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 politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

NAS BASHERS AND WHISKY COMPANIES - AN OPINION PIECE

All right, its back in the trenches of the No-Age-Statement (NAS) mud slinging contest... or rather war this past day, when Diageo's Nick Morgan in this piece on March 25th 2015, speaks out on Diageo's approach to NAS whisky with statements about NAS-bashers being 'intemperate' and suffering from 'hot-headed ignorance'...

Really? Come on!!??!!
Needless to say this has sparked quite a few comments on social media like Facebook and Twitter already...


Before I go on, I'll like to clarify a few things...
  • Not all NAS whisky is bad whisky - there's some good ones out there too!
  • I do occasionally drink NAS whisky myself
  • If the price/quality ratio is right, I'll have a nip or two...

But back to the statements from Nick Morgan...
I actually think the article is an attempt to put a sock in the whole NAS debate from Diageo's point of view. However, what its achieved is something entirely different and it has so far sparked comments on Facebook like:
"I don't see how anyone with half a brain can take the industry spin seriously no matter how much one admires the integrity and personal decency of the spokesperson. They are peddling a corporate line."
"It's all about profit. Use the barley strain that produces the most litres of alcohol per tonne instead of the strain that will produce the best quality spirit and then bottle it before the angels can garner their full share."
"What pisses me off is that I have no problem with NAS whisky as such, what annoys me is the spin put on it and the price. Two reasons whisky costs as much as is it does is evaporation and storage costs, yet younger whisky is still being sold at aged prices and it's not right."
"To be fair the Whisky Exchange are a great shop but they're hardly going to knock a major supplier are they? I won't be buying any NAS Single Malts, my choice."

I've called this post an 'opinion piece', so I'd better get started with some of my own and some from a few (many, even?) of the whisky drinkers I know:
  • Most of us are aware that whisky is a business! Not philanthropy!
  • Most of us are not hotheads - we're just passionate about your product!
    There
    is a difference! If that isn't brand loyalty, I don't know what is!
  • No, you will not be taking the piss, with younger whisky being sold to us at higher prices while at the same time claiming quality remains the same as its older aged versions...
and yes, I'm aware that I'm with my last bullet here, I'm also here stating that older is better... hell, even the industry, Diageo's biggest competitor, Pernod Ricard, had a campaign back in 2010 that was called 'Age Matters'... 

Here's some interesting figures from that campaign:

• 94% of consumers believe that age is an important indicator of quality
• 93% believe that older whiskies are better quality
• 92% prefer to buy whisky with a clear age statement
• 97% agreed that whiskies which claim to be aged should clearly state the age on the bottle
• 89% look for an age statement when buying whisky
• 86% expect to pay a price premium for whiskies with an age statement

I doubt the numbers have changed much in 5 years and assuming the numbers are the same for Diageo customers, now suddenly the opinion of almost 90% of customers doesn't count when it suits your business plan? and you say you haven't got enough supply to meet demand?

The reason for your current jam you can find in your company's predictions for the future. It sure sounds like the people in strategic planning department have failed... I know I'm pointing fingers back at you here, but since I can't offer you a solution to force mature your existing stock, its what I do...

I also know that passing the bills for their incompetence on to the consumer is the way all companies, hell - even governments deal with bad decisions, but it doesn't mean we have to like it...

I, for one, like to get kissed before I get screwed!

Looking in from the outside, it looks and sounds like a maximisation of profit is taking place at the moment. Whisky companies have probably recognised that brand loyalty among new spirit drinkers is a fleeting thing and that you need to cash in on these newcomers when you can...

Picture from wondergression.com

You are, however, doing so without regard to loyalty from existing and long term customers who have supported you through hard times earlier on when whisky wasn't as big as it is at the moment.

You can only hope these customers will stick by you when hard times return - because hard times will return at some point, but right now you are alienating them with underaged and overpriced... and with name-calling!

Me? as often as possible, I'll stay clear of NAS whisky except for research purposes... which, in reality means I'll not be spending my money it.

It's often been mentioned elsewhere that there's only one way to get rid of NAS and that's not to buy it. Well, I agree... Money talks in the world of whisky and shareholders want their dividends and if they don't get it, strategies change...

So are we down to a campaign now like the one that swept through the beer world? CAMRA (http://www.camra.org.uk/)

Only it'll be CANAS then... Campaign against No Age Statement

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

BLADNOCH 1990 - ADELPHI

For a while now, the Bladnoch Distillery just outside Wigtown in the very South-West corner of Scotland, has been silent... It's been up for sale now for couple of years, but every time you hear of an imminent sale, buyers tend to either retract their offer or get it rejected by the a part of the ownership - or at least so the rumors say... but it's not for me to get into that - I'm in this for the whisky and I can only express my sadness that this place isn't up and running, providing us with golden drops a few years down the line...

Meanwhile, let's enjoy some of the whisky from there - distilled a quarter of a century ago...


Bladnoch Distillery, May 6th 2010 © The Malt Desk

Bladnoch 1990 24yo (bottled xx.08.2014) 54,1%, refill ex-bourbon cask#30549, 169 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is golden straw

Nose:
First lots of vanilla , then oak spices pop up, a peppery nip, ginger and some hint of coconut? a couple of drops of water bring out an incredibly grassy and citrussy side and also a garden variety floral side... Lovely!


Taste:
The palate mirrors the nose a lot - the mouthfeel is pretty full, yet its still fresh.
Lots of grass and citrus as mentioned above, lemons/peel, coming across as a bit sharp at times, but some warming oak levels it out beautifully.

This Bladnoch comes across quite full at first but mid palate it looses some of its flavour profile, leaving a kind of a 'hole' in mid palate somewhere between mid palate and finish - quite a strange experience, in fact!

It's still very good whisky, though and just manages to creep past the mid-80s

86/100!

Monday, 23 March 2015

KILCHOMAN PORT CASK - DISTILLERY BOTTTLING

This year, Kilchoman Distillery on Islay, celebrates its 10th birthday.

This, of course, is celebrated with a big birthday bash on the distillery's Open-Day during this years Feis Ile - the annual festival of music and malt, held each year at the end of May... with that said, I already hear you asking when and where you can buy a 10 year old release from them... Well, bottom line is 'you can't' and you probably won't be able to this year either... and the reason is pure and simple - available stock!

Starting out small like most do and to generate a cash flow, Kilchoman did what many other distillers do during their start-up phase - they sell casks to people (or rather 'sold', as they don't do private cask sales any more)... and as soon as they have enough old stock to call whisky they have also put some of that to market. They even put some of their spirit up for sale too around 2008 both as minis and full bottles to generate some return on their investment. All this, of course, has resulted in limited stock from the early years being available today - and this is probably the main reason why you won't see a 10 year old bottling from Kilchoman this year...

We've seen quite a lot of bottlings from Kilchoman already and some have better than others to say the least...
It's young whisky and sometimes it can carry some very undesirable notes. E.g. some of the 5 year old they're released have been really good, while still showing its youthful vigor and the Loch Gorm sherry editions have been very good too.

Last year, Kilchoman released a 3 year old bottling matured in ex-port casks for which was received very well most places.
I've looked very much forward to trying this for a while now, since I think Port maturation, besides from the obvious sherry maturation, is one of the best wine types to go with whisky maturation... so is it any good?

The Kilchoman Visitor's Book ready for signing, May 7th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Kilchoman Port Cask 2011/2014, 55%, ex-ruby port casks, 6000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark red/mahogany

Nose:
Young spirit and peat, almost sickly in style - not appealing at all to me. Some rhubarb and synthetic strawberry struggles to make its way through the peat.

Taste:
Sour buttermilk, sick, rotten veggies, a seaweed and peat mix that just off-putting to me - 2 sips and that was it for me! yuck! 

Kilchoman snake oil, anyone? :-O

That said, I've had both the Kilchoman New Spirit and 3 year old bottlings that was very drinkable, but IMO this just doesn't work at all and is some of the worst stuff I've had in quite a while! A big Kilchoman dud, this one !

I'll leave this to those that love this style - IMO, this just doesn't work and, putting it mildly, it wasn't a hit with the 60 people I presented it for this past weekend either. 

54/100!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A STREAK OF IRISH WHISKEY - VARIOUS BOTTLERS

Tuesday this week the Irish (and lots of others, for that matter...) celebrate St. Patrick's Day. By now the hangovers should have lifted from those who participated - a hangover mainly caused by many pints of Guinness and also, in some, Irish Whiskey.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hosting an Irish Whiskey tasting in the local club and thankfully, they've started bottling more of their whiskey at cask strength which makes the whole thing a lot more fun.

Here's some quick notes on all the whiskeys from that tasting in one post (left to right)

7 drams from The Emerald Isle, January 22nd 2015 © The Malt Desk

Tullamore Dew 12yo Special Reserve, 40%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Fruity at first, then spicy grains and some honey

Taste:
Very easy arrival, banana, vanillas, gentle and sweet, more honey, crisp grains evident, pleasant drinker, slight bitterness on the finish

Actually much better than expected!

77/100!


Jameson Select Reserve, 40%, Distillery bottling


Colour is amber

Nose:
Burnt caramel, spicy, not much grain evident at first, , toast, honey and hints of coffee

Taste:
Creamy, a burnt bitterness, medium mouthfeel, notes of rum and candied apple

78/100!


Distilled in Ireland 26yo, 51,6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams

Colour is golden straw

Nose:
A little vinegar and varnish at first, then vanilla, sweet malt, resin, wet oak

Taste:
Almost waxy, melon, fruits, oak spices, lots of ginger, gets very tropical fruity in style with time along with mustard seeds and cumin - lovely!

85/100!


Limerick Malt 2001 11yo, 57%, cask#9929, 235 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is straw

Nose:
Discreet at first, then apples and pears, grist, hint of strawberry, vanilla and fresh dough

Taste:
Think of a sweet Speyside whisky - the style is very fruity/floral with apple crumble and white chocolate and a peppery finish - Very good and incredibly drinkable even at full strength

86/100!


Writer's Tears Cask Strength 53%, Walsh's Whiskey

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Slightly soapy note at first and quite some alcohol as well. Vanilla, some fruit, feinty notes (dairy) quite a young-ish profile

Taste:
More feinty notes - I'm guessing this is quite young, slightly herbal, sweet and carries a very distinct style. The pot still-style whiskey comes through to save this one...

81/100!


Redbreast 12 Cask Strength, 58,6%, batch B1/12, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark amber

Nose:
Lots of sherry and a fat pot still nose, very spicy, fruit cake, dates, candies fruit peel

Taste:
A little cardboard at first, sadly, but quickly gives away to candied apple, wood spices, cinnamon and cloves. Thick barley/grains gives this quite an oily mouthfeel - it's really excellent in spite of the cardboardy start!

87/100!


Cooley's (peated) Connemara 118.3 (14.10.1991) 22yo 'Self-assured, buxom and rewarding' 57,9%, 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, 206 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Sweet, instantly typical Irish whiskey notes hit your nose, with at times, almost a grain whisky style to it. There's wild flowers and Geranium and lavender, honey, slight hint of high quality tequila, vanilla, red berries (raspberry?). Have you tried the Knappogue Castle 1993? take that and add 15 years of maturation and add a good measure of smoke to it as well. Hugely expressive!

Taste:
Full force floral and perfumy front, then malt, more honey, fresh pear and smoke. Also vanilla, cough mints, licorice, and musty white wine. After a while the whole experience gets alot more fruity, with added banana and melon notes. Water brings out a bit more smoke and a few darker notes, more oak and spices.

I've tried this a few times now and it has grown a bit on me... sadly, a price tag of £270 here in Denmark will keep me from getting one.

A fun and interesting dram, though...

87/100!

Reviewed earlier -  full post here

Thursday, 12 March 2015

IMAGES OF DUFFTOWN (CLOCKTOWER) - MALTS OF SCOTLAND

German bottler 'Malts of Scotland' has made quite a name for themselves in the past few years. They've managed to bottle quite a few delicious casks, both young and old... They've also released some undisclosed malts, some of them bearing names and images from Speyside and the one I'm about to review is one such...

There are 3 bottling in the 'Images of Dufftown' series and rumours say they're all produced by William Grant Ltd. There's the Dufftown Whiskyshop-release, a Balvenie Castle-release and finally a Dufftown Clocktower-release.

Rumours say that the Clocktower-release, which I'm about to review is a Glenfiddich, but we'll never know for sure - but for let's say it is as there's not many indie Glenfiddichs around. Speculations around the other expression goes towards, The Balvenie and finally Kininvie if what they say is true that the casks are all from William Grant Ltd.

Anyway, on to the review...

Entrance to Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, October 18th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Images of Dufftown (Clocktower) 1988/2013 24yo 53,2%, 254 bottles, Malt of Scotland

Colour is straw

Nose:
Faint, toasted oak, vanilla, freshly baked shortbread, sweet fresh pineapple, ginger and brans

Taste:
More fruit, apple and pear mostly, lots of malt, honey, icing sugar and vanilla and ginger again. The finish turns more towards a citrus theme making the finish a long and drying one.

This may not be the most complex Speysider you'll come across, but what its does it does extremely well - I'll take a bottle of this any day! especially to show this off as an example to people who tends to write off Glenfiddich as that mass produced stuff with no soul... and its also at cask strength and almost 25 years of age...

Finally, thanks to MBO for the sample!

87/100!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

GLENROTHES 1995/2013 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Tucked away on a side street in the village of Rothes, giant Glenrothes who produces 5.600.000 liters of spirit each year, but lets only about 3-4% of its production escape the huge blending vats of The Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse brands.

Inside the Glenrothes distillery you'll find 10 stills running 7 days a week, all very lovely lined up - and almost resembling and often referred to as a cathedral style still house. The Glenrothes is not normally open to the public, but if you get a chance e.g. during the Spirit of Speyside festival, do make sure you pop in - it's an impressive place...

Glenrothes Distillery, May 5th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Glenrothes 1995 (26.10.1995/xx.xx.2013) 43%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Starts with lots of oranges, a trademark Glenrothes features
Then honey, malt, a pleasant nuttiness, grass, vanilla and a hint wood polish

Taste:
More oranges and honey, vanilla and caramel, some peppery spices along with ginger and nutmeg. Gets very malty towards the end, but the spiciness keeps it all in place

To me this is a very straight forward Speyside malt and its a real easy drinker and probably one you could serve to the new/non-whisky drinker and win him/her over with... especially by adding 5 drops of water to mellow it a bit with. Good stuff!

Finally, thanks to JS for the sample!

84/100!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

PROMETHEUS 26YO - THE GLASGOW DISTILLERY COMPANY

In 2013, the city of Glasgow saw its first new distillery in 100 years.
So far its only making Gin, but The Glasgow Distillery Company is set making whisky and plan to have barley spirit running off of their stills in 2015...

While we wait for that to happen, the gentlemen behind the operation, Ian McDougall and Liam Hughes has sourced some older Speyside casks to get their name associated with whisky...

They call their whisky Prometheus, a Titan from Greek mythology.
Prometheus was the one know for giving the gift of fire to Mankind, but not long after, fire was taken away from man by Zeus. Prometheus, however stole a flame from Mount Olympus and brought it back to Mankind, much like The Glasgow Distillery Company has now brought distilling back to Glasgow.

Carrying only the Prometheus name, the origins of the whisky is only revealed as to it being from a Speyside distillery and matured in sherry casks.



Prometheus 26yo 47%, 1st fill sherry casks, 3000 bottles, The Glasgow Distillery Company

Colour is dark amber

Nose:
Quite delicious, lots of dark fruits, raisins and figs. Also oranges, toffee, nuts, a slight herbal note (fennel??) and nutmeg in there.

Taste:
Again dark fruits, orange marmalade, some vanilla, milk chocolate, burnt sugar, dark honey, allspice, cloves and caramelised apple. There's some spicy oak showing on the finish. A couple of drops of water brings out more malt and also calms the tannins.

The whole thing is quite delicious, actually...

88/100!

This whisky carries a price tag of £430 which sadly makes the target audience for this whisky limited... a shame, really, as its a really good whisky.

1100 bottles will make it onto the European market

Available from March 2015

Official sample provided by GDC/A wee taste of Scotland DE


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

GLENFARCLAS 1988 25YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTHIC COLLECTION

Douglas Laing calls this distillery for 'Probably Speyside's Finest', Blackadder calls it Blairfindy and supposedly Gordon & MacPhail calls it Glen Avon and I'm am of course talking about Glenfarclas Distillery...

Glenfarclas is best know for producing lovely sherry casked whisky, but sometimes a bourbon cask leaves the place, either for blending purposes and some of them also ends up with the indie bottlers, like the one in this review.

Being from one of my favourite bottlers, Cadenheads, I certainly looked forward to trying this one - lets' try it...

Glenfarclas Distillery Visitors Centre, May 5th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 1988 25yo (b. Oct 2013) 53,7%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles, Cadenhead

Colour is bright yellow

Nose:
Honey, ginger, vanilla, grassy, slightly malty and yeasty notes and a hint of oak. The whole thing seems a bit restrained, but time and 2 drops of water brings out fresh baked bread, much more grass and a lemony note

Taste:
Crisp malt, citrus (lemon zest, mainly) kiwi and oak spices, white pepper, shortbread, oat meal, dried raspberry müesli and a little custard

A very nice dram, indeed though maybe not that complex and demanding as others... but who says everything has to be? this is quite enjoyable as it is... 

85/100!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE HIGHLAND PARK 'ODIN' IN STOCKHOLM

If you've ended up here you're probably already following The Malt desk on either Twitter (@TheMaltDesk) or via my Facebook page. You've probably also come across the use of the hash tag # and if you've been following Highland Park Distillery lately you will certainly have come across #ODIN100

The #ODIN100-tag was put into use by Highland Park to mark 100 days to the launch of the of the final whisky in their Valhalla-series and, of course, also to help Highland Park fans follow future posts counting down to the release of the final whisky in the series - the Odin

The Highland Park Odin - picture courtesy of Edrington

Officially launched on the 16th of February, the Odin sold out from the both the distillery and major online retailers in the UK in a flash - some reporting their stock being gone as fast as 15mins, so as with its predecessors, the Thor, Loki and Freya, the punters again gave each other a run for their money.

The complete Valhalla series, February 17th 2015 © The Malt Desk

The first official tasting did not take place until the 17th February though, and events were held both in Sweden and in the UK and just under a dozen of us were invited to an exclusive afternoon session in Stockholm under the guidance of Senior Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen and by attending this event, I'm in the very lucky position to have be present at the launch of all 4 of whiskies in this series when they were released in Sweden and Denmark... so all in all a very nice recap for me :-)

After reading the official tasting notes on the Odin I quickly spotted the heavier influence of sherry casks than in the previous releases. This certainly upped my expectations... and as the previous releases very much tropical fruit/citrus driven - this certainly sounded like a darker and heavier profile to me of Odin's and his ravens.

The setting is tasteful as always, February 17th 2015  © The Malt Desk

We started, though, with a revisit to the previous whiskies in the Valhalla series, the Thor, Loki and Freya - all very nice whiskies and a natural build-up to the Odin, which, according to Martin was the hardest to put together for the Highland Park whiskymaker Max Mcfarlane as the Odin should be the Allfather of the Gods, big and powerful and at the same time not resembling any of the previous releases... So, did Max succeed?


Martin Markvardsen presenting the Odin, February 17th 2015 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 'Odin' 16yo 55,8%, 17000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Matured mainly, but not exclusively, in Spanish oak sherry casks

Colour is amber

Nose:
Big, spicy and powerful! Highland Park certainly got this right! There's a distinct smoky edge covered in sherry and dried fruit notes, but the main theme is spice!


Peppery, nutmeg and cloves, strong cinnamon like in some oriental dishes, eucalyptus and candied orange and a slight burnt edge, like toasted oak and sugars along with lots of smoke from wet firewood. The whole thing is delivered by a healthy abv of 55,8% ensuring that the notes reaches your olfactory system in full force

Taste:
Odin certainly lets everyone know when he enters the Great Hall...

Again the spiciness is big! It has just a slight dirtiness to it which really gives it some backbone. There's dark chocolate, cappuccino, plums, tobacco leaves, ash, dark honey, Quality Street Orange sweets, quite some nutmeg, bbq wood chips and a refreshing gingery tang on the finish. Add to this an all present peatyness...

This is the 18yo Highland Park x10 on everything + added spiciness

This is big whisky and a very fitting end to the Valhalla series!
That said, I'm thinking some may find this just a bit of a brute, although I don't...

Anyway, it's one of, if not, the best of the series, IMO... but I'm really splitting hairs here when comparing with the Thor and Loki which I liked a lot. I'm down to the best being dependent on which mood you're in...

90/100!

Thanks to Edrington DK and Holm & Bertung for invitation to the event


Finally, if you're interested in how Odin compares to the other whiskies in the Valhalla series, you can find my notes on here by clicking the name-links in italic the Thor, the Loki and the Freya...

Monday, 16 February 2015

MILLBURN 1969 35YO - RARE MALT SELECTION

Today, the city of Inverness at the head of the Great Glen has no distilleries, but it hasn't always been like that... and up until the around the mid-1980s there were 3 distilleries operating in the city - those were Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor and Millburn.

Today though, the closes distillery is either Glen Ord Distillery to the North West or Tomatin Distillery south of the city on the A9 road, both located about 15 miles from Inverness.


I recently had the opportunity to try the 35yo Millburn from the much acclaimed Rare Malt Selection, in fact I did not only try it at the tasting, I also ended up with a small dreg to enjoy in the comfort of my own 4 walls, which means I can give this oldie the extra attention it deserves...

Millburn Distillery in the 1970s - photo by R. Hume from Facebook Millburn Community

Millburn 1969 35yo (b.xx.04.2005), 51,5%, Rare Malt Selection


Colour is light amber

Nose:
Fermented fruit and especially by on apple and banana. Quite some vanilla, citrus and some ginger in there too along with some smoky notes (faint chimney). After a while some very musty/old cupboard notes comes through... The whole thing is like a fruit bowl left in the sun for too long - if that makes any sense ;-)

Taste:
This is old whisky 101, lovely tropical fruit... melon, pineapple, peach and oranges and very honey'ed. There's marzipan, hints of nutmeg, cointreau. Gets very citrussy mid palate for a couple of seconds but then recedes and leaves a very noticeable and lovely smoky/ashy trail.

What a whisky! Grrrrrrreat stuff!

91/100!