About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts, though I may wander elsewhere from time to time. The views expressed here are entirely my own!

Saturday, 11 October 2014


Once upon a time there was a bottling of Glenfarclas that wanted to be an American Bourbon...
That could certainly be the case with this particular bottling released by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) has since it started, been one of the few independent bottlers regularly releasing casks of Glenfarclas, many of them ex-bourbon casks, which is not a part of the Glenfarclas Distillery normal sherry profile. This, however, could easily be mistaken for just that, at least judging by the colour of it the whisky. 

Glenfarclas is one of those whiskies that is held very much in high esteem with both whisky professionals and drinkers and IMO one of those Speyside whiskies that can stand the test of time (read: long term maturation), along with Glen Grant but just looking at it, I wonder if this one will fall through... ?

Glenfarclas Distillery, May 2nd 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 1965 1.183 (07.07.1965) 48yo ' A vibrant Enigma' 48%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 127 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is deep golden mahogany

Like a US bourbon with a slight malty edge? sun dried tomatoes, dominant oak, spice and herbs - lots of it, pepper, cumin, myrica, hints of oregano and a floral note. Mint, herb liqueurs, handful of warm raisins.
This could be anything after a while... Cognac, Bourbon, Rum, Malt Whisky - take your pick

Certainly a great nose!

Dry as the Kalahari :-O not any distillery no. 1.xxx left in this one... this one, as I suspected, tastes more like an American bourbon than a malt. Syrup, molasses, dark rums, cinnamon, bit of mint, cloves, orange peel and white inner skin, fresh pine and wood sap, burnt caramel and bitter oak.

Sadly, I suspected this - finally a Glenfarclas over the edge, having spent just too much time in the cask - at least to my taste. It's not a bad whisk(e)y... it just spent too much time in the cask.  I'm thinking that if you like Bourbon you'll like this one too - its certainly closer to that in style than a 'Farclas.

Thanks to TK for the generous sample!


Monday, 6 October 2014


Ben Nevis Distillery is one of the last working West Coast (mainland) distilleries left in Scotland.
Located on the outskirts of Fort William below the highest mountain in the UK (1344m) with the same name.

The distillery is carries it own distinct style, which this blogger never has been taken by... Ben Nevis has released some bottling from the early 70's that has received much acclaim in parts of the whisky community, I've tried a couple but even those haven't really been favourites of mine.

It was then with much anticipation I had a dram of this at a private function last month as I already had my Ben Nevis alarm going off when I saw the tasting lineup for the function and I pretty much decided that at some point there has to come along a Ben Nevis that will cater to my taste.

The whisky I'll be reviewing this time is an attempt from Ben Nevis to try and recreate the style of whisky from back when the distillery was started in the late 1800s. Carrying the name of the Distillery's founder, John McDonald, this bottling has gotten good reviews in several places already, let's see how it fares landing on this bloggers palate....

Ben Nevis Distiller, October 15th 2009 © The Malt Desk
McDonald's Traditional Ben Nevis 46%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Straight out of a newly opened bottle there's.... cheese!! and I'm not much of a cheese eater, especially not the strong stuff this one reeks of. I'd pretty much decided to fail this whisky right here and then but decided to try and give it 10min in the glass before returning to it. 10mins later the cheese is gone (thank you!) and instead there's peat, ozone, sherry as in dried fruit, oranges, slight burnt toffee and, in general, quite a heavy feel to the nose.

Spicy, wood chips, nutty, peat on the mid palate and finish and with a brackish feel to the whole thing. Mid palate you get a citrus fruit coating to live things up only for it to quickly return to some metallic notes along with the peat, fruit muesli mix with dried fruits and oak bitterness.

Allright... except for the cheese hit straight out of the bottle, this is actually a pretty nice dram, although this is maybe not a style I'd actively seek out - a bit like some (most) Glen Scotias.

Finally, thanks to JH for putting this on the table at his whisky get-together


Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Wemyss Malts, the indie bottler involved in the Kingsbarn Distillery currently under construction near St. Andrew in Fife is releasing 12 single cask bottling this Autumn. The releases represent a a wide array of whisky from almost all Scotland's whisky producing regions.

The latest releases from Wemyss Malts - picture courtesy of the Wemyss press release

"Vintage Strawberry Punnet" - 1988 single cask from Invergordon, Single Grain
"Sweet Peat Posy" - 1987 single cask from Bowmore, Islay
"Aniseed Pastille" - 1996 single cask from Bowmore, Islay
"Thread of Smoke" - 1991 single cask from Bunnahabhain, Islay
"Smoke on the Water" - 1982 single cask from Caol Ila, Islay
"Floral Trellis" - 1988 single cask from Tormore, Speyside
"In a Bluebell Wood" - 1995 single cask from Glen Grant, Speyside
"Summer Fruit Cup" - 1998 single cask from Auchentoshan, Lowlands
"Cayenne Cocoa Bean" - 1997 single cask from Clynelish, Highlands
"Bench with a Sea View" - 1997 single cask from Clynelish, Highlands
"Peaches and Cream" - 1989 single cask from Glen Garioch, Highlands
"Blackcurrant Coulis" - 1991 single cask from Blair Athol, Highlands

The RRP of these malts is from £70-£200 and they'll be available soon from retailers in the UK, EU and some Asian markets before long.

Source: Wemyss Malts Press Release

Saturday, 27 September 2014


Located off the beaten path high up in hills in Speyside on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains and not far from Tamnavulin and Glenlivet distilleries, you'll find Braeval. Originally named 'Braes of Glenlivet' it was quickly renamed 'Braeval' when current owners Pernod Ricard (Chivas Bros.) bought the distillery back around 2001 to prevent 'Braes' from being mistaken with their bread winner, Glenlivet...

As I mentioned, Braeval is located high up in the hills, actually there's a bit of a dispute with Dalwhinnie Distillery just off the A9 main road about which distillery is the one located at the highest point in Scotland. Dalwhinnie is located 10 miles north of Drumochter pass which is 460 meters above sea level. Dalwhinnie is supposedly 351 meters above sea level coming down on the north side of the pass. Braeval is, according to other surveys, located 355 meters above sea level but there's never been an exact survey establishing which distillery is located highest up.

Going to Braeval takes you off the smaller country road, the B9008 and after a couple of miles on a side road stopping for sheep with lambs and thinking you'll never find a distillery out here, there it is...

The Braeval whisky is light in style with lots of volatile fruity notes, IMO so it's with much anticipation I dive into this sherry cask expression, as I feared it might be over powered by the cask influence...

Here's my take on it...

Braeval Distillery, May 5th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Braeval 1996 12yo (xx.11.1996/xx.10.2009) 57,3% Sherry butt#4904, 488 bottles, Blackadder Raw Cask

Colour is light amber

Sweet apple, white pepper, vanilla, baked banana, slight milk chocolaty notes and thin coffee, bit of crushed walnut. Alcohol carrying it all to your nose very aggressively, so this needs to be nosed very carefully.

Vanilla, honey, crisp malt and very light in style in spite of the sherry cask influence (great!), cinnamon, apple again, caramelised white garden fruits, caramel desserts, also thingking vanilla ice cream with light caramel tough here... The sherry is certainly peeping through as a an accelerant towards the finish where it gives off a short alcohol burst but then mellows out on a slight burnt sugar note.

This is an very nice dram, indeed... I love to see the light style of Braeval still coming through even though its been matured in a sherry cask, though it's maybe not the most active one... but it's still enough to give it more than a touch of sherry notes.

Thanks to JC for bringing this to a recent private function

The score for me on this one creeps up to...


Sunday, 21 September 2014


Often, when people go to Islay they forget that there's an island right next to it... Jura!...and that they make whisky there too. Now, the Jura whisky has often been bashed for being feinty and generally carry a rather impure style, but still, that style must appeal to some punters since they're still producing.

I've often found that Jura whisky carries a certain peaty  and also distinct vegetable style not often found elsewhere... but I guess that's just what makes up the Jura style :-) and even if you don't like the whisky, go anyway - it's incredibly beautiful on Jura and its a great place to watch heard of deer roaming about... which by the way is also how the island got its name - from the old Norse 'Djur' which mean 'animal' or 'deer' which then later came to be the Jura we know today.

Now, on to the review...

The Jura Distillery stills, May 9th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Isle of Jura 1988 31.25 (27.09.1988) 24yo 'Banquet for The Wicker Man' 53,4%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 255 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is straw

Herbal, marsh/swapy notes, decaying vegetation, wet leaves, peat - the lighter stuff, not the black 'n' heavy deep cut peat. An underlying gristy note, like barley straight off the mill. Also getting a strange soapy note popping up from time to time, maybe like a floral washing up liquid. Boiled vegetables, light toasted bread and apple, hint of eucalyptus and then going back to its malty source.

Slightly soapy again in a good way, barley rich, bit of veggie/cabbage notes, wholegrain biscuits, muesli, salty stale water, tobacco ash, burnt rice pudding, sweet apple and medium style peatiness.

A much more expressive nose than palate... a strange one indeed, but it works in its own crazy way!


Finally, thanks to MBO for the sample!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Yesterday, drinks giant Diageo annouced which whiskies will be a part of their annual special releases and with that followed the (also) annual outcry by the whisky public regarding the prices of this years releases, this years Port Ellen release reaching a staggering £2200/€2800/$3500 :-O

There's also a Brora and Rosebank, who, like Port Ellen, are a part of Diageo's closed distilleries portfolio with the Rosebank being the 'cheapest' one at 'only £300/€380/$475 and somewhat surprising to me - guess even a closed lowland distillery aren't praised that much by Diageo.
This year, Diageo has also managed to squeeze in a NAS Clynelish at an eye-watering £500/€635/$800 !! Oh, what happy whisky madness we're seeing again this year!! (irony intended).

At the other end of range we're seeing a Caol Ila 15yo unpeated and a Lagavulin 12yo at £75/€95/$120 and £80/€100/$125 which is probably what whisky like this costs these days, so not much argument.

The sad thing is that even the high end bottles will most likely sell out in a flash and I'm betting retailers are already getting their inboxes swamped with people wanting to reserve bottles. These bottles, except for a couple of them, are now aimed completely at the collectors market, which is a shame as, as much as I hate to admit it, most Diageo distilleries make some very good whisky...

Have I bought expensive whiskies before? yes, I have... but can I be tempted to empty my bank account and buy the whisky equivalent of an Etruscan vase? No! Would I maybe buy the Caol Ila or Lagavulin? yes, for a tasting maybe... but that's it!

Bottom line is that this is just getting ridiculous and the prices are certainly amounting to much more than production costs, maturation/storage, bottling and a healthy profit on top of that.

After the rant above let's try some whisky from one of the distilleries that's a part of the annual special release range. Even though this wasn't cheap, it's still only about 2/3rds of the cost of the annual release...

Rosebank 1991 25.67 (01.07.1991) 22yo 'Dame Nellie Melba singing summer songs' 53,4%, Refill ex-bourbon barrel, 190 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale straw

Vanilla, floral (lilies and carnations, maybe?) wet grains/malt, grassy oranges and grapefruit and hints of yeast and some herbal notes I'm not able to identify

Grassy arrival turning on to honey, barley sugar, raspberry, apple, a good hit of ginger and some pear and apple, the finish gives a good leafy and vanilla notes but turns into a bit bitter and spicy oak - especially with water...

A nice Rosebank, but must admit I've had better... think this has been in a relatively inactive cask which managed to produce a fairly straight forward dram after 22 years... still feeling the spirit's maybe a little hot too? Anyway, it's far from a bad dram and it still deserves a very respectable


Sunday, 14 September 2014


To mark the launch of the latest addition to the Highland Park range, the 'Dark Origins'-bottling, the sailing yacht 'Celeste', a Farr 65' class boat, set out on August 18th this year from Gothenburg, Sweden heading towards the Orkney Islands, retracing the steps of the Scandinavians settlers on Orkney in the most traditional of ways, by navigating across the high seas towards new shores, just as these fearless seafarers did many years ago...

Heading west... picture courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

The journey brought peat and barley from Scandinavian to Orkney to mark the beginning of a distilling on Orkney and the links to the illicit distiller 'Magnus Eunson' to whom the 'Dark Origins'-bottling is a tribute.

So, what's the story with this Magnus-guy, you ask? Well, Magnus was a butcher and church clerk by day and an illicit distillery by night. It all went very well for a while but eventually Magnus was caught by the excise man.

Magnus' distilling took place close to his farm called 'High Park' and its easy to see that becoming 'Highland Park' over the years and also why the silhouette depicted on the 'Dark Origins' tube is supposed to be Magnus. The silhouette quickly made people make references like Robin Hood, David Beckham and Obi-Wan Kenobi... but no, it's just supposed to be Magnus Eunson - an illicit distiller on Orkney in the late 18th century... and let's thank either the Norse gods (which Highland Park is know to make a reference or two to...) or just the whisky gods for that - else we wouldn't be drinking the stuff today ;-)

But back to these brave men and women who ventured out on what for some would be an adventure of a lifetime... because they had to endure hardship on their way to the Orkneys... The 'Celeste', a modern yacht with all its amenities vs. an old open viking longship sets things in perspective when you, like the 14 people on the 'Dark Expedition', encounters 25' waves and high winds on the North Sea... Imagine a crossing in an open low railing longship instead with no shelter or just tarp for cover - oh, those Norsemen... what a hardened people we were/are :-)

Stormy seas... picture courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

Today, we Scandinavians are still bound very much to the sea as it surrounds most of us on one side or another and the crew partaking in the Dark Expedition are not dressed in chain armor and helmets or carrying swords and axes like they were 1000 years ago... these are the faces of some of the 'Dark Expedition'-members 2014...

'Dark Expedition'-members 2014 - pictures courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

Following the Warrior series previously released by Highland Park, this new addition is a welcome one...
It uses twice as many 1st fill sherry casks as the standard Highland Park 12yo expression and the abv% is now 46,8%... a natural strength of the casks used in this vatting, according to Brand Ambassdor Martin Markvardsen. Also the peat level in this one is higher than usual in your standard Highland Park, certainly giving the 'Dark Origins' a more rustic and rough edge than what we're used to seeing from Highland Park Distillery - I'm even betting some drinkers not into peat will find this one off putting... :-O

... and we have to adress it... it's a NAS bottling... but it's doing all right, this one.
According to Brand Ambassdor Martin Markvardsen the 'Dark Origins' contains no whisky under the age of 10 and even some as old as 30 (very small portion, I'm guessing) - and (me guessing again) it's probably under strength 30yo that has gone into this one... not that it matters, just look at a certain bottling series from a Speyside distillery starting with B... it has a number of under strength casks in their vattings and it's cracking whisky!

Crossing the North Sea... picture courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

Reaching the Orkney Islands after 4 days of hard seas, felt very much as a victory for the Expeditioners and after talking to some of the participant journeying back with the 'Celeste' from the Orkneys via Norway to Skagen, Denmark, the expression in their eyes and faces changed to that of people just having endured a great journey... maybe the modern Norsemen have softened after millennium? After all, today's journeymen were your kid's schoolteachers and restaurateur from the place you go for your meals and not people already hardened by everyday life a 1000 years ago...

The 'Celeste' reaching the Orkneys - pictures courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

Having reached their destination, the next much smaller journey was to the distillery and the birthplace of the 'Dark Origins'-bottling - enjoy the pictures from there...

Highland Park Distillery - pictures courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park
Lots of beautiful pictures here, I know... and believe me, I'm not trying to distract your from the whisky, which, I know, is what you really came here for....

Shortly after the arrival on Orkney the boat took on a partial new crew and headed back towards Scandinavia and after a stop-over in Norway they headed to Skagen, the northern most town in Denmark for what will be the Danish launch of the 'Dark Origins'-bottling.

Those of you that follow my blog on Facebook and Twitter will have noticed that on August 26th I was in Skagen for the launch of the 'Dark Origins' and added a few pictures from there... but I'll post a couple of them here again before re-posting my tasting notes for the 'Dark Origins'

Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen hosting the tasting on board the 'Celeste' in Skagen, August 26th 2014
© The Malt Desk
On board the 'Celeste' we had a couple of other Highland Park for comparison, which was the 12 and the 18, and both coming across better than I remembered, that evening...

As I've mentioned above, this is a re-posting of my tasting notes, as I'd already tasted the 'Dark Origins' before attending this event...

It's alive! and certainly a Highland Park, as the honey and floral/fruity intensity is very up front here as is a rougher smoky side. It's not Islay smoke - it's more delicate and rushes in after the fruity notes has hit your nose, staying very evident all the time after that. When you nose this, it's either fruity smoke or smoky fruit (Does that really make sense? No? oh, well... )

There's strong tea, hint of nutmeg, ginger powder, baked banana and orange peel and heavy, slightly burnt, toffee notes and sometimes a hint of farmyard. The increased use of 1st fill sherry casks are indeed noticeable here. Then there's the smoke which, by design according to Highland Park, is much stronger than in the standard offerings from then. It works very well with the sherry influence. At times I get like standing in a garden surrounded by flower beds with the BBQ on as the floral notes pops back up again... I'd like to say heather as its usually one of Highland Park's prominent features, but I'm not sure that's it here.

Very good nose!

The Dark Origins Bottling - picture courtesy of Edrington & Highland Park

Sweet, yet drying sherry at first arrival, then the smoke rushes in along with dried fruit all sorts, smoked pineapple
from that BBQ on the nose above. Also whisky soaked apple wood chips, cinnamon, orange chocolate notes, old cigar boxes and warming spices I'd normally associate with dark rums. The whole thing finishes off drying with a slightly dirty edge to the sherry, but is very soon replaced by notes of bran flakes and an earthiness until finally the smoke takes over completely, leaving a beach bonfire in your mouth for a good length of time. If you feel this is a little rough, it takes a teaspoon of water just fine. It's all very nice, indeed, though I do get a feeling that the palate sometimes is a bit restrained...

The guys at Highland Park has done something right here and as I mentioned above it starts with upping the abv to 46,8%... it makes a big difference in the arrival and general delivery of flavour in this whisky! Also, there's no doubt that the increase in use of 1st fill sherry casks as well upping the smokiness has done wonders.

But what about it being a NAS bottling, I hear you ask? Does it contain a lot of young whisky? Does it show? and, most importantly, is it worth the price tag they've slapped on it? Well, I'm sure it does contain some young whisky, but honestly if it does, it works fine here as its covered in sherry and smoke and doesn't come across as young. The only slight young'ish feeling I get is at the very edges of the mouth and a hint on the very finish where the smoke gives up and you get a cereal note instead - that's it for me, at least - do make up your own mind about this!

And the price, you ask? I payed £60/€76/$100 for a bottle of this. They do have to pay for the marketing flannel and the fancy black bottle for this and, even though I like the design, I can do without it... but it wouldn't be a 'Dark' Origin if it came in a clear bottle, would it? :-O though if it did, we could admire the lovely colour of the whisky :-) Anyway, I'd be more a satisfied punter with a £47 price tag on this.

Bottom line... it's good whisky! and it will no doubt, become a hit with the regular punter!


Read my original post here

Finally, thanks to Edrington DK & Holm & Bertung for the invitation to the event

Thursday, 4 September 2014


It's been 9 years (can you believe it??) since I've been by Glen Garioch Distillery!

Back then, whisky wasn't as fashionable as is it today and when a couple of us dropped by Glen Garioch on a gloomy September day back then, we didn't really know what to expect, but we ended up having a nice tour of the place and 3 drams there.

The distillery is located not far north of Aberdeen and is easily reached by car from both north (if you're in Speyside anyway ;-) ) or from the south from well, Aberdeen...

Now, I've just revisited the place with a dram and this is really good stuff... and the notes and style of this one reminds me of one of my first whisky love affair :-)

Which one? read more below...

Glen Garioch (pronounced Geery) - picture from Wikimedia

Glen Garioch 1995/2012 55,3%, 1st fill ex-bourbon casks, Batch 10, 6000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is straw

Vanilla, citrus (oranges, mainly), lovely malty edge. A very US-'bourbony' nose at times. Cookie dough, honey, spices and more garden variety fruits (apple and pear) and a little mint appears with time.

Hello?!?! Is this a Glenmorangie in disguise and at full strength?? More vanilla and a hint of smoke? it carries a light and recognisable light highland style, presenting itself with baked apple, cinnamon, spices (ginger and pepper) but also bitter almond after water is added.
The mid palate and finish produces some white chocolate and barley sugar to round the whole thing off...

Good stuff! and one can only wonder if the similarity to Glenmorangie is a coincidence as the Glen Garioch (Morrison Bowmore) Master Blender is now Rachel Barrie who used to work for, well... Glenmorangie PLC (now LVMH)...

Thanks to Kalle for the sample!


Sunday, 31 August 2014


Hmm where to start? Don't really know... This is only the 2nd Irish Whiskey I'm reviewing here on The Malt Desk... Why? don't really know, other than I usually only drink Irish whiskey at the pub as I find most whiskeys from The Emerald Isle best for that purpose as they're easy drinkers and that's what you'd (or at least I want) usually when out...

Then sometimes like this next whisky comes along and knocks about all your usual perceptions about a certain style of whisky - and in this case, its really a lot of fun :-)

Distillery 118 from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is Cooley's from Northern Ireland, located on the peninsula of the same name. They produce several of the Irish brands on the market, names like 'Kilbeggan', 'Tyrconnel' and a grain 'Greenore' and have also contributed with a couple of malts to the acclaimed 'Knappogue Castle' series. They also produce Connemara, a peated malt expression, something rarely seen in Irish whiskey.

The 118.3 is one such... This one is also only double distilled, unlike many other Irish whiskies, which goes through x3 distillation...

Cooley pot stills - picture from Wikimedia

Cooley's (peated) Connemara 118.3 (14.10.1991) 22yo 'Self-assured, buxom and rewarding' 57,9%, 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, 206 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

No bottle picture available, but it comes in the standard SMWS bottle

Sweet, instantly typical Irish whiskey notes hit your nose, with at times, almost a grain whisky style to it. There's wild flowers and Geranium and lavender, honey, slight hint of high quality tequila, vanilla, red berries (raspberry?). Have you tried the Knappogue Castle 1993? take that and add 15 years of maturation and add a good measure of smoke to it as well. Hugely expressive!

Full force floral and perfumy front, then malt, more honey, fresh pear and smoke. Also vanilla, cough mints, licorice, and musty white wine. After a while the whole experience gets alot more fruity, with added banana and melon notes. Water brings out a bit more smoke and a few darker notes, more oak and spices.

I've tried this a few times now and it has grown a bit on me... sadly, a price tag of £270 here in Denmark will keep me from getting one.

A fun and interesting dram, though...


Saturday, 23 August 2014


I came across this Glen Grant bottling just recently at a very fair price for a 24yo Cask Strength whisky these days (£70) so I decided to put this one in the basket while I was shopping for something else - and I'm glad I did :-) and its not often you see bottlings like this from 2010 still around...

I'll get right on with the review...

Glen Grant washbacks April 29 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1985 24yo (20.09.1985/20.02.2010) ex-bourbon cask#12364, 210 bottles, A.D. Rattray

Colour is bright gold

Ripe fruit, pear and peach, ginger, oak spices, vanilla and hint of varnish/glue and sometimes a hint of metal on the nose. Wood sap, grass and lots of creamy malt comes out with the addition of water

Ahh nice, lovely arrival on vanilla cream and fruit... top that with a dash of something peppery. Water brings out distinct orange notes, malt and honey. This is maybe at times a tad sharp'ish but adding a bit of water levels this one out beautifully

A very nice Glen Grant for sure!