Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top Ten Whiskies of 2014

Since the end of 2014 is near, it is time to review the past year. It was a rather productive year. The Tasty Dram blog got an English brother in arms and blogging pace increased to two weekly posts: one whisky review on Sunday and a news flash on Wednesday.

Without further ado, my personal top ten drams (or rather two top-five rankings) of 2014.

Peated whiskies

1. Port Charlotte PC11 Eòrna na h-alba

Port Charlotte PC11

Every year Bruichladdich presents a cask strength Port Charlotte. PC11 is the 7th release of this limited edition. The number 11 relates to the age of the whisky. Too bad that this Charlotte only roams the airports and I never fly... My review of  Port Charlotte PC11 

2. Ardbeg 20 Uisge Beatha Taigh for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis

Ardbeg A.D. Rattray for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis

Without any doubt the Ardbeg of the year. A twenty-year-old cask strength bottling from A.D. Rattray for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis. This is whisky hors-catégorie. One to open on special occasions and to enjoy the moment in a Zen state of mind. A lovely complexity, subtly layered and slightly brutal. And it sold for less than €300... My review of Ardbeg 20 Uisge Beatha Taigh

3. Highland Park Loki

Highland Park Loki Walhalla collection

Highland Park's Walhalla series will end in 2015 with the launch of Odin. Loki's shape-shifting character was the inspiration for the flavour profile of its liquid alter ego. Born out of European and previously peated casks, the aromas perceived on the nose and the palate should differ from each other. My review of Highland Park Loki

4. SMWS 29.157 Heidi's Holiday to Islay (Laphroaig)

Laphroaig 29.157 Heidi's Holiday to Islay The Scotch malt Whisky Society

An impressive 17-year-old Laphroaig from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society with a varied array of flavours. The sherry cask gives it the depth that makes it outstanding and yet does not conceal the typical Laphroaig character. My review of  SMWS Heidi's Holiday to Islay

5. Octomore 6.1

Octomore 6.1

Octomore has a reputation to maintain and lives up to it. This is no whisky for starters. If you aren't fond of Ardbeg, steer clear of Octo! This slightly brutal youngster is a real treat for peat lovers. Young aggressive and still refined enough. Lovely complex. My review of Octomore 6.1

Unpeated whiskies

1. SMWS 76.103 An 'Old Fashioned' in a traditional barber shop (Mortlach)

Mortlach 76.103 An old fashioned one in a barber shop Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases at regular intervals Mortlach bottlings. This 26-year old Morty was one of my birthday gifts this year. I brought it back from London for a mere £85 (!). Note to self: make time to review this epic SMWS bottle! 

2. Balblair 1983 Vintage

Balblair 1983 Vintage

I baptised this 1983 Vintage "Delicious Masala Chai served by a lady". The fruity and floral flavours are fully developed in this top vintage from the Highlands. My review of Balblair 1983

3. The Whisky Mercenary Littlemill 1992 

The Whisky Merceneary Littlemill

We have been overwhelmed with the former Lowlands glory of Littlemill by independent bottlers. This 21-year-old Littlemill selected by Jürgen 'The Whisky Mercenary' Vromans was one of these outstanding bottles. A classic Lowlands profile and an absolute gem that sneaked its way into my top ten at the very last moment. The review should appear on the blog in January.

4. Tomatin Cuatro Manzanilla

Tomatin Cuatro Manzanilla sherry cask
Tomatin presented a limited edition Cuatro series during a Tweet Tasting by The Whisky Wire. The starting point was one batch of spirit that matured for 9 years in American oak and was then transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for three years. The Manzanilla version was my pick of the evening. My review of Tomatin Cuatro Manzanilla

5. Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig

Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig blended malt

Wemyss Malts started the festive season with Velvet Fig, a limited edition blend wholly matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. If there was one whisky that had Christmas all over it, it's this one (OK, you also may count Big Peat Christmas in...). My review of Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig

What will 2015 have in store?

The blogging pace will remain the same: one review in Dutch and English and a news flash from the world of whisky and/or my thoughts on tastings and festivals I'll attend.

If everything goes as planned, I'll start with a new bottler on the market: Chapter 7 or that delicious Littlemill by The Whisky Mercenary.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Bowmore Surf

Bowmore Surf
Picture: Bowmore

Bowmore Surf is, or was, the entry of the Travel Retail range. It is named after the waves that constantly bash the famous warehouse n°1 and give the whisky its typical maritime Bowmore flavours. At least, that's what the marketing boys tell us.

This bottling was given the last honours on July 4, 2014, by HM Queen Elizabeth. She christened a new aircraft carrier and toasted to it with a 25yo Bowmore. Glad it was not the other way around...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

News: Oban Little Bay

Diageo launched very discretely a new expression last week: Little Bay
  • Diageo
  • NAS
  • 43% ABV
  • Small casks
We all know Oban as a part of the Diageo Classic Malts series representing the Highlands Region with a 14 year old whisky. The lantern-shaped copper-pot stills produce 650,000 liters of whisky annually.

Oban means “little bay” in ancient Gaelic. So it seems they followed the trend of Gaelic names and did not look very far for an original name for their new NAS whisky. Little Bay is crafted by taking mature Oban whisky and resting the whisky in small casks for some time. This extra maturation exposes the whisky to new and fresh oak, resulting in a deeper smoothness and richer flavor.

Tasting notes

Oban Little Bay has a deep aroma of sea salt, rich oak tannins, espresso beans and citrus. Notes of dried spices, Christmas cake, brown sugar and oak dominate the palate, and lead to an elegant finish with touches of smoke and fruit.

On Little Bay

We don't know much about this Oban Little Bay. Ruben Luyten from Whiskynotes posted a picture of the new whisky. The website of Diageo features no information on it at all.

What 'mature whisky' exactly means, how long the whisky is finished in smaller casks, or the size of these casks remains unknown. Since whisky makers expect us to have blind confidence in their craftsmanship, we will probably never know these details.

Whether this NAS Little Bay will replace the standard 14yo or will it be positioned next to the classic malt is still unknown. The only thing we can distill from their marketing text is that the finishing is done in virgin oak casks.

Price is estimated around 60€, 15€ more expensive then its 14 year old brother.

To be continued...

more information:

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Laphroaig SMWS 29.157 Heidi's Holiday to Islay

Laphroaig SMWS 29.157 Heidi's Holiday to Islay

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles single cask whiskies since 1983. Every bottle looks the same at first sight. They are only to be distinguished by a unique code and a rather original name and tasting notes.

Laphroaig is an established name in the Society range. The Islay distillery, started by Donald and Alexander Johnston, will celebrate its bicentenary next year. Laphroaig itself already announced the return of the famous 15-years old. And I would not be too surprised if the Society would honour them with a commemorative bottling.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

News: Swiss kid Chapter 7 coming to Belgium

Chapter 7 is a new independent whisky bottler entering the market. Like other indies they will make single cask whiskies their trademark.

To express the unique character even more, all whiskies will be bottled at cask strength and non-chill filtered.

The packaging hints to the provenance of the bottler. Such classy and minimalist design has to come from Switzerland.

The first two bottlings:

  • Glen Keith 1997
    17 years old - bourbon hogshead - 52.3% ABV - 309 bottles - 91€
    A light, delicate whisky with layers of fruitiness and sweet vanilla

  • Allt-a-Bhainne 1995
    18 years old, bourbon hogshead - 59.2% ABV - 264 bottles - 108€
    A dark full bodied whisky with strong caramel, toffee and vanilla aromas and a light spicy long finish.

Both the Glen Keith and the Allt-a-Bhainne are already available in Belgium and The Netherlands.

Future bottlings:
  • Tormore 1995
  • Glentauchers 1996
Chapter 7 will be distributed by Jurgen's Whiskyhuis ( in Belgium en by Bresser & Timmer in the Netherlands. Jurgen's Whiskyhuis and Drankenshop Bams already have the first two bottlings on their shelves. In Switzerland it will be distributed by Figee and Whisky & Spirits. A UK distributor has not yet been revealed.

more information: Chapter 7

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Teeling Single Malt Whiskey

Teeling Single Malt Whiskey

Teeling Whiskey Company is the creation of Jack and Stephen Teeling, sons of former Cooley owner John Teeling and distant relatives of Walter Teeling, the man who started the first Teeling Distillery in 1782. The brothers are hard at work to breathe new life into a new Irish Whiskey distillery in the heart of Dublin.

The current range is relatively limited and comes from 18.000 barrels from Cooley and another Irish distillery (Bushmills?). When it comes to true Teeling Whiskeys, made in Dublin, we will have to wait at least a few years.

The core range contains a small batch whiskey matured in rum casks, a single grain matured in Californian red wine barrels and a brand new Single Malt without an age statement. The Single Malt is distilled from malted barley and consists of a vatting of 5 different wine casks: Sherry, Port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. Like all the Teeling whiskeys, it is bottled at 46% with no chill filtration.

Identity Card Teeling Single Malt Whiskey

Unmistakable provenance

Tasting notes

The colour of this Teeling Single Malt hovers between wet straw and gold. The whiskey leaves fast legs on the side of the glass.

Nose: The flavours are substantially fruity with a hint of vanilla and clove. I'm thinking of fruit salad with Charentais melon, lemon and cherries. Vanilla waffles, sweet apples and 'Limburgse vlaai' (tart) with blueberries. After some time there are wood flavours emerging. I'd even say dust or sawdust.

A single drop of water releases the spiciness of the whiskey and makes it lose some of its sweetness. Dry oak is the flavour that stands out now.

Taste: The whiskey is still fruity on the palate, but it's less pronounced than on the nose. More like dried figs and spicy apples. Even some clove, lemon zest and ginger.

With a few drops of water (or when you keep it in your mouth for a while) it becomes drier. Again those wood flavours reappear with a fair dash of pepper.

Finish: The aftertaste is dry and spicy. A lovely warm and long finish with hints of pine nut oil and Madeira wine.

Teeling Single Malt Whiskey


We'll be seeing a fair share of beauties from Teeling Whiskey Company. Knowing that the real Spirit of Dublin has yet to arrive, the Teeling brothers are already walking the path with their Single Grain, Small Batch and this Single Malt created from the stock of their father's former distillery.

This Teeling Single Malt could become serious competition for Redbreast, my favourite Irish whiskey at the moment. It already has the advantage of a better (read: lower) price tag and has that unmistakable Irishness that makes it a lovely aperitif.

Teeling Single Malt Whiskey

Teeling Single Malt Whiskey

The sample was offered by Teeling Whiskey Company for a Tweet Tasting organised by The Whisky Wire (#TeelingWhiskey).

Sunday, 7 December 2014

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Invergordon batch 1

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Invergordon batch 1

'That Boutique-y Whisky Company' is a side project of online retailer Master of Malt. They bottle small batches of single malts (and single grains) from known and lesser known distilleries. The bottles became known for their graphic style labels with prominent people from the industry and some easter eggs.

Invergordon is a gigantic distillery that produces over 40 million litres of spirit per year. It forms an integral part of Whyte & Mackay and forms a base component for their blends.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

News: Benriach 10th Anniversary

  • Benriach
  • 10 years old
  • 10th Anniversary Edition
  • 46% ABV
    To celebrate the 10th anniversary they have released a special bottling, created from four bourbon barrels distilled and filled during the 1st week that production re-started under the new owners in September 2004. The style is Classic Speyside, non-peated, and quintessentially BenRiach.

    Ripe white pear, fruit salad syrup and rich clotted cream hold a crisp twist of candied peel and soft vanilla.

    Crisp barley with peppery toasted oak and stem ginger flood over rich crème brûlée, coconut butter and vanilla poached pear.

    Limited Edition of only 1106 Bottles worldwide. Price: £65

    Source & image: Benriach

    Sunday, 30 November 2014

    Laphroaig SMWS 29.105 Massive and Volcanic

    Laphroaig SMWS 29.105 Massive and Volcanic

    The Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles single cask whiskies since 1983. Every bottle looks the same at first sight. They are only to be distinguished by a unique code and a sometimes fitting, sometimes outrageous name. The codes came into use because distilleries did not want to connect their name to independent bottlings. Nowadays, it has become a unique selling point.

    The bottle code consists of two parts. The first part identifies the distillery. The second part is the n-th cask being bottled by the Society. Applied to 29.105 it means: the 105th cask bottled from distillery 29, being Laphroaig.

    Wednesday, 26 November 2014

    The dreaded Christmas wish list

    Sigh! Every December the same old question returns: "What do you want for Christmas?". And every year I'm performing the same ritual: scratching my head and admitting I have no idea.

    Since I'm suspecting I'm not the only one who's suffering from giftitis, I do want to help my fellow sufferers. And what a coincidence, almost everything that made the list is related to whisky.

    Stocking fillers (less then €25)

    Arran mini pack

    The Isle of Arran's only distillery has been impressing us for several years now. This mini pack offers you the opportunity to explore its core range. The classy white box contains 3 minis: the 10yo, the 12yo cask strength and the 14yo. Price: €24.

    Malt Whisky Yearbook 2015

    Whisky enthousiasts always look forward to the release of Invar Ronde's Malt Whisky Yearbook. The 2015 edition is filled with tasting notes and interesting trivia on your favourite distillery. Reading stuff to be devoured on cold winter nights.

    Uisge Source Water of Scotland

    It's no longer a secret that adding a drop of water to your whisky is no deadly sin. On the contrary, some whiskies only reveal themselves with some water. What if you could use the water from the very same region as your tipple?

    Cù Bòcan (20cl)

    Cù Bòcan is a NAS whisky from Tomating Distillery, based upon a local legend of a hellish hound that haunted Tomatin village. This lightly smoked whisky is a vatting of Virgin Oak, bourbon- and sherry casks. Price: €17 for the 20cl version. Also available in 70cl version.

    More of the same

    • Glenfarclas 21 years old miniature (€9)
    • Distilled by Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison (€17)
    • Highland Park 10yo (€21)

    Don't be greedy (less then €50)

    Timorous Beastie

    Douglas Laing received most of its fame as an indy bottler. They worked hard the past few years to create their own range of blended malts. We have already seen an Islay blended malt (Big Peat) and a Speyside blend (Scallywag).
    In 2014 we saw Timorous Beasty, the mouse from Robert Burns poem, became the face of the Highlands region. Price: €45.

    Velvet Fig

    Wemyss Malts recently extended their core range with Velvet Fig and matured wholly in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. They delivered a beautiful full and rounded whisky, perfectly suited for the winter and the upcoming festive season. Price: €50.

    Islay Woollen Mill lambswool scarf from your fav brand

    You want a superclassic (or cliché) gift to surprise a whisky lover? Islay Woollen Mill is the place to buy quality tweed. They already delivered fabric for blockbuster movies like Braveheart and Forrest Gump. They also make personalised scarfs in lambswool and cashmere for brands like Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. Price starting from €30.

    More of the same

    • Teeling Single Grain (€45)
    • Nikka Whisky from the Barrel (€37)
    • 6 Glencairn glasses (€30)

    Don't be afraid to spend some money (less then €100)

    Elements of Islay Cl7

    Elements of Islay is a selection of 'secret' Islay single malts, selected and bottled to express the character of the distillery. Cl7 is the 7th bottling from Port Askaig and bottled at 58.5% ABV. Price: €87 (for a 50cl bottle).

    Big Peat Christmas editon 2014

    Douglas Laing presents each year a special Big Peat Christmas edition. Just like many Belgian brewers release a Christmas special, they release a fiery beast to get through the cold holidays.   Price: €55.

    That Boutique-y Whisky Company Invergordon batch 2

    That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottles single malts, single grains and blends from a variety of distilleries. The bottles received a near cult-status with the graphic novel style labels. Invergordon is a single grain with distinctive sweet honey flavours. Price: €90 (for 50cl).

    More of the same

    • Ardbeg Escape Pack 10 year old (€62)
    • Compas Box the Lost Blend (€100)
    • Hazelburn 10yo Rundlets & Kilderkins (€78)

    Smack your dough! (more then €150)

    Octomore 6.3

    Octomore is the experimental pièce de résistance from Bruichladdich. This whisky reach peat levels of 150ppm and more. Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley was distilled from grain, cultivated by James Brown of Octomore Farm and reaches a stratospheric peat level of 256ppm. Price: €180.

    Le Nez du Whisky

    Le Nez du Whisky is a semi-professional nosing kit with an illustrated book on the base notes of whisky and 54 flavours to train your nose. For starting whisky enthousiast or the serious geek that wants to develop his aroma memory. Price: €299.

    Jura 1984

    Jura's 1984 tribute to George Orwell is a 30 year old whisky, bottled at 44% ABV. Matured in bourbon casks from Jim Beam for 22yrs, transferred to Gonzales Byass Matusalem Sherry butts for over 6 yrs and finally finished in Amoroso Oloroso sweet sherry casks. Limited to 1984 (coincidence) bottles. Price: €950.

    More of the same

    • Yamazaki 18yo (€195)
    • Bunnahabhain 1988 Signatory Vintage for LMDW (€183)
    • North British 50yo single grain Berry's Exceptional Caks - Berry Bros & Rudd (€625)

    Sunday, 23 November 2014

    Highland Park Loki

    Highland Park Loki
    Picture: The Whisky Exchange

    When Highland Park presented the first whisky from the Walhalla collection, Thor, it was instantly clear that Loki, professional mischiever and shapeshifter among the gods, would move heaven and earth to take its place beside Thor.

    His shapeshifting character was the inspiration for the flavour profile of its liquid alter ego. Born out of European and previously peated casks (Does HP have unpeated casks?), the aromas perceived on the nose and the palate should differ from each other.

    Thursday, 20 November 2014

    News: Glenfarclas 15 for TWE

    • Glenfarclas
    • The Whisky Exchange Exclusive
    • 15 years old
    • 58.6% ABV
      To celebrate Glenfarclas 15 Year Old being named as the Whisky of the Year for 2013-14, The Whisky Exchange asked the distillery to create a high-strength edition of this favourite, exclusively for TWE. Bottled at 103 proof, this is rich and spicy; a drop of water brings out extra sweetness and notes of fruit cake and cherries.

      Source & image: The Whisky Exchange

      Sunday, 16 November 2014

      Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig

      Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig
      Picture: The Whisky Exchange

      Independent bottler Wemyss Malts presented its newest addition to their blended malts range: Velvet Fig. This blend without an age statement (NAS) matured wholly in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and will take its place next to The Spice King, Peat Chimney and The Hive.

      They also release on a regular basis a range of single cask whiskies and a classic blend, Lord Elcho, in a NAS and a 15 years old version.

      William Wemyss, Managing Director, made the following statement on Velvet Fig: ”We are thrilled with the new Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig blended malt as it will provide a unique, yet complementary addition to the Wemyss blended malt range. Velvet Fig is sure to be a favourite with those who have a passion for sherry cask matured whiskies or are looking for the perfect festive whisky.”.

      Friday, 14 November 2014

      News: Jura 1984 celebrating a famous inhabitant


      Jura seems to be celebrating George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984. All communication channels from the Jura brand were 'hijacked' and redacted by The Party for a few days.

      A bunch of professional journalists and whisky writers were invited to unveil the resistance organised by Whyte & Mackay on the eve of November 13.

      A new Vintage

      Not much is known about the new Vintage whisky. The whisky was presented yesterday to a limited audience and we have seen a few shots from the packaging.

      Update: It is a 30 year old whisky, bottled at 44% ABV. Matured in bourbon casks from Jim Beam for 22yrs, transferred to Gonzales Byass Matusalem 30yo Sherry butts for over 6 yrs and finally finished in Amoroso Oloroso sweet sherry casks.

      Limited to 1984 bottles at £750 RRP

      Tasting notes from Chapman & Gorm

      Nose: dried orange. savoury, leather. Cocoa and a touch of maritime elements, not too loud but a lit going on.

      Palate: salty, lots of sherry, sweet&salty start. Touch of earty smoke (very subtle) and a big savoury palate with a lot happening. Surprisingly easy drinking

      Finish: sour dry finish with excellent aged elements and dry sherry notes

      the backside of the bottle?

      invitation of the evening for @stevebooker

      images: Jura Whisky and Steve Booker
      source: Chapman and Gorm

       What happened on Twitter?

      #nothingiswhatitseems Tweets

      Friday, 7 November 2014

      Kilchoman 2009 TasTToe single cask PX finish

      Kilchoman 2009 TasTToe single cask PX finish

      During the Kilchoman Tour through Europe, the Wills brothers presented a PX finished Kilchoman sample. The whisky will most likely be bottled by TasTToe, the Belgian shop that hosted one of the Kilchoman tastings on their European Tour.

      The whisky was distilled in 2009 and got a 4.5-month finishing on a Pedro Ximenez sherry butt. Curious whether Kilchoman and PX sherry guarantee fantastic stuff?

      Wednesday, 5 November 2014

      News: Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach

      Old school Bunna shrouded in mist 

      • Bunnahabhain Distillery
      • Batch 1
      • Bottled2014
      • 46.3% ABV

      Bunnahabhain Distillery will present shortly a new whisky. Very little is know at this moment. It will be a limited edition with an unpronounceable Scots Gaelic name, bottled at 46.3% ABV, unfiltered and natural colour. The whisky matured for over ten years in ex-bourbon casks.

      Ceòbanach means smoky mist But most of it is still shrouded in mist...

      This  Ceòbanach is a celebration to the intensely peated "old style" Bunnahabhain from the late 19th century.

      Tasting notes from Bunnahabhain

      The nose is intense and pungent, with hints of fragrant smoke and light tar, and creamy notes of sweet oak and seaweed.

      The initial taste is one of sweet maltiness, then a lovely balance of a tangy smokiness and vanilla notes, blending mellow and smooth. There are also hints of white pepper, bitter orange, liquorice and sea salt.

      The finish lingers, with flavours of oatcake and sea salt once more - with a peppery sweet smoke undertone.

      images: Bunnahabhain
      source: TTB online