.grant's - signature

40% abv, under €20

Nose: fresh, apples, unripe pears, malty, sour berries, gooseberries
Palate: sweet, sugar water, diluted rosewater, honey, stewed apples, caramelised apples, honeysuckle, spicy, a hint of cinnamon
Finish: medium long, sweet, all the sweet things. Creme caramel
Mark: ++/+++ 

Conclusion: Balance. Ridiculous balance. A bit sharp, but okay.

More info: A combination of ex-Bourbon and refill barrels, hogsheads and butts, without any finishing

.this sample was sent to us for participating in the #GrantsWhisky twitter tasting

.bunnahabhain - east neuk dunes - 1990-2016 - wemyss

Another Kingsbarns Distillery exclusive, now that several of the previous exclusives have sold out. They have chosen a 26 year old Bunnahabhain this time, always a good choice...

46% abv, €150
single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: sweet, vanilla, sour berries, gooseberries, grapes, citrus, grapefruit, cooking rice, fresh cut grass, fresh leafy vegetables
Palate: sweet, vanilla, honey, fruit, grapes, gooseberries, citrus, grapefruit, creamy mouth feel, green vegetables
Finish: medium long, slight dry, grapes,berries, citrus, grapefruit, what's that - hoppy?
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: It is, to me, not very Bunnahabhain like. That said, although I am a Bunnahabhain lover, I think she is very good. The cask must have been used for quite a while before it got filled with the Bunnahabhain spirit, there are no rough edges, no excessive woody notes, there is 'just' a fine, slightly creamy, very enjoyable liquid. Not on the cheap side, very much on the drinkable side.

More info: distilled in 1990, matured in a Hogshead untill it was bottled in 2016 into 267 bottles

.many thanks to the fine people of Kingsbarns and Wemyss for sending us this sample to review

.grant's - family reserve

40% abv, under €20

Nose: sweet grains, honey, cherries, spicy marmalade, a whiff of sulphur, fruit, apple, pear & citrus, spicy, cloves, mint, waxy, creamy, banana peel
Palate: citrus, dark marmalade, lime peel - similar as nose, spicy, ginger, white pepper, creamy, fruity, very ripe fruit, peaches, ripe apricots, a hint of vanilla, creamy
Finish: short, creamy, sweet, ripe stone fruits, plums, plums, plums. Have I said plums? Plums too...
Mark: ++/+++ 

Conclusion: Okay. Not a high-flyer, but certainly bang for your buck. Leave it alone for a moment before drinking.

More info: a large part of this whisky is the grain from the company's Girvan distillery.

.this sample was sent to us for participating in the #GrantsWhisky twitter tasting

.craigellachie - 1997-2014 - cc - g&m

There is something about refill ex-Bourbon barrels that tickles my senses. Let's see what this Craigellachie does to me...

46% abv, €65
single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: rough at first, gooseberries, later sweet berry notes come through with baking spices, cinnamon, allspice and chocolate
Palate: again that roughness, sour berries, gooseberries, spicy, allspice, laurel, a hint of marmite, dark chocolate, tobacco leaves
Finish: firm, medium long, sour red berries, dark chocolate
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: A rough start, but in the end, she is quite alright. 

More info: distilled in 1997, matured in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel, bottled on 01-07-2014

.glenallachie - 1999-2015 - cc - g&m

My very first Glenallachie.  It is always nice to discover distilleries. As with so many distilleries, this also is a fine example of one, mostly distilling for the blending industry. Currently owned by Pernod-Ricard, hidden away in the Speyside region, very close to the Aberlour distillery. Another hidden gem?

46% abv, €50
single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: malty, sweet, vanilla, honey, fruit, pear, red apple, musty old books at first, citrus, orange zest, 
Palate: sweet, honey, honeycomb, spicy, white pepper, cloves, creamy milk chocolate, herbs, basil, sage
Finish: sweet, honey, fudge, medium long, sweet, fruit, warm red apples, pineapple, fresh, herbs, basil, citrus, a zesty marmalade
Mark: ++/+++ 

Conclusion: Vary nice. Might be a little on the sweet end of the palate, but there are a lot of fruity flavours surrounding this honeyed sweetness. A hidden gem indeed, I for one, am definitely looking out for more.

More info: distilled in 1999, matured in a refill ex-Bourbon cask, bottled on 23-01-2015

.many thanks to Gordon & MacPhail for sending us this new discovery from their #WoodMTW program

.ijsvogel - gin

De IJsvogel, a small distillery in a watermill in Arcen, in the South of the Netherlands, producing many liquors, a small batch of whisky (one cask per year on average) have now produced a gin too. Created with fifteen different herbs and botanicals, including juniper, hops, blueberry, rhubarb citrus and cardamom.

39% abv, €35
gin, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: sweet, marzipan, fragrant, berries, nuts, almonds
Palate: sweet, berries, marzipan, nuts, almonds
Finish: sweet, short, marzipan
Mark: +++++ 

Conclusion: not what one would expect from gin, except when you are looking for liquid marzipan.

.arbikie - kirsty's gin - batch ag0001

At the Arbikie Highland single estate distillery, they produce a range of quality products. Their gin is no exception in this case. Created with the standard ingredients such as juniper berries, coriander seeds and angelica, liquorice and orrice roots, they also added Lunan Bay sugar kelp, blaeberries and Carline thistle root as the gin’s key components.

43% abv, €40
gin, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: sweet, fragrant, floral, lavender, sweet berries, citrus, orange peel
Palate: sweet, floral, lavender, berries, blackberries, raspberries, liquorice, slightly dry, a hint of juniper, 
Finish: floral, sweet, lavender, juniper, ripe blueberries,
Mark: ++++/+

Conclusion: Very nice. Neat, and with a good tonic, this keeps together quite well. I am curious where I get the citrus from, since that is nowhere to be found in the recipe.

More info: this must be one of the few, if not the only gin created with a potato vodka as the base spirit. 

.arbikie - new make single malt

During our visit to the Arbikie single estate distillery, we cheekily asked and received a small sample of their new make single malt spirit, to take with us and make a proper note.

74.6% abv, €not for sale
single malt, new make spirit, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: fruity, malty, sweet, vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough
Palate: hot (obviously), malty, sweet, creamy vanilla, milk chocolate
Finish: long, warm, creamy, malty, milk chocolate
Mark: +++++

Conclusion: I am amazed as to how much flavours the spirit already has from itself. Diluted, there is almost a note as if I get an oaky vanilla from wood maturation, which is definitely not the case. A creamy, sweet spirit which, with proper maturation, will grow into a fine whisky, I am sure.

.scapa - skiren - sk02

From the Orcadian Mainland distillery, in the bay of Scapa flow, comes this second batch of the latest addition to the Scapa portfolio. Rumours are that this is replacing the 16yo...

40% abv, €40
single malt

Nose: sweet, honey, vanilla, floral, honeysuckle, heather, citrus, pomelo, 
Palate: sweet, gentle, creamy, honey, honeycomb, fruit, ripe pears, melon, citrus, Clementine oranges, a hint of milk chocolate, and a touch of laurel
Finish: medium long, sweet, vanilla, treacle, honey, floral hints
Mark: +++/++ 

Conclusion: Nothing too bad about this, but not overly exiting either. Not sure if it is a good idea to replace the 16yo with this...

More info: fully matured in first fill ex-Bourbon American Oak casks, for an unknown number of years. Skiren means "glittering, bright skies" in old Norse.

.many thanks to Chivas Brothers to send us this whisky to review

.mmm - interludium gin

Mark & Manny - Belgian whisky vlogger and Star Wars nut Mark Dermul and Dutch Collector and whisky enthusiast Imanuel Dijk joined forces in a small batch independent bottling series of whiskies, where they release no more than 50 bottles at a time, which seem to sell out in less than no time. Nothing different with their first Gin release, which saw the light of day on August 1st 2016, and was already sold out on the 8th.

44% abv, €39,99
gin, non-chill filtered, natural colour

Nose: sweet, thick, fresh, citrus, limes, herbs, juniper, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom
Palate: creamy, sweet, citrus, limes, herbal, gentle juniper notes, fresh ginger, a hint of licorice root, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom
Finish: sweet, juniper, citrus, licorice root
Mark: +++++

Conclusion: very drinkable in its pure form. With the summer at its peak in this time of year, the smooth and fresh gin is a very welcome Malternative. With the right Tonic and some ice, it stands even stronger

More info: Created by the men themselves in collaboration with Erik Molenaar and the Wagging Finger distillery, with an adapted recipe to suit their own taste, but the distillery's red wax seal as a nod to the bottle's origin. Only 50 bottles were filled at the distillery.

.many thanks to Mark and Imanuel for sending us the generous sample

.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

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