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.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016


As with many recent bottlings of Highland Park, there was also a bit of fuss surround the release of the 'Hobbister'... The fuss, however was a bit more of a technical kind. Only 1200 bottles was released of this one and it was only available at the distillery itself and/or online in the distillery webshop...

The web traffic generated when the bottles went online made the Highland Park website crash so you couldn't finish your order. People were also queueing outside the distillery to get a bottle, so what a start for this bottling, eh? :) Bottom line is that it sold out in a flash when the website was working...

Official picture by Highland Park 

Anyway, this bottling is the first of 5,  in a series called the 'Keystone'-collection where Highland Park will be focusing on the following:

  • Aromatic Peat
  • Sherry oak
  • Cool maturation
  • Harmonisation
  • Hand turned malt

This one, the 'Hobbister' is named after the moor where Highland Park cuts its peat used in about 20% of their production. The whisky itself is supposedly made up of 6yo Highland Park from 1st and refill ex-bourbon casks, mixed with some 12yo...

So how did I get my hands on some?
As I mentioned above, this sold out in a flash, leaving a lot of people frowning.
Luckily a bottle was offered up as samples by Thorfinn Craigie from the Highland Park Appriciation Society on Facebook and then kindly administered by Ian Moir- Huge thanks, gents!

The 'price'? A donation to RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) This ended up with a total donation of £700 for the RNLI, some of it also raised at a local tasting on Orkney. Well done, all! :)

The cheque of £700 is handed over to the RNLI by Thorfinn Craigie, Martin Markvardsen and Ian Moir - Picture by Jim Lyngvild (thanks for the use, Jim)

Highland Park 'Hobbister' 51,4%, 1200 bottles, Distillery bottling (RRP was £75)

Colour is pale amber

Quite upfront with lots of burning twigs and leaves, like burning your garden cuttings, but underneath you get some very nice tropical fruit and quite a bit of floral notes, like fabric softener.

After a while the peaty smoke notes retreats somewhat allowing a more citric and malty edge to peak but also revealing a few notes of young whisky.... this, however, comes and goes and is never uncomfortable in any way and I fell it somehow carries the floral forward

A good burst of floral peat and honey to start with, then lots of crisp malt and a brown sugary note... There's also some vanilla pods and hint of smoked pineapple here.

The sherry influence is coming through a bit more here with hints of candied apple and charred oak. The floral peat pops back up mid- to end palate and leaves a taste of something pleasant reminding me of kissing my grandmother on the cheek, like a mix of perfume and cigar...

What do I think if this? Quite good, actually - its very lively and fresh Highland Park... and very different too, I think with its very aromatic peat style. The whole thing is quite well put together and it constantly bounces back and forth producing both young and notes of older whisky. Finally bottling this at 51,4% was the right choice as I think some of its flavours would have gotten lost at a lower abv%


Thursday, 18 August 2016


It's not often I review a Dalmore... Why? well, there's not many releases from the indies and frankly I find the official bottlings very much on the dull side, all drowned in E150a caramel colouring and offered at just 40%.

This time, Gordon & Macphail has stomped up some refill sherry casks no where near as dark as the official bottlings... and we know why - because they don't use E150a caramel coloring in this bottling :-)

Dalmore Distillery with the Cromarty Firth beyond, seen from the road behind the distillery, 19th October 2014 © The Malt Desk

Dalmore 2001/2015 46%, Refill sherry hogsheads, Connoisseure's Choice by Gordon & Macphail

Colour is pale white wine

Picture by G&M
Quite light and fresh with baked apple, tropical fruit juice and dusty earthen floors. After a while some lovely malty notes appear accompanied by some fresh lime juice and hint of something floral

Lovely mellow yellow fruit arrival, some vanilla and then a rush lemon and peppery spicyness. I find quite a mineral side to this somewhere mid palate and a surprising sharpness from a a rush of citric and grassy notes.

This is a very straight forward dram - not overly complex in any way and it holds its own against e.g. the standard 12yo distillery bottling... a very 'naked' Dalmore :-)


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


It's been little over a year since I've reviewed a Mortlach... Time flies! and you can't dismiss the time factor with this next whisky either, it's from... hold on... 1954 !! and bottled in late 2012, making it 58 years old...

Now, with such an old whisky, the thought of 'oak juice' crosses your mind and its with both admiration and a dose of scepticism that you should approach a whisky like this... Why, you ask? Well, we all know that old whiskies these days are rarer than hens teeth and have price labels attached that makes them out of reach for a good many people... so one could fear that a cask of oak juice will be bottled just because of its sheer age and not because its good, but thankfully that's not the case with this one! I've been so lucky to try another great Speysider from 1954 last November but other than that 50s stuff really been few and far between, but if you get the chance to try old stuff like this, do go ahead... but if you like it, don't get too attached to it because of its price tag unless you're really loaded or willing to take out a 2nd morgage ;-)

Anyway, let's have a brief look at the origins of this dram. Mortlach Distillery in Dufftown, Moray has gradually appearing more and more on the radar of most whisky drinkers, who wants to enjoy something a bit more out of the ordinary and with good reason so. The spirit from this distillery is about as robust as they come in Speyside which makes it sought after by the blenders and makes it suitable for long term maturation. Add to that, that Mortlach is often matured in sherry casks which adds another dimension to the whisky from this distillery.

So how well does Mortlach actually mature? Well , of course this has to do alot with the cask it has been laid down in, but we've already seen a bottling as old as 75 years, also from Gordon & Macphail - so a mere 58 years should be no problem, right?

Here's my take on it...

The stills at Mortlach, May 1st 2010 © The Malt Desk

Mortlach 1954/2012 43% (27.01.1954/21.11.2012) 1st fill sherry butt#494, 347 bottles, Gordon & Macphail Rare Vintage

Colour is light mahogany

Nougat/praline and strawberry and blackcurrant jam, polished oak and leather, hints of clove, cinnamon cookies, rum raisin ice cream - heavy on the rum. Also in there are charred baked banana dosed with a little brown suger and a cooling fresh feeling. The ultra clean sherry is dosed in such perfect measures, it never overpowers anything else... one to nose for a looong time :-)

Picture by G&M - 2008 version shown
Very lively for a 58yo whisky - quite a bit in fact! The age shows, yes, but its never invasive nor thin and underwhelming.  The arrival is much like any other lovely old sherried whisky, but then it takes off on a tropical fruit, clove, cinnamon and slight orangy Xmas theme but only to return to summer with more strawberry, some sweet sun dried tomato and mild chili powder and a mixed herb finish

Ok, I'm really trying hard here to detach myself from the thought of drinking a whisky from 1954 and bottled in 2012.

I'd like to add this piece to my experience I had with this whisky...
I decided to take a short break from nosing and tasting this to give my senses a break and went into another room. When I went back to my office/desk I could already smell it from afar when entering the room - that's how expressive this whisky is.

When I finished nosing/tasting it I allowed myself to have a Pale Ale to refresh my palate - 4 sips of Pale Ale and I can still taste the whisky a bit... That should tell you just how saturated the taste is in this whisky - its just stunning old sherried whisky! Stunning... and some of the best whisky I've had so far in 2016


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Sunday, 7 August 2016


Its been quite some time since I've had a Glenturret... and I honestly can't remember if I ever had a sherry matured Glenturret - so when I opened the small parcel and discovered this, it was my first to try :-)

Located in the town of Crieff about 1½ north of Edinburgh, the distillery is a nice little spot offering both the Glenturret Single Malt, but it also promotes itself as 'The Famous Grouse Experience' which provides a look into the The Famous Grouse Blend and its different versions.

Glenturret Distillery from the road just outside the parking lot entrance, August 16th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Glenturret 2002 / 2015 43%, First fill sherry puncheons, Macphail's Collection by Gordon & Macphail 

Colour is amber
Picture by G&M

Lots of sherry influence... Oranges and old cigarbox then candied dried apple snacks, hints of pencil shavings, maple syrup, slightly mentholated hints and old bonfire notes

Orange zest, roasted nuts, burnt sugar, dark honey and tobacco. The overall experience is quite smooth... as in no unexpected rough edges and really stand out'ish notes.

This is very well put together! I can certainly see myself having this around as an everyday dram!


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Saturday, 23 July 2016


This year, Lagavulin Distillery celebrates its 200th anniversary and this 8yo release is a part of that celebration. Now, we all know the 16yo Lagavulin well and there's a chance you've tried the Distiller's Edition as well - the expression matured in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks... hey, maybe you have even tried the 12yo annual release at cask strength?

Anyway, there's no doubt that Lagavulin is an Islay Great, so I was really looking forward to see if they were able to hold their flag high with this 8yo release... It's supposedly matured in both refill European and American oak and then bottled at 48% abv.

The Lagavulin Pagodas, May 11th 2015 © The Malt Desk

Lagavulin 8yo 48% 200th Anniversary edition, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale white wine

A bit young but that was to be expected... quite some  barley sugar sweetness coming through wrapped in camp fire smoke and a mineral/flinty note. A little honey, banana and melon on the grill and smoky white rum. Very well behaved for an 8yo, I must say...

Surprisingly little youth influence, although its noticeable...
I get the feeling that there's some whisky, slightly older than 8yo making up this one. There's a lot of campfire notes again, like lipping the end of a burnt log, very drying like ash and wet wood and leaves. Again I get that mineral and flinty note but this time its very well wrapped in gingery and slightly nutty notes... almonds maybe? - especially with water... the finish is very much on smoky, salty seaweed so here its leans a bit more on the Lagavulin 12 style... I just wish it would have been bottled at, maybe 55%??

Its certainly an enjoyable whisky and its being sold for €40 in discount supermarket here... so certainly a bang for you buck whisky here!! However that won't affect my mark


Wednesday, 22 June 2016


This highly anticipated bottling have been reviewed to death on a number of blogs already, but I'm going to review it anyway. I'm of course talking about the 2016 edition of Springbank's Local Barley... it's a revival of a tradition Springbank has, using barley grown locally on Kintyre for a range of bottlings. The first ones were distilled all the way back in 1965, 1966 and 1970 and bottled mainly in the 1990s (although a couple were bottled in 2000) and are some of the biggest cult bottlings you get from Springbank except for the 1919 and Millenium bottles.

This particular release saw the light of day in February this year and the bottles flew off the shelves everywhere at a price of close to £100. I'm guessing many were bought purely in an attempt to make a quick profit as we now see many of this 9000-bottle release appearing left and right on auction sites, which is sad really 'cause its cracking whisky... but I guess its just another sign of the times.

The 99' Local Barley is made with 'Prisma'-barley, a strain not often used anymore but was used widespread around the turn of the Millennium. It was grown on Low Machrimor Farm near Southend on the very tip of the Kintyre peninsula, then malted, distilled (of course), matured and bottled on-site at Springbank Distillery. The bottling is a mix of 80% ex-bourbon casks and 20% ex-sherry casks-

So, just how cracking is it? Let's take a closer look...

The stills at Springbank, May 10 2011 © The Malt Desk

Springbank 1999 16yo (xx.09.1999/xx.01.2016) 54,3%, 9000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

My bottle has been open for about 2 weeks now and just removing the cork and splashing about 3½ cls in my glass raises delightful aromas of citrus and vanilla before my nose even gets close to the glass. I already mentioned the citrus and vanilla, but there's also quite a bit of a waxy note as if someone poured a large splash of Clynelish in here.

I get some dirty chimney and noticeable peat, honey, lemon oil, fresh grass and and wet dirt like stepping out onto the lawn after the rain. Quite refreshing and I dunno why but this gives me the feeling of nipping at a whisky mojito when water is added. The water also makes the nose give off some pineapple and lemon wrapped in a thin layer of brine... What a fantastic nose !!

The palate is very well behaved without water, but add some and there's that whisky mojito packed with malt, loads of lemon and mint leaves on top +  plus a little peat!

The water gives the whole thing quite a Schweppes fizzyness but it never lets you forget you're dealing with a Springbank here. There's lots of light oils, like the ones you used for your toys when you were a kid. There's ash, vanilla again, mere hints of pencil shavings, juicy malt, delicate wood spices (peppers)...

Everything's just here in beautiful measures!

Brilliant stuff!!


Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Benromach Distillery in Forres in Speyside just released this oldie from 1974 as a follow-up to their release of a 35yo expression earlier this year.

The packaging is similar til the 35yo, however this is a vintage 1974 where as the other didn't carry a vintage. This is also bottled at a higher strength which I expect will do this one good :-)

To me, the 70s are one of the golden decades in whisky, so here's to hoping that also applies to this single cask from Benromach.

Time to try this...

Picture by G&M

Benromach 1974 41yo 49,1%, sherry butt#1583, 452 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is amber

Picture by G&M
Polished wood, oranges, resin, bung cloth, pencil shavings, Pickwick multi dried tea leaves and hints of apricot and Madeira and just a little clove.

A lighter arrival and initial mouth feel than expected. Through comes polished leather, dark honey, malt extract, elderberry juice, stewed apple and overripe banana and hints of rum soaked raisin. The finish is on alcohol soaked sponge cake and coffee grounds and a tiny bit of smoke.

A lighter experience than expected as already mentioned but still very delicious! Since I don't give ½ points here, it places itself along side the 35yo which I found just a tad more lively, even though it was only 43% abv.... but I'm really splitting hairs here!


Official sample supplied by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


Well, we all know by that when a distillery says it matures all its whisky sherry casks, its not true... there are plenty of examples of this, Glenfarclas, Macallan and of course, Highland Park which is the one I'll be focusing on in this review...

Now, I'd been eyeing this one for a while and decided to grab a couple of bottles and at the same time, put a bottle on a tasting as these ex-bourbon casks Highland Parks can be really delicious... and I was not to be disappointed with this one either - and adding to that the price here in Denmark was really fair (DKK 1299,- or £133/€173) which makes it a much better offering than e.g. the official 25yo Highland Park currently priced at x 2-2,5 times that. I'm aware that this isn't a sherried version like the official 25yo but with a price difference like that, I'll live ;) - in fact, I find independent bottlings more fun as they show what a distillery can do besides their regular offerings.

One such independent bottler is Cadenheads, a subsidiary of Springbank Distillers in Campbeltown and one of, if not, my favorite bottler at moment... Their offerings are just really, really good - both in terms of quality and very often also in price - this 1990 25yo Highland Park is one such and it was bottled as a part of the Cadenhead Small Batch-series.

The Highland Park Malt Floor, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 1990 25yo 50,6%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 426 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light gold

Vanilla, loads of honey, quite fresh, a noticeable puff of smoke, sweet barley notes, some apple, bit of ginger and grass, fresh pineapple and quite a mix of herbs

The arrival is on citrus and honey until a strong burst of tropical fruits, mainly pineapple, mango rushes ind along with loads of juicy malt wrapped in a vanilla paestry. It's also quite smooth and creamy for a 50% malt - no rough edges here. Then we have more ginger, more, now slightly burnt paestry and smoke.

The finish goes towards cold olive oil and herbs and a slight mineral touch.

Great stuff!


Monday, 30 May 2016


The months of May has seen a couple of review of old sherry matured whiskies already, so why not continue with this one, a grand old Strathisla bottled by Gordon & Macphail of Elgin.

Strathisla is also know as Home of Chivas Regal as some of the malt that goes into the Chivas Regal blends comes from Strathisla Distillery. This time, however, I'll be focusing on a grand old malt from this distillery, matured for at least a good 47 years before being bottled in January 2015.

This one is bottled in Gordon & Macphail's Rare Vintage-series and is a beautiful example of how the first fill sherry butts have interacted with the Strathisla spirit - or as they say at G&M 'The wood makes the whisky'... you can read more about their wood policy here www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood

Strathisla Distillery in Keith, May 1st 2015 © The Malt Desk

Strathisla 1967 (bottled 26.01.2015) 43%, 1st fill sherry butts, Rare Vintage, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is light mahogany

Picture by G&M
Strong whiff of strawberries, furniture polish, milk chocolate, prunes, mint/menthol - like tiger balm muscle warmer

You get the obvious dark fruit sherry, yes - but there's more in here. There's cloves, orange peel, hint of cinnamon and then an amazing fruitiness mid-palate rushes in with vanilla baked apple, blood orange finished by rum/raisin ice cream notes and sweetened cough syrup.

This is brilliant stuff! It never feels tired in any way in spite of its age. Again, obviously a bottle from some great sherry casks of yesteryear, like the ones I talk about in this review.


Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


It's always something special to try whisky distilled the year you were born. (Darn, now I gave away that I'm an old fart!). This one, however, is just that bit more special to me as I just love, love, love old sherry matured whiskies. It wasn't that long ago that I had the chance to try a 1968 40yo sherry matured Longmorn, which was absolutely stellar - and as with the Longmorn, my expectations for this Glen Grant were quite high.

So what makes these super delicious old sherry matured whiskies?
Well, besides a good base spirit there's the obvious sherry cask... and in these cases just not any sherry casks. IMO, we just don't see sherry casks of that quality these days. 40-60 years ago, people were drinking a lot more sherry than they are today and as a result good sherry casks are hard to come by these days, which is not only reflected in the quality of the casks but also in the price... An ex-bourbon cask these days goes for around £100 where as a sherry cask is about £1000. You can read more abut the decline in the sale of sherry in this article by The Drinks Business from 2015.

As the sale of sherry drops, the need for long term storage of the wine is also declining and you don't get the wine transported in their original casks either as e.g modern bottling halls now does most of the work with the bit of sherry that does get bottled - so there's a few factors to consider when you look at the number sherry casks going in the whisky industry today... Many sherry casks have for a good number of years now also been American oak  sherry casks (typically sherry hogsheads) and not of European oak like they traditionally were - like 40 or 50 years ago with these glorious single casks used to mature e.g. the Longmorn and this Glen Grant

The decline in available sherry casks have for decades now made some whisky companies to broker exclusive deals with sherry bodegas in Spain. As with all business models this is both good and bad as some casks are filled with low quality sherry wine and then infused into the wood under high pressure. When the wood then has been 'sufficiently influenced' the casks are emptied and the 'sherry/wine' is just poured away or is sent away to be distilled into brandy as the quality of the wine often isn't good enough for it to be sold as sherry on its own... I'm not saying this happens with all the sherry casks in the whisky industry today - I'm just saying it happens - and from what I'm told, more often than we would like...

There are still some good sherry matured whiskies out there, make no mistake about that, but I'm yet to be convinced that we'll see a quality of both casks and bottlings like the ones that hit the market just a decade ago...

Glen Grant Stillhouse, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1970 35yo Cask#812, 120 bottles, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Colour is dark mahogany

Raisins, strong cold coffee, dark chocolate, soy sauce, polished oak, blackcurrants, cooked apple, burnt sugar, dark old rum, licorice and cigar humidor. There's tonnes of Xmas notes in here too... cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a slight herbal note followed by a bit of refreshing menthol and musty bung cloth

Quite vinous at first, old squeaky clean oloroso sherry giving away to prune juice, alcohol soaked raisins, wet tobacco leaves, cocoa, more blackcurrant but also unsweetened strawberries jam, ancient Port wine, oak spices. There's also some fruity notes coming through if you let it sit for a while (it's hard, I'll tell you that!!) overripe plums and apple are kept at bay by drying notes of cinnamon and clove. Eventually, the quite intense flavors gives away to some salivating malt and drying wood notes...

Another stunning old malt !!