Don’t be a Daftie!!

Taste Review #40 – Daftmill 2006 Winter Release

At the time of writing, this has been a week where everybody seems to have lost their minds (There’s just been a General Election in the UK), I thought that Daftmill would probably be the best whisky to try next. There’s certainly a lot of dafties of all descriptions on-line at the moment, so one more won’t be noticed. However, Scotty’s Drams is a place where we can leave that all behind as it’s solely whisky matters that we are interested in here.

Also, judging by my estimated time of publishing, this should also be the first review of the year, so Happy New Year to you all, and I wish you all the best for 2020.

Situated just to the west of Cupar in Fife, Scotland, Daftmill is a single farm distillery. This means everything takes place on the farm, though being on a working farm means that the distillery is silent for half the year. Distilling takes place in two separate three month periods, from November to February and for three months after spring. Being a small distillery which has a capacity of 20000 litres a year inherently limits production further and consequently isn’t the easiest bottle to get your hands on. Indeed, I’ve never seen one on the primary market, only at auction.

Normally, limited releases like this don’t interest me, as they are often only available at vastly inflated prices on the secondary market thanks to the demand and the greed of flippers. However this was soon to change as I managed to get a small sample from Roy at Aqvavitae.com and one smell of this sample made me realise that one sample would not be enough therefore I had to buy a bottle to drink.

I quickly realised that one full bottle wouldn’t last long and given the rarity, I decided to buy another one for my collection if I could find one at a decent cost. One soon turned up so now I have one in my collection and one that’s open. I still haven’t opened the sample to drink but decided rather to open the full size bottle in order that I can share it with friends.


I’ve done it. The most expensive bottle opened to date on Scotty’s Drams

One of the good things about Daftmill is that Francis Cuthbert is insistent that this whisky is for drinking and not for flipping and a single cask release #68 has not been bottled for sale but have been bottled for sale as drams in selected bars only. This is quite innovative and means that it takes away some of the unicorn aspect of this spirit and allows true whisky enthusiasts a chance to try it without breaking the bank in buying a full bottle. See this article.

There are more and more single cask releases available, some released through Royal Mile Whiskies or Luvians bottle shop in Cupar and St Andrews. Some single cask bottlings are realising high prices at auction.

As Daftmill is a working farm, there is no visitor facilities, as farm work takes priority. However, it’s location is close to other distilleries that do – Lindores Abbey, Kingsbarns and Eden Mill distilleries are all close by, as is the historic town of St Andrews. Or why not try a visit to Dundee? Certainly an exciting regenerating city that is worth a look.

And onto the dram.

Region

Lowland

Age

12 years

Strength

46% a.b.v

Colour

Golden straw.

Nose

Creamy, velvety, rich toffee, peaches, citrus, pineapple, vanilla

Palate

Buttery, pastry. slightly waxy. Barley sugars, vanilla. A touch of pepper and nutmeg.

Finish

Drying, Medium length. Slightly bitter notes, lemon meringue, oak. On a hard exhalation there was a mint choc note.


The Dram

Conclusion

One of the things I have to say that this dram brings immense joy and sadness. The sadness is that I cannot really afford to buy another bottle of this dram. The joy is multi-fold that I am enjoying such a lovely whisky. Very well balanced. This one has been matured in 1st fill Bourbon casks, which will be American Oak, and as such have definitely influenced the creamy and vanilla notes that are present in this whisky. The aroma has quite a fruity note, with juicy oranges in there and I detected peaches and pineapple, but to get that I had to put my nose right into the glass and take a sharp intake of breath.

In the mouth it hits an excellent balance between creamy and oily, giving a very pleasant mouthfeel, but it is a bit drying. A hint of spice appeared after I added some water, but even though this is 46% it didn’t really need water.

The finish wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped given the wonderful nose and palate, but it’s still very pleasant. It took a while to get some of the flavours, but still engaging enough. I expect this dram to improve as the level in the bottle goes down


The lower full level got opened. The JE Benrinnes is up for tasting at some point.

Suffice to say that this is close to a unicorn dram, so there won’t be a lot available. I know of a good handful of these that have been opened, and as there was only 1625 bottles released, if you see one in the wild at a price you can afford, jump on it. You’ll thank me. have two bottles, and I had to pay at auction £168 for one and £212 for the other and while admittedly a bit steep given that the release price was £95, that’s the going rate on the secondary market, and has since climbed. This hopefully is the peak price, although it’s an early release and prices may drop for other editions as supply increases. You still have a lot of people desperate to try this whisky, and that is also driving prices up. As it goes, if you want one the cost will vary and there is sense in not chasing one too hard just yet unless you HAVE to try it, as one will turn up. But now there is now another 3rd release open, and will now never return to the secondary market, and therefore the price for this edition will invariably climb. However, this will make the Cuthbert Family happy knowing that another of their whiskies have been opened and enjoyed.

Keep your eyes open for these being released and certainly take a peak on the Daftmill website www.daftmill.com

Lastly, is this the best whisky I have tasted in 2019? All I will say is that it’s up there in the top 5, but over the years there has been whiskies I’ve enjoyed more. It goes without saying that Daftmill will definitely be a distillery to watch.

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.

Almost Antique Auchentoshan

Taste Review #38 – Auchentoshan 10

When getting ready to pick a dram, it was a blind pick into the box of miniatures to have a taste of, and it was an old Auchentoshan that came out. It was part of my auction bulk buys – a hoovering up of the cheap selections of miniatures at the end of an auction by seeing what had not been bid on.

Today’s miniature is somewhat of a relic, but I include these tastings, as I feel they are still relevant. They show the distillery character and from them and tasting what the distillery does now, we can see how the distillery is moving forward. However this whisky is no unicorn, and you can still find the 90’s style packaging bottles on occasion at auction. While not an antique itself, and certainly of little value, this is a small delve into the past of a popular and under represented distillery.


My dram

Auchentoshan is on the North West side of Glasgow. When you think of Glasgow, you think of Taggart, ship building, knife crime, Rab C Nesbitt, Irn Bru, and incoherent alcoholics. But that’s the Glasgow of imagination. It’s a vibrant city, which is well worth a visit, even if the local dialect can be hard to understand if you aren’t Scottish. And sometimes if you are…. 😉. Stereotypes can be funny, but while Glasgow may have its fair share, it’s a great place with friendly people. I’ve had a fair few nights out in the city and never had any trouble.

Scottish place names can always be tricky to pronounce, as what is written is not how it is said. Glasgow has a couple – try saying Milgavie? Auchentoshan is pronounced “Ock-en-tosh-an” and this is directly from the distillery website, followed by quite a good slogan – Hard to pronounce, easy to to drink – we’ll find out later!

According to the distillery website, the Auchentoshan distillery was originally set up in 1817 on the banks of the River Clyde, and known as the Duntocher distillery. I’m not sure if it is still on the original site as Duntocher is north of the current distillery on the other side of the A82 Glasgow – Inverness road. It was 1834 before the distillery was taken over and renamed to Auchentoshan. Perhaps artistic license has been used as ‘by the side of the road’ isn’t as marketable as one the banks of a river’ when it comes to whisky.

The distillery was in close proximity to the many ship yards on the River Clyde, and during the Second World War, these weee targeted by the Luftwaffe. The A82 road was disguised as the river with the use of lights. It must have worked to a degree and large warehouses must have made an attractive target, for the distillery was bombed and three warehouses were destroyed during the war. There is a fanciful tale that the distillery pond was created by an exploding bomb, but this is pure fiction – a quick look on an old map reveals it was there even before the First World War!


A more up to date bottling with 2 more years on the clock

The unusual aspect of Auchentoshan is that it is currently the only Scottish distillery that fully triple distills all its production, having only three stills – Wash, Intermediate and Spirit stills. This is in common with Irish Whiskey, and as Auchentoshan was founded by people of Irish heritage, this will probably explain why this occurs. Other distilleries do triple distill, Springbank being one of them, but this is not across all of their range. The re-emerging Rosebank distillery in Falkirk will also be a distillery that will fully triple distill, and it expected to open in 2020.

The triple distillation helps further purify the spirit, and the new make strength is around 81%. I guess you wouldn’t be drinking too much of that Clearic!

Another very unusual aspect to Auchentoshan is that it is one of the only (if not the only) whisky that is only used as a single malt, although casks are sold to independent bottlers.

Auchentoshan does have a visitors centre, so pop on in if you are ever in the area. It certainly is a unique distillery. Let’s see how the spirit matches up.


Full Size Bottling

Region

Lowland

Age

10 years old

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Warm gold

Nose

Warm, malty, sweet, floral, honey, banana, caramel.

Palate

A bit of spirit buzz on the arrival, wee bit on the harsh side, but not overly so. Similar experiences in taste as on the nose, but a wee bit fruitier, orchard fruit – pear.

Finish

Short to medium with a malty fruity sensation.


No Half Measures!

Conclusion

I was expecting not to be disappointed in this tasting, but I wasn’t. I had already partially set my expectations low given the age of the bottle and the 40% abv. Given the slightly lower level in the bottle, it is obvious that the seal had been a wee bit more porous than it should have been. The plus point for me was the aspect of the triple distillation which gives a smoother, more delicate spirit, and on this count it was definitely present. For a spirit that had been in the bottle for probably for about 20-30 years, and had probably oxidised a bit, I must say it was a very pleasant experience.

I don’t think there was much complexity there. All the flavours and aromas were all there on show. It didn’t change that much with water added and it was a very relaxing dram to sip.

Of course, this is a dram that has been discontinued, so you will only be able to pick this up in auctions. But why not try their current range? The current core range has recently been repackaged and consists of three bottlings – American Oak, 12 year old and Three Wood, along with 18 and 21 y.o in their aged range.


New style packaging


It’s been some time since I’ve had some Auchentoshan but on this experience I won’t be leaving it so long until next time. As mentioned previously, my sample was as the result of my bargain hunting at auction, so I can’t give a price for it. But the American Oak whisky can be had as low as £20 on offer at Tesco, but expect to pay around £30 elsewhere. The 12 year old whisky can be had for about £35 – £40. Very recently the packaging has been rebranded, so keep a lookout for deals that are getting rid of older stock.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

I need to apologise if people have seen this article published multiple times. WordPress on my phone hiccuped and wouldn’t publish properly….

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

2019 Auchentoshan bottle – Tesco.com

1990’s Auchentoshan bottle – whiskybase.com

Images used under fair use and not intended to promote any sales, but for education purposes.

all other photos 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.

Easy as A, B, C, D

How to determine what is worthwhile to purchase.

How do you pick your whisky? Do you pick a cheap or known brand after staring at the bottles on the shelves in Tesco, desperately trying to make a boring trip for the bread and bog roll that little bit more exciting? Or are you like a kid in a candy store when in a specialist whisky retailer, wildly trying to guess what is good and wanting to buy it all? I’m both, and will often take a punt based on recommendations or knowledge of the distillery.

But based on a couple of questions asked by a follower of this page why age and abv makes a difference, I have decided to write some more words of advice. The concept I am going to follow is from a fellow whisky blogger, Roy at Aqvavitae.com who has done a useful guide on this, and its the concept of A, B, C, D. While I expand on this, anything I write here is my own words and thoughts and not plagiarism. This is because what we are going to discuss is common to all whisky fanatics, and some duplication is inevitable. Certainly Roy’s system is a very useful one.

The A, B, C, D’s of whisky in choosing a bottle are

A = Age Statement

B = Bottling Strength

C = Chill Filtration

D = Dye

In essence, you can read the label on the bottle, and by applying the ABCD principle, it will assist you in sorting the whisky wheat from the chaff.

In the first section, this week we will look at the age statement.

What is an age statement?

The age statement is the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle. Under the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, a spirit has to be matured for at least 3 years in an oak cask as part of the rules to be called Scottish Whisky.


12 years old proudly displayed

In order to produce a range of whisky of thousands of bottles, casks of various ages and types will be ‘married’ together to make up a consistent flavour profile, and is repeatable across the batches. This blending is still a single malt, as it is the produce of one distillery only.

The age statement is the youngest whisky in the recipe, regardless of the volume that whisky in the mix.

A single cask whisky will normally always have an age or vintage attached to it, as it is the produce of one cask only.

Why is age important?

Age is important as it tells us the youngest whisky in our mix. It is a benchmark of value. Although I would imagine that the bulk of a whisky bottle will contain liquid of the age stated, I also know that there will be older whisky in there. But we won’t know the proportions of the mix, unless we have inside knowledge. So the age statement gives us a benchmark to a minimum value.

Is there an alternative to the age statement?

Yes. Some whiskies have a year on them, also known as a vintage. This is the year that all the whisky in the bottle was distilled. This doesn’t always tell us the age, unless the bottle says when it was distilled and bottled. Some do also carry a stated age. This is sometimes the case with single cask bottlings. Otherwise to tell how old the spirit is, you will have to know when that bottling was released to have an idea of the age.


Vintage and Age Statements together

What is a Non Age Statement? (NAS)

A whisky that has no vintage or age on it is known as a Non Age Statement. They will just have an edition name such as Talisker Storm, Macallan Genesis, Ardmore Legacy, Glenmorangie Signet.


No Age Statement on this single grain

Why use a Non Age Statement?

NAS whisky is produced mainly because of one fact. Due to the rise in popularity of whisky, there is now a shortage of aged whiskies for the drinks companies to make their blends, or to make up the single malt recipes. So they have to use younger spirit.

The problem is, due to the SWA regulations about stating an age, even if there is a drop of young whisky in a bottle that otherwise has an average age of 12 years, if it has a younger whisky in the vatting, that is the age in the bottle, regardless of the average age.

And here is the issue that the manufacturer is trying to overcome – what would you reach for on the shelf? Would it be a whisky that is largely 12 year old spirit that has to be labelled as 3 year old due to a tiny proportion of young whisky in the mix, or a bottle that has a minimum of 12 year old whisky in it? Pretty much the same drams, but the perception is people will go for the older labelled whisky.

The other things that companies may use younger stock for is to perhaps aim for a price point or to stretch out a range. The young whisky in my mind is used as a filler spirit.

Essentially the whisky companies are trying to avoid stating the fact they are using young spirit.

Is using NAS an issue?

While the companies are trying to avoid consumers knowing the fact they are using young spirit, this shouldn’t be a problem, as young whisky doesn’t mean poor quality all the time. But younger whisky is cheaper, and if you put a young age on the bottle, the manufacturer will maybe struggle to charge the price for the older whisky that is in the mix. Of course price is a good guide as to what is in an NAS whisky, but the problem is this :- you don’t know the proportion of cheap whisky in it. Young whisky also has less cask influence and is more spirit led. If the new make is poor, the young whisky will be awful as the cask hasn’t had time to condition the spirit into something palatable.

If it is a cheap bottle, there is the clue, yet Macallan regularly sell NAS for hundreds of pounds, but you have no guarantee of what’s in there. Again the price is the guide, but there is no guarantee of the value you are getting unless you drink it to find out.

How many of us would be able to tell the proportions of the age by taste? The more experienced can, but I personally think it’s madness to pay hundreds on NAS whisky. This is more an issue if buying on the secondary market – a £500 bottle probably contains £250 of whisky. Pay more on the secondary market as a collector or drinker then you are paying for hype, packaging and are possibly caught in the cycle of supply and demand.

Therefore only an age statement sets the benchmark of what we can expect in the bottle.

Another YouTube vBlogger, Ralf Mitchell (ralfy.com) refuses to review NAS whisky. This is a man who certainly knows his fine spirits. He’s reviewed 3 year old drams though, and given positive feedback, which is a sign young spirit isn’t unnecessarily bad, but he does push that the age statement is the sign of a measurable quality.

Yes, my whisky friends, he is not wrong. I often wonder what the age statement on Jura Journey would be…. Point proven.

So young or NAS whisky is rubbish then?

No. Not by any means. I’ve had some cracking drams that were under 8 years old (See my Octomore Review – only 5 years old), and I’ve had disappointing drams at 12 years old in the past. For a review in the next month or so, I sampled a Glenlivet NAS, and I kept wanting to have another. It wasn’t even an expensive one, but had an unusual finishing. You’ll have to wait and see what it was. The age statement is no absolute guarantee that you are going to enjoy yourself when you have a nip.

Personally, I’ll give kudos to a distillery that are confident enough in their product to be up front about the age, regardless of how young it is. The simple fact is you will eventually have to taste to find out.

Read reviews before you buy. Try in a whisky bar. Or just take the plunge and buy a bottle. It is up to you if you want to risk the cost, as you are then relying on your knowledge of the brand and are at the mercy of marketing. But one way of looking at it is that a decent bottle is usually only 27 more nips away….. However, the vast majority of Single Malt NAS whiskies are very good. You just don’t fully know the value. Age is only a guide.


NAS but there’s 30 year old whisky in here. Not crap.

I have tasted many NAS statement whiskies, and in many cases have been satisfied with what I’ve had, but in common with Roy from Aqvavitae, I’ve found something lacking. In some cases they just feel engineered, tinkered with, or something just not right. Or, they taste exactly what you’d expect from a young whisky, raw, rough around the edges, bit of a let down. That’s not to say that the distillery is bad – it just might need a couple more years maturation. As an example, see my review of Kilchoman Machir Bay. It is a young whisky as it isn’t an old distillery, but this has the making of a great whisky and I do look forward to trying other expressions in the future.


NAS can hide poorer whiskies

One has to take their hat off to distilleries that start up and don’t use NAS statements to get the money coming in. That’s why I can’t wait for Ballindalloch to eventually release bottles. They are waiting until it’s ready. Being a small distillery, supply will be limited, so perhaps the price may be higher, but it will be worth it.


Summary

A vintage or age statement is a benchmark to help us evaluate the quality and value of a whisky. To be fair, some age stated whiskies can still be disappointing, but at least you have a clue as to what you are buying with a stated age. Don’t be afraid to try NAS bottles – there are rewards to be had. I’ve tried Laphroig Select, Dalmore King Alexander III, Allt-a-Bhainne and enjoyed them all. Perhaps not as good as their age statement equivalent. Remember that an age statement is only one method of looking for a good whisky. If you taste it, your palate should be your guide and there is no issue if you prefer an NAS expression. Each to their own, and drinking pleasure is what whisky is all about.

But, when comparing whiskies on a shelf, there are other clues to look for on a bottle – the next one being bottling strength.

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 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

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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.

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Excess All Areas….

When too much is not enough

Just a short article this week, and probably won’t be a very popular one amongst alcohol enthusiasts, but it is one that needs to be said. After all, a pendulum has to swing both ways.

It was after I had purchased the bottle of Haig Club in order to do the taste review of a single grain whisky (and a cheap one at that), I noticed the price in the supermarket was £22 for 1 litre but £25 for 70CL. This is a bargain, and shouldn’t be argued with, but as a personal licence holder, I know pricing like this is actually against the recommended guidelines in Scotland which are set down for ‘on sales’ in licenced premises. However it is allowed in off-licence sales as long as it is above the minimum price per unit. It is seem as bad craic in the regulatory world to actively encourage a person to drink or buy more than they normally would, and could fall in the bracket of irresponsible promotion.

George regretted his second Famous Grouse

It got me thinking about our attitudes to alcohol. While I have no qualms about anybody who reads the dribble I write on my blog having a problem with alcohol – we are all grown ups after all, for some they have no control. It is when one or two isn’t enough, and you rely on alcohol to relax.

I’m not wanting to preach what you should and shouldn’t do with regards to drinking – that is up to you to decide, but over consumption of alcohol has well documented negative effects on a person’s health. It doesn’t stop there, as excessive over consumption also affects those around you like your family and friends. This is why I try to emphasise quality alcohol over the quantity of alcohol consumed. After all, so we not want to experience the finer things in life?

So, how much is too much?

The amount of alcohol that is safe to consume according to the UK government has changed over the years. The Royal College of Physicians recommended these limits as a guide.

Low Health Risk – Women up to 14 units, men up to 21 units

Increased Health Risk – Women 14 – 35 units, men 21 – 49 units

High Health Risk – Women over 35, men over 49

The problem was with these guidelines was that people tended to save them for the weekend and drink them in one or two consecutive days. As a student I seem to remember doing something similar, but this is known binge drinking and is now recognised as quite harmful to health.

Current recommendations are for women 2-3 units a day and men 3-4 units a day, with 2 or three alcohol free days a day. The current NHS guidelines are 14 units per week for both men and women (Aug 2019).

But what is a unit? How do we calculate the amounts we are drinking?

To calculate the units of alcohol there is very simple calculation.

% abv x ml / 1000.

Therefore a 40% whisky nip of 25ml can be calculated

40 x 25 = 1000

1000 / 1000 = 1 unit.

This will highlight why we need to be careful with cask strength whiskies. A 63% whisky would have a unit value of almost 1.6 units. Bear in mind these are measured amounts that are standard in the UK. It could also be 35ml, which makes our 63% pour have a value of 2.2 units. Plus, how many people actually measure their pours at home?? I do, having a 25ml and 50ml jigger. I’m not being tight, I’ll happily pour more, but it gives me and my guests an idea of how much they are drinking and can pace accordingly.

Pours in other countries can be a standard 40ml, so remember this while abroad.

There are further dangers of mixing your drinks. How many of us may have a glass or two of wine with a meal? One small 125ml glass of 12% wine is 1.5 units. How many of us have the big glass(es)? Add a couple of aperitif whiskies after and your 14 unit weekly budget is reached and beached with hardly any effort.

Driving isn’t the perfect mixer for your drink

There is also the issue of drink driving. Don’t even assume that there is a safe limit or time for you to start driving after a drink. Just leave the car at home, or be a responsible adult and have a drink free day. The average healthy adult can metabolise 1 unit of alcohol an hour, from the point you stop drinking but this can vary from person to person. If you have your 14 units of alcohol in one day, don’t think of driving the next day. And if you plan enjoying yourself in Scotland, then the drink drive limit is nearly half that of the rest of the UK. Take a public transport, get the wife to drive you to work or just pull a sickie.

It’s easy for me to preach. I work in a job I have to go without booze for weeks at a time, but who doesn’t enjoy a drink after work? Truth is that living with a toddler and in a rural area where I rely on being able to drive, I need to be careful, or life gets difficult.

I’m going to leave it to you to decide what is right for you, but put the gut rot down and let’s continue to concentrate on quality over quantity.

Don’t become a muppet with drink

If you feel you want to know more about this subject, please visit the independent Drinkaware website. It is full of helpful information. Click here to visit the site. This link will appear at the bottom of all my blog posts from now on.

Keep informed. Keep safe. Keep Enjoying – responsibly.

Now I’ve done my bit of public responsibility, we can now look towards the next taste review. And don’t worry. I’ll still alert you to the drinks bargains I see.


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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.