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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

I always find myself so drawn to rum influenced whisky that there is a part of me that thinks maybe I should just drink rum? Anyway this no age statement variation on the theme is bottled at 40% ABV and pretty good value at under $40 in bottle (in Texas anyway). The nose is sweet and fruity with perhaps the tell-tale Glenlivet pineapple notes lurking in the background. The taste starts sweet as well with toffee and brown sugars and I found quite oily. I don’t get fresh fruits but more candy fruit flavors, like Starburst or boiled sweets. The finish balances out the sweetness with bitter citrus oil and peel, essential oils and woody tannins. A little water turns the oily mouthfeel into something more creamy and brings out some banana notes. Really good value.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    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? 
    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? 

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    Random Whisky

    Glengoyne 12 year old

    Thsi one was actually poured while we waited before we went on the distillery tour in December 2012.  The nose has sweet biscuit and lots of citrus fruit.  The taste is also sweet and malty with some pepper and spice.  With water it gets a little creamy caramel note, like a Wether's Original candy.  The finish has more oak and pepper notes and to me is just a little off balance and I would say the 10 year old is better (less oak, more spirit influence).