Thursday, December 29, 2011

New releases > Aberlour 1993 'Dimensions' from Duncan Taylor

Earlier this month the award winning independent bottler Duncan Taylor announced the launch of The Dimensions Collection.  This is a range of single malt and single grain Scotch whiskies that showcase some of the best casks in their stock. The collection demonstrates the multi dimensional levels of character and flavour available from individual distilleries and casks. The Dimensions Collection consists of two versions of bottling - single cask, cask strength releases and exclusively numbered small batches at 46% ABV. The initial bottlings, listed below, are now available in specialist whisky retailers.

The Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky Ltd. were set up in Glasgow in 1938 with the plan to bottle and blend whisky for export to America following the Prohibition period there. Originally based in Glasgow, they are now based in the town of Huntly close to the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. Duncan Taylor are reported to have one of the largest privately held collections of rare whisky casks in the world and bottle approximately 200 different whiskies a year. Their range is extensive and has numerous branches to it, of which The Dimensions Collection is the latest facet.

We were recently delighted to receive a small sample of the Aberlour 1993, which forms part of the initial release. This also includes a Bunnhabhain 1988, Cameronbridge 1978, Clynelish 1995, Glenlivet 1981, Glen Moray 1988, Glenrothes 1992, Macduff 1997, Mortlach 1989 and Royal Brackla 1997. For further information on The Dimensions Collection and the full range of Duncan Taylor whiskies, visit

Aberlour 1993 > Our tasting notes
This whisky is bottled at 18 years of age and a strength of 54.3% ABV.  It has been matured in an ex-bourbon cask (cask no. 7371 to be exact) following its distillation at the Speyside distillery of Aberlour in 1993. There are just 277 bottles and it is retailing around the £65-70 mark.

The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and full of the classic bourbon cask characteristics - vanilla, oak, honey and coconut.  There are also numerous other aromas that come through with time to create a delicious and very promising scent - toffee, stewed pears and apples, lemon zest, bittersweet cereals and hints of peach and custard powder.  On the palate, the vibrancy of the nose continues.  An initial mouth watering hit of vanilla, wood spice (think of nutmeg and cinnamon) and lemon zest, is closely followed by notes of honey, creamy toffee and the cereals and stewed fruits from the nose. A late fruity note of peaches and dried mango add to the incredible depth and complexity.  The finish is decently long, with the initial honey and cereal sweetness turning more oaky and spicy towards the end.  The cinnamon and nutmeg from earlier are particularly prominent and create a good balance and dryness.

What's the verdict?
Duncan Taylor are multi award winning and have a great reputation within the whisky industry and with whisky drinkers.  It is easy to see why when you sample this delightful single malt.  It combines freshness and vibrancy with depth and compexity of flavour and aroma. The addition of a few drops of water makes the palate more creamy with the vanilla and honey aromas and notes increasing, while the wood spices and zest are reduced. 

This is a lovely and delicate expression of Aberlour, which normally undergoes ex-sherry cask maturation in the distillery releases and are therefore much richer and sweeter.  If only all single cask whiskies or independent bottlings were of this exceptional quality ...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New releases > Dalmore 1995 Vintage

The north Highland distillery of Dalmore have launched a new single malt whisky in the UK. The whisky has been specially selected by Dalmore's Distillery Manager Ian Mackay and will be sold exclusively through The Whisky Shop - the UK's largest specialist whisky retail chain.  The Dalmore 1995 Vintage has been matured in combination of ex-Matusalem sherry casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks and is limited to just 1,800 bottles.  It is bottled at 40% ABV and can be purchased at any of the chain's 18 stores or via, costing £84.99 a bottle.

Speaking about the release, Ian Mackay comments, "I was delighted to be able to choose a whisky that would represent my favourite style of single malt for The Whisky Shop. I’ve selected a whisky that has been matured in two of my favourite casks, and I just hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I do!". 

Andrew Torrance, the Managing Director of The Whisky Shop chain adds, "Ian has over 30 years experience working in the whisky industry, and his choice of casks for us certainly didn’t disappoint. The brand of Dalmore has gone from strength to strength over the last few years both in liquid supremacy and packaging excellence, so having our own exclusive chosen by the Distillery Manager will be a real asset".

The Dalmore distillery is located in the northern Highland town of Alness in Scotland and overlooks the imposing Cromarty Firth. 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! The current capacity of the distillery is four million litres per year. 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.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is rich and expressive.  There are plenty of initial aromas of caramel/toffee, brown sugar and dark dried fruits (think of raisins, prunes and figs especially).  With time in the glass, further aromas join in - spiced orange, cinnamon, coconut and hints of creamy milk chocolate and a whiff of burnt matchstick (this element in particular seems to increase with water).  On the palate this whisky is soft, gentle and warming with a slightly oily mouth feel.  A distinct note of tangy spiced orange kicks things off, followed by the caramel, honey, further wood spices (cinnamon and nutmeg especially), vanilla and dried fruits. Something darker begins to appear underneath, with notes of milk chocolate and espresso coming through. More drying woody spices are present in the background, which increase with time and balance the sweetness. The finish is lengthy, rich and warming. There is again plenty of caramel/toffee-like sweetness tempered by drier wood spice and a lovely hit of that tangy orange zest.  Delicious.

What's the verdict?
This is a good whisky and one that is a slight departure from the regular Dalmore range, which exhibit heavy ex-sherry cask maturation characteristics. This is a little lighter and shows good elegance, depth and complexity of aromas and flavour.  It will appeal to those who like popular single malt whiskies such as the Balvenie Doublewood or Macallan Fine Oak range, both of which mix ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks in a similar way. Reports are that this new release has sold heavily up to Xmas.  If you wish to buy one, then don't hang around as it may not be around for much longer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New releases > Ballantine's Christmas Reserve 2011

This is a new limited edition to the range of Ballantine's, the popular blended Scotch whisky. The Ballantine's Christmas Reserve has been created by Ballantine's Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and has been designed to have a 'seasonal and festive profile'. It can be purchased up to and over the Christmas period in limited quantities and in limited markets including France, Spain, Taiwan and the UK.  The bottling appears with an alcohol strength of 40% ABV and should cost around £30.

Ballantine's is a famous whisky brand that boasts a multi award winning range of blended whiskies. The core range consists of the best selling Finest, plus 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old versions. The range is amongst the best selling whiskies in the world and is currently in second place for total volume sales, behind only Johnnie Walker, selling 70 million bottles a year. Ballantine's whisky was first produced in 1869 by a Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine. He had expanded his grocery business in to the area of wines and spirits, before deciding to start blending his own whiskies. In 2005, the Ballantine's brand became part of the large multi-national drinks company Pernod Ricard, who remain the current owners.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep golden amber and the nose is sumptuous and packed with Christmas-like aromas - soft dried fruits (raisins, sultanas and dates), candied orange peel, crumbly brown sugar, caramel, toasted almonds and plenty of warming festive spices (cinnamon bark, nutmeg and star anise especially).  In addition to these, there are lovely aromas of fresh red apple, baked pear and a hint of milk chocolate. The scent is delicious and is like smelling Christmas cake in a glass.  This feeling carries on when you taste the whisky - it is soft, velvety, lovely and makes you think of Christmas with every sniff.  There is initial creamy vanilla and a blob of honey, before the notes from the nose come to the party.  Especially prominent are caramel, deep sweet spiced oranges, toasted caramelised almonds, soft dried fruits (think of mincemeat in mince pies) and baked apples and pears.  The soft spices build with time and are reminiscent of those used when mulling wine or cider - cinnamon stick, nutmeg, star anise, cloves and a pinch of powdered ginger.  The finish is long and begins with the dried and baked fruit notes, before becoming drier, woodier and spicier towards the end.

What's the verdict?
This whisky is delicious and very easy to drink.  It would offer a great introduction to whisky for someone who hadn't tried it before or thought they didn't like the stuff. It offers richness, compexity, depth of flavour and aroma and, most importantly, great value for money.  If this special blend were released at any other time of the year, then it would still be lovely.  However, the fact that it is being released at Christmas and the flavour profile matches perfectly with what is expected for this festive time makes it even better.  Our advice is to sit down with your friends or family over the coming holiday period and enjoy this wonderful dram.  We certainly will be!

To support the the 2011 launch, Ballantine’s Brand Ambassador Fredrik Olsson has created a series of seasonal cocktails using the Christmas Reserve - the Golden Saffron Martini, the Spiced Hot Chocolate and Hot Christmas Punch - we had a go at making the Spiced Hot Chocolate (see our attempt, left) which was made by combining the Christmas Reserve with hot milk, drinking chocolate, marshmallows and a spoonful of chocolate sauce ... it was delicious.

Check out the video clip below, in which Sandy Hyslop explains the ideas behind the Christmas Reserve and how he selected the whiskies to be included in the blend.  Enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Inbox > December 16, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently 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 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.

PLEASE NOTE > Inbox will return on Friday 6 January 2012, following a short festive hibernation.  We would like to wish all regular readers of Inbox a Merry Christmas and hope that the New Year is good to you.  Karen & Matt

Glenrothes > Editor's Casks released
The award winning Speyside distillery at Glenrothes have announced the release of two special single casks.  Named The Editor's Casks, these whiskies were selected by four whisky and spirits editors from around the world - Martine Nouet, Christian H. Rosenberg, Noah Rothbaum & Ho-Cheng Yao - under the watchful eye of Gordon Motion, the Malt Master at the Glenrothes distillery.

The two casks are Cask #3828 (distilled in 1979, matured in a re-fill ex-sherry butt & bottled at 52.1% ABV) and Cask #9973 (distilled in 1996, matured in a Spanish oak hogshead cask & bottled at 57% ABV).  Editor's Cask #3828 has yielded just 300 bottles, which will be available in Europe only and will retail for £600/€700.  Editor's Cask #9973 has just 264 bottles, which will be available only in Taiwan and the USA and will retail for NT$7,000/$375. For further information, visit

Highland Park > Two new Vintages
The Orcadian single malt has added two further limited edition Vintages to their esteemed range of premium whiskies. The first of these Highland Park Vintages was distilled in 1971 and matured in Spanish oak ex-sherry casks to give rich, dark fruity notes. The second was distilled in 1976 and matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks to give light vanilla and aromatic fruit notes. The pair will be available from specialist whisky retailers shortly.

The pair join the three other Vintages that are currently available in the Highland Park Vintage range - the 1964, 1968 & 1970 - and are bottled in the same bespoke black glass bottles, which feature an embossed amulet of their logo and are presented in a wooden casket. The 1971 Vintage is bottled at 46.9% ABV and will be priced around £2,300. It is limited to just 657 bottles. The 1976 Vintage is bottled at 49.1% ABV and will be priced around £2,000. It is limited to just 893 bottles.

Isle of Mull > Christmas cocktails
Our new found friends at the Isle of Mull whisky company have created a special festive cocktail that uses their blended whisky. The Isle of Mull blend was founded in August 2010 by childhood friends Neil Morrison and Calum Maclean. For more details and info about the whisky, visit The ingredients and instructions for the cocktail are below - why not give it a go?

Ingredients - 25ml Isle of Mull Whisky, 25ml Chambord raspberry liqueur, 12.5ml Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, 100ml milk, fresh raspberries, chocolate powder, ice. Tools - Boston shaker and glass, highball glass. Method - Mix Isle of Mull Whisky, Frangelico and milk together and pour into an ice-filled highball glass. Pour the Chambord on top of the floating ice and dust with chocolate powder. To garnish, add two fresh raspberries. Then enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Have just tried > Glayva

Glayva is a popular whisky based liqueur. The recipe for the liqueur was first created by the Edinburgh based whisky merchant Ronald Morrison in 1947.  The exact details of the recipe remain a closely guarded secret but it is a combination of single malt whisky, tangerines, honey, cinnamon and exotic spices.  The name is derived from the Gaelic phrase 'Glè Mhath', which translates as 'very good'.  The brand is currently owned by whisky giant Whyte & Mackay and is a multi award winner.

Glayva is widely available and can be found in most supermarkets, liqueur stores and specialist whisky retailers.  It is bottled at 35% ABV and in 35cl and 70cl bottles, selling for £10-12 and £18-20 respectively. For the coming festive period, the brand has teamed up with The Whisky Shop - the UK's largest whisky retail chain - to produce a special limited edition label. The Glayva 'You're the Best' range (pictured, above) is exclusive to the chain and only 150 bottles have been produced. These carry one of three messages - 'You're the Best in the World', 'Best Mum' or 'Best Dad'. This special bottling can be purchased for £19.99 at any of The Whisky Shop's 18 stores around the UK or via

Our tasting notes
The colour is a dark orange amber and the nose is sweet and spicy.  There are initial aromas of honey, orange zest, peppermint and plenty of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and star anise.  After a short time in the glass these aromas are joined by those of moist ginger cake, golden syrup, cloves and some earthy ginseng.  On the palate, this is rich, thick and syrupy.  It coats the inside of your mouth with a mix of over-the-top sweetness and gripping, earthy spice which adds balance.  The sweetness is driven by the honey from the nose, plus some toffee and marshmallow, and these are contrasted by plenty of zesty bitter orange peel notes.  The depth and complexity of the variety of spices and herbal notes is what adds the real interest here though.  There is much going on - cinnamon, liquorice, nutmeg, cloves (this provides a hint of antiseptic feeling), mint, ginger and cardamon.  It has to be said that not much whisky can be detected with so many other powerful notes involved.  The finish is long, with the spices and bitter orange pleasantly hanging around.

What's the verdict?
Glayva is very pleasant but it is fair to say that it's a little tricky to handle when taken neat. However, this is true for most whisky based liqueurs and they are not really designed to be drunk in this way.  The first, and most obvious, thing to try was to add some ice - this chills the liqueur perfectly and it feels velvety in the mouth with a delicious combination of the zesty orange and earthy spice notes that was particularly pleasing.

In addition, we experimented with a number of different mixers and found that some work very well.  Our particular favourite was when mixed with tonic water - the addition of a couple of ice cubes produced a perfect aperitif style drink and one that would be great on a hot Summer's afternoon.  Other combinations that worked well and complimented the Glayva were when it was mixed with either ginger beer (this was especially good at enhancing the spices) or cranberry juice (this one sounded odd to us, but it was on the Glayva website so we thought we would try it ... and it works). A warm alternative is to use it to make a hot toddy by adding boiling water, honey and a slice of lemon - we made this one up and it tasted good and festive!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Have just tried > Glenfiddich 15 years old

The Glenfiddich 15 years old forms part of the core single malt range of the iconic Glenfiddich distillery.  It is different to other expressions in this range as it has a higher ex-sherry cask percentage. The single malts destined for this release are initially matured in a combination of ex-sherry, ex-bourbon and new oak casks, before undergoing a unique process for the Scotch whisky industry.  It is then put in to a solera vat - a large wooden tun or vessel normally used in the Spanish sherry industry.  The solera vat marries the whiskies together and it is then taken, cut with water and bottled at 40% ABV. The Glenfiddich 15 years old can be found in most supermarkets, liquor stores and specialist whisky retailers and should cost between £35-40.

Glenfiddich is the most famous whisky distillery and single malt brand in the world. It sells the most Scotch single malt of anyone, and by a mile. The distillery is located on the outskirts of the town of Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland. The name is taken from the Glen Fiddich, the valley in which it lies and translates as 'valley of the deer' from Gaelic. The distillery is massive and has a capacity of 10 million litres per year, making it Scotland's largest distillery.

Glenfiddich is almost unique as it is still a family owned business. The distillery is owned by the same family that established it - William Grant began construction of Glenfiddich distillery in 1886 and William Grant & Sons was formed in 1903. Today, they own the neighbouring Balvenie and Kininvie single malt distilleries, as well as the Girvan grain distillery and new Ailsa Bay single malt distillery in Ayrshire. For further information on the Glenfiddich distillery and its history, then visit the distillery profile page on our website

Normally, we now write our tasting notes and thoughts on the featured whisky but have decided to do something different with this one. Last week, we took part in a tasting of the Glenfiddich range on Twitter which was organised by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire blog.  Steve had collected together a number of whisky fans and bloggers, plus the major coup of Glenfiddich's UK Brand Ambassador Jamie Milne.  To see the chain of tweets for the tasting, go to Twitter and type #FiddichTT in to the 'search' box. Below are some of our fellow participants tweets from the tasting of this Glenfiddich 15 years old.

On the nose
@S_Rob - orange preserve, coffee and choc up front. A little mint, liquorice and mentholated notes
@distiller - apples and cinnamon...dutch apple pie...ginger spice...again vanilla fudge... slight dessicated coconut
@FrazerJ - marmalade tones, reminds me of breakfast at Grans. :-)
@jonmbryant - Boom! Raisins, thick sherry, blackcurrant lozenges
@mnshanbhag - nose oranges, cherries, honey
@TheWhiskyWire - Wedge of spiced apple strudle and a Christmas cake that’s had its sumptuous fruits soaking in a orange liqueur
@DurhamFanDan - Cherry pie filling, blackcurrant lockets, spice (cinnamon)
@whisky4everyone - malty cereals, dried pear & apple, raisins, sultanas, hints of fig & treacle, candied orange zest

On the palate
@mnshanbhag - palate ginger, mint, raisins, sherry
@S_Rob - minty freshness a good description ? but not in a toothpaste way !! Spiced orange preserve with cloves & ginger at the fore. Eucalyptus & star anise/fennel. Baked apple & coffee in the background
@chocophilenyc - Still the ginger and cloven spice/dark suger
@TheWhiskyWire -Spiced toffee apples, sherry soaked dried fruits, clove studied clementine’s and an implosion of honey & wood spice
@distiller - my wife says it smells like xmas pudding...soaked almonds and marzipan... @GlenfiddichJM - My wife (bless her) thinks it smells like whisky. She just knows she likes it
@TIA568B - really getting the vanilla from that American new oak, a bit of butterscotch and some xmas pudding
@DurhanFanDan - Palate is very complex. Lots of sweet honeyed (or golden syruped) fruit. Finding blackcurrents, but not the "locket" element. Baked apples, marzipan, aniseed, Cointreau!!!
@whisky4everyone - v soft, velvety, almonds, brown crumbly sugar, over ripe pears, raisin, fig, slight earthy note, nutmeg

On the finish
@S_Rob - A long finish for me, mellow and rounded with the spice/aniseed alongside a gentle dryness
@DurhamFanDan - Goes fruity at first and then gets very dry, lots of spice at the end
@TIA568B - Great fruity finish with the 15 YO
@whisky4everyone - deliciously sweet and sumptuous finish, lots of dried fruit then drying oak spice

What's our verdict?
This is a lovely dram and our favourite of the core range tasted.  All are decent drams but this 15 years old has an extra depth and complexity.  It is a high quality whisky, especially considering the price.  Some people turn their noses up at Glenfiddich "because it's popular", but it must be remembered that most popular brands have strived to get where they are in the market (and to consistently remain there) and are in that position for a reason.  The reason is that the quality of product is very good and appeals to a wide audience - this is true in any facet of business or life.  This is a whisky that has to be tried and one that will not break the bank.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Inbox > December 9, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently 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 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 nuggets of news ...

Amrut > New Portonova released
The innovative Indian distillery of Amrut have announced the release of their latest limited edition single malt whisky.  The Amrut Portonova was first matured in new American oak and ex-Bourbon barrels and then transferred to Port casks from one of the most famous (although un-named) Port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal for a further one year maturation period.  It was then back to ex-Bourbon barrels for finishing, Each stage of the maturation took place at the distillery warehouses in Bangalore. The Portonova has been bottled at a natural cask strength of 61.2% ABV and this limited edition consists of just 1250 bottles worldwide.  These have been split roughly in to thirds and will be sold in specialist retailers in the European, UK and USA markets for around €85, £75 or $115 respectively.

Duncan Taylor > Enters new Dimensions
The award winning independent bottler Duncan Taylor have announced the launch of The Dimensions Collection - an range of single malt and single grain Scotch whiskies that showcase some of their best casks. The collection showcases the multi dimensional levels of character and flavour available from individual distilleries and casks. The Dimensions collection consists of two versions of bottling - single cask, cask strength releases and exclusively numbered small batches at 46% ABV. The Dimensions Collection is now available in specialist whisky retailers.

The initial release includes an Aberlour 1993, Bunnhabhain 1988, Cameronbridge 1978, Clynelish 1995, Glenlivet 1981, Glen Moray 1988, Glenrothes 1992, Macduff 1997, Mortlach 1989 and Royal Brackla 1997. For further information on The Dimensions Collection and the full range of Duncan Taylor whiskies, visit

Spirit of Unity > Raises cash for Japan
Earlier in the year, we reported on a unique whisky that was created by a group of seven independent Scottish distilleries. Each of the seven – Arran, Benriach, Bladnoch, Glendronach, Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank – donated a single cask of single malt, which were blended together to create a limited edition whisky named Spirit of Unity. The project was created to raise vital funds for relief efforts following the devastating natural disaster in Japan in March.  The 2,000 bottles have now been sold and have raised a staggering £95,000 for various charities.  Just a few remain, which are to be presented in limited box sets containing bottles signed by each of the seven Master Distillers. These will be auctioned in early 2012 to raise further funds.

Talisker > New packaging launched
The iconic single malt from the isle of Skye has revealed a full revamp of its packaging which will be released to all markets in early 2012. The new packaging will be rolled out over the entire range. The outer cartons feature powerful maritime photography and coastal scenes, taken by photographers Cailean Maclean (a Skye resident) and Angus Bremner, and a more prominent map of the island and distillery location. The bottle label features a bolder Talisker font and more prominence is placed on the Established 1830 message.

Talisker's Distillery Manager Mark Lochhead is enthusiastic about the new designs, saying “Talisker is made by the sea in every sense of the word. To have this captured in these new designs is exciting for everyone here. At the same time it both speaks to our own roots and helps consumers understand what kind of place Skye is".

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Whisky Round Table > December 2011

We at Whisky For Everyone are this month's hosts of The Whisky Round Table and we have decided to set our fellow members a challenge.  It’s that celebration time of the year again and be it through one holiday or another, religious or otherwise, we expect that all the Knights will be catching up with their families. Presuming that, like us, they will all be asked questions such as “what have you been up to this year?” and “so, how’s the world of whisky?”, our challenge is about engaging those ‘non-whisky’ family members. Here goes …

Pick two or three members of your family and select a whisky drink (this can be straight dram, with a mixer or elaborate cocktail) or whisky & food pairing that you think they will like. Try to mix it up – pick an auntie who ‘hates whisky following a bad experience’, your brother who always asks “what’s the best thing you’ve tried this week?” or your dad who you are just trying to impress. You get the idea … hopefully! Make them begin to understand about the fantastic spirit that is whisky and why we all love it so much. 

This is really an interesting question ... As it happens most of my family do not drink whisky, or do not drink any alcoholic beverage. I've chosen to enlighten my wife, and my father in law.

My wife doesn't care for whisky at all. She's good at sniffing it, but she does not like drinking alcohol if it's stronger than wine. Anything above 14% is out of the question. But, she loves chocolate. and chocolate and whisky is a wonderful combination, as we all know. She's a sucker for chocolate fondants or chocolate soufflés, and adding a bit of whisky into that, will most likely improve it, right? What I'm thinking of is a chocolate fondant with an addition of some sherry bomb whisky. Either the 'Farclas 105, or Aberlour A'bunadh. Currently I have batch #25, so that will have to do.

My father in law loves alcohol, be it cocktails, wine, gin, etc, but he's not too fond of Scotch, He prefers bourbons, as he likes his drinks a bit sweeter, and less dry. What I have in mind for him is a lovely "Smokin' rusty nail". It's a lovely twist on the well known rusty nail, but this time instead of just plain old blended whisky, I am going to add some Laphraoig Quarter Cask, to provide the smoke, tar and peat which will make this one much more interesting. Sweet, and smoky. What a combination.

What a great opportunity/excuse for me to do a little whisky tasting; not just for one or two people but for everyone at my family's Thanksgiving Day dinner. Every year my wife and two kids go over my uncle Mike and aunt Gloria's house for the dinner/celebrations. Mike and Gloria are on my Step-Dad's side of the family - a very large Sicilian/Italian family. This year we had about 20 people at our dinner and 15 of us joined in on the whisky tasting fun. Being an Italian family, as you might imagine, there is a lot of wine & lemoncello poured but sadly, little (read: none, zero, zilch) whisky.

Well the times, they are becoming different. I brought with me a bottle of Glenmorangie Lasanta (12yo sherry finished whisky bottled at 46%ABV) and a few bars of 70% cocoa dark chocolate. The idea? Give people a quick (and I mean quick! Most had already had a good deal of booze in them already) idea of how whisky is made/matured, get them to taste the whisky straight (as a dram) and taste it the proper way (not shooting it but smelling and sipping/chewing the whisky), eat some chocolate then smell and taste the whisky again.

The end result? My uncle, who's had nothing but wine in his adult-drinks glass tried whisky for the first time in 33 years! Even my wife, who would much prefer to throw herself on one of Vlad the Impaler's spears than to taste whisky, got in on the game! I got people calling out tasting notes and one of my cousins compared the Lasanta to "drinking velvet". While I'm not sure I converted anybody, it was great to get people out of their comfort zone and appreciate something that they would never have touched/bought/drank before. Additionally, I've started a new family tradition (you know we Jews love tradition)!

The toughest nut to crack would be my mother in law, who hardly drinks a drop. I might try some Baileys with her, because that is always a great one for the non-drinker. Last year I made some home-made Japanese "Baileys" with cheap Japanese blended whisky and it was actually quite delicious. For my father in law, who likes his whisky mixed, I would mix a highball made with Suntory Kakubin blend. I would indulge my wife with Yamazaki 1984, a superb single malt with a distinctive Japaneseness about it and a very hefty price tag.

I picked up two sisters in 2011, and no, by that I don't mean I salaciously solicited two nuns on the corner of 16th & Capp. What I mean is that I started 2011 with no sisters and ended the year with two sisters-in-law...a pretty sweet deal for me, (less so for them). So I thought, in that spirit, I'd make these two fantastic women a couple of whisky-based cocktails for the holidays. They're both aware of whisky's finer points, neither harboring any deep-seeded resentment against our favorite booze, but I'm not sure either of them really know just how essential and vital the stuff is.

My wife's sister has spent a fair amount of time in Wisconsin and likes brandy old-fashioneds. Actually, if you know anything about Wisconsin, you know that people there like brandy...a the extent that nearly 90% of the brandy consumed in the US is consumed in Wisconsin. No, I'm not kidding. Of course, Brandy can be a fine, exquisite spirit in its own right, but I know that most of what's poured down the hatch in the Badger State is not what you'd call premium, top-shelf stuff.

So, for my first sister-in-law of 2011, I'd like to make an Old Fashioned the old fashioned way, not with the rail brandy to which she may be accustomed, but with Canadian Club Classic 12yo Whiskey. Old Fashioneds were probably originally made with a rye whiskey, but I don't want to transition too far, too quickly from the sweeter, fruitier Brandy she's used to, so Canadian Club Classic's 12yo's balanced attack of matured sweetness and measured rye spice would be at once familiar, yet more complex and interesting.

Sister-in-Law #2 likes wine out of a box. She readily admits to this guilty pleasure and has no shame or regret in the matter. More power to her. She of course likes good wine, but, you know, sometimes, at the end of a long, hot Mid-western summer workday that a pint glass full of Franzia Sunset Blush straight from the fridge just hits the spot. As far as I know, there's no whisky (thankfully) available in a box yet, so I need to think outside the box a bit here and be a bit more metaphorical than literal.

In keeping with the cool, refreshing, end-of-the-day, pick-me-up idea, I'd pour her a nice tumbler of Compass Box's Great King Street Blended Scotch on the rocks. This latest offering from boutique Scotch blenders Compass Box is a throwback whisky, a delicious blend, built not to be sipped neat and over analyzed by quasi-knowledgeable bloggers, but poured over ice and/or with some soda water. On the porch with a cute dog and a strangely endearing husband, she'll find this is not an overpowering whisky that's intent on showing off it's love-it-or-hate-it flavor profile, it's well-rounded, refreshing, tasty, tasty stuff, perfect for seducing an unwary wine box snob.

Sorry for not answering your question in the way it was meant to be answered. I guess I’m not much of a family guy but I do like the idea of persuading people and getting them interested in whisky, so let me tell you two of my tricks that have worked pretty well so far.

The first one is a mint julep. It’s one of my favourite cocktails and most people who don’t like whisky still seem to like this refreshing combination of mint, bourbon and sugar (I also like to add some lime juice or ginger for a change). It’s rounded, sweet and seems to filter out all the alcoholic sharpness that most people associate with whisky. Personally I think Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace work best for cocktails.

The second trick up my sleeve is Irish whiskey, let’s say Redbreast or even the single grain Greenore. They’re slightly lighter, sweeter and smoother than most young Scotches. The main problem is that most inexperienced people drink a supermarket blend, don’t like it and then say they don’t like whisky altogether. Irish whiskey usually offers higher quality and complexity if you’re on a budget, so they might be surprised.

Once you can convince people with a smooth whisky that lacks all the industrial nastiness, they’ll be more open to older drams and other profiles as well. Whatever you do, don’t pour your best Brora or powerful Lagavulin thinking anyone will love it right away – it takes time.

First person would be my Dad, Stuart. He doesn't drink spirits but is a big fan of strong flavours. I'd mix him up a whiskey sour using Four Roses Small Batch and for the creamy froth, I'd use a duck egg for extra texture. You can also get three cocktails from one duck egg, they're so large... that'd introduce him to a different way of drinking bourbon.

My Mum, Sissel, makes home-made pickles and chutney and one she has lying around is a plum and damson affair. I'd serve her Hibiki 12 with some cheese (a light blue cheese and a soft goats cheese) and her own plum and damson chutney. The plummy nature of the Hibiki 12 will go really well with the sweetness of the chutney and the grain whisky elements to the blend will work well with the cheese.

Finally, for my brother Ben. He is a big beer drinker, but doesn't go near brown spirits. I'd serve him a dram of Dalwhinnie 15, which has been in the freezer (or left outside in the snow, if last years weather is repeated), along side his traditional Christmas ale. The rich wood tones in the Dalwhinnie match that of an ale well, and chilling it down make it slightly more palatable to those not so used to high strength alcohol in the beverage...

My four year old isn't much of a whisky drinker but he is very interested in what I'm up to with all these bottles of brown liquid that I have lying around the house. Given our remit from Matt & Karen I decided that now was a perfect time to give him a peek behind the whisky curtain.

I poured a 16 Year Old Lagavulin and showed him how to nose it properly. He swirled the Glencairn as best he could, trying his utmost to maintain control of the glass and the spirit inside; a few spills up and over the edges were to be expected. He brought the glass in from his right side and took a dainty wee sniff. I'd implored him to take care of his nose and not burn the living daylights out of it. He's a quick study! Almost immediately he looked up at me and said it smelled like his Uncle Karl's camp fire. Well done, young sir!

I lauded his sense of smell and congratulated him on his ability to turn olfactory sensory data into approximate mouth utterances. He was pleased as punch with himself and loved the attention. I asked him if he was getting anything else. After thinking it through for a second or two he offered up "toast." Very nice! Anything else? "Hmm, table?" Ok, I could see where he was going with that, perhaps a little woodiness from the cask, I was willing to cut him some slack (he is only four!). Anything else? At this point he started looking around the room, it was obvious he'd exhausted his list but he wanted one last congratulatory pat on the back... "wall?"

Ok, what about a wee taste? Any interest? Thankfully, he didn't have too much interest in taking a sip but he was still curious so I dipped my finger in the liquid and dabbed that on his tongue. "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" was his instant reaction and he ran out of the room. "But what about the finish?" I shouted after him, but to no avail.

Finally, it comes to the turn of us at Whisky For Everyone.  Who would we pick and what would we do?

My choice would have to be my dad.  About five years ago, me and Karen paid our first ever visit to Scotland.  This was before we knew or cared about anything to do with whisky. Anyway, on our week-long trip from Inverness to Thurso and back again, we decided that we had to 'do a distillery visit'.  We ended up in Muir of Ord (not the nicest town, if I'm honest) and our distillery of choice was Glen Ord.  We purchased my dad a bottle of the Glen Ord 12 years old from the distillery shop. This bottle is still in his drinks cabinet ... it nestles between a bottle of Cinzano and a half-curdled bottle of Advocaat.

This is my mission - to get him to drink and appreciate the damn stuff.  He has a polite sip every time we pay a visit but we know that he doesn't really 'get' whisky.  I plan to try the following approach over the festive period - firstly, I will show him how to nose, taste and describe the whisky so as to get the most out of it and begin to understand the aromas and flavours that he is experiencing.  If this fails, I plan to try it with some basic mixers to find something that he enjoys, probably tonic or soda water with some ice and lemon.  This always goes down well with the non-whisky drinkers when doing tastings in my day job.  If this fails, then I'm struggling ...

Rather than pick one person I am choosing to attempt to give my whole family a brief glimpse into what it is that attracts me to whisky. I confess that my family is the other side of the world and so I am being fantastical in my idea. Dreaming that I am there in the sunshine with them and not in grey old London.

If I was with them at this time of year we would undoubtedly be visiting one or two or ten of the fabulous wineries that surround Adelaide in Australia. I will presume you have heard of Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale at some time. In any of these wineries we would taste our way through the various grapes, blends and vintages of wines on offer. We will then all bicker about which was the best which can lead to some quite heated arguments.

This vision sparked the idea of a whisky tasting for them. I decided that I would pick one distillery and get them to taste the different ages and cask finishes on offer. I have deliberated over which distillery and I could choose any of a number, but my decision as to which distillery came down to a winner based on their diverse range and ease of availability. The distillery – Glenmorangie.

I would be pouring four drams for each of them. The first would have to be the Original to get them in the mood and see what influence a Bourbon cask has on the whisky. The second would be the 18 years old to show them what age can do along with a moderate use of Sherry casks. The third would be the Quinta Ruben so they can see the impact of the rich and full-on influence of Port wood. Last of all would the Finealta to get them to see what a bit of smoke can do.

I would expect after that selection the arguments should be quite enjoyably heated to say the least. If I get them talking and comparing then my work is done.

* Please note that Keith from Whisky Emporium was due to take part in this month's discussion but understandably chose not to due to a recent family bereavement.  Our thoughts and condolences are with Keith at this time.

- Karen & Matt

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Tips - Buying whisky as a Christmas gift

Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year, has been and gone for another year and we are now in to the peak festive retailing period.  The decorations have gone up and while many people have already purchased their gift for friends and family, many others are just starting to consider (or panic!) about what they are going to buy.

Whisky is a traditionally popular choice and is now even more so given the increased interest and sales of it around the world.  Christmas is a time when people buy whisky either to enjoy themselves over the festive period or to give as a gift. For many shoppers or consumers, it may be the only time in the year that they purchase a bottle of whisky and it can be a daunting experience. The ultimate question is - which one of the vast array of bottles on the shelves is the right one to go for?

We are here to try and help with a few tips and things to think about when purchasing whisky as a present.  Naturally, the points can be used at any time of the year and not just at Christmas!  

1 - Think of what the recipient likes
It is a common misconception that you as a shopper need to know lots about whisky in order to buy something other than the big popular brands. This is not true.  How much you know about whisky is actually not important at all - what has to be considered is what you think you the gift's recipient would like or prefer. If you are not sure, then think what other things and flavours that the person receiving the gift usually enjoys. This can be other spirits, wine, food etc - do they enjoy strong, rich flavours or something lighter and fresher? Do they drink white spirits like gin and vodka or sweeter, heavier ones like dark rum or Cognac? This will give you some clues.  Also have in your mind that whisky falls in to three general categories - light & fresh, rich & sweet and smoky & peaty.

2 - Go for something unusual
This is a good tip when buying for the 'whisky connoisseur' in your life.  It may be that you know a whisky that they like and you can ask for help in selecting something similar, especially in specialist retailers (see below). You can also think about if you want a famous brand/distillery or something a bit less well known.  The lesser known options are not as hard to find as you think and offer some excellent whiskies that are 'hidden gems' or 'off the radar'.  It will also demonstrate that you have not just gone to the supermarket and picked a brand off the shelf, plus showing that you may have 'done some research' and really thought about what the person likes.

3 - Set a budget 
Your budget is an important consideration. Set an upper limit - any salesman worth their salt will try and get you to spend more but stick to it! Single malt whiskies start around £25 for a 70cl bottle and most will be under or around £50. Blended whiskies can start for as little as £10. There are whiskies that can fit any budget, from the cheap and cheerful to those costing hundreds and even thousands of pounds. Many will be discounted in the supermarkets over the festive period and some good bargains can be snaffled.

If you only have a small budget or are buying a 'Secret Santa' gift, then you could go for a half sized bottle or a pack of miniatures - many of the companies release special gift packs at Christmas time. You can even buy a single miniature if you just need a stocking filler.  

4 - Where to buy
There are a few options where you can purchase your whisky gift and each have their pros and cons.

Specialist retailers - offer a wider range of whiskies and have knowledgeable staff that can explain the differences and advise you to make the correct decision. These shops can be daunting but if you go in having considered the three points above, then they will be able to recommend you some great choices. They will also generally have some bottles of whisky open that you can sample and this can help you make a better decision.

Supermarkets - are different in that they sell the products but staff may not know a great deal about them, especially as many have cut back on specialist wine and spirit staff in the last couple of years. The distilleries marketing departments help you here, as many of them now print basic tasting notes on their packaging and this will give you an idea if you like the sound of it or not. The range will be tighter, although many chains will expand their ranges as whisky grows in popularity.

Liquor stores - can vary from the very knowledgeable to those that stock whisky but don't know much about it. Knowledgeable stores can be up there with the specialist retailers but the others can still offer some real hidden gems and great bargains, as they may not know what they have (ie - a rare whisky marked at low prices). The trick is to pop in for cheaper beer or wine and have a nose around, then do a little research on the bottles you have spied.

The internet - thas many places to buy whisky these days - some are online specialists, while others are websites of the specialist whisky retailers or supermarkets - and many of these print helpful tasting notes on each page, with some giving more information, customer reviews and distillery facts to help you make your choice.  Don't forget that every site will have a deadline date that guarantees pre-Xmas delivery, so check this and don't get caught out!

5 - Don't fall for fancy packaging
This tip is especially good if you are buying for someone who 'knows their whiskies'.  This category of person is notoriously difficult and intimidating to buy for, especially if you yourself know little or nothing about whisky.  The easy option is to go for something in a wonderfully designed bottle or box, and there are some fine examples out there. Importantly, some of the brands and distilleries have woken from the slumber of years of 'traditional' packaging, moving away from the stereotyped tartan or water colour paintings of stags/Scottish landscapes. 

Some packaging, even at the entry level price points, has a 'wow factor' that will impress most that receive it and the whiskies will generally also impress. However, the 'know their whiskies' category will probably be more interested in what is physically in the bottle rather than how it or the box looks.  This is when a little research about the liquid or seeking help from a specialist retailer will help.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A guest blog post ... A sensual evaluation of whisky

We were lucky enough to share a dram the other week with the incredibly talented artist and writer, Jessica Hagy. She is best known for her Webby award-winning blog, Indexed ( in which she sketches out random thoughts and insightful observations on conveniently file-able index cards.

Given that we love hearing about the impressions whisky leaves on new-comers we had to grab the opportunity to get Jessica to put together a guest post for us. The dram in question was the Glenfiddich 15 year old Distillery Only Bottling Batch No. 11 Cask Strength 54.8% ABV. This rare and fiesty dram was sent to Whisky for Everyone to celebrate the launch of the Glenfiddich Explorers Club. See for more info.

Be inspired and check out more of Jessica's work at

Inbox > December 2, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently 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 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's a bit to get through this week, so let's get going ...

Bowmore > Islay Taste Map goes live
A few weeks ago, we told you about the new Islay Taste Map which had been launched by Bowmore, the oldest distillery on the famous whisky island. Well, an interactive version of the map is now available online and can be accessed via The map is a bold move to support the Islay category as a whole, and is the ideal guide to the complex and varied characters of Islay’s eight distilleries. It has been launched as an educational tool for both the on-trade and off-trade.  Check it out and have a go.

Cooley > New range of Poitín launched
The award winning independent distillery of Cooley has launched their version of a historical Irish classic spirit -  poitín (pronounced po-cheen).  This legendary clear spirit, famous for its high alcohol strength and potency, was first produced in Ireland over 1,000 years ago, way before the whiskey industry took over.  This Cooley version is made using malted and un-malted barley and is distilled in a traditional copper pot still.  It is then bottled straight from the still, with no maturation, at a strength of 65% ABV.

The poitín is recommended to be used in the same way as any other quality white spirit - neat, with water or ice, or with mixers or as part of a cocktail.  The Cooley Poitín will initially consist of just 1,800 bottles which will be available within Ireland at The Celtic Whiskey Shop and in Dublin Airport and then in selected specialist alcohol retailers elsewhere.

Dalmore > Exclusive 1995 Vintage released
The north Highland distillery of Dalmore have launched a new single malt whisky in the UK. The whisky has been specially selected by Dalmore's Distillery Manager Ian Mackay and will be sold exclusively through The Whisky Shop - the UK's largest specialist whisky retail chain.  The Dalmore 1995 Vintage has been matured in combination of ex-Matusalem sherry casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks and is limited to just 1,800 bottles.  It is bottled at 40% ABV and can be purchased at any of the chain's 18 stores or via, costing £84.99 a bottle.  Ian Mackay comments, "I was delighted to be able to choose a whisky that would represent my favourite style of single malt for The Whisky Shop. I’ve selected a whisky that has been matured in two of my favourite casks, and I just hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I do!"

Drambuie > A Taste Of The Extraordinary
The popular whisky liqueur brand has launched a new global advertising campaign in time for the Christmas festive period. A Taste of the Extraordinary sees Drambuie, which was first produced 260 years ago, is targeting the '25-44 year old professional worker'.  The campaign pulls on artistic influences such as Dali and Escher, using stark, surreal black and white imagery to compliment the rich, golden colour of the Drambuie bottle.  The images are by renowned photographer John Ross, who has created numerous well known album covers.

It will be seen in the UK, Chile and Greece before Christmas and then rolled out elsewhere around the globe during 2012.  We have already seen the strikingly graphic posters on the London Underground and have even seen one of the famous London black cabs decked out in the zig zag design!

Glendronach > New batch of single casks
The independently owned distillery of Glendronach have announced the latest batch in their single cask release programme.  This is the fifth such batch and it includes five limited edition bottlings - a 1972 ex-Oloroso sherry butt (421 bottles), a 1978 ex-Oloroso sherry puncheon (417 bottles), a 1989 ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry puncheon (489 bottles), a 1991 ex-Oloroso sherry butt (530 bottles) & a 1993 ex-Oloroso sherry butt (507 bottles). They have all been bottled in the last few weeks and were released yesterday.  They will be available from specialist whisky retailers shortly.

Master of Malt > World's oldest whisky liqueur released
Master of Malt, the innovative online spirits retailer, have announced the release of the world's oldest whisky liqueur.  It has been made using a 55 year old ex-sherry cask matured single malt from 'one of Scotland's finest distilleries' and the aromas and flavours have then been accentuated by adding natural sugars and spices.  It has been bottled at 41% ABV and is on sale for the wallet-busting price of £999.95.  Alternatively, if you don't want to spend a grand on a whisky liqueur then you can take advantage of Master of Malt's excellent  Drinks by the Dram offer.  With this your can buy a 3cl sample bottle for £52.85.  Interested? Order from the Master of Malt website.

Whisky Wood - Exclusive reader offer

We are delighted to have paired up with the new and innovative WhiskyWood company to offer you an exclusive reader offer.  WhiskyWood produce key rings from the staves of old whisky casks and have produced two products for this promotion, which helps to celebrate their launch -the Reaction Diffusion key ring (pictured, above) and the Pictish Fish key ring (pictured, below). To purchase, please click on the links attached.  The offer is for an excellent 40% discount, the details of which are below.

WhiskyWood is the brainchild of Grant Wilson and Chris Watkin.  We love to support such innovative small businesses, especially as we know first hand the significance of such support in the early days of such a venture. Below, Grant explains about the company and its ethos ...

"We are based in the small town of Doune in Scotland. WhiskyWood is a micro business started by Chris and myself in order to use the wood from old whisky barrels to make objects that mean something. We are fascinated by design, patterns, symbols, computer generated art and typography, and the way that inanimate objects can take on a special significance and a life of their own. Every piece of oak has had a truly long and fascinating journey before we craft them into objects that can continue on their path through life.

In an age of mass production - we also like the fact that each keyring is utterly unique - as no two are exactly the same. Above all we hope people enjoy the keyrings as much as we enjoy creating them. We are delighted to offer our first ever key rings on to the readership of Whisky For Everyone with a 40% discount".

To get this great 40% discount, simply enter the discount code WFEAMAZO when prompted in the 'shopping cart' payment section.  It is limited to one redemption per Amazon customer and is only valid on the Reaction Diffusion and Pictish Fish key rings - it is not applicable to their Gambia Solar Project key rings (they are trying to raise as much money as they can for this charity), although feel free to buy one anyway and help this good cause! A single keyring normally costs £4.85, so will therefore be £2.91 and is available for free delivery from Amazon (to applicable areas).

You will have to hurry though - there are only 18 x Reaction Diffusion and 17 x Pictish Fish designs for this promotion. They will be sold on a first come first served basis and the WFEAMAZO discount code runs until next Wednesday 7 December at 11.59pm, if they haven't sold out before then.  Please feel free to give any feedback via the channels below, leave a comment here or on the product pages on Amazon. 

For further information and news about new WhiskyWood products, go to or follow Chris & Grant on Twitter @whiskywood.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New releases > Bowmore Tempest Batch No.3

This whisky is a new limited edition single malt release from the Islay distillery of Bowmore. The Tempest batches are released at cask strength and are matured for 10 years in ex-bourbon casks - 55.6% ABV and first filled casks respectively in the case of this Batch No.3. The two previous batches, hauled in the prizes at various prestigious whisky awards and have built up a cult following of fans. There are 11,000 bottles and they are available worldwide with a suggested price of £50.

Bowmore's Brand Manager Cara Laing comments, “We’ve released a small batch of Bowmore Tempest annually to great response. Every batch is slightly different but always reflects Bowmore’s raw spirit – it’s like tasting a dram straight out of a first fill bourbon cask in our famous No.1 Vaults.

The Bowmore distillery is located on the famous whisky island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is well known for producing the smoky, peaty style of whisky. Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, making it the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on Islay and one of the oldest in all of Scotland. The distillery is located on the shores of Loch Indaal and the name of Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. The distillery in currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, and has an annual production capacity of two million litres.  It is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty style.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Tempest Batch No.3 is a pale gold, almost lemon yellow.  However, any thoughts or assumptions that such a pale colour will lead this to be a light, subtle whisky are instantly dispelled by the nose.  The initial aromas are a feisty, 'in your face' combination of lemon zest, spicy chilli and ashy coal smoke.  With time in the glass (and a little persistence) there are softer notes of sweet vanilla, oat cake biscuits, honey,  butterscotch and gentle sweet damp earthy moss.  There is also a slightly savoury, almost meaty barbeque note.  On the palate, a similar thing happens - it is initially assertive and powerful with plenty of alcohol and notes of hot chilli spice, lemon zest and medicinal smoke hitting the taste buds, before softening to reveal a lovely combination of flavours.  These show the classiness of the whisky and add excellent depth and complexity.  Sweetness comes from notes of honey, toffee, vanilla and that damp, earthy moss from the nose, while some bittersweet cereals, oat cake biscuits and lemon sherbet add balance and a pleasant tang.  The finish is long, lingering and a little hot (think of the chillis again), with the prominent peat smoke fading and leaving distinct notes of burnt biscuit, honey and a hint of dried grass.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely whisky and a good example of the smoky, peaty style.  It is initially powerful but this gives way to be a well balanced and complex dram.  The high ABV suggests adding water and this will certainly bring it within more consumers taste boundaries - it softens the initial 'blow' and makes the palate creamier with the honey and toffee notes knocking the smokiness and zestiness back a bit.  However, we like the refreshing zesty/sherbet kick and the way that the softer notes develop. 

It is only natural to want to compare this to the previous two batches but they were richer and some of our favourite ever whiskies, so it is a little unfair.  This is good but in a different way and with different characteristics - click the links to read our previous reviews of Batch No.1 and Batch No.2.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Last Vatted Malt by Compass Box

The time is one minute to midnight on Tuesday the 22nd of November and we were standing on Westminster Bridge watching two men filling a bottle with whisky in the cold. Were we mad? No. Were we slightly tipsy? Maybe a little. Were we witnessing history? Yes.

The reason that we were there is to see the last bottle of whisky that can legally be called a 'vatted malt' being bottled.  The new name of 'blended malt' would legally have to be used on the same product if it were bottled just over one minute later thanks to a UK Government law change. The two men were John Glaser and Chris Maybin of artisan whisky company Compass Box and their business is based on creating 'vatted malts'.

The term 'vatted malt' has been legally used since the 19th century and refers to a Scotch whisky that is created using a combination of two or more single malts.  These single malts can be from different distilleries, be of differing ages and of differing styles.  They are created in the industry by highly skilled whisky makers - they use the characteristics of the differing single malts to produce a final whisky with aromas and flavour profiles that a single malt could not produce on its own.  This is the style of whisky in which Compass Box specialise and also what has gained them many awards around the globe.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and is based in west London.  They also now have offices in Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into their own unique products. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies to create a unique product with a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and is a former winner of the prestigious Whisky Magazine's Innovator of the Year.

Compass Box believe that the new naming regulations will create ambiguity with consumers, who may confuse the new 'blended malts' with regular 'blended whiskies' (these contain single malts plus whisky made from other grains).  Therefore, they are on a massive education drive to inform the public of the new changes and legal definitions.  The five new definitions fall under The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, which came in to force on 23 November.  They are ...

Blended Scotch Whisky
A blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
A blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery. (previously known as Vatted Malt or Pure Malt Scotch Whisky).
Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
A blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery. (previously known as Vatted Grain Scotch Whisky).
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A Scotch whisky that has been distilled in pot stills in one or more batches at a single distillery from water and malted barley, without the addition of any other cereals.
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
A Scotch whisky that has been distilled at a single distillery except 'Single Malt Scotch Whisky' or a 'Blended Scotch Whisky'.

To mark the passing of the new law, Compass Box have released a special whisky entitled The Last Vatted Malt (pictured, below).  This was the whisky which we witnessed being filled on Westminster Bridge as Big Ben struck midnight.

The whisky is made up of just two un-named single malts - a 36 year old distilled in 1974 and from Speyside which has been matured in first-fill ex-sherry casks, and a 26 year old distilled in 1984 from Islay which have been matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks.  It is being released at the natural cask strength of 53.7% ABV and there are just 1,323 bottles, retailing at £175 each. We will be reviewing this shortly, so watch out for our tasting notes.

This is joined by The Last Vatted Grain, which is even more limited in number (only 297 bottles).  This is constructed from four different grain whiskies - Cameronbridge 1997, Carsebridge 1979, Invergordon 1965 & Port Dundas 1991 - all of which have been maturing in first-fill ex-bourbon casks.  This is bottled at 46% ABV and retails at £130 (rumours are that it has already sold out!).

So after a few hours warming up in the über cool basement bar of DuckSoup in Soho (by 'warming up' we mean supping on well made cocktails, especially the Last Vatted Punch - a mix of Compass Box Spice Tree whisky, tea and herbs - created in honour of the occasion), the group moved down to Westminster Bridge for the final act.  Under the view of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, where the law was made, we witnessed the last vatted malt being bottled.  We were felt privileged to be part of a selected group of people that were invited to be there. We also recorded the short clip below to capture the moment, we hope that you enjoy watching ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Inbox > November 25, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently 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 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 we go with this week's news ...

Aldi > 40 year old single malt for £50
The discount supermarket chain Aldi have announced two UK exclusive additions to their single malt whisky range. And they are sure to raise a few eyebrows!  The first is a 40 year old single malt and makes Aldi the first supermarket to offer such an 'own brand' product.  Named GlenBridge 40, the whisky is from a "famous Speyside distillery" according to the Aldi PR team and has been aged in European oak ex-sherry casks.  There are 3,000 bottles which will go on sale in Aldi's 450 UK stores on 8 December for the staggeringly low price of £49.99.  In addition, there is the Glen Marnoch 24 years old which will sell for just £24.99.  Details of this are a little sketchy but our friends over at CaskStrength have reviewed both, with tasting notes - click here to read.

Bowmore > Team up with Savile Row tailor
The iconic Islay single malt of Bowmore has joined forces with a leading Savile Row tailor to offer 'the ultimate Christmas gift for the whisky loving gentleman'. Leading establishment Malcolm Plews and Bowmore have created the premium gift - a bespoke tailoring session including fitting of a made-to-measure Bowmore Tweed jacket followed by a one to one whisky tasting with a Bowmore expert. The package also includes first class travel to London from anywhere in the UK, a night’s stay for two at the Malmaison hotel in Clerkenwell, and lunch for two at the Sartoria restaurant in Savile Row. A bottle of Bowmore 15 year old single malt plus whisky glasses complete the package. The Bowmore Tweed Savile Row Experience can be purchased for £3,000 from the website

Cutty Sark > New book released
The famous Cutty Sark blended whisky was first launched in 1923 and a new book has just been released that charts its rise to become one of the best selling brands of whisky in the world. The book, titled The Making Of A Whisky Brand, has been edited by whisky writer Ian Buxton and he has assembled a number of leading whisky experts, each of whom have written a chapter. Ian was granted exclusive access to the historical archives and met with some of the former Master Blenders of Cutty Sark when researching the book. Each chapter explores the brand, its influence on society and popular culture around the world and what has made it so successful.  The book also includes both classic and newly invented cocktails using Cutty Sark.  It can be purchased from specialist book and on-line retailers now.

Glengoyne > Free entry for St. Andrew's Day
The Glengoyne distillery, which is located just 30 minutes drive north of Glasgow, is opening its doors for free over this coming weekend. This is to celebrate St. Andrew's Day, which is Scotland's national day and is on 30 November.  Entry will be free on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th and the distillery is open from 10am-5pm (the last tour is at 4pm).  The tour (usual price £6.75) includes a short film about the history of the distillery and Glengoyne brand, a guided visit around the distillery and a dram of their 10 year old single malt at the end.  For directions to Glengoyne and for further details of the event, please visit

Master Of Malt > Blend your own whisky
Innovative online retailer Master Of Malt have created an interactive new product which allows you to make your own whisky.  The Home Blending Kit comes with a selection of 3cl sample miniatures, which contain a variety of grain and single malt whiskies, and some measuring equipment. 

The idea is that you can then construct your own blended whisky to your own personal taste.  The process is similar to The Blogger's Blend that we took part in earlier this year (the final product for this will be released shortly).  For a full list of the samples and equipment and to order your own kit (priced £49.95) - click here.  There is then another page where you fill in the quantities of each sample in your 'final blend' and the cost is calculated - that can be viewed by clicking here. Good luck, it's plenty of fun.