Nosing, tasting and casting my vote for the #ArranWhiteStag second release

Nosing, tasting and casting my vote for the #ArranWhiteStag second releaseThree drams of Arran Malt, sent to 20 panel members, all to be tasted completely blind, in a quest to choose which one will become the second “White Stag” release. This will be a single cask bottling of Arran whisky, exclusive for the members of the (free!) White Stag club. I was chosen as one of the panellists and now face the hard task of choosing my preferred sample. All drams were tasted on the same evening at the same time – first the nose of all three drams, then palate and finish afterwards. Hey, you’re here for the whisky, so let’s get going!

Sample 1

Colour: copper gold
The nose opens on what I love about Arran. Perfect dram to start with! Light fruits (red apples, sweet pears), orange juice, orange peel, the signature is there. It’s also getting a bit tropical with mango and sweet pineapple. Progressing into darker berries with a slightly bitter note of cracked berry seeds on light, fragrant oak. Delicate, yet with a substance in the background provided by the cask. Read More »

Tasting: Dalmore 1992 22 years by Cadenhead’s

Dalmore 1992 22 years by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Dalmore
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1992
Bottled: October 2014
Age: 22 years
Limitation: 264
Casks: refill bourbon
Alcohol: 59,5%
unchillfiltered and uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
I’ve been sitting on this miniature for a while now, but Dalmore matured in (refill) ex-Bourbon is not something you see released by the distillery. All the more intriguing – let’s see…!
Colour: copper gold
The nose opens on a light, summery note. Quite a bit of alcohol there – no wonder at close to 60% ABV! Mentholated ginger/orange drops, orange zest, gooseberries, white grapes, icing sugar with a dollop of lemon juice, red apples and fresh pears. Big on the light, fruity side. There’s a hint of oak in the background – light and shy, adding depth, but not more. Read More »

Tasting: Glasgow Distillery new make + 8-month-old spirit

Glasgow Distillery new make + 8-month-old spiritEvery time a new distillery opens up, everyone wants to know, what it’s going to be like when it’s whisky. Stills are tuned to support the style the distillers want to achieve, mashing and fermentation are dialled in to support wanted and get rid of unwanted characteristics – as much as possible. And then, after distillation is complete, there’s the choice of which type of casks to fill. Decisions, decisions – and they all influence what the final products is going to be like – a product no one can predict with 100% certainty. I was given samples of both the new make and an 8-month-old spirit, matured in a virgin American standard barrel from the Glasgow Distillery at an event during the Spirit of Speyside festival last month, so let’s have a peek at where they’re at so far, shall we?

New Make – unpeated, 63.4% ABV

Colour: Crystal clear
The nose is, of course, quite a bit alcoholic, but not astringent. On the lighter side of the different new makes I’ve had so far – almost a bit floral (no FWP!), with red berries, wee bitter bramble seeds and cereal (wet oats) in the background. A hint of what remains after distillation as pot ale is to be detected, but that’s the job of the casks to get rid of, perfectly normal! Read More »

Speyside trip 2016: Part two – Dalmunach – Tamdhu (+Maltings) – Glasgow Distillery Presentation – #whiskyfabric dinner

Scotland is a very diverse country and it is easy to forget how remote it can be when you’re in the central belt or the more populated areas. But when you’re trying to locate a big distillery, in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile reception for miles, you sometimes start to question your navigation skills. What? There’s supposed to be a distillery at the end of this 1.2-track, broken up, pot-holey road with no signs pointing you anywhere? Yep, there sure is – and what a distillery!

Dalmunach Distillery

Dalmunach Distillery
Dalmunach Distillery. Photo credit: Johannes Doblmann

Pulling into the Dalmunach car park we (my brother Johannes and I) were met by malt mates Lora Hemy and Peter Moser, with Crystal Coverdale  having traveled with us. Speyside is a big area – but somehow you keep bumping into the same people! Distillery tours are always best with partners in crime!

“Dalmunach? Never heard of it!” you might be inclined to say, unless you’re one of the most die-hard whisky geeks. The new 10-million-litre distillery was constructed on the site of the previous Imperial distillery, which had been mothballed for several years and, since 2013, is now officially a “lost” distillery. Construction of the new site was in the hands of Douglas Cruickshank, a former Chivas executive, who started his career at the Imperial site at age 15. Talking about creating a legacy! Dalmunach is owned by Chivas/Pernod Ricard and is to produce spirit for the blended whisky market, relieving stocks of the likes of Glenlivet and Longmorn. Production is overseen by Trevor Buckley, distillery manager and our “tour guide” that day.

Trevor Buckley showing the group around
Trevor Buckley showing the group around

The distillery is not open to the general public, thus instead of entering a big, branded visitor’s centre, we met in the distillery “lobby”, which is dominated by a strange round, familiar shape. Wood from one of the old Imperial washbacks was integrated into the structure of the new distillery, housing for example the manager’s office, as Trevor pointed out to us. You can spot it in the first picture – the round structure in the middle.
Joining us on our tour was also architect Mark, responsible for this stunning piece of functional, modern architecture, tucked away invisibly, like a hidden gem, by the river Spey. The plant has a layout of three strands, reflecting the three distinct production processes: Mashing, fermentation and distillation. And what a spacious layout it is! Lots of room, big, windows drawing ones eye to the stunning scenery all around. Read More »

Tasting: Wolfburn 3 yo First Release

Wolfburn 3 yo First ReleaseDram data:
Distillery: Wolfburn
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: 2013
Bottled: March 2016
Age: 3 years
Limitation: 16000
Casks: refill quarter casks
Alcohol: 46%
unchillfiltered and uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
It seems just like yesterday that the Wolfburn distillery way up in Thurso, in the north of Scotland, was constructed and started production. It doesn’t feel like it’s already a year ago that I paid them a visit. And yet here it is: Their first general release of a three-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Well, let’s get cracking and see how it turned out!
Colour:
pale white wine
The nose opens on a waft of alcohol – it is bottled at 46% – with a hint of peat smoke from the maturation in quarter casks which previously held peated whisky. There are also notes of shortbread with sweet icing, vanilla pods, freshly ground malt, sweet grape juice and a slight grapefruit rind and juice tingle. The quarter casks did a great job on the clean distillate – no harsh youthfulness anymore. Read More »

Speyside trip 2016: Part one – Boortmalt Maltings Buckie – Speyside Cooperage – Auchroisk Distillery

Plane to Aberdeen
Our plane to Aberdeen

Going somewhere for the first time is always filled with anticipation and excitement. In the last week of April 2016 my brother Johannes and I packed our backpacks for our first ever ‘real’ trip to the Speyside in Scotland. While we’ve been to Scotland many times before and even visited Benromach and Glen Moray last year, this was to be our first proper visit to the current heart of Scotch whisky production. Well, our decision to head there might have been triggered by the fact that there was a whisky festival going on at that time – the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival. You might have heard about it. If not – click the link! Part of the festival excitement had to do with us meeting friends old and new as nine of us whisky geeks (that would be Jo, Johanne, Crystal, Viva, Kat, the Spellers and us two boys) shared a house for a week – a bit out of the way in Cullen (home of the famous Cullen Skink fish soup), but it was comfy and cheap – perfect as a base camp! And right next to our base camp – the next town, literally – was the first destination of our first tour on the first day of #dram16, Thursday, the 28th of April.

Boortmalt Maltings in Buckie

Boortmalt Maltings in Buckie
Boortmalt Maltings in Buckie

It’s Wednesday morning, the sun is shining (for the most part) and we’re driving our car towards Buckie to take a look at the Boortmalt maltings operation there. What better way to start a whisky festival than looking at how THE main ingredient in malt whisky production, malt, is made? At the door we were greeted by plant manager Gary and led into the board room for tea and cookies. Not a bad way to start the day indeed. The day even got better when we bumped into house mate Crystal for the first time as well as Lora and Rachel – always great to meet fellow malt mates at festivals!

Malting barley is a three-step process. At first you “steep” the dried barley in water to raise water content of the grain, as can be seen in the second picture, which was taken at the time when the steeping vessel was “stirred” by way of introducing compressed air from the bottom. Once a moisture content of approximately 45% is reached, the water is drained and the barley transferred to the germination chamber.

Steeps at the Maltings
Steeps at the Maltings

Under controlled climatic conditions the barley begins to grow during the modification phase, where enzymes break down the proteins and carbohydrates, essential for fermentation later on in the production of whisky. After germination has arrived at a critical point, the barley is kilned – you could also call it heat-dried, to terminate the germination process, or otherwise a barley plant would grow and we wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we? Drying is achieved by introducing hot air through the bottom of a perforated floor. Sometimes peat is used during the first phase of kilning to create smoky flavours, at the Buckie maltings they only produce unpeated malt, from local (Scottish) Concerto barley. They once tried making a peated batch, but after burning 40 tonnes of peat only got them about 10 ppm in the malt, the trials were abandoned. Read More »

Tasting: Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 years (2016 re-release)

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 years (2016 re-release)Dram data:
Distillery: –
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: -2016
Age: 15 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 43%
chill filtered and coloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
light amber (E150a…)
Many people lamented the loss of the old Johnnie Walker Green Label and now, after about two years of absence, it is back – worldwide. Johnnie Walker Green Label is a 15-year old blended malt, thus a vatting of only single malt whiskies – Cragganmore at the core, with Talisker, Caol Ila, Linkwood and others blended in. I have never tasted the old version, so let’s try the new one without expectations to live up to…
The nose is aromatic, medium-intense and, this might be my mind playing tricks here, “green” – meaning a grassy (but pleasantly so) top note. This fresh note is underpinned by vanilla-scented honey, honey melon, orange oil, shortbread, caramelized ginger, a dense mixture of spices, a pinch of white pepper and a smidgen of peat smoke. Read More »

Tasting: Benrinnes 15 years Flora & Fauna

Benrinnes 15 years Flora & FaunaDram data:
Distillery: Benrinnes
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2015-2016
Age: 15 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 43%
chill filtered and coloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
amber (E150a…)
The nose is true to the beefy, meaty spirit style of Benrinnes – not at all unlike Mortlach, rich and oily with a dash of engine grease on top! Ex-sherry casks dominate, with rich, creamy, fruity-sweet notes of cherry juice, dried plums and raisins and milk chocolate.
Read More »

Tasting: Gems of Scotland Caol Ila 7 yo 2008 – 2016 cask 311050

Tasting: Gems of Scotland Caol Ila 7 yo 2008 - 2016 cask 311050Dram data:
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Morrison & Mackay
Distilled: 05.06.2008
Bottled: 15.01.2016
Age: 7 years
Limitation: 414 bottles
Casks: Hogshead 311050
Alcohol: 46%
unchillfiltered and uncoloured

Tasting notes:
Colour:
new make with a slight copper sheen
The nose is dominated by slightly mellowed-down heavily peated new make. In a good way! A pinch of alcohol with dried orange peel and fresh ginger, raw fire, still warm peaty ash, brown sugar and a spent old vanilla pod rubbed on a slate platter. The cask managed to take away the roughness of the new make and add just a smidgen of flavours – at least third-fill wood in my opinion. Read More »

Tasting: Glen Albyn 1976 – 2012 by Gordon & Macphail

Glen Albyn 1976 - 2012 by Gordon & Macphail'sDram data:
Distillery: Glen Albyn
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Distilled: 1976
Bottled: 2012
Age: ca. 36 years
Limitation: –
Casks: Ex-sherry
Alcohol: 43%
chill filtered, uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
apple juice
My first Glen Albyn – a lost Inverness distillery, founded in 1846 and closed during the miserable 80s whisky downturn in 1983. Bottlings of this distillery are getting very scarce these days…
The nose opens with notes of dusty apple strudel with sugar (no raisins!), old mashed banana, icing sugar with a drop of lemon, rich, creamy old oak and dried orange zest. Very, very mellow and well-aged! The palate has notes of white and red apples – very light, actually, light spices and a lot of creaminess. Old, dried oranges, a hint of cardboard and an old banana with peel with a fragrant oak and a whiff of dusty old cellar (yep!) in the background. Read More »

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