Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Aston's Villa



It's been all systems go here at Whisky Club HQ so the blog has suffered some what as a result!

Back in October 2014, we had arranged a night of delectable drams with arguable Manchester's best Tobacco and Spirit merchant - Aston's in collaboration with the independent bottling legends Gordon & MacPhail.

A great crowd of members turned up at Aston's eagerly awaiting oak matured delights being expertly dished out by Mike Fisher of G&M and poorly by Andy. Mike took us through a presentation focusing on G&M's heritage and history and a little background about what makes them one of the best and largest independent bottlers of whisky in the world.

The first whisky we were treated to was a bit of a surprise. A mystery Dram.. hmmm

Mystery Dram - ?%

Some of the thickest legs we've ever seen on a whisky, like treacle! The nose was a continuation of the theme as this was also heavy, thick and cloying with a good richness but retained some light malty qualities... a whiff of smoke was mentioned. If the nose was thick the palate was thicker, a nice toffee and milk chocolate note as well as a touch of that elusive smoke, fruity clumped jam on top of a cream scone. A good oily mouthfeel on this too with a long warming finish.

What was it? Well, like us, you'll find out at the end.

  • Glenburgie 10yr - G&M Distillery Label 40%
 Glenburgie is a little known and yet well used Speyside distillery. The spirit is rarely bottled as a single malt and can therefore be hard to come by. However it is a staple ingredient in the famous Ballantine's Blends.

This particular bottling, on G&M's Distillery Label range was matured for 10 years in refill sherry hogsheads and first fill sherry butts. Quite an impressive maturation for a lesser known blend component spirit.

The nose was buttery, a touch of spice and fruit, thanks to it's maturation in refill sherry casks it also carried a little hint of (the now overused) Christmas cake and a touch of charred oak.

The dram continued to deliver as the palate was surprisingly flavoursome and warming, more ticks in the box for this little whisky so far. Toffee, butterscotch, spices and and berries such as cherry and raspberry were on the cards here with a slightly nutty backdrop. A bit like one of those berry Granola yoghurts. This ended in a very smooth but long finish.

Overall, this went down really well and the best part? The price at £22-£30 RRP! You will find this in Aston's and from online retailers but not in supermarkets.

This unassuming and surprising little whisky makes for a relaxed kicked back mid week sipper or a great alternative to the usual Speyside Suspects in this price category, especially considering the sherry maturation. Belter. 


  • Imperial 1995 - G&M Distillery Label 43%
Founder Andy has a bit of a soft spot for this now demolished distillery. Imperial, founded in 1897 was a Speyside distillery providing, what was in most cases, blend component malt for then owners Pernod Ricard's range of blends.

Our second of G&M's Distillery Label range. There has only ever been one official bottling of Imperial by previous owners Allied. This particular bottling is an 18 year old and was matured in refill sherry casks for the full duration.

The nose was spicy with a lot of various fruit. Strawberry jam, raspberry, crunchy green apple and warm pastry, almost apple pie! There's also a bit of cinnamon in there and a heavier dusty/oak note in the background.

On the palate the consistency was good, again more of that strawberry jam but this time with crunchy nut cornflakes, vanilla custard and a little bit of milk chocolate.

This bottle retails at around £55+ and again can be found both in Aston's and online. For an 18 year old whisky from a now closed distillery, sherry matured and in what all honesty is a very nice dram, who could argue with that?

Comparable to many other 18 yr old whiskies in this price range if not better and makes a change from the usual brands!

  • Linkwood 25 yr - G&M Distillery Label 43%
Next up Mike pulled out the stops by revealing a bottle of 25 year old Linkwood.on G&M's own label. Our third Speysider of the night, Linkwood which is situated near Elgin, G&M's spiritual home, is currently under Diageo's tenure.

Linkwood is another distillery whose majoriy of whisky is destined for blends of the owning company. There have however been several official bottlings of Linkwood and a fair few independent bottlings knocking about too.

On the nose this proffered cut grass or hay with a herbal quality, like opening up the spice cupboard at home, toffee and plums.

The palate was again, herbal but maybe not as refined as you'd expect a 25 yr old to be. There's also leather, toffee and a slight hint of coffee too, less espresso more flat white. Oak influence throughout. The finish was relatively short but warming before coming back with an almost bitter encore.

Coming in at around £90 for a 25 year old is pretty good value for money as far as recent releases are concerned. Our only gripes were the low Abv and the unexpected bitter tang towards the end.

Linkwood can make some very, very good whisky. This bottling is another Marmite bottle for the club with a split in opinions which is part of what the Whisky Club is all about!


  • Bruichladdich 1991- G&M Cask Strength Collection 52.4%
Wowsers Batman, it's a 22 year old cask strength Bruichladdich! If Mike treated us witht eh 25 yr Linkwood then a CS 22 Laddie was up another level. There's no sherry here as this was a bottling of 2 hogsheads combined and bottled in 2014.

G&M do a good line in their Cask Strength range with other bottlings including those from Clynelish, Caol Ila and more. Good company to be in then. This particular wee Laddie was un peated much like the majority of it's brothers and sisters and interestingly was distilled before the distillery's closure in 1994. A real treat then!

The nose had a touch of the maritime Laddie salt but then something surprising. A massive hit of limes and cream, key lime pie and then some! A touch of barley and honey in there too alongside a whiff of the Bruichladdich farmyard notes associated with their peated bottlings!

On the palate the dram changed slightly, whilst it did carry a tart citrus, it then developed into a maltier dram with a mineral tang like licking a pebble on a beach. Crisp barley and Icing sugar led into a long and relatively sharp tart finish.

Carrying an RRP of around £100+, this is some competitive pricing from G&M for a Bruichladdich at this age especially at this strength.



  • Highland Park 8yr - G&M 43%
Ah Highland Park, we've had a fair few expressions from the powerhouse of Orkney at the club in our 2 years of being. This particular bottle was one of the lowest age drams of the evening, matured in a refill hogshead and bottled at 43% what did this dram have in store.

Spritely and fresh on the nose whilst having whiffs of the Highland Park house style peat flutter in and out. Raisin, toast, apple and marmalade were all here with a slight creamy note alongside.

On the palate it was initially a dry ashy delivery however this is quickly cast aside by the fruitier notes in the young spirit. Lemon, toffee, apple sauce and lemon meringue pie come in quickly followed by a very nice warming coal fire smoke and peat. There was a touch of dried herb here too, oregano perhaps? Considering the 43% abv the smoke had plenty of legs to it.

The finish is of medium length with the peat playing centre stage slowly tailing off into a savoury ash and herbal note.


Overall, at around £30RRP this is an absolute bargain. This whisky belies its age in terms of subtle complexity, despite only being 8 years old I would happily (and did) purchase this and think it more than stands up to some of the official Highland Park bottlings, particularly the more recent NAS releases.

This little hidden gem will happily keep your (proverbial) fuel tank topped up nicely. A great mid week peaty treat and is also great in smoky cocktails!


  • Ledaig 1998 - G&M Connoisseur's Choice 46%
G&M's Connoisseur's Choice range is well known across the globe. This is their flagship bottling range with the highest number of releases and bottles overall compare to their other ranges. From 2012 all CC bottles were Non chill filtered, Natural colour and bottled at the increased strength of 46% compared to the original 43%.

This Ledaig hails from the Island of Mull and the Tobermory distillery. Ledais is another style of spirit and brand distilled at the same distillery akin to others such as Bruichladdich (Port Charlotte). Ledaig is like Tobermory's peaty cousin and can be hard to find at the higher age levels such as this 15 year old.

The nose carried dried wood, rubber tyres, a touch of lemon but remained quite dusty and dry. Towards the tail comes seawater/salt and seaweed.

The palate initially proffered a drying smoke alongside brine and damp earthy notes, before opening up to show a touch of honey and even a bit of lemon rind in there too.

The finish carried on from the palate with a short but drying end.

An interesting dram indeed, peat often compliments Island whisky styles with their 'maritime' notes. This retails at around £42 RRP.



  • Caol Ila 2001 - G&M Connoisseur's Choice 46%

Our final dram of the night saw us take on another Connoisseur's Choice bottling. This time a 2001 Caol Ila from one of Islays most famous and popular distilleries.


Matured in first fill bourbon barrels this 12/13yr old Caol Ila had our resident peat heads (everyone) excited.

The nose carried some of those crucial Caol Ila notes with waxy lemon and a lot of their trademark peat. With this though there's vanilla, a touch of basil and leather. Yum

A good oily consistency again got this off to a good start on the palate. Again the smoke at the fore but leading into pepper, more lemon, digestive biscuit and brandy snaps. More smoke towards the end.

this led into a very satisfying lengthy warm finish with the peat guiding to the finale.

This was a great dram to finish on and can easily compete if not overtake some of the standard Caol Ila core range from the distillery in this price range. This carries and RRP of around £50.

A fantastic line up with great input and presentation from Mike of G&M. Aston's put on a great night for us and we've had feedback from everyone who attended who said it was a resounding success.


Mystery Dram - ?%

But wait? What about this "Mystery Dram" that we tried when we arrived... Well Mike put us all out of our misery and revealed what was in the (sneakily decanted) bottle...

It was the English Whisky Co's Chapter 13 from Norfolk in England!

Our second expression from these guys and this not only came as something of a surprise to everyone but made a lot of us appreciate how good this stuff has gotten in the last few years since we tried their also tasty Chapter 9!

Looks like the St George distillery remains one of those in England to keep your eye on.

In fact it went down that well that a few people bought a bottle!


Once again the whole club extends our thanks and gratitude to both the excellent and attentive Aston's and Mike of G&M for putting on a fantastic night. Astons can be found in the Barton arcade of St Annes Square and not only proffer a very very good selection of both Distillery and Independent malts, but also stock other great spirits too in addition to their vast range of cigars, tobacco and accessories!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Age is a Virtue?

Thanks to Josh for the Picture


Our second tasting of August was based around a recent trend in the whisky industry; the increase in No Age Statement releases.

A No Age Statement release or NAS for short, is pretty much as it sounds, a whisky where the company does not disclose on the bottle (or anywhere else for that matter) how old the whisky is.

SWA regulations say an age statement must show the age of the youngest contributing spirit in the bottling. Ie  With a bottle of Glenfarclas 15 the youngest whisky contained within it will be 15 years old although there may be some older malt content in there also.

One of the reasons for the large increase in NAS releases is that distilleries cannot meet demand and are having to use younger whiskies in order to allow their spirits to mature.

So what happens when the gloves come off and we take a look at some of the industries flagship releases?..


Image Courtesy of the Whisky Exchange
Tomatin Legacy - 43%

The club has a bit of a bitter sweet relationship with bottles of Tomatin in the past with the old 12 year old version not performing well but the 15 and 30 receiving high acclaim. However how did the 2013 NAS Legacy release from the Highland Distillery fair?

Bottled at 43%, a good start. Matured in ex bourbon and virgin oak the nose is spicy, yet creamy with a touch of citrus. Fresh and spicy. The palate is surprisingly strong but well balanced, cinnamon,  barley, apple, brown sugar and honey with a long and spicy finish.

At around £20-£25 a bottle this is indeed very good value for money despite not having a number on the bottle. The clubbers guessed this sat around the 7-8yr old mark. A good mid week pick me up.




Singleton of Dufftown - Tailfire 40%

No dear friends this is not an indication that Diageo have spanned into film production with the release of a new James Bond film starring Jim Murray as a Panama hat wearing, Glencarin toting MI5 agent.

Tailfire, coupled with the other release, Sunray are the 2 latest NAS releases from the Dufftown distillery.

Tailfire was matured in refill sherry casks and bottled at 40% with the red label indicating what the producers feel are associated red berry flavours of the spirit.

Nose, well, fair enough there is a bit of strawberry jam there, a touch of malt, crunchy nut cornflakes and warm bread. The palate is smooth but quite a thin texture. Honey, apple pie and victoria sponge. This is a very, very sweet whisky.

Tailfire sank a bit with only a few positive comments about the nose. On the plus side unlike Sunray it doesn't sound like a Care Bear film.

Tailfire's RRP sits around the £30-£35 mark.




Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve - 43%

Image Courtesy of the Whisky Exchange
This is the club's second Yamazaki with the 12 yr old tasted back in summer 2013. The 12 yr old now sells at between £45-£55 which compared to £35 in 2013 is a big hike so we settled on this dram to see how it compares.

The Distiller's Reserve was released alongside the sister distillery Hakushu Distiller's reserve.

The nose is quite fruity, think pineapple upside down cake, coconut and almonds with a touch of oak. The palate is again fruity but will a well balanced sherry and oak character as well as peach and a dab of milk chocolate. The finish is medium in length and smooth with a touch of spice.

Distiller's reserve got a mixed reception with clubbers feeling it lacked a bit of depth.



Highland Park Dark Origins - 46.8%

Assassin's Creed Dark Origins David Beckham Edition
Our 3rd Highland Park of the month! Highland Park Dark Origins was hot off the press after release in late July 2014. Andy and Sean had already snaffled a sneak preview of the release at Dramboree thanks to Daryl Haldane's tasting (where he also let them in on a little secret as to it's age but our lips are sealed).

Dark Origins takes inspiration from the distillery's somewhat illicit past centered around a local man a butcher come smuggler - Magnus Eunson. Eunson was a renowned smuggler of spirits who used the local church to stash his goods. The new packaging bearing what some described as 'Assassins Creed David Beckham' with a hooded figure shrouded in a dark smokey tones leans towards what HP seem to be going for. (Obviously we cannot confirm or deny if the chap actually looked like the former England footballer)

Matured in 80% first fill sherry casks and 20% refill sherry and bottled at 46.8%. The nose is musty, tar, tobacco, oak and dark chocolate. The palate shows some orange zest, pepper and thick toffee alongside the signature Highland Park smoke.

Dark Origins went down well, with the clubbers noting the depth of flavour and amount of first fill sherry casks but in turn thinking the RRP of £65 was steep given that the age statement 12 year old is £25.



Laphroaig Select - 40%

Unbelievably, only our second Laphroaig. The Select has caused something of a stir with the online whisky community. We won't tell you why but here's how it went down at the club.

Select is matured in a vast number of cask types including Olorosso sherry butts, American white oak, PX Hoghsheads, Quarter casks, ex bourbon casks and more. We have a contingent of in-house peat heads as you might expect from a whisky club but nobody had prepared themselves for what came next.

The nose, salty initially, a touch of seaweed, lemon, caramel and a very faint dry smoke. The palate was quite distant and never really got started. More lemon, a touch of menthol and chocolate, think Fry's mint bars, Caramac and a final note of the traditional Laphroaig TCP. The finish was short with a touch of peat and clove notes seeing you to the end.

"Hmmm" Those being the words of several members.

This was certainly not like any Laphroaig any of us had had before. With an RRP of £35 + which is more than the 48% Quarter cask - £27 and around the same price as the 10yr old, this release seem to be a few pints short of a party.



Talisker Port Ruighe - 45.8%

On that bombshell we raced onto the final dram of the night. The Talisker Port Ruighe. Pronounced 'Port Rhee' after the Skye town, the release is bottled at the trademark Talisker strength of 45.8% and was finished in Ruby Port casks.

The nose is surprisingly chocolatey with dried cranberry, fig, cigar leaf? and a touch of woodsmoke. The palate is smooth yet produced the expected peat smoke but also kept in line with toffee, cherry and summer fruit pudding notes. This was topped by a lingering drying sweet finish.

A pleasant surprise from this little number. A few around the room mentioned their disappointment in the Talisker Storm and Dark Storm releases that were put to market around the same time as this bottling but very much enjoyed this one.

Sitting at around £40 RRP this is a little indication of how tactile Talisker spirit might actually be if paired with a more unusual cask type. Good stuff.




 Overall Dram of the night was tied, undecided if you will between Highland Park Origins and the Talisker with a few votes for the Tomatin. The Tomatin though got top marks for value.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Duty Free Drams


Our first tasting in August saw us play host to several famous whisky brands and examples of their Travel retail Exclusive whiskies.

These are bottles that can only be picked up in airports across the globe and provide an interesting look at different stock as well as providing good value for money in many cases due to the sheer size of the bottles with most being 1 litre in size.

Before we get started the club would like to say a huge thank you to Inverhouse Distillers, Jameson and Highland Park for providing us with the bottles for this evening.


Old Pulteney, Noss Head - 46%

The first Pulteney at the club and we have the Wick distillery's entry level in to their travel retail range, Noss Head'. Part of the Lighthouse Series' named after different lighthouses on the north Scottish coast, Noss head was matured exclusively in ex Bourbon casks and bottled with No Age Statement.

Light in colour, this appears to be a young whisky as from the nose it is light, spritely and spicy with green apple and what is often seen as the trademark Pulteney salt. The palate too features citrus, vanilla and spice with a surprisingly long finish.

This retails at £39.99 and for a litre of Pulteney, this is fantastic value for money and provides a step away from the usual house style.


Jameson Select Reserve - 40%

As we've had this little Irish beauty previously, the notes can be found here.

















Balblair 2004 - 46%


Balblair is a picturesque distillery nestled in the Highlands who are quickly (and quite rightly) becoming recognised as a leading player in the whsiky market. Balblair bucked the trend of the usual Age statement a few years back, rather than show '12 years old' they chose to show the vintage of the whisky, which is more akin to wine than whisky. In this case a 2004 vintage.

The 2004 is a 10 year old whisky bottled in 2014 and is matured solely in ex bourbon casks.

The nose is light, honey, vanilla, lemongrass alongside a savoury note and a touch of malt. The palate is fresh and comes back with the vanilla, brandy snap biscuits make an appearance before a dry medium length finish.

Retailing at £44.99 this Balblair provides a god chance to try a lighter highland style without breaking the bank.






Old Pulteney Duncansby Head - 46%

Next up, another Pulteney, this time though Duncansby Head which was matured in both Bourbon and sherry casks giving this a little more of a rounded edge.

The nose gives off the Pulteney salty sea air again, this time though with toffee, honey and hazelnut. The palate is warm with a good oily texture. Flavours include orange oil, raisins and herbs.

The finish is medium length with vanilla, oak and spice.

At £45.99 this gives an altogether more classic Pulteney experience with more depth and richness than the Noss Head.





Balblair 1991 - 46%

Ok now, next up is a bit of a curveball in that it wasn't a purely Travel retail bottling coupled with the
fact that it was only available for a 6 month period back in 2010 when a stand in was needed before the new 1990 bottling replaced the old 1989. However this gives the 1991 a rather unique edge.

A very bourbon affair with that Balblair honey again, orange peel and vanilla. A light and fragrant palate, thin mouthfeel but a long spicy finish.



Highland Park Svein - 40%

Highland Park's Warrior series has been one of the success stories of the modern Travel Retail market for whisky producers. Based on legendary Viking warriors due to Orkney's Viking past, this 1ltr offering is No Age Statement comes in at a very reasonable £39.99 but what did we make of it?

Nose gives some initial toffee and a very soft underlying smoke, oak and coal. The palate is somewhat mellowed due to the 40% but retains a robust cinnamon, dark chocolate and smoke influence. Maybe some tropical fruit back on the nose now too?

Overall? Good value for money at £40.




Highland Park Harald - 40%

Lastly we come fact to face with another Viking Warrior from Orkney. This time Harald. No not our
favourite tuba playing Australian neighbour, but another bottling in Highland Park's Warrior series.

Harald is named after Hrald Fairhair, a Viking King of Norway who first set up viking earldom on  Orkney. Bottled at 40% and using whiskies matured in both European and American oak casks, Harald gives nuts, orange peel and spice on the nose. The a palate is thick and almost clunky with toffee, vanilla and christmas spices.

A nice bottling here from Highland Park with an extra dimension compared to the Svein.

Harald retails at £70




Monday, August 25, 2014

Commonwealth Nations

24th July saw us tackle a line up of whiskies from across the commonwealth in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games.

Australia - Sullivan's Cover Double Cask - 40%


First up we tried the Sullivan's Cove Double Cask, a Tasmanian whisky matured in both American and French Oak.

Australians are well known for their competitive nature when it comes to sport whether it be Cricket, Rugby or Tiddlywinks. Likewise the Australian whisky industry has flourished and has recently been making real in roads into the world market like a momentous scrum pushing into Scotland's half.

The Double cask is a vatting of 3 different single casks from the distillery.

The nose is velvety with the unmistakable notes of rich Cognac and milk chocolate. The French oak lends well to Sullivan's base spirit.

Onto the palate and this dram is a completely different beast! Now the American ex bourbon casks come into their own, vanilla, spice and a warm toffee note.

A short but warm finish ends proceedings.

This was certainly a dram of 2 halves, coming in at an RRP of £65, like all 'New world' Whiskies part of what you pay is the air miles getting it to the UK. If it was touching the 46% mark and cost a bit less the consensus was that it would be a good bottle to have on the shelf.




New Zealand - Milford 15 - 43%

Next up just a hop skip and a jump away from Australia and we're onto New Zealand, home of the Mighty All Blacks, Lucy Lawless and the Lord of the Ring's The Shire.

There is no distillery called Milford, in fact his bottling is that of the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island that closed it's doors back in 2004. It's always interesting to feature a whisky from a closed distillery.

The whisky was matured in ex bourbon casks for 15 years before being bottled in 2004 prior to the distilleries closure.

Whisky gospel scribe and Panama Hat advocate Jim Murray is a past supporter of certain NZ whiskies. Let's see how this one fairs.

The nose is, frankly, harsh. Spirity and callously dry. There are some notes of banana and brown sugar in there but alongside are ever present notes of nose stinging Birdseye chili... Odd considering this whiskies 15 year maturation.

The palate retains it's form to the letter with altogether shallow and throat stinging onslaught. Not much else to say really..

The finish, well I'll leave that to your imagination.

We picked this up from the Whisky Exchange for £57 and appeared to be one of the last available in the UK from what we've seen afterwards. I think with this dram we saw why this distillery ended up closing it's doors for good.

Can't win them all!


Canada - Pike Creek - 40%

Oh Canada, never one's to blow their own trumpet Canadian whisky has somewhat fallen to the back of people's minds. However this was not always the case with Canadian whisky representing a huge market share in the US and beyond. Think Canadian Club in the hands of Don Draper in the 1960's HBO Series Mad Men.

However, Canada is back on the attack with several new distilleries and releases representing a huge increase in Canadian whisky output.

Pike Creek is a No Age statement blended whisky from Corby Distillers distilled at the more than amply sized Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario. The whisky is then sent off to Hiram's warehouses in ontario, interestingly these warehouses are unheated, temperatures can vary from 28C in Summer to around -10C in winter. This results in the casks expanding, retracting etc in the varying temperatures as well as having an effect on the actual speed of maturation.

The whisky is initially matured in American white oak casks before being transferred into ex Port Pipes.

The nose is fruity, very fruity. Think pears, cranberries and blackberries with a slight cinnamon backdrop.

Moving onto the palate, this displays a lot of grain characteristics, vanilla, honey and a touch of strawberry from the nose possibly.

The finish is short but again quite fruity with a touch of oak.

At £48 from The Whisky Exchange this provides an interesting alternative to Canadian Club and Crown Royal, with the added bonus of avoiding that somewhat garish purple faux velvet pouch.


Scotland - Glengoyne 15 yr old - 43%


Onto the host nation! You could almost hear Flower of Scotland bellow from the tin as this bottle was
poured out.

Glengoyne is an interesting distillery in many ways, it is one of the very few Highland Whiskies to use purely un peated barley, it also has the slowest distillation times in Scotland. Your 3rd Glengoyne fact of the day is that despite Glengoyne's Highland status, it's own warehouses right over the road are in the Lowlands showing Glengoyne is only a Highland whisky by the skin of it's teeth/tarmac.

The 15yr is matured in a mixture of first fill ex- sherry casks, bourbon casks and refill hogsheads.

The nose? Altogether more Scottish, heather, quite creamy with toffee and black forest gateaux alongside.

On the palate this whisky retains a thick oily texture that whisky lovers well... love. More toffee here before turning to nutmeg, shreddies cereal and honey.

The finish lends itself more to the oak from the casks with spice.

For £45 at Master of Malt, this provides a very smooth and fulfilling single malt from the modern home of whisky.


India - Kadhambam - 50%

To finish we go back east to the sweltering climes of Bangalore in India. We've tried a few Indian whiskies now, this one however has to be one of the most unique.

This was matured in 3 different cask types with one being that of a local liquor delicacy, Bangalore Blue Brandy, but don't let that put you off, the whisky is also transferred into Rum casks (from Amrut's own rum) and Oloroso sherry casks.

Luckily it seems that Amrut ran out of cask types to mature the spirit in otherwise we could have been here for a a while. A very modern approach to whisky production though which is always good to see.

As mentioned in a previous post the hot climates of countries such as India lends itself very well to the maturation of whisky with spirit maturing at a faster rate than that of one kept in the somewhat cooler and moister Scotland.

The nose is spicy, think cinnamon and star anise alongside brandy butter over a christmas pudding.

The palate is where the 50% comes in to it's own. Raisins, orange oil, cinnamon again and dark chocolate. Oddly a slight twang of a rich, thick Port in there too at times, ironic considering this to be one of the few cask types not used in this whiskies maturation!

The finish is long as you'd expect with notes of leather and oak.

Overall a very unique and tasty dram indeed. Kudos to Amrut for pushing the boat out with some top notch cask experimentation here.

Available at Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange although be warned this is a limited release and comes in at £68 - £73


Dram of the night along with the Gold Medal went to the Glengoyne.. but only just! With a well deserved Silver and for the Amrut Kadhambam and the last podium finish and Bronze to Pike Creek.

Overall a fantastic showcase of what whiskies are out there from countries you might not always expect!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Adventures in Loch Lomond - The Great Dramboree 2014


Take one stunning 19th century Lochside hostel in the shadow of Ben Lomond. Add a sprinkling of Whisky bloggerati, a smattering of spirit-industry leaders, a handful of society and event organisers and a generous number of all-round whisky lovers. Leave for one weekend to merrily bubble away. Add whisky to taste.

The Dramboree, a social event for whisky lovers, started last year - a bright idea from Jason B Standing of the Whisky Squad and Jonny McMillan of the Great Whisky company. The idea, loosely, is to assemble a group of whisky geeks together in Scotland and indulge in a weekend of whisky-tastings, a distillery visit, and general fun and shenanigans inbetween.

Hurtling up the M6, Señor Duckworth and myself excitedly speculated on what the weekend would have in store for us...

Andy dazzles with his pointing skills.

After a quick drop in to Bruichladdich HQ at Glasgow to say hello, we boarded our coach and headed towards Lomond amidst a flurry of sample swapping and tasty across the aisle and back and forth between seats. Andy's dram selection box went down an absolute treat.

Under a grey sky and in a fine drizzle we left the coach to board the ferry that would take us to the jetty of the Rowardennan lodge where we'd be staying on the north-east bank of the loch.

Gorgeous view across Loch Lomond.


The Dramboree guys had a great line up for us for the weekend. We enjoyed:

  • An exclusive tasting of work-in-progress whiskies from Dewars
  • Select antique bottlings from bygone eras in a tasting of 9 drams dating back to the 1940s
  • An exploration of the language of the senses from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • Highland Park's latest NAS whisky, Dark Origins, plus some choice bottles from the rest of their line up.
  • Some of Dufftown Whisky Shop's more interesting offerings
  • A grand day out to the Glengoyne distillery
  • Epic meat barbecue from the lovely folks at Master of Malt
  • A shared drams table with around 130 different bottles of whisky to try at our leisure
  • A special commemorative bottling of Ledaig to remember the weekend.

There were far too many amazing drams to recount, but highlights for me were the 1970s ceramic decanter Bruichladdich 15, the 1980s Bowmore 12, 1950s Teachers (unbelievably tasty!) and an absolutely corking 30 year old Linkwood from Diageo's Rare Malts series.

The Drams Table - West Side

Such whisky. Much antique. Wow.

The Drams Table - East Side

The famously fickle Scottish sunshine even put in an appearance. Feeling warm and merry, we made it out for dips in the loch, leisurely cigars, and a pan-European kick-about out on the lawn.

And a glorious weekend it was. Thanks everyone - we'll see you in 2015!

You can find more out about Dramboree over at http://www.dramboree.co.uk/
- Sean


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The United States of Dramerica

For June's Whisky Club tasting we headed back across the pond for the second time to sample and enjoy some of the best Whiskey from the USA

First up a bit of info on different types of American Whiskey. There are predominantly 3 main types of American whiskey:

Bourbon - Made with a mash bill of at least 51% Corn and then made up of other grains such as Rye and malted Barley
Rye - Made with a mash bill of at least 51% Rye and then made up of other grains such as corn and malted barley.
Wheat - Made with.. well.. wheat. At least 51% of it to be precise


Tincup Whiskey - 42% (Colorado)

Jess Graber started to play around with distilling many years back. In 2004 he turned his hobby into a business and that was how Tincup came into existence.

The whiskey is named after the rich mining heritage of Colorado during the Gold Rush. The miners would take to having their daily libation from the tin cups that were around at the time. The bottle actually comes with a tin cup lid too. Matured for 4-5 years.

This is a high rye content bourbon whiskey. You could almost say a bourbon/rye hybrid in terms of flavour. The nose was very spicy sweet with clove and the palate rich, spicy and very long on the finish.

For around the £30+ mark you can't argue with that.





Willett Single Pot Still Reserve - 47% (Kentucky)

Named after the original distillery founder, Willett's whiskey is produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, the same people who make Kentucky Vintage that we had last year and the Noah's Mill in this post.

For the past few years, KBD's distillery has been undergoing improvement works and rumours are that they have actually been using Heaven Hill distillery to make their more recent products. This whiskey comes in a bottle that gives a nod to the pot still that it is said to be made in (although a column still is thought to be used for secondary distillation).

The nose was much deeper than the tin cup, not as tinny! Tasters mentioned plums, brown sugar and raisins, on the palate people said dark chocolate and a bittering medium finish.

Willett Pot Still Reserve is hard to get hold of in the UK when you can get it thoguh it retails for around £45-£50

Noah's Mill- 57.1% (Kentucky)
Our second whiskey of the night from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers and this time it's the turn of the head turning Noah's Mill. Bottled at a hefty 57.1%, unusual for bourbon given the demand and production methods, Noah's Mill is tentatively approaching as craft presentation.

Noah's Mill used to be a dedicated 15 yr old whiskey however it now contains whiskey between 4 and 20 years of age with no age stated on the label.

The nose was very tight at first with raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and tobacco with a spicy, almost perfumed palate as someone pointed out alongside herbs and oak. For those that tried with water it was said that more chocolate and grain notes became present but in some ways took away the depth on the palate.

A great small batch bourbon with a surprisingly smooth profile considering the strength although still packs a fair amount of punch! £50



Corsair Ryemageddon- 46% (Tennessee)
Our penultimate dram came in the form of the only dedicate Rye of the night. Produced by small self professed 'artisan' distillers Corsair based in the Bible Belt town of Nashville Tennessee. Corsair are creating some very interesting experimental and small batch spirits and are starting to build a name for themselves in the market.

So why Ryemegeddon? First of all a great name for a product, very light hearted showing that these guys are enjoying their craft. What sold this bottle for us though is that it contained a mashbill of Rye (obviously) and chocolate malt like that used ins some of the delicious dark rich beers we at the MWC enjoy so much inc porters and stouts.

The nose was sweet with a lot of people immediately making reference to the chocolate malt influence, Cacao powder, dark chocolate, spice and surprisingly supple for a Rye which is normally seen as Bourbon's fiery cousin. The palate was silky in texture with more mentions of chocolate based sundries, nesquick milkshake, then with a grain and vanilla influence from the rye itself.

A fantastic dram it has to be said and great to try something so unique. Available from The Whisky Exchange for £45


Balcones Brimstone- 53.1% (Texas)

No USA tasting in modern times would be complete without paying homage to one of America's rising stars from the Lone Star State. We featured Balcone's True Blue in our last USA tasting in 2013 here. However this year we plumped for a bottle of the famous Brimstone.

Brimstone is very unique in that the whisky (Brimstone refer to it as Whisky not Whiskey) is smoked. However, when we say smoked we don't mean like Scottish whisky where the barley is dried by burning peat oh no no no. Chip Tate and the team actually smoked the distillate itself using texas scrub oak chips. The same distillate as True Blue using Blue Corn. The result? Well...

"Frazzles!" "Pork Scratchings!" "BBQ Ribs!" were the immediate cries upon first nosing the freshly poured drams. After this there were mentions of gammon steak, wood smoke, chipotle and sweetcorn. On the palate everyone was quiet for an unusual amount of time.. "savoury" seemed to be a running theme with various barbecue meats listed with a long lingering finish that many of us had with us the following day.

A unique and engaging whisky indeed and well worth the RRP of £65



The overall favourite of the night was hard to determine as we had a 50/50 split between Brimstone and Willet with Ryemageddon bringing in 3rd place followed by Tincup and Noah's Mill bringing up the rear.

5 great expressions showing the variety and quality you can now find in the American whiskey industry.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

There's Liquid Gold In Them There Hills!


Whisky is enjoying an enormous boom worldwide. The distilleries from Lowlands to Highlands, from Islay to Orkney, are all struggling to keep up with a surging demand the likes of which has never been seen.

Countries with no established traditions of whisky-making have seen dozens of distilleries take root, ready to serve this growing demand. World whisky is a rising star. Having sampled some delicious specimens right here in the Manchester whisky club, I can confirm that whisky needn't be Scottish to be absolutely fantastic.

Whisky festivals and awards have been singing the praises of Australia's "Sullivan's Cove", the Amrut and Paul John whiskies from India, Sweden's Mackmyra, and so many more. Distilleries south of the border in Britain have confidently waded into the market with offerings like the excellent Penderyn whisky from Wales, and the English Whisky releases from Norfolk's St George's Distillery.

Meanwhile, on an old Victorian farm just north of Bassenthwaite Lake, something is stirring...


Soon, very soon, the sweet rising steam of stills will rise from the Lake District. Yes, folks, there will be a brand-new distillery right here in the North West - the fledgeling Lakes Distillery in Cumbria.

Cumbria actually has a well-documented history of whisky production throughout British history, much of it illicit (as is most whisky production historically through one era of prohibition or another). The tall peaks throughout the lake district receive a huge amount of rainfall every year (all those lakes were a bit of a clue!) and this makes it an ideal location for a distillery since the most important resource for making whisky is having a reliable water source.

With this in mind, Paul Currie set out to create a spirit that will do the Lakes proud. The Lakes Distillery is currently under careful construction with a view to running spirit off the stills before Christmas this year. The whisky will be in a highland style - sweet, floral and very slightly peated - and will be matured in high quality ex-bourbon and sherry casks. The distillery also have plans to experiment with casks and peat-levels in future.

Paul and his father set up the Isle of Arran distillery in 1995

Naturally, as lads from up North, it makes myself and Señor Duckworth very proud indeed that we're soon to see another English distillery drawing sweet delicious barley spirit off their stills. Like kids off to the seaside, we hopped in the car and hit the road for a visit.

A pleasant drive through the hills later, we were met by John Drake, the distillery manager, who gave us a run-down of his plans for the distillery: from the layout of the site, through to the operation of the washbacks, the stills, the water - the whole works in glorious geeky detail.

Hard hats on, John was even kind enough to give us a nosy around the building site and talk us through how it's all going to come together.

Across the lawn, towards the courtyard

John walks us through each part of the building - this will be the bistro

This will be the still house, featuring the distillery's specification copper stills

Kid in a sweet shop
So, exciting times ahead for whisky in the North West! The distillery currently have a blend available for sale which they put together themselves. "The One" contains a selection of different whiskies from across the British Isles and is very tasty indeed.

You can pick these up on the Lakes Website

Thanks for the tour, John - can't wait to see how things unfold!

- Sean & Andy