Saturday, November 27, 2010

My bang for the bucks whiskies

If you have been into whisky for a bit and think you are well acquainted with the front row at your local supermarket and ready to venture into new territories, things can be a bit of a jungle. The amount of bottlings out there these days is high. Wonderfully high. There's more to the world of whisky than top brands like Glenfiddich, Highland  Park, Glenlivet and Macallan.Nothing wrong with those I will say before going on.

Amongst bloggers and in forums it's always a reoccuring subject to name cheap whiskies, which is looked upon as great value for money. Who isn't interested in good deal ?

Here's MY list of a set of whiskies, which might not be the cheapest whiskies around, but I think you won't get better value for money than these. I don't think it's a coincidince that 9/10 of these are bottled at 46+ ABV, as my personal preference is for unchillfiltered, not watered down whiskies

Deanston 12yo, 46.3%
The new revatted, unchillfiltered version of Deanston, and what a comeback. Creamy, delicious single malt. Available for less than 30£

Deanston mini

Old Pulteney WK499
Available in selected airports World of Whiskies shops...Heathrow and Edinburgh from personal experience. I have seen this at 50£ for 2 1liter bottlings making this the best deal in whisky I have ever seen. It's a NAS Old Pulteney cask strength in a typical style of the distillery. Seaside vanilla and mint!

Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel 47.8%
Cask variation will of course be there, but these are typical delicious ex-bourbon vanilla whisky. Yum Yum. Not more than fortysomething quids usually

Tomatin 18yo 46%
Another solid comeback and a living proof that whisky at 46% just is better. One of my favourites at the whisky fringe 2009

Amrut Fusion 50%
First time I got this blind I guessed it as 20+ year old lightly peated speysider. Nuff said
Back label of Amrut, bottle almost gone

Glenburgie 10yo Gordon and MacPhail 40%
Sometimes seen at below 20£ on offer in UK, and below 300Dkr as standard price in Denmark, this is a delicious continous bottling from Gordon and MacPhails. It has got special touch that I often find in G and M sherry casked whiskies

Bladnoch Forum Bottlings
Apart from their own whisky, Raymond bottles a big selection of other distilleries. Bladnoch Forum bottlings is probably the greatest value for money whiskies around! Even includes Bladnoch whisky itself now and again.
Bladnoch Forum Bottling example : Cambus Grain 

Lagavulin 12yo Cask Strength
Bottled at cask strength and 12yo this is one of my favourite Islays. 44£ in Edinburgh airport

Tweeddale blend 46%/ Black Bull 12yo
A pair of excellent delicious blends and delightful newcomers to the whiskymarket. And it's great to see a blend that's not watered down to 40%. Less than 30£

Aberlour A'bunadh
Legendary small batch NAS cask strength fullsherried whiskies. Beware, there can be some batch variations

And here is one that you might have missed.

Arran Peacock
This was out 1½ year ago and sold out most places. Still available at Juul's in Copenhagen. Voted whisky of the year 2009 by One of my favourite whiskies

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Websites that asks for your birthday and country

Here's something that annoys me.

Don't You just hate the fact, that it's quite common these days, that you have to enter details about your country of origin and your birthday details whenever you have to enter the website of a company making whisky or the website of a distillery?

I sincerely thinking this is treating the customers like they are idiots. I also believe that the companies doing this is enforced so to by their lawyers.

Typical welcome screen from a distillery

Now whats happening here?? Anyone above the age of 9 (and I am possible offending most kids age 5-8 right now!!) is able to enter some more or less random numbers that will make you appear 18+ or 21+ or whatever is needed, depending on what country you are from.

So the only effects this page has, is 
1. It annoys the majority of us thats old enough to drink, as we have to spend time entering these details whenever we enter sites. 
2. Anyone not supposed to enter, might get some satisfaction beating the "authorities" or a laugh how stupid  this is. I doubt a lot of youngsters are interested in malt whisky anyway

So these filters won't stop anyone not at legal age to gain access to your website. I don't think it has stopped even one teenager from breaking into their parents spirit cabinet and drinking their brains out...

So instead of treating customers like they are idiots, I think these companies should start doing things that has an effect or is more meaningful.

Support responsible drinking by
- Small banners with or similar seems sensible to me.
- Spittoons at festivals.
- At distillery visits the driver should get a sample offered as alternative, or just a wee container they can pour the dram in and take with them for later.

One great thing I have seen is what Diageo do at the Spirit of Speyside whiskyfestival. They sponsor minibusses and taxivouchers. A festival like this has some problems of logistics, and these sponsorwhips actually makes it quite cheap to get around, even over longer distances, so personally it's something I really appreciate. This actually does make it possible to get to most events quite easy without a designated driver.

So put the money where it matters, treat people like grown ups, and stop annoying me with those stupid formulars

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Abhain Dearg Peacemaker

MacSorley's Pub in Jamaica Street, Glasgow gives guest the possibility to taste 3months (approx) Abhainn Dearg spirit

On the bar there is a 30 liter casks and orders are pulled straight from the cask with a valinch

This is 2nd "batch" of Abhainn Dearg at MacSorley's. With 3 liters remaining in the cask, it was transported to the Isle of Lewis and topped up with new make spirit. After 12 weeks the cask was again opened for pouring. The cask is 30 liter ex-oloroso wood. As whisky has to be matured for at least 3 years in wood before it can actually be labeled whisky, this can not be called whisky. It simply has to be labeled otherwise.

Abhainn Dearg is gaelic and means Red River. The distillery is located far away on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, an island of the Outer Hebrides. Abhainn Dearg is arguably the smallest distillery in Scotland with a production capacity of just 20000 liters annually. The distillery is the most westernly distillery in Scotland, and also the most remote.

Abhain Dearg Spirit 64%

1. Abhainn Dearg Peacemaker 64% straight from the cask at MacSorley's

This is powerful stuff. It's not everyday I get a dram that I can nose from a yeards distance. The nose is very fresh, and makes me think of raki, grappa and grapes. The palate instanly puts the colour green on my brain. Green tea, green apples, green leaves, even the perfume they use in green dishwater soap. It's dominated by youth without being feinty. It reminds me a lot of the very young Benromachs that came out a few years ago. I also sense a tiny bit maritime notes in this, salt, seaside and a harbour

Rating : promising

Rob with a dram of Abhainn Dearg. Notice the colour!

Find the location of Abhain Dearg here

and check their website here

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diageo Dramming part 6 - Glenkinchie

In the cozy countryside just southeast of Edinburgh lies the only remaining lowland distillery of Diageo... Glenkinchie

Apart from being part of the original Classic Malts series, with the usual couple of versions available, and the very rare special bottling by Diageo, Glenkinchie is very hard to find as independent bottlings.

The few I have tried have been magnificient. So it is a very hidden gem


I mentioned before a few distilleries that has improved, and when Glenkinchie last year went from 10yo to 12yo with their standard expression it was another one for the list. I still believe we haven't seen the best from this distillery ..yet (hopefully)

It's also a very nice distillery to visit, the tour starts with a museum, that includes a miniature model of a distillery

Distillery model

After the tour you enter a wee bar with the possibility to try out a few drams, depending on what kind of tour you paid for. I wish they included a cask strength sample here !

1. Glenkinchie 1975 33yo bottled by A.D. Rattray 60.7%

Refill Hogshead cask #2967. Distilled 6th August 1975, bottled 3rd November 2008

The ABV of this bottling is remarkable high. I can't recall seeing a lot of whiskies with higher ABV. And the age combined with ABV is more or less sensational!

I am pretty sure this has been laid down at full strength, not the 63.5% which seems to be almost industry standard these days. Other Diageo bottlings from this era has the same high ABV, just recalling some rare Malts Collection bottlings I have seen.

This is intense stuff and not for the faint hearted. Luckily I got experience consuming Staggs, which can have ABV's of 71+ so I know what to do

This I just have to consume dropwise. I love the explosion of taste these drops do on your palate. Great stuff

The nose is sweet ripe fruits..Classic old whisky from forgotten days, but what an ABV to mask it!. This takes time, care and concentration to drink

If you follow one of the endless whiskygurus who has a habit of telling you exactly how a whisky must and should be drunk, this whisky will teach you to find your own way of doing things

33yo Glenkinchie

The palate is an explosion of spicy wood, sweet ripe fruits which follow the great nose on the same pattern, with the wood, which was more or less absent in the nose, now entering the stage

The finish is long and spicy and some bitterness. It stays forever under the sides of your tongue!

Rating 86 - but this won't be everybody's cup of Gevalia

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Diageo Dramming part 5 - Strathmill

Strathmill Pagoda's

Strathmill, one of those unknown Diageo's. Blendfodder some would name it.

It's located in Keith, which other distillery, Strathisla, is a bit more known. Strathmill has and is very hard to come by as a single malt. Even the flora and fauna bottling is a bit rare


Strathmill was built in 1891, and the they extended from 2 to 4 stills in 1968. They also added purifiers in 1968. Other places I have seen purifiers are at Glen Grant and Ardbeg

The function of purifiers is to create some extra reflux and make the spirit lighter

Here's some photos I took of the Stratmill purifier system

Strathmill spirit still

The refluxed spirit is entering the still again through the little pipe. The purifer itself was attached quite late in the process, in a small condenser, located just outside the building. I tried to capture it here :

Stratmill purifier

Here's another view of the purifier :

Strathmill purifier

There have been some innovation over time to create lighter spirits at distilleries. Tall still's at Glenmorangie. Triple Destillation at Auchentoshan, weird bends on the lyne arms at Tobermory. One of the more unusual things I have seen was at Fettercairn, where there is a small copper pipe around the upper part of the still with constant running water rinsing the exterior of the still. The colder copper will increase reflux inside the still itself!

This post has become far too nerdy now, so on with the dramming :-)

1. Strathmill 1974 31yo bottled by Mackillop's Choice 43.3%

Distilled 14 May 1974, bottled March 2006. Cask 1210

A very light spirit. It was a bit restrained when I first opened the bottle, but has improved since - it's been open around 2-3 months now. It's dominated by mint and vanilla. Not very intense. It's a very nice whisky, but a bit one dimensional, and you would really expect more wood influence from a whisky this age. The low ABV makes this very drinkable and almost a soft drink :-)

It's a perfect morning dram, I think this would get lost in a tastings if mixed up against other malts. It is a very anonymous dram. Lacks texture and oilyness most of all. But the simplicity got some charm

Rating 83

When I just opened the bottle it was a clearcut (2/5) but here after 3 months open I did consider marking it a 3/5, but somehow I still feeels its far from that. See my ratings explained at the first box top right of the blog

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blind samples from WhiskyIsrael

I am battling Whisky Israel :-)

Gal Granov, one of the guys behind Whisky Israel has supplied me with a couple of samples - and I am supposed to review them blind. And I will do that !. At the end of this post I will add Gal revealing the truth, which I don't know yet

I allready had Keith Wood of Whisky-Emporium having a bit of fun with 4 samples supplied by me, which he described here :

So now it's my turn, here we go.

Gal Granov's sample no 1

Milk-acidity (you need to have been in a cowbarn with newly milked milk to know what I mean!), floral perfumes which leaves the colour purple on my braind for some odd reason. Peaty ? I am getting associations to Bowmore, but the spirit is lighter than what I would normally associate with Bowmore. I would say the floral fruity perfumy taste of this dram is origined from some kind of wine-finish

My first guess would be a Port Charlotte wine finish, 2nd Longrow, but these are also the 2 peaty malts most associated with finishes. The finish isn't affecting this malt to a major extent, but more gives it a soft touch. I also feel the peat is underdeveloped or restrained somehow, but hey--I have been known to be immune to peat :-)

Rating 80

Gal Granov's sample no 2

Cocoa, dusty, reminds me of a vatting of Amrut and Scapa, how clueless can you be ? Fruity, dry, slightly woody-spicy, vanilla. I really like this for its sharp freshness and the vanilla. I got no clue what it is, reminds me a bit of Imperial

Rating 85

Here is the verdict by Gal :

The 'Peaty' sample is indeed a Bowmore as you initially suspected... It's not finished in any cask AFAIK. It's the Bowmore Tempest 10 year old, Cask strength. quite a new expression, and a nice one, though it's not one of my favorites when it comes to Islay peaty delights.

The non peaty one is a very special type of Arran malt. yes, Arran! It's a very limited bottling of a single cask Arran aged 2 years on Arran and then shipped to Israel for additional maturation in the city of Jerusalem. Then bottled at CS by  the Israeli whisky society. A very young Arran, but maturation in Israel in hotter temp is quite fast.
you can find a post of mine detailing it and the story of this special cask : 

Well done Steffen. ;)

Now it's my turn. Next week i shall nose your samples and post mine.... exciting and quite intimidating as well.


PS Gal told me on twitter that the Arran is almost 4 years old in total!

My own final comments : Amrut is a whisky that is matured under high temperatures in Bangalore, India, so it's not totally clueless I got associations to it, as Gal's Arran has been matured for almost 2 years in Israel. Amrut is also a young whisky. I wouldn't say the Arran is similar to Amrut but it just had this thing to it that gave me associations