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!

Thursday, 26 February 2015


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

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

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...


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


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

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

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... 


Thursday, 19 February 2015


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

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

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...


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


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

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 ;-)

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!


Monday, 9 February 2015


These days, everyone is talking about No-Age-Statement whisky and the ifs and how its affecting the whisky business. I've often expressed my feelings about this on here, so (for now at least) I will not go down that road again - Instead I'll take another path, albeit in the same direction...

No age statement whisky is no new invention, in fact many years ago (and I mean many) most whisky didn't carry an age statement at all. Then the whisky marketing campaign set in and told us all that older is better and that's what many people still believe today...

Among the age statement whiskies from about 10 years ago, some distilleries put out the occasional bottling without an age statement on it. These were usually young brutes of whisky at cask strength and bottlings from Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie and Talisker comes to mind... On Islay, Bowmore also did such bottlings and this is what I'll be reviewing below... a no-age-statement whisky from a time when available stock and a faster time-to-market wasn't the reason for a distillery to release a no-age-statement whisky...

The stills at Bowmore Distillery, June 13th 2007 © The Malt Desk

Bowmore Cask Strength 56% bottled app. 2005, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark gold with a reddish hue

Seaside freshness, the Bowmore slightly floral and lighter peaty side shows itself in beautiful measures. There's some fruit notes (artificial melon lemonade - the kind you make from powder) being held back by this briny and air freshener style this one carries - it sounds a bit weird, but this works just beautifully

Powerful yet delicate, peaty but also hints of old garage, that floral again (now FWP) but more like fresh laundry with just a hint of perfume plus some vanilla and tropical fruit. The whole thing is just in near perfect balance

Wow! this works incredibly well! I'd love a full bottle of this this is easy sipping Islay whisky at its best. A whisky from when a no-age-statement whisky was more the odd bottle in a distillery's core range...


Tuesday, 3 February 2015


- New limited edition whiskey available exclusively
to members of The Stillhouse via www.SinglePotStill.com -

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has announced the launch of Redbreast Mano a Lámh, the first expression in the Redbreast range to be matured solely in ex-oloroso sherry butts. This special whiskey is the latest release from the Midleton Distillery as it aims to satisfy the increasing global demand for new and original Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys.

Mano a Lámh, meaning ‘hand in hand’ in Spanish and Gaelic respectively, represents the relationship and passion between the Midleton Distillery and the collective of artisans in Spain, which has crafted the distillery’s sherry butts for more than 20 years.
Specially commissioned for the Midleton Distillery, oak is felled in the forests of Galicia, north-west Spain, and then crafted and seasoned by some of the country’s most prestigious family businesses. The Antonio Páez Lobato Bodega in the South crafts the oak into casks, which are then seasoned with Oloroso sherry for two years at the prestigious Páez Morilla Bodega in the nearby sherry capital of the world, Jerez.

The freshly seasoned sherry butts are then shipped promptly, during the cooler winter months, to the Midleton Distillery where they are then filled with new make pot still whiskeys.

Mano a Lámh is being released exclusively to members of The Stillhouse, the web-based members club for Single Pot Still Irish whiskey fans. The Stillhouse forms part of the www.singlepotstill.com website, which launched in 2011, to educate discerning whiskey lovers about the quality and provenance of this unique style of Irish whiskey.

While the core Redbreast range is matured in a combination of American bourbon and Spanish oloroso butts, Redbreast
Mano a Lámh luxuriates in this signature sherry style by bringing together whiskeys which have been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks, imparting distinct, rich, fruity flavours and a full body.

Billy Leighton, Master Blender at Midleton Distillery, said: “
Redbreast Mano a Lámh celebrates our longstanding relationship with the family of artisans in Spain who craft our sherry butts, which are so synonymous with the signature style of Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish whiskey. It was an exciting challenge as a Master Blender to work on this project; having to ensure that the right balance was achieved and the sherry contribution did not over power in the final taste. For me, Redbreast Mano a Lámh offers a distinctive, rich whiskey with intense flavours of dried fruit, which gives way to the perfection of the Spanish oak. I am really eager to learn what our Stillhouse members and Redbreast fans think of this rare expression.

Brendan Buckley, Global Innovation and Prestige Whiskeys Director at Irish Distillers added: “
Since its re-launch in May 2011, Single Pot Still Irish whiskey has quickly established itself as the insiders’ Irish whiskey style of choice with the Redbreast brand very much at the vanguard of this revival. We hope that Redbreast Mano a Lámh will excite whiskey lovers, especially those who enjoy sherried style whiskeys”.

The coming together of tradition and people, talents and passions – true craftspeople working hand in hand through generations and across borders – is what has helped make Redbreast the most definitive Single Pot Still Irish whiskey in the world and long may it continue.”

Limited to just 2,000 bottles,
Redbreast Mano a Lámh is non-chill filtered at 46% ABV and is available exclusively to members of The Stillhouse from February 2015, priced at €65. For more information on Single Pot Still Irish whiskey and to join The Stillhouse, visit www.singlepotstill.com

Redbreast Mano a Lámh tasting notes by Billy Leighton, Midleton Master Blender

Very deep dried fruits, raisins and sultanas with the more earthy tones of fig, dates and prunes. The sweetness is from the fruit and balances perfectly with pot still spices such as dill and black pepper, and the contribution of the toasted Spanish oak.

Silky smooth and deceptively sweet, full of rich, ripe, dark fruit with the leisurely emergence of the signature spices.

The rich fruit slowly gives way to the perfection of the Spanish oak.

Source: Pernod Ricard

Monday, 2 February 2015


It's been quite a while since I reviewed a whisky from from Islay's largest distillery, Caol Ila... actually its been as much as 15 months, so its about time, don't you think? :-)

Since I don't drink as much peated whisky as I used to, I really try to take my time with what I try and this was no exception. First I tried this at the Islay tasting I hosted in November and again at home later on another occasion with plenty time and a fresh(er) palate...

Anyway, here's my review...

Old scale at Caol Ila with the Paps of Jura in the background, June 13th 2007 © The Malt Desk

Caol Ila 2001 11yo (b. 01.2013) 60,6%, refill sherry cask#303802, 280 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is pale straw

Very closed down at first but turning quite fresh and sweet after a while. Some brine and salt nips come through with grape fruit/peel, vanilla and the ever present peat

At first lots of alcohol but then a peat rush, smoky bacon, vanilla, apple - all delivered by a very oily mouthfeel. Water brings out a slight white wine edge along with some citrus notes and turning the whole thing into a rather ashy and sooty affair. The finish gives off bags of peated peanuts

This is a real bruiser so go easy with this one! It's far from the most complex of whiskies, but its good fun!


Thursday, 29 January 2015


Benromach Distillery in the town of Forres between the river Findhorn and the west of the Speyside 'capitol' of Elgin prides themselves in producing a style of Speyside whisky associated with the 1960 or before that...

What does that mean, you ask? Well, back then most barley was malted at the distillery and peat was used as fuel when drying the barley, instead of hot air used at many commercial malting sites today and this produced a quite peated whisky compared to todays regular offerings from Speyside distilleries.

Benromach, owned by independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin has successfully revived that style and has worked their was up towards it for some time now, since they acquired Benromach Distillery in 1993 and after a restoration period started distilling there again in 1998.

I've already had the opportunity to try the 10yo version at 43% but wasn't able to take any notes at the time but from memory, the 100 proof 57% version I'm about to review seems quite the more robust dram, not only in alcohol strength, but also in overall flavour profile as opposed to the 43% which seems alot more sweet. 100 proof btw, is an old Imperial measure equivalent of 57% abv.

This dram is quite sherried and I'm suspecting maybe just a slightly bit more sherry cask influence in this one than in the 43% version which supposedly is made up 80% ex-bourbon casks and 20% ex-sherry casks.

Benromach Distillery Visitors Center, August 24th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Benromach 10yo 100 Proof 57% (2014), Distillery bottling

Colour is amber

Initial impressions are a lovely mix of dark fruit (sherry) and smoky notes all delivered to your nose by the high alcohol strength of 57% - so just be a little careful nosing this! I'm actually quite surprised at the peating level of this one...

There's lots more in there though - here we go... I've already mentioned the dark fruits, fresh tobacco leaves, mint/menthol and lots of chocolate notes, thinking After Eight mint sweets, but also other kinds without mint - e.g. Danish Anton Berg chocolates Plum in Madeira and regular chocolate covered marzipan bars. Also getting notes of burnt caramel, overripe apple, orange peel on a bonfire and thick malt. Wow!

Somewhat more aggressive on the palate. A good part of the 57%shows itself on arrival, but turns into a dry peat smoke and with sherry showing itself as burnt figs, earthy/dusty floors, overripe/brown banana. It then turns peppery and goes into BBQ overdrive with wood chips, lots smoky meat glace, BBQ rub paprika/chili style.

The addition of water to this drams kills the complexity fairly quickly, but if the alcohol bothers you, then by all means go ahead but I suggest you just let you palate adjust to it and let your mouth produce the saliva needed to dilute this one...

I also find the some wood chips notes present on the finish suggesting the use of some very active oak, maybe to finish the whisky. This prevents me from giving this one both thumbs-up and propelling it to 90p.

There's no denying the fact that this is great whisky and I'll probably be getting myself a bottle before long...

Finally, thanks to Soren from Skjold Burne Vinhandel for the sample!


Tuesday, 27 January 2015


This year, I'll be going back to Islay for the first time in 4 years... and I'm looking very much forward to it :-)
2015 is also the Bicentennial for 2 of Islay's most prominent distilleries, Ardbeg and Laphroaig but we must not forget the distillery located in between the two... Lagavulin!

For some die-hard Islay-fans, Lagavulin has become their new go-to distillery when they discovered a noticeable change in the make-up of their usual tipple - now, this may be a coincidence... or maybe not, as we've seen quite a few distilleries come up with new product ranges and discontinuing old ones.

Now, Lagavulin distillery seems to be a rock solid distillery with only a few different bottlings available and one of them is the annual release of their 12yo expression. It's an ex-bourbon matured version, praised highly over the past years and the 2013 edition is no exception.

Lagavulin Distillery, August 12th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Lagavulin 12yo (2013) 55,1%, refill ex-bourbon casks, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

Sweet peat and citrus immediately hits the nose along with a burnt leaves, ozone, a nipping salty feeling, tar and dried seaweed, damp earth and chimney soot. After a while the citrus notes stands out more, leaving you with a feeling of fresh lemon/lime and heavily smoked salmon and mineral note like hot sand.

A lovely sweet and creamy arrival before a peat and spice blast sets in followed by salted apple, vanilla, ash and blood oranges and some mineral and vegetal notes. The finish gets dry at first, then goes all creamy and peaty barley-lishious (that a word? well, it is now) with peppery spices running along the edges of your tongue.

This is really good whisky and goes to show that Lagavulin is truly one of Islay's best distilleries.


Saturday, 17 January 2015


In October 2014 I visited Balblair Distillery, but didn't take any whisky with me from there...
To be honest, my suitcase was about full at the time already (well, maybe room for 1 more bottle) and there certainly wasn't room for a Balblair in its very large box.

As I quite like the style of most of of the North Highlanders (Clynelish is one of my favourites and my first malt ever was a Glenmorangie) I made a promise to myself that I would look up some Balblair soon.

On the way home to Denmark, passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport I spotted a chance fulfil my promise there already and picked up this 2004/2014 offering at just €40 for 1 liter - a very good price, I think...

Balblair Distillery, October 20th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 2004/2014 46% 1st release bourbon matured, Distillery bottling

Colour is straw

There's some young spirit lurking underneath the whole thing, making it quite fresh and lively. Vanilla, pear, hint of yeast, some custard and buttermilk along with fresh cut grass. Also some fresh lemony notes in there along with some ginger and a faint mustiness. Water brings out a slight floral/fresh linen note...

Starts with an easy and gentle arrival on vanilla, overripe apple, green banana, malt and gingery notes... It soon turns spicy, though followed by some honeyed notes and showing that above mentioned freshness on the palate as well.

The younger spirit is kept in place by excellent cask management here, but it is still allowed to show its malty freshness. Water makes the whole experience quite spicy/peppery along with resinous notes, dried hops and yeasty notes.

A good dram and probably one most palates can come to terms with...