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, 24 November 2015


Elgin-based independent bottler and Distillery owner (Benromach), Gordon & Macphail has launched a campaign to enlighten people's perception on how much the cask means for the maturation of whisky.

The campaign is called 'The Wood Makes the Whisky' and comes complete with a booklet and a website (www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood
explaining the casks are chosen to match a specific spirit and how the wood interacts with the spirit and resulting in that lovely tipple we all enjoy so much. All the very well made angles on maturation incl. wood types, time and cask sizes are covered in both the booklet and on the very well made website - good job!

'The Wood Makes the Whisky' also comes with almost a handful of samples and I'll start in the deep end with this Glen Grant. No bottling year is given on the sample, but looking at bottling dates for the released versions, this is probably around or just over 50 years old.

The still at Glen Grant, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1954 40%, 1st fill sherry butts, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is chestnut

Picture by G&M
This just reeks of old whisky. Lots of red fruit and figs soaked in alcohol. Given some time the whole experience turn more towards tropical fruit, a direction I didn't expect from this old sherried number. Also in here are freshly polished hardwood and a little licorice.

Quite a powerfull presence and incredibly mouthfilling even at only 40%. Overripe/browned apple, dark honey and Wiener Melange but heading in a spicy/herbal direction. Dark fruits, moist raisins springs to mind later. There's a mint theme popping up on the finish along with what can only be described as an almost smoky/toasted feel, which suits this oldie quite well as everything is very well integrated. This finish just goes on and on... and on :-)

This is most certainly a blast from the past - amazing stuff!


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Its time for the last Cadenhead review this time around, but don't worry - more are coming soon :-)

As I mentioned in my Benriach review from 4th October, I was looking for something special to take home for the Cadenhead tasting and this Highland Park was it... It was first tried in a warehouse in Campbeltown where Mark Watt took us through a few of Cadenhead casks and my choice fell on this Highland Park, even though there were other very good offerings :-)

Mark Watt doing what he does best, May 7th 2015 - Photo by my whisky-compadre Johnny Rose

Highland Park 1988 27yo 52,6% ex-bourbon hogshead 1988/2008+ sherry hogshead 2008/May 2015, Cadenhead Cask Ends

Colour is dark mahogany

Thick heavy molasses syrupy notes, a slight dirty, smoky musty note as well, burnt caramel and figs and black cherries. The sherry is just about over the top and leaves no room for other than some dark chocolate notes as well...

Again heavy, lots of dirty notes bordering on sulphury but the again not, especially when allowed to breathe a bit. Notes of strong espresso, black olives, soy sauce and a the obvious wine/sherry and a slight charred finish.

This is big whisky, though not an incredible complex one...
You'll need to be into massive sherry bombs to appreciate this one, but then who doesn't like a whisky like this from time to time.

Again lovely stuff, this time directly out of the Cadenhead Warehouse in Campbeltown.


Thursday, 5 November 2015


Auchroisk Distillery, located not far from the small village of Mulben in Speyside, must have what is probably one of the quirkiest designs of a distillery ever. Its Architecture is inspired by a Gothic style and along with its sheer size (warehouses included) it could have doubled for a medieval castle had it had a wall and moat and been all black. The Distillery and especially the warehouses, however, are slightly blackened with fungus from the maturing whisky on site.

And there is quite a lot of whisky there. Owners Diageo have around 250.000 casks maturing there from various distilleries and further warehouses are planned on site. Warehousing is not the only thing bit at Auchroisk. The production is close to 6 million liters of spirit annually and there has been talk of an expansion in that area too.

Auchroisk Distillery and one of the warehouses behind it, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk
Auchroisk 1989 (xx.xx.1989/xx.03.2014) 24yo 57,5%, 2 sherry butts, 1140 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light amber

Nutty and slightly sulphury in style but not enough to put me off. It also has a faint metallic note. Stale/brackish water, earthy notes and some orange. It then takes off in a herbal direction after a while, maybe juniper? It sounds kinda freaky, but it works...

Pleasant arrival on toffee, fruit and nuts before the alcohol rushes in reveals a slight sulphury edge on the palate along with malt and crusty Danish. Mind you, the sulphur is still not strong enough to put me off. I'd say the main there here is toffee/candied apple - it doesn't really stray far from that.

OK, maybe not a whisky that would inspire you to start sprouting poetry, but still pretty decent - and I really like the funky nose on this one :-)


Tuesday, 27 October 2015


Its been 10 months since I last reviewed a Balblair so its about time to do so again. Like I mentioned in my previous review from January, I really like the style of most of the North Highland distilleries so I had high hopes for this expression... Balblair and Cadenhead - that can't possibly be a bad combination, eh?

Even though this expression carries a colour that could easily be mistaken for a sherry cask, it is actually matured in an ex-bourbon barrel - a fact that made me just a tiny bit worried that this would be overly oaky.

So was it? read below...

The very crammed stillhouse at Balblair, August 23rd 2012 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 1990 22yo (xx.xx.1990/xx.07.2012) 57,4%, ex-bourbon barrel, 192 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is amber

Ohh, lovely!
Quite some cappuccino notes extending all the way to hot chocolate. The alcohol seems a little aggressive at times, but eventually calms down, leaving rooms for more delicate notes of overripe apple and earthy notes. Also in there are heavy, 
sometimes slightly burned caramel notes and a little orange peel and clove - sounds kinda Xmas'y, don't you think?

The oak shows itself a bit more on the palate, but its doing it in the nicest way possible. Again there's the apple, hints of mushrooms and what it must feel like to lick a hardwood floor. Time lets an understated vanilla and cinnamon theme and dark honey/slight syrupy notes come through. The medium long finish gives away to some peppery oak and a little mint.

This whisky comes and goes when you drink it and I quite like that.It also shows that even though the colour hints at some big oak influence, its not the case (here, at least)

Great stuff!


Tuesday, 20 October 2015


It's no secret that some distilleries are more popular than others and when looking at different online whisky shops, I often see empty product categories and/or sold out labels across the pictures of these popular ones... However, one category that is also often empty is the Braes of Glenlivet aka Braeval, but not because its popular but because there's not much of it around - why, you ask?

Well, there's several reasons...

It is, in distillery terms, a fairly 'new' place, starting production in 1973 under the Braes of Glenlivet name. The name was then changed to Braeval in 1994 to prevent mistaken identity with nearby Glenlivet distillery. Owners Chivas Bros has never been promoted it as a single malt as almost all of its production is used as a dressing malt in Chivas Bros' blends. Add to that that the distillery has been closed from 2002 to 2008 means that the few releases available now all carries a bit of age.

Still, there's a few bottlings to be found here and there and I suggest you try it if you like a light, yet full flavoured single malt. I'd place my bets on Cadenhead and/or Signatory if you want try this malt. In fact, this particular expression was so good that it was voted overall best bottling at the Cadenhead tasting I hosted about a month ago, with 2 votes more than a 27yo Highland Park from a sherry cask - how about that? Personally, I had it in 2nd...

So, what's all the fuss about?

Braes of Glenlivet or Braeval as the distillery is called today, May 3rd 2010 © The Malt Desk

Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) 1989 19yo (xx.xx.1989/xx.10.2008) 58,4%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

You need to be careful with this one as its 58,4% - Chances are you'll numb your nose trying to pick up the delicate nose of this one and instead only get alcohol and we don't want that!

There's pear, grassy, vanilla, honey, hint of pineapple, ginger and a little spicy oak and delicious malt notes... This reminds me quite a lot of Glenmorangie 10 back in the early 00's - lovely!

Again, you also need to be careful with this one on the palate. make sure you have either plenty of saliva or just a little water to take the top of the alcohol here.

This one starts with grass and white wine cooler, overripe pear, cider and then heads off in the sweet and spicy direction with vanilla, raspberry and ginger notes. The addition of water makes the whole thing rather creamy and extremely malty - a trait I really like and also allows fruit notes dressed in barley sugar to really play on the finish.

I could drink this all evening...


Sunday, 18 October 2015


Phew, time flies and personal stuff has lately interfered with my writing a bit more than I'd like, making my reviews a bit sporadic lately. Anyway, Let's skip straight on to the next Cadenhead bottling.

When I first started drinking whisky around Y2K, I remember trying Laphroaig 10 and Lagavulin 16 and thinking that Islay whisky wasn't for me... However, I had not yet made the acquaintance with Bruichladdich and to be honest I'm not quite sure when I did except it was around 2003/2004, which means it was some 3-4 years into my whisky journey.

Back then I fell in love with the 10yo and 15yo 1st edition even though both Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg had also already made their way onto my drink list by that time. It would then be another 3 years before I visited Islay and Bruichladdich for the first time (2007) and since then I've been back to Islay 4 more times 08, 09, 11 and May 2015.

In May I brought a bottle of 1966 40yo Bruichladdich bottled by Duncan Taylor with me to Islay to drink while we were there - seems only fitting a bottle like this goes 'home' to end its days, yes? :-) you can read my review of that bottling by clicking here.

Anyway, back to the 1991 from Cadenhead. This is a bottling from the Authentic Collection-series, which means its a single cask-bottling.

Distilling Port Charlotte at Bruichladdich, October 7th 2008 © The Malt Desk

Bruichladdich 1991 21yo (xx.xx.1991/xx.10.2013) 52,1%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

This noses like classic bourbon matured B'Laddich. It also feels like that the cask hasn't been all that active. Its all very fresh and malty long with vanilla, apple tart leaning towards citrus (grape fruit?) notes. It also reveals a slight floral note, some mineral and cooking oil notes + the tiniest hints of peat.

I think my suspicions about a fairly inactive cask sticks. The arrival is very mellow and pleasing with soft white fruit (apple, melon), truckloads of malt, some licorice and barley sugar. The finish is almost entirely malt driven with a slight salty burst and a herbal edge at times.

This is maybe not the most complex of malts, but just drinks so incredibly well and that counts for something in my book too. I'd say it one of those malts you'd pour a large dram of, when you need to relax after a busy week.


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!