Thursday, May 31, 2012

Have just tried - Glenturret 10 years old

Glenturret is officially the oldest whisky distillery that is still in operation in Scotland. It was founded on the same site as it stands today in 1775, and was a small farm operation called Hosh Distillery. It is located in the Highland town of Crieff, which lies between Perth and Stirling, and was legalised in 1837 when a man named John Drummond took over. On its 100th anniversary in 1875, the distillery was taken over by Thomas Stewart and he changed the named to Glenturret, which it has remained as ever since.

Glenturret is also one of the smaller distilleries in Scotland, with an annual production capacity of only 350,000 litres. In comparison, most Scottish whisky distilleries have capacities of between one and three million litres. It is currently owned by the Edrington Group, who took control in 1999. Whisky from Glenturret is used predominantly in The Famous Grouse range of blended whiskies, and it is because of this that the distillery is best known.

In 2002 The Famous Grouse Experience was opened at Glenturret, which is marketed as the 'signature malt' of the Famous Grouse, and it has become the most visited distillery in Scotland as a result. Over 100,000 people visit each year and it contains some innovative features, such as a consumer whisky sampling room built in one of the warehouses and an interactive 3D show that allows you to see the world from a ‘grouse eye's view’.

Due to Glenturret’s small production capacity and that its importance in the creation of The Famous Grouse blends, the amount of single malt released under the Glenturret name is miniscule. Only this 10 years old is on regular release, although other ages or single cask expressions do occasionally appear. The Glenturret 10 years old is bottled at 40% ABV and is available from specialist whisky retailers for around £30-35 a bottle.  Glenturret is a distillery that we have never tasted any whisky from, so it's about time that we did ...

Our tasting notes
The colour is a golden yellow and the nose has an interesting initial mix of fresh green fruits (especially apple) and distinct malted barley aromas.  With time, further aromas are detectable as the initial fruit and malt soften and subside - these include honey, vanilla, baking spices (think of nutmeg and cinnamon) and hints of almond and lemon peel.

On the palate, this whisky feels quite creamy, perhaps slightly oily, and grips the inside of your mouth.  There are plenty of the bittersweet cereals notes from the nose to start with and as these begin to fade, other elements start to appear.  These notes include some crumbly brown sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and green apples.  There are also increasing notes of zesty lemon peel and oak, both of which have the effect of balancing the sugary sweetness and giving a drier, spicier and bittersweet edge.

The finish is quite short and follows a similar pattern to the palate - the first element to fade is the malty cereals, then the sugary sweeter notes have their moment before the drying wood spices take over to finish things off.  It is this oaky dryness that leaves its lasting impression on your taste buds.

What's the verdict?
The Glenturret 10 years old is a pleasant and expressive whisky, but may not be to everyone's tastes.  It offers challenges in that it has a distinct bittersweet and drying spicy qualities but we feel that it is all the more interesting for that.  Because of this it has great depth and complexity compared to some of its 10 year old contemporaries.  We now want to try more Glenturret whiskies, but sadly they don't really exist.  Maybe we will have a look through some of the independent bottling companies current releases and unearth something ...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ardbeg Day is coming ...

This week sees the Islay Whisky & Music Festival (known as Feis Isle in Gaelic) taking place on the famous whisky producing island of Islay in Scotland.  The Festival sees whisky and music fans converge on the island in their thousands to sample some of the finest Scotch whisky and equally fine Scottish music.  As part of the Festival, each of Islay's eight distilleries (plus Jura which is a short hop over the water) have an open day where visitors can tour the distillery, take part in other activities and get the opportunity to buy a special release limited edition bottling from each.

This year, one of our favourite Islay whiskies is doing something just a little different.  Ardbeg, which is located on the southern coast of the island, is not only launching a new whisky but is also taking the festivities to a new level with Ardbeg Day - a worldwide celebration of all things Ardbeg - on Saturday 2 June, which is also the Feis Isle open day at the distillery.  Let's start with the whisky ...

The Ardbeg Day bottling will follow the tradition of previous years and be released to the Ardbeg Committee members, plus be on sale in the network of Ardbeg Embassies around the world (of which there are now over 100) on 2 June.  If you haven't joined the Committee yet, then you can do for free by visiting

The whisky is a limited edition of 12,000 bottles and is a marriage of two different styles of Ardbeg, which have been re-racked in ex-sherry casks for the last six months.  It has been bottled at 56.7% ABV and is rumoured to be priced at around £60 a bottle.  When we get our hands on some we plan to review it, so watch this space.

Ardbeg has always been one of the industry leaders in terms of creative edge, and Ardbeg Day is no different.  The other activities centre around the Islay-limpics (- see what they've done there?) and numerous 'sporting' events are taking place around the world on 2 June.  This is happening at the distillery during the Feis Isle open day and in the 'embassies' around the world, including Australia, across Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan.  Click here to find your nearest Ardbeg Embassy.

There are prizes being awarded for taking part in the various 'sporting' events associated with the Islay-limpics when visiting the distillery or an Embassy.  However if you aren't going to Islay or don't have an Embassy near you, then there is another option ... and we can help you with it!

Ardbeg have created a cyberspace 'treasure hunt' for those unable to attend any events.  They have selected a number of leading whisky blogs and websites around the world and placed a unique Islay-limpics collector's card on each, highlighting some of the 'sporting events'.  All you have to do is locate all of the Islay-limpics collectors cards and the first 100 people to do so will win some Ardbeg prizes.

Clues as to the locations of the cards will be broadcast in the coming days through the Ardbeg Committee, Ardbeg Facebook page and Ardbeg Twitter feed.  However, we can give you the first clue right now - one of them is below!  Click on it for further instructions.  Good luck - we hope that you find the other cards and win some Ardbeg goodies ....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movie review - The Angel's Share

At Whisky For Everyone we don't do movie reviews.  That's not because we don't like movies, but because there just aren't that many movies about whisky.  The classic Whisky Galore springs to mind, but that was made in 1949.  That's it apart from a few prominent cameos, such as the futuristic bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label in Bladerunner or the sublime 'Suntory Time' advert in Lost In Translation.  That is until now, as today sees the UK premiere in Glasgow of bittersweet comedy The Angel's Share, a new film by acclaimed director Ken Loach.

The movie has been written by Paul Laverty, whose other movie works include Looking For Eric, and is centred around a group of delinquents sentenced to community service for various crimes that they have committed.  The main character (Robbie, played by Paul Brannigan) has been given one last chance to rectify his ways after a series of brutal attacks on people.  Something has to change for him, otherwise he will be in jail for a long period and miss his newly born son growing up.

Friendships form within the group and the community service leader (Harry, played by John Henshaw) takes the group, and in particular Robbie, under his wing.  It is when Harry opens an old bottle of single malt whisky and shares it with Robbie to celebrate the birth of his son that proves to be the turning point.  In a way that many whisky fans will relate to (including us), Robbie realises there is more to whisky than he ever thought imaginable.

The story goes on from there with the bond within the main group of four characters, and the characters themselves, developing.  Whisky is the vehicle for this taking place but it is really the portrayal of these characters that is the story here.  The message that you can take your last chance and make something of yourself comes through loud and clear.  All of the community service characters are not particularly likeable at the beginning, which contains some gritty, hard hitting scenes around Glasgow, but turn themselves around by the end.

The movie is beautifully shot with some stunning locations used in the Highlands (and some not so stunning ones on Glasgow housing estates!), including the picturesque Balblair distillery.  Numerous scenes are shot in and around the distillery in the second half of the movie, and it is bound to become a hotspot location for visitors and movie fans alike.  There are also a few Scottish stereotypes that put in an appearance, such as kilts, Irn Bru and The Proclaimers on the soundtrack!

The movie has already picked up the coveted Jury Prize at the recent Cannes Film Festival and goes on general release in the UK on 1 June.  A worldwide release will follow shortly afterwards.  In the mean time, sit back and enjoy the trailer ...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Have just tried - Glenury Royal 40 years old

We always get slightly excited at Whisky For Everyone when a whisky sample arrives in the post from a distillery that we have never tried before.  This is heightened further when the distillery is closed and no longer in existence.  Glenury Royal fits the bill on both counts.  Recent releases of single malt from this distillery have been scarce and this is one of the oldest ever expressions to have been bottled from the remaining stocks.

The Glenury Royal 40 years old formed part of the Diageo Special Releases 2011 series.  We were lucky enough to sample nearly all of last year's releases at the launch event last October, but not this elusive beast.  Now we finally get the chance to try it and tick off another distillery from our list.  There are just 1,404 bottles, each of which is individually numbered, is bottled at the natural cask strength of 59.4% ABV and it has been maturing in the same re-fill ex-bourbon casks since 1970. It has a recommended price of £525 and is available through specialist whisky retailers.

The Glenury Royal distillery, or simply Glenury as it is sometimes known, was founded in 1825 by Robert Barclay.  It was located in the east Highland town of Stonehaven, which lies to the south of the city of Aberdeen.  The distillery was damaged by fire just a few weeks after opening, suffered periods of prolonged closure and had numerous changes of ownership over the years.  It closed for good in 1985 and the buildings were demolished in the early 1990s, to be replaced by a modern housing development.  Only the distillery's chimney remains.  Most of the remaining stocks belong to Diageo, the last owner of Glenury Royal.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep golden yellow and the nose is packed full of sensual aromas that jump out of the glass - there is a wonderful and expressive mix of warming wood spice (especially nutmeg), honey, butterscotch, dried apple, vanilla, polished oak furniture and hints of candied lemons and milk chocolate.

On the palate, this is incredibly vibrant for a whisky of this age.  The high alcohol level packs a punch, exaggerating the flavours present and letting the whisky grip the taste buds.  It feels a bit oily in the mouth, but quite zesty (the candied lemons again) at the same time.  There are initial honey, vanilla and brown sugar notes which soon become joined by some surprisingly fresh, crisp green fruits (think of pear and apple) and a hint of dried tropical fruit, especially mango.  The delicious combination is heightened by plenty of drying wood spices - imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and cedarwood - and a hint of cocoa powder.

The finish is long and becomes increasingly dry, spicy and mouth watering with time.  The initial honey/toffee-like sweetness quickly subsides to reveal the gripping oaky spices and a peppery heat, which seems to take an age to fade.  With water, everything becomes softer and creamier with the vanilla and honey notes coming more to the fore.  Thankfully some of the wood spices and the bitter lemon note survive also.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely single malt and one that feels like a real treat because of the general rarity of Glenury Royal whiskies.  It sets your taste buds alive with its rich, spicy and sweet flavours, which are intensified by the natural cask strength.  Its a stunner of a whisky and not too heftily priced compared to some of its 40 year old competitors.  It may be the first Glenury Royal whisky that we have ever tasted, but we hope that it is not the last.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inbox - May 25, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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.  There are a number of exciting new whisky releases that dominate this week, so here goes ...


AnCnoc - Oldest ever whisky
The up-and-coming Highalnd single malt brand of AnCnoc, which is made at the Knockdhu distillery, has announced the release of its oldest ever expression - the AnCnoc 35 years old.  The whisky has been made using a small selection of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks - these have been hand selected by Knockdhu's distillery manager Gordon Bruce and Stuart Harvey, the master blender for Knockdhu's owners Inver House Distillers.

The AnCnoc 35 years old presented in striking yet minimal packaging and is limited to just 1,495 bottles - these will have a recommended retail price of £200 each.  It has been bottled at the natural strength of 44.3% ABV, is un-coloured and non-chill filtered, and will be available from specialist whisky stores and selected online retailers shortly.

Stewart Buchanan
Benriach - First brand ambassador
We were delighted to hear the new this week that the Benriach Distillery Company have appointed Stewart Buchanan as their first ever brand ambassador.  The independent company owns Benriach and Glendronach distilleries and Stewart will be covering both brands. Stewart was formerly the distillery manager at Benriach and we met him a couple of years ago there - he is one of the nicest 'whisky people' that we have met to date. Congratulations to Stewart.

Diageo - Feis Isle bottlings
The hugely popular Feis Isle (that's the Islay Festival in English) kicks off today and each of the island's eight distilleries, plus neighbouring Jura, traditionally release a limited edition bottling for the Festival, which runs until 3 June. Diageo have announced details of the single cask bottlings from their two distilleries on the island - Caol Ila and Lagavulin.

The Caol Ila is bottled at 11 years of age and has been matured in an ex-sherry butt.  It has a strength of 60.4% ABV and there are just 618 individually numbered bottles available.  The Lagavulin release is 14 years old, is bottled at 55.1% ABV and has been matured ex-refill sherry butt.  there are just 654 bottles.  Both whiskies will retail at £85 and will be available on a first come first served basis at the two distillery open days - Caol Ila on 28 May and Lagavulin on 26 May.  For more information about the Festival - visit

Glenfarclas - Oldest ever!
The family owned distillery of Glenfarclas have announced their oldest ever bottling of single malt.  The whisky was distilled in 1953 and has been bottled at 58 years of age.  It is available exclusively through online spirits retailer Master of Malt.  The Glenfarclas 1953 was selected by a panel including renowned whisky writer Serge Valetin, George Grant of Glenfarclas and Ben Ellefsen of Master of Malt.

The whisky is packaged in an oak casket and is accompanied by a specially commissioned book written by whisky writer Ian Buxton.  The ex-sherry cask which was selected (cask number 1674, if you're interested) has yielded just 400 bottles.  The whisky has a natural cask strength of 47.5% ABV and each one will sell for £5,995.  For further information about the release or to buy a bottle (if you are feeling rich!) - click here.

Southern Comfort - Bold Black Cherry
Amidst the plethora of 'flavoured whisky/whiskey' releases comes this new offering from the Southern Comfort brand.  The brand was originally created in 1874 and this cherry flavour joins two other recent additions - Lime and Fiery Pepper.  The Bold Black Cherry has been created to compliment the current trend of creative bartending and is aimed at a younger, possibly non-whisky drinking consumer who like cocktails.

The Bold Black Cherry has been infused with real cherries andwill be available across the USA from early June.  It will also be in the UK and Irish markets shortly after.  It is bottled at 35% ABV and will retail for approximately $16.99.  Prices for the UK and Ireland have yet to be revealed.  For more information, please visit

Yellow Spot - New Irish whiskey
Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard have announced to launch of Yellow Spot 12 years old - a new whiskey in their award winning Irish pot still range.  The whiskey is the elder sibling of the Green Spot and has been matured in a unique combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-Malaga fortified wine casks.  The launch is technically a re-launch, as the brand was previously released by Dublin wine merchants Mitchell & Son but has not been around since the late 1950s.

Anna Malmhake, the Chairman of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard says, “Through skill and craftsmanship we have been able to retrieve this stunning long-lost gem. We are delighted to welcome it back into the portfolio today and we’re confident that it will heighten the rekindled interest we see in Irish single pot still whiskeys.” Yellow Spot is bottled at 46% ABV and will be available in the UK, Irish, European and American markets for £55/€65 each.  There are only 3,000 bottles, so don't hang about!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Have just tried - Mackmyra First Edition, Special 03 and Special 04 releases

Mackmyra was born after a (probably quite messy) evening during a skiing trip in 1999 in which eight friends each brought along a bottle of malt whisky. As the whisky flowed, conversation turned to how whisky was made, after few more drams the conversation had moved on to why, given the natural resources available, there was no malt whisky distillery in Sweden. By the end of the night they had decided that they should found a distillery. Unlike most of us who come up with crazy ideas during alcohol based evenings, these guys were serious, they had the courage of their convictions and the determination to become pioneers (and more importantly, they had remembered what they were talking about the night before).

By 2002, Sweden’s first whisky distillery was completed, renting an old iron mill in the town of Gävle a few hours north of Stockholm. Its first whiskies saw queues of people line up outside liqueur stores in Sweden to buy a bottle. Since then Mackymra have gone from strength to strength and they recently built a new £5 million energy efficient, gravity fed distillery, taking the capacity up to 2 million litres of spirit per year. The new distillery represents the first stage in a planned 10 year, £50 million investment in the construction of a Whisky Village (Whiskyby in Swedish) where there will be buildings dedicated to explaining each stage of the whisky making process and overnight accommodation for visitors.

The First Edition was Mackmyra’s first regular release following the limited edition Preludium Series that everyone in Sweden went mental for and queued down the street in order to nab a bottle. It’s bottled at 46.1% and retails for around £43 from specialist shops. Ninety-five percent of the whisky is matured in bourbon casks with the other five per cent matured in Swedish oak. Forty-five percent of the whisky then undergoes additional maturation in 100 litre casks which are made by the only remaining cooper in Sweden. The Special 03 is matured in teeny 30 litre casks specially made from ex bourbon and sherry casks and Swedish oak and is bottled at 48.2%. The Special 04 is a bourbon cask matured whisky finished in 30 litre casks and bottled at 53%. Both the Special 03 and 04 sell for around £65 from specialists.

Our tasting notes – First Edition
What’s initially very striking is the fruitiness and sweetness that hits you upon first nosing with aromas of pear drops, apple pie and custard. The nose gradually becomes woody with aromas of freshly sawn wood and sawdust. There’s still a sweet fruitiness there as well though, akin to stewed apples, strawberries and cream boiled sweets and cherries. More savoury aromas also pop up after a while which reminds me of alka seltzer and porridge oats. On the palate there’s a sweetness at first with blueberries and vanilla. Then it gets quite gristy and bitter - first with dark chocolate as the palate changes from sweet to bitter, and then lots of oakiness. There’s also some alka seltzer, and a hint of bitter fruitiness which reminds me of blackberries. All in all - a big forceful dram, which shows its young age with quite a lot of oak but there's enough fruitiness to offer some balance.

Our tasting notes – Special 03
 A mix of sweet and savoury on the nose with mashed potatoes, beer; chocolate limes, toffee and coco powder. On the palate there’s a sort of mentholated/boiled sweet thing going on and also wine gums. This one is quite sweet with tangy apple tart and strawberry ice cream, but this is all balanced by a nice oakiness throughout with blueberries on the finish. A very nice, compact, tasty dram.

Our tasting notes – Special 04
Lots of wood on the nose at first, more of the earthy damp sort of woodiness like forest floors, log piles and mulch. There’s also a sort of conifer/Christmas tree/pine-like note as well. After a while there are lemons, honeysuckle, mint humbugs and tinned peaches, and a slight bourbon note. Gradually it gets more grainy and cardboardy with a bit of time in the glass. On the palate there’s lemons and lemongrass – it’s lemony. Although that sounds like it’s super citrusy weirdly it’s not. There’s vanilla as well and cake mix along with some bitter sweet blackberries. There’s horseradish and black pepper mid palate followed by a short grassy finish. Another tasty compact dram but the short finish lets it down a little and the hot spiciness is a little forceful.

What’s the verdict?
The First Edition wins best nose, the 03 best palate and the 04 is somewhere in between. All very nice whiskies which although I don’t think are quite there yet (especially considering the price), certainly show that the whisky coming out of Mackmyra has a lot of promise. It’s going to be good fun seeing how the whisky progresses over the next few years.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New release - Spirit of Broadside

The Spirit of Broadside is a new product that has been released by Adnams, the British brewer and distiller.  Adnams is located in Southwold on the eastern coast of England, between the towns of Felixstowe and Lowestoft, and they have been making beer there for over 100 years.  They produce a range of highly awarded and popular cask and bottled beers, plus the also own a chain of pubs, hotels and wine shops.  One of their most popular beers is called Broadside, and it is the star of this blog post.

Adnams have been brewing Broadside for the last 40 years.  It was originally released to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sole Bay - a huge naval battle in the Third Anglo-Dutch War involving 170 ships and saw both sides claim victory - which took place off the coast of Southwold in 1682.  Broadside has now become one of their best sellers and to commemorate its 40th anniversary, Adnams have come up with something special.  They have distilled some of the Broadside beer to produce a unique 'eau de vie style' of drink, which they have named Spirit of Broadside.

In November 2010 Adnams completed work on a new distillery, which has been built next to their famous brewery.  The Copper House Distillery has been producing gin, vodka and whisky in the 18 months to date.  The gin and vodka were released immediately and have already started picking up major awards. The whisky has been laid down to mature and is planned for bottling when it reaches three years of age.  The Spirit of Broadside offers a one year old sneak preview of this and has been matured in heavily charred Russian oak casks, then bottled at 43% ABV.

The Spirit of Broadside, plus the full range of Adnams' beers, ales and spirits, are available now through  It will cost £27.99 for a 50cl bottle and £32.99 for a 70cl.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep for a youthful spirit and is dark golden yellow with a hint of amber. The nose is very fresh and full of vibrant aromas. There is an initial blast of vanilla, crisp green fruit (think of pear and apple) and plenty of freshly sawn wood. This vibrancy softens slightly with time in the glass and it begins to reveal some sweeter notes, especially honey and toffee. Underneath there is an interesting, slightly dusty and savoury note of dried grass or straw.

On the palate, this again feels very fresh and seems to follow a similar path to that of the nose.  The intense oak spice grabs your taste buds first and gives a drying, mouthwatering sensation.  After a few seconds this subsides to allow the softer and sweeter notes through - there are plenty of vanilla notes, plus some honey, tangy green fruits (the pears and apples again, although this time this note comes across more like pear or apple boiled sweets) and a hint of toasted marshmallows. The slightly dusty, savoury note is again in the background, although this feels a bit more vegetal now, and this adds a pleasant depth and bitterness.

The finish is a little short but gives a pleasant mix of sweet vanilla, honey and the slighty tart green fruits, along with plenty of gripping wood spices.  These spices give the finish a delicious dryness especially towards the end, as does a hint of pepper-like heat.

What's the verdict?
It is always good to try the first new product from a new distillery, especially one that already has a great reputation from another field of the drinks industry.  Adnams have not disappointed with the Spirit of Broadside, which shows plenty of encouraging characteristics for a spirit which has only had a year of maturation. 

It is not one for everyday drinking, due to its vibrant, spicy and drying nature, but it is worth trying.  It is also reasonably priced against other similar products from other distilleries.  We can't wait to see what happens after two more years in a cask, especially as these early signs are so good.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Inbox - May 18, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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.  There are a number of new whisky releases that dominate this week, so here goes ...


Crown Royal - XR launched
The Canadian blended whiskey brand of Crown Royal have announced a new limited edition to their range - the Crown Royal XR.  It has been created by Crown Royal's Master Blender Andrew MacKay and is made using the last remaining casks from the closed LaSalle distillery. Some of these are very old, which have been carefully blended and then bottled at 40% ABV.  The blend is poignant for MacKay, as he spent his early years in the industry by working at LaSalle.

The Crown Royal brand was originally launched in 1939 to commemorate the visit of King George VI to Canada, so it seemed fitting to release this new special release in the year of the current Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  The XR will only be available for a short period of time, predominantly in the US market - it has a recommended retail price of $129.99.  For further information, please visit

Glenkeir Treasures - Two new additions
The Whisky Shop - the UK's largest whisky retail chain - have announced the two latest releases in their Glenkeir Treasures range.  The two new additions are a Highland Park 18 years old and a Jura 21 years old.  Both are bottled at 40% ABV and will retail at £54 and £59 respectively for a 50cl bottle.  They can be purchased in any of The Whisky Shop chain's 20 stores around the UK, or via

As a special promotion to celebrate the launch, they are also offering a year's free membership to The W Club - The Whisky Shop's new members club, which launched in March - with every purchase.  The W Club offers a members only website, which features tasting notes, an interactive blog, exclusive member competitions and bottlings, plus 10% off all purchases in the stores or on their website.  For more information on The W Club or to join, go to

Laphroaig - Jubilee special release
The iconic Islay distillery of Laphroaig has joined the Diamond Jubilee whisky party by announcing a limited release to mark the occassion.  The distillery has strong links with the British Royal family, including having Prince Charles as a patron.  The release sees the 18 years old expression from the core range given a commemorative presentation carton, including the Queen's crest and 1/3000 bottles label being displayed.

The 18 years old Diamond Jubilee Edition is limited to just 3,000 bottles and is available only in the UK market.  It will be available from the end of May/start of June in selected specialist whisky retailers - the recommended retail price is £77.  To mark the celebrations, Laphroaig are also donating £3000 to The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. For further information, please visit

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dufftown - The whisky capital of Speyside

The Clock Tower, Dufftown
We recently visited the Spirit of Speyside festival, which is an event that celebrates whisky from the famous region at the beginning of May each year. We stayed in Dufftown, a town widely regarded as the whisky capital of the Speyside region. The reason being is that it is home to six working distilleries and a number of others that are now closed. Only the whisky island of Islay, well known and loved for the smoky style of whisky and home to eight distilleries, can rival Dufftown in the ‘Whisky Capital of Scotland’ stakes.

Here, we take a brief tour of the town and look at its history and the history of its whisky distilleries ...

Dufftown in a nutshell

Dufftown, and the area surrounding it, has been a site of human settlement for over 2,000 years. The earliest clues are a series of Pictish stones located in the Fiddich glen that are still able to be visited today, including an impressive six foot high stone cross. In 566AD, the Mortlach church was built by a group of Christians and this too is still standing today. It is one of the oldest remaining Christian settlements in Scotland and is located between the Dufftown and Mortlach distilleries. Another building of historical importance is Balvenie Castle, which was built in the 13th century by the Earl of Buchan. It has had famous visitors such as King Edward I and Mary Queen of Scots.

Balvenie Castle and Glenfiddich distillery

Dufftown as we know it today was founded in 1817 by James Duff, who was the 4th Earl of Fife. It was built to home those returning to the area from the Napoleonic Wars. The most recognisable building of this era is the clock tower, which was completed in 1839. It was originally built to be the town jail but today is the tourist information office. Interestingly, the clock itself was not part of the original building, but came from a similar building in the town of Banff. Over time, numerous whisky companies began to populate the town and build distilleries. This was due to the abundant water supply in the Fiddich glen and surrounding hills. As a result, Dufftown now raises more capital per head of population than any other place in the UK.

The distilleries

The Balvenie single malts are among some of the best selling in the world. The distillery was built in 1892 by William Grant, who was the owner of the neighbouring Glenfiddich distillery. The first spirit flowed from the stills in May 1893. Balvenie is almost unique in that all stages of the whisky making process still take place there. This includes even growing some of their own barley on nearby land and being one of only a few distilleries left in Scotland to practice their own floor malting – this is where the barley is laid out on a floor and turned regularly while germination takes place. It has a current annual capacity of 5.6 million litres and remains under the ownership of William Grant & Sons. The first Balvenie single malt hit the market in 1973 and the brand has gone from strength to strength since.

The Dufftown distillery was founded in 1895 by a group of four gentlemen – Peter MacKenzie, Charles MacPherson, Richard Stackpole and John Symon. The site was formerly a mill - this was converted and the first spirit flowed off their stills in November 1896. Dufftown is currently owned by multi national drinks company Diageo, who took control in 1997, and is their second largest distillery behind the recently opened monster at Roseisle. The annual capacity in 5.8 million litres and most of the whisky produced goes in to Diageo’s range of blends, especially Bell’s. A couple of single malts are available – the increasingly popular Singleton of Dufftown 12 years old and a travel retail exclusive 15 years old version.

The Glendullan distillery was founded in 1897 by William Williams & Sons. It was the last of the original seven distilleries from the 1800s to be opened and sits right down in the Fiddich glen, next to the River Fiddich. It is currently owned by Diageo and has an annual capacity of 3.3 million litres. The whisky is produced in a large still house, which was built in the 1972 and stands next to the old distillery. This old part of the distillery is now used for warehousing and training by Diageo. Single malts releases from Glendullan are scarce – the only one at present is a US exclusive Singleton of Glendullan 12 years old - and as a result the distillery is little known to a wider audience. Most of the whisky goes in to Diageo blends.

The iconic distillery of Glenfiddich is the most famous and largest of Dufftown's distilleries.  It is the biggest selling single malt whisky brand in the world and is the largest single malt distillery in Scotland with a current annual production capacity of 12 million litres.  Glenfiddich was founded in 1886 by William Grant and was constructed with the help of his nine children.  It remains owned by William Grant & Sons today and is one of the last remaining family owned distilleries in Scotland.  The pioneering range of whiskies is extensive and can be found in most countries around the world. It was the first single malt brand to ever be sold in the travel retail sector and also the first distillery to ever open a visitors centre in 1969.

The Kininvie distillery was built in 1990 by William Grant & Sons as the ‘little’ sister to Balvenie and Glenfiddich. It is located within the same property as its two more famous siblings and has an annual capacity of 4.8 million litres. The still house is the only true part of the distillery, as the mashing and fermentation takes place within Balvenie. Kininvie was built solely to produce whisky for the popular Grant’s range of blends, and more recently has been used in their Monkey Shoulder brand. Single malt releases from Kininvie are almost non-existent and when they do appear, they are named as Hazelwood. To date only a couple of very limited editions of Hazelwood have been released – one in 2006 and another in 2008.

Mortlach was the first whisky distillery to be established in Dufftown. It was founded in 1823 by James Findlater, shortly after the Customs & Excise Act was passed by the UK Government. The distillery sits in a hollow beneath the town, close to the River Fiddich and the ancient Mortlach church. It is also Dufftown’s smallest distillery in terms of annual production – 2.9 million litres. Mortlach is currently owned by Diageo and is used prominently in the popular Johnnie Walker range of blended whiskies - it has been used since 1923 when John Walker & Sons purchased the distillery. Only one single malt is currently available – the fabled 16 years old – and even this is sporadic, due to the Johnnie Walker blending contracts.


There are three other distilleries that can still be seen in some form or another in Dufftown – Convalmore, Parkmore and Pittyvaich. These distilleries are no longer in operation but have all contributed to the whisky history of the town.

Convalmore is located at the northern point of Dufftown and the buildings are now owned by William Grant & Sons, forming part of their massive site that includes Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie. It was founded in 1894 and closed in 1985, making whiskies from Convalmore now extremely rare.

Parkmore was opened in 1894 and closed in 1931 due to a contaminated water supply. The distillery’s equipment was removed shortly after, but the buildings and warehouses remain to this day. They are in amazingly good condition and are currently owned and being used by Diageo for maturation and storage.

Pittyvaich (pronounced pitty-vek) was built in 1974 and had a short-lived production life. It closed in 1993 and its buildings demolished in 2002. All that remains is a rather unattractive square patch of dirt where the distillery once stood and the very occasional single malt release.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Distillery visit - Southern Coast Distillers

Southern Coast Distillers
During our recent trip to Australia we made the pleasurable discovery of a little known distillery based in Adelaide, South Australia - Southern Coast Distillers.

Southern Coast Distillers are a small group of friends who have chosen to devote their spare time and (being entirely self-funded) spare cash making whisky. The company was formed in 2004 by three friends (Ian Schmidt, Victor Orlow and Tony Fitzgerald) and their partners with the intention of creating the unique vision of a South Australian single malt distillery. It is certainly not your average whisky distillery.

Distillation started in January 2005 with a tiny 80 litre still that was nick-named Monty as it looked somewhat like the famous cartoon character ‘Monty Burns’ from The Simpsons. The first cask to be filled was an equally tiny 50 litres. This should start to give an idea that this distillery is a little different and keen to try new ideas and set new standards. Since these humble starts the still has been replaced by a bigger 600 litre still nick-named ‘Homer’ in reference to its large size (well, compared to Monty) and various casks have been used by way of experiment. It should also be noted that both of the stills are hand-made by the distillers.

Ian Schmidt
Our visit to this less than typical distillery was evident when we arrived one sunny afternoon at a flagpole factory. Like any avid whisky lovers, we are used to the often picture postcard distilleries in Scotland and this could not have been more different. We were here to meet Ian Schmidt one of the driving forces of Southern Coast – a man who is passionate about whisky and wanted to create something unique and of the highest possible quality - whisky that he would want to drink.

Ian explains to us that they only make whisky for one day in every fortnight and the remainder of the time this is in fact a flagpole factory. When we asked Ian what made him start making whisky he answered that he had been making flagpoles for a lot of years and was a bit bored of it. He thought making whisky would be more fun and confirms that it certainly has been.

Southern Coast Distillery
Southern Coast Distillers still called HomerThe ‘distillery’ is on a caged off raised platform in this open factory space. It consists of Homer, a large tank (where the fermentation takes place) next to another large tank (where the mashing takes place), a few bags of malted barley, the odd liquid filled barrel and a few small French and American oak casks made in Tasmanian on the floor and on a shelf to the side a collection of bottles of their whisky and poor old Monty tucked in the corner. We were assured Monty was still in action from time to time however. It is all crammed into a space no bigger than the average kitchen. The other unavoidable fact is that despite the still not being in use and our visit occurring in the cooling autumn time, it was swelteringly hot up here.

There is nothing reminiscent of the traditional Scottish distillery here. It would be completely understandable at this time to think we have just discovered a madman who was making some crazy moonshine and that we should leave without making any sudden movements. We had heard, however, that this was whisky to be appreciated so we stuck around and tried a little of the whiskies released to date.

Southern Coast releases small batches of whisky as and when they reach a suitable flavour profile. Ian assures us that any whisky that does not meet a high standard will simply not be released. These whiskies reach maturity after roughly three to five years due to the warm climate in Adelaide. Anything longer than this would show excessive characteristics of wood plus the angels share would leave very little in the cask. These climates are closer to those of Bourbon producing regions of America than Scotland. Southern Coast is, however, determined to produce whiskies with the complexity of Scotch single malt so the climate certainly does create its own challenge.

While we were with Ian we tried small samples of Batches 1, 3,4 and 5. Each batch is limited to less than 180 bottles and each has its own unique flavour profile. See the website for detailed tasting note of these whiskies plus the sold out Batch 2. ( Ian also kindly provided us with a small sample of Batch 5 to take home and try in a somewhat cooler climate.

Southern Cross Distillers whisky Batch 5Our tasting notes - Southern Coast Distillers Batch 5 
This particular whisky was matured for a little over three years in a re-made and re-furbished, heavily toasted sherry cask made from American oak. It has an ABV of 46% and a yellow gold colour. On the nose there is bags of honey with vanilla and caramel/toffee/butterscotch sweetness tempered by bitter orange, oak/cinnamon bark woodiness and some oiliness. The creamy palate is filled with orange oils, leathery savouriness, cereals, eucalypt, liquorice and woody dryness with the sweetness coming through as burnt caramel, honey and vanilla. There is a long drying finish of spices, woodiness and that bitter orange. It is fresh and uplifting and leaves your mouth watering.

Our conclusion
Any whisky released from Southern Coast Distillers will be difficult to get a hold of unless you happen to live in Adelaide (even then you will need to go to East End Cellars or know one of the handful of bars who stock them). The good news is that they sell on their website and will deliver to anywhere in Australia, and this IS good news. Their whiskies stand up to the test and are impressively complex in flavour with each whisky having its own voice that is worth listening to.

Find out more about the whiskies and the distiller's philosophy at This is a distillery that certainly does not play by the rules but if this is what the new kids on the block are producing as a start, keep an eye on them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Distillery visit - Glenfiddich

On our recent trip to the Spirit of Speyside Festival, we paid a visit to the home of one of our favourite single malt whiskies - Glenfiddich.  We were booked in on the distillery's premium tour - The Pioneers Tour.  This promised to give us an in-depth distillery tour, while offering us the opportunity to bottle our own whisky in one of their warehouses.  All of this before sampling an array of their single malts in a tutored tasting as the finale.

Glenfiddich is the most recognisable single malt brand and distillery in the world. It is the biggest selling Scotch single malt whisky across 180 countries worldwide. The distillery is located on the outskirts of the town of Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland.  Dufftown is the whisky capital of Speyside and is home to six distilleries that are currently in operation - Balvenie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Mortlach.  Three others are now silent - Convalmore, Parkmore and Pittyvaich.

The name of Glenfiddich translates as 'valley of the deer' from Gaelic and is pronounced glen-fiddick. It is Scotland's largest single malt distillery and remains one of the few remaining family owned distilleries. Glenfiddich was constructed by William Grant and his nine children in 1886 using materials from the surrounding landscape and the first spirit flowed from the stills on Christmas Day 1887. It remains owned by William Grant & Sons to this day.

The Pioneers Tour began in the entrance to the visitors centre, under the William Grant's family tree (pictured, left).  It was the first distillery visitor centre in Scotland opening in 1969 and has grown to cater for 77,000 visitors in 2011.  We were greeted by Bert Macor, Senior Guide at Glenfiddich, who led us through to a film theatre.  Here we watched a short but emotive video about the history of the Glenfiddich distillery and the historical involvement of the Grant family in its construction and operation.

Bert then carried on the introduction by filling in some of the historical gaps that were not covered in the film, followed by hitting us with some of the staggering statistics of this huge distillery.  For example, at Glenfiddich they use around 90 tonnes of malted barley each day - this results in 12 million litres of spirit being produced and put in to casks each year.

The tour moved inside the distillery into the mash room.  This is where the malted barley grist is mixed with warm water so as to dissolve the soluble sugars needed for fermentation.  This process takes place in two of the biggest mash tuns that we have seen on any distillery visit to date.  These copper-domed tuns dwarf us and can hold 11,000 tonnes of mash each.  Between them they complete four mashes a day adding up to 56 a week in total.  They also have a viewing window in the side and we witnessed a new batch of water being added to the mash and slowly stirred.

Moving upstairs, we entered the series of rooms where the fermentation takes place.  It is here that we begin to fully see the physically large scale of Glenfiddich - there are 24 tanks, called washbacks, each of which hold 50,000 litres of liquid.  The wort comes from the mash tun, has yeast added and is then left to ferment for 72 hours.  Here the sugars in the wort are converted to alcohol and this new liquid is called wash.  Each washback is made of wood from Douglas fir trees.

Our next stop is one of the two still houses.  This is home to five large wash stills, where the first distillation takes place, and 10 smaller spirit stills, which complete the second part of distillation process.  The second still house is equipped with five wash stills and eight spirit stills.  The place has a real sense of awe about it, especially when you start to comprehend the 12 million litres of spirit that is annually produced, and the noise from directly fired stills is immense.  When standing next to the spirit stills (seen in the foreground of the photo) what is surprising is how small they are - you could almost reach up and touch the lyne arm, if you wanted to.  Well, if it wasn't boiling hot ...

Bert then led us across the courtyard, down a narrow path and over a bridge.  Our destination was to be Warehouse No.8 - one of the old dunnage-style warehouses on the site and home to the famous Solera Vat, which is used in the maturation of the award winning 15 year old expression of Glenfiddich.  In total, there are 44 warehouses which are used for maturing whiskies from Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kinivie.  There is a staggering 120 million litres of spirit maturing in these warehouses.

After a quick look around the warehouse and an explanation from Bert about the impressively large Solera Vat (it holds 37,000 litres of whisky and is never completely emptied, which gives consistency to the 15 years old expression), we move on to the main event - the opportunity to bottle our own 20cl from one of four casks selected by Glenfiddich's Malt Master Brian Kinsman (pictured, left).  You will only get the chance to do this on The Pioneers Tour - Brian has selected two ex-bourbon casks, one first-fill and one second-fill, and two ex-sherry casks, one first-fill and one second-fill.

After a quick sniff of each cask, we all chose the one we wanted to bottle. Using the traditional dog and funnel we then get to pull our own measure of whisky and fill our own bottles.  This is a great experience to take part in and felt special and unique, especially when standing in such peaceful surroundings. Karen chose the first-fill sherry cask from 1995 and Matt chose the first-fill bourbon cask from 1991 - this proved even more special, as it turned out to be the first bottle drawn from this new cask.

The grand finale of The Pioneers Tour took place in the luxurious VIP Suite surrounded by photos of the Grant family.  Firstly, we hand wrote the labels for our 20cl bottles and entered our details in the cask ledger book.  This ceremony is followed by a tutored whisky tasting with Bert, who after allowing us a sniff and sip of Glenfiddich's new make spirit, took us through the 12 years old, 14 years old Rich Oak, 15 years old, 18 years old, 21 years old Gran Reserva and 30 years old expressions.

The Pioneers Tour left us with plenty of memories to reflect on.  Firstly, how could three and a half hours go so quickly? Secondly and most importantly, is the sense of tradition at the distillery.  We had wrongly imagined that Glenfiddich was going to be a huge industrial factory - this is not the case and you see this at every point of the tour.  Yes, it is huge but everything feels traditional and is simply replicated to a scale that meets their vast needs, be it the mash tuns, washbacks, stills or warehouses.  Every employee that we spoke to seemed to proudly enjoy working there and felt that they had a direct link to the Grant family in some way.  Long may that feeling continue.


As we were going around Glenfiddich, we took a few clips of video so that we could bring you some of the sights and sounds of the distillery.   We hope that you enjoy our video - don't worry it's not three and a half hours long, just four minutes ...

Tour details  - The Pioneers Tour
Entry - £75 per person/ Tour duration - 3 hours 30 mins/ No. of drams - 7 + 20cl single cask bottle to take home/ No. of people on our tour - 6/ Further details -

Glenfiddich also runs two alternative distillery tours - the Classic Tour and the Explorers Tour.  The Classic Tour is free of charge and takes in a tour around the distillery, finishing with a tasting of three expressions from the Glenfiddich single malt range.  This runs about every 20-30 minutes.

The Explorers Tour costs £10 per head and covers the distillery in more depth, taking in the famous Solera Warehouse No.8 and finishing with a tasting of four whiskies in the William Grant's VIP Suite.  Booking is essential for the Explorers and Pioneers tours - email or phone 01340-820373.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Inbox - May 11, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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.

benriach distilleryBenriach - Floor maltings to re-open
The award winning and independently owned Speyside distillery of Benriach have announced that the floor maltings will re-open shortly. The maltings at the distillery, which is just south of Elgin, have been out of action for the last 13 years.  All of the original equipment has been restored with the help of former employees, including Robert Fleming who is now distillery manager at Tomatin.  Benriach's own distillery manager Stuart Buchanan has overseen the work and explains,

"We have been working hard since Christmas getting the BenRiach maltings back up and running. Surprisingly, after being shut for the best part of 13 years, the machinery is all in great condition! The next stage is to get some weight on the system to see how it runs under stress. I have 3 tonnes of barley sitting ready to go for a whirl round the floors. The kiln is working well and all going well, it should all be ready in around 10 days maximum".

Bowmore - Small Batch Reserve
The Bowmore distillery, which is the oldest on the famous whisky island of Islay, has announced a new release which has been prompted by consumer demand - the Small Batch Reserve.  This new whisky is a combination of some of Bowmore's finest first-fill and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, and is said to marry the subtle notes from these casks with the signature soft peat smoke of Bowmore.

The Small Batch Reserve is the first new whisky to be released under the stewardship of new Morrison Bowmore Master Blender Rachel Barrie, who says "The sweetest smoked barley and highest quality bourbon oak casks have created a vanilla elixir with ripe orchard fruits, honeycomb and teasing wispy smoke. Relax, take it easy and enter Islay time with the harmonious taste of Small Batch Reserve.” It is bottled at 40% ABV and will be available by the end of May in selected retailers, with a recommended price of £32.99.

Glenmorangie - The Next Generation
The iconic Highland distillery of Glenmorangie is offering a rare prize to whisky fans.  In celebration of the forthcoming Father's Day, they are offering the chance to be part of history - to part own a cask of 2012 new make spirit which will then be matured for 25 years in Glenmorangie's warehouses.  This unique opportunity is open to the first 250 people to purchase a special promotional bottle of their award winning 25 years old on or after 1 June.

The lucky 250 will qualify for a share in a commemorative cask which will not be bottled until 2037.  They will be invited annually to the distillery to sample how the cask's maturation is progressing.  Each will also have access to a members only website called Generations of Wisdom and receive a Cask Holders Pack, including a signed certificate from Bill Lumsden, the Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation at Glenmorangie.

Naked Grouse - Shake it up
The blended whisky brand of Naked Grouse has teamed up with Imbibe magazine to get the UK's top bartenders and mixologists to create a new cocktail with the brand at its centre.

They have all been sent a kit similar to the one we received (pictured, left) and tasked with constructing their new creation using just four simple ingredients - Naked Grouse, sugar syrup, bitters and water.  Regional heats are being held throughout May and will take place in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester.  Competitors will be marked on knowledge of the brand, attitude, skill and creation.  All regional winners plus the overall winner will be included in a feature in Imbibe magazine following the final in Crieff, where the Naked Grouse brand has its spiritual home.

Tomatin - All aboard!
The Highland single malt of Tomatin is undertaking a special excursion around Japan over the coming months. The Japanese distributors of the brand, Kokubu & Co Ltd, are commemorating their 300th anniversary this year and as part of the celebrations they are taking Tomatin to the people.  This is in the form of a Tomatin branded old red London RouteMaster bus.

The tour started on 9 May and will take in the major cities of Tokyo, Sapporo, Yokohama, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Osaka and Nagoya, before ending up in Sendai on 3 July.  While in each city, the bus will host various tasting events for consumers.  For further information, visit the special tour website.

Whisky Round Table - April 2012
The latest sitting of the newly re-vamped Whisky Round Table is now available for you to read.  The May edition is hosted by one of the original members of the group - the US based Whisky Party blog.

The three guys set a question about whether old whiskies are wasted on older peoples palates or whether only they can truly appreciate whisky of this age through experience.  Read the answers and comments of the Whisky Knights by clicking here.