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.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


As promised on Tuesday I'm back with another Glen Moray review today.

In the Aultmore review recently, I had a rant about the Spirit of Speyside Festival organisations ability to handle the load on their ticket server... a ticket server that actually also holds ticket for events at the Glen Moray Distillery during the festival in early May.

The Distillery offers a Manager's Tour during the festival (more here) - an event with tasting of both regular expressions, but also cask samples. Glen Moray also hosts a BBQ which is supposed to be good fun - though I've never been myself (more here).

Now back to today's Glen Moray... The SMWS title of this one really had my mind going, so I was quite looking forward to this one as I'm as much a sucker for a good curry as the next guy, but I have no idea what this type of hogshead it has matured in is. :-)

Glen Moray 1994 35.81 (11.11.1994) 17yo 'Afternoon tea in India' 58,9%, Designer hogshead, 256 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is amber

Cinnamon cake, red curry, nutmeg, quite some flowery hints, spices all sorts, cumin and milk chocolate - what a mix!

Light and slightly nutty drying, dark rum and dried fruits, oranges, high end bourbon notes, honey and milk on a wholegrain breakfast, Madeira and plums chocolates.

Water kills the complexity in this one, so be careful how much you add...

This is a great example of what the SMWS also does, as in bottling casks that a nothing like the normal style from the distillery. GREAT fun and malt!


Tuesday, 29 January 2013


I remember Glen Moray from my early whisky drinking days. You could get a NAS Chardonnay cask, an 8yo, 12yo and a 16yo in the local supermarket... and back then I remember thinking that it was a good dram.

But then something happened -a most natural thing really- I progressed along with my, back then, very few malt drinking friends and Glen Moray was soon left on the shelf at night and replaced by Highland Park 12, Balvenie Doublewood 12, Dalwhinnie 15 and Laphroaig 10.

A couple of years ago, partly due to releases from Duncan Taylor, I had a few Glen Morays again and remembered the mellow sweetness this spirit had and got almost nostalgic... and this is why I'll be reviewing 3 Glen Morays from the SMWS over the next days.

Glen Moray 35.73 (25.10.1991) 20yo 'Pencil chewing gingerbread men' 58,5%, 2nd fill dump hogshead, 276 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Pears, Vanilla, honey and ginger (for sure) wood shavings and varnish

Crisp oak spices, bakery notes, lovely balanced ginger, white fruits, custard, huge on malt sweetness with a medium heavy feel to it.

Lovely stuff, this one!


Sunday, 27 January 2013


After these Islay malts it's time for us to head north east to Speyside and we'll start just outside Keith in Banffshire. Now Keith is probably most know in the whisky world as the location for the very picturesque Strathisla Distillery.

Aultmore Distillery isn't located in the town of Keith itself, but rather a little northwest of Keith on the B9016 heading towards the Banffshire coast.

Founded in 1896, it has - like most other distilleries - lived a life of silent periods and changing ownership... Today it's a part of the Dewar's (Bacardi) company and and most of its production goes into their blends. It has never been a whisky that has had the great attention from the malt drinking community, although when the distillery was owned by United, now Diageo they put out a couple of decent bottling in the form of the Flora & Fauna Aultmore and a Rare Malt edition from 1996.

Haven't had that much Aultmore in general - not even before my blogging days, so it'll be nice to try one again...

*...and now time for a little rant since we're onto a Speyside whisky*

Tonight (Saturday 26th) saw the launch of the events for the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival 2013 - and what a stressfull evening it has been getting events booked. As usual the Spirit of Speyside website crashed when all the eager festival goers tried to get on to book their events - same as the last 3 years...

It puzzles me that the festival organisers don't take this problem more seriously and implement a queue system (its technically possible) or get a better host for their website that can handle the load - especially since the organisers are so proud of how much the festival has grown over the past few years...

They know lots of people every year will be ready to book the minute the events go live!

*rant over*

Aultmore 1989 73.21 (31.05.1989/xx.09.2012) 23yo 'Mead, sherry and butterscotch' 57,9%, refill sherry butt, 582 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is light amber

Vanilla'ed sherry, fruits - both dried and fresh, apple, oranges and cinnamon and a hint of rubber

Spicy, dark fruits, prunes and raisins, licorice and a baked note and caramel, orange liqueur. Finishes on drying spicy oak, slightly bitterness and still a hint of rubber.

Decent drinking malt, I think - I enjoyed it.


Friday, 25 January 2013


Bruichladdich distillery is well know for its various cask finishes or ACE's as they like to call it themselves (A)dditional (C)ask (E)nhancement - usually from some obscure wine cask likely sourced at a good price from Mark Reynier's wine firm...

This is all very fine if the results is good whisky that may previously have been maturing in tired casks... but really sometimes you'd think the they at Bruichladdich think ACE is A-C- Enchantment as far from every wine finish they've done have worked, IMO.

Now, don't despair - there's good wine finishes out there! I'll be the first to admit to that as well... The best ones I've had has been from ex red wine/port and/or calvados casks...

I've chosen to keep sherry casks out of the mention here as they're more widely used and generally provides a more successful maturation result - again of course IMO :-)

Such a result is today's review of another SMWS 127.xx - Port Charlotte...

Port Charlotte 2001 127.29 (14.12.2001/xx.xx.2012) 10yo 'Separates the men from the boys' 63,8%, Refill ex-sherry butt, 73 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is amber

Damp peat, beach bonfire and quite a few medicinal traits, old bandages, iodine and band aids.
A dark heavy winey sweetness with anise and a bit of a dirty cask feel with plenty of spices

The sherry is initially dulls the peat for a second or 2, then the peat hits in full force with salt, brine, seaweed, also a feeling like sucking on a stick from a wet bonfire before classic sherry notes of dried fruits and spices arrive along with hint of bitter (smoky) chocolate

A very forceful PC, this one...  and it truly 'Separates the men from the boys'!


Wednesday, 23 January 2013


We leave the Islay south shore for the next 2 reviews and head across the waters of Lochindaal to Bruichladdich Distillery.

Now, Bruichladdich was - as previously mentioned on this blog, sold to Remy Cointreau in the summer of 2012 with a promise from the Remy conglomerate not to change much of daily life at Bruichladdich Distillery - and hopefully they won't... It's the single largest workplace on Islay, mainly due to its bottling hall and along with the rest of the jobs there, it could make a significant impact on the local island economy if e.g. jobs were cut or moved off the island. Now, I've not read or heard anything pointing in that direction, so fingers crossed it does not happen...

Time to head onto the review this time which is a Port Charlotte from the SMWS, distillery code 127- making it a relative new distillery to be bottled by the SMWS - the first being back in 2010 (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Now, the original Lochindaal Distillery closed in 1929 and since then Bruichladdich has tried to keep its legacy alive by distillery spirits different from the standard Bruichladdich. They've even had plans to start up the Lochindaal as their 2nd distillery and calling it Port Charlotte in the village of the same name, but this project seems to have been scrapped.

Not so long ago, I reviewed a Lochindaal from Bruichladdich here which is their 50ppm spirit.
Port Charlotte is 40ppm, so slightly less peated - at least on paper - taste wise compared to the Lochindaal spirit its much more aggressive than the only Lochindaal I've tried so far.

They're truly progressive at Bruichladdich - they have dogs driving their trucks! May 2011 © The Malt Desk

Port Charlotte 2002 127.21 (21.06.2002/xx.xx.2012) 9yo, 'Not for wuzzes' 65,9%, refill ex-bourbon barrel, 222 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is straw

Charcoal and peat fires, orange marmelade, oregano, citrus, shellfish, vanilla, ginger and old cigar box.

Smooth on salt, peat and all things seashore on arrival, the high abv% only showing at the back of the mouth. Creamy, lemony and more smoke and peat, finishing on salmon smokehouse and heavy malt.

A lovely Port Charlotte from a what must have been a pretty active refill cask!


Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Lets move away from Ardbeg now and down the road towards the village of Port Ellen.
Before you reach Port Ellen you'll pass firstly, Lagavulin and then eventually Laphroaig where we'll make a stop for this next review.

This time I'll be reviewing a slightly older Laphroaig @20yo which should give us a more mellow profile of the Laphroaig wildness which I find missing in the distillery bottlings nowadays - except for the 10yo Cask Strength expression.

Laphroaig Distillery and bay, August 2009 © The Malt Desk
Laphroaig 1991 29.124 (14.10.1991/xx.09.2012) 20yo, 'Pregnancy Tea Mix' 56,9%, refill ex-sherry butt, 549 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is white wine

Immensely sweet, banana, barley sugar, cake icing, burning twigs and 'Jamaican herbs' and warm sand. No rough edges at all, very mellow and it carries a surprising mashy/grainy note in spite of its age

Fruity sweet peat smoke, spicy, lemon zest, honeyed and vanilla. Classic notes of salt and seaweed in there too. Hint of smoky blackcurrant and wet newspaper. On the finish some grilled veggie notes.

Lovely 'adult' Laphroaig this one. One to savour


Sunday, 20 January 2013


Continuing with another SMWS Ardbeg 7yo - this time from a 1st fill sherry butt.

Now, (good) sherry casks are getting even more scarce since the consumption of sherry is hitting an all time low. This means that the cost of a sherry cask, usually a sherry butt (app. 500 liters) is up to 10 times!! more expensive than your average ex-bourbon cask from the US. Quite a difference, eh?

So what about this young Ardbeg? The previous one reviewed here was from a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel and seemed very mature for it age... is it the same with this one as its been in a larger sherry butt with less surface-to-wood contact?

Ardbeg Distillery from the road - October 2008 © The Malt Desk

Ardbeg 2005 33.124 (16.08.2005/xx.10.2012) 7yo, 'An Engineer's lunchbox' 59,7% 1st fill ex-sherry butt, 602 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is straw

Antiseptic, citrus, medium heavy peat smoke, sooty, smells of fishing harbour, very fresh and vibrant and unmistakingly Ardbeggian - although slightly heavier than normal...

Crisp peat, lovely sweetness, mainly on oranges and lemons, but also a heavier underlying winey notes from the sherry cask. Star anise and sweet licorice. The addition of water makes the wine-note more dominant although never overpowering. With plenty of water, I was thinking Schweppes Ginger ale at one point...

This is not a dram thats swamped in sherry and certainly not by its colour.
This does not mean that the sherry butt hasn't left any influence here, it has - and it's lovely!

I'm thinking this as an alternative to Uigeadail? I'd takes seconds of this anytime...

Excellent young Ardbeg!!


Friday, 18 January 2013


We're back on Islay and the with the producing cult distillery of Ardbeg for this next review.

I always go to Ardbeg when I'm on Islay... it's simply just a beautiful distillery in beautiful spot with beautiful whisky... Oh, and great food! Lunch has been enjoyed there on more than one occasion. The cafe offers very good service from the girls there and is managed to perfection by Jackie Thomson.

After a good lunch, you can have a wander around the distillery ground and down to the pier and enjoy the view... it's a great place to hang out - weather permitting :-)

Ardbeg, May 2011 © The Malt Desk
Ardbeg 2005 33.118 (09.05.2005/xx.09.2012) 7yo, 'Goodbye to care' 65,3% 1st fill barrel, 241 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Young flowery peat, almost soapy, smoked almonds, soaked malt spread on a malt floor, earthy and tarry.

Fresh, sweet, incredibly fruity, vanillas, peppery and a hint of mint. Tarry ropes and lobster pods, hints of licorice too. Gets incredibly malted and creamy with addition of water.

Great young malt from Ardbeg and SMWS!


Wednesday, 16 January 2013


After a couple of very good Caol Ilas, we'll venture east off of Islay and across the Kintyre peninsula to the Isle of Arran. As I've mentioned in a couple of other review not long ago (Nov & Dec. 2012), the Lochranza Distillery is showing great form.

Now, the other 2 bottlings reviewed have been almost as old as Arran can get at this point, and as a follow up to my SMWS streak, here's one from distillery no. 121

Arran Distillery stills - August 19th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Isle of Arran 2002 121.52 (15.07.2002) 9yo, 'Moselle and Nasturtiums' 59,9%, refill ex-bourbon barrel, 242 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale straw

Barley sugar, vegetable oils, hay, vanilla, pineapple and peach, dusty bookshelf and fresh baking.

Spicy, apples, faint flowery note, sugared berries, then a malt broadside and a hint of wood on the finish.

A straight forward and enjoyable dram - and another nice summer dram!


Monday, 14 January 2013


Let's review another Caol Ila from the SMWS while we're at it.

Caol Ila on-site warehouse - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
Caol Ila 1991 53.171 (15.01.1991/xx.09.2012) 21yo 'Strangely Fascinating' 52,7%, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 253 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is white wine

Vanilla, citrus, fresh wet flower bed, ale notes, ginger, oily - crushed sunflower seeds, the peat smoke is fairly laid back inthis one.

How do they got so much coastal character in a whisky? Seaweed and fresh salty breeze, smoky fruits - like roasting them on a stick over a bonfire. Very light in style and ery candy like. Peat and spices mid to end palate balances things out a bit, though it does seem a little hot at times.

Age certainly plays a role in this one with the oak coming in at the end - also a nice one!


Saturday, 12 January 2013


Like I mentioned in the previous post, I'll be reviewing quite a few Islay whiskies in this SMWS streak.
Here's another one from Islay giant - Caol Ila.

Caol Ila Distillery - May 2011 © The Malt Desk
This expression from the SMWS is the same age as one of the official releases, 18 years, but thats where the similarities stop. We're of course going single cask, cask strength and un-coloured with this one.

Pricewise the official Caol Ila 18yo 43% is around £65,5 or around 605,- Dkr in the UK compared to the SMWS bottling at 745,- Dkr in Denmark at todays exchange rate (sorry not sure how much an official CI 18 is in Denmark).

A tough pick then? not at all... I'd anytime spend just that little more to get the extra that the SMWS offers here... I mean look at the stats on this bottling:

Caol Ila 1993 53.168 (12.07.1993/xx.07.2012) 18yo, 'Elastoplast on a roasted tongue' 59,3%, refill sherry butt, 596 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale straw

Light and sweet and a bit dusty and nutty. Honey and heavy crude oil, basil and very medicinal

Honey and mustard glace, sweet bonfire smoke, citrussy and hints of BBQ'ed sausages and a flowery note. Smoke rushes back for the finish with a nice pleasent alcohol burn, that makes it go on for a long time. Water brings out more sweetness and hints of fishing docks.

Very nice, this one!


Thursday, 10 January 2013


This January I'll be reviewing good deal of bottlings from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

As always with SMWS, you can count on non-coloured, non-chill filtered, single cask bottlings at full strength. There will be quite a few Islay whiskies among the lot, but there will also be something for the non-peatheads among you.

I'll be starting off with one of my favourite distilleries, Clynelish which has the distillery code '26'
I'll be trying bottling no. 88 from Clynelish hence making it 26.88 with the appealing name 'Midsummer night's dram' - Lovely, ain't it? :-)

Clynelish 26.88 (16.06.2003/xx.xx.2012) 9yo 'Midsummer night's dram' 61,8%, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 225 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale straw

Fruits, pears in particular, honey, some alcohol nip at full strength, fresh flowers from a summers field.

Exotic/tropical fruits and berries, incredibly fresh, citrus, that Clynelish waxiness and salt and hint of something perfumy.

A straight forward young malt that delivers its qualities very well and is very drinkable, even at full strength, though I suggest a small dash of water to calm things down a bit.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I bought this bottle after a Cadenheads tasting in 2007 and I've had it in the cupboard for a good 5 years now and thought it was time to give it another try.

Cadenhead has long been one of my favourite indie bottlers, though the last couple of years at least to my personal experience, has sadly seen more 'duds' than usual from them...

Now Mark Watt (formerly Duncan Taylor) has joined with Cadenheads and I know Mark is able to pick out some goodies - he sure did that for Duncan Taylor! So, get cracking Mark and find us some good whisky! Rumours say you have a good supply of casks to work with...

Anyway, back to the Bruichladdich bottling distilled in 1992...

Outside Bruichladdich Distillery - May 2011 © The Malt Desk

Bruichladdich 1992 15yo (xx.xx.1992/xx.09.2007) 55,5%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 286 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is full straw

Vanilla and peppery, heavy malt and sweet mash, grapefruits, pears, wet oak and fresh ginger.

Forceful arrival on alcohol, salt and barley sugar, spicy oak - peppery again, juicy malt and lively oak, white fruits and a soft and light smoke trail.

A delicious Bruichladdich from the pre-Jim McEwan era and from just before the distillery went silent in 1993. Lovely!


Monday, 7 January 2013


When Caol Ila was closed for expansion in Spring 2011, Bunnahabhain was tasked with producing peated spirit for them while the work was carried out, which meant at least a couple of months of production for them... But being produced at Bunnahabhain, Diageo who owns Caol Ila, can't sell the spirit produced there as Caol Ila single malt - so it probably all went to maturation for later blending.

But Bunnahabhain also does its own runs of peated spirit, nicknamed 'Moiné' and the one reviewed below is one such. They started doing peated runs back in 1997 and since we've seen batches appear - mostly from independent bottlers - but also a couple from the distillery itself.

Right, lets give this one a try!

Bunnahabhain 2006 5yo (xx.12.2006/xx.09.2012) 61,1%, ex-bourbon hogshead#800041, 264 bottles, Archives

Colour is almost of white spirit with a greenish hue

Sweet smoked bacon, dairy notes, toilet cleaner, wet newspaper, very antiseptic really.
I could mistake this for a Laphroaig, I think. Also getting freshly peeled onion and new make spirit.

This would have been rough on a clean palate, but I've warmed up with another dram.
Palate straight away is peat, garden fruits, very earthy, wet fields and walking into a barn on a farm. Finish is again on peat, wet grains and cardboard.

This is a young malt and the other Islays, mainly Kilchomans at this age, seems to have matured better than this one so far.

This is not what I'd recommend you go out and get for a nice relaxing evening at home. It should stand as an example of what it is... a young peated malt from a distillery that, IMO, does its best work doing its regular runs, but also to show what a peated run from this distillery is like...

That said, its not bad whisky, but its mainly just good fun! You can get one here


Sunday, 6 January 2013


As with the previous Archives bottling, I'm not going to to a long intro on this one, other than its not your usual powerful style of Laphroaig  - just like the previous review not was your usual powerful Caol Ila... but its always like that with single casks - and that's the beauty of it.

My rant on recent Laphroaig distillery bottlings can be found in my January 2nd review ;-)

Laphroaig 1998 14yo (xx.05.1998/xx.11.2012) 53,8%, ex-bourbon hogshead#5619, 156 bottles, Archives

Colour is very pale yellow

Burning fresh leaves, pineapple and banana, über sweet peat smoke, more fruity and some flowery notes - like a laundry detergent

Vague arrival at first, then a rush of fireplace smoke, ginger and citrus and quite some porridge. Finish is medium on spicy oak and that sweet peat smoke.

A bit one dimensional and the vague arrival does not do this one any credit - but still enjoyable... still available here


Saturday, 5 January 2013


Following my short streak of recent Archive bottlings by the Whiskybase-team, here's a look at their recent Caol Ila which is an entirely different creature than most CI's.

Caol Ila 1990 22yo (xx.11.1990/xx.11.2012) 56,3%, ex-bourbon hogshead#13121, 130 bottles, Archives

Colour is white wine

Fresh, coastal, salt and beaches, citrus, some faint farmyard notes, 'green' peat/fresh wood burning.

Lovely arrival, first on citrus and gooseberries, then a wave of sweet peat and heathery notes. A very mellow Caol Ila and not at all what you'd expect from an Islay giant like Caol Ila... and certainly not one at 56,3%

Again a good pick by CJ and Menno at Whiskybase, though it's different, in form of a more laid back style of Caol Ila... Still available here


Friday, 4 January 2013


The boys at Whiskybase.com have a few new bottlings out. I'll be giving them a try over the next short while...

First up is another Littlemill - their third! Good job, boys - getting a closed lowlander out to us!

I'm not going to linger on the intro here, instead I'll get right to it.

Littlemill 1992 20yo (xx.02.1992/xx.11.2012) 54,8%, ex-bourbon hogshead#44, 339 bottles, Archives

Colour is full straw

First a few mashy notes then overripe tropical fruits - mango, honey melon and peach. Newly sawed wood, lemons and sugary malt and a vague hint of varnish.

Heavy and creamy malt, citrus fruits, vanilla and honey - more melon...
Water brings out peppery oak along with even more vanilla. Pretty fresh and lively when its also this heavy on the malt!

Great stuff, I think! Best Littlemill I've had.
Oh, and if you're interested in getting one, it's still available here


Wednesday, 2 January 2013


Although Laphroaig is know as the 'medicin cabinet' of Islay, due to its iodine style, it has certainly taken a step to a more crowd pleasing style over the past years. I remember when I started drinking whisky and Laphroaig was incredible rough in style... and (I know its not quite the same) but Talisker 10 was a rough beast as well.

Now, I know your palate develops as you drink more and more whisky... but this is just not right - and many have pointed this out before - there's just too much aiming by the distillers for a pleasing style to suit the wide audience... and too much e150 in the mix!  I also recognise that running a distillery is a business - and not a whisky philanthropists paradise...but really?? with the popularity levels whisky has reached these days?? Couldn't you make some more for the whisky nerds, please? *end of the (first) rant of 2013*

Peat and sherry goes well together - I think we can all agree to that! and Laphroaig and sherry is no exception... and why not test this one from a pretty influential sherry cask picked Dutch bottler Van Wees.
This is a single cask and e150 free and at full strength - thanks to the whisky gods!

Laphroaig 1998 13yo (22.09.1998/22.08.2012) 60,1% refill sherry butt#700394, 716 bottles, Van Wees

Colour is nutty brown

Dirty, oily, sherry, medicinal for sure - real antiseptic and iodine style. Peat and mulled wine, whiffs of a Starbucks shop, a little rubber adds to the experience.

Trademark sherry Laphroaig. First a sherried/winey arrival then a huge peat 'Oomph'. Getting dry and nutty and bitter -  the like making a Gaelic Coffee with a peated whisky ;-) Spices, pepper, smoke and dried fruits in abundance. Finish is long on ashy peat, a little experience-adding matchstick sulphur and sweet notes...

Not overly complex as the sherry maybe has taken over a bit, but very enjoyable!