About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


It's been 2½ years since I last reviewed a Littlemill here on The Malt Desk - a sure sign that this closed Lowland distillery often is hard to come by.

A second reason is that it has had a a bit of a dodgy reputation a few years back, but indie bottlings over the past 2-3 years has show that Littlemill did, in fact, produce good whisky in the years leading up to its closure in 1994. 10 years later in 2004, what remained on the site was destroyed by fire.

Looking through old reviews online, it seems like young version of Littlemill have never been held in high esteem... could this be a case of Littlemill not shining until it reaches its late teens early 20's? much like Port Ellen, IMO... That said there's (of course) always the exception to the rule, but from what I've tasted myself over the years, e.g. from Port Ellen, I never really thought much of it at 13-14yo.... Anyway, this is just my stray thoughts on the matter. :-)

Now back to the Cadenhead Littlemill...

Littlemill Distillery - picture from WikiMedia

Littlemill 1990 24yo 53,7%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 582 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Ohh, a very tropical little number this one, exotic wood, very noticeable coconut, then vanilla, mango fruit juice, melon and oranges. There's also a slight mineral-like edge to this nose. Wet gravel/dirt perhaps? Almonds/marzipan in here too It also shows some herbal notes at times... even notes of old Calvados

Mango, peach and oranges peel held back by malt. There's more coconut, vanilla creme and overripe green grapes in there as well. What really strikes me with this one is how well the alcohol is integrates with the flavours here. The finish is not as heavy as one would expect but it goes on for a while and when its about to disappear you just want to take another sip!

It's the best Littlemill I've tried - it's deeeeelicious! :-)

At the first nosing/taste this came across with a bit of varnish/paint thinner which often can be the cask with Littlemill, but leave this one to breathe and a whole other world appears - in fact its up there with the most brilliant stuff I've tasted so far in 2015


Sunday, 4 October 2015


Its time to throw myself into a world of Cadenhead bottlings - what's not to like about that? :-)

Its been one of my favourite bottlers for quite a few years now - why? because of the quality of their bottlings - that why! I agree, there's the occasional dud out there (at least according to my taste - regular readers will know I'm sensitive to sulphury notes) but they are few and far between at Cadenheads, IMO... and I wonder if there's any in the bunch I'll be reviewing next. 

The plans for a Cadenhead tasting took form already early this year.
I already knew then that Campbeltown would be on the agenda for my 2 weeks in Scotland so it was not just a matter of keeping my eyes open for a special bottle to bring home for the September tasting. The rest of the bottles for this tasting was bought at the Cadenhead shop in Odense, Denmark.

First up was the BenRiach Small Batch...

The stills at BenRiach Distillery, May 6th 2013 © The Malt Desk

BenRiach 1996 19yo 47,1%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 558 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Classic Speyside nose... lots of apple, vanilla and honey and grassy notes - it gets a bit sharp-ish, but a few drops of water calms it down at bit.

Sweet arrival with vanilla custard, overripe pear, some ginger and a hot sensation mid-late palate and again some water can take the edge of things.
With water it gets very citrussy on the palate and also has some gingery notes peeing through at time.

Except for the little hot-streak, this is a classic Speyside profile and one most can drink. I can't really put my finger on what its missing for me to take this one higher... but it is missing a little something.

Still, its perfectly good whisky!!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015


The last review in this series of Arrans is the bottling that actually inspired me to have a look at Arran again.

There's now quite a few bottlings available in their teens and looking at the reviews they've been getting (other than my own) they're great whiskies.

But back to the Càrn Mòr Arran... As mentioned in the review of my 'reference Arran, the 14' I attended the Càrn Mòr tasting with Peter Mackay at the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival earlier this year... some good whiskies were had for sure, but one blew me away - the 18yo Arran from their 'Celebration of the Cask'-series.

Isle of Arran 1996 18yo (18.12.1996/30.03.2015) 52,6%, sherry puncheon#2135, 560 bottles, Cárn Mór - Celebration of The Cask

Colour is amber

A gentle attack of stewed fruits (apple), mellow malt and honey.
There's also a nice creamy/waxy feel to the nose accompanied by hint of sweet tobacco leaves, cocoa and ozone. Everything here comes in perfect measures and in perfect balance - love this!

Again the arrival is very gentle. It starts very creamy sweet with the sherry making its entrance. Then wow, what a surprising mid-palate - it goes into tropical fruit overdrive, kiwi, mango, pineapple but still manages never to go over the top with its sweetness or on fruit as there's always just that little oak to keep everything in place. The finish heads in direction of milk chocolate, tea and honey, but has some nutmeg notes as well. The sherry makes a short appearance at the end rounding everything off beautifully!

This is one of the best whiskies I've had so far in 2015!


Monday, 21 September 2015


We're almost at the end of this Arran Verticale, but this a couple of more to go - this one included.

As a member and Chairman of a Whisky Club myself, its always fun to try bottling done for other clubs/societies. This one I was looking particularly forward to as I through acquaintances with some of the guys in gWc had heard many good things about it... But we all know how tastes can vary - so would this also fit a Danish palate?

The Arran Malt 2001 13yo (28.05.2001/06.01.2014) 54,7%, sherry hogshead#2001/098, Distillery bottling for Glasgow Whisky Club

Colour is mahogany

A deep almost syrupy nose, raisin, prunes, truffle, chocolate and overripe oranges - absolutely fantastic!

Sun dried grapes, very PX (is this a PX sherry-cask?) blackberry, prunes, nutmeg, dark cherries. There's an underlying herbal note and some licorice in there as well. The finish hangs on for quite a while, but there is a slight dirty pop-up of something there which prevents this one from hitting the 90-mark.

89/100! it's fantastic whisky! Good job, Lads!

Friday, 18 September 2015


Next up is another Arran Distillery Exclusive, but this time from an ex-bourbon cask, probably from a barrel when you look at the relatively low bottle output.

I also tried this at the distillery in May this year and quite liked it so I was looked forward to trying it again at the Arran Verticale.

The Arran Malt 1999 15yo (19.07.1999/13.02.2015) 53,5%, ex-bourbon cask#130, 164 bottles, Distillery Exclusive

Colour is pale gold

Ohh nice... Fresh cut apple, some lemon, ginger and vanilla shortbread, truckloads of malt heading in direction of breakfast bran cereal and some mineral notes as in clay/wet sand, gravel - very 'highland' in fact.

Vanilla, grapeskins, a little honey, love fruits notes of melon, citrus, kiwi and apple. The mouth feel is quite creamy at 53,5% - the oily feel of Arran showing itself beautifully here. The finish heads towards more spices, pepper, ginger, caraway seeds, but its never invasive in any way... 

Love this! A very 'naked' Arran and I think its incredibly delicious!


Monday, 14 September 2015


Now straight on to the next Arran, this time a Distillery Exclusive bottling.
This I first tried at the distillery in May this year and I was taken with it right away and knew a couple of bottles of this had to follow me to Denmark.

One ended up on the Arran Verticale - here's my take on it:

The Arran Malt 1997 (10.02.1997/05.11.2014) 57,1% sherry cask#169, 189 bottles, Distillery Exclusive

Colour is light amber

Certainly lighter than the previous expression(read: less sherried).
This is far from bad though, as it present itself beautifully with thick mentholated malt, brown sugar, milk chocolate/cappuccino and whiffs of Madeira wine. After a while some hints of cinnamon and overripe apple comes through.

I normally find the Arran malt very oily, but this is a bit different. Some of the oily mouth feel is still there, yes, but its lighter and more lively than usual. Again overripe apple is a big theme here (love that note!) but there's also some light ginger and a little aniseed in here.

On the finish, a big rush of malt sweetness comes through along with a little nutmeg and a burst of menthol and peppery oak... Quite a fun finish and 'cool' finish and it works - for me at least :-)

Another gr8 Arran malt!


Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Just like shops have bottlings done for them - like then one I mentioned in my previous review, bottlings are also done as country exclusives.

One such is the 1998 16yo bottled for Denmark. It doesn't have a fancy name like the last one, but it is a lovely sherried edition, actually quite noticeably more than the the one in the previous review.

Heavy sherry doesn't make a whisky though, it also needs good spirit - so let's check this one out...

The Arran Malt 1998 16yo (17.08.1998/20.10.2014) 55,3% sherry hogshead#1998/1129, 260 bottles, Distillery bottling for Denmark

Colour is dark amber

Lots of dried fruits, sultana raisins, figs and also hint of orange/apricot. It also releases some peppery spices, enhanced a bit by the alcohol. Leaving it for a bit lets the sherry really pop out accompanied by a very enjoyable maltiness.

Quite a pungent sherry presence but never over the top - it lets the malt shine along with some orange chocolate, dark honey and cocoa dust and hint of marzipan. Some dark sweet cherry appears on an almost perfect balanced finish had a drying spicyness not show its face on the finish, but is really just me trying to find trying to find something to put a finger on.

This was also voted the winner of flight no. 1 consisting of the first 4 bottles from the left in the above picture.
This is great stuff! 


Saturday, 5 September 2015


Whiskybase.com has a nice habit of once in a while releasing bottles exclusively bottled for their website/shop. One of the more recent was a 15yo Arran bottled in April this year - and one that fit perfectly into my lineup the verticale.

The bottling was named 'My Precious' by the guys at Whiskybase.
The reason for that was that there was already to other private cask bottlings out there (not by whiskybase, though) with references to names from The Lord of the Rings. Those bottlings were The Dark Lord and The White Wizard and the guys at Whiskybase thought it would be very appropriate with a follow-up to that... and if you like a whisky very much, why not call it ... 'My Precious' :-)

Another fun fact not normally disclosed about this bottling is that its actually a re-racking, meaning it has spent the first years of its life in one cask before being transferred to another. This one was re-racked in 2004 from a cask of unknown origin and then spent the remaining years in its sherry hogshead.

Anyway, here's my take on 'My Precious':

The Arran Malt 2000 15yo (24.02.2000/02.04.2015) 56,9%, Sherry hogshead#2000/135, 220 bottles, Distillery for Whiskybase.com

Colour is Amber

Liquid caramel (Dooleys), brown sugar apple saute, cinnamon sticks, honey and choco müsli bars. Also a slight mentholated (cold) feeling is given off of the nose along with hints of orange and a few mashy notes. Lovely!

Very mouth coating, creme brulee burnt sugar, vanilla, apple again and lots of oils and malt. Again we also have cinnamon, fresh raisins, a slight floral hint, mixed bag candies fruits - the supermarket snack bag, some faded gingery notes and a little pepper

This is good stuff, no doubt! Unfortunately its sold out...


Monday, 31 August 2015


A week and a half ago, I hosted an Arran tasting in the local club.

It was a tasting brought on mostly by the fact that I stumbled across an absolutely stellar 18yo Arran by indie bottler Morrison Mackay in their Carn Mor-series at a tasting with Peter Mackay during the Spirit of Speyside Festival in May this year. It was then further sparked by my second visit to the Arran distillery later on the same trip where some distillery exclusive bottlings convinced me it was time to have a good hard look at what the Arran Malt has become... 

We started with the standard 14yo...

The complete tasting lineup © The Malt Desk August 20th 2015

The Arran Malt 14yo, 46% Distillery bottling

Colour is white wine

Sweet garden fruit and vanilla. Hint of raspberry, lots of honeyed malt and a hit of spicy oak. After a short while the spicyness becomes more dominant but never spoils the party

Malt and apple, apple and malt, followed by spicy ginger notes, all delivered by a quite oily spirit. Some vanilla sweetness rushes in along with some lemon and peppery notes.

A very straight forward and honest dram on the oily and slightly side.
The combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks works quite well here, but I'd still not recommend this as a first buy to a whisky newbie... maybe as a bottle no. 3 or 4 when you've had a couple under the belt!

Nice stuff, for sure!


Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Like the distillery in my previous review (Miltonduff) Glenburgie is a major contributor to the Ballantine's Blend - in fact so much that the owners has named it 'Home of Ballantine's'. Other major malt contributors to Ballantine's, BTW, are as mentioned Miltonduff, along with Glentauchers -also in Speyside- and Scapa Distillery on Orkney. 

As with Miltonduff, you often have to look to the indie bottlers to find a Glenburgie, but again Chivas Bros has done us a favour and bottled one in their Cask Strength Edition-series...

The Glenburgie Stills - Thanks to Bruce Crichton for the use of the picture

Glenburgie 1994 20yo (20.06.1994/05.08.2014) 50,7%, Batch#GB20006, Chivas Bros Cask Strength Edition, 50cl bottle

Colour is white wine

A bit restrained and spirity at first, but it opens up after a few minutes in the glass and gives off notes of soft fruit (apples and a little peach mostly), hints of coconut and a handsome dose of vanilla and sweet malt and some crushed red berries and a little nipping oak.

A good malty backbone wrapped in fruit, both a citrus and apple/pear style fruitiness. It has a slight waxy mouth feel with honey and hints of tinned pineapple. The finish gets slightly ginger- and peppery. Some good middle-of-the-road flavours takes this a long way without straying in any strange direction at any point. I see why this is a blenders favourite - this may even make it to be someones malt favourite!

Finally, thanks to Kalle for the sample