Don’t Forget the E’s!

Whisky Selection – Easy as A, B, C and D!

Over the past four weeks, I have been going over the checklist of how to make your selections whilst wondering what bottle on the shelf is going to float your boat. This has been based on a concept from a fellow whisky blogger Aqvavitae which he did a video blog which you can see here. It’s a brilliant presentation and I’d encourage you to watch it, if only to see that although I’ve used Roy’s concept, I have not plagiarised him. The points he makes are universal, and I feel I’ve added some more points. Look through his stuff on YouTube, perhaps subscribe. I enjoy his stuff, and he’s a thoroughly decent bloke.

Right, now I’ve established the bona fides of my content, let’s look towards a summary of the past four weeks. I’m going to have short, sharp easy to remember points that don’t go into too much detail that will help you avoid picking a dud.

A is for Age is there an age statement on the bottle? If not, you have no idea of the baseline quality you are getting for your money.


Age Statements Give a Quality Benchmark

B is for Bottling Strength low ABV means it’s been diluted already. Aim for higher ABV where you can lower it yourself to find where you enjoy it!

C is for Chill Filtering look to see if it states non chill filtering. If it has been, something is missing. Whisky above 46% doesn’t need it, but not to say it hasn’t been chill filtered to some point.


Age Statement, High ABV, Non Chill Filtered and no E150a. The Octomore X4+10 scores full marks

D is for Dye Whisky is a natural product and it shouldn’t have colouring. Something that isn’t dyed can tell you a bit more about the cask.

There is one caveat however………

Just because you follow my advice, it doesn’t mean you will hit the jackpot every time. Whisky is a personal taste where everybody will have a different experience with aroma, palate, finish and appearance. My advice will only steer you away from the banana skins or the mass produced whisky that might not be the finest. 

What you really need to do is sometimes take a chance. As you will have seen or will see in the near future, that had I applied the ABCD to some of the whiskies I have reviewed, I’d have missed out on some pleasant drams. Dalmore’s King Alexander is NAS, 40% and coloured. We’ll also take a guess it’s chill filtered to a degree, yet still very pleasant. I’ll not mention the other malts yet as they have still to be published – I like to keep you guys guessing what’s next.

Don’t Drop the E’s

Nothing to do with drugs, our ABCD needs some E’s.

Education. A wee bit of research

Experience. Don’t be afraid to try.

Evaluate. Does the whisky appeal to you? What pulls you into the dram? What puts you off?

Enjoy. Needs no explanation. Remember your experience of the dram may change as you go down the bottle. It may get a lot better.

One tip I’ll give you all is to consider buying miniatures online. It may be an expensive way of working out of you’d enjoy a full bottle, but will save your hard earned for going towards something a bit more to your taste. Both Master Of Malt and The Whisky Exchange sell samples of many full size bottles of all varieties and ages. It’s worth doing this to Or keep a lookout at auction.


Flora & Fauna 3cl miniatures from The Whisky Exchange. Allows me to try before committing to a full size purchase. Or experience what I can’t afford.

Tasting at a bar can be a wee bit hit or miss, as you aren’t generally taking your time to savour, and your palate won’t necessarily be as clear to taste all the nuances.

Anyway, after writing four epic articles over the holiday season, I’m keeping this one short.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All photos authors own.

It’s Time To Stop Chilling

Why you could be missing out on taste.

One of the things that will determines how good your whisky will be is the quality of the ingredients in your dram. But the whisky you have in your glass will have more in it than you realise.


Chilling. Potential hazard ahead.

Although the standard three ingredients in whisky are water, malted barley and yeast, the production process will develop many different compounds. The three main types of compounds are Phenols, Aldehydes and Esters. In your dram, these will be present in various sub types, but seeing as I am not a chemist, we won’t go that deep.

Starting with Phenols, these are mainly responsible for the smoky and peaty flavour in whiskies where the malted barley has been dried in a kiln with peat. It is nothing to do with where the water comes from. Phenols are measured in Phenol Parts Per Million (ppm) and this is the level of Phenol in the malted barley, not the finished whisky. Ardbeg is about 25ppm and some of the Octomore bottlings have insanity levels of peat at 167ppm. Thing is, these compounds can be lost at any point in the process, so a high phenolic value doesn’t mean it might taste peatier than a lower number, it’s just a guide.

Moving on to Aldehydes, these are a chemical compounds formed throughout the distillation process, and are formed as a result of oxidisation of alcohol (ethanol). It is also created during fermentation as a by product of the yeast converting sugar to alcohol. These aldehydes are quite pungent, and if you’ve been tricked into sticking your head into a washback and taking a good sniff during fermentation, that ammonia smell is an aldehyde. Other aldehydes are created during maturation as compounds in the wood break down and are exposed to oxygen.

Aldehydes are responsible for a variety of flavours and aromas, such as cinnamon, vanilla, herbal and other slightly bitter tastes. They also help create other aromas and flavours that you can experience.

Lastly, we move onto Esters. When you mix alcohol with phenolic or carboxylic compounds, this creates Esters. They are responsible for the fruity and creamy types of flavours and aromas, such as vanilla, butter, citrus and other fruits. Esters are also created throughout the process from fermentation, distillation and maturation as sugars break down and form various organic acids.


Ethyl Hexanoate – in whisky that’s pineapple or waxy green banana to you.

So why do we need a chemistry lesson??

Well, with the formation of esters and aldehydes, there is a presence of other naturally occurring fatty acids and proteins that will be in the spirit that comes out of a cask. These start to coagulate when the whisky has water and/or ice is added. It also happens when a whisky bottle has been kept in a cold location. This gives a cloudy appearance, and for many this gives an impression there is something wrong with the dram. There isn’t, and all that we are seeing is the esters of long chain fatty acids. Once the whisky is warmed it goes back to its natural colour.


Scotch Mist. Haze in a Glencadam 10 year old @ 46%

The bottlers solution to this is to chill filter the spirit. All whisky is filtered prior to bottling to ensure sediment and particles from the cask do not go into the bottle. This is a simple filtering process, similar to why you’d attempt filter oil in your engine to keep the bad bits out. Chill filtering is slightly different, where the spirit is chilled down to around 0C, which causes the compounds that create the haze to form. The hazy spirit is then forced through a filter (usually a fine metal mesh) which then removes the undesired compounds.


Auchentoshan @40% and cold water. No mist = chill filtered

This is only done in the vast majority of cases for whisky less than 46% abv. Whisky at 46% abv or above doesn’t need chill filtered so much for two reasons. Firstly, there is less water in a 46% whisky, so it doesn’t haze so much. Plus, if we strip out the haze causing fatty acids, we’re left with just more alcohol and less taste.

So why is this a problem?

This is a debate that perpetually continues in the industry. Those who support chill filtration will say it doesn’t change the taste of the whisky. Those who don’t support it say it strips out the texture, plus some of the oils and esters. And that is why I gave a brief over view to compounds in whisky – if you strip out esters and fatty acids which we know provide flavour, how can you not affect taste? It’s impossible not to, but people will still disagree.

What I can tell you in my experience with my whisky journey, most 40% whisky I have had seem to be light, lacking mouthfeel. Not them all, but most of them. It’s almost impossible to gauge what the dram would be like had it not been chill filtered. However it isn’t impossible, and this vindicates my policy of using miniatures of older whiskies bought at auction – as consumers are becoming more aware of chill filtration, producers sometimes upgrade their expressions with higher ABV and becoming non-chill filtered. One such example is the brands owned by Burn Stewart (Bunnahabhain, Deanston, Ledaig and Tobermory) raising the abv to 46%+ and not chill filtering. Comparing old and new may give a guide on the difference the chill filtering makes, but because the expressions may have a different flavour profile, it makes identifying what was lost through chill filtration a bit harder. I’d say the texture would be the easiest to identify in comparison, but that’s just me.

For me, it’s an issue worth mentioning, as it is solely done for cosmetic purposes, and I am more concerned about taste and texture, and so should you all be! You are reading this because you have an interest in whisky, and are (hopefully) not a ponce who worries about how their drink looks if he or she puts ice in it.

As consumers, how do we know if a whisky is Non-Chill Filtered?

Our labels tell us everything. It’s essentially the written contract from the distiller so the customer knows what to expect. We have already looked at age statement, alcohol strength and how they are on the labels, but what about chill filtration? Let me tell you one thing – if it isn’t mentioned on the label, then it’s almost certain if the abv is below 46% then it has been chill filtered. Non-chill filtering is now recognised as a desirable attribute, and if this is the case, the bottle will proudly proclaim it.


Wolfburn Morven. NAS but also 46% and NCF. 2 out of 3.

Or, put your bottle in the fridge. If it turns cloudy, then it is non chill filtered.

Is chill filtered whisky not worth it?

Chill filtering adds another step to the process, therefore makes production a little bit more expensive. So it seems crazy to do it for cosmetic purposes, but I guess producers are just doing what their markets want. It could be that they don’t want cloudy bottles on store shelves or whisky cabinets, but why not put an explanation on the bottle? Glencadam does on at least the 10 year old.


Integrity. Haze explained and Non Chill Filtered

However, as I say in nearly every article I write, we have to let our palate be our guide. I’ve had a few 40% whiskies that are chill filtered that have still been excellent drams and I would easily recommend. These have been reviewed and you’ll see them in the next few weeks. However, if you are not wanting to take the chance, in my opinion when standing in the supermarket aisles, the whisky that states ‘non-chill filtered’ gets an extra point.

Next week we move onto colouring, our final topic to consider when picking a bottle.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Road sign – UK.COM

Ester – Public Domain

All other photos – authors own

Measuring The Muscles

B is for Bottling Strength


Whisky often needs a bit of muscle

It’s time to continue with our analysis of how we come to find the gems on the shelves of our whisky retailers. My last article mentioned the age statement and what it means for us whisky buyers. Now we turn our attention to the strength of our alcohol.

In Europe, we measure our alcohol by the percentage alcohol by volume (ABV). This is a test that measures the amount of alcohol (ethanol) in an alcoholic beverage and is expressed as a percentage. The US still also use the proof method which is double the ABV.

Why does strength matter?

Around 70% of a whiskies taste will be developed by the cask, but that means around a third of it will be spirit driven. The less spirit, there is a corresponding loss of taste. However it would be foolish to say that maximum spirit means more taste, as you then will just be obliterating your taste buds with alcohol, therefore there is a sweet spot to achieve in a bottling.

To give you an idea of the alcohol strength in the malt whisky process, here is a rough guide;

After mashing (Wort) 0%

After fermentation (Wash) 8-12%

After first distillation (Low Wines) 16-22%

After second distillation (Spirit) 68% – 75%

What happens after distillation will vary. As far as I know, some distilleries will proof the whisky while vatting prior to loading into casks. This means that they will dilute the spirit slightly before casking. This is because a higher strength means more evaporation, faster ageing and possibly making a poorer spirit. The spirit will effectively ‘eat’ the cask. Want to know what I mean? Try putting a bottle of whisky on its side for a while and see how long the cork lasts. (Please don’t, Trust me)

By the end of the maturation period, the whisky will have dropped in volume and alcoholic strength. It is now ready for bottling, after being mechanically filtered to remove sediment left over from the cask. And here is why strength matters. If we bottle it at cask strength, we are getting the full flavour of what came out of the cask.

Why would you want to dilute Cask Strength?

The truth is that cask strength varies and can be quite strong. I have a cask strength whisky at 70%, and some as low as 50%. Even at 40%, whisky is still a strong spirit, therefore to bring out the flavours more, the whisky will be re-proofed and brought down to a more drinker friendly alcohol volume. But by doing this, they are reducing the amount of spirit in our dram.


Not full strength but still very tasty.

There are two other reasons a distillery may do this – more water = less spirit in a bottle, so a batch of spirit that is diluted will make more bottles = more profit. The next reason is to hit a price point. Spirit made in the UK is taxed when it is bottled. At the time of writing (Nov 2019) this tax is £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol. Now it is geek time and we need to get our maths head on.

For one litre of 40% whisky tax alone is:-

28.74 x 0.40 = £11.50.

For a 70cl bottle = 11.5 x 0.7 = £8.04

Compare this to a cask strength whisky of 62%

For 1 litre = £17.81

For 70 cl = £12.47

That’s a massive increase of duty close to £4.50. Add the cost of bottling and production, and it becomes a bit clearer on why the distilleries will dilute during bottling to hit a price point or to increase the output from a vatting.


The distiller will be counting the pennies

So, does this really make a difference to our dram?

Yes and no. Some whiskies do actually need to be watered down to allow the whiskies to open up, to help release aromas and flavours. And each of us have our own palates and tolerance to alcohol, and therefore the abv sweet point for any whisky will be different for all of us. Roy from Aqvavitae.com did say in his original presentation that once you really get into whisky and start trying stronger spirits, that the softer abv’s will leave you wanting something more. This doesn’t mean that you will desert whiskies of below 46% (this is a magic number for more than one reason; it’ll be clear in the next article), but means with a cask strength you have the choice to add as much water as you want, drop by drop, until you find where you want to drink it.


This one wears the trousers. Water advised. Octomore Quadruple distilled, 10 y.o. 162ppm

I have to agree with Roy. I do like whiskies of all strengths, but get more from the cask strength. I used to doubt this, but my epiphany came this year when visiting the Oban distillery. We were given a 9 year old cask sample of 58.1% straight from the cask, then an Oban 14 at 43%. The cask strength knocked the 14 year old sample out of the water and I would happily buy it, but not so the 14 year old. A pleasant enough whisky, but boring compared to the stronger sample.

This wasn’t a one off. One of my favourite whiskies is Benrinnes 15 Flora and Fauna. When visiting Robertson’s Of Pitlochry, I had a sample of their own independent bottling of a 9 year old Benrinnes cask strength. On that one sampling I immediately bought a bottle, it was great! Pity I didn’t buy two, as the one I have is in storage.

One benefit of a higher ABV is you avoid whiskies that have been chill filtered, but that is a subject for the next article.

Summary

In our quest to select bottles that might be worth trying, ABV is a good way to calculate the value of a bottle. More percentage will mean more cost, especially with older releases, but you are more likely to get more engagement with a bottle of a higher percentage.

Don’t write off the less potent whiskies. Older drams will have less ABV due to evaporation. Some spirits just don’t taste good at higher strengths, and these are things the bottler will have taken into account. Let your palate be your guide. At least a cask strength whisky will give you the flexibility to experiment with the point you are happy with the ABV.

My final point will be not to judge on only one or two drams. Evaluate over the life of the bottle in your drinks cabinet. After the cork has been removed and oxygen gets into your bottle, a process starts that allows the whisky to develop. Think of it as a meaningful relationship rather than a one night hook up.

Slainte Mhath

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love.


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo Credits

The Hitman Hart – John Cenation. Used under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Penny Jar – Shutterstock (under licence)

Whisky bottles – All authors own.

Under the Whisky Influence

Taste Review #37 – Laphroaig Coffee

Let’s set the scene – It’s a Friday night. I’m sitting at home watching TV with the dog at my feet. And I’m not consuming any alcohol, but am drinking coffee.

All stop on the bus!!

Now that the brakes have been firmly slammed on with our last thought, all is not what it seems. My wife is working late tonight and I have to pick her up. Due to the tough drink drive rules in Scotland, it’s not worth the risk. Besides, drink driving is not cool or clever. But how do I get a whisky-tastic start to the weekend?

One of my fellow whisky bloggers, Tobi from www.barleymania.com had tried a coffee that had been seasoned by placing the beans in a whisky cask for a few weeks. Seeing as coffee is pretty much in my top 2 of drinks, this was something I had to try.


Whisky Influenced Coffee? Aye!!

The coffee roasters in question are Ovenbird Coffee Roasters, based in the Ibrox* (edit, now in Castlemilk) area of Glasgow. They do a series of whisky influenced coffees using Laphroaig and three Auchentoshan coffees. The Laphroaig beans have been in the cask for 10 weeks and the Auchentoshan for 12, 18 or 21 weeks. Almost like an age statement!

I was a bit apprehensive about trying from a small independent coffee roaster. A couple of years ago, one of my colleagues had invested in a start up coffee company near him. He brought a bag of it offshore, as us ROV pilots appreciate a good brew. This coffee was called ‘Wee Stoater’ – a Scottish term named after an event, person or object that brings great joy, especially unplanned euphoria. As an investor, he went around the ship taking pictures of the bag in various places, and hash tagging this on instagram. It all went a bit sour when we actually tasted the coffee – it was crap. No palate and a bitter aftertaste. I had to stop taking milk in my coffee to taste anything. Now I’ve discovered all ground coffee tastes great without milk. But not Wee Stoater. It’s the coffee equivalent of Bells. Or Jura Journey. Needless to say, the hash tags used by my other colleagues probably were responsible for the ending of that particular business relationship. Wee Stoater turned out to be more like stoats wee wee.

However, the Ovenbird Roasters coffee was a completely different kettle of fish. And I’m full of beans ( hahahah – get it?) to share the experience with you. Let’s get going!


The distilled, oops! I meant brewed coffee!

Region

Ibrox, Glasgow

Age

10 weeks

Strength

0% a.b.v

Colour

Forest Whitaker

Nose

Liquorice, coffee, molasses, wee bit of peat smoke.

Palate

Dark chocolate, Liquorice, Demerara sugar, treacle tart. Caramelised sugar.

Finish

Long and luxurious. Smooth and dark. Dark chocolate and more treacle.

Conclusion

This coffee is delicious. In fact it may be that has been one of the coffees of my life. And God knows, I drink a lot of coffee. I didn’t mean to be offensive by mentioning the colour was like Forest Whitaker, but the coffee made me want to grin like he does in many of his films, especially as Ed Garlick in Good Morning Vietnam. It really is good. I didn’t taste the whisky in it, but without a doubt whatever influence the whisky has had has left us with a mighty fine coffee.


Scotty’s Drams Mugs. Great for Coffee, crap for photos

However, it left me with two problems. Firstly, it has shown up the Mk.1 Scotty’s Drams Coffee mugs are crap for photographing liquid. Secondly, since I’ve ordered, Ovenbird have sold out of all their whisky coffee. You can see this at Ovenbird.co.uk. Get in contact to see if they will make more, I know I will be when this lot runs out. (Update. It’s back in stock!)

By the way, the local cheese shop now stocks cheese smoked by the shavings from whisky casks, and I’ve since found out the same company makes a cheese one 1/3rd of a bottle of Ardmore in the recipe per 15kg. Whatever next? This blog may have to have subsections on food influenced by whisky!

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Update: 17/12/2019.

Ovenbird have more whisky coffee in stock. They’ve also moved to Castlemilk, which is a bit further from the centre, but I popped into their facility to pick up my new beans and it smelt A-M-A-Z-I-N- G ! I met Davide Angeletti and Nicole his assistant. Both really nice people. Can’t wait to try more of their coffees, but going to take it easy and keep these as a treat. Sorry – still prefer Douwe Egberts instant as a day to day coffee, but that’s down to ease of making a quick cuppa!)

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

all photos authors own.

Moving Forward By Looking Back

Why it’s good to revisit the past

I saw a good Facebook meme this week which was one of those encouraging slogans that said “Don’t look behind as you aren’t going that way” or something similar. Appropriate for those who struggle with something in life, but not so appropriate for us on a whisky journey.


Best look back. A truck might be coming. And you’re in the middle of the road

Recently I was asked to do a whisky tasting in a local hotel at short notice. Unfortunately this didn’t give me a lot of time to prepare and as I wasn’t supplying the whisky, I was limited to what I could serve. As the tasting was for guests who potentially had limited experience of whisky, I wanted to cram in as much knowledge without being a boring geek. I do enough of that at my day job. 😉

I was wanting to serve from at least four of the five whisky regions in Scotland, but Islay was causing me a problem. I wanted to push a peaty malt, but didn’t want to try to force a peat monster like Laphroig, Ardbeg or Caol Ila down the throats of a non-whisky drinker. That’s the equivalent of getting an engineer fresh out of his training to build the Forth Rail Bridge. In the end, I decided to keep it Speyside with an exception of Old Pulteney, as that is the one I know that has a strong brine note in order to show how the location of maturation can affect the whisky.


Best know your limits

I ended up using two BenRiach 10’s (one was the Curiositas) to show the difference of peat on a spirit, Old Pulteney 12, and Monkey Shoulder. As it was part of a groom’s stag night, I naughtily took along two of my own bottles to ensure that I could complete my taste demonstration with the effect of Sherry Cask and Port Cask. These were the Benrinnes 15 y.o Flora And Fauna and the Speyside Beinn Dubh NAS whisky.


BenRiach 10

I picked Monkey Shoulder due to it containing three famous malts, and being Speyside. It would also be one I thought would be good for non-whisky drinkers. Having never had a problem in the past, this was my mistake on this occasion.

And it’s to the past we turn to in this article. Of what was consumed that night, I had reviewed on Scotty’s Drams a total of four whiskies out of the six. The BenRiach 10 was a thumbs up on my review, Benrinnes is one of my preferred malts, yet I didn’t really get much out of the Old Pulteney and Beinn Dubh. In fact in both reviews, I effectively said “pleasant enough but I personally wouldn’t buy another”. But yet, here I am using them for a tasting and them both being appreciated by those who tasted them and myself!

What gives??

We need to realise that our sense of smell and taste are built up of memories; if you haven’t smelt an aroma before, you won’t know what it is. Quite often you will have smelt an aroma it before, but maybe not on its own, therefore making it harder to recognise. My game with the lads using my whisky aroma kit at the start of the night proved these points to a degree.

My two over riding memories of the two drams that I didn’t rate would be salty caramel for the OP and Christmas cake and chocolate for the Beinn Dubh. It was these memories that made me pick them for the tasting to illustrate the effects of the place the cask was stored (OP-by-the-sea!) and cask type (Beinn Dubh – Port)


Beinn Dubh. Just Whisky in the jar. No coke.

It was a success. From what I gather, these two I initially almost dismissed were very well received by the guests. Even I had to admit I enjoyed the OP and BD this time. And here lies in the point of this article……

Always go back to a dram more than once or twice before fully making up your mind.

Why? Our senses can be affected by the air we breathe, the food and drink we have had that day, the state of our health and our physical make up. We can also be affected by reading what other people have said about a whisky. It is always better to taste a whisky a few times before making up your mind.

I was surprised the Beinn Dubh got such a good reception, as I am sure that there is a fair bit of caramel colouring in it, but nearly everybody said they liked it. Well, at least those who didn’t say they liked it said nothing about not liking it. It does get written off as a gimmick whisky, but I am not so sure now. Indeed, a quick trawl through reviews on the whisky retail sites say quite a few like it. Those who don’t and are vocal about it appear to be whisky snobs. But it is worth remembering that we all have different senses and opinions. Not everybody can like everything in the same way.

So, as we move forward in our journey, it is always worth looking back. Our tastes may have changed as we grow older and more experienced. Perhaps we can now pick out aromas and tastes we couldn’t in the past. As we build our mental database of whisky sensations (or write them down!) we start elevating ourselves to be more discerning and pick out the gold in the trash pile.

Jura Journey is still rubbish though.

Slainte Mhath

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love.


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Benriach 10 – thewhiskyexchange.com

Forth Rail Bridge Andrew Bell via Wiki Creative Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0 (image cropped)

Beinn Dubh Nip – authors own.

.

The Belly Button Superstore

Opinions are like belly buttons; we all have them.

This article is brought to you whilst I am currently in Inverness. The missus is out shopping for a party frock for her Christmas staff night out, and I’ve been told to go and amuse myself. While we were walking down the High Street, my better half indicated it would be better for me to do my own thing, sort of indicating in the direction of the Whisky Shop. Big mistake on a few counts.

Why? Sending me to a whisky shop means I am probably buy more bottles and also the Whisky Shop in Inverness is horrifically over priced. I remember the day I was looking for a 20CL Clynelish 14 and they were charging £29. This was available anywhere else at the time for £16. One of the hazards of shopping in a tourist town. Even now, the WS online price is £22 and a quick online search shows The Whisky Exchange selling the same item for £12.95.

Don’t get me wrong, customer service at the Whisky Shop is excellent, and they have passionate and knowledgeable staff. But I shop on price, and it seems that in Inverness prices aren’t set locally.

The other reason it was a mistake is that I am going to wonder into a whisky shop and bore some poor sales assistant with my whisky waffle, and today it was the turn of Jack at Wood Winters whisky and wine shop in Church Street to be the ‘victim’. This is my favourite local whisky shop (they are a wee bit closer than the Speyside ones!) and although it has a smaller selection than my other favourite shops, it still has a good selection of high quality wines & spirits. I know hee-haw about wine because I think there should be only four types – white, red, pink and distilled (😉).

To be honest, I was just in for a peruse, but once into full whisky waffle mode, we ( or should that be more ‘I’) ended up speaking about the Allt’a Bhainne distillery, and how I’d bought a single cask bottle from Strathisla the previous day, but was saddened to see a decent review site totally slate their recent single malt release with a 2/10 score. Although it wasn’t a whisky to set the world on fire, it was a decent pour, and at least one of the people who read my review (see here) bought it and enjoyed it.


Allt’a Bhainne distillery. Brutal architecture gives rise to brutal opinions

Yes, it was a bargain whisky, not too expensive, plus a whisky that is rarely, if ever, gets seen as an official bottle, rather it is normally released as an independent bottling. Unfortunately, because the reviewer had plenty of experience of these releases, he concentrated on the negative issues about the whisky. Of course there was plenty of marketing about it, and yes, it wasn’t a spectacular whisky, but it wasn’t unpleasant, and indeed I got a nice surprise. It was good to see the review has comments that picked up on the fact that 2/10 wasn’t fair. I bought mine at £22, and to be honest I’ve had bottles double that price be doubly disappointing. A quick look at other retail websites seem to suggest the vast majority of people who are reviewing their purchase seem to favour this dram.

Indeed, peated Speyside isn’t that unusual. Benriach does a decent one with the 10 year old Curiositas, which does have a natural presentation, whereas the 40% AAB doesn’t.


Allt’a Bhainne. One £22, the other considerably more.

It now comes to the obvious point that taste is a very subjective matter. Yes, the more refined palate may pick up more nuances that others might not, especially if you are lucky enough to be able to sample a large range of quality spirits, though it’s worth bearing in mind that not everybody has the same experience.

I did want to title this article as Opinions are like bum holes, but that’s even a bit too crass for me, as the blog is slowly picking up more views (keep sharing folks!) but it is true; we all have our opinions. Not all of these opinions are universal to everybody else. As much as I dig at Famous Grouse, it isn’t a bad blend. It may not be a quality one, but we don’t always need to be drinking premium spirits, especially if our wallets don’t allow it. My criticism of Jura Journey comes from a standpoint that it is not a young distillery, has some very very experienced people behind it, and has produced some lovely produce – Journey is just such a massive disappointment and obviously young whisky and marketing. They should have known better. But, if you like it, kudos to you, and I hope you will challenge me on it.

I will not name the reviewer or site I saw the poor Allt’a Bhainne review on, but one has to ask is their opinion valid, and should it influence us? All opinions are valid, as one man’s meat is is another man’s murder, but we should take one opinion on its own with a pinch of salt. The truth is you have to try for yourself. If you are looking to elevate yourself to find quality spirits, I would suggest that you won’t find them in a bottle of whisky costing £22, but what you may find is good value, which the reviewer seemed to miss.

Should another opinion influence you? No. As a person who is writing about the whiskies he tries, I am not really trying to totally influence you, but rather guide you and hopefully give you a bit of an amusing spiel at the same time. But to listen to one opinion in isolation does not tell the whole story.

What is partially annoys me is the Allt’a Bhainne seems to have a bit of a bad rap, but I think it is slightly unfair. It’s as though the brutal 1975 architecture of a distillery designed to be operated by one man inspires brutal comments. Some of these experts I think have their heads in a place that is pretty physically impossible to achieve, as they have been focused on different level of whisky. They can have their opinion, but sometimes they are written in a way that would be looking down on anybody that disagrees. While I will probably be wrong, it certainly doesn’t feel like that.

Similarly, I feel tasting notes are also only an opinion. Not everybody has olfactory nerves that detect aromas in the same way which can influence the flavours you also experience. Distillery tasting notes will always be guided by the type of cask used for maturation and what the master distiller can detect and was aiming for. Add in marketing spin and voila! For anybody else it is open season. Let your nose and palate guide you. And your wallet. Use tasting notes as a guide only, for the world is your oyster and don’t let anybody rain on your whisky parade.

In conclusion, look at reviews and tasting notes, but make sure at some point you get into the action and try for yourself as you may get a surprise. Just remember, the right dram is the one you are enjoying.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Slainte!

Scotty

– thanks to Jack for his great service and for selling me a Kilkerran 12 and GlenAllachie 12. And I hope I didn’t bore you.

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Distillery Photo – Ingo Wölbern (Wikipedia / public domain)

Other photos – authors own.

A Problem Solved…..

….is a problem eliminated

Dear Whisky Friends,

I do realise that this blog is very basic, and because it is mainly written on a phone while offshore, it helps that it stays basic. Plus, it helps give the correct impression that I’m not a professional or a business. I’m just a guy with a passion for sharing knowledge of whisky.

However, I have felt for some time that the basic format had created a fundamental problem, especially for those who do not access the blog via my ‘Scotty’s Drams’ Facebook page. The problem is that it is very hard to navigate back to previous articles or reviews that land up on the tastywhisky page.

Do not panic, for this has now been corrected!

At the bottom of each post now will be the following link to a page that has all the tastings indexed. I hope this makes visiting my site a little easier and a lot more enjoyable. Of course, you can bookmark the pages for even easier access!

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

Slainte Mhath

Scotty


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love.


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.