Category Archives: Reviews


Ardbeg Auriverdes [Ardbeg]

One of my earliest football memories is from Italia 90. I remember standing in the kitchen, hiding behind the door so my younger brother wouldn’t know I was up watching the match, willing England to do the impossible and knock out West Germany. As the game progressed I moved to the lounge – it was too late for my brother to be up then – and was then inconsolable as Waddle lifted the kick higher and higher. This year has brought similar heartache – I’m a Liverpool fan. From so much promise to that slip, I’m delighted we’ve made so much progress but can only hanker after what might have been. And so with inevitable disappointment we head towards Brazil hoping Roy’s kids can finally stop us talking about 1966 and all that.. will we make it past the Italians’? Will Suarez stage a masterful recovery? Will we score a goal?

Jon cutting the peat

Jon cutting the peat

There is light at the end of the tunnel though, some optimism to look forward to. Ardbeg are releasing their annual ‘Ardbeg Day’ bottle on Saturday 31 May and this time they come over all Brazilian and themed it after the greatest show on earth. Auriverdes, meaning green (the Ardbeg bottle) and gold (the whisky), is the name of the release and we were fortunate enough to try it several weeks ago. This whisky has been matured in American oak which have custom toasted cask ends designed specifically for this whisky. The casks ends are designed to give a darker coffee flavour to contrast the vanilla you would expect from the American oak. The whisky, as you would expect from such a release, is naturally coloured, un-chillfiltered and bottled at 49.9%.

Ardbeg Auriverdes
Nose: Lots of dry peat and classic ardbeg notes. The fresh coffee from the casks ends comes through strongly and mixes in with cocoa and rum and raisin ice-cream. Takes us back to cutting the peat with Dougie
Palate: Initial hints of jasmine before you are hit with thick black smoke and peat. A very sooty whisky with lots of heat – think beach BBQ, smoked fish and charred steak. Finally there is a hint of Albas Oil and ground coffee
Finish: The spirit lightens at the death bring up some floral notes and a final bite of peat

We have some incredibly fond memories of Ardbeg; from walking up to the loch on a Ardbeg hike, to Mike winning a massive bottle of Ardbog, to just sitting in front of the whitewashed walls and enjoying a dram with friends. As such we were incredibly excited by this release and it is a good, no very good whisky that will sell fantastically well. Personally though, I preferred the character of Ardbog – and part of that is in the Islay memories. That doesn’t take anything away from this dram – you’ll buy it because it’s Ardbeg and because it’s tasty, and you won’t be disappointed with it. And as you drink it lets hope you can lift it high as Gerrard crosses to Sturridge to slot in the winning goal on June 13 bringing some redemption for Liverpool and England!

Mike lifting the World Cup

Mike lifting the World Cup

Cu Bocan 1989

Cu Bocan 1989 53.2% [Tomatin]

Tomatin is a bit of a guilty Highland pleasure to be honest. Since walking through the entire range a couple of years ago we have become big fans of this distillery. They have a full and diverse range, and an ever increasing, but incredibly complimentary, amount of new releases and special additions that sit nicely in the portfolio without stealing the focus from the members already there.

Indeed we think so highly of the whisky that we even featured it on our stand at the Birmingham Whisky Festival for the second year in a row – and our choice of Legacy (a no aged statement whisky at one of the most competitive prices you will see) and Cu Bocan did not disappoint; indeed our only regret was not having more as we ran out late afternoon meaning Mike and I had none to enjoy at home!

Cu Bocan was one of our highlights of last year, so much so that I have a bottle at home, the combination of light smoke and peat over the Tomatin spirit was a real winner in our view and so we were delighted and intrigued to see the announcment of a limited cask strength release of the whisky. Tomatin found three bourbon casks resting at the back of the warehouse from 7 June 1989, and even more excitingly than that they were made from peated spirit! The result is an extremely limited release of 1080 bottles at 53.2% – a release that can never be repeated. These three casks were all that remained and my word it is good stuff!

Tomatin 1989 Cu Bocan [53.2%]
I really enjoyed the original Cu Bocan that is widely available, but this whisky is something else – big, brash, and hot with a good dose of peat. Definitely Cu Bocan in ultra HD.
Nose: Huge amounts of vanilla and spice. Very warming with hints of ginger and chilli flakes mixed with black pepper. And then the smoke comes – wafts of peaty smoke combined with red fruits. An earthy and grassy fragrance that is magnificent
Palate: A thick and cloying whisky that changes over time. Incredibly complex with peat striking the palate in waves, alternating with mint and liquorice. There is a definite damp note that reminds me on Islay warehouses before notes of peach offer some lightness to the mouth. A hot, hot whisky
Finish: Hot and long; the whisky is very dry and the peat really shines through here. The smoke sticks, giving way slightly to some sweetness, and then more heat. Superb.

An excellent whisky. And it is still available here from The Whisky Exchange, although I suspect it won’t hang around for long!

Distiller's Reserves

Yamazaki and Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve

The Yamazaki 15 was the first Japanese whisky that I tasted, and it is a moment that I still remember vividly. It was a delightfully orangery whisky that seemed to trick the tastebuds as the flavours seemed to be in uexpected places unlike the Scottish spirit that I was accustomed too. Since then my knowledge and appreciation of Japanese whisky has grown, some of the best tastings I’ve attended have been about Japanese whisky (The Whisky Show 2012), and how could I not mention this Karuizawa from Number One Drinks? Yes – that one!

#LightOnDark – Three new peaty anCnoc’s

#LightOnDark – Three new peaty anCnoc’s

Peaty whisky from anCnoc? The announcement came through too early to be an April fool so we assumed that it must be a ‘thing’. And that made us very interested. We’re both big fans of peaty whisky and have been over to the island that makes peaty whisky like no other several times, and indeed will be going later this year to do the Half Marathon, but that’s a story for another day.

Littlemill 21 [Lady of the Glen]

Littlemill 21 [Lady of the Glen]

We recently reviewed and were wowed by Lady of the Glen’s Caperdonich so we were delighted to receive a sample of the latest release from this exciting independent bottler – a single cask 21 year old Littlemill bottled at 53.6%. As many of you will know Littlemill is one of many closed distilleries having burned down around a decade ago so this lowland whisky is becoming rarer as the years go by. This particular whisky itself was aged in American Oak for 21 years before giving up 309 bottles, and as per their policy the whisky is non chill filtered and has no caramel added. It is Lady of the Glens first lowland whisky, so what is it like?

The nose begins with a massive burst of caramelised banana and freshly cut grass. There are strong notes of icing sugar, before some slightly earthy tones appear. I love the sweetness in this dram and it takes me to childhood pear drops and wine gums – delicious. The palate is initially very hot; almost chilli pepper like. It does become sweeter as you roll it around the tongue, almost tasting like bubblegum, before the spices reappear in the form of cardamom and pepper. There is more than a hint of cherries and I felt that the whisky was quite forresty, reminding me of a bark like taste. The finish is very long and hot which is wonderful, and it again becomes slightly grassy at the death.

I love the interplay between the sweetness and the heat of this whisky; for me it may be a little too savoury at times, but overall the chilli combined with the sweetness make it a whisky well worth considering as it is a lovely marriage that works wonders.

You can buy the whisky direct here; and for an extra £5 you will receive 2 glencairn glasses too.

Brora 35

Midlands Whisky Festival March 2014 – A Day in Pictures

Brora 35

Our first stop was at Diageo’s stand to catch up with Colin Dunn. It also provided an opportunity to try the Brora 35 Special Release from 2013. The dram had everything we had hoped for; amazing depth and complexity wrapped in a swirl of smoke. We’ve now tried almost all of the Special Releases from last year, and for me, this is the star.

Colin and Chris

It was great to have a chat with Colin (Diageo) and Chris (Compass Box) throughout the day. Two of the nicest guys in the industry.

Caol Ila 12

It’s been a while since I’ve had the Caol Ila 12 so it was time to go back and reacquaint myself with it. For Mike, this is where it all started, and this is a whisky that still punches well above its weight and takes you over the sea to Islay.

Lucas with the Old Pultney 1990

The Midlands Whisky Festival had all of the right people there. We caught up with Lucas and tasted, for the first time, the peated Old Pulteney from 1990. Unusually the spirit isn’t peated, with the peat instead coming from maturation in a variety of Islay casks. This is a fabulous dram, and one of the days highlights.

Balblair 1983

Mike and I are both big fans of Balblair and it was fantastic to try the 1983 vintage again. Full of tropical fruits and spice this is a great whisky.

Glenfarclas Port Cask

One of the days dream drams. This Glenfarclas has been matured in Port Casks for 31 years and provided a perfect accompaniment to lunch as it afforded the opportunity to sit down and savour the whisky

Chocolate and Whisky Pairing

We were thrilled to be able to make Miss Whisky’s chocolate and whisky pairing class. Up for tasting was Tamdhu 10, Balblair 2003, Aberlour 16 (double matured), Balvenie Carribean Cask, and Bowmore 12 – all matched with different chocolate.

Alwynne leading the troops

Alwynne led the session enthusiastically and knowledgeably. Each whisky was expertly matched with a different chocolate designed to bring our different characteristics of both the spirit and the chocolate. One of the most interesting combinations was the Balblair 2003 and the Marou (a 78% chocolate from Vietnam). The chocolate lit up the whisky really enhancing the vanilla notes and bringing out almonds and spices.


All of the chocolate was from the Chocolate Trading Company and it was really interesting that all the bars were ‘proper’ chocolate. And what I mean by that is that there was no flavoured chocolate in the tasting – just good quality bars that matched the whisky.

Learning about chocolate and whisky

Alwynne leading the way!

Exceptional Chocolate

The final pairing featured this chocolate from Madagascar. The chocolate itself contained coco nibs (this is what is present before the chocolate is subject to conching) and was tasted alongside the Bowmore 12. Tasting them together really highlighted the salty notes in the whisky (almost to a sea water level) and was my highlight of the class. Buy this chocolate and try it at home – you won’t be disappointed.

Whisky Notes

Studiously making notes during the class

Carn Mor Tullibardine

Tullibardine may not be at the top of everyones wish list but you should really try and seek out their cask strength stuff. Everyone I have had has been excellent, and this whisky from Carn Mor was no different. It was very savoury neat, but once a drop of water was added it turned very sweet and was almost icing sugar like in taste. Sadly, despite being bottled only 6 weeks ago it has completely sold out!

40 Year Old Teaninich

This was a real treat; Teaninich is a whisky I first discovered through Compass Box who use it in crafting some of their famous whiskies, but this is one of the first I have tried as a single malt. Despite being aged for 40 years this was a fresh, light and zingy dram with minimal effects from the wood.

Flaming Heart

No whisky show would be complete without a visit to Compass Box and it was a real surprise to find that they had Flaming Heart on the stand. I love this whisky; that combination of peat smoke and Chinese five spice just gets me; its a dram that makes me smile – what more could you want?


Octomore – the peatiest whisky in the world and oh so much more that peat. The depth and complexity is astounding, and its probably time I bought another bottle!

2 Year Old Octomore

This was a special Bruichladdich. Two year old Octomore from fresh oak. The cask previously contained Bruichladdich and had now been filled with Octomore Spirit. While you could taste the youth in this – there was a new make tint to it; I would have bought it if it was on sale. It may not be whisky yet, but it is shaping up to be something special.

Old Particular Bladnoch 21

Our final stand of the day was Douglas Laing. This Old Particular Bladnoch was lovely; really fruity and jammy with a good dose of spice.

Old Particular Bowmore 25

My final dream dram token was used on this Bowmore 25. It is a dram I have tasted before and previously I have found it a touch too floral for my liking. At the festival though it hit the spot – a great end to another fabulous show! 

Master of Malt 60 Year Old Speyside

Master of Malt 60 Year Old Speyside [42.2%]

This is an exciting post! Its not everyday that you receive a 60 year old whisky in the post, and that’s probably for several reasons. Firstly its quite rare, being rather old, and secondly it is usually massively expensive; for reasons why, see the first reason. This whisky is a bit different though – it is still old (it has to be), but it isn’t massively expensive. Granted it isn’t cheap’ but on the face of it £999.95 represents remarkable value for a 60 year old Speysider.

The package!

The package!

The other reason that this whisky is exciting is a personal one. Being 60 years old and bottled very recently it therefore follows that it was distilled in 1954 – the year my mum was born. Also the whisky was released in March 2014 which means that it was distilled in early 1954 and probably very early 1954 when you consider that it had to be bottled, distributed etc etc in 2014 once it had turned 60. My mum’s birthday is on 8th January so there must be a slim chance that this whisky was distilled on the very day she was born – now that’s exciting (and must be worth another sample or two – Ben?)

The Whisky

The Whisky

Regardless of that, what you’re actually interested in is if it is any good? Age is not a sign of quality, and indeed lack of age is not an abscence of it. One my travels to Islay I have tried a 1966 Lagavulin straight from the cask. It is, to put it blunty, off – the barrel attracts people due to its age and that is why it is there – it is not there as a representative example of the frankly excellent whisky Lagavulin produce. Anyway back to the job in question; this whisky is from an unnamed distillery in Speyside and is bottled at 42.2%.

This is a whisky that benefits from some time in the glass to allow it to fully open up and release its bouquet. On the nose I found bananas, a touch of wood (as expected after 60 years in oak), and some fresh lemon juice. As the spirit opened it smelt like a fresh rose garden at the height of spring mixed in with some mint leaves and a creamy top note. A touch of spice in the form of a slightly faded star anise came through too before I was left with that kind of post thunderstorm kind of scent.

The palate was silky and soft. There was a lovely balanced heat mixed in with the sweetness of cherry sauce and crisp green apples. I totally got what Ben was talking about with tomato stems; for me it was that back of the mouth taste as you wall into a well sprouted greenhouse – it just sits there at the back of the throat. The whisky was gentle and just enveloped the mouth, it was like a well layered and properly made curry – there was a touch of spice and the flavours built over time and remained forever.

The finish was very savoury and vegetal. Amazingly it was still very fresh after all of these years and there was a definite mint note as the spirit faded away.

Master of Malt 60 Year Old Speyside

Master of Malt 60 Year Old Speyside

This is a classy and complex whisky that has aged magnificently, and while its not an everyday purchase at just under £1000 it does represent a more affordable opportunity to try a spirit distilled in the 1950’s and matured for 60 years. Hats off to the chaps at Master of Malt for this superb release – the pressure is now on as we wait to see what you have that will better this!

Available now from Master of Malt here.

Glenturret 26 [Hunter Laing]

Glenturret 26 [Hunter Laing]

Our first whisky delivery of the year was a belter. It isn’t every day that you receive a fine old whisky through the post and we were pleasantly surprised to see that we had been sent a Glenturret from 1986. This whisky has been bottled by Hunter Laing at 46.8% after spending 26 years in refill bourbon casks and it is limited to 2400 bottles. I’ve become a bit of fan of Glenturret in recent years, helped in part through winning a case of their whisky, but also through sampling more and more great independent releases of the Highland malt. As you’d expect for a release of this stature the whisky has no colouring and hasn’t been chill filtered.

The whisky begins by treating the nose to a lovely spearmint note that cuts through the cream and butteriness of the spirit. It reminds me of royal icing and marzipan, before becoming a little vegetal and earthy. Finally there is a rather delightful big vanilla flourish. The palate is rich and spicy, yet light and gentle – its a refined whisky. It is hot on the tongue (think chilli powder) and is like an exquisite cocktail with the layers unfolding in the mouth as you enjoy it. It is a touch minty combined with some lemon zest and a little bread at the back of the mouth. The finish is wonderfully long, and took me back to summer meadows in full bloom on the Isle of Wight.

I love it when whiskies throws up evocative images and takes you places from your past; it is a real treat to be transported to times gone by and this Glenturret is one of those special whiskies that achieves that. It is a lovely spirit, and another sublime release from Hunter Laing. Congratulations guys – we salute you!

Caperdonich 19 [Lady of the Glen]

Caperdonich 19 [Lady of the Glen]

Time really flies doesn’t it? I can’t believe that we’re already near the end of January. It has been a crazily busy month.. or couple of months if I’m honest so I’m a little late with this review. It is however a review worth writing as the whisky is a lovely cask strength 19 year old from a silent distillery in Speyside – Caperdonich. The whisky itself is bottled by Gregor Hannah of Hannah Whisky Merchants and sold under the Lady of the Glen label. They may be relative newcomers to the independent bottlers market but already they’ve bottle some crackers including a 24 year old Invergordon.

This Caperdonich hails from 1994 and is bottled at 54%. We found the nose to be intense and room filling with its aroma. There was a decent whack of vanilla before we were delighted by the interplay between a gingery apple crumble and oaty biscuits. Finally we found scent to be a touch oily. The palate provided a big hit of lemon sponge cake before turning savoury in the form of Jacobs crackers. The whisky contains a lovely weighted spiciness of cracked black pepper and chilli essence before sweetening into butter cream and hot Danish cherry sauce (memories of Christmas in Denmark came flooding back with this note – fabulous stuff!). The finish lived unto expectation with a long lasting heat being complemented by embers of pepper and offset by a citrus slice of lemon.

This whisky has provided us with a great start to 2014, and if this spirit is anything to go by Lady of the Glen could well be one to watch over the next 12 months. Their whisky is selling out remarkably quickly and now we can see why; good job Gregor – we look forward to seeing what else you have in store!

Kilchoman Cask No 1

Kilchoman 2007 [Kilchoman]

I have fond memories of Kilchoman. From first visiting the distillery during the Feis Ile in 2010, to trying some superb cask strength offerings at The Whisky Show in both 2010 and 2013, to having a guided tour of the site from John, to sampling whisky in the warehouse. The surroundings aren’t bad either; we’ve spent many a happy hour walking and playing games on Machir Bay a little over a mile from the distillery grounds. I also love that Kilchoman are the only Islay distillery who can do the whole process on site – they have a mashing floor upon which they can use their own barley, and they can bottle their spirit after maturing it in their own warehouses. The spirit may still be young, but it’s a feisty yet complete youth, ready to be faced head on and enjoyed. The latest offering from the distillery is now 6 years old and fully matured in bourbon casks; it’s time to review the Kilchoman 2007
The nose is very meaty, full of ham hock and pulled pork with a salty edge. There is peat, as expected, and on this occasion it is grassy and peppery. The sea air combines with some citric notes leaving a little burn on the nose before offering up maltesers and some sticky BBQ sauce.
The meatiness continues on the palate, before liquorice and blackjack sweets take over. The whisky reminded me of popping candy (without the popping) in that kind of spicy tantalising way. There was traces of salt, and the seasoning was complete with a hit of fresh black pepper and hot spices. The finish was very long and drying, and warmed the tongue nicely. 
For me, Kilchoman can do no wrong, and this whisky shows why. It is lively, fresh and peaty and on this evidence I continue to expect fine things as the spirit matures and develops over time in the warehouses just yards from the stills. This is Islay whisky, and this is very, very good.