Hard to Put Down

Taste Review #31 – SMWS 41.101

This whisky was tasted in mid September whilst I was quickly passing through Glasgow. I only managed two nips at the Bon Accord bar in North Street. I’ve never tasted any SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) produce before, and with a choice of SMWS available, this was my chance.

The SMWS label their bottles by a code number for the distillery followed by the series number.

The bottle and Dram

Region

Speyside

Age

28 y.o

Strength

49.5% a.b.v

Colour

Mahogany

Nose

Dark fruit, prunes, tobacco, black currant

Palate

Dark Cherry, blackcurrant, caramelised sugar and a small hint of oak.

Finish

Long, pleasing and complex when all of the above components fade with a spicy explosion.

Conclusion

Yes, well, what can I say? Firstly, for those of you who hadn’t taken the time to Google the SMWS distillery codes, I can tell you that this was the produce of the Dailuaine distillery which sits in that wee pocket of three distilleries which I thoroughly approve of. The only real official bottling of Dailuaine at present is the 16 year old Flora and Fauna bottling, which I also like.

This whisky spent 27 years in a bourbon cask, followed by a further year in a first fill Pedro Ximenez cask.

This one was a flavour punch in the chops, and hard to pin down any one flavour. On initial smell, I was reminded of cheese until I realised it was actually tobacco and prunes. At cask strength, it was a bit strong, so had to be tamed with a wee splash of water which did the trick and became much more drinkable.

I would strongly recommend this if you like your whiskies with strong and upfront flavours. Availability is the key here and you’d probably only find this at auction, or from the SMWS. I paid £28 for this dram which given its rarity and the fact it was a 35ml serving wasn’t bad value. Expect to pay around £180 for this at auction. As there was only 258 bottles made, this is on Unicorn Whisky territory, so if you want to try it, buy one if you see it.

Slainte Mhath!


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photo credits

photo – authors own

A wee chip off the Monkeys Shoulder

Taste Review #29 – Kininvie 23 Batch 3

This is the first of the whiskies I had at the Bon Accord Bar in Glasgow. Kininvie as a single malt is very rarely seen, although there has been three batches at 23 year old and a couple at 17 year old. I’ve never seen it as an independent bottling, but there may be one or two out there. This puts it into the edges of Unicorn whisky.

The Kininvie distillery is not really a distillery on its own, but an offshoot of The Balvenie distillery. While it was its own dedicated mash tun and wash backs in the Balvenie distillery, the wash is piped to a remote still house about 200 metres away. Due to the regulations, this separate still house could not be called Balvenie, so is called Kininvie. The distillery started production in 1990, and early releases were known as Hazelwood, which was the home of a descendant of William Grant. The Hazelwood name is to be reused as a line of blended whiskies.

In fact, most of Kininvie’s output is for blending, and it is one of the key components of the Monkey Shoulder blended malt. This I will also be reviewing at a later date.

The Dram and Bottle

Region

Speyside

Age

23

Strength

42.6% a.b.v

Colour

Light gold

Nose

Fresh fruit, wood, vanilla

Palate

Nice spirit buzz on arrival. Tropical fruits, creamy vanilla, Oak.

Finish

Sweet, barley sugar, Pineapple,

Conclusion

Hey hey hey! This is the first Kininvie I have tasted, despite me having the 23 year old from the first 2 batches in storage. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wasn’t disappointed. Quite a strong arrival, and it needed a bit of water to develop to a point where I could start picking out flavours.

Yes, at 42.6% it still needed water, and this wasn’t on account of spirit strength. It is just a fact of life that some spirits don’t reveal their true nature until a little water is added. It is presented at natural colour and I am guessing it may be chill filtered as I saw no cloudiness appear when I added water, but then again, I added very little and it was at room temp.

Kininvie is bottled in 35CL measures, and given the price tag of around £120 at retail, it doesn’t represent good financial value. I’ve had whisky just as good costing a lot less. However, it is a bit on the rare side, so you might be better off looking at auctions, although some prices can hit the retail price.

I paid £27 for my dram at the Bon Accord bar in Glasgow. Not cheap, but worth it for the experience and another dram ticked off.

Slainte Mhath!


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photo credits

– authors own.

The dram of split personality

Taste Review # 27 – Glengoyne 10

the distillery – glengoyne.com

This is the last in the trilogy of distilleries that were in the film “The Angels Share”, the other two I’ve previously reviewed being Deanston and Balblair. This is a pretty distillery , dissected by the A81 between Glasgow and Aberfoyle. Underneath the road, the Highland fault line runs, which means that the stills are in the Highland Region, but the warehouses are in the Lowland region. As the stills are in the Highland region, that is the classification it receives. Potentially a dual personality.

from the air – Apple maps

Glengoyne started producing whisky in 1833, and is now owned by Ian Macleod Distillers, whose other distillery is Tamdhu on Speyside.

The still house holds 3 stills, 1 Wash and 2 spirit stills, along with 8 warehouses. Behind the warehouses, the long distance trail, the West Highland way goes past on the course of an old railway line. The distillery would be an excellent place for walkers to take a diversion, as there is a visitor centre on site.

the bottle

Region

Highland

Age

This Glengoyne is 10 years old

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Golden Yellow

Nose

Mmmm. Quite sweet. Vanilla fudge, floral notes, apples

Palate

Light, herbal, Apples, oak, barley, liquorice. Bit of a spirit kick. Water gave a nuttier taste.

Finish

Short, sweet, malty dryness.

the dram

Conclusion

The 10 year old of this distillery is the youngest expression released, and I have to say, for me I found this a bit rough. I don’t know why people rave about this malt, but I am suspecting I need to go for something a bit older. There didn’t seem to be a great depth to this dram, and the complexity was, to my taste, limited.

I might be being a bit harsh, as there wasn’t anything that bad about it, but neat, even though it was 40%, it was ragged round the edges, and I felt I had to add water – something I don’t automatically do for many whiskies. However, I think I would be tempted to try the older expressions.

At around £33 for a full sized bottle, it isn’t too expensive if you want to take a punt. I’ll pass on this one, and see if it is the older expressions that garner the praise.

Slainte Mhath!


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Photos credited on image / authors own.

From a low to a high

Taste Review #26 – Ben Nevis 10

After the low of last week’s review (Jura Journey) I thought it best to get it back on track again. Let’s just forget last week’s review ever happened.

So, with our memory cleared, let’s begin again.

The distillery with Ben Nevis behind

From the highest mountain in Speyside to the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis puts Benrinnes in the shade. Literally, if placed side to side. Both hills give their name to a malt of the same name, and both fly under the radar so to speak, but due to the fact it has a visitor centre and is in a main tourist centre, Ben Nevis is probably the better known.

Situated just to the north of Fort William, I’d visited with my wife about 4 years ago. The distillery at the time had a shortage of some of its own produce, possibly due to stock mismanagement or their Japanese masters being a wee bit tight with the purse strings. Even now, some Ben Nevis stock is hard to get.

Fort William is a major tourist hub of the Lochaber region of Scotland, at the southern end of the Great Glen, which links Fort William with Inverness via Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. Thanks to the Caledonian Canal, you can sail from Inverness to Fort William through some fairly stunning scenery.

Geek Fact

Although not the largest area of of water in the UK (that’s Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland) nor the deepest (Loch Morar), it does have the largest volume of fresh water in the UK. Loch Ness holds more water than the combined volumes of lakes in England and Wales. Plus it has a monster.

The best part of the Ben Nevis distillery tour is the short video at the start. A work of pure fiction that is so cringeworthy and based in the 1980’s is the character ‘Hector McDram’ a giant who is supposed to have made Ben Nevis and surrounding mountains by hand. While stopping for a break, he brewed some of the local spring water and this is what gave us Ben Nevis whisky. Somewhat fanciful, and the distorted VHS style playback added to the nonsense factor. Worth seeing for the comedic value alone.

Hector McDram. High comedic value.

Fort William is the starting point for the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig, a must for Harry Potter fans, as it passes over the Glenfinnan viaduct. Perhaps the distillery has missed a trick, and should say it’s the whisky that powers Harry’s Ford Anglia over the viaduct and not magic. More believable than old Hector…..

“I need some water for my nip!”

On to the whisky

the sample

Region

Highland

Age

10 years old

Strength

46% a.b.v

Colour

Deep Gold

Nose

Surprised it was so pleasant. Deep, rich, with a very slight hint of smoke, roasted nuts, toffee, peaches.

Palate

A bit of an alcoholic fizz in the arrival, almost like its carbonated. Honey, Oak, dried fruits, warmed spices. A wee bit of water works wonders.

Finish

Long, spicy with hints of fruit. Quite smooth after the arrival on the palate. Drying.

the dram

Conclusion

This is a dram that is good, but requires a small bit of water to even it out. It maybe suffers having the addition of colour, and although it’s 46%, I can’t be sure it isn’t chill filtered. The palate also had tannic notes, which did hint at an Oak influence.

It isn’t a particularly cheap 10 year old. But it is harder to get. Recent rumours is that they have temporarily run out of stock to make the 10 year old, but this is not a discontinued dram, albeit harder to pick up. This will see prices rise with a restricted supply.

Prices online are between £45 – £50, but try your local friendly whisky emporium.

Would I buy it? Maybe. It’s 46% so ticks a lot of boxes, but I didn’t really engage with it. As I only had a small sample, perhaps 2 drams aren’t enough to form a close enough relationship with the spirit. However, if I saw it on offer at a decent price, I would definitely buy.

Slainte Mhath!


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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

Distillery – scottishfield.com

Hector McDram – bennevisdistillery.com

Nessie – VisitScotland.com

Harry Potter – Shot on location

All images used under fair use policy. All other images authors own.

The dizzying heights of Benrinnes

Taste Review 24 – Benrinnes 15 Flora and Fauna

Benrinnes with the distillery in the foreground.

There is an area just to the south of Aberlour which has a small clutch of distilleries. On the east side of the A95 there is Aberlour, GlenAllachie, Benrinnes and Allt-a-Ahainne. On the west side of the A95 there is Dailuaine and Dalmunach (built on the site of the former Imperial distillery). Apart from Aberlour, only the whisky enthusiast is likely to recognise the rest of these names. I feel however that this is away to change.

Benrinnes sits to the south east of Aberlour, just outside the hamlet of Edinville, in the shadow of the hill that gives the name to the distillery, and from its springs supplies the water for the whisky making processes.

Benrinnes is the highest hill in Speyside, with its summit being 840m above sea level. It’s unique shape is recognisable for miles around. It has a couple of granite tors on it like warts and it is a good couple of hours walk to the summit. Beneath its southern face on the lower slopes lies Allt-a-Bhainne distillery.

One fact about the Benrinnes distillery is that like Mortlach, it used to practice a partial triple distillation as illustrated below

The partial distillation process

This process took the feints (or the tails) from the wash still, and the weaker feints from the spirit still and distilled them again in a low wines (or intermediate) still. This process ended in 2007 at Benrinnes, but a 2.81 distillation still takes place at Mortlach. As this is a component of many Diageo blends, one wonders of the triple distillation was stopped to speed the process up and get more blending material to meet demand.

The Dram

Region

Speyside

Age

15 y.o

Strength

43% a.b.v

Colour

Amber

Nose

Dried fruits, toffee, rich, slight smoke.

Palate

Sweet, smooth full bodied, slight spicy edge, dried fruit, Caramel.

Finish

Short, dry with a slight spice, continuing with a dried fruit theme of raisins

Alongside independent bottlings

Conclusion

Let’s get down to what this dram gets wrong. It is chill filtered and it has added colouring. You can see the difference in colour alongside the two independent bottles in the photograph above. I suspect that this is done to either to accentuate the colour of the spirit after being in a sherry cask, or it is to ensure colour consistency. I have recently bought a James Eadie Benrinnes cask strength bottle that was bottled after 13 years from a Madeira cask with no added colouring, and it is just slightly darker.

The Flora and Fauna bottling isn’t the best whisky in the world, but it is far from the worst. It has a great sherry influence, and a full, rich body which gives a dry hint of spicy heat at the end and a faint aroma of smoke. For those who miss the sherry bomb of the Mortlach 16 in the Flora and Fauna range, the Benrinnes 15 is a very close match.

I like this dram and I like it a lot. For the price paid, it gives a lot more than you would expect and it is one of the best bottles in the Flora and Fauna range that are still produced. It is relatively simple to get in the UK, and you will still see it at Diageo distilleries, and in specialist whisky shops and online retailers.

As the Flora and Fauna bottle is the only official release from this distillery, apart from a couple of special editions, your best bet if you want to experiment is to seek this one from an independent bottler. I have to say the one I tried from Robertson’s of Pitlochry was fantastic as a single cask, 9 year old, cask strength. Very spicy finish and my only regret was not buying 2. So, my James Eadie will be my Benrinnes independent drinking bottle and will be reviewed in due course.

Another brand which is bottled with Benrinnes is from A.D Rattray is the Stronachie bottling, which was a lost distillery; the spirit distilled in Benrinnes but matured in Bourbon casks is supposed to be close to the original Stronachie malt. I have a miniature of this, and it will be reviewed in the New Year.

And speaking of lost distilleries, Benrinnes stopped the partial distillation of its spirit in 2007. With 2022 being the last bottling date of the original style spirit, we remain to see if Benrinnes will go the way of other former F&F bottlings, and be replaced by a solo brand, such as what happened to Clynelish, Caol Ila, Dufftown and Glendullan.

I got in contact with Diageo, as I had also heard rumours about Dailuaine being discontinued. They replied that they could not reveal or deny any plans. But Benrinnes and Dailuaine have been in the F&F range since 1991. Maybe a change is due? We will see. Until then, if you see this on a shelf, buy it. It should cost about £52 which is not bad for a 15 y.o malt of this stature.

Until the next review….

Slainte Mhath!


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Picture credits

Benrinnes distillery – Martin Jenkins under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Partial distillation diagram taken from Whisky Science under fair use.

Other pictures authors own.


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.

Pirates of the Caribbean (Cask)

Taste Review 22 – Balvenie Caribbean Cask

On the day I tasted this it was a not such a good day. Tax returns to do for two countries, found out my insurer didn’t auto-renew my car insurance, road tax due, added to cutting the damp grass and a dentists visit – it’s enough to drive a guy to drink. And that is precisely what I did.

And thanks to the pirates I had to pay today, I had been thinking of Pirates of the Caribbean. And that was it. I was going to have a Caribbean nip next, the 14 year old Balvenie Caribbean Cask to be correct.

Balvenie Distillery

Balvenie is a distillery in Dufftown one of 4 in a row – Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie (a mini distillery within Balvenie) and the long silent Convalmore. William Grants own all four distilleries, although Convalmore is silent and only used for storage.

There is a blend of all three working distilleries which is called Monkey Shoulder, but this will be reviewed later.

Balvenie is one of a handful of distilleries that use a malting floor, along with BenRiach, Springbank, Highland Park, Kilchoman, Laphroig and Bowmore.

The bottle

Region

Speyside

Age

14 y.o

Strength

43% a.b.v

Colour

Deep Amber

Nose

Toffee, Vanilla, Fruitcake, Rum, brown sugar

Palate

Vanilla, Rum, Creamy toffee, Raisins

Finish

Short to medium, golden syrup on well buttered toast, and a hint of apple crumble.

My dram

Conclusion

A great nose, not bad taste but a too short finish for me. It’s not unpleasant, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but feel this isn’t the finest moments of Balvenie. Indeed, it is almost like a novelty whisky, due to the over powering rum influence, and I wasn’t blown away.

If you like rum, this may be for you, but for me, the rum influence was a bit too strong, but this is just the opinion of one person.

However, after an hour since tasting, I was harking back to it, and I think I will buy a full bottle of this and get to know it.

Why?

The nose. Perhaps I didn’t give it a chance. If I scored this whisky it would get 7/10 which isn’t too bad. I’m happy to admit I may be wrong.

Why not visit Balvenie yourself? There is quite a demand to see this distillery, so why not check out their website, and book a tour? It is a bit expensive, at £50 but this is supposed to be one of the best tours to do, and I look forward to visiting one day.

You can start your adventure by clicking this link to take you to The Balvenie

Slainte Mhath!


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Picture Credits

Distillery and bottle photos taken from www.thebalvenie.com under fair use

Dram photo – authors own.


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.

Better Dramming Through Chemistry?

Will age statements soon be in hours?

It has been a fairly vexatious fortnight for Scotty’s Drams. During a quiet moment at work, I was reading an article about an American company who can make a whisky in not years, but age it in a matter of 24 hours.

The timer for ‘aged’ whisky

I’m not kidding. Click here for the link to the article. Not only that, but another Facebook page (Great Drams) wrote an article about it, so I’ve delayed mine in an effort not to be seen as a plagiarist.

With regards to not having to waste* time ageing whisky, I’m sure this would be good for the bean counters and the shareholders, but is never going to be good for the consumer. Here’s why.

1/ Although natural ingredients are used to flavour the whisky instead of ageing in a barrel, this should never be. In my opinion, there should only be 3 ingredients. Water, Yeast, Malted Barley. And E150a if absolutely necessary.

Glenfiddich 24. Is that years or hours?

2/ Making a whisky in this way means you are taking away any character. The stills, the barley and yeast strain mean nothing. Even the cask influence is now obsolete.

3/ To me a good whisky is made by a great distillery coupled with a great master blender. For instance, Glenallachie has certainly taken a forward bound with the arrival of Billy Walker. His 12 y.o core expression is fantastic. That’s the skill we want and not just somebody in a white coat.

Things went awry in the Famous Grouse Lab

4/ Where is the soul in the liquid? I like the idea that my dram has been slumbering in a cask for however many years. It has taken on the character of the place it was matured, hopefully in a dunnage warehouse. For a coastal whisky, I want a brine influence and I’m wanting it from the cask, not because somebody has added some salt to the vat.

5/ What about Single Casks? That would be pointless, as you can just cook up a recipe for your whisky. I like the variation of single casks, as well as the influence of the wood, depending on the cask type.

Would we even need wooden barrels any more?

Why would we do this??

Obviously this is down to cost. If a product doesn’t need to be matured, then the need to hold something in a warehouse for 10, 20 or however many years is gone.

Without wanting to go down a political path, this is one of only one threat to Scotch whisky from the US. There is already talk about the US insisting that the minimum age for Scotch New Make Spirit to be called whisky being changed to 2 years instead of 3. Of course, in the light of Brexit, the UK is likely to cave into demands in order to get a trade deal. It needs the revenue of a trade deal. Tax revenue on almost £5bn industry, this will make whisky a commodity that the UK treasury will not want to affect the export of. Especially to its largest export market, and certainly won’t want to see any tariffs added, which will be devastating to the UK Treasury and the Scottish Whisky Industry.

But how would the refusal of artificially aged whisky equally affect the export market and tax revenue if the markets for Scotch reject it? It is a double edged sword.

Scottish whisky is sold on not only its quality and taste, it’s also partially the tradition, the legend, and the perceived quality. Take this away by taking away the maturation period would put a big nail into the heart of the industry. What distillery would sully its brand so after decades or centuries?

The Distillery of the future?

Fortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association doesn’t expect the status of Scotch Whisky to change, but in uncertain times, we just don’t know. The other plus point is that it won’t catch on if people don’t buy it. Hopefully the people who regularly read my articles want to drink quality and not quantity, and aren’t afraid to pay a little bit for it. May it stay that way my friends. You will have a much more fulfilling whisky journey because of it.

Can there be a worse whisky than Grouse after all??

Slainte Mhath

*its never a waste of time to carefully age a great dram.


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