Category Archives: Whisky

Tasting Mat 3

Tasting Mat 3

Welcome to the latest round up of new releases. On the table today we have new whiskies from both Laphroaig and Ardbeg as well as the first cask strength release from BenRiach. Completing the set is one of my favourite drams of the year; the ICE release from Highland Park.

Laphroaig Lore [48%]
I applaud Laphroaig for this release – it is certainly very interesting – but I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like at full proof. Maybe an idea for a future release?
Nose: A dark version of the PX Travel Retail bottle from a few years ago. Lots of stewed fruits, glazed ham and the iodine notes that you would expect. Reminds me of peat sheds and dunnage warehouses topped of with some sea spray
Palate: Spicy to begin, before turning a touch floral and gaining some sweetness in the form of treacle and crème brule topping. Then the peat hits, like a peaty Christmas pudding with cocoa powder dusted over it.
Finish: The peat lingers, wrapped in a chocolate glove

Highland Park ICE [53.9%]
This is Highland Park magic. The nose is very good, but it just becomes alive in the mouth. One of the drams of the year to date. Superb whisky.
Nose: Grassy, dry peat. The aromas grip the back of your throat. Jammy and oaty with a touch of raspberry sweetness. Peppery heat.
Palate: Wow! Full of citrus, spice and butterscotch. It’s a big whisky. Notes of jasmine, smoked chilies and in the background is the most delightful subtle sweet peat. Stunning.
Finish: Massive, lemons and sherbet fountains.

BenRiach Batch One [57.2%]
This is a fine, uncomplicated whisky for those who fancy a good cask strength sherried whisky
Nose: A really interesting scent. Fruity, floral, rose petals and strawberries. This changes to mint leaves and tomato stems.
Palate: Reminds me of fruit salad sweets. Vanilla pods and dark chocolate arrive before it turns into rich fruit cake. Star anise and cardamom complete the spicing
Finish: Long, raisins. Sticky

Warehouse tasting

Ardbeg Dark Cove [46.5%]
This whisky may not be as powerful as some recent Ardbegs but it is another very good release. In my opinion, this is a dram for summer afternoons with the sun shining on you – it is what Islay is about. Enjoy with barbecues.
Nose: Unmistakably Ardbeg. Full of smoke [not peat] with a lovely sherry strata running through it. Notes of cocoa, fudge and brine complete the experience.
Palate: much bigger than the nose. Ashy, peaty and full of spice. There is lots going on and lemons and sweetness compete to come to the fore. Takes me to Ardbeg day last year and reminds me of Arbroath Smokies on the steps of the distillery. Caramelised meat fat.
Finish: Spices dance on the tongue. Long, peaty and sweet

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin 8YO – 200th Anniversary Edition [48%]

It’s been a good couple of years for anniversaries along the Kildalton coast of Islay with two celebrated last year, while 2016 sees Lagavulin join the party.

Lagavulin, the word rolls off the tongue and just conjures this expectation, this anticipation that you’re about to sample something special. This distillery holds a soft spot in my heart; when I visited Islay in 2010 Lagavulin was the first distillery I went to, the first tour I did, and the first warehouse tasting I experienced. It was also the first Feis bottle I bought and drank with friends. Since then I’ve had many a good memory of the distillery, the whisky it produces and the people who work there. I guess that’s why I’m quite excited about this release! So without further ado, here’s our review. Enjoy.

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin 8YO – 200th Anniversary Edition [48%]
I remember sitting in the Lagavulin warehouse in 2010 and enjoying a younger Lagavulin. It was either 7 or 8 years old and was one of the drams of the festival. We questioned at the time why Lagavulin don’t release younger whisky and we were told it was unlikely to ever happen. Well it seems like the 200th anniversary of the distillery was the excuse they needed. I’m delighted to say that this whisky doesn’t disappoint. To me it is a purer form of Lagavulin, I love this spirit without too much sherry influence and this 8 year old is like a dialled down Special Release. It is almost certainly the first of several releases to celebrate the bi-centenary, but it is well priced, has lots of flavour and would make a great addition to your drinking shelf
Nose: Bags of citrus peel up front. Becomes darker with hints of cocoa powder and burnt lemon. There is a good amount of soot and wood embers that adds a lovely depth to the dram. We also found homemade chocolate beetroot cake. Takes me right back to warehouse tastings with Pinkie.
Palate: Initially light with sherbet lemons. Spicy rather than the expected peat on the first taste, cinnamon and liquorice dominated. The smoke comes in later as a wisp moving through the liquid and brings with it some black pepper heat. Quite creamy and vegetative.
Finish: Build and builds, lemon juice

Tasting Mat 2

Tasting Mat 2

It is time to review the latest round of whisky releases so welcome to our second tasting mat. On the table today we have a diverse selection of drams. We start with a new release from Speciality Drinks – an Islay blend called ‘Peat’ before we move on to a dark brooding SMWS Ardbeg. Finally we encounter two spirits from Gordon & MacPhail, a 1991 Speyburn and a majestic 1954 Glen Grant. Enjoy.

Peat [Speciality Drinks] 59.3%
Trying to decipher this whisky is like trying to win the annual Feis Isle nosing completion [my best is a third place finish!] If only they’d stuck to convention and called it, for example, CI2BR1Ar4 – that would have been geeky! Still, this is a fantastic dram, and when you factor in the price its an absolute steal. This is a must buy for 2016.
Nose: This is [literally] Islay in a glass. Lovely phenols and tar mixed in with old boat ropes. Takes me back to Islay and fond memories of holidays. Gorgeous lemon and herbal notes
Palate: Sweet peat that pack a real punch. As it rolls around the mouth it becomes spicy and hot. There are touches of iodine and fishermen’s friends. Finally I get hints of scallops and oysters, and a beautiful aniseed note.
Finish: Long and mouth filling, cheek warming. Liquorice. Cracking!

Jon cutting the peat

Cutting Peat on Islay

SMWS 33.132 [Ardbeg] 60.9% [8YO 2nd fill sherry]
Ardbeg. Little more needs to be said really. I love Ardbeg, and it’s great to come across another single cask example that really lives up to the name of this Kildalton distillery. This is a limited and wonderful whisky.
Nose: Dirty, charred steak and meat fat. A decadent nose with peat and smoke entwined. Notes of barbeques, this is SO Ardbeg – mind-blowing.
Palate: A full on assault that builds and builds. There is a lot of intensity in the glass. Reminds me of Hawksmoor with all the meaty notes. The dram is sherry and peat in harmony. After a while it becomes more restrained, smoky Christmas cake? Single cask whisky at its best.
Finish: Long, brooding, emotional – this is a dram for meat lovers.


Glen Grant 1954 [40%]
This spirit is ancient and it is a real treat to be able to try it. Despite its age it is very alive, very vibrant and a wonderful example of how aging can tame and transform a whisky.
Nose: Initially quite closed, but then it opens beautifully to become very rich and plummy. Lots of red fruit and mahogany notes. A very decadent dram.
Palate: Velvety. Black pepper, Christmas cake and black treacle. As expected there is some wood influence but its in perfect balance. Hints of violets and tarragon.
Finish: Long and peppery. Elements of treacle toffee. Beautiful.

Speyburn 1991 [46%]
A younger release in the ‘Wood makes the whisky’ and it’s a lovely example of a Speyburn. I particularly enjoy the sweet and citrus notes. A sipper.
Nose: Vanilla, lemon peel and bubble-gum. The sweetness is tempered by notes of cloves before it becomes more citrusy with hints of orange.
Palate: Soft and delicate. A big hit of vanilla pods and milk chocolate. Touches of cinnamon and spices, and the citrus notes from the nosing make a strong reappearance.
Finish: Soft, refresher sweets and sherbets. Lingers well.

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!

Glenmorangie Cask Masters

Glenmorangie Cask Masters

The Glenmorangie Cask Masters is an innovative concept whereby the consumer becomes fully immersed in the creation of a brand new whisky. So far individuals have voted for their favourite cask of three – with Manzanilla beating off competition from Grand Cru Burgundy and Grand Cru Bordeaux, and the name – with Taghta (Gaelic for chosen) being favoured from a short list of three. Future stages in the design process will see enthusiasts chose elements of the photography and even the launch city!

Glenlivet Guardian Chapter

Glenlivet Guardian Chapter

The Glenlivet Guardian Chapter is an opportunity for the Guardians of the Glenlivet to vote for the next limited edition spirit that the famed distillery will release. Three different expressions are up for consideration; each is bottled at 48.7% allowing the influence of the different casking to shine through. We've been fortunate enough to have been sent some samples of each and our notes are below. Do let us know which your favourite is as your decision could help decide the next limited edition. Voting closes on 4 December, and the results are close so far: 39% favour the Exotic, 33% the Classic, and 26% the Revival.

Glenlivet Classic 48.7%

A gorgeous whisky that has been matured in butts, hogsheads and barrels. There is a very subtle sherried streak running through the spirit.
Nose: Very fruity and creamy, lots of toffee and vanilla. Sweet and almost pear tatin like
Palate: Good amount of spice on the front of the tongue. The sweet vanilla and toffee carries on from the nose and coats the mouth beautifully. Finally there is a touch of menthol
Finish: Long and sweet with the vanilla remaining long into the night

Glenlivet Exotic 48.7%
A Christmassy expression. This edition draws heavily on sherry butts and it would be a great whisky as we move into December.
Nose: Very dark and rich, a good dose of deep cocoa. Some red fruits mixed with a touch of fire embers. Rich Christmas cake
Palate: Surprisingly mellow on first taste, before rich sticky fruit comes through. Dark treacle and chocolate combined with orange oils
Finish: Long and dark. Traces of cocoa linger

Glenlivet Revival 48.7%
A subtle expression with lots of bourbon influence. A Glenlivet to relax with on a summers evening. Mellow and sweet this is a lovely expression.
Nose: Very fruity with touches of vanilla and fudge. Nutty
Palate: Creamy and soft before the alcohol punches through with a sharpness that is sweetened by a dusting of icing sugar
Finish: Medium in length and quite drying


Tweet Tasting Highlights [ The best bits from The Tweeddale Blend and Milroy’s]

Tweet Tasting Highlights [ The best bits from The Tweeddale Blend and Milroy’s]

The Tweeddale Blend Tweet Tasting was a lovely event and my first exposure to this historic blend. After tasting the whiskies on offer it certainly won’t be my last foray into Tweeddale and I can’t wait to see how the blend shifts and changes over the next couple of iterations. All of the spirits on offer were enjoyable but I’ve picked out two of my highlights from the night; Batches 2 and 3. For me, they just had something about them that excited me. They are definitely my sort of whisky and I’d happily have a bottle of each at home.

A Tweet Tasting line up

A Tweet Tasting line up

Tweeddale Blend Batch 2 [46%]
A very well balanced dram made up of whiskies aged between 12 and 21 years. This blend also contains a 15 year old grain whisky from a sherry butt.
Nose: Apples, autumnal fruits, leathery and woody. We also found some pomegranate, banana and kiwi
Palate: Love the influence the increased maturation has had on the whisky – full of banana, vanilla, and refresher sweets
Finish: Long and sweet. The fruit disappears to be replaced by the candied refresher notes

Tweeddale Blend Batch 3 [46%]
Seven of the malts in this blend are those found in earlier batches; they are just a year older. The grain however is an 18 year old from sherry butts. Interestingly the youngest whisky in the blend is 13 years old, but it is sold as a 12 year old in Canada! Only 300 bottles were allocated to the UK.
Nose: Darker and earthier than the earlier batches in the series; but then the familiar fruitier notes kick in. Very grassy and farmyardy. Great influence from the sherry
Palate: Surprisingly juicy – very orangey before the heat moves in. A good touch of gingerbread and victoria sponge
Finish: Like a hard boiled sweet you can taste it for hours. Very sugary

Ready to sample!

Ready to sample!

The Milroy’s event was another evening of new and interesting whiskies. It was also a night of suprises as my favourite two whiskies were Dutch; I’ve not tried Dutch whisky before and the two below were a revelation. Overall it was a delightful session of dramming and I’d recommend that you check out Milroy’s range of whiskies for yourself.

Milroy’s Single Cask Zuidam Dutch Rye [46%]
This was my highlight of the Milroys Tweet Tasting. A really cracking whisky with strong Rye notes and a lovely depth to it. Retailing at £40 this whisky is a bit of a bargain.
Nose: A big blast of coffee and chocolate mixed in with some coconut (think Bounty Bars and you’re almost there). Finally a hit of slightly tempered freshly glossed wood
Palate: Gentle to begin with, before cardamon and curry leaves seep through. A bit of varnish before some lovely meaty slow cooked pulled pork delights the mouth
Finish: Very long, with a helping of Extra Strong Mints

Millstone 14 1999 [46%]
A great whisky for this time of year – its one to get of as the nights continue to draw in and it becomes even colder outside. Alternatively consider it as an ‘out of the box’ choice for Christmas Day!
Nose: Very dark and mysterious – much like an over-alchoholic Christmas pudding. Very spicy and lots of stewed fruits
Palate: Big flavours to begin with. Quite grassy and very hot on the tongue. Reminds me of a very good sticky toffee pudding
Finish: Long and pungent

Thanks again go to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire, and keep an eye on the blog as we’re involved in some more tastings in the run up to Christmas!

Karuizawa Sherry 31

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2013

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show really is the highlight of the whisky calendar; fabulous whiskies, a stunning location and the opportunity to talk to the people who actually make the spirit make this the must go to show of the year! They also have a trade day on the Monday which is why I found myself at Vinopolis on a surprisingly sunny October lunch time where I met up with lots of fellow bloggers and friends.