Please contact me here to comment on any Dram-atics article, I'll include as many replies as possible



Monday February 13th 2012

What a difference a cask makes

or "Four Imperial sisters"



I guess it's not that often we get the chance to try four sister single casks from the same distillery in a direct head to head. I'm lucky as today I have just that opportunity with four single cask Imperials from Duncan Taylor. Specifically they are all 1990, 19y and cask numbers 445, 446, 448 & 449 (what happened to 447 I wonder?)

They were all distilled in 1990, are all 19y bottlings, but were drawn from the casks on different dates in 2009. What an opportunity, I'm really looking forward to seeing just what influence and nuances the different casks have had on the spirit.

Let's take a look shall we?


Duncan Taylor, Imperial, cask 445, 19y, 1990 - 4.4.2009, 53.1% abv  dark golden or perhaps light oak in colour with a nose which initially offers some semi sweet notes of floral malt and candy floss. After some minutes in the glass this develops a mustiness in the background which is reminiscent of an old musty or dusty library shelf. The palate sees that mustiness turn more into a leafiness which is accompanied by a suggestion of slightly bitter fruit, star fruit or apple in character. The finish is quite long but also quite dry.

Duncan Taylor, Imperial, cask 446, 19y, 1990 - 6.4.2009, 53.7% abv  this exhibits a colour of pale bronze whilst the nose is surprisingly fruity with a big burst of apple and passion fruit and a faint leafiness in the background. The palate has a wonderfully smooth mouth-feel and is again very fruity, but this time with mainly peach and cantaloupe melon. This really is smooth, gentle and very approachable! The finish is long with a delightful fruity tingle.

Duncan Taylor, Imperial, cask 448, 19y, 1990 - 12.2.2009, 55.7% abv  this has the colour of light oak and once again a nose which immediately suggests fruit but with a gentle hint of furniture polish. Then comes musty oak and after some minutes further fruity notes, this time cherries or cherry wood and vanilla. The palate has a mild pepperiness alongside a suggestion of coconut and again cherries. Overall this one is really quite fruity.

Duncan Taylor, Imperial, cask 449, 19y, 1990 - 5.5.2009, 53.4% abv  a rich colour of vivid oak or even light amber gives a very pleasant glow to this whisky. The nose has lots of furniture polish and even a faint hint of rubberiness with oak and vanilla in the background. The palate is very light and mild and has an equally mild suggestion of oaky aniseed. It also has a faint fruitiness but one which is difficult to identify. The finish is long with a further suggestion of aniseed.

Overall impressions and conclusions; casks 446 & 448 exhibit lots of fruitiness whereas cask 445, although still fruity, is not as intensely so. Cask 449 is maybe the 'odd one out' here with much less fruitiness and more furniture polish with even a hint of rubberiness. Individually I found cask 445 to remind me somewhat of a mix between a grappa and a German schnaps called obstler with a dry leafiness in there too. Score-wise it gets a respectable 81 points. Cask 449, as I mentioned, seems to be the odd one out here but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will award it 84 points. Cask 448 was surprising with those coconut nuances and again, as I mentioned it was really very fruity and also gets a worthy 84 points from me. My overall preference here was definitely for cask 446 with those hints of peach and cantaloupe melon making it a delightful 'anytime' dram and extremely approachable.





Monday February 6th 2012

Growing old gracefully

or "a Gem of a year"


6th February is a very significant day for me as it is, or would have been, my Mum's Birthday. Sadly she died last year following a long illness but I still feel the need to take a few minutes to dedicate to her during this evening.

She had one small claim to fame that she was always very proud of and that was being born in the same year as our current Queen Elizabeth II.

No, they never met but I still raise my glass this evening to both ladies in my own mark of respect.



On 6th February 1952 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne of the United kingdon of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and also became the head of the Commonwealth. Unbeknown to most people outside of one certain distillery, four days earlier on 2nd February two first fill sherry hogsheads, numbered 465 & 466, were filled under instruction of George Urquhart and were left to mature until some unknown date in the future.

That distillery was Glen Grant.


On 26th March 1968 Cask 465 was transferred to the bonded warehouses of Gordon & Macphail and left to mature further until some unknown future date.

That previously unknown date for the cask to be bottled was finally selected as February 2nd 2012, exactly 60 years after the spirit was distilled and the cask originally filled.

Cask 465 was bottled at a cask strength of 42.3% abv and is limited to only 85 decanters world-wide, each at a recommended price of 8000 GBP. This rather exclusive edition has been released to celebrate and commemmorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.





I was lucky enough to receive an official sample of this Glen Grant 60y just a few days ago. It arrived complete with a credit card style memory stick with many of the pictures I have used here and along with all the official press releases. The sample itself has its own original Harris Tweed bag, but at the end of the day, is the whisky any good?

Let's see shall we?


Glen Grant 60y, 1952-2012, 42.3% With a colour of rich golden yellow this whisky certainly doesn't suggest its age. Nor does the very vibrant nose which offers a subtle creaminess, lots of apple and just a hint of cinnamon just like an excellent apple strudel. There's even a hint of the vanilla sauce it would be served with. Light floral or even very faint herbal nuances follow with the slightest suggestion of something almost meaty, in a Sunday roast kind of way. Could this be a roast pork joint with a herbal crust? Even more floral notes appear with time in the glass and finally suggest rose petals, or even a rose oil fragrance. There's an abundance of flora on the palate with a hint of something citrus or even pine-cone like. The apple nuances from the nose translate nicely onto the palate, albeit without the cinnamon, but with some slight pepperiness.



The palate also offers a hint of light toffee or even butterscotch leading into the extremely long finish which is slightly bitter and certainly quite dry at the end.

My overall impression is one of amazing lightness and complexity for such an aged whisky. In fact I am again very pleasantly surprised by the characteristics of an amazingly old Glen Grant. I can only hope I'm as light and vibrant at 60 as this is. I don't usually publish my scores here on WHisky-Emporium but in this case I'll make a rare exception and say that it is bordering upon my scale of "Greatness" with a truly excellent 89 points.





Thursday February 2nd 2012

It's a rum old do

or ""


Oh dear, are we turning into or even No, don't worry dear whisky lovers, I'm sure it's a passing phase and maybe something to do with the extremely cold and miserable weather I'm enjoying here in Bayern right now. Ahhh those far-away tropical islands .....

So, to celebrate my longing for sand, sea and sunshine I'm turning my thoughts to a five-way head to head of rums from Venezuela, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique and of course Trinidad & Tobago.


St. Etienne VO is a product of Martinique and has the colour of glowing light amber. The nose is of very aromatic vanilla ice cream witrh hints of aniseed. In fact it even reminds me of my elusive, or no longer existing 'Olde Worlde Sweet Shoppe' where as a child I was entranced by those sweet mixed aromas of unwrapped goodies like sherbert lemons, fruity 'boiled' sweets and many others. The palate is heavy on the aniseed effect before the sweet fruitiness takes a further hold. The finish once again suggests aniseed in a rather long way. My overall impression is one of pernod-flavoured rum in a fruity childhood kind of way. Maybe this is not 100% in keeping with my preferred taste, but it'll certainly please many.


Barbancourt 4y hails from Haiti, has a light golden colour and a nose which includes leafy vanilla and hints of unbaked, still-rising bread dough. This leads on to a light, slightly perfumed biscuit style. The palate is dry and fresh with a mild leafiness which is what I might expect from a drier style of rum, but this one continues with some mildly unpleasant metallic notes. The finish is medium length and slightly dry. My overall impression is of a rather unusual dry and leafy rum with some very strange metallic influences. Maybe the bottle has been open a little too long? Who knows.



Trinidad & Tobago's offering is Angostora 1919 which has a vibrant rich golden colour. The nose is quite fresh and herbal with a soft sweetness reminding me of marshmallow, in fact pink marshmallow! The palate is definitely lightly perfumed and again suggests (pink) marshmallow. The finish is extremely interesting with soft spices lingering long. My overall impression is one of surprise. This is a good rum, but not with a taste profile I would have expected with that light perfume and what I can only describe as a very soft and fluffy character.


Ocumare 12y is produced in Venezuela and has a colour of light amber. The nose initially reminds me of a well-aged whisky in that it has lots of aromatic polished wood, but then it differs again with a medium sweet and lightly perfumed character which is very rum-like. In fact this dries even further over time in the glass. The palate offers more of that wood, then dark chocolate, hints of freshly ground coffee beans and is very gentle and smooth. The finish is long but again quite gentle. My overall impression is of a very good rum which is gentle but yet quite sophisticated. Now why didn't I discover this some years ago on my two trips to Venezuela?


  If you hadn't guessed by now I have written my reviews in my personal order of preference, or more accurately, reverse order. This means that without further ado, my 'winner' in this mini head to head and distraction from whisky is the offering from Guyana ......  

Solera No.14 is indeed that lucky winner from Guyana. It is the richest in colour of the five with a very dark oakiness and it's also very rich on the nose which offers lots of aromatic wood and molasses, but without being very sweet. It even hints at a cognac style. The palate is extremely smooth with a creamy mouth-feel offering a selection of light herbs, biscuit and a hint of chives, but never over-powering. The finish is again smooth and subtly long. My overall impression is of a very good rum, one that fits my preferred taste profile for this type of drink, but it was also a very difficult choice as the Ocumare 12y came extremely close. Congratulations to Solera No.14, Venezuela and I'll look this one out should I ever get back there.




Wednesday February 1st 2012

Whisky Round Table

or "is once per month too much to ask?"


I usually begin the month with an update on The Whisky Round Table and this month is no exception, albeit a little short maybe. As you know by now the WRT was started by Jason of GuidScotchDrink back in June 2010 with the concept of 12 whisky bloggers and characters taking turns to host a monthly discussion of their choice.

Sadly in January all the Mikes of Whisky Party were unable to host a discussion so I stepped in with a quick question in the hope of getting it online sometime mid-January to keep the momentum going. Well, here we are at the start of February and I'm now publishing all the replies I have received so far.

My thanks to the three, yes three, knights who managed to find a few minutes to submit a reply this month!


So, for my question this month I reverted to the good old chestnut of "festivals" which is something of a pet subject for me, especially as I am often quite vociferous about what I personally expect from one of these events.

Anyway, I asked a three-part question;

1 - Which, if any, festivals are you planning or hoping to attend this year?

2 - What dictates your choice(s) here; Is it location and perhaps ease of travel, or is it more?

3 - What do hope to get from festivals?  Meeting people, trying new editions, bringing samples away to try later or anything else?



Joshua of The Jewish Malt Whisky Society

This is an interesting question.  Yes, one that has been asked before but it's one that always needs a revisit that things change all the time.  My plan is to attend the Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza (held by the SMWSA) as I find that show to be manageable; smaller.  While, with regards to whiskies, there isn't much in the way of new and different (for me) - it's a high class show that is always fun and it's one of the best ways to sample new SMWS bottlings that are due out.  What's more is they have the "Whisky Panel" which is a great, one hour, conversation with the people in the whisky biz - it's fun and educational.  I love it.  There's also 12 different venues around the US where people can attend.



WhiskyFest is on the top of the list as well.  Sadly, I missed it in 2011 but there's no way I'm missing it this year.  It's big, huge and a lot to take in but if planned right, it could be amazing.  Also, in NYC, they're changing it from a one day fest to a two day fest.  Sadly, it falls on Shabbat but I think I'll have to make an exception this year to join in

Lastly, but surely not least, WhiskyLive in NYC is a must.  I'll never forget the 1960, 10yo Laphroaig I had there.  Just amazing.  Plus, there seems to be a better amount of indy bottles there which is good.

Finally, meeting people and schmoozing is what I love the most.  For me, the whisky is almost an aside.  At these festivals, I want to learn.  I want to meet people and talk whisky!




Chris & Lucas of Edinburgh Whisky Blog

I'm hoping to visit the Spirit of Speyside Festival this year and Feis Islay. These are the two big whisky festivals in Scotland, and I haven't been to either, so i really need to get to these. It has started to become a bit of a curse, in that I plan to attend these festivals every year, but something always comes up at the last minute which stops me.


For something slightly different, if I had the opportunity, I would love to go to the States to visit Kentucky for the Kentucky derby. Although not a whisky festival, I believe the distilleries put on quite a show for the event.

When I look at any festival , I am really looking at the Whisky as only a part of the package. I really want to experience the area, meet new people, enjoy local produce. For me, it's quite a touristy experience. A bit of a holiday, if you will.

When it comes to the Spirit of Speyside and Feis Islay, I think they both look brilliant because of a mixture of what looks like excellent food, ceilidhs, whisky geek stuff and the chance to get away from Edinburgh for a couple of days. On top of that, I really enjoy meeting the folks from the distilleries. I think their insight on the process is invaluable.

I think to round up the points I have made, a whisky based holiday is what I am looking for. Distance isn't too much of an issue, as long as it proves to be a worthwhile trip. By that I mean indulging my main passion, whisky, and also having time to enjoy the other things in life: music, dancing, food and people. A fully rounded experience is what I am looking for in a Whisky Festival.

Oh and PS: The best Whisky festival I have been to so far was the music and whisky festival organised by the lads from Connosr in London at the end of September. It was superb. good music, good whisky, good times



Matt & Karen of Whisky for Everyone

We will start with the second question, if that’s OK.   The location is the driving factor as to which whisky festivals and events that we go to.   We are lucky that a decent number happen in or around London throughout the year.   We do not own a car, so are heavily reliant on public transport and moving around London is easiest.   This does not rule out other festivals in other parts of the UK or northern Europe, but costs soon rise and this has limited these experiences to date.



Now to answer the first part of the question.   Last year we visited a number of shows in London – Whisky Live, The Whisky Show, Pure Festival – and we plan to do the same again.   Each festival offers something different in terms of exhibitiors, whiskies on offer, consumers attending and atmosphere.   New shows are popping up regularly and London remains a vibrant place for the whisky scene.   However, two of our best experiences were outside of London at The Whisky Lounge in Manchester and SpeyFest (not really a whisky festival, but one where whisky was present).   This has led us to think of others such as The Glasgow Whisky Festival or Whisky Fringe.   Also, the all-time ‘have to go’ is the Feis Isle on Islay but that will have to wait until another year …

Question three is interesting.   We go and cover all three of the aspects mentioned.   Primarily we go to sample any new whiskies or ones that we have not tried before, with the aim to write about anything of interest to our readers.   This results in the bringing of samples away to be reviewed in isolation (and in a more sober state!).   However, we enjoy meeting many of the industry people, contacts and festival goers that we have come to know and call our friends over the four years or so that we have been doing Whisky For Everyone.   Meeting and talking with these people is more important than any whisky can ever be.





Keith (that's me) of WhiskyEmporium

Well, as I said earlier this is a pet subject of mine, but more of that later as firstly I offer my own answers. There is a local festival in Munich which these days covers many different types of drink, although whisky is still the major factor. It is called Finest Spirits and runs across a weekend in February. I'll be there again this year, well it would be rude not to!

Secondly, after experiencing Limburg Whisky Festival some years ago it's about time I went again and my accommodation is already booked!


Travel, or perhaps more accurately location, obviously dictates or heavily influences which festivals I will attend in any given year. As I said; The Munich festival is very local and a 'must' on my calendar. If a festival has an exceptional reputation then I will certainly consider attending. Ones which are on my radar for the future are most certainly MaltStock, Lindores, Spirit of Speyside and possibly Victoria in Canada one day. I am in two minds about Feis Ile mainly because it has become so popular and I perceive it to be extremely difficult accommodation-wise and just one long queue around distilleries. I'd much rather visit Islay (again) without the stress!

So, now for (possibly) the contentious part; What do I hope to get from a whisky festival? Well there is undoubtedly the aspect of meeting people, either fellow Maniacs or those from within the trade. Their ideas, thoughts and experiences are always worth listening to.

For me, actually sampling as many whiskies as possible during the festival is quite secondary as I usually go armed with as many empty sample bottles as possible and hope to bring them home full. There is a finite limit of what one can try in the space of a festival, whereas I have weeks and months after a festival to sample the drams and write my notes in more comfort and time.

Yes, I look to bring samples away with me and no, I'm not looking for freebies or to get as much whisky as possible for some small "all-inclusive" price. I am more than happy to pay an entrance fee and then pay for my samples! Perhaps this is one reason why I like Limburg so much. It isn't so much about the current industry, the majority of stands are held by independent businesses, especially those selling long-lost rarities that are just no longer available in the mainstream. One can buy bottles, but more importantly samples of these rarities too.

Lastly, my thought for the day "A festival is an event spanning more than a single day. An event lasting just a few hours is more of a tasting"

Slàinte Mhath




and now for something completely ... late

or "wait three weeks then 3 come along together"

We have a saying in England which refers to the "London bus syndrome". Basically you wait for nearly an hour with no bus in sight, then five come along together. Welcome to February's Whisky Round Table which appears to have relocated to London. Sorry Knights, only jesting here!


Mike of Whisky Party

What I'm trying to get out of a festival usually depends on the spirit (p.i.!) of the event-- where SMWSA is laid back, fun, and can be more social, Whisky Fest is a manic, beat-the-buzzer-to-the-best-whiskies kind of thing.  But some of the WF whiskies are unbelievable, and the seminars are great, so there's different things to focus on at each different event.  If I'm "covering" it for the blog, then I'm really trying to capture a bit of everything, and not being a professional at any of the various duties (photog, writer, whisky taster, etc.), it does get a bit tough!  



And I'm not known to waste whisky, but I'll even spit out a few on those occaissons so as to keep my notes legible.

As for the tasting vs. festival definition, I kind of agree, although there's not really much in the way of festivals proper here (in Chicago, or elsewhere in the US as far as I can tell)



Gal of Whisky Israel

That is really a sad affair for me. Israel has no whisky festival whatsoever, no whisky live, nothing. some minor shows , but nothing you can compare to any of the EU/US events. The small size of the market with the addidional draconian taxes on whisky, drives a lot of brands out, and since 95% , yes you read this right, 95% of whisky is bought in the duty free shop at the TLV airport, importers are not very keen on such events. Being a family man with two small kids, i do try not to leave for long periods, but this year i do hope on joining a very interesting whisky weekend, over in the Netherlands "malt stock".


While it's no whisky festival, it involves whisky and a lot of it. so, i do hope to have a good time there and meet some whisky friends from europe. Other than that? no plans, but who knows. ;)

My choices are dictated by family and of course cost and travel ease. Israel is a few hours by plane from every decent whisky capital, so that is indeed an issue.

First of all meeting people. this is the most important. then of course trying our new expressions and samples is a plus. Samples can be had also by other means, but there is no replacement for meeting people face to face. be it fellow whisky lovers/anoraks or industry figures.



Ruben of WhiskyNotes

Sadly, I won’t be going to many festivals this year. Too busy building a new house and all that. I’d love to go to Limburg though and there’s still a small chance I will. It’s the best festival I know because of its stunning array of new bottlings and legendary oldies. Too bad 7 hours in a car (return trip) is quite a big sacrifice, even when you’re sleeping over.



The main purpose for me is to try new releases (and to be slightly ahead of the masses when it comes to grabbing my favourites). It wouldn’t be any good without friends though. Sharing your discoveries, exchanging thoughts and comments about what’s on offer, grabbing something to eat together... that’s what it is all about..




Recent major features (A full list of all Dram-atics articles may be found in my ToC)  
Jan. 2012 Onwards & Upwards, Canadian Whisky Awards  
Dec. 2011 MMA 2011 Winners, HP 70's Orcadians, Debussy plays Pitaud, Class of 64-65, Elementary my dear Sukhinder  
Sept-Nov 2011 Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 - A weekend in the life of a Postmaster General  
June-Aug 2011 Bits Bytes & Drams, Glen Garioch 1994, Angela D'Orazio - Mackmyra, Trinity of Two Earls, Drams at Dawn
May 2011 Don't bug me with ads, A dram fine evening
April 2011 Cry me a River, Golden Oldies, The Shackleton Legacy, Two Weddings and a Whisky
March 2011 Masters of Photography, Memory and the Middle Cut, Sampling again, Dave Stirk 5, Choosing choice Choices
Feb. 2011 Festival time again, Spam Galore!, Drams & Trams

Jan. 2011

Lookback at 2010, New Job? Three Thirties, ToC, Overdosing on sherry casks




© Copyright 2009-2012 by Keith Wood - All rights reserved - Whisky-Emporium