.mortlach - 1998-2014 - wemyss malts - gorse heath

A 16yo Mortlach, chosen by the good people of Wemyss Malts, exclusively bottled for the Kingsbarns distillery shop. Mortlachs in general are very pleasing to my nose and palate, and the smell from a distance is already very promising. Let's dig in...

46% abv, €80
single malt

Nose: sweet, thin honey, treacle, fruity, green apples, ripe sweet pears, floral, hints of honeysuckle, buttercups, salted butter, herbs, thyme, a touch of sage, citrus, limes, 
Palate: sweet, creamy, fruity, ripe mango, citrus, blood oranges, limes, spicy, hints of cinnamon, herbs, sage, thyme
Finish: long, spicy, cinnamon, fruity, apples, herbs, lemon-thyme, sage
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: I am cooking here, in summertime, outside, on a grill, using fresh herbs and sweet side-dishes, having the thyme of my life. Only thing I miss, is the 'dirt' most Mortlachs have. This is a clean Mortlach, making it, to me, different from most Mortlachs I know.

More info: Distilled in 1998, bottled in 2014 into 290 bottles.

.many thanks to Kingsbarns distillery for supplying us with this sample

.highland park - 8yo - macphail's collection - g&m

We were on Orkney recently, and found the Highland Park distillery to be very welcoming to us. The excavations at Skara Brea were a little disappointing to us, so we skipped to the store and found a sample of this young Highland Park.

43% abv, €40
single malt

Nose: sweet, a hint of marshmallows, a slight floral touch, heather, violets, fresh cut grass
Palate: spicy, white pepper, sweet, thin honey, red fruit, res berries, raspberries
Finish: warm, sweet, vanilla, red fruit, a hint of smoke and a touch of mint
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: Not very quick on the nose, this one, I had to add a splash of water to get her going, and then still... Fair game, but not a stunner.
Funny how things can be worlds apart in our tasting notes, with only so little time in between.

.scapa - 2003-2015 - 12yo - cask strength edition

Pernod Ricard / Chivas Brothers have a series of 50cl cask strength whiskies of several of their distilleries available at their distilleries that are open for the public. For most of them (barring exceptions), this is as close as you can get to a Chivas' distillery exclusive bottling.

58.8% abv, €65
single malt

Nose: mildly sweet, floral, a touch of oak, pencil shavings, citrus, grapefruit, fruit, unripe mango
Palate: spicy, cinnamon, floral, roses, heather, citrus, orange peel, creamy mouth feel, better with a splash of water to take away the alcohol edge, then more fruit, sweet juicy ripe red apples
Finish: sweet, creamy vanilla, marshmallows, long, floral, fruity, sweet red apples
Mark: +++++

Conclusion: very nice, I would recommend a splash of water to take away the hotness of the alcohol, after which many more flavours show themselves. 

More info: distilled on 10th June 2003, matured in casks 9-12, 14-16, bottled on 29th July 2015 in bottle 353 of 2148.

.hammerhead - 1989 - 23yo

A Czech whisky is ot something you see every day. Story goes this whisky is not only distilled in the Czech republic (what was then Czechoslovakia) at the Prádlo distillery, is was also made from barley grown in the region, malted and milled (by a hammer mill - hence the name) and even matured in oak from trees grown in the area. Not long after this was distilled, the iron curtain feel, Czechoslovakia was slit up, the maturing stock was sort of forgotten about until found by chance. Nice story, let's see what it actually tastes like...

40.7% abv, €45
single malt

Nose: woody, sandalwood, pencil shavings, floral - perfume almost but not too rich, sweet and rich vanilla though, nuts, almonds, walnuts, citrus, lime juice, and a hint of salted butter
Palate: sweet, rich vanilla, woody, nutty, walnuts, almonds, dark fruits, plums, fermenting citrus
Finish: rather short, sweet, creamy honey, a hint of floral notes - pleasant, roses, maybe even a touch of rosewater, leaving a trace of tannin
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: pleasant, yet rather woody. If you like a touch of oak and pencil shavings, this is exactly the thing you may be looking for. I will be grabbing myself a bottle next time we travel by plane. Stock is obviously limited, but it is certainly something else, very quaffable and very affordable.

.many thanks to our good friend DramCas for the last drops of his bottle

.highland park - new make spirit - 69.7%

When we were at the Highland Park distillery, our host organised a sample of some of the new make spirit of the day. A little drop of spirit that did make it all the way through the safe, I guess.

69.7% abv, €not for sale
single malt, new make spirit

...not so safe for this sample
Nose: fresh, grainy, freshly cut grass, a hint of smoking embers, fruity, red berries, raspberries, a hint of metal, copper dust
Palate: firm (duh), sweet, spicy, cinnamon, fruity, red fruit, berries, freshly cut grass, creamy, wet green malt,a touch of glowing embers
Finish: long, grassy, creamy, fruity, red fruit, berries, raspberries, a hint of smoke.
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: Again, compared to the 50% version of February 2012, this is a maker, not a breaker. If managed in good casks, I am confident this is one of those spirits that can turn into a whisky that cannot fail, since the start is good.

.bunnhabhain - 1997-2014 - wemyss malts - smouldering hickory

When we were visiting the Kingsbarns distillery not even this long ago, we had a chance to sample some of their distillery exclusives, that were bottled when the distillery first opened. One of these bottlings was a peated Bunnahabhain, as we encounter more and more on our journeys in the world of whisky,

46% abv, €85
single malt

Nose: sweet, a hint of smoke, bacon, dark honey, floral, heather,nuts, hazelnuts, dark leafy herbs, sage, laurel, a hint of eucalyptus
Palate: sweet, creamy, dark clover honey, honeycomb, floral, a hint of eucalyptus, roasted nuts, chestnuts, spicy, a hint of nutmeg, something that could be chive, smoked bacon
Finish: smoked bacon, spicy, definitely chive, maybe even garlic, sweet, smoked honeycomb, spicy, a hint of nutmeg
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: Oh my. This is a very tasty Bunnahabhain. At first, I would not have guessed this was a Bunnahabhain, but then, it isn't every day we encounter a peated version of this Islay dram.

.benromach - 1974

In 1974, I was only one - or maybe not even that, and had never heard of whisky when this Benromach was distilled in Forres, in the north of the Speyside Region in Scotland. Since that one day, the spirit was laid down in an ex-Sherry butt, and during the 41 years that followed, this did not change until the current owners from Gordon & Macphail decided to dust off the cask and see what it has done to the spirit.

49.1% abv, €1200
single malt

Nose: sweet, toffee, floral, roses, honeysuckle, honey, fruit, juicy brambles, mango, pear, citrus, blood orange, a touch of wood, pencil shavings, a hint of fresh mint
Palate: sweet, creamy honey, juicy brambles, very ripe cherries, exotic fruit, mango, pineapple, ripe sweet pears, caramelised apples, a touch of wood shavings
Finish: sweet, honey, slightly dry, long, a clear touch of smoke
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: Truly a beauty. Only 41 years young, and fully matured in an ex-Sherry butt. I am pretty sure it has been a refill butt, because there are not many of the characteristic ex-Sherry notes present (to me). There is no way in hell I would pay €1200 for any whisky, but if I had to pick one, this would be high on the wish list.

More info: distilled in 1974, matured in Sherry butt # 1583, bottled into 452 bottles in 2016

.many thanks to Gordon & Macphail and Benromach for this beautiful sample

.cragganmore - 25yo

I seem to be having a weakness for refill ex-Bourbon casks lately. Where there was a period I would go for an overly sherried whisky, I have now seen the light and realised there is much more of the original spirit to be found in whiskies that have matured in an ex-whisky cask. This 25 year old Cragganmore from is exactly that. Matured in a refill American Oak cask and released in 2014 in the special release series owner Diageo had every year. Cragganmore is not a very well know single malt brand, nor is it released in large quantities by Diageo or indie bottlers, but it sure is a malt favoured by the blenders for her fruity character.

51.4% abv, €400
single malt

Nose: sweet, toffee, sweet fruit, red berries, cranberries, brambles, blackberries, red apples, overripe bananas, ripe mango, ripe pineapple, heather honey, a hint of fennel, coconut, chocolate, nougat
Palate: spicy, chilli peppers, sweet, custard, floral honey, creamy, fruit, mango, very ripe fruit, ripe bananas, fresh blueberries, coconut milk, milk chocolate
Finish: long, spicy, white pepper, sweet, creamy, nougat, milk chocolate
Mark: ++++/+ 

Conclusion: A beauty. Runner up in the Spirit of Speyside blind tasting, but I really wonder why. Don't get me wrong, the Glenfiddich 21 is a brilliant whisky and price-wise by far better affordable for my budget, but taste-wise (and the tasting during the festival was blind and therefore taste oriented), this Cragganmore is my favourite by a long shot.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting for this sample

.glen moray - 16yo

Runner up in the 2016 Spirit of Speyside blind tasting from the 13-21yo category, where all visitors had the chance to choose between two drams in three categories. Glen Moray whisky is generally matured in ex-Bourbon casks, as is this 16yo, without finishing in any other cask types.

40% abv, €40
single malt

Nose: fruity, malty, pine tops, floral, young pine tips, rose petals, violets, fresh fruit, berries, sweet cranberries, cocoa, cocoa butter
Palate: sweet, cocoa, creamy, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, nougat, nuts, almonds
Finish: short, chocolate, nougat, creamy - feels to be getting longer/ coming back
Mark: +++++

Conclusion: Hell yeah. This is a good one. There is no shame ending up second behind the Glenfiddich 18yo, which is an outstanding dram.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting

.glen grant - 10yo

A Glen Grant whisky from the town of Rothes in the middle of the Speyside area, the runner-up in the Spirit of Speyside blind tasting for drams up to twelve years.

40% abv, €30
single malt

Nose: malty, fruity, green apples, pears, white wine, spicy, star anise, nutty, almonds, sweet, honey, vanilla, floral, honeysuckle, citrus, cookie dough
Palate: sweet, malty, fruit, apple skin, red apples, sweet pears, creamy, cookie dough, nougat
Finish: short, sweet, malty, dry like cinnamon can be,spicy, ginger, white pepper
Mark: +++/++

Conclusion: a very okay daily dram. Dies a little when adding more water, She may pack more punch with an higher abv, like some indie bottlings have done. To get a general idea to know where Glen Grant starts, this is a good start.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting for this sample

.glenfiddich - 21 - gran reserva

Jeez... this is another dram I have overlooked. Okay, the price is right up there, but if there is money to spent, don't skip this while browsing in the store, just because it is 'just' a Glenfiddich. I am becoming a fanboy, but... there is nothing 'off' about the brand, nor this 21 year old, finished for four months in Rum casks, to add this extra layer of sweet oumpfh. Again; Fiddichside banana boats*.

40% abv, €150
single malt

Nose: sweet, brown caster sugar, vanilla, mellow, creamy, honey, fruit, banana, citrus, orange-peel, tangerine, limes
Palate: medium-dry, sweet, brown caster sugar, vanilla, creamy, honey, caramel, toffee, fruit, banana, pear, avocado, caramelised apple, ripe cherries, floral, cherry blossom, spicy, chilli, citrus, lime juice
Finish: long, spicy, white pepper, nutmeg, dry, sweet, honey, vanilla, cotton-candy, floral, honeysuckle
Mark: +++++

Conclusion: Brilliant stuff. The price is up there, but well worth it.

More info: During the Spirit of Speyside festival 2016, a blind tasting was held with six whiskies, divided over three categories: 12yo and under, 13-20yo, 21yo and older. In all three categories, Glenfiddich turned out to be the winner with their standard lineup 12yo, 18yo and 21yo. That alone should say something.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting

*contact me for the simplest recipe ever

.glenfiddich - 18yo

Door number 23 of the Drinks by the Dram WhiskyAdvent Calendar 2015 opens to a classic distillery's - often overlooked - eighteen year old, matured in small batches of only a handful number of ex-Oloroso and Bourbon casks, making every batch a little different from the previous or the next.

40% abv, €60
single malt

Nose: rich, sweet, dried fruit, raisins, plums, warm apple sauce, citrus, orange peel, mango, peach, pineapple, coconuts, tarte tatin
Palate: smooth, sweet, spicy, white pepper, a hint of cinnamon, fruit, grapes, kiwi, ripe bananas, mango, peaches, warm apple sauce, citrus, marmalade, fresh ginger
Finish: sweet, fruit, very ripe bananas, warm apples, citrus, orange peel, dark chocolate, coffee beans, tarte tatin
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: Fiddichside banana boats anyone? Whenever you are in the vicinity of the distillery with a BBQ within reach, feel free to bring bananas, caster sugar, a bottle of this and a ball of vanilla ice cream. This dram will do awesome in the recipe, and in your glass with it. Great stuff.

More info: During the Spirit of Speyside festival 2016, a blind tasting was held with six whiskies, divided over three categories: 12yo and under, 13-20yo, 21yo and older. In all three categories, Glenfiddich turned out to be the winner with their standard lineup 12yo, 18yo and 21yo. That alone should say something.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting 

.glenfiddich - 12yo

I re-reviewed the most consumed Scotch whisky in the world. The Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown currently produces a whopping 13 million litres of spirit per year, but that seems not to be enough, so they are building another still-house next to the current two, to add even more stills to the 32 already in operation.

40% abv, €30
single malt

Nose: sweet, vanilla, fruit, apple, pear, citrus, orange zest, lime, sweet marmalade, spicy, a hint of cinnamon, milk chocolate, mocha
Palate: creamy, sweet, caster sugar, vanilla, fruit, apple, pear, sweet cranberries, spicy, white pepper, citrus, oranges
Finish: sweet, fruity, apples, a hint of bitter marmalade, medium long
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: Much better as I remembered and first reviewed. I am not sure if this has to to with me becoming a snob in 2012 and not wanting to like this, or that the sample I have tasted back then was just off. All in all, this is a whisky that everyone should have in their cabinet as an every day dram, there is a reason they produce and sell this many bottles: it is just an excellent one. Don't be that guy and rule out drinking Glenfiddich because... it is 'just' Glenfiddich. Get your head out of your ass, buy a bottle, drink it, enjoy it.

More info: During the Spirit of Speyside festival 2016, a blind tasting was held with six whiskies, divided over three categories: 12yo and under, 13-20yo, 21yo and older. In all three categories, Glenfiddich turned out to be the winner with their standard lineup 12yo, 18yo and 21yo. That alone should say something.

.many thanks to the #dram16winners twitter tasting to re-introduce me, and opening my eyes

.loch lomond - single grain

From the puzzle of the Loch Lomond distillery in Alexandria, Scotland, a single grain. We are unsure if this is a grain from the big grain distillery, or if it is a product from the malt mash fed Coffey still in the malt distillery and cannot be called 'single malt' because of - rules.

46% abv, €30
single grain

Nose: sweet fresh fruit, Granny Smith apples, berries, gooseberries, a hint of vanilla, floral, almost soapy at some point, parma violets
Palate: sweet, icing sugar, fruity, juicy pears, sweet apples, pear drops, creamy 
Finish: sweet, rosewater, medium long, floral, roses
Mark: +++/++ 

Conclusion: Honestly, not what I expected from a (undoubtedly young) single grain. Rather sweet and fruity instead of harsh and rough. A good price too.

.benriach - 16

43% abv, €43

single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: fresh, fruit, white grapes, citrus, white grapefruit,
Palate: sweet, creamy, casting sugar, macarons, spicy, white pepper
Finish: spicy, sweet, liquorice root, medium long, spicy, white pepper
Mark: ++/+++ 

Conclusion: Stuff, with things.

update from 26/11/2011 - no real big changes. Still not a big fan.

.clynelish - 1997 - waves of pepper - wemyss malts

It may be known that I am a big fan of Clynelish in general. The 1997 vintages of this distillery seems to be having a special place for me, as it the distillery have been doing things differently in that year, used different barley varieties or maybe experimented with yeast... We probably will never know, but one thing I am sure about; I like it.

46% abv, €85
single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: fresh, fruity, apples, sweet, honey, floral honeysuckle, a breeze of the sea, spicy, a hint of cinnamon, allspice
Palate: sweet, fruity, apples, warm apple sauce, creamy honey, floral, honeysuckle, spicy, white pepper, a hint of cinnamon
Finish: medium long, sweet, treacle, honeycomb
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: I should have brought a bottle when we were at the Kingsbarns distillery. This release has been bottled for the opening of the distillery in 2014, and only a handful of bottles are left.

More info: Distilled in 1997, matured in a hogshead and filled into 251 bottles in 2014, to commemorate the opening of the Kingsbarns distillery in Fife.

.the glenlivet - 1974 - rare vintage - g&m

43% abv, €450
single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: sweet, deep, warm honey, fruit, pears, red apples, floral, honeysuckle, heather, creamy, bees wax, sweet hints of marshmallow, vanilla and citrus, tangerine peel, milk chocolate
Palate: spicy, white pepper, a whiff of cinnamon and all spice, nutty, walnuts, fruity, apples, pears, sweetened whipped cream, a touch of sweetness from vanilla, citrus, tangerines
Finish: long, nutty, walnuts, fruity, ripe pears, mango, dried fruit, strong apricot, dried mango, citrus, marmalade, a hint of vanilla and again a peel of sweet oranges or tangerines
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: Very beautiful and very unavailable for my budget. This would be a dram to gulp away over ice on a hot summer's day while flipping a burger. Just kidding of course - it would be a dram to savour in your favourite luxury leather chair, the lights dimmed, with a crackling fire in the hearth, warming your feet while spinning a record of your all time favourite band. Or whatever gets you going...

More info: Distilled in 1974, bottled on 10/11/2011

.many thanks to Gordon & Macphail for sharing this sample from their #WoodMTW campaign

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