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.
Auchroisk 1996 Gordon & MacPhail (donated by Grandad Steve Lean)
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
Miltonduff 10yo G&M Discovery
Glenrothes Whisky Makers Cut
Springbank Local Barley 9yo
Longrow 10yo Cage, a rechar butt
Caol Ila 13yo G&M Discovery
Ardbeg 10 (donated by Frankie Bell for his 71st Birthday)
Well what started as the usual 7 went to 8 when Steve Lean brought one to celebrate the birth of his first grandchild (his daughter not him!) and then went to 9 when Frankie brought one to allow us to toast his birthday, the night suddenly got longer!
The Auchroisk was a very pleasant start to the evening with light tropical fruits, a touch of oak and hint of chocolate and a medium length. An old G&M before the rebrand and a little reminder of how good they were at whisky and not worried about packaging. A little slip up in the order meant the Ardmore was next up and a good solid, gently smoked, oaky and vanilla drinker. The age does not show through that much and maybe for the price it should have more but a good example of what Ardmore can be rather than what often gets pushed out. The Fire and Cane is a Glenfiddich with a little peated barley and finished in a rum cask and after the smoke in the Ardmore it is barely noticeable but after a couple of sips it comes through and a hint of the rum is there at the end. One of the Experimental series and actually for a GF there is more interesting stuff in there to get into and one that would not take much drinking if you sat and sipped the night away, possibly a little dangerous. G&M have been rebranding and releasing their entry level whiskies as the Discovery range and 3 styles and tube colours to help, green for bourbon cask, purple for sherry and white for peaty, the Miltonduff is purple. You can tell the sherry cask influence and the orange marmalade comes through nicely and milk chocolate and raisins but it feels like it could do with a little more spirit and unchillfiltered at 46% rather than the 43%it is released at. Probably not aimed at the market and people who go to our tastings but I wonder if they are not missing something because of that? Next up is a heavy sherry casked Glenrothes and this is a big bruiser of a sherry whisky and the cask influence is to the fore with big Christmas cake and candid fruits in there BUT it does feel like they are trying to mask a young whisky with the cask and it does not quite work as the spirit is not in harmony with the cask, interesting but not one I would rush to buy a bottle of.
The break saw the raffle raise a £159 for the RNLI with a Ardbeg Ugi won by our very own little PeatMonster Anna Horne. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
After the break we go to one of my favourites and the latest release of the Local Barley series is a little cracker, all the usual Springbank coastal brine edges and little hints of vanilla and just a hint of smoke and even a touch of fruitiness but with a rich mouth coating unctuousness, wonderful. Then still in Campbeltown and a CAGE bottle, one off single duty paid sample and Longrow in a rechar is very interesting as you get the oak aging but less of the previous contents of the cask influence, a purer Longrow possible but a wonderful example of the lightly smoked, brine driven, oily, oaky gobful of pleasure. Back to the G&M Discovery and a white tubed peated one and G&M have returned to form a little on this, still could do with being 46% (but that is just me being an anorak again) but a sweet peaty number with a good hint of fruits (probably helped by the Longrow previously getting us smoke ready so we found other stuff) and touches of sherbet lemon tingle. Finaly Happy Birthday Frankie and a peaty, tarred ropes, fishy (in a nice way) bundle of south Islay.
In summary: G&M please make the Discovery 46%, I still love Springbank whiskies who came top (& CAGE = yummy) but that does not mean much given where my palate is (oh and Ardbeg too) however the Authroisk was a little gem and the GF experiment works this time (unlike the IPA).
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011
Stoney Point from the Griffo Distillery California
Benriach 12yo Sherry Wood
Cu Bocan 2006
Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2011
Smokehead Sherry Bomb
After the move to 50cl bottles and the awful Rare Old (neither of which it was) we have a return to age statement and 70cl bottle and a return to form, lovely complex sweet sherry notes and dried fruits with a medium length spiced Christmas cake dram making it a very easy drinker and so glad this is back. Big fan of Laddie but what has happened to this one, off notes, sour finish, none of the complexity or fruity barley driven spirit, just unpleasant and so disappointing. A trip to California next and not much California Dreaming unless it is of a Ronseal advert, this does exactly what it says on one of their tins, VARNISH!! No idea how they have got it to taste so bad. Benriach is reputed to mature quickly so a 12yo should be a decent dram, add in the sherry cask and hopefully a winner, well it is. Classic sherried Speysider with figs, raisins, vanilla, brown sugar and milk chocolate, and a good solid length too, thoroughly enjoyable.
The break saw the raffle raise a £105 for the RNLI with a Kilkerran 8yo Cask Strength won by Steve Hodgson. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
After the break it is smoke time and the first is a peated offering from Tomatin. Not a big smoky on this but more hints of campfires and sherry influences with burnt caramel, orange marmalade and a touch of chilli, far better than I expected and one I would have another glass of! After the Islay Barley disaster earlier I was seriously concerned but the PC piles in with the big hit of smoke and barley, showing the delicate edge of the tall Laddie stills but with a good level of oily smoke and peat, reputation restored. Finally, the mystery Islay of Smokehead but this time in a sherry cask and it does exactly what is says on the tin (no, not like the Yank stuff) big smoke, big sherry fruit and basically a bash in the gob with a fruit cake that has chain smoked Senior Service.
Mike Docherty was behind the bar with Longrow and Springbank 10. So basically selling joy from Campbeltown.
In summary: Gutted by the Laddie but buoyed by the PC (my favourite on the night) and so pleased that Mortlach is back but for me the Benriach was my bang for buck bottle of the evening, may have one myself.
February 2019 an Introduction to Scotch Whisky Regions
Balblair 12yo – Discovery series Gordon & MacPhail
Kilkerran 8yo cask strength
Longrow 10yo 1995 (donated by Mike Docherty)
Talisker Port Ruighe
Laphroaig quarter cask
Kathryn had the idea that we should run an introduction to whisky tastings and a back to basics to remind people of what the regional differences were. A good idea for new and old customer so here is the result.
The Balblair is a new release from G&M and what a little belter to start off, a classic floral, heather and honey highlander, delicate but flavoursome and a gentle introduction with a class dram. Next up was the Lowlands and again a delicate number with grass and floral notes plus a drying oak edge, growing on me the more I have of this one. Next up was the first of 3 from one region to show how different even just a few hundred yards makes, Hazelburn is the triple distilled Campbeltown malt from Springbank using unpeated malt and has tropical fruits, hints of the sea, a good length and subtle oak and spice on the back palate. Campbeltown again and using the same malt as the Hazelburn (unpeated from Springbank) but down the road at the Glengyle distillery (run by Springbank folks) using different equipment and you get a completely different style, loads of fresh green apples and pears, ginger and spiced barley, little brine at the back plus a good hit of alcohol at the cask strength but no nasty burn, gentle power. You can see the style of Campbeltown but different, got to love whisky for the huge complexities and differences that come across even when distilleries are so close.
The break saw the raffle raise a £80 for the RNLI with a Kilkerran 12yo won by Sue Royal. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
After the break it was off to Speyside and to the independently owned Benromach. Big rich sherried dram with heavy mouth coating oils and fruit cake and Christmas spice with a good lasting sweet raisin finish. Then an extra Mike Docherty slipped in and another Campbeltown but the heavier peated version from Springbank and only double distilled. This one is an old version and a bit of a treat (bottled 2005 and no longer easily available; we only have 2 left) and from the off it is a belt of smoke and earthy notes with hints of sherry fruits and the classic Campbeltown brine edge, a stunning whisky and a real treat for those who came. More peat next from the Islands (sometimes lumped in with Highlands but I prefer to separate out). Port casked Talisker brings red fruits and smoke with massive sweet jammy notes, maybe a touch sweet from my palate but the sweetness makes it a more approachable peated malt. Last but not least Islay and the one distillery that tends to divide people into love or hate with the phenolic oils, the brine and the massive iodine peat hit, more tamed than in the past but still classic leapfrog here and one to satisfy the peatmonsters amongst us.
In summary: A great example from each of the regions and a wonderful opportunity to see how style differs in region and even within distillery. A bit of a cheat for a tasting as I got to pick those I know are good and those I like but as a reminder for the old and an introduction to the new I think this was spot on.
January 2019 Burns Night special
Glen Marnoch 30yo
Strathclyde 1989 Cadenheads Warehouse exclusive
Highland Park 2006 Gordon MacPhail
Bunnahabhain Palo Cortado
Glentauchers 1991Gordon MacPhail
Springbank 13yo refill sherry butt "cage bottle" from Cadenheads Campbeltown (Donated by Steve Lean)
Bowmore 17yo Warehousemans Selection
Lagavulin 18yo Feis Ila 2018
Kilchoman 10yo single cask distillery only
Burns for us is not about toast to lassies, poetry or romanticising Scottish history, it is all about limited availability and pricey whisky and seeing if the price tag fits the quality.
First up is one we slip in as the oldest on the night and it is the Christmas offering from Aldi. Sherry notes on the nose and hints of oak give hope to what comes next, ah but this does not follow through as it is weak, thin and generally lacking something, 30 years old but not showing the age or the quality one would hope for, however it was an extra so nothing lost. Old grain, Cadenheads what could go wrong?? Well nothing, this is another sublime example from Mark Watt and the gang, tropical fruits, cereal, vanilla, a lush oily mouthfeel that lasts, summer in a dram. First time we have tried the G&M single cask range and a HP especially for Mario. Sherbet lemons on the nose and a touch of the heather, cocoa and citrus on the palate with a hint of fire embers on the finish, a very pleasant example of HP and a joy after the dreadful Fire & Ice. Palo Cortado is a rare type of sherry that has a broken crust and oxidation occurs (see I can learn something new) very fruity nose & a hint of sherry and oak, a slight hint of rubber mixed in with sweet fudge notes and sugared fruits to subtle spice finishing with a Palo hint, the cask shines through and compliments so well. The Glentauches was the most expensive of the night and a classy dram it was, old oak, sherry and lightly burn sugar on the nose, sweet sherry, cake and citrus orange marmalade finishing with a coco edge, excellent dram and showing what an old sherried whisky should be like (Aldi take note, lol).
The break saw the raffle raise a £170 for the RNLI with a Kilchoman Loch Gorm being won by Di Dibley, the Bruchladdich tasting book by Mario and the liqueur chocolates (donated by Di Dibley) won by Doc. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
After the break we start with the donation from Leano of Caged Springbank and this shows how well sherry and Springbank work. Sweetness and fruit against light brine and oak with delicate wisp of smoke coming in, rather jolly good. Bowmore is a vatting of wine, bourbon and sherry cask and for once there is no clash of styles from those just warm smoky sweetness and fruits with vanilla hints and leather notes, back on form with this one Mr Beam. The Laga is a mix of sherry and bourbon casks and done specially for Feis 18, time has mellowed the peat but still overt in the mix but it has also softened the spirit to make this one hell of a fireside sipper. This needs time and conversation to truly enjoy the magical mix of cask, time and peat. Finally, the Kilchoman and it is their standard formula of Big Peat Smoke and sweet bourbon cask but with 10 years behind it making it a more complex offering than usual but basically a big load of vanilla smoke battering you, excellent.
Mike Docherty was behind the bar with Smokehead and Kilkerran 8yo Cask Strength. So some coal smoke and the strong but gentle Campbeltown newbie.
In summary: Oh what a night, stunning drams that would have me owning at least one of each of them (if I could afford it and they were available) but the Bunny & the Laga just edge it for me as top dogs. This is going to be one hell of a night to top, good job I have a year to work on it, oh dear more whisky, hic.
Tweeddale Grain of Truth
Cragganmore Distillers Edition
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 (raffle prise won and then opened by Rusty Lowe)
Aberlour Casg Annamh
Longrow 14yo Sherry Cask
A strange one this because we lost 4 to illness/shifts and then 3 did not make it due to a crash on the M55 (they were safe just stranded) but those who did get there were their normal heckling and rowdy selves.
Kicking off with the new release from the Oz owners and a 10yo Bladnoch that has the fresh grassy edge and gentleness we expect of a Lowlander but this then has quite a dry and woody finish, a reasonable aperitif whisky. If you follow us you know I have a soft-spot for grain so I was excited by the 50% barley, 50% wheat grain mix from Tweedale Co. Excitement dropped significantly on tasting, raw, unbalanced, thin, spirity, off notes and generally not to my palate, no thanks, NEXT! A 12yo Japanese blend has me even more excited but wait it turns out that this is not Japanese whisky but Scotch malt blended with Canadian grain in Japan and marketed for France and it is absolutely shockingly diabolical stuff, over sweet grain clashing with whatever cheap malt they have used, turns sour and flabby with no real mouthfeel or finish except a desire to chuck it away. Do Not Buy this Rubbish. Craggonmore port cask whisky next, red berry fruits and malted barley bring a very pleasant inoffensive malt to our glasses. It is not a must have but it is an enjoyable dram, probably more of a dram during an evening rather than a bottle you have more than one out of.
The break saw the raffle raise a £86 for the RNLI with a Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 being won Rusty Lowe who promptly asked that it be opened and shared with everyone, slainte old chap for your generosity. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
After the break we start with the donation from Rusty and the best of the night so far, richer heavier Bruichladdich with their Islay Terroir approach and the fresh fruity vanilla malt flys through and leaves you happy and contented. The newly released Aberlour is them back to their strength of big sherry cask whisky, fruit cake, oak, raisins, sticky sherry and a great warmth in the belly, rather jolly good. French gently peated whisky next up and although very young at 4yo it has the subtle hint of peat and a nice freshness to a light malt, not bad at all and probably a good one to introduce peat to those who put off by the heavy Islay ones we love! And speaking of peat in comes the heavily peated offering from the Campbeltown mob and this time it has been in a sherry cask, the peat is present but not overwhelming and the sherry whacks you straight in the hooter and on the palate with smoke and a slight hint of rubber coming in at the end which for once does not detract where so many recent offerings of sherry and peat across the sector has found me thinking I am sucking on a welly. The ODD Squat are still delivering great whiskies and this is one I rather enjoyed.
Mike Docherty was behind the bar with a Hazelburn 10, the delicate Campbeltown one but still a big hitter in the flavour department.
In summary: .Do your homework on any stuff coming out of Japan before you part with the cash and do not buy Togouchi 12yo, Aberlour is on form with the latest release but Longrow wins this time (with the Laddies close behind).
Macduff 10yo Cadenheads (donated by Dave Barlow in honour of his upcoming wedding)
Blair Athol 19yo Cadenheads
Miltonduff 1997 Cask Strength - Gordon MacPhail
Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 7
Glen Scotia Festival 2018 Port Cask Finish
Smokehead High Voltage
The worlds biggest selling malt experiments by putting a whisky in a beer cask to finish and guess what, the hops come through and it is not that pleasant a finish. Basically ok but the bitter hops make it feel a bit wrong, maybe I am not into change? The Macduff (Glen Deveron) was a beautiful fruity floral number that was a little gem and rightly brought a smile to Daves chops as he sipped it. The Blair Athol was brutal and harsh and with water got worse with harsh pepper and heat only on the palate, not a successful adventure! The Dailuaine is a pleasant lightly sherried dram, an easy sipper but maybe a little too safe, a great introductory malt for people but we want more!
The break saw the raffle raise a £124 for the RNLI with a Kilchoman Loch Gorm being won Dave Barlows future brother in law. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch and a good start to this years fund raising.
After the break one of the last surviving bottle of old style G&M cask stuff and a little gem, just the right balance between alcohol, age and sherry influence, a fireside winter dram, shame there is none left. Hoping for lots from the GlenDronach but it felt like it needed more body to it, it felt thin despite the sherry casks used and the strength. Too young possibly but something missing, ok but not one to run to again, The Glen Scotia was recommended to me by a Facebook friend who is a Springbank nut (Cheers Ronnie Grant) and I liked the slight hint of soot and touch of iodine I got before the fruit from the port cask kicked in. Not the most complex but a good dram all the same, GS seem to be improving of late. The Smokehead HV is a cask strength version and personally I prefer the other standard one. It has the hit of smoke and the kick but the normal one just feels better and not trying to reach 11 is probably right on this one, save the pennies and buy the standard one.
Mike Docherty was behind the bar as we change venues to support his new role as Bar Manager (steward I hear you shout). Benromach 10 and a Longrow, what a lovely pair of drinkers and they got drunk (like me).
In summary: Hops in whisky is not for me, sometimes cask strength does not work (SHV), I am missing the old G&M stuff already and GS is getting drinkable. Star of the night was the Macduff and it ranks as the best Glen Deveron I have had (to date).
And last but not least - Good Luck for a long and happy marriage Dave and Caroline - aka Mr & Mrs Barlow!
The Epicurean Lowland Blended Malt
Speyburn cask 263
Glen Grant 2005 Gordon MacPhail
Glenmorangie Astar - 2017
Kilchoman Port Cask
A different starter with Kingsbarns new make spirit, a gentle 63.5% and a nose of blackcurrant, very light spirit with sweet barley and a gentle fruitiness, it will be interesting to see how it matures and works with the cask or even if it stands up to the cask or just gets lost. One to watch. The Douglas Laing blended lowlander was pleasant enough light and grassy but just lacked something for me. The Speyburn single cask was definitely a bourbon cask, big oak and vanilla and a good example of bourbon influence however I did get the feeling it was the cask we enjoyed rather than the totality of the spirit and cask working in harmony. Funnily enough the same could be said for the MackMyra, previous ones have had more stand out character (not always to my palate but different enough to be interesting) but this one was just OK, I would drink it but not run back looking for another.
The break saw the raffle raise a £151 for the RNLI with an Ardbeg Ugi being won by Rusty, Dave & Ade on their 8th Anniversary of coming to the tastings. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch bringing final total for the year to £1150.00, we will be presenting the cheque to the RNLI over the summer.
After the break the last of the old style Connoisseurs Choice before G&M rebranded and moved to single cask expressions with reduced availability and increased price. The Glen Grant is a great dram and good fruity, sherry hit and Christmas cake and raisins muscling in, an all-night sipper but sadly no more :-( The second release of the Astar (I was a big fan of the first) and again it is Glenmo on steroids and a fuller, more rounded expression with all the great bits of sweet bourbon and oak and that 'Glenmorangie taste' but this one has a little more spirit edge than the first and a touch of pepper adding heat, still good though. Fruity peaty pop to finish from Mr Happy at Kilchoman, another good belting youthful dram from the farm distillery.
Nothing behind the bar this month as the Hotel changed their policy so no extra to get excited about.
In summary: New Make tends to divide people and this one was no different, sometimes the cask wins and I am really going to miss the old G&M range, especially Glen Grants like this one.
Hazelburn Cage 12yo Fresh Bourbon
Inchmurrin Madiera Wood Finish
Springbank 13yo single cask - sherry
Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dha
BenRiach Peated cask strength
Jura Superstition - donated by Frankie Bell as a present for my birthday
First release of whisky from the Cotswold distillery and it is rather enjoyable, toasted oak and heavy bourbon influence with a touch of fruity fun at the end. The whisky suggests the wood policy is a very fresh and highly active bourbon cask given the huge influence it has but suggests good things to come. Another Cage bottle and another great example of single bottle stuff from the wee Toon, and light delicate barley sugars with hit of vanilla and a bit of the sea edge coming through at the end. Not a fan of Loch Lomond and this continues to ensure I am not, unbalances, sour, off notes, bitter and generally unpleasant, yuk. The highland/lowland is a delicate dram with a good level of sherry influence but not overwhelming one, the dry sweet fruits are there but also a touch off oak and vanilla, a well balance easy drinking dram.
The break saw the raffle raise a £155 for the RNLI with a Hazelburn 13yo Oloroso cask being won by Big Ian. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch bringing ongoing total for the year to £999.00
After the break it was Campbeltown time and a limited 13yo single UK only sherry cask release; this divided people as some got huge rubber hits and others a little that disappeared the more you sipped it. I got the rubber but found it eased and then gave way to a solid sherried Springer, enjoyable once the rubber went but can see why other disliked it. The second edition of the smoky Bunny (the name of the expression is smoky two in Galic) and coal smoke and soot come through on a very sherried sweet spirit, I would worry this would be far too easy to drink. A NAS from BenRiach but a good solid cask strength dram with a touch of smoke (probably less prominent after the smoky Bunny) and lots of oak, vanilla and oomph from this, very good and worth a bottle appearing in the cupboard.
The final bottle was donated by the very generous fellow Mr Frankie Bell for my birthday so I thought it needed to be shared. Sooty (but not sweep) Jura and remains a good value glugger, slainte Frankie.
Behind the bar were those from last month Smokehead (happy Russ) and a Strathmill 2000 from G&M.
In summary: A Springbank that divided people was a big surprise, enjoyed the new Bunny and Cage continues to impress but for me the BenRiach won the evening, probably because I can buy another unlike the one off cage stuff!
Glen Kella 5yo
Glenrothes-Glenlivet 14yo Cadenheads
Cadenheads Creations 26yo Grain Blend
Tomatin 2007 Cask Strength - Gordon MacPhail
Springbank 14yo Bourbon Wood
Lagavulin Distillery Only 2017
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017
Ardbeg An Oa - donated by Frankie Bell
Highland Park Dragon Legend – donated by Nick Horne
Manx whisky to start and this is at least 20 years ago as SWA got it stopped being called whisky in 1997. Better than I remember but redistilled scotch is never going to be that good is it? Slight hints of schnapps and touch of raisin but not good. Worth trying to experience it but not worth a bottle. The Gelnrothes has a pleasant chocolate and slight spiced nose with more chocolate on the palate (especially with water) and a gentle nutty dry finish. A grain blend is not common but this one is so worth seeking out oily, vanilla, spices, sweet toffee and ginger on the finish, another excellent one from Mark Watt. At 60% ABV the Tomatin was the biggest alcohol of the nigh but it did not feel like that strong, slightly understated if anything and more hints of that belting out something, vanilla and toffee apples with a peppery dry finish, enjoyable but should have given more for me.
The break saw the raffle raise a £168 for the RNLI with a Springbank 10yo Marrying Cask being won by Andy Somner. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch bringing ongoing total for the year to £844.00
After the break it was Campbeltown time and a limited 14yo release, a classic springbank nose of bourbon wood and sea air, same across the palate and ending like a springbank however not enough to warrant moving away from the 12yo cask strength which offers similar but cheaper, enjoyable but not a classic (am I being too hard on Springbank because I expect so much? Maybe!). The distillery only Lagavulin is a delicate example of the distillery with a gentler side to the peat and citrus marmalade running through it. No brutality just a great sipping fireside dram. Cairdeas means friends and this is one to share with friends, gone is the Iodine of old and now it has the peat hit but not the heavy medicinal edge that put people off, becoming more universal than divisive but still got some punch.
The final 2 were bottles donated by Frankie Bell for his 70th and Nick Horne for his 50th. I am liking the An Oa (see October review) even if it is a little on the lighter side of Ardbeg but the Dragon Legend is unbalance mishmash of flavour and no direction, really not to my palate and the one I had has been missed with another to make Toddy Whisky. However lovely to toast Frankie & Nick reaching milestone birthdays.
Behind the bar were those from last month (we must have been on a quiet night) - Springbank 10 (always a winner), Smokehead and a Strathmill 2000 from G&M.
In summary: -am I expecting too much magic every time I open a springbank?? The Lagavulin is a great dram but the winner is the fabulous Creations, take a bow Mr Watt and I wish you had some left!
Grants Distillery only Blend 50% - donated by Mike Docherty
Teaninich 10yo Cadenheads
Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008
Arran 19yo Cadenheads
Glen Scotia 15yo
Springbank 12yo refill butt "cage"
Highland Park Valkyrie
Longrow Red 2018 Cabernet Franc
Laphroaig 10yo - donated by Frankie Bell
A donated dram to start from Mike D and a 50% blend from Grants. For some reason everyday blends do seem to be better with a touch more ABV and this fits that bill because it just feels that little bit bigger in the mouth and a touch longer after you swallow (sounds very Frankie Howard). A cracking little fruity creamy dram from Cadenheads opens the malt intake and likely to be a problematic dram as the cork would quickly become redundant! Last time I did the Bere I found it almost porridge like but this one is far better, heavier than the usual Laddie and a more oily mouthfeel and bigger barley hit and slight zesty edge, rather jolly good. A mix of bourbon and sherry casks for the Arran and the vanilla comes through but only after a good belt of raisin and Christmas cake and slight old leather edge. Ginger and baked fruits says the tasting notes and we found that plus a sweet caramel edge, GS seem to be going in the right direction.
The break saw the raffle raise a £155 for the RNLI with a Springbank Green 13yo being won by Mike Blackmore. Thank you so much again to the generous bunch bringing ongoing total for the year to £676.00.
After the break on to the Campbeltown exclusives from "The Cage" and a big hit of bourbon wood with the obligatory vanilla and the sea hints we expect. These bottlings are hard to describe because each is a single bottle dram from a cask at a point in time - never the same but always great. I think HP have lost their way but you keep trying hoping they get their mojo back. This one isn't bad, just not great but better than Fire and Ice - slightly astringent and a little thin with hints of what could be but not enough to want to part with the money for another. The Longrow Red 2018 is a gentler version with less wine influence on the overall character but the red fruits are still there along with the sea breeze and smoky hints, another good one to enjoy whole heartedly. Finally another donated bottle from Frankie B and Laphroaig is more approachable than in the past with less iodine and less brutality, easier for the average whisky guzzler (i.e. me) to enjoy rather than fight with it (and lose) as I did int he past.
Behind the bar: Springbank 10 (always a winner), Smokehead (Rusty Lowe was a very happy chap) and a Strathmill 2000 from G&M - a rather pleasant floral and delicate little number.
In summary, blends get better as ABV goes up, Arran is definitely getting better with age, Laddie still makes good whisky and Springbank is still my favourite go to distillery.
January 2018 - Burns Night Special
Highland Park 15yo "Fire"
Cadenheads Warehouse Tour 37yo Eddrington Blend
Kilkerran 13yo Cadenheads Warehouse Tour port cask for 10 years
Springbank 19yo Cadenheads Warehouse Tour sherry cask
Bunnahabhain 12yo Moine - Rum Cask Feil Ils 2016
Bowmore 18yo bourbon cask distillery only hand fill
Burns Night for us is not poetry and addresses to Haggis and Ladies, it is about rare and quite pricey whiskies being enjoyed by the fine elegant and cultured customers we attract.
Highland Park Fire is the last of the furniture showcase Viking tat with a limited run of 28000 bottles (so as limited as the common cold in reality). Refill port cask but I would suggests it was worn out before it was reused as it shows no sign of port in the nose or palate, has a sour and bucolic edge and lasts for not time at all, the poorest of the Viking Furniture releases. The Cadenheads 37 is the sister cask to the 36yo we did last year and possibly even better, all soft spice, old leather, hints of tobacco and Christmas cake fruit, one that you could savour all night shortly before falling in a large heap. Kilkerran looked like Vimto (undiluted) but had the dunnage warehouse feel on the nose with ripe red fruits and a lingering sweetness and dryness before that slight musty end, loved it when Mark Watt forced me to try it and not changed my mind. You will have guessed I like Springbank by now and this one proves why, what a gorgeous mix of heavy spices, lush rich fruit, big sherry hits and a salted caramel finish that goes on for a good while.
The break saw the raffle raise a £156 for the RNLI with a Glenfarclas 17yo being won by Ade Emerson although I think Rusty and David will be enjoyinh it with him. Diane Dibley and Mike Leach had added a scratch and sniff whisky book (won by Nick and Anna)and some whisky chocolates won by Mike Wright who promised to take home for Sally - not sure if they made it! Thank you so much again to the generous bunch in adding so much to the ongoing total for the year.
After the break is was the move to peat! Peated Bunnahabhain done for the 2016 Feis has lovely gentle smoke and coal notes with the rum just creeping in as a subtle hint at the end, a very enjoyable sipping whisky for the fireside. Bowmore can be hit and miss at times with their general release but this one is a BIG hit. Creamy smoke, buttery mouth feel, subtle vanilla and a gentle tingle on the tongue, a beautiful, sublime, perfect Bowmore. Finally the peat beast from Bruichladdich and yes it is peaty, yes it is smoky and it has a spritely youthful character but it still feels that one dimensional to me, when it gets older it changes and gains more complexity and depth but when this young it is just peat battering you, however that said the Peat Monsters loved it (Anna Horne)!
Behind the bar: Benromach peat smoke, Kilkerran 8yo cask strength and G&M Speymalt 2007. Soft sherry from the Indy Macallan, gentle smoke from the Ben and a big whack of vanilla and fruity peardrops from the cask Kilkerran.
In summary, HP have seriously lost their way and need to get a grip. Still love my Springbanks and very impressed with Kilkerran as it grows up but the best was the Bowmore.
Benromach triple distilled 2009
Glen Elgin 12
Glen Elgin 21- Cadenheads
Aberlour 12 - UCF
Glen Scotia peated cask 164
Kilchoman Sauterne cask
Ardbeg 10 - donated by Steve Lean
Lots of dropout due to other commitments had this down at 20 then two further people were ill so only 18 with a couple of new comers made for a quieter evening for me with less barracking, quite strange really!.
The most recent release from Benromach is a triple distiller and although a nice delicate fruity breakfast dram it has killed what is so good in Benromach, the rich oily heavy spirit and the touch of smoke, for £4.50 more I will go for the 100 proof. Interesting but no thanks. The Balblair is a lovely light delicate heather and flowery highland whisky perfect for sunny days and a picnic. Next was the first of two from Glen Elgin to see the difference between the proprietary bottling and a leading independent. The 12 is a bit flat, slightly cardboard like and too much wood which hides other flavours, no thanks. The 21 from Cadenheads is a completely different beast with fresh vibrant notes, vanilla and a gentleness even at the cask strength, rather jolly good.
The break saw the raffle raise a £63 for the RNLI with a Ardbeg 10 Warehouse tin bottle being won by Steve Lean which he then offered as an extra on the night, thank you Steve and thank you so much again to the generous bunch.
Unchillfiltered and 46% is finally becoming more prevalent in the standard bottlings and this works for the Aberlour with a mix of Christmas cake, raisins and a slight stickyness, a nice solid dram but I still prefer the A'Bunadh. The Glen Scotia was the last bottle at the distillery of this cask and has hints of the old salty flavours (too much salt in the past) but mellowed out with some gentle smoke hints and a level of delicacy I would never associate with the older GS, a little surprise and enjoyed by a good few. The Kilchoman is another young one coming out of Islay but for some reason they keep working and finding a feeling of more mature spirit. Peaty, smoky, sweet, fruity, sticky pop, so please I have one for me! Finally the extra donated by the raffle winner Steve. Ardbeg 10 is one of my personal solid go to whiskies, sweet peat and tar with citrus hints.
Behind the bar: Benromach peat smoke and Kilkerran 12yo, the peat smoke is lighter than Islay ones but a nice whiff of smoke amongst the rich spirit and the Kilkerran is probably the best £40 whisky you can buy at the minute for me.
In summary, Benromach TD is interesting but the weakest in their fold, Kilchoman still churning out good juice but the Glen Scotia was my favourite on the night for the main reason of being very drinkable and setting new standards for what used to be a weak distillery.
Glen Spey 12yo - Cadenheads
Benromach Chat. Cissac 2009
Croftagena - Whisky Angel - donated by Steve Hodgson
Ardmore 3yo Warehouse tour
Scapa Skiren - donated by Frankie Bell
Port Charlotte CC1
Ardbeg An Oa
Laphroaig Cairdeas - Madeira Cask
What started as a sensible 7 dram evening got into less sensible territory when 2 additional bottles got donated; a long night beckoned . First up a simple fruity Glen Spey, light fruity (green apples) and easy drinking, not hugely complex but a gentle beginning. A new no age statement (NAS) from Bunnahabhain (translation is Helmsman) fully matured in sherry casks, pleasant enough and sherry influence clearly there but just not quite as good as the 12 yo: I will pay the extra and go for the age statement. A good sticky fruity gem comes out from the G&M owned distillery, keeps the good rich spirit and adds in red berry fruit, rather enjoyable. The first of the donated ones and a spritely spirit driven number, light vanilla and touch of wood but a tad too much alcohol harshness, with water the wood turns more to cardboard and loses the vanilla, neat or nothing on this one. After a recent trip to Campbeltown it was time to unleash one of the warehouse hooligans I got off Mark Watt, a nice hint of smoke and touches of oak, very young and loads of alcohol however you can see the main component of Teachers come through, not to everyone's palate but I enjoyed a short sharp shock of smoke.
The break saw the raffle raise a £181 for the RNLI with a Laphroaig 15yo 200th Anniversary bottle being won by Ian Hollows - thank you so much again you generous bunch.
Part two starts with something I tried in Manchester airport a few years ago and did not like, time has not changed my opinion. Scapa 16 was a great dram, this new version is not it just feels unbalance, insipid and full of clashing of notes, thanks for the opportunity Frankie but not to my palate at all. The travel retail PC from a cognac cask and slightly thinner than usual with a hint of the cognac coming through although it could be said that this feels slightly new make and touch too young, a few more years in the cask would do no harm, drinkable but not the best PC example. The new Ardbeg has more of the citrus and marmalade character and less of the seaweed, tar, kippers and ships ropes, to thin for Big Ian but I like the more delicate side of Ardbeg something we seem to be seeing more and more of with recent ones, do hope they find an new on that is dirty though, missing the 1977. Finally with a slight haze forming the Lappy is a nice sweet one off for the "Friends" ( Cairdeas is Gaelic for friendship - see you learn stuff with whisky) the Madeira cask tames the iodine and adds a nice sweet berry element to the usual Laphroaig peat punch.
Behind the bar: Aberlour Abunadh and Benromach peat smoke plus the left over bits from last month including the Nikka All Malt. As promised i got a Nikka (foolishly before we started on the tasting!) and a delicate sweet dram (or Japanese equivalent) it is too. However the big hitting marmalade cake of Abunadh wins for me, sticky and lush. !
In summary, a mixed night and the usual suspects of Ardbeg & Laphroaig win for me but still enjoy the Abunadh.
Tormore 10yo from the 1980s
Poit Dhubh 8yo
Mackmyra Svensk Ek
Finlaggan Feis Ile 2017
Ardbeg Kelpi (standard release)
Start of a new tasting year so everyone has a thirst for fine whisky after the summer break. An old Tormore from the 1980s to start and a hint of sherry and wood but some cardboard in there, a little flat and tired perhaps and was probably better when first bottled, a risk you get with the old stuff but sometime you find a gem. The first release of Bladnoch under the new owners and it is a NAS (no age statement), bucolic on the nose (baby sick), slightly sour on palate and very sweet end, not for me at all and disappointing compared to some of the classics we have had from here in the past. Potch Ghoo is a vatted malt with hints of sherry and touch of smoke on the nose with peat smoke and sherry on the palate, not the most complex but at £20 (special offer) a solid little drinker that can up the standard of your Hot Toddy! Been a fan of Mackmyra since I first had it and now can finally get it through my wholesaler. This one is all oak and resin and wood chips on the nose, a sawmill bottled. The palate carried the theme through in spades with big grippy oak leaving a sticky resin sensation on the tongue, a challenging dram but one I found quite enjoyable.
The break saw the raffle raise a £121 for the RNLI with an Ardbeg Ugi won by Dean (Mike Boardman's mate) and the Bowmore woolly hat by Chris Murtagh who entertained with a very passable impression of Benny from Crossroads. Also in there were a couple of Jamesons measures donated by Steve Lean (cheers Steve). The starter for the tasting season raised £121.00 - thank you so much you generous bunch.
Managed to get a couple of cases of the now extinct 1995 Longrow and it just brings back memories of how lovely this was back in mid 2000s and the heavier peating than we get today (still love todays stuff though) with hints of sherry and cake and peat and salty Campbeltown air, very yummy. A NAS from the mystery Islay (Lagavulin) distillery from a port cask - it is pink! A young and feisty peat driven dram with a little hint of fruit, interesting. We did the committee version so had to do the standard release Kelpi and still a cracker, peat tar ships rope as usual with hints sweetness at the end, for a NAS a little over priced (as lots seems to be) but still a good enjoyable dram.
Behind the bar: Kilkerran 12yo, Benromach 100 proof and Nikka All Malt. Sadly the Nikka lost out to the heavy hitting Benromach and the fruity Campbeltown pop but do not worry I will come back to you in October!
In summary, gutted at the Bladnoch being so poor, still in love with Longrow and enjoying another step on the Swedish journey.
Aldi Single Grain Scotch Whisky (had to let people try this)
Nikka Coffey Grain
Kilkerran 8yo Cask Strength
Raasay while we wait 2nd edition
Tomatin 18yo Oloroso cask
Hazelburn 13yo Oloroso cask
Longrow red - S.A Malbec
Lagavulin 2016 Jazz Festival
Lagavulin 16 (Donated by Ade for his 50th)
I brought the Aldi grain as a joke to show just how bad cheap, nasty grain spirit can be, it was and is very nasty, someone suggested they would have preferred meths!
The grain whisky from Nikka is rather sublime and demonstrates how good grain can be, delicately fruity, hints of vanilla and a subtle sweetness and gentle, very impressed. Big fan of Glengyle stuff and the work Frank McHardy and the boys and girls have put into this distillery and again a great fruity (apples and pear style) hints of spice and ginger and although 56% not harsh. Frank has left a good legacy. Raasay is from a distillery not yet built (???) but intended to show the style they are looking for, short and uninteresting is not going to be a winner lads, hope the real stuff is better. The Tomatin is a Christmas cake, raisins, sugar and spice and all things nice, sticky sherry dram, what is not to like, rather enjoyable.
The break saw the raffle raise a £128 for the RNLI with an Ardbeg Ugi won by Mr Hadwin, Laphroaig lanyard and glass won by Mike Blackmoor and whisky jam and marmalade(donated by Big Phill Webber) won by Andy Somner. This brings the final total for the 2016/17 tasting season to £1325 - thank you so much you generous bunch.
Back to Campbeltown and another Oloroso cask and joy of joys it is even better. Loads of dried fruit, sweet sherry, a little maritime hint drifting in and it lasts with Muscatel raisins coming in on the back-palate at the end. Grant and the gang continue to impress. This year's Longrow Red is from a South African Malbec cask and the fun approach does not wear thin as again this is a great big fun and fruity dram showing the red wine influence (in a nice way) and bits of smoke drift through, better than when we tried it in the warehouse with Pop and it was very good then. Nice bourbon casked sweet smoke and vanilla dram for the Jazz festival, good hit of peat and pleasant length, although keeping a freshness. The final one was a gift from Ade who has hit the Big 50 and nice to compare the standard offering with the Jazz, heavier in texture and more salt present but still a lovely solid dram, slaine Ade.
Behind the bar: Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Longrow and a Tomintoul peaty, peaty fun from all 3, we ran out then had to go on standard Laphroaig 10, must have been a thirsty night.
In summary, a great evening of some very good whisky with only one disappointing one (excluding the silly Aldi one I dropped in), my favourite was the Hazelburn just sherry whisky heaven but that was a close call as they were very good.
Tomintoul-Glenlivet 1967 18yo (Donated by me for my 50th)
Arran Bothy 1/4 cask
Toremore - Cote Rotie cask 2002 Gordon MacPhail
Glenturret 12yo Single Cask
Springbank local Barley 11yo
Smokehead (Donated by Rusty Lowe for his 65th)
Jura Superstition (Donated by Frank Bell)
I had decided to open a special bottle for my 50th but rather than add an extra bottle I decided to spend the same on 6 as I would on 7 so we had the usual 7 but this then turned into 8 when Rusty brought one for his birthday (happy 65th) and then Frankie appeared with another and we are set for a long night!
The Tomintoul was casked in Scotland but matured in Ireland, bottled in early eighties and one I picked up at auction, very delicate with a slight (but not unpleasant) sour edge, subtle sherry hints and touch of lavender at the end. Arran Bothy was, for me, bitter, unbalanced and not to my palate. The Toremore has a great nose of sweet red fruits but overly syrupy and very sour notes give it no balance and the cask has overwhelmed the Toremore banana notes and hidden the distillery character, very disappointing. Sherry cask GT and a big beefy sweet fruity number, best of the first half and one for those who love the sweet sticky drams.
The break saw the raffle raise a £166 for the RNLI with a Wee Laddie gift set as the first prise won by Mr Somner and then a Famous Names Easter egg (donated by Big Phill Webber) won by little Pete and Hadwin won the Laphroaig lanyard and glass which he was then trying to establish whether there we bondage properties to it in a very skimpy man-kini way, poor Tracey.
Rich, oily, barley driven, brine edged classy Springbank, not as complex as the first 16yo release but a drinker that draws you in and gets you guzzling (well mine did and it has gone). A young, feisty, smoky gob full from Laga, very sweet and a fruity edge too, not a session dram but one to throw nicely into the mix over an evening. What was supposed to be the last was the recent committee release from Ardbeg and although it is a NAS (No Age Statement) the sooty smoke and sweet peat, tar and seaweed is there but also the orange marmalade and citrus notes, possibly lacking the oiliness we would like in an Ardbeg but most drinkable and good (I am, after all, half way down my bottle so may be biased). The donated smokehead and one of my mum's favourites, must be Caol Ila in our opinion and still a good smoky glugger, thanks Rusty! Finally the superstition and perhaps having it last wasn't the best as it lost the smoke after the other 3 peaty ones but still a pleasant everyday drinker, slaine Frankie.
Behind the bar: Springbank Marrying cask, Longrow and a Tomintoul peaty, loving that marrying cask (need to get more of Donald when we next get to Campbeltown, thanks mate), Longrow is just fun peaty, briny, pop and the Tomintoul give sweet coal smoke.
In summary, Kelpi wins but the GT is good heavy sherry and you know I always have a soft spot for a Springer. Disappointed with the Toremore and still looking for an Arran as good as the Blackadder Lochranza's of old.
Nikka All Malt
Glenlivet Founder Reserve (donated by Kelvin Tomlinson)
Ord 10yo Cadenheads
Springbank Marrying Cask
Speyburn 2006 cask strength Gordon MacPhail
Ardmore 2002 cask strength Gordon MacPhail
William Cadenheads Islay 7yo
Ardbeg Uigeadial (raffle prize donated by Steve Bell)
7 turned into 8 when Kelvin brought one for his birthday - please not another long night like last month!
The Nikka is a nice lightly spiced blend from two distilleries and two different production methods (pot and coffey stills) but only using malted barley. Gentle sweetness and a rich delicate spiced middle, rather good. Kelvin was 49 so we had the NAS that replaced the old 12yo, ok but not the same beast, slightly sour at one point and not as good as the old stuff. Ord is not easy to find now as most of the proprietary stuff is send overseas so this was a nice little fruit burst sipper even at cask strength. The next one up was thanks to Donald at Cadenheads selling me a bottle of the stuff you can only buy up there, 10yo at the marring strength of 49% which is put into barrel to soften the batch together prior to letting it down to 46% at final bottling stage, springbank 10 with a little more power and just very drinkable Campbeltown brine and sweet barley.
The break saw the raffle raise a £171 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Ardbeg Ugi won by Steve Bell who promptly decided we should open it on the night - 7 became 9, I was starting to worry.
The Speyburn is youthful refill sherry bringing a good hit of raisins and Christmas cake. The Ardmore is unbalanced with sour notes, smoke but not in a pleasant way and generally not very nice, disappointed to say the least. The Cadenheads Islay is too young and over sweet for me and lacking the Islay smoke or balance, not one of Marks finest creations but he can't hit everything totally for my palate. Lore is a great example of new meets old Laphroaig, delicate smoke to start, gentle middle but the old iodine medicinal notes slipping in at the end, not over powering as it used to be but complex and grown up. Finally the donated Ugi and all heavy smoke, coal tar soap, hints of sherry and a bash of peat, hooligan Ardbeg!
Behind the bar: the Edradour from last time and a Longrow plus a bit of Benromach. James loved the Edradour and bought the rest of bottle!
In summary, Lore was the top one for me but Nikka is interesting and worth a look (or more likely a bottle - which I now have) and I may yet be tempted by the Speyburn. Oh and Ugi is still great but does not count in the summing up otherwise I will be accused of Ardbeg bias.
Hazelburn Barolo cask
Glenlivet First Fill
Paul John Classic Select Cask
Glenallachie 8yo - Whisky Angel (donated by Steve Hodgson)
Tullibardine Sauterns Cask (donated by Matt Acton)
Tomatin 14yo Port Cask
Glengoyne cadenheads cask end
Kilchoman Original cask strength 2016
Ardbeg 10 (donated by Frankie Bell)
Speyburn 10 (donated by Steve Bell)
7 turned into 8 then to 9 then to 10 then to 11 which was supposed to be taken home for the next tasting (it ended up getting opened), this was going to be a long night!
The starter for 11 was the Hazelburn limited release and the 3 years in Barolo cask have added sweet fruits and a touch of summer to an already fine dram, cannot fault it and enjoyed by everyone. The Glenlivet is a young NAS (no age statement) and 60% but actually a lot better than expected, light fruits and touch of vanilla sweetness, short finish (my view due to the youth policy in action) but I would happily have another dram of it. An Indian as requested by Simon Kirkman and for me too much caramel showing through and although some pleasant spice very unbalanced and sour, not an enjoyable dram at all, next! The first of the donated drams and Whisky Angel put out a brute at 64% and first sip is hot and pepper with a fruity edge but the more you got into it the feints came through and put a nasty edge on it. The Tully was to celebrate the birthdays of Lorraine & Simon so we sang happy birthday and drank the whisky, I find it a too sweet for me and feels like the cask had some left in to try to bolster the impact so it is neither a good whisky or a good sauternes, longer in cask may have helped to try to fuse the two but neither one nor the other for me, thanks but no thanks.
The break saw the raffle raise a £157 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Cadenheads 18yo Strathisla won by Mike Blackmoor.
Back on track now with the original tasting and fruit cake port finished dram, more balanced and integrated than the Tully although still suspect it was a very wet cask to get this influence, but age has allowed the marrying to take place and a very enjoyable fireside sipper you get too, nicely surprised. Another from the Cadenheads Warehouse Tour, oh why did I only buy one of these, fantastic lowland style (just over the highland line) but rich in fruits and grass and flowers, sad to say Mark Watt has picked another good one. A peaty AnCnoc, well a plastic, false tasting peat, too young, too unbalanced and not taking the peat well at all, a bit yuk really. The Kilchoman has the right balance of peat, smoke and strength to be a very good solid Islay dram, we toasted the passing of Dr Jim Swan with this and I have to admit the world's most cheerful distillery owner has released another good one. That was supposed to be the end but Frankie wanted us to have an Ardbeg to send a message of congratulations to Mickey Heads on his 10th anniversary, rude not to and so slainte and congratulations to Mr H. mind you Jackie and Emma are the top people there really and been there so much longer. Again that was supposed to be the end but Steve Bell had had a few by then and decided we should not wait until March for the Speyburn, a pleasant sherry Speysider but at the wrong point as my palette was mashed with peat by then and the previous 11 whiskies (I had had one from the bar to loosen my vocal chords), we probably need to do it at another tasting at the rigt point in future!
Behind the bar: Springbank 12yo cask strength, Smokehead and Edradour 10. I think we probably had enough on the night but the Springbank went and half the smokehead. A big heavy hitter with the Campbeltown spice and sweet smoke from Islay, the Edradour will be there next time!
In summary, a long night for the host! Two best for me come out of Campbeltown, the Hazelburn is sublime and the Glengoyne from the tour is magnificent, must go back to get some other stuff from there (assuming Mark lets me back in). India is not going to replace Scotland if they keep churning out stuff like that, Amrut has done it better so far from that part of the world.
January 2017 Burns Night Special
Glenlivet 42yo Cadenheads
Highland Park Ice
North British 31yo Cadenheads
Old Parr Blend (Donated by Mike Docherty)
Springbank 16yo Local Barley
Cadenheads Creation Blend 36yo
Bowmore Devils cask III
Ardbeg Dark Cove
Burns Night is always special at Executive Tastings but not for poetry and toasts to lassies or any of the other stuffy stuff, just rare and exclusive whiskies we have sourced and saved over the year.
First up was an old gem from Glenlivet, a bourbon cask bringing soft mellow tannin, old wardrobes, hints of spice and a sweet ice cream oiliness to the end, a very delicate and complex one to start. The much marketed Ice comes in another wooden display but it again is more style than substance, a pleasant enough dram and one of the better recent HPs but not £200 worth, if it was £50 I would say ok but not lighting my fire. The grain brought vanilla (as always Frankie Bell) but also lots of herbs and a touch of creaminess returning to herbs, a vegetarian lodger (herbaceous boarder) of a dram. A donated bottle next up and a 1970s blend, heavier than the usual ones we have now and probably a good belt of e150 in there but enough complexity and sweetness to make you want to have a tipple more if offered, thank you Michael Joseph.
The break saw the raffle raise a £200 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Bowmore Black Rock as the prize, won by Big Ian Hollows and the wine (kindly donated by Mike Leach & Diane Dibley) won by Mike Blackmoor.
Followers of this whisky company will know I love Springbank and this is no exception, a huge belt of all that is good from the Campbeltown mob, rich spice, cereal, brine, oil, hints of smoke and a long end, oh what a lovely dram. Mark Watt has been playing around with blends at Cadenheads and this year has presented a 36 year old massive sherry hooligan (the whisky & for that matter Mark too). Big fruit cake and raisin notes, a massive sherry hit in the middle, old leather and spice then back to Christmas cake, just proving blends can hold their own against great malts when done this well. On to the heavy sherry Bowmore which is all sweet, peaty, smoky, sticky fruit, a great expression let down by the price for the age (only 10 yo and £200 plus) but I did rather enjoy it. A dark(er?) Ardbeg and the salty seaweed ropes with tar sticking to it are there like the normal Ardbeg but also the raisin edge and hints of sweetness (not overly sweet) bring a very nice roundness to the south Islay peatmonster, rather jolly good.
Behind the bar; Talisker Port Rhugie, a peated 8yo Bunnahabhain from G&M and a Benromach Organic, sweet (too sweet for me) peat from Skye, young fruity peat from Bunny and a rich oily barley laden one from Elgin .
In summary, whisky and Ice does not work and HP prove it but the rest did us proud with a big difference in flavour from start to finish but all very enjoyable showing complexity and why there is a whisky for you out there, you just need to keep trying! Loved the 36yo blend and I am sure you would too!
Highland Park 2007 Gordon and MacPhail
Springbank Green 12yo - donated by Andy Somner
Jack Daniels White Rabbit Saloon - donated by Steve Lean
Laphroaig Quarter cask - donated by Frankie Bell
It was supposed to be a standard 7 whisky night but some people had other ideas. Andy Somner sent one as he is recovering from a successful heart by-pass op (he is now good for another 40 years apparently). Then Steve Lean brought the white rabbit for us to try and then Frankie appeared with a Lappy to wish us all a early happy Christmas, a long night ahead!
The Deanston has touches of the rum and raisin ice cream of the old 17 but does not reach the heights, pleasant and drinkable but not one I would seek out. Highland Park from a refill bourbon brings a delicate fruitiness to the dram and fresh drying finish and a sweet edge, did not feel like a cask strength just a nice starter. Macallan used to deliver great whisky and the chance at a sherrywood bottling could not be missed, well actually it can, very disappointed and a feel of artificial caramel (none added just a feel of it) and cheapness lacking balance, how the mighty have fallen, a sad day. Big George Grant at Glenfarclas makes sherry whisky like it should be and the 21 is a great orange marmalade and sweet winter spice dram, the only possible complaint; 43% rather than 46% and UCF, come on George make the jump please. The Green is a great dram, have loved Springbank for many years, I will leave it at that.
The break saw the raffle raise a £154 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Longrow Red Pinot Noir as the prize, won by Mike Blackmoor and the Bowmore woolly bonnet for Mike Docherty.
I have never liked Tobermory or its peated variant Ledaig but that is no reason not to try things. Actually this one is far better than my previous exposure with less salt liquorice/tequila elements and the sooty smoke works well, I have found one I can drink! I was looking forward to the Big Peat but this was very young, spirity, feinty, raw unpalatable rubbish. JD White Rabbit is a good example of what can be achieved from JD when you move away from the mass produced No7. it will hold its own with a good bourbon and is enjoyable neat as a vanilla driven sour mash whisky, I would gladly have another of these. Then a full on; full strength (63.7%) beast of a bourbon and what a massive one this is, lingering on the tongue with rich sweetness, massive oak and vanilla stickiness, I am having a bottle for me, enough said. Finishing with the peaty iodine cockles warmer.
Behind the bar a Hazelburn 10, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Benromach 10, the triple distilled unpeated one from Springbank, young fruity peat from Islay and a rich sherry warming dram from the North coast.
In summary, Somner lives and sent a great dram, the whisky lot are a generous crew with extra drams and money raising for the RNLI, Glenfarclas could do with being 46% but still loving it but the star for me was the Bookers Bourbon.
October 2016 - Cadenheads Night
Caol Ila - 22yo Cask End from Cadenheads Warehouse Tour
After the recent trip north to visit the old whisky capital and see the Springbank and Cadenheads bunch it was time to open the goodies we had collected when up there (well some of them). The selection was assisted by Mark Watt so any complaints please direct to the Winston look-a-like (Still Game).
Mortlach was a monster sherry dram (ruined recently by rebranding and massive price hike) but this one is a bourbon cask and fruity, light zesty dram it is, so different from what you expect yet so enjoyable. Glenallachie is seldom seen as an independent and to be honest you can see why, it just lacked something in terms of depth and couple off notes in the middle with limited finish, not for me. The Glendullan is for me a hidden gem and this continues to prove it, creamy vanilla fudge with a little hint of liquorice in the mid-palate and lingering toffee at the end, yum. The Strathisla is very herbaceous and minty spicy finish, a very interesting dram and nothing like the standard bottling, so worth it just for that.
The break saw the raffle raise a £187 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Longrow 1995 as the prize, won by Mike Boardman.
The Strathmill is sweet and light autumn green fruits (apples and pears) with a nutty edge (whisky and me for that matter), if anything I expected it to deliver a little more but that might be due to fact it was the fifth bourbon cask Speysider we had done, not different enough - my fault in the selection, sorry. Next up was the one I thought could be week as Balmenach is not a stand out distillery for me, how wrong was I. Smashing little sherry bomb all bonfire toffee and raisins great length ending in a spicy notes. Finally one from the Warehouse tour from a couple of years back and what a coal smoke, tar brine and light oily dram we get, worth the afternoon spent in a cold damp warehouse tasting whisky just to bring good stuff for our Customers, the sacrifices I make!.
Behind the bar a Kilkerran 12yo and a Benromach Peat smoke, the fantastic Campbeltown new comer all fruity and light with the other great independent bringing sweet peat .
In summary, Mark Watt is not doing too bad a job up there and the Glendulland and Balmenach are stand out drams and the Caol Ila is just another reason to get to Campbeltown for the warehouse tour to see what they have next.
Cadenheads 17yo Creation Blend
Mathers Bruichladdich 10yo
Bowmore 12yo Cadenheads
Bar-1 Port Charlotte 10yo
Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016
I have been following the Kilkerran since the first open day and the launch of the WIP, and here is the first release of what will be the regular bottling and what a fruity fresh dram with hints of brine way at the back, Frank McHardy your baby has come of age. Another baby to follow and the first go at a Cadenheads blend done by Mark Watt and a fresh fun dram with a little spice and oak and wisp of smoke at the end, depth and character (unlike Mark - tee hee). I have been excited to try the new distillery from the very north of the Mainland but sadly it is too young and lacking in anything really, I will come back in a few years and see what it is like then, bit of a miss this one. Donnie is my old boss and he brought along two bottles for us to try (we paid him do not worry, no mugging a pensioner here!) and the first was his own cask of sherry cask Laddie at 64.4%, what a big bruising whisky but even at that strength it is warming not harsh and goes on for a long while, thanks for the background introduction too Donnie, you got the Whisky Hooligans to be quiet, something I never manage.
The break saw the raffle raise a £159 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Springbank Green 13yo as the prize, won by Adrian Fielding.
A fruity lightly peated Bowmore from Cadenheads comes up next and very mellow and light with only a hint of smoke revealing a different side to the oldest Islay distillery, and most enjoyable. Donnie's next bottling was one from a group of his old mates and another great beast of sweet peat and dried fruit, a glugging whisky. Finally the young Islay distillery and the new Loch Gorm Sherry Cask with big fruit cake notes and a belt of peat, always seems to be spot on this version.
Behind the bar a Kilchoman Machir Bay and Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley, lighter smoke from the Kilchoman and sweet and fruity Laddie great compliments to each other.
In summary, thanks for great drams Donnie, Mark Watt proves he is not just a drunken hooligan and Frank has a great legacy!
Prince of Wales 12yo
Bruichladdich Classic Scottish Barley (Donated by David Hadwin)
Kilkerran 9yo Rum Cask - Open Day 2015
Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon
A bit of an interesting evening as we were off to 4 different countries for the whiskies. First up the new young Benromach and at 5 years it is a fruity gentle and enjoyable dram, not complex but at circa £28 a good everyday dram. Japan next for a malt made up of the products from two distilleries, and what a blast of fruit you get on this one, could be a classic sauvignon if it wasn't for the 46% buzz, very different and very enjoyable, the Japanese keep making good whiskey. The Prince of Wales was a throwback to the 1980s when I remember my mum having a bottle, my memory has played tricks on me because I remember a bourbon-esk dram, what I got now was wet cardboard and sour notes (but still not as bad a Penderyn). The forth was a late addition at the behest of one of our regulars who couldn't make it due to needing an urgent operation, he wanted to have his health toasted so we did and it seems to have worked as he come through the op and has started on the long road to recovery, we . The whisky was good too but Laddie vary rarely disappoints of late.
The break saw the raffle raise a £109 for the RNLI with a bottle of the Laphroaig 15yo 200th Anniversary as the prize. Total for the tasting season of £1131.50 agreat total from a very generous bunch of people. In the 10 years we have been running you great people have raised £9836.00, thank you so much.
The open day Kilkerran is a spritely little number with a high alcohol driven burn fading into gentle soft oak and just as you think it has gone a little hint of rum pops back up, complex for a 9 yo and rather jolly good. Bourbon is big right now and this is one of the new kids on the block from Texas, a beefy, sweet, oaky, vanilla gobfull, divided opinion but I really enjoyed it, frontier whisky to pour on rattlesnakes! The new malt distillery in Grants Girvan complex where Ladyburn was once produced and it has 4 still to produce a Balvenie style of whisky for Grants blends as they are selling more of the Balvenie as a malt, but the first release of Ailsa Bay is a peated one and it is a lovely young sweet peaty whisky, not an Islay style but a nice peated whisky that I decided to have one for me, yes I liked it enough to sneak one on the order for me. Finally the young Islay distillery and the new general release comes in with some raisin notes mixed in with the peat and a nice oily coating, Mr Wills is getting to grips with a rather good distillery (just wish he would be a little happier about it!).
Behind the bar a Longrow and a Hazelburn 10, Campbeltown classics with sweet salty peat and a gentle oily mouthful.
In summary, an interesting night and my favourites were Ichiro's for the fruity light style and the Ailsa for the exact opposite!
May 2016 - Islay Special
Bruichladdich 2005 Micro Provenance Chalice Barley
Bunnahabhain 11yo Manzanilla cask Feil Ila 2015
Bowmore handfill 11yo bourbon cask
Bowmore Black Rock
Kilchoman 10yo for 10th Anniversary
Kilchoman Madeira cask distillery only
Springbank Green 13yo Sherry cask (donated)
Ardbeg Perpetuum distillery only/committee release
Laphroaig Quarter Cask (donated by Frankie Bell)
An Islay special for whiskies we brought back from our travels to the whisky Isle last October. The Bruichladdich is all coconut and vanilla with a hefty alcohol bite (63.6% ABV) but a good fruity sipping whisky even so, Bruichladdich, bourbon cask and no ACEing, lovely stuff. The Bunnahabhain has taken the salty Manzanilla cask and added the salty sea of its coastal location and come up with a fruity salty caramel dram, rather interesting. The handfill was vanilla and hints of smoke, not a particularly complex dram but one I would happily sip and enjoy on a summer afternoon. Black Rock is the travel retail (and distillery) exclusive and it might have been me putting it in the wrong place in the tasting but it felt think, too sweet and very little smoke, quite disappointed with it to be honest.
The break saw the raffle raise a staggeringly magnificent £200 for the RNLI with the 3 Amigos (David, Russ and Ade) winning the 2015 Springbank Green Sherry Cask, which they then promptly asked to be included in the tasting as it was Rusty's birthday, slainte gentlemen.
The donated Springbank went down well as the lovely Green series tends to, thanks again lads. The 10yo kilchoman was citrus smoke and vanilla sweetness, very reminiscent of the original Ardbeg 10yo but with less of the heavy oil and peat. Very enjoyable and congratulations to the "happy" Mr Wills on your baby doing so well after 10 years. The Madeira cask for me has made this Kilchoman a tad too sweet for me and hides the peat and character a little too much for my liking, a good dram but I prefer the Machir Bay releases. Ardbeg time next and one all the peat-heads look forward to, it has the tarred ships rope and smoked fish elements but it is a little thin, it misses the heavy oily character of the Ardbegs of yore, I love Ardbeg but the NAS approach and lighter style coming out are not rocking my boat enough anymore, still a good dram but not as good as it was, old age and nostalgia catching up with me?? Finally a little addition from Frankie as he likes a bit of the old Lappy Laughing juice and felt we needed one from there even if it was not limited, still for me the best bang for buck Laphroaig at the minute, solid peat and iodine hints, a peaty glugger.
Behind the bar a Benromach 10yo and an Aberfeldy 1999. The subtle smoke in the Aberfeldy and the sherry sweetness of the Benromach worked as a nice counterbalance to the Islay peat we were having in the tasting. The Aberfeldy is a little gem from G&M.
In summary, the peat seems to be getting lighter and less brutal than we remember from Islay, good but different and a bit of nostalgia creeping in from those of us who have loved the big nasty stuff of past time. However still loving the simple Kichoman and Laddie has a special place for me but Corryvrecken still wins for Ardbeg. Will have to see what we find up there this year!
Paddy Old Irish Whiskey (donated by Mike Docherty)
Distilerias Y Crianza 8yo Fino Blend
Glen Moray 16yo
Mortlach Rare Old
Toremore 1999 (16yo) - Gordon MacPhail
Amrut PX Cask
Springbank 10yo FSHD (Cadenheads Cage)
Mike donated an old bottle of Paddy he has had in the cupboard for a few years, time has not improved it and a slightly off note has appeared in an average blend. A first Spanish whiskey for us in the DYC and probably the last too, rather grotty and not one to drink on its own, needs coke or Fanta, which if you believe certain websites is what is was designed for, not good. The Glen Moray is probably one of the nicer Glens Morays I have had but it really lacks a depth and complexity you would expect from a 16yo, hints of oak, barley sweetness and touch of sherry fruits but not adding up to as much as it should, hints to a good whisky but does not deliver. The first Tormore of the evening in the proprietary bottling at 12yo, and a solid everyday drinking malt with a touch of sherry sweetness and a reasonable length, possible a little bit of e150 in there but the best so far. The Mortlach is one I was looking forward to; sadly it is neither rare or old, and is thin and flat with none of the vibrancy of the old flora and fauna, let down and ripped off at £65 for a 50cl bottle.
The break saw the raffle raise a magnificent £129 for the RNLI with Mike Docherty winning the 2015 Springbank Green Sherry Cask.
The second Tormore and a G&M cask strength and this is what whisky should be like, great flavour with the underpinning ripe bananas (queue Minion shouts of kevin - despicable me) vanilla and a great long dry finish, a gorgeous sipping whisky. The Amrut is 4 yo and lost 42% of the cask in the heat of the Indian warehouse, a big whisky and maybe a little too much sherry influence for my palate, the wood had possible given too much or still had some of the previous contents in it when filled. Liked by quite a few so classed as a reasonable whisky and holding the 62% ABV well. Finally the one off duty paid sample from the Cadenheads cage in Campbeltown. A fresh sherry hogshead , 10yo Springbank and a great balance between the Springbank maritime edge, raisins and hints of smoke in the background almost a shame to have shared this one it was that nice but glad we did it because it again shows what a stunning job the ODD Distillery is doing.
Behind the bar a Benromach Peat Smoke and an Aberlour A'bunadh. Big sherry richness and massive alcohol punch and sweet subtle barley smoke, both far too easy to drink.
In summary, a game of two halves. Some less than impressive ones in the first half but the joy of tasting is finding those you do not like as much as those you do, although personally I am still gutted about the Mortlach and two absolute stunners in the second, I expect it of Springbank but that Tormore is a great dram and I think I may get one for me.
Auchroisk 13yo Cadenheads
Glen Keith 1996 Gordon MacPhail
Ord 10yo Cadenheads
Bruichladdich Ancien Regime
Springbank Green 13yo - 2015 - Sherry cask
Clynelish 1998 Cask Strength Gordon MacPhail
Glenfarclas 105 - Donated by Andy Somner to toast the passing of Dead Fred.
A nice mixed bag of bottlers to try and a new to our tasting distillery (Ord). The Auchroisk is a right fruity gobfull, almost sauvignon like. The Glen Keith has slightly less fruit and more wood showing, very pleasant and easy drinking but not quite the quality to price ratio it being a closed distillery and therefore has a premium added for scarcity. Then the Ord and one Andy Somner has been banging on about for a while to get in as he had not had one for ages, at 60.5% I was expecting it to be a little hot but nothing of the sort, a magnificent rich, fruity, oak hints and great length, nothing like the old distillery bottling I remember but blooming fantastic, Mr Watt I salute you. Then to the Distillery that always has a special place in my heart and another great dram from the gentle Islay, oak, sherry hints, vanilla, depth and a rich mouthfeel. One where the cork goes in the bin if more than two of you are sat round.
The break saw the raffle raise a magnificent £134 for the RNLI with Andy Somner winning the 2014 Springbank Green Bourbon Cask. Also a note of thanks to Andy Denton for adding the Shackleton book as an extra prize.
Springbank and sherry cask, what can go wrong, well nothing, great drinking whisky with the spice of christmas and the hint of the sea. An old favourite in Clynelish and this one has the honey smoke and oil of a fine example, think one may find its way into my drinking stock! What should have been the final whisky is back to Bruichladdich but for the mental peating of Octomore and the most expensive of the night at £115 and for me although a nice dram probably the weakest, of the evening as I found it lacking in complexity and a little one dimensional, basically it is just peat and smoke, enjoyable but not one to have more than one of. Then the additional one from Andy to toast the passing of his dad Dead Fred, who is now finally dead. He used to fall asleep behind furniture at whisky tasting many years ago and we never knew if he was dead or sleeping hence the name. Slainte old chap the dram was great.
Behind the bar a Duthies Campbeltown and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Will really miss the Duthies range and hope Mark gets another equally good replacement and the 1/4 cask is one Laphroaig that still has the punch.
In summary, loving them all especially the great Ord. A couple of the regulars suggesting one of the strongest for a while, no pressure for the next one then!.
January 2016 - Burns Night Special
Ben Bracken 28yo - donated on the night by Steve Lean
Girvan 26yo - Cadenheads
Highland Park Odin 16yo
Springbank 17yo Sherry Cask
Highland Park 1988 Cadenheads cask end
Glen Turret hand bottled at distillery - donated on the night by Steve Bell for Mario's birthday
Port Charlotte PC12
Ardbeg Supernova 2015
We were supposed to be having seven drams but then two Steves came in with extra bottles. First up the Lidl Ben Bracken and for a 28yo I was looking for more depth of flavour and character, perfectly acceptable daily dram but not to my palate. An older grain from Cadenheads does not disappoint and this is a mix of fruit, vanilla and well balanced oak. Not the best grain they have done but a very good one and another distillery ticked on the not done yet list. The final one in the Valhalla set from HP and all black and moody packaging (which is a shame as it does not sit nicely with the other 3 in their light wood longboats) and this has knocked Thor off the top spot, a touch of rubber on the nose to start with then a big sherry hit with the Christmas cake and spice coming through, no alcohol burn and smooth going down with a long finish. Next up was the limited release Springbank that I had put aside a long time waiting for Burns and another little cracker from the loony crew up in Campbeltown a rich sweet and salty dram with great mouthfeel and a burst of heat when it hits your chest. The Cadenheads HP was bought when we got delayed on way to Islay and had to shelter in Campbeltown and a warehouse with Mark Watt. This is a huge sherry bomb and batters you around the head before lifting you up and giving you a great warm hug, worth the trip alone to do the Warehouse tour, a real belter of a HP.
The break saw the raffle raise a magnificent £202 for the RNLI with Mike Boardman winning the Laphroaig 15yo 200th Anniversary edition.
Next up was the GT from Steve Bell and this was a 2007 bottled in 2015 distillery only hand bottling Steve had got whilst convalescing up there. GT is normally soft and floral, this was brutal, too much alcohol and too young, fighting you like a methed up junkie. Far too hard for me. Off to Islay for the next 3 and peatmonster Anna looking forward to it. The Laphroaig 21 is a bit soft, Lappys do tend to get softer with age but this seems to be following the general trend from there where is has lost the brutality and iodine edge that divided people so much. I enjoyed it but at £100 plus P&P for a 35cl I am not convinced this is a VFM dram. The PC12 was the reason for the Islay trip (when we got diverted and got the HP) and this is really coming into its own now, big smoke, big barley, a level of subtlety and back ground fruits and vanilla from those tall stills and one to cuddle you on a winters night, fantastic. Finally the NAS (no age statement) band wagon rolls on again from Ardbeg with the 2015 Supernova and it does not stand up to the original release in depth or quality and although the citrus and tar ropes are there, it just somehow does not quite deliver as a complete and rounded dram. Having tried this up at the distillery in November as part of a 5 dram flight I found the Corryvrecken is the best one for me at the minute. My wish for 2016 is that Ardbeg look to start releasing ages other than the 10 but at sensible prices, I worry I may fall out of love with this great place if the prices keep going silly and the whisky does not hold that price up as worth it.
Behind the bar a G&M Glendullan 1999 and Clynelish 14yo then later a Hazelburn 10 as the gang were thirsty. All excellent drams.
In summary, the Cadenheads HP is the stand out dram but hot on its heels are the PC12, Odin and Sprignbank. A great night again and not a single bit of poetry or speeches just damned good whisky.
Glendullan 1999 - Gordon & Macphail
Benromach Hermitage finish 2005
Glendronach The Heilan 8yo
Caol Ila cask strength 2004 - Gordon & MacPhail
Winter is coming and wearing the kilt resulted in a draft around my Trossachs so a needed for some whisky to thaw them out. The Glendullan is a floral gentle yet complex and very sophisticated dram a great start. The Benromach split people some loving the fruity fun, others finding it a little harsh and rubbery, personally I am a fan of this fruity pop. The Heilan (Doric for Highland) is a mix or sherry and bourbon cask and a youthful cracker with the oak vanillas from the bourbon and Christmas fruit from the sherry, far too easy to glug. Then the big sherry hitter from Glengoyn and far richer and heavier than the usual almost lowland style (it is on the highland line after all) very long lasting dram and enjoyed by all.
The break saw the raffle raise £132 for the RNLI with Mario winning the Longrow Red 2015 which he promptly drank with the rest of the hooligan table!
After the break it is the new NAS from Diagio and have they ruined another classic (last month's Dalwhinnie Gold proved they can) and they have managed to produce an acceptable dram with prune notes and slight smoke but lost what i expect from a Talisker, none of the peat and pepper, ok if yopu have never has Talisker but for me I will stick to the 10yo. A bourbon for the second tasting in a row and a classy heavy vanilla oaky sweet one with a rich mouthfeel and good for a neat sipping session rather than over ice or in a cocktail which is often their fate. Smokey Joe is a Islay vatting (sorry Blended Malt) and is young, thin and overly sweet suggesting Caol Ila is a large proportion but lacks character and will not be appearing on a list to buy any time soon. Finally the 60.1% cask strength Caol Ila from G&M and the distillery sweetness if there but not too high, the background meaty element is also coming through (something I have found in recent G&M bottlings) that is not endearing for me but it does not over power so that makes it bearable. sadly I am slightly disappointed in it given some of the great G&M Caol Ilas in the past.
Behind the bar a Springbank 12yo cask strength and Kiln Embers. Salty, sherry brutality and youthful sooty coal smoke, very fine indeed.
In summary, the two Glens have it for me with the Dullan edging on bang for buck stakes and being such a lovely delicate surprise.
Jack Ryan 12yo Beggars Bush
Benromach 2006 Sassicaia wood
Loch Lomand - NAS
Aberfeldy 1995 - Gordon MacPhail cask strength
Glen Scotia Victoriana
John J. Bowman single cask
Kiln Embers Wemyss Malts
The nights are fair drawing in so time for some of the water of life to ease us into autumn. The Jack Ryan is a new Irish malt and very floral, light fruit and delicate, a ladies whisky as Janet Campbell would refer to it. The new limited release wine cask finish from Benromach has rich red berries through it from start to finish and rubber hints on the first taste that move to oily notes and a rich mouthfeel. A donation from David Hadwin was next up with the Loch Lomand (no age statement) and this is an entry level malt and tastes sour and unpleasant, one that could put people of this glorious spirit if they have this first, yuk. To help take the taste away a lovely fruity soft (55.8% not showing any burn) dram with a little whiff of smoke, rather lovely and far better than the proprietary bottlings.
The break saw the raffle raise £72 for the RNLI with Kelvin winning the Laphroaig 15yo 200th Anniversary edition - which will be for his Stag Do!
After the break The Dalmore and a soft fruity number that has small sherry hints and a gentle pleasing length, not the Xmas Cake I had hoped for but very sophisticated. Glen Scotia has been a distillery I have struggled to get on with and have not had one I particularly like but this one has changed all that, hard black liquorice with salt caramel and a puff of smoke, complex, long and one I would have a dram of again no questions asked. Off to the USA for the next one and a big hitting sweet vanilla gobfull of oak and spice but no harshness, great sipping bourbon. Finally the Wemyss (pronounced Weems) and does exactly what is says on the tin, smoky embers with the coal dust edge. Not the most complex of drams but warming and slurpable.
Behind the bar a Longrow and The fantastic Benromach 100 proof. Sweet Peat and sherry monster and so tempting I had to have one of each before starting (just to ease any tightness in my throat) !.
In summary, Benromach keeps on giving good whisky, the Victoriana has a GS I like but my favourite on the night was the Aberfeldy .
Dalwhinnie Winters Gold
Auchentoshan 12yo (1980s)
Dalwhinnie Centenary Edition - 15yo
Kilkerran WIP 7 Bourbon Cask
Kilkerran WIP 7 Sherry Cask
Macallan Whisky Makers Edition
Longrow Red 2015 - Pinot Noir
A new tasting season kicks off with the Dalwhinnie Winters Gold, a "bonus" bottle on the evening donated by Mario after he had tried it (with me) so everyone could experience it. Wet cardboard and damp straw were two tasting flavours, no thanks was the reply to this new NAS from what was a great distillery, save your money on this one folks, it is a do not buy recommendation. Auchentoshan gets a rough ride from me normally but this was an older one so was it any different from the stuff you get today? Yes and in a good way, more depth and spice with hints of oak but a gentle lowland character. The other Dalwhinnie on the tasting card was one from 1998 and in the older style to celebrate the centenary of the distillery, richer, heavier spirit with just a hint of smoke, a nice reminder of the past. Kilkerran and the final Work In Progress (no. 7) and cask strength from a bourbon cask light, despite the cask strength, with lots of fruity, brine and vanilla driving through, a little belter again.
The break saw the raffle raise £152.50 for the RNLI, a very significant start to the tasting season. Gavin Roberts was the happy winner!
After the Break the WIP 7 but sherry cask, fruit cake and vanilla plus touch of brine and a great easy drinker. Macallan NAS have been a little disappointing of late for me and I miss the old heavy sherry character that lingers, luckily this is back on form and a big hit of sherry brings marmalade and leather with just a hint of smoke. The Longrow Red productions continue from the mad mob at Springbank and this is a less peaty version but still hints of sweet smoke and red fruits plus the Campbeltown brine. It is not the most complex but it is a great fun drink! Finally the Perpetuum and Ardbeg back on form with citrus, big smoke and loads of peat plus a good gulp of coal dust, peatheads of the world unite!
Behind the bar a Duthies Islay again and Glenfarclas 105, gentle sweet peat and a sherry bomb monster battering your brains!.
In summary, the Winters Gold is dreadful, Kilkerran goes from strength to strength, Longrow is always fun and Ardbeg hit a great one with this release.
Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso
Springbank 12yo Port Cask
Talisker 57 North
Laphroaig 200th Anniversary 15yo
Final tasting of the season before we take the summer break. The much marketed and hyped Haig Club grain whisky started us and it is a young grain whisky, lacks complexity and depth and is a spirit to mix or for the Vodka Generation, put the £50 towards a Cadenheads aged grain if you like whisky, avoid this marketing stunt. The Craigellachie is a gentle spiced dram for late afternoon sipping, not challenging but enjoyable. I have a soft spot for GF and this 17yo doesn't disappoint s sophisticated gentle dram with all the sweet Christmas spice and dried fruits, a bottle to disappear very quickly if chatting and sipping with friends. I was looking forward to the Nadurra after loving the original and the Triumph versions, bit of a letdown this one, young whisky trying to hide behind a big cask influence, more NAS not delivering to annoy people.
The break saw the raffle raise £152 for the RNLI, a brilliant total from the generous whisky crowd and the end of year total we shall be donating over the summer is £1,120 bringing 9 years of fund raising to £8704.50. Benromach 100 proof and a Laphroaig t-shirt were very nice prizes! .
The Springbank is fruity, hints of peat, brine and a good kick of cask strength joy, a gorgeous little number. Peat Pepper visited next with a NAS from Talisker that actually tastes very good, the best one I have had from there since the 18 leapt out of my price bracket. Finally the lappy dappy doo dha 15 and although slightly under strength for me (it really needed to be 46% and UCF) it has the old tar fishy ropes mouthful at first then softens out into a gentle Laphroaig, still lacks the brutality of old but a good drinking Lappy
Behind the bar a Duthies Islay and Benromach 100 proof, gentle sweet peat and a sherry bomb monster, that Benromach is taking some beating at the minute, fantastic dram.
In summary Haig Club is not for anyone who likes whisky, the Nadurra is disappointing but Springbank continues to deliver so does the lovely Glenfarclas with Lappy and Talisker coming along nicely too.
May 2015 - Islay Tasting
Bunnahabhain Durach Ur
Jura Tastival 2014
Bruichladdich Valinch 09 - 22yo Oloroso cask finish
Bowmore hand filled 14yo bourbon cask
Caol Ila 2013 Feis Ile 15yo
Lagavulin - Friends of Classic Malts
Laphroaig 10yo cask strength
Kilchoman single cask 5yo - Oloroso cask
An Islay special tasting, all eight working distilleries on Islay plus Jura and then a special guest from Jack Baxter. The Durach Ur (new oak) is light and fruity with a vanilla edge, another easy drinking Bunnahabhain. The Jura has come from 7 different cask types and for me it showed confusion rather than a cohesive dram, disappointing. Big sherry Laddie and although very enjoyable with all the dried fruit flavours and the hint of the sea the question still hangs as to why do this to a 22yo Laddie when that is normally such a stunning dram? Loved it though!
Then we had a guest presenter in the form of Jack Baxter presenting his PC41 which is not a 41yo but his old police badge number. A single owners cask bottling of a 10yo Port Charlotte and it has all the sooty yet fresh PC flavours with even a hint of tinned fruit sweetness. A lovely dram shared by a gentleman.
Following Jack we had the smoked fruit compote from Bowmore, rich, subtle and very pleasing, a great Bowmore and the hand bottling opportunity is a must if you go there no matter what the cask is, all 3 I have had have been great in different ways. Served with Big Phill's whisky cake making both very welcome.
The break saw the raffle raise £194 for the RNLI, a brilliant total from the generous whisky crowd. Argbeg Uigeadail was a fine prize and a whisky cake from Big Phill Webber! .
The Caol Ila is enjoyable enough but not stand out, I would take a dram but not rush out for a bottle. Kildalton is the 2014 release so is the one about the cross rather than the unpeated 1980. All citrus and soft Ardbeg here like the first 10yo released circa 2000 and the Beist, a great whisky but I had hoped for a more brutal assault version! The 3 different cask type Lag done for the FoCM seems to be following the trend of recent Lagavulins with more salt than smoke, the whole range has softened out, maybe running the stills so hard is making the spirit lighter and lose the big beefy smoke that used to characterise this Islay gem, I feel I might be losing an old friend. Lappy used to be nasty brutal iodine and the cask strength was that doubled, not now still traces of it but nowhere near the south Islay hooligan that once jumped out of the bottle and battered you, again good but getting soft. Finally the new kid on the block and this has a big peaty punch, smoke galore and sherry fruits galore, a great youthful dram, plus happy memories for Mario but we will leave that there!
Behind the bar a MacPhails 15yo and Springbank 10yo. Avoided the peat and got sea fresh springbak and sherry heaven MacP. Even though we had had 10 at the tasting these still went, think we were all a little thirsty.
In summary only the Jura did not stand up but some are softening out too much for me and I worry about what has been lost from those, luckily Kilchoman is belting stuff out, loving the citrus Ardbeg and the Bowmore fruit.
Isle of Jura 10yo
Isle of Jura 10yo (1990's)
Racke Rauch Zart
Indian Corn Whisky 24yo Potters Distillery - Cadenheads
Edradour 15yo Fairy Flag
Glendronach 18yo Tawny Port Finish
Benriach Solstice 17yo second edition
Following the theme of the last tasting another little experiment to start with a comparison of old and new to see which we preferred. Jura is a drinkable everyday malt on a budget and I liked both but the older one just had a touch more wood and depth. German tender smoked whisky next, nothing there really, no smoke not structure and not one I would care for a glass of again however I have tried something I have never had before. Indian Corn (Canada not subcontinent) and a high hitting alcohol level comes through with the wood sweetness and vanilla, rather enjoyable. I love Edradour and was really looking forward to this one, but what a disappointment. Thin and lacking length plus slight off notes, so disappointed, back to the 10yo UCF then.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £91 for the RNLI, a good total from the generous whisky crowd. Janet Mary Campbell won the Springbank 12yo "Green", apparently it was predicted that she would win by her 91 year old mum!.
The Glendronach was a good weighty dram with the dry tawny port edge coming right at the back of the palate, a rich easy drinker. Bunny "smoky mist" (translation of Coebanach) and another young one from the feel of it but nice coal smoke and hints of tar there, "palatable" to quote Doc. The Benriach has good rich spirit and a good belt of smoke that lingers nicely, a fireside dram or perhaps with smoked bacon butties for breakfast. Finally a bonus dram from Doc, Mario and me, part of the package when you rent the Bowmore cottages but we did not get round to is so we brought to the tasting. Improving from last time I had it and a good value dram, not setting the world on fire (sorry about the pun) but smoked kippers do ok.
Behind the bar a Cadenheads Aberfeldy 17yo and a Duthies Campbeltown one delicate and floral fun the other hinting a bit of Longrow in the mix with smoke sliding in. Managed a couple of each and added to my smile factor.
In summary disappointed with the Edradour , loved the Indian Corn and the Solstice was rather enjoyable (on the Equinox).
The Glenlivet 12yo
The Glenlivet 12yo (1980's)
Ballantines Black Pure Malt
Speymalt from Macallan 1993 - Gordon & MacPhail
Dutch 100% Rye 7yo - Smile
Springbank 12yo "green"
Talisker Distillers Edition 2000
Kilchoman Original cask strength
A little experiment to start with a comparison of old and new to see which we preferred. The new has got richer in recent years and that has improved it, I remember it being a little thin but they seem to have upped the sherry cask side and it has good depth and very enjoyable. The old felt a little tired, possible due to age in bottle but still had the makings of a good dram, pleasantly surprised that I preferred the new. Never seen the Ballantines before and after tasting not bothered if I never see it again, E150 is all we got, bland and uninteresting. Marmalade in a glass next and G&M get Macallan right but in a non-distillery way, a rather jolly good one I must say.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £132 for the RNLI, a fantastic total from the generous whisky crowd. Steve lean won the Cadenheads cask end Bowmore, an excellent dram even if I do say so myself.
We have had the Dutch Malt so time to try the rye and wow what a weird and wonderful one this is, so different (as you would expect) but rich in wood influence and heavy grain flavours, called smile and it made me do so, so much I bought a bottle! Springbank "green" as it is organic and a lovely light Springbank (as Springbank's go), a lovely example of brine, barley, wood, vanilla, a hint of smoke and a gentle oiliness. The Talisker is a solid dram, we have done it before abut I missed this when sorting out the tasting but still a fine sherry peat dram. Finishing with the big beefy peaty monster for our peathead fraternity and as always Kilchoman does not disappoint.
Behind the bar a Springbank 12yo Cask Strength and a Kilchoman Machir Bay both big whiskies yet very easy drinking .
In summary a good balanced evening enjoying a standard Glenlivet and loving a Dutch Rye and a gentle Springbank.
January 2015 - Burns Night
Spirit of Freedom 30yo Blend
Shackleton Mackinlay's Journeys blend
Highland Park Freya
Glen Marnoch 24yo (Aldi) - donation on night
Glenrothes - Cadenheads cask end
Old Pultney 1982 - Gordon MacPhail
Longmorn 1983 - Gordon MacPhail
Ardbeg Supernova 2014
None of the poetry stuff, ode to the Bard or address to the Lassies, this is about getting a dram of stuff we cannot afford but want to try. Kicking off with the bottle celebrating 700 years since Bannockburn and a lovely floral, sweet blend with a hint of spice and salt at the finish, very enjoyable. I had looked forward to the second in the Shackleton series after really liking the first, oops I was so disappointed, thin, harsh, unbalanced and sour, great packaging but not good whisky. The third in the Valhalla series finds a very light one from HP and not really showing itself as it felt somewhat muted as though it wanted to give you something but was shy, enjoyable but the lesser of the series so far. Then we got to try the extra donated by Steve Lean and it is the Aldi 24yo mystery malt, oh dear too much caramel (E150), sweet, limited depth and no finish with off notes and a bitter edge, the generosity of Steve was sadly let down by this whisky. The it is one from the Cadenheads tour and I think the best way to describe this is sunshine in a glass with the smell of honey and flowers in the sun, a right little joy.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £174 for the RNLI, a fantastic total from the generous whisky crowd. Mr Somner won the Kilchoman cask strength and has since assured me it is very nice!
The Old (31yrs) Pultney is one I was really looking forward to and it was a cracking dram, leather, spice, honey, salt and long finish although if they had done it at 46% rather than 43% and gone unchillfiltered I think it would have been even better. I needed a bottle to myself and a big open fire on a very cold night. Following this is the Christmas season through mince pies and dried fruit, excellent well balanced sherry dram showing how a whisky can stand up to the cask over a long maturation and be enhanced not overwhelmed. The last one was for the peat monster Anna and Pete Bowley - huge smoke and fire with tar on the nose, big belt of the same on the initial sip then a middle of citrus before the embers smacks back in and leaves you all sooty (not the puppet), a good Ardbeg but still a NAS which irks me a little, when it is that price I would really like to know how old the stuff is. For reference a dram of this in Scotland was on sale for £25, the whole of the evening including supper was £45, hope this makes it VFM.
Behind the bar a Aberlour A'bunadh and a Longrow, big sherry hooligan and a wee peaty salty Jack Russell. Both very enjoyable and very drinkable.
In summary, over £1000 of whisky opened and enjoyed, a little disappointment at the start but some real stunners.
Old Pulteney Clipper
Old Pulteney 12yo (extra addition on night from Paul Brooks)
Arran 12yo cask strength
Highland Park Dark Origins
Benromach 10yo 100 proof
Cadenheads cask end Bowmore 14yo
Kilchoman Port Cask
A fresh tropical fruits dram with a little hint of spice and a touch of the sea end, the 10 sits well with the other two expressions and Hazelburn continues to impress. The clipper follows in the same vein lots of fresh sunshine fruits with a slight maritime hint but a little softer and lighter. Then came a bonus bottle from Paul Brooks who wanted to see how the clipper stood up against the standard 12yo, the 12yo is richer in flavour but loses the soft edge and slightly more abrasive for me with more spice but for me not as good as the clipper. The Arran has come of age very nicely and this is a great example with hints of leather, spices and touch of dried fruits with orange hints, very nice. then HP and one I have been waiting for, what a dreadful fishy nose and this follows through to sweet fish on the palate plus some nasty rubber notes, an awful dram from what is normally a fantastic distillery, I thought it may be a rogue bottle but having checked others views on line it looks like they have issued a duff one.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £89 for the RNLI another good total from the generous whisky crowd.
After the break it is the little independent Speyside malt owned by G&M and this is a little belter of a sherry hooligan, all big sherry notes, stewed fruit, christmas pudding and great length and holds the alcohol so well there is no burn, brilliant. First if the peaty ones next and the Cadenheads cask end picked up on a visit to Cadenheads full on tar ropes and seaweed with a soft gentle burn a lovely example of how good Bowmore can be, thanks to Grant at Cadenheads for letting us try it. Finally a brutal youngster from the new Islay distillery all fruity peat smoke and an alcohol bite. A very big dram and showing the youthful nature, I really am looking forward to when Kilchoman can start releasing the fully aged stuff because I am enjoying the young fun ones but they aren't the most subtle or complex of drams.
Behind the bar a Cadenheads Arran very delicate and malty hints plus touch brine and the Duthies Islay with a Laphroaig like hit but very short finish, an interesting vatted (blended) malt.
In summary, a massively disappointing HP but the rest were all very drinkable and none I would not have a dram of (or two-ish) but the clear winners were the brilliant Benromach and lovely Bowmore
Glen Spey 17yo Cadenheads
Allt-a-Bhainne 20yo Duthies
Aultmore 13yo Duthies
Glengoyne 16yo Cadenheads
Deanston 19yo Cadenheads
Creation Blend 20yo Cadenheads
Strathclyde 24yo Cadenheads
North British 24yo Cadenheads
Following the yearly trip to Campbeltown to see Springbank and Cadenheads and bring down a tasting we have the Cadenheads Tasting!
This also saw 3 distilleries we have yet to do included int his was one i have never tasted so surprise time.
To start is a little sip of new make spirit Gavin from Springbank gave me when we were up there giving us the chance to see what whisky is like before it is whisky. this divided people, I like it, Big Ian loves it, some wanted the cask to take the fire away. Thanks to Gavin for a great opportunity for us.
The Glen Spey is very light and fruity for a 17yo, I expected more cask influence but seemed younger than it was, a tad short, nothing offensive but not one to demand a bottle be bought. The allt-a-bhainne is not bottled by the distillery and this shows why, one to do so you have had it but a touch of off notes make it one to forget. The Aultmore had more to it than the Allt-a-Bhainne but lacked depth or anything to hold my interest. Glengoyne on the highland line shows more the lowland character in this version than the standard, soft, fruity and sweet with more balance and depth but still very light. Not really an exciting start, I hope it gets better!
Then the break and the raffle which raised £119 for the RNLI. A great total again from the generous whisky crowd with Phillip Webber winning the raffle and deciding to send the 15yo Springbank round the room so we added another to the 8 we were already doing.
After the break the Deanstone with the characteristic rum and raisin ice-cream flavours and a good belt of citrus with good length and very drinkable, things are looking up! The Creating blend is made from Bruichladdich, Mortlach, Cameronbridge and Invergordon and it is a big dried fruit mouthful and loads of depth ending with nuts and more fruit, great blend. Old grain from a distillery that is very rare to see and one that was very new to me, Strathclyde. What an absolute blinder of a dram this is, weight, depth, rich oils, vanilla and light pear/apple fruit. Could the North British compete? Yes but differently with mnore butter than oil and ginger hints with caramac and citrus and good length.
Then the Springbank 15 from the raffle (thanks Phill) still my favourite everyday springbank and we have had 9 whiskies and I am smiling but then Steve Bell pulls out an Ardbeg 10 as he was 40 a couple of weeks before so we had the peaty citrus punch to finish - Happy 40th Birthday Steve!
Behind the bar a Glen Grant 14yo Duthies and Kilchoman Machir Bay. The Glen Grant was too light for me, I much prefer it in sherry cask to bourbon but was very enjoyable all the same and the Kilchoman although young delivers a hefty peaty wallop!
To sum up; a great night to try different less available whiskies some with varied success but for me the two absolutely brilliant aged grain whiskies wins by a mile, fantastic stuff.
Auchentoshan 10yo - 1980s
Kilkerran WIP6 Bourbon cask
Cask strength Famour Grouse - from Mike Docherty
Tomatin 14yo Port cask finish
Kilkerran WIP6 Sherry cask
Discovery Road Dutch Courage 14yo
Longrow Red - Port Cask
An another tasting season begins. Welcome back one and all after the summer break.
An old Auchentoshan I picked up at auction, still not a great distillery in my view but a little more to this one than the standard one now with wood and vanilla, lacks depth and complexity but we have tried it now, will not be buying another if opportunity arose. Year 6 for the work in progress and again a split of cask types this year, fruity light sweet bourbon barrel influenced with the brine edge we expect, gentle but I think I preferred the WIP5. Next up was a bonus bottle from Mike Docherty (thanks) and a little cracker it is all marmalade and hints of dark chocolate and a nice alcohol warming edge, nothing like the standard blend and all the more lovely for it. A cracking find but not available which probably makes it even worse that it was a good whisky! The first of the port cask influenced whisky and it is from Tomatin, and it is nasty, artificial, disjointed and sour, yuk.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £169 for the RNLI. A great total from the generous whisky crowd to start the tasting year off with.
After the break the WIP from a sherry cask and a good hit of sherry dried fruits, sweet again and a pleasant dry, brine edged finish however again I feel the WIP 5 may just edge it, exciting how whisky ebbs and flows with time. A Dutch malt picked by Dominic Roskrow editor of whisky magazine and a lovely surprise of maple syrup nose and flavour running through it, sweet but not overly so and a great fireside dram. The second port cask but not a finish, a full 11 years in it, Springbank do not mess about! Massive red fruits on the nose, huge sweet red currant and raspberry ice-cream and subtle smoke and brine, another rip roaring Red! Finally the green and gold Ardbeg, good smoky nose with citrus hints, big burst of soot and iodine, feels quite young and zingy too then citrus comes in later followed by touch of iodine and a good long smoke finish, Ardbeg are getting a little too much "marketing" influenced by LVHM for us who have supported them for a long time but this is a good whisky and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Behind the bar a G&M Strathmill 1999, a coconut number and the gentle storm of Talisker easy drinking hints of smoke.
The FG cask strength is a great find the WIP is good but now needs more time, the Ardbeg lovely and Longrow consistently good with the Dutch one sneaking in as my favourite because it gave so much I did not expect. Tomatin - YUK!!!!.
The Singleton of Dufftown - Sunray
Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish
An Cnoc Peter Arkle 3rd Edition - Bricks
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Finish
Benriach 1999 - virgin oak finish
Springbank Barolo (an extra thanks to Big Phill Webber)
Laphroaig QA Cask
It is eight years since we started in this tasting game so a little pat on the back for still keeping it going and getting people to come along but mainly a big thanks to all those who have supported us and continue to support us, Slainte!
The day before mid-summer and I am rather warm in the kilt so looking to start with a fruity summer whisky, lacks some depth but light flora and ok. Not happy about the continued marketing approach on "the Singleton" and mixing it around a set of distilleries, another Diagio confuse the customer approach me thinks. Next up the Tully and it is a good floral dram with more to it than the previous one, a tad too sweet for me in the middle but a nice introductory malt. I do not know what they have done to the Arkle but whatever it is please stop, harsh, limited palate and sour notes and splintered wood, not for me at all. Then the leap into Taiwanese whisky and a little blackcurrant belter this is, all Ribena nose and ends the same way with a sweet succulent middle, very impressed for a young whisky.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £117 for the RNLI. A great total from the generous whisky crowd bringing this year's final total to £993, so we made it up to £1000 for the year to donate over our summer break. Thank you so much to such generous folk that come to our tastings.
Then it is time for a beefy, spicy, sappy, woody, leather oak and spice dram (yes it did have lots of spice) not easy to tame but very enjoyable. Next up one from last time but Phill had won the raffle and asked for it to be sent round as an extra, very generous as always and just great fruity pop Springbank. The peat stack from Bunnahabhain (that is the translation of Cruach Mhona) and a gentle wave of smoke, with cereal notes and soot. A summer smoker from the concentration camp distillery (it looks like one - honest). Finally what we hopes would be a big rip roarer from Lappy, oops someone forgot to put it in, felt like a watered down version with none of the usual umph you would expect, diet Laphroaig? Has it been "designed" for the softer international palate given it is duty free only? Could it be that at 40% it needed to be 46% or higher, whatever it was is was disappointing and quite glad it is only inflicted on international travellers, I will take the Quarter Cask!
Behind the bar a Smokehead (for Rusty) and Kilkerran sherry cask. Good sweet coal smoke and a sherry slightly salty Campbeltown.
A good night again and the Kavalan is the big surprise go back to dram, always love Springbank and the peaty Bunny is very sippable!
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007
Hazelburn Ruddlets & Kinderkins
Sullivans Cove French Oak
Glenlossie 1995 Gordon & MacPhail
Kilchoman Loch Gorm
Starting the night is a Dimple from the 1970s I picked up at auction, not a great whisky lots of caramel and slight off notes but a blast from the past, we have to try these when opportunity knocks. Then the Bruichladdich which tastes far better than it smells, baby sick on the nose but fresh barley and fruit on the palate, a dram of two halves and one that divided us. Hazelburn R&K brings in good wood influence and the soft salty side of the Springbank distillery doing a triple distillation, easy drinking. The it is off to Tasmania and the world whisky of the year, a good one that has more than the feel of a good cognac with raisins bursting through, good but not the best whisky this year.
Then the break and the raffle which raised £136 for the RNLI. A great total from the generous whisky crowd bringing this year's effort to £876.
Big hitting sherry from the Lossie, stewed fruits and Christmas spices warming your cockles. Sweet sticky red fun from Springbank with a rich nose of the red wine fruit, oodles of depth and length with the fruits driving this along nicely, great stuff from the Campbeltown mob again. Last up was the sherry and peat monster from Kilchoman, did exactly what you wanted it to do, Anna the peat monster enjoying this loads.
It was a very rowdy night with Hadwin giving Denton a bath and great to see Martin Sutcliffe back from his exotic travels to drink whisky with us again.
Behind the bar a Aberlour Abunha & longrow. Big heavy sherry cask strength and a soft peaty salty Campbeltown.
A good night and the one I want more of is actually the last two, so glad I have a bottle of each!.
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 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
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 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