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 politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Its now been almost 4 weeks since my last post.

Why? Well, those of you that follow The Malt Desk on Facebook will have noticed I've spent much of that time in Scotland - 2 of those weeks, in fact - starting the tour by attending the Spirit of Speyside Festival and the moving on to Ardnamurchan, Campbeltown, Arran and finally Islay... and what a great trip it has been... there have been lots of good whisky in good company.

A big thanks to the 5 guys who also attended - you know who you are :-)

About a week after I returned from Scotland, The Malt Desk also turned 3 years old and although this has not been celebrated yet (online, at least!)  whisky has been had - don't worry :-) !

Where will The Malt Desk head from here, I hear you ask?

Not quite sure, actually... there's movements and trends in the whisky industry which I find... not very appealing - and the same thing can be said about trends on the edge of the industry - like the bottle hunters currently at large at the Islay Feis Ile 2015 at the moment - selling their bottlings on FleaBay (read: Ebay) the moment they get their hands on a bottle. I know this has been going on for years, but now there's more and more people just into whisky just because of a quick profit and I find this VERY sad!

Anyway, I'll keep reviews going on a regular basis along with the occasional report and rant - and then we just have to see where we end up, don't we? :-)

If you want to keep up, be sure to follow The Malt Desk on Twitter (@themaltdesk) and on Facebook. There's some pictures on there from the recent trip to Scotland to be enjoyed :-)

Oh, and finally - Don't worry! I won't be removing the age statement from my blog, even though its only 3 years old ;-)


Monday, 27 April 2015


Glenfarclas Distillery requires no further introduction to most people.

The distillery is what I'd classify as a Speyside landmark and a distillery you just have to get yourself acquainted with - otherwise your whisky journey will incomplete. When visiting the distillery and looking around their warehouses, you'll still find casks from yesteryear and some of those casks gets bottles as the distiller's highly accalaimed 'Family Cask'-series.

You also don't see many independent bottling from Glenfarclas, so when I come across some I usually make an effort to get to try them. This one, I tried at recently a deluxe SMWS tasting in the local club. Quite some goodies were had that evening, so expect more review from that tasting over the course of the next month or 2...

Casks, casks, casks... @Glenfarclas Distillery, May 4th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 1970 1.134 (xx.01.1970/xx.12.2006) 36yo 'Indescribable bliss' 53%, ex-sherry cask, 233 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is dark amber

Very closed at first, but this one has been trapped in a bottle for almost 10 years - it needs to breathe... Oh, wow... this is really old school sherry. Dusty bookshelves, bags of mushrooms and nutmeg. It has a sweet yet still spicy Oloroso style of sherry that you only find in casks from that era. Its like the wine is still fermenting here, vague yeasty notes and a nutty liqueur and dark chocolates. There's an underlying herbal notes in here as well along with hint of raspberries.

Dark berries, some vague elderberry and blackcurrant, more nuts and chocolates, mulled wine and lots of malt. Some overripe oranges comes through mid palate along with a streak of bitter oak throwing it a bit off balance. The finish is bitter/spicy (peppery) with some cloves as well. Be careful if you want to add water to this one... it literally only takes a few drops and when it does, it puts the oak and wine in the background and brings out its heavy malty side.

This is truly a malt of yesteryear, lots of notes only associated with old whisky in here and its a privilege to try this, even if it has a slight flaw. This bottle will certainly appeal to the romantic in you...


Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Much have been said about the current style of Macallan - the Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby...

Statements like 'a shadow of it self...' 'thin and without heart...' and 'Where has my Macallan gone?' has been seen posted on social media but if you look at it from the average whisky drinkers point of view, this is probably still good whisky, right? Well, we're all at different places on our whisky journey and the many people drinking these new expressions will most likely not know (or even care) what older versions tasted like and are also most likely not prepared to put down the money to find out... and for that reason these NAS expressions will probably live on - sadly!

Don't get me wrong, they're fine for the businessman rushing through the airport while wanting to pick up something with a popular brand name on, but they're no longer enough for the malt anorak with lots of malt mileage under his belt - then again, the anoraks are not where the turnover is to be found, volume sales is generated by an entirely different customer base...

Here and there, however, are bottles of Macallan tucked away under staircases and in cupboards, like at the place of a very good whisky friend of mine... Recently he brought out a heavily sherried Macallan to enjoy with friends as it should be... 

Macallan fishing hut on the distillery beat on the Spey River, June 13th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Macallan 1990 14yo (13.02.1990/xx.06.2004) 59,8%, sherry butt#2643, 201 bottles, Blackadder

Colour is mahogany

Starts big and somewhat dirty with some matchstick sulphur.
Wet tobacco leaves, very ashy and earthy, leather, prunes, reduced balsamico, dark chocolate and a well sized alcohol attack on the nose.

Big and meaty! this could be a Mortlach! There's certainly a Mortlach style sulphury edge to it. The alcohol delivers a huge punch and the whole thing seems a bit hot to begin with, but time will calm this down a bit.

There's that leather again, notes of earthiness and mushrooms and burnt coffee - very closed in fact! A little water brings out some expected dark fruit notes, overripe oranges, black pepper. Even with water this show a distinct and not that well integrated oaky side.

A big brute of a Macallan! Much of it because of its high alcohol strength...


Thanks to JBH for the big dram and sample!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


Benromach has been making a lot of noise with its recently released 10yo version, especially the 100 proof version. It has received excellent reviews in most places - incl here - so when a chance to try some more Benromach presented itself

Benromach has been releasing organic whisky since 2006 and the latest version from them is the 2008 vintage. This Benromach Organic is certified by the UK Soil Association which means it has to meet certain standards all the way from barley to bottle.

Matured in virgin oak casks, we should expect a very noticeable effect on the spirit from these casks. There's a fine balance virgin oak and spirit and if the producers are not careful, you can end up with oak juice instead of whisky but Gordon & MacPhail, who owns Benromach are seasoned veterans when it comes taking care of their casks - both from Benromach and other distilleries.

Benromach Distillery, August 24th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Benromach Organic 2008/2014 43%, virgin oak casks, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

A very active and full nose - quite big and expressive, actually...
Very thick and fruity on overripe fruits, mainly brown and/or warm banana, vanilla, toffee and hints of coconut. After a while some lovely malt notes appear along with hints of charred wood.

The virgin oak casks have don their job well here. There's creamy malt, cooked fruit and what can only resemble artificial honey melon flavour. Also a distinct peppery edge to be found in there - most likely from the effect of the very active oak. Water releases a fresh grassiness, mostly on the nose and also hints of powdered ginger on the palate, mixing with the peppery notes.

This whisky is somewhere between 5 and 6 years old, but carries no noticeable notes of new make spirit - again thanks to the virgin oak casks. I could maybe have wished for a tad bitterness and peppery oak on the finish, but other than that I have to say that this is quite good whisky!

Finally, I'd like to commend G&M and Benromach for putting the vintage on this bottling and with that offering disclosure on whats really in the bottle.


Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail / Benromach

...and a little footnote for you...

During the upcoming Spirit of Speyside Festival, running from April 30th through to May 5th, Benromach Distillery provides quite an extensive range of events for whisky lovers and other good folk making their way to town of Forres in Moray. Check out what events are available by following the link to the festival above.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


2 weeks ago, I reviewed the Kilchoman Port Cask which was not to my liking at all, actually its the lowest scoring whisky I've reviewed here on The Malt Desk. 

I've had a few comments from people on that review, both on Facebook and in my inbox, saying how they completely disagree with me on the Port Cask version.. I only have one thing to say - thank the whisky gods we do not all have the same taste! :-)

About a week ago I got offered another Kilchoman sample - a Kilchoman quite mature compared to the Port Cask version which I tried at a recent tasting.

This Kilchoman is the oldest I've seen bottled so far, carrying an ago of just over 8½ years. It's an ex-bourbon cask bottled exclusively for Denmark and this bottling is the remainder of a private cask previously owned by a small group of gentlemen here in Denmark who decided they drink couldn't drink a whole cask of Kilchoman after all. After taking a small share of the cask, the rest was then bought by the Danish importer FC Whisky and released for our enjoyment. This is also the 11th single cask bottled for Denmark...

You can find the rest of the details on the bottling below.

Kilchoman Single Cask No. 11 for Denmark © The Malt Desk

Kilchoman 2006 8yo (xx.07.2006/05.02.2015) 55,9%, ex-bourbon cask#165/2006, 250 bottles, Distillery bottling for FC Whisky Denmark

Colour is straw

Lots of peat smoke and vanilla from the cask - all very fresh and lively and appearing very mature and well balanced. Very active oak - probably a first fill cask - shows a hint of what Kilchoman is about to become when gaining a little age.

There's both citrus and apple in here and I already mentioned vanilla. The smoke develops to have a character much like a smokehouse with both vegetal and meaty notes - quite intriguing! There's also a little farm yard to be found in here...

Very nice! Very creamy arrival. It lends a big smoky hit followed by a rush of sweetness, mainly on vanilla and fruits. Some peppery notes then rushes through accompanied by the ever present sweet peat.

The finish shows a hint of varnish, camp fire smoke and pine resin, however this doesn't ruin the overall feeling that this is a very well polished Kilchoman and if this is a sign of things to come, we're in for some treats...

Did I mention how creamy this is? even at almost 56%?

A lovely youngster, this one... and since there's no ½ point here on The Malt Desk it reaches *drum roll*


Finally, thanks to Soren from Skjold Burne Vinhandel for the sample!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


It's been a good 6 months since I put my first Glen Garioch on The Malt Desk.
Why? Dunno, really... well, maybe because most what's available with the Glen Garioch label is official bottlings - and, with the risk of sounding like a whisky elitist, I often find many (not all!) distillery bottlings a bit on the dull side and go for indie bottlings instead... I like the indies for bottling at higher strength, often (but not always) at a minimum of 46% abv, they also keep most of their bottlings free of e150a caramel coloring and does not chill filter - there, that's the whisky anorak shortlist :-)

But back to the Glen Garioch...

This carries a 1991 vintage and being bottled in 2010, and with that it manages to carry and age of either 18 or 19 years of age, depending on what time of year its distilled/bottled. It does state on the back of the bottle that the color of the whisky has been adjusted by caramel, though I don't think its that much

*edit 1. April 09:12am* I should have added the following earlier and an online fellow blogger pointed out that I forgot about the following - thanks B

'There is, however, no peat to be found in the Glen Gariochs bottling distilled post mid-1990s....'

Glen Garioch Distillery exterior, picture from VisitAberdeen.com

Glen Garioch 1991/2010, Batch#38, 54,7%, ex-bourbon casks, Distillery bottling

Colour is straw

Very fresh with lots of grassy notes and both apple and citrus along with it, vanilla, honey and a barley/bran theme. Underneath that, some peat lurks and makes the whole thing a quite delicious mix. Some mineral/flinty notes in there 
along with a few flowery notes as well.. The alcohol nips a bit at the nose, but also helps the whole experience along.

At first I had this coming across as quite spirity, but quickly goes on to become quite delicious with lemon peel, lots of apple and pears, herbs, vanilla and ginger theme and some celery??. Mid-palate the malt shines through and mellows the experience a bit. Sometimes notes of sweet white wine also appears along with vanilla and some delicious peat notes.

A little water brings out more fruit on both the nose and the palate...

Great stuff!


Thursday, 26 March 2015


All right, its back in the trenches of the No-Age-Statement (NAS) mud slinging contest... or rather war this past day, when Diageo's Nick Morgan in this piece on March 25th 2015, speaks out on Diageo's approach to NAS whisky with statements about NAS-bashers being 'intemperate' and suffering from 'hot-headed ignorance'...

Really? Come on!!??!!
Needless to say this has sparked quite a few comments on social media like Facebook and Twitter already...

Before I go on, I'll like to clarify a few things...
  • Not all NAS whisky is bad whisky - there's some good ones out there too!
  • I do occasionally drink NAS whisky myself
  • If the price/quality ratio is right, I'll have a nip or two...

But back to the statements from Nick Morgan...
I actually think the article is an attempt to put a sock in the whole NAS debate from Diageo's point of view. However, what its achieved is something entirely different and it has so far sparked comments on Facebook like:
"I don't see how anyone with half a brain can take the industry spin seriously no matter how much one admires the integrity and personal decency of the spokesperson. They are peddling a corporate line."
"It's all about profit. Use the barley strain that produces the most litres of alcohol per tonne instead of the strain that will produce the best quality spirit and then bottle it before the angels can garner their full share."
"What pisses me off is that I have no problem with NAS whisky as such, what annoys me is the spin put on it and the price. Two reasons whisky costs as much as is it does is evaporation and storage costs, yet younger whisky is still being sold at aged prices and it's not right."
"To be fair the Whisky Exchange are a great shop but they're hardly going to knock a major supplier are they? I won't be buying any NAS Single Malts, my choice."

I've called this post an 'opinion piece', so I'd better get started with some of my own and some from a few (many, even?) of the whisky drinkers I know:
  • Most of us are aware that whisky is a business! Not philanthropy!
  • Most of us are not hotheads - we're just passionate about your product!
    is a difference! If that isn't brand loyalty, I don't know what is!
  • No, you will not be taking the piss, with younger whisky being sold to us at higher prices while at the same time claiming quality remains the same as its older aged versions...
and yes, I'm aware that I'm with my last bullet here, I'm also here stating that older is better... hell, even the industry, Diageo's biggest competitor, Pernod Ricard, had a campaign back in 2010 that was called 'Age Matters'... 

Here's some interesting figures from that campaign:

• 94% of consumers believe that age is an important indicator of quality
• 93% believe that older whiskies are better quality
• 92% prefer to buy whisky with a clear age statement
• 97% agreed that whiskies which claim to be aged should clearly state the age on the bottle
• 89% look for an age statement when buying whisky
• 86% expect to pay a price premium for whiskies with an age statement

I doubt the numbers have changed much in 5 years and assuming the numbers are the same for Diageo customers, now suddenly the opinion of almost 90% of customers doesn't count when it suits your business plan? and you say you haven't got enough supply to meet demand?

The reason for your current jam you can find in your company's predictions for the future. It sure sounds like the people in strategic planning department have failed... I know I'm pointing fingers back at you here, but since I can't offer you a solution to force mature your existing stock, its what I do...

I also know that passing the bills for their incompetence on to the consumer is the way all companies, hell - even governments deal with bad decisions, but it doesn't mean we have to like it...

I, for one, like to get kissed before I get screwed!

Looking in from the outside, it looks and sounds like a maximisation of profit is taking place at the moment. Whisky companies have probably recognised that brand loyalty among new spirit drinkers is a fleeting thing and that you need to cash in on these newcomers when you can...

Picture from wondergression.com

You are, however, doing so without regard to loyalty from existing and long term customers who have supported you through hard times earlier on when whisky wasn't as big as it is at the moment.

You can only hope these customers will stick by you when hard times return - because hard times will return at some point, but right now you are alienating them with underaged and overpriced... and with name-calling!

Me? as often as possible, I'll stay clear of NAS whisky except for research purposes... which, in reality means I'll not be spending my money it.

It's often been mentioned elsewhere that there's only one way to get rid of NAS and that's not to buy it. Well, I agree... Money talks in the world of whisky and shareholders want their dividends and if they don't get it, strategies change...

So are we down to a campaign now like the one that swept through the beer world? CAMRA (http://www.camra.org.uk/)

Only it'll be CANAS then... Campaign against No Age Statement

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


For a while now, the Bladnoch Distillery just outside Wigtown in the very South-West corner of Scotland, has been silent... It's been up for sale now for couple of years, but every time you hear of an imminent sale, buyers tend to either retract their offer or get it rejected by the a part of the ownership - or at least so the rumors say... but it's not for me to get into that - I'm in this for the whisky and I can only express my sadness that this place isn't up and running, providing us with golden drops a few years down the line...

Meanwhile, let's enjoy some of the whisky from there - distilled a quarter of a century ago...

Bladnoch Distillery, May 6th 2010 © The Malt Desk

Bladnoch 1990 24yo (bottled xx.08.2014) 54,1%, refill ex-bourbon cask#30549, 169 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is golden straw

First lots of vanilla , then oak spices pop up, a peppery nip, ginger and some hint of coconut? a couple of drops of water bring out an incredibly grassy and citrussy side and also a garden variety floral side... Lovely!

The palate mirrors the nose a lot - the mouthfeel is pretty full, yet its still fresh.
Lots of grass and citrus as mentioned above, lemons/peel, coming across as a bit sharp at times, but some warming oak levels it out beautifully.

This Bladnoch comes across quite full at first but mid palate it looses some of its flavour profile, leaving a kind of a 'hole' in mid palate somewhere between mid palate and finish - quite a strange experience, in fact!

It's still very good whisky, though and just manages to creep past the mid-80s


Monday, 23 March 2015


This year, Kilchoman Distillery on Islay, celebrates its 10th birthday.

This, of course, is celebrated with a big birthday bash on the distillery's Open-Day during this years Feis Ile - the annual festival of music and malt, held each year at the end of May... with that said, I already hear you asking when and where you can buy a 10 year old release from them... Well, bottom line is 'you can't' and you probably won't be able to this year either... and the reason is pure and simple - available stock!

Starting out small like most do and to generate a cash flow, Kilchoman did what many other distillers do during their start-up phase - they sell casks to people (or rather 'sold', as they don't do private cask sales any more)... and as soon as they have enough old stock to call whisky they have also put some of that to market. They even put some of their spirit up for sale too around 2008 both as minis and full bottles to generate some return on their investment. All this, of course, has resulted in limited stock from the early years being available today - and this is probably the main reason why you won't see a 10 year old bottling from Kilchoman this year...

We've seen quite a lot of bottlings from Kilchoman already and some have better than others to say the least...
It's young whisky and sometimes it can carry some very undesirable notes. E.g. some of the 5 year old they're released have been really good, while still showing its youthful vigor and the Loch Gorm sherry editions have been very good too.

Last year, Kilchoman released a 3 year old bottling matured in ex-port casks for which was received very well most places.
I've looked very much forward to trying this for a while now, since I think Port maturation, besides from the obvious sherry maturation, is one of the best wine types to go with whisky maturation... so is it any good?

The Kilchoman Visitor's Book ready for signing, May 7th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Kilchoman Port Cask 2011/2014, 55%, ex-ruby port casks, 6000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark red/mahogany

Young spirit and peat, almost sickly in style - not appealing at all to me. Some rhubarb and synthetic strawberry struggles to make its way through the peat.

Sour buttermilk, sick, rotten veggies, a seaweed and peat mix that just off-putting to me - 2 sips and that was it for me! yuck! 

Kilchoman snake oil, anyone? :-O

That said, I've had both the Kilchoman New Spirit and 3 year old bottlings that was very drinkable, but IMO this just doesn't work at all and is some of the worst stuff I've had in quite a while! A big Kilchoman dud, this one !

I'll leave this to those that love this style - IMO, this just doesn't work and, putting it mildly, it wasn't a hit with the 60 people I presented it for this past weekend either. 


Thursday, 19 March 2015


Tuesday this week the Irish (and lots of others, for that matter...) celebrate St. Patrick's Day. By now the hangovers should have lifted from those who participated - a hangover mainly caused by many pints of Guinness and also, in some, Irish Whiskey.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hosting an Irish Whiskey tasting in the local club and thankfully, they've started bottling more of their whiskey at cask strength which makes the whole thing a lot more fun.

Here's some quick notes on all the whiskeys from that tasting in one post (left to right)

7 drams from The Emerald Isle, January 22nd 2015 © The Malt Desk

Tullamore Dew 12yo Special Reserve, 40%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Fruity at first, then spicy grains and some honey

Very easy arrival, banana, vanillas, gentle and sweet, more honey, crisp grains evident, pleasant drinker, slight bitterness on the finish

Actually much better than expected!


Jameson Select Reserve, 40%, Distillery bottling

Colour is amber

Burnt caramel, spicy, not much grain evident at first, , toast, honey and hints of coffee

Creamy, a burnt bitterness, medium mouthfeel, notes of rum and candied apple


Distilled in Ireland 26yo, 51,6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams

Colour is golden straw

A little vinegar and varnish at first, then vanilla, sweet malt, resin, wet oak

Almost waxy, melon, fruits, oak spices, lots of ginger, gets very tropical fruity in style with time along with mustard seeds and cumin - lovely!


Limerick Malt 2001 11yo, 57%, cask#9929, 235 bottles, Adelphi

Colour is straw

Discreet at first, then apples and pears, grist, hint of strawberry, vanilla and fresh dough

Think of a sweet Speyside whisky - the style is very fruity/floral with apple crumble and white chocolate and a peppery finish - Very good and incredibly drinkable even at full strength


Writer's Tears Cask Strength 53%, Walsh's Whiskey

Colour is pale straw

Slightly soapy note at first and quite some alcohol as well. Vanilla, some fruit, feinty notes (dairy) quite a young-ish profile

More feinty notes - I'm guessing this is quite young, slightly herbal, sweet and carries a very distinct style. The pot still-style whiskey comes through to save this one...


Redbreast 12 Cask Strength, 58,6%, batch B1/12, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark amber

Lots of sherry and a fat pot still nose, very spicy, fruit cake, dates, candies fruit peel

A little cardboard at first, sadly, but quickly gives away to candied apple, wood spices, cinnamon and cloves. Thick barley/grains gives this quite an oily mouthfeel - it's really excellent in spite of the cardboardy start!


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

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...


Reviewed earlier -  full post here