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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Glenfiddich Fire and Cane

This release is part of the Glenfiddich Experimental series and bottled at 43% ABV (which is quite unusual from Glenfiddich).   It is a peated malt that is finished in rum casks, hence the Fire and Cane (as in sugarcane)  name.  The nose is smokey, but more camp fire rather than strong peat.  Fire before the Cane.  The taste is spicy and nutty, chocolate, pepper, brown sugar and some honey and a hint of the phenol from peat.  The finish is a little hot, like eating burnt cake batter off a wooden spoon.  Water brings up more brown sugar and some lemon peel.  Very nicely done but not sure I would pair peat and rum casks, personnally I prefer peat and sherry casks.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Thursday, 17 November 2011 23:39

    Springbank 10 year old

    I found the nose quite soft and muted with some smoke, peat and a malt or cereal note.  The taste has pepper and spice at first which fades and then some sweetness comes through, maybe brown sugar and sherry notes.  Smokey finish - nice stuff.
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 23:24

    Ardbeg Blasda

    I have discussed the importance of Blasda to me before in my notes on the Ardbeg distillery so I won't repeat them.  The nose is peaty but not smokey, more earthy.  There are also some sweet fruit notes, perhaps lemons and grapes.  The taste is sweet and lemony at first and then peat and pepper build and linger for the finish.  Perhaps not as complex or deep as other Ardbeg expressions, but still good.
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 03:53

    Penderyn

    My first comment is that I have classified this as single malt, though I am not sure technically it is as the wash fermented at Brain's Brewery in Cardiff and not on site at Penderyn.   Second comment is to decare my bias for Wales, as I graduated from the University of Wales in 1990.  The nose has a cereal notes and is reminscent of new make spirit.  The mouth feel is smooth and creamy and it has a nutty sweetness, fruit and vanilla.  Complex and different, this is a delicious whisky.

    Thursday, 17 November 2011 03:22

    St Nicholas Abbey, Barbados

    I know you probably haven't heard of this one, it is a tiny rum distillery that was only opened in 2006.  It is located in the grounds of a house that was built in 1658, one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere, that we visited while on vacation in Barbados in October 2011.  The small distillery produces rum from fermented sugar cane juice (rather than the usual molasses - which is what is left after they remove the sugar crystals from the cane juice) and they distill in small pot still and then mature the rum in bourbon casks in their own bonded warehouse.  They offer free tastings and if you want to buy a bottle they even specially engrave the bottle in the distillery while you wait.  Recently found out via Twitter than you can buy the rum at Master of Malt website as well.... http://www.masterofmalt.com/rum/st-nicholas-abbey-10-year-old-rum/
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:58

    Speyside Cooperage, Speyside, Scotland

    OK - I admit this is isn't a distillery.  I would argue if you had toured distilleries fifty years ago then the cooperage would no doubt have been a part of the tour as most distilleries would have had their own cooper.  Today few distilleries have full time coopers (Glenfiddich and Midleton are the only two I am aware of) and so it is places like the Speyside Cooperage that carry on those traditions. So if you are interested in whisky and in Speyside then this is somewhere you have to visit, because I think it is fair to say that the quality of cask has probably just as much, if not more, impact on the final product than the new make spirit that comes off the still (at Macallan they suggest the final flavor can be attributed, approximately, 30% to the spirit and 70% to the wood).   At the Speyside cooperage you can watch the coopers build casks and a video explains the history of this craft.  All in all a great whisky related experience and definately worth the detour. 
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:38

    GlenDronach, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

    I visited the GlenDronach distillery with my father in October 2009 and unfortunately their visitors center was closed due to flooding, so they waived the usual $5 charge for tours.  The tour included their old floor maltings (though they no longer use them) and an explaination of their rather complicated history, which includes yet another Grant family and William Teacher and Sons that of course produces the Teacher's Highland Cream blend.  The most recent chapter was the acquisition by the same company that owns the Ben Riach distillery and the distillery shop carried malts from both distilleries.  Unlike nearly all distilleries today, GlenDronach matures it's whisky exclusively in sherry casks (no bourbon casks here).  At the end of the tour we tasted the 12 year old Original and I bought a bottle of the 15 year old Revival. 
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:17

    Black Bottle

    The nose is complex with caramel sweetness, cereal notes and peat.  Also perhaps some yeasty (even meaty) notes in the nose.   The taste has sweet caramel maltiness, like maltesers or candy corn.  The finish has spice, peat and oak and some woodsmoke and even ash.  Another great example of just how good blended whisky can be.
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:13

    Ardbeg 10 year old

    The nose is dominated by peat, and behind that briney ocean notes, sea spray even.  The taste is initially toffee sweet, the peat builds and builds but doesn't over power other notes, which include nuts, salt, caramel and chocolate.  Very smooth and round in the mouth.  As 10 year old "standard expressions" of single malts go, this is one of the better ones.
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:07

    Balblair '89

    A pale whisky but don't let that fool you into thinking there isn't much going on here.  The nose is sweet and has lots of fruit, lemon and raisins.  The taste is at first fruity and crisp like a white wine with some pear notes and then a peppery finish builds with a hint of smoke.  Nice stuff.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 19:37

    Glen Grant, Speyside, Scotland

    You should go to Glen Grant for one reason, two if you actually like the whisky (and there is no reason why you shouldn't, it's very good).  The best reason to go however is the garden they have in the distillery grounds.  I don't remember much about the actual distillery (and to be fair they were in a construction phase at the time as well) but I do remember the time I spent with my family exploring their beautiful garden on a perfect Scottish summer day (contrary to popular opinion they do exist).   It has of course the famous burn running through it and in gorge behind the garden, the whisky safe where the famous Major Grant would take his guests for an after dinner dram.  As you tour the distillery you will hear lots of stories about the Major, including things like he was first person to own a car in Highlands and Glen Grant was the first Scottish distillery with electric lighting.  All that aside, this is also a very good whisky, and while not so popular or common in the UK market, it has huge global sales, especially in Italy and was one my wife enjoyed a lot – especially the non aged statement standard expression.  They also have a little coffee shop where you can relax after exploring the distillery and the gardens and a nice sampling room... did I mention the garden? 

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    Random Whisky

    BenRiach 16 year old

    Another solid member of the BenRiach range.  The nose on this one is apples, red, ripe and sweet, with perhaps a hint of malt.  The taste is smooth at first, with some toffee, brown sugar and vanilla notes, the rich is rich and spicy with dark chocolate and cinnamon.  A nice medium bodied whisky that could work as an apertif or even paired with food.   Not quite good enough to displace the Dark Rum finish expression as my "favorite" BenRiach... but still good.