fill sherry butt. Antonia got spice and ginger notes from the nose while the consensus between Christian and myself was one of orange, marmalade and chocolate.

2007 Glenrothes, at 66.7%abv, led Antonia to describe it as being like a mad peanut butter sandwich though Mark Watt asked the reasonable question: ‘is there a sensible peanut butter sandwich?’ This was a big and punchy dram with no obvious youthfulness discernible and water opened it to give creamy sweetness while Christian detected chocolate.

Our 2000 Ardmore, at 55.6%abv, had subtle highland peat throughout. It smelled of smoked cheese with hints of ham while it tasted of sweet smoke. Christian found vanilla, lemon zest and sugar.

Later, at the Tannochbrae gala dinner, most of these whiskies reappeared alongside a 1990 Bladnoch, at 59.3%abv. With this lowland distillery unlikely to produce again, this was a timely chance to taste a well-aged lowland whisky and it put me in mind of what Auchentoshan Valinch might be like if it was allowed to mature for at least one more decade.  The whisky had been matured in a refill bourbon cask and tasted of butter on white bread with obvious notes of bourbon and spice.

                                                            Berry Brothers and Rudd,

After recovering from a bucket of 23 year old Kininvie, I returned in time for Jonny MacMillan to guide us through the best of Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR). He began with a slide comparing a single cask BBR bottling with a thinly disguised bottle of ‘Isle of Dalmorecairn’ with the former being unchilfiltered and coloured and the latter not. (Each whisky is 46%abv, if not strength is not otherwise indicated). Jonny recommends rolling your glass with the whisky in it to make it look like you know what you are doing and said that the whiskies had been poured some 30 minutes previously, allowing them to breath.

As we had a 1995 Caperdonich, Jonny showed a slide of the ‘picturesque’ distillery using a photo taken by Mark Watt of the rubble left after demolition. This whisky had vanilla and Parma violets on the nose and tasted of light honey and fruit syrup. 1999 Linkwood, from a refill bourbon cask, was grassy and floral with lemons and delicate sweetness. Apparently, Linkwood is Gaelic for ‘Distillery in Elgin’.


As a historical aside, Jonny showed us a picture of a 1909 company document, written before Rudd had joined the business.  During the prohibition era, BBR had moved enough whisky through the Bahamas to give each person in the islands 8 bottles a day, although it must be taken into account that Mark Watt didn’t live there at the time or the number would have been considerably reduced.

A 1998 Ben Nevis – Gaelic for ‘Fairly High Mountain’ – had been matured in a refill bourbon cask. The nose was slightly astringent with malt and aniseed and it tasted of warm vanilla sauce. Water lightened it considerably and it had all the qualities of a fine session whisky. A 1991 Glencadam, at 53.8%abv, led Jonny to say that the name is Gaelic for ‘Glencadam’ but I angrily disputed this, insisting it is Gaelic for ‘Tight up beside a football pitch’. Appropriately for a component whisky of ‘Stewart’s Cream of the Barley’, it had notes of both vanilla and cream throughout with Christian getting shortbread and pears.

The Glencadam had apparently been extremely popular with a writer who shall remain unnamed but, for the purpose of this report, will be referred to as ‘Pretentious, dopey, self-important twonk’.  Playing a musical tribute to Twonk, Jonny hailed him as our lord and savior and he and I decided it was best not to mention the name of the song either, just to be safe.

A 1997 Clynelish – Gaelic for ‘North Highland Waxy Whisky’ – was 55.4%abv. By this time, my ability to pick out flavours, apart from sweetness and waxiness, had collapsed but this was indeed classic, bourbon cask matured Clynelish and the reader is recommended to by the 14 year old distillery bottle for a benchmark and compare the two. With time running short, I headed out after tasting a bonus dram of the delicious ‘Paul John’ peated Indian whisky where the angel’s share is some 22%.
                                      
Antipodean Wildlife and High Visibility at Benromach Distillery

Sunday morning brought us to Benromach where Susan Colville was delighted to meet old friend Brett the Kiwi and new friend Bruce the wallaby. After watching a promotional DVD narrated by Michael Urquhart, we headed round the distillery, built in 1898 and then closed and gutted by previous owners Diageo in 1983, leaving behind only the buildings and the water supply.

Malting was carried out at the distillery until the mid-1960’s, symptomatic of most of the industry. Benromach uses a combination of both brewer’s and distillers yeast, making it virtually unique in Scotland. This is believed to give richness to the flavour at this manual distillery where almost nothing is automated with no pressure or temperature gauges and the spirit hand-filled into first fill bourbon and sherry casks.

Despite there not being production on Sunday, Susan donned her Hi Vis jacket for our tour and told us that Benromach and nearby Dallas Dhu, closed in 1983, were built as mirror images of each other by Charles Doig. While Dallas Dhu has been preserved with replica equipment, Benromach has changed considerably. Pagoda roofs were removed at the same time as malting was ceased on the premises.

Malt from Inverness is peated to between 10 and 12 ppm while the ‘Organic’ expression uses no peat and the ‘Peat Smoke’ has as much peat as can be fitted into the barley. 13 tons of malt are used per week with 1.5 tons used per mash. One man is on each shift with almost the entire distillery fitted into one room as the new distillery is a small fraction of the size of the old one which Susan reckons could make almost 2 million litres per year, about the same size as the popular Glen Moray, a few miles away.


Fermentation can take 48, 72 or 120 hours with the longer fermentation adding nuttiness. Cloudy wort means that the washbacks do not require switchers. Spirit cutting is also done by hand. Old stock is held at Elgin while post 1998 stock is held on site. Benromach made 135000 litres in 2013 and is on course to make 250000 in 2014. 40 percent of spirit is filled into Jim Beam bourbon casks with the rest filled into Jerez sherry casks, not counting the numerous small batch experiments in progress and the ‘Organic’ which is filled into certified organic Missouri oak. After a cleanout, the Organic’s spirit is made in January and 100 casks are filled per year while the same number of ‘Peat Smoke’ casks are filled in December.

The ageing warehouse will be knocked down then rebuilt and expanded though it does contain the historic 2006 cask that has the millionth litre produced by G&M. Benromach is exported to 42 countries, a remarkable feat for such a distillery of this size. In the pipeline is a 15 year old, stocks permitting.

Our tasting began with the newly packaged ‘Organic’, at 43%abv. This uses organic barley from Mulben, in Banffshire, and the nose had soft bourbon with warm toast and butter and a big, punchy, fruity taste. Susan prefers Benromach from bourbon casks, believing it shows the distillery character and our sample of the fill-your-own, at 61.9%abv, had a light, floral nose, tasting of vanilla, honey and cream. 
By contrast, the Oloroso cask sample, at 57.6%abv, was sweet and surprisingly light, not being a Benromach A’bunadh or 105. It was improved by adding the bourbon cask sample to it.



After another taste of the flagship 10 year old, we tasted the 30 year old, at 43%abv, which is currently 34 years old, in fact, and a fine sample of the old distillery’s product. Matured in first fill and refill casks, this was a luxurious evening whisky with a notably fruity taste. After that, there was a taste of history in the form of the 1976 vintage, bottled in 2012 at 46%abv. Light and creamy, this was a subtle dram.

Finally, the ‘current ‘Peat smoke’, at 46%abv, had used barley with 67ppm phenol, in contrast to Diageo’s Benromach that used no peat at all. There was smoke, salt and peat on the nose though the taste was much lighter than the level of peat would lead one to expect. There was the taste of delicate salted, smoked fish to finish with. With that, Susan removed her Hi Vis vest and promptly became invisible. (Rumour has it that she and her beloved Amazonian tree frogs had run off with Bruce the wallaby).

Morrison and Mackay Whiskies with Peter Mackay

The ‘Old Perth’ blended malt whisky from Morrison and Mackay (M&M) is currently on its third batch. In our glasses, however, was the first batch, at 43%abv. There was cereal and malt on the nose with smooth citrus tastes and the lemon from a lemon meringue pie to finish. As we were tasting, Peter told us that the core of this particular blend will always be Aultmore, matured in bourbon casks.

The first of four ‘Strictly Limited’ releases, all at 46%abv, was a 1995 ‘Westport’, taken from two bourbon casks. Westport is mostly from a highland distillery in a glen of tranquility with an added teaspoon of whisky from a distillery in Elgin. This had peaches in syrup and cream on the nose with a mellow citrus taste and lemon curd on the finish.

Also from 2 casks was a 17 year old Benrinnes that Peter thought was the best of the range bottled this year. A dram worth spending considerable time on, it had syrup and warm golden honey on the nose with vanilla and delicate, light bourbon in the middle. Rolling this on the tongue gave a long, spicy finish. As we tasted, Peter paid tribute to Mike Lord’s generosity ‘coming out in spades’, just like a combination of Motorhead and the Village People, I guess.

A 1995 Speyside had fudge and wedding cake aromas while Peter described it as ‘Snickers in a glass’ and ‘a whisky for Germans’. Tasting, I found nuts and chocolate on the taste with some bitter oranges to finish.

A 1988 Celebration of the Cask Linkwood, at 50.7%abv, had been matured in a bourbon cask with three months finishing in Oloroso sherry. This whisky had two sister casks, bottled circa 2011/12, one of which tasted like millionaire shortbread. A chewy and sweet dram, I found it deliciously well balanced.
Interestingly, before finishing, Peter told us that the Linkwood was paler in colour than our final whisky, a 1997 Ledaig. This had a minty nose with toffee and smoke but was milder to taste, with biscuits and fruit present. Unlike the younger Ledaig available from Morrison and Mackay, this was more like a peaty Highland or Speyside whisky than one from Islay.

                                                         An evening with Robin Laing
Robin’s back catalogue is reviewed in previous reports and, in addition, he played a number of new tracks, including one about Bannockburn, one called ‘Whisky Cathedral’ and another entitled ‘Black Rose’. His whiskies for the evening were the Bruichladdich ‘Scottish Barley’, at 50%abv, 1989 ‘Images of Dufftown’ from ‘Malts of Scotland’, at 53.2%abv, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Benromach Peat Smoke, Benriach 15 Tawny port finish, reviewed in previous reports, and the UK exclusive 1995 Glendronach PX cask, at 52.5%abv. Interestingly, compared to the Port Charlotte, the Benromach tasted lighter, despite a higher level of peat in the barley. Robin is particularly fond of the Bruichladdich ‘Scottish Barley’, as am I. Despite no peat, this is a big, effervescent dram with spice and sweetness in balance throughout. The Glendronach tasted of burnt fruitcake, raisins and toffee and, again, Robin is a big fan.

A thought-provoker for the evening was Robin’s suggestion that limbo dancing in a kilt should be made an Olympic sport – he reckons it is guaranteed TV time.

As usual, highlights from Robin’s performance are available on both Facebook and www.youtube.com.

I was there at Balvenie Distillery

At Balvenie, David Mair took us round. Most of the process has been covered extensively in the reports for the autumn festival of 2010 and the spring festival of 2013 and, this time, the maltings was under repair and out of bounds. David told us that it produces between 10 and 15 percent of the malt needed. A small amount of peat is used on site and, indeed, the distillery produces peated spirit for 10 days out of the year though no bottling date is indicated yet for the whisky.


Balvenie uses different water than nearby sister distillery Glenfiddich uses although the mineral content of the water does not differ. Steeping tanks were added in 1928 and are currently in the process of being replaced, at the time of writing. Interestingly, the original stills had come from Lagavulin and Glen Albyn distilleries. These were sold and the distillery changed to one still shape though David didn’t know which. Unusually, all the stills are the same shape at Balvenie.


The reader is recommended to join the ‘Warehouse 24’ club online for free and tours must be booked by contacting the distillery directly with a limited number of places available per tour. In the aforementioned warehouse, there are 3 casks available for to taste and bottle 200 ml of: first-fill bourbon, refill bourbon and first-fill sherry. These were soft and creamy, tasted of banana and honey and of rich wedding cake, respectively. Also available are a 1974 refill bourbon cask and a 1982 sherry cask. The old Tun 1401 is gone, replaced by the 8000 litre capacity Tun 1509. Each batch of this is compiled by malt master David Stewart and consists of 42 casks of between 21 and 40 years of age. Marrying takes 3 months.

Our vertical began with the widely available ‘Doublewood’ 12 year old, the distillery’s biggest selling bottling. After that, we had the 14 year old ‘Caribbean Cask’, at 43%abv, reviewed in the spring 2013 report. A drop of water opens this to reveal fudge and rum and raisin ice cream. A new addition to the range is the 15 year old ‘Single Sherry Barrel’, at a standard 47.8%abv. Each chosen barrel yields no more than 650 bottles and the whisky has a big punch of raisins, plums and wedding cake. David recommends a single drop of water with this one.

The 17 year old ‘Doublewood’, at 43%abv, is available in a miniatures pack with the 12 year old and the ‘Caribbean cask’. Reviewed in spring 2013 as well, I found fizzy sherbet this time around. The 21 year old Port Wood finish was extensively reviewed in my autumn 2008 report and is a fine accompaniment to a serving of cheese after dinner.

The last 3 whiskies were batch 1 of the Tun 1509, at 47.1%abv, and samples from the 1974 and 1982 casks mentioned earlier. The first of these sold out very quickly on release and all 3 were completely beyond my ability to describe, in a short space of time and we were pushed for time by then. However, for a relatively small outlay, readers of this report can book a tour and taste these whiskies, each of which constitute an ‘I was there’ moment. Also, be sure to bring a glass or a small cup for best results.

                                                  Graham Dunnet of Douglas Laing

Making his debut in Dufftown was Islay man Graham Dunnet who was standing in for the absent Jan Beckers. Jan, it turned out, had headed to London where, ever the practical joker, he persuaded the mayor that it would be a brilliant wheeze to stand up at his party’s conference with a brick. (Jan is reported to have purred at the success of this little jape.)

At 46.8%abv, the newly released ‘Timorous Beastie’ was a blend of highland malts from Glengoyne, Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Blair Athol. This whisky sparked a frenzy of comments from my table and elsewhere in the hall. I found lime citrus on the nose while Graham got barley sugar and Danny got green apples, something that Graham believes is an indicator of young whisky. Snorre found toffee and caramel while I got shortbread notes on the taste. The finish had spice, apple crumble and apple sauce with the addition of water making it minty. An exceptionally pale and delicious Provenance Mortlach, at 46%abv, smelled of shortbread and tasted of caramel shortcake with some light vanilla and peaches.


An ‘Old Particular’ (OP) 15 year old Benrinnes, at 48.4%abv, smelled of peaches and fruit salad chew bars, tasting of bourbon and vanilla. Snorre found raspberries in this one while Leif, his countryman, found plum jam and Pat Lunn tasted salted kippers. An OP 1997 Glenrothes, at 56.4%abv, from a refill hogshead had notes of bourbon while Graham got maltiness, Neil Simpson found cereal and a lady in the audience detected marzipan. I also tasted boiled sweets with water making it revealing mint and a creamy finish.

1989 Clan Denny Strathclyde grain whisky, at 56.2%abv, had an aroma of soft, sweet vanilla with Graham getting muscovado sugar. Neil found banana flavours on the addition of water while I tasted caramel milk chocolate. Graham believes that grain whisky is ideal for the summer and I will test this out the next time that Scotland has a summer as we don’t have one every year.

We ended with an 8 year old Provenance Laphroaig, at 46%abv. A huge dram with a very punch, it was quelled with a drop of water. It tasted of salt, peat and smoked fish with sweetness appearing in time. The finish was long and elegant and the reader is recommended to compare it to the widely available ‘Quarter Cask’ official bottling. 
Graham asked what was the audience’s favourite and the smooth, luxurious Strathclyde won hands down.
Cadenhead’s tasting with Mark Watt-Glenlivet

Unlike me, Mark Watt does not have a leg to stand on when the foot’s on the other hand and those who have seen him legless confirm this is true. Introducing, Mike Lord said that Mark has pushed back the boundaries of good sense.

With that, our first whisky was a 24 year old ‘Small Batch’ Miltonduff-Glenlivet, at 55.3%abv, taken from 2 hogsheads. This was fresh, juicy and creamy and led Mark to declare that the whole point of an independent bottler is to give you something unusual. He believes this to be a fine session whisky or ‘report-writing’ whisky. I found the taste of digestive biscuits with lemon meringue pie though Mark agreed with me that, despite the quality of the whisky, it is difficult to write about.


Mark says he warms up in the morning with whisky, reasoning that you wouldn’t run without warming up. His ‘Creations’ 17 year old blended whisky contained 1977 Caperdonich with other whisky from Ardmore, Clynelish, Invergordon and Auchroisk. Stephen Lunn thought it had way too much Clynelish and Mark reckoned that was the best insult ever. Strangely enough, the previous Miltonduff could have been added to this without changing the character as the blend is delicate, creamy and sweet with lemon meringue pie.

As a bonus, we had a cask sample of the Invergordon grain whisky that had been a component of the blend.
As an aside, Mark told us that the Benriach 10 year old had made him cry as he had accidentally poured it in his eye, a drink problem also suffered by Ted Striker in ‘Airplane’. In another aside, Mark said his company likes to add the suffix of Glenlivet to a number of distilleries as these distilleries had done so themselves in previous decades to cash in on the name of the first licensed Scotch whisky distillery despite being miles away from both the distillery and the valley in question.

Re-appearing from May was the 23 year old Aberlour-Glenlivet, at 54.9%abv, had been taken from 2 hogsheads. As we tasted, Mark said Cadenhead’s bottle bourbon and received a two-fingered salute from one audience member for that. Parent Company J and A Mitchell are the second biggest employer in Campbeltown after the local council though the council does less.

A 1985 Glenburgie should be bottled soon as a single cask release, at 57.3%abv, and it tasted of orange cream and blood orange chocolate. (Yes, this chocolate is available to buy.) Mark also said he thought the 80’s were coming back again though perhaps could have lived without me telling him I would play Van Halen to him again.

A 1995 Speyside-Glenlivet, taken from a refill butt and a first fill butt, led Snorre to declare it was the best from the distillery he’d had. At 62.8%abv, this was a beast of a whisky though one commentator believed that water gave it an easy-drinking character. The session became steadily more boisterous, despite no Aberdonians being present, and I tasted wine and cereal on this whisky. Mark told a story of having teeth done, which brought pictures of Richard Hammond to mind, and another of the time he was invited back to a cellar to watch a DVD of himself in action. (He declined).

A cask sample of 2001 Bowmore, from 2 refill barrels, had mint and smoky notes to it and had the character of a highland whisky, rather than one from Islay. Mark thinks that Bowmore’s spirit distilled between 1999 and 2001 will be as highly regarded in 2030 as Black Bowmore is today.

At the end of the festival, an honourable mention must go to Alan’s Tannochbrae warm-up blending of the Aberlour 10 and Monkey Shoulder which was delicious and all credit to him for spraying whisky on Robin’s tongue as he sang about ‘Whisky for Breakfast’, the title track of his current album.

The WSD drams party saw Mike announce that Hankey Bannister Heritage had been a clear winner of the blind blends tasting while Aberlour 15 had tied with Glendronach 18 as the best whisky to pair with haggis and that Singleton of Dufftown ‘Sunray’ had been the popular choice to go with bacon.

With that, I’d like to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the festival and, in particular, Mike Lord and his wife Val, Vicky and Kirsten at the Whisky Shop, Warren, Gemma and the rest of the crew, Claus for the proofreading, Steve Oliver, the Tannochbrae, the Coffee Pot café, Hiro for the bucket of Kininvie and the photo, Steve and Annie for the Balvenie distillery picture.

I’m off to join a club with a really thick layer of chocolate, those are the best, and I hope to see all of you again at the spring festival.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

BALBLAIR 2000 SHERRY CASK#1343 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR THE WHISKY EXCHANGE

Last month saw me making my way past Balblair Distillery on a quiet Monday morning. Arriving at the distillery before 10am, we parked the car and walked the grounds a bit, said 'good morning' to the warehouse man and snapped a few pictures before heading for the shop where my travelling companion did a BYO (Bottle your own), a 2002 from ex-bourbon cask#680 at 58%.

Last time we were at Balblair was little over 2 years ago in August 2012 ans since then there has been more than a handful of casks available there. Back then it was a 1992 19yo at 52,80% on as BYO and at the same price as the 2002 12yo of today - £90... but as with the rest of the whisky market, this has also seen quite a price hike and this seems to be around the price you have to pay for a BYO at most distilleries these days, though some offer you 'more' for your money (read: older whisky) than others.

In the opposite end of the scale, there's still some of the Chivas/Pernod Ricard distilleries (Aberlour, Strathisla, Glenlivet) offering BYOs at a more reasonable £65-70 for 14-18yo whiskies...
There's also a hidden gem somewhere in Speyside at the moment, offering a cracking 8yo sherry cask bottling at cask strength at £45... what a dram - where, you hear you ask? go find out yourself ;-)

Now let's try a Balblair bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange in London...
Balblair uses only a vintage (year) on their bottlings, so you can't makeout the age exactly on their bottlings.

Balblair Distillery, October 20th 2014 © The Malt Desk
Balblair 2000 sherry butt#1343 53%, 588 bottles, Distillery bottling for The Whisky Exchange in London

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Wow, heavy stuff!! BBQ sauce, charcoal, all kinds of dark fruits and especially raisins and prunes, walnut oil, tar, soy sauce, damp earth and a very faint note of struck match

Taste:
Drying and massive!! a real mouth filler! Danish licorice, dark chocolate, dark rum, coffee, very tiny hint of rubber, pipe tobacco, thick molasses, black olives, tea left to soak for way too long, burnt caramel and a more than drying, nipping oak.

Add some water to this (just a teaspoon) and it calms down somewhat and I'd even swear I get some of the Balblair character underneath with hints of apple, but it's maybe just my mind playing a trick on me here...

I like to dive deep into this style of whisky once in while, especially when a sherry-MONSTER like this comes along! This is, however, not a whisky for everyone and it lacks some finesse and is what I'd like to call sherry 'broken' but I still like it for its sheer force...

89/100!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

TOMATIN 12YO CUATRO FINO SHERRY CASK FINISH - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Regular readers and The Malt Desk Facebook page followers will have noticed that 3 weeks ago and friend and I started a trip around most of Scotland, from Campbeltown on Kintyre in the south and all the way to John O'Groats on the very top of Scotland, visiting distilleries along the way.

This also brought us past Tomatin Distillery just south of Inverness when heading back down to Edinburgh. We arrived before 10am which meant the distillery (or at least the shop) wasn't open yet so we ended up just snapping a few pictures in very high and cold winds there ...and little did I know that I'll be handed a sample of Tomatin later that evening in Edinburgh from Kirsty Clarke and Stewart Craigon from Whiskycorner.co.uk

The Tomatin 12yo Cuatro is a part of a four bottling series, all distilled on the same day and then matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to either Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for an additional 3 years of maturation. All four bottlings are limited to 1500 bottles each

Let's try it...

The huge Tomatin Warehouses, October 21st 2014 © The Malt Desk 

Tomatin 12yo (15.01.2002/20.08.2014) Cuatro Fino Sherry cask finish, 46%, 1500 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale amber

Nose:
Apple juice... the synthetic kind, acidic, lemon peel, then sweet and sour comes and goes, hint of hand wash. It gets sweeter with time, showing oranges, fresh baking, fresh made lemon icing sugar and raspberry

Taste:
A very nice arrival... I like the Fino sherry style, but sadly it often brings along a sulphur note as well... this is not the case here, I should add - it's just fine :-) the wine influence nips gently on the front and middle of the mouth and is generally very well behaved and in balance with the whisky... then a rush of something I can only describe as a peaty note mid palate (must be the cask), more apple and also some green banana, grape fruit, sweet malt and a slight yeasty notes in there. The wine shows itself again in the finish with an added spicy note...

A very pleasant acquaintance...

Thanks again to Kirsty and Stewart from whiskycorner.co.uk for the sample!

83/100!

Friday, 31 October 2014

SIA SCOTCH BY CARIN LUNA-OSTASESKI

Here's a bit of an unusual story, well unusual in whisky circles at least... but never the less a good one :-)
You ever hear of Crowd Funding? ...and the way its been applied here has made a dream come true for the founder of SIA Scotch, Carin Luna Ostaseski.

After a steep self learning curve, reading, attending events and eventually doing tastings herself, Carin found a certain taste profile that she feels hits peoples palates... and the result is the SIA Scotch... and after teaming up with importer Spirit Imports Inc. who then connected with independent bottler Douglas Laing to create SIA, a blend was born...

Currently only available in the US (California and Illinois) Carin hopes to have SIA expand through online retailers both in the US as well as internationally as well as a product line extension in the future.

But let's have a look at what I'm about to taste...

We're dealing with a blend, as in a blend of Scottish malt and grain whisky.... and here's the breakdown:

The malt content is as follows (undisclosed distilleries):
Speyside 50%, Highlands 40% and finally Islay 10%

The malt/grain ratio is 40/60 and all contents are aged between 5-9yo

Carin with the SIA - picture courtesy of siascotch.com

SIA Scotch Blended, 43% by Carin Luna-Ostaseski


Colour is straw

Nose:
What strikes me first here is the freshness... then Citrus, mainly peeled tangerines, fresh laundry, (powdered) ginger, vanilla, noticeable small grains adds again to the freshness. A hint of smokiness in there as well as fresh toast, cardboard/wet newspaper and black pepper.

Taste:
The arrival certainly benefits from being 43% rather than 40%. The tangerines are present again along with a slight metallic note. Also quite some vanilla and spicy notes, apple, honey, toasted oak, pine nuts and ruccola (salad). Meanwhile a slight smoke edge builds up in the back of your mouth giving it some added weight.

This is an easy drinker that can be enjoyed both neat, with ice or in a cocktail... and I'm betting that's what Carin was aiming for with this release. I'd suspect some new-to-whisky drinkers might find its smoky edge just bit too much, but its got the right ratio in a blend for me and this will certainly pass the 'session whisky' test. I'm betting this is one you can sip with ice all evening without feeling you've had enough. More here

Official sample provided by SIA Scotch

81/100!


Monday, 27 October 2014

SCAPA 1993 20YO BATCH SC20 007 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

The Malt Desk has been silent for a little over 2 weeks now. Its been mainly because of my holiday to Scotland and some of you may have enjoyed the pictures I put up on The Malt Desk Facebook page. So if you're on Facebook, please go like the page to keep up with whats happening here :-)

The good news is that I'm back with a bag full of shopping (whisky, of course!) and new travels under my belt... that and some nice evenings out in Glasgow, Craigellachie and Edinburgh with some people from both the Danish, American and Scottish whisky community.

Thanks, guys! (you know who you are). It was great to meet you all!

I also brought back a cold that decided to set in this past Friday evening - the day after hosting a fantastic sherry whisky tasting in the whisky club. (phew... good timing, huh?). Let's just hope it clears up for the upcoming weekends tasting of some of the bottling from the latest Scotch Malt Whisky Society Denmark outturn... :-O

Today was the day that the day job was calling again, so this seemed like a nice time to start adding stuff to the blog again, but since the olfactory system pretty much out of commission at the moment, its going to be a note from my little black book...

Scapa Distillery and Warehouses from the road, August 5th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Scapa 1993/2013 20yo 58,6% Batch SC20 007, Chivas Cask Strength Edition-series, Distillery bottling


Colour is full straw

Nose:
Vanilla, salty, hint of strawberry, white chocolate, apple, slight Danish marzipan note in there as well along with a dash of oak and lemon.

Taste:
Very salty, then a rush of sweetness... vanilla again, barley sugar, confectionery, malt, hint of bitter oak, fruit salad - peach and apple mainly and orange marmalade.

Delicious dram! and thanks to Kalle for the sample!

88/100!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

GLENFARCLAS 1965 1.183 'A VIBRANT ENIGMA' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Once upon a time there was a bottling of Glenfarclas that wanted to be an American Bourbon...
That could certainly be the case with this particular bottling released by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) has since it started, been one of the few independent bottlers regularly releasing casks of Glenfarclas, many of them ex-bourbon casks, which is not a part of the Glenfarclas Distillery normal sherry profile. This, however, could easily be mistaken for just that, at least judging by the colour of it the whisky. 

Glenfarclas is one of those whiskies that is held very much in high esteem with both whisky professionals and drinkers and IMO one of those Speyside whiskies that can stand the test of time (read: long term maturation), along with Glen Grant but just looking at it, I wonder if this one will fall through... ?

Glenfarclas Distillery, May 2nd 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 1965 1.183 (07.07.1965) 48yo ' A vibrant Enigma' 48%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 127 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is deep golden mahogany

Nose:
Like a US bourbon with a slight malty edge? sun dried tomatoes, dominant oak, spice and herbs - lots of it, pepper, cumin, myrica, hints of oregano and a floral note. Mint, herb liqueurs, handful of warm raisins.
This could be anything after a while... Cognac, Bourbon, Rum, Malt Whisky - take your pick

Certainly a great nose!

Taste:
Dry as the Kalahari :-O not any distillery no. 1.xxx left in this one... this one, as I suspected, tastes more like an American bourbon than a malt. Syrup, molasses, dark rums, cinnamon, bit of mint, cloves, orange peel and white inner skin, fresh pine and wood sap, burnt caramel and bitter oak.

Sadly, I suspected this - finally a Glenfarclas over the edge, having spent just too much time in the cask - at least to my taste. It's not a bad whisk(e)y... it just spent too much time in the cask.  I'm thinking that if you like Bourbon you'll like this one too - its certainly closer to that in style than a 'Farclas.

Thanks to TK for the generous sample!

80/100!

Retasted on 6. november 2014... Now 82/100!

Monday, 6 October 2014

MCDONALD'S TRADITIONAL BEN NEVIS - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Ben Nevis Distillery is one of the last working West Coast (mainland) distilleries left in Scotland.
Located on the outskirts of Fort William below the highest mountain in the UK (1344m) with the same name.

The distillery is carries it own distinct style, which this blogger never has been taken by... Ben Nevis has released some bottling from the early 70's that has received much acclaim in parts of the whisky community, I've tried a couple but even those haven't really been favourites of mine.

It was then with much anticipation I had a dram of this at a private function last month as I already had my Ben Nevis alarm going off when I saw the tasting lineup for the function and I pretty much decided that at some point there has to come along a Ben Nevis that will cater to my taste.

The whisky I'll be reviewing this time is an attempt from Ben Nevis to try and recreate the style of whisky from back when the distillery was started in the late 1800s. Carrying the name of the Distillery's founder, John McDonald, this bottling has gotten good reviews in several places already, let's see how it fares landing on this bloggers palate....

Ben Nevis Distiller, October 15th 2009 © The Malt Desk
McDonald's Traditional Ben Nevis 46%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Straight out of a newly opened bottle there's.... cheese!! and I'm not much of a cheese eater, especially not the strong stuff this one reeks of. I'd pretty much decided to fail this whisky right here and then but decided to try and give it 10min in the glass before returning to it. 10mins later the cheese is gone (thank you!) and instead there's peat, ozone, sherry as in dried fruit, oranges, slight burnt toffee and, in general, quite a heavy feel to the nose.

Taste:
Spicy, wood chips, nutty, peat on the mid palate and finish and with a brackish feel to the whole thing. Mid palate you get a citrus fruit coating to live things up only for it to quickly return to some metallic notes along with the peat, fruit muesli mix with dried fruits and oak bitterness.

Allright... except for the cheese hit straight out of the bottle, this is actually a pretty nice dram, although this is maybe not a style I'd actively seek out - a bit like some (most) Glen Scotias.

Finally, thanks to JH for putting this on the table at his whisky get-together

82/100!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

NEW SINGLE CASK RELEASES FROM WEMYSS MALTS

Wemyss Malts, the indie bottler involved in the Kingsbarn Distillery currently under construction near St. Andrew in Fife is releasing 12 single cask bottling this Autumn. The releases represent a a wide array of whisky from almost all Scotland's whisky producing regions.

The latest releases from Wemyss Malts - picture courtesy of the Wemyss press release


"Vintage Strawberry Punnet" - 1988 single cask from Invergordon, Single Grain
"Sweet Peat Posy" - 1987 single cask from Bowmore, Islay
"Aniseed Pastille" - 1996 single cask from Bowmore, Islay
"Thread of Smoke" - 1991 single cask from Bunnahabhain, Islay
"Smoke on the Water" - 1982 single cask from Caol Ila, Islay
"Floral Trellis" - 1988 single cask from Tormore, Speyside
"In a Bluebell Wood" - 1995 single cask from Glen Grant, Speyside
"Summer Fruit Cup" - 1998 single cask from Auchentoshan, Lowlands
"Cayenne Cocoa Bean" - 1997 single cask from Clynelish, Highlands
"Bench with a Sea View" - 1997 single cask from Clynelish, Highlands
"Peaches and Cream" - 1989 single cask from Glen Garioch, Highlands
"Blackcurrant Coulis" - 1991 single cask from Blair Athol, Highlands

The RRP of these malts is from £70-£200 and they'll be available soon from retailers in the UK, EU and some Asian markets before long.

Source: Wemyss Malts Press Release

Saturday, 27 September 2014

BRAEVAL 1996 - BLACKADDER RAW CASK

Located off the beaten path high up in hills in Speyside on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains and not far from Tamnavulin and Glenlivet distilleries, you'll find Braeval. Originally named 'Braes of Glenlivet' it was quickly renamed 'Braeval' when current owners Pernod Ricard (Chivas Bros.) bought the distillery back around 2001 to prevent 'Braes' from being mistaken with their bread winner, Glenlivet...

As I mentioned, Braeval is located high up in the hills, actually there's a bit of a dispute with Dalwhinnie Distillery just off the A9 main road about which distillery is the one located at the highest point in Scotland. Dalwhinnie is located 10 miles north of Drumochter pass which is 460 meters above sea level. Dalwhinnie is supposedly 351 meters above sea level coming down on the north side of the pass. Braeval is, according to other surveys, located 355 meters above sea level but there's never been an exact survey establishing which distillery is located highest up.

Going to Braeval takes you off the smaller country road, the B9008 and after a couple of miles on a side road stopping for sheep with lambs and thinking you'll never find a distillery out here, there it is...

The Braeval whisky is light in style with lots of volatile fruity notes, IMO so it's with much anticipation I dive into this sherry cask expression, as I feared it might be over powered by the cask influence...

Here's my take on it...

Braeval Distillery, May 5th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Braeval 1996 12yo (xx.11.1996/xx.10.2009) 57,3% Sherry butt#4904, 488 bottles, Blackadder Raw Cask

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Sweet apple, white pepper, vanilla, baked banana, slight milk chocolaty notes and thin coffee, bit of crushed walnut. Alcohol carrying it all to your nose very aggressively, so this needs to be nosed very carefully.

Taste:
Vanilla, honey, crisp malt and very light in style in spite of the sherry cask influence (great!), cinnamon, apple again, caramelised white garden fruits, caramel desserts, also thingking vanilla ice cream with light caramel tough here... The sherry is certainly peeping through as a an accelerant towards the finish where it gives off a short alcohol burst but then mellows out on a slight burnt sugar note.

This is an very nice dram, indeed... I love to see the light style of Braeval still coming through even though its been matured in a sherry cask, though it's maybe not the most active one... but it's still enough to give it more than a touch of sherry notes.

Thanks to JC for bringing this to a recent private function

The score for me on this one creeps up to...

87/100!
UA-35180442-1