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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile

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June 2010














































































































































































































Thursday June 17th; Youthful impetuosity?, 'Bruichladdich Rocks, but these two too'

In 2005 I heard that Bruichladdich had introduced a new expression called Rocks which was an exclusive to one English supermarket chain called Morrison's so, as I was fyling back home at that time I decided to get hold of a couple of bottles and bring them back to Germany with me. There was nothing on the label to state a Morrison's exclusive, but it certainly wasn't available elsewhere.

Until a few months later when it started to appear in all the usual whisky shops, so it would seem that Morrison's had only a limited exclusivity. Anyway, I tried my 'Rocks' and found it quite pleasant, a little young in character, but certainly a decent enough whisky. But it seemed that many others disagreed with me and offered totally different tasting notes. To cut a long story short, there appeared to be some differences between the bottle I had from Morrison's and the ones bought in the general release. Not least of which was the colour of the whisky as mine was a typical pale yellow or light gold, whereas the newer release (at that time of late 2005) was much darker in colour with a definite shade of deep red or almost burgundy. But still the labels remained the same and there was no mention or even hint of the two being any different.

In late 2008 Rocks was given a facelift by Bruichladdich in the form of a brand new label. It remains NAS (No Age Statement) and now appears to be one of two younger expressions in their standard range, alongside Waves.

This evening I am reviewing these two Rocks in a Head-to-Head as I compare the older dark-Rocks with the latest (2009 release) and once again light-Rocks, but is this latest release a return to the good old days of 2005 and Morrison's?


Bruichladdich Rocks, main release from late 2005-06 until late 2008 With a nose of fiery fruit and that typical Bruichladdich 'bilge pump effect' this is definitely announcing its youthfulness. A fact which is borne out by the all-out assault on the front of the palate with flavours of fruit and barley followed by a hint of liquorice towards the finish, which is long and remains spicy.

Bruichladdich Rocks, new release late 2008 Firstly the colour of this whisky is totally different. The earlier Rocks was a coppery red, bordering on burgundy whereas this one is much lighter with just a hint of copper. The nose is also more subtle with malt, ice cream wafer and a slight hint of fruity white wine. Nor does this assault the palate in the way of the first one, it's much more subtle, smoother and creamier with hints of butterscotch.

Conclusion and comment: I spoke of that very first Rocks available exclusively for just a few months at the Morrison's supermarket chain. This latest edition of Rocks reminds me slightly of that one, whereas the previous (Red) version is much more immature in character, like a youth who perhaps needs a little direction before firing off like a loose cannon. The new one has more subtlety and a little more finesse which makes it a preferred companion in this head to head.


Tuesday June 15th; Nicely presented Butts, or 'Mon Coeur, Mon Amour, Oh mon Sherry'

This evening we go in search of richness, depth of flavour, old oak and a certain 'je ne sais quoi' which usually accompanies, or perhaps defines renowned sherry cask whiskies. Each of today's distilleries has much to live up to in this area so how do these three latest offerings compare?


Bruichladdich Infinity V3.1 Unlike the Infinty V1 which was a real sherry bomb with a short fuse that I tried some years ago, this is much more subtle with lots of fruit, soft and gentle sherry overtones and even hints of peat, all combining to make a very enjoyable whisky.

Glenfarclas 17y According to the Glenfarclas website this 17y expression is a special or limited edition for only a few markets which include North America, Japan and Travel Retail. Once again, like the Bruichladdich this is quite subtle, gentle, smooth, aromatic and complex whilst still comprising excellent sherried attributes. It's just a shame that most of us don't have the opportunity to buy it locally.

Aberlour A'Bunadh Batch No.30 I have now tried three different batches of A'Bunadh; numbers 20, 24 & 30. The #20 is an acknowledged great, perhaps one of the best three batches in existence. I found the #24 to be not far behind #20, but this #30 is some way behind those two. It is a good sherried dram, powerful, rich, filled with dark fruits, aromatic oak and Alpine cheese, but it lacks some of the little extra 'je ne sais quoi' that would make it a great.


Monday June 14th; Typically Islay and Jura, or 'Four Peat's Sake'

It's time to collect my thoughts and return from Saouth Africa for a day or two, which means let's go from one extreme to the other and once again visit Islay and its neighbouring Jura.

As you all probably know, Islay distilleries are famed for their land, or more specifically the peat which makes up most of the island and which is used in the process of drying the barley in order to add a mighty peat influence to the whisky.

Tonight I am reviewing four whiskies, three of them from Islay and the fourth from Jura which is the first annual release in a series of what will be limited edition bottlings called 'Prophecy'. Jura is renowned for its gentle, quiet and unassuming character which carries nicely into the whisky, in fact, I usually find Jura whisky to be definitively Autumnal with a leafiness reminiscent of English country lanes in September and October, but this Prophecy is described on the label as "Profoundly Peated" so let's see how it compares to its neighbours' offerings.


Bunnahabhain 18y is quite a surprising whisky, it has those typical Bunnahabhain maritime notes with a little gentle peat, but this one also has a heavy sherry influence which offers an unusual but really quite pleasant richness for this distillery.

Ellenstown 10y This is an 'unidentified' Islay single malt which at forst nosing had some of the traits of Caol Ila, but as soon as I tasted this I agreed with the concensus of opinion that it is a 10y cask strength Ardbeg. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is more akin to the Pre-Glenmorangie (& LVMH) Ardbegs than the latest releases as it doesn't exhibit the fresh eucalyptus and pine notes of these newer ones. At 58& ABV it needs water, but rewards nicely when it's added.

Caol Ila 13y from AD Rattray is a very a-typical Caol Ila, but in being quite different to the 'norm' it is typical of Rattray who do like to offer something a little out of the ordinary. This one needs plenty of water as it is 60.5% ABV and when added, it opens into something quite fruity and peaty with fruit and liquorice.

Jura Prophecy 1st Annual release is a quite extraordinary Jura. It has all the gentleness of Jura whiskies, but is indeed quite, as they say, "Profoundly Peated". This is deliciously smooth with a big and bold dose of peat, making it my 'gentle Jura giant'.


Sunday June 13th; James Sedgwick distillery's finest, or 'Three for the fans to try'

So last night was another anti-climax as far as the England fans are concerned. In fact some of today's newspapers have taken the 'hand of God' idea a stage further and called it the 'hand of clod', but I wouldn't be so rude (honestly) as everyone deserves a second chance, maybe just not in this current competition.

After such a performance and with almost a week to wait before the next game, what could those fans turn to for consolation? Well, as a tribute to the African continent staging this jamboree for the first time ever I have tonight sampled my first ever South African whiskies.

Does South Africa make whisky and is it drinkable? You bet they do and not only do they bottle them young, the ones I tried were surprising and very drinakble and, unlike those Sunday lunch crisps (no, not chips!) the whiskies did not leave a sour aftertaste.


Bain's Single grain whisky; Very aromatic floral wood with spicy butterscotch and toffee on the nose which translate nicely to the palate and then offers a long, smooth and very pleasant finish. Is this really only 5 years old? I am astounded as this is a delightful single grain reminiscent of much older examples. Delightful.

Three Ships 5y blended whisky; A 5y blend of South African and Scotch whiskies which is very smooth and pleasant, but unlike the notes from the makers, I found no 'big peaty nose', just one which offered malt, Alpine cheese and a home-made spicy (Spanish) tomato soup with fresh herbs. Once again this belies its 5y age tag and compares very favourably to older blends within the 12y or younger category, so I'm not surprised this has won verious awards in that field.

Three Ships bourbon cask finish; This tastes just like a bourbon. Aromatic, floral and, well, bourbon-like. Once again I expect this is quite young, but it is again very drinkable, so long as you like the typical bourbon style.


Friday June 11th; Jules Rimet, Pickles & Crisps, or '44 years is a long time to wait'

Jules Rimet was President of the French Football Association from 1919 to 1946 and from 1921 to 1954 he was President of FIFA which makes him the longest serving FIFA President (33 years) to date. It was his initiative to hold a football World Cup, the first of which was contested in 1930 and as a tribute, the trophy was named after him; The Jules Rimet Trophy.

I was a mere 7 years old when England last won The Jules Rimet Trophy, an event which I do remember as this was truly a team of legends, although only one; Jackie Charlton was from my own 'home' team Leeds United.

Anyway, after 'we' brought the cup home (well, England is the home of football isn't it?) it was displayed at a sport and stamps exhibition at Central Hall in Westminster, London, from where some daring bling-spotter decided to half-inch The Cup which just happened to be made of solid gold and believed to be worth around £30,000 at that time.

Was it considered too heavy for the tea-leaf? Was gold just not his favourite colour? Nobody knows, nor will they ever now, but we are all indebted to Pickles, a white mongrel (dog) who just happened to dig under the specific tree where the tea-leaf had loosely buried Jules' Trophy. The day was saved, or at least The Trophy was found and it lived to be fought for another day, or in fact a few more years until the 1980's when it was stolen again, but alas, this time never to be recovered as it is believed to have been melted down for some bling-style trinkets.

Of course The Jules Rimet Trophy was replaced and to this day, every four years National Teams battle to be crowned 'World Cup Winner' in the modern amphitheatres we usually call football stadia. In fact, today; Friday June 11th sees the commencement of the 19th FIFA 'World Cup' which takes place this time in South Africa.

So, with the planet going 'World Cup Mad' I have decided to dedicate my Dram-atics blog this weekend to the said event by offering my own flavour of reviews which are of course only very loosely related to Jules Rimet, Pickles the four-legged hero of 1966, (Sir) Geoff Hurst the two-legged hero of 1966 and the English warriors of 2010 who we all hope will finally bring home that for which we have waited an eternal 44 years!

Did I say flavour of reviews? You may be surprised to learn that a certain English company has designed a range of potato crisps, or what many of you readers would term 'chips' (although if you've ever visited England, or Scotland, Ireland and Wales you would know that 'chips' are actual pieces of potato, traditionally deep-fried in artery clogging animal fat, although these days slightly more healthy oils tend to be used and then best served in yesterday's local newspaper, swimming in salt & vinegar).  Goodness, get to the point man! Sorry, I digress, but as I was saying 'Walkers' have designed a whole new, limited edition range of crisps (not chips!) specifically for the 2010 World Cup and I have managed to get my hands on six of the fifteen flavours, so as a tribute to South Africa 2010, Jules Rimet, Pickles et al I now offer for your personal perusal, edification & enjoyment, my own guide to The World Cup (crisps) 2010:


Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak I suppose the first question we need to ask is whether one needs the hand of God to get into this packet? Well, unlike that goal there's nothing fishy about these crisps, in fact they do taste of decent steak with a hint of the char-grill in the background. They could only be (possibly) bettered if they had original streaks from the bars of the grill. Score; 92/100

Brazilian Salsa How I expected a bag of spicy sunshine, only to be disappointed by something rather too vegetal and a little too sweet. Not quite my cup of tea although I'm sure they'll remain a favourite with many neutrals. Score; 82/100

English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding Ahhh good old Sunday roast although as I'm a Yorkshireman I must point out that Yorkshire pudding should be considered a starter, served in multples of four with rich onion gravy and never in that strange 'southern' way of being a receptacle for a main meal. But what of the crisps, have they really managed to capture the unique flavour of Sunday lunch? Unbelievably they have, but unfortunately this comes with a slightly strange aftertaste which I can only explain as the inclusion of having to wait (at least) 44 years! Score; 89/100

German Bratwurst Sausage As I live in Germany, or at least that Southern (wannabe) Principality called Bayern which is geographically connected with Germany, I happen to know that Bratwurst is indeed a type of sausage, but what of the crisps? Amazing, a genuine bratwurst flavour including the sense of open grill on which they were cooked, straight out of the local Volksfest! Score; 92/100

Japanese Teriyaki Chicken I happen to love Japanese style food, in fact my favourite Japanese restaurant is right in the middle of Manchester's Chinatown and having said that, my second favourite restaurant in Manchester's Chinatown is a rather special Italian one, what does that say about Chinatown? Anyway, having thoroughly enjoyed genuine Japanese food I happen to know that the sauces like Teriyaki are intended to enhance the food, not overpower it. Unfortunately this Teriyaki rather overpowers the chicken to the point where there is almost no chicken, just Teriyaki. Nice flavour, but not quite right. Score 86/100

American Cheeseburger I used to own a bar which was acclaimed as offering the best burger in Munich, in fact many (Americans) said it was the best they had eaten outside of the States, so I do claim to know what I'm talking about here. I preferred to allow people to select their own sauces for their burgers as not everyone likes them swimming in ketchup, mustard or whatever else. How I wish that was the case with these crisps as for me, unfortunately, they appear to be too heavy on the extras (mainly ketchup) which mask what could otherwise have been a great success for me. Score;  83/100

As a conclusion, the idea of this range is a good one and I would love to try a few of the others, but unfortunately only these six are available to me, so I have to say that on the evidence of my personal review, this year's final will be between Argentina and Germany with no sign of an end to that painful 44 year wait, although I live in hope!


Tuesday June 8th; More sampling or 'A wild Scotsman, a select oak & a northern island'

Another three samples selected from the array on my desk this evening as I try a wild Scotsman from Cincinnatti, Macallan's Select Oak and Scapa 14y.


Wild Scotsman is an independent bottler based in Cincinnatti USA, specialising in Scottish single malts and blends. This one is labelled "a blend of single malt casks" and is a very drinkable whisky, smooth, malt, honey, hay and butterscotch. Very nice.

Scapa 14y is a good solid islander, in fact my notes for the nose express this perfectly; "Sea air and rugged cliffs lined with a little vanilla and topped with some peach" This may not be a 'great', but is is very pleasant and offers much for an everyday dram.

Macallan Select Oak is another Macallan mixture of sherry and Bourbon casks, although from the taste it is a little more sherry than bourbon. It's solid, dependable and fruity, but lacks just a little something, perhaps a few more % abv.

Full tasting notes can be found by clicking on the pictures or the paragraph headers above. As for me, I'm trying to get into a mood for a footy-fest as I look at my four South African samples and look forward to he coming weekend when I shall celebrate the start of the whisky world cup! See you then!


Monday June 7th; Sampling again or 'A taste of the great outdoors'


This evening I have selected three rather different drams to review; the first was bottled some years ago now and was the second issue in Bruichladdich's 'links' series, being The 16th hole, Augusta at 14 years old. My second choice was released earlier this year and is the acclaimed Ben Nevis, 25 years old, single cask No. 98/35/1, then my third choice is another single cask, but this time a Connemara and at 46% abv.

Why did I choose to set these three very different whiskies together? Well, I was hoping they might each offer a taste of the outdoors in their own inimitable ways. I mean, come on, they do represent a golf course, a famous Scottish peak and some of the most beautiful Irish countryside, but can the whiskies themselves compete with their landmarks? Let's see .....

Bruichladdich, Links II, 16th hole, Augusta, 14y, 46% ABV

Unlike the other 14y Bruichladdich editions that I've tried, this is a really fresh whisky with malt, some nuts, grass and even a little new shoe leather on the nose, whilst the palate is smooth with lots of fruit, some hay and grass and filled with that Mr. Whippy ice cream from my childhood. Overall a most enjoyable dram.

Ben Nevis, 25y, Single Cask No. 98/35/1, 56% ABV

Here is a serious whisky, the dark and heavily sherry-influenced walnut colour hints at what is to come. The nose offers old, well waxed antique oak and leather, then plums and prunes softly marinating in orange. The palate does nothing to dispel the promises of the nose, it just further enhances those delights and then leads into a long, rich, smooth and deep finish.

Connemara, 1992-2009, Single Cask No. 112, 46% ABV

I have enjoyed my Connemaras to date as Irish peat tends to be gently warming and not as heavy or intrusive as its Scottish counterparts, but this is different, very different. Firstly the nose (I quote my notes) "Sitting around a camp fire, drying wet hiking boots on an Atlantic beach on a misty autumn day." Then the palate is filled with slightly medicinal peat and heavy sherry overtones. A power which is most unusual for Irish peat, but which I have just decided I like, a lot!

Was I correct in setting these very different drams together? Did I fulfil my hope of 'the great outdorrs'? Absolutely! These are three totally different styles, but in their own way each offers a different perspective to the great outdoors. The hay, grasses and fruit of the Bruichladdich would indeed be ideal for the hip flask on a Sunday afternoon's trip to the golf course, whereas the Ben Nevis offers the power and richness needed on a cold winter day, perhaps helping to keep the elements at bay whilst scaling the peak itself. As for the Connemara, it is pure outdoors; the beach, the gently smoking camp fire burning a fair old lump of peat, the hiking boots and the slight damp and mist typical of an autumn day. How I wish I were there now ...... are we back on that desert island again?


Sunday June 6th; Whisky in the Garden or 'any time, any place, any old excuse'


After spending the last month stranded on a desert island I'm pleased to announce that I'm back again. I hope my guests looked after you during May, but not too well, or else you might get ideas about banishing me again and letting everyone else run the show around here. Mmmm, maybe a lifetime spent on that paradise island has something going for it after all!

Nah, only kidding as June sees Emporium Towers getting back into the swing of things with a wee soirée on the Estate yesterday evening which was more akin to a wildlife park than a garden. Don't get the wrong idea, this isn't a comment on my guests, more of what was on offer, so if I tell you we had a Bunny, a 'laddie, a Peacock, a rather impressive pair of antlers, a big colourful tree and something light and floral you may begin to guess the delights in store, but more of those soon.

It really did feel like monsoon season for the last week, but they tell me it's 'good for the garden' although I'm not too sure as I only cut the grass a week ago and it's already looking like a wild Alpine meadow again, but more of that An Cnoc soon too. So, the scene is set, the time is nigh, the sun shining and my guests are awaited when the 'phone rings; "Hi Keith, sorry we're running late and will see you in about 20 minutes" no problem it gives me a few extra minutes for final preparations, then the 'phone rings again "Hi Keith, sorry, we're on the train at St. Koloman and some bloke has keeled over and the driver is asking if there's a Doctor on board". "No problem" says me, "It's only down the road, stay there and I'll come and get you".

Maybe not the most auspicious start to the evening, but after a short delay we're finally set and Whisky in the Garden is about to begin and yes, it's good to finally have the weather which allows outdoor enjoyment of some of Scotland's finest!




I'll not go through the full tasting notes here as these are already online in my tasting notes section under the relevant distilleries, just click on the above pictures to find them, but I will give you an impression of this fine evening which, to no surprise, turned into a rather late night.

I have now tried the 1991 & 1993 An Cnoc vintages and was delighted by both as they offered lots of light and complex floral elements, although I think the 1993 was the better of the two. This 1994, in my opinion, sits just behind the 1993 with lots of very smooth, aromatic grasses, hay, Alpine meadow (did I say my grass needed cutting again?) and soft honey. I am a big An Cnoc fan!
I went to great lengths to source this Arran Peacock (thanks Mark!) especially as it won the WhiskyX3 forum award for the best new release of 2009. It's a very complex mix of bourbon & sherry casks with lots of citrus (mainly orange) and hints of Galia melon and fresh herbs on the nose which translates well to the palate as these are joined by a quick and momentary rush of liquorice. Yes, it's good, but I think my own choice of Hazelburn 12y as best new release of 2009 still stands.

Next was the Icons of Arran 2010 release; The Rowan Tree. Smooth, creamy, luxurious dark chocolate! I think I just went to heaven. There are hints of raisin and farmyard on the nose but the palate is just dominated by the most wonderful dark chocloate. Move over Peacock, you just lost your mantle to the Rowan Tree.
In general I do tend to be a Bruichladdich fan, but my preference is for a minimum of 12y which ensures the smoothness and subtle fruits have time to develop. This Links XI (Vancouver) is the 2009 release and at 16y I was hoping for something pretty good. It really didn't disappoint, this is a lovely dram, smooth, creamy, slightly oily in texture and offering lots of fruit including the typical Bruichladdich passion fruit alongside cherry, peach and bramble, with a hint of red wine in the finish. Very nice!

On my recent trip back to Blighty I was hoping to find something special to bring back home but suffered great disappointment with the lack of choice at Manchester airport. After much deliberation with the lack of choice I selected the Bunnahabhain Darach Ur which means 'New Wood'. Surely this can't be too good? A bunny in new wood?

I apologise wholeheartedly for doubting this dram. It is a wonderfully aromatic whisky; smooth, creamy, complex and very floral with just a hint of freshly sawn tree trunks. I love it!

The last dram of the evening was the limited edition Dalmore MacKenzie which commemorates the Clan MacKenzie gathering in 2010 whilst raising much-needed funds for the restaration of the family seat. But is the whisky any good? You bet it is! Lovely Dalmore dark fruits, a hint of marzipan and an over-riding presence of an oil of orange, almost like a dark chocolate (Terry's) orange. A very good whisky and a fitting end to a great evening.

So, we're up and running again with whisky reviews and I'm sure lots more little tidbits and snippets during the rest of the month. Keep looking in as there are some pretty tasty looking samples in the queue on my desk and if you want an idea of what's in store for June, then over on the right under my latest reviews you'll find a few listed.


Slàinte Mhath


Recent reviews

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Previous major features

May 2010

The highly-acclaimed and record-breaking "Desert Island Drams"

April 2010

My peat's bigger than your peat, A foursome with a famous Scottish bird

March 2010

Sample Mania tasting notes, The Good, the Bad & The Loch Dh-Ugly, A return to sanity, The Choice of Managers

Jan-Feb 2010

Keep taking the medicine, It's Festival time, Maker's Mark, Sleeveless in Munich

Dec. 2009

All power to the bean-counters, protecting Scotch, seasonal drams, Definitive Xmas Drams, 2009 Whisky Awards

Nov. 2009

How it all started, Bonfire night, Autumnal musings, EU Tax & Duty, What's in a (whisky) name?



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