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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

    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.  
    Tuesday, 15 November 2011 16:12

    Dalwhinnie, Inverness-shire, Scotland

    OK whisky lovers, your starter for 10 points, name the distillery on the River Spey that is not considered a Speyside?  If you said Dalwhinnie then congratulations.  The photo and title of this entry may have been a clue huh?  Dalwhinnie is actually classified as a Highland distillery due to its location (much further upstream than the traditional speyside region).   Many distilleries use their tours to promote their USP (unique selling point, apologies for corporate marketing jargon) for example the tall stills of Glenmorangie, the 1608 distilling license in Bushmills, Towser the Cat at Glenturret and Dalwhinnie is no exception.  The USP at Dalwhinnie are their traditional worm tub condensers.  They claim they removed them once for more modern condensers but had to revert back to the traditional ones because the new make spirit changed.  I have expressed my skepticism around these types of statements before so I will leave it at that.  Interestingly, like other distilleries now, most of the Dalwhinnie stock is actually aged offsite.  All this aside, I like Dalwhinnie and enjoyed the tour and the tasting and left with a bottle of their excellent 15 year old Distiller's Edition.  If I had a complaint, it is a long way from anywhere so a coffee shop or something similar to pass the time while you wait to go on the tour wouldn't hurt.
    Tuesday, 15 November 2011 15:04

    Jura Superstition

    This was one of five whiskies that we tried at a tasting led by Ian Buxton in May 2011 in Aberdeen.  Of the five this was not the most expensive or unusual whisky we tried that day, but for me it was the the most surprising and enjoyable, probably because I had some preconceptions regarding the Isle of Jura distillery as producing "middle of the road" malts for blending.  I did not take detailed tasting notes that day, but this is definately a whisky I will be going back to try again and I will post tasting notes then.  Rich, complex and smokey, not unlike Highland Park, this was a great example of why you should try all whiskies and not assume anything.  The only downside was the pang of regret I felt because we did not visit Jura when we went to Islay in 2010.

    Update:  As promised here are some more detailed tasting notes.  The nose is rich and inviting with smoke, pears and seaweed.  The taste is very nice, smooth, smoky but balanced with some caramel.  Fades to a nice oaky, sweet finish and a little more caramel at the end.  This is an excellent every day dram and has the smokiness of an Islay combined with some of the richness of a speyside.

    Sunday, 13 November 2011 03:24

    Benromach, Forres, Scotland

    Scotland smallest working distillery and for me one of the best visitor experiences, Benromach is owned by Elgin's famous Gordon and MacPhail.  They charge $6 but the tour is intimate and family friendly.  They have a very nice and relaxed tasting room and end of the tour they have a very good tasting policy... lots of choice and they seem happy to keep pouring.  As I have mentioned in other reviews, the distilleries that are willing to pour more whisky will probably, in my experience, sell more whisky.   They are on the main road from Aberdeen to Inverness and easy to find and worth a visit.
    Sunday, 13 November 2011 03:07

    Compass Box Hedonism

    Another one of the whiskies we tasted at Ian Buxton's tasting in Aberdeen, May 2011.  I also tried this at WhiskyLive London in 2011. At both events it was one of my favorites. The nose is honey sweet, biscuits, some fresh flowers, vanilla and even the fresh paint note I sometimes get in bourbons.  Great nose.  The taste has more vanilla,  nutty even, lemon peel and the finish is sweet with lots of oaky spice notes.  So far I haven't met a Compass Box product I didn't like...

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 679

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 66

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    Random Whisky

    Grangestone Rum Cask Finish

    I really like rum influenced whisky (I also like rum) so was interested to try this 40% abv Total Wines in-house single malt. The nose was very fruity and rum forward which was exciting and a great introduction. The taste had the sweetness from the rum cask balanced with the spicy malty notes. Bold, rich and complex and hard to pick apart. The finish had pepper, dark chocolate and cigar notes. With water gets smoother in mouth feel, sweeter and more pepper in finish.

    This is pretty good. Not Balvenie Rum Cask good or Glenfiddich 21 year old great, but still good value for price point.