Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Today marks the end of Feis Ile. Thousands of Ardbeg fans, collectors and fast-money investors will queue up outside Ardbeg Embassies to lay their hands on the latest hype whisky of the brand.

Last years Ardbeg Day was all about football (it was the World Cup after all), so the marketing boys went full frontal. The golden (auri) liquid in the classic green (verdes) bottle got a Portuguese name referring to the Brazilian football team, peat football tournaments were organised and the whole crew got a sports outfit. One would almost forget Ardbeg Days is about whisky...

The whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks with especially toasted lids. One lid was lightly toasted for vanilla flavours, the other lid was heavily toasted to release mocha flavours. Does the liquid in the bottle can proudly bear the name Ardbeg?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Douglas Laing Old Particular Laphroaig 14yo - Feis Ile 2015 bottling

Douglas Laing Old Particular Laphroaig 14yo
Picture: The Whisky Exchange

Feis Ile 2015 is well underway and Fred Laing and the Douglas Laing crew hosted a few whisky tastings on the magical island of Islay these past few days. To commemorate the Festival of Malts and Music they released a special Feis Ile whisky: a single cask Laphroaig bottled under the Old Particular label. Enough chitchat, let's have a look at it!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Tomatin Cuatro Pedro Ximenez

Tomatin Cuatro PX finish
Picture: The Whisky Exchange

The four whiskies from the Cuatro series come from a spirit batch distilled on the same day. The whisky matured for nine years in American Oak casks before being transferred to four different types of Sherry butts for a period of over three years. As a result, each of the four expressions has developed their own unique characteristics. Today I explore the fourth and last single malt from the series: Pedro Ximenez sherry cask.

Pedro Ximenez sherry is a thick syrupy dessert wine. The grapes are either dried in the sun or picked very late so they contain more sugars. Most of the production takes place in Montilla-Moriles, outside Jerez, but maturation takes place in the Jerez region, thus allowing the nomination of sherry.

How did this PX finished whisky compare to the previous whiskies?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

News: Kilchoman 10th anniversary

Another landmark for the Wills family

  • Kilchoman 10th anniversary bottling
  • 58.2% ABV
  • Sherry & bourbon casks | 3,000 bottles
As many of you know 2015 marks the 10th anniversary year of Kilchoman Distillery and a special bottling to mark the occasion was to be expected!

The 10th anniversary release was selected from sherry and bourbon casks throughout the years of Kilchoman dating back to the very first casks in 2005.  This special bottling will contain whisky from 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

This is limited edition is just 3,000 bottles at cask strength (58.2% abv). Bottles are all individually hand numbered and will be available from Saturday 23rd. This will be on sale from the distillery shop only and not online.

The price will be £88.80.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Glen Grant SMWS 9.84 Playing Sea Battle in the Garden

Glen Grant SMWS 9.84 Playing Sea Battle in the Garden

The SMWS bottles Glen Grant whiskies under distillery label 9. The Rothes distillery was founded in 1840 by John and James Grant. The four wash stills and four spirit stills produce over six million litres of spirit on an annual basis.

Glen Grant is now owned by the Italian Gruppo Campari. The most common (and widely available) whiskies are The Major's Reserve named after James Grant junior, son of the founder, and the 10yo. The name provokes far less emotion than "Laphroaig" for instance but Glen Grant is one of the top 5 best-selling Scotch single malts worldwide.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

News: A new look for the Antiquary blends

Tomatin distillery decided to give its premium blended scotch brand, The Antiquary, a new look in a move to give it a new lease of life, while still retaining the history and provenance of one of the oldest whisky brands in the market.

The iconic diamond cut bottle remains, however it is in a taller, sleeker, and more sophisticated form.  Pocket Rocket Creative has designed new labels and secondary packaging to highlight the unique shape of the bottle which, aside from the high content of malt whiskies inside, is arguably one of the brand’s biggest selling points.

The Antiquary, along with its 12 year old and 21 year old expressions, is popular in France, Portugal, Russia, Angola, UK and the USA. The new label designs were trialled in Chile in 2014 and will now be rolled out worldwide.

The Antiquary has been around since 1888 and, particularly in the UK, is known as the blend that ‘my grandfather used to drink’”, explains Jennifer Masson, Marketing Manager. “We want to challenge that perception and give this deserving institution a new lease of life. The new packaging will attract a wider, and younger, demographic without distancing our existing customers. The Antiquary is a cut above other blends in the market; with 45% malt content all three expressions are smooth and easy drinking.”

The Antiquary finest
The Antiquary Finest, entry level blend of the Antiquary brand.
(left: old version - right: new version) 

Stephen Bremner, Sales Director, expects to see an upturn in sales as a result of the redesign: “Much like the Tomatin Distillery, the Antiquary brand has been a sleeping giant. With the new packaging I expect to attract new customers in new markets, particularly in South America. We’ve tweaked the recipe for our entry level expression too, to better reflect the original recipe used by the Hardie brothers in 1888, resulting in the smoothest blend in recent years.

The Antiquary 12
(left: old version - right: new version)

Del Sneddon, lead designer on the Antiquary Project said: “The distinctive bottle of The Antiquary with its unique facets has charmed many for decades. We decided to enhance its form further by creating a bespoke label that follows the geometric shape of the front face and also improves standout. More detailing and calligraphy within the label was also added to ‘premiumise’ the design and cleaner typography for the brand name was introduced to bring it up-to-date. The outer cartons proudly depict The Antiquary’s distinguishing contours for ultimate impact.”

The Antiquary 21
The Antiquary 21
(left: old version - right: new version)

More information on

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Tomatin Cuatro Oloroso

Tomatin Cuatro Oloroso
Picture: The Whisky Exchange

The four whiskies from the Cuatro series come from a spirit batch distilled on the same day, the whisky matured for nine years in American Oak casks before being transferred to four different types of Sherry butts for a period of over three years. As a result, each of the four expressions has developed their own unique characteristics. Today I explore the third from the series: Oloroso sherry cask.

Oloroso sherry is a different style from Fino and Manzanilla. The base wine is fortified to at least 18% ABV and thus prevents the yeasts to form the flor layer. The wine is exposed to the air and will oxidise during its time in the cask. The resulting sherry is a dry, slightly stronger and round wine.

How did this Oloroso finished whisky compare to its two paler brothers?

Identity Card Tomatin Cuatro Oloroso

  • Official bottling from Tomatin Distillery, Inverness (Highlands)
  • 12-year-old single malt Scotch 
  • Alcohol: 46 % ABV
  • Distilled January 15, 2001, moved to Oloroso sherry cask on June 29, 2011 
  • Bottled on August 20, 2014
  • 9 years maturation in American oak, 3 years finishing in first-fill Oloroso sherry cask | 1500 bottles

Spanish dessert buffet with Christmas cake

Tasting notes

Colour: The use of Oloroso sherry casks is definitely visible. This whisky is considerably darker in colour with a hue of old gold. When swirling the dram, slow and gracious legs form on the glass.

Nose: Sharp yet sweet on the nose with lots of classic sherry influences. Oranges, almonds, vanilla, marzipan and dried fruits. Liquorice root and fruit candy. After a while, the dried fruits become more pronounced. A delicious Christmas cake.

Water gives it a touch of rice pudding with cardamom, vanilla, mint and roasted walnuts.

Taste:  The orange flavours develop further on the palate. Seville orange sauce, honey and liquorice. Sweet and juicy pears drizzled with dark and bitter chocolate.

A drop of water brings back the vanilla and cardamom flavoured rice pudding. Sweet maraschino cherries, A hint of mint.

Finish:  The aftertaste is sweet and syrupy. Warm milk with honey, mint and vanilla.


Oloroso matured or finished whiskies are among my personal favourites. It gives a lot of sweet and dried fruit notes without becoming overly sweet (Although I have a sweet tooth for unhealthy things...). Tomatin did a fine job with the Cuatro series and this Oloroso finished Highlands whisky is one of the better from the lot.

The Cuatro Series is an interesting experiment. It may be inspired by the Glenmorangie 12yo series. Tomatin, however, pushed the idea a little bit further by splitting up one batch of spirit into 4 different whiskies each with a very specific sherry finish. A bottle of the Cuatro series  (12 years old, 46% ABV, natural colour and non-chillfiltered) costs approximately €68.

If you still want a bottle, you'd better be quick. These are already a few months available and Tomatin only released 1.500 bottles of every whisky. Oh, and the marketing dept. added a little detail to the bottles to make sure you would want to collect all four of them. Unless you are perfectly fine with a bottle that states "bottle 3/4"... (I know I would want all four of them).
Pictures: Tomatin Distillery

More information on Oloroso sherry:


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Feis Ile 2015 Special Bottlings

The Islay festival of Malt and Music is almost upon is. A lot of peatlovers will undertake a pilgrimage to their Valhalla on the inner-Hebrides. Others, like myself, will watch things from a distance.

It has become a tradition for the distilleries on the island to invite visitors to their Open Day and offer them a (mostly) one-day only special single malt. For the first time we will see some special releases from two independent bottlers, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Douglas Laing.

Let's start with an overview of the distillery bottlings.


Ardbeg Day is traditionally held on 30 May. The Kildalton distillery is celebrating its bicentenary with a special bottling: The Ardbeg Perpetuum. The whisky was already on sale on the distillery and since yesterday on their website. Although the website had some serious hiccups (or Ardbugs if you like), all of the bottles sold out or were taken offline due to a lack of server capacity. You may expect some funky futuristic marketing festivities celebrating the past, present and future.

Ardbeg Feis Ile 2015 Perpetuum: 47.4% ABV, NAS, £70

Ardbeg Perpetuum

Discover the full programme of Ardbeg's Open Day


Islay's oldest distillery organises their Open Day on Wednesday 27 May. Bowmore once again teams up with Islay Ales to produce two craft ales. One matured in a Bowmore sherry cask, another one matured in a bourbon cask.

Bowmore will also present three different whiskies:

Bowmore Feis Ile 2015 Virgin Oak: 55.7% ABV, NAS, 1000 bottles, £55
Bowmore Feis Ile 2015 Sherry Cask 1988: unknown ABV, 26 year old, 248 bottles, £350
Bowmore Bottle your own Feis Ile 2015 Oloroso sherry cask 2002: unknown ABV, 12 year old, cask #2214, £80

Bowmore Feis Ile releases

Discover the full programme of Bowmore and Islay Ale's Open Day


The sleeping giant  along Loch Indaal will very likely celebrate its Master Distiller Jim McEwan who will retire in July 2015. Bruichladdich's Open Day takes place on 24 May. Their festival bottling will be a special Black Art.

Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2015: High Noon Black Art Valinch: unknown ABV, NAS, a symbolic 1881 bottles

Bruichladdich logo

Discover the full programme of Bruichladdich's Open Day


Islay's most northernly distillery will open its door to the public during Feis Ile on 29 May. Master Distiller Ian MacMillan will present two Feis Ile 2015 releases to a select audience on Monday
25 May. One is called Rubha A'Mhail and another one will be an 18yo Moscatel matured or finished whisky.

Bunnahyabhain Feis Ile 2015 Rubha A'Mhail: 11 year old
Bunnahyabhain Feis Ile 2015 18 yo : 18 year old, Moscatel finished

Rubha A’ Mhail

Discover the full programme of Bunnahabhain's Open Day

Caol Ila

The Diageo behemoth distillery on Islay holds its Open Day on 25 May. They released a 17 yo triple matured whisky for Feis Ile 2015.

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2015: 1998, 1.500 bottles, £99, triple matured (American oak, Moscatel, old puncheons).

Caol Ila

Caol Ila logo

Discover the full programme of Caol Ila's Open Day


Islay's nearest neighbour profits from the festival of Malt and Music to attract some visitors to their remote distillery on the Isle of Jura. The Jura Tastival, as they baptised their Open Day, will take place on 28 May 2015. No details on the special bottling have been released yet, but chances are, it will be called 'Jura Tastival 2015'.

Isle of Jura

Discover the full programme of Jura's Open Day


Islay's youngest farm distillery celebrates its tenth birthday this year. And it looks like their Feis Ile whisky will celebrate the event big time. Kilchoman's Open Day is held at 28 May. The Feis Ile 2015 release is a vatting of 3 fresh bourbon barrels at 7 years of age, the oldest release bottled so far. There are 742 individually numbered bottles at 58.2%abv.

Kilchoman Feis Ile 2015: 2008, 58.2% ABV, 742 bottles, £78,60

Kilchoman logo

Discover the full programme of Kilchoman's Open Day


The second Diageo and most known distillery on Islay also releases a triple matured expression. Their Open Day will be held at 23 May.

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2015: 1991 Vintage, 24yo, 3.500 bottles, £124ยต

Lagavulin logo

Discover the full programme of Lagavulin's and Port Ellen Malting's Open Day


Another distillery that will be celebrating 200 years in business is Laphroaig. Their Feis Ile bottling will be called, as we might expect from previous years, Cairdeas. Laphroaig has its Open Day on 26 May.

Laphroaig Feis Ile 2015 Cairdeas: NAS, 51.5% ABV

Laphroaig Cairdeas front labelLaphroaig Cairdeas back label

Independent bottlings

Two independent bottlers, Douglas Laing and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, will present a special single cask release during Feis Ile.

Douglas Laing

Glasgow based Douglas Laing will hold a Scotch & Small plates brunch on the island and bottled a commemorative Feis Ile bottling:

Old & Particular Laphroaig 2001: 14 yo, 48.4% ABV, refill butt  DL10694, 636 bottles

Douglas Laing Laphroaig 14 yo

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society organises an Open Day on Friday 22 May in the beautiful Islay House

SMWS 3.243 'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy': 17 year old, 57.1% ABV, refill ex-sherry butt, from Islay's oldest distillery (hint: it starts with a B and wants more...), £80. God, I really envy the U.K. for this whisky!

SMWS 3.243 'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy

The Islay House

The Islay House itself will also present a Feis Ile bottling. A 10 year old Port Charlotte distilled in 2004. Available at their Garden Party this Friday 22 May.

The Islay House Feis Ile

I'm not the only one who did a blogpost on the Feis Ile bottlings. Yoav Gelbfish was the first one, so he deserves some credit too. Read his version of it on Whisky Gospel.

Monday, 4 May 2015

May The Fourth be with you

International Star Wars Day

May 4 is considered a holiday by Star Wars fans to celebrate the cult Sci-Fi movies. The date was chosen for the easy pun on the catchphrase "May the Force be with you" - "May the fourth be with you". Even though the holiday was not actually created or declared by Lucasfilm/Disney they still choose to embrace it annually.

What does this have to do with whisky? For this is still a whisky blog after all...

Star Wars - SMWS

A lot of geeks, be it whisky geeks, tech geeks or any other subspecies, have a common love for the Star Wars movies. And if you happen to have a few dedicated fans among whisky geeks, then Star Wars themed bottlings might pop-up from a galaxy far away.

SMWS 63.27 "Jar Jar Binks in trouble again"

Next dram tonight sees a wee increase (!) in the abv and the quirkiness factor. #SMWS #scotch #whisky
— SMWS Canada (@SMWSCanada) March 21, 2015
Youssa no needa de tasty notes fo deesa weesky – ju taka wan sooky an POW – BOOM – youa haba dwibbly dew in de whiskas. Okaydokee Daddee – mesa gonna gawantee yousa happee asa Gungun an wesa ganna be weal frenz fo eva!

This 5 year old Glentauchers was bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) in
2011 or so. This was a very young whisky from a 2nd fill sherry butt and was distilled on the 29th of June 2006.

Save Lars Homestead Whisky Trilogy

Belgian whisky blogger (and avid Star Wars fan) Mark Dermul rescued the Lars Homestead , one of the iconic filming locations of the desert planet Tatooine in the Star Wars saga. To celebrate the successful operation, Mark and Imanuel Dijk decided to thank their crew with a very special gift at the Star Wars Celebration Europe in July 2013: A private bottling of Bruichladdich named Save Lars Whisky.

After the news got out, several fans of the Lars project as well as many whisky lovers around the world, made it clear that they very much wanted to get their hands on this whisky. And so the idea of another Star Wars Trilogy was born. Mark completed his Trilogy with a 14yo Balmenach in 2015.

Bruichladdich 20 Year Old 1992


Auchentoshan 24 Year Old 1989

Balmenach 14 Year Old 2001

You can read the full story on these stunning whiskies on Mark's website:

Private whisky collection Artisan Restaurant

The Artisan Restaurant in Wishaw (UK) has an amazing collection of over 1300 whiskies. The extensive array includes everything to suit the connoisseur from the Highlands and Islands and Speyside to the Lowlands. Chef Derek Mather even has a series of private whisky bottlings for his restaurant with custom Star Wars labels. (Note to self: stop drooling!)

Pictures: Derek Mather


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Aultmore 21

Aultmore 21

Founder Alexander Edward opened Aultmore in 1897, during the peak of the Victorian whisky boom. After inheriting Benrinnes, Edward co-founded subsequently Aultmore and Craigellachie. The distillery was built to supply the blending houses. For years the whisky was called "Rarest of Speyside" and only locals knew where to ask for a "nip of the Buckie road".

The 21-year-old single malt is a Travel Retail exclusive and can only be found in "duty-free" shops at airports. Although some specialised whisky shops laid their hands on some bottles and offer them too (but beware of their pricing strategy!).

Let's see what Stephen Marshall and Bacardi discovered in the thick fog along Buckie Road.