Whisky Tasting Review
This page covers the whiskies we've done at past tastings and highlights
the ones Andy thought were good and the best sellers. We aren't saying
the others weren't any good, it is just that these suited Andy's palate.
Cardhu Pure Malt
Aberlour 15yo select cask reserve
Strathisla 19yo cask strength
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Kilchoman Machir Bay 2013
Simon Kirkman brings his usual birthday bunch, but wait they come, Simon does not due to illness and I had gone out of my way for something different as he specifically requested it, oh well better luck next year and hope that they do not remember which one I picked for you! To start is a 19yo Port Dundas grain 75cl so bottled in early 1980s and a prime example of a third fill barrel offering very little and a bit thin, not a good example of wood management. Next up was the Cardhu "blended malt" that caused all the controversy when Diagio tried to pull a fast one a few years back. This was thin, nasty and a good reason why sales dropped 40% in Spain, Diagio you deserved it. For reference this was the strange one I got at auction for Simon, Simon you have been warned, they will remember! Then it is off to Brittany and our first ever French whiskey which was not what we expected, perfectly acceptable everyday drinking malt, probably a little young and helped out by the second maturation in a sherry cask bringing more to the party but one I would accept a dram of in the future. The Aberlour is quite gentle mix of sherry and bourbon cask whiskies making it an easy drinker with enough to keep you interested for a few drams of it, fruit, wood, vanilla and gentle warmth.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £150 for the RNLI. A great total from the generous whisky crowd bringing this year's effort to £740.
Cask strength from Chivas Brothers and what a beautiful little belter, deep, complex sherry wood, silky on the tongue, no burn even at cask strength and a lasting hint of Christmas and a touch of tobacco. The peaty laddie next and quite a soft one showing more of the barley maltiness and citrus hints of the standard Laddie before the smoke comes in. Finally the newest release from Mr Wills and the farm up the road from the beautiful Machir Bay. This is a wrights coal tar soap whisky, brimming with salt, ships ropes, hint of kippers and fusel oil and I must say it is coming on very well!
Behind the bar a Duthies Islay and a Bladnoch 16yo. Soft lowland fruit and a belt of Islay peat either way round a lovely combination.
My star of the night was the Strathisla and the criminal of the night was Cardhu and Diagio.
January 2014 - Burns Night
Macallan 1876 Replica
Highland Park Loki 15yo
Dallas Dhu 1979 (34yo) - Cadenheads cask end
Springbank duty paid sample - warehouse 15 rotation 719
Bowmore hand filled bottling of a 1997 sherry cask
Lagavulin Feis Ila 2013 (distilled 1995)
Rosebank Flora & Fauna 12yo
Burns Night tasting is always one where we try to get limited release and one off bottlings to try, this one definitely fitted the bill with only 2 bottles available for sale. The Macallan started us off with Seville orange marmalade nose backed up with fruit cake, in the mouth it burst with the orange flavours and dark chocolate kicks in later and a gentle if slightly too swift fade to dryness, very good indeed and setting a fairly high bar for the evening. The second of the Valhalla collection and a very odd HP, quite a closed nose but light and gentle on the palate with citrus and flowers and drifting off before much later hints of smoke, if pushed and on a blind taste I would have chanced an old lowlander not HP but a very enjoyably different one. I had bought the Dallas Dhu after doing the Cadenheads warehouse tour and this is the only place you can buy one, the general consensus on this is that the drive, tour cost, bottle cost and accommodation was worth it. A beautiful rich deep oak nose with hint of vanilla and a floral edge, in the mouth this just bursts and envelopes your whole being battering it with wood, vanilla, honey, spice and powers on for so long, fabulous. The Springbank was bought out of a cage in the Cadenheads shop on the same trip, 12yo from a fresh sherry hoggy and only one ever drawn never to be repeated, what a chance and a fair gamble as you don't know what you are going to get. We got probably the best Springbank I have had since the old style 21, local barley and 35 yo were out, an absolute blast of brine, sherry, dryness, sweetness, liquorish, lavender and even a slight hint of rubber that lasts a long time. Mr Hollows loved this and he was in raptures, if you know Ian this is a very rare thing, and you then know how got it was!
Then the break and the raffle which raised £167 for the RNLI. A great total from the generous whisky crowd bringing this year's effort to £590.
After the break a brutal sherry bruiser from the round church. Battering with burnt molasses, seaweed, coal smoke, sticky sherry, this one divided people and even our little Peatmonster Anna who normally thrives on smoke could not get along with it but I enjoyed the challenge it presented and definitely a couple of drams and move on, not a session whisky at all, good fighting whisky. Then the Lagavulin from this year's festival and although the peat is there the Lag seems to have lost some over the last few years getting softer and easy drinking, a stunning whisky but not the bruiser we expect (or love) even hints of citrus and honey coming in, but still enough peat to keep us happy (we just like more) and Anna was smiling again. Finally the gentle lowland Rosebank that I have been trying to get for a number of years. Straight after two smoky heavy ones and you would think it would kill the Rosebank (as some on the night thought) but because this is so diametrically opposed on all levels it actually bursts out more and accentuates the soft floral elements and blasts out the honey and allows the spice to come through, still a lovely lowlander, so sadly lost to the marketing department wanting pretty pictures rather than the best whisky.
Behind the bar a Bunnahabhain 12yo and a Talisker Storm. The storm is great soft slurpable Skye solution and bunny is always cuddly!
Probably the best all round tasting I've done for a long time, got to start working out how I can top this next year.
Kilkerran Bourbon Wood
Deanston Virgin Oak
Benromach Origins No.5
The Naked Grouse
Clynelish 1997cask strength - Gordon & MacPhail
Old Balantrum 10yo
Longrow Red - Shiraz Cask
Bowmore 16yo Gaja Barolo - Cadenheads
This was always going to be a hard night because the lovely boss lady Christine was ill at home so it was me all alone and only sipping the whiskies (5ml only). The Kilkerran is a nice fresh start with more pronounced vanilla in this variation of the WIP5 but still having that Campbeltown sea hint. The Deanston was too oak dominated and a hard varnished version at that, tannic and sour, not to my palate at all. The Origins is thinner than I remember but still a good coating of oily, cereal driven flavours come through. Then the premium blend from Grouse and actually a very good one, plenty of depth and sherry notes bringing sweetness and balance, a good one.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £123 for the RNLI. Another good total from the generous whisky crowd bringing this year's effort to £423.
After the break a stunning example of Clynelish, rich sherry influenced spirit but not over powered and depth, no alcohol burn despite the cask strength and a finish that lasts for a week, I am having one for Xmas from me. Looking forward to the heavily peated Tomintoul as I like the peaty tang one but feel let down, too much soot and sourness and not enough balance, stick to the better and cheaper Tomintoul with a peaty tang. The second release of Longrow red and this time from a shiraz cask and big red berry fruits smack you round the head then soft sweet smoke and brine hints wash over you, very (berry?) enjoyable. Finally a Bowmore that has smoke galore, fresh ripe cranberry juice and a long lingering caress, beautiful.
Behind the bar a Kilkerran sherry wood and a Benromach Origins No.4 port cask which luckily I have had before because being a good boy and needing to be sober to look after the family when home I missed out on but they went down well and prompted some orders for each.
A hard night without the boss and hit (Longrow & Bowmore) and miss (Deanston & Balantrum) whiskies but that is why you taste, to find those you do not want to buy a bottle of and those you most definitely must buy (like the Clynelish).
October 2013 - Cadenheads
Kilkerran Sherry Wood
Hazelburn 11yo - Cadenheads
Glen Moray 17yo rum cask Cadenheads
Glendronach 23yo Cadenheads
Cooley 21yo Cadenheads
Clynelish 17yo Cadenheads
Bowmore 14yo Cadenheads
Cask strength night and these tend to get interesting. Starting with one not cask or Cadenheads but from Glengyle owned by Mitchells who own Springbank and Cadenheads. Big sherry hit on the Kilkerran WIP5 (now 9 years old) and then the seashore hints and a gentle end, a good start in my book. The Hazelburn is all light and floral and easy drinking leaving sweet hints on the palate. Not a big fan of Glen Moray and this is probably why it is the first time we have done one and if you have never had Glen Moray you would say it is a fine dram, sweet light notes giving way to a fizz of alcohol and then a good hint of rum and raisin ice cream. The oldie of the bunch next and Glendronach from a bourbon cask is not the usual case so all the more interesting and wow is this interesting, massive oaky vanilla, soft tannin, rich depth of flavours from the woodwork room and then a long gentle soft caress as it lingers on the finish, a stunner.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £125 for the RNLI. Another good total from the generous whisky crowd!
Peated Irish next and not much peat in evidence but a good fruity number to sip on a warm summer eve. Clynelish is a personal favourite and this was a sherry cask stunner all fruit, smoke hints and embers smothering your palate and leaving you wanting more. Finally the Bowmore and a good peaty offering from the round church mob, fine solid whisky.
Behind the bar a Glenglassaugh Evolution and Smokehead. Ice-cream soda sweetness from Portsoy and the smoking skull (see the tin). It must have been a wild night as they had gone at the end of half time!
Great rowdy night with no poor whisky and some true stunners, the Clynelish just edged the Glendronach for me but I would happily drink any one of those we tasted again, especially if some kind soul offered me a dram or two of them.
Benromach Origins No.4
Macallan 1851 Inspired
MacPhails Collection Peated Bunnahabhain 8yo
Caol Ila 1999
The Longmorn is a nice gentle sherried number with the fruit cake and Christmas spices not too long on the finish but a good everyday drinker. The Benromach is from Port Casks and the ripe berry fruit hits you in the nose and mouth, one for the sweet toothed to sip and savour. Much was expected from Macallan and the nose promised so much, then the burst of flavour oh we are on to a winner then.... nothing, dies on the palate, so very disappointing. Talisker Storm, probably wrongly names because this is a beautiful gentle Talisker, caressing your mouth, no harshness or burn just a soft wisp of smoke and sea, excellent.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £145 for the RNLI. A fantastic start to the tasting season you generous whisky lot!
Then the old time big hitter and this has me wondering why I left it so long to do this. 25 years seems an almost perfect age for a Speyside whisky and this has all the depth and complexity from the cask but not overpowered by it, rich vanilla, oak, sherry sweetness, Christmas pudding, warmth and length, excellent. Next up the youthful Bunny from G&M and although young it is very drinkable with a nice hit of peat and sweetness and great VFM. Finally the Caol Ila and oops it is a tainted bottle and smells of pickled onions and has definitely gone so rescuing the evening by stealing the raffle prize of Jura Prophecy from Big Ian (I replaced later) and we enjoyed the older peated Jura very much so thanks for helping out Mr H.
Behind the bar a Tomintoul with a peaty tang and Bruichladdich Bere Barley. Rich oily Laddie full of barley and seashore with a gentle Speyside smoker joining in, I could get to like these.
My favourite was hard to call as the Glenfarclas is brilliant as always but the storm is so good and for VFM it is the MacPhails Bunny, on reflection the Glenfarclas 25 just edges it for sheer class.
Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14yo
Talisker Port Ruighe
Benriach 12yo Peated Cask Dark Rum finish
Which loony organises a tasting on midsummer's day, well me but whisky is good anytime not just those cold winter/summer days!
We did the Revival last time so on to the Evolution from Portsoy with a 3yo from Bourbon cask at 57% (no finish this time) and a fruity feast which drinks so easily even at cask strength, a very summery whisky. Next was the Cardhu 18yo and being a fan of the 12 when visiting |Spain (the main market for Cardhu) I was looking forward to this, what a disappointment it is just caramel; sickly, sweet and sticky not for me at all. The Balvenie has experimented/messed with different casks for a while and this one works well with the usual honey and softness from Balvenie but with the slight raisin finish of the rum cask just perceptible. The new 1824 Range from Macallan has colour rather than age as the defining characteristic and this one has the yellow earthy brown of Sienna (had to look this one up) but thick cut Seville orange marmalade is here in bucket loads with spice and Christmas flavour hints later on, a tremendous dram and Macallan back on form.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £130 for the RNLI bringing the total for the tasting year to £1099, so I will add the extra £1 and we have raised £1100 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting. We will get this to the RNLI over the summer and start afresh in September.
Just to put this in perspective, the generous people who come to the events have now raised £6585 in 7 years, brilliant and thank you all again.
After the break it is peat time (PeatMonaster Anna do you wish you were here?). A port cask finish for Talisker and fruity, peaty pop is server, possibly a little too sweet for me after a glass so not a session whisky but a good dram all the same, one for the sticky brigade. The second rum cask of the night from Benriach and Mr Walker (Billy not Johnnie) but with the heavy peated stuff in there and the coal smoke kicks in right from the off and gives the ember mouthful but the rum does creep in at the end just to tickle your tonsils. Finally the Ardbeg space cadet and having tried this a number of months ago was surprised that I liked it a lot more the second time around, definitely a youngster but with a mellowness and gentility giving it a soft edge. the usual smoked haddock in an oil skin but cooked with gentle citrus spices.
Behind the bar a Edradour 10yo all parma violets and sherry and a Caol Ila 1999 from G&M, a little blinder that one with the tar and ship ropes gently tugging at your rowlocks.
My favourite was the Macallan and looking forward to a couple of exclusives I got at the distillery to see how they match up to this one.
Bruichladdich Bere Barley
Jura Boutique Barrel JI 1993
Amrut Intermediate Sherry
Kilchoman Loch Gorm
Back to the Lindum now it has the all clear and a slightly reduced crowd due to illness (of the non-norovirus type) but an interesting selection on offer. The first is the young 46% release from Portsoy and a light fresh apple nose with a burn toffee dry palate, easy drinking, not complex but good. Laddie made with the oldest barley type (been around 1000 years apparently) and a varnish and raisin nose may put you off but the sweet citrus palate that leaves a pleasing tingle won't. The Tomatin brings baked apple, toffee and raisins on the nose with balanced oak apple and dried fruit on the palate, a very gentle pleasing dram. If the Tomatin was pleasing the Jura is anything but that a wet cardboard nose dry gingery palate with bad eggs in the middle, must have been a rogue bottle or sulphured cask, down right awful.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £106 for the RNLI bringing the current total for the tasting year to £969 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting.
After the break an extra dram courtesy of Mr Denton celebrating his retirement from pounding the beat (or sleeping in the cells we are not too sure) and it is a Bunnahabhain 12yo (see earlier tastings) but enough to say I love it. Then the Indian stuff and again they deliver a good dram, spiced sawdust and marmalade nose with cloves, winter spices and balanced oak nothing to fault it. I have had the Laphroaig in a while but the "friends" (Cairdeas is Galic for friends) bottling is a mix of 18yo and quarter cask and a delicate gentle Lappy comes through seashore and drift wood smoke on the nose with all the usual Lappy goodness but softer, a lapdog Lappy or a Lappy for breakfast. Finally the sherry cask Kilchoman and Wrights coal tar soap, coal smoke and orange comes on the nose with ships tar and gentle smoke on the rich sherry palate, this stuff lends itself to sherry a great fireside dram.
Behind the bar a Springbank CV and a Bruichladdich Links (Birkdale) which I was left with The Fatman and the Walrus to try to finish ensuing my usual sensible drinking and not remembering if we finished them but they were jolly good.
A good night except for the Jura and ones that would always be welcome in my drinking cupboard, especially the Kilchoman but that all went and I did not get any (slight sulk and note to buy more when Mr Wills next does one).
Glengoyne cask strength
New Zealand 1990
Glen Scotia 18yo
Longrow Ruddles & Kinderkins
A sudden change of venue due to a virus outbreak at the hotel we usually use but salvaged at the last minute by going to Fylde Rugby Club - lovely room and very accommodating, a recommendation if you are having any type of event
We start with the older version of the Stronachie as it is usually a 12, very soft easy drinking malt for when you want something that is not going to challenge you, reputed to be Benrinnes which if it is, makes it one of the nicest of these I have had. Second up the Twee dram from Dalmore, all marzipan and almond on the nose and soft gentle fruits on the palate. The Glenmornagie private edition is all vanilla and wood but well balance. From virgin oak it has more bourbon traits as one would expect from new charred oak but with the Morangie softness and sweetness, fine dram. The Glengoyne has zip and softness if that is possible, a soft cask strength? Fruity and fizzy.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £148 for the RNLI bringing the current total for the tasting year to £863 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting.
Lammerlaw from Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin was never a great whisky but this has had some time now at 20+ years old and at cask strength it is now a fine and interesting dram, opening up with water from ripe tropical fruit to liquorice, if it had been this good as a standard bottling it would never have been closed. Glen Scotia has been relaunched by the owners, I was never a fan in the past but we have to give them a chance. It is now as it was then cheap tequila in flavour and not to my palate at all; pretty bottle but not one you would have twice. Finally the Longrow matured in small casks (which are supposed to speed up maturation) and for an 11yo it has loads of depth and length, the cask strength does not over power just builds on the great hints of smooth smoke and oak, a fine one again from Frank and the boys/girls at Springbank.
Behind the bar a Springbank CV, a Longrow and an Ardbeg 10 with the usual result of all three lovely but gone.
The top one for me on the night was the Longrow R&K but loved the New Zealand 1990 which surprised me no end.
February 2013 - Blackadder
Clydesdale Glen Ord 15yo - 1996 16yo
Riverstown Milton Duff 13yo
Blackadder legendary Sherry Cask 14yo
Raw Cask Glen Elgin 17yo - 1991
Raw Cask Mortlach 1988 - 23yo
Port Charlotte 10yo
Raw Cask Smoking Islay
At the behest of Mr Webber, a.k.a Big Phill we had to do a Blackadder tasting as we had not done one for a while. The whiskies do not come cheap so has to cheat a little with the non-Blackadder Port Charlotte 10 but they do come good, would this be the time to be wrong??
The first time we have done Glen Ord and what a little gem. We could not find it on the whisky map we have at the tastings (just north of Inverness) but it did put itself on the map as a great soft northern highlander all flowers and heather and soft which is an achievement at 57%, a little belter. Next the Milton and at 61.4% we expected brutal but it was not but it did not feel right to me either, a touch of water helped but too much brine (not easy being an in land Speysider) but with water some liquorish coming through but not to my taste. The Legendary sounds a little pretentious but luckily it lives up to its name, a great sherry dram bursting with dried fruits and oak and the lightest alcohol of the night at 45%. Then the first of the Raw Cask whiskies with all the charred bits floating in it, whisky you chew. I have yet to have a bad raw cask even from my less preferred distilleries and this is another goodie. Rich, heavy, warming, fruity, lumpy, chewy with good length and a soft finish.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £167 for the RNLI bringing the current total for the tasting year to £715 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting.
I got Blackadder for Big Phill and Mortlach is his favourite Speyside so I had to get this one, not a cheap dram at £115 a bottle but by gum is it a huge one all oak, dried fruit, Christmas spices, polished wood, leather and a long finish drying out as oak slips in again. Firesides are made for such drams. Then the Port Charlotte (non-Blackadder) and the standard 46% expression which is going to be regularly available from LaddieLand. We had done the PC10 at Burns and this was a nice wee peaty dram (the girly version of the cask strength one, Nick liked it so it must be), light with fruit but hitting the smoke just right, be warned it is far too easy to drink. Finally the big 61.3% Smoking Islay "mystery" and by god is this a beast, brutal aggressive alcohol, peat, smoke and heat hit you and engulf you like an old fashioned fire and brimstone preacher bashing you with a flaming bible and then slapping you with an Arbroath smokie - magnificent stuff.
Behind the bar a Dalmore Dee Dram and the Smokehead. The Dalmore went at the start of half time and the smokehead before we had tidied up, thirsty work drinking whisky! Sherry from the Dalmore river collection and then more smoky than Burt Reynolds from the skull tin brigade.
Hannah and Robin put out some great whiskies and raw cask is still my favourite way to drink whisky and I have yet to have a bad one.
January 2013 - Burns Night
Glenlivet 1991 Gordon MacPhail Private Collection
Glen Calder 40yo
Bruichladdich XX Nostalgia Barolo cask Feis Ile 2012
Cragganmore 29yo cask strength
Highland Park Valhalla Collection Thor - 16yo
Burns night for us is not about fine Scottish poetry but the upper end of the whisky market in terms of price, a chance to spoil ourselves and try whiskies beyond our individual pockets. This year it was £1141.00 worth of whisky we drank across 29 of us.
The standard Glenlivet I find a little thin except for the Naddura but G&M have produced some fantastic old Glenlivet from their stocks. This is a newer one, a trifling 20yo but boy what a mouthful, tropical fruits, vanilla and hints of leather and spice to finish, fantastic start. I have been trying to get the Glen Calder 40yo G&M blend for 3 years now after I drank a miniature many years ago and I finally got it, would I be disappointed? From whiskies distilled in 1949 this was a blast from the past in whisky making and rich fruit, spice and soft vanilla, smoooooooth beyond belief, is this really a blend? It lingers and softens out with no burn or harshness, if all blends were this fantastic malt would struggle, but there again is it £200 a bottle so maybe not. I picked up the Bruichladdich when visiting Islay in June just after the 2012 Islay festival and although it has been ACE'd I tried it and liked it so brought one for us to try. It is rich and sticky with a big sweet edge to it but it retains the Laddie character as well with hints of sea breeze and gentleness. The Cragganmore was what decided it for Martin Fletcher to come along. Again wood and fruitand no burn even though it was at cask strength, very easy drinking with a slight whiff of smoke drifting in at the finish.
After the break the beautiful carved Viking longboat inspired presentation of HP, is it all style and no substance? No but it is not the usual HP, as the smoke hints have gone but floral honey batters your tongue in waves sticking to your mouth and soothing your ills, not Thor and his hammer but the goddess Eir. Off to Lappyland the 25yo which shows all that is great in Laphroaig as it loses the harsh overpowering iodine, which is still there but much muted and allows the other more delicate side to emerge and offers depth and length but with the peat, smoke, oil, tar and all the good stuff working in harmony, a winter sipper. The final one is the last of the PC series from Jim and the bunch who now work for Cointreau. We have done all but the PC5 through the journey and this one shows how things soften with age to a great drinking peaty dram but lost is the brutal youth of the PC6 and replaced with a fine mature example of what Bruichladdich can do and should do as they do it so well - my usual parting shot "STOP the ACEing" concentrate on the fantastic whisky you produce not marketing BS!
Our lovely little whisky munchkin Janet Campbell brought Black Bun in and that was scoffed and much appreciated by all and the other little attendee Di Dibley bringing in whisky truffles added to the sweet toothed enjoyment to, thanks to these two fine ladies.
The raffle raised £170 for the RNLI bringing the current total for the tasting year to £548 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting.
Behind the bar a Port Charlotte 10 and Longrow so peat freak heaven with soft gentle peat from Longrow and a bit more from the new standard Port charlotte 10, interesting given we had done the PC10 limited release in the tasting. Both great and both gone.
I really enjoyed the night, not a bad whisky there and some great one of chances. The Glen Caulder is still the best blend I have ever tried but for me the top one of the night was the Glenlivet, I really wish I could get more but I cannot so just be thankful we had it.
7th December 2012
Bunnahabhain 22yo Cadenheads
Springbank Calvados Wood 12yo
Smokehead Extra Black 18yo
An old Bunny from Cadenheads to start and 22years in what must have been a refill bourbon gave us a different insight into the soft Islay one. Loads of fruit and a delicacy that should not be there with a cask strength, lovely gentle start. Bruichladdich 16 and a good all round drinker showing all the floral and seashore of a Laddie but for me the Laddie Ten edges it on bang for buck. The Aberlour has a fantastic sherry nose with loads of rich fruit that then explodes in the first mouth full BUT then disappears completely, a huge let down for me, back to the A'bunadh. Then the first of 3 from Springbank and what a corker toffee apple and brine nose, huge belt of standard springbank on the initial mouthful but then lingers on to give granny smith apples, a sharp apple finish to a springbank that works really well.
After the break it is the new release Longrow that is replacing the CV,10 and 14 and a lovely dram but where has the peat gone, this is far too soft for a Longrow, great but not great enough to be Longrow. Next was the Longrow Red, Longrow that has been matured in Longrow cask but the cask are from the Australian Cab Sauv produced at the Longrow vineyard. Fruity peaty pop and a brilliant combination as it has had plenty of time in there (no ACE rubbish here) and the peat is there too as well as the fruit, wish I had 12 cases not 12 bottles as I could drink until the cows come home (or I fell off the floor). Finally the old and significantly more expensive Smokehead and soft aged peat turn one that is quite powerful to a gentle soft caress of smoke, we have guessed this to be Caol Ila in the past and nothing suggest anything else apart from it being far nice than the proprietary bottling.
The usual RNLI raffle with the now discontinued springbank CV set, a couple of Ardbeg watch glasses and a Laphroaig T-shirt as the prizes raised £114, thanks you generous lot. A happy Russ won the shirt, all we need to do now is getting him liking the peaty stuff!
Behind the bar The Dalmore Dee Dram with sherry and fruit cake and the Port Charlotte Peat Project with, well, peat and smoke, both far too easy to drink and gone again!
Two stars for me tonight in the Red and Calvados wood but happy to drink all but the Aberlour again and frequently.
19th October 2012
Bladnoch 9yo lightly peated
Mortlach 21yo Gordon & MacPhail
Bruichladdich Black Arts 3
Talisker Distillers Edition 2000
Port Charlotte - The Peat Project
An 8yo Irish grain whisky to start only a recent try from me (in Lancaster after a brewery trip - which might have clouded my judgement). Heavy vanilla, big cereal notes and then sweet varnish, when left it even developed a turps note, not for me. Two Bladnochs, one from the Armstrong (new) era and one from the old owners. Peated Bladnoch sounds strange (why do it to a lowland???) but we had to try and guess what, it is so lightly peated I could not find it! A young whisky that is nothing exceptional and it finishes with a slightly sour edge, disappointing. The 20yo is better but with greater wood influence (varnish again) and some fruit (plums) and touch of honey - smooth plum brandy to me?? G&M Mortlach is normally so much better than this one. It only has a hint of sherry and a dry finish that is short and the whole dram lacks depth.
After the break it is off to see one of Big Jim McEwan's cuvee drams. Sticky sweet sherry and a nice easy drinker but the wood and sherry have overwhelmed the Laddie in there so although a nice dram it does not have enough Bruichladdich for me. Worryingly the same can be said for the Talisker which has also been overcome (annihilated?) by the unctuous sherry barrel finish, there is some smoke there but no pepper and salt coastal edge is lost too, buy the 10 or the 18yo. Finally it is another multi vintage Port Charlotte and peat and smoke come through in abundance with a big tar hit, like licking telegraph poles, young, fun and a drinking dram for the peat-heads, best of the night. The usual RNLI raffle with the excellent 11yo Bunnahabhain from Cadenheads as the prize raised £114 which considering only 22 people were there is a great effort, thanks you generous lot.
Behind the bar Secret Stills 4.17 (from the town with the round church) and a Bruichladdich 10.I was worried the hotel may be left with some but when it is a tasty young Bowmore and Laddie 10 why did I worry, plus it was Anthony Westbrook's birthday so we were celebrating! Smoke from Bowmore and great drinking whisky from Jim (showing what Bruichladdich can be and be so good) excellent stuff.
7th September 2012
Balblair (a bottling from early 1980s)
Balblair 1991 Private Collection - Gordon MacPhail
Benromach 2001 Cask Strength
Longrow 13yo - Cadenheads
Caol Ila 21yo - Cadenheads
Laphroaig 13yo - Cadenheads
We kick off the new season with a bottle of Balblair bottled in the early 1980s when it was owned by Ballentines that I picked up at auction and it was a nice soft fruity dram. A welcome chance to try something from another era. Then an opportunity to compare to the private collection G&M one which has been finished in croze-hermitage casks. Too much wine influence and jammy notes for me on this one hiding the soft gentle nature of the distillery spirit, not for my palate. Then the latest release of the work in progress malt from Glengyle and it is getting there, softening now with a little more age and losing some of the briny elements of previous years, Mr McHardy your child is developing well.
Then the start of the loopy juice and the next 4 were all cask strength. Despite the 59.9% ABV the Benromach is a gentle drinking malt that hides the strength with spice, barley and fruit hints. After the break it is peaty stuff but wait the Longrow is only gentle peat and smoke with a mellowness not expected, age has softened the beast and found a beautiful thoroughbred. Independent Caol Ila tends to be far better than the distillery releases in my experience and this is perfectly true here, rope tar, seaweed and gentle salt wash in with the kippers at the end but no burn just flavour. Finally Lappy at 59.9% and what was expected to be a nasty brutal peaty gobful is actually a great smoky peaty fire side sipper without the overly medicinal iodine often found in Laphroaig that can put people off. You could even mistake it for the one 5 miles further on the road beginning with "A", a real beauty.
We have decided to continue to support the RNLI with the raffle and the first of the season raised £150 and excellent amount to start the next tasting year.
Behind the bar Ardbeg 10 and a 11yo Bunnahabhain from Cadenheads, the Ardbeg with peat smoke and citrus the bunny soft gentle and with vanilla and a whiff of the sea both excellent, well received and gone!
Caperdonich 1994 Gordon MacPhail
Balmenach 1999 Gordon MacPhail
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Edradour 2000 Signatory
Kilchoman Sherry Cask Release
Caperdonich was not bottled by the owners and you can see why, short and unexciting and very little there. Good to try at a tasting so you remember not to part with the money for a bottle. The Inchgower is from the Diagio Flaura and Fauna range and has loads of vanilla and wood with a hint of smoke on the nose but the palate lets it down with spice and a bit of salt, a sniffing whisky?? Balmenach is a ladies malt according to Janet Campbell and I agree it is easy drinking and will not offend anyone, an introduction to Speyside perhaps but not going to set the world alight. Then for the super premium blend from the striding man and one I have fond memories of, which we sadly dashed when we tasted it, the smoke has gone and although the blend is very pleasant and smooth the depth and length has been lost. I would suggest someone has been tinkering with this to suit a new market in the BRICS and it may suit them but it has lost it for me, disappointing. The only welsh whisky available with the wash made at Brains brewery. This one has been aged in ex-scotch whisky casks that held peated whisky thereby imparting the peat from the previous occupant. I put this on because people have to try Penderyn, I hate the stuff and this is no exception, a waste of good wash from Brains that they could make their brilliant S.A. beer from. It is truly awful and in my top 5 whiskies of all time to avoid at all costs again, it will never make an appearance at a tasting I do again. We did the 1997 Edradour 5 years ago so I decided to see how the 2000 was, still great stuff, rich, deep heavy sherry with massive lavender and palma violets which sticks to your ribs, sweet relief when it is one that has not changed or been watered down to save money or suit a new market just lovely stuff, Mr Symington we salute you. Finally the young Islay distillery and some of the young stuff from a sherry cask and definitely the most popular of the night but none to sell as it has run out, big hit of the peat and hints of the dried fruit in there from the sherry and warming glow of smoke and Islay, lovely.
The raffle raised £122 for the RNLI bringing the total for the tasting year to £1365 thanks to the generosity of the great people who come tasting. We will hand this over to the RNLI over the summer and start again come September.
Behind the bar a Smokehead and an Aberlour A'bunadh so one for the peat freaks and one for the sherry monsters and both great and both gone.
In terms of the tasting, some disappointing whiskies but you have to try just in case there is a gem. I always say that better to taste once and avoid than buy a bottle and have to drink or worse pour away, although i am not sure what our poor drains have done to deserve Penderyn.
27th April 2012
Inish Turk Beg
Macduff 1997 Gordon & MacPhail
Dufftown 1999 Gordon & MacPhail
Old Pultney 21yo
Benriach Septendecim Peated 17yo
An Irish to start again following on from the gorgeous John's Lane last time. From the Small Island of the Wild Boar, whisky from Cooley distillery but then put in to old potcheen barrels and aged on the island in a hand blown bottle contain a handful of sand from the island itself - all marketing BS and a massive price tag (£130) for what is a nice whisky which is easy drinking, delicate and floral. Look for Cooley whisky in a sensible bottle without the BS. The next two are both from MacDuff distillery to see what the difference is between independent and proprietary bottlings. The G&M version is slightly spiced with a sweet edge but lacking in depth and length not offensive but not that interesting either . The Glendevorn tastes of sticky sweet caramel like someone has over done the e150 a little, not nice at all. Off to Dufftown and the 6th distillery built there and again a gentle easy Speyside whisky with touches of fruit, oak, gentle spice and hints leather perfectly acceptable everyday drinking whisky. After the break it is the Highland Lowland malt and the mix of styles is evident with floral soft edges from south of the line and then a little honey and spice in there from north of it, a fine dram to enjoy with gentle friends. Mr J. Murray rated the OP 21yo as the best whisky in the world this year in the bible and although not sure he got it totally right it is a damned fine dram with highland charm, maritime edges and a rich depth and length a good sipping whisky for anytime you like, very very good. Finally it is the peaty one that Anna (Peat Monster) has been waiting for and once again the Speyside Islay replicators have done a great job with loads of coal smoke, rich spice from the sherry casks and length that warms your cockles. Keep it up Mr Walker you're baby is coming along very nicely indeed.
For me a tasting of two halves with the hat-trick coming after half time with a good one a great one and a halfway line thunderbolt.
As usual we did the raffle with a massive amount of £155 being raised by the excellent generosity of the wonderful people who attend these events and puts the total for the season at £1243 a massive thank you to all our lovely Customers who continue to dig so deep.
Behind the Bar the excellent Benromach Orignins No.3 with the Moffat toffee shop in a glass and a fantastic Aberfledy 1991 from G&M with fruit and gentle smoke hints.
23rd March 2012
Powers John's Lane Reserve
The Laddie 10
Octomore 4.2 Comus
Caol Ila Private Collection Hermitage cask - Gordon & MacPhail
To start a Powers release to celebrate the spiritual home at John's Lane and a little beauty it is too, rich vanilla, honey and spice with the gentleness of a triple distilled Irish whiskey, recommended for a quiet night and a few friends, it will not last but you will enjoy it. Next up the distillery I love but despair with because of the dreaded ACE but wait this is just Bruichladdich 10yo made buy the new owners and team and it is like The Laddie should be excellent fresh, vanilla, fruity and hints of salt and a whisky that has class and a bright future if they avoid b*ggering about with the horrendous ACEing! Glenmorangie started the mass marketing of whisky "finishing" and have continued with this in the Artien limited release, a good example of Morangie spirit and keeping the character before getting the fruity elements from the super Tuscan wine casks it has been finished in, nice but not worth the price and something that has been done (overdone) before. I like Glenfarclas, I love it at cask strength, no pretentions just hard hitting alcohol and fruit cakes and spice battering you round the head, smashing!
After the break it is back to Bruichladdich but for the Octomore heavy peated stuff which has been ACe'd in Chateau D'Yquem cask. Softening out with a little more age but over sweet from the ACE cask and not living up to the £100+ price tag, support the distillery but try to encourage them to produce good whisky not marketing rammel, buy 3 bottles of the 10 for the same price (nearly) and enjoy that. Another finish follws on this time from G&M and a Caol Ila in a Hermitage cask (30 months) and this one works with the sweetness of the Caol Ila tempered and offered depth in a different direction by the fruity wine notes, Caol Ila cherryade but very drinkable. Finally it is Ardbeg 10, we have all had it but I realised we had not done it at a tasting and as Ardbeg seem to be looking further a field for the markets an opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the citrus peaty pop that the 10yo is. Softer than the original (or is that time and too much other stuff on my palate) and more cereal notes coming through but still a good punch of smoke and orange/lemon zest somewhere in there, I am still a fan.
The usual raffle in aid of the RNLI raised £104 bringing the total so far to £1088.
Behind the bar Hazelburn 8yo and Longrow 100 proof 10yo, both excellent and well received and gone!
STOP PRESS: Bad news from Springbank the Longrow 100 proof is no longer available and neither is the Longrow 10yo. Changes are afoot at Springbank and we wait to see what comes next for a beloved dram.
2nd March 2012
Inverleven 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail
Linkwood 1991 Private Collection - Gordon & MacPhail
MacPhails 21yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Toremore 1994 cask strength - Gordon & MacPhail
Glen Grant 21yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Clynelish 1994 - Gordon & MacPhail
Secret Stills 1.2 - Gordon & MacPhail
We had to put an extra tasting on for those who cannot get to the tasting because they sell out so quick so it was nice to give the opportunity to some new people who love whisky. Simon Kirkman makes his yearly birthday visit, Andy Millar dragging his crowd to try whisky and with a few of the regular faces filling up the spaces making it a full house. Inverleven to start and more a delicate spiced highlander than a lowland malt but an little beauty. The Linkwood was put on with trepidation as I am not a fan but the 30 months in the Cote Rotie cask has taken away the usual mustiness and brought out a rich fruity flavour, a great Linkwood and I never thought I would say that! MacPhails secret distillery never disappoints and this is a good all round drinking Speyside whisky. When I originally opened the Toremore I was worried that it was musty but letting it breath lost the edge and it was a good rich cask strength with the Toremore banana edge after a touch of water. Glen Grant, sherry cask, fruit cake in a glass and smooth glugging whisky with friends. The Clynelish has softened out the peat in this vintage with just the whiff of smoke at the end so more a delicate highland malt with hints of leather, sweet barley and that little caress of smoke at the end. Finally the secret still from Skye (so not that secret) and oak, sherry fruits, hints of brine and a great hit of pepper and smoke coming in at the end, how can you not adore Talisker??
The raffle raised £139 for the RNLI so generous as ever. Behind the bar Aberlour A'bunadh and Caol Ila 1998 (G&M) and both excellent and gone and thanks to Big Andy and Big Phill for the drams.
In conclusion, not one I would not make room on the shelf for and a couple I will made room for if Christine does not stop me spending the family allowance on them!
January 2012 - Burns Night Special
MacKinlays Shackletons Blend
MacPhails 50yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Glen Keith 1968 - Gordon & MacPhail
Highland Park 18yo - Earl Haakon
Hazelburn Port cask 10yo - Springbank Open Day 2011
Burns Night tastings are meant to be special and bring in the limited stuff, this year 3 of the 7 were unavailable so that is fairly limited!
We started with the vatted malt recreation by Richard Patterson at Whyte & MacKay of the whisky found under the Antarctic hut of Earnest Shackleton and supposedly close to the original in flavour according to Dave Broom. A great spicy highlander with floral notes giving way to leather, spice and a soft finish, I bet they we gutted when they found out they left it when they abandoned the hut! Next up is the oldest whisky we have ever done at a tasting with the 50yo MacPhails and what an absolute stunner. The oak is present but not over powering, the sherry elements come through with dried fruits then leather and spice and a soft gentle long finish. This has no harsh edge, no bite just beautiful silkiness, if you have to save up for a year to afford it, it is worth it and straight in to the all time top 10 for me. The Glen Keith has more sherry influence and maybe a touch too much oak, 35 years may have been getter than 40 but some interesting chocolate and mint notes. Benromach is lovely with age, bags of toffee and fruits with good oak and vanilla, this is a great example but I prefer the 25yo. The HP followed and a big mouth full this is, with loads more weight than the normal 18, none of the usual honey and flowers but a explosion of oak, varnish and dried fruits with ginger and wood smoke coming through, a little belter. The Hazelburn Port cask if fruity fun with the usual Springbank salty tang. Far too easy to drink and a fun bit of fruity pop. Finally the PC9 and the 40ppm Bruichladdich comes closer to the target 10 years of age and again shows a greater depth, more subtlety as age softens it with the lighter floral elements coming through at the start but still with a smoky punch and far too easy to drink than a whisky at 59% should be. No sign of ACEing just brilliant whisky.
The usual raffle in aid of the RNLI raised £196 bringing the total so far to £845. Behind the bar MacPhails 15yo (to compare to the 50?) and Longrow 10yo, both excellent and well received and gone!
All in all I have to say a great tasting and the star for me was the 50yo, expensive but beautiful and one you do have to try, add it to the Bucket List now.
Islay Tasting December 2011
Kilchoman 100% Islay
Caol Ila 2007 Distillery Only Bottling
Ardbeg Alligator committee release
Lagavulin 2010 Distillery Only Bottling
All 8 working distilleries on Islay, a peatfreak heaven. First up is the only one not on the peat scale but what a fantastic dram even better since they upped the percentage to 46.3% and stopped chill-filtering. A rich heavy dram laced with Christmas fruits and spices which stick to your mouth and warm your heart. Octomore Futures from Bruichladdich and a light spirit with good peat but a little short due to it being bottled young (5 years) interesting and peaty pop. Another youngster from Kilchoman but 100% islay from start to finish and a peaty nose but lighter on the palate, not enamoured with the first mouthful but the more you tasted the better it became, a peaty grappa but in a nice way. The Bowmore was tainted and had sour notes (sulphured casks possibly) but not at all nice, Jim Murray says 79/100, he is being generous. After the break and the raffle it was off to the Sound of Islay and the sweet peat is there in abundance but not too sweet and such an easy drinker even at 58%, far better than the usual proprietary stuff and up there with the best of the Caol Ilas that normally only come from the independent bottlers. Everyone knows I love Ardbeg and this one is no exception but what was noticeable was that after so much peat earlier the other more complex notes of Ardbeg become apparent with bitter orange and vanilla hints, a gorgeous Ardbeg. The Laphroaig was OK, the harshness tamed by more time in the cask but I still prefer the quarter cask. Finally the Lagavulin and what a monster, bags of peat (even after all the other peat) and sherry warmth with hints of salt and reminiscent of what I remember Lagavuling was like 25 odd years ago when I first had it before it got more briny and less peaty (i.e. before they ran it 24/7, 364 and cared about it).
The raffle raised £174 for the RNLI bringing the running total for the tasting year to £649.50 thanks to the ongoing generosity of the great people who come tasting. Behind the bar a Benromach Organic and an Aberfeldy 1990 (G&M) both great and both gone.
A night for the peat freaks and a couple of fantastic whiskies, Kichoman wins the youthful cannot wait for it to be a proper age award, Caol Ila the award for best one from the owners, Ardbeg for being lovely as usual and Lagavulin for standing up to all the rest and being Peat-Daddy.
14th October 2011
The Black Grouse
Roughstock Montana Malt
Glen Scotia 11yo wine cask - Cadenheads
Hazelburn Sauterns Cask
The second release of the Balblair 1989 (we did the first a long time ago) and it is still a great fruity and floral dram with hints of spice in there too, complex and delicate. We did the 2010 and the 2011 Kilkerran to allow a comparison, for me the WIP3 having the extra year had added so much more and shows how great it is developing, dropping some of the brine edge of the WIP2 and finding some spice and hints of oak. Both good but getting better. I have been wanting to try the black grouse for a while to see if the smoke comes out, it does but the sweetness over powers it for me. Not sure how Mr Murray gets it to 94 but we all differ. A single malt from the USA, 100% malted barley but not a success for me, massive linseed oil in the mouth that then goes to oak, if you like licking cricket bats this is for you. I am not a fan of Glen Scotia from past experience and this was a significant improvement on those from those I have previously tried but although the tequila-esq style is tamed it is still not a great malt. The triple distilled unpeated stuff from Springbank and a few years in a sauternes cask and what a massive, drinkable, rich, complex, big hitting beauty it is. If you have not tried it buy some, it really is lovely. Finally the Longrow 18 and delicate peat, brine hints and great length, a fireside dram if there ever was and a continuation of brilliance from the Springbank team.
As a footnote Pete Currie has left Springbank but we wish him all our best and thanks for supporting us these last few years, slainte.
To sum up, the ODD Squad in Campbeltown are making great whisky and long may it last, cricket bats should have linseed not whisky and 1989 was a good year for Balblair.
As usual we did the raffle with a significant amount of £159 being raised by the excellent generosity of the wonderful people who attend these events and puts the running total for the season 2011 to 2012 at £430.50.
Behind the Bar the Springbank 15 lasted to the interval and still a great complex dram and that was replaced by the G&M Secret Stills 4.15 (Bowmore) to set the scene of peat for the next tasting in December.
9th September 2011
Glen Grant 1992 Cellar Reserve
MacPhails 21yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Mortlach 15yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary
Highland Park 1987 MacPhails Collection - Gordon & MacPhail
Caol Ila 1997 - Gordon & MacPhail
The first tasting of our 6th season and after a cold wet week a warm evening to make sure we had to work hard at the tasting. The Glen Grant got us off to a lovely light floral start with touches of tropical fruits, lovely. The MacPhails 21 from a mystery distillery (Glenfarclas??) and a gentle aged number with fine wood notes and soft sweetness but a hint of sour at the end, interesting. The Mortlach divided people, some finding rubber others liquorice and some just not liking it, personally I liked it and find the heavy sweet sherry and liquorice very enjoyable. The Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary is one worth celebrating and drinking with rich fruit, dry sherry and wood hints and a gentle dry finish with hints of oak. A Glenmorangie with a hint of peat? Have they lost the way to Ardbeg with the malt? A surprising tropical fruit mouthful with hints of smoke right at the end but with a little off note somewhere in there, I still prefer the Astar for Glenmorangie in this price range. Then we had a donation bottle to wet the head of Angus Fielding, a Jura Superstition which is always a good dram and we all wish a long and happy life to Angus with fine drams and good health. The HP has more peat in it than the usual offerings and benefits from it for me, richer, heavier and one for a roaring log fire. Finally a G&M Caol Ila which lacks the overpowering sweetness that can be Caol Ila and makes it a fine Islay dram with loads of coal smoke and wood embers.
The raffle as usual saw everyone dig deep and raise £157 for the RNLI, a great and generous start to the season, thank you. Behind the bar PC An Turas Mhor with the sweet peat of bruichladdich and still too easy to drink.
All in all a great start and if I had to pick my favourite I would go for the Highland Park.
17th June 2011 - Cadenheads
Royal Lochnagar 12yo from a re-char cask
Cradle Mountain from small concern distillery 11yo - Tasmania
Port Dundas 20yo Single Grain
Cadenheads and all cask strength, single cask bottlings plus 8 rather than the usual 7, things could be messy.
Caperdonich is not noted for being a good whisky, this one is probably the best I have tried from it but it still had off notes and a fusty taste, not for me at all. The Lochnagar from the rechar showed the vanilla and wood influence of the cask but not of its previous contents following the rechar, very candy like and soft, I quite liked this one. The Balmenach was ok, it is never going to offend but for me it is missing some depth (and a middle for that matter) missable. Tasmania next and for me the exciting one of the night because the distillery is closed and I have never had Tasmanian whiskey. It cannot be described as a shrinking violet, massive hit of wood, and vanilla possibly a little too sweet but then a massive burnt cocoa middle strange. Once left it opened up more and softened out and I could get to like it given some time with it, very glad we tried it. I am a fan of old single grain and I am a fan of this one, huge sweet vanilla but soft as silk and a good long finish, however this was not to everyones taste and David Barnes positively hated it, throwing it away, which must be a first, but the joy of tasting is finding out what we like or not! Aberlour out of bourbon cask and a nice oily mouth feel demonstrating the richness of spirit and some leather and spice in there, good. The Glencadam would make a fine digestive with the rich spice and oak notes making you feel the need for a good cigar and a big leather arm chair. Finally on to the nasty peat monster, but wait, it has run off and left behind a delicate, smoky, peaty dram with hints of the sea and no brutality and iodine overload you get on the proprietary bottling, Cadenheads have bottle one that is fantastic. A question I often ask is how do the independents bottle such great Lappy but the owners chuck out the medicinal hell water?
An interesting tasting with some we have never had and some we may want again but others a good chance to try but no thanks.
As usual we did the raffle with a massive amount of £213 being raised by the excellent generosity of the wonderful people who attend these events and puts the final total for the season 2010 to 2011 at £1120 a massive thank you to all our lovely Customers who have dug so deep so often.
Behind the Bar the 1997 G&M Caol Ila and a mouthful of sea tar rope and smoke but somehow gentle at the same time, excellent stuff.
13th May 2011
Pittyvaich 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
Bruichladdich 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail
Glenfiddich 21yo Caribbean Rum Finish
Tomintoul with a peaty tang
Hakushu Heavily Peated
A whisky to start that had me having a feeling of trepidation as it does not have the reputation you would want however very nicely surprised was the actual result. A very light, floral and delicate whisky which could pass as a good quality lowlander, a fresh start and another good one from G&M. The Benriach had a good balance between wood, age and hints of leather and spice but just a tad too sweet for me. Anyone who knows me knows I love Bruichladdich as a place and the lovely people who work there (especially Mary in the shop who the girls adore) but have struggled with the recent whiskies because of their chosen ACE policy. So what a result to get one that is a fine example of just how good it can be when left to be Bruichladdich. Slightly higher saltiness in this one but delicate and fruity and just gorgeous even at cask strength. Glenfiddich are basically the pioneers of driving malt whisky into the market so difficult to criticise them. This whisky is good up front with a burst of flavour then disappears in the middle and comes back delicately with a hint of the rum at the end, enjoyable but does not stand up to the price tag. After the break it is peat time and not an Islay in sight. Tomintoul has delicate peat and a nice balance of sweetness that is very easy to drink and an absolute bargain for an everyday drinking whisky. The Hakushu is not heavily peated in our terms but the peat is there and even at 48% holds delicate flavours of floral peat on the palate, these Japanese whiskies are getting very good, Dave Broom might have a point. Finally the Jura and the big grown up brother of superstition, think Colin Farrell as superstition with George Clooney as the Prophecy; rich, smooth, deep and erudite, a great dram.
In short a tasting where there was not a dram I would refuse if offered again, so I regard that as a reasonable tasting and those who came seemed to agree.
As usual we did the raffle with the massive amount of £148 being raised by the excellent generosity of the wonderful people who attend these events and puts the running total up to £907 for the season with one more tasting to go, thank you all so much.
Behind the Bar the Benromach Origins No.2 Port Cask, massive red fruit flavours, sticky port texture and smooth as silk.
25th March 2011: The Regions
Bladnoch 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
Clynelish 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
A special extra tasting in March to accommodate a couple of large parties who could not be squeezed in and a chance for me to play at a little bit of introduction to whisky regions and pick some of my favourites to do this, it seemed to work.
Always been a fan of the G&M Bladnoch with the floral, grassy and light fruitiness an excellent lowlander. Off to speyside for the next two and Longmorn 16 which although it is not quite as big as the old full sherry 15yo it makes it different and easy drinking, a good introduction to Speyside. The Speyburn 25 is a magnificent rich fruity sherried dram coating your insides as it slips down so easily. The first from Springbank to demonstrate the difference peating, production and age can make and the 15 is still one of the best drinking whiskies under £45 available. The sherry hints of fruit, vanillas from the bourbon and the hint of the sea from the coast, brilliant. After the break where we had the RNLI raffle and raised £115 it was off to the Highlands with Clynelish. Start of the peaty stuff but rich honey as well from this great wee dram. Longrow is the heavy peat stuff from Springbank and the brine is more prevalent but backed up with peat and a subtle dryness. Finally probably the best Ardbeg retailing at a semi-sensible price at the minute the European Oak Corryvrecken with peat, citrus and more peat.
So a tasting to indulge my favourites from the regions, it seemed to go down very well as smiles were much in evidence at the end.
Behind the Bar the 1990 G&M Aberfeldy, far superior to the standard distillery bottling and a fruity fun filled fiesta.
18th March 2011
Royal Brackla 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail
Auchentoshan 3 wood
Oban 1995 Distillers Edition
Ardmore 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail cask strength
Higland Park 12yo St. Magnus of Orkney 2nd edition
The Royal Brackla was a nice surprise as I remember the original distillery bottling with the maroon label which was at best very average but this is a really nice dram hints of spice and sherry with vanillas and just a brief hint of smoke. Auchentoshan was on for Andy Denton who used to claim it was the finest whisky in the world, he has since seen sense and now agrees this is not very good. For me, why you would put a supposedly delicate triple distiller lowlander in not one but two heavy sweet sherry barrels to act as finishes I do not know, unless you are hiding poor whisky, ah I seem to have worked it out, avoid. The Oban was a step up with a bit of the sea and hints fruit but no where near worth the money, a recent 20% price increase has done nothing to change this, someone is taking the mickey here. Tobermorey has been relaunched at 46.3% abv and although far better than the original it still has too much salt there for me and tequila similarities but there is a huge liquorice element in there too, strange but an improvement from the past. I did not expect much from the Ardmore but was more than a little surprise when it delivered a great dram; fruity, vanilla, hints of spice and just a whiff of smoke and although a cask strength no burn, very enjoyable. HP produces great whisky and here come the marketing guys to justify the price with a nice wooden casket and an old style bottle but wait a minute there is also a fine whisky in here as well, heavier than the normal HP with loads of honey then spice but more smoke and peat in there, why they cannot put this out without the marketing stuff and let us buy a new bigger HP, loved it. You will have guessed from reading other tastings that I am an Ardbeg fan and we were doing the Uigeadail because I wanted to and we had not done it and I wanted to (petulant being that I am). Big peat but hints citrus on the nose, big peat, smoke and good hits of sherry and some citrus in the mouth and a long finish, marvellous.
As usual we did the raffle but because Big Phill Webber was doing stuff for Red Nose day and was impersonating the worlds tallest leprechaun and raising loads of money we decided that Red Nose Day could have this one, I am sure the RNLI will allow us a little deviation. Anyway we raised £144 thanks to those who dug deep again.
Behind the bar Longrow CV and Springbank Claret Wood, both excellent and both well attacked by us, I do love the ODD lot up there.
All in all a good night and some surprises, some prejudice confirmed and some dismissed, you really need to try the G&M Ardmore and Brackla.
January 2011 - Burns Night
Speymalt from Macallan 1971 - Gordon & MacPahil
Secret Stills 2.2 (Cragganmore) 1966 - Gordon & Macphail
Strathisla 1963 - Gordon & Macphail
Longrow 8yo Shiraz cask
Burns night and it is time for the expensive and limited editions to make an appearance. Glenmorangie has done alot to promote single malt and is very popular as the 10 yo but for me has lot some of the magic because of producing too much however the magic is back with abundance here, a rich malt yet delicate and massive fruit and floral hit on the palate. A stunning example of how brilliant morangie can be when they put their craft first,a fantastic start. Macallan from G&M tend to be good and half the price of macallan when the ages come in. This one is a good example of wood, fruit cake and dryness but all in harmony giving a gentle sipping dram which would end up with a good portion of the bottle going. You do not get may examples of Cragganmore other than what Diagio offer as profit driven marketing stuff so a little gem from G&M. The oak is more prominent and the spice comes through on a good length, divided more people but I really enjoyed it. Strathisla with plenty of age always floats my boat and this was a beautiful example of how G&M release malts that need a long time to sip, savour and shut the world out with. This changes as you sip it but rich sherry fruit, vanillas, wood tannins and hints of smoke run through this and all you need is a sip and then leave in the glass for a while before sipping again, this is a glass for the night malt, not a session. The Longrow comes from an Ozzy shiraz cask from Longrow and was only available at the Springbank open day 2010 but I felt we had to have some even though I could not sell any. After the rich aged stuff this came in with a bit of a zip given it is youthful and cask strength but red berry fruit is there on the nose and palate, plus the usual brine and peat you expect, fun and fruity and easy to drink. Talisker 25 is lovely but so different from the usual talisker, gone is the hot pepper and chilly spice witht he smoke to come in with gentle refinement and subtle wood influences, a touch of fruit, wood and smoke and just a dash of pepper a gentle giant, however I prefer the 18yo. Finally the Ardbeg rollercoaster and whiskies that make this up range from 3 to 10 years old and we a committee released to celibrate 10 years since Ardbeg was rescued by Glenmorangie (thanks sooooo much). Typical coal tar soap and TCP but with a hint of sweet barley, heavy oils in the mouth and the peaty punch but no harshness and a happy Frankie Bell.
As usual the raffle and as so often we find with the people who come, very deep digging in pockets resulting in £145 being raised for the RNLI bringing the total for the tasting season to £597.00. Thanks again to all who raise so much. Behind the bar was a Springbank 12yo cask strength and Mr Somner got me the last one, thanks Andy.
All in all I feel we got a great tasting and for me The Strathisla was my favourite on the night but the best was the Glenmorangie as it proves what a brilliant dram it can be when not being knockde out for the mass market.
Mystery Whisky: Tweedale Blend
Bunnahabhain 12, new release at 46.3%
Macallam 21 - Cadenheads
Benromach Origins No3
PC An Turas Mor
The Tweedale blend was done blind to avoid any preconceptions and it is a little gem with 50/50 malt and grain made to an old family recipe and a smashing rich smooth but flavourful blend is the result. You can see the sherry influence from Speyside and just a hint of peat and smoke from Islay, a blend worth buying. Fettercairn has been a little suspect in the past and although this is a significant improvement on past expressions it still does not quite add up for me and tends to be too sweet but then with a bitter end. Arran has had some good and some ugly stuff this again is a good step up from the standard 10yo with loads of fruit and barley with hints of brine. The Speyburn is class in a glass with just the right mix of sherry, dried fruits and oaky vanilla. The old Bunny 12 was a good dram, this new unchillfiltered version knocks it into a cocked hat it is brilliant, richer, deeper, longer and more Bunny than a field of rabbits. Macallan make good sherry whisky, this one from Cadenheads is from a bourbon cask and it proved Macallan make good whisky, period. Rich vanilla, the delicate oils coating the mouth the alcoholic fizz and depths of spice, an early Christmas cracker, thanks to Grant for Cadenheads for the tip off. The Benromach Origins No.1 is a favourite of mine so we had to do the No.3 using Optic barley this time. Not a thick as the No.1 but still massive toffee and fudge with spices coming later on a fine dram again from the G&M owners. Finally the Port Charlotte multivintage rather than a PC9 we had hoped for, apparently they sold too much in the previous 4 bottlings so there is none left to do a 9. If I had drunk this as a blind whisky I would have waxed lyrically about it having sweet smoke and peat hints and slight sea breeze and enjoyed it but because it was a PC I was expecting so much more after the previous brilliance and it does not stand up to that but there again it is far cheaper and only at 46% so maybe I am being picky, I did enjoy it though.
We then had a treat from David Hadwin who brought us a Warriors Whisky, a blended scotch he had brought back from his hols. Not bad in a bog standard cheap blend way but nothing to warrant booking the Sandals resort holiday to get it.
Behind the bar was a G&M Secret Stills 4.9 from Islay and the round church distillery a good punchy smoke fest and thanks to Phill for the dram. We did the raffle and broke the record with £148 being raised, bringing the running total for this current season to £452.
To sum up some new tastes, some well received and ideal for Christmas, I think I may ask for one of the Bunny 12s for me.
October 2010: Springbank with Iain Scott
Campbeltown Loch 30
Duthies Hazelburn 9yo
Springbank 12yo Cask Strength
Springbank Claret Wood
We had Iain Scott the new rep at Springbank come down from Glasgow to relive his childhood memories in St Annes and run the tasting.
The starter is a rare 30 year old blend from Springbank stable and what a real beauty it is with pear and hints of wood on the nose, fresh honey and oak palate and a fruity end. Kilkerran is the second release from Glengyle and a salty tequila nose moves into a huge salt hit on the palate before going to a hint of sweetness and a tart end, interesting how it is developing and worth watching. The 9yo Hazelburn was a little smasher fruity, salty, vanilla sweetness and far too easy to drink. The Hazleburn 12 is the massive sherry big brother, a Campbeltown Speysider (if that is possible) with the best of both. Springbank C.V has smoke, sea salt vanillas ending with a gentle hint of smoke. The 18 has the old leather and spice nose, dry oaky middle and the spiced leather and wood return, a fire side dram for sipping, brilliant. The 12yo cask strength is worrying as it should be harder to drink at 54.6% but it is good sipping whisky with a heavy spirit (ester) nose, sweet toffee middle and tingling smoke at the end. The Claret wood is as a lot of these wood expressions have been, fruity fun in a glass and well worth having.
The usual raffle in aid of the RNLI raised £105 bringing the total so far to £304 and Big Phill won the Longrow 100 proof and sent that round which was great as it always is (and back in stock now after the delivery). Behind the bar Glendronach 12, sherried, dried fruit gluggable whisky.
All in all another cracking Springbank tasting, thanks for Iain for coming (despite forgetting Big Pete Curries joke book) and thanks for Springbank for keeping the quality of the product up and still affordable.
Until November, Slainte,
English Whisky Co. Chapter 9
Banff 1976 Gordon & MacPhail
Bowmore Tempest 10yo
Ardbeg Supernova 2010
Glencadam 15 to start the evening and not the robust highlander I had hoped for, a little thin and possibly lacking age for me. It is never going to offend anyone but nor will it set them on fire. Longmorn is a personal favourite so I am a little biased and although lighter than the old 15yo this still has the drinkablity quality about it with light fruit and honey present. The first English distillery for over 100 years and a release of 3yo peated whisky, with Iain Henderson as a consultant on this I expected a bigger hit of peat but it is only faintly smoky. A good effort for a 3yo but needs time to become what I am sure will be a good whisky in another 7 or 10 years. I am not a fan of Banff given my previous exposures to this distillery's whisky however this is a nice surprise, with good length, a fine depth of flavours and all in all quite enjoyable but the price tag is high because of scarcity and the age and I am not sure it warrants it in terms of the quality, G&M do far better stuff for the same or less money. Cu Dhubh is whisky from the Speyside Distillery that has loads of spirit caramel added to it by some mad Danes who want to recreate Loch Dhu. I do not know why anyone would want to recreate Loch Poo but in trying to do so they have made it even worse. The molasses nose makes you think it should be rum but it is not as nice as a rum or a whisky it is really dreadful BUT it is still not as bad as the Welsh stuff and the baby sick Hibiki but it is running close, a dreadful gimmick, please stop. The tempest is a limited release cask strength 10yo and it has all the notes of a great whisky from the Islay capital distillery with the peat and sea present and hints of fruit but then it lets itself down right at the end with an off note in the back of the finish. Unfortunately this is something I have noted in Bowmore for a while and I am saddened that it is still there. Is it the barrels? or production process? I am not sure but it is something that does not belong there. Finally the massive 100ppm peat beast from Ardbeg and the 2010 edition. Coming in at 60.1% and reeking of peat it should be hard work but it is nothing of the sort, in fact it is a little soft. There is some of the good Ardbeg citrus present after you get round the initial big peatyness and it has length and depth a plenty but it is still easy to drink and I liked it quite a bit.
As usual the charity raffle in aid of the RNLI raised £135 and the winner decided we should all try the 2001 Springbank Batch 1 so he asked that it be passed round and we all enjoyed it with the classic Springbank brine edge that set us in the mood for 15th October Springbank Tasting, thanks to Pete Desmond for his generosity in sharing and to all who came for raising so much again!
Behind the bar was Smokehead and the mystery Islay malt disappeared very quicky. Big Phill got one in for me thankfully otherwise I would have missed out, so thanks to Phill. I know how good this is because it is one of my dear old mothers favourites who is a major peathead.
Hopefully an interesting tasting for all who attended with some successes and one horror but that is the joy of a tasting, if nothing else you know not to buy it and save some pennies.
Glenlivet Nadurra Triumph 1991
Dalmore Dee Dram 12yo
Glengoyne Summer distillation 1985 - 19yo
Kilchoman spring release 2010
The light fruity Hukushu is a fine early doors dram, delicate and floral and could pass as a good quality Lowlander. The Japanese do make good whisky and this proves it once again. Cardhu was the centre of the blended malt storm, top seller in Spain and a good solid Speyside nip, good enough to tide you over when you need a malt over there. I must admit to not being a big fan of the standard proprietory bottlings by Glenlivet but this one is a belter. Loads of barley, fruit, floral, hints of sherry, unchillfiltered and 48% but gentle long and flavoursome with it. Bruichladdich 2001, the resurrection dram shows what Laddie can produce but with the peat hints slightly bigger than usual due to the 10ppm rather than 5ppm levels. This is what they need to concentrtate on, good solid whisky that will grace any glass and the host will be glad to server and share rather than the ACE'd muck that devalues a great product. The last time we did Dalmore it was the Cigar Malt and it was only fit for extinguishing them, this had great balance of sherry wood depth and rich fruit but vanilla coming through as well, 50% bourbon and 50% sherry work well and this does justice to a grand malt. Glengoyn is a light almost Lowland style normally but not this little beasty full on rich heavy oloroso or even PX, massive fruit, smooth as silk (even at 52.4%) and sticking to the glass like tar. It is not a session dram, one to savour and sip and carress and sniff and share with very good friends. Finally the 3 year old Kilchoman which has had 3 months in a new oloroso cask. It shows it is young because although it has a big hit of peat and barley it does not have a long finish, but what length it does have is filled with flavour. It is great see how well this is coming on after doing the new make few years ago (which was also good), and this is doing well in my opinion. I think that when this has five more years it will be a proper fine dram but do not wait until then, enjoy it now it is better than quite a few already. Congratulations Mr Wills your baby is doing fine and is very bonny.
Behind the bar was a G&M Mortlach 15yo and this is just sherry heaven with toffee, spice and far too easy to drink, thanks to Big Phill for the drams, generous to a fault as ever.
The final raffle of the season raised £83 to bring the final total to £790 raised by the continued generosity of our customers in aid of the RNLI. We will make sure they get the cheque in the summer.
All in all a good tasting for me with no malt failing to deliver, I know this because the spitoons we all empty and no one complained about getting the last bottle with the little bit left. Until September, Slainte
Compass Box Oak Cross
Balvenie 21yo Port Wood
Glenlossie 1978 - Gordon & MacPhail
Benrinnes 15 - Flaura & Fauna
Isle of Jura Superstition
Laphroaig 11yo - Duthies
A Vatted Malt (sorry blended malt is the SWA term now to help Diagio out in shifting stuff) from Compass box and interesting, made up of 3 distilleries malts and then married in casks with different wood types. A light fruity little number, not offensive but no real length or character for me. A starter malt for those begining in the pursuit or for breakfast. The Balvenie has honey and fruit and is an easy drinking dram but not quite enough to warrant the price tag it now demands but enjoyable if you forget the price. The Glenlossie got mixed reviews, I found it had sour notes that put me off it but others really enjoyed it so a split decision. Jim Murray gives the Benrinnes 70 and after driniking this he is being generous a thoroughly unpleasant experience and hopefully never to darken my glass again. A break for the raffle saw £77 raised for the RNLI and brings the total for the tasting season to £707 so thanks again for the generosity of those who come to the tastings.
After the break we headed into peat territory. Superstition is only lightly peated based on what we had, hints of smoke and honey and good solid malt, possibly lacking in the finish a bit but I would own a bottle quite happily. Laphroaig next and never on the top of my list but the independents do it again in getting a far better product in the bottle than the proprietary bottlings, this is a little belter with smoke, creosote, brine and peat but not harsh and so easy to drink an absolute gem from the ODD squad in Campbeltown. Finally Ardbeg and whisky heaven again from the fantastic crew up there. We have just been as a family to Islay and stopped yards from Ardbeg so I am biased but this is great complex enjoyable citrus, big peat smoke and fun dram and smooth despite being quite young and 57% vol. I love Ardbeg and they keep delivering whisky that allows the love affair to continue and Jackie and Emma are great in the Kiln. Laphroaig quarter cask behind the bar, an interesting comparison for the Duthies, a good dram from Lappy land but blow away by the Duthies, thanks to Steve for the dram to compare and to Jagman Scott for the nightcap.
An interesting tasting with some testing our patience whilst others reminded us why this really is the water of life.
Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition 1990
Speyburn 1977 Gordon & MacPhail
Lagavulin 12 cask strength 2009 release
Bladnoch 16 was a disappointing start with too much oak and slight bitter edge at the start and middle before getting the heather, fruity honey at the very late stages which should have been there all the time, sad because I love the G&M 1991 Bladnoch. The distillers edition Dalwhinnie is finished in Oloroso casks which has me asking why? A light gently whisky hidden by a rich sherry finish, Diagio go mad again. If you can suspend your desire to drink Dalwhinnie it is still a nice sherried whisky and enjoyable but shows none of the great stuff Dalwhinnie has to offer. The Speyburn was very complex offering loads of different flavours, from vanilla to fruit to hints of sherry and smoke, definately one to spend a long time with and enjoy, added to my list of ones to buy for me. The Glenfarclas 1987 was magnificent with all the hallmarks of a great Glenfarclas with oak, sherry depth, hints of fruit and a touch of sweetness. Glendronach 18 Alardice was too much sherry and too sickly sweet for me, probably a great pudding whisky for a dinner or Christmas but too much to drink alone for me. The new Bunny Toiteich is a peated one which was originally launched for the French market but they decided to let us have some and although very young (I guessed as it took no water at all, NOTE "water kills it totally" do not add water) it is nicely smoked, hints of rich coal with a gently finish soothing in to a sweet briney end. Finally the cask strength 57.9% proof monster from Lagavulin, from past experience I felt I might need a stick to try to tame this as they have been brutal, not this year. lovely sipping whisky with hint of peat and smoke and a gentle sweetness but what worries me is where has the peat monster gone? Lagavulin used to be the peaty freaky heaven but now it is less smokey, less peaty and less Lagavulin? Have Diagio finally killed the golden goose through cost cutting on the peat drying or running the still and people too hard? I do not know but what I do know is that this is not the same style Lagavulin that I fell in love with 25 years ago, it is now briney with peat hints not PEATY with brine hints as it used to be, I morn the loss.
Behind the bar Edradour 1997 Unchillfiltered from Signatory, cannot go wrong with this and went down all too easily, thanks for the dram Mario. As usual the RNLI raffle and £107 raised through the generous mob that attended, running total is £630. Until the next time, Slainte
January 2010 - Burns Night Special
Glen Albyn 1975 Gordon & Macphail
Bruichladdich 1984 Redder Still
Longmorn 30 Gordon & Macphail
Glen Grant 1958 Gordon & Macphail
Port Ellen 1982 Gordon & Macphail
Benriach 21yo Authenticus Peated Malt
PC8 - Port Charlotte from Bruichladdich
Glen Albyn gave us a good old fashioned highlander with floral light flavours but depth and hints of smoke. Not easy to find due to it being a supermarket now but worth seeking out, a lovely start. I have had my run ins with Bruichladdich about the ACEing but still willing to try their whisky as I love the distillery. This is by far and away the best wine messing about they have done but it is just a reasonable Bruichladdich and OK to drink but really doesn't warrant the expense. It looks like I am stuck with three bottles in stock for the foreseeable, still disappointed with the wine and whisky efforts being sent out but what do you customers and me know, we only buy it (or not)? The old 25 Longmorn was superb so it was with trepidation I did this, would it live up to it? For me yes it does, not better but different with the wood becoming more promenant and hiding the christmas cake fruits but still enjoyable however this was not everyones view and the wood become too intrusive for some. Gordan and Macphail need to make sure this is not left in barrel too much longer for fear of the wood killing it. Now for something left a long time in barrel distilled 1958, bottled 2009 from Glen Grant and what a beauty proving once again that Glen Grant ages perfectly with fruit, wood, whisky and length all working in perfect harmony. An absolute classic and one of the best I've had in the £150 to £200 range. Then on to the peaty stuff (and a happy Pete Bowley). I remember having the 1982 Port Ellen 10 years ago and being unimpressed, how times change this is as near perfect for an aged peaty dram as you can get, soft, delicate smoke enveloping the senses and gently caressing your being, Jean Simmons at her prime would be the comparison. The Authenticus is another great dram with more beef than the PE and providing coal smoke rather than peat. One comment was this tastes like a great aged Caol Ila at its best, quite a compliment I feel. If we had Jean Simmons earlier it was now time for the young pneumatic chested one to come and bounce on us in the cask strength PC8 and it is big, brash, peaty but with some subtleties starting to come through now it is getting older. This is what Bruichladdich can produce and it is fantastic and it has avoided the dreaded ACE, or wine or other such stuff, just very good whisky, thank you Mark for leaving this as it should be, excellent.
The raffle saw everyone find pockets deeper than ever and raised £138 for the RNLI. I often feel humbled by the continuous and great generosity shown by our Customers, thank you so much again. Total is now £451 for the year.
Behind the bar Benromach Origins No.1, the moffatt toffee shop in a glass and sold out in double quick time.
Hopefully Burns would appreciate the malts we did to celebrate his birthday. If I had to pick a winner the Port Ellen would be it but nothing disgraced itself and I was surprised by a whisky new to me in the Glen Albyn which I thoroughly enjoyed and old Glen Grant always has a place in my heart (and glass). Slainte
Springbank Edinburgh Festival Blend 2007
Lochside 1991 Gordon & Macphail
Inverleven 1991 Gordon & Macphail
Strathmill 1991 Gordon & Macphail
The Yamazaki 18
Caol Ila Tokaji Wood Finish 1994 Private Collection Gordon & Macphail
A blend including 40% malt from Springbank (mostly springbank but with a hint of Longrow)was always going to be good and this did not disappoint, rich yet delicate, no harsh elements that blends can bring, sherry coming through and hints of spice and oak and a little smoke, great stuff. Lochside is closed, to my mind this was a nice to try as it is a lost distillery but not one to go back to too many off notes and sourness, but that said some liked it so be your own judge on this one. Inverleven was a mass of vanilla on the nose with rich spices oak and vanilla belting through again. Not a classic example of a lowland malt, more highland in style but not matter what region it is a really enjoyable dram. Inverleven is mothballed with no future plans, shame really as this G&M bottling shows it to be a worthy whisky Strathmill has spice and white pepper on the nose, herbs and spices on the palate and hints of oak and sweetness and a dry finish, good solid drinking malt. Now for the Japanese and they are not new to this game having started in 1923 and it shows. This is no new start up whiskey but one that shows the strength of time and tradition. Full bodies and showing the 3 cask types in various flavours, hints of plum wine anyone? Expensive but worth saving for as a treat and one to prove not all the best whisky(ey) is Caledonia (but most is). I was really looking forward to the Caol Ila, how sad I was when this was dreadful some coal smoke and peat in there but massively sweet and over powered beyond belief by the Tokaji and just plain nasty. This should never have been released and sent straight to be lost in some cheap and nasty blend in the blending halls, nothing like the usual class Caol Ila whisky G&M deliver which is far better than the proprietary bottling normally, sad. We had an extra one sneaked in then after Big Phill Webber won the Longrow 14 in the charity raffle and requested it be shared by all present. The smoke and gentle spices are there and the rubber hints at the end bringing the gentle side to longrow as it ages, thanks for sharing Phill we loved it again. Finally the one I have been waiting for, Ardbeg with the phenols at 100+ ppm and rated as 97 by Mr Murray and best scotch in the world 2010. It certainly delivers on the peat front, then comes round the back and clobbers you with some peat from there too. It really is a massive dram, brutal and one you cannot attack at a session but great anyway. I really enjoyed this because on second sip it brought other things through like Ardbeg should but peat is the overriding memory a saviour for the good old place after the dreadful Blasda.
As usual we held the charity raffle in aid of the RNLI and the generous souls were in again and we raised £95 bringing the running total to £313 for this year, thanks everyone.
Behind the bar was Springbank 2001 batch 1, youthful springbank showing the Bourbon side and vanilla hints and the usual salty sea dog brine elements and another good one from Frank, Stuart, Pete Currie (congratulations on Matilda) and the rest of the gang up there.
All in all another good night and after now trying the two peat monsters in Supernova and Octomore 1.1 I have to admit I loved both, both totally different and both worthy to grace any table who enjoy great whisky. Not a battle after all, just great examples of good whisky making and no chuffing about with wine (Mark)! But the two surprises for me we the Inverleven and Springbank blend both great whiskies and also really appreciating the Yamazaki.
X4 - Bruichladdich
Glen Spey 1995 Gordon & MacPhail
Benromach Origins Batch 1 - Golden Promise
Highland Park 18
Clynelish 1993 Gordon & MacPhail
X4, quadrupel distilled spirit and perilous whisky. Well it lived up to its name, perilous it was, especialy if you drank it. Not the best new make I have ever had andone has to ask why as it really doesn't do justice to what Bruichladdich can achieve. Liked by a couple of regular vodka drinkers though, might try it chilled to see if it improves. Glen Spey was an improvement with hints of spice and a delicate flavour, an afternoon malt or ladies malt according to Janet C. Aberlour 16 wins the award for getting Doc to like an Aberlour. A good solid speysider with depth, chocolate and spices. Benromach Origins, brilliant stuff, like falling in a huge box of Moffat Toffee and being pulled out on a leather whip Indiana Jones is using to rescue you. HP18 is a great drink with loads of complexity, heather, honey, smoke and good length, never going to upset anyone hence HP sells so well, but I still prefer the 15 when that was available. Clynelish is a personal favourite and this one shows why, a real treat with the gentle spice and embers mixing with a wiff of the sea and honey coming from somewhere, a G&M classic (again). Finally the one I have been waiting for, Octomore 1.1, Bruichladdichs first release of the 80PPM peat freak and oh was it worth waiting for. Just as Octomore 1.2 comes out we try the 1.1 and this shows how good Jim, Duncan, Budgie and the rest of the people at Bruichladdich can make whisky when it is not ponced about with (ACEd is the marketing term I believe). Huge peat flavours but sweet and flavoursome all the same and carrying the youth and big alcohol hit of 63.5% so well, drop the wine rubbish and concentrate on this, it is brilliant and dare I say even better than the Port Charlotte releases we have had and that takes some doing. All I think now is when can we do the 1.2 and will SuperNova stand up to this competition next time?
£100 raised for the RNLI from our generous customers in the charity raffle, running total of £203 so far after just 2 tastings. Our continued thanks to all.
Behind the bar, MacPhails 15yo, easily drunk and finished in not time at all, so good someone ordered a bottle and a great example of the speyside sherry hit with the leather and spice ending with just a hint of smoke.
June 2009: Springbank with Pete Currie from Springbank Distillery
Kilkerran Work in Progress
Springbank 10yo, 100 proof
Springbank Madeira cask 11yo
Longrow 10yo, 100 Proof
We managed to get Pete Currie back and he excelled again, stories, jokes and anecdotes galore. The Kilkerran is floral on the nose with hints of brine, vanilla, oak and flowers come through on the palate with a fizzy peppery finish, excellent for only 5 years old. Duthies Campbeltown, a vatted malt (blended malt for Diagio people)delivers a fruity nose, brine, fruit and floral notes followed by a hint of smoke, well worth buying a bottle but do not expect it to last long a good session whisky. Springbank 18 and what a delight, back to good aged Springbank with old wood and rich fruit on the nose, this carries through to the palate with big sherry fruits hitting the mouth and then a soft velvet caress that lingers as a finish, to sum up: WOW! Springbank 100 proof is big on all fronts spice and brine on the nose, huge brine hit in the middle and lingering pepper with a hint of toffee, this one delivers. Springbank Madeira cask got whisky of the month in whisky magazine and there is no doubt why, sweet spice and red fruits on the nose, hints of smoke across the palate with the sweet fruit mingling to soften the brine but not losing it, ending in a fruity spiced finish, top draw. Longrow 14yo has smoke, spice and a hint of rubber, the palate brings in coal smoke but gently and sweet overtones that fade to a fishy finish. Finally (or so we thought) Longrow 100 proof and the first nosing has me asking where did the flowers come from, it is longrow but there it was, then the palate brings it in again with the smoke hit and sweetness and vanilla, lovely and the top seller along side the Madeira cask. I would however like to note that the 18 would have been but we only has 3 bottles to sell and they did, sorry again to those who could not get one.
But then Pete reached into a bag and hey presto a couple of murky samples appear for us to try, early tastes of two to be released in July, Springbank 2001 Batch 1 which has spice, butter, rich oak and vanillas running though it, a little young cracker and finally but not least the Hazelburn 12 and this is a real wow with big sherry flavours,brine hints, length, depth holding your attention (and this is after 8 others); a complete contrast to the current 8yo (which is very good) and this is showing how good it is developing and it wasn't half bad to start. As soon as the delivery comes though I am opening one to drink, brilliant (in a fast show milk way).
As usual a raffle was held in aid of the RNLI and we raised £130 through the generous attendees which bring the total for the tasting year to £855 which we will arrange to present either early next tasting season or through the summer, thanks again to those very generous people who we are luck enough to call customers (and hopefully friends).
Behind the bar, Benromach Organic, well received and quickly drunk.
To sum up, Springbank make great whisky (if you are reading this you should already know that but just in case), Pete Currie is knowledgeable,entertaining and a great guy and we all had an excellent time so thanks again to the Original Distinct Defined (ODD) Springbank distillery, Pete and all the great people at the distilleries (Glen Gyle & Springbank) and Cadenheads shop.
Old Man of Hoy 14yo - Blackadder
Lochranza 10yo - Aberdeen Distillers
Raw Cask Jura 1992 - Blackadder
Raw Cask Glenugie 1981 - Blackadder
Raw Cask Mortlach 1989 - Blackadder
Ben Nevis 10yo - Clydesdale Distillers
Raw Cask Smoking Islay - Blackadder
Independent bottler time and Blackadder comes to the fore. A personal favourite being the raw cask range so we did 4 of them. The Old Man of Hoy is a light delicate start to the evening, easy drinking and probably dangerous as a big chunk of the bottle could disappear without you realising it. Lochranza has slight spice but not enough length for me but lots better than the proprietary bottling. Jura raw cask is very good whisky and this is a fine example of a good distillery, very tasty. Glenugie was a new distillery for me and if all Glenugie tastes like this how on earth could they close it? Length, depth, subtlety and smooth despite being 61.8%. Mortlach is a personal favourite of mine and this was good but showed a gentler side of Mortlach, not a big sherry hit but a delicate caress and hints of sherry, I would have liked more but enjoyed it all the same. Ben Nevis is not a top draw distillery, this was a far better bottling than the normal stuff but have to say the weakest of the night for me. Last but not least 60.8% smoking Islay, they won't disclose the distillery but we guessed at Laphroaig or a fantastic Caol Ila, either way it had loads of smoke, massive length, maritime feel and oil, a big powerful dram to finish. To sum up, a good evening with plenty of interesting expressions and for me Blackadder Raw Cask is a great way to do whisky and delivers on all fronts, keep up the good work Robin and Hannah.
Behind the bar, G&M Secret Stills 4.9 - Islay (Bowmore to be specific). Sold out in no time at all and thanks to Big Ian got one and a little smasher it was too, fine example of a Bowmore.
The raffle in aid of the RNLI and raised £93 thanks to the generosity of those who attended bringing the total for this year to £653, thank everyone
Glentauchers 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail
Blair Athol 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
Secret Stills 5.1 Lowland - Gordon & MacPhail
Glenrothes 1965 - Gordon & MacPhail
Bowmore Darkest 15yo
Amrut Peated Cask Strength
Glentauchers is not bottled by the owners, this shows why a very average start. Blair Athol is a constituent of Bells, I would sooner have Bells than this, not to my palate at all. The Secret Stills is from Edinburgh, nothing like the proprietary bottling all and all the better for it a lovely sherry dram with loads of flavour and depth but little to betray the lowland heritage, it could pass for a Speysider, very interesting from G&M. The Glenrothese had loads of wood up front, a dry middle and a tropical fruit end. A top malt in my book but not to everyones taste (Mike B did not like it and he has a good palate) but to me a fine example of a well aged malt. Did not like to old darkest, love this one, the extra age has done it a power of good, hints of smoke, oil and a sherry richness, winner on the night for me. Amrut is OK, hint of coal dust, slight fruit and not harsh even at 62% but not ready to worry the Caledonian crowd. Finally Smokehead, which does exactly what it says on the tin. We still do not know where it comes from, guesses are Laphroaig or Caol Ila but who knows? All I know is it is a big peaty, smokey, lovely dram.
Behind the bar G&M Clynelish 1995 cask strength which is has sherry fruit, hint of peat and good power to it, lovely.
As usual we had a charity raffle in aid of the RNLI and raised £98 thanks to the generosity of those who attended bringing the total for this year to £560, thank everyone.
January 2009 - Burns Night
Smith Glenlivet 15yo(2008 Bottling) Gordon & MacPhail
Smith Glenlivet 15yo Gordon & MacPhail 80 Proof bottling
Glen Mhor 1980 Gordon & MacPhail
Old Pultney 1970 Gordon & MacPhail
Tamdhu 1966 Gordon & MacPhail
250 years since the Burns fellow was born, so a celebration and a few drams to be had. The first 2 were G&M Smith's Glenlivet 15 year olds; one bottled now, one bottled circa 1970. Now is too thin and spirity for me, the old stuff was fantastic, an excellent way of showing how a distillery and bottler changes over time. The old stuff had leather, spice and fruit a great length Glenlivet made in the 1950 is fab stuff. The Glen Mhor was interesting, fruity nose, gentle fruit flavours and a hint of spice and tobacco at the end. 38 year old Old Pultney has loads of flavour and length with fruit, spice and a great salty end. Tamdhu is not normally high on my list of whiskies I want to drink but this one however is very luscious and a darn good drink. I think it could even pass itself off as one of the top speyside boys with the depth of flavour and length, why isn't it like this all the time? And more importantly why did Jim Murray give it 77? Ardbeg Blasda or as it is now know, Diet Ardbeg. An introduction to Ardbeg possibly but an Ardbeg? A definite NO! Too thin, too little peat, too little of everything and coming from one of the really great distilleries this is a serious disappointment. Buy the Renaissance instead or the Beist, proper Ardbegs. Finally the PC7 and whoopee, a real delight. Smoke, peat, barley, fire everything great about what Mark, Jim, Duncan, Budgie, et al are doing up there (special mention to the lovely Mary in the Laddie shop). Top seller and a great drinking dram, forget the water (too young to take it so enjoy it at the proper strength) and dive in here for a bonfire of joy. We did the usual raffle in aid of the RNLI and once again the generosity of the people coming grows. £105 to add to the current total for the year bringing it to £413. Behind the bar Springbank 1997 Batch 2, still great with the dunnage warehouse mustiness.
An Cnoc 16yo
Old Pultney 17yo
Macallan Fine Oak 15yo
Glenburgie 10yo - Gordon & MacPhail
Caol Ila 8yo unpeated
Secret Stills –Islay 4.4 - Gordon & MacPhail
Ardbeg 1991 - Gordon & MacPhail
Light fruity, heathery, floral and good - An Cnoc a hidden gem and very enjoyable. Old Pultney is in Wick and by the sea - sherry and brine make a nice mix and this is quite nice too. Macallan don't make bad whisky even when they toy with something other than sherry but for the money I think I prefer the 10yo version to this but enjoyable all the same. The Glenburgie was the credit crunch malt for the evening, cheap and cheerful sherry hit and gone, nice whisky on a budget but didn't sit in the company it was in. The Astar really is "a star" (poor pun I know but they started it) replacing the old Artisan cask with a cask strength full sized bottle. Lots of flavours including bitter chocolate orange - orangie from Morangie (see it gets worse) loved this and got one coming for Xmas myself. Caol Ila should be a bag of smoke but when unpeated it is an interesting concept with the fruit coming through massively and oil hints, really enjoyed the change and a must to try if you like Caol Ila (or even if you don't like peaty whisky), not sure My Murray got it right with 95/100 though but it is good and worth a go. Secret Stills from the round church town, smoke, oil sherry and spice followed by coal, shame it is all gone. Finally the Ardbeg and G&M do it again a little cracker with all the great citrus notes and oil and peat and loads of peat and carbolic soap and peat and citrus and I guess I liked it.
The raffle saw people digging very deep and raising £100 for the RNLI bringing the total for this year to £308 so far. Brilliant generous people - thank you very much.
Behind the bar - Longrow CV, got some but ran out far too quickly and it is a fine example from a great distillery with the peaty salty tang I love. As a tip try some Glenmorangie after a few peaty ones - enhances the fruit flavours.
Hedonism - Compass Box
Inchmurrin cask 1-173
Bruichladdich Links - Royal Birkdale
Inchfad - cask 666
Secret Stills Island 1.2 - 1986 - Gordon & MacPhail
Hedonism is a blend of 13 & 26 year old grain and boy what a great whisky, oak and vanilla running through and smooth, great start to the evening. Inchmurrin was described by one person as ordinary, probably the best comment I could give it. The Bruichladdich Links is very light and fresh, the Atlantic breeze is back, not a long finish but a nice clean pre-dinner dram and one that can be drunk easily. Benromach Organic, G&M have done wonders with this distillery and this is a fine drinking whisky, loads of depth, heavy bourbon barrel influence and very tasty. Inchfad had the right cask number, supposed to be heavily peated (not so) only a hint of coal dust, no flavour, depth or anything good about it. G&M SS1.2 from Skye (any guesses as to which distillery doh??) fantastic as an �80+ whisky should be, loads of character, the normal fire from this classic (sic) distillery, mellowed by time and rounded to make a sipping whisky to share with the closed friends and enjoy thoroughly, can't fault it, brilliant, smoke, hint of embers, sherry depth, fruit and then the return of the fire and the ever so light tint of pepper. Finally the re-birth whisky from Ardbeg and it is a monster, Stuart and the gang have made great whisky here. The smoke drives through here, oily herrings, citrus burst, alcohol hit and big length - top seller and deservedly so.
We presented the RNLI with a cheque for �950 and thank you to Andy Fallow for collecting this and stopping to try the whiskies but most of all thanks to the ever generous people who come to the tastings and buy the raffle tickets.
We raffled a bottle of Benromach Origins No.1 off - great whisky if you want to try it as I've done, these G&M guys seem to know there stuff - which raised �88 to start this years raffle fund going, thanks everyone.
Behind the bar was a Craigellachie 1990 (G&M) loads of fruit, hint of smoke and a long complex finish, recommended by all who tried it.
June 2008 - Springbank with Pete Currie from Springbank Distillery
Springbank 1997 - Batch 2
Longrow Gaja Barolo
The tasting was run by Pete Currie, Springbanks Sales and Marketing Director who treated us to a history of Campbeltown, how whisky is made and more importantly how Springbank make theirs and general stories from a great distillery - A bushell is half a cowp, those who were there will understand.
The whiskies were great: the smooth floral Hazelburn, Springbank 10 offering great flavour and the brine tingle of classic Springbank. The 15 with its excellent length and smooth sherried nature and the 1997 Batch 2 - damp moss and dunnage warehouses. Longrow CV is fantastic everyday drinking Longrow and top seller, the 18 was a dream and we are probably one of the few who have had the chance to try it (380 cases world wide) and it is worth the price tag - smoke, summer fruit and joy in a glass. Finally smoked blackcurrant juice (Longrow Gaja Barolo) but in a lovely way, red fruits, big smoke and fun.
The raffle raised �125.00 which brings us up to �875 for the season raised for the RNLI. Thanks once again to the extreme generosity of our Customers.
This was a truly great tasting from the excellent whiskies we tried including the fantastic and very rare Longrow 18 (my favourite although none were anything but very drinkable)and because Pete was a top host and general great guy - Thanks again Pete.
Secret Stills 6.1 - Gordon & MacPhail
Scapa 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
Tomatin 1988 - Gordon & MacPhail
Brora 1982 - Gordon & MacPhail
Aberfeldy 1989 - Gordon & MacPhail
Strathisla 30yo - Gordon & MacPhail
The Loch Fyne Liqueur
Pappy Van Winkles 15yo
Secret Still 6.1 (Glen Garioch) excellent light weight opener, good floral flavour and easy to drink. Scapa was too light and didn't have enough complexity, surprising really. The Tomatin was too sweet for me but liked by some, think it needs more time in barrel to take the edge off. The Brora isn't the legendary G&M 1972 but I still enjoyed it subtle smoke, hints of sweetness and a good level of complexity. The Aberfeldy was fantastic loved it and a cracking dram for �30 - this is going on the stock list or my shelf. Strathisla 30yo was sublime; best of the night & best seller; G&M have excelled themselves with this one! Loch Fyne Liqueur, best whisky liqueur I've had but a shock after 6 malts. I would recommend to a friend, oh and Christine liked it so I have to get her a bottle too, if I'm not careful she'll develop a taste for whisky and then I'll only get half as much to drink! Finally the bourbon from Van Winkles, mixed reviews but I liked the violent frontier whiskey, big on flavour and spirit for when you want a whiskey with no subtlety and a desire to wrestle buffalo.
The raffle raised �112 bringing the total raised so far this tasting season for the RNLI to �751 thanks to our generous and giving Customers.
March 2008 - Blackadder
Blackadder Legendary 15yr
Tobermory 12yr - Aberdeen Distillers
Blairfindy 1976 (31yo) - Blackadder
Lochnagar Bodega Sherry Cask 1992 (13yo) - Blackadder Raw Cask
Glendullan Bodega Sherry Cask 1993 (12yo) - Blackadder Raw Cask
Tormore 17yr - Clydesdale
Peat Reek - Blackadder
The Legendary is a nice gentle whisky light and a nice opener to procedings. The Tobermory was tequila, salt, salt and more salt (not for me at all). The Blairfindy is a fantastic heavy sherried whisky to sip near an open fire with select company, a real beauty. The Lochnagar and Glen Dullan, both raw casks with the bits of charring floating in them live up the the reputation of the top expression (raw cask) for this bottler - I have yet to find a raw cask that is anything less then great,and these were no exception, even at 60.2% the Lochnagar was easy drinking and the Glendullan was enjoyable heavy sherry and complex. The Tormore was a 64.6% beast, great neat but cut brought too much bananas and custard to the party, this is the one to drink neat on a cold mountain top to give you strength and fire down below. Finally the peat reek - no clue to the distillery (I still don't know) which does exactly what is says on the bottle but not in a harsh way, very pleasant peat and smoke. Behind the bar was the G&M cask Strength Clynelish 1995 - great whisky, enjoyed by all who got some (managed it this time - just). We also added �87 to the raffle fund for RNLI which now sits at �639 for this tasting season thanks to all our generous and kind hearted Customers.
Burns Night 2 - 26th January 2008
Braes of Glenlivet 1975 � Gordon & MacPhail
Bruichladdich 20 � 3rd Edition
MacPhails 30� Gordon & MacPhail
Dalmore 28 � Blackadder Raw Cask
Caol Ila � Massala Finish � Gordon & MacPhail
A second night to celebrate Burns birthday with 3 other hardy souls (fools??) doing the second night same as me.
The Braes is interesting from a relatively young distillery, soft but not exciting. Bruichladdich 20 � 3rd edition � does it need to be ACE�d (no) but still an excellent dram despite this. The Bunny 18 is top draw stuff, rich with sherry tones a dram to warm a winter night with if there ever was one. MacPhails 30 � I thought the 40 was brilliant, the 25 as good as it gets but guess what the 30 beats them both, I am in awe. Blackadder Raw Cask is always good, the Dalmore didn�t disappoint with good warmth and length plus the little bits of cask in there add something. The Caol Ila was good, G&M proving it doesn�t have to be over sweet and has the coal hit in the middle. Finally the Bowmore Dawn a final dram that is great and now sadly unavailable a fond farewell to a classy Bowmore with the peat and fruit hints.
Behind the bar � Bruichladdich Moine Mhor 3D Peat Proposal 2nd Edition � very drinkable and complementing the final two peaty ones we�d already had but again I only got one � something tells me the people who come to the tasting love good whisky which shows I can state the obvious as we do have great people coming!
Burns Night - 25th January 2008
Whisky Galore Atlantic Gold
Bruichladdich 15 � 2nd Edition
Highland Park 15
Miltonduff 1968 � Gordon & MacPhail
MacPhails 40 � Gordon & MacPhail
Port Charlotte PC6
Kilchoman � New Make Spirit
Hopefully Burns would have been appreciative of the whiskies we used to toast his birthday.
The whisky galore was a lovely blend with lots of flavour and a little bit of history in it, a % of the whiskies used in the blend were recovered from the SS Politician. The Laddie 15 is a lovely gently dram but I now realise I have been spoiled having the 1st edition with its 15% sherry cask and no ACEing so the 2nd edition doesn�t stack up to that but it is still good. I just wish Jim would stop ACEing, The Laddie is good enough on it�s own. HP15 � better than the 12 & the 18, great balance of honey and heather and a lovely peat finish. Miltonduff 1968 � fantastic nose, lovely heavy sherry and balanced palate with that mint hint at the end, I would have liked to have left this a while to really open up to see what else it gave but I loved it still. MacPhails 40 FANTASTIC, a whisky to challenge and work at, not for a session but one to linger over on a cold night with a roaring fire and very special friends. Now onto the Peaty stuff. PC6, six year old whisky at 61.6%, loved it, some didn�t but that is ok each to their own but I did, if you have one to collect buy another to drink! Finally the new make spirit from kilchoman and the one that divided everyone �10 or 10 seemed to be the scores, for me this is fabulous new make, rich, oily, peaty and fantastic barley present worth the trip to Islay to try it.
As I said last time what to put behind the bar next � Longrow won and it is still good, very soft after the peat monsters we�d tasted but lovely and drinkable, sold out before I got there after clearing up (note to self � buy one earlier and save so I get some)
~ whisky tasting review archive