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.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


First of all I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!

The Malt Desk will be 3 years in come May 22nd 2015 which some of you know is also the legal age for Scotch Whisky. Think we might celebrate that a little when we reach the end of May :-)

Now, I just mentioned age which is something the Scotch Whisky industry haven't been very good at lately - as it seems they'd rather have no age on their bottlings... a trend I'm sad to say, that's gaining more and more ground with the producers... :-( This topic has it's been covered plenty on here and on many other whisky blogs/vlogs, and I'm afraid that we do have to get used to a range of whiskies where many are now below par in quality and over priced... and until either the whisky bubble bursts or (new) whisky drinkers become aware that whisky used to/can taste better than what's being hitting the market at the moment, we'll just have to settle with what in our cupboards, 'cause life is simple too short for bad whisky.

That said, there are a few producers out there that do put out decent No Age Statement whisky, but they are few and far between - so if you're just starting out on your whisky journey, I suggest you visit as many blogs, forums etc to try and get a lay of the whisky land as regards to the whole No Age Statement concept and from that make up your own mind...

Phew, I had promised myself that the last post in 2014 wasn't going to be a rant on missing age statements and/or anything else, but since its easy (for me) to get passionate about a thing like this, it happened anyway... and to round that off, I'll rub this whole age thing in a bit and do a review of some 40yo whisky from 1968.

Caperdonich 1968 40yo (15.10.1968/04.12.2008) 52% cask#2612, bottle no. 39 of 94, Duncan Taylor

Colour is amber

First think that hits you is the oak, quite a bit actually but once you've gotten used to the nose tingle, it also bring crush pepper, fruit and some of the 52% alcohol. There's spirit filled chocolates, heavy vanilla, bit of varnish, mango chutney, melon, herbs (tyme?) a little hint of flowers and old veneer cigarbox

Gentle arrival and then a rush of fruit and old oak wood spices... Ginger (ale), nutmeg, mint, lemon/lime, honey, som wood shavings and fruits all sort, but mainly the more exotic kind. Finishes mainly on ginger and also some dashes of cinnamon.

This is very much an oak driven dram and it might not be to everyones preference.
I'm actually guessing quite a few will say this has too much oak... and its walking a very fine oak branch here, I agree


Happy New Year 2015!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


The Malt Desk will be back after the holidays


Xmas is upon us and its time to review the whisky pulled from the cupboard as this years Xmas whisky...
so before I move on to my review, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Malt Xmas! :-)

My choice fell upon a Highland Park this year. I've always had a sweet spot for Highland Park as it was one of the first distilleries I tried back when I started my malt journey. Back then it was the standard 12 which compared to the others had back then really rocked... Many drams have passed since then and I'm now entering my 16th year of my malt journey and with that in mind, I wanted to grab something special, yet still something that I could relate to through the years (I know, I know... getting a bit sentimental at Xmas here)

My choice then fell upon a 1979 Highland Park bottled by Murray McDavid in the Mission-series, a sub bottling brand of Bruichladdich, before the islay distillery was sold last year to Remy Martin.

Highland Park, however is still in the hands of the Edrington group along with Macallan in Speyside (see my previous review) and Glenturret in Crieff, just west of Perth.

The Orkney Islands are more than Orkney Mainland, this picture is from Hoy, another island worth exploring, August 7th 2009 © The Malt Desk 

Highland Park 1979 25yo 46%, ex-bourbon cask, 750 bottles, Murray McDavid Mission series

Colour is full straw

Fruit and smoke hits you right away and both things seems to come to you in waves. It certainly feels like that when picking up your glass nosing it, putting it down and picking it up again... and surprisingly smoky it is... Maybe back in 1979 they were still doing a large portion of their own maltings at the distillery itself and this is the result of burning the peat a little too long? The fruits are quite evident, though. They are of the tropical kind... mango, sweet oranges, and melon and that ever present peat along with a fair dose of vanilla and nipping oak - just lovely!

Good and very balanced arrival. At first there's 2 seconds of oak and bitter before lush malt and fruit comes rushing in to save the day. Clearly now papaya and several types of melon notes. Also a little pineapple and hint of pistachio and a good layer of malt. The smoky edge is again ever present along with a little salt, making sure you don't forget that this is an Island malt. This never gets boring even though you could wish for it to maybe have been bottled at 50% rather than 46%...

This is very good whisky, no doubt... and a nice and refreshing one for Xmas as opposed to the sherried whiskies usually consumed at and associated with Xmas...


Saturday, 20 December 2014


This distillery needs no introduction, so I'm not going to bore you with one.... and instead of a rant about the 1824-series and the descision Macallan to remove the age statement from its core range, let's have a look at what Macallan actually will do for the area around the village of Craigellachie when the huge expansion of the distillery is taking place.

Due for opening in Spring 2017, the expansion of The Macallan distillery will see its production heading very much in a green direction with a bio mass plant in Craigellachie producing of the steam energy needed on site from bio fuel sourced from forests locally. Not an entire new idea as Ardnamurchan GlenBeg Distillery started doing this already this year, but its going to be on much large scale in Speyside.

Here are a few facts released so far:

  • Up to 90% of the energy need for production will be produced at the new plant
  • 120+ new jobs will be created temporarily as a result of the expansion
  • New jobs will be created on site too after the expansion is completed
  • 20.000 homes is said to be supplied with energy as well
  • Changing from natural gas to bio fuel will save as much energy as taking the equivalent of 18.000 cars of the road

But let's return to the whisky... a Macallan distilled almost 30 years ago...

Easter Elchies House at Macallan Distillery, after midnight on June 13th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Macallan 1985 29yo 24.128 (25.04.1985) 'Posh ladies on the prom!' 51,1%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 209 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Very concentrated of thick malt, vanilla, ginger, floral/perfumy, slightly soapy notes (in a good way!) Tangerines, honey, wax and carries overall a lovely balance oak profile thats not at all invasive at 51,1%. The nose turn more fruity as we go along, mainly on heavy banana, apple and nectarines and thick, almost ale-like maltiness

2 soft seconds on arrival, then a hot and oaky attack which can be remedied by a few drops of water. When those are added sweet oranges, Haribo apricot winegums and raspberry meringue is immediately revealed to your palate. Also some sweet cookie dough in there.

This goes into über fruity overdrive if you give it time and a few drops of water... but it also doesn't go all over the place or displays huge complexity. It instead shows a more narrow (and very good!) profile and carries much of the same tropical fruitiness as Edrington's Orkney distillery Highland Park when matured for a long time on an ex-bourbon cask... minus the added smoky profile of the Highland Park, though :)

Nice dram indeed, but the initial hot attack on the palate makes this one come in a couple of points short...
and as you might imagine, being Macallan, this carries quite a heft price tag... £400 in the UK and around £300 in Denmark


Monday, 15 December 2014


I'll continue with the Japanese and sherry bomb theme in this next review...

Just like Yamazaki, the Hakushu distillery is owned by big player Suntory, who together with the other major player Nikka really has put Japan on the whiskymap these past few years. Before that, there were still Japanese whisky, of course, but drams from the Land of the Rising Sun is no longer a well kept secret and it shows... especially on the prices of even off the shelf No-Age-Statement (NAS) bottles. If you look at the price increase in percentage % I've spotted between a 15-20% (I may be wrong here, this was just a quick glance and comparison!) bigger increase on Japanese whisky compared Scottish ones of the same style. But again, let this not be about the pricing of whisky as there's really little we can do about it...

This next review will feature the Hakushu Distillery and a dram very much in the same style as the previous review, yet still different... I'll come to that in the review. Both were matured in a Bota Corta sherry butt, single cask and bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Hakushu Distillery Stillhouse - picture from Suntory.com

Hakushu 2003 14yo 120.7 (30.09.1999) 'Sweet, Fragrant and Satisfying' 55,5%, 1st fill Bota Corta sherry butt, 517 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is Mahogany

Gluewein (Glögg) and old Port, chocolate ice cream and soy sauce and sweet sun burnt grapes about to turn raisin and a very distinct underlying floral note. Also in there are hint of cinnamon, cooked mushrooms and hints of fresh ginger and honey Chai

Not at all as drying as its Yamazaki companion... Think lukewarm Lumumba and/or the style of an old cognac. Very sweet, so sweet I could easily be convinced this was matured in a Pedro Ximenez cask and the Yamazaki in an Oloroso cask. Also hints of strong/fortified plum wine and marinated dark fruits, figs in particular...

What this one does, it does great and its difficult to say which one is best. My guess is that this is very much about what mood you're in and what you fancy at the time... sweet or dry - just like when drinking wine!

I'm really splitting hairs here but I still end up, also awarding this one an excellent score of...


Saturday, 13 December 2014


I'll be surprised if the news about the Yamazaki Sherry Cask Distillery Edition 2013 being named 'The Worlds best whisky' this year has escaped any whisky drinkers ears. Prices have gone through the roof... all thanks to JM. We all saw the same effect last year when the Old Pulteney 21yo Distillery edition received the title, with bottle flying off the shelves, but this year its really gone crazy

Why? JM (James Moriarty) has not only made Sherlock Holmes state that it's by far the biggest and dirtiest trick yet pulled off by JM, to reveal the secret of good whisky to the world. JM has now also made the rest of the worlds whisky drinkers go completely bonkers this year, paying prices up £1000+ for a bottle of no-age-statement whisky at under cask strength and, at the same time, displaying behaviour which can only be The Whisky Worlds equivalent to Black Friday. Luckily, most purchases were done online, so only a few 1's and 0's were hurt in the stampede for this 18.000 bottles release...

Oh, well... enough nonsense about Arch Villains and Super Detectives!

I did a little detecting myself last night and tried another Yamazaki. Not the much fabled bottling mentioned above, but instead a single cask Yamazaki bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Yamazaki Distillery, outside Osaka, Japan - picture from Wikipedia

Yamazaki 2003 11yo 119.14 (30.04.2003) 'Raspberry Imperial Stout' 53,9%, 1st fill Bota Corta sherry butt, 538 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is Mahogany

Ultra clean and drying sherry nose immediately showing dark fruits - plums, figs and raisins. Also in there are burnt caramel, pibe tobacco (you remember the Sweet Dublin blend?) old dark rum, bung cloth and earthy notes gets to have a say too... I also found lots of dark chocolate, candied and burnt apple and loads of sweet licorice in there.

Quite drying, chocolate again - filled ones, cherries, marzipan plums, the drying taste and effect of cocoa powder and spices - nutmeg and allspice. Also in there are baked/overripe brown banana, blackcurrant and a black olive saltiness.

This is just lovely if you adore the heavily sherried whisky style! Some might argue this is sherry broken, I'd dare say some distillery fruitiness still peaks through here...


Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Not long ago, I reviewed a Mortlach from one of my favourite bottlers, Cadenhead. This time, I'll be reviewing one from another favourite bottler of mine, Adelphi...

This expression, I tried at the whisky fair in Dufftown during the Spirit of Speyside Festival in May 2014 and it made me want go buy at bottle immediately, even if it carried a hefty price tag of around £125...

The famous cooling wormtubs of Mortlach - and also a not so pretty angle of the distillery
May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Mortlach 1987 26yo 56,8%, Refill ex-sherry American oak hogshead#3103, 200 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is light amber

Very easy going to begin with a slight fruity, earthy and hint of yeasty note... but after a short while it start to take off, showing multi fruit juice, vanilla, pineapple, oranges and honey'ed notes. It carries that thick Mortlach less-than-subtlety through to your nose in a very civilised manner.... very nice :-)

Huge on tropical fruits, thick mouth feel, oranges, more pineapple, mango, passion fruits, ginger, bit of grass and then a spicy oak rush to make sure the whole thing doesn't get too sweet. Finishes on a fruity/floral burst with ginger shortbread and hint of coconut and salt licorice.

Just delicious!


Thursday, 4 December 2014


When North of Inverness on October I actually made it all the way up to John O'Groats on the very top of Scottish mainland. Going there also meant passing the town of Wick where Pulteney Distillery is located and making a stop there was already planned, even before heading north from our accommodation in Inverness.

Pulteney is one of those distillery that had, until last year, lived in relative anonymity until a certain whisky writer, know for wearing a panama hat, out of the blue declared the 21yo expression from Pulteney the 'world's best whisky'...Pulteney does make good whisky and there's more than a handful of expression out there to prove that, and especially some good ones from indie bottler Gordon & MacPhail.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, who provides a wide range of excellent single cask bottlings (and at a decent price here in Denmark, I might add) has bottled the expression I'm about to review. It was a bottling I very much looked forward to try already when I read about it in the SMWS newsletter. Eventually, I also ended up buying a bottle of it...

Warehouse at Pulteney Distillery, October 20th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Old Pulteney 1997 52.19 (21.11.1997) 16yo 'Flapping sails and ship's timbers' 54,6%, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 269 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale straw

Wow, really coastal - this must be what its all about when they say you can smell the sea in a whisky, I was quite surprised here :-O Lots of salt, brine, vanilla, grist, wet wood chips, stale white fruits, pot ale, freshly picked peas and white pepper.

Vanilla freshness, lots of malt/barley sugar, sweet licorice, a little coconut and quite a citrussy edge. Also honey, pepper, salted nuts and a note of what I think it would be like licking a sea shell. More brine also and an undefined herbal note in there.

This expression really opens up with water, multiplying the already existing notes.
This is a great Pulteney!