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, 28 February 2013


We're back on the slopes of Mount Asama and cult Distillery Karuizawa in Japan for this next review... and an even rarer one this is, as it has matured in a bourbon cask. The 'house style' of Karuizawa is sherry cask matured whisky, so it'll be quite exiting to try something that's been sitting in a bourbon cask for 30 years, before reaching The Whisky Exchange shop in London, UK.

The Whisky Exchange had this 1982 bourbon cask expression bottled along with a 1984 sherry cask version in 2012 and decorated the bottled with some beautiful Koi-fish labels - very nice looking indeed.... but it's not the label that makes a whisky - it's the... well, whisky

Here are my notes on this one:

Karuizawa 1982/2012 30yo 46%, ex-bourbon cask#8497, Number One Drink Company for The Whisky Exchange - Koi fish label (closed)

Colour is full straw

Some elegant hardwood (teak?) hits the nose first along with some light peat. Then wet tobacco and oak notes of spices, ginger vanilla, varnish, nutmeg and juicy malt

Surprisingly light arrival, again the peat is noticeable, crisp oak and some lovely white fruits and spices, a little floor polish and orange oil, sawdust. Finish lingers on spices and peat.

As I expected, this is a very oak driven malt, on the very edge of existence, IMO...
I previously mentioned in another post on Karuizawa that there was a chance that some casks were turning into oak juice - this one is close, one the very edge, but not over it...

Great dram!


Tuesday, 26 February 2013


I've tasted a few grain whiskies on here before, but this is the first Invergordon grain I'll be reviewing.

Invergordon is a large industrial complex located north of Inverness and in business sense maybe a strange place for a large grain distillery as most of its product will go into blends and that's usually done in/near the Edinburgh or Glasgow area.

40 million liters of grain spirit is produced each year at Invergordon - quite a bit!

Let's try this grain whisky distilled in the same year as The Beatles and The Temptations were big hits!

Invergordon 1965 40yo (xx.12.1965/xx.10.2006) 50,3%, ex-bourbon cask#15514, 238 bottles, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Colour is light amber

Coconut - as is often very evident in these old grains - tropical fruits, mango, peach, even raspberries, almonds (marzipan)

Cake creme (custard), a little caramel, mildly spicy, burnt bbq sauce, vanilla and ginger. A relative short finish for such an old whisky, but grains have a tendency to lack in that department.

Still, a pretty good old grain, I think - 86/100!

Sunday, 24 February 2013


While at it, I might as well review another Imperial, this time a younger version from bottlers Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin. Also from a sherry cask, this one has taken on more colour the the previous one (reviewed here) in its 12 years in the cask, so a pretty active cask this has been.

As I also mentioned Pernod Ricard will build a new distillery in the site and a little more info can be found here incl. an artists impression on how the new distillery will look.

The G&M Cask Strength series from which this expression comes is rarely a dud, so expect great things from this one...

Wide angle shot of Imperial 26th August 2012 © The Malt Desk

Imperial 1997 (17.11.1997/12.03.2010) 12yo 62,7%, 1st fill sherry butt#4969, Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength Series

Colour is light amber

Brown sugar, a baked apple note, lovely heavy malt and a hint of Madeira and/or Sauternes wine, whole grain biscuits and an ashy note.

Dark grains and fruits, extremely mouth watering at full strength. Nutty and drying, minimal hints of rubber when water is added, which also brings out milk chocolate and dried cigar/tobacco leaves.

What a great dram, this is! Again it's sad this place has been demolished :-(

... and thanks to my good friend for the sample (you know who you are)


Friday, 22 February 2013


Imperial Distillery in Carron, Speyside... where should I start? a lot of Imperial has been drunk since, like with Caperdonich, a certain well known whisky ambassador (back then with one indie bottler, but now with another) started the gospel of this forgotten distillery.

Again, like with Caperdonich, things soon started to catch on and more and more bottlings saw the light of day and now Imperial has a loyal group of followers/drinkers.

Sadly the distillery was closed/mothballed back in 1998 and the site has sadly seen some copper scavengers in the last few years, but now its gone forever. Current site owners Chivas/Pernod Ricard started demolishing the site around New Years 2012/2013, currently only leaving the old warehouses and are to build a new super distillery on the grounds... this gave Imperial Distillery a good 100 years (built 1897) on and off production on the site - Will the new distillery be there for just as long?

Many of the expressions that started hitting the market a while back have been between 12-20yos... Let's see how this older expression compares with them:

Imperial Distillery 26th August 2012 - © The Malt Desk

Imperial 1976 35yo (xx.10.1976/xx.10.2011) 50%, refill sherry butt#DL7431, 443 bottles, Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask

Colour is straw

Oak spicy, then grains, oils, dried (tropical?) fruits, old malt barn and cigar box.

Spicy and sherried dried fruit arrival, a bit of nutty bitterness and spices all sorts and a hint of smoke. Water makes the whole thing a lot more creamy and gives it a nice natural sweet caramel and huge malt finish with hints of wood.

So sad to see this lovely old place gone and last but not least its malt!
This is a lovely expression for sure! RIP Imperial!


Wednesday, 20 February 2013


This will be the first whisky from this distillery I'll be reviewing for this blog.

I visited the place in August 2009 and there was no doubt which blend the place was was associated with - there were Grouse all over the lot there... but this is the malt desk and - at least for now - not the blend desk.

We're of course at Glenturret Distillery in Crieff - another distillery claiming its the oldest in Scotland - along with a few others... but I'll not get into that as its often a matter of first illegal/legal distillation on site etc.

I've actually not had that much experince with Glenturret other than a couple of distillery bottlings which really didnt impress me that much... drinkable, yes... but something was missing.

The bottling I'll be trying, though, has gotten very good reviews indeed, so I thought I had to try it myself, as I mentioned Glenturret, is a malt road less travelled for me.

Glenturret Distillery & The Famous Grouse Experience - August 2009 © The Malt Desk

Glenturret 1978 34yo 47,6%, ex-bourbon cask#2, Berry Bros & Rudd

Colour is full straw

Honey, melon, apple, pineapple, licorice, mild oak and fruitgums

Coffee beans, fruit mix, some mellow citrus, cocktail berry sugar sweetness, finish is very sweet and rum like, hint of old grains - very delicate in fact, like it could snap at any time.

If only all Glenturrets could be like this one...
My notes above doesn't do this one justice, I'm afraid - other than I might add it's good!


Monday, 18 February 2013


Craigellachie Distillery is one of those that truly lives a quiet life - although they put out around 4 million liters of spirit each year - most to go into the Dewar's blend.

It's an industrial distillery for sure, highly automatic - even more than see in other places I've seen. Located in the village of Craigellachie on the road to Dufftown, its very much one of those places you just pass and never will get to visit as its not normally open to the public - but a few of us were very luckily to visit during the 2011 Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival.

It's also one of those distilleries that uses worm tubs for cooling, and with that sometimes producing a heavier spirit note, sometimes described as 'meaty' as in i.e. Mortlach that also uses worm tubs. I wouldn't exactly describe the Craigellachie spirit as meaty or heavy - instead it has an indescribable edge to it and an ultra clean malt/grain character.

The distillery put out a 14yo that's an easy drinking dram, but I haven't seen it around for a while... so probably discontinued. Before that - and when the distillery was still owned by United Distillers (Diageo) they had a bottling in the Flora & Fauna range and a bottling in the Rare Malt series as well.

Personally I think this distillery deserves more attention than it gets, as it can really put out some good stuff - but it all seems to disappear into Dewar's blends.

Craigellachie Distillery, May 2nd 2011 © The Malt Desk
Craigellachie 1991 20yo 55,8%, ex-bourbon cask#2715, 218 bottles, Berry Bros & Rudd

Colour is white wine

Bakery shop, fresh, sliced pineapple, spices, hint of licorice root - a bourbon cask straight as an arrow!

Vanilla, paestry, creamy, peppery, the licorice shows itself here, also green apples, a flowery note and truckloads of medium heavy malt/barley sugar.

An easy drinking summer malt, a slow sipper on a hot day - Lovely!


Saturday, 16 February 2013


Final SMWS bottling coming up for a while... and as promised we're still on Islay and one of the most iconic of the distilleries - Laphroaig.

Laphroaig Stills - October 2008 © The Malt Desk
I'm not going to drag this out any longer - we're down to the last one... :-)
I hope you have enjoyed this long run of bottling from the SMWS and have gotten an idea (or my idea, at least) of what their bottlings is all about.

Laphroaig 1990 29.124 (12.10.1990/xx.11.2012) 21yo, 'Deep, dark and hugely entertaining' 58,8%, Refill ex-sherry butt, 601 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Sherry and nutty, raisins, nutmeg, medicinal, heavy and fruity peat. BBQ glace, a hint of something metallic, burnt sugar and flowers - Bowmore style :-O

Oily, seaweedy, dirty diesel notes, peaty, grapes/sweet oloroso, meaty and a little rubber, heathery peat and tobacco and dark fruits.

Age balances out the more curious notes in this one, IMO - so a fine dram, indeed!


Thursday, 14 February 2013


The last 2 reviews in this month long stretch of SMWS bottlings comes (again) from Islay.
I know, I know - lots more to whisky than the ones from Islay - but they are ever so popular, these peaty beasts from that lovely island.

Bowmore Distillery, Islay - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
Bowmore managed to rid itself of most of the lavender/soapy/perfumy notes it carried in the the 80's and is now back to a more laid back floral style very much in touch with even older expression, IMO.

This change happened, as far as I have experienced, back in 1992-93. From those years on I've noticed a significant drop in unpleasant notes many expressions from the 80's carried - also know as FWP.

So, what was the reason for this? well, much speculation have been done on this and several theories have been aired on it... here's a couple:

During those couple of years the Bowmore wash back was changed back to wooden vessels from stainless steel used for a good 10 years before that. Did they clean the washbacks with a perfumy detergent? or did they run their fermentation so long that these notes appeared?

Another theory aired was that the stills were run 24/7 at the time and the copper never had time to cool down and settle and this prolonged heating/expansion of the copper in the still produced this lavender/soapy/perfumy note.... what was really the reason for this? - I guess we'll never know...

Let's try this SMWS expression from the late 90's

Bowmore 1997 3.200 (25.09.1997/xx.xx.2012) 15yo 'A Bothy with an oil painting' 57,6%, Refill ex-sherry butt, 626 bottles, The Scotch malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Creamy caramel, light and flowery peat, sweet and hint of oriental cooking like hot soy sauce in a wok pan.

Sweet and a bit drying note, then pickled fruits, peat, nutty bitterness, spices, salt, hint of feta cheese(??)

A bottling very much in touch with the 'new' Bowmore image and style. A good dram!


Tuesday, 12 February 2013


As promised in the last review here's a younger version from this terrific distillery.
No fuzz, let's just post the facts on this next one...

Clynelish Warehouse A - August 2009 © The Malt Desk
Clynelish 2000 26.91 (08.04.2000/xx.xx.2012) 12yo 'Lemon picker in a Barbour jacket' 60,6%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 301 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is white wine

Salt, ozone, lemons for sure, something perfumy, creamy, white fruits, incredibly fresh and zesty along with some cask sweetness, mainly vanillas

Citrus in abundance, barley sugar, grape fruit, some ginger and pepper.
Water brings out a salty freshness and new oak. I'm also thinking Lime and Ginger Ale and whisky?... Anyone up for a Scottish Mule?

Another good Clynelish!


Sunday, 10 February 2013


Heading back up north of Inverness to the village of Brora for these next 2 reviews from the (new) Clynelish Distillery - first up a bottling of a 1984 - that has spent its life maturing in a refill sherry butt, but with a minimum of influence IMO, but still enough to get to carry the name of 'Elegant, subtle, balanced - in total harmony...'

Across the road from the running Clynelish Distillery is the old buildings, renamed Brora Distillery after the village - this was done as the Scotch Whisky Association wouldn't allow 2 distilleries with the same name and both running at the same time, so for a while the 2 distilleries was names Clynelish A and Clynelish B. The old distillery on the right side of the road was then renamed Brora and produced for about 14 years (a bit unclear) but was eventually shut down in 1983. Bottlings from there - especially the ones from the 70's where they did peated batches, is now much sought after.

The old Clynelish -now Brora- Distillery, 4th August 2009 © The Malt Desk
Clynelish 1984 26.90 (28.11.1984/xx.xx.2012) 27yo 'Elegant, subtle, balanced - in total harmony' 55,1%, Refill sherry butt, 508 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is light straw

Flinty, gravel, minerals, lemon and honey, pepper, waxy and apples

Honeycomb, very spicy yet sweet, oils and salt, again lemons, but with a more baked note to it and then loads of banana - not natural though but the stuff you usually find in candy. Finishes on heavy malt juice, natural caramel and a tongue tickling mild oak spiciness.

Another great Clynelish! Just goes to show how this distillery can perform at all ages!


Friday, 8 February 2013


Glenburgie Distillery is located just off the A96 app. 2 miles east of the town of Forres.
Being a rather large distillery capacity wise with a 4.2 million liter outpout a year, surprisingly little gets bottled as a single malt - instead -as Glenburgie is owned by Pernod Ricard- lots of it goes into Ballantine's blend.

Glenburgie also use to produced a spirit called Glencraig (1970's to early 1980's)which is from an entirely different set of stills, called Lomond Still - what's special about then you read about here at wikipedia.

Whisky merchants Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin has bottled Glenburgie malt under their own label for a number of years now and especially the older versions have been terrific.

Let's see how this one from the SMWS fares...

Glenburgie 1998 71.37 (26.03.1998/xx.11.2012) 14yo 'An assignation in a boudoir' 57,9%, Refill sherry Gorda cask, 699 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is amber

Cereal and mash, Oranges, hint of sulphur of the spent fireworks/match stick kind, burnt sugar and custard creme, sultanas and strong tea.

Creamy coffee with a bite - think a spicy cappuccino, getting more flowery with time - lavender style, rubbery notes, musty and dried fruits and a hint of strawberry.

A whisky where the, sometime, dreaded sherry gorda cask shows itself with a bit of sulphur.
I've seen it much worse in a couple of other gorda cask bottlings from the SMWS, but in this one its at an acceptable level. Still, I'll leave it at...


Wednesday, 6 February 2013


We're moving to the East Highlands for this next review...

There's just a few active distilleries out here, Macduff up north near the coast, then Glendronach at Forgue, Glen Garioch in Old Meldrum and Ardmore from where the whisky in this next review is from. These last 3 distilleries is not far from the 'east gate' to Dufftown - the town of Huntly - only some 20 miles in fact.... and Ardmore is just some 6 miles (10km) south of Huntly, in Kennethmont.

Though a lot of people tend to focus on the closed distilleries of this region since stock is disappearing fast and some of it have proved to be excellent whisky - especially with prolonged maturation. Distilleries like Lochside and Glenury Royal, Glenugie have proven excellent - sadly long after they were closed. Others closed East Highland distilleries are Glen Esk (Hillside), North Port (Brechin) where the producing Glencadam distillery is also located.

Anyway, back to Ardmore Distillery which is one of the consistently peated highland whiskies and often overlooked by many. It's not as aggressive as many other peated whiskies - even some of the ones from Speyside... and certainly not the ones from Islay - but it can still show its teeth although with a different style of peat - highland style...

So whats the difference you ask? it's quite simple, actually, once you think about it... Oh, and don't worry - I'll save you the big botanical and geography lesson here. The peat from i.e. the west coast of Scotland is made up different botanicals than the highland peat and sometimes - at least on the Scottish islands it's often raised seabeds that the peat is dug on.
This means that the peat on the west coast is made up of old sea bed botanicals like seaweed (often associated with medicinal qualities) rather than the Highland peat which consists of traditional mainland flora like i.e. heather and moss. Quite simple when you think about it, isn't it? :-)

Right, time for the Ardmore write-up... btw, did you that the stills at Ardmore were coal fired as late as 2002? Cool, you say? yes, but the stills at Glendronach was coal fired as late as 2005!

Ardmore 2002 66.36 (17.07.2002/xx.09.2012) 10yo 'Milano Salami and a tropical fruit kebab' 58,2% refill sherry butt, 702 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Highland peat, not medicinal, but a more flowery style.
Hint of rubber, balsamico, mint, tobacco and truckloads of herbs and tomato grill sauce

Light peat, menthol, old cigar box, bitter oloroso sherry, fruit, dark rum and dried herbs - even salt!

A very different expression from what you'd expect - another fun dram from the SMWS!


Monday, 4 February 2013


I mentioned the Spirit of Speyside Festival in one of the previous posts and the festival is one of the only opportunities you have to get in and visit the iconic Mortlach Distillery in Dufftown.

Granted, getting souvenir pictures with you from there is now impossible since Diageo enforced at strict no cellphone/camera zone inside their distilleries (since 2011) - because 'it may cause sparks !!!' Other distilleries like and even a gas fired one like Glenfarclas don't care about pics being taken, although they do kindly ask you to keep your flash off...

Anyway, back in the spring 2010 where the below picture was taken, no such ban was in effect during the 7 Stills tour of Dufftown, which included several Diageo distilleries, but when I was back in 2011 things had changed... Diageo claims its an insurance issue, but maybe they just don't want people to wander off on their own photo shoot during tours.

I was also told 'no pictures' at the Benromach Distillery in August 2012 when on tour there... although our tour guide did look a bit embarrassed when the manager entered the still room with a pro photographer, just as we were leaving...

Anyway, my guess is that we probably will get to take photos in fewer and fewer places from now on...

Mortlach still house - Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival 2010 © The Malt Desk
Mortlach 1986 76.94 (24.04.1986) 26yo 'Totally flavoursome' 59,4% refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 249 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Tropical fruits, honey, mild oak and creamy vanilla, heavy bourbon notes and loads of oily barley thickness.

Wow this is malty to the degree of musty ale notes appearing, spices, mild (chili?) pepper, fruits galore. A very balanced and beautiful Mortlach this one!


Saturday, 2 February 2013


Now, Glen Moray is a distillery you - as with plenty others in Speyside - can't really miss, especially if you visit the city of Elgin which most people do when there. Located within the city's boundaries you can walk there - which is probably a good idea anyway, as you'll probably be having a few drams. Rumours say they usually do a cracking 'bottle-your-own' at the distillery - that alone justifies a visit, don't you think? :-)

It's time for the final Glen Moray review..

Glen Moray 1991 35.80 (25.10.1991/xx.12.2012) 21yo 'Steamed Apple Sponge Pudding' 59,7%, 2nd fill ex-bourbon hogshead, 190 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Vanilla oak, apple and sweet mango and melon, hint of wet newspaper and burst of alcohol. Also getting fruit tea, aniseed and a little solventy note.

Very malty, peppery arrival, candied fruits, ginger and apple cake with breadcrumbs and whipped cream (Danish speciality) add to that some candied almonds.

I recommend the addition of a little water to this one to take away the top alc notes/burn.