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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

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 18:26

    Royal Lochnagar, Balmoral, Scotland

    The only distillery today on Deeside, this is real hidden gem of distillery and whisky, almost like a terrorist sleeper cell quietly going about its daily business while waiting for its moment to strike.  This is a place I visited on several occasions as a car trip down Deeside to Ballater, Balmoral and on up to Braemar was one of the "must do" things for visitors to Aberdeen.    We have had family picnic's on the beautiful lawn out front and I toured the distillery at least twice (at $8 not the cheapest tour but at least you get credit on any purchase).  Like many of the smaller, picturesque distilleries rather than build new warehouses, stock is often matured offsite (in this case in Glen Lossie) and at end of the tour a beautiful dram of their Distiller's Edition which is finished in Muscat cask.
    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 17:38

    Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland

    Like the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret, this is in fact a whisky based tourist attraction, Dewar's World of Whisky, more that a distillery tour, not that there is anything wrong with that.   The Aberfeldy distillery produces a single malt used in Dewar's blends, so it is a working distillery and you do get to see it and some more features like a video, a replica of Tommy Dewar's study, old Dewar's advertising and marketing material and an interesting aroma wheel.  At $11 they also charge more than most for the additional features.  After tour we sampled both Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt as well as Dewar's 12 year old blend and they also have small café where you can buy lunch, although they had run out when we got there.  I wouldn't say this is a must see for the whisky enthusiast, but quite honestly you are not their target market.  If you have non-whisky enthusiast in your entourage this might be a good compromise to go and visit.
    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 16:25

    Glen Garioch, Oldmeldrum, Scotland

    Perhaps one of the hardest distillery names to pronounce correctly (other contenders include Bunnanhabhain and Bruichladdich) Glen Garioch is 17 miles from Aberdeen and only about  11 miles from my office, so this was my nearest distillery when I lived in Scotland.  However a combination of limited visitor hours and my first tastings of Glen Garioch at a conference in 2009 leaving a less than positive impression meant there were many others distilleries I wanted to see before this one.    Then a couple of things happened, including in 2010 Glen Garioch revamped their line and produced a no age statement Founders Reserve and they were at Whisky Live London in March 2011 and I got try some of their new expressions and liked them.  A few weeks later I was driving through Oldmeldrum and on whim I stopped by the distillery (I didn't even have my note book so very little notes) and did the tour.  They still have their original floor maltings, kilns and even the tools used in maltings, although they are no longer used, so it makes an interesting part of tour as few other distilleries still have these.  As they now produce unpeated single malts, I bought a vintage bottling of their peated whisky and enjoyed it very much.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 14:37

    Strathisla, Keith, Scotland

    This is the malt at the heart of the Chivas Regal blends and much of the tour is focused on that.  Unsually for a whisky tour they gave us a dram of Chivas 12 year old at the beginning while we waited for the tour to start (but as they charged over $10 to take this tour and they have no cafe or other facilities it seemed like the least they could do).  They also have some interesting old Chivas memorabelia on display as well.  ( The original Chivas grocery store in Aberdeen is now a Chinese restaurant called Sam's on King Street and by all accounts if you ask them they will take you into the back to look at some of the old Chivas Bros fixtures and fittings).  The site is attractive and photogenic with a nice waterwheel feature and next door to Strathisla is the old Glen Keith distillery which they told us will re-open in 2 years time (see my blog "Return of the Dinosaurs?").  I made a note on the tour that apparently just one man runs the whole distillery such is the level of automation now, which might make at least 15 men in Tain quite nervous.  We finished the tour with samples of Chivas blend 18 year old and Strathilsa 12 year old single malt.  I find the Strahisla single malt, like the distillery itself, doesn't really stand out (maybe why it is used in blends) although I always get some banana notes when I taste it.  I sometimes get those same notes in the Chivas Regal blends although part of me wonders if that is just power of suggestion, would I taste banana if I didn't know Strathisla was in the blend? 
    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 14:33

    Glen Moray, Elgin, Scotland

    Dufftown lays claims to the title of Malt Whisky Capital of Scotland (and with good reason) however a visit to the town of Elgin is well worth the time of any whisky lover.  It's two main whisky attractions (for me anyway)  would be the impressive Gordon and MacPhail shop with a whisky room so breathtaking in its range that they should pad the floor to avoid risk of injury to their customers who pass out.  The second reason would be the unassuming Glen Moray distillery.  Until recently this distillery, and it's whisky, was firmly in the shadow of it's big sibling, Glenmorangie, but has now come out squinting and blinking into the light and that is good for them, and for whisky lovers of subtle but complex whisky, and is now finding it's way in the world.  The distillery is worth a visit, the tour is standard enough fare, and they charge over $6 for it, but they do nice job and the visitor's center is well fitted out with bar, coffee shop and gifts.  You can even fill your own bottle straight from a cask in gift shop.  They were generous with the pouring (and pulled out a few more expensive expressions if you showed an interest – which I did) and I left with perfectly drinkable bottle of their 12 year old.
    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:11

    Kilchoman, Islay, Scotland

    With seven much more famous distilleries on Islay, why would you visit this one?  Well because this is the newest distillery on Islay and a great contrast to the older, Victorian distilleries the island is famous for.  Also this is one place where every step of the whisky making process is done on site.  Every single step.  From growing barley on the farm, to the traditional floor maltings through to distillation and maturation of their whisky and even bottling.  Not many grow barley, only six other scottish distilleries have their own floor maltings, many now mature their whisky offsite and few bottle their own product.   What better reason do you need to go and see it?

    OK , well here's another.  Kilchoman also has a great cafe on site which is worth a visit in its own right.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:09

    Tullibardine, Blackford, Scotland

    On vacation in Scotland but your wife and family don't want to visit a distillery? Well located halfway between Perth and Stirling on the busy A9, near the famous Gleneagles Hotel and within easy reach of Edinburgh and Glasgow is Tullibardine.   This is the perfect distillery location because of the large Baxter's store next door.  Baxter's is a Scottish store with food, wine, Scottish goods and more than enough other stuff to keep wives, daughters or anyone not interested in whisky busy, while you slip away for 45 minutes to tour a great little distillery and taste a dram or two.  An interesting place with a long history as a brewery going all the way back to 1488 before being converted to a distillery by the famous (and apparently locally infamous) William Delme Evans, who also built the Isle of Jura distillery.  Another claim to fame is that they have same water source as Britain's largest bottled water supplier, Highland Spring, which is bottled in Blackford as well.  Most of the spirit is taken for blending and maturation elsewhere but there is a small warehouse on site and they tend to release Tullibardine single malts by vintage rather than by age statement, and various vintages are available to sample at end of tour.  It is also one of the few distilleries that sells their new make spirit.
    Tuesday, 15 November 2011 22:05

    Glenturret, Crieff, Scotland

    I accept no-one is coming here because of their love of the Glenturret single malts.  They simply don't capture anyone's imagination or fire passions in the way Laphroig, Ardbeg, Macallan, Glenlivet and others can do.  This is the home of a whisky themed tourist attraction, The Famous Grouse Experience, based on the fact that Glenturret is one of the malts used in that blended scotch.  It also claims to be the oldest distillery in Scotland but that honor is claimed by several others.

    It is a fine little distillery with well run tours that end with an interactive (and very expensive looking) video component at the end (which didn't work the first time we were there) and a nice and very well stocked whisky bar, a restaurant and an expansive Famous Grouse shop.  They also have a statue of their famous cat, Towser, who held the Guinness World Record for mouse killing.   

    The tasting at the end of the standard tour includes a choice between the Famous Grouse blend or Glenturret 10 year old, and in the bar they sell a flight of three single malt samples that are components of the Famous Grouse... The Macallan, Highland Park and of course Glenturret.  In addition they do a Warehouse #9 tour, which ends in the aforementioned warehouse tasting room and involves sampling all of the Famous Grouse blended malts from 10 year old to the 30 year old.  If you are doing this one, bring a designated driver.

    Tuesday, 15 November 2011 18:03

    Glenmorangie, Tain, Scotland

    I was a little underwhelmed by the visitor's center here when I visited in May 2011, as it is Scotland's most popular single malt and one of my favorite whiskies of all time is a madeira cask finished Glenmorangie I had high expectations .  There was also a charge to take the tour, but you could get that credited if you bought a bottle.   The key feature of this distillery (and presumably it's whisky) are the tallest stills in Scotland (and they are tall) and the still house is very impressive and has to be seen.  It has been likened by others to a cathedral of distilling and I certainly get that analogy.  They also spent a good deal of time explaining Glenmorangie's current wood and maturation policy (and they no longer produce the madeira cask finish).    Compared to some of the other major brands such as Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet (and even Glenmorangie's sister distillery Ardbeg) I was left a little underwhelmed by the visitor experience but I understand that since my trip it has been revamped so perhaps it is better now.  Good.  I left with a bottle of the Quinta Ruban expression so I did get the cost of tour credited (and a nice key ring as well).
    Tuesday, 15 November 2011 16:17

    The Glenlivet, Speyside, Scotland

    If Glenfiddich is now the heavyweight champion of Speyside and in many ways the father of the modern industry, then The Glenlivet certainly deserves an honorable mention and perhaps should be considered the grandfather.  When the 1823 Excise Act was passed one of the first to apply for a license was George Smith of Glenlivet, and in 1824 The Glenlivet was born.   It was such a popular and presumably good whisky that soon many regional distillers were using the name Glenlivet on their whisky as a sign of quality.  So many whiskies in fact claimed to be Glenlivet that it became known as the longest glen in Scotland.   In the end it went to court in 1880 (when Glenfiddich was still a twinkle in the eye of William Grant) but it only resulted in a partial victory for the Smith family, and some whiskies continued to use the name in part, and today you can still see old bottles or marketing material that refer to "Craigellachie-Glenlivet" and other similar hyphenated names.  Anyway this is one of the "must visit" distilleries, considering it is the third most popular single malt in the world, and one of the increasingly few that still offers free tours and samples (at least they did in April 2010).  They have a great visitor center, which was rebuilt in 2009, with a café, shop and nice tastings including their 12 and 18 year old expressions and the 100% bourbon cask matured Nadurra.  

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 660

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 58

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    Random Whisky

    Glenfiddich 12 year old

    There is a reason this is one of the world best selling single malts.  It's good.  Nose is malty, dried fruit and maybe a hint of polished wood.  The taste is warming and rich and has cinnamon spice.  Complex and balanced with honey, dried fruits, chocolate biscuit, raisins and maybe sherry. The finish is dry and woody.