Friday, July 27, 2012

Inbox - July 27, 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.  Here is what has grabbed our attention this week ...

Bruichladdich - Vive la distillerie
The worst kept secret in recent whisky history has finally been confirmed this week - the independent Bruichladdich distillery on Islay is being taken over by French drinks giant Rémy Cointreau.  Rumours had been rife around the whisky blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook etc ...

It marks the group's first steps in to the Scotch whisky market, and adds single malt whisky to a large portfolio that includes Champagne, Cognac, rum and other local spirit brands.  The transaction value amounts to £58 million, a total which assumes the entire share capital of The Bruichladdich Distillery Co and its associated debts.  We look forward to reading further news and plans for the distillery and its whisky range as the takeover progresses.

Jean-Marie Laborde, the Chief Executive Officer of Rémy Cointreau says, “The acquisition of Bruichladdich, a renowned Islay single malt with a rich and exciting heritage, is a great opportunity to enrich our high-end portfolio of brands and to confirm our strategy in the spirits luxury segment. We expect Bruichladdich to sit proudly alongside our other brands and we look forward to working closely with Bruichladdich’s experienced and passionate team”.

Johnnie Walker - Blue Casks Edition
The famous blended brand has launched a limited edition cask strength version of its iconic Blue Label expression.  Named Blue Label - The Casks Edition, this expression has been blended from a small selection of premium rare casks which were hand picked by Johnnie Walker's Master Blender Jim Beveridge.  It has been bottled at 55.8% ABV and has a retail price of $300 USD for a one litre bottle.

The Blue Label - The Casks Edition is now available through selected travel retail markets including Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris in Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia in Asia, plus the USA, Dubai and selected central and South American countries such as Columbia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama.

Jim Beveridge comments, “This limited edition is a chance to enjoy the remarkable experience of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in a new way. Only one in ten thousand of our casks have sufficient character for Blue Label and in creating this special edition we really wanted to showcase the incredible flavours that come from the casks themselves. The flavours drawn from these carefully selected casks have intensified to produce a robust and powerfully flavoured blended Scotch whisky."

Old Pulteney - Go full Spectrum
The north Highland distillery of Pulteney has announced the release of its latest travel retail exclusive single malt - the WK217 Spectrum.  The whisky is the third and final expression in their 'boats of Wick' series, which celebrates some of the vessels that have served the famous fishing town where Pulteney is located.  It follows the previous releases WK499 Isabella Fortuna and WK209 Good Hope.

The Spectrum was built in 1920 and had an illustrious career, including helping with harbour duties around Wick during World War II.  The whisky has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon American oak casks and ex-sherry Spanish oak casks, is non chill filtered and is bottled at 46% ABV.  The WK219 Spectrum is already available in major UK airport retailers and will be appearing in selected European and Middle Eastern airports shortly.  The retail price is £39.99.


Whisky Luxe - Edinburgh show details announced
Details of the most exclusive premium whisky event to be held in Scotland to date have been announced.  The Whisky Luxe event is to be held on Friday 7 September at The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.  The show will showcase some of the world's rarest and most expensive whiskies, and offer whisky fans the opportunity to sample them.  Only 350 tickets are available for the event, which will cost either £125 or £150.

For £125 you will receive a set of coins/tokens that will obtain samples from the show stands.  For £150, you will receive the tokens plus a private tutored masterclass with renowned whisky experts Charlie Maclean and Jonny McCormick.  Additional coins/tokens can be purchased with all proceeds being donated to charity.  Tickets for Whisky Luxe can be purchased via, which will also feature updated news on the event and the exhibitors.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New release - The Sirius Collection

The Sirius Collection is a new range of premium and old single cask whiskies.  The range is the brainchild of passionate whisky collector and investor Mahesh Patel, a man who has over 3,000 bottles of rare whisky in his private collection.  He has also launched and hosted the Universal Whisky Experience, one of the world's biggest super premium whisky shows, in Las Vegas earlier in the year.  Now Mahesh has launched his own whisky range, with which he aims to bring his passion for whisky to the luxury market.

There are four whiskies in the first release of The Sirius Collection - two single malts and two single grain whiskies.  All are over forty years of age, are from single casks and bottled at the natural cask strength.  Each has been hand selected by Mahesh and a small group of associates, from over 100 samples of rare whisky, with the focus on supreme quality.  Further bottlings are planned along similar lines, but these will only be released as and when the casks are ready.

The range is named Sirius after the brightest star in the night sky.  The name comes from the ancient Greek language and means 'glowing'.  It is often known as 'the dog star' and has been used as a navigation point of reference throughout human history.  Now, Mahesh is using the Sirius reference to plot his own journey through the world of whisky.  The four whiskies in the initial release of The Sirius Collection represents the best discoveries of his journey to date.

The packaging design has also been overseen by Mahesh and features striking tall bottles, cylindrical lacquered display boxes and velvet carrying bags.  The single malts are sold in black and the single grains are in white.  The Sirius Collection is exclusively for sale through The Whisky Shop, the UK's largest whisky retail chain. Details of the four whiskies can be found by visiting any of the chain's 21 stores or via the website


Carsebridge 1965
(41% ABV/ 63 bottles/ price £1,000)
The Carsebridge distillery was founded in the town of Alloa in 1799 and was initially built to produce single malt.  However in 1851 it was converted by the owners to a grain whisky distillery in order to help meet the demand for the booming blended whisky markets.  It remained in production until 1992.  It was then dismantled and whiskies from Carsebridge are now very rare. 

It is a rare treat to try a single grain whisky of this age and this one did not disappoint.  The ex-bourbon cask has given a rich golden yellow colour which is backed up with a wonderfully perfumed nose of coconut, vanilla, peaches, orange zest and plenty of woody spices (think of nutmeg, vanilla and cedarwood).  On the palate, this whisky is surprisingly fresh and uplifting.  The vanilla, spices and orange from the nose are present, and are complimented by notes of honey, caramel and hints of coffee and chocolate.  The finish is long and increasingly dry with the wood spices coming to the fore.

Dalmore 1967
(64.3% ABV/ 89 bottles/ £3,500)
The Dalmore distillery is located in the north Highland town of Alness and was founded in 1839.  The current owners are Whyte & Mackay and they have pressed on with a significant promotional drive that has seen Dalmore become established as one of the world's premium Scotch single malts.  Old casks are extremely rare and notoriously carry a high retail price.

This single malt has spent the entirety of its life maturing in an ex-rum cask and this has given the whisky a dramatic dark amber, almost black, colour.  The nose is equally as expressive and full of dark aromas - think of molasses, treacle, dark chocolate, espresso coffee and a hint of menthol.  On the palate the richness continues as the sweet treacle-like notes mix with others such as tropical fruit, toasted nuts, bitter oranges, brown sugar and over ripe banana.  It remains surprisingly fresh somehow, which stops it from being too heavy and cloying.  The finish is long and sumptuous and full of the chocolate and coffee notes.

Fettercairn 1966
(52.6% ABV/ 39 bottles/ £1,750)
Fettercairn was established in 1824 and is located in the east Highland town of Laurencekirk, which lies half way between Dundee and Aberdeen.  Like Dalmore, the distillery is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay.  The reputation of Fettercairn's single malts is growing, but most of the whisky maturing at the distillery remains destined for Whyte & Mackay's range of blends.

The rarest of The Sirius Collection bottlings has been matured in an ex-bourbon cask and this has given a dark golden amber hue.  The nose has a mix of fruity aromas (think of peach, mango and figs) and exotic spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice).  On the palate the rich fruitiness continues with plenty of dark dried fruits - figs, prunes, dates and raisins especially.  There are also notes of roasted nuts, salted caramel and a hint of mint.  The exotic spices also continue and add a delicious drying quality to the lengthy and rich finish.  The sum of the parts is reminiscent of Christmas pudding or fruit cake.

North British 1962
(44.5% ABV/ 138 bottles/ £1,200)
North British is a single grain distillery which is the last remaining distillery within the Edinburgh city boundaries.  It was established in 1887 and remains in production today.  Its grain whisky is highly sought after by the blending companies and is a key ingredient in such famous brands as Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and J&B Rare.  The distillery is joint owned by drinks giant Diageo and the Edrington Group.

The colour is a golden yellow and the nose is surprisingly light and refreshing, especially when considering that this is bottled at 50 years of age.  There are pleasant sweet aromas - think of butterscotch, vanilla and caramel - that compete with delicate wood spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and clove).  On the palate this is again fresh but grips your taste buds hard and packs plenty of notes in.  The prominent ones are the butterscotch, vanilla and spice from the nose, plus dried green fruits (pear and apple especially) and spiced bitter orange.  The finish is long - the delicate sweetness combines with the wood spices to provide a wonderful dryness.

What's the verdict?
The Sirius Collection is a set of high quality whiskies.  As you can see, they come at an equally high price - if you want a set then the cost works out at £7,500, although The Whisky Shop are doing an initial price for the full set of £6,500.  The whiskies are all surprisingly fresh, especially when considering the considerable age of each one. 

We rarely sample whiskies of this age and when we have, we have been left disappointed on occasions as the whiskies have been obliterated by the influence from the maturation cask.  This leaves you feeling whether they are worth the significant cost.  The Sirius Collection allows the whiskies to shine through and each has obviously been the subject of sympathetic casking for its maturation.  What was our favourite?  The two single grains were the stars of the show for us and are superb whiskies.  Well done to Mahesh.

Note - Everytime we review an expensive whisky or set of expensive whiskies, we get comments from people saying something along the lines of "this is ridiculous, how can you call yourselves Whisky For 'Everyone'? These whiskies are so rare and expensive that no-one will ever try or be able to buy them".  Our reply is simple - we review all brands and price brackets of whisky, and the 'Everyone' tag should include the whisky connoisseurs, collectors and those with plenty of cash to splash.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Inbox - July 20, 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.  Here is what has grabbed our attention this week ...

Balblair - Gather around ...
The up and coming north Highland distillery of Balblair have announced the launch of a new members section on the brand's website, named The Gathering Place.  The move comes as a number of distilleries and brands launch similar clubs.

Benefits of being a member include receiving news about the distillery and our Vintages, the ability to purchase exclusive single casks and watch expert tasting videos, be the first to read exclusive guest blogs, build up your very own online 'Vintage Cabinet' and share/discuss tasting notes with like-minded connoisseurs. There is also a competition to win a limited edition Balblair silk tie. Signing up is simple - visit and enter your details.

Ballantine's - Life begins at 40
The popular blended whisky brand of Ballantine's has announced the release of its oldest and most limited premium expression to date - the Ballantine's 40 years old.  The new release will initially be put in to the Asian Duty Free/travel retail market, which is a stronghold for the Ballantine's brand.  The whisky has been constructed by Ballantine's Master Blender Sandy Hyslop using some of Chivas Brothers' (the brand's owners) finest old casks from their stocks.

The 40 years old is bottled at 43% ABV and is presented in a bespoke handmade wooden casket which features the individual bottle number, an engraved signature of Ballantine's Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and silver work by renowned silversmith Richard Fox. Only 100 bottles will be released globally each year with each bottle costing a minimum of $US 7,000.

Ballantine’s Global Brand Director Peter Moore says, “Ballantine’s 40 year old epitomises everything the Ballantine’s brand has stood for since the days of George Ballantine. The culmination of a unique heritage of producing high aged whiskies, Ballantine’s 40 year old will appeal to those who appreciate the experience of tasting such an exceptional whisky which is a unique part of Ballantine’s history.”

Glendronach - Latest single casks released

The latest batch of single cask bottlings from the GlenDronach distillery in Aberdeenshire has been announced. This is the sixth such batch to be released and this batch consists of five casks, which were bottled in June, with vintages ranging from 1971 to 1993. All five were hand selected by The BenRiach Distillery Company’s Managing Director Billy Walker. The cask details are listed below,
  • 1971 cask #1247 / 41 years old / Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon / 47.9% vol. / 529 bottles / £579.99
  • 1978 cask #1068 / 33 years old / Oloroso Sherry Puncheon / 52.9% vol. / 318 bottles / £279.99
  • 1989 cask #4885 / 23 years old / Moscatel Barrel / 53.9%vol. / 286 bottles / £119.99
  • 1990 cask #2966 / 22 years old / Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon / 55.1% vol. / 539 bottles / £109.99
  • 1993 cask #536 / 19 years old / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 59.4% vol. / 596 bottles / £89.99

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Have just tried - Drambuie 15 years old

At Whisky For Everyone we do not often dip in to the world of whisky liqueurs.  As with many consumers, we enjoy the occasional sip around Christmas time but that's about it.  We recently had the opportunity to try a new(ish) product from one of the leading brands in the category.  Whisky liqueurs seem to have a poor reputation and are regarded as being sugary and super sweet. However, despite the category shrinking dramatically in recent years there are still some lovely examples on offer.

One such example is the Drambuie 15 years old - the aforementioned new(ish) product.  Drambuie is a classic old brand which dates back to the 1870s, when it was produced by hotel owner John Ross for patrons in the bar of The Broadford Hotel on the isle of Skye.  Legend has it that Ross had received the secret recipe for the liqueur from an ancestor of John MacKinnon, who in turn is said to have received it from Bonnie Prince Charlie as a thank you for helping him escape to Skye after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The name of Drambuie is said to have come from one of the hotel bar patrons, who described the liqueur in Gaelic as "an dram buidheach", or "the drink that satisfies" when translated to English.  The name stuck and Drambuie was first manufactured commercially in 1909 by MacBeth & Sons.  This company later became The Drambuie Liqueur Company, who still produce it today.  The brand is now one of the world's biggest selling products in the whisky liqueur category and is the main ingredient in a Rusty Nail, the popular cocktail.

The Drambuie 15 years old is a relatively recent addition to the range, appearing in Autumn 2011.  It is bottled at 43% ABV, which is quite high for a liqueur, and has a high percentage of 15 years old Speyside single malt (non specified distillery/distilleries) as the base in the recipe.  Along with the whisky, there are also honey, herbs and spices included.  A bottle should cost around the £35 mark from specialist liquor retailers and some high end supermarkets.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with a hint of amber, and the nose is immediately aromatic with sweet, rich and zesty (think of orange especially) notes.  The sweetness is driven by aromas of honey, toffee, vanilla and dried fruits, particularly sultanas and raisins.  This is tempered by some notes of bittersweet cereals, burnt caramel and plenty of wood spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.  Very pleasant.

On the palate this liqueur is rich, sweet and mouth coating.  There is plenty of initial sweetness, which again comes in the form of golden honey, toffee (or perhaps butterscotch?) and the dried fruit from the nose.  A distinct and tangy orange note is never far away and adds a lovely zesty, slightly juicy edge in the mouth.  This tends towards spiced orange as the immediate tangy feeling begins to fade.  This spiciness (think of cinnamon bark, aniseed and cloves) becomes more prominent with time and gives a nice depth and complexity, as do further notes of malty cereals and dried grass.

The finish is sweet and tangy again, and grips the taste buds.  The ABV strength aids this and adds intensity.  The spiciness is again there and it is these notes which come to the fore as the sweeter ones fade.  A lovely drying and lengthy dose of cinnamon and nutmeg are evident, along with further hints of liquorice and clove.

What's the verdict?
The Drambuie 15 years old is one of the nicest whisky based liqueurs that we have tried to date.  As mentioned, the alcohol strength helps to exaggerate the aromas and flavour and give the liqueur a good, gripping mouth feel.  In inclusion of a decent percentage of well aged single malt is helping also and adds the depth, complexity and drying spiciness that other similar products seem to lack.  An excellent effort we think.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Inbox - July 13, 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.  Here is what has grabbed our attention this week ...

Glen Garioch - New Vintage released
The east Highland distillery of Glen Garioch has unveiled the latest in its small batch release programme - Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage. The sixth special addition to the Glen Garioch range was laid down just months before the distillery was mothballed for two years in October 1995. There are just 6000 bottles available globally and just 100 in the UK.

The 1995 Vintage used some of the last ever barley which was malted and peated on site at the Glen Garioch (pronounced glen-geery) distillery. Following a two year period of silence, production resumed in 1997 but without the use of the old malting barns which had been operation for nearly 200 years. It has been bottled at 55.3% ABV and is available now from specialist wine and spirit retailers, with a recommended price of £55.

Kirsteen Beeston, Head of Brands Marketing for Morrison Bowmore (Glen Garioch's owners) says, “The aim with all our limited edition expressions is to showcase the distillery’s special quality of liquid, and the 1995 is certainly no exception. This vintage is the last to capture the old Glen Garioch peaty notes and has been matured entirely in first fill bourbon barrels for over 16 years. Glen Garioch may be a small artisan distillery but our enduring spirit, honed over the last 200 years, means that we’re well versed at turning out distinctive single of exceptional quality.” 

SMWS - New iPad app launched 
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (or SMWS for short) has unveiled a fully interactive iPad version of its award-winning members' magazine Unfiltered - the first whisky related magazine of its kind on Apple's global NewsStand app platform.

The app offers previously unseen content for the Society's 26,000 members, but also opens the magazine up to non-members, with videos, interviews and features, 360-degree photography, interactive maps and hidden extras. The SMWS teamed up with Connect Communications to develop the cutting edge publication, designed to take full advantage of the iPad's capabilities. The result showcases the creative photography and industry-leading writing that have become Unfiltered's signature.

Commenting on the launch, Unfiltered editor Kai Ivalo said, “Our vision for Unfiltered on the iPad was to reflect the excitement, adventure and curiosity which comes with a love of great whisky. Like a good dram, it impresses from the first nosing, but also has hidden depths for those prepared to explore.”

Sullivans Cove - Take on the States
The award winning Australian single malt whisky from Tasmania, is sending its first shipment to the USA this month. This is to build on the brand's current and ever growing popularity, which sees it currently exporting to ten countries across Europe, plus Singapore and Canada.  The USA is the next step. Sullivans Cove is one of the most highly awarded Tasmanian whiskies, consistently winning Gold at the world’s most prestigious blind tasting competitions since the distillery was founded in 1994.  These include Jim Murray’s Liquid Gold Awards, The Spirits Business’s Spirits Masters and the World Whisky Awards.

Patrick Maguire, Master Distiller of Sullivans Cove said, “Tasmanian whisky is really taking off across the world, mainly because of the hard work that the guys have been putting in here at home. We are starting to see a cult following for our whiskies and I am proud that Sullivans Cove is at the forefront of that movement. This is great news considering that the whisky category, and single malts in particular, continues to be the fastest growing spirits category globally.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New release - Laphroaig Cáirdeas 2012

When the recent news came through that the famous Islay distillery of Laphroaig (pronounced la-froyg) had made a limited amount of their annual Cáirdeas whisky (an annual bottling for the Islay Festival) available for purchase to Friends of Laphroaig members, then we had to act quickly and order one having missed out in previous years.  This year's Cáirdeas release celebrates the 18th anniversary of the Friends of Laphroaig - a members club for fans of the Islay malt (you can sign up for free at

Laphroaig is one of the most famous whisky brands in the world. The name is derived from the Gaelic for 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay' and the distillery is located on the island of Islay, which lies off the western coast of Scotland. Both Laphroaig and Islay are renowned for producing very smoky, peaty flavoured whisky. The distillery was founded in 1810 by two brothers, Alexander and Donald Johnson, and is currently owned by drinks company Beam Global. It has an annual production capacity of 2.9 million litres and the Laphroaig 10 years old is also the best selling smoky whisky in the world.

Cáirdeas is the Gaelic word for 'friendship' and is pronounced in a variety of ways, the most common being caar-diss. The 2012 version is created from a mix of different styles of Laphroaig - 50% is made up of whisky aged between 13 and 21 years of age, and the other 50% is whisky which has been specially maturing in quarter casks for seven years.  It has been bottled at 51.2% ABV and was available for £45 a bottle + postage. That sounded like a bargain to us and it has now sold out, so lots of people agreed with our assessment!  Our bottle survived the UK postal system and has just arrived, so here is what we think about it ...

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is instantly packed with powerful and feisty aromas.  A tar-like acrid smoke is the most obvious characteristic and this feels like it initially overpowers everything else, but with time there are some distinct notes of sweetness in the form of honey and golden syrup.  Underneath these are more subtle aromas of malty cereals, vanilla and hints of brine and damp earth.

On the palate, the whisky feels slightly oily and a little fiery and hot.  The flavour profile follows a similar direction to that of the nose and kicks off with a large hit of peaty, acrid smokiness.  This smoke has elements of coal tar soap, oily rags and damp moss to it and is very expressive.  As the smokiness begins to fade, other elements are revealed and these create a delicious balance.  The first of these elements is a distinct high sweet note of icing sugar,  - think of oat cake biscuits, bittersweet cereal grains, honey, vanilla, a pinch of salt and hints of aniseed, nutmeg and red chili.

The finish is very long with the powerful smokiness lingering for a significant time.  Initially there is some of the cereal and honey-like sweetness as seen on the nose and palate, but once this fades then the finish becomes dry and mouth watering.  The prominent peat smoke exaggerates this.

As this whisky is bottled, we added a few drops of water.  This didn't have any impact on the power and flavour of the peat smoke, but took the edge of the heat and spiciness of the alcohol.  The whisky became creamier and softer with the vanilla, honey and cereal notes seeming more prominent.  Which ever way that you choose to drink it, this whisky remains delicious and won't disappoint.

What's the verdict?
This year's version of the Laphroaig Cáirdeas is a wonderfully charismatic whisky.  It packs a powerful peaty punch and is a great example of the smoky style of whisky.  As a result, it will not be everyone's cup of tea - the extremely smoky whiskies are widely regarded as an acquired taste after all. 

Laphroaig are one of the best exponents of this style and we feel lucky (and glad) that we have finally secured one of these special releases, after previous failures.  For those of you that have been equally as successful - well done and enjoy your reward.  For those of you not so fortunate - there's always next year, as we kept telling ourselves ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New release - Glengoyne 1990 Auld Enemy

Glengoyne, 15 miles from the centre of Glasgow, is the most southerly Highland distillery in Scotland. Straddling the Highland/Lowland line that defines Highland malt distilleries from Lowland malt distilleries, it is in the unique position of having the distillery buildings located in the Highlands and the warehouses across the road located in the Lowlands. Back in the day Glengoyne was sometimes even referred to as Lowland malt but these days the distillery is very proudly a Highland whisky.

Founded in 1833, at the foot of the Blairgar burn from which it takes it water, the distillery was ideally located to serve the growing population in Glasgow. Indeed, before this time the area was known as a hotbed of illegal whisky production, with illicit distillers taking advantage of its remote and rugged terrain and the opportunities to make a quick buck in the nearby markets of the central belt.

The Auld Enemy bottling is a single cask whisky from 1990 which has been released in conjunction with the inaugural Auld Enemy dinner and auction celebrating the England/Scotland rugby rivalry over the years. All proceeds from the dinner, auction and the whisky will go towards the Help for Heroes fund and the Bill McLaren Foundation. Bottled from a sherry butt at a strength of 54.4%, there are only 300 bottles available of this whisky. It is only available direct from the distillery or from Royal Mile Whiskies for £175.

Our tasting notes
So intense and complex. Surprisingly nosable at full strength. Sweet and creamy at first, reminding me of chocolate éclairs, a bittersweet note of vanilla and burnt sugar akin to crème brulee comes next. There the French based dessert theme ends and a mulchy, forest floor aroma comes along and then the whole thing gets all fruity, reminding me of prune juice or grape juice, maybe cherry juice, possibly all three. Also Demerara rum and bananas – there’s something here that reminds me a little of El Dorado. I’m getting different things every time I take a sniff; treacle toffee, fruit cake, ginger cake, fresh mint. There’s also a little crispy duck aroma that’s making me hungry. Some bitter notes too; coffee, echinacea concentrate. With water there’s some lovely baked apple and pear aromas, it also gets pleasantly citrusy with some orange peel and there’s also some sugary elements too, reminding me of barley twists and flat coke.

Forceful on the palate, where there’s vanilla fudge at first but it gets spicier and dryer as time goes by. Sweet and spicy drying notes combine to give malt loaf, pine honey, ginger, cinnamon, fennel seeds. The finish is like liquid raisin juice. There’s a mildy pleasant drying mouthfeel throughout. With water it settles down, it’s more bitter and spicy at first with a nice oakiness alongside liquorice, fennel seeds and aniseed. It’s towards the finish where it gets sweeter with a juicy, Demerara fruitiness like fruit salad and caramel. There’s some spearmint and Juicy Fruit chewing gum on the finish that hangs around for ages.

What’s the verdict?
Well, you can certainly file this one under the “sherry monster” category but unlike some heavily sherried whiskies it’s neither too bitter and dry nor dirty and sulphuric. Even then, these sorts of whiskies are not to everyone’s tastes, some people preferring a little more balance between cask and spirit character but in my opinion when these heavily sherried whiskies are good, they can be very, very good indeed and the Auld Enemy is one of those “very good indeed” ones. Having said that, it is still a little pricy for a 21 year old but it’s an excellent, complex whisky and the money goes to a worthy cause.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Inbox - July 6, 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.  Here is what has grabbed our attention this week ...

Arran - Devil packs a punch
The award winning independent distillery from the isle of Arran has announced its latest limited edition single malt release, flamboyantly named The Devil's Punch Bowl. It is named after the eerie glacial hollow Coire na Ciche on Arran, which is known as The Devil's Punch Bowl in folklore. Using whisky from 24 specially selected casks of Arran, the liquid presents a smooth and refined appearance that masks a complex and fiery character. The Devil’s Punch Bowl is also the first Arran whisky to combine peated and un-peated casks. It has an alcohol level of 52.3% ABV and will be available in markets across the world. There are just 6,600 bottles and it has a recommended reatil price of £69.99.  For further information - visit

Auchentoshan - Presents ... again
The Auchentoshan distillery near Glasgow have announced this year's programme of events for their Auchentoshan Presents initiative. The third year sees the brand announce partnerships with a collective of advocates who are contemporary experts in a variety of creative fields. They have all given a modern twist to traditional crafts.  A series of events hosted by these selected advocates will take place in various locations across the UK from July until October.

The advocates are Murdock London (a leader in traditional grooming for the modern gentleman), DJ Ivan Smagghe (globe trotting and genre defying disc jockey), Shacklewell Nights (pioneers of the hidden dining experiences), D.S.Dundee (premium menswear brand and tailors), DunneFrankowski (coffee creators, focusing on design, cafe culture and concepts) and Soulshakers (leading mixologists at the forefront of UK cocktail design). For further information about Auchentoshan Presents - visit

Glendronach - Two exclusives
The award winning Aberdeenshire distillery has just bottled its latest Distillery Exclusive whisky.  It was distilled on 24 September 1993 and matured in an ex-Oloroso sherry butt (cask number 1607), then bottled this June as an 18 year-old.  It has been bottled at the natural cask strength of 56.1% ABV.  This GlenDronach expression is only available to visitors to the distillery shop and retails at £74.99. The cask gave just over 600 bottles, so hurry up and pay them a visit if you want one!

Also new at the GlenDronach distillery this summer is the latest outstanding Distillery Manager’s Cask, which has been personally selected by Alan McConnochie. The GlenDronach 1993 Cask Number 1616 is an ex-sherry cask matured 18 years old single malt, of which visitors can hand fill their own bottle.  Again this acticity is only available at the distillery. The GlenDronach Visitor Centre is open seven days a week in the summer from 10.00am - 4.30pm, offering regular tours (the ‘Discovery Tour’) throughout the day. They also offers the ‘Connoisseur’s Tour’ which can be arranged by appointment. For more information - visit

Glenfiddich - Malt Mastermind
The famous Speyside malt whisky brand is again on the hunt for the Glenfiddich Malt Mastermind. The competition is a chance for individuals to showcase their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for whisky and is in its third year. The prestigious competition is for those working in the on-trade in the UK.  The prize includes a trophy, the title of Malt Mastermind 2012, a cash prize of £1,000 plus an exclusive VIP trip to the Glenfiddich distillery, where they will be given the chance to taste a range of rare Glenfiddich expressions.

Jamie Milne, brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, says "For the third year, we are seeking industry figures who have a passion for malt whisky. We are looking for someone who embodies the pioneering spirit of Glenfiddich through their innovation and creativity and who also truly understands the complexities of malt whisky."

Entrants in the Malt Mastermind 2012 competition will initially be asked to complete a questionnaire, which can be found at Finalists will then be invited to a top London venue in November, where they will be asked to demonstrate their whisky skills and serve to a panel of industry expert judges. The deadline for entries is Sunday 30 September.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Have just tried - White Owl

The White Owl whisky is a filtered, clear rye whisky made by Highwood Distillers in Alberta.  It has taken the cocktail world by storm and took first prize in the Canadian Whisky Innovations category at the second annual Canadian Whisky Awards earlier this year. The awards were held in Victoria, British Columbia and are the brainchild of our good friend Davin de Kergommeaux - the world authority on Canadian whisky and writer of the must-read website

Highwood Distillers is an independently owned company which is based in the Rocky Mountains of the Canadian province of Alberta. The distillery is in the town of High River, while the company offices are in the city of Calgary.  Highwood Distillers was founded in 1974 and the distillery was originally called Sunnyvale.  This was changed to Highwood in 1984 and the company is still going strong after nearly 40 years.  They also make other spirits including gin, vodka, rum and liqueurs.  For more information on Highwood and their products - visit

We don't get to taste many Canadian whiskies as they are still relatively scarce in the UK market, and it is an area of the whisky industry that we want to learn more about.  Therefore we were excited when a sample pack from Highwood dropped through our letterbox recently.

On initial inspection, the White Owl appeared to be a product similar to the 'white dog' whiskies being released in America or the new make spirits being released by some Scottish single malt distilleries.  These products have little or no maturation before bottling.  However, the story with the White Owl could not be more different ...

The White Owl is produced in small batches and is made up of rye whiskies that have been matured between three years (the Canadian legal minimum age for whisky) and 10 years of age.  The proportion of older whisky is high and the whiskies are then married together, before being filtered through charcoal to remove the colour.  Therefore, it has all the characteristics of an aged rye whisky but with no colour - this has made it extremely popular with bar tenders across north America.  The White Owl is bottled at 40% ABV and is currently available only in Canada.  A bottle will cost $40 CAD (that's about £25).

Our tasting notes
This whisky is completely clear and the nose is fresh, clean and vibrant.  There is an instant zesty citrus aroma which is reminiscent of lemons and limes.  This is supported by some robust cereal aromas that give an impression of vanilla and a slight earthy quality.  In addition there is something uplifting and fresh (think of crisp green apple) and a hint of cinnamon and liquorice.

On the palate, this has an initial hot spicy feel but once it settles in your mouth it feels quite delicate and a little creamy.  There is an initial hit of sugary sweetness (imagine a pleasant mix of icing sugar and honey) which is added to by some notes of butterscotch and toffee.  These sweet characteristics are tempered by some delicious and slight feisty cereals, which add a spiciness to the palate - think of cinnamon, nutmeg, liquorice and a hint of ginseng.  The zesty citrus notes evident in the nose are also present (especially the limes) and these seem to grow with time.  It is not the most complicated of palates, but there is plenty of interest going on.

The finish seems short-ish and begins with the lovely butterscotch sweetness.  This then gives way to the zesty and spicy notes, which give the finish a refreshing tang and dryness.  Imagine limes, cinnamon and a hint of red chilli.  It is the chilli-like heat that lasts longest.

What's the verdict?
The White Owl is impressive.  It may be clear but what it lacks in colour, it more than makes up for in aroma, flavour and quality.  The evidence of whiskies of a decent age gives it a depth and quality and it is easy to see why it has become so popular with bar tenders and cocktail mixologists.  The White Owl will add a depth and quality to a drink that a new make or 'white dog' spirit simply cannot.  A delightful discovery and one that confirms that we have to learn about and try more Canadian whiskies.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Distillery visit - Balvenie

The Balvenie distillery is located in the famous Scottish whisky town of Dufftown in the heart of the Speyside region. It is still owned by the original founders, William Grant & Sons, and was built in 1892 to help their other overworked distillery at Glenfiddich, which is next door. It was named after the nearby Balvenie Castle, which was built in the 13th century.  Balvenie has grown to be one of the largest and most well known distilleries in Scotland. It is also one that we have always wanted to visit, as it was a Balvenie (the Doublewood 12 years old) whisky that was one of the first products to get us interested in whisky.

Balvenie is almost unique in distillery terms - it has its own floor maltings (the room used for the germination of the barley), a cooperage where they construct casks and they even grow some of the barley used for production on land very close to the distillery. The modern whisky industry sees the majority of these processes being completed by external companies. This uniqueness and heritage helps Balvenie sell 1.5 million bottles of whisky across the world, putting it well inside the top 10 for total sales of single malt.

To get a tour at Balvenie, you have to book in advance.  The tours operate at 10am and 2pm each day for Monday-Thursday, and at 10am only on Fridays.  There are no tours at weekends.  It costs £25 per person and includes a detailed tour around the distillery and cooperage, plus a tasting of the Balvenie single malt range at the end.  It also offers the unique opportunity to fill your own bottle of Balvenie straight from the cask for an additional fee.  For more information and to book - visit

On our recent visit to Dufftown we were lucky enough to be shown around Balvenie by Jamie Milne, the UK brand ambassador for its sister single malt of Glenfiddich.  A huge thanks to Jamie for that.  To get to Balvenie, you have to walk through the huge Glenfiddich distillery complex and this is where we began.  Across the road from here is where some of the barley for Balvenie is grown (pictured, left).  It is still early in the year and the young green shoots are just poking through the soil.

After a 10 minute walk that flirted with the sights and sounds of Glenfiddich and took us under the disused railway line that separates the two distilleries, we end up on the approach to Balvenie. It was a bracing walk, thanks to a biting cold wind, and it was threatening to snow (in May!?).  The distillery looked good, combining original stonework on some buildings with a slightly gentrified pink paint job on others.  Smoke was drifting out of the triangular pagoda.

The first stop was to see the malting facilities.  From memory, this is the first distillery that we have visited that have this in full operation.  The malting barn (on the left of the above picture) has two floors.  Upstairs is where the barley is stored and prepared for malting.  It was cool and dimly lit - the barley is steeped in water in one of two huge tanks for a couple of days, before the water is drained and the barley is transported by a chute downstairs.

The ground floor is where the barley is laid out to germinate.  The damp barley is laid out across the floor to a depth of about eight inches.  This then starts to germinate, which turns the starch in to the sugar which is essential for creating alcohol.  The barley has to be turned regularly to prevent a build up of heat and to stop the growing roots and shoots from becoming entangled.  There are very few distilleries in Scotland with floor maltings in full operation and Balvenie's produces around 30 tonnes of malt per week - this is about 10% of what the distillery requires, with the rest coming from commercial malt suppliers.

After a few days, the germination needs to be stopped as the barley will then start to use the sugars created to begin full growth.  This process is completed in the traditional way at Balvenie by drying it in a kiln. Again, we had never seen a kiln in action at a distillery.  Each batch of malted barley is loaded in to the pyramid shaped pagoda above the kiln, and then the kiln is lit.  The smoke permeates through the grain and dries it out, therefore stopping the germination.  Interestingly at Balvenie they begin the process by burning peat for around five hours, before switching to coal for the remaining 40 hours or so.  The resulting smoke was what we had seen on our approach to the distillery.

Our next stop was the mashing room.  This contained two huge mash tuns - these are the steel vessels where warm water is added to the milled malted barley and the soluble sugars in the barley are extracted.  The final liquid is called wort. It turned out that only one of these mash tuns was used for the production of Balvenie whisky, with the other being used for Balvenie's sister distillery of Kininvie (more on Kininvie later ...).  Both can hold nearly 11 tonnes of malted barley at a time and have a capacity to run up to 28 mashes a week.

We moved quickly on to the adjoining room which housed a number of wooden washbacks (nine from memory ...).  These are the massive tanks where the wort has yeast added to it, and subsequently the fermentation takes place to turn the soluble sugars in to the required alcohol.  The resulting liquid is now called wash and has a rough alcoholic strength of about 7-8% ABV.  Balvenie also uses some stainless steel washbacks which are housed in another room, but we did not get to see these.  We were also briefly shown a neighbouring room next door which housed some of the wooden washbacks used for the production of wash for Kininvie.

Next was the still room, well one of them anyway.  Balvenie has two - there are a total of five wash stills (where the first distillation takes place) and six spirit stills (where the second distillation that produces the final spirit takes place).  Between them they produce around 5.5 million litres of spirit in a year.  The stills seemed tall, large and imposing, even from the raised level that we viewed them from.  Sadly, then it is time to head out from the lovely heat of the still room back out to the freezing, bracing Scottish weather.

Jamie decided to show us the cooperage, which is another of Balvenie's traditional features.  Historically, most distilleries would have had a cooperage to make their casks but now very few do.  In fact Balvenie are the only distillery to still have their own coppersmith tending to the stills as well, and he has been doing that job for over 50 years!  The cooperage was closed, which was a shame as it was something else that we had never seen in full operation before. However, we spent some time dodging the icy snowflakes and wandering around amongst the thousands of different sized casks that were waiting to be either reconditioned by the coopers or filled with new make spirit.

The cooperage is tucked away at the far end of William Grant's facility.  It is only when you are walking to it from Balvenie that you begin to understand the sheer enormity of the place.  There is a staggering total of nearly 50 warehouses on the site, which house whisky produced at Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie.  There are three types of warehouse - traditional dunnage (stone walls, low roof, earth floors), racked (casks are stacked on racks) and palletised (casks are stacked from floor to ceiling on pallets).  All of the warehouses, plus the trees and any other static objects (including the fire hydrants!) are covered in a black coating.  This is caused by tiny organisms which feed on the alcohol vapours that are released as the whisky matures in its cask.

As we head back, we catch a glimpse of the mysterious distillery that is Kininvie.  Not much is known about it and the single malt produced there is rarely released in its own right.  Kininvie (pictured, below) was built in 1990 and produces large quantities of single malt (nearly five million litres per year) that are used heavily in the Grant's range of blends and William Grant's popular Monkey Shoulder.  As mentioned earlier, the mash tun and fermentation washbacks are housed within the Balvenie buildings but are maintained and operated separately.  Kininvie's still house is functional rather than attractive, being made out of corrugated metal, and is home to three wash stills and six spirit stills.

The regular tour of Balvenie is completed with a whisky tasting of the Balvenie range, but ours is sadly cut short by having to rush off to another engagement.  It is easy to look at the £25 price tag for the Balvenie tour and think that it is expensive, but what this distillery offers you is worth it.  As mentioned, the distillery is almost unique and gives you the chance to see parts of the production process that can rarely be seen elsewhere - barley growing, plus a full working malting barn and cooperage. In addition to all of this, the Balvenie single malt range is excellent and the tour experience backs up the 'traditional feel' that the brand promotes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New release - An Cnoc Peter Arkle 1st Edition

Highland distillery An Cnoc have recently added a new limited expression to their range with the release of the Peter Arkle 1st Edition. The distillery, based near Huntly on the border of the Speyside region, has collaborated with artist and illustrator Peter Arkle, and this bottling represents the first of a range of Peter Arkle bottlings; each one packaged using the illustrator’s unique and distinctive designs.

Peter Arkle is a Scotsman who lives and works in New York city. On one visit home, he took a trip up to the highlands where he came across Knockdhu distillery (the name of the distillery that produces An Cnoc single malt). During his tour of the distillery, he fell in love with the place and also the whisky and as a consequence offered to work with the An Cnoc brand. On seeing Peter Arkle’s work and his list of clients (Apple, The Big Issue, Converse, Microsoft, and Scouting Magazine, amongst other equally prestigious organisations), Inverhouse, An Cnoc’s owners, agreed. Check out Peter Arkle’s website if you fancy seeing some of his work. I think it’s pretty cool myself

The inspiration for each of Peter Arkle’s designs comes from the distillery itself and the processes that go into making single malt whisky. This 1st Edition highlights the different ingredients and forces that go into producing An Cnoc. Each symbol on the bottle represents a different element, namely – barley, water, yeast, heat, time and of course er.. magic! This is all explained in moving pictures by the man himself here if you’re bored of reading stuff.

The 1st Edition is the first An Cnoc released that consists of whisky wholly matured in ex Spanish oak sherry casks and so represents quite a departure from the usual An Cnoc style. Most An Cnoc whiskies are either wholly matured in Bourbon casks or have had only a small proportion of their constituent whisky coming from ex sherry casks. It bares no age statement but it consists of whiskies around 10 years old. It is limited to 6000 bottles in only a handful of territories and is exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies in the UK, costing £47.50.

Our tasting notes
The nose starts off with aromas of raisins, sultanas and figs which are quickly followed by bittersweet hints of caramel, burnt sugar, burnt toast, malt loaf, stewed apples and ginger. Some lovely nutty aromas present themselves as well, such as brazil nuts and pecans. After a while it becomes a tad more like your typical An Cnoc style with fresh and candied notes of lemon sherbet and white chocolate. With water the sherry aromas take more of a back seat. There are burnt toffee and caramel notes and a tiny sulphur note in the background with floral and herbaceous notes such as lemon verbena, parsley, water cress and mint up front. After a while the nose progressively gets sweeter with aromas of sherbet, fudge and milk-bottle sweets.

Up front, on the palate there’s chocolate and toffee but this soon gives way to some dryer, spicier, bitter flavours such as ginger, burnt sugar and oak. The initial hit of the bitter tannins soon die down and add a nice firm bitterness towards and throughout the lovely long nutty finish, reminiscent of brazils, hazelnuts and pecans. With water the palate is still initially on the sweet side, again with chocolate and toffee but soon becomes very sherry like with flavours of raisins, nuts and flor mould. The spicy tannins are much more restrained, gently coasting across the palate throughout.

What’s the verdict?
It’s great to try something different from the usual An Cnoc range and it’s really interesting to see how the spirit has interacted with the Spanish oak sherry casks to produce a classy, restrained, sherried malt. Although sherry monsters can be popular, the people at Inverhouse should be applauded for releasing a whisky that hasn’t been totally consumed by the sherry cask and still had some balance between oak and spirit; just a different sort of balance than what we’re used to from An Cnoc.