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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile


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Thursday August 26th

Two very different peats or "the power and the glory"

For no other reason than I have two peated whiskies on my desk, I am running a mini head-to-head which I already know will be just slightly pointless. Why? Well, here's a 21y peated Speysider going up against the infamous Ardbeg 100ppm Supernova 2010.



Can a peated Speysider really cut it in the world of Islay giants? I'm toying with a rather strange experiment this evening as I run the Benriach "Authenticus" 21y peated offering right up alongside Ardbeg's 2010 edition of Supernova at 100ppm. The Benriach is an abject lesson in sophistication as my nose and then palate are caressed by masses of fruit alongside a very smooth peatiness. But not just any old fruit, there's papaya, lemon and lime in there, with possibly a hint of pineapple too. A marvellous cocktail of flavours to accompany the gentle, slight reserved peat. This Benriach really is an absolute delight as it offers a complex mixture of that fruit, citrus and a peaty sophistication which only comes with age. Conversely, the Supernova is a giant, it's younger peat with masses of attitude and adrelanine. It really does have depths of peat beyond everything else and as water is added, it just keeps on going and improving until it also offers fruit alongside smoked ham, but this fruit is more apple with a touch of black cherry.

To conclude this mini H2H I have to say that I love the Ardbeg for its power and pure unadulterated depths of peat which appear to be never-ending. It's everything one needs to keep warm on a cold winter's night. But having said this, I do like my sophistication and occasional little luxuries and Benriach's Authenticus knows exactly how to please in this respect. Smooth, sophisticated, gentle and caressing rather than exploding through the palate it not only warms, but nurtures the soul and as it's getting late in the evening, pour me another Authenticus please, I think I just fell in love with a whisky!


Wednesday August 25th

Quaint distillery names? or "more brands than stills"

Loch Lomond distillery is an unusual one in that they have two traditional pot stills alongside four Lomond stills and then one column still, making a total of seven. From these they produce eight different expressions, or should I say 'brands'. So if you thought Inchfad or Inchmoan were little hidden distilleries somewhere in Scotland, think again.


The first dram tonight is an Inchfad which happens to be under the distillery's own label of "Distillery Select". It's 45%, a single cask (No. 27) which happens to be an American Oak one, so all the right boxes seem to be ticked but is it any good? A farmy nose of hay and straw alongside lightly toasted wood, faint rubber and general 'countryside' don't bode too well for me. The palate is surprisingly smooth, very smooth but follows the traits of the nose as I sense a complete package of hay, gentle rubber and faint liquorice, all wrapped in a well-used barn. The finish is long and actually pretty decent, in fact it's the best thing about this whisky!


Another "Distillery Select" (OB) is my second in this Loch Lomond H2H, but this time it's an Inchmoan, also at 45%, a single cask (No. 48), peated and again American Oak. The colour is extremely pale which is due to the whisky only being allowed to enjoy the company of the cask for four years. The nose is strange with light rubber, bilge pump and a rather aromatic peaty cheese, if such a thing should exist. The palate is quite pleasant as the rubber and bilge pump are lost and the peaty cheese has the show all to itself. A little water does bring some rubber back onto the palate and the finish is long with cheese wrapped in peat and secured with a small rubber seal.



When the UK Government announced the new rules or 'definitions' for Scotch whisky in November last year Loch Lomond felt personally aggrieved by the fact that traditional pot stills must be used for whisky to be called "single malt". Well, to be brutally honest, in my personal opinion it's a shame but these two expressions don't exactly add much fire to their argument. They are both quite farmy with hints of rubber, although I must admit, the Inchmoan (at 4y) was a great improvement on the one (10y) IB expression that I had previously tried. Maybe it's me just not liking the 'farmy' style very much, who knows, but I'll continue to sample your wares when possible and hope for better in the future.



Saturday August 21st

More whisky in the garden, or "relaxing with friends"

After our recent incessant monsoon season we must be due some sunshine, so it's time to fire up the barbie, invite a couple of friends around and enjoy some relaxed conversation and some whisky too.


It's always good to enjoy a Saturday evening with a couple of friends, especially when one is someone you've known many years and the other a local whisky blogger and afficianado who enjoys the whole subject of whisky as much as I do. So, shopping and errands done for the weekend, it's time to fire up the BBQ, throw on some steaks, sausages, vegetable skewers and corn on the cob and let the conversation turn towards whisky.

Our first dram of the evening is an IB Macallan from Van Wees under the label "The Ultimate" and is a 19y bourbon cask expression which is really quite good, albeit rather light for its 19 years of age. It has a very nice rich (yellow) gold colour and initially a rather light nose which becomes far more 'heady' with fresh hay and grasses after a few minutes. There's lots of spicy pepper to tingle the palate and surprisingly, a good helping of pineapple with a small side order of coconut. The addition of just 3 drops of water in a good 2-3cl introduces vanilla but reduces the pepperiness to almost nothing. The second dram is a Glenfarclas 17y and a different edition or batch to the one I received as a sample from Oliver a few weeks ago. A wonderful and typically Glenfarclas rich dark colour gives way to a nose of aromatic aged oak, new and expensive light Italian shoe leather and dark fruits in the form of raisins and plums. The mouth-feel was slightly watery, but still managed to be extremely smooth and aromatic with a slight, but positive, suggestion of violets. A very nice whisky!




I do tend to be quite vociferous when it comes to The Macallan and especially their bourbon cask or 'Fine Oak' range, but this independent from Van Wees is really a quite decent whisky. I believe that IBs should offer something different to the standard OB ranges and this is a good example. At 19 years it's a slightly unusual age and also different in style as it appears to be slightly farmy with those grasses and hay, but then out pops this marvellous pineapple and coconut just when you thought there was not much left.

This 17y Glenfarclas is rather different to my last 17y sample in that this has less fruit but a more delicate, yet intense character. In fact I think I prefer this to the previous one. Thanks for bringing this one along Oliver and I hope you enjoy the two mystery samples I gave you as a parting gift (in the English, not German, sense ;-), although I suspect you guessed pretty quickly what they are.



Thursday August 19th

Three single grains, or "Only 1 from 3 left standing"

A special treat tonight as I try three single grain whiskies and add three more distilleries to my list of tasting notes.


Port Dundas, North British, North of Scotland or even Strathmore may not be names in the forefront of peoples' minds when thinking about whisky, although I guess many are now familiar with Port Dundas since Diageo announced in 2009 their intention to shut the operation down and move distillation of their grain whisky constituent of Johnnie Walker out to a new site called RoseIsle. About 900 valuable jobs were lost when the site closed in March this year and as the first distillery on this site was founded in 1811, the current owners Diageo didn't even afford the distillery what would have been an historic 200th anniversary next year. Shame on you Diageo, you could have made Johnnie Walker a very proud old man, but instead you probably leave him turning in his grave. The bean-counters win again.

But at least tonight is more about the whisky, I do tend to like single grains, especially at good ages and tonight I have two older ones with North of Scotland from the "Private Cellar" collection, distilled 1970, bottled 2005. Then the Port Dundas from SMWS and distilled in 1980, bottled 2009. Finally another "Private Cellar" bottling, this time North British, distilled 1992 and bottled in 2007. So why did I mention Strathmore in my initial list? Well Strathmore is another name by which North od Scotland distillery was known. "Was"? Yes sadly this distillery which was only founded in 1957 on the site of the former Knox brewery was closed in 1980 and then demolished in around 1993, although I believe some warehousing still stands and is used by the neighbouring Cambus single grain distillery.





As I mentioned, I tend to like single grain whisky, especially for its light, aromatic and usually quite floral elements and the North of Scotland lives up to my expectations with a nose of aromatic, slightly perfumed hay and grasses along with some sweet liquorice root and only the faintest hint of rubber. The palate is smooth and creamy and filled with those aromatic grasses and hay, but it grows in stature as it develops a perfumed sweetness followed by what I can only describe as creamy toffee-flavoured candy floss. With a few drops of water the toffee flavour intensifies whilst the hay and grasses diminish. A long finish really does combine to make this a very enjoyable whisky! Secondly, the Port Dundas has an extremely fresh nose with lots of vanilla, but also faint butterscotch and light nuts. The palate is slightly oily or waxy with distinct nuts and black pepper. Water brings out a little wood and diminishes the pepper, but also makes it more aromatic and floral on both nose and palate. The finish is long and nutty, although slightly drier but much more intense as water is added. This is a fine whisky which benefits from a little water. Finally this evening comes North British which is a constituent of blends such as Famous Grouse, J&B Rare, JW Black Label and Cutty Sark. This is a much lighter whisky which needs a little time to develop as eventually it offers vanilla, some light floral notes, newly cut wood and a freshness reminiscent of minty toothpaste. The palate is creamy andsmooth but extremely light with only hints of vanilla and faint toffee or caramel. A medium to long finish is slightly bitter.

To conclude I am delighted to have been able to sample these three not so common single grain whiskies and add three new (to me) distilleries to my tasting notes, but whilst I enjoyed them, I'm also sad to be reminded that two of these three distilleries are no longer operating. One being closed as recently as March this year for reasons which few outside the corporate behemoth that is Diageo can begin to understand. The other, relatively recently founded in 1957 was only allowed to operate for just over 20 years before being closed in 1980, so come on North British, you're the last man standing from tonight's trio, fight your corner and keep the grain flag flying. Even if I think your product could be the most interesting toothpaste I ever sampled!



Monday August 16th

Three from the Emerald Isle, or "Ahhhh, Dooagh"

Ireland is special, very special and I wish I were there right now, but I can't be so the next best thing is to visit virtually via three very typically Irish whiskeys .............


Imagine the scene; sitting in the lounge at "Panorama" in Dooagh on Achill Island, only in Ireland could one possibly be in a place called Dooagh, watching the dolphins playing in the bay directly at the bottom of the garden. Nancy & Mick have just served the most heartening of Irish breakfasts and it's almost time to toddle down the road and visit Francis, the local eccentric who sells crystals and semi-precious stones which he has personally excavated from his secret sources in the local countryside. His showroom is his lounge and he takes great pride introducing me to his home made amethyst grinding machine which began life as a tumble dryer. Ahhh those were the days .......

But what about the whisky? Well, first up this evening is Locke's 8y; The first nosing takes me right back to Francis' garden and the lightly perfumed local flora, along with a little rubber, liquorice and even a roast beef Sunday lunch at the local pub, called incidentally "The Pub". Smooth and creamy aromatic malt, hints of butterscotch and a little aged oak make the experience very typically and extremely pleasantly Irish. The Tyrconnell immediately takes me further back in years and away from Ireland to my first school and the wax polish used on the traditional wooden floors. It also has some dry or slightly bitter fruit in the mix, think melon or star-fruit alongside some light toffee. Amazingly, it remains creamy even though slightly bitter and these qualities make me think of this whiskey as a good bedtime drink. Finally this evening I am introduced to an independent Irish bottler called "The Irishman" and his 10y single malt, also called "The Irishman". Now there's a good idea as I tell my wife "Don't worry my dear, I'm just going to The Pub to meet The Irishman!" Hay and straw greet the nose and then evolve into damp leaves with a hint of rubber. After more time these are followed by light butterscotch and more floral notes.  The palate is smooth but quite intense with floral malt, butterscotch and black pepper.

All this trio of whiskeys personnify what I like about Ireland, but in different ways as between them they offer the flora and fauna of the Irish countryside, the gentle character of the people, the slow smoothness of the pace of life and a little of Ireland's countryside ruggedness too. Did I tell you "I love Ireland"?



Friday August 13th

Cask in a Van, or "Have whisky, will travel"

Today I received details of GlenDronach's latest 'tour' as they put a cask in the back of a van and drive it around Belgium in September.


We may all be devotees of not drinking and driving, but how about "driving the drink" for a change? It seems that those zany Belgians loved the idea of filling their own bottles from the back of a van last year. So the canny folk at GlenDronach are doing it again in 2010 as they bung a bourbon cask of 2002 vintage into the back of a van and drive it around Belgium for a week in September. They'll be stopping off at various watering holes, for those perhaps not so zany Belgians after all, to fill their own bottles of this limited edition, single cask GlenDronach, whilst sampling the 12y, 15y & 18y core range, presumably also from the back of a van? Or maybe it's a whole convoy? Either way, if I declare Munich as a principality of Belgium will you call in here too please? I'll invite the lads round and put on a BBQ for the event!

Anyway, the roadshow begins on 21st September in Kampenhoudt and ends on 25th September in Zottegem and I'm stil hoping they can make it here at Emporium Castle on Sunday 26th September, but I don't realistically hold out that much hope.

Regional Sales Director James Cowan said: "As our advertising slogan says, we're taking the brand 'on a journey of re-discovery' around Belgium, one of our fastest-growing markets. Following the phenomenal success of last year's tour, which was a huge hit with Belgian whisky fans, we're proud to announce details of our new 2010 tour."

"Once again we'll be out in force with our special liveried van offering Belgians a unique chance to taste and purchase a truly excellent GlenDronach single cask whisky - this time it’s a 2002 release, which has been matured in a Bourbon barrel. In addition, we'll be offering tastings of our award-winning 12, 15 and 18 year-old core range. Like last year, people will be given the opportunity to fill their own bottle of GlenDronach straight from the cask...charcoal, sheep's hair and all!"   

Fancy some of those sheep hairs and charcoal? Then the tour dates and locations are:

  Tuesday 21st Sept. Tasttoe Kampenhoudt  
  Wednesday 22nd Sept. Whisky on Wheels Erpe Mere  
  Thursday 23rd Sept. Anverness Antwerpen  
  Friday 24th Sept. Tasttoe 2 Wondelgem - Gent  
  Saturday 25th Sept. Afternoon, Jan Vissers Geel-Westerlo  
  Saturday 25th Sept. Evening, Whiskyhuis Zottegem  


Tuesday August 10th

El Cheapo Challenge, or "After the Lord Mayor's Parade..."

We have an old saying in England "After the Lord Mayor's parade comes the ......" I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but it basically alludes to the antic-climax which invariably follows a grand occasion or event.


Maybe last night wasn't exactly the 'Lord Mayor's Parade' but it was a worthy occasion as I celebrated my milestone with three rather unusual and slightly rarer drams. Even last weekend I spoiled myself with some other very nice whiskies, but now it's straight back down to earth with my first installment of "El Cheapo Challenge" which I intend to be an ongoing, albeit only occasional, feature. Did you ever see brands on your local supermarket shelves that you never heard of? Did you also wonder what they may be like? Welcome to the Challenge where I look at exactly those kinds of whiskies, you know, the ones costing just a few uros per bottle. For this particular challenge I set myself a target of finding four whiskies or whiskeys for a total of less than €40, not each, but for all four. In addition I was insistent that Scotland, Ireland, Canada and USA should be represented, which was not an easy task as I could find no unnamed Irish whisky when I looked. This meant that my most expensive whisk(e)y tonight is Kilbeggan which was priced at a hefty €13 for the 70cl bottle. Ah, that reminds me, there's no half measures in this challenge, all bottles must be at least 70cl. My total bill for these four was €38 or to be exact I believe it was actually €38.64 but I'm rounding up or down for ease tonight. Now, are they any good?



Representing Scotland and first into the glass this evening is "Dean's Finest Old Scotch Whisky" 40% abv Which appears to be so old that they obviously keep it a secret. Engraved (or is it embossed) in the glass of the bottle is "Dean Distillery", so is this a rarity from the Dean Distillery closed in 1922? If it is I found an utter bargain for my €8. But is it any good? A nose of malt, freshly bought Wellington boot and a hint of the farmyard about to be explored by the said boot, followed by a slightly farmy palate with only a slight hint of the boot and some liquorice in the medium to long finish tells me this is a light, outdoor style Scotch., almost reminiscent of some of the offerings from "The Speyside" distillery. If you like that style it is actually quite drinkable.


Next into the glass is the most expensive whisk(e)y tonight at a whopping €13 for a 70cl bottle of "Kilbeggan Finest Irish Whiskey" 40% abv. A light nose of finest Irish flora is quite a delight. The palate is just slightly watery but the flavours of very aromatic malt, light liquorice and very faint herbs (basil or thyme) make up for the wateriness. The finish is long, just slightly dry but very aromatic and light. This is a pretty good whisk(e)y and to be honest, I'm surprised that I found it for €13 as it's a steal at this price and maybe offers unfair competition for the other three drams tonight, but let's see.....



A short hop across the Pond sees us into the land of "Mac Bundy, Canadian Whisky" 40% abv and €9 for this 70cl bottle. The colour is rich amber or almost teak and the nose is intially a little sweet with just a hint of Italian fine light leather. Is it my imagination, or is the sweetness that of maple syrup? Beyond the leather it's also gently floral. The palate is smooth and not as sweet as I feared from the nose or my imagination, in fact it's pretty decent as the aromatic light flora translates well onto the palate. The finish is long and floral with a hint of violets and concentrates mainly on the front to middle of the palate. Yes, I have tasted better, but I've also tasted far worse Canadian whisky than this at triple the price.


Another short hop, but this time south to the land of blue grass and "Old Blacksmith blended bourbon whiskey" 40% abv and €8 for the 70cl bottle. Surely this must be rocket fuel as the label also claims "Distilled and aged under supervision of the US Governmant". It's rich dark oak in colour (or is that color?) with slightly sweet aromatic violets on the nose, alongside wood shavings and that gooey sap which gathers on my car when I park under fir trees. The palate is everything the nose promised with wood, violets and a certain floral quality. As for the sap, I can't really say as I don't go around licking my car clean! A medium finish is also quite floral with woody violets.


My goodness how do I conclude a tasting like this? Well, firstly let me decalre my two big surprises of the evening; Firstly I apologise to all Canadians as I say that I have never tried this Mac Bundy before and my expectations were extremely low as I envisaged a sweet, sticky and almost unpalatable apology for whisky, especially at that price of €9. What I found was a slightly sweet nose but a quite civilised and pleasant palate with plenty of flavour and body. My second surprise was the Old Blacksmith as again my expectations were low. I figured it could be raw and uncivilised with no harmony and direction, but again I found a quite civilised whiskey with decent and typical bourbon flavours which belied its price. No, neither of these whiskies will be award winners or become household names, but they both exceeded expectation and performed better than I would have believed for the price. Also the "Dean's" Scotch, it's cheap, cheerful and actually palatable, just not my personally preferred style of whisky with those farmy undertones. But again it's a bargain at €8 even though I doubt I found a long lost rarity from pre-1922. Of no surprise at all at all tonight was the Kilbeggan. This really is a decent Irish whiskey and yes, it's the pick of the evening, just not by the margin I would have anticipated, which is a compliment to the other three and no disrespect to Kilbeggan. Now, pour me another Blacksmith & Bundy!




Monday August 9th





Join me this evening as I celebrate my closet whisky-itis as I surpass my personal milestone of 500 reviews written and online. As a website Whisky Emporium has been online since 2004, but back then it was a home for a few bottles of whisky and my extensive collection of photography. In October 2009 I decided to completely change the format and make it my own whisky site and a home for my tasting notes which at that time numbered maybe 100. Things have obviously moved on now and since that redesign last October I have added around 400 more tasting notes and hopefully, have made Whisky Emporium a must-read for many whisky enthusiasts, so tonight I celebrate my achievement with three rather unusual drams.



Glenury, Douglas Laing, OMC, 50% abv; A lovely rich oak, but not quite amber colouring gives this whisky a warm glow in the glass. As for the nose, it's rich with an immediate burst of orange peel and old-fashioned wax furniture polish. After some minutes this gains a sloght antiseptic quality, rather like a UK sting cream called Germolene, but again this soon fades to make way for more nutty aromas and even a hint of aftersun cream. The orange peel and nuts are always present and are also predominant on the palate which is a little dry and even waxy. This is intensified with a little water. Then a long and slightly dry finish all help to make this an excellent whisky.


Dallas Dhu, Duncan Taylor, "Rare Auld", 47.1% abv; Typical of Dallas Dhu this is extremely pale in colour, but also typical is that powerful nose with intense aromatic malt, hay and grasses which just expand with time in the glass. The palate tingles with pepper whilst intense malt, nuts and hay all make cameo appearances. A few drops of water add floral elements to the nose, whilst the palate is made smoother with gentle malt and nuts. A further 4 drops of water add some wood notes to the nose, whilst the palate becomes more creamy and the finish slightly less intense. This is yet another excellent Dallas Dhu which pleases, surprises and again benefits from a few drops of water.



Glen Flagler, "Pure Malt", 40% abv: Light yellow in colour with hints of a working farmyard and light rubber on the nose. Then comes some peppery malt which gathers more freshness over some minutes until it is almost, but not quite, minty. The palate is quite unusual in that it starts as very smooth and fresh across the whole palate, but then a distinct liquorice flavour builds and sits only on the front middle of the tongue, remaining long beyond the rest of the flavours, right into the finish which is long and remaining primarily liquorice. This is a most enjoyable dram which if anything is let down by being only 40% which makes for a slightly watery mouth-feeel.


So, my little mini-celebration is concluded but I can't end this review without a comment on that 'Glen Flagler'; I bought it some years ago at what was an incredibly low price, but then it is a "Pure Malt" and not one of the extremely rare distillery single malts. Of course it would now have to be called 'Blended Malt' but the question is "What is it?". How much, if any, Glen Flagler single malt is in this bottle? Is it some kind of fake? Is it some kind of 'look-alike'? Well, it say Glen Flagler on the label so it sits in my appropriate distillery page and  yes, I agree its origins or roots may be questionable, but apart from the slight weakness of coming in at 40% it is an enjoyable whisky which I am pleased to be adding to my tasting notes.

Slàinte Mhath and here's to the next 500!



Sunday August 8th

European or American oak,  or "One's even undecided"




Today's four drams offer a good opportunity to compare sherry and bourbon cask maturation, in fact it's even better because the Dalmore "Dee" is a 50-50 combination of Oloroso and US white oak casks. In the Braeval we'll find an excellent, but not overbearing, sherry cask whisky which highlights the typical characteristics of sherry maturation in an excellent way. Likewise, the Glenugie & Clynelish show bourbon cask maturation in an equally beneficial light. As for the Dalmore, well it really can't decide, but more of that below. In addition, this review gives me the chance to add tasting notes from two more distilleries which until today were missing from tasting notes; Braeval and Glenugie.



Glenugie OMC, 26y, 50%; This Glenugie offers an immediately intense nose with aromatic butterscotch and creamy toffee, but when left for a few more minutes it expands to include vanilla with some coconut. The palate has some tingle on the tongue but manages to remain creamy and very floral. The addition of 4 drops of water turn this into one of my favourite sweets; a coconut tyre with a liquorice hub. Vanilla and coconut dominate the finish to make this an absolute treat and a perfect dram for a summer evening on the patio, or as a light aperitif in the evening.


Braeval OMC, 12y, Cask 4580, 50%; Imagine rich dark fruits like currants, raisins and plums gracing a well polished old oak dining table, but also a freshness which is a cross between tea leaves and straw, then you're getting close to the delightful nose of this whisky. The palate is very smooth but at the same time intense although it's a little lighter than the nose suggested. Alongside the raisins plums and oak I find a slightly dry, but still dark sherry. The finish seems to be initially short, but a second sampling proves me wrong as it's much longer and also richer than at first. With the addition of water the finish gains a rich, dark chocolate of about 8ß% cacao. An excellent whisky!



Clynelish, Cask Strength, distillery only bottling, 57.3% abv; A very light and fresh nose with hay and straw matches the pale colour of this Clynelish, but wait, this needs some time and as the minutes pass a faint antiseptic quality appears, only to disappear and leave slightly smoky raspberries after a few more minutes. The palate has a leafy but creamy start but this also changes with time as some pepper develops, then treacle toffee, or is it liquorice? No, not quite either but certainly similar in a faint way. Water makes this whisky even smoother and the finish is long, fruity and slightly farmy. Overall, what started slowly turned into a surprising development, so give it time and it rewards well!


Dalmore Dee Dram, 12y, 40.5% abv; This 12y Dalmore has been aged in a 50-50 mixture of European Oloroso casks and American white oak so I'm interested to see how this compares to my last three drams. The nose starts with slightly sour wood then opens to include blue cheese and lightly smoked red fruits (raspberry & redcurrants). On the palate this has a watery mouth-feel, some liquorice root, lightly smoked creamy cheese and fresh wood. The finish is medium to long with dark fruit and fresh wood. I have struggled a little with this one, especially on the palate as the characteristics of the sherry casks and American white oak seem to struggle against each other rather than working in harmony.



Saturday August 7th

One more evening with Islay,  or "A brace of Bunnies and a PC"

After finally managing to escape the forest of yesterday's peat wars I've patched myself up and decided to remain with Islay for one more evening and three more drams.



Bunnahabhain 2000-2010, 9y "Whisky Doris" 59%; Bright sunny amber in colour gives this whisky a positive glow. The nose has lots of alcohol burn, well it is 59% but behind the burn is a cloud of peaty smoke, oak and just a touch of furniture polish. The palate is freshly polished rich old oak, but it definitely needs some water. Adding 4 drops of water three times brings out more oak and much more aromatic woody aromas. Eventually the oak turns into an aged Atlantic jetty as the final addition of water releases fine maritime characteristics. The water also progressively smoothens the whisky. The finish is long, very long and even appears to grow on the palate, rather than wanting to end. A very good, most enjoyable whisky.


Bunnahabhain 1978, 31y "Art of Whisky" 57.4%; An immediate rush of freshly cut wood and peat caress the nose, but after a few minutes these are joined by lots of flora, akin to an Alpine meadow filled with wild Spring flowers. The palate is warming sweet peat with a touch of honey, but again at almost 60% this needs some water. Adding four drops of water three times progressively intensified the peat, but also smoothened the whisky and released the salt and sea-air which eventually made this another quite maritime dram. The water also reduced the floral attributes. A very long finish with peppery peat helped make this an excellent whisky which I would love to revisit, again and again and again .....



Bruichladdich 'Port Charlotte' PC6, 6y, 61.6% abv: This may be a young whisky but it certainly doesn't lack 'attitude' as the nose immediately assaults with raw peat, that Atlantic jetty, a little rubber and that typical Bruichladdich bilge pump aroma. The palate is an immediate onslaught of fiery peat, but is also a little sweet. I added four drops of water four times and each addition made the whisky slightly sweeter, the peat more intense but also more fragrant until the last addition which was a drop too far, although at this stage the whisky was much smoother. The finish is extremely long with peppery peat. Overall this is no timid youngster as it has much of the fire of the PC5 without the maturity of PC7, but nevertheless it's a 'must-try' experience.


Ahhh, that's better, unlike yesterday I seem to have survived the evening without anyone shooting me but now my Dram-atical stay on Islay comes to an end with two very good Bunnies and a young PC with just a little too much attitude. The star of the evening is undoubtedly the "Artworks" 31 year Bunnahabhain which lived up to its maturity with lots of complex maritime, peat and floral characteristics. I've not come across the "Artworks" (IB) label before, but I'll certainly be looking out for more of them now. If this is typical of their quality then I'll have absolutely no complaints.



Friday August 6th

My peat's bigger than your peat, part 2,  or "Handbags at dawn"

Back in April I reviewed Ardbeg's Supernova 2009 and Bruichladdich's Octomore 2_140 as they began playing a numbers game with peat. The SN2009 was a clear winner but neither distillery has given up the game as both have now released new expressions, but has anything changed?


I guess the only way to settle this is to throw down the proverbial gauntlet, settle upon a weapon of choice, decamp to a remote forest at the crack of dawn and deal with this like true Gentlemen. But alas, both have brought friends along in supporting roles. Firstly, Sir Octomore is accompanied by a rather solid looking golf club called Torrey (Pines), whilst Sir Pernova seems to have brought his trusty Double Barrel 10 bore for support. Come along Gents, let's be sporting about this, no cheating, back to back or head to head, take ten paces, turn and may the best dram win!



Bruichladdich Links VIII "Torrey Pines" 15y, 46%; A colour of coppery gold seems to have become synonymous with 'laddies of this age and this is no exception. The nose is quite malty with an extra portion of popcorn alongside a leafiness which gives this whisky a real outdoor countryside feel. The palate is silky and creamy, quite like a night-time malt drink with milk, but at the same time it reproduces the leafiness of the nose. The finish is very long, malty and leafy with a dryness right at the end. This is a very mild, silky and creamy Bruichladdich which could be enjoyed at any time of day, although it lacks a little intensity in my opinion.


Ardbeg, or is it Glenrothes? "Double Barrel" 10y, 46%; Firstly there was a rather serendipitous accident, but now it looks like they've given it both barrels head-on with a 12-bore! The nose is one of gentle smooth peat with a maritime theme which dominates the palate. If anything the nose is more Ardbeg but the palate not so as a smooth maltiness manages to dominate the peat. The finish is also smooth and malty with gentle sweet peat only really appearing right at the end. Overall this is a rather strange and disjointed whisky. Is it an Islay, a Speyside, peaty, malty.....? Hmmm, almost. I have to ask why they keep doing this as Ardbeg is a great whisky, so is Glenrothes. But together?


So, round 1 is completed and although the Bruichladdich Links VIII isn't quite as good as some of the series, it is smooth, silky, creamy and at the end of the day it knows what it wants to be, whereas the maybe Ardbeg, sorry maybe Glenrothes doesn't really seem to have a proper direction. It is too much of a contrast between two very different, perhaps too different, whiskies.



Bruichladdich's Octomore "Orpheus" 61%; The red, coppery, amber colour does hint at what's to come, but one would never actually guess this without prior knowledge. This 'Orpheus' is the latest generation of Octomore at 140ppm so one expects peat, peat and more peat, but is that the case? The nose is the first surprise with banana skin, red wine (almost tawny port!) and just a hint of sulphur as right at the end of a freshly lit match. The palate is quite different again with a peppery tingle, red wine, dark red fruits and an amaretto kick-back through the nostrils. I added 5 drops of water four times and each time the fruit and wine intensified, even to the point of 'cognac', although eventually peat and smoked ham were very evident. Delightful, amazing, rich, luxurious. Gimme more and more and more .......


Ardbeg Supernova "2010" 60.1%; The light tones of this whisky certainly give no visual indication of the muscle sitting in the glass, in fact it appears perfectly innocent and possibly ill-equipped for the battle it must now fight, but the nose immediately warns of hidden depths to be found. Light but vivid peat, smoke and delightful Black Forest ham are all in the armoury. The palate screams of smoke, peat, black cherries and that ham. Adding water just intensifies the whole experience and at one stage even draws redcurrants into its arsenal of flavours. I added 4 drops of water on five occasions here and every time it just intensified, finding more depths of complex peaty flavours. The finish is long, peaty and quite maritime. This is a phenomenal whisky with more depth than the Atlantic itself!


The early morning mist begins to clear in the remote forest of this famous duel as daylight streams through the branches and enlightens what nowadays may be called our 'theatre of operations', but do we have a victor? Well, that depends upon the question. Nothing is ever so "cut and dried" as they say. If we look purely at numbers then the Supernova 2010 has only about two thirds the peat of the Orpheus, but if I were to try and guess the peatiness based upon taste, there's only one winner; Supernova 2010 which just redefines peat when it comes to whisky. The SN2010 is in my opinion even better than the 2009 version as it has more complexity, even more depth and is just a more enjoyable and satisfying whisky and the way it reacts to water is even more astounding than the 2009 version. But although these distilleries are playing the numbers game, I feel the issue isn't about pure peat, it's about drinkability, likeability and preference which is 100% purely personal. The Orpheus is astoundingly good, it has been finished in Chateau Petrus wine casks, who? Just trsut me, they're the best! Does this make a difference? You bet it does. I don't find the Orpheus overly peaty, especially when it's supposed to be 140ppm, but it has a rich smoothness which is unbelievable. It has loads of red wine, almost to the point of port and cognac. It thrives upon the addition of water and has astounding depths of fruit whilst still finding time to offer smoked ham and peat. Now ask me again; Which is the peatiest? Supernova. Which is the most complex? Orpheus. Which is the better? Dram, someone just put a bullet through me ......... You cad Sir!



Wednesday & Thursday August 4th & 5th

Six mysterious islanders,  or "Elementary my dear Islay"

'Watson' today you may ask, although it's no great mystery as I explore some of The Whisky Exchange's "Elements" series of Islay malts. Of course the 'Elements' name comes from the presentation of the distillery names on the individual bottles, so without further delay let's see what we have here Sherlock!



Ardbeg 'Ar1' 58.7% abv; My personal belief that Ardbeg is one of the whiskies which contains an Islay jetty stretching into the Atlantic in every bottle certainly holds true here. This is intense peat, Atlantic Ocean and a surprising amount of fruit, but it needs water which just intensifies the peat. The fruit tends to alternate between pear, peach and apricot with hints of apple and even a burst of marzipan at one stage. A very long and intense finish with mainly peat and fruit make this a good and quite surprising Ardbeg.


Ardbeg 'Ar2' 60.5% abv; An initially subdued nose takes some minute to open and when it does so, it's fresh and herbal with lots of farmy countryside. More Fisherman's friend than Atlantic ocean! The palate has gentle peat, fruit and a quick burst of coconut which are all intensified as I add 4 drops of water. A further addition of water intensifies the peat but reduces the coconut and even adds a little liquorice to the finish. Yet more water tends to bring out the peat until finally, it's just a drop too far but until that point everything was swimming along just fine. This is a very different Ardbeg, but a jolly good one as I am given the impression it's not exactly a young offering due to the more sophisticated flavours it offers. I like it!



Bruichladdich 'Br1' 53.6% abv; The first thing my nose tells me here is that this is not what I would call a typical Bruichladdich. It's very floral and aromatic with loads of vanilla ice cream. In fact I'd say it's like eating an ice cream in an Alpine meadow right alongside the Atlantic Ocean. The palate just emphasises this with more vanilla and fresh Atlantic air, but even at 53.6% this needs some water which, when added lightens and freshens both nose and palate and coaxes more fruit into the equation. A long finish gets even longer but a little drier with hints of star fruit when the water is added. An excellent Bruichladdich!


Caol Ila 'CI1' 62.9% abv; The nose is pure Caol Ila and could never be mistaken for anything else. It's my favourite peat-smoking chimney in the Yorkshire Dales, but with hints of Black Forest ham giving a little more depth. The palate is intense peat and (wood) smoke with hints of fruit, but as this is 62.9% abv we really need to add water. It welcomes the water by releasing incredible depths of intense peat and just gets better and better as more is added. Brilliant and it ranks as one of my favourite Caol Ila bottlings!



Lagavulin 'Lg1' 56.8% abv; The nose also needs time to develop with this Lagavulin and eventually it offers aromatic peat, a little fresh wood and just a touch of rubber. The palate has an amazing mixture of peat, summer berries and aged Atlantic jetty. A few drops of water enhance the whole experience intensifying the peat and wood, then further enhancing the maritime feel of the whisky.  It improves further with more water and eventually adds a strong element of liquorice to the finish. This is whisky which needs time, patience and water, but rewards well when accorded them!


Laphroaig 'Lp1' 58.8% abv; Smoke and peat sit gently on the nose but they're accompanied by a quite amazing aroma of fruit and ham. Not quite parma ham with melon, it's richer than that and slightly reminiscent of a specialist black-smoked ham we buy locally. The palate offers ice cream and peat, but again this needs water which intensifies the peat as well as promoting the fruit. Eventually, the water also releases some of those typical Atlantic attributes that Laphroaig is so famed for.  Peaty ice cream & fruit? That'll do nicely!



Tuesday August 3rd

Misfits? or "Yorkshire Pudding, Peat, Smoke and a batch of Sulphur"

Once again I've built up a selection of different drams on my desk and most fit into nice little groups for reviewing, but three stand alone so tonight I'm looking at those 'misfits' even though they are three totally different styles of whisky with three rather different ages, from three different towns, but only two different regions. I wonder if that qualifies as 3D3.66?


We have a chain of shops in Germany called "Vom Faß", no not fab but fass as in 'cask' and, as the name suggests, the shops are filled with racks of small casks containing all different kinds of drinks from grappas, liqueurs, funny herbal spirits, high quality oils and even the odd whisky or three. They also seem to do great business selling empty bottles as people tend not to bring their own ones and need something to fill with their selections. Anyway, two of today's drams are indeed whiskies from "Vom Faß".

Macduff 27y, 40%, from "Vom Faß"; A very fresh nose on this 27y Macduff offers hints of open countryside alongside light oak, hay and something just a touch antiseptic. My first thought with the palate was Yorkshire pudding! My goodness, on Sunday I was talking about English roast dinners with lamb or beef and just two days later I have a whisky reminding me of Yorkshire pudding, do I see a rather esoteric whisky & food pairing here? However, this soon fades to be replaced with a peppery red wine, hay and faint liquorice root combination which is really quite pleasant. Overall this Macduff is a decent enough dram, but I just expected a little more depth from this 27 year old.

Bowmore 11y, 40%, from "Vom Faß"; I don't usually find Bowmores of this age to have quite so much smoke and peat as I relate them more with heather and honey, perhaps alongside gentle maritime hints of light peat, but not this one. It begins with a gentle, smoky peat nose which translates well onto a palate primarily consisting of smoke and peat with a touch of Bowmore honey in the background. The finish is long and peaty with the slightest hint of raspberry or redcurrant in the far distance making this a fine and most enjoyable experience.

Aberlour A'Bunadh, Batch 29, 59.9%; The first nosing of this took me straight back to my childhood where our school uniform included a pair of 'plimsoles' which were rubber-soled shoes worn for 'PE' (Physical Education). I'm going back around 40 years here, so think trainers before they were designed. There's also wood, sherry and dark fruits, but I just can't get over that flashback. The palate is immediately rich with a cocktail of nuts appearing to be marinated in a marzipan liqueur (more nuts, but richly alcoholic) and again, a hint of those 40 year old plimsoles. The finish is long and rich but I'm again taken straight back to childhood with those hard little purple sweets called parma violets! Adding water seems to make the whisky more aggressive and concentrates the wood and plimsoles.

So, the evening draws to a close and these really were three very different drams where the star of the show was undoubtedly the Bowmore and I'll be visiting my local shop again to see if there's any more of this, although I've also heard they have a particularly good Glen Mhor available. As for the A'Bunadh, this is the first one I've tried which is suffering from sulphur and as such, I have to say it was something of a disappointment compared to the usually excellent offerings within this series.



Sunday August 1st

A Sunday Lunchtime treat, or "A pleasant change from pork"

Here in Bavaria it seems that the standard fayre when it comes to meat is anything you like so long as it's pork. In fact I'd go as far as to say that at least 95% of all meat sold by butchers is some kind of pork, although when it comes to our famous beergardens the grilled chicken competes favourably with the (pork) spareribs for sales. Anyway, imagine my delight last Sunday when we were invited to Sunday lunch and found roast lamb on the menu.


During the week I bumped into an old friend and fellow 'Northerner' in town who hails from the Lancastrian side of the Pennines, although I don't hold it against him and was immediately invited to the said Sunday lunch. Also as agreed, I arrived early enough to watch the German Grand Prix in English which is another a rare treat for me.

Anyway, Grand Prix finished, my wife arrived as planned and we settled down for a real English Sunday roast, but being Bavarian, my wife's favourite fayre tends not to be lamb, in fact she isn't really a 'roast' person at all, but the lamb was cooked to delicious perfection and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Our host for that day is a whisky collector who specialises in Johnnie Walker and Glenmorangie (not including Ardbeg) whiskies and as I was missing a photo of JW Gold for my tasting notes he duly allowed me to photograph one of his bottles to fill my little gap, but that wasn't the end as he promptly brought three bottles to the table and invited me to try the Glenmorangie Artisan Cask, JW Double Black which he acquired on a recent holiday to Asia and then JW Premier.



Glenmorangie Artisan Cask, 46% abv  This whisky has the pale colour of straw or hay which immediately clarifies that no (E150) caramel colouring has been added. The nose is full of vanilla, in fact vanilla ice cream with hints of butterscotch, perhaps in the form of a delightful sauce on the ice cream. After 2-3 minutes, a slight maltiness, perhaps even the ice cream wafer, completes the picture. The palate is again a combination of vanilla and butterscotch, but with a little toffe in the mix too. A medium finish emphasises the vanilla again and completes my enjoyment of this excellent first-fill bourbon cask whisky.


Johnnie Walker Double Black, 40% abv   A warming glow of oak or light amber gives this whisky a great appearance, but the nose immediately suggests something rather chemically maritime alongside light oak and vanilla. I generally love maritime whiskies, but this one suggests someone has dumped or spilled something rather noxious into my beloved Atlantic. After a few minutes the nose suggests that a coastal farmer has just dug up his crop of new potatoes. The palate is an improvement with slight hints of peat alongside a cocktail of pear and peach. Overall this is a strange whisky spoiled by that chemical nose, give me JW 'normal' Black or JW Green over this one every time.



Johnnie Walker Premier, 43% abv   A colour of rich dark oak, a nose of freshly polished aged oak, alongside a fresher wood, marzipan, gentle mixed-nut assortment and a hint of cognac. The palate does nothing to dispel the promises of the nose as it is immediately intense with aromatic (Tasmanian leatherwood) honey, red wine, oak and toffee. The finish is very long, very intense and mildly sweet. This is really an excellent whisky for those who like intense cognac-style flavours and is definitely an after-dinner dram. In fact, it's a perfect end to a delicious Sunday roast lunch! Have I just found my new favourite JW? Quite possibly!


This rare treat of a traditional English Sunday roast dinner was an absolute delight, but to be crowned with three whiskies that I haven't tried before made it even more special. Yes, the JW Double Black was a disappointment, but the Artisan and Premier more than made up for it. These are two excellent drams which I would happily return to at any opportunity.

How about roast beef next Sunday?

Slàinte Mhath




Previous major features

July 2010

Age matters. A series of whisky reviews concentrating upon 'Age'

June 2010

Jules Rimet, pickles & crisps. Mon coeur, mon amour oh mon sherry. A taste of the great outdoors.

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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