The Singleton of Dufftown, Malt Master’s Selection

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This week I have been pouring and exploring a new dram, a new release from Diageo under their Singleton banner, the Singleton of Dufftown, Malt Master’s Selection. Before we get into the dramming I would like to thank Steve, from the Whisky Wire, for asking me to take part in this exciting whisky flash blog event to celebrate the launch of this new product, and to the Singleton team for organising the samples. Additionally, if you want to check out my fellow flash bloggers thoughts on this dram, search #Singleton on twitter.

First things first, let’s explain what the Singleton is. The Singleton is a range/brand of single malts which are released by Diageo, though it doesn’t come from one distillery but three. Whisky from the Glen Ord, Glendullan and Dufftown distilleries are all bottled as single malts under the brand title Singleton, so for example, the Singleton that we are trying today consists of malt whisky from the Dufftown distillery. Diageo have admitted themselves that the reason for doing this is to combine the volume of the three sites in an attempt to make it the world’s #1 malt whisky brand. Whether you think it should be counted as one or three products it is working pretty well for them so far, since being launched 10 years ago the Singleton brand has climbed to 5th globally!


The new release that we have here is the revamped entry level product for the Dufftown range of Singleton, named the ‘Malt Master’s Selection’. Presented at 40% abv., this non-age stated dram has been designed to offer a ‘slightly sweeter’ style compared to the 12 year old. The maturation has taken place in a range of cask types, namely Bourbon and Sherry, with a large proportion of these being refill casks to allow ‘the sweet yet refined distillery character to shine through’. Before we get to the tasting I just want to say that I like that they have kept the over-sized hipflask look during the rebrand as it think it looks very smart. Anyway…


Straight away on the nose we are met with apples; baked cooking apples and crisp red apple peel, which is accompanied by white pepper and soft sweet spices. Think cloves, nutmeg and dried ginger. There is also a candied orange peel aroma which is matched by a slightly savoury herbal note, maybe parsley. It’s very sweet and fruity on the nose. Matching the intense fruitiness all the way is this incredibly creamy, almost heavy, custard note which sits over everything.


Mixed peel and lemon extract win the race to the palate, which is quickly joined by a gentle wave of hot ground peppercorns and sweet green chilli. A light honeyed sweetness develops through the palate as does the baked cooking apples from the nose, though this is a surprisingly savoury dram compared to the nose. It’s very herbal and packed with rich malt and toasted oak. You can tell that it is comprised of some fairly young whisky though, due to the wide range of casks used, there is quite a lot going on.


Again it’s quite savoury with lots of herbal suggestions, perhaps a slight spearmint tea note. It’s very malt heavy and loaded with more of that toasted oak. The Finish is quite short in length and is a bit dusty and drying – making you want to go back for another sip!

Well there we have it. As far as non-age stated entry levels bottlings go, this ain’t half bad at all! When the RRP is £30 (I’ve seen it online for £26) you aren’t going to expect the best dram you have ever tried. What we have here is a very enjoyable, simple, everyday drinking whisky. It’s the sort of dram that you can sit back and put your feet up with after a long day and enjoy a couple drams of. For the price, I think I might have to get myself a bottle; it’s super easy to drink and would be a nice introduction for non-whisky drinker to the category. I imagine this would make an amazing old fashioned (unfortunately I finished my sample so can’t test it out!).

Thank you again to Steve for asking me to take part in this flash blog event, and to the kind folk over at Singleton for organising. Be sure to take a look at some of my fellow flash bloggers thoughts over on twitter too to see their opinions on the Singleton of Dufftowns, Malt Master’s Selection, simply search #Singleton.



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Walsh Whiskey Tweet Tasting

I was invited to take part in another whisky – or in this case whiskey – tweet tasting recently, but was unable to take part due to a last minute change of plans. I tried the usual suspects to see if they would like to take part but no one was free. Seeing as how I had the samples, and I said to the chaps at Walsh Whiskey that I would let them know what I thought, I thought I might as well to a wee tasting myself.

The tweet tasting included four samples supplied by Walsh Whiskey Distillery, if you have never heard of Walsh Whiskey then you may have heard of some of their bottlings, namely the Irishman and Writers Tears which have won several awards over recent years. They are an Irish company which only recently started producing their own whiskey, but they also have a range of blends, single malts and Pot Still bottlings that they sell while waiting on their own stuff maturing.


The tasting pack came with a folder including some distillery information and some information behind the whiskeys that we would be trying on the evening. The samples were as follows:

  • Pot Still New Make Spirit – 75.5% ABV
  • The Irishman 43% ABV
  • Writers Tears Copper Pot 40% ABV
  • Writers Tears Red Head 46% ABV

I tried to not look at my twitter feed before I had my wee sampling session as I like going into things blind and not be led by what others found in the drams, hopefully I’m not too far off the mark, so let’s get to it!

Pot Still New Make -75.5% ABV:


In Ireland there are 3 main types of whisky produced. The first two, malt and grain whiskey, are quite common, the third is a little bit different and this is known as single pot still whiskey. Single pot still whiskey, as it sounds, is produced in a single pot still, the same style as those used for malt whiskey. The difference here though is that the mash bill will comprise of both malted and unmalted barley. This sample has come from the Pot still side of production at the Walsh distillery.


This is a very sweet and fruity character of new make, and very light as well, as a result of the triple distillation. The big thing that comes through on the nose here for me is apples and fresh berries – mostly brambles (black berries) for me – with a light suggestion of malt, and a lot of sugary sweetness. With time, baked apples, yoghurt coated raisins and bruised pears. There is remarkably little alcohol on the nose for how strong it is.


Well. There is the alcohol, and a strange bitterness too through the development. On the palate there isn’t much to discuss, there is a bitter-sweet grassy note, again a touch of apple and thats about it. New make is always a strange thing to try; I’ve never been a big fan of drinking it. It is always very fruity and sweet on the nose, almost sickly sweet. Then on the palate it has a big blast of alcohol and the flavours are more driven by the grains used. There is good reason they lock this stuff away in a cask for years on end, it’s drinkable, but not overly palatable.

The Irishman 12yo single malt – 43% ABV:


The Irishman is a single malt – back on familiar ground – that has been triple distilled and then matured in 1st fill Bourbon casks, meaning they have been used previously for the maturation of Bourbon in America and this is the first time that they have been used for the maturation of Irish whiskey. Being matured solely in first fill casks and being triple distilled I’m expecting some big cask influence to come through here.


It’s quite unusual on the nose this one. The first thing that comes across to me is green apples, but not fresh apples, it’s almost like a synthetic green apple sweet taste. This is accompanied with rich oak, demerara sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, vanilla and some coconut too, and strangely enough I think I can get strawberries here too. You can tell straight away that fresher casks have been used here as there are quite a few Bourbon-like characters coming through.


Wow, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here, I hate using the word smooth in relation to whiskey but this just is, it is so smooth and light on the palate, its lovely. A good amount of spice comes through on the palate; there is some white pepper, nutmeg and again a slight sprinkling of cinnamon. Nuts are fairly prominent here too with coconut again and a fatty almond-like taste too, all with a good pasting of golden syrup over the top.

Writer Tears, Copper Pot – 40% ABV:


Copper pot is a blended Irish whiskey comprising of around 60% malt whiskey and 40% Pot still whiskey, no grain whiskey is used in this blend. All the content has been triple distilled and has again been matured in former Bourbon casks. This blend is sort of a remastering of an old recipe, known as the ‘Champagne of Irish Whiskey’, which is said to have been enjoyed by many writers in its day. It is said that they enjoyed drinking this so much that when they cried their tears would be Whiskey – alcoholics!


Like with what we have tried so far again apples are quite prominent, red apples this time. Plenty of sweetness too here with a lovely milk chocolateyness, salted caramel and a creamy vanilla custard. There are lots of fruits present too with nectarines, strawberry jam and kiwi fruit, as well as a pear cider-like smell. All finished off with milky porridge with drizzly honey on top.


More spice is present here with vanilla, ground dried ginger and cracked white pepper. The apples again come through with over ripe pears and dried orange. It is also quite woody on the palate with bitter tannins and a fair amount of drying woodiness, which is joined by the slightest touch of cask char through the development and bitter dark chocolate.

Writers Tears, Red Head – 46% ABV:


The final dram of what has been an excellent selection thus far. The Red Head is so named as it has been matured solely in Oloroso sherry casks, though to my eyes it isn’t hugely darker than the other samples so I’m assuming it must be mostly refill sherry casks. Like the others this has also all been triple distilled but this one is again a single malt and not a blend like the Copper Pot.


It is definitely refill casks that they have used here and I think it’s is just as well, the light character of Irish whiskey would be completely dominated by the use of first fill sherry casks resulting in you basically getting sherry, the fact that they have used refill casks means that it still actually tastes like whiskey as opposed to sherry, which personally, is what I want my whiskey to taste of! There is a gentle aroma of fruity Oloroso sherry with raisins, mixed peel and walnuts, as well as a nice sherry cask spiciness with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. There is a big note of pear drops to start with which over time merges with the other aromas creating a strange carrot cake-like nose.


The spice from the casks is much more robust here with a fiery ginger mouth feel accompanied by cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom pods, as well as a drying sherry oak wood character. Dried fruits and mixed peel come through with baked apple pie and rum and raisin ice cream. The development becomes quite tannic but is lifted by a honey character which rides through to the finish.

Well. That was a lovely wee tasting. I wish so much that I had been able to take part in the actual tweet tasting as I’m sure it would have been a great night and it is interesting comparing notes with others. I must say a massive thank you to Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire and the good folk at Walsh Whiskey for providing the samples, and also apologise for not being able to take part in the night. I will definitely enjoy what’s left of these samples and may have to look into getting a bottle of the Writers Tears Red Head, my definite favourite of the four.




Wemyss Malts Tweet Tasting

On Wednesday, the 9th of November, I was invited to take part in a Wemyss Malts Tweet Tasting, hosted by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire. If you have never heard of a tweet tasting before then it is exactly as it sounds, you get sent out samples then at a certain time on a certain date you savour the delicious drams and tweet live your thoughts with others who are partaking. On the night in question I was also joined by Richard from the Edradynate whisky club, a repayment if you will as he and Hugh let me join them on a previous tasting which they had been selected for, as well as him being a fine chap indeed.


On the night we were given the opportunity to try three of Wemyss’ new Batch Strength blended malt bottlings, all ranging between 54.5% and 57%ABV, as well as a premixed Rob Roy cocktail. The blended malts that we would be sampling were all launched just last month and are all limited edition, to just 6000 bottles of each. Each of these blends will use signature malts, from all across Scotland, which are used to define their main flavour’s and aromas, which lead to the names they are given i.e. Hive, Peat Chimney.

The Blended malts that we were given to sample were as follows:

Wemyss Malts The Hive (54.5%ABV)

Wemyss Malts Spice King (56%ABV)

Wemyss Malts The Peat Chimney (57%ABV)

All of which were proudly labelled as Unchillfiltered and natural colour, absolutely smashing!

I was getting rather nervous as the tasting approached and my samples still hadn’t arrived in the mail, I think a lot of people were in the same boat here, bloody couriers. Then, finally, about 5 hours before the tasting was meant to begin there was a knock on the door. Low and behold it was my samples, the relief and excitement was amazing. A sleek brown cardboard box with a trio of blended malt delights and an intriguing cocktail, and not a moment too soon!


As 7pm arrived, samples ready to be cracked open, it was time to get stuck into some whisky! So here is how the night went, and my thoughts on each blend.

The Hive Batch Strength:



It becomes apparent straight away as to why they have called this one hive, immediately on the nose you are met with a rich and earthy Manuka honey and loads of waxiness. The hive has an almost savoury nose; there is sweet beeswax candles, fatty smelling almond butter and savoury rice cakes. With time more sweetness comes through with salted caramel, mixed peel and a light suggestion of marmalade and suet dumplings.


The palate is just totally different from the nose. There is so much more richness and spice pushing its way through, backed up by a good dose of alcohol. The hive is very lively on the palate with nags of woody spice, especially nutmeg, milk chocolate and a touch of salt.

Spice King Batch Strength:



For me the nose had a lot of similarities to the Hive, that fatty, waxy aroma was still present, again with honey, a touch of peat smoke and a bit spicier too. Both of these first two drams had a lot of similarities and put me very much in mind of Clynelish. The nose is quite maritime with sea spray, spice, caramel, burning heather and digestive biscuits. It’s very exciting!


The Spice King is very big on the palate; the smoke that was really soft on the nose is much more prominent now. Vegetal/earthy peat, white chocolate and bitter lemon rind, with time and a dash of water more fruitiness and nuttiness comes through with sultanas and diced walnuts.

Peat Chimney Batch Strength:



As the name may suggest, yes, this is peaty, but its not overly smoky smelling. It smells of damp, vegetal, smouldering peat, damp grass and like the others quite coastal and mineral rich too. After smoke time in the glass it becomes a bit meatier too with smoked gammon/pork crackling.


The palate is hugely drying and also a bit fizzy; there is a big blast of smoke, like burning leaves, and heaps of chilli too. The meatiness from the nose also comes through on the palate but to me I was more like meat flavouring, it reminded me a lot of McCoy’s flame grilled steak crisps – if you have never had them then get them tried! – it’s a very odd tasting note I know. And a bit of icing sugar dusted over the top too to tame the smoke.

Rob Roy:


This was a very divisive part of the evening, the whisky ‘purists’ were somewhat offended but as always with whisky drink it how you like it, be that neat, with water, ice or even in a fantastic cocktail such as this. I am quite a fan of a good Rob Roy and so I was looking forward to this. It wasn’t like a Rob Roy that I had ever had before, firstly because it was made using peated whisky, their Peat Chimney, and also had sherry and cherry bitters in it!

The recipe was as follows:

50ml Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney – Batch Strength

30ml Sweet Vermouth

10ml PX Sherry

10ml Demerara Syrup

Dash of Cherry Bitters

I would definitely recommend trying this cocktail, or others, as cocktails are a great way to enjoy whisky, and can bring a whole new dimension to what is a great spirit.

And with that, the night was over, the highlight for me was definitely the Spice King and everything else a very close second. Thank you so much to Wemyss Malts for providing the drams for the night and to Steve Rush at The Whisky Wire for hosting. Also to Richard for his company and for drinking half my samples…



Tomatin Tasting at The Royal Mile Whisky Shop

I have always been a big advocate of Tomatin, everything of theirs that I have tried has been of great quality and very characterful, though I have tried much less of their range than I would like. So when my good friends Richard and Hugh of the Edradynate Whisky Club informed me that they had a ticket going spare for a Tomatin tasting at the Royal Mile Whisky shop how could I possibly refuse?

The tasting was held at the Royal Mile Whisky shop in Edinburgh, funnily enough on the royal mile – who would have guessed – and was hosted by Tomatins current Master Distiller, Graham Eunson. I always enjoy going to tastings when you get someone who knows the ins and outs of the distillery and production and know their product inside out instead of just repeating some marketing bumf, and the chance to enjoy some fine drams of Tomatin with the man who makes it was a real treat!

As soon as we arrived at the shop we were handed a dram of the Tomatin 12yo, an excellent ‘entry level’ bottling with loads of character for its age, to get our palates going while we waited on everyone else arriving. We arrived about 10 minutes before the tasting was set to begin so we savoured our sample and wandered around the shop looking at the countless bottles of whisky and chatting away.

Once everyone arrived and Graham introduced himself and gave us a bit of his story we got down to the tasting. The first whisky of the night was the Tomatin 12yo, which we had been enjoying while waiting on everyone else arriving. Graham generously topped up our glasses so that we had something to nose while he took us through our first of the drams on offer that night, which I was very grateful for, I’m not in the habit of turning down extra whisky and I certainly don’t plan on starting! The 12yo is a lovely introduction to the style of whisky you get from Tomatin. There is lots of fruitiness, mainly green fruits with apples and pear, and also a good amount of nuttiness, followed by a lovely buttery, cereal character. It feels like a very traditional and old fashioned style of whisky which I personally really enjoy.


Dram number two for the evening was a real highlight for me, it was the Tomatin 14yo. This whisky has been finished for between 1.5 to 2 years in Tawny Port casks, which had previous held Port for around 30 years! This is an incredibly rich and spicy whisky, with a lot going on. On the nose there are prunes, liquorice, red berries and earthy Manuka honey followed by heaps of spice, toffee and winey goodness on the palate.

After having tried these two core range expressions we then moved on to something a little more unique. The third and fourth whiskies of the night were two single cask bottlings of Tomatin, both of which are actually exclusive to the Royal Mile Whisky shop. The first single cask bottling was an 11yo Tomatin aged in a 1st fill Barrel. This one was right up my street with a heady mix of banana, coconut and vanilla, it was like a very boozy banana sundae, very boozy at a respectable 56.2%ABV.

The second of the Royal Mile Whisky exclusives was a 19yo 1997 vintage Tomatin which had been matured in a Refill Sherry Hogshead, a very unusual cask type in the industry today. Limited to just 178 bottles and presented at 58.2%ABV this whisky is amazing! There is a huge tannic grapyness upfront on the nose accompanied by cloves, black pepper, dark chocolate and just the slightest whiff of smoke. With a few drops of water much of the fruit pushes past the spice and the alcohol, bringing more of those dried fruit notes that you would associate with sherry cask maturation.


After having sampled two very good single cask whiskies we went back to the core range for what would be our fifth dram of the night. Dram number five took us to the peated side of Tomatin with their Cù Bòcan, and this was actually my first time trying this expression. I can’t for the life of me understand why it has taken me this long to find this bottling, I’ve heard really good thing about the Cù Bòcan and I can see why. The smoke is very light on the nose joined by aromas of citrus peel, vanilla and good drizzle of honey. On the palate the peat smoke is far more intense and is accompanied by pepper, caramel and again citrus.

With that the ‘official’ part of the tasting was over but Graham, being the fine gent that he is, had an ace up his sleeve. He produced an unbranded bottle with just a sticker on it and began going round pouring measures of it. This was a very different style of whisky indeed; it wasn’t like anything I had ever nosed before. It was like a very intense and fresh fruit salad with strawberries, kiwis, gooseberries and nectarines, carried by a dousing of runny honey and white chocolate. Graham said that this whisky was at around 45-46%ABV which I found hard to believe. He then let us know that what we were in fact tasting was a 1976 vintage Tomatin matured in a refill Hogshead, drawn straight from the cask the day previous! A 40yo single cask Tomatin! Just wow, and unfortunately this one was not for sale, though that is probably a good thing after having tried it I would be far too tempted.

I was very torn on my favourite dram of the night, the last one obviously a highlight, I really loved the 14yo with that strong Port cask influence but the 11yo single barrel was very good indeed. In the end I decided to get myself a bottle of the single cask as they were the same price, with my tasting discount it came to only £40, an absolute steal for an 11yo single cask whisky! I plan on cracking it open very soon and I will be sure to do a review of it when I do.


I’d like to thank Richard and Hugh for the ticket, Richard especially for being the designated driver – I hope he enjoys his samples when he gets round to it – and Royal Mile Whiskies for hosting yet another great tasting. A massive thank you also to Graham from Tomatin for his excellent presentation and for providing such good whisky for the night, especially that 76’ vintage, wow!



Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tasting -October 2016 Outrun


I recently attended another Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) night, a highlight of my whisky calendar, and enjoyed it so much I thought I would do a wee write up of it and share it with you all. The Society nights include a tasting of five of the latest SMWS outrun, as well as a one course meal. The outrun that we were tasting from was the October outrun – the most recent outrun at the time of writing this – which is now available from the SMWS website.

As I have previously discussed on the blog the SMWS use coding’s for bottles instead of putting distillery names etc. on the bottle, this is fully explained here.

All of the drams that we tried on this night were cask strength, as always with the Society, most of which were over 60%ABV, so as you can imagine we were thankful for the meal in-between. Here is a list of all of the cracking drams we tried that night, as well as the notes that I got from them off the cuff, I would have liked to sit down with each of them and analyse them a bit more in-depth, but there were more drams to be had, and I couldn’t say no to them! At the Society’s tastings they give you the panels tasting notes, I always refrain from reading these until after I’ve had a go at the whisky as it stops your nose from being guided towards certain aromas etc. I always like comparing my notes to the panels after I have tried them also.

Dram number one for the night was from the Dailuaine distillery and it was a real treat!

Cask No. 41.82 – Dailuaine
Bottle Name Lively & Entertaining
Age 11yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60.1% ABV.
Number of Bottles 192
Tasting Notes Constantly changing aromas; candied ginger, lemon and honey sponge cake, sour apple sherbet as well as aniseed and ginger thrown in for good measure – this one just would not sit still! So we took a sip – what a surprise; spicy chocolate-dipped pineapple with sea salt as well as sour cherry and black pepper ice cream – we certainly did not get bored with this one. Water calmed it down – well, a little – slightly smoky white peppered strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette on the nose and milk chocolate with zingy coconut lime and sea salt in the finish.

Wow, this whisky has a fantastic nose. It is very sweet and very exciting. The big note that came forth for me was coconut ice-cream, I’ve never had a tasting note stand out so prominently for me before. With time, and trying to divert myself from the ice-cream, there was also crème brulee, rich milk chocolate, white pepper and golden syrup. And an odd note almost like sun tan lotion. With water more fruit came forth with green apples, lemon rind and rhubarb and custard sweets. A cracking start to the evening!

The second dram of the evening was a 13yo Aultmore matured in a Refill Hogshead. I’ve had Aultmores in the past; it is a very delicate and subtle whisky, and this was no exception to that rule.

Cask No. 73.77 – Aultmore
Bottle Name Back in a Briary Bower
Age 13yo
Cask Type Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 60.6% ABV.
Number of Bottles 288
Tasting Notes The nose starts with a fleeting lemon and lime freshness, before shifting to subtle floral notes, eventually settling to tempting honey and crème anglaise sweetness. The palate synthesises all those elements impressively and the sweetness has a lovely sharpness to balance it – dry pear, flower stems, candied orange and lemon slices and tinned mandarins – with a teasingly tannic, tongue-tingling finish (leather, wood and sugar-coated fennel-seed Mukhwas). The reduced nose has sylvan floral echoes of briary, dog-rose bowers, Florentines, sherbet lemons and chocolate-coated nuts. The palate now combines lemon and ginger tea with toffee and chocolate – as balanced as a Bach masterpiece.

I’ve tried several Aultmores before and it is a delicate and subtle whisky. This single cask bottling has all of these same hallmarks. Initially there is a slight whiff of citrus zest, possibly lime, then after this it is dominated by loads of grassy/hay and herbal notes. With time notes of honey and damp saw dust come through as well as honey dew melon and bitter lemon rind. With time in the glass this dram became quite biscuity and almost meaty.

The colour on our third whisky of the evening was immense; I was a glorious deep amber colour. It turned out to be a Glen Moray matured for 10 years in a first fill Moscatel Hogshead.

Cask No. 35.150 – Glen Moray
Bottle Name Corn N’ Oil
Age 10yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Moscatel Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 60.8% ABV.
Number of Bottles 276
Tasting Notes Looking at the colour we prepared ourselves for a surprise and what a surprise we got! Creosote treated wood fence, burnt molasses candy, spicy sweetened chestnut puree and Tortuga Caribbean rum cake. On the palate neat, it was a tannic, oaky, spicy and sweet attack on the taste buds but all in perfect balance. A drop of water and we found ourselves on a pirate ship with warning shots being fired at the enemy , ‘Surrender or die’ – they surrendered and we celebrated drinking Corn N ’Oil, very dark, oil-like blackstrap rum mixed with a sweet spicy syrup called Falernum.

Well. This whisky is…different, it’s not like anything I have ever had before. The nose is simply fantastic. There is meaty, winey tannins upfront on the nose with a big toffee/burnt caramel note. Lots of woody ginger and dried cashew nuts. The palate was a bit of a let-down after the nose, it was incredibly mouth drawing and very drying and tasted pretty sulphury and metallic. With water it was hugely improved however with rich Manuka honey, more burnt caramel and red wine coming through.

The penultimate dram of the evening was a very old bottling of Linkwood, 26yo, from a Refill Hogshead. This was my first ever Linkwood and I really enjoyed it.

Cask No. 39.135 – Linkwood
Bottle Name Magical & Heavenly
Age 26yo
Cask Type Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 58.8% ABV.
Number of Bottles 186
Tasting Notes We loved the nose – calling it ‘special’ and ‘magical’ – exotic fruits (juicy pineapple, mango, melon, dried cherries) rubbed shoulders with brandy snaps and chocolate-drizzled Pavlova – plus cigar boxes and pipe racks. The neat palate had more attack – tongue-tingling leather, tobacco and spice – but dark chocolate, manuka honey and dried pineapple and papaya made it easy to forgive. The reduced nose continued the dream – tropical trail mix, mejool dates and bougainvillea by a holiday hotel pool. The palate, with just a touch of water, was totally rehabilitated – cherries in chocolate, mango, sugary coffee dregs, polished wood and spices – rather heavenly, actually.

Wow, what a nose! Candy floss, dried papaya, pineapple backed up with a good amount of sweetness. I would never have guessed that it was a 26yo whisky, the cask has been used a good few times before this fill if its 26yo! It’s sweet, fruity, buttery and really well balanced. With time it begins to show it’s age with more leather, tannins and wood spice. This whisky is just very buttery an oily feeling, especially on the palate; buttery short bread, buttery popcorn, butter, butter, butter. It’s literally like silky and sweet melted butter.

The last dram, as always with any SMWS tasting, gets a bit peaty. Our peat monster for this evening was an 8yo Bunnahabhain, the details are below.

Cask No. 10.98 – Bunnahabhain (Peated)
Bottle Name Super Smoky Firestarter
Age 8yo
Cask Type 2nd Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60.4% ABV.
Number of Bottles 168
Tasting Notes This is a young Firestarter of a dram! The initial nose was super smoky, sweet and salty. Delicate bourbon notes managed to shine through despite the intensity of the smoke. There was also a curious mix of smoked fish, white chocolate and ash. The taste was that of a coastal bonfire, those who gathered around enjoyed smoked monkey nuts and tuna nori rolls. Water lit a barbecue, fuelled by charcoal and hickory and very occasionally smattered with sea spray. On the palate the sweetness had really intensified and we found flavours of smoked apple, ham hock and heavy, thick, grey smoke.

Initially on the nose there are strong notes of fishy, coastal, salty peat. On the palate it is really vegetal, bitter vegetation like daffodils and dandelions, mixed in with a heavy, thick smoke. It is a spirit driven whisky, it’s meaty, and malty and has a sulphury tang to it. There is a light crème anglaise on the nose from the cask but little but smoke and spirit character is getting through. It is a sweet, savoury and smoky delight.

Well. There we have it, a write up of another fantastic whisky fuelled night. I always find it interesting comparing my notes to those of the panel after a tasting, and seeing how close or far away I was. And seeing how outrageous some the panels notes are. A personal favourite note of this tasting was on bottle 35.150 ‘A drop of water and we found ourselves on a pirate ship with warning shots being fired at the enemy’ I know just what they mean…

The highlights for me were probably the first and third whiskies, 41.82 (the 11yo Dailuaine) and 35.150 (the 10yo Glen Moray). The Fourth whisky, 39.135 (Linkwood) – Magical & Heavenly, was just that, it was a great great whisky; I just couldn’t justify the price for it. In the end I treated myself to an early Christmas present getting a bottle of the Dailuaine and the Glen Moray which I will be reviewing in the future as they are such interesting whiskies.


Thank you to Jim Coleman – the SMWS ambassador hosting the evening- and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for yet another excellent evening and I look forward to the next.



The SMWS – Cracking The Code

I recently reviewed a Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Balmenach, 48.70, and in the review I was discussing the coding system that they use on their bottles. I mentioned that I would do a write up of this to better explain how it works, though it really is quite simple.

Any bottle that is released by the SMWS will have two numbers on the bottle, for the Balmenach I reviewed these were 48 and 70. The first number on any of their bottles is representative of the distillery that the whisky originated from; every distillery is given a different number. The second number is to represent the number of casks that they have bottled from that distillery. So to put it simply, 48.70 – Balmenach is the 48th distillery on the SMWS coding system, and this bottle came from the 70th cask that they have bottled from this distillery. As well as this there is obviously other information on the specific cask i.e. cask type, age, the strength of the bottling.

The coding for the SMWS’s bottling used to be a close kept secret, though now it is free information, you can simply search it on the internet and easily find out, or if you are at one of their tastings they will more often than not tell you the distillery anyway. For those of you that are interested a list of the distilleries and code numbers is shown below:

Distilleries SMWS Codes
Glenfarclas Distillery 1
Glenlivet Distillery 2
Bowmore Distillery 3
Highland Park Distillery 4
Auchentoshan Distillery 5
Glen Deveron (Macduff Distillery) 6
Longmorn Distillery 7
Tamdhu Distillery 8
Glen Grant Distillery 9
Bunnahabhain Distillery 10
Tomatin Distillery 11
Benriach Distillery 12
Dalmore Distillery 13
Talisker Distillery 14
Glenfiddich Distillery 15
Glenturret Distillery 16
Scapa Distillery 17
Inchgower Distillery 18
Glen Garioch Distillery 19
Inverleven Distillery 20
Glenglassaugh Distillery 21
Glenkinchie Distillery 22
Bruichladdich Distillery 23
Macallan Distillery 24
Rosebank Distillery 25
Clynelish Distillery 26
Springbank Distillery 27
Tullibardine Distillery 28
Laphroaig Distillery 29
Glenrothes Distillery 30
Isle of Jura Distillery 31
Edradour Distillery 32
Ardbeg Distillery 33
Tamnavulin Distillery 34
Glen Moray Distillery 35
Benrinnes Distillery 36
Cragganmore Distillery 37
Caperdonich Distillery 38
Linkwood Distillery 39
Balvenie Distillery 40
Dailuaine Distillery 41
Ledaig (Tobermory Distillery) 42
Port Ellen Distillery 43
Craigellachie Distillery 44
Dallas Dhu Distillery 45
Glenlossie Distillery 46
Benromach Distillery 47
Balmenach Distillery 48
St. Magdalene Distillery 49
Bladnoch Distillery 50
Bushmills Distillery 51
Old Pulteney Distillery 52
Caol Ila Distillery 53
Aberlour Distillery 54
Royal Brackla Distillery 55
Coleburn Distillery 56
Glen Mhor Distillery 57
Strathisla Distillery 58
Teaninich Distillery 59
Aberfeldy Distillery 60
Brora Distillery 61
Glenlochy Distillery 62
Glentauchers Distillery 63
Mannochmore Distillery 64
Imperial Distillery 65
Ardmore Distillery 66
Banff Distillery 67
Blair Athol Distillery 68
Glen Albyn Distillery 69
Balblair Distillery 70
Glenburgie Distillery 71
Miltonduff Distillery 72
Aultmore Distillery 73
North Port Distillery 74
Glenury-Royal Distillery 75
Mortlach Distillery 76
Glen Ord Distillery 77
Ben Nevis Distillery 78
Deanston Distillery 79
Glen Spey Distillery 80
Glen Keith Distillery 81
Glencadam Distillery 82
Convalmore Distillery 83
Glendullan Distillery 84
Glen Elgin Distillery 85
Glenesk Distillery 86
Millburn Distillery 87
Speyburn Distillery 88
Tomintoul Distillery 89
Pittyvaich Distillery 90
Dufftown Distillery 91
Lochside Distillery 92
Glen Scotia Distillery 93
Old Fettercairn Distillery 94
Auchroisk (Singleton) Distillery 95
Glendronach Distillery 96
Littlemill Distillery 97
Lomond (Inverleven Distillery) 98
Glenugie Distillery 99
Strathmill Distillery 100
Knockando Distillery 101
Dalwhinnie Distillery 102
Royal Lochnagar Distillery 103
Glencraig (Glenburgie Distillery) 104
Tormore Distillery 105
Cardhu Distillery 106
Glenallachie Distillery 107
Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery 108
Mosstowie (Miltonduff Distillery) 109
Oban Distillery 110
Lagavulin Distillery 111
Loch Lomond Distillery (Inchmurrin) 112
Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval Distillery) 113
Longrow (Springbank Distillery) 114
An Cnoc (Knockdhu Distillery) 115
Yoichi Distillery 116
Cooley Distillery (unpeated) 117
Cooley Distillery (peated) 118
Yamazaki Distillery 119
Hakushu Distillery 120
Isle of Arran Distillery 121
Croftengea (Loch Lomond Distillery) 122
Glengoyne Distillery 123
Miyagikyo Distillery 124
Glenmorangie Distillery 125
Hazelburn (Springbank Distillery) 126
Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich Distillery) 127
Penderyn Distillery 128
Kilchoman Distillery 129
Chichibu Distillery 130
Hanyu Distillery 131
Karuizawa Distillery 132
North British Distillery G1
Carsebridge Distillery G2
Caledonian Distillery G3
Cameronbridge Distillery G4
Invergordon Distillery G5
Port Dundas Distillery G6
Girvan Distillery G7
Cambus Distillery G8
Loch Lomond Distillery G9
Strathclyde Distillery G10
Miyagikyo (Nikka) Distillery Coffey Grain G11
Miyagikyo (Nikka) Distillery Coffey Malt G12
Chita Distillery G13
Dumbarton Distillery G14
Heaven Hill Distillery B1
Bernheim Distillery B2
Rock Town Distillery B3
Port Morant Distillery (Jamaica) R1
Demerara Distillery (El Dorado) (Guyana) R2
Mount Gay Distillery (Barbados) R3
Angostura Distillery (Trinidad) R4
Appleton Distillery (Jamaica) R5


Well there you have it; a very fun read I’m sure you will agree… the eagle eyed amongst you may also have noticed that as well as malt distilleries there are some other distilleries in here too. These are at the bottom of the list, listed as G, B and R. These are Grain whiskies, Bourbons and Rums, which the society have recently started bottling.

The main reason behind the coding as oppose to putting the names of the distilleries on the bottles is to prevent people getting hung up on the name of the distillery that it has come from, the society is all about getting people to try unique and fantastic whisky without trying it because it has a famous name. Which I personally think is a very good way of doing things, as quite often a lot of their bottlings come from distilleries that don’t even have an official bottling, such as Balmenach, if not for the SMWS I may never have tried anything from this gem of a distillery.

This is the SMWS full list as of writing this article, please let me know if there are changes/additions to be made to the SMWS codes you see here. 



Girvan Grain & Ancient Reserves Tweet Tasting

I was very fortunate a few days ago to get the chance to participate in my first whisky Tweet Tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a tweet tasting it is pretty self-explanatory, you sample several whiskies and you tweet your thoughts on that particular dram, discussing it with other tasters via twitter. I was lucky enough to get to take part in this as a result of my friends Hugh and Richard at the Edradynate Whisky Club – check them out here: Edradynate Whisky Club – who very generously offered to share their samples with me, which I can’t thank them enough for. The particular tweet tasting that we participated in included some aged Girvan grain whiskies and Ancient Reserve blends.

Girvan is Grain distillery that is situated on the Ayrshire coast, and has been pumping out grain whiskies for filling William Grant & Sons blends since 1963, with only a very small amount of this exceptionally good grain being bottled as a single grain. Ancient Reserves is a part of the William Grant & Sons banner, bottling old, rare and unique whiskies.


The samples arrived about a week before the event, and it looked like a very good offering indeed. This samples that were sent out for the tasting were as follows:

  • A non-age statement Girvan Grain whisky ‘Proof Strength’ at 51.7% ABV.
  • A 25yo Girvan single grain.
  • Ancient Reserves Ghosted Reserve 21yo blended Scotch whisky.
  • Ancient Reserves Ghosted Reserve 26yo blended malt.

The first two were both grain whiskies from Girvan and the final two, the Ghosted Reserves, are blends made up from distilleries that are no longer in production. Very exciting stuff!

Finally the night arrived, we had all of the samples and glasses set out and watched the clock as time slowed to a halt, counting down the minutes until it was time to crack them open. Then finally that fateful tweet appeared on our newsfeeds “Lets kick things off with our first dram”, excited didn’t even come close as we cracked the seal on that first sample bottle.


Dram #1 for the evening was the Girvan grain patent still Proof Strength, non-age statement, 51.7% ABV. Matured solely in American oak casks – £75 a bottle.

proof strength

Nose – the Proof Strength on the nose, as probably could have been guessed by the strength, has a big whack of spirit, lots of sweetness too. Initial thoughts included a boozy vanilla fudge, floral sweetness, followed by pear drops and lemon peel. With time, and a splash of water, this dram opens up hugely. It becomes much fruitier and sweeter with suggestions of toffee apples and caramelised pears.

Palate – like with the nose there is a big punch of spirit, the palate is much spicier than the nose with chillies, white pepper and tannic sweetness. There is a lot of woody nutmeg, vanilla and a caramel sweetness which gets quite bitter and woody through the development.

Dram #2, the Girvan grain patent still 25yo, at 42% ABV. As with the Proof strength this was matured entirely in American oak casks and so lots of sweet vanillas and toffees are to be expected – £250 a bottle!


Nose – just wow, the nose on this whisky is incredible, there are a lot of different aromas and complexities which have been developed through the years that it has spent in the cask. Initially seasoned oak comes to the front, with damp leather, sweet vanilla and a slight fizzy citric note. There is also a note which, to me, reminds me slightly of cream soda. I could have kept nosing this whisky for hours, but I had to move on to the palate, and there were more whiskies to be sampled.

Palate – the palate was very different from the nose, it was nowhere near as sweet. It’s soft, velvety and rich. The first thing that came to mind was rum and raisin ice-cream, as well as a rich oaky sweetness and tonnes of toffee.

Dram #3 was the first of the Ancient Reserve samples on offer; it was their Rare Cask Ghosted Reserve 21yo blended scotch, 42% ABV. This blend is made up solely from distilleries that are no longer in production, including Inverleven, Ladyburn and Dumbarton, it was a real treat to get the chance to try this whisky – £99 per bottle.


Nose- this blend had a very interesting nose, big alcohol hit and a smell not dissimilar to airfix glue, as well as pears and toffee. With time I found that this opens up immensely and becomes much fruitier. Sweet caramel, orange flavoured boiled sweets and a suggestion of black cherries.

Palate – it feels like an old whisky on the palate, loads of seasoned oak and tannic woodiness, vanilla and possibly a slight dusting of cinnamon, with coconut shavings. Very good dram and a superior quality of blend!

Dram #4, unfortunately the last of the evening, the 26yo rare cask Ghosted Reserve blended malt, bottled at 42% ABV. Again this blend is made up from whiskies only from closed distilleries, including Inverleven and Ladyburn – a whopping £375 a bottle!


Nose – the first thing that came across to me with the final whisky was that there was a slight saline/briny note, and to be honest it was actually quite refreshing after all of the sweetness thus far. It was very fruity as well; it was like having a fruit salad by the sea. With time the nose becomes a lot more dessert-like with apple crumble and strawberry tarts, with a hint of cask char in the background.

Palate – I found the palate fairly bitter, bitter sappy wood with some tannic spices; vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and possibly even ginger. There was a small amount of toffee coming through, and a pretty short and sweet finish.

Then, as always with a whisky tasting, it was over too quickly. I had a fantastic night and I was so grateful to get the chance to try such rare whiskies. For myself and the Edradynate Whisky Club the 25yo Girvan grain was probably the winner, it was such a lovely and complex grain whisky. That said the price for a bottle was pretty steep. I think the real winner for me was the 21yo Ghosted Reserve blend. It is probably the best blended whisky I have ever tasted, and the story behind it and what goes into making it makes it an absolute privilege to try, at £99 it definitely is worth the money.


I would like to again thank Steve Rush and the Whisky Wire for hosting the event and Girvan Grain and Ancient Reserves for providing such excellent samples! Also a huge thank you to Hugh and Richard at the Edradynate Whisky Club for allowing me to try some of their samples, it was very generous and I can’t thank them enough.

I really hope that I get selected to participate in another tweet tasting in the future as it was great fun, but until then…