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, 27 October 2015


Its been 10 months since I last reviewed a Balblair so its about time to do so again. Like I mentioned in my previous review from January, I really like the style of most of the North Highland distilleries so I had high hopes for this expression... Balblair and Cadenhead - that can't possibly be a bad combination, eh?

Even though this expression carries a colour that could easily be mistaken for a sherry cask, it is actually matured in an ex-bourbon barrel - a fact that made me just a tiny bit worried that this would be overly oaky.

So was it? read below...

The very crammed stillhouse at Balblair, August 23rd 2012 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 1990 22yo (xx.xx.1990/xx.07.2012) 57,4%, ex-bourbon barrel, 192 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is amber

Ohh, lovely!
Quite some cappuccino notes extending all the way to hot chocolate. The alcohol seems a little aggressive at times, but eventually calms down, leaving rooms for more delicate notes of overripe apple and earthy notes. Also in there are heavy, 
sometimes slightly burned caramel notes and a little orange peel and clove - sounds kinda Xmas'y, don't you think?

The oak shows itself a bit more on the palate, but its doing it in the nicest way possible. Again there's the apple, hints of mushrooms and what it must feel like to lick a hardwood floor. Time lets an understated vanilla and cinnamon theme and dark honey/slight syrupy notes come through. The medium long finish gives away to some peppery oak and a little mint.

This whisky comes and goes when you drink it and I quite like that.It also shows that even though the colour hints at some big oak influence, its not the case (here, at least)

Great stuff!


Tuesday, 20 October 2015


It's no secret that some distilleries are more popular than others and when looking at different online whisky shops, I often see empty product categories and/or sold out labels across the pictures of these popular ones... However, one category that is also often empty is the Braes of Glenlivet aka Braeval, but not because its popular but because there's not much of it around - why, you ask?

Well, there's several reasons...

It is, in distillery terms, a fairly 'new' place, starting production in 1973 under the Braes of Glenlivet name. The name was then changed to Braeval in 1994 to prevent mistaken identity with nearby Glenlivet distillery. Owners Chivas Bros has never been promoted it as a single malt as almost all of its production is used as a dressing malt in Chivas Bros' blends. Add to that that the distillery has been closed from 2002 to 2008 means that the few releases available now all carries a bit of age.

Still, there's a few bottlings to be found here and there and I suggest you try it if you like a light, yet full flavoured single malt. I'd place my bets on Cadenhead and/or Signatory if you want try this malt. In fact, this particular expression was so good that it was voted overall best bottling at the Cadenhead tasting I hosted about a month ago, with 2 votes more than a 27yo Highland Park from a sherry cask - how about that? Personally, I had it in 2nd...

So, what's all the fuss about?

Braes of Glenlivet or Braeval as the distillery is called today, May 3rd 2010 © The Malt Desk

Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) 1989 19yo (xx.xx.1989/xx.10.2008) 58,4%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

You need to be careful with this one as its 58,4% - Chances are you'll numb your nose trying to pick up the delicate nose of this one and instead only get alcohol and we don't want that!

There's pear, grassy, vanilla, honey, hint of pineapple, ginger and a little spicy oak and delicious malt notes... This reminds me quite a lot of Glenmorangie 10 back in the early 00's - lovely!

Again, you also need to be careful with this one on the palate. make sure you have either plenty of saliva or just a little water to take the top of the alcohol here.

This one starts with grass and white wine cooler, overripe pear, cider and then heads off in the sweet and spicy direction with vanilla, raspberry and ginger notes. The addition of water makes the whole thing rather creamy and extremely malty - a trait I really like and also allows fruit notes dressed in barley sugar to really play on the finish.

I could drink this all evening...


Sunday, 18 October 2015


Phew, time flies and personal stuff has lately interfered with my writing a bit more than I'd like, making my reviews a bit sporadic lately. Anyway, Let's skip straight on to the next Cadenhead bottling.

When I first started drinking whisky around Y2K, I remember trying Laphroaig 10 and Lagavulin 16 and thinking that Islay whisky wasn't for me... However, I had not yet made the acquaintance with Bruichladdich and to be honest I'm not quite sure when I did except it was around 2003/2004, which means it was some 3-4 years into my whisky journey.

Back then I fell in love with the 10yo and 15yo 1st edition even though both Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg had also already made their way onto my drink list by that time. It would then be another 3 years before I visited Islay and Bruichladdich for the first time (2007) and since then I've been back to Islay 4 more times 08, 09, 11 and May 2015.

In May I brought a bottle of 1966 40yo Bruichladdich bottled by Duncan Taylor with me to Islay to drink while we were there - seems only fitting a bottle like this goes 'home' to end its days, yes? :-) you can read my review of that bottling by clicking here.

Anyway, back to the 1991 from Cadenhead. This is a bottling from the Authentic Collection-series, which means its a single cask-bottling.

Distilling Port Charlotte at Bruichladdich, October 7th 2008 © The Malt Desk

Bruichladdich 1991 21yo (xx.xx.1991/xx.10.2013) 52,1%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

This noses like classic bourbon matured B'Laddich. It also feels like that the cask hasn't been all that active. Its all very fresh and malty long with vanilla, apple tart leaning towards citrus (grape fruit?) notes. It also reveals a slight floral note, some mineral and cooking oil notes + the tiniest hints of peat.

I think my suspicions about a fairly inactive cask sticks. The arrival is very mellow and pleasing with soft white fruit (apple, melon), truckloads of malt, some licorice and barley sugar. The finish is almost entirely malt driven with a slight salty burst and a herbal edge at times.

This is maybe not the most complex of malts, but just drinks so incredibly well and that counts for something in my book too. I'd say it one of those malts you'd pour a large dram of, when you need to relax after a busy week.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015


It's been 2½ years since I last reviewed a Littlemill here on The Malt Desk - a sure sign that this closed Lowland distillery often is hard to come by.

A second reason is that it has had a a bit of a dodgy reputation a few years back, but indie bottlings over the past 2-3 years has show that Littlemill did, in fact, produce good whisky in the years leading up to its closure in 1994. 10 years later in 2004, what remained on the site was destroyed by fire.

Looking through old reviews online, it seems like young version of Littlemill have never been held in high esteem... could this be a case of Littlemill not shining until it reaches its late teens early 20's? much like Port Ellen, IMO... That said there's (of course) always the exception to the rule, but from what I've tasted myself over the years, e.g. from Port Ellen, I never really thought much of it at 13-14yo.... Anyway, this is just my stray thoughts on the matter. :-)

Now back to the Cadenhead Littlemill...

Littlemill Distillery - picture from WikiMedia

Littlemill 1990 24yo 53,7%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 582 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Ohh, a very tropical little number this one, exotic wood, very noticeable coconut, then vanilla, mango fruit juice, melon and oranges. There's also a slight mineral-like edge to this nose. Wet gravel/dirt perhaps? Almonds/marzipan in here too It also shows some herbal notes at times... even notes of old Calvados

Mango, peach and oranges peel held back by malt. There's more coconut, vanilla creme and overripe green grapes in there as well. What really strikes me with this one is how well the alcohol is integrates with the flavours here. The finish is not as heavy as one would expect but it goes on for a while and when its about to disappear you just want to take another sip!

It's the best Littlemill I've tried - it's deeeeelicious! :-)

At the first nosing/taste this came across with a bit of varnish/paint thinner which often can be the cask with Littlemill, but leave this one to breathe and a whole other world appears - in fact its up there with the most brilliant stuff I've tasted so far in 2015


Sunday, 4 October 2015


Its time to throw myself into a world of Cadenhead bottlings - what's not to like about that? :-)

Its been one of my favourite bottlers for quite a few years now - why? because of the quality of their bottlings - that why! I agree, there's the occasional dud out there (at least according to my taste - regular readers will know I'm sensitive to sulphury notes) but they are few and far between at Cadenheads, IMO... and I wonder if there's any in the bunch I'll be reviewing next. 

The plans for a Cadenhead tasting took form already early this year.
I already knew then that Campbeltown would be on the agenda for my 2 weeks in Scotland so it was not just a matter of keeping my eyes open for a special bottle to bring home for the September tasting. The rest of the bottles for this tasting was bought at the Cadenhead shop in Odense, Denmark.

First up was the BenRiach Small Batch...

The stills at BenRiach Distillery, May 6th 2013 © The Malt Desk

BenRiach 1996 19yo 47,1%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 558 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Classic Speyside nose... lots of apple, vanilla and honey and grassy notes - it gets a bit sharp-ish, but a few drops of water calms it down at bit.

Sweet arrival with vanilla custard, overripe pear, some ginger and a hot sensation mid-late palate and again some water can take the edge of things.
With water it gets very citrussy on the palate and also has some gingery notes peeing through at time.

Except for the little hot-streak, this is a classic Speyside profile and one most can drink. I can't really put my finger on what its missing for me to take this one higher... but it is missing a little something.

Still, its perfectly good whisky!!