..Category Archives: Whisky Tastings and Events News

News on up and coming whisky events including festivals and tastings

What is the Best Single Malt to go with Haggis? (September 2015)

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Our search at The Whisky Shop Dufftown to find the best Single Malt to go with Haggis which started in 2012 continued at this year's The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival 2015.  We held daily tastings for guests of our festival to try our 4 specially selected malts - the winner from the previous festival and 3 new challengers.  We have now tried 32 different single malts in our search!

Our reigning champion from the last 3 festivals,  Aberlour 15 Years Old Select Cask , was pitched against Glen Scotia 15 Years Old, An Cnoc 2000 and Linkwood 15 Years Old from Gordon & MacPhail.

Our guests were asked to try the whiskies with haggis, neaps and tatties.  Nothing else.  We do try and be a bit scientific.  We wanted to show how the combination of whisky and food emphasised some flavours in either the whisky or the haggis and even created new ones.  We were delighted to see the expression on the faces of our guests as they experienced this.

It was a very tough battle this year but the biggest shock was the reigning champion came last.  As ever some people voted for each combination as the best proving that flavours are both personal and subjective.  What happened here?  We do not know.  We understand this whisky is made in batches so may be the flavour profile has changed slightly.  We placed the tables in a different position in the tasting hall.  May be that had an impact.  Yes, it really might.  We have regularly seen a split in opinion on the favourite between tables on opposite sides of the hall.  Do not think about this!  It will send you mad!

Now for the results.  It was really neck and neck with only 1 vote separating the top 2.  Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood 15 Years Old was just pipped at the post by the newly released Glen Scotia 15 Years Old.

Glen Scotia 15

Is this a disaster that Speyside has lost this award?  Well, we at The Whisky Shop Dufftown don't mind too much.  This is a great whisky and trying great whisky is what our festivals are all about.  In addition we like to help out the smallest whisky region (by production capacity).  Dufftown which is not recognised as a whisky region has a capacity roughly 20 times greater than Campbeltown which is a recognised as a whisky region.   We do like to help the little people.

WSD Image Haggis 01

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Haggis, neeps and tatties


Lady of the Drams Festival Highlights

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Our very own Lady of the Dram's reviews The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival 2015

Firstly I apologise for not posting sooner but things have been very hectic here one way and another.

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival 2015 was another great success this year. It was great to see all our regulars and all the new faces, of which there were a lot, enjoying themselves. Here are some of the highlights of the festival for me.

On Thursday Mike kicked the festival off with his Big Dram tasting which was well attended and the whiskies well received.  The first drop was drunk.

Friday saw a couple of new events, the Half ‘n half Tasting during the afternoon followed by a cocktail masterclass at The Dowans. For the half n half we saw Mark from the Old Worthy Brewing Co team up with Robert Ransom from Angels Nectar. Mark is very passionate about his beers and has taken great care when choosing which whiskies to pair them with. Robert is also very proud of the Angels Nectar and Strane Gin (a great gin from Sweden). The pairings were very well matched each bringing some different flavours out in the other. The cocktail class was a huge success with the crazy Murray sisters entertaining us all with their anecdotes and sisterly jibes at each other. It was also really good to see quite a few newcomers to this event having the time of their life. They were all crazy so obviously become good friends of The Whisky Shop Dufftown. Fab cocktails were plentiful and it was announced to the group that my daughter had actually won the cocktail competition which had taken place earlier in the week (thats the last time I remind her to enter an event)

Saturday came and Antonia from Adelphi brought some great new whiskies, my favourite being the Invergordon 43 years old which had an amazing taste of milk chocolate bounty bars (knowing my taste, probably the most expensive of the bunch). Mike followed, looking very dashing in full kilt, continuing on his quest for Dufftown to become a recognised independent Whisky region.  The audience were treated to some great Dufftown whiskies and entertained by Mikes presentation which included a few of his friends as you have never seen them before. In the evening we were back to the Dowans for some whisky dining. The food was, as always, fantastic and everyone seemed to enjoy the whiskies Mike and I had carefully chosen to compliment the courses. All went home feeling well fed and content and ready for a good nights sleep.

Sunday and it was my turn. David MacDonald (Spey Valley Brewery) and I hosted our beer, whisky and food tasting. This time from the 1980s complete with fancy dress, oh yes Im afraid so, David metamorphed into Michael Jackson and I was complete with rainbow wig (which Mike took a liking too as it was the first time hed had hair that long) and many coloured accessories (Im sure there are many photos kicking around on various sites). For those in the audience that we didnt scare away they reminisced with us over the food and the music and were even given sweeties for being good. Peter from Morrison & MacKay followed and Im not sure how they get their casks but they really are bringing some amazing whiskies to The Whisky Shop Dufftown.

The final day and not only did this bring another new tasting but a new presenter. Richard Urquhat from Gordon & Macphail held a vertical Benromach tasting. Whilst Richard may be used to more cosmopolitan audiences and sunnier climates he was a fountain of knowledge and passionate about the whiskies and the new packaging the distillery now has. Watch out Mike P you may have your slot stolen. The new addition was Compass Box presented by Herman. I have never been in a tasting where the presenter is so excited and enthusiastic about the products that he actually forgot to taste the whiskies he was talking about. Compass Box seem to be really trying to grab peoples attention and get themselves out there with whisky enthusiasts everywhere. The Drams party was the final event of the night and as always it was a fantastic end to the festival. Many whiskies were drunk, prizes given and to my shock, delight and amazement Mike presented me with a brand new guitar from himself and Val for my 5 year anniversary of working for them. They may be sorry.

Well thats just some of my festival highlights, as always the atmosphere was great and the feedback we have had amazing, with many of the new attendees telling us they will be back. Were holding you to that guys. Ill be back soon with notes from some of the events I attended before the festival and news of trips to come.

Happy dramming

Lady of the Drams.

Vicky Duty of The WSD and The Olive Tree

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Speyside Spirit Cocktail Competition

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You cannot deny the growing trend for using single malt whisky in a cocktail.  This is really about cocktails coming of age.  Invented to use ingredients to hide the taste of poorly produced and bad tasting alcohol, cocktails are now focusing on the flavour that the base-line spirit gives to the drink.  So why not use single malts?  The best of all spirits.

We have been inspired by the Facebook posts from Tales of the Cocktail in NOLA so we at The Whisky Shop Dufftown have decided to jump on the cocktail band wagon and we are launching today a competition to find the best cocktail using a spirit from the Speyside whisky region. And what better time than when Tales of the Cocktail is on in NOLA.  You might get some inspiration from there!!!  You are just as likely to be inspired by Dufftown though.  Hurricanes and distilleries aside, Dufftown has so much in common with New Orleans.  A walk down Fife Street and you could be on Bourbon Street.  And the Stuart Arms, well it is difficult to say who copied whom but just think the Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone!

Carousel Bar


The winner will get a £250 voucher to spend in the shop.  The winning cocktail will be announced at The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival.

To get you in the mood here is our Speyside cocktail - Forres Skyline.

  • 1 measure of Benromach 10 Years Old 100 Proof
  • 1 measure of Woodford Reserve Double Oak
  • 1 measure of dry Vermouth
  • 1 measure of sweet Vermouth
  • A couple of generous dashes of orange bitters
  • A twist of orange peel

Place the ingredients except the peel into a shaker.  Add a few cubes of ice and stir.  We do not want this too cold or with too much water. Strain the mixture into a martini glass and add the peel.

We have obviously been inspired by a classic Manhattan and we have meddled with it in the same way the skyline of Forres is just a twist on the Manhattan skyline.  Especially if you are looking at it from the roof of Benromach distillery while standing on your head blindfolded.

We think the balanced smoke of the Benromach gives an extra kick to this drink and the flavours of the Benromach and the Woodford interact nicely with the orange elements.  Smoky Manhattans have been around for a while but we think this is much more complex than any we have had before.

Here are the rules:

  1. The drink must be a cocktail i.e. a mixture of 3 or more liquids.
  2. The cocktail must contain at least one measure of a Speyside spirit.
  3. We need to be able to make it - I know some of you are just wanting to use meldon berries from the Serengeti picked at dawn on the summer equinox to flavour Dalmore Constellation 1964. But lets face it, if we cannot reasonably get the ingredients, and that means generally available at reasonable cost, we ain't gonna make it.
  4. It needs to be judged better than Forres Skyline by our panel of willing judges.
  5. It needs to have a great name as that is all part of the fun and come with a short piece about why it works for you.
  6. The entry must come with a detailed recipe and instructions plus a picture.

The rules have been deliberately worded.

Please get your entries in by 1 September 2015 by email to enquiries@whiskyshopdufftown.com.


Cocktail Competition Photo 1 v2

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2015 Report by Bruce Crichton

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Published here complete and unabridged

After hiding my money offshore, I headed to Dufftown. Having fallen out of my boat many times, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival was just what I needed and after days of great whisky, food, music, kiwis, wallabies, Doctor Who, Captain Slow and a squad from Craigellachie, here is my account of it.

The report aims to give 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 past reports and tastings if a whisky re-appears. I also assume the reader is familiar with widely available bottlings mentioned. Cask samples and discontinued releases tasted are described briefly, as these may not be available to buy. Water was added to most drams, given their alcoholic strength and readers are invited to judge for themselves how much a particular whisky requires, if any. The whisky is 40%abv, if the strength is not otherwise indicated and chronological order is broken, where appropriate, to provide a comparison for the reader, along with possible serving suggestions.

A big dram at the Whiskyshop Dufftown

It all started with a big dram WSD

The festival began on Thursday afternoon as Whiskyshop Dufftown (WSD) owner Mike Lord poured a big charity dram of Glenlivet Founders Reserve, a non-age statement (NAS) whisky that will replace the 12 year old standard bottling. This was a cheery dram with fruit salad chew bars on the nose and the taste of banana foam sweets giving way to wine and oak on the finish, reminiscent of the 12 year old. The money raised from this went to Fibromyalgia UK. (Rumour has it that thrill-seeking sharks get into cages to get close to Mike and see what he is like in his natural habitat.)A big dram of Glenlivet WSD

The first whisky from the informal ‘It all started with a big dram tasting was a 1993 Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) ‘exclusive Mannochmore, at 48.8%abv, that had been matured in a refill bourbon cask that yielded 195 bottles. Bottled for the WSD the day before, the tasting notes had been prepared very quickly and consisted mostly of types of orange so my suggestion of Frys orange cream was probably more useful than the possible alternatives of Dale Winton or men in bowler hats and sashes, playingthe flute. The distillery was built in 1971, becoming the backbone of the Haigs blends and was later refitted to make it bigger than sister distillery Glen Lossie. The finish to the whisky was very long and spicy.

Glenfarclas 17, at 43%abv, smelled sweet with notes of chewy highland toffee. Mike finds this more subtle than others from the distillerys core range while I found the taste of blood orange chocolate. The first release of Tamdhu ‘Batch Strength, at 58.8%abv, was the most thought-provoking whisky of the session, prompting discussions about NAS whisky and questions about how it compares to Glengoyne cask strength, also owned by Ian Macleod. Mike does not find any young whisky notes in this and found no real nose from the very oily spirit. Brown sugar was, perhaps, the most obvious taste present and the reader is invited to compare Tamdhu and Glengoyne back to back.

Benromach 10 year old ‘100 proof, at 57%abv, is the popular 10 year old before it is diluted from near cask strength. Lots of smoke is present on the nose and is well balance by the bourbon and sherry casks used for maturation. This was a great whisky, well worthy of careful study in the readers home with no obvious need to add water. To end, there was a bonus dram of the WSD exclusive Caol Ila, reviewed last spring and described in more detail later.


I was there with Berry Brothers and Rudd

Presenting whisky at 46%abv, if not otherwise indicated, for Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR) was Jonny MacMillan who managed to adapt his act to cope with the absence of Boisterous Aberdonian, his regular foil. He began with a slide comparing a 1974 single cask Glen Grant to a thinly disguised bottle of Haig grain whisky with the former being unchilfiltered and coloured and the latter not. Not merely that, but the Haig has had lashings of David Beckham added. Another comparison was Led Zeppelin and 1 Direction, with one member crossed out and Jonny is hopeful that more members of 1D will be crossed out soon.

I found a 1999 Dufftown absolutely enchanting, surprisingly so, given that Id never previously had a great Dufftown younger than I am. Sherbet, shortbread and vanilla were present on the nose with the taste being sweet and chewy. Best with 1 drop of water, the finish was warm and long. A 1996 Auchentoshan prompted Jonny to remind us that the distillerys name is Gaelic for ‘made from Glasgow tap water and pointed out that this is not his style of whisky. I added to this that there seems to be a fine margin separating great whisky from merely good whisky with this distillery and, perhaps, choice of cask is of paramount importance as I find the ‘Valinch bottling to be terrific. All the same, this was still a pleasant dram with cream, vanilla and spice notes.

As an interesting aside, Jonny showed a slide of 1909 prices and drew particular attention to the 1885 Talisker. Moving on, the next whisky was a 43 year old, 1970 Ben Nevis ‘Single blend, at 44.7%abv, so called because it was made from a single malt and single grain whisky from the same distillery complex and blended at birth. The rarity value price of this whisky did cause a twit in the audience to balk at the price but, really, this was the first ‘I was there moment of the festival and it was soft on the nose with notes of fruit syrup and banana and custard yoghurt and some slight bourbon on the finish.
Boisterous Aberdonians will get this WSDAs we tasted a1991 Strathmill, at 51.2%abv, serendipitously, in the audience, there was Stuart Robertson, currently manager of Dalmore distillery and previously manager of that distillery, in Keith. This had fizzy sherbet and Parma violet notes with delicious sweetness throughout.

Our fourth dram was a 1997 Deanston, at 54.1%abv, and I must admit to being surprised that Jonny did not say this was Gaelic for ‘Monty Python filmed nearby. Jonny did say that this is his favourite from the newly released single casks. Oily and viscous, this had slight bourbon on the nose and was very chewy.

The eleventh release of ‘Blue Hanger, at 45.6%abv, had minty toffee on the nose and taste, along with vanilla with a light smoke that grew at the end. BBR endeavour to make each batch taste different and this one may well have had some peated Bunnahabhain as a component. It paved the way ideally for a 1987 Bunnahabhain, effervescent as it was, being light and sweet with a spicy finish.

Boisterous Aberdonians will get this WSD


The Doctor and the Captain of Douglas Laing

With his regular assistant Romana away with the Tardis and K9, Jan Beckers brought Graham Dunnet of Douglas Laing with him to the tasting and began with a 1994 ‘Clan Denny North British grain whisky, at 51%abv. This had Jan and I recounting a previous tasting encounter with a nincompoop who, despite being English, did not appear to comprehend the English language. No matter, this tasted of both vanilla and syrup and led Jan to say that he finds grain a whisky a dessert on its own. He found lemons on the taste and, proving that it was not just his Strepsils giving him that taste, I found lemon cheesecake. This one is best rolled on the tongue to achieve striking results.

Douglas Laing doctored and captained WSD

A 2004 Provenance Benrinnes, at 46%abv, did not taste like a Johnnie Walker whisky to this writer, with notes of cream crackers, spice and light pepper. Jan believes this is a breakfast dram and found fresh green apples. Unwisely, he said that his body was a temple and a whisky festival report writer present quipped that it had clearly been sacked by Mongol hordes long ago.

A 15 year old ‘Old Particular Glenallachie, at 48.4%abv, had been matured in a refill sherry butt that Jan believes was made from American oak, explaining the relative lack of colour in the whisky. Interestingly, Jan remembers the days when this distillerys whisky was bottled exclusively for his native Belgium. Dry and crisp, the whisky had both malt and cereal flavours followed by apples and shortbread on the finish.

Old Particular Speyside 18 year old had also been matured in a refill sherry cask and was darker in colour than the Glenallachie. I found spice and oak with some dried fruit and that it went nicely with blood orange chocolate, something Ulf, Swedish whisky fan sitting beside me, went along with. Jan said that the chocolate transformed the whisky and the combination tasted like Crepe Suzette. However, after discussion, Jan drew the conclusion that he would probably have preferred the whisky paired with Maya Gold, dark chocolate with orange so the reader is invited to purchase the bottle and the chocolates and see which of the two match up the best.

Mike explains why Romana is not here WSD
‘Rock Oyster, at 46.8%abv, is a new release, the latest in the companys series of what would have, in more sensible times, been called a vatted malt. Graeme took over as captain at this point to tell us that this whisky consists of malts from the islands of Orkney, Jura, Arran and Islay. The dominant taste was of soft, creamy cheese and, again, the reader is recommended to roll this on the tongue for the best experience. Graeme gets some gentle peat from this while Yorkshires Phil Yorke got great complexity and Jan was put in mind of a walk on the beach with salty air. Another of this series, the ‘Scallywag will soon be bottled at cask strength, just as the ‘Big Peat, from the same range, is bottled at cask strength, for the Christmas market. To end, Old Particular Bowmore 16 year old, demonstrated, with time, classic Murray Mint notes while Graham got butterscotch. The nose was slightly salty with a little peat and more smoke on the taste before a subtle finish.

Whisky fair and in-store tasting highlights, in no particular order

A new release from the Speyside distillery at Drumguish, ‘Beinn Dubh, pronounced ‘Bee and Doo and meaning ‘Black Mountain, at 43%abv, was fruity and smooth. Unlike the ‘Cu Dubh that contained whisky from the same distillery, this has only a slight addition of caramel and the taste is real, not synthetic like the ‘Black Dog. Most of the whiskys colour comes from maturation in port pipes. Interestingly, the 18 distillerys 18 year old expression sold out in under a year. More about the company later.

Spey at the whisky fair WSD
‘Dream Drams Longmorn 12 year old, at 57.3%abv, from a refill bourbon cask, was particularly creamy and tasted of digestive biscuits. Their latest bottling was a 20 year old Tobermory, at 55.2%abv, that was both salty and coastal on the nose and taste and gave a tremendous sense of luxuriousness.

MacPhails Collection 8 year old Glenrothes, at 43%abv, replaces the old 40%abv bottling. Chewy and fresh, it was soft and creamy and ideal for a session, as are whiskies from this range in general. From the same company, Connoisseurs Choice 2000 Aultmore, at 46%abvm, was light with cereal and grassy notes while Neil Simpson detect a slight touch of peat.

At the Glencadam stall, the Brechin distillerys 14 year old Oloroso finish, at a standard 46%abv, tasted mostly of Turkish Delight and was awesomely easy to drink. The 15 year old had malt and cereal notes while a bonus dram of the 21 year old in celebration of the birth of Princess Charlotte had cream cheese and spice flavours with a long finish. Also, the distillery has launched a handy collection pack of miniatures.

Adelphis ‘Private Stock blended whisky was like a light Christmas cake in a glass with brandy butter added. A 17 year old Benrinnes, at 57.2%abv, proved to be the wildfire hit of the fair, with word spreading very quickly. There was light vanilla and hints of salt. Interestingly, the writer Charles MacLean gets ‘Parma Negra Ham on the taste and so do I, except for the ‘Parma Negra, obviously.

Benriach 10 year old, just released at 43%abv and not to be confused with the ‘Curiositas did need a single drop of water but this revealed thick green apples of the kind that needs the bite strength of an alligator to actually eat but was delicious in liquid form, something that is apparently characteristic of Benriach at a relatively young age. Glendronach 15, at 46%abv, had subtle and warm sherry notes and would be interesting to taste, back to back, with the aforementioned Glenfarclas 17. This whisky has won many awards recently and deservedly so, on this evidence.

Wemyss have re-released their range of blended malts at 46% and with no age statement. ‘The Hive was particularly sweet with honey and wine while the ‘Peat Chimney was slightly misnamed with the taste of highland and island peat, rather than Islay peat and was sweeter than the name would indicate. A 1995 ‘Stem Ginger from Mortlach, at 46%abv, sold out quickly that weekend but comes recommended to the reader who comes across a straggler of this or of the ‘Pastille Bouquet from the same company and same distillery. The taste is self-explanatory, given Wemyss method of naming the whisky after the dominant tasting note and I add only that the nose revealed the taste of soft, melt-in-the-mouth fruit pastilles.


Adelphi Tasting with Antonia Bruce

Introducing Antonia, Mike Lord noted that Adelphi have been at every one of the whisky festivals he has presented as WSD owner and we began with a 1990 Bladnoch, at 55.3%abv. The distillery is currently mothballed and has been since about 2009. As Antonia said she found it ‘farmyardy, I detected fruit salad chew bars and, as she did the bead test, I took a photo that she described as ‘artistic.
Suddenly perplexed, I wondered who was I and what had I done with the real Moist Von Lipwig, Albert Spangler and Ethel Snake? Having slipped into the pyjamas of perplexity, I avoided the dressing gown of despair and changed into the jeans of jubilation to destroy the readers sense of time and knowledge of the correct tense before moving on to an excellent 19 year old Glen Grant, at 55.7%abv. This had buttery sponge and Pink Lady apples on the nose with vanilla and buttered toast and/or crumpets to taste. The finish was warm, long and delicate with coconuts detectable.

Adelphi tasting WSD

A 1992 Longmorn, at 51.8%abv, had apparently given the best bead test results from all the casks the company had and Antonia noted that this distillery survived the infamous Pattison crash by maturing quickly, hitting the ground running, as it were, and becoming highly prized by blenders. Antonia found spices and ginger on this while I tasted raspberry ripple and cream sponge with sherbet. There was also chewiness and raisins while water revealed strawberry refresher chew bars.

A 2007 Glenrothes, at 67%abv, was the latest in a series of young whiskies from this distillery that Adelphi have released. The aim of this bottling was to achieve ‘young jolly whisky and Antonia got the smell of erasers, fruitcake and dark treacle. I found Bovril, as I so often have done with Adelphi Glenrothes, and water quelled the fire to reveal fruitcake, syrup and toffee sauce with a dry finish. This one is best to sip, rather than roll on the tongue, unlike others mentioned earlier.

Antonia Bruce and artistic beading WSD

1996 Bowmore, at 57.2%abv, had been matured in an American oak sherry cask and had salted fish together with Murray mints on the nose. Antonia thought it was like a Caol Ila and finishes like a Springbank, in its oiliness, while I found it reminiscent of Longrow, distilled, of course, at Springbank. The addition of water revealed vanilla and smoke.

Unconventionality from Cadenheads.

3 generations of the Watt family arrived in Dufftown and, since one of them was Mark Watt, we decided to have a Cadenheads tasting with some cask samples and ‘Small batch releases that have sold out.

A work-in-progress sample of a 12 year old blend, at 46%abv, had fruit syrup and cereal notes. A solera system is planned for this blend and Mark intends to create an everyday whisky with this. In this sample was 14 year old Glen Scotia and 2001 Auchroisk. A future batch will have 14 year old Mortlach.

Cadenhead's tasting WSD

An entertaining theme emerged as Mark played music and film clips from the year that his chosen whiskies had been distilled. A 1996 Arran, at 50.9%abv, prompted Mark to wish all new distilleries well, especially those that would sell him casks. There was fruit salad, syrup and honey on the nose with Mark describing it as ‘clearic and Ribena, similar to my description of it as tasting like blackcurrant Fruitella. Mark has apparently worked in a bar in Japan that had 27 Arrans and this was surprising to me as I and the other members of the audience had no idea he had ever been to Japan, let alone been in a bar there.

A 1978 ‘Authentic Collection Miltonduff, at 45.6%abv, was sweet and delicate with a little smoke and soft vanilla with refreshers. This was a very ‘Ballantines dram and, hence, is recommended to the reader to be drunk along with Minstrels while watching a Hammer horror film or possibly a spaghetti western. Interestingly, Mark believes he is responsible alone for the so-called ‘Angels Share in Campbeltown and this indicates that he has scaled back his whisky consumption recently.

1988 Dufftown, at 52.1%abv, should be released as part of the ‘Authentic Collection in July. Mark found woodiness and quoted me as saying ‘not often you get a Dufftown that is very Bells. This, however, had peach syrup notes and some juicy fruitiness. 1990 Glenrothes-Glenlivet, at 55.7%abv, was introduced by Elton Johns ‘Sacrifice which Mark commented on, saying that it was one of the few Top of the Pops 2 clips you can still show. A ‘Small Batch release, this had ‘huge sherry on the nose and ‘more massive sherry on the taste followed by ‘huge sherry on the finish. There was, however, no Bovril character on this, something prevalent in young sherry-matured whisky from this distillery.

From 1984, Lionel Richies ‘Hello is a ‘pulling song and was used to introduce a Caol Ila, at 54.1%abv. ‘Footloose was also mentioned as Mark believes he drinks better than he dances. This was Bowmore-like on the nose with mints and salted fish. The taste was rich and soft followed by smoke and sweetness with chewy fruit sweets.

Mark Watt cask is king WSD

Tannochbrae Gala Dinner

A sumptuous feast was served at the Tannochbrae restaurant, ideal for connoisseurs of fine food and enormous gannets alike, which was handy. Each course was paired with a whisky from ‘Malts of Scotland and there was an enchanting selection of music played by Robin Laing and described later, including ‘Magic Ship of Dreams for the companys Thomas Ewers who could not be with us, that evening.

An 11 year old Miltonduff, at 53.6%abv, from a sherry hogshead was fresh, sweet and very thick, almost ABunadh-like. Water lightened it considerably. A mystery ‘Images of Dufftown malt, at 53.2%abv, was possibly a Pittyvaich, making it very rare indeed. ‘Images of Islay, at 53.2%abv, was very clean, with a Bowmore-like nose but with hints of bacon and a south Islay taste. A 12 year old Bruichladdich, at 58.4%abv, from a sherry hogshead brought to mind Benriachs 12 year old Sherry matured bottling and tasted of Turkish Delight.

A 1990 Bladnoch, at 52.1%abv, had been matured in a refill sherry hogshead and Robin described it as ‘history in a glass. It was heartening to know that I was not the only one present who thought of ‘The Wicker Man when tasting this and I found strawberry chewits on the nose with the addition of water softening it to make ideal to accompany a desert. ‘Fruit crumble in a glass was the way I described it.

The final dram was a 24 year old Imperial, at 48.1%abv, matured in a bourbon barrel. A classic ‘Ballantines Dram, there were lemon curd and banana custard yoghurt notes with vanilla and refreshers. Robin found pears and honey and the words ‘stuff of legend were highly appropriate, on this occasion.

Tannochbrae gala evening WSD

Speyside distillery tour

Sunday morning brought a trip to the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore where a bus picked us up and took us to the Speyside distillery at Drumguish, near Kingussie, one of several tours hosted that weekend.

The ‘Spey whiskies had been making a big impact on the festival that weekend and the distillery is now owned by John Harvey McDonough, known for the ‘Chairmans Choice series and CEO of Harveys of Edinburgh. Speyside was opened by George Christie in 1990, having been built by hand by a dry stane dyker over the course of many years.
Speyside has no warehouse on site with the spirit filled into tankers, transported to Rutherglen, in Glasgow, and filled into casks at 63.5%abv. Each mash uses 4.16 tons of barley and the distillery operates 5.5 days per week with 2 shifts per day producing 600,000 litres of alcohol, an impressive feat for an apparently small operation. As we walked round, there was a story from Sandy Jameson, distillery manager, about old workers drinking wash with disastrous trouser consequences. Fermentation lasts an average of 60 hours and the spirit produced is floral. Around the site were some remade Octave casks and a small still, made in Rothes and used in Sark to distill gin which will be used for making spirit again. As an aside, Speyside also appeared in BBCs television series ‘Monarch of the Glen as the fictional ‘Lagganmore distillery. Also, the managers office had originally been a mill that closed in 1965.

Monarch of the glen WSD

We were joined for the tasting by John McDonough and Patricia Dillon, managing director of Speyside distillers. From Country Durham, John is a fascinating character with many stories, stories I decided to enjoy and listen to while tasting my whisky, rather than scribble them down in a frenzied fashion. The original John Harvey, of Harveys Bristol Cream fame, had traded sherry and whisky but was nearly wiped out by the infamous Pattison crash and later proved much more successful in the sherry business.

Pat, John and Sandy of Speyside WSD

At 46%abv, the ‘Tenne had spent 8 years in bourbon casks then 6 months in Tawny port casks. Tenne is the Latin for Tawny and this name has been used since Tawny Port has a monopoly on the name. A very moreish dram, Patricia thinks this is a good introduction to whisky in general and I found that a spot of water opened it to reveal delicious fruits and sweetness. Always first fill port casks are chosen for this as there is nothing left in the cask after that.

Sandy's office at Speyside WSD

The 12 year old had refill bourbon characteristics and some lemon cheesecake on the nose. I found vanilla, almonds and some slight pepper to taste with the finish being delicate. With this, for the first time ever, I found myself being able to describe something as a breakfast whisky.

On Christmas day, the ‘Chairmans Choice whiskies are chosen and they last until about May. This sessions Chairmans Choice had a high proportion of 17 year old whisky matured in both bourbon and sherry casks, giving it the taste of shortcake and caramel. The ‘Royal Choice was first bottled at 40%abv but is now bottled at 46% and comes from vintage sherry casks. Patricia found toffee notes on this and I tasted the sauce from a great sticky toffee pudding, drawing the conclusion that it is Speysides after dinner luxury dram and is probably best tasted then, even though it is excellent before lunch.

Speyside stills WSD

No bristling from Morrison and Mackay

We laugh at the idea of wearing a salmon pink shirt WSD

Introduced by Mike Lord as ‘probably the next James Bond, suave and debonair, Peter Mackay wasted no time in presenting a ‘Strictly Limited 2006 Craigellachie, at the standard 46%abv, that had been matured in 2 bourbon casks. With excellent timing, a squad from the village of Craigellachie joined our table and later posed for a picture with Peter. The nose had lemon curd with light, golden syrup with lemon and vanilla on the taste, plus a little sharpness perhaps indicating that this whisky is a component of the popular Dewars blends. Dewars is a Perth-based blend and Peter told us that he had just been at the Perth whisky festival that had lived up to the reputation of Perth and said it was best to leave it at that. Peter is pleased that Dewars have launched their own series of single malts, including Craigellachie, and believes that the distillerys spirit has a light, grassy character.

As an aside, Peter told the audience that his father had launched the now legendary collectors item ‘Black Bowmore and was told at the time that £90 for a bottle was too expensive, something he is no doubt laughing up his sleeve about and the interested reader will do well to get a nip of it in a pub for that amount.  His father also said that he could kick rugby drop goals from his own half of the pitch so Danny Maguire added that New Zealands Zinzan Brooke can do that as well. (Some reader may recognize Danny, who was in the original series of Star Trek as a tribble).

Moving on to the next Strictly Limited bottling, a 1998 Ben Nevis, matured in a Fino sherry butt had the characteristic strawberry chewits on the nose, with a creamy taste and a very soft finish. Peter is a big fan of Ben Nevis but I think this is because he is a secret alchemist. At any rate, he and his company have consistently bottled the best whiskies available from this by no means reliable distillery.

Returning to Perth blended whisky, Peter talked of Matthew Gloag, of Famous Grouse, and his ‘Pintail sherry casks used to mature whisky. He recommends this particular sherry to be served at 8C and pointed out that the Palomino grape is used for both Fino and Oloroso sherry. (This grape probably gives better results than using a horse or a Mexican-American boxer who appeared in ‘Taxi with Tony Danza). A further story about a ‘sherry condom caused this writer to dissolve with laughter. Peter wondered if he should copy the showmanship of a famous master blender by using a water pistol but I said that he doesnt have a moustache and doesnt look like he holidays on the face of the sun so it wouldnt work.
A 2000 Strictly Limited Fettercairn offered a rare chance to taste whisky from this distillery not saturated with caramel. Even allowing for that, it had been matured in casks stamped ‘organic making it most unlike any other Fettercairn ever produced. The nose had fruit gums and fruit salad chew bars with peached, syrup, vanilla and coconut notes. At the finish, vanilla burst through and lingered.

A Celebration of the Cask (COC) 1996 Arran, at 52.6%abv, had been bottled a fortnight before, having been matured in a refill sherry puncheon. Peter and I agreed that a first fill cask would have overpowered this one with the nose having light fruitcake and soft toffee. Rolling on the tongue gave the best results and the reader who obtains a bottle is invited to compare it to the distillerys official cask strength bottling. Apparently, even the people of Perth can tell the finer qualities of this so this should be considered praise. In a historical context, Peter drew our attention to the fact that Arran distillery was built at a time of very low confidence in the Scotch whisky industry, 1995, a year when Bowmore was selling 35,000 cases per year, as opposed to the 200,000 they sell now.

A 1988 North British COC, at 60.7%abv, smelled of golden honey and syrup. Very light, there was soft, delicate bourbon on the taste while Peter found butterscotch. Water revealed vanilla on the nose and there was creamy toffee to finish with. A final dram of 1988 COC Longmorn, at 57.4%abv, had fruit cream sweets on the nose while Danny got fudge on the taste and Peter got buttered shortbread. I found that a single drop of water unlocked the taste of millionaire shortbread on the finish.

Music night with Robin Laing

To accompany his music, Robin had chosen BBR Clynelish, reviewed in the Autumn 2014 report, Malts of Scotland Bruichladdich, reviewed earlier, Benriach 18 year old peated ‘Dunder Dark Rum finish and Glendronach 18 year old Tawny Port, both at 46%abv, a Glen Moray ‘Santas Christmas Stocking from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and the WSD Caol Ila. The ‘Dunder had subtle smoke, peat and chocolate on the nose with rum and raisin ice cream and rolling it on the tongue revealed smoked fish. There was treacle and smoked bacon to finish with. The Glendronach tasted of stewed fruits and many other kinds of fruit although, by this time, my palate had virtually collapsed. The Caol Ila is still surprisingly sweet and light, ideal for a nightcap, and may win over those who otherwise do not like peat in their whisky.

Robin Laing music night WSD

Between songs, Robin recounted singing a song about Burke and Hare to TVs Hairy Bikers and was annoyed he was not allowed to sing about Deacon Brodie. Noting that this was the best audience hed had all day, Robin was pleased to see a lot of new faces as this meant he could tell old jokes. Robin was appearing at Bruichladdichs open day, a few weeks after the festival, and the theme for the day was to be ‘Country and Western. With that, he had ‘whiskified Janis Joplins ‘Mercedes Benz with a new verse about the Highlander Inn and played ‘Whiskey Lullaby, a song recorded by Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley.

Robins next album will be titled ‘Whisky and Death and he played a new song about old whisky. Also, he told the audience that his definition of a whisky collector is a sad individual who doesnt have enough special occasions in their life.

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

After that, the festival continued for another day but not for me. I was heading down the road. On the Monday, there were attractive tours of Glen Moray, Glenglassaugh and Knockdhu distilleries with tastings from Laphroaig distillery and Gordon and MacPhails as well as the winners of the WSD competitions to announce at the drams party. If anyone was on any of these events and would like to tell me about what I missed, please feel free to sod off and, with that, Id 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, Kat, Simon and the rest of the crew, Claus for the proofreading, Steve Oliver, the Tannochbrae, the Coffee Pot café and the Cairngorm Inn in Aviemore.

Im off to sell my Hoover as its just collecting dust and Ill see you all again at the Autumn Festival.

Who is this perplexed man and what has he done with Moist Von Lipwig WSD

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Events @ Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2016

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

The festival in 2016 runs from 28 April to 2 May.  The full programme is likely to be launched on www.spiritofspeyside.com in February 2016.  Check their website for updates.

We will launch our programme at the end of December 2015 and sell some or our tickets for our events on our website from early January 2016.

To give you some idea of what we will have on offer take a look at our programme from 2015.

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The Great Speyside Bake Off Results

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

The Whisky Shop Dufftown has been on a search to find the best Speyside whisky inspired Muffin or Cupcake.  We have asked members of the public to enter their recipes.  The standard was incredibly high.  A team of experienced judges  decided on the final 5 to go to a tasting at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2015.  At that tasting the guests voted for their favourites:

The winner was Steffi Bachorz from Germany with her Cranachan Cakes with Glenfarclas 12 Years Old.

In second place was local lad Chris Jameson with his Tasting Note Cup Cake with Glenfiddich 15 Solera.  Chris also won the prize for the funniest entry.

Here are the details of the top 5 entries.

The Whisky Smuggler Muffin with Glenlivet 18 Years Old

The recipe was inspired by the image of an old whisky smuggler's journey through the hills on his way to Perth, Dundee and Edinburgh with casks of Glenlivet whisky.  "To supplement the daily fare of oatmeal porridge, handfulls of cranberries and blueberries roughly grabbed from laden bushes on each side of the narrow winding track are mixed in the mouth with a nip of whisky. In the summer sunshine the bees are busy on the heather blossom and down by the river, in a few secret places, wild hazelnut trees add more flavour to the mix."

WSD Image Bake Off Smuggler


The Tasting Note Cupcake with Glenfiddich 15 Years Old Solera

 This recipe is intended to help people like the entrant who can sometimes struggle with tasting notes by creating an edible tasting note!  Thus, the Tasting Note Cupcake was conceived.


WSD Image Bake Off Tasting Note 02


Cranachan Cakes with Glenfarclas 12 Years Old

This entrant decided the best way to showcase a whisky was to combine it with raspberries and oats.  These cupcakes are a homage to Glenfarclas Single Malt -its hints of sherry and peat work beautifully with both the tartness of the raspberries and the earthiness of the toasted oats.

WSD Image Bake Off Cranachan

Caribbean Cupcakes with Balvenie 14 Caribbean Casks

Apparently aYorkshire version of The Great British Bake Off is a Mother versus daughter challenge which resulted in this creation which reflects the entrants first taste of the Balvenie Caribbean Cask.  The entrant was stunned by the mixture of flavours,the richness and spice all so well balanced with the typical Balvenie flavours. With holiday season in mind this seemed the perfect dram to accompany a cupcake.

WSD Image Bake Off Carribean

Chocolate Orange Queen Cakes with Macallan Gold

 This entrant used a favourite Queen Cake recipe and adapted it to reflect their inspiration from their partners favourite whisky. In the cake I tried to complement the whisky to bring out its character, there were many hints of flavours to choose from but I felt my base cake was most suited to picking up the citrus notes, paring that with a light chocolate touch to suit the dark chocolate tones in the whisky; topping it off with a smooth, chocolaty, whisky-laced, rich buttercream.

WSD Image Bake Off Queen

What is the Best Single Malt to go with Haggis?

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

Our search at The Whisky Shop Dufftown to find the best Single Malt to go with Haggis continued at this year's Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.  We held 3 tastings for guests of the festival to try our 4 specially selected malts.  Each tasting was a sell out!

This year our winner from both of last year's festivals,  Aberlour 15 Years Old, and the second place from last year's Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival, Glendronach 18 Years Old PortFinish (it was such a close thing we decided to give it another chance) were pitched against Glenfarclas 105 and Benromach 10.

Our guests were asked to try the whiskies with haggis, neaps and tatties.  Nothing else.  We do try and be a bit scientific.  We wanted to show how the combination of whisky and food emphasised some flavours in either the whisky or the haggis and even create new ones.  We were delighted to see the expression of the faces of our guests as they experienced this.

The first and second placed whiskies from our last festival were also the first and second placed ones again.  This time the Aberlour 15 Years Old was a clear winner.  This is the 3rd festival in a row it has come out on top!  May be there can be no better dram for your Haggis.  We will put that to the test again during our Autumn festival.  We have put 21 whiskies into this competition over the last 3 years.

Aberlour 15 Select Cask Reserve

WSD Image Haggis 01

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Haggis, neeps and tatties



What is the Best Malt for a Bacon Roll?

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

Here at The Whisky Shop Dufftown we have been continuing our "scientific" search for the best Single Malt to go with a Bacon Roll - unsmoked, no sauce.  That's the scientific bit.

At this year's Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival we took the 2 winning whiskies from our festivals last year, Benriach 20 Years Old and Singleton Sunray, and pitched them against 2 new whiskies selected by Mike Lord - Balvenie 14 Years Old Caribbean Cask and Glen Moray Elgin Classic Port Finish.

We held 4 tastings, 1 each day of the festival, and each one was a sell out with over 80 people taking part.  It was a tight race and each combination received a significant number of votes. This proved again that everyone's palate is different and there is a whisky for everyone and every whisky has someone.

The tastings were conducted blind - guests were not told which whiskies they were sampling until after submitting their vote for their favourite.  We were delighted again to watch people see how the food and whisky combination brought different flavours to the fore and even created new ones.  This is what it is all about for us.  Showing how well whisky pairs with food in a new and exciting way.

The clear winner was Balvenie 14 Years Old Caribbean cask which pipped Benriach 20 Years Old.  That makes the Balvenie the best out of 21 different malts we have tried in this competition.  Thank you to all our guests that took part.  I hope you had fun!

Balvenie 14

WSD Image Bacon 01WSD Image Bacon 02

The Whisky Shop Dufftown's Challenge for Independent Bottlers

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

At each Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival we run a competition for Independent Bottlers to find the best expression they have released during the first half of the year.  This complements the festival's own competition to find the best Speyside whiskies.  We go one step further.  We of course have an award for the best Speyside Whisky but we like to acknowledge that other whiskies are available so we also have a category for The Rest of Whisky.

Voting is carried out by guests of the festival who visit The Whisky Shop Dufftown and take part in an informal do-it-yourself tasting.  All we ask is that people enjoy the drams and if possible vote for their favourite.  We also give a prize for the best tasting note written by one of the guests who take part in the judging.

We had a great competition this year and over 150 people took part.

The full list of whiskies entered are at the bottom of this post but lets get straight in to the winners:-


1st Place - Adelphi Glenrothes 2007 (This sold out so quickly we were not able to get a photo.  Hopefully we will get some more stock in soon).

2nd Place - Provenance Miltonduff 2005 8 Years Old

Provenance Miltonduff 8








Both of these whiskies were exceptional sherry cask whiskies and great examples of how young whisky can also be exceptional.

Rest of Whisky

1st Place - Clan Denny Strathclyde 2005 9 Years Old

Clan Denny Strathclyde 8








2nd Place -  Carn Mor Strictly Limited Fettercairn 2000 14 Years Old

Strictly Limited Fettercairn 14








A great win for a grain whisky.  A grain has won this category many times before but this is by far the youngest.

Congratulations to the winners.  A particular well done goes to the Douglas Laing stable of companies for a 1st and 2nd and also to Morrison & MacKay for a second and third with 2 of the most affordable entries.

BBR Caperdonich 1995
G&M Connoisseurs Choice Inchgower 2000
G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Elgin 1998
Morrison & MacKay Strictly Limited Benrinnes 1996 17 Years Old
Hunter Laing Speyside's Finest 1986 28 Years Old
Douglas Laing Provenance Miltonduff 2005 8 Years Old
Adelphi Glenrothes 2007


Rest of Whisky
Tweeddale Lowland 14 Years Old
Morrison & MacKay Strictly Limited Fettercairn 2000
BB&R Blue Hangar 11th Release
Douglas Laing Clan Denny Strathclyde 2005 9 Years Old
Wemyss Peat Chimney