logo

My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Kew Orangery

Not to be confused with Compass Box Orangerie, a product I remember having very mixed feelings about. I have never been able to get fully onboard the Compass Box bandwagon for reasons that elude me, but I think that products like Orangerie contributed too. In my review at the time (https://www.somanywhiskies.com/reviews/item/381-compass-box-orangerie) I called it a “franken-whisky” and said “this feels to me like a whisky drink aimed at people who don't like whisky” which is genre I am personally not a fan of… (hello Skrewball and Fireball). However I digress and this is in fact an organic Triple Sec produced by The London Distillery Company under their Kew brand license and bottled at 29.9% abv.  

The nose is pure orange oil, juicy and sweet. The mouth feel is creamy and thick while the taste is little washed out and faded; what is there is sweet, satsuma more than orange and some oily and bitter pith notes as well. Not much to say really but no-one is really drinking this stuff, it is being used in cocktails.

Read More
  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 17:25

    Loch Ewe, Aultbea, Scotland

    Don't bother looking for this one in your standard guidebooks or whisky books.  It won't be there.   This is quite literally a distillery built in a garage at the back of a hotel.  The owner of the Drumchork Lodge Hotel exploited a loophole in UK law (now closed) which requires stills be 1800L or more to get approval for 120 L still and makes his own spirit.  He even allows you to come to his garage and make your own spirit (remember it is only called whisky if it stays in oak cask for 3 years).  You can read more on his website (http://www.lochewedistillery.co.uk) but I can tell you it was simply amazing to see everything done on this small scale by hand, including lighting the gas under the alembic styles stills to fermenting the wash in a wheelie bin (yes a wheelie bin) and maturation in small wooden casks .  The small size accelerates maturation to where it is quite drinkable in a matter of weeks – they usually bottle at around 6 weeks.  What Loch Ewe produces is probably the closest thing to traditional Uisge Beatha you can buy today (including the new make spirits that some distilleries sell).  The hotel by the way is a great, remote spot in Wester Ross and as you might expect the bar is very well stocked with Loch Ewe and lots of other whiskies.  Well worth the trip and one day I will be going back to make my own batch of whisky in a wheelie bin.
    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 03:08

    Basil Hayden's

    Mmmm, hard to describe my feelings about this bourbon.    The nose was quite fruity, caramel and had some freshness.  The taste had brown sugar, spice and wood notes and was quite bitter.   All the elements of bourbon I like were there, caramel, spice, oak, sweetness but like one too many boy bands it didnt quite come together in harmony.   I also found it very light, a little unbalanced with a short finish.
    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:52

    Smokehead Extra Black

    This was one of the whiskies we sampled at Ian Buxton's tasting in Aberdeen in May 2011.  Quite simply this is a peaty whisky.  Very peaty.  It might be more accurate to call it a whisky flavored peat.  Once you get beyond the peat there is a sweetness that reminded me of Ardbeg (and perhaps it is - it is an Islay single malt anyway) and I enjoyed it as a whisky "experience", but I doubt I would buy it.  If you like peat you need to try this.  If you don't then you should probably avoid this one (unless you are on some slightly pointless quest to drink a list of 101 whiskies that you found in book).
    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:42

    Monkey Shoulder

    Crazy name, crazy whisky.  This is a blended malt from William Grant, the company behind Glenfiddich and Balvenie and presumably contains malts from both of those distilleries. I first bought this at the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown in 2009 and it is great value as well as good whisky.  It is also very common in Aberdeen pubs and bars and I often drank it on nights out in Aberdeen.  I find it very reminiscent of the Bavlenie whiskies, the nose is sweet with cirtus, and the taste has honey sweetness, more fruit and even floral notes.   It is not massively complex,  but it isn't trying to be, it is well made malt whisky.  It is a great pity they don't sell in the USA (yet) as it would be very popular with bourbon drinkers, in cocktails and as an introduction to scotch.
    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:35

    Glenglassaugh Spirit

    I tried the new make spririt from the recently reborn Glenglassaugh distillery at a tasting in Aberdeen with Ian Buxton, author of 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.   For new make spirit this was quite drinkable, but lets not kid ourselves anyone is picking this as their favorite pre-dinner drink anytime soon.  I am glad I tried it, but no hurry to try again.  As Bones from Star Trek might say "It's whisky Jim, but not as we know it." 

    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:28

    Jameson 18 year old Limited Reserve

    A great example of how good Irish whiskey (and blended whiskey) can be.  The nose is quite gentle but has notes of fruit and lots of vanilla.  The taste is all sweet toffee, vanilla, butterscotch and some mild spiciness, even coffee.   Smooth and mouthfilling and for 18 years in a cask surprisingly not overly woody or stringent.    A little nutty and maybe some oak and sherry in the finish.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:28

    Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland

    Describe Glenfarclas in two words?  Old school.  Putting aside the slightly annoying and confusing matter that this is yet another famous Speyside distillery with a Grant family prominent in its history (a different Grant from Glenfiddich and Balvenie and also not the same Grant as Glen Grant) and overlooking the slightly 1960's state school look and feel of the place, Glenfarclas produces high quality Speyside whiskies with a heavy sherry influence.

    The visitor's center does not have any café and the $5 tour is the usual fare with the interesting highlight that you will see the tallest stills in Speyside.  They also store and age all their whisky on site which many of the "corporate" distilleries don't do for rather dull reasons like they want to rent cheaper warehouse space in a more central location or for "risk management" (ie in case the distillery burns down they don't lose all the stock).    After walking around the site you leave with a strong feeling that this is still very much an independent family run business, that they are proud of what they do and they are not about to change anything any time soon.  Good for them.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:27

    Penderyn, Wales

    Interestingly this welsh whisky, or wysgi in welsh, would barely scrape under the bar as a "whisky" in Scotland.  It certainly wouldn't be considered single malt for several reasons I will discuss later.  I should also disclose some bias for Wales at this point, as I graduated from the University of Wales and lived in Cardiff for four years.

    The  Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) rules and regulations rightly protect the process and traditions of the industry, but it doesn't means that other methods and technology can't product a whisky (and this is whisky) of exceptional taste and quality.  In fact find it slightly ironic that the industry that was in many ways born from developing the new ideas for manufacturing whisky (the Coffey still, grain whisky and blended whisky) is so entrenched in its thinking today about what defines Scotch whisky, and inversely the sticking to old ways and traditions was one contributing factors of several that nearly completely killed the Irish industry.  Remember that those that don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

    That said Welsh whisky is not about to take over the world, but this is very good stuff.  The distillery in the village of Penderyn, near Brecon is modern and compact.  One reason for this compactness is that the wash is made in Cardiff at the Brain's Brewery and brought to the distillery in tanker trucks.  That in itself would exclude Penderyn from the ranks of "single malt" if it were located in Scotland.  The tour is also compact, in fact it consists of two rooms.  One room houses a history of welsh distilling and the more recent history of the distillery.  The second room is basically the tasting room and has a glass wall.  Behind the wall is the unique still Penderyn use to distill the Brain's wash into an 86 - 92% ABV spirit and a small bottling line.  

    The Penderyn still is a combination of a pot still and a column still and this would again probably prevent this being considered single malt whisky, were it in Scotland, as it is not a traditional pot still.  The spirit is diluted with water drawn from a well below the distillery and put into bourbon casks, matured offsite, and then finished in Madeira casks before being bottled on site.  They also do a peated version of Penderyn which is matured in scotch casks that have previously held peated scotch and a sherry cask finished version.

    After the tour they pour samples from their range of whiskies and also they offer a cream blend called Merlyn.  We also got to smell and taste the new make spirit.  There is the ubiquitous whisky shop as well.  This is an interesting distillery that makes a great product, and is well worth a visit.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:24

    Macallan, Speyside, Scotland

    The Macallan is the distillery in Craigellachie where many of the myths espoused by other distilleries come to die.   It is a place of contrast and contradiction and I loved it. 

    The distillery visitor's center is small and it is a place for whisky lovers to pay homage, not for the tourists.  No café or other family facilities, people come here to see the whisky being made and to buy from a very wide range of products available including many that cannot be found anywhere else in the UK.  The tour is very informative and goes into great depth into some of the areas of whisky production that others skirt over, particularly barley varietals (Macallan favours the less popular Golden Promise) and wood.  In fact they have an entire wood exhibit.  I don't mean the exhibit was made of wood, but a detailed exhibit on the types of wood used in their range and even goes in the detailed biochemistry of oak to explain the impact on the taste and aromas of their whisky. 

    But what strikes you walking around the site is the industrial nature of the site.  This is not your quaint, Victorian, artisan, highland distillery, this is first and foremost a whisky factory with huge modern warehouses looming over you on the hill behind the distillery like the dark satanic mills of the famous hymn Jerusalem.  They use different mash tuns, different styles of wash backs (some steel, some wooden) and they even have two different still houses on the site with some still direct heated while others are steam heated.  All the sorts of variations in process that many other distilleries claim to reject and say would greatly affect the nature of final spirit seem less important to Macallan who produce a single malt, The Macallan 18 year old, sometimes called the Rolls Royce of Whisky (admittedly usually by them), and many consider one of the best single malts in the world.

    Interestingly, despite being now reported as the second largest global brand of single malt whisky in sales, behind the Glenfiddich and ahead of Glenlivet, the success and globalization of brand Macallan does not seem to generate the angst and backlash Glenfiddich occasionally does within certain parts of the whisky community.  Discuss.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:15

    Yamazaki 12 year old

    I found the nose a little bit evasive and hard to define.  Perhaps some dark dried fruits like raisins and prunes and sweet.  The taste was much more accessible.  Sweet at first with honey and then drying oak and pepper notes in the finish, perhaps some sherry too.   Nice mouth feel, silky and smooth.  This isn't the most complex whisky I have ever tried.  Is it good?  Yes, but didn't quite float my boat

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 672

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 63

    Follow Me on Twitter!

    Random Whisky

    Kavalan Solist Vinho

    This 58.5% ABV cask strength expression was finished in a wine cask (hence vinho). The nose is very winey, port maybe, fruity but not too sweet. The taste has deep dark fruits, bitter coffee and chocolate. The finish is warm and spicy. Overall very nice, a good addition to the Taiwanese whisky club but for me I think the bourbon cask expression worked a little better.