Thursday, March 31, 2011

New releases > Inish Turk Beg 'Maiden Voyage'

Inish Turk Beg Maiden Voyage is a new premium Irish single malt whiskey. It is named after the private island of Inish Turk Beg (which translates as ‘the small island of the wild boar’ from Gaelic), which lies off the west Irish coast of County Mayo. It is one of the largest islands of over 300 in the beautiful Clew Bay, which is regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest natural phenomena. The bay is rumoured to have historically been a thriving area for the illicit distilling of whiskey and poitín (pronounced pot-cheen), due to its remote location. Poitín is a traditional Irish spirit that is made from grain or potatoes and is notoriously one of the strongest and most potent produced anywhere in the world, often coming in at 80-95% ABV!

This single malt whiskey is a limited release of just 2,888 bottles. These bottles are one litre in size and the innovative design has been inspired by the mooring buoys used on local fishing boats. Each bottle is hand blown and is made using sand from the island. It is named Maiden Voyage as this is the first batch to be released. The whiskey is made at Cooley distillery in County Louth, which is Ireland’s only independent whiskey distillery. It has been matured for 10 years on the island, part of which has been in old poitín casks. The alcoholic strength has then been reduced to 44% ABV for bottling by adding rain water collected on Inish Turk Beg. The recommended retail price is around £130.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Inish Turk Beg is a bright golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant with some lovely light, delicate aromas. There are notes of honey and vanilla, which are backed up by aromas of underlying (almost subdued) cereal grains, almonds and hints of ginger spice and oak (think of wood shavings). Cutting through this is a distinct note of tangy citrus, especially lemon, which contributes much of the freshness. On the palate, the lightness continues as does that citrus tang, although this feels a bit juicier than on the nose. There has been some quality American oak casks used to mature this whiskey and this shows through with plenty of fresh flavours, such as vanilla, honey, grated coconut and pinches of wood spice (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger). With time, some malty cereal notes come through and this makes the whiskey feel creamier in your mouth than it was initially. The finish is a little drier than expected with an interesting pleasant grassiness appearing (think of dried grasses) and the wood spices and oak notes coming to the fore. Again, this is complimented with a lovely juicy lemony zing.

What's the verdict?
The Maiden Voyage is a lovely and very easy drinking whiskey that exhibits sympathetic maturation in good quality casks. The character of the whiskey is expressive but easily approachable, which would make it a great choice for a beginner to Irish whiskey while still holding the attention and interest of the 'connoisseur'. The price tag may stop some, especially as many Irish whiskies are usually much cheaper. However, you are naturally paying for the exclusivity, rarity, packaging and high quality of the product. After all, limited edition and aged Irish single malts are few and far between - therefore, this has to be tried as a result.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Inbox > March 24, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox has been born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. So here goes with this week's news - grab a dram and enjoy ...
Bulleit > New rye version launched
bulleit ryeThe American brand, owned by Diageo, has announced a new addition to its whiskey range - Bulleit Rye. The new whiskey has initially been launched in the USA, but will reach the Australian, German and UK markets within months. Bulleit Rye has reportedly the highest rye grain content of any American whiskey, being made from a recipe with 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The recipe is a modern adaption of one that was produced by the brand's founder, Augustus Bulleit, in 1830. It has been matured for a minimum of four years in new oak casks and is bottled at 45% ABV for the US and 40% for the other markets. The recommended retail price will be $27.99.

Gordon & MacPhail > Auction for Japan
glenlivet 70 years old from gordon & macphailA couple of weeks ago we featured the launch of a Glenlivet 70 years old single malt from the Elgin based independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. The whisky (pictured, left) is extremely limited (there are only 100 bottles) and has a recommended retail price of £13,000. Gordon & MacPhail have decided to donate bottle number 1/100 to be auctioned, with all proceeds going to the British Red Cross Japan Appeal - one of the charities that is helping with aid to Japan following the recent earthquake and tsunami devastation. The auction is being held at Bonham's auction house in Edinburgh on next Tuesday evening 29 March at 7pm in. The main event is preceded by a reception and talk by whisky expert Charles Maclean.

Jack Daniel's > New Tennessee Honey launched
jack daniel's tennessee honeyThe famous American distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee has announced the launch of a new product - the Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey. The product will be available in all US states from April, will have a recommended retail price of $22 and will come in different sized bottles. It is made with Jack Daniels' famous Old No.7 whiskey and a honey liqueur made with honey from hives located on the distillery site. Jack Daniel's Master Taster Jeff Norman says, "Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey brings together two complementary tastes in a new way. Whether it's chilled, straight or served in drinks with other mixers like lemonade, tea or ginger ale, we think you will really love its unique taste and smooth character".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Have just tried > Bowmore 16 years old Port Matured

bowmore 16 years old port maturedBowmore is the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on the famous whisky making island of Islay in Scotland. It was founded in 1779 by John Simpson and it is actually one of the oldest in Scotland - only Glenturret in the Highlands being older, having started production in 1775. The name of Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic and the distillery in currently owned by Morrison Bowmore - a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, who also own the other Scottish distilleries at Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch. Bowmore has an annual production capacity of two million litres and is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty style.

This 16 years old Bowmore was a somewhat experimental 'limited edition' bottling (well, only a mere 18,000 bottles!) that was originally released in late 2007. It was distilled in 1991 and was bottled at an alcoholic strength of 53.1% ABV after spending 16 years in Port pipe casks. Another cool fact about this whisky is that it was matured in the famous Bowmore vaults - below sea level! It is rare to get a single malt whisky matured for this length of time in a Port cask, so when we got the opportunity to try it at the recent Whisky Live event in London, we had to take it. Having spoken to the Bowmore folks there, a limited number of bottles are still floating around for sale and can be found in specialist retailers.

Our tasting notes
This whisky has a dark ruby red colour with a lovely sweet and smoky nose - this combines aromas of rounded soft smokiness (think of bonfire smoke with a hint of musty damp earth), rich red fruits (imagine something like dark berries, plums and cherries), plenty of burnt cereals, and warming earthy spices (think of baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg especially). These notes transfer well to the palate which again shows a lovely combination between richness, sweetness and smokiness. It feels thick in the mouth with initial notes of caramel, red fruits (imagine berries, plums and dried raisins) and soft, lingering smoke which becomes slightly damp, musty and earthy with increased time. This smokiness is reduced from the level exhibited on the nose but compliments the other elements equally as well. Other notes come through that give added balance and a touch of dryness - think of oak and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. There are also some tannins from the Port casks and this adds further complexity. The finish is again sweet and fruity, with the soft, gentle peat smoke lingering before finally fading and taking the red fruit with it. Delicious.

What's the verdict?
Bowmore 16 years old Port Matured is a lovely dram and a whisky that is very easy drinking given that it is bottled at a high strength (53.1% ABV). This is due to its age and the richness, softness and complexity created by the use of Port casks combined with the smokiness of the spirit. We thoroughly enjoyed our samples and hope that Bowmore have further quality of 'experiment' maturing in their warehouses. Only time will tell with that. In the meantime if you like your whiskies rich and fruity with some soft smokiness, then you should hurry and track down a bottle of this!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inbox > March 18, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox has been born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. There is plenty to get through this week, so grab a dram and enjoy ...
Albannach > Women only event
The Albannach bar, located on London’s Trafalgar Square, is holding their first ever women only whisky tasting event on Tuesday 29 March. It is part of a series of events at the venue to celebrate Women’s History Month. The women only whisky tasting will be hosted by guest speaker Gillian McDonald the Head Distiller at Penderyn, the Welsh whisky distillery in the Brecon Beacons. Tickets are still available at £35 a head and can be booked by going to

Arran > The ‘Westie’ is released
arran 'westie' 1998The Isle of Arran Distillers have announced the third edition to their award winning Icons of Arran series of limited edition single malts – the Westie. This follows on from the Peacock and Rowan Tree releases. The Westie is inspired by Master Distiller James MacTaggart’s dog – a west Highland terrier (or ‘westie’) named Ruaraidh, who is a popular character around the Arran distillery. This limited edition contains 6,000 bottles and is constructed from just 22 specially selected ex-sherry casks, hand picked by MacTaggart. These casks were distilled and laid down to mature in 1998. The Westie is bottled at 46% ABV and should cost around £40 – it is available from specialist whisky retailers or

Bushmills > Make It 2 Bushmills competition
Bushmills, the famous Irish whiskey distillery, have launched a new competition yesterday on St. Patrick’s Day. Make It 2 Bushmills is easy to enter and can be done so via their Facebook page. The prize is a two week crash course in whiskey making at the Bushmills distillery on the north County Antrim coast, close to the famous Giant’s Causeway. This includes tutoring by Master Distiller Colum Egan, £5,000 spending money, staying in a plush penthouse apartment overlooking the sea and creating your own unique version of Bushmills whiskey. Colum will then take Bushmills back to the winner’s home country and hold a large party, featuring the unveiling of their unique bottling of Bushmills. The short film below explains more ... Good luck!

Glencairn > Wins another award
The last month or so has seen a number of major whisky awards and our email inbox has been bombarded with press releases and news reporting on the award winning whiskies or distilleries. We chose not to report about these, as the results are widely available and it would be too time consuming to give each winner the attention it deserves. However, one such press release did catch our attention – Glencairn, the innovative whisky glassware manufacturer and primary supplier to the Scottish whisky industry, has won the prestigious Industry Leader of the Year as awarded by top American whisky magazine Malt Advocate.

The company, owned by the Davidson family has already won numerous awards – founder Raymond Davidson said, “To be named Industry Leader of the Year in an environment dominated by international whisky and blending companies is a tremendous accolade. Our Glencairn Whisky Glass has been a huge success as a product, with sales of over one million glasses a year worldwide. The company has grown through a truly innovative approach to the market that has led us to the forefront of premium packaging for some of the world’s rarest and most expensive whiskies.

VisitScotland > New advert
This is nothing to do with whisky really, but we received notification about the new advert campaign for VisitScotland – the country’s tourism operator. Entitled ‘Surprise Yourself’, the advert shows different locations and scenes from around Scotland and offers ideas for alternative activities for visits or holidays. We think that it is well shot, shows some lovely scenes and just thought that we would share it with you. You can also read more information and watch other clips about each location in the advert by visiting the Surprise Yourself page on Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Have just tried > Connemara

connemaraConnemara is a Irish whiskey produced at the Cooley distillery, which is located on the County Louth coast roughly half way between Belfast and Dublin. Cooley was founded in 1987 by John Teeling and his idea was to resurrect some of Ireland's oldest whiskey recipes and traditions that had become extinct during more difficult times. He converted an old vodka distillery and Cooley has since won over 100 awards worldwide, including the title of European Distillery of the Year at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition awards in 2010.

At Cooley they produce whiskey using traditional recipes, each with a different mixtures of barley and other grains. Their range includes some famous Irish whiskey names such as Greenore, Kilbeggan, Locke's, Michael Collins, Millar's and Tyrconnell. Around 95% of all the whiskey produced at Cooley is exported, with the UK, mainland Europe and South Africa being the current main markets. Connemara, which is named after the original site of the Connemara distillery on the west coast of Ireland near Galway, and its old traditional recipe had disappeared into history before being resurrected by John Teeling.

Connemara is the only peated Irish whiskey that is in regular production. Other Irish smoky whiskies are occasionally released but are rare. The first expression of the modern Connemara was launched in 1996 and has a peating level of 20-25 PPM (this is the scale of measurement for peat/phenol levels in malted barley and whisky - it means Phenol Parts per Million and the phenols give it the smoky flavour). This level is about half of the PPM amount that is present in famous Scottish smoky whiskies such as Ardbeg and Laphroaig. This Connemara is bottled at 40% ABV and should cost around £25.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Connemara is a pale golden yellow and the nose is on the light side for a smoky whisky, but expressive and fresh none the less. The peat smoke is vibrant to begin with and has a whiff of surgical spirit and bandages about it. This fades to reveal other sweeter, softer aromas, such as malty cereal grains (think of oats especially), honey, vanilla and hints of coconut, heather and dried grass. On the palate, this is again initially lovely and fresh with the peaty charcoal-like smoke at the forefront. This has a tangy, almost bitter quality (imagine iodine) and has the surgical spirit/bandage edge that is present on the nose. Again, this smokiness softens beautifully to show and compliment other notes - some crisp green pear and apple, honey, vanilla, plenty of gristy cereals, a hint of zesty lemon and some nuts (think of a creamy type of nut, like almond or hazelnut). The finish is of decent length with some lovely honey, vanilla and charcoal smoke notes fading away.

What's the verdict?
This is a delicious dram that any fan of the peaty smoky style of whisky should try. Having said that, it would also be a good choice as an introduction for a beginner who may not be used to the aromas and flavours of that style. If you are expected lots of peat, then don't! What Connemara offers is light, fresh peat smoke that combines well with other subtle and pleasant characteristics. Connemara also gives great value for money considering its quality, its easy drinking nature and its uniqueness. A very enjoyable dram that makes you want to reach for another one ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New releases > Benriach Horizons

benriach 12 years old 'horizons'Benriach (pronounced ben-ree-ack) is an independently owned distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. The current owners are a consortium named The Benriach Distillery Company and they are headed by Billy Stewart, a former director of Burn Stewart Distillers, who took over in 2004. The consortium decided to return to traditional regional distilling methods, whilst also being an innovator and trying to attract new consumers. This combination of tradition and innovation has led to the distillery and the company winning numerous awards in the years since Benriach has re-opened.

The distillery was founded in 1897 by John Duff & Co and is located on a site three miles to the south of Elgin. It was built next door to the Longmorn distillery (also owned by John Duff & Co) and was to help with the increased production requirements of the late Victorian period. It was rather unimaginatively named as Longmorn 2, before being renamed as Benriach (meaning ‘speckled mountain’ in Gaelic) in 1899. Its life was short lived, as the whisky industry suffered a massive crash in the early 1900s - Benriach was closed in 1903 and mothballed (the process where a distillery is shut down but everything remains intact and ready to go). It remained closed until 1965 and its history has been patchy, until The Benriach Distillery Company took over.

The Benriach Horizons is new whisky release with a difference - it is triple distilled. This is unusual for a Scottish single malt, which are normally distilled twice. During the late 1990s, the previous ownership of Benriach experimented in short production runs of triple distilled whisky - scientifically, this allows a higher alcoholic strength of new make spirit to be taken off the stills to be matured. The experiment was stopped shortly afterwards and the maturing stock was inherited by The Benriach Distillery Company when they took over. The Horizons is bottled at 50% ABV and 12 years of age - it has been matured primarily in ex-bourbon casks, before being transferred to ex-Oloroso sherry casks for a short period. Bottles are limited and should cost £45-50 from specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour of the Horizons is a bright golden yellow with a hint of amber. The aromas of the nose are initially crisp and fresh, with something (possibly the 50% ABV alcohol vapour) catching in the nostrils. The fresh notes revolve around some lovely green fruit aromas (think of pears and apples) and these soften to allow others through - honey (or maybe golden syrup?), plenty of sultana, a hint of candied orange peel and some dusty cereal grains (reminiscent of being in a grain silo). There are also wood spices, especially cinnamon, and the combination of this and the fresher fruit notes made us think of baked apple dessert. On the palate, this is intense, tangy and slightly hot to begin with. This soon settles and mellows to reveal a lovely combination of flavours - stewed apple, honey, vanilla, toffee, cinnamon, nutmeg and sultanas. It is quite sugary (think of brown crumbly sugar) before becoming drier with more woody spice notes. The finish is again quite hot (imagine a red chilli-like heat) to begin with, before this fades to show distinct honey and vanilla notes. Finally comes some oak and baking spice to give a pleasant dryness.

What's the verdict?
The Horizons is an interesting experiment and one that works up to a point. It has a good combination of lovely aromas and flavours that make for a pleasant dram, but it lacks the expected softness that triple distilled whiskies (be it an Irish whiskey or something Scottish like Auchentoshan or Hazelburn) normally exhibit. It could be the influence of the 50% ABV level and if this were lower (as most of the Irish and other Scottish examples are), then Horizons may appear softer. If Benriach have more stock of this, then it will be interesting to see how it evolves with further maturation. Well worth a try.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New releases > Dalmore Rivers Collection

the dalmore rivers collection
The Dalmore distillery is located in the northern Highland town of Alness in Scotland. It was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson and has had an interesting history, including being used in the First World War by the Royal Navy to manufacture explosives! Dalmore is currently owned by the famous whisky name of Whyte & Mackay, which is now a subsidiary of the Indian company United Spirits - they own the famous Whyte & Mackay blended whisky brand, plus the distilleries of Fettercairn, Jura and Tamnavulin. United Spirits took over in 2007 and have since re-branded most of their whisky ranges and packaging. Dalmore has an annual production capacity of around four million litres and has a core range which includes a 12, 15 and 18 years old.

The Rivers Collection is a new series of four single malt whiskies that celebrate four of Scotland's most famous waterways - the Dee, the Spey, the Tay and the Tweed. Dalmore have teamed up with the trustees of each river system and some of the money from each bottle sold will be used to help conservation and maintenance. This work includes re-opening blocked tributaries, aiding salmon spawning, measuring water quality and helping conserve the diverse flora and fauna that live in and around the rivers.

Each of the four whiskies is bottled at 40% ABV and all four expressions have been matured in a combination of both ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. The difference between each expression is in the length of time spent in each type of cask and the percentages of each type of cask used in the final whisky. A minimum of £4 from the recommended retail price of £40 will be donated to the relevant river and the series can be found in specialist whisky retailers now.

dalmore dee dramThe Dee Dram
The River Dee rises at the highest point of any UK river (1915 metres/3950 feet above sea level) in the Cairngorms National Park and flows through the central Highlands to the North Sea at Aberdeen. The colour of the Dee Dram is a vibrant gold with a hint of amber. The nose is clean and sweet with aromas of caramel, toffee, brown sugar and dried fruits (think of raisins and sultanas). Underneath are notes of malty cereal and dried grasses. The palate is quite sweet with some pleasant tangy and spicy notes. It has a combination of notes - juicy sultanas, brown sugar, orange zest, milk chocolate and gentle wood spices (especially cinnamon). The finish begins sweetly but turns woody and spicy at the end, leaving a pleasing freshness in the mouth.

dalmore spey dramThe Spey Dram
The River Spey is one of the most famous rivers in the world and is well known for its salmon fishing. It is the second longest Scottish river (at 107 miles/172 km) and the fastest flowing. It rises at Loch Spey, close to the southern tip of Loch Ness and flows north east to the Moray Firth. The colour and aroma of the Spey Dram are both light. A complex number of aromas are detected, but all are subtle - malted barley, hay, dried fruit (raisins, sultanas and apricot), honey, vanilla and orange oil. The palate is also soft and gentle with an immediate maltiness giving way to other notes of coffee, milk chocolate, cinnamon, honeycomb, butterscotch, sultanas and orange peel. The finish is almost delicate and sadly short, disappearing before you even realise. Subtlety is the word here.

dalmore tay dramThe Tay Dram
The River Tay is Scotland's longest river at 120 miles (193 km) in length. It flows from close to the west Highland coast near Oban, across the central Highlands to the Firth of Tay close to Dundee. The colour of the Tay Dram is a golden amber and the nose is very pleasant and packed with lovely aromas. There are distinct cereal grains, prominent orange oil/zest, oak, honey, sweet baking spices (think of cinnamon and nutmeg) and a hint of a scented flower like honeysuckle. The palate is delicious and full of concentrated flavours - caramel, honey, brown sugar, dried tropical fruit (especially mango), marmalade orange and subtle woody baking spices. The finish is long and expressive, gripping the palate with a lingering bittersweet quality. A thoroughly classy and enjoyable dram.

dalmore tweed dramThe Tweed Dram
The River Tweed flows through the Borders region of Scotland and is regarded as one of the world's best salmon fishing rivers. It rises in the hills to the south of Edinburgh and joins the North Sea at the English town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The colour is golden yellow and the nose is light but expressive, beginning with distinct aromas of malty grains, coconut, vanilla and honey. Then comes baked/stewed pears and apples, sultanas and nutmeg. The palate is subtle, delicate and almost understated. Notes of honey, bittersweet cereals and sultanas stand out, but the rest is a bit muddy and hard to define. The finish is on the shortish side but is enjoyable with sweet honey and subtle woody spices present.

What's the verdict?
The Dalmore Rivers Collection is a solid series of whiskies that offers something for most whisky drinkers. The Spey and the Tweed are on the lighter side with subtle, almost delicate characteristics. The Dee and the Tay are richer, sweeter and more concentrated in aroma and flavour. The range also offers something different from the core Dalmore range, which tend to have much more of a heavy ex-sherry cask influence. In our opinion, the stand out whisky of the series is the Tay Dram, which oozes classiness and has a wonderful concentration and complexity of flavour.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Inbox > March 11, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox has been born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here are this week's findings ...
Connosr and Glengoyne event
connosr logoOur friends over at Connosr, the whisky social media site, have joined forces to offer an exclusive members event with the Glengoyne distillery. The event is being held at the distillery, which lies just to the north of Glasgow, on Friday 1 April and is free for Connosr members. Included is a VIP tour of the distillery, followed by a tutored tasting of the Glengoyne single malt range plus two extra special ‘once in a lifetime’ whiskies. Connosr are taking their WhiskyPod with them, which will allow participants to review any of the whiskies, and Glengoyne are offering a discount in their distillery shop. To register for the event, go to

Gordon & MacPhail release Glenlivet 70 years old
glenlivet 70 years old from gordon & macphailLast Tuesday saw the release of one of the world’s oldest ever whiskies. The event in Edinburgh had Gordon & MacPhail, the famous independent whisky bottler and merchant, launch a 70 years old whisky from the Glenlivet distillery as part of their Generations series. We were invited to the launch but sadly couldn’t make it. This Glenlivet follows on from the previous Generations release of another 70 years old whisky from the Mortlach distillery last year. The Glenlivet 70 years old is taken from a single cask, which has yielded just 100 70cl bottles and 175 20cl bottles and these will retail at £13,000 and £3,200 respectively. It has been matured in an ex-sherry cask and is bottled at the natural cask strength of 45.9% ABV. To follow the journey of this old whisky, which was distilled in February 1940, go to

Isle of Skye sponsors Scottish Champion Hurdle
The Isle of Skye 8 years old blended whisky is to sponsor Scotland’s richest horse race over the hurdles on Saturday 16 April. The brand, which is produced and owned by Ian McLeod Distillers, is the new sponsor of the Scottish Champion Hurdle that is run at Ayr racecourse. The deal is the latest stage of the award winning Isle of Skye’s brand development, which also includes the part sponsorship of the 2011 Scottish Racing Trainers Championship and being the official whisky partner at all five of Scotland’s racecourses - Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Have just tried > Caol Ila Cask Strength

caol ila cask strengthCaol Ila is a distillery on the famous whisky island of Islay. It is the largest distillery on the island with an annual production capacity of 3.5 million litres but despite this, is one of the least known. The main reason is that the majority of the stock goes to the Johnnie Walker blended whisky range, which is produced by the current owners, Diageo. However, this is changing as they begin to increase the promotion of Caol Ila as a single malt and release more bottlings.

Caol Ila (pronounced cull-ee-la) was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, who had formerly owned the Littlemill distillery near Glasgow. It is located on the northeast coast of the island and means ‘Sound of Islay’ in Gaelic. This is the name of the fast flowing, narrow stretch of water that separates Islay from the neighbouring island of Jura and the distillery overlooks this. It has a remote location and is surrounded by cliffs and caves on three sides. This difficult site was selected for its proximity to an abundant water supply from the nearby Loch Nam Bam and the good access to local shipping routes.

The core range of single malts currently includes a 12 years old, an 18 years old, this Cask Strength version and a limited Distiller’s Edition which is matured for its last two years in Moscatel fortified wine casks. Other limited bottlings are occasionally released and Caol Ila is extremely popular with the independent bottling companies. This bottling from Caol Ila has no stated age and is bottled at the natural cask strength - a whopping 61.6% ABV! It is available from specialist whisky retailers and should cost between £36-40 for a bottle.

Our tasting notes
This Cask Strength has a very light lemon yellow colour and the nose is vibrant and expressive. There is an immediate hit of burnt oat cereal aromas, creosote (that brown stuff that you paint on fences) and spicy hot peat smoke (you can almost smell the peat burning). These aromas relent briefly so as to allow other notes through - plenty of citrus zest (think of lemons), salty brine and hints of vanilla and honey. You couldn't describe this nose as subtle but is surprisingly underplayed for something of this strength. This whisky lulls you in to a false sense of security, because when you taste it you get ... KABOOM, as it detonates on to your taste buds! It is immediately oily in your mouth and grips hard with its collection of intense flavours - think of cereals (especially oatcakes), tangy zesty lemons, fiery and peppery hot chilli spice, salty brine and robust ashy peat smoke. Subtle notes of vanilla and honey linger underneath. The finish is long and powerful with plenty of robust cereals, wood ash and hot peppery spicy notes on offer. These seem to burn away for ever!

The powerful alcoholic strength and the intensity of the experience makes you want to add some water. This helps to soften the whisky greatly, allowing increased notes of cereals, vanilla and honey to come through better on both the nose and palate. There is less heat and spiciness and it feels creamier and more buttery than before, with very pleasant and soft notes of ash and a hint of burnt rubber. This whisky can take plenty of water and it becomes more accessible by doing so.

What's the verdict?
This is one serious whisky! The power of the alcohol heightens the senses and exaggerates the aromas and flavours that are present. It is tangy, zesty, spicy and briny and not for the faint hearted. This may be too much for some but the whisky takes water very well, which softens it and makes it more palatable. An immediately brash, bold and feisty dram develops in to a lovely one when given time in the glass and a helping hand from some water. A must try for smoky whisky fans and those that are up for a challenge!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Have just tried > Kilbeggan

kilbegganKilbeggan is an Irish whiskey that is currently produced by the award winning company of Cooley. It is made at a distillery in the town of Kilbeggan, which lies in the centre of Ireland in County Westmeath. The name of Kilbeggan is derived from the Irish Gaelic Cill Bheagáin, which translates as 'the church of Bécán'. St. Bécán was an Irish monk who founded a monastery on the site of the current town in the 6th century. The distillery is picturesque and sits on the banks of the River Brosna. Kilbeggan boasts two incredible world statistics - it is one of the oldest licensed premises anywhere and also houses the oldest working pot still in the world, which dates back to 1830.

The Old Kilbeggan distillery was founded in 1757 by the local McManus family and the current distillery stands on the original site. They chose the location for three reasons - the abundant water supply from the adjacent River Brosna and the proximity to both the prosperous local grain fields and peat bogs. The distillery was bought by John Locke in 1843 and coupled with a boom in Irish whiskey sales and the introduction of new technology, he led Old Kilbeggan through its most successful period. The Irish whiskey market collapsed due to a combination of the Irish War of Independence (1916-1921) and Prohibition in the USA (1920-1933). Locke's struggled on, but the distillery was finally forced to close in 1957 in its 200th anniversary year. It was not to reopen for another 50 years ...

The Old Kilbeggan distillery and its whiskey recipes were purchased by Cooley's founder John Teeling in 1988. He started Cooley in 1987 and his remit was to revive the old traditional whiskies that had fallen by the wayside during the difficult times. Kilbeggan's distillery buildings had been maintained during its dormant period by local historians and Teeling decided to renovate it and restart production on the site. Meanwhile, whiskey using the Kilbeggan recipe was being produced at the Cooley distillery in County Louth, between Dublin and Belfast. Whiskey production finally restarted in 2007, after a 50 year period.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Kilbeggan is a bright golden yellow and the nose gives a very pleasant scent that is clean and fresh. To begin with there are aromas of honey, golden syrup and distinct cereals (think of oatcakes). Then come notes of very ripe green fruits (imagine pears and apples) and sultanas, before dry grassy aromas reminiscent of hay/straw are joined by a later burnt sugar note. On the palate, this feels immediately soft, silky and gentle with lovely sweet characteristics of honey (possibly golden syrup again), vanilla and woody oak spice (think of cinnamon and nutmeg) present. These notes are complimented by crisp green fruits (think of apple and especially pear again) and a delicious tangy citrus quality that combines lemon and orange zest. Finally, some further wood spice and hints of bitter cereals and dried grasses come through. These cereals and the grassiness carry through to the finish, which is quite long. It exhibits a lovely mixture of sweetness, dryness and citrus - it moves from the cereals/grass to sweet sultanas and honey, then finally drying spices and tangy orange.

What's the verdict?
Kilbeggan is a delicious whiskey that offers plenty - it mixes a lovely fresh intensity with cereal and citrus notes that grip your nose and palate. These compliment the sweeter, softer notes almost perfectly. It is very easy drinking and also offers great value for money at between £15-20. Kilbeggan makes us wonder if there is any other whiskies within this price range that offers quality and aroma/flavour profile complexity in such a high ratio. We can't think of another one right now!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whisky cocktails > The Macallan Negroni

Macallan, the famous Speyside whisky distillery, has teamed up with Cheri Loughlin, one of the leading online cocktail writers, to create a special cocktail to celebrate their Masters of Photography competition. Cheri writes the excellent Intoxicologist blog, which we have been following for the last couple of years and remains one of our favourites. The blog offers a detailed insight in to the world of mixing cocktails, offering recipes and tips for making both the classics and innovative new drinks. It is a 'must read' and we have learnt plenty from it. You can also follow Cheri's updates on Twitter - just search for @intoxicologist.

chris in miniThe Macallan launched the second in their Masters of Photography series late last year. World renowned photographer Albert Watson was commissioned and has produced a stunning series of images, such as the one pictured, left (title - Chris in Mini). To read more about the concept - click here to read our full article about the Masters of Photography. There is a photographic competition running alongside the series and anyone can enter! All you need to do is to send them one of your own photographs – the theme is ‘Great Journeys’ – and the top 10 entries will then be voted for by the general public. Albert Watson will pick the his top three from these and choose the winner. The prizes include a 10 day photographic trip to Scotland, a selection of Nikon cameras and subscriptions to Digital Camera magazine. Visit to enter and vote on your favourites - the closing date is 30 June 2011.

Anyway, back to the special cocktail that has been created. Cheri the Intoxicologist has invented a modern twist on the Negroni - a classic cocktail that combines gin, sweet vermouth and bitters (traditionally Campari) in equal third parts. The Negroni is widely said to have been invented in Caffe Casoni in the Italian city of Florence in 1919, when local dignitary Count Negroni asked the barman to strengthen his favourite Americano cocktail by adding gin instead of soda water. The barman then garnished the new drink with orange peel, instead of the lemon used for the Americano, so as to distinguish between the two.

The Macallan Negroni, created by Cheri Loughlin the Intoxicologist, is made using the following ingredients and quantities,

1 ounce The Macallan 12 years old single malt
1 ounce Port
1/2 ounce artichoke liqueur (something like Cynar)
3 dashes of peach bitters
Twist of orange zest

To make it combine the liquids in a mixing glass with ice. Stir or shake to chill according to preference. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with the fresh orange zest twist. We plan to make this Macallan Negroni for ourselves in the next week or so (once we find one last ingredient!) and will report back as to how we get on and how it tastes.

Whisky Live 2011, London

It is that time of the year, when the weather is still wintery and bleak in London and we are just all hoping that spring comes early this year. For anyone familiar with the whisky event circuit that makes it way around the UK, this marks the time for the global phenomena of Whisky Live to roll its way into London. This year saw the event appearing in the central location of The Honourable Artillery Company Army in the heart of the City of London. The impressive building is an historic 18th Century mansion set in a six acre garden.

Like all recent Whisky Live events in London, this means making your way through numerous security gates to get into the building’s entrance hall. The venue had a far cozier feel than in previous years and everyone attending seemed to be in high spirits as a result. This year saw a number of new faces exhibiting including the Teerenpeli Finnish whisky company and the The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, as well as many famous names such as Glenrothes, The Glenlivet, Whyte & Mackay (including The Dalmore), Classic Malts from Diageo (including Talisker and Caol Ila) and Berry Bros & Rudd.

We were lucky enough to try a wide range of whiskies at the event and thought we'd share a few of our favourites and a few special treats that we were lucky enough to try.

Tyrconnell 10 years old Madeira Finish and 10 years old Sherry Finish
Tyrconnell Irish single malt whiskey is quite unique for an Irish whiskey with 100% malted barley distilled in small batches in a copper pot still. Produced by Cooley Distillery, the Tyrconnell brand was named after a legendary Irish racehorse that won with 100 to 1 odds, giving rise to the equine logo you find on Tyrconnell's bottles.
The Madeira finish whiskey at is aged in American oak before being given four months in Madeira casks before bottling. It is a rich fruity whiskey with chocolate notes and lots of rum and raisin ice-cream characteristics, with just enough woodiness to keep the dried fruit flavours in balance.
The sister whiskey finished in used Sherry casks for around 6 months after maturation in American oak also has an ABV of 46%. It is a rich amber colour with notes of honey and vanilla balanced into a rich and full spiced orange palate.

Connemara Turf Mór
Like the Tyrconnell, this Irish single malt whiskey is produced by the Cooley distillery. While this is a whiskey we have tasted before (see notes for Turf Mór) we reacquainted ourselves with this delightful peaty dram and had to include it on the list of favourites. At 58.2% ABV this a hearty dram with cereal like peatiness balanced with citrus freshness and a long sweet smokey finish.

Bowmore 16 years old Port Matured
From the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on the island of Islay in Scotland, comes this somewhat experimental 'limited edition' bottling (well, only a mere 18,000 bottles!). Bottled at 53.1% ABV after spending 16 years in Port pipe casks, this whisky is a dark ruby red colour with rounded soft smokiness, rich red fruits like dark berries, burnt cereals, and warming earthy spice. The cool fact about this whisky is that it was matured in the famous Bowmore vaults - below sea level!

Benriach Solstice
Benriach is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that is currently independently owned and has a reputation for having no fear when it comes to experimenting with flavours in whisky. Launched on the shortest day of the year in 2010, Benriach Solstice was created for the cold depths of the Scottish winter. It uses heavily-peated malted barley to produce a spirit that is then matured in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in aged Tawny Port casks sourced from Portugal's Douro region. Matured for 15 years with an ABV of 50% this is a whisky bursting with character. Sweet biscuit peatiness is met with fresh warming citrus on the nose while the warming smoke and spiciness comes through on the palate. We thought this whisky was delicious and certainly lives up to its warming reputation.

Benriach Horizons
A 12 year-old triple-distilled malt scotch whisky which was newly released for the winter of 2010/2011. This unusual Speyside whisky was an experiment in the late 1990s for Benriach as they tried some limited production runs of triple-distilled whisky, compared to most single malt scotch whiskies which are distilled twice. Bottled with an ABV of 50%. This whisky has us dividing opinions as to whether we this works or not. This whisky offered a buttery nutty nose with a clean fresh taste that matched the nose and gave some creamy sweetness to the mix. The split of opinion came down to the fullness of the whisky on the palate which was argued between being too thin and just right.

Compass Box Flaming Heart (Third edition - 10th Anniversary bottling)
No arguments here, Flaming Heart took first place in Dave Broom's blind tasting masterclass on Friday night, and the queues to get anywhere near Compass Box's stand was a tribute to this whisky. Compass Box is a boutique independent whisky producer with an ethos to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into their own unique whiskies. Flaming Heart is a one-off, limited release produced from whisky from seven distilleries located in the northern Highlands and Islands and bottled at 48.9% ABV. This is a surprising whisky that blends warming fruit, peppery spices and smokiness together without any one overpowering the other. Add a long moreish finish and it does makes sense why this whisky had more people than just us raving about it.

Compass Box Hedonism
One that we have tried earlier but had the pleasure of revisiting (see our review for Hedonism). Hedonism is unusual for a scotch whisky being made from 100% grain whisky. Not a drop of single malt is present in this vatting. The use of quite old whisky makes the standard release of this whisky amazing value, typically over 20 years in age and in this bottling between 14 and 29 years. In the glass we experienced sweet vanilla and cereal grain alongside oak, coconut and honey, but not forgetting toffee, warm gingery spices. As you can tell from that shortened version of our tasting list this is a complex whisky that at 43% ABV is remarkably easy to drink and enjoy.

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix
A very limited bottling with a quaint back-story. Following the extreme snow storms and cold weather faced by much of Scotland in January 2010, a number of Glenfiddich's warehouses were damaged due to extreme weight of snow that was resting on their roofs. Many casks were destroyed in the fallen buildings but a few lucky casks remained intact and were safely protected by a layer of snow for up to four months. While the distillery staff tried frantically to save as many casks as possible, the extreme cold was having its influence on the casks. Hence these whiskies became named 'Snow Phoenix' - the whisky that rises from the snow. The varying ages of casks including some very old whisky aged in both American oak and Oloroso sherry casks, leading to the decision to bottle at cask strength (47.6% ABV) as a non-aged single malt. Snow Phoenix is golden whisky with fresh apples and blossoms combined with cinnamon sugar on the nose, a dry woodiness initially to taste but warming into dried citrus, chocolate and warm spiceness on a long moreish finish.

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery
This bottling marks the start of a new series from Glenfiddich. This new bottling that is due to hit the travel retail market in Spring 2011, with a general retail release at some time towards the end of the year, most likely October. Named to celebrate the pioneering nature of the 15th century Portuguese merchants, this 19 years old bottling is aged in both European and American oak (around 15% to 85% ratio) then finished in Madeira casks sourced from Henriques and Henrique, an independent Madeira company. With a nose full of sweet caramel sugar and warming citrus notes akin to dried orange peel, this whisky has surprising subtleness on the palate with sweet fudge and butterscotch meeting gentle fruitiness. The sweetness is successfully balanced with dryness to make Age of Discovery one of the more impressive cask finished whiskies.

Talisker 8 years old (sample)
Until the 1980's Talisker's standard bottling was produced as an 8 years old whisky, after which time Talisker gave into the overall customer demand for whiskies aged 10 years on more. With whisky drinkers becoming more savy and experimental, Talisker are getting back to their roots and experimenting with this more youthful whisky expression again. The sample we were lucky enough to try was from the first batch that was only bottled on Tuesday earlier in the week, and yes, Mr Taxman, the duty was paid. Bottled at 62.4% and bourbon cask matured, this whisky was a delightful dram and really did offer the characteristics that are so frequently associated with Talisker - gentle peatiness, smoke and warming spiciness with citrus freshness and the notable fresh saltiness to remind you that this whisky is made on a small island.

Glendronach 31years old 'Grandeur'
Glendronach Distillery prides itself on producing richly sherried single malt whiskies of inimitable and individual character, and this dram certainly delivers on that front. This whisky came as a delight and a surprise from a distillery that has been described as a sleeping giant.
Full of rich chocolate, coffee and nuts, dried fruits and berries, with a warming syrupy feel, this whisky almost asks to be poured over icecream, but that would have requirement the difficult task of prying it out of someone's hands. You would never guess that this is a cask strength whisky at 48.9% given its smoothness. Definitely an after dinner whisky that should be supped with care and enjoyment.

Glen Moray Chardonnay cask (due to be released in July)
Glen Moray is a bit of quiet force. Along side of their compact standard range, Glen Moray are bringing out a few interesting and quite exciting cask finish bottlings. This year we got to try the delicious Port finish bottling which is rich and full of dried fruits, rich nuts, toffee and a peppery spice that balances nicely with the richness. The outstanding dram for us, however, was one which has not yet been released and while we were in the lucky position of being able to get a preview, we went for it. This whisky was fresh, tangy and floral with moreish buttery vanilla notes that kept this dram rich but still fresh and balanced on the palate. Slightly biscuity with fresh green fruits.

We must thank everyone that kindly allowed us to try many a sample, but mostly send a big hello to everyone we met (new faces and old) that made such an enjoyable few days. Hope to see you there next year.

The Whisky Round Table > March 2011

The latest edition of The Whisky Round Table is now available for all to read. The hosts this month are our good friends Chris and Lucas at the Edinburgh Whisky Blog. We are delighted to be one of the founder members of The Whisky Round Table, so hope that you will join us and our colleagues for this edition. Chris and Lucas' chosen subject is about the impact of whisky packaging, which includes each members best and worst examples from 2010. To read this month's sitting of the Whisky Round Table - click here.

The Whisky Round Table is the brainchild of Jason Johnston-Yellin, who is the author of the 'must read' whisky blog Guid Scotch Drink. His idea was to gather together 12 whisky bloggers from around the world and get them to discuss a whisky topic once a month. The hosting of The Round Table is passed around the 12 members, with each host setting the question for each month - the subjects have been wide and varied to date.

Links to the previous editions of Whisky Round Table articles can be found by clicking here. Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Inbox > March 4, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox has been born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here are this week's findings ...
Collingwood Canadian Whisky launched
collingwood canadian whiskyBrown-Forman, the Kentucky based bourbon whiskey producer, has announced the launch of a new Canadian whisky in its portfolio. Collingwood is made in small batches from Canadian cereals, uses water from Georgian Bay in Ontario and is triple distilled. It is then matured in white oak casks, before undergoing a unique process called Maplewood mellowing (we are still trying to find out exactly what this means! - Matt). Collingwood is packaged in an extraordinary looking bottle (pictured, left) and will initially only be available in the states of Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. More markets will be introduced through 2011 and the recommended price point is $26.99.

English Whisky Company > Royal Wedding whisky on its way!
st. george's royal wedding whiskyThe Norfolk based distillery, which is the only whisky distillery in England, has announced a new release to celebrate the forthcoming Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April. The whisky is a marriage of their peated and unpeated expressions, which have both been aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks from the famous Jim Beam distillery. In addition, there is also some whisky that has been matured in ex-red wine casks in the marriage. The Royal Wedding whisky will be bottled at 46% ABV in mid March and will be available from the English Whisky Company’s online shop from the end of the month … just in time for the wedding!! To pre-order a bottle (cost £65 each plus postage), go to

Lagavulin > meet the new Distillery Manager
The iconic distillery on the famous whisky island of Islay has a new Distillery Manager. Lagavulin have announced the appointment of Georgie Crawford, who is an Ileach (a person born on Islay) in to the role and she replaces the out-going Peter Crawford. Both are featured in the short film below, where they explain how they became interested in whisky, what their influences are, their favourite stories from their time in the industry and what it means to them to work at Lagavulin.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Penderyn celebrate St. David's Day

our penderyn bottle at waxy o'connor'sThe 1st of March was St. David's Day - the national day of Wales on which everyone pays homage to St. David, the country's patron saint. On this day, Welsh people around the world celebrate their national identity by embracing anything Welsh, be it a stereotype (think daffodils, leeks or Tom Jones) or otherwise. Since its creation in 2000, Penderyn - the first Welsh single malt whisky to be made for over a century - has been added to the list of things to aid the celebrations. The distillery is located in the Brecon Beacons National Park and its whisky has created a strong and patriotic Welsh following. However, it has been catching the attention of the wider whisky drinking audience in the last three or four years.

waxy o'connor's bar with welsh flagNumerous Penderyn (pronounced pen-derrin) whisky tastings and events formed part of the national celebrations around the country and earlier this week, we had the pleasure of attending one such St. David's Day evening hosted by Penderyn. They took over the Waxy O'Connor's bar in central London and painted the capital's biggest Irish pub Welsh for the night (pictured, left)! The event allowed us to reacquaint ourselves with the Penderyn Madeira finish, which is the core bottling of their range. We had not tried this for a while and thought that it tasted very good on the night. We have written about it before, but felt that after this we should update our tasting notes.

penderyn welsh whiskyOur tasting notes > Penderyn Madeira finish
The colour is yellow gold and almost straw-like with a fragrant and interesting nose. It is light and vibrant with some vanilla, honey, fresh green fruits (think of apples and pears) and plenty of sugary dried fruits (imagine a combination of brown sugar and sultanas). There is also a hint of bittersweet cereals and something herbal (think of dried grass/hay). On the palate, this feels creamy and velvety - it has an initial bitter oaky woodiness (with a hint of a woody spice like cinnamon) that quickly fades to sugary caramel, malted barley and almond notes. Then the vanilla and green fruit elements from the nose come through. The combination of flavours and the balance is lovely. The finish is reasonably long and refreshing, with the enjoyable sugary sweetness giving way to a nutty, slightly spicy and woody bitterness right at the end. Delicious and very moreish.

What's the verdict?
The Penderyn Madeira finish is a lovely and easy drinking whisky that really seems to be coming of age. It feels richer, sweeter and more rounded and balanced than we remembered. That is not saying that it was bad before, just that it seems to be benefiting from maybe more time spent maturing or maybe longer in the Madeira casks. It offers an enjoyable and refreshing dram and would be a great choice for a whisky beginner. The increased complexity should also hold the interest of the more advanced whisky drinker or connoisseur. A good bargain for around £30 a bottle too.

New releases > Dalmore Castle Leod

dalmore castle leodDalmore is a distillery that is located in the northern Highland town of Alness and was founded in 1839 by Alexander Matheson. It is currently owned by the famous whisky name of Whyte & Mackay, which is now a subsidiary of the Indian owned company United Spirits. The company own the famous Whyte & Mackay blended brand, as well as the distilleries of Fettercairn, Jura and Tamnavulin. United Spirits took over in 2007 and have since re-branded the Dalmore whisky range and packaging. Dalmore has an annual production capacity of around four million litres and has long been renowned for their use of high quality sherry casks during maturation.

Castle Leod is the home of the Chief of the MacKenzie clan and is located near the town of Strathpeffer. This lies to the north of Inverness in the northern Highlands and was famous in Victorian times for the healing properties of its natural spring waters. The castle is just 14 miles from Dalmore and the MacKenzie family once owned the distillery. The association can also be seen in the fact that both have the Royal stag's head as their symbol. The current castle was built in 1606 on the site of an ancient Pictish fort. It is built of local red sandstone and has walls as thick as eight feet thick (2.4 metres) in places.

This whisky has been bottled and released by Whyte & Mackay to celebrate the long association with the Mackenzie family and to help raise money for much needed renovation work at Castle Leod, which features on the packaging. The Dalmore Castle Leod is limited to just 5,000 bottles and should retail at around the £100 mark in specialist whisky retailers. The whisky was distilled in 1995 and has spent the majority of its time maturing in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, before transferring for the last 18 months to red wine casks. These casks had previously held Cabernet Sauvignon wine and were sourced from a Premier Cru vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Castle Leod is a rich, dark amber and the nose is rich and powerful with plenty of expressive, almost exaggerated aromas. There are initial notes of caramel, treacle and robust malted barley grains, which are joined by a strong orange citrus aroma (think of candied orange peel and marmalade). More subtle notes of honey and vanilla are detectable, before distinct fruity red wine aromas come through (imagine red fruit and woody, tannic spices). On the palate, this feels viscous, oily and rich with plenty of dark sugar/treacle/molasses notes to begin with. Then come tangy citrus flavours (think of orange peel or orange oil), lots of tannic drying wood spices (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg), some burnt cereals and dark dried fruits (especially raisins, figs and prunes). In the background are hints of dark chocolate and espresso coffee. The whisky grips to your palate, with the vibrant red wine tannins and dry woody spices lingering long in to the finish. The finish is complex and starts with initial sweetness then moving through burnt sugar/caramel to tangy orange and finally those tannic, dry spices.

What's the verdict?
Dalmore's Castle Leod is a good example of a wine cask finished whisky, although it may be too overpowering and rich for some. If you like this style of whisky with its exaggerated, almost heavy, aromas and flavours then you need to search this one out and give it a go. The whisky's limited numbers and Dalmore's high profile will mean that this sells quickly, so if don't waste time if you want a bottle.