Tag Archives: Strathisla

Gordon & MacPhail Ultra Collection

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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

The WSD Autumn Festival 2012 Programme

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Here are the details of our events and links to the events of some other event providers.  Click through to book tickets.  Tickets for our events will ONLY be on sale via The Whisky Shop Dufftown website and from the shop but nowhere else.

Balvenie Distillery

Balvenie are hosting a number of special events during the festival.  Contact them direct on 01340 822061 to book your tickets.

Friday 28th September

  • 2pm – 5pm Balvenie Visit: The Coopers' Craft (£50): Tour of Balvenie Maltings, Distillery, Warehouse 24 and 20cl bottling, Cooperage, nosing & tasting of 5 Balvenies from the range. Special focus on the Coopers’ craft – guests will be invited to build their own cask with our Coopers.

Saturday 29th September

  • 10am – 1pm The Balvenie Visit (£25): Visiting Maltings, Distillery, & Warehouse 24. Nosing & Tasting 5 Balvenies from the range (including Tun 1401 batch 5).
  • 2pm – 5pm The Balvenie Visit & Dessert pairings (£75) : Balvenie visit includes: Maltings, Distillery, Warehouse 24 & 20cl bottling, Nosing/tasting of 5 Balvenies from the range, and a pairing with 5 mouth watering desserts from our award winning Chefs!

Sunday 30th September

  • 10am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm Balvenie Visit - The art and craft of the Coppersmith (£50): Balvenie Coppersmith, Dennis McBain, will take guests through the Coppersmith story and his workshop.  Visit includes: Maltings, Distillery, Warehouse 24 & 20cl bottling, Dennis McBain in his workshop, and Nosing/tasting of 5 Balvenies from the range.

Chivas Brothers

Aberlour, Glenlivet and Strathisla distilleries are putting on a range of exciting events. The additional tours and Connoisseur tours during this Festival weekend are:

The Glenlivet Distillery

  • Spirit of the Malt Tours at 13.00 on Friday 28th, Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September.

Aberlour Distillery

  • Founder’s Tours at 10.30 on Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th, Friday 28th and Saturday 29th September

Strathisla Distillery

  • Straight From The Cask at 12.30 on Friday 28th and Sunday 30th September
  • The Ultimate Chivas Experience at 12.30 on Saturday 29th September

Please contact each of the Visitor Centres DIRECT for information and to reserve your place.To find out more click Chivas Brothers.

Glenfarclas

28 September

Glenfarclas distillery will be running their Connoisseur's Tour on 28th September at 2pm (£20).  This the tour for you if few like a more in-depth look at the distilling process.  The host is Ian McWilliam who will be able to answer any of your questions.  For more information and book tickets from Glenfarclas click here.

Glenlivet Hill Trek

Glenlivet Hill Trek will be running their amazing festival tours again this year.  If you have not done one then get yourself booked on one for this festival.

The Smuggles Trail

This tour takes you along The Robbie McPherson smugglers trail for breath taking scenery and wild life.  For more information click here.

The Dram Line

This is an exceptional and unique whisky tasting event along the Speyside Way taking in some great whisky bars along the way.  For more information click here.

Keith Dufftown Railway

The Keith Dufftown Railway are running some special whisky trains during the festival.  Different trains will allow you to visit Glenfiddich, Strathisla and Strathmill distilleries.  For more information click here.

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak is Dufftown's whisky pubs and is hosting a number of events during the festival.

  • Saturday 29th September 21:30 to 00:30 - Live scottish music from Reelers Rant (Free) and Hogroast (Various).  Hog Roast, live music and plenty of drams at The Royal Oak Dufftown.  Just turn up on the night and pay as you go along.
  • Monday 1st October 21:00 to 23:00 - Live scottish music (Free).  Just turn up.

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Events

Every Day

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Friday 28th September 2012  to Monday 1st October 2012

  • 10:00 - 17:00 - Cafe St James:  Just turn up any time from Friday for light snacks and refreshments.  Click here to see what's available.

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Friday 28th September 2012

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Saturday 29th September 2012

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Sunday 30th September 2012

  • 13:00 (1hr 30 mins) - Whisky Tasting: To be Confirmed

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Monday 1st October 2012

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Spring 2012

This entry was posted in Blog, Other Whisky News, Whisky Tastings and Events News and tagged , , , , , , , , , on by .

Report by Bruce Crichton

After reading ‘Llamas in your glove compartment’ by Spearmint Honeybadger, I headed to Dufftown. Bereft of camelid perplexity, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed and after several days of great whisky, food and music, here is my account of it. Once again, this report is not a definitive guide and may contain factual errors, for which I apologize in advance. As always, 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 when a whisky re-appears and have also assumed the reader is familiar with widely available bottlings mentioned. Any cask samples tasted are described briefly, since these are not available for the reader to buy. Finally, any water added was, literally, one drop and whiskies were 40% abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated.

Mates of the Museum

What better way to warm up for the festival than with the ‘Mates of the Museum’ on Thursday night? This brought together old friends and new over a few civilized drams and a nosing contest to win a bottle of whisky and proved to be a great evening for all present.

Strathisla ‘Straight from the cask’ tour

On Friday morning, I headed to Strathisla distillery in Keith – home of Chivas Regal – for the limited edition ‘Straight from the cask tour’ where our young guide, Rachel, would take us round.

As we warmed up with Chivas Regal 12 year old, Rachel noted that Strathisla can claim to be the oldest working Scotch whisky distillery, being licensed in 1786, bought by Chivas in 1950 then bought by Pernod Ricard in 2002. The Chivas blends gained a royal warrant in 1843 enabling them to call their products ‘Royal’ or ‘Regal’ and, historically, used Strathisla as a component for years before buying the distillery.

Strathisla uses 5.1 tons of unpeated malt per mash. One wash back is made from larch and the rest from Oregon pine. The river Isla runs past the distillery and the water is used in cooling but the water used for whisky is taken from the Broomhill spring. Four squat stills produce a heavy, full spirit.

Interestingly, the last coal-fired still ran in 1992 and the stills are now steam-heated. Neighbouring distillery Glen Keith has not produced for years but work is ongoing on the site to bring it back on stream and steam is used from there to power the stills at Strathisla which has the capacity to make 2.4 million litres per year. Unusually, Strathisla has two pagoda roofs, built simply because the owners could and a water wheel is visible outside allowing cooling water to return to the river without damaging the wildlife.
Between 5 and 10 per cent of production is bottled as single malt with the rest going to the deluxe Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends and, as we viewed the Royal Salute vault in the warehouse for cask owners, we tasted the 12 year old malt. (In fact, even miniature bottles of Strathisla are no longer available).

After finishing our tour, Rachel introduced us to the ‘Cask Strength Edition’ range, exclusive to visitor’s centres at Chivas distilleries. These 50cl bottles are released in small batches that differ in strength and the whisky tasted here may not necessarily be the edition available to buy though the quality of these whiskies is hard to surpass and very little water, if any, was needed.

Scapa 16, at 60.9%abv, smelled of peach syrup and vanilla and was exceptionally smooth. The taste was of caramel, spice and salt while water opened a little cocoa and chocolate before a long, warm finish. By contrast, Longmorn 14, at 59.6%abv, had a creamy, malty and honeyed nose and some cereal to taste along with light golden honey and a vanilla and peppery finish. Strathisla 15, at 55.4%abv, had hazelnut chocolate spread and hay aromas with toffee and nutty flavours and a slightly prickly finish before we closed with two whiskies associated with the Ballantines blends.Glenburgie 15, at 54.6%abv, was from a refill bourbon cask with a lovely nose of apples and fizzy chew bars.  The middle was light, fruity and creamy and the finish long and delicate while a Miltonduff 18, at 51.3%abv, had both Edinburgh rock and Irn Bru on the nose and a taste halfway between oranges and marmalade that gives way to a long, dry and sweet finish.

A bonus dram came in the form of 1980 Glenugie, a distillery from Peterhead that closed in 1983, long before our guide was even born and was bottled at 52.1%abv as part of the ‘Deoch an Doras’ series, taken from demolished distilleries. (Also available is 1973 Inverleven, from Dumbarton.) Matured in a sherry cask, there was the smell of rich fruitcake and a taste of coffee and chocolate with an incredibly long finish. This was the first ‘I was there’ moment of the festival and anyone who is able to obtain a bottle from this range can consider themselves to have done very well indeed.
All that remains is to thank Rachel and the team at Strathisla for a tour that was the stuff of legend and to recommend that every whisky lover take this limited edition tour at least once.

Gordon and MacPhail’s Secret Stills

Before the first Whisky Shop Dufftown (WSD) tasting, owner Mike Lord, made his health and safety announcements in sing-a-long fashion, complete with accompanying hand gestures. (Mike is a legend, having been in fifty fights to the death and losing only three of them though his last outing, surprisingly, ended in a draw.) After that, Mike Patterson from Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) presented five whiskies from the six available in the ‘Secret stills’ range, all bottled at 45%abv and non chill-filtered. This range has whisky from three Japanese-owned distilleries and three others that can reasonably be described as ‘classic’. The labeling contains a geographical clue to the identity of the distillery for the knowledgeable reader and drinker and is included in brackets in this report. (Not featured but also available is an ‘Edinburgh malt’).

A 1991 (Clydebank) Lowland 3.5 had been in refill sherry casks that left a grassy and floral nose with some syrupy notes and a soft finish making it something of an aperitif in style. By contrast, a 1966 Speyside 2.2 (Ballindalloch Castle Estate) had come from 3 casks and had some light sherry and a hint of smoke on the nose as well as a light, floral taste with a dry, fruity and very long finish. Mike Patterson thought this was one to savour and the reader who obtains a bottle is in for a memorable treat.

The ‘Secret Stills’ series has been around for some time and Mike recalled an encounter with a butler who had found his master’s bottle had turned cloudy and the clouds would not disappear. Analysis showed that a naughty ghillie had diluted it to 28%abv, hoping not to get found out for drinking someone else’s whisky.

Moving on, a 1988 Highland 6.6 (Oldmeldrum) cask, had coconut, toffee and mints aromas with a light peat taste and chewiness before some light smoke and a very long sweetness to end with. Having had the 6.4 and 6.5 editions, I recommend that no home should be without one of the series. Although not immediately gripping, few bottles are as moreish so pour a large dram and relax.

A 1986 1.2 (Isle of Skye) came from first fill sherry casks giving it smoke, sherry and fudge on the nose. The taste was chewy with raisins, treacle and fudge again with smoke and pepper appearing at the finish. Apparently, the first bottling of this, 1955 vintage, has acquired legendary status. Interestingly, Mike says that no new version of any whisky is released by G&M until the previous release has sold out. We ended with a 1999 Islay 4.16 (Lochindaal), matured in first fill bourbon and, true to that distillery’s style, smelled of toffee and mints and tasted mostly of smoked fish.

Alchemy in the future: Adelphi Tasting with Alex and Antonia Bruce

With exciting news of Adelphi’s planned new distillery, the opening of their new bottling hall and the return of brother Alex to Dufftown, Antonia Bruce introduced the next series of magic potions, with official tasting notes by writer and future film star, Charles Maclean.

1988 Balmenach, at 54.2%abv, was beautiful and easy to drink neat. Fizzy sweets and apple sauce were apparent when nosing and the taste was creamy with almonds and the finish silky. Coming from a refill sherry cask, 1995 Clynelish, at 55.8%abv, smelled of tangy fruit and wax. The middle had coffee, treacle, salt and chocolate and the finish was exceptionally long, with a drop of water revealing smoke, pepper and salt.

As we tasted, Alex recounted the tale of the distillery’s cast iron spirit receiver being removed and with it, the characteristic waxiness and it only returned when the receiver was reinstated.Adelphi had recently been given planning permission for a new distillery to be built in Ardnamurchan, in the far west highlands. A very good water source, with 3 holding lochs, was found for the distillery, a key point as the area’s high rainfall does drop away very quickly. A biomass boiler is planned as; otherwise, fuel costs would be prohibitive. Production will hopefully commence in the autumn of 2013 and an ‘Ardnamurchan’ range is planned with future Fascadale, Laudale and Liddesdale coming from the distillery – these being slightly smoky but not Islay-like in style. Local peat will be legally used for the first time and there will be a traditional maltings. It is also hoped that alliances can be made with the relatively close by Oban, Talisker, Tobermory and Ben Nevis distilleries as the local ferry service is under threat.

2000 Aberlour, 55.8%abv, from a refill sherry cask, had licorice, cinnamon and hot toffee sauce aromas with tastes of acid drop sweets as well as toffee and sherry with wedding cake and a light smoke to finish. My question ‘is Aberlour like gold dust for an independent bottler?’ was met with the answer ‘er, yes!’ Older casks are hard to get but a few younger ones are around.

Fascadale (batch 3), at 46%abv, is now a 12 year old Highland Park taken, in this case, from 5 casks, 3 of which were first fill Jack Daniels barrels. There was Vanilla tablet and smoke to nose and the marvelously sweet taste was like both strawberry and vanilla ice cream with some fishy notes that Charles Maclean, appearing in the upcoming Ken Loach film ‘The Angel’s Share’, describes as rollmop herring. (I was just pleased to get the taste of fish, to be honest.)

A serendipitous finale came with 1998 Bunnahabhain, at 55.2%abv. This had been labeled the day before at the new bottling hall in Fife and had been grabbed by accident, as the plan had been to feature a 1997 heavily peated expression from the same distillery. However, this sherry monster had managed to clog the bottling hall filter with sediment and had the ‘treacle so thick you could dance on the top it’ characteristic of previous Adelphi Bunnahabhains. Awesomely sweet and tasting of rich dark chocolate orange, there was leather, smoke and treacle again to end with. Most of the cask yield was bound for Taiwan but a few bottles were available and, for those who missed out, other heavily sherried bottles would come later.

Saturday Morning Whisky Fair

Highlights of the fair include: The new Benriach 12 yr (Sherry matured), at 46%abv, had been vatted together from Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks. Originally made for Taiwan, this was the fourth bottling and was surprisingly light, tasting of Turkish Delight.

Adelphi Liddesdale 18 yr, at 46%abv, contained some 20 year old whisky. Lighter than the previous batch, it tasted of treacle, syrup and licorice. Alex Bruce finds it cleaner than before and thought batch 1 had sulphur notes though he views sulphur as fine as long as it is in balance with other flavours. Both of us did wonder, though, how it got such a high score in the whisky bible, as the writer cannot stand such notes.

A Connoisseur’s Choice 1999 Balmenach, at 43%abv, was deliciously creamy, complex and spicy while 2001 Tamdhu, at 58%abv, was from a refill sherry cask. So smooth that it can be consumed neat, this had satisfying wedding cake flavours.

The elegant Tomintoul 12 yr ‘Port Wood’ had fruity sweetness throughout having had 20 months finishing.
Old Malt Cask (OMC) 1993 Glen Keith, at 50%abv, had lemon and lime citrus notes and was marvelously sweet offering a rare chance to taste whisky from this soon to be revived distillery.

‘Ladder Hills’ 18 yr old, 58.3%abv, from Dreamdrams.co.uk offered an extremely rare opportunity to taste whisky from a popular Dufftown distillery that had 1% addition of whisky from a mighty neighbour added. Very complex and smooth, characteristic warm honey and light smoke were the prominent tastes. A Highland Park 21 yr, at 53.3%, was delicate and honey-sweet.

Kilkerran (batch 3), at 46%abv, is work-in-progress malt from the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. This was a fascinating dram with a taste that hovered between a young Talisker and a young Islay in taste. By contrast, Springbank distillery’s Longrow C.V., at 46%abv, was sweet and tasted of smoked fish.

Continuing the peat was Benriach 17 yr ‘Septendicim’, at 46%abv. Containing whisky from second and third fill casks, it was sweet, retaining the classic Islay character of other peaty Benriachs. (The 21 year old ‘Authenticus’ has been discontinued and replace by the 25 year old of the same name.)

Finally, Adelphi 1997 Bunnahabhain, at 57.1%abv, was deliciously peaty in taste and, unusually for peated Bunnahabhain, had replicated the south Islay style.  Alex Bruce noted that the taste and aroma of peanuts is often be detected from a Bunnahabhain such as this.

Whyte and Mackay with Steven McConnachie

We began with Tamnavulin 12 yr, now back online after being mothballed between 1995 and 2007 with only intermittent production during those years. A charming dram, this had grassy, hay and peach syrup notes though festival regular Danny Maguire found that it had less linseed oil character about it than of old. (It was good to see Danny again, now happily recovered from being shipwrecked in the Nevada desert.) Steven does recommend not adding water as this gives it a ‘wet raincoat’ taste.

Mackinlay’s ‘Old and Rare’ malt, henceforth known as ‘Shackleton malt’, at 47.3%abv, has been the subject of much press coverage and contains whiskies of between 8 and 30 years old, including Glen Mhor, a long closed Inverness distillery. This is a recreation of the malt whisky that Sir Ernest Shackleton took 25 cases of on his 1907 attempt to reach the South Pole. (He got within 100 miles, the closest anyone had ever been till then and turned back). An informative video showed how the ‘liqueur whisky’ brand began and made its name before being taken to the Antarctic where, a century later, two cases were found with ten bottles still in tact. Painstaking analysis from master blender Richard Paterson allowed strength to be determined and flavours ascertained and recreated.  50000 bottles were released and nearly all have been sold so, should readers obtain one, they are recommended to sip it slowly while reading Roland Huntford’s account of Shackleton’s heroic adventures. The whisky had fruit salad chew bars on the nose while being slightly sharp but still sweet with a crisp, long and peppery finish. This whisky also grabbed Danny who once lost a hand of poker despite holding 4 aces. (His opponent had 5 aces.)

Melting a square of dark chocolate on the tongue should, in this writers’ view, precede a taste of the new release, Dalmore Cigar Malt, at 44%abv. The nose was of coffee, Bovril, exotic wine with tastes of toffee, honey, orange and spices. This premium whisky had been matured in 3 types of casks:  ex-bourbon, 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass and premier cru Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques and is older than the previous bottling though no age statement is present.

1996 vintage Dalmore Cromartie, at 45%abv, is a limited release of 7500 bottles and Steven gets almonds and spice on the nose while I found the taste quite chewy and with lots of chocolate orange. Also watch out for the new ‘Constellation’ range and for a 30 year old release that is on the way.

Jura Prophecy, at 46%abv, is made from barley with 55ppm of peat. The packaging tells the story of a prophecy that accurately foretold the last Campbell would leave Jura with only one eye. With lovely had toffee and peat to nose, the taste was of smoked fish in a rich sauce with a long, soothing and spicy finish making it ideal to have when burning a wicker man though who readers put in it is obviously up to them.

The final Wemyss Whisky session with Susan Colville

Presenting her last Dufftown tasting with Wemyss Whiskies was Susan Colville who, along with her beloved tree frogs, would be moving on to pastures new after this. Each bottling of single malt, bar one, was 46%abv and, as usual, named after the dominant flavour present. My tasting notes are, unusually, free of exotic wildlife of the kind that drives Susan round the twist.

The ‘Hive’ 12 yr blended malt replaces the old ‘Smooth Gentleman’ bottling and contains 16 malts with 50% coming from Glen Moray.  Susan believes that Glen Moray’s ‘house style’ is honey and thinks the distillery is underrated with this release being an easy-drinking everyday dram. With honey, syrup and many childhood sweets on the nose and Irn Bru on the taste, this was a must for all with a sweet tooth.

1989 ‘Rum and Raisin’ Tullibardine had been matured in a refill bourbon cask and is what Susan believes Tullibardine could be but chooses not to be. The nose was between rum and raisin and vanilla ice cream with some delicate honey flavours before a short peppery and spicy finish.

1982 ‘Winter Spice’ Teaninich, at 44.4%abv, had Susan getting dessert spices such as cinnamon and ginger and she described it as ‘heavy and delicate’ at the same time. An audience member found tastes of tropical fruits and spices and the finish was short but very punchy.

Reappearing from Spring 2011 was 1990 ‘Mocha Spice’ Dalmore that invited comparisons with the official releases presented in the previous masterclass and we closed with 1991 Bunnahabhain ‘Honey Spice’, reviewed in the Autumn 2011 report. A silky dram, the reader is invited to compare this to the Adelphi Liddesdale, which comes from the same distillery and is of similar age.

Tannochbrae Gala Dinner with Robin Laing

Saturday night in Dufftown brought another fantastic feast at the Tannochbrae restaurant where Allan and Susie served up some more fantastic fare accompanied by whiskies from Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and music from the great Robin Laing who opened with Bladnoch 18 yr 50.48 ‘capering on a river bank’, at 54.6%abv, from a refill bourbon cask while showing some society magazines with pictures of Amazonian tree frogs that reminded him of my comments on the subject.  Also tasted were Benrinnes 22 yr 36.56, at 53.6% ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, Bowmore 20 yr, at 49.4%abv, ‘margarita and a cigar in one glass’ (1 of 51 bottles) and Port Charlotte 127.19, at 66%abv, ‘a hairy chested claymore-wielding dram’.New songs revealed by Robin were ‘Taking Johnnie Walker home’ and ‘Ugly Betty’ – about the Lomond still at Bruichladdich used for making Botanist gin. One final note, though not a fan of cocktails, a long, refreshing drink known as ‘Monkey Mojito’ can be made using Monkey Shoulder blended malt whisky.

WSD independent bottler’s challenge – the rest of whisky

Deviating from the format of previous challenges, no brand ambassadors spoke and all the whiskies entered were presented by Mike Lord, a man who laughs with impunity at the laws of science and once shot 3 men dead with an egg whisky. (I know this because I was one of those men.)

10 whiskies were tasted and, to save space, the highlights are included below though this is not to imply that those not described at length are in any way bad.

A delicious Cadenhead’s 1992 Brackla (rum finished), at 55.9%abv, had rum and brown sugar on the nose with thick, heavy and strong caramel and treacle. As we discussed this dram, the subject of a petard came up and some frantic ‘googling’ from Susan and Kate Wright revealed that it was a military mine that could blow up, hoisting the man who lit it. Mike also noted the number of brand ambassadors who were supposed to come to the festival and had not and said that gathering them together was like ‘Nailing a herd of jellied cats to a barn wall’ – readers are forgiven for shuffling away at this point.

Duncan Taylor’s 1979 Cameronbridge, at 48.8%abv, had the nose and taste of well-aged bourbon and banana chew bars with a delicate, long and honey/smoke finish.

By contrast, Wemyss ‘Honey Spice’ was a particularly dark colour from its sherry maturation and the reader is recommended to pour a large measure and roll on the tongue for as long as possible for best results.

1990 Berry Brothers and Rudd Bunnahabhain, at 46%abv, smelled like golden toast and tasted of syrup and treacle with a hint of smoke on the long, peppery finish.

As we moved on, Mike floated the possibility of a hog roast for the autumn festival along with a small wicker man though who is to be burned in it has yet to be discussed.

We then tasted a Carn Mor 1994 Highland Park, from the Scottish Liqueur Centre had mint and some light smoke with burnt sugar notes.

Moving to Islay, Adelphi’s 1983 Caol Ila, at 54%abv, had its smoke build gently before toffee emerged on the nose while rolling on the tongue revealed considerable smoke, pepper, chewiness and warmth.

Douglas Laing’s 1980 Old and rare Caol Ila was more restrained to nose with a little smoke and vanilla but did have some big maritime salt, smoke and bourbon tastes while Carn Mor’s 1996 Bowmore came from a refill sherry cask and had very heavy smoke, pepper tastes with Murray mints, milk chocolate and salt aromas.

Also tasted were Amrut ‘Fusion’ from India and G&M 1995 Brackla.

Diageo debut from David Sinclair

Presenting some of the lesser-known whiskies from whisky giants Diageo and making his first appearance at Dufftown was David Sinclair who had previously been bar manager at the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel.

Each whisky was tasted blind before the identity was revealed and we opened with the Singleton of Glendullan, aimed at the American market. Susan Colville reckoned that bottling at 43%abv would have improved it but it was still sweet with citrus and fizzy sweet notes and also lightly fruity with vanilla, although the slightly smoky finish was short. 1 of 636 bottles, the Glendullan 14 year old ‘manager’s choice’, at 58.7%abv, had brilliant pineapple, fruit syrup and golden delicious apples on the nose with vanilla and fruit tastes while the finish was extremely long and warm.

Mortlach 12 year old ‘manager’s choice’, at 57.1%abv, came from a bourbon cask and made this writer ask if the natural home of Mortlach is really the bourbon cask, rather than the sherry casks that have proved so popular over the years. Unusually inspired, I found the nose had bourbon, cream, vanilla, bananas, lemon and pear drops while the taste was light and delicate and the finish sweet with hints of spice. This unusually fantastic nose made it the Scarlett Johansson of whisky award winner for the festival.

A 12 year old ‘Friends of the Classic Malts’ Talisker, at 45.8%abv, had some light sherry and fruity notes and was delightfully sweet with a dry, long with only hints of Talisker’s characteristic pepper and seaweed.

Oban 18 yr, at 43%abv, bottled for America had orange cream and spicy notes and a velvety mouth feel that gave way to light smoke and a malty dryness. (David finds this richer than the 14 yr bottling.)As David accepted a big round of applause, the question ‘ Did you ever get that response at the bar?’ came from Mike Lord who fondly remembers the time he held 5 aces at poker. (His sad opponent only had 4).

Robin Laing – ‘The Whisky Coast’

Presenting SMWS whiskies Arran 121.52, at 59.9%abv, Glen Scotia 93.49, at 57.8%abv, Berry Brothers and Rudd 1994 Bowmore, at 46%abv, his own port- matured Bruichladdich, covered in the Spring 2011 report and 2001 OMC Talisker, at 50%abv, Robin’s theme for the night was ‘the whisky coast’ which had been the name for a brave but unsuccessful attempt at a tourist venture in recent years. The Bowmore tasted of characteristic mint and peat while the Talisker had equally characteristic smoke, seaweed and pepper that built slowly and steadily to an impressive crescendo and a very long finish.

Talisker had been a favourite of Robin’s as a young man and the distillery is the subject of a song from his current album ‘Whisky for breakfast’. Other tunes played included ‘Dundee Cat’, ‘Isle of Arran’, ‘Black Art’, ‘Campbeltown Loch’ to accompany the Glen Scotia, ‘Ugly Betty’, ‘Black Art’ and ‘A’Bunadh’ and there were stories of Jim McEwan, ‘Black art’, Heidi Klum and a German whisky anorak, Bowmore being attacked by an American warship, Eddi Reader and dinner at Macallan before Robin noted that a collector is simply ‘ a sad barsteward who doesn’t have enough special occasions in his life’.

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

Douglas Laing presented by Paul McKendrick

Douglas Laing’s Jan Beckers was unavailable, having been cordoned off in mysterious circumstances by the police, so his place was ably Paul McKendrick, appearing for the first time at a festival in Dufftown.

A 1978 Clan Denny Port Dundas, at 54.2%, from a refill hogshead had a rich bourbon nose and taste and was wonderfully smooth and velvety with an unusually long finish for a grain, according to Paul. An exceptionally fruity 1999 Provenance Mannochmore, at a standard 46%abv, came from a third-fill cask, which Douglas Laing think allows distillery character to show, Paul describing it as a breakfast whisky.

OMC 2001 Glenlivet, at a standard 50%abv, had been in a sherry cask that Paul believed had added another dimension making it warm and rich with coffee and treacle toffee notes and a long, sweet finish.

1976 OMC Imperial, from a refill sherry cask, was the next ‘I was there’ moment. This year, according to the late Norwegian expert Per Lovlie, was Imperial’s finest, producing their best ever distillate. Given the 70’s vintage, the recurring ‘Wicker Man’ themes and the unusual but attractive nose, this was the Ingrid Pitt of whisky. Sweet, floral, creamy with hints of spice, fruit, vanilla and wine, it had a very long finish.

2003 Provenance Ardmore demonstrated, in Paul’s view, the difference between highland and island peat. This tasted of biscuits and smoke with cream and smoke to end with.

1996 OMC Caol Ila came from what is now Scotland’s fifth largest distillery. Ideal for rolling on the tongue, this full-bodied dram was lightly smoky with maritime salt and a surprisingly soft finish. Paul thinks that 15 years is the peak for an Islay whisky as more age leads the cask to dominate.

The Boss at Duncan Taylor

Euan Shand of Duncan Taylor (DTC) presented a virtually unique perspective at this festival: that of a company chief. The entire tasting was an ‘I was there’ moment and 90 utterly gripping minutes followed as Euan recounted his humble beginnings as a cooper at Glendronach distillery, through his years building up his own businesses with tales of youthful adventures with a valinch, jet-lagged tastings in Japan in front of a polite audience, Americans unaware of cask evaporation, laying down his own casks, fighting ‘Red Bull’, his aversion to colour in whisky, possible plans for a Huntly distillery that still has planning permission until December 2012 and a sad near miss in attempting to acquire Imperial distillery.

Black Bull 12, at 50%abv, demonstrated dependable deliciousness and kept us going as Euan told the story of Abe Rosenberg who had owned a huge collection of casks. Paying tribute to his vision, Euan told how the late Mr. Rosenberg had laid down second and third fill casks with the view to them maturing for many decades, perhaps knowing that he would never see these casks bottled in his lifetime

1998 ‘Dimensions’ Dailuaine, at 46%abv, was the first in a series of casks picked by Mark Watt, sadly unavailable after a drunken prank went wrong and he was accidentally mailed to Timbuktu. However, Mark’s absence, according to Mike Lord, meant that he was saved the expense of a large quantity of Guinness. No home should be without this masterful dram with its real bakery smell and buttered toast sweetness.

90 percent of DTC casks mature at the distillery, something that amuses Euan as he thinks of Macduff maturing in a tiny warehouse while the proprietor’s casks mature at sister distillery Royal Brackla in Nairn.

Euan is a big enthusiast for grain whisky and commented on the extensive stock still available to DTC, noting that one cask will reach 50 years old in 2013. 1978 North British grain, at 54.4%abv, had soft bourbon on the nose with a velvety vanilla taste. Grain spirit is bland and neutral and a good thing, in his view, as it gives a blank canvas to work with as all the flavour comes from the cask.

1995 ‘Dimensions’ Imperial, at 53.8%abv, was of such quality that I drank it neat to get vanilla, cream, spice and pepper notes and Euan is one of the few who think that Imperial may yet produce again. His preference is for bourbon casks over sherry as he feels that sherry overpowers distillery character.

As Euan ran through the ranges available from DTC such as ‘Peerless’, ‘Rarest’, Battlehill and Octave (the viagra of casks), we tasted 1985 Glen Elgin, at 46.1%abv, and Euan recounted selling 5 ‘Rarest’ bottles in as many minutes for a 5 figure sum in Singapore and decided to retire to the bar for the day. This inspirational whisky had refreshers and wham bar sweets on the nose with cream, fruit and vanilla flavours. Euan thinks the distillery produces  Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtop class blending whisky’ and reckons that Elgin whiskies such as Longmorn, Benriach, Glenlossie and Glen Elgin are very close in character, a fascinating viewpoint.

Revealing that he hadn’t tasted any of the whiskies, nor read any tasting notes, Euan invited us to describe the preview of the next batch of Black Bull 40, admitting he would like to know the recipe for this whisky, entirely blended by Mark Watt and of such high quality, he has decided to keep Mark on at the company.

Drams Party

A civilized ‘Drams Party’ closed the festival and Mike announced the winners in each ‘challenge’ category as Adelphi 1969 Glenrothes and DTC 1979 Cameronbridge, both of which won by a mile. (The best tasting notes included ‘A pretend whisky made in a bucket’ and ‘like the doormat of the Whisky Shop Dufftown).

And Finally....

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the festival and, in particular, Mike Lord and his wife Val, Steve Oliver, the wonderful people at the ‘Coffee Pot’, to Vicky and Kirsten at the Whisky Shop, to both Claus and Claire for the proofreading, to Rene and Glo, and everyone involved with the ‘Mates of the Museum’ plus Alan and Susie at the Tannochbrae.I’m off to write my first novel, which will be titled ‘Punctilious Catnip’ and published under the pseudonym Ramrod Blancmange the third and hopefully, I’ll see you again at the autumn festival.

Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival 2011

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Report by Bruce Crichton

Having read ‘Aardvarks in your wardrobe’ by Agamemnon McWhirter, I headed to Dufftown. No longer perplexed by this household pest, the Autumn Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed with several days of great whisky, great food and an electrifying tasting contest. Here is my account of it.

The reader is cautioned that this is not a definitive guide and I apologize in advance for any factual errors and note that tasting notes are subjective with comment added from expert tasters present during note-taking. To shorten the report, I refer the reader to previous reports and tastings if a whisky has re-appeared and also assumed the reader is familiar with any widely available bottlings mentioned. Any cask samples tasted are described briefly, since these are not available for the reader to buy. Finally, any water added to a whisky tasted was, literally, one drop and whiskies were 40% abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated.

Mates of the Museum

Thursday night saw the ‘Mates of the Museum’ bringing together old friends and new as retiring festival bus driver and recognized genius Mike Hendry was presented with an award and applauded by several foxes who remember Mike teaching them cunning when they were young.

Auchroisk tour

Pausing on Friday morning to teach a young Norwegian lady the words ‘Baldy’, ‘Cue ball’ and ‘Slap head’ using a handy prop that I keep with me at all times, I headed by bus tour to Auchroisk distillery where Paul Hooper of Diageo, took us round. This tour was more extensive than the spring festival visit and Paul noted that Auchroisk uses Optic, Oxbridge and Forensic malt produced at nearby Burghead, and produces grassy spirit as well as the more familiar nutty character new-make, an unusual feature though a few Diageo sites can produce two or more spirit characters by varying the fermentation time.

Less than one per cent of the whisky produced there is bottled as single malt with the vast bulk going to the Johnnie Walker and J & B blends. With the capacity to produce 3.7 million litres of alcohol per year, from 8 very tall stills, the distillery expects to go to 7 days a week production next year.

Extensive tanking and warehousing facilities allow spirit from nearby Diageo distilleries to be transported by tanker to Auchroisk where Diageo also warehouse whisky for Chivas, with Chivas doing the same for them nearby. As luck would have it, new make spirit from sister distillery Inchgower arrived during our visit as Johnnie Walker Green Label and Glen Ord mature spirit departed for bottling.  Instructive, also, was a demonstration of an ‘Anton Paar’ machine that measures alcoholic strength.

At the blending hall disgorging unit, casks are emptied, and whisky blended and reduced before being sent away by tanker for bottling, while the ‘rubbish’ is filtered from the casks and the filters are cleaned three times a day. Chill-filtration takes place at the bottling hall. Also used is a colour measurement device that checks the activity of the casks in use.

Rounding off was a promotional DVD narrated by Robert Carlyle and then Erin took us through a tutored tasting that began with the 10 year old bottling from the now discontinued ‘Flora and Fauna’ range reviewed in the spring 2011 report. Next we tasted the popular Mortlach 16 and found it in fine form though lighter than old with treacle and Christmas cake on the nose, a sweet and spicy middle, and with a warm finish with a little smoke. Next was the Talisker 10 year old, at 45.8%abv, of which more later, before we ended with a taste of Johnnie Walker’s 18 year old ‘Gold Label’ straight from the freezer (!) which is best rolled on the tongue for the full velvet, honey and spice effect.

Gordon and MacPhail

Mike Patterson from Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) opened with a 1997 ‘distillery label’ Strathisla, at 43%abv, matured in refill sherry casks. This had fruit syrup, Wham bars and Parma violets on both nose and taste before a short finish. As we tasted this, Mike showed us samples from the feints, foreshots and middle cut of Benromach new make spirit which had both fruit and cereal aromas, noting that the cut is of crucial importance as, should feints get into the cask, the taste will never go away with maturation.

Benromach Burgundy finish, at 45%abv, had spent 7 years in wine casks as Mike reasons that there is no point in finishing if it does not influence the final taste. This elegant dram was light, creamy and winey.

A 1971 ‘MacPhail’s  Collection’ Tamdhu, at 43%abv, matured in refill sherry casks had massive oak on the nose with some light smoke and cream in its stylish taste with a very long and warm finish.

A 1997 Imperial, at 62.7%abv, had a delicious smell of wedding cake with the same again to taste before golden syrup and thick, chewy toffee. The finish was rich and long and this whisky needed amazingly little water given its high bottling strength and comes highly recommended to the reader.

By contrast, a 1997 Connoisseur’s Choice Caol Ila, at 43%abv, was very gentle and had delicately smoked fish aromas and some lovely soft, sweet peat on the taste before a salty and long finish. Mike noted that Caol Ila had produced whisky from unpeated spirit relatively recently as it had been threatened with closure before the recent boom in Islay whiskies.

Mark vs. Bruce – a never to be forgotten contest

For many years, this writer has driven many brand ambassadors round the twist but, when I challenged Mark Watt to a tasting contest, the foot was on the other hand though, nonetheless, I held my own.

New rules had been brought into place following 2009’s Mark Vs Susan contest allowing Mark and I to both weigh in with our own thoughts on each other’s whiskies during our presentations. There was no limit on the number of whiskies allowed for each contest though the budget was fixed for both of us.

Mark, who is rehearsing for the title role in the upcoming film ‘The Oliver Reed Story’, went first, opining ‘whatever happens, Bruce will win’ before introducing his choice with the theme ‘Whiskies you should have in your cupboard’. The whiskies were the widely available Macallan 12, Highland Park 18, at 43%abv, Talisker 10 and Ardbeg 10, at 46%abv. Noting that the 12 year old is much better than the 10 year old, Mark waxed lyrical about the Macallan and the fact that it is now for sale in Britain.

The Highland Park 18 is fully matured in sherry casks these days and is an old favourite of mine and Mark, effectively combining the often contradictory tastes of peat and sherry with more spiciness than Mark remembers. Meanwhile Talisker 10 is back on form with characteristic, smoke and pepper and is still a whisky not to be drunk so much as conquered as the attack is at the start and the finish is very sweet. This whisky also gave Mark a chance to vent his feelings about a group of people he has encountered who swear that there is no salt in whisky and have made t-shirts stating this.

Ardbeg 10 showed conclusively that the big peat attack of years gone by is on the wane from the south Islay whiskies but this has given them the chance to show that they do not merely have one big punch as much sweetness awaits those who taste this. Ardbeg have also released a new bottling called ‘Alligator’ and Mark recounted the story of a live alligator being brought to a whisky festival. (Some jokes just tell themselves.)

After a short break, it was my turn, this time, to present five whiskies that tasted mostly of Scotch. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?) The secondary theme of my collection was ‘Under the radar’ as these were whiskies that had never featured in a tasting and were highly unlikely to do so. As the reader may imagine, it is extremely difficult to give a tasting and report on it at the same time and I must confess to the reader that nerves really kicked in after about three minutes. However, experiencing a huge rush of adrenaline, I managed to keep going and continue to present my theme while moving on to such surreal topics as Donald Pleasance’s appearance in Columbo, the pros and cons of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, and the history of Benromach before recording an unexpected round of applause.

My first choice, Glen Moray 10, fully matured in Chardonnay casks, was described by Mark as a ‘great breakfast dram’ and had a marvelous cereal maltiness to it and appeared to be the surprise low-budget hit of the festival. Stronachie 18, at 46%abv, is an independent bottling of Benrinnes from A.D. Rattray and has a lovely taste of honey to rival the illustrious Balvenie. This bottling comes from 6 ex-bourbon casks and 2 sherry casks, in contrast to rival expressions that are matured in sherry casks.

Benromach 2001 Cask Strength, at 59.9%abv, is from six first fill bourbon casks and allows the light level of peat to show through as well as being smooth at the high alcoholic strength. Mark reckoned that it had a fantastic nose – making it this report’s Scarlett Johansson of whisky.

I gambled on two heavily peated whiskies to finish with, the Port Charlotte An Turas Mor, at 46%abv, and Benriach Birnie Moss, at 48%abv. The Benriach was, perhaps, the least successful of my choices though Phil Yorke reckoned it tasted of roasted peppers. The Port Charlotte, from Bruichladdich distillery, contains whisky between five and eight years old and had more obvious peat flavours. This gave me the chance to detail the difference between the level of peat present in barley, the level in the whisky and the level that humans can actually taste. Mark’s choice of Ardbeg had given both of us the chance to expound on the subject and, also, to draw the distinction between young Islay whiskies and the well-aged Islay whiskies featured in other festivals and that would feature that weekend as well. Finally, I asked the audience to compare these whiskies to those that would appear in a tasting from Kilchoman distillery as they were about the same age and same strength. The reader is invited to try this at home.

Having concluded the tasting, it was time for three rounds of voting for who had the best whiskies, the best information and who was the most entertaining. Incredibly, I won the first two rounds but Mark massacred me in the third round, just as he massacred the English language while commenting on the Port Charlotte, and he was the overall winner but, no matter, everyone present had a great night and both of us received several thunderous bursts of applause.

Mike Lord’s WSD bottlings

Sadly, festival regular Danny Maguire missed the festival having sustained a large cut on the bridge of his nose while shaving though this was not as embarrassing as the time he accidentally bit the back of his own head. Consequently he missed the whiskies presented by Mike Lord, of the Whisky Shop Dufftown (WSD) who says that Danger is his middle name and it is – he changed it by deed poll from Leslie.

A 1994 (G&M) Imperial, at 57.2%abv, had both vanilla and bananas on the nose – classic bourbon cask characteristics in the view of Mike who once head-butted a shark causing it to lose several teeth. (The shark learned its lesson and will never drink in the same pub as Mike again.) Mike also observes that the casks he has bottled from G&M have clouded with very little water addition but the reader can be assured that this is of no matter as each bottling is among the best I have ever tasted. The Imperial was exceptionally smooth with vanilla and coconut flavours and a very long finish with a hint of pepper.

A 1970 Duncan Taylor (DTC) Glenrothes, at 43.3%abv, had been matured in a bourbon cask before spending a further six weeks in an octave sherry cask giving it the smell of an elegant bourbon as well as exotic fruit juice along with delicate spice and oak flavours with just a hint of sherry and a long, orange cream finish.

A 1994 Old Malt Cask (OMC) Benrinnes, at 55.1%abv, from a first fill sherry butt had both sticky toffee pudding and orange peel on the nose. The middle was very sweet and syrupy followed by toffee and wedding cake with a long, very warm and soothing finish. In a brief history lesson, Mike drew attention to the fact the successive owners of the distillery had gone bust until the company that became Diageo bought it. Mike also stocks 17 and 19 year old OMC Benrinnes releases, at 50%abv, which are much different to this.
Benrinnes makes heavy spirit, using worm tub condensers, unlike Balblair distillery, which makes altogether lighter spirit. Despite being a refill sherry cask, something that G&M are expert at, 1995 Balblair at 52.9%abv and covered in Autumn 2010 is far more influenced by the cask than the Benrinnes and is quite simply a work of genius. 25% of Balblair production is bottled as single malt although independent releases are hard to find, as are bottlings from any of the Inver House group, bar Pulteney. Interestingly, Mike talked of the risk of signing his own name to any whisky although my suggestion that he bottle under the pseudonym of Sir Anderson Tadpole the third was, no doubt, the daftest idea he had ever heard.

From a refill sherry cask came an Adelphi 1991 Bunnahabhain, at 51.9%abv. Only a few bottles are available with the rest of the cask going to the next bottling of their highly successful ‘Liddesdale’. The wonderful nose had both sherry and Christmas cake with brandy butter. The taste and finish were the same with just a hint of smoke.

Closing, we had a 1971 Glenfarclas ‘Family Cask’, at 51.5%abv, and it was characteristic of the distillery with classic sherry character throughout, especially wedding cake and was one of 496 bottles.  In selecting this cask, Mike had tasted sixteen 1971 samples that had varied in alcoholic strength by no more than two percent and varied in volume by no more than ten bottles. This was the stuff that dreams are made off and anyone who can obtain a bottle of this is to be congratulated, as is Mike for having his finger on the pulse of people’s taste buds with his cask selection.

Tannochbrae Gala Dinner with Glenfiddich whisky

Saturday night in Dufftown brought a manifold treat with dinner at Tannochbrae restaurant where Allan and Susie served up some more fantastic fare accompanied by whiskies from the mighty Glenfiddich distillery, presented by the magnificent Bert Macor and music from the great Robin Laing featuring tracks from his non-whisky related albums such as ‘Punters’.

As well as the widely available and delicious ‘Rich Oak’ 14 year old, we had cask samples of the 15 year old ‘New Wood’ finish, a component of the huge-selling 15 year old ‘Solera Reserve’, and an 18 year old, drawn from the marrying tun while the 19 year old ‘Age of Discovery’, finished in Madeira casks offered us a marvelously sweet sherbet-like dram. These whiskies enabled Bert to demonstrate his knowledge of both history and geography, with a story of Portuguese conquistadors, and to pay tribute to new malt master Brian Kinsman who hopes to bring Glenfiddich into the limelight with innovation.

Released a mere 3 weeks previously, Glenfiddich ‘Malt Master edition’, at 43%abv, had been finished in sherry casks that gave it the taste of strawberries and cream as well as Turkish Delight cubed sweets.

Another new release is Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva Rum Finish, at 43.2%abv, and smells of brown sugar and tropical fruit. I found the taste was of cream and spice but reckon that a professional writer could be inspired to wax lyrical for several lines. For best results, the reader is recommended to pour a large dram and roll on the tongue.

Whisky and Chocolate with Mike Lord and Victoria Duty

After cleaning out the aardvarks from my attic with the help of another book by Agamemnon McWhirter, I headed to the Masonic hall for Whisky and Chocolate presented by Mike and Vicky.
The intrepid Mike had journeyed far and wide to lands where no human eye had previously set foot to find whiskies that combined effectively with ‘Olive Tree Chocolate’ from Elgin. Vicky is a chocolatier which apparently does not mean that she know Dogtanian. (I really wish I had composed this one myself).

As with previous whisky and food combinations, the whiskies chosen are widely available distillery releases. These were: Clynelish 14, at 46%abv, Strathisla 12, Aberlour A’Bunadh batch 36, at 60.1%abv, Glenfarclas 105 and Glendronach 18 ‘Allardice’, at 46%abv. Clynelish and A’Bunadh are benchmark whiskies for pairing with chocolate, according to Mike who does not comment on rumours that a Komodo dragon died a few days after he bit it.

Vicky opened with ‘Java’ – a milk chocolate consisting of 33% cocoa that is very silky, creamy and moreish and paired it with Clynelish. Next was ‘Ghana’ milk chocolate, 40% cocoa, and Strathisla 12. Robin Laing thinks that this drying whisky compliments the higher cocoa content of the chocolate and lengthens the finish.

Batch 36 of the popular A’Bunadh series is lighter in character than previous batches and is not to the taste of Robin or Mike but is more to mine. This was matched with ‘Saint Domingue’ from the Caribbean and is 70% cocoa and prompted Robin to read some of the limericks he had written about the A’Bunadh.

‘Equateur’ plain chocolate is 78% cocoa and was served with Glenfarclas 105, A’Bunadh’s great rival, and led to stories being told of a Sunday Times journalist drinking with Glenfarclas’ George Grant and a rather surreal aftermath.  Mike cautions that combining whisky with chocolate can lead to the taste of the whisky being stripped away and only the spirit being left behind. In particular, the robust Talisker 10 year old does not appear to go with chocolate at all.

Finally, ‘Kumabo’ African chocolate containing 80.1% cocoa was tasted alongside the Glendronach. Apparently, this is a hard chocolate to pair with whisky. As always, these whisky and food combinations can be recreated in the comfort of the reader’s own home with the whisky from Mike and chocolate from Olive Tree and all that remains is to congratulate Vicky on taking her first festival tasting.

Exotic Wildlife and Wemyss Whisky with Susan Colville

Susan Colville, 2011 Whisky Magazine ‘Young Brand Ambassador of the Year’, who says that she cannot handle two days of solid drinking any more, presented Wemyss Vintage malts.  (I prefer liquid drinking; it comes so much more naturally.) Also celebrating was Mike Lord who had won Whisky Magazine’s ‘Single Outlet Whisky Retailer of the Year’ award. (Legend has it that Mike stung a Portuguese man of war Jellyfish to death while swimming in the sea.)

Each bottling was 46%abv and, as usual, named after the dominant flavour present. My notes are accompanied by wildlife provided to liven things up still further and to drive Susan round the twist as well.

2000 Linkwood ‘Vanilla Zest’ had matured in a refill bourbon cask. This ideal summer whisky was very fresh with plenty of citrus notes and a slightly sharp and long finish though Susan could have lived without my added note of ‘Andean Condors’. (Nothing beats soaring over the mountains, looking for carrion.)
Bottled on the Tuesday before the festival was a 1989 Cragganmore called ‘Lemon Grove’. Susan is a big fan of older Cragganmore as she thinks it improves with age. Though I commented that it tasted of Spectacled Caimans, this whisky did not have a bite and should not be confused with the recent Ardbeg Alligator bottling. Accurately named, it had strong lemon on the nose and taste as well as oak and had a long, warm and smoky finish.

1990 Glencadam ‘Caribbean fruits’ smelled of light, golden honey and had both honey and spice tastes in equal measure and a short, creamy finish. 1997 Clynelish ‘Vanilla Summer’ did indeed smell and taste of vanilla, honey and fruit syrup although my comment about tube-nosed fruit bats was not strictly true. (This species was only discovered in 2009).

1981 Caol Ila ‘Whispering Smoke’ was distilled 6 weeks before Susan was born and had been fully matured in a second fill bourbon cask. This was a wonderful, subtle and luxurious dram with notes of spice, salt, pepper and lightly smoked bacon and an exceptionally long finish.
We closed with 1991 Bunnahabhain ‘Honey Spice’, matured in a first fill sherry cask that gave it coffee and treacle aromas with syrup and treacle flavours and a long, complex finish. I did announce loudly, also, the taste of Leopard Seals, which will not make this attractive to any penguins reading the report.

Robin Laing – ‘Pink whisky and the music of love’

Robin’s pink whiskies were the widely available Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, at 46% abv, Arran Amarone, at 50%abv, his own Bruichladdich fully matured in port and covered in the Spring 2011 report, Benriach Solstice, at 50% abv, and Octomore ‘Orpheus’, at 61%abv, from Bruichladdich distillery. The Benriach has now sold out, as has the Orpheus though, it should be noted, that the 140 ppm phenol level in the barley should not intimidate the reader and all Octomore batches have been exceptionally high in quality and no more difficult to drink than rival cask strength editions from Laphroaig and Ardbeg, for example, and sweetens considerably with water. Amarone is a heavy red Italian wine.

As well as tracks from his current album ‘Whisky for breakfast’, he featured love songs such as ‘I believe in you’, ‘Watershed’, ‘Black Rose’, ‘Closer to heaven’ and ‘Silver’. The brilliant ‘Kirk Douglas Ghoullie’ was also played and ‘Breakfast Whisky’ was given an extra verse while ‘Heaven Hill’ substituted a Smart car for the Mustang in the album version.

Returning to the whisky, Robin paid tribute to Glenmorangie for both their cask management and bottling strength and added that in Greek mythology Orpheus was ripped to pieces by women and wondered if he had lived in Dufftown.

Highlights from Robin’s performance are available on both Facebook and www.youtube.com.

Glen Moray Tour

Glen Moray distillery’s modus operandi is covered in depth in my Spring 2006 report and touring it on the Monday morning was still informative as the distillery is in full flow under French owners La Martiniquaise. Production is 2.2 million litres per annum from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week running. 50 per cent of production is bottled as single malt and, in the pipeline, are peated spirit distilled in 2010 and a number of releases fully matured in wine casks. Enthusiastic visitors can also bottle their own, straight from the cask, and the non-age statement, 12 year old and 16 year old expressions are available to taste, alongside limited edition ‘Manager’s dram’ bottles all of which represent tremendous value for money.

‘I was there ‘Adelphi Tasting with Antonia Bruce

As well as presenting new company baseball caps and a boxed set of four miniatures called ‘Nightcaps’, Antonia Bruce introduced a stellar collection of single cask whiskies., the first of which was 1997 Clynelish, at 59.1%abv, taken from a refill bourbon cask. This tasted of golden honey and fizzy sherbet with a long, warm and mellow finish.

A 1984 Tamdhu, at 48.8%abv, gave Antonia the chance to explain the ‘Saladin’ maltings process, which is apparently highly efficient and makes for robust spirit. Having matured in a refill sherry cask, this smelled of fruit salad chew bars with a fruity, waxy taste and a hint of chocolate at the end. Also, Antonia mentioned a blind tasting of fruit gums and it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one with a terrible sweet tooth.

1984 Linkwood, at 53.2%abv, also from refill sherry, had a lovely nose that inspired me to write at length as I found sherry, coffee, dark chocolate, treacle, Bovril and balsamic vinegar. The taste was surprisingly delicate and restrained and the finish long. Linkwood distillery is highly picturesque, apparently, and the surrounding wildlife was the inspiration for parent company Diageo’s ‘Flora and Fauna’ series. Linkwood has an ‘A’ distillery built in 1872 and a ‘B’ distillery built in 1971 and Norwegian Linkwood fan Snorre Lenes notes that distillery ‘A’ has not been used for many years.

1965 Lochside ‘single blend’ whisky, at 52.3%abv, provided all present with an ‘I was there’ moment. Lochside, in Montrose, operated between 1957 and 1992 and was co-founded by Joseph W Hobbs, owner of Ben Nevis distillery, and had both malt and grain facilities on site. This blend was 50% malt and 50% grain and had been blended at birth, as had a previous Adelphi Ben Nevis single blend from 1970. The nose was floral with vanilla and rum and raisin while the taste indicated that the grain still had fight in it as well as being very well balanced with hazelnut chocolate and fruit. The finish was one of rum and coffee but, really, such moments are really a chance to taste history and part of what a festival should be about.

Closing the session in thought-provoking style was a 1999 12 year old Breath of Islay, at 56.1%abv, that was a sister cask to another 1999 Breath of Islay 11 year old bottling. The latter is an excellent example of a conventional ‘big punch’ whisky representative of the distillery that I reckon is associated with the White Horse blends. The 12 year old, however, did not have as obvious a peat character, instead offering attractive sweetness in its place before some light smoke. The middle was salty, smooth and sweet and the end was long and lingering and gave credence to my view that Islay whiskies are not about one big punch but still have depths to be revealed, especially if the peat is not as dominant as in previous years.

Dapper Duncan Taylor

Bringing the last festival tasting to us was a well-dressed Mark Watt, of DTC. Mark, who refers to Oliver Reed as ‘that teetotal actor’, showed us a new promotional company DVD that inadvertently brought home to me the news that there is only so hard you can bite into your own knuckles when you’re trying not to laugh at the narrator’s voice.

As we watched, we sampled a sherry-matured 1990 Bladnoch, at 48.6%abv, that smelled of strawberry trifle and, after a drop of water, tasted of sherry trifle and had a long peppery prickle on the finish that should not alarm the reader as no hedgehogs were involved.

A preview of the third batch of Black Bull 40 year old, at 40.9%abv, had lovely marzipan and cream cake notes and more smokiness than Mark remembers. The blend is 90% malt, being held together, in Mark’s view, and brought over strength by the Invergordon grain whisky present. This batch is expected to yield about 700 individually numbered bottles and will have the ingredients listed on the bottle as well.

As an image to freeze in the mind, nothing beats Mark’s description of a business meeting in Japan conducted in a sauna, through an interpreter.

In a watershed moment, we tasted an upcoming 1992 ‘Rarest of the Rare’ Caperdonich, at 56.7%abv, which made it the first Duncan Taylor Caperdonich I had tasted that is younger than I am. Revealing, perhaps, what could have been for this now demolished distillery, the nose had Fruit Salad and Irn Bru chew bars and the crisp taste featured cooking apples, smoke and some soft woodiness albeit with a short finish.

DTC have a large stock of 1992 Caperdonich casks laid down for the future, we were told, as well as some 1997 and 2000 vintage casks filled with peated spirit. These casks, in Mark’s opinion, would not last long in an Octave cask and he drew attention to the evaporation rate from such casks – a staggering 12 percent, if left for a year.

A 1988 Auchroisk, at 52%abv, which had spent 3 months in an Octave cask that had given 73 bottles was a masterpiece with fruit and grassy smells and a taste of tropical fruit, cream and spice that had Mark and I reminiscing about the long discontinued ‘Singleton of Auchroisk’ bottling.

Demonstrating his expert knowledge of cask management, Mark told us the tale of Imperial matured in an Amarone cask that had begun horribly before marrying together over time. We then moved on to a ‘Rare Auld’ 1993 Cragganmore, at 55.3%abv. The nose was big, heavy and punchy with sherry and orange and tastes of treacle, fruitcake and toffee that Mark said in no way tasted like chewing on a purple balloon. (This description kicks sand in the face of my old standby – biting into a burnt welly.)

Recovering from stories about Ribena mixed with Balvenie new-make and chewing safety pins, we ended with a 1983 Caol Ila, at 51.7%abv, that had matured in a refill sherry butt before being transferred to an Octave cask. The nose had marvelous notes of vanilla, smoke, fruit, lime and kiwi fruit while Phil Yorke reckoned he detected Parma Violets and toffee apples. The taste was like smoked ham cooked in a very rich sauce and Mark reckoned that the sherry had added considerable depth to the whisky.

With Mark’s beloved Caperdonich now gone and his equally beloved Imperial unlikely to produce again, I urge the reader to raise a glass of the drams mentioned in the report in their memory as the quality of the whisky available is not in doubt.

And Finally....

In closing, I’d like to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the festival and, in particular, Mike Lord and his wife Val, Steve Oliver, the wonderful people at the ‘Coffee Pot’ for keeping me going through the weekend, to Vicky at the Whisky Shop, to Claire for the proofreading, to Rene and Glo, Gordon Haughton, and everyone involved with the ‘Mates of the Museum’ plus Alan and Susie at the Tannochbrae.

I’m off to solve the problem of aardvarks once and for all by moving out of the termite mound I live in and hopefully, I’ll see you again at the spring festival when the foot will once again be on the other hand.