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Whisky squad – The 3rd meeting

Sat in the Gunmakers in Farringdon (a great real ale pub) for our monthly get together. Just had a great meeting with the Movember guys and setting up for tonights Scottish Island tasting (excludes Islay).

When buying our budget is £15 each, between 12 – 13 people and we’ve done well this week.

Our line up is:

- 18 yo Highland park from signatory,
- Talisker 18 yo
- Murray McDavid 15 yo Tobermory, and – Master of Malt 12 yo Arran.

Should be lots of fun and will have more on it in my next post.

Posted in The Whisky Squad.

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Drinks by the Dram – Whisky Podcast


If you haven’t already seen the Drinks by the Dram offering from Master of malt Check out my video, but you should also see here, here, and here



The Whisky Guy

Posted in Whisky.

Introduction to The Whisky Guy podcast


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Feis Ile 2010 – Port Mor dinner with Bruichladdich

So, again I’m on my iPhone, but connection isn’t so good on Islay (a great reason to come and forget about your phone).

Buffet of Lobster, Scallops, Langoustines and crab!

I’ll be on twitter updating people of my location to get samples of the Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram when I can get signal

Tonight we’re at Port Mor with the guys from Bruichladdich and the food is fantastic. Local oysters are here on the half shell, damn it’s great!  Mark from Whiskycast is here and Robin Laing has just finished a set, so I’m hoping to hear it again tomorrow.

Jim McEwan explained earlier that when the distillery opened there was a need to bottle the various different expressions to generate revenue. Bruichladdich has taken a little bit of a bashing in recent years for this, although in the UK many go unsold a collectors market for these bottles exists in America. Also, in the scope of the distilling world Jim explained with a torn piece of cardboard on the fly diagram that Laddie holds 0.9% of the market share, so I guess they have to work harder to be visible.

I wonder if companies like Diageo look at the innovation and number of releases from such a small distillery and question why small operators are able to multi function in a way they don’t.  You can’t help but wonder when the SWA will start to lobby to restrict the number of spirits produced by one distillery as the the big boys finance directors/teams battle to understand. Will they one day try to a stop Springbank creating Hazelburn and Longrow as a separate brand? What about Port Charlotte or Loch Lowmand distillers Lowmand still spirit (one being Croftengea)?

Using barley grown on Islay

Indie distilleries like Bruchladdich need us to support them more than the companies such as LVMH, Pernod Ricard and Diageo. The big question is do they deserve our support? Tomorrow will hopefully answer the question, but for now we need to head back to our lodgings, but before I go…

We’ve been sampling a couple of whiskies tonight, which I’ll mention when I cover the whole of the Laddie open day. One tasting note I do have is for the Valinch:

Homage to Richard Macaire – Islay Barley 2004,

Cask No #1667    Cask Type: Fresh Sherry Butt     Distilled: 2004

Bottled: 2010       Abv: 57.5%       Total Output: 1060 bottles (50cl)

Nose: This has raisins and big burnt caramel notes on the front of the nose. Malty Tablet, vanilla, pistachio, hazelnuts, and nougat. There is an element of alcohol spice, but with water it calms down.

Palette: The body is thick and sweet enough to entice crème brûlée, but builds up to a nice olorosso/whisky balance. Has youthful spice, which needs water. With water you get more Jerez fruitiness and is very agreeable.

Finish: Spicey without water, but medium-long with a light touch of smoke.

In Summary: I’ll be in the queue at Laddies open day for sure with money in hand!

Posted in Bruichladdich, Islay, feis ile.

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Feis Ile – Lagavulin day 1

Day 1:

Today was a 7am start, but arriving in the line-up for the ferry we’re by no means the earliest start of the day.

Standing next to our car was a group of gents from Falkirk who are extremely well versed with the Island and the Feis Ile.  Like most people heading to the festival they have some surprise whisky in there bags. These gentlemen have something very special, there own syndicate single cask bottling of Port Charlotte!  Under the guidance of Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich they have bottled it as (Gaelic for Port Charlotte). The stats and tasting notes below:

Age: 8yo,       Distilled: 6th December 2001,        Bottled: 2nd March 2010,       
Sherry Hoggie? No. 826,   ABV: 66%,       Total output: 286 bottles,

Port Sgioba 8yo

The time is only 8am and this is breakfast!

Nose: The top note is a mild spearmint followed by a gently smouldering fire smoke. Wet hay, barley and earthy farmyard aroma chases a reduction of vanilla and balsamic vinegar (which is very pleasant). Some stewed figs and mulled wine sweetness mask a slight woodiness.

Palette: Hitting the tongue and washing around the month this is initially crisp. The minty freshness on the front of the nose sweeps in; followed by a thick sweetness. However, the high ABV and tannins quickly come to the fore. The drying effect is slightly overwhelming at first, but the fruit and huge sherry taste builds to a peak which allows the smoke to come on the back.

With water this whisky mellows and the sweetness, mint, mild iodine-esk smoke and sherry become dominant. Leather chew filling out the end

Finish: Medium in length with Sherry and slight woody leather.

In Summary: This is a going to be great with food, would love to get this dram alone with a good chunk of Dunsyre blue (made in South Lanarkshire, Scotland by Humphrey Errington from unpasteurized milk from Ayrshire cows curdled). The balance is just on the cusp of going to far towards the wood, but Jim’s guidance on bottling has kept them on the straight and narrow. An interesting bottling of Port Charlotte and one worth having in the cupboard to share with friends. Gents, looking forward to your next set of releases.

The weather is incredible and docking we set out straight for Lagavulin. We arrive at the white wash distillery buildings shining in the sun and join the queue of whisky lovers basking in the heat waiting to get their hands on this years bottling.

The Feis Ile attracts people from all around the world and listening to the conversations going on around us you have the standard groups. Swedish, German, of course Scottish/English, American, plus handfuls of Japanese and Italians, etc…

As we headed into the main area of the Lagavulin open day we meet Nick Morgan, spokesman for the Classic Malts Selection™ range from Diageo. Nick is accompanied by Mark Gillespie the host of whiskycast podcast, who has flown in from the USA to cover the festival (click on the link to follow his daily updates and interviews).  As Mark and Nick are on their way to join Iain McArthur for a tour of the warehousing we head to the dramming section to get the weekend started.

Billy, Iain McArthur’s brother, is manning the make shift bar area. We start the tasting with a health dram of Lagavulin 16yo, (Neil has a old 1990’s bottling, which you can see a comparison of on, followed by the newly released limited edition distillery only bottle and finishing on a 1993 single cask, caskstrength whisky chosen that day. Tasting notes below:

Lagavulin 16yo

Lagavulin 16 years old

Nose: The nose is all thick smoke and peat. Phenols creep in, particularly a most medicinal iodine with hints of sherry and oak and Lapsang Souchong tea.

Palette: The palate is dry and smoky with thick, pungent peat. Notes of oil and tar with a touch of salinity. The iodine returns with intent and notes of faint sherry and oaked tannins balance out the affair with the wreckless abandon only an islander retains.

Finish: The finish is big and powerful with pungent peat and medicinal notes and a touch of sweetness.

In Summary: A legend!

Lagavulin Distillery only bottling

Nose: The top note is sweet and bready with a that great peat smoke creaminess. Nuts, muscovado sugar, plum wine, fresh peppermint, unsalted butter and cake mix drag you in for more…

Palette: This carries all the flavours from the nose to the palette, a brings in more spices with cinnamon lingering.

Finish: A medium finish with light peat, warmth and cinnamon butter.

In Summary: This is in my top list of whiskies from this year. Slightly more depth, but not one for everyday of the week.

Lagavulin Single cask #4504 - fresh from the warehouse.  Distilled in 1993 a handful bottled Feis Ile 2010

Nose: Lots of Red fruits (Strawberries, cranberry at the front) blended with peat come through at first, white pepper, pine sap, burn toffee and coal tar soap linger in the end.

Palette: Exhaust oils, pepper and sweet crisp woody start. The fruit on the nose has switched to more vegetative flavours with a hint of salt beef and bagels, Then this drops into a but pungent allotment fire smoke.

Finish: Dry and woody.

In Summary: Fun and dangerous like Clarkson with a V8 blender!

After the sampling we headed out to Ardbeg for lunch- the crab chowder is great! It’s hard not to love this little distillery and as the three of us sit eating you absorb the atmosphere .  The new Supernova is out for sampling, Myself, Neil and Joel jump in there and gave it a try.

Ardbeg Supernova 2nd Release 2010        Abv: 60.1% ABV       Age: No age Statement

Can't wait for the new iPhone so I can take better pictures!

Colour: Egg whites with a hint of green (this looks young, but that means nothing)

Nose: At first it is subdued, but then a note of apple marks it opening up. In quick succession peach melba, pear, scorched hickory, lemon or citrus juice jump out. The nose starts to get exciting with Tar coated tomato vines and cigar ash, a prawn or pacific sea ozone develops into leather, iodine/leathery iodine and Asda digestive biscuits (they seem to have a sweeter nose than Macvities).

Palette: Sadly the taste is more one dimensional. The obligitory burn wood ash, Lime lingers and runs into the finish, ginger nut biscuits and maltiness are all this offers.  After 30mins of nursing this dram I gave up!

Finish: There is a medium length with lime zest and ash.

In Summary: This for me is a slightly boring dram and would say that the bottlings from independents such as SMWS have been better. Was expecting a higher standard, leaving me feeling a little let down.

Earlier, as we waited in the dramming section at Lagavulin, someone mentioned the Ardbeg festival bottling and a price of £220.   Although the the guys at Ardbeg didn’t confirm the price Neil and Joel we’re given a preview for their post later in the week.  This bottle isn’t going to be a 100 bottles of 25 year old (like Bowmore at a plus £300 price tag) and I wonder where these prices come from? Is it a marketing team decision or is it driven by LVMH the brand owner.

I’m confident the bottle will sell out, but at what cost to the long term relationship with fans and collect-ability of the whisky? There is small disquiet with fans here at the festival as the ever increasing prices force people to spend more and more.  At the extreme small handfuls of people making this pilgrimage to Islay are moving away from buying the new expressions as they loose their affinity with the Ardbeg brand. Word of mouth could have a bad impact if fans are put off.

Well, tonight we’re off to Port Mor and in the distillery tomorrow with Bruichladdich so lots more to come.



Posted in Islay, Whisky, feis ile.

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Feis Ile – whisky trip part 1.1

Just a very quick post from my iPhone.

I’m sat on an out crop of rocks 20 miles from Campbeltown. Strangly this is the best place to sit as there is a veiw of Ilsay with the setting sun.

Neil and Joel from are here trying to find a signal so they can get a laptop hooked up.
We’ve drove 9hours today, so a dram was on the cards.

We’ve got the Master of Malt 12 yo Islay, which I’ll be handing out this weekend at the Feis Ile as a part of their new Drinks by The Dram idea.

Nose: The top note has a good depth of fresh peat smoke with a coastal ozone (this might be part of sitting on a rock next to the sea), caramel and slight fruitiness.

Palette: Initially on the tongue there’s a wash of sweetness closer to Agave syrup than honey, followed by an elegant dance of light peat and tabacco smoke. This is fading into sweet lightly chewed grass and malt barley.

Finish: The finish is sustained with a great “and again” feel to it!

In summary: This is a great balanced whisky from the chaps at Master of Malt and would recommend it as an introduction to Islay for those who are looking for a change. It also a fantastic dram to simply sit on a warm summer evening at the beach or in the garden and enjoy with freinds.

Goodnight and cheers


*and again is that desire to go in for another sip.

Posted in Islay, Whisky.

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Feis Ile 2010 – Whisky Top Trumps

Wow, this year is flying by!

It’s just over a week until Neil & Joel from and myself set off on our drive from London to Islay. In preparation I’ve put together my top trumps of Islay whisky. Something that proved to be a difficult task as they are all fantastic drams!

In true top trumps style some factors had to come into play – such as price, abv and age – I also decided to use  Jim Murray’s whisky bible to help score my selection as they battled against each other in an Islay whisky top trumps. It’s important to note that the the ideal price point is no more than £50 as accessibility is key! However, I’ve chosen whiskies I’m passionate about from each of the Islands distillery.

So my selection is as follows:

  • Ardbeg 1977,

Age – 24 yo
Price – £299.95
Jim’s Score – 96 (n25 t24 f23 b24)
Rarity – 8/10 (still available, but running out fast!)
ABV – 46%


  • Master of Malt 26 year old Bowmore,

Age – 26 Years
Price – £99.95
Jim’s Score -
Rarity – 8/10
ABV – 53.4%


  • Bruichladdich Reciotto finish,

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:


  • Bunnahabhain Mòine

Age – 6 years
Average Price – £87.95
Jim’s Score -
Rarity – 9/10
ABV – 59.6%

  • Signatory Coal Ila – 1984,

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:

  • Kilchoman Spring release,

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:

  • Lagavulin distillers Edition,

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:

  • Laphroiag quarter cask, &

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:

  • Port Ellen Second Release

Average Price:
Jim’s Score:

My final hand:

Ardbeg 1977;

The Stats:

Age – 24 yo

Price – £299.95

Jim’s Score – 96 (n25 t24 f23 b24)

Rarity – 8/10 (still available, but running out fast!)

ABV% – 46

My Notes:

A truly amazing whisky from possibly the best distillery on Islay (yes I was once employed by the Glenmorangie Company, but damn I’ve rarely be disappointed)!

Ardbeg has seen some rough times and in 1977 it was 4 years away from being mothballed, left to drop into decay and despair.  With hardcore fans I think the 70’s was indisputably the best time for the distillery spirit with the ppm level coming over slightly higher than current releases.  The aging time has allowed the final product to mellow and build a subtle complexity to rival any of the Speyside malts at this age. There is talk about the small purifier hanging from the still making a huge difference to the flavour, but was it in action during this period?

On the nose

The nose is thick and smokey, but still has great balance. Fruits de mare hides at the back of a tobacco richness, coastal ozone sweet. The nose is an attractive Island women, mature (but youthful), while still intriguing and  fun!


This is a sensory experience not to be missed (I’m using a Reidel  nosing glass as I love the delivery onto the front of the pallette)! The wash of

To be continued…


Posted in Scotch, Single cask, Single malt, Whisky.

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Testing the flavour map with The Whisky Squad

Meeting groups of whisky enthusiast is always great. What’s better is when they invite you to join them for a monthly tasting session under the banner of the Whisky Squad!

Started in April 2010 (so a very new group) we meet every first Thursday at a small friendly pub, The Gunmakers.

This month we sampled from the flavour map, but put in a curve ball with Glenfarclas 15 year old.

Whisky Squad May tasting

Posted in Scotch, The Whisky Squad.

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Number One Drinks Company

Yesterday (Wednesday 5th May 2010), I met with the inspiring and charismatic man in the UK behind Number One Drinks Company,  Marcin Miller.

For those not familiarly with what the brand offers your missing an absolute treat!

Number One Drinks Company was founded in August 2006 by Marcin and David Croll (who is based in Japan). They began trading in September 2006 with an initial shipment of award-winning single malts from the defunct Hanyu Distillery. 

Since the 1990s both chaps were aware that many fantastic whiskies were difficult for enthusiasts to find outside Japan. which triggered them to do something. So now David sources samples, which are assessed by a tasting panel prior to selection; casks are then purchased, bottled and shipped to Marcin in the UK to be sold to specialist retailers and venues in the on-trade.

At his point I have to add two a side notes and please correct me if I’m wrong!

Firstly, Marcin might possibly be the Polish or Russian (?) pop singer you can find on Youtube.

Secondly, when you work with whisky for as long as both these gents your passion of whisky doesn’t disappear, but becomes channelled.

Moving on to our tasting…

Arriving 10 minutes early at the Coburg Bar, Mayfair, I was greeted by the Bar Manager and superb range of single malts they have on display.  Marcin was on his way, so I sat chatting and perusing the bar menu – dreaming about sampling the 1st release Port Ellen at £200 a nip!

In timely fashion I’m shaking the hand of not only a possible eastern block pop legend, but also a whisky icon. We begin proceedings with incredibly good cocktails made with Berry Bros No. 3 gin. A Nergoni made with Attica Formula is a definite must before cleansing the palette and starting to get down to whisky tasting.

Click here to see more japanese whisky reviews at Nonjatta

Great Japanese whisky blog, click for more reviews

The samples are all from Karuizawa, a distillery which open in 1956. Sold single malt in 1987, and is now sadly Mothballed with an uncertain future ahead. The production was designed to mimic scotch, but the end result for me personally is better than most Scotch whisky every time I’ve tried it!  Karuizawa has been described as the product of the Japanese version of a Russian oil lords demand for a distillery ( i.e. take a hugely expensive site, build small stills, only use sherry casks and import barley from Berwick!).

Either way this is an amazing distillery and the spec. of all the casks from Number One is incredible.

Coming soon… reviews of single casks from 1996, 1987 and 1981


The Whisky Guy

Posted in Japanese, Single cask, Whisky.

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The Wrong Way Around

Following my post on December 19th the collection is running thinner than before. So, in a last ditch effort to save my whisky collection and marriage I’m coming back at the UK to try and make some cash before returning to Canada.

I’m heading to SMWS Queen Street to meet with the guys for a job in Queen Street. If anything I’ll be able to put my membership to use and get a good dram!

Posted in Whisky.