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.

Saturday, 31 May 2014


Glen Grant Distillery in the village of Rothes in Speyside is quite a large distillery, but its tucked well away at the north west end of the village. It does have its own exit on the village round-about, so getting there is quite easy...

The distillery was founded back in 1840 and was up until somtimes in the early 1970s still in family hands. Then ownership went to what later became Pernod Ricard/Chivas Bros up until 2005 when Italian drinks company Campari bought the distillery and now produces around 6.000.000 liters of spirit per year. Much of this is actually sold in Italy at a very young and refreshing 5 year old, supposedly drinking well over ice in the Italian summer. Today, I'm sure Pernod Ricard wish they'd never sold off Glen Grant now that demand is increasing everywhere.

Being such a large distillery casks go out to the independent bottlers as well, most noticeable Gordon & Macphail in Elgin, who, for quite some years now, have bottled and sold Glen Grant for the company. This, however, will, if not already, soon come to a stop as the distillers themselves can offload it all these days.

This review from another indie bottler, though, and a favourite of mine - Adelphi.

Glen Grant still house, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1992 21yo, 56,6%, ex-bourbon barrel#141974, 219 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is straw

Fresh malted barley, apples and pears, some cookie dough, has a very fresh feel to it and also somewhat of a young'ish feel as well- like there's been very little cask influence going on here.

Very sugary, pears again, avocado and some notes of baking and cereal, very little spice and a burst of citrus and a little mouth burn on the finish. Its all just too well behaved for me... but its still god whisky.

I'd say again this comes from a fairly inactive cask, which can sometimes be fun... but this time its just a bit on the dull side


Tuesday, 27 May 2014


I've only reviewed a couple of other Linlithgow/St. Magdalene bottles on here and to be honest its not a distillery I've had that many drams from... which is a mistake, IMO. Now, I've had some from before I got really serious with whisky and started taking notes etc. but these are lost in the Scottish mist, I'm afraid - though I remember them as very pleasant, all of them.

As with all closed distilleries, bottlings have become expensive, but if you have some extra money to spend, I think a bottle of this well worth your time and money - that is if you want a lighter in style-whisky instead of paying really silly money for a bottle of either Port Ellen or Brora. But as always... do your homework before departing with your hard earned money as there, as with all distilleries, are some duds out there. So, read blogs and whisky sites - whiskybase.com is a good place to do your research.
But, again do keep in mind that its peoples personal tastes that shines through on these sites and that your palate may differ anywhere from a little to a lot from that of the reviewer.

Time for the review...

Linlithgow 1982 28yo (05.19.1982/xx.04.2011) 57,3% Cask#2206, Mackillop's Choice

Colour is full straw

Loads of vanilla and gentle oak, lemon rind, honey, green malt, warm banana and grassy notes - lovely! Btw, does this come with a little peat???

This is a multi layered whisky, one to take your time with. Oak is perfect measures with the age showing only slightly. I'd say it carries some oils that makes the whole thing very mouth coating and its sweet on boiled fruits, a little oak spice and fresh ginger, honey and light natural caramel. Water brings out a more spicy edge to this one, mainly pepper.

A very nice dram for sure and along with Rosebank, a huge loss for distilling in the lowlands of Scotland


Sunday, 25 May 2014


After a little over 3 weeks of travelling in Scotland, tastings and private whisky parties, its now time to pick up the reviews again... and why not start with a belated Malt Desk birthday dram.

On May 22nd 2012, I decided to start this blog and now 2 years have passed and readers, according to selected blog tools, are steadily growing. Therefore, I'd like to express my thanks to you out there for supporting my writing and for sending me emails and comments.. - Thank you! - (but please remember to comment on the website too ;-))

As a Malt Desk birthday dram, I've chosen to review one of those cult distilleries - you all know them - Port Ellen, Ardbeg, Brora... and from Japan, certainly Karuizawa... a whisky that has increased more in price than percentage wise than its Scottish counterparts this past year... but that's the way things are going with more and more people (sadly) investing in whisky instead of drinking it.

I've reviewed a few Karuizawas before and they've all been either very, very good or excellent. So lets see how this next one fares...

Karuizawa 1996 132.4 (08.07.1996) 17yo 'Rich, brooding and suggestive' 61,7%, Refill sherry butt, 346 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is amber

Sweet sugared/fruits dipped in syrup and in the background a little sulphur is showing. After a short while Danish winegums, especially green ones comes out along with some herbal notes (tea and thyme) and also a little mint, farmyard and overcooked meat. Very warming also, partly due to the abv%

Medium light sweet sherry coating, like warm sugar/making caramelised potatoes for Xmas and it also carries a spicy and sometimes bitter note on the edge of your mouth. Think this has a profile that's a little too nice, if you know what I mean - no edge to it, no real fun - just an easy drinking sherry whisky with the usual dried & dark fruits. What I really do like on this is the finish which is very malty and also has some a bit of honey/sugar/mustard glace you sometimes use for your ham.

This is in no way a bad dram - its very good, in fact... but not nearly as fun as other Karuizawas I've had


Tuesday, 20 May 2014


I'll be continuing the theme from my last post with a look at another new distillery, this time in the heart of distilling country, Speyside. This time its the Ballindalloch Estate situated around the Macpherson-Grant's Ballindalloch Castle, that's starting up production on the estate again for the first time in over 100 years. Read more about the estate by following the above link.

Built next to the Ballindalloch Golf Club & Course the distillery is right off the A95 main road running through central Speyside, so this is certainly accessible if you're in Speyside and well worth a visit.

The distillery have been 3 years in the planning and although, still a building site and a hard hat had to be worn during the tour, its planned to go into production late this summer. The original buildings are early 19th Century with modern amenities added to comply with todays standards, but still you can see the old 2ft. thick walls in some places - incl. an old fireplace in the wall next to the stairs leading up to the 1st floor. This link will give you an idea of what it looked like before the conversion of the old steading began

The Ballindalloch Distillery will be a small scale operation. No 24h production cycle, no weekends and its also about having full control over every step of production from barley to bottle and also about traceability of every ingredient used. More details later...

The Estate has persuaded former Diageo manager Charlie Smith to come out of retirement to help get the distillery going. Charlie has 32 years of experience from the business so knowledgeable forces will be at work here...

But, as I mentioned earlier this was a hard hat tour and the picture below will show you why...

View from the 1st floor on to the inner yard of the distillery, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

As you can well imagine from the building style its going to be 'old style' through and through. This has been the plan all along as the distillery won't be a driving force in the Ballindalloch Estate business but rather a side project to compliment the already wide range of business forms run by the estate. If you haven't already, do click the link in the 3rd line from above on what the Estate offers and is all about.

The distillery will have a small visitors area -  an area that will be designed by Mrs. Russel of the Estate and will, when finished, carry what can only be described as 'homely feel' with fireplace, wood panellings, booking shelves etc. This however, is what it looked like on May 4th, but I'm sure they'll succeed in creating what they set out to do...

The wing that will eventually become the visitors area, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

So what will the production site and and whisky be like, I hear you ask...
Well, the goal is to set out to make a heavier style Speysider or what some would call an 'After Dinner dram'. The exact style will be experimented with and fine tuned before regular production starts, of course, but a heavier style is already decided upon.

Lay out/plans for the distillery, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Now for a few details for the whisky anoraks out there:

  • Water will be drawn from 5-7 springs in the hills behind the distillery, depending on how much is needed
  • The barley for the distillery will all be Ballindalloch Estate barley and of the Concerto variety 
  • The barley is malted off-site at the Baird's Maltings in Inverness.
  • The distillery have been equipped with a 1 ton copper top mash tun
  • 4 x 10.000 liter wooden washbacks of Oregon Pine.
  • The distillery will use a dried yeast strain in production.
  • The wash still has a 5000 liter capacity and the spirit still a 3600 liter capacity
  • Production is anticipated to be around 100.000 liters of spirit per annum
The 1 ton capacity mash tun, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk
4 x 10.000 liter wooden washbacks are in place, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Tradition has it that a piece of equipment from another distillery is installed too and at Ballindalloch, it'll be an old spirit safe from nearby Cragganmore Distillery donated by owners, Diageo.

The stills had not yet been delivered when I visited. But as I write this piece they've gone in and Brian Robinson from the distillery have generously provided pictures of them for this piece.

Lifting the head - picture courtesy of Brian Robinson, Ballindalloch Distillery
The stills in place - picture courtesy of Brian Robinson, Ballindalloch Distillery

Also, the distillery is to be equipped with a pair of wormtub condensers which will probably add some of that heavier spirit character the distillery is looking for. These will, of course, be on the outside the building to the right of the still in the above picture along with an old water wheel, currently being restored.

When restored, the water wheel will go here and the wormtubs will be just beyond the fence, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The Ballindalloch spirit will go into ex-bourbon and sherry casks - no experimentation with other cask types are currently planned, so pretty much very basic stuff. There will be some on site warehousing and with an output of app. 100.000 liters per year ( 350-400 casks depending on size) it will fill the on-site warehouse fast, which is why there will be a warehousing facility in the nearby village of Marypark.

A look at what will be the on-site warehouse, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

This is another place, I'll be stopping by next time in Speyside. You can already see its going to be a charming place and I think it'll be another new distillery worth following. Good luck to all involved there and thanks to Brian Robinson and Guy Macpherson-Grant for sharing their enthusiasm with us.

Finally, you can follow the progress of the Ballindalloch Distillery on their website http://www.ballindallochdistillery.com/
and also on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BallindallochDistillery.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


New distilleries are popping up in Scotland like daffodils at springtime... well, actually not just in Scotland, but all around the world at the moment - everyone seems to want go get in to distilled spirits at the moment - and not just whisky...

Its no secret that distillers of scotch whisky these days are having golden days - so golden that they're able to sell all of their stock themselves and make the future for independent bottlers look a bit bleak. This is probably also why several independent bottlers have chose to buy or build distilleries themselves.

One of those bottlers that have done so and will go into production this summer is Ardnamurchan Distillery - owned by the indie bottler Adelphi.

We had an appointment on Tuesday May 6th to see the distillery, being aware its still a building site and not in production, but its always great to have a look behind the scenes.

Here's a look at the place and some data associated with it:

First of all, the distillery is located far from almost everything. It's only accessible by single track road (B8007) from either east or west. Coming from the east, you'll probably have come from Ft. William via the small Corran Ferry or from the west via ferry from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull across to Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

The place you're looking for is called Glenbeg (link to Google Maps).
Please note that the satellite photo will not show the distillery buildings.

Ardnamurchan Distillery - Coming soon, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk 
Before I show you the site through some snapshots, lets have some details about the distillery.

These days there's always the talk about leaving a carbon footprint. This will be kept at a minimum at Ardnamurchan Distillery thanks to the main part of their energy coming from firing with wood chips - the first in Scotland to do so. This will reduce the need for transport of fuels on the narrow single track roads on the Ardnamurchan peninsula as the wood will be sourced locally from the estate on which the distillery is located. The distillery also has a small bio mass plant in place to clean all waste fluids and the output from that can be lead straight back into the wild without any impact.

Far left, the 2 floor warehouse, left pagoda/building has a malt floor and right pagoda/building the visitors centre
May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The distillery will take its water from the hills behind it. It will come from 2 sources, one supplying the cooling water and the other the water for production. A small dam has been built up in the hills to ensure a constant flow, even in drier periods.

Around 50% of the malt will come from Fife and the other sourced as needed. The distillery has 4x15 tons malt bins on site and will also be doing some malting on site. Its been equipped with a 3 ton steep tank and 2x3 tons malting floor, which -quite unusual- has floor heating (also a first). The kiln will be able to dry the green malt with both warm air and peat.

The malt floor which has build-in floor heating, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
In the distillery mash house you'll find a 2 ton semi-lauter mash tun and next to that 7 x 10.000 liter fermentation vessels - 4 wooden washbacks made from a Portuguese producer and 3 steel ones opposite those. The reason to put in 3 steel washbacks was simply a matter of lack of space.

The tun room, furthest the copper top mash tun, left and right the washbacks (not all shown) May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Fermentation times, clear or cloudy wash, still charges etc.  (1 set of stills) and further the production details is not yet in final place. Trial runs will be done in early summer through the entire production process until the output is satisfactory. The annual production has previously been announced to be anywhere from 100.000-300.000 liters of spirit annually.

1 set of stills at Ardnamurchan Distillery, left the wash still, right the spirit still May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The spirit safe, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The Ardnamurchan spirit will go into mainly ex-bourbon casks and will be stored on site in a 2 floor warehouse. To make space for the warehouse, the a layer of rocks behind the buildings had to be removed, which was very hard work for the diggers in spite of heavy machinery, but now its almost ready to have the first casks rolled into it.

What really struck me when visiting, was the very noticeable difference in climate inside the warehouse from the ground floor which has a traditional dunnage style earthen floor to the upper floor which was much warmer and seemed a lot more damp than downstairs. I wonder what this will do to the maturation of the casks stored up there...

2nd floor of the warehouse, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
It was mentioned that, unlike whats been mentioned in the previously released distillery brochure, some spirit will actually be sold off to others. IMO, this makes perfectly good sense as Adelphi can probably trade off casks of their own spirit and get mature casks from other distilleries in return which they then can bottle and create a cash flow.

Then there's the visitors centre...
Upstairs will be offices and a conference room available to book and downstairs the general visitors entrance with a small sitting area. Its nice that the distillery will attract more visitors to the remote beautiful area Ardnamurchan is (its should not be missed) and also, of course, provide a boost to the local economy and bringing work places to the area as well.

Personally, I look forward to coming back when everything is up and running.

Upstairs in the visitors area where the future tours will end, centre door leads to the still room, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
I hope you've enjoyed this small online tour of the Ardnamurchan Distillery and I hope it has also maybe inspired some of you to go there sometime. It's a lovely little distillery, built very much in modern style and it certainly has it charms. While you're there, be sure to also enjoy the fabulous settings on the peninsula - why not venture all the way out to Ardnamurchan Point - the most westerly mainland point in the UK...

Finally thanks to Mark Giesler for taking us around and Alex for setting it up. And best of luck with your Ardnamurchan adventure :-)