Thursday, 26 February 2015

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster Tweet Tasting

I was one of the lucky bastards to attend yesterday's Tweet Tasting under the guidance of Steve Rush (@TheWhiskyWire) and the Douglas Laing crew (Jan Beckers. Cara Laing and Chris Leggat). Six samples in a small box. Two of them were the new blended malt Rock Oyster. The others were three Old Particular whiskies and a Talisker 'Young & Feisty'.

A photo posted by Gert Claus (@tastydram) on

Whisky #1: Rock Oyster
Douglas Laing Rock Oyster

Blended islands malt, 46% ABV
Colour: Light yellow, white wine, leaves thin and fast legs on the glass

Nose: Salty sea air, a faint hint of nam pla (Thai fish sauce), salted lemon confit, light smoke and a little sweet. Butter and sugar. Matured cheese and the accompanying ammonia odour. Wood-stain. M&M's with salted peanuts. An ashtray washed out with seawater.
With water: mint, salted M&M's, chopped chili peppers

Taste: Salt and pepper, peat smoke is more prominent. Citrus and honey. Cigarette ashes.
With water: More peat smoke. Less sweet flavours and way more salt. Salted peanuts and ash.

Finish: Sweet finish with faint lemon confit. Aromatic wood, pepper and cigarettes.

Whisky #2: Arran 18

Old Particular series,August 1996, 48.4% ABV, cask #10529, 306 bottles
Colour: Light yellow, bleached straw, leaves thick and slow legs on the glass

Nose: Coconut, banana and vanilla. A faint hint of menthol or spearmint. Blood oranges, brown sugar, Tropical fruit juice. Candy store. A mix of fruit candies.
With water: Lemon, lemonade with ginger and sugar.

Taste: Creamy fruit mousse. Peaches. A soft bitter evolution with a bit of spicyness.
With water: Fresh citrus and spices.

Finish: A soft finish. Peaches and cream cheese mousse. A hint of mint refreshes the palate. A Trou Normand with peach sherbet.

Old Particular Bunnahabhain 17

Whisky #3: Bunnahabhain 17

Old Particular series,1997, 48.4% ABV, cask #10584, 306 bottles
Colour: Light yellow. Slow and thick tears.

Nose: Paint and Play Doh. clay, sweet smoke. Wet wood. Apples, fino sherry and cider. Sea salt, lavender soap and citronella candles. A lovely dirty Bunna!
With water: Oil lamp and a hot sauna.

Taste: Oily and smoky. Lemon and chocolate.
With water: Lemon and pepper. Creamy milk and oyster.

Finish: Oil, oysters and tobacco. Salted potatoes
#3 nose: Someone filled this sample in a paint factory? :-) #RockOyster
— Gert Claus (@tastydram) February 25, 2015

Whisky #4: Highland Park 18

Old Particular series, 48.4% ABV,
Colour: Light yellow. Slow tears on the side of the glass.

Nose: Honey, milk chocolate. coffee. Honey-glazed ham and leather. Red fruits; Fried icecream with a fruit salad.

Taste: Cinnamon and pepper. Honey. Dark chocolate. Werther's Original. Eclairs with crème patissière and coca cola.
With water: Cacao powder, ovaltine. Chocolate cake with caramel.

Finish: Creamy aftertaste with milk chocolate and vanilla. Hint of tobacco.
#4 nose: OMG! They (@DLaingWhisky) kidnapped Charlie from the Chocolate Factory! #RockOyster
— Gert Claus (@tastydram) February 25, 2015

Whisky #5: Talisker 'Young & Feisty'
Talisker 'Young & Feisty'

Provenance series, 46% ABV
Colour: Very pale. A white wine that's watered down. Lots of small thin drops appear but leave thick slow legs on the glass.

Nose: Bread dough. Spirit, malt and slightly metallic. Rubber, bicycle tires Old factory aromas. Ginger biscuits and sporting shoes. Lemon and seaweed.
With water: Sweet peat smoke and citrus.

Taste: Sweet with a pepper boost. Honey followed by citrus and salt.
With water: Medicinal. Rubbing alcohol and band aids.

Finish: Lemon rind, apples and salt. A warming and long finish.

Whisky #6: Re-Rock Oyster

A second tasting of the Rock Oyster could reveal some of the more hidden characteristics of the previous Island malts.
The chocolate notes from the Highland Park are more detectable now. And the Talisker still lingers around... And my mind must have been playing tricks. I got oyster juice when nosing my first glass again.


This was yet another fab tweet tasting by The Whisky Wire and Douglas Laing. The Old Particular whiskies were all top notch. And the Rock Oyster is a true and worthy family member of the Big Peat family. 
Hat tip to @TheWhiskyWire and the @DLaingWhisky gang for another fab tasting! #RockOyster
— Gert Claus (@tastydram) February 25, 2015


News: Midleton launches its first Virgin Oak finish

Irish Distillers Midleton Dair Ghaelach

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has unveiled Midleton Dair Ghaelach, its first ever Irish whiskey to be finished in virgin Irish Oak Hogsheads.

This uniquely Irish expression is the latest addition to the Midleton Single Pot Still family of whiskeys, satisfying the growing appetite among whisk(e)y lovers for discovering new and innovative styles of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.

Midleton Dair Ghaelach, meaning ‘Irish oak’, is the result of a six-year exploration by the Midleton Masters into using native oak to mature Irish whiskey. Led by Master Blender, Billy Leighton, and Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation, the project had two prerequisites. The first was to ensure that all Irish oak was sourced exclusively from sustainable Irish Oak forests that could guarantee both a long-term supply and the re-generation of native wood, while the second was to explore what new taste profiles could be created from Irish oak maturation to craft a new and outstanding Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.

In collaboration with professional Irish forestry consultants, O’Gorman and Leighton selected Grinsell’s Wood within the Ballaghtobin Estate, Co. Kilkenny, to provide the oak for the first in a series of virgin oak releases in the coming years. Each bottle can be traced back to one of ten 130-year-old Irish oak trees in Grinsell’s Wood, which were felled in April 2012.

To craft the oak into casks, fellow artisans at the Maderbar sawmills in Baralla, north-west Spain, used the quarter-sawing process to cut the trees into staves under the watchful eye of the Midleton Masters. The staves were then transferred to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez, where after drying for fifteen month the staves were worked into 48 Irish Oak Hogshead casks and given a medium toast.

At Midleton, a selection of traditional Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey distillates, matured for between 15 and 22 years in ex-Bourbon casks, were married together before being filled into the Irish oak Hogsheads. Leighton and O’Gorman nosed and tasted the whiskey each month and after almost one year, judged it to be beautifully balanced with just the perfect contribution of Irish oak.
Analysis shows that the Irish oak contains higher levels of some lignin derivative compounds, such as vanillin and vanillic acid, and furfural, in comparison to American and Spanish oak. These compounds further enhance the whiskey with vanilla, caramel and chocolate flavours, which are detectable on the nose of Midleton Dair Ghaelach and perfectly balance the classically rich, spicy Single Pot Still taste profile.

Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation at the Midleton Distillery, comments: “With the recent resurgence in plantation, only now has it been viable for us to consider Irish Oak in the maturation of our whiskeys while ensuring that the oak reserves can be enjoyed by generations to come. After six years in the making, Midleton Dair Ghaelach has been a journey of exploration into the craft of Irish whiskey maturation and we are equally delighted with and excited by the newest member of our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey family.”

Billy Leighton, Master Blender at the Midleton Distillery, further comments: “The process of maturing in native oak has enabled us to showcase our Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey style in a new and innovative way; the casks impart much more generous toasted wood, vanilla and caramel flavours than what we expect from American bourbon and Spanish oak, which we hope whiskey lovers will appreciate and enjoy.”

Brendan Buckley, Global Innovation and Prestige Whiskeys Director at Irish Distillers, added: “For more than 30 years, Midleton Irish Whiskey has been admired for its distillers’ dedication to excellence in Irish craftsmanship and the release of Midleton Dair Ghaelach continues this rich tradition. By working closely with our partnership estates such as Ballaghtobin, we are able to trace each bottle back to an individual tree. This provides a unique whiskey experience that we find very exciting and hope other whiskey aficionados will too, as we see no reason why Irish oak cannot play a significant role in the maturation of our Irish Whiskey in the medium- to long-term.”

Bottled at cask strength between 58.1 and 58.5% ABV without the use of chill filtration, Midleton Dair Ghaelach is available from April 2015 in five markets, including Ireland, France and South Africa, at the recommended selling price of $250 / €220 / £160 per 70cl.

Source: Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard

Monday, 23 February 2015

News: Tomatin launches a new Cù Bòcan and a Cask Strength whisky

Tomatin Distillery released two new whiskies today. One is the next installment of the Cù Bòcan trilogy, the other is a brand new addition to the Tomatin range: a cask strength expression!

Cù Bòcan Virgin Oak

Cù Bòcan Virgin Oak
  • Matured in virgin oak casks
  • NAS
  • 46% ABV
  • 6.000 bottles
  • £49.99
  • Natural colour and nonchillfiltered

Virgin Oak is a new limited edition Cù Bòcan release and the second release in the trilogy showcasing the influence of each cask type which makes up Cù Bòcan; Sherry, Virgin Oak and Bourbon.

Offical tasting notes from Tomatin

Nose: Lively citrus fruits – lime juice and lemon sorbet. Oak driven flavours of vanilla, coconut and candy floss soon emerge with rosewater, red berries, fresh pear and pineapple in the background.

Taste: Warm pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. Baked apples with cinnamon and toffee and just a touch of smoke.

Finish: Clean and zingy with pleasant spice.

Tomatin Cask Strength Edition

Tomatin Cask Strength Edition
  • Matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry casks
  • NAS
  • 57.7% ABV
  • 15.000 bottles
  • £49.99
  • Natural colour and nonchillfiltered

This whisky is the first Cask Strength expression to be added to the Tomatin Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky core range, allowing us to showcase the true Tomatin style in its most natural state - natural colour, no chill filtration, full strength.

Batch 1 was released in February 2015 at 57.5%. A marriage of full maturation Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks, it is spicy, sweet and smooth and an excellent addition to the range.

Offical tasting notes from Tomatin

Nose: Golden syrup. Orange and lemon. Pears. Walnuts.
Ginger biscuits. Gets sweeter with time.

Taste: Marzipan, burnt sugar. Toasted malt loaf. Chestnuts. Polished leather. Vanilla flavoured tobacco.

Finish: Dry, with a developing spiciness.

Source and pictures: Tomatin Distillery


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Aultmore 12

Aultmore 12yo Scotch single malt whisky
Picture: The Whisky Exchange

Aultmore is one of these lesser known Speyside distilleries. It was founded in 1896 by Alexander Edward (who was also behind Benrinnes and Craigellachie). The name Aultmore is derived from Allt Mòr, the water source of the distillery.

Most of the distillery's output goes into the blended whiskies of Dewar's. A 12 year old bottling has been so far the only official one. Under the Diageo reign there was a Flora & Fauna 12yo and after the sale to Bacardi, the new owners introduced another 12yo Aultmore whisky.

Global Brand Ambassador Stephen Marshall convinced the Bacardi management to breathe new life into the single malts from Bacardi's portfolio. And to make us geeks really wet our pants, they announced to do age statements, no colouring and no chilfilltering. The project was baptised The Last Great Malts and consists of Aberfeldly, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

News: Arran presents its very first 18yo bottling

Arran 18 from Isle of Arran Distillers
  • Isle of Arran Distillers
  • 18 years old
  • 46 % ABV
  • 9.000 bottles available
This is a limited edition bottling of only 9,000 bottles worldwide and. This whisky is the final part of the trilogy of 16, 17 & 18 year-old Single Malts counting down to this milestone in Arran's history!

We already saw a few independent Arran bottlings of the same age. Now Arran Distillery itself deemed the time right to present one.

The Arran 18yo will be available from Monday 16th March, priced at £72.99.

Official tasting notes from Arran Distillery

Colour: Deep polished gold.

Nose: Baked peaches with honey and toasted almonds. Sherry cask charring and subtle spice

Taste: Waxy and coating with warmth of crystallised ginger and sweetness of crème brulee and caramelised brown sugar. Water uncovers floral notes, macadamia nuts and Seville orange marmalade.

Finish: Hazelnuts and nougat mingle with lightly toasted brioche and toffee apples.

Source and pictures: Arran Distillery

Monday, 16 February 2015

News: Highland Park Odin finally amongst men

Allfather has arrived in Midgard

Highland Park OdinH

  • Highland Park Odin
  • 16 years old
  • 55.8% ABV
  • 17.000 bottles
  • £180  / €250
Odin concludes The Valhalla Collection, four  Scotch whiskies celebrating Highland Park’s Norse heritage. Odin, ruler of Asgard himself, joins mighty Thor, shapeshifting Loki and the fair Freya to complete the collection.

The Valhalla Collection tries to put the personality of a god in a glass. Odin packs a mighty punch at 55.8% ABV but finds a balance between the god and Highland Park's signature Orcadian style resulting in a rich and undeniably powerful 16 year old single malt whisky.


Official Highland Park tasting notes

Colour: Vivid burst of sunlight. Entirely natural in colour, this whisky is a glowing representation of Odin’s distinct and mighty character.

Nose: This intense whisky possesses a fierce spice. Cinnamon bark and nutmeg rise from Odin’s spirit. Behind the spice, toasted walnuts smoulder with pulsating explosions of smoke. Odin cuts an ominous figure and this whisky is no different.

Taste: A huge, powerful palate draws on the complexity of Odin’s character. Layers of peat uncover thousands of years of wisdom. Dense oak combines with rich charred walnuts.

Finish: Throughout is a subtle sweetness, sharing the knowledge of well-seasoned sherry wines. Plums and soft fruit disappear into the dark as the peaty embers glow into a smoky finale.

The characteristic wooden frame underwent a small visual change and seems to have been charred. The mysterious dark bottle and metal cork ornament set Odin completely apart from its predecessors. 17.000 bottles are available worldwide. The Netherlands got 1.700 bottles allocated, Belgium a mere 84 bottles. (note: I'm trying to find out why there's such a significant difference).

Source, tasting notes and pictures courtesy of Highland Park


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Berry Bros & Rudd 1996 Benriach

Berry Bros & Rudd 1996 Benriach

Berry Bros. & Rudd is Britains oldest wine and spirit merchant. The business was established in 1698 and has been trading ever since from the same shop in St. James Street in London. Entering this specialist shop with its antique wooden interior felt almost like a time capsule. Berry Bros. created the famous Cutty Cask and Blue Hanger blend and offered private bottlings of whisky. Since 2002 these whiskies (and a range of other spirits like armagnac and rhum) are sold under the Berry's Own label.

Speyside distillery Benriach, founded in 1897, could easily be called a miniature of everything Scotch whisky has to offer: from the typical sweet Speyside style to heavily peated whiskies, to triple distilled spirit, to wood experiments with a wide variety of casks. Name it and Billy Walker probably tried it at Benriach. The distillery itself changed hands multiple times and was mothballed twice during the past 200 years but managed to reposition itself amongst the top brands of the industry.

Monday, 9 February 2015

News: Six new single casks releases from Wemyss Malts

Edinburgh based independent bottler Wemyss Malts announced earlier today the release of a new selection of single cask Scotch whiskies.

The names of this collection of new whiskies, as we expect from Wemyss, are inspired by the unique natural taste and aroma of each one. The eye catchers of the new offering is a cask strength from Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay called "Kirsch Gateau" and a single grain Invergordon single cask.

Wemyss Malts single casks

The single casks

"Cacao Geyser" Bowmore 1998

  • Bowmore Distillery, Islay
  • Distilled 1998, bottled 2014
  • 737 bottles
  • 46% ABV
  • RRP £95
1998 Bowmore Distillery "Cacao Geyser"
1998 Bowmore Distillery "Cacao Geyser"
Colour: Polished teak

Nose: On an antique sideboard rests a gammon studded with cloves and glazed with manuka honey.

Palate: An intense fruity burst of dense blackcurrant, followed by a wave of dark chocolate laced with an earthy smoke.

Finish: A smoke dried cocoa bean.

"Caribbean Crème" Invergordon 1988

  • Invergordon Distillery
  • Distilled 1988, bottled 2014
  • 171 bottles
  • 46% ABV
  • Single grain
  • RRP £80
1988 Invergordon Distillery "Caribbean Crème"
1988 Invergordon Distillery "Caribbean Crème"
Colour: Warm honey

Rich, perfumed lassi laced with a sweet salsa of mango, pineapple and papaya.

Palate: Lemon scented Madeleines drizzled with frothy Creme Anglaise, accompanied by a freshly baked soufflé.

Finish: A delicately balanced mouthfeel with a light nutty finish.

"Dark Treacle Fondant" Craigellachie 2002

  • Craigellachie Distillery, Speyside
  • Distilled 2002, bottled 2014
  • 804 bottles
  • 46% ABV
  • RRP £65
2002 Craigellachie Distillery "Dark Treacle Fondant"
2002 Craigellachie Distillery "Dark Treacle Fondant"
Colour: Deep copper

Nose: A compote of dates, figs and prunes topped with dense treacle sponge.

Palate: Sherry soaked sponge fingers layered with warming spiced milk chocolate ganache served with poached apricot.

Finish: Toasted chestnuts on the hearth.

"Honeysuckle Bower" Linkwood 1995

  • Linkwood Distillery, Speyside
  • Distilled 1995, bottled 2014
  • 332 bottles
  • 46% ABV
  • RRP £80
1995 Linkwood Distillery "Honeysuckle Bower"
1995 Linkwood Distillery "Honeysuckle Bower"
Colour: Summer Hay

Nose: A melange of ripe honeydew melon, pear and peach, presented on a polished sandalwood platter.

Palate: Tingling pepper cracked over toasted, oaty flapjacks, laced with pink grapefruit zest and freshly squeezed lime.

Finish: Crisp and refreshing aperitif for a warm evening.

"Kirsch Gateau" Bunnahabhain 1988

  • Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay
  • Distilled 1988, bottled 2014
  • 442 bottles
  • 56% ABV (cask strength)
  • RRP £130
1988 Bunnahabhain Distillery "Kirsch Gateau"
1988 Bunnahabhain Distillery "Kirsch Gateau"
Colour: Rich mahogany

Nose: Rum and raisin fruitcake soaked in cherry kirsch served with a ginger wine toddy.

Palate: Liqueur soaked cherries with dark chocolate flaked with sea salt. Sticky gingerbread spread with molasses syrup.

Finish: Warming cinnamon and star anise coat the palate.

"Snuffed Candle" Aberfeldly 1999

  • Aberfeldly Distillery, Highland
  • Distilled 1999, bottled 2014
  • 379 bottles
  • 46% ABV
  • RRP £85
1999 Aberfeldly Distillery "Snuffed Candle"
1999 Aberfeldly Distillery "Snuffed Candle"
Colour: Polished Copper

Nose: The aroma of warm church candles mingling with fresh pipe tobacco and old fashioned toffee.

Palate: Curled up on a leather armchair indulging in dark orange chocolate and a shot of rich espresso by the glow of red embers.

Finish: The intense flavour of biting into a roasted coffee bean.

There are only a few hundred bottles from each cask and the suggested retail prices range from £65 to £130. These bottlings will be available in selected retailers in the UK, EU and key Asian markets.

William Wemyss, Founder and Managing Director at Wemyss Malts, commented: “We are delighted to introduce another excellent selection of single casks, named as always by our hard-working and creative tasting panel. We've selected a Bunnahabhain sherry butt to be bottled at cask strength in this release named Kirsch Gateau after its rich mahogany colour and palate of tempting dark chocolate and liqueur soaked cherries."

Source and pictures: Wemyss Malts

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Highland Park Thor

Highland Park Thor

The Orkney islands were heavily influenced by Vikings and Norse settlers from the 8th till 13th century. The islands still bear the traces of Nordic culture and stories. The majestic Saint Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, built by Earl Rognvald, is the living proof of it. The invaders even left 'graffiti' runes on the Neolithic chambered cairn at Maeshowe.

Highland Park has cleverly woven those Viking stories into their product range with the Warrior series and a limited edition trilogy in honour of Earl Magnus, Saint Magnus and Earl Haakon.

In 2012 the marketing masterminds behind Highland Park decided to dedicate a series to four fearsome and fabulous Norse gods. Thor was the first to be introduced to the public. Released as a batch of 23.000 bottles, Thor was relatively widely available for whisky aficionados. The following two releases, Loki & Freya, were already significantly smaller and even rarer to find.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

News: anCnoc 1975 Vintage

anCnoc 1975

AnCnoc released the 1st of February their eagerly anticipated 1975 Vintage. This exclusive single malt was drawn from three casks at the Knockdhu Distillery in Huntly.

Only 1590 bottles of this Vintage will be available in global markets including the UK, USA, Russia and Canada with a recommended retail price of £300 (€400) per bottle.

Distinguished by its amber tone, anCnoc 1975 Vintage is neither chill-filtered nor coloured and is bottled at natural cask strength of 44.2% ABV.

In true anCnoc style, the bold black and silver packaging mirrors the contemporary design of the core range and features the unique illustration of the Knockdhu Distillery.

Official tasting notes

The whisky, matured in Spanish and American oak casks, is spicy on the nose and accentuated by orange peel and green apple. To taste, the malt is full bodied, intense and complex with notes of fruit cake, sticky toffee and seasoned leather which leads to a long, sweet finish.

Source & picture: anCnoc


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Gordon & Macphail Reserve Strathmill 1999 for Maltclan Belgium

Strathmill 1999 by Gordon & Macphail for Maltclan
Picture: Chris Lauriers (with permission)
Belgian whisky club Maltclan rejoices us every year with a fantastic low-budget festival and a usually equally superb Speyside bottling from Gordon & Macphail. This year was no different. The sixth consecutive festival is outgrowing itself and the fourth club bottling, a 1999 Strathmill, is yet another VFM touchdown.

The whisky was selected by 42 Maltclan members during a tasting in Lossiemouth with Eric Vermeire of Whisky Warehouse (Belgian distributor of G&M) and Juliette Buchan (Export Regional Manager at G&M) on their Speyside trip in 2014.

Strathmill is yet another Diageo distillery that mainly supplies malts for the blending industry. J&B is one of the better-known blends containing Strathmill. The distillery came to life in 1891 as Glenisla-Glenlivet. Strathmill was given its contemporary name in 1895 when gin company W&A Gilbey bought the distillery for £9.500. The only official bottlings, to my knowledge, are a 12yo Flora & Fauna and a 1996 Manager's Choice single cask bottled in 2010.