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12 Days to the 25th 25% Off Christmas Sale on 12 Stunning Whiskies

We are counting down to Christmas with a very unique sale starting today.  With 12 (ish) days to go to 25th December we have selected 12 stunning whiskies and discounted them by 25%.

Get it? 12 days.  12 whiskies. 25th.  25%.

These whiskies are in very short supply so don't delay!

 

Day Whisky Price Sale Price
1 Glenfarclas 1963 Family Cask Rifle and Shot Gun Cleaning kit  £ 7,500.00  £ 5,625.00
2 Benriach 1966 46 Years Old Vestige  £ 3,995.00  £ 2,996.00
3 Glendronach 1968 Recherche  £ 2,750.00  £ 2,062.00
4 Private Collection Glenlivet 1954  £ 1,825.00  £ 1,368.00
5 Highland Park 40 Years Old  £ 1,686.00  £ 1,264.00
6 Glen Garioch 1958 46 Years Old  £ 1,500.00  £ 1,125.00
7 Old Pulteney 40 Years Old  £ 1,490.00  £ 1,117.00
8 Director's Cut Port Ellen 35 Years Old  £    840.00  £    630.00
9 Dalmore 25 Years Old  £    600.00  £    450.00
10 Isle of Jura 1976  £    500.00  £    375.00
11 Director's Cut Ardbeg 1991 23 Years Old  £    485.00  £    363.00
12 Old Malt Cask Macallan 1988 25 Years Old  £    455.00  £    341.00

We have loads more offers in our festive sale.  Check out all of our sale here.

The legal bit:  Prices are quoted inclusive of VAT which applies to all UK and European Union sales.  Shipping charges will apply but we are offering free delivery in the UK on all purchases made up until December 31st.  No further discounts can be applies to any of our Special Offers.

Benriach 1966 46 Vestige infrontGlendronach 1968 44 RechercheGM Private Collection Glenlivet 1954
Highland Park 40Old Pulteney 40 copyDirectors Cut Port Ellen 35Jura 1976 copyDirectors Cut Ardbeg 23OMC Macallan 1988Dalmore 25

 

Glenfarclas 1963

A Quick Look at 2 Benromachs

Benromach 10 Years Old 100 Proof

This is a relatively new addition to the Benromach range.  They have opted for 57% ABV rather than cask strength version.  I guess this will lead to a more consistent product but it is more than a higher ABV version of the 10 Years Old in my opinion.  I really liked this whisky and it is well worth the extra money over the 10 years old.

Nose:  Initially there's treacle and demarara sugar sweetness backed by freshly baked biscuits, sponge cake crust and apples cooked so they have caramelised.

Taste:  Mouth coating.  Then there is a punch of wood smoke all the time getting sweeter.  There is also a saltiness like crisps.  A few drops of water boosts the impact.

Finish:  Long and very lingering smokiness.  Sweet.  Cracked pepper and chili spice add to the invigorating finish.

Benromach 10 100 Proof

Benromach Organic

Now in the new style Benromach packaging but also for my money a different liquid.  We used to fool people with this one as being from a sherry cask which it certainly was not.  I really do not think you could do that now.   A good whisk but I was disappointed with the apparent change in the liquid.  I probably need to retry this one.

Nose:  Boiled sweets and pear drops.  Peach skins and barley sugar.

Taste:  Sweet, spicy and light smoke.  There's also something like a dab of blackcurrant jam.  Interestingly the smoke gets more pronounced with time.

Finish:  Sugar water and golden syrup.

Benromach Organic 2014

Moist Von Lipwig at Balvenie

Autumn Speyside Whisky Festivals 2014

This report is presented complete and unabridged.  However most of the events where part of the The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival.

Report by Bruce Crichton

After the series of bit parts I had recorded for ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ were cut, I headed to Dufftown. The surgeon was able to reattach and, with the foot literally on the other hand, the Autumn Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed and after many days of great whisky, food, music, tours, kiwis, wallabies, hakas and a bucket of Kininvie, here is my account of it.

This report is only a rough guide and may contain factual errors, for which I apologize in advance. Tasting notes are subjective and comment is added from experts present during note taking. Most often, I find myself able to describe the taste of sweets extremely well and the reader is invited to speculate how I have managed to reach adulthood with any teeth remaining. To shorten the report, I refer the reader to previous reports and tastings if a whisky re-appears. I also assume the reader is familiar with widely available bottlings mentioned. Any cask samples, discontinued releases and fill-your-own (FYO) tasted are described briefly, as these may not be available to buy. When water added was, literally, one drop and whiskies were 40%abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated.

 

‘It all started with a big dram’ at the Whiskyshop Dufftown

On Thursday afternoon, Whisky Shop Dufftown (WSD) owner Mike Lord presented 3 drams to begin the festival with. Mike had had a barren summer with cautious crocodiles wisely avoiding his waterhole because his death roll is a terrifying sight to behold and even Luis Suarez fears his bite. In this tasting, he presented the 3 most interesting whiskies he had come across recently.

It all started with a big dram

After Mike emptied a bottle of Benromach’s excellent 10 year old into a giant snifter glass for a charity event over the weekend, we tasted Diageo’s flagship ‘Rare Old’ Mortlach, at 43.4%abv. A somewhat controversial release, this contains whisky between 6 and 21 years old with Diageo aiming to keep the product consistent. There was much less sherry character than the popular but discontinued 16 year old ‘Flora and Fauna’ bottling and I found the nose to be almost magical with sherbet and fruit crumble and there was some bourbon cask fruitiness present with the taste being both crisp and sweet. Mike commented that Mortlach has recently doubled in size and has gone from the smallest distillery in Dufftown to being the second largest.

Leif starts with a big dram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this was going on, Brett the kiwi made a surprise re-appearance, sparking a discussion that ended with the conclusion that the England rugby team should do a Morris dance when the New Zealand rugby team are doing their haka and should probably do a Morris dance before every match they play.

Highland Park ‘Dark Origins’, at 46.8%abv, had been taken from 80% sherry casks and did have a somewhat rubbery nose that dissipated with the whisky being given time to breathe. As Mike reminisced about the 1990’s releases from the distillery, I found this to have the taste of sweet, stewed fruits and shortbread with a touch of peat.

The third and final dram, a 1991 Glenfarclas Family Cask, exclusive to the WSD, at 53.8%abv, was reviewed in the spring festival report. As we tasted it, Mike told us of his campaign to make Dufftown a recognized whisky region and pointed out that, if he succeeds, it will be the third biggest whisky region.

 

Glen Elgin and Benriach tours

 At Glen Elgin distillery, we were greeted by Kwanele, our guide for the morning. Glen Elgin contributes significantly to the ‘White Horse’ blends’, with the logo visible on entry. Glen Elgin is also component of the popular Bells and Johnnie Walker’s blends.

Glen Elgin Distillery tour

Belgravia and Concerto malts are used, from nearby Burghead, with 8.4 tons of malt per mash, at Glen Elgin, and the grist is split into 8 fractions instead of the usual 3 of husks, grist and flour. Diageo believe this gives them more information, reducing variability and giving them a better extract. Fermentation is a minimum of 90 hours with the aim of producing a fruity character in the spirit.

In 2012, the washbacks were increased from 6 to 9, the mashes increased from 11 to 16 and production increased from 5 to 7 days per week. Increased automation allows a single operator to work where, before, a stillman and mashman were required. On top of each washback is a soap dispenser that, in the event of a power cut, will dispense soap into the wash to prevent foam spilling over. The distillery has 6 stills and currently spirit is transported to Cambus, in Clackmannanshire, as the Auchroisk facility at Keith is at capacity. A distillery upgrade is planned for November 2014 with the spirit receivers to be replaced.

Glen Elgin Stills

We tasted a sweet 1995 ‘Exclusive’ from Gordon and MacPhail (G&M), at 50%abv, which had the taste of fruit and boiled sweets. This bottling has long since sold out though the curious reader is invited to the G&M shop in Elgin as there will no doubt be future releases from the company.

Moving on to Benriach, we met Ewan George who showed us a promotional DVD from the company that clearly been produced by the makers of ‘Police Squad’.  Last year, the distillery made 2.4 million litres of alcohol with a third being used for single malt and the rest traded as spirit. 175,000 litres of peated spirit were made and all was kept by the distillery. Interestingly, master blender Billy Walker was unaware when taking over the distillery in 2004 that he had inherited peated spirit dating back to 1972.

1994 was another landmark year for the distillery as then owners Seagram’s bottled Benriach as a single malt, one of the so-called ‘Heritage Selection’. Using Optic Concerto malted barley, the distillery uses 4 waters rather than the traditional 3, something done by both Chivas and Seagrams’, the previous owners.

The short stills have a slight reflux that Ewan says imparts fruity character. Foreshots are kept short at 13 minutes to retain the fruity esters while the cut is between 61 and 73 percent while peated spirit has a cut of between 60 and 73 percent.

Spirit intended for single malt is filled into first fill casks with a small percentage filled into refill casks that are intended for blending. Demineralized borehole water is used to reduce casks. For example, the award winning 12 year old Sherry cask matured release, mostly available in the Far East, is diluted to 47%abv and left for between 6 and 8 weeks before being bottled at 46%abv.

An impressive tasting lineup began with the 1999 virgin oak finish, single cask, at 46%abv. It was sweet with vanilla and cream notes and the finish was spicy. A 1997 distillery shop exclusive, at 59.2%abv, had spent 15 years in a bourbon cask before 11 final months in a Sauternes wine cask. Ewan finds that this cask gives the whisky a caramelized taste. I found that the taste of crème brulee and first fill bourbon was too hard to resist. A 1996 vintage, at 52.4%abv, matured for the final 3 years in a Pedro Ximenez cask had tremendous sweetness from start to finish.

Ewan George of Benriach

A 1977 Rioja finish, at 44.1%abv, bottled in 2012, was the first ‘I was there’ moment of the festival. Ewan found the taste of sponge cake while I smelled stewed fruits and tasted raspberry ripple. Finally, we had the 25 year old ‘Authenticus’, at 46%abv which apparently contains some 1985 virgin oak finish. It smelled of mellow peat, tasted of smooth and sweet peat and the finish was long, luxurious and soft.

 

Session whiskies by Gordon and MacPhail

Mike Paterson of G&M took time to recount the company’s history, praising previous owner George Urquhart for being ahead of his time in laying down malt whisky for future with the motto ‘Tomorrow is shaped by today’s decisions, today is shaped by decisions of the past’.

Mike Patterson of Gordon and Macphail

The first of a series of possible session whiskies was a ‘MacPhail’s 15 year old’ mystery malt. This range was introduced in 1983. Mike himself does not know the distillery this whisky is taken from though he said that 40 percent of the whisky was matured in refill sherry casks. It had mint, sherbet and cheesecake on the nose though the taste was difficult to describe and festival regular ‘Boisterous Aberdonian’ reckoned it had a quick finish. Mike Paterson added that the bottles of this malt whisky can be personalized while Mike Lord said that the WSD does the same thing by sticking a post-it note to the bottle. As we were discussing this, gasps of amazement greeted the announcement that a legendary peaty whisky lover enjoyed this despite it not having any discernable peat.

George Urquhart introduced the Connoisseur’s Choice (CC) range in the 1960s to make available whiskies that were otherwise unavailable as single malts and, appropriately, a 2004 CC Balmenach, at a standard strength of 46%abv, was our next whisky. The distillery was owned by Diageo and current owners Inver House have never bottled it. The Balmenach had been matured in refill sherry casks and smelled of creamy soft cheese. The taste was of chewy pear drops and the spicy finish was very long.

The MacPhail’s collection range appeared in 1998 and an 8 year old Tamdhu, at 43%abv, needed time to breath but, having done so, I found light golden syrup and honey on the nose while water revealed fizzy sherbet. This had been matured in refill sherry and bourbon casks, giving it the taste of fruit salad chew bars with vanilla being revealed by water. This particular range bottles either as an age statement or as a vintage. Festival regular Danny Maguire found this particularly enjoyable as it took his mind of the fact that he has tennis elbow in his knees from playing golf.

‘Distillery Label’ Linkwood, at 43%abv, smelled of golden honey and sherbet and tasted lightly fruity with toffee notes. The finish was short and did have a bite to it. Mike Paterson thinks it has a little bit of everything and represents a classic Speyside whisky taken from both bourbon and sherry casks.

We ended with the widely available, recently repackaged Benromach 10 year old, at 43%abv, detailed later. Mike told us to look out for the upcoming 10 year old ‘100 proof’ addition to the range and an Hermitage wine finish. A 5 year old will replace the ‘Traditional’ while Mike said he was looking forward to future ‘Organic’ releases as the company can reuse the casks used previously in that bottling.

Whisky Corner – ‘Peat in Whisky’

Appearing at a festival for the first time were Stewart Craigon and Kirsty Clarke who have their own blog entitled www.whiskycorner.co.uk . Kirsty does most of the writing for the site while Stewart runs a whisky club and the couple are available for corporate events and PR.


Mike introduces Kirsty and Stewart

Beginning with the Highland Park ‘Dark Origins’ tasted earlier, Stewart detailed the composition of Orkney peat which, unlike other parts of Scotland, has no trees. The ‘Fogg’ is the top layer of peat that gives the initial smoke, the ‘yahrpe’ layer gives smoke and heat and the ‘moss’ gives heat with prolonged but less intense smoke. The barley is dried for 36 hours with 18 of those hours done with peat and the rest done with coke. (My initial thought that they would get better results with Irn Bru was, on reflection, a bit daft). As we considered this, Boisterous Aberdonian started to act up, apparently the result of his trying to smoke a hashtag. Boisterous also reckoned the whisky had a quick finish but nonetheless held its own, something he has experience of, apparently.

Douglas Laing’s ‘Big Peat’ vatted malt, at 46%abv, smelled of toffee and mints, indicating that the nose was dominated by Bowmore. Light and sweet, the smoke gently tickled the palate.  Port Charlotte ‘Scottish Barley’, at 50%abv, had light smoke and icing sugar aromas with minty and soft smoke tastes while the finish had smoked fish and salt.

An Cnoc ‘Cutter’, at 46%abv, was the fourth in a series of highland malts from the Knochdhu distillery, all named after cutting tools, the other 3 in the series are the ‘Rutter’, ‘Flaughter’ and ‘Tushkar’.  Unusually, the distillery publishes the level of peat in the whisky instead of the barley. The ‘Cutter’ had just been released a few days beforehand with Kirsty and Stewart tasting all four of them, back to back with Kirsty reckoning this one had the biggest punch of the 4. After finding fizzy sweetness on the nose, I noticed chewy peat and smoked fish on the taste while water lengthened the finish.

The widely available Laphroaig Quarter Cask, at 48%abv, had the biggest punch of the tasting. A drop of water revealed smoked fish on the nose with smoke erupting on the palate with excellent chewiness and fresh wood present. As I chewed the whisky, Kirsty said she would like to see more companies state the level of peat in the bottle and, to follow, Boisterous changed topic by recommending ‘Charlie Barley’, purveyor of black pudding in Stornoway. At this point, I caution readers asking them to consider the fact that Boisterous was burned in a wicker man on his last visit to Lewis.

A bonus dram of the 12 year old Highland Park, at the very end, revealed itself to be back on effervescent form with lots of delightful, cheery sweetness, making it the most surprising whisky of the weekend.

 

Cheeky Drams at Glendronach distillery

Arriving at Glendronach on Saturday morning, we were greeted by Karen, our guide for the tour. I’ve reported on this distillery extensively in my reports for the autumn festivals of 2009, 2010 and 2012 so I’ll say only that it was not in production this particular weekend and add a few interesting factoids.

The distillery has increased production every year since 2008 when it was sold by Chivas to Benriach in 2008. The maltings closed in 1996 at the same time the distillery did and was not reopened in 2002 when the distillery was because the building is not strong enough. However, it is preserved as a museum piece. The washbacks are made of Scottish larch and the stills are oil-heated. In the warehouse, there are octave and quarter casks as well as butts and a trial sherry, not from Jerez, is currently being tested.

Karen at Glendronach

At our tasting, Karen told us that her favourite from the core range is the 18 year old ‘Allardice’ that she finds ‘cheeky’ and, that instant, she was proved to be correct as the whisky in my glass told me to sod off as I was nosing it. This 18 year old, at 46%abv, has improved recently and Karen finds it chewy. I found rich fruit and sherry with wedding cake and it was a fine benchmark to measure the other whiskies with.

Bruce at Glendronach with Andy Eliis

A UK exclusive 1995, cask 3326, at 55%abv had been matured in a Pedro Ximenez (PX) cask making it taste sweet and velvety. 21 year old Oloroso cask 39, at 58.8% needed time to breathe and reveal thick treacle and coffee. A 2002 distillery exclusive, at 56.5%abv, had been matured in a first fill PX puncheon. Surprisingly light, it had hints of syrup, fizzy sweets and sticky toffee pudding. Steve Carr found it rather quiet and not assertive though this was by no means a negative in his view. Karen told us that those who tasted it blind had thought it was much older than 11 years old.

A 1993 oloroso matured, 18 year old at 56.1%abv, smelled and tasted of coffee and dark orange chocolate. A very big dram, it was both thick and chewy. The 1994 ‘Manager’s cask’ was available to fill by hand, at 58.1%abv. A drop of water revealed coffee again and the charming taste of Fry’s orange cream chocolate.

Fill your own at Glendronach

                                   

 

Adelphi Tasting with Antonia Bruce

 After announcing that Adelphi’s Ardnamurchan distillery had opened in July 2014, we began with a 1992 Longmorn, at 53.6%abv, that smelled like fruit salad chew bars while Mark Watt found honey and cereal breakfast bars. The whisky had both bourbon and sherry characteristics, leading me to ponder if it had been re-racked. Vanilla and cereal notes were present throughout this tremendous whisky.

Antonia Bruce

The latest ‘Fascadale’ release, at 46%abv, is a 14 year old Highland Park consisting of 2 bourbon casks and 1 sherry cask. Writer Charles Maclean gets red pippin apples and highland fudge while I found fizzy sherbet, apples and mints. Sitting beside me, Christian from Norway said that water revealed a lot of vanilla. On the palate, I got something between apple sauce and apple crumble together with shortbread and concluded that this would make a fine session whisky.

A 1993 Glen Garioch, at 59%abv, had come from a first fill sherry butt. Antonia got spice and ginger notes from the nose while the consensus between Christian and myself was one of orange, marmalade and chocolate. 2007 Glenrothes, at 66.7%abv, led Antonia to describe it as being like a mad peanut butter sandwich though Mark Watt asked the reasonable question: ‘is there a sensible peanut butter sandwich?’ This was a big and punchy dram with no obvious youthfulness discernible and water opened it to give creamy sweetness while Christian detected chocolate.

Our 2000 Ardmore, at 55.6%abv, had subtle highland peat throughout. It smelled of smoked cheese with hints of ham while it tasted of sweet smoke. Christian found vanilla, lemon zest and sugar.

Vicky and Antonia

 

Later, at the Tannochbrae gala dinner, most of these whiskies reappeared alongside a 1990 Bladnoch, at 59.3%abv. With this lowland distillery unlikely to produce again, this was a timely chance to taste a well-aged lowland whisky and it put me in mind of what Auchentoshan Valinch might be like if it was allowed to mature for at least one more decade.  The whisky had been matured in a refill bourbon cask and tasted of butter on white bread with obvious notes of bourbon and spice.

 

Berry Brothers and Rudd,

After recovering from a bucket of 23 year old Kininvie, I returned in time for Jonny MacMillan to guide us through the best of Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR). He began with a slide comparing a single cask BBR bottling with a thinly disguised bottle of ‘Isle of Dalmorecairn’ with the former being unchilfiltered and coloured and the latter not. (Each whisky is 46%abv, if not strength is not otherwise indicated). Jonny recommends rolling your glass with the whisky in it to make it look like you know what you are doing and said that the whiskies had been poured some 30 minutes previously, allowing them to breath.

Mike and Jonny

As we had a 1995 Caperdonich, Jonny showed a slide of the ‘picturesque’ distillery using a photo taken by Mark Watt of the rubble left after demolition. This whisky had vanilla and Parma violets on the nose and tasted of light honey and fruit syrup. 1999 Linkwood, from a refill bourbon cask, was grassy and floral with lemons and delicate sweetness. Apparently, Linkwood is Gaelic for ‘Distillery in Elgin’.

As a historical aside, Jonny showed us a picture of a 1909 company document, written before Rudd had joined the business.  During the prohibition era, BBR had moved enough whisky through the Bahamas to give each person in the islands 8 bottles a day, although it must be taken into account that Mark Watt didn’t live there at the time or the number would have been considerably reduced.

A 1998 Ben Nevis – Gaelic for ‘Fairly High Mountain’ – had been matured in a refill bourbon cask. The nose was slightly astringent with malt and aniseed and it tasted of warm vanilla sauce. Water lightened it considerably and it had all the qualities of a fine session whisky. A 1991 Glencadam, at 53.8%abv, led Jonny to say that the name is Gaelic for ‘Glencadam’ but I angrily disputed this, insisting it is Gaelic for ‘Tight up beside a football pitch’. Appropriately for a component whisky of ‘Stewart’s Cream of the Barley’, it had notes of both vanilla and cream throughout with Christian getting shortbread and pears.

The Glencadam had apparently been extremely popular with a writer who shall remain unnamed but, for the purpose of this report, will be referred to as ‘Pretentious, dopey, self-important twonk’.  Playing a musical tribute to Twonk, Jonny hailed him as our lord and savior and he and I decided it was best not to mention the name of the song either, just to be safe.

A 1997 Clynelish – Gaelic for ‘North Highland Waxy Whisky’ – was 55.4%abv. By this time, my ability to pick out flavours, apart from sweetness and waxiness, had collapsed but this was indeed classic, bourbon cask matured Clynelish and the reader is recommended to by the 14 year old distillery bottle for a benchmark and compare the two. With time running short, I headed out after tasting a bonus dram of the delicious ‘Paul John’ peated Indian whisky where the angel’s share is some 22%.

Berry Brothers tasting - Hiro's pic

                                      

Antipodean Wildlife and High Visibility at Benromach Distillery

Sunday morning brought us to Benromach where Susan Colville was delighted to meet old friend Brett the Kiwi and new friend Bruce the wallaby. After watching a promotional DVD narrated by Michael Urquhart, we headed round the distillery, built in 1898 and then closed and gutted by previous owners Diageo in 1983, leaving behind only the buildings and the water supply.

Malting was carried out at the distillery until the mid-1960’s, symptomatic of most of the industry. Benromach uses a combination of both brewer’s and distillers yeast, making it virtually unique in Scotland. This is believed to give richness to the flavour at this manual distillery where almost nothing is automated with no pressure or temperature gauges and the spirit hand-filled into first fill bourbon and sherry casks.

Despite there not being production on Sunday, Susan donned her Hi Vis jacket for our tour and told us that Benromach and nearby Dallas Dhu, closed in 1983, were built as mirror images of each other by Charles Doig. While Dallas Dhu has been preserved with replica equipment, Benromach has changed considerably. Pagoda roofs were removed at the same time as malting was ceased on the premises.

Benromach tour

Malt from Inverness is peated to between 10 and 12 ppm while the ‘Organic’ expression uses no peat and the ‘Peat Smoke’ has as much peat as can be fitted into the barley. 13 tons of malt are used per week with 1.5 tons used per mash. One man is on each shift with almost the entire distillery fitted into one room as the new distillery is a small fraction of the size of the old one which Susan reckons could make almost 2 million litres per year, about the same size as the popular Glen Moray, a few miles away.

Fermentation can take 48, 72 or 120 hours with the longer fermentation adding nuttiness. Cloudy wort means that the washbacks do not require switchers. Spirit cutting is also done by hand. Old stock is held at Elgin while post 1998 stock is held on site. Benromach made 135000 litres in 2013 and is on course to make 250000 in 2014. 40 percent of spirit is filled into Jim Beam bourbon casks with the rest filled into Jerez sherry casks, not counting the numerous small batch experiments in progress and the ‘Organic’ which is filled into certified organic Missouri oak. After a cleanout, the Organic’s spirit is made in January and 100 casks are filled per year while the same number of ‘Peat Smoke’ casks are filled in December.

The ageing warehouse will be knocked down then rebuilt and expanded though it does contain the historic 2006 cask that has the millionth litre produced by G&M. Benromach is exported to 42 countries, a remarkable feat for such a distillery of this size. In the pipeline is a 15 year old, stocks permitting.

Susan with Bruce the Wallaby

Our tasting began with the newly packaged ‘Organic’, at 43%abv. This uses organic barley from Mulben, in Banffshire, and the nose had soft bourbon with warm toast and butter and a big, punchy, fruity taste. Susan prefers Benromach from bourbon casks, believing it shows the distillery character and our sample of the fill-your-own, at 61.9%abv, had a light, floral nose, tasting of vanilla, honey and cream.

By contrast, the Oloroso cask sample, at 57.6%abv, was sweet and surprisingly light, not being a Benromach A’bunadh or 105. It was improved by adding the bourbon cask sample to it.
After another taste of the flagship 10 year old, we tasted the 30 year old, at 43%abv, which is currently 34 years old, in fact, and a fine sample of the old distillery’s product. Matured in first fill and refill casks, this was a luxurious evening whisky with a notably fruity taste. After that, there was a taste of history in the form of the 1976 vintage, bottled in 2012 at 46%abv. Light and creamy, this was a subtle dram.

Finally, the ‘current ‘Peat smoke’, at 46%abv, had used barley with 67ppm phenol, in contrast to Diageo’s Benromach that used no peat at all. There was smoke, salt and peat on the nose though the taste was much lighter than the level of peat would lead one to expect. There was the taste of delicate salted, smoked fish to finish with. With that, Susan removed her Hi Vis vest and promptly became invisible. (Rumour has it that she and her beloved Amazonian tree frogs had run off with Bruce the wallaby).

Benromach distillery shop

Morrison and Mackay Whiskies with Peter Mackay

The ‘Old Perth’ blended malt whisky from Morrison and Mackay (M&M) is currently on its third batch. In our glasses, however, was the first batch, at 43%abv. There was cereal and malt on the nose with smooth citrus tastes and the lemon from a lemon meringue pie to finish. As we were tasting, Peter told us that the core of this particular blend will always be Aultmore, matured in bourbon casks.

5 seconds later, the wind changed and they were stuck like that

The first of four ‘Strictly Limited’ releases, all at 46%abv, was a 1995 ‘Westport’, taken from two bourbon casks. Westport is mostly from a highland distillery in a glen of tranquility with an added teaspoon of whisky from a distillery in Elgin. This had peaches in syrup and cream on the nose with a mellow citrus taste and lemon curd on the finish.

Also from 2 casks was a 17 year old Benrinnes that Peter thought was the best of the range bottled this year. A dram worth spending considerable time on, it had syrup and warm golden honey on the nose with vanilla and delicate, light bourbon in the middle. Rolling this on the tongue gave a long, spicy finish. As we tasted, Peter paid tribute to Mike Lord’s generosity ‘coming out in spades’, just like a combination of Motorhead and the Village People, I guess.

A 1995 Speyside had fudge and wedding cake aromas while Peter described it as ‘Snickers in a glass’ and ‘a whisky for Germans’. Tasting, I found nuts and chocolate on the taste with some bitter oranges to finish.

A 1988 Celebration of the Cask Linkwood, at 50.7%abv, had been matured in a bourbon cask with three months finishing in Oloroso sherry. This whisky had two sister casks, bottled circa 2011/12, one of which tasted like millionaire shortbread. A chewy and sweet dram, I found it deliciously well balanced.
Interestingly, before finishing, Peter told us that the Linkwood was paler in colour than our final whisky, a 1997 Ledaig. This had a minty nose with toffee and smoke but was milder to taste, with biscuits and fruit present. Unlike the younger Ledaig available from Morrison and Mackay, this was more like a peaty Highland or Speyside whisky than one from Islay.

Peter Mackay

An evening with Robin Laing

Robin’s back catalogue is reviewed in previous reports and, in addition, he played a number of new tracks, including one about Bannockburn, one called ‘Whisky Cathedral’ and another entitled ‘Black Rose’. His whiskies for the evening were the Bruichladdich ‘Scottish Barley’, at 50%abv, 1989 ‘Images of Dufftown’ from ‘Malts of Scotland’, at 53.2%abv, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Benromach Peat Smoke, Benriach 15 Tawny port finish, reviewed in previous reports, and the UK exclusive 1995 Glendronach PX cask, at 52.5%abv. Interestingly, compared to the Port Charlotte, the Benromach tasted lighter, despite a higher level of peat in the barley. Robin is particularly fond of the Bruichladdich ‘Scottish Barley’, as am I. Despite no peat, this is a big, effervescent dram with spice and sweetness in balance throughout. The Glendronach tasted of burnt fruitcake, raisins and toffee and, again, Robin is a big fan.

A thought-provoker for the evening was Robin’s suggestion that limbo dancing in a kilt should be made an Olympic sport – he reckons it is guaranteed TV time.

As usual, highlights from Robin’s performance are available on both Facebook and www.youtube.com.

Robin and his whiskies

 

I was there at Balvenie Distillery

At Balvenie, David Mair took us round. Most of the process has been covered extensively in the reports for the autumn festival of 2010 and the spring festival of 2013 and, this time, the maltings was under repair and out of bounds. David told us that it produces between 10 and 15 percent of the malt needed. A small amount of peat is used on site and, indeed, the distillery produces peated spirit for 10 days out of the year though no bottling date is indicated yet for the whisky.

Balvenie uses different water than nearby sister distillery Glenfiddich uses although the mineral content of the water does not differ. Steeping tanks were added in 1928 and are currently in the process of being replaced, at the time of writing. Interestingly, the original stills had come from Lagavulin and Glen Albyn distilleries. These were sold and the distillery changed to one still shape though David didn’t know which. Unusually, all the stills are the same shape at Balvenie.

David Mair of Balvenie

The reader is recommended to join the ‘Warehouse 24’ club online for free and tours must be booked by contacting the distillery directly with a limited number of places available per tour. In the aforementioned warehouse, there are 3 casks available for to taste and bottle 200 ml of: first-fill bourbon, refill bourbon and first-fill sherry. These were soft and creamy, tasted of banana and honey and of rich wedding cake, respectively. Also available are a 1974 refill bourbon cask and a 1982 sherry cask. The old Tun 1401 is gone, replaced by the 8000 litre capacity Tun 1509. Each batch of this is compiled by malt master David Stewart and consists of 42 casks of between 21 and 40 years of age. Marrying takes 3 months.

Our vertical began with the widely available ‘Doublewood’ 12 year old, the distillery’s biggest selling bottling. After that, we had the 14 year old ‘Caribbean Cask’, at 43%abv, reviewed in the spring 2013 report. A drop of water opens this to reveal fudge and rum and raisin ice cream. A new addition to the range is the 15 year old ‘Single Sherry Barrel’, at a standard 47.8%abv. Each chosen barrel yields no more than 650 bottles and the whisky has a big punch of raisins, plums and wedding cake. David recommends a single drop of water with this one.

The 17 year old ‘Doublewood’, at 43%abv, is available in a miniatures pack with the 12 year old and the ‘Caribbean cask’. Reviewed in spring 2013 as well, I found fizzy sherbet this time around. The 21 year old Port Wood finish was extensively reviewed in my autumn 2008 report and is a fine accompaniment to a serving of cheese after dinner.

The last 3 whiskies were batch 1 of the Tun 1509, at 47.1%abv, and samples from the 1974 and 1982 casks mentioned earlier. The first of these sold out very quickly on release and all 3 were completely beyond my ability to describe, in a short space of time and we were pushed for time by then. However, for a relatively small outlay, readers of this report can book a tour and taste these whiskies, each of which constitute an ‘I was there’ moment. Also, be sure to bring a glass or a small cup for best results.

Moist Von Lipwig at Balvenie
                                      

 

 Graham Dunnet of Douglas Laing

 Making his debut in Dufftown was Islay man Graham Dunnet who was standing in for the absent Jan Beckers. Jan, it turned out, had headed to London where, ever the practical joker, he persuaded the mayor that it would be a brilliant wheeze to stand up at his party’s conference with a brick. (Jan is reported to have purred at the success of this little jape.)

Graham Dunnet photographs the audience

At 46.8%abv, the newly released ‘Timorous Beastie’ was a blend of highland malts from Glengoyne, Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Blair Athol. This whisky sparked a frenzy of comments from my table and elsewhere in the hall. I found lime citrus on the nose while Graham got barley sugar and Danny got green apples, something that Graham believes is an indicator of young whisky. Snorre found toffee and caramel while I got shortbread notes on the taste. The finish had spice, apple crumble and apple sauce with the addition of water making it minty. An exceptionally pale and delicious Provenance Mortlach, at 46%abv, smelled of shortbread and tasted of caramel shortcake with some light vanilla and peaches.

An ‘Old Particular’ (OP) 15 year old Benrinnes, at 48.4%abv, smelled of peaches and fruit salad chew bars, tasting of bourbon and vanilla. Snorre found raspberries in this one while Leif, his countryman, found plum jam and Pat Lunn tasted salted kippers. An OP 1997 Glenrothes, at 56.4%abv, from a refill hogshead had notes of bourbon while Graham got maltiness, Neil Simpson found cereal and a lady in the audience detected marzipan. I also tasted boiled sweets with water making it revealing mint and a creamy finish.

1989 Clan Denny Strathclyde grain whisky, at 56.2%abv, had an aroma of soft, sweet vanilla with Graham getting muscovado sugar. Neil found banana flavours on the addition of water while I tasted caramel milk chocolate. Graham believes that grain whisky is ideal for the summer and I will test this out the next time that Scotland has a summer as we don’t have one every year. We ended with an 8 year old Provenance Laphroaig, at 46%abv. A huge dram with a very punch, it was quelled with a drop of water. It tasted of salt, peat and smoked fish with sweetness appearing in time. The finish was long and elegant and the reader is recommended to compare it to the widely available ‘Quarter Cask’ official bottling.

Graham asked what was the audience’s favourite and the smooth, luxurious Strathclyde won hands down.

 

Cadenhead’s tasting with Mark Watt-Glenlivet

Unlike me, Mark Watt does not have a leg to stand on when the foot’s on the other hand and those who have seen him legless confirm this is true. Introducing, Mike Lord said that Mark has pushed back the boundaries of good sense. With that, our first whisky was a 24 year old ‘Small Batch’ Miltonduff-Glenlivet, at 55.3%abv, taken from 2 hogsheads. This was fresh, juicy and creamy and led Mark to declare that the whole point of an independent bottler is to give you something unusual. He believes this to be a fine session whisky or ‘report-writing’ whisky. I found the taste of digestive biscuits with lemon meringue pie though Mark agreed with me that, despite the quality of the whisky, it is difficult to write about.

Mark Watt-Glenlivet

Mark says he warms up in the morning with whisky, reasoning that you wouldn’t run without warming up. His ‘Creations’ 17 year old blended whisky contained 1977 Caperdonich with other whisky from Ardmore, Clynelish, Invergordon and Auchroisk. Stephen Lunn thought it had way too much Clynelish and Mark reckoned that was the best insult ever. Strangely enough, the previous Miltonduff could have been added to this without changing the character as the blend is delicate, creamy and sweet with lemon meringue pie. As a bonus, we had a cask sample of the Invergordon grain whisky that had been a component of the blend.

As an aside, Mark told us that the Benriach 10 year old had made him cry as he had accidentally poured it in his eye, a drink problem also suffered by Ted Striker in ‘Airplane’. In another aside, Mark said his company likes to add the suffix of Glenlivet to a number of distilleries as these distilleries had done so themselves in previous decades to cash in on the name of the first licensed Scotch whisky distillery despite being miles away from both the distillery and the valley in question.

Re-appearing from May was the 23 year old Aberlour-Glenlivet, at 54.9%abv, had been taken from 2 hogsheads. As we tasted, Mark said Cadenhead’s bottle bourbon and received a two-fingered salute from one audience member for that. Parent Company J and A Mitchell are the second biggest employer in Campbeltown after the local council though the council does less.

A 1985 Glenburgie should be bottled soon as a single cask release, at 57.3%abv, and it tasted of orange cream and blood orange chocolate. (Yes, this chocolate is available to buy.) Mark also said he thought the 80’s were coming back again though perhaps could have lived without me telling him I would play Van Halen to him again. A 1995 Speyside-Glenlivet, taken from a refill butt and a first fill butt, led Snorre to declare it was the best from the distillery he’d had. At 62.8%abv, this was a beast of a whisky though one commentator believed that water gave it an easy-drinking character. The session became steadily more boisterous, despite no Aberdonians being present, and I tasted wine and cereal on this whisky. Mark told a story of having teeth done, which brought pictures of Richard Hammond to mind, and another of the time he was invited back to a cellar to watch a DVD of himself in action. (He declined).

A cask sample of 2001 Bowmore, from 2 refill barrels, had mint and smoky notes to it and had the character of a highland whisky, rather than one from Islay. Mark thinks that Bowmore’s spirit distilled between 1999 and 2001 will be as highly regarded in 2030 as Black Bowmore is today.

 

At the end of the festival, an honourable mention must go to Alan’s Tannochbrae warm-up blending of the Aberlour 10 and Monkey Shoulder which was delicious and all credit to him for spraying whisky on Robin’s tongue as he sang about ‘Whisky for Breakfast’, the title track of his current album.

The WSD drams party saw Mike announce that Hankey Bannister Heritage had been a clear winner of the blind blends tasting while Aberlour 15 had tied with Glendronach 18 as the best whisky to pair with haggis and that Singleton of Dufftown ‘Sunray’ had been the popular choice to go with bacon.

With that, I’d like to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the festival and, in particular, Mike Lord and his wife Val, Vicky and Kirsten at the Whisky Shop, Warren, Gemma and the rest of the crew, Claus for the proofreading, Steve Oliver, the Tannochbrae, the Coffee Pot café, Hiro for the bucket of Kininvie and the photo, Steve and Annie for the Balvenie distillery picture.

I’m off to join a club with a really thick layer of chocolate, those are the best, and I hope to see all of you again at the spring festival.

The Whisky Shop Autumn Festival - The Best Blend

At The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival this year we have been continuing our search for the best "Blend" or "Blend of Malts" in our Blind Blends competition.  Guest to the festival could sample 5 whiskies in a blind tasting and vote for their favourite.  The winner from the same event last year, Hankey Banister Heritage, went up against 4 new challengers.  Due to the rush of blends recently from Independent Bottlers we decided to focus on them this time.  The challengers were Scallywag, Highland Journey, Spice King 12 and Timerous Beastie.

Competition was fierce with good showings from both Timerous Beastie and Spice King 12 but Hankey Banister was able to retain its title for another year.  The first of the 26 whiskies that have been in this competition to do so.  Hankey Banister Heritage will go on to face 4 new challengers next year.

Hankey Banister Heritage

WSD Autumn Festival 2014

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival - The Best Malt for Haggis

At this year's Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival we have been continuing our search for the best single malt to go with Haggis.  Neepies and Tatties were also provided as these are expected but it is the Haggis we are focusing,

The champion from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2014, Aberlour 15 Select Cask went up against three new challengers: Singelton Tailfire, Glendronach 18 Port and An Cnoc Flaughter.

For the first time ever we have had a dead heat, both Glendronach 18 Tawny Port and Aberlour 15 Select Cask where clear outright winners.  These 2 whiskies will go in to the next competition at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2015.

Glendronach 18 Port

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aberlour 15 Select Cask Reserve

WSD Autumn Festival 2014

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival - The Best Malt with a Bacon Roll

At this year's Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival we have been continuing our search for the best single malt to have with a bacon roll.  Guests to the festival could come along to a special food and whisky tasting and try 4 different single malts with a bacon roll.  No sauce!  This is science.  One of the 4 was the current champion from previous festivals (both The Whisky Shop Duffown Autumn Festival and The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival), Benriach 20.  This whisky was up against 3 new challengers: Singleton Sunray, Mortlach Rare Old and Glenfiddich Malt Masters Edition.

The new winner is Singleton of Dufftown Sunray and this will go through as the best Single Malt to have with a bacon roll to face new challengers at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2015.

Singleton Sunray

 

Gordon & MacPhail Ultra Collection

Four extremely rare Speyside whiskies chosen jointly by members of the third and fourth generations of the Urquhart family have been released under the prestigious Private Collection Ultra by Gordon & MacPhail and 1 of each is available from The Whisky Shop Dufftown priced at £6250.  They all have the same bottle number if the set is required.

The whiskies are:

• A 61 Year Old Linkwood, the oldest ever released, from cask No.279, selected by retired director Rosemary Rankin and her son Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of UK Sales,

Private Collection Linkwood 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• A 62 Year Old Glenlivet initially matured in first fill Hogshead before being transferred to another first fill Hogshead in January 1969, selected by retired Managing Director Ian Urquhart, his son Neil, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Logistics and Facilities, and daughter Jenny Houldsworth, who is a Non-Executive Director of the company.

Private Collection Glenlivet 1952

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• A 63 Year Old Mortlach from the company’s last cask of 1951 Mortlach, selected by retired Joint Managing Director David Urquhart and his twin sons Stuart, Gordon & MacPhail’s Whisky Supply Manager, and Richard, Export Sales Executive

Private Collection Mortlach 1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• A 57 Year Old Strathisla, the oldest ever released, selected by current Managing Director Michael Urquhart and his daughter Laura Urquhart, Gordon & MacPhail Brand Manager.

Private Collection Strathisla 1957

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The four whiskies in the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Ultra are presented in beautifully-designed decanters, individually numbered, with the whisky details engraved and in-filled with silver colour. A silver-plated neck collar and stopper adorns each decanter.

Wood, metal and glass are combined in a striking and innovative way to protect and display the whisky; the decanter nestles in a glass-bottomed pack, revealing a hint of the whisky colour.

Private Collection Ultra-9

 

A series of four books by whisky writer Jonny McCormick, one for each of the whiskies, tells the story of Gordon & MacPhail and the whisky and regales the reader with tales of origins and ancestry, of people, place and belonging.

Private Collection Ultra-11

Adelphi Glenrothes 2007 7

New Releases - Adelphi

We now have in the latest releases from Adelphi.  As usual they are bunch of crackers.  These include the whiskies featured in the Adelphi tasting during The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival.

Unfortunately these whiskies were shipped without the usual tasting notes so where we can we have included our own (my) tasting notes.  These were taken during The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn festival and were really only for my use never to see the light of day so they are not up to our (my) usual standard and may have been influenced by The Gang on my table at the tasting.  They are included anyway.

Click on the name of each whisky to see more details.

Adelphi Linkwood 1990 24 Years Old

This is a sparkling Linkwood from a refill cask which allows so much character to come through.

Adelphi Linkwood 1990 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Bladnoch 1990 24 Years Old

Unfortunately we have not been able to taste this whisky but we are assured it is a  top notch bourbon cask Bladnoch.

Adelphi Bladnoch 1990 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Longmorn 1992 22 Years Old

A real sophisticated and healthy breakfast bar buffet of flavours.  An exceptional Longmorn.

Adelphi Longmorn 1992 22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Glenrothes 2007 7 Years Old

Do not focus on the age here.  For those that have had previous young Adelphi Glenrothes you will no why.  This is a full on sherry cask whisky.  It has real deep chocolate notes may be even rum and raisin ice cream.

Adelphi Glenrothes 2007 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Fascadale Batch 7 Highland Park 14 Years Old

This Adelphi describe this Highland Park as being a breather on the hill with lemon drizzle cake, Red Pippin apples, creamy highland fudge and peat bogs,  A little smoke to taste with lingering fresh apple skins.  For me it brought to mind lemon curd tarts on the palate and ashy mint imperials on the palate.  A cracking Highland Park.

Adelphi Fascadale Batch 7 Highland Park 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Ardmore 2000 14 Years Old

Lots of barley and nuts on this Ardmore and the consensus of The Gang was also Banana Nesquick and their knowledge of such things is unquestionable.

Adelphi Ardmore 2000 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelphi Glen Garioach 1993 21 Years Old

Probably the star of the tasting at The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival this is already fast selling out.  We have Adelphi's tasting note from this one so take a look.  I will just add the combined summary of The Gang which was chocolate ragu.  Trust me.  It's great.

Adelphi Glen Garioch 1992 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Mike Lord

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Spring 2014

Report by Bruce Crichton

After reading ‘Wallabies in Kangaroo Courts’ by Anubis Mulligan, I headed to Dufftown. Now well versed in marsupial legalities, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed and after many days of great whisky, food, music, tours, dress code violations and
Status Quo escapades, here is my account of it.

Moist Von Lipwig, perplexed earlobe of Atlantis, flatmate of Lord Lucan, Shergar and Jimmy Hoffa

This report is only a rough guide and may contain factual errors, for which I apologize in advance. Tasting notes are subjective and comment is added from experts present during note taking. To shorten the report, I refer the reader to previous reports and tastings if a whisky re-appears. I also assume the reader is familiar with widely available bottlings mentioned. Any cask samples, discontinued releases and fill-your-own (FYO) tasted are described briefly, as these may not be available to buy. When water added was, literally, one drop and whiskies were 40% abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated. Finally, many references are in this report to a prominent festivalgoer known as ‘Salmon-Pink’ who had such an impact at the festival that none of those who met him will ever forget him, no matter how hard they try.

 

‘It all started with a big dram’ again at the Whiskyshop Dufftown

Whisky Shop Dufftown (WSD) owner Mike Lord had selected four drams that had caught his eye. Working more efficiently than last year, he had only needed to work a series of 29-hour days to find these aA big dram pleasend we began with the Chivas Cask Strength Edition 1993 Scapa, at 58.6% abv. This vintage seems to be unbeatable for the Orkney distillery as previous releases from this year by Chivas and by Gordon and MacPhail have been noted for their quality. The addition of water revealed the taste of soft bourbon and a fruity sweetness. Other whiskies from this range are available from the shop and will probably go fast.

Next up was Glenmorangie ‘Companta’, at 46%abv. Named after the Gaelic word for friendship, this had been finished in Cote de Rhone wine casks. It had the taste of rich, dark chocolate and treacle toffees. Very heavy and rich, this tasted like a whisky that would sell well in Germany.

A 1991 Glenfarclas Family Cask, exclusive to the WSD, at 53.8%abv, was taken from a first fill Oloroso sherry butt. Mike had chosen this one from 20 samples which was, apparently, very hard work and, having chosen this one, he was heard to say ‘you’re my very, very best friend’. He also reckons that magic happens in the casks at the distillery. I found it to have the taste of thick, chewy licorice and very drying finish. Phil Yorke found the taste of lime zest. Neither of us needed to add water and one commentator found that four drops of water made the sweetness disappear to the whisky’s detriment.

Also exclusive to the shop was a 9 year old Caol Ila, at 60.3% abv, from Gordon and MacPhail. Taken from a refill bourbon cask, it had an unusually sweet nose, almost Bowmore-like with its minty notes. Phil tasted cereal and oatcakes while I got sweet and smoky flavours and a real chewiness. The finish was sweet, smoky and peppery at the very end.

It all started with a big dram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near the end, I jousted with the dapper Warren Marsden and we drew the joint conclusion that any event with a dress code would be treated by me as if it were radioactive and that I wouldn’t go to any event that had a dress code I could pass, which is especially important as I’m me and no one else is. Suddenly aware that I had begun to talk drivel at an alarmingly early stage of the evening, I decided to call it a night.

Piper at the gate of drams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenburgie distillery – home of Ballantine’s

Just outside Elgin lies Glenburgie distillery, home of the Ballantine’s blends, and the first public tour for the festival was hosted by Chris Brousseau. We began with a glass of the widely available ‘Finest’ which had an interesting cereal maltiness and which this writer finds is complimented by a bag of Minstrels and either a spaghetti western or a vintage Hammer horror film.

Ballantines range
The new Glenburgie distillery was built in 2005 and the old distillery is adjacent to it, Chris told us, before giving us some factoids about the brand. Born in 1809, George Ballantine left school at 12 and opened his grocery in 1827. George was a pioneer of advertising and had innovative ideas such as free delivery, free samples and brand identity. Well ahead of his time and an expert at blending, his first releases were 5 and 7 year old whiskies. His son, George junior, continued the trend by buying whisky from Scapa in 1895, a few months after the distillery opened.
Chris Brousseau at Glenburgie

In 1810, Kilnflat distillery was founded by John Paul. In 1878, it became Glenburgie. In 1957, Hiram Walker, owners of Ballantine’s, introduced Lomond stills to make Glencraig whisky while neighbouring Miltonduff distillery made Mosstowie using the same stills. In 2008, capacity was increased to 4.2 million litres per year and the number of stills increased from 4 to 6.
There are 30 mashes per week with 7.5 tons of malt per mash. Fermentation takes 50 – 60 hours and aims to produce sweet, fruity spirit. Moving to the warehouse, Chris pointed out the unusual fact that all the casks are the same size and that all the whiskies in the blend are matured in bourbon casks. Glenburgie, together with neighbouring Miltonduff, Scapa and Glentauchers are the key Ballatine’s malts.

After re-tasting the ‘Finest’, we had the delicious 12 year old, a blend launched in 1960. The nose was soft, with syrup and honey and it tasted of spicy vanilla, warm honey and peach syrup before some light smoke on the finish. There have been 21 special releases of the blend since 1990 including 8 and 12 year old vatted or blended malts for Asia, indicating that the brand has not been content to rest on its laurels.

Ballantine’s had large stocks of old whisky, early in the 20th century, in the wake of prohibition. Because of this, they were able to launch the 17 and 30 year old blends. The 17 year old, at 43%abv, had vanilla, icing sugar and slight smoke on the nose and the same on the taste, followed by a stylish bite and a long, chewy finish. The reader is recommended to take a big mouthful and roll on the tongue for a big peat punch.

The 21 year old, also at 43%abv, had a lovely, warming character with cream, honey, smoke, and a long finish. The 30 year old had a heather honey nose. With no smoke, there was bourbon, vanilla, cream, banana foam sweets, honey and light toffee sauce. Stuart Terris got ‘Toffo’ sweets when he tasted.

We closed the session with a smooth, sweet and chewy 14 year old Glenburgie, at 60.5%abv.

Chris Brousseau and Ballantines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cask Strength Gordon and MacPhail

Presenting a series of cask strength whiskies from Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) was Stephen Rankin, descended from John Urquhart, the man who inherited the business from the original owners.

Stephen Rankin of Gordon and MacPhail

Bottled in January 2014, a 1995 Aberfeldy, at 55.8%abv, had been matured in refill sherry casks that gave it the smell of Refreshers and Parma violets. There was the taste of vanilla and some astringency and a peppery bite. Water revealed some citrus while Phil Yorke detected soft lemon on the palate.

As we tasted, Stephen recounted looking over archives from 1914 and finding an order for 9 pints of Linkwood. He also noted that his company has 9000 casks at distilleries, 6000 in Elgin and between 9 and 10000 at the Benromach distillery, ensuring they don’t have all their eggs in one basket, as it were.

A delicious 1991 Bruichladdich, at 54.9%abv, matured in refill hogsheads and bottled in 2012 had light, soft bourbon and floral notes. It tasted of warm, sweet vanilla and golden honey. Danny Maguire found the taste of stewed fruits on the addition of water. Danny was slightly annoyed that someone had spiked another of his drinks and, when we looked in the glass, sure enough, there were many hedgehogs swimming about merrily. Stephen finds that cask strength whiskies are generally waxy while a Dutch observer reckoned there was fudge on the taste.

2003 Benromach, at 58.2%, was in the ‘no home should be without’ category. Taken from 3 first fill bourbon casks, it smelled of toffee and fudge ice cream with toffee sauce on top. There was a pleasing smoky taste that gave way to vanilla sweetness with the addition of water.

Displaying his keen knowledge of history, Stephen told us of how John Urquhart was taken on at the age of 15 and, by 1915, owned the company. Interestingly, James Gordon’s wife thought lorries would never catch on. Praising the vision and foresight of his great grandfather, George Urquhart, Stephen said that G&M was bottling single malts some 60 years before many illustrious distilleries. He had enjoyed great relationships with distillers, helping a number of them with their cash flow and provided his own casks to mature the spirit.

Bottled in 2014, a 1995 Glentauchers, at 58.3%abv, smelled of treacle and tasted slightly prickly with toffee, cherries and a pleasant cough syrup. In fine form, Phil Yorke noted the taste of cloves and sweet oranges, with eucalyptus to finish.

Stephen found a 1994 Tormore, bottled in 2007 at 59.9%abv, very waxy. Taken from two first fill sherry casks, there were toffee, fudge, chocolate and honey aromas with the taste of stewed fruits, prunes and plums, wedding cake and icing. The finish was short but punchy, nonetheless.

As the tasting drew to a close, a strange odour became noticeable and the source of it turned out to be Salmon Pink who had arrived by bicycle earlier, having been bog snorkeling beforehand – he had forgotten to flush. Apologizing profusely, he promised to use stronger bleach next time.

Heading to the WSD, I had a perplexing encounter with a man who was filling in the whisky competition and who took exception to my Status Quo t-shirt. Turning the tables quickly, I drew the conclusion that his ire was due to his being in the band but being fired before they had any hits and he didn’t find it amusing that I told him I was staying in Atlantis with Lord Lucan, Shergar and Jimmy Hoffa, unlike all those who were standing behind him. I left him fully enveloped in the pyjamas of perplexity before heading back to the hall for my next tasting.

 

Berry Brothers and Rudd, the Reaper, Whitney and Jim Murray

In no mood to waste time and armed with several film soundtracks, Jonny MacMillan, presenting the best of Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR) began with a slide comparing a single cask BBR bottling with a thinly disguised bottle of ‘Isle of Fettermore’ with the former being unchilfiltered and coloured and the latter anything but. (The alcoholic strength of each bottling is 46% abv, if not otherwise indicated).

A 1987 Linkwood, 25 years old, smelled of sherbet lemons with Jonny finding a peaches and cream character about it. Lemon zest and vanilla followed and the finish was short.

A 1993 Glen Keith, at 55.2%abv, was truly the stuff of legend. Smelling of fruit salad chew bars, the taste was rich and fruity with peach syrup. Water unlocked some bourbon notes and light golden honey and the finish was soothing and long. Jonny asked for the audience’s view of the whisky and used my exclamation of ‘awesome’ as an official note.

A 1982 Duttown, at 53.4%abv, had some light coffee and cocoa aromas and a soft, velvety taste before a creamy and slightly smoky finish. As he told us of the whisky, Jonny mentioned Whisky Bible writer Jim Murray and there suddenly came a burst of Whitney Houston singing ‘I will always love you’, followed by a montage of slides from Jonny’s presentation. Later, and too much acclaim, I suggested another movie soundtrack favourite ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ as an alternative tune to accompany the slides. Lightening the mood, Jonny told us the story of his foil, a man who wears a t-shirt saying ‘I like sniffing bungholes’, and his winning of a bet with an American in a local bar.

Moving on, a 1989 Cragganmore, at 54.5%abv, had been bottled in 2011 under the ‘John Milroy’ name. Only two casks per year are given this name and this one had some soft smoke and sweetness on the nose and a crisp taste with delicate vanilla. The finish was long.

As the tasting moved on, Salmon Pink was becoming increasingly boisterous, talking a load of Baldrick’s fine wine and smelling of it as well, winding the audience up no end.

On a more pleasant note, a 1988 Longmorn, had obvious vanilla aromas and a rich silky bourbon taste. We then ended with a very pale, peated 2006 Bunnahabhain, at 57.8%abv. This had minty toffee and smoke on the nose and subtly sweet smokiness on the taste. The finish was huge and short. As we considered the whisky, Jonny showed us a picture of the ‘Bunna Haven’ Indian restaurant, a clip of ‘The Muppets’ and slides of his bunghole-sniffing foil while recounting the tale of a car crash at the only roundabout on Islay.

 

Saturday Morning Whisky Fair

Apologizing for his conduct the previous day, Salmon Pink had sobered up with some of Baldrick’s coffee. This is a favourite of his as he has an inexhaustible supply of sugar substitute, judging by his clothing.

The air cleared, as far as it can with Salmon Pink around, and I was free to enjoy the fair, beginning with a 22 year old Bruichladdich, at 53.5%abv, from ‘Dreamdrams.co.uk’ was sweet and lightly salty. This old school ‘Laddie’ had a light coating of peat that gave it a spine and made it a great start to the morning.

Further highlights included G&M’s ‘MacPhail’s Collection’ 8 year old Tamdhu, at 43%abv, a cheery low-budget dram with mints and honeycomb sweets on the nose and a vanilla taste. Creamy and with a hint of smoke, a charming. 1997 Connoisseur’s Choice Jura, at 46%, had come from sherry hogsheads.

The Adelphi 1990 Benriach and Fascadale 12 year old would reappear later that day. A 1989 Bunnahabhain, at 47.2%abv, had a soft, minty nose and tasted of smoked fish. The medium length finish was salty.

Tomintoul Whisky Castle’s 1998 Glengoyne, at 53.1%abv, was fantastically dark. It had a rich nose and taste with Christmas cake and treacle flavou rs. The finish was sharp and had an extremely big punch which the reader is invited to compare to that of the standard cask strength distillery release.

As master distiller Robert Fleming told us a cautionary tale about the practice of ‘dramming’, I found the Glencadam 14 year old Oloroso finish to taste of Turkish delight. The 12 year old Port Wood finish was light with fruity and sherbet notes. Both were bottled at 46% abv.

Benriach’s new Glenglassaugh ‘Torfa’, at 50%abv, had been matured for four years in first fill bourbon casks and used barley peated to 20 parts per million (ppm). There was sweet peat on the nose while the taste was also sweet and elegant with only the finish betraying its relative youth.

Benriach collection

Returning to the ‘Dream Drams’ table, a 10 year old Bowmore, at 60.3%abv, had been matured in a bourbon cask and offered a no-nonsense peat punch ideal for lovers of such whiskies.
 

 

 

Adelphi Tasting with Antonia Bruce

Hot off the bottling line or hot off Antonia’s car, were the latest Adelphi selections. Adelphi’s Ardnamurchan distillery is up but was not running, at the time of writing. The company is hopeful that distilling will begin in the late summer.

Glen Grant 21 year old, at 56.6&abv, displayed moderate beading when shaken and tasted sharp with fresh lemon while Bill Sharp found bananas and tropical fruit. A drop of water revealed pear drop sweets on the finish. A Benriach 23 year old, at 52.9%abv, had sweetness and smokiness, like many other festival drams. Antonia found Angel Delight flavours and thinks water brings out a herbal quality to the whisky.

A 32 year old Miltonduff, at 53.1%abv, had been matured in a refill bourbon cask. Antonia got baked apples on the nose while I detected lemon curd and bananas. The middle was interesting, tasting as it did of blood orange chocolate – available from Green and Black – and watered unlocked a spicy finish with some more orange sweetness. A 7 year old Glenrothes, at 67.5%abv, had the classic sherry cask tastes of Bovril, coffee and treacle. Surprisingly smooth, despite the high strength, there were also notes of Dundee cake while Antonia got almonds and marsala. Water freshened it considerably but the finish was short, as is often the case with such youthful whiskies.

Continuing Adelphi’s lightly peated Fascadale series was a 12 year old Clynelish, at 46%abv. Since Clynelish is unpeated, it’s this writer’s view that the cask had previously held spirit from the long closed Brora distillery. The whisky was very pale, having been matured in well used casks, and I smelled Refreshers, Parma violets and many other fizzy sweets. Adelphi recommend this to accompany Cullen Skink or smoked salmon. The taste was sweet, delicate and crisp with hints of salt and peat that Antonia also thinks would make this a good whisky to pair with cheese.

Morrison and Mackay Whiskies with Peter Mackay

Formerly known as Carn Mor, the company will have changed its name to ‘Morrison and Mackay’ by the time the report is published. The name change reflects some 140 years of industry experience. Morrison and Mackay plan to move to the other side of the city of Perth where a new warehouse facility will allow them to mature more whisky in sherry casks.

Peter opened with the first of four ‘Strictly Limited’ releases, all at 46%abv, a 1995 Glenallachie, taken from two bourbon hogsheads. Again, there were numerous fizzy sweets on the nose, my Achilles heel when the foot’s on the other hand. After extricating myself from this anatomical nonsense, I found the taste of crisp vanilla with both lemon zest and lemon curd before spice, pepper and bourbon appeared at the finish. As is often the case with this range, it’s recommended with literally one drop of water.

Peter Mackay - celebration of the cask

Next, Peter recounted a horror story from a festival in Frankfurt where, for an hour and three quarters, no one could touch their glass, let alone taste the whisky. Noting that their whiskies are not coloured or chilfiltered, Peter thinks adding caramel to such a whisky makes it look there’s mud in the bottle.

A 1997 Arran had been bottled only a month before, again from two bourbon casks. Lightening considerably with a drop of water there was vanilla, peaches and cream with a spicy and very long finish.

A man after my own heart in one regard, Peter told us that he likes Mortlach and he likes sherry casks but not particularly both together. Proving him correct was a lovely 1998 Mortlach that had a fizzy sherbet nose with cream, velvet, biscuits and shortbread on the taste. This truly was the stuff of legend and those sitting beside me reckoned that I had fallen in love. (I was going to tell the reader that the bottle and I eloped shortly after the festival but it turned out the bottle was already married.)

Showing that his company bottle the best Ben Nevis’s, a 1997 vintage, taken from 2 sherry butts, had spice and sherry on the nose. Better to taste than nose, the taste was dominated by sticky toffee pudding with an added gallon of toffee sauce. Taking a quick poll, it was apparent that exactly half the audience enjoyed it, confirming what Peter had suspected, that it would split the room. Peter also had an unusual encounter with a fellow supporter of his football team, St Johnstone (of Perth), and this was the first time in several decades that two St Johnstone fans had been that close together.

A 1992 Celebration of the Cask (CotC) Glen Grant, at 55.7%abv, was soft and silky with sherbet sweetness and light golden honey before a long and delicate finish. Introducing the new Black Gold series, we had a 1989 Highland Park, at 54.abv. Launched the previous Tuesday, the Black Gold range is taken from very heavy dark sherry casks. Appropriately, this bottling had all the classic sherry cask flavours but had them fiftyfold. Peter had struggled to describe the taste himself, settling for a ‘Fisher and Donaldson’ fudge doughnut from Cupar or St Andrews, in the east neuk of Fife.

 

Tannochbrae Gala Dinner with Robin Laing

It is with sadness that I report the untimely passing of Susie from the Tannochbrae. She had been ill for a long time and had been laid to rest shortly before the festival. A great chef and a good friend, all of us who knew her will miss her.

However, life goes on and, on Saturday night, Thomas Ewers of Malts of Scotland presented whiskies with each course while music came from the ever popular Robin Laing. Malts of Scotland are a German company and Thomas had proved very popular during his festival debut. A 1989 ‘tea-spooned’ Dufftown malt, at 53.5%abv, was exceptionally smooth and, it turned out, we were the first people to taste it.

A magnificent 1975 Strathmill, at 42.1%abv, had rich full vanilla and warm butter and, as we tasted it, Robin sang ‘Islands’ from one of his non-whisky albums and ‘Pussy in Dundee’, the story of a neutered cat. A 2001 Ledaig, at 58.9%abv, had a peat punch worthy of a classic Islay malt and softened with water. The company had begun as a hobby for Thomas, who hadn’t tasted malt whisky until he was 42.

A 1991 Benriach, at 51.6%abv, was tasted while Robin sang his ‘Speyside Whisky Song’ and I found warm, soft butter on crusty bread with some lemon notes. A 1995 Bowmore, at 53.2%abv, prompted Robin to sing ‘Reaching home’. This had been taken from a first fill oloroso cask and was like Glenfarclas 105 or Aberlour A’Bunadh with a dab of added peat. Robin followed this with an ‘Ode to peat’ and some limericks about Bowmore. He then sang and joked about Glasgow as we tasted an extremely dark 1988 Littlemill, at 52.1%, from the long gone distillery. Matured in a sherry cask, it tasted mostly of treacle.

Finally, a 2002 Bruichladdich, at 58.2%abv, had been fully matured in a red wine cask and tasted of fudge, tablet and Turkish delight. Robin sang of a ‘Turquoise frame of mind’ and a ‘Black art’.

Whisky fair 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sunday Morning Wheech round Speyside

Steve Oliver joined us for a bus tour with a difference. We would not tour distilleries, as such, but we would turn up and have a dram before heading to Tomintoul. We arrived at Benrinnes, one of four ‘finger print’ malts used by Johnnie Walker’s Black Label, and tasted the now hard to find Flora and Fauna 15 year old bottling. Interestingly, Steve told us that the previous release from the distillery was smoky. The 16 year old Dailuaine, from the same range, turned out to be ideal to drink in spitting rain. Exceptionally smooth, there were fudge, sherry and wedding cake notes.

Heading to Carron, we looked at the site of the new distillery on the old site of Imperial. G&M’s 1998 sherry cask matured ‘Exclusive’ bottling, at 50%abv, had the taste of syrup, toffee sauce and luxurious dark chocolate. After tasting the old Edrington bottling of Tamdhu, Steve told us he wasn’t taken with the new Ian MacLeod release which he thinks has unnecessary added colour. The last distillery we passed that morning was Tomintoul and Steve describes the 16 year old as ‘quaffing whisky’.

At the Whisky Castle, Mike Drury treated us to the 12 year old Port Wood finish that he reckons is the best from the distillery. A Strictly Limited 2000 Auchroisk was very soft and tasted of nuts and bourbon.

The castle’s own ‘Whisky Laddie’s Choice’ Mortlach, at 56.4%abv, was delicate smooth and creamy while a 1990 Connoisseur’s Choice Tamnavulin, at 43%abv, was reassuringly pale, tasting of malt and cream.

Worth noting, is the fact that Mike has some of the last available ‘Scott’s Selection’ bottles. This company was bought over, along with parent company Speyside distillers and there will be no more releases from them or from the ‘Private Cellar’ range.

Old Particular by Douglas Laing

Eager to demonstrate that his performance improves with the application of WD40, Jan Beckers returned to Dufftown to demonstrate the ‘Old Particular’ range (OP) that has filled the gap left by the popular Old Malt Cask series, now bottled by Hunter Laing. Malts from this range are bottled at 48.4%abv, up to the age of 18 and at 51.5%abv, above that age.

Mike and Jan

A 15 year old Dailuaine, smelled of buttered toast and tasted of wine, cereal and malt, with slight smoke to finish. Jan finds this one fruity.

While demonstrating his prowess with multimedia, Jan recounted tastings in Canada and Russia, where the locals need to be held back during tastings. He also told us the long story of bottling a cask from a family owned distillery near Benrinnes. They were not allowed to use the distillery name or call it ‘Green Valley Distillery’ and they subsequently were not allowed to call it ‘Ballindalloch Estate’. Eventually, they settled on naming it ‘Probably Speyside’s Finest’ and, when a member of the owning family said it was too cheap, they said that they would increase the price if permitted to use the distillery name.

A 17 year old Clynelish, taken from a refill sherry butt, had wax, honey, pineapples and tropical fruit notes. Strangely, the sherry was not apparent in the taste.

Jan Beckers

Returning to the multimedia, Jan showed us some pictures of the company’s founder, Fred Douglas Laing and demonstrated his high-tech pointer, otherwise known as his finger. A mouth-coating Craigellachie 17, from a sherry cask, was fresh and creamy with Jan getting macerated raisins while I noted orange zest on the finish, and recommended pairing it with blood orange chocolate.

A 9 year old Provenance Glenrothes, at 61.2%abv, was a sherry bomb with wedding cake, coffee, leather and other sherry notes. A spot of water opened more sweetness and some citrus notes. As we tasted, Jan talked of the gamble inherent in laying down stock for the future as it assumes the whisky will improve with age. He also said that he walks to work, very useful for tasting emergency samples.

Finally, a Director’s Cut 15 year old Laphroaig, at 53.4%abv, smelled minty and fresh, being unusually sweet. Mike Lord found licorice tastes while Jan found smoked and cured bacon. The taste was lightly phenolic and opened considerably with water.

 
An evening with Robin Laing

Running through his catalogue of ever-popular tunes, reviewed in previous reports, Robin told us he was working on new material and presented some of his favourite whiskies and a few newcomers. The most notable of these were the 1999 Benriach Virgin Oak finish, at 46%abv, the Glenlivet Guardian, at 48.7%abv, the Aberlour A’Bunadh batch 46, at 60.4%abv, and the Malts of Scotland Laphroaig 16 year old, at 58.2%abv. The latter tasted mostly of sherry with a dab of peat. Water revealed smoked bacon and strawberry trifle. The Guardian tasted of oranges and marmalade with burnt sugar, the A’bunadh was lighter than usual and not quite as sweet but still charming while the Benriach was spicy and soft with fizzy sherbet on the nose and distinctive bourbon notes appeared in time. Also tasted was a 1988 BBR Longmorn, reviewed earlier, that prompted Robin to tell us that he loves that distillery’s whisky at more than 20 years old and a 2002 Malts of Scotland Bruichladdich, at 55.2%abv, that was distinctly creamy.

Robin and his prized A'Bunadh

As usual, highlights from Robin’s performance are available on both Facebook and www.youtube.com.

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Tomatin

Tomatin distillery, on the edge of Speyside, was once the largest malt whisky distillery in Scotland. Established in 1897, by the 1970’s, it was producing 12.5 million litres a year, most of which went for blending. Production, however, was scaled back in the 1980’s. Scott Fraser was our guide for the morning and he told us that water comes from the granite mountains behind the distillery and that barley is supplied by maltsters from Berwick, Inverness, Arbroath and Buckie. All but 10 days production out of the entire year uses unpeated malt though, 8 years ago, some peated spirit was produced for blending and, indeed, the Japanese owners of Tomatin also produce the Talisman, Big ‘T’ and Antiquary blends.

Defunct still at Tomatin

8 tons of malt are used and there are 12 stainless steel washbacks where fermentation takes between 85 and 95 hours. Where once there were 23 stills, today 12 stills make 2.5 million litres of alcohol per year. The spirit produced has notes of apples and wheat, judging by the ‘aftershave test’. Filling is done on site and the 14 warehouses can store up to 200,000 casks. Bourbon casks, sherry butts and port pipes are all used. A 14 year old port finish was recently released and Tomatin are currently experimenting with other wine casks and also virgin American oak. America is the biggest market for the company though China and Russia are growing while Britain and Germany are big markets for Tomatin as well.
The ‘Taste of Tomatin’ tour offers the chance to taste 5 whiskies and to fill your own (FYO) bottle at the end. Notes on these are brief since I was driving and took only the smallest of tastes. The non-age statement (NAS) ‘Legacy’, at 43%abv, had vanilla and nutty flavours, having been matured in first fill bourbon and virgin oak. The 12 year old Tomatin was smoother than the Legacy though Scott told us he does like a bite to his whisky, preferring the younger bottling. Fresh and creamy, the 12 year old had a subtle oaky taste with some wine and cereal.

Both FYO casks may be gone by the time of publication but the 12 year old FYO bourbon cask, at 57.1%abv, was, nonetheless, delicate with the taste of light honey. The 12 year old FYO refill sherry cask, at 55.7%abv, was lightly sweet, chewy and creamy. Finally, released in 2013, the Cu Bocan, at 46%abv, was smoky and sweet and the reader is invited to compare it to Benromach and Ardmore.

Creations for Cadenhead’s by Mark Watt

Entering the hall for the tasting, Mike commented that I had shaved but didn’t bristle or split hairs as Mike is known for hiding in waterholes, waiting for unsuspecting crocodiles to come into range. As I approached the front of the hall, Mark Watt was warming up with a single pint. He had already made a good start with a double of vodka and, after his pint, another double vodka brought him to 100 milligrams.

A single pint  doesn't help Mark Watt at all

Cadenhead’s apparently like to use a distillery’s old name and, hence, a number of releases have a hyphen followed by the word ‘Glenlivet’. However, my suggestion that the 1997 Braes of Glenlivet, at 46%abv, should also have this added to its name was still just a bit daft. I found this creamy and fresh and Mark reckoned it would make a good session whisky.

A 33 year old Girvan grain whisky, at 46%abv, smelled and tasted of soft bourbon while Danny Maguire found coconuts at the finish. Mark found that, at cask strength, it had too much attack on the palate and said that Cadenhead’s assess each cask individually to decide bottling strength. Digressing slightly, he pondered the relative meaning of ‘limited edition’ releases. This bottling, for example, was from a single cask but Mark has seen ‘limited to 279 casks’ on one distillery bottling.

An excellent 23 year old Aberlour-Glenlivet, at 54.9%abv, had been taken from 2 hogsheads. With citrus and vanilla notes present, the buyer of this is recommended to roll their dram on the tongue for best results. As we considered this whisky, a Dutch whisky expert recounted a Cadenhead’s shop that doesn’t seem to sell whisky, no matter how hard he had tried to buy a bottle. Mark concurred with this, reckoning that, in some ways, he is in the field of sales prevention.

As we tasted a 24 year old Auchroisk, at 57.5%abv, Mark told us that bottles are hand-filled by the company as a bottling line is too fast and that the ‘Moidart’ vatted or blended malt is being discontinued. The Auchroisk, from a single butt, tasted of wine, cream, cereal and biscuits with a lovely bite to finish.

One pertinent observation of Mark’s is worth considering. In years gone by, word went round that some whiskies were particularly brilliant, Black Bowmore was one such release, and, once they were drunk, the surviving bottles became collectable. Now, very few collector’s item bottles are drunk with the majority being, in effect, very expensive ornaments. On a lighter note, Mark has been unable to buy Japanese whiskies for Cadenhead’s, prompting one reporter writer to ask if he wasn’t going to the wrong bars.

Fittingly, given my earlier distillery tour, we had a 1978 Tomatin, at 44.1%abv. The nose was enchanting and I could have spent all day smelling the variety of fizzy chew bar aromas present. After the fizzy nose, the taste was juicy and sweet while Mark found the finish woody but not overly so.
Ending the session was a 13 year old Bowmore, at 46%abv, from 2 casks. This was easygoing, sweet and minty while a Danish whisky buff found smoky crème brulee.
After the last tasting ended, Salmon Pink attempted to make amends for his behavior that weekend, telling me that he had once been surrounded by Komodo Dragons but escaped when they refused to eat him. However, he was humiliated when one of them told him that his breath stank. This was too much for him to bear having already been mauled by tadpoles while cycling across the Sahara desert the week before. He told me he planned to get his life together as he now had enough sob stories to be guaranteed winner of the next series of X factor and, with that, he got on his bike and departed. Sadly, these plans will never come to fruition as he was accidentally decapitated that evening while playing Sudoku.

At the WSD drams party, Mike announced that Provenance 5 year old cask strength Aultmore had won the Speyside challenge ahead of a 1987 Adelphi Mortlach  while Wemyss 12 year old Spice King had won the ‘Rest of Whisky’ challenge. Interesting tasting notes included ‘Finish: not as long as my first marriage’, ‘Finish: like meeting second wife’ and ‘Like Hamburg but in a good way’. The best whisky to accompany haggis is Aberlour 15 year old ‘Select’ while bacon goes best with Benriach 20 year old.

With that, I’d like to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the festival and, in particular, Mike Lord and his wife Val, Vicky and Kirsten at the Whisky Shop, to Claus and Claire for the proofreading, to Steve Oliver, Mike Drury and everyone involved in organizing the festival.

In the late summer, I shall become an earl and receive an OBE so I hope to see you all again at the autumn festival which will be my first festival as an earlobe.

Moist Von Lipwig, perplexed earlobe of Atlantis, flatmate of Lord Lucan, Shergar and Jimmy Hoffa

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2014 - The Whisky Shop Dufftown Challenge for Independent Bottlers

Again this year during the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival we laid down the challenge to find the best independent bottling in 2 categories: Speyside; and the Rest of Whisky.  The second category encompasses any type of whisky that cannot be defined as Speyside.

This was a fascinating competition this year with old whiskies up against some quite youthful ones with really surprising results.

Remember all of the judging was done by guests to the festival.

Rest of Whisky

The entries were:

Adelphi Bunnahabhain 89, cask 5788
Berry Bros & Rudd Bunnahabhain 2006
Old Particular Clynelish 17
Carn Mor Ben Nevis
Spice King 12 Years Old

In third place - Berry Bros & Rudd Bunnahabhain 2006

The runner up was - Old Particular Clynelish 17 Years Old

And the winner was - Spice King 12 Years Old

 

Speyside

The entries were:

Adelphi Mortlach 87, cask 3103
Berry Bros & Rudd Longmorn 1992 46%
Provenance Aultmore 5 Years Old
Connoisseurs Choice Benrinnes 1997
Old Malt Cask Linkwood 16 Years Old
Carn Mor Mortlach 1998

In third place was - Berry Bros & Rudd Longmorn 1992 46%

The runner up was - Adelphi Mortlach 87, cask 3103

And the winner was - Provenance Aultmore 5 Years Old

 

The voting was very tight but a very young whisky just pipped on older one in the Speyside category and a blend won the rest of whisky.  As ever there was a whisky for everyone and every whisky had someone.

Thank you to all who took part.

Winner of the best tasting note to follow.

Spice King 12Provenance Aultmore 5