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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Mortlach 12 year old

The nose on 43.4% expression is very floral with some wheaty breakfast biscuits and spicy notes.  The taste is very smooth with baked spiced apples (maybe even slightly burnt) caramel and honey.  The finish has some slow building heat along with some Bovril (salty / meaty) notes.  Reminded me of good Texas barbeque brisket with strong spice bark.  Overall a ittle too much burnt, salty and bitter notes with not enough sweetness to balance it for me. 

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    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...

    Sunday, 13 November 2011 02:55

    Aberfeldy 21 year old

    This was my original post: "I must admit to some mixed feelings on this one.  I bought a bottle of this at Heathrow and it didn't last long.  In fact I didnt even write any detailed notes.  I remember thinking it was a very good single malt and something I thought I would come back to many times.  Then I went to the Aberfeldy Distillery in March 2011 and tried some of the Dewar's blends that contain Aberfeldy and then felt like the $100+ I spent on the single malt might not have been the best investment.  All the flavors I like in Aberfeldy I found in the Dewar's blends and I would probably go back to the Dewar's blends before I bought the single malt again, unless there was a change in the price point.  I have tried it and I like it, but I may not buy it again."

    However I saw Aberfeldy on sale for under $60 in the USA in April 2012 (so there was a change in the price point) and so I am changing score and adding some more detailed tasting notes.  The nose is sweet and malty with some floral honey as well.  The taste was toffee apple and honey, incredibly smooth, almost glassy.  The finish had a bite of oak to nicely offset all the sweetness.

    Sunday, 13 November 2011 02:40

    Crown Royal Black

    Considering all the billboards I drive past everyday on US 59 and the fact that Crown Royal Black sponsors the Houston Texans I really had to review this whisky.  Nice nose with rye, caramel and chocolate.  A little prickle of alcohol as well (this comes at 45% ABV).  The taste is sweet and has oak and vanilla, with a nice mouth feel and a long peppery finish with a bitter oak note.  I prefer this to the standard Crown Royal.  Go Texans!
    Saturday, 12 November 2011 19:45

    Return of the Dinosaurs?

    I have been thinking a lot about the return of Glenglassaugh and must confess to some mixed feelings.  Didn't we learn the lesson of the Jurassic Park franchise (other than a third movie should never have been made) as Dr Ian Malcolm said "Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction." 

    Seriously though is it just me or is the whisky world's interest with extinct distilleries and those that were extinct and have since been reborn a little misplaced?  I find myself asking this question more and more and as I taste some of these whiskies I find the questions don't go away.  Let's put aside the rarity question.  I fully understand that extinct whiskies are going to be collector's items and that itself creates an interest.  No I am talking about the simple fact, often ignored, that they were probably not always particularly good whiskies (not whether they are collectable).

    In my mind a combination of free market economics and natural selection would suggest that in order for new and better whiskies to come along, less popular whiskies must improve or fall to wayside.  As popular as whisky has become it is still a finite market and therefore only a finite number of whiskies can exist.  If we want better whiskies shouldn't we want less popular or unsuccessful whiskies to perish?    Instead we seem to mourn passing of whisky distilleries or celebrate the re-opening of old ones without asking the important question – why did it close to start with?  Is the reborn distillery really remaking the old spirit and product, if so why?  Or is it using the modern equipment, standards and techniques, and in effect it's a new distillery in an old building.

    The emergence of new distilleries and new whisky making countries suggests to me that in balance we as whisky lovers should welcome the passing of some tired old production that was never successful or large enough to survive and welcome the next whisky that will inevitably follow in footsteps, almost certainly a better product given the high standards of distilling and maturation today.  Simply put some of these whiskies weren't good enough or loved enough or viable for whatever reason at the time and for the good of the whole industry they had to die.  My guess is that they weren't the best whiskies and therefore the fittest survived.  If total whisky production or producing countries was falling I would understand, but clearly that isn't the case, so let's collectively move on.   

    If you do come across a rare bottling of single malt from a closed distillery enjoy by all means, but don't try and tell me it is a loss to the industry.  My guess is it probably isn't, although I am sure from time to time some good production has been lost it has been more than outweighed by the good new whiskies added almost every day.  I am sure almost any distillery can produce, from time to time, a one off single cask bottling of exceptional quality but it doesn't mean that everything produced there was of the same standard.  Occasionally even a blind squirrel will find a nut.

    So let's not mourn the passing of distilleries or worry about the rebirth of others, perhaps we should even encourage and welcome it, raising the standards of the global product for everyone, like a gardener pruning old tired flowers so healthy new growth can come through. 

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 692

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 66

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    Random Whisky

    MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt

    This is rather a famous whisky.  The short version of the story is that it is a "reproduction" of whisky, recently found in the Antartica that had been left by the Shackleton Expedition approxmately 100 years ago.  An original bottle(s) was taken back to  Scotland and a small sample extracted and that was used as basis of this reproduction.  There are lots of stories online about this and even a Discovery Channel TV show.  It is also sometimes referred to as "Shackleton's whisky".   I found the nose very malty and rich with honey, shortbread biscuit and oak.  The taste is quite smooth, more honey, smoke, wood, leather and spice.  Some darks fruits as well which makes sense as I guess they used sherry or perhaps wine casks (rather than bourbon) for maturation back in the day of Ernest Shackleton.  The finish is quite dry and sherried as well, more wood smoke and tobacco.  If, like me, you gave up smoking some time ago you might like to try this one as a reminder!   I am guessing it is blended a malt and it is definately a "man's man" type of whisky.  So much so I suspect it might be blended with testosterone.