About this blog:

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

Friday, 29 June 2012


Just recently, the Danish importer of Signatory has had another couple of bottlings done, exclusively for Denmark.

Generally the Danish importer has been very good at getting bottlings exclusively for Denmark, but notes on previous ones have escaped me and others I have not tasted, but lets have a look at 2 very recent ones.

First up, a whisky from the mothballed Imperial distillery in Speyside...

Imperial 1995 16yo 58% 09.10.1995/14.05.2012, hogshead#50317, 216 bottles, Signatory Exclusively for Denmark

Gold coloured


Nutty, creamy, light coat of (refill) sherry, very honeyed with hints of citrus and wet leaves.


Loads of things going on! Spice hit, mouthfilling, spicy alchohol marinated fruits, somthing like a mild sherry infusion and caramel. Waxy...
Adding a couple of drops of water makes it very citric after a while. Finishes on whisky flavoured bbq oak flakes.

Reminded me of a Clynelish several times during the tasting. Lovely!


Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Another distillery that does not need any introduction, is the closed Port Ellen Distillery.
Not counting its founding and early production years, the distillery was shut down after a relatively short lifespan from 1967-1983... and with only an annual output of about 800.000 liters of spirit, bottles have now become rare and expensive. After Port Ellen Distillery closed, production was increased at another Diageo (back then UDV)distillery instead namely Caol Ila, making it biggest distillery on Islay for many years now.

Last year saw another expansion at Caol Ila with new the installation of 2 new washbacks, making it possible for the distillery to up the output to a massive 6.400.000 liters of spirit annually.

There's much debate on how much Port Ellen that are actually left in Scotland, both with the owners Diageo and with the independent bottlers, of which Douglas Laing here in reputed to have some stock left...and its a bottle from this stock that goes in the review below:

Port Ellen 1983 27yo 46%, refill sherry butt#DMG6101, Douglas McGibbon Provenance

Bright gold coloured

Sweet fruits, cut mango, melon, an ashy peat along with quite some salt.

Fruits and peat are the dominant players here. then quite some coastal notes incl the before mentioned salt, but also hint of seaweed and a wet sand note (mineral note?)

The thing about Port Ellen is, that it can be both very mediocre and downright fantastic whisky. This is very enjoyable, but far from the best Port Ellen I've ever tried....and at the price they're charging for Port Ellen these days, I'd rather pay less that half and get a bottle of old Caol Ila, which -in my opinion- has much of the same characteristics as a Port Ellen.


This post also concludes the 8-part series on indie bottler Douglas Laing.
Hope you've enjoyed the reviews.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


This distillery on the south coast of Islay needs no introduction, so lets go right at it:

Laphroaig 2001 8yo 46%, from 2 x refill hogsheads 5095+5096, Douglas McGibbon Provenance

Pale straw in colour

Gristy, more smoke than peat, very sweet, hints of Jamaica's favorit 'herb' (and not talking coffee here), a little banana and vanillapods

The lightest of arrivals for a Laphroaig, bordering on thin. The smoke and sweetness is very much in the foreground on this one. The gristyness from the nose on this one also carries through on the palate. The middle palate is very weak and only the smoke lingers on a short while.

Far from the most impressive of Laphroaigs, but still an enjoyable session dram.To be honest, I'd personally spend a little more money and get the Distillery 10yo Cask Strength.


Monday, 25 June 2012


Yet another of these usually very great but undisclosed (but still common knowledge) Glenfarclas' from Douglas Laing.

The last couple of years have seen the Speyside's Finest-bottlings move from the Old Malt Cask-series, along side Ardbeg and Port Ellen, into this bottlers premium series - the Old & Rare Platinum... sadly with a large price increase too.

Anyway, these old GF's are as I mentioned usually top notch whisky. That said I had one earlier this year in the Old & Rare Platinum series that IMO never should have been bottled. You can find info on it in the archives on the left hand side of the page.

Hopefully this one wont let us down:

Speyside's Finest 1967 41yo 50% xx.11.1967/xx.05.2009 sherrybutt#DL5159, 305 bottles, Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask

Deep gold in colour

Didnt expect a heavily sherried nose, like som some other SF-bottlings, due to the lighter colour of this one. It gives more of a dusting of sherry notes, like a hint of berries, some ginger and nutmeg and very gently measure of oak.

Very nice drinking strength these 50% - again not the heaviest of arrivals, but everything comes in just the right amounts. I'm thinking malt liquorice tea, hint of cherry wine? ginger spice(d) (yes, pun intended) and finally a litte chocolate and minty oak.

Very nice dram!


Saturday, 23 June 2012


Southeast of Alloa and the demolished Carsebridge Distillery reviewed in the last post, we find the town of Linlithgow. Besides being the birthplace of Mary - Queen of Scots. Linlithgow is also near the Union Canal - the old waterway used to transport goods between Edinburg and Glasgow in the good old days.

Up until 1983 - the town also had the St. Magdalene/Linlithgow Distillery.
The name St. Magdalene comes from the name of the leper colony/hospital that used to be on site during different periods from the 12th century and on... Today the old distillery buildings have been turned into apartments.

On to the whisky:

St. Magdalene 1982 28yo 50% xx.09.1982/xx.11.2010, refill butt#6810,439 bottles, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask

Pale straw in colour

Lemon, honey and sweet breakfast cereals

Honey Melon, a green and citric note - like standing in a citrus grove, hint of aniseed and malt. Sweet bakery note as well. Lovely - could drink this all night!


Friday, 22 June 2012


Its time to visit yet another of the Douglas Laing series - this time its Hunter Hamilton 'Clan Denny'. This series usually features bottlings from Grain Distilleries and the one below is no exception. That said, also malts are bottled under this label.

We're paying a visit to the Carsebridge Distillery in Alloa, not far from Stirling.
The distillery closed in 1983 and was demolished in 1992.

Carsebridge 1981 29yo 53,1% xx.10.1981/xx.xx.2010 1st fill ex-bourbon hogshead#6609, Clan Denny

Dark gold in colour

Heavy sweetness, like an American bourbon - Jim Beam comes to mind, coconut, exotic fruits, caramel - the sweetness is massive.

The American bourbon style is there for sure, spicy now, the sweetness and the fruits take over and then the oak spices hits again. Not terribly complex, but this is what grains suffer from in general.

Now, I may have a sweet tooth when it comes to certain things, but not grain whisky (incl. (most) American bourbons) I need the stuff to be spicy and then I still only have one dram.
This is why grains have never been a big hit with me....
Decent, though, for a grain since it also carries some spicyness.


Thursday, 21 June 2012


Next distillery one up is a favorite of many whisky anoraks - and with good reason too...
Mortlach can be nothing short of sublime! That said, some terrible stuff has also been bottled by independant bottlers from time to time (sulphury stuff), but generally the output is of very high quality!

BTW, did you know that Mortlach was the first distillery in Dufftown to install electric lighting? and William Grant, the founder of Glenfiddich used to work at Mortlach before starting to distill himself?

Let's try this one:

Mortlach 1997 13yo 50% xx.09.1997/xx.09.2010 refill hogshead#6574, 424 bottles, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask

Hang on - something immediately hits the eye here... 424 bottles from a hogshead, which is usually 250 liters and should yield 357 bottles with 0% evaporation - is this a typo from Douglas Laing and is this really a well used sherry butt? Its also possible (though rare) to see larger casks that are still labeled 'hogshead'.

Oh well, lets taste this:

Straw coloured

Fruits, spices, an strange oak nip, wet grain?

Vanillaed fruits, like covered in cake creme, pepper? nice rich mouthfeel

Maybe a tad simple but it works - a straightforward, real easy to drink Mortie


Wednesday, 20 June 2012


One of the other Douglas Laing-series this one (if you didnt read my first post).

Glentauchers 2000 8yo 46%, sherry butt#4595, Douglas McGibbon Provenance

Sweet apples, very light coat of sherry, malty (cereal) notes and toffee

Vanilla and more dominant sherry influence than expected.
Very malty and fruity and the thing feels alot more mature than an 8yo.

Good whisky from a 'small' relatively unknown distillery owned by Drinks-Giant Pernod Richard!


Tuesday, 19 June 2012


It's time to do an 8 part on the different series from Glasgow indie bottler Douglas Laing.
They do different series of bottlings and the ones that I'll be reviewing here are:

Old Malt Cask, Douglas McGibbon Provenance, Premier Barrel and Hunter Hamilton Clan Denny

Besides those they do a couple of undisclosed malts like 'Big Peat' and and a series called 'Double Barrel' and of course their ultra premium range 'Old & Rare Platinum' and 'Director's Cut'...and even mentioning these, I've forgotten some.

You can read more about Douglas Laing here and of course find their complete brands list there, too.

First one up in this review series is bottling of the highland distillery, Aberfeldy, usually associated with Dewar's...

Aberfeldy 1994 16yo 50% xx.06.1994/xx.12.2010, refill hogshead#6844, 350 bottles, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask

Pale straw in colour

Fresh cut grass, lemons, hints of malt and mash

Very nice arrival on white tinned fruits, some oak spices and an oily feel to it, without it sticking to your mouth, very fresh and satisfying.

A very pleasant surprise, this one!


Monday, 18 June 2012


Laphroaig Cáirdeas 2012 now on sale at Laphroaig Distillery webshop for £45/bottle - max 3 per customer. You have to be logged in and a registered member of 'Friends of Laphroaig' to purchase this bottling.


Bottles are  sold on a first come first served basis.


It's time to do a Distillery special and why not start with a distillery located in a place historically linked to us Danes - The Orkney Islands just north of Scotland.

You need about an hour on the ferry from Gill's Bay just west of John O'Groats on the north mainland coast to get to St. Margaret's Hope - the 3rd largest town on the islands. There's also a ferry from Scrabster further west going into Stromness on Orkney Mainland. That's the sailing that will take you past the famous 'Old Man of Hoy' rock formation which -in good weather- makes for an fantastic photo opportunity...

However, Highland Park Distillery is the centre of attention for this post, so let's go inside :

Entrance to the distillery - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Founded in 1798 on the site of High Park Farm where the owner Magnus Eunson used to distill illegally, its location provides for a beautiful entrance into the town of Kirkwall when driving up from St. Margaret's Hope.

With facilities on both sides of the road, Highland Park is a larger facility than I expected when you include the warehouses. Being this remote, up north of Scotland makes this distillery very unique along with the Scapa Distillery. Especially when it comes to evaporation or 'The Angel's Share' as we like to call it. More on that when we come to the cask maturation part.

Barley and Malting

Inside the courtyard, you can head right towards the floor maltings.
Highland Park is one of the few distilleries that still does a part of their maltings themselves.

Highland Park does between 20-25% of their own malting. The rest are bought from commercial maltings like Simpsons or Bairds on the Scottish mainland.

The Malt floor - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Up until 2012 Highland Park has used barley of the 'Optic'-variety, but to achieve and higher spirit yield, they have now switched to a variety called 'Concerto'. The 'Concerto'-variety is now one of the most widely used barley sorts in Scotland with distillers using 31,7% in their production.

Highland Park have also done experiments with a barley sort grown on the Orkney Islands called 'Tartan'...

Now, as a distiller you're always looking for the highest spirit yield from your malt and for comparison, here are the yield of the sorts listed above:

  • Optic Barley 400-420 liters of spirit per tonne of malt
  • Concerto Barley 415-420 liters of spirit per tonne of malt
  • Tartan Orkney Grown Barley (experimental) app. 375 liters per tonne of malt 
The barley at Highland Park is steeped for 2 days before being spread out on the malt floor to germinate.

Imagine this floor filled with barley all the way down to the end of the room...
Now also imagine turning this barley having to be turned over 4-5 times a day...manually !! with the rake and shovel !! It was back breaking work back in the day using traditional tools!
As mentioned above it 'only' about 1/4 of Highland Park's barley that gets malted on site, and luckily, motorised machinery looking like a large lawn mover, is there to help you do your work...

All this work turning the barley (read: typing) has made me thirsty - time for a dram...and since we're still in the early stages of production lets have some Highland Park New Make Spirit from the stills:

Highland Park New Make Spirit 69,8% (drawn 18/5-2010)

Creamy chocolaty notes, fruity, grains (wash), hint of a flowery note (I often find in soaps) and some citric notes in the background, BBQ notes?

Incredibly sweet, barley sugars, citrus fruits, creamy mouth feel, not at all unpleasant and very drinkable even at full strength.  A big malty finish too...

Not scored!

Let's have another dram while we're at it:

Highland Park 'Leif Eriksson' 40%

This was originally only for Travel Retail but some bottles has made its way to normal retailers as well. Its a dram in the viking-series, which celebrates the great travels the vikings did over 1000 years ago and a dram to honor the Norse ties with the Orkney Isles.

Its a whisky made from 50% American oak and 50% refill American oak sherry casks. 10% of the content is made up of 21yo American oak, though the average age of this one is around 10 years.

Light, vanillas, some sherry sweetness, some malt presence, hints of vinegar?

Spicy, Fruits, molecules of peat smoke, again vanillas and a short malty aftertaste


Highland Park 'Sword' 43%

A 1997 vintage (not stated, though) of a 3500 bottle release for the Taiwanese market.

Sweet, weak, mashy note, vanillas and candy

Feels tame, mashy/grainy notes - the American oak shows its presence.

Though easily drinkable, I'm not that impressed with this one, sadly! something just feels... 'off'


Drying the Malt

Let's get back to work!

Now, as we all know you have to dry your 'green malt' to stop the germination and for that you use hot air. The traditional drying method uses peat for fuel, but at Highland Park they don't want their malt be too heavily peated, so they also use hot air to dry out the last moisture in the malt.

The peat used to dry the green malt at Highland Park is cut on Hobbister Moor, up behind the distillery. They cut around 250-280 tonnes of peat per year on a 2000 acre lot, and this is not your typical island peat like e.g. Islay peat or other peat sources found on the west coast of Scotland.

Islay e.g. is a raised seabed, which means the peat you dig there consists of old seabed contents, usually heavy on seaweed etc. This gives the peat from there a different phenolic content when burned and is said to be what gives Islay whiskies its medicinal qualities.

The Orkney peat is made up of more common surface growths like grass, moss and heather, that have never been a part of the sea and therefore gives off entirely different flavours in its smoke.

Highland Park dries its green malt 16-18 hours over an (Orkney) peat fire.
The process is then finished by drying the malt another 18 hours over a coke fire.

After the malt is is dried its put into storage for a resting period of 21 days before used in production.

The kiln - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Now where does all this smoke and hot air go? Well, it goes up through the kiln, of course...and because of that you can see smoke coming out of Highland Park's pagodas now and again, unlike many other distilleries in Scotland where the beautiful pagoda roofs are for show, only.

One of the 2 pagodas at the distillery - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

...and the view from up next to the pagodas towards the town of Kirkwall is fantastic...

Notice the large church in the middle/right of the picture - The beautiful St. Magnus Cathedral

View from the roof of the distillery towards Kirkwall - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
St. Magnus Cathedral - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Speaking of the St. Magnus Cathedral - Lets have some more drams with a bit of history involved.

Orcadians are proud of their Norse heritage - and I can't argue with that :-)

So much that Highland Park has done a 3 part series about a Norse Earl called Magnus - the one they named the cathedral after...

Orkney back in the day when it was under Viking rule saw the days of the pious Earl Magnus and his not so pious cousin, Haakon. Now, Magnus was the very well liked ruler his part of the islands, where as Haakon was the more power hungry man. Basically it all ended up with Haakon luring the good Magnus into an ambush killing him and his men. After that, Magnus was canonised to Saint and the next 3 bottlings will tell the tale of these unfortunate events...

These bottles were all done in an old style, with imperfections and a fancy wooden display box.

Highland Park 'Earl Magnus' 15yo 52,6% (1994/2009) Mainly Refill American oak sherry casks, 5976 bottles

Sweet, spices, flowery, honeyed, a tad of oak

Sweet oak, vanillas and tropical fruits, heather honey, salty, really delicious with a couple of drops of water

A very nice dram, indeed!


Highland Park 'Saint Magnus' 12yo 55% (1998/2010) 25% 1st fill European oak, 75% mix of refill Spanish/American oak sherry casks, 11994 bottles

Medium heavy, quite some struck match, orange liqueur, High end American Bourbon notes

Bitter sweet spicy oak, heavy sherry, super spicy with some coffee notes, liquorice and clear and present struck match, upsetting things somewhat

Not the best of the Magnus series, but still ok though I had expected a little more from this one...


Highland Park 'Earl Haakon' 18yo 54,9% (1993/2011) 100% Spanish Oak, 3300 bottles

Clean cut sherry, honey, creamy oloroso, yet powerful

A slight dunnage warehouse style, maybe? light layer of smoke, Oranges, chocolates, peppery and hint of licorice - Dessert style for sure!

This is a style I really like, clean cut sherry style without a single off-note!
Wish they would do a standard 18yo at CS and bring some of these characteristic over into a bottling like that! Top class, this one!


Milling, Mashing and Brewing

Before being milled the malted barley from the distillery itself is mixed with mainly unpeated barley from the industrial maltings.

This is then milled into what we know as 'grist'.
At Highland Park the mashing is done in a large stainless steel mashtun.
Its a careful process as the starches/sugars in the malt what is really used for alcohol production... and to prevent that the water used to make to sugary solution is added at 3 different temperatures

  • 1st water goes in at 63,5°
  • 2nd water goes in at 79,0°
  • 3rd water goes in at 88,0°
The 1st and 2nd water is enough to separate the enough sugars to go into the washbacks as what we know as 'wort'.

The 3rd water is pumped over to the sparge tank and is then cooled and used as a part of the next 1st water.

The stainless steel mashtun - picture by Highland Park

Each washback at Highland Park can hold 29200 liters of wort, and to get fermentation going about 100kgs of yeast is added. It's a cultured yeast consisting of 2 strains, 1 fast working, usually to get the fermentation going and another to maintain it for a longer period of time.

A standard fermentation at Highland Park is about 60 hours, though over the weekend, you have fermentations as long as 72 hours. This process has now created a beer at about 8% alcohol that needs to be distilled 2 times.
The washbacks, each vessel holding 29200 liters - picture by Highland Park

The Distillation Process

The stillhouse at Highland Park is to the left when you enter the courtyard. Outside you can see the spirit condensers.

The Still House - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Inside the stillhouse you find 4 stills - 2 x Wash Stills and 2 x Spirit Stills.

The 8% beer is pumped from the wash room to the still house across the yard where the wash stills are charged with 14600 liters of wash. The wash distillation gives off a low wine at app. 22% abv which is collected and pumped into the spirit stills at a charge of 9000 liters.

The Wash stills - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
The distillation now runs and the first part of it, the foreshots contains all the unpleasantries and lead off to a holding tank.

Next comes what a distiller aims for - the heart of the run or the middle cut - which at Highland Park starts at 70% abv and runs until it hits 64,5% abv.

Then the runs is considered to be feints and is again lead off to the holding tank to go into the next distillation run.

One of the Spirit stills - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
The final strength of the middle cut will be 69,8% and will go into casks at that strength too.
Although the new make spirit is very nice and drinkable its in the casks the magic really happens... up to 60-70% of it comes from the cask.

Cask Maturation

Highland Park cask filling station - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Now, the casks at Highland Park are a chapter of its own. The Edrington Group who owns Highland Park along with Glenturret, Glenrothes and Macallan has a very strict wood policy - some say the the strictest in the industry.

Last year and this year the Edrington Group spends app. £12 million annually on casks.
They get their European oak sherry casks from 3 different regions in Spain and and their American oak from 2 different areas in the USA.

When a tree is cut down it takes 6-7 years for it to reach the production line and filled with new make spirit at Highland Park. Why this long? First the wood has to dry out for up to 36-48 months. Then the wood goes to the cooperage and after that it goes away to get seasoned with sherry for a minimum of 24 months.

Highland Park has 23 warehouses on site. 19 of them are traditional dunnage style warehouse with earthen floors and the casks there are stacked max. 3 high. The last 4 warehouses are rack warehouses where casks are stacked usually at least 6 high and at any one time you will find more than 40.000+ casks of Highland Park maturing in Scotland.

Being located this far north means that the outside temperature never goes much above 12-14° celcius in the summer and 2-5° celcius in the winter. This gives the spirit at Highland Park a much slower maturation rate that e.g. the distilleries on the Scottish mainland. Because of this, cask evaporation at Highland Park is only about 0,5-1% annually as opposed to around 2-3% on the mainland.

Using both Spanish and American oak for maturation of its spirit gives Highland Park a wide range of possibilities in putting together expressions - a practise probably adopted from the Glenrothes distillery (also owned by The Edrington Group), who has been doing this for many years. I reviewed a couple of these variations at the start of this special writeup. A couple of  Highland Park bottlings that uses a large proportion of American oak sherry casks, are the Vintage 97' & 98' for Global Travel Retail.

Casks, casks, casks.... © The Malt Desk
As the very aware reader probably already knows, Highland Park has several standard expressions, ranging from 12yo to 50yo.

Lets have a look at the percent of 1st fill sherry that goes into the standard bottlings, then afterwards, I'll review some older stuff, incl. a couple of the 70's vintages.

A nice overview of how much % first fill sherry cask that goes into the different bottlings - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 25yo (b. 2004) 50,7%

Medium oloroso, hint of smoke, dark fruits, heather character is very much alive in this one, coffee too

Heather honey, smoky orange notes, sweet dark fruits, dates, more coffee and a dark creamy chocolates

A nice one for sure!


Highland Park 25yo (b. 2000) 51,5% (58% 1st fill oloroso casks)

Medium heavy oloroso nose, again a heather/honey theme, smoky butter caramels, malt and citric notes (the fabled HP oranges?)

An oaky fruits arrival, drying and sweet dessert style, Aniseed? Long finish on nuts, oil and an undisclosed organic note. Everything ends with a thin veil of smoke. Delicious!


Highland Park 1977 (1998) Bicentennary 40%

Old school clean sherry, peat and chocolate, spicy and orangy.

Much of the nose carries over. Arrives in the back of the mouth which is a surprise, lingers... very chewy. What an old musty dunnage warehouse smells like, this has hints of in the taste (in a good way!).

Slightly bitter oak creeps in with more spice, mint and liquorice. A good one too, but no all the way up there IMO.
Maybe the low abv% has something to say here?


The 2 vintages below were re-tasted for the purpose of this Highland Park special... and this humble taster must admit that the first time around he had them scored the other way around.

Highland Park Vintage 1978 (2011) 47,8% for Global Travel Retail

Citrus and honey, hints of mint, lightweight sherry notes without a blemish, an oaky nip too.

Honey, oak, spices, nuts, peppery, vanilla toffee, again hints of mint, liquorice and Kangotcho Kenyan Estate Coffee.

I like this, but did expect a little more, considering the 3 bottlings reviews above are from somewhat the same distilling regime. The price has also crept up where it begins to to hurt for most people.


Highland Park Vintage 1973 (2010) 50,6% for Global Travel Retail

Very light in style, flowery, hardwood section at the building market, also the HP classics of honey and citrus notes are present.

Cake icing, tropical fruits - mango, peach, melons. More citrus notes, honey again on a spicy oaky layer. Smoky edge and a hint of warm apple pie? Remarkably fresh for a 37yo whisky

Good stuff!! but again very pricey!


I hope you enjoyed reading this Highland Park Special.
I must admit that I've always held this distillery in high regard and its certainly one I like to recommend to people when they as me what to get as an all-rounder. The HP-style seems to agree with many peoples palates and the consistency of the spirit is very high.

I can also wholeheartedly recommend that if you want an experience out of the ordinary, do take the long trip to the Orkney Islands. It's breathtakingly beautiful up there, with lots of scenery, history, wildlife and of course - whisky! :-)

Happy Dramming out there!

Friday, 15 June 2012


This is an undisclosed Glenfarclas bottled by Huntly bottler, Duncan Taylor, which generally puts out some good stuff, though I'm guess stocks are getting low by now.

Lets try and dissect this one:

Speyside Region No. 3 1967 37yo 40,7%, cask#5810, 334 bottles by Duncan Taylor

First nosing after a generous pour hits your nose with heavy toffee, then settles strawberries, aniseed, gentle honey, a little leather, hints of apples and marzipan and oak as in fresh wood shavings. Very nice!

Dry then sweet, then dry again, bitter almonds, burnt sugar, leather, spices, dried fruits - figs and raisins. Then hints of red berries again (but not strawberries this time) and oak then hits on the finale.

A very delicious dessert style dram that would have hit the 90-mark had it not been for the oak influence on the finish.


Thursday, 14 June 2012


After 2 unpeated Bruichladdichs - lets have another Islay born whisky - a Caol Ila...and an old one as well.

This one is a very expressive, I think, with loads of maritime notes, which is fun since it - as most Caol Ilas - probably was hauled off of Islay by tanker truck and spent its life maturing in a warehouse in the Central Belt of Scotland.

Anyway, lets get going:

Caol Ila 1980 29yo 55,3% 21.05.1980/04.06.2009, refill sherry hogshead#4940, 235 bottles by Bladnoch Forum

Coastal, briny, fishingboat boxes, salt, oily (diesel?), some sweetness, malty - all coated in a layer of peat.

Thick malt, coating layer of peat - more than expected from what then nose gave off. Some mint, a vegetable note - I'm thinking fresh cut bell peppers, then seaweed and hints of sweet fruits. Time and water turns it very oaky IMO bordering on oak juice so don't let this baby go swimming in more than literally, 3 drops of water.

Although this one has many things to offer, there is something I can't quite grasp in there, as if it lacks a bit of order/balance between all things, but still a decent Caol Ila. Especially considering its original price at (only) £46 !! back in 2009.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012


The second young Bruichladdich is -if this was a Springbank- one that would have been labeled 'Local Barley'. It's the first Islay-grown whisky to be distilled in recent times on Kentraw Farm Foreland.

It's made entirely from unpeated Chalice barley harvested in September 2004, malted and then distilled in December the same year. It's bottled on October 1st 2011 making it just a little over 2 months short of being 7 years old.

Let's try this:

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004/2011 50% Kentraw Farm Foreland, 6000 bottles from American oak, Distillery Bottling

Young whisky for sure, a dairy note, cereals, cirtus, grass and hay, hints of salt and seaweed maybe?

Bitter citric arrival, hints of newmake spirit, but in no way unpleasant, loads of bourbon cask and spirit sweetness. Water brings out grapefruits for sure and destinct barley and cereal notes.

A pretty well executed experiment, this one - would love to try some again when it reaches its 10th year, maybe...


Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Have had a couple of young Bruichladdich lately, an older one -as in older bottling date- and a fairly new release, the 2004 Islay Barley. I have found both to be excellent sipping whiskies and both free of Bruichladdich's finishing regime, which is quite nice!

This first one was rumored to be the Ileachs favourite sipping whisky a few years ago.

Bruichladdich '10' 46% (b. 2006), Distillery bottling

Vanillas, white fruits, hints of lacquer, salt, mild sweet sherry influence

Beautiful arrival for a 10yo - again fruity, oranges in there for sure, melon, salt and other minerals and a hint of a perfumy note. There must be some older whisky involved in putting this one together.

A very easy drinker, this one... As mentioned above I'm sure I've read somewhere that the contents of this one is actually closer to 12-14 years than 10. Its a mix of ex-bourbon and refill sherry casks at a ratio of 80% bourbon 20% refill sherry where as the '15' bottled around the same time was 60% bourbon and 40% refill sherry.


Monday, 11 June 2012


Glenrothes 1969 42yo 42,6% sherry hogshead#2, 297 bottles, Adelphi

Oh, my!! The colour on this one alone! Deep mahogany. The nose hit you with dark fruits, dades, plums, raisins - incredible, just a tad of oak! ...and is that a hint of smoke I detect too?

Coating, Old cigarbox, more raisins, crunchy chocolate orange sticks, oily finish, incredibly coating - gets into every crevice of your mouth, amaretto and espresso!

What an absolute stunner by Adelphi. This cask comes from a private stock and hopefully Alex and his team can source other casks of similar quality from this guy!

This fantastic Glenrothes finishes off this 7 part review of whiskies from Adelphi...and what a ride it has been!

The single casks from this small indie bottler are of very high quality IMHO!
They also may be on the more expensive end of the scale, but in this case I feel the extra money is often worth it!


Saturday, 9 June 2012


This is just fresh off (½ hour) Duncan Taylor's Facebook page:

"Thanks to Mark Watt for eight great years at Duncan Taylor. He's been a passionate fan of the brand, is a great whisky ambassador, great colleague and friend of everyone at the company. We will surely miss Mark and wish him lots of luck and success in his desire to pursue a new career."

Mark, its been a pleasure - hopefully you'll still be around the whisky business.
All the best wishes from here too...


Caol Ila 1983 28yo 54%, refill bourbon hogshead#1463, 250 bottles, Adelphi

Gristy, coke smoke, not giving much off of its nose, this one...though lots of sweet spirit character, some grassy/hay notes maybe and some traces of yeast as well -  a fairly inactive cask this one?

Oily, some citrus fruits and oak present, maybe the cask wasnt all that inactive after all, white pepper, peat attack in the back of the mouth, with waves of tinned fruits hitting 2-3 times before disappearing. Oak spices ends the whole barrage...

A very nicely balanced CI that gave more than the nose suggested. A nice one!


Friday, 8 June 2012


Fascadale 10yo 46%, batch 2, 3746 bottles, Adelphi

An undisclosed Talisker

Pale straw in colour with salty oaky tang, peat comes in a short wave after that, then briny and few sweet notes in the background.

Light peat comes through along with salt and oak on a citric background, but the whole think seems a bit aneamic to me. Some oils does give this one an impressive aftertaste of salt and peat. I cant help to wonder what this would be like at 50%?

Anyways, a good lightly peated everyday dram! 82/100!

Finally, I'd should mention that batch 3 of the Fascadale will see its content switched from Talisker to Highland Park.

For my Danish readers, I should add that the Fascadale batch 3 will sadly not hit the Danish shelves, though it can be sourced in Denmark but under a different (custom) label. If interested, drop me an email and I'll point you in the right direction.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Liddesdale 18yo 46% - batch 1, 2962 bottles, Adelphi

An undisclosed Bunnahabhain

Dark oloroso colour, hints of struck matches turning to rubber and back. Not my favorite style at all, but it seems to settle down after a short while... or maybe its just my nose adjusting. The sherry now comes through with nuts and raisins, but the struck match is still dominant - though not to a unpleasant level.

Though heavily sherried, its a lighter style of Bunnahabhain (Does that makes sense at all?) Maybe because of the 46% abv.? I'm not particular fond of the sulphury notes I'm picking up from this one as they seem to overpower the nutty and malty notes I'm also getting. Bitter oak and maybe some coffee also to be found on the finish.

Not my favorite for sure - though I do like batch 2 better, its not so heavy on the sulphury notes! Drinkable... but I kinda feel like its back to the drawing board with this one, sadly...


Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Diageo will invest more than £1 billion!! in a new Speyside or Highland distillery and possible in another as well if Scotch continues its global growth.

More here


Linkwood 1984 27yo 53,3%, refill sherry hoghead#5300, 261 bottles, Adelphi

Amber in colour, creamy and lightly spiced - like when your grandmother baked that cake from the recipe she only has in her head - little bit of this - little bit of that! and add some caramel to that!

Loooong and spiced like what we in Denmark call 'spice cake', a sponge cake with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and raisins. A cracking Linkwood!

Another fine pick by Alex and his team!


Tuesday, 5 June 2012



All older tasting notes from before this blog went live in May 22nd 2012 will have a date imprint of 31.12.2011! This is why a 2011 section has appeared in the Blog Archives.


Due to a technical limitation (pages) , the Distilleries & Tasting notes sections will be on- and offline while reconstruction is going on...

The Distilleries & Tasting notes section will be replaced with a 'Labels' section that doesnt seem to have limitations to it!

Sorry for any inconvenience!


Benriach 1977 34yo 48,6% re-racked into ex-bourbon cask#642, 217 bottles, Adelphi

A deep amber in colour, Nuts and spices, nose gives off a slightly 'dirty' sherry note - I often find this style in Fino-sherry matured whiskies. Very oily feel and also noses a bit like an old tea-shop.

Dark fruits, that slightly 'dirty' fino-sherry style again, more tea, but also crushed dark grapes, oak and spice. With water it gets more clean, even more fruity and with more spicy oak.

This is one of those rare casks that Adelphi has re-racked for some reason. I tried to get the details from Alex Bruce, but this re-racking happened before Adelphi got a hold of the cask, so we can only guess to the reason. Usually re-racking is done beacuse of leaking or a bad cask, and why indeed this whisky happened to finish its days in an ex-bourbon cask is as mentioned a mystery... It is absolutely cracking!

Oh, if only all re-rackings (finishes) could be as succesfull as this one...


Monday, 4 June 2012


Time for a 7-part Adelphi spree - Adelphi -as we all probably all know- is logistically run out of Charletown, Fife though others may know the their HQ to be Glenborrodale Castle in Ardnamurchan, Argyll on the Scottish west coast.

The faces we should know from Adelphi are the very nice Sales and Marketing Director Alex Bruce and his charming sister Antonia. There are, of course, alot more going on behind the scenes, though - but you can read more about that by following the link below the Adelphi Dancey man logo.

Well, now that I've said Ardnamurchan, I'd be rude not to mention Adelphi's distillery plans to go ahead there... It should be up and running in the Autumn of 2013 - and it is certainly on my to-visit-list.

It's going to be the most westernly mainland distillery when finished. For comparison - the Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull will be its closest neighbour with just 5 miles across to Ardnamurchan.

Adelphi's Dancey Man
More info on this high quality small bottler and soon distillery operator here

Right, let's get down to this 7 part bonanza! :-) First up is one of my favorite distilleries:

Clynelish 1997 14yo 57,2% from ex-bourbon hogshead#4721, 201 bottles, Adelphi

Light golden in clour this is a fruity little number, hints of citrus, maybe some avocado skins and oaky vanillas

Ahh, indeed fruity, especially with a couple of drops of water, which really opens this one up. Not your usual waxy Clynelish, but a more coastal version with what tastes a bit like some salt/seaspray, some creamy note of peach maybe? A medium finish with a slightly drying peppery note.


Friday, 1 June 2012


Monday 7th of May saw us visiting Glenfarclas for the ever popular event of picking the next cask for their family cask series. This year, a 1997 vintage was up for picks. A large event - around 40 people - saw us spilt into 2 groups before heading on a tour around the distillery of the 'Valley of the green grass'.
As opposed to certain other distilleries, there are no fumes at Glenfarclas (not true, of course), so pictures were allowed to be taken so I'll just add a couple below ;-) (A big hint at the not so independent distilleries).

Running at full capacity now, Glenfarclas produces 3.000.000+ liters of spirit annualy now and are -as others- always looking to up their production as demand, especially from the Far East is continuing to rise. Latest news on the Glenfarclas site speaks of warehouse expansion plans for 3-4 new rows of warehouses and a new waste water purification reservoir on site...

But lets have a few pictures and then head on to what this event was all about...

The Glenfarclas washbacks were being cleaned with high pressure hoses during our tour (out of sight) - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

Pair of stills - Glenfarclas still directly fires their stills as one of the few remaining distilleries in Scotland - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

Warehouse No. 1 - Oh, what treasures inside... - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

Beautiful old casks maturing in Warehouse No. 1 - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

Now, we had better not loose focus on what we actually came to Glenfarclas for...
We were given 6 samples from casks previously chosen by Manager George Grant himself.

They were:
  • Sherry butt#484 from 10.02.1997
  • Sherry butt#2239 from 26.03.1997
  • Sherry hogshead#4003 from 05.05.1997
  • Plain butt#5374 from 05.06.1997
  • Refill hogshead#5979 from 23.06.1997
  • Sherry butt#4565 (4th fill) from 19.05.1997
No abv% was disclosed on any of the casks samples

The order here corresponds to the samples poured in the glasses below...

The bottles containing samples from the 6 casks - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

The samples poured - left to right as mentioned above... - May 2012 © The Malt Desk

Here is my notes on the whiskies (left to right):

First, I started off with a quick nosing of all of them and already then picked 2-3 favorites - lets see if they followed through on the palate.

Sherry butt#484:
Burnt sugar, caramel, spicy, nuts? palate unfortunately has hints of sulphur but also gives of a full malty front and a very vinous finish. Decent, but not a favorite.

Sherry butt#2239:
Again caramel, but more a heavy fudge style and some honey and dried fruits. This has a significant tannic hit, IMO and puts me off to a side track. Some rubber? Also very decent and better than #484 in my book.

Sherry hogshead#4003:
A buttery and creamy nose, dry and fruity, with oak, nuts, light coat of sherry, coffee, dessert cabinet? vanillas? Now we're moving into my territory

Plain butt#5374:
Extremely delicate nose, a little flowery, vanilla, honey, candied white fruits in a light layer of oak, gentle malt and some citrus and hint of shortbead - love this one! a contender for sure!

Refill hogshead#5979:
If this was a refill hoggie, I would have liked to have seen the impact this cask had when it was a 1st fill !! Anyway, a quick nosing indentified this one as my favorite to begin with - atleast on the nose. Dried fruits, spices, chocolate, coffee allsorts like in a starbucks, heavy and ultra clean oloroso sherry. Nutty, amaretto dessert and well balanced oak in a loooong aftertaste. It followed through beautifully on the palate. This is certainly my favorite so far!

Sherry butt#4565 (4th fill):
My first impression was that this is one weird cask, its got some of the same qualities as #5374 in some way, but twisted 180° in the opposite direction - wont bother with notes here as this was clealy my off cask for the day - no harmony in my book, sadly :-(

The scores were then collected from all the participants and George Grant were off to count the votes... the talk started flying across the room about favorites and it seemed many agree on the same one - and a few were complete in disagreement as always :-)

10mins later George returned with the result and it was a clear win for.... :

George Grant announcing the winner... - May 2012 © The Malt Desk
Refill hogshead#5979 to be bottled later in 2012 as the Glenfarclas Family Cask Vintage 1997

...also my personal favorite of the lot... :-)

I actually had the plain butt#5374 as 2nd and quite liked the more laid back and bourbon cask style of this one. Its ranking was never revealed, though.

The event ended with all participants getting a voucher for £19.97 off the Vintage 1997 when its ready... :-)

Thanks to George Grant and all others at Glenfarclas for a great event!