A Distillery with a Dirty Dark Secret

Taste Review #59 – Mannochmore 12 Flora And Fauna

This blog has already been responsible for the disclosing some secrets. Most notably it has been my short lived career as a flipper and hypocrite, not to mention the confession that seems to have flown well under the radar about one of my go-to blends that features the image of a well known bird. But let’s move on from me and move onto the whisky I’ll be reviewing this week which also has a dark secret, with the emphasis on dark.

The Mannochmore distillery was opened in 1971 by DCL on the same site as Glenlossie. These distilleries sit within a small pocket of distilleries that straddle the A941 Elgin to Craigellachie road which also includes BenRiach, Longmorn and Glen Elgin distilleries. It uses the same water source as Glenlossie, the Bardon Burn, although Mannochmore is by far the larger producer, capable of producing 4.5 million litres of spirit a year, compared to the much older Glenlossie’s 2.8 million litres.

Mannochmore is one of those distilleries that isn’t that well represented by its current owners, Diageo. There are very few official releases available, mostly limited to Manager Dram bottles or the occasional Diageo Special release – another thing in common with Glenlossie. Indeed, the only official release for both distilleries is the Flora and Fauna bottling and I am away to review the 12 year old Mannochmore for you now. However, a quick look online reveals that Mannochmore is easily available from many independent bottlers.

But before we go any further, we have to move onto that dark secret I mentioned. In 1996, Diageo released a whisky that was controversial to say the least. I don’t know how many of you have heard of a whisky called Loch Dhu, but this was a whisky that was dark beyond belief, marketed as a ‘Black Whisky. It was clearly beyond doubt that this was the result of some heavy use of artificial colouring. The result was a Marmite style whisky, which means like the yeast based spread it was something you either loved or hated. Unfortunately for Loch Dhu, most people hated it and the bottling was soon withdrawn. It is becoming a bit of a collectors item, but I am convinced that most people won’t be drinking it.


The sample

Speaking of drinking, it is time to move onto the whisky I have chosen for this week’s review. Hopefully this one is going to taste a lot better than Loch Dhu is reported to be.


The dark secret. Apparently disgusting.

Region

Speyside

Age

12 years old

Strength

43% ABV

Colour

Light hay

Nose

Slight whiff of alcohol, Buttery, honey, floral notes, straw, toffee

Palate

Oily mouthfeel, but not too heavy. A quick burst of wood spices, then quite creamy and sweet. Ginger, Vanilla and Lemon.

Finish

Medium Sweet, spiced wood, continues a ginger theme with added pepper. Slightly astringent, creamy lemon zest at the end.


The dram

Conclusions

If you are looking for a complex whisky, then this is not it. However it is quite a decent dram but I soon found out that it is not one to set the world on fire. I can tell you that it has most likely been chill filtered and the chances of it having colouring within are quite high, but the pale colour would seem to suggest that this is probably a minimum amount. But then again, Flora and Fauna whiskies were never intended to be world beater premium whisky, and for all the short comings this whisky has, it was a very pleasant pour.

The spicy wood notes are quite pleasant and controlled, and do not hide a floral nose nor the creamy vanilla and floral notes in the palate.

This whisky is one I have a couple of bottles of as part of my Flora and Fauna collections. It was one of the 17 out of the original 22 that were also produced with a white cap to denote the 1st Edition. This however was a dram from one of the sample bottles that were available on The Whisky Exchange for around £5, but I can’t remember as I have had this sample for some time.


Mannochmore Flora & Fauna 12 – full size

A full sized bottle should cost you about £50, but its availability may not be the greatest. Your specialist spirit shop should be able to source this if they don’t already stock it, or you can find it online easily enough. Based on paying £50 for a 43% whisky that is only 12 years old with colouring and chill filtered, it may not represent the best value. Although it is a pleasant sipper, I don’t think I can tell you it is an interesting enough dram to be good value at that price. At some point you might just have to take a chance and take the plunge to try it. I can assure you that if a purchase of this bottle is made, you will probably enjoy it if you are not seeking a challenging complex drink. There is no doubt in my mind that you will not have an extreme reaction that you may have had in drinking the Loch Dhu black whisky, so if you do see it, why not take a chance and try it?

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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 needn't be dreary in the Garioch.

Taste Review #58 – Glen Garioch Founders Reserve.

Believe it or not, my title this week does actually rhyme. It does help if you are from the North East Of Scotland to know how to pronounce Garioch or at least you could have heard it from others in your whisky journey. But for those unfamiliar with Doric, the pronunciation is ‘Geery’. It rhymes with dreary, but then I have already told you that. And Doric lives up to many of the often underhand tricks that English can also play on its non-native speakers, and that is that sometimes it is pronounced ‘Garry-och’, but usually only when it is being used as a surname.


The Doig Ventilators over the disused kilns. Blue skies as well.

Glen Garioch distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, having been established during 1797 in the Aberdeenshire village of Oldmeldrum, a small market village some 18 miles north of Aberdeen. Currently it is the most eastern distillery in Scotland, a title that it obtained in 1983 when Glenugie beside the port of Peterhead closed. It was my local distillery when I lived in the land of ‘Fit Like’ (Doric for how are you?), and passing through Oldmeldrum, it was easy to spot the two ventilators on the top of the kilns, yet I never visited. Not until early March this year when I was staying in Aberdeen and I decided to treat my parents to an afternoon out. Despite Aberdeen and shire’s reputation for dreary grey buldings, weather and equally grey and dour people, this was a glorious early spring day with a treat of some blue skies.


The malting barn. Floors sadly out of use.

Glen Garioch was established in 1797, although it is reckoned that they were legally distilling before that, albeit there is no existing proof. Two brothers, John and Alexander Manson started the distillery just to the south of the Aberdeen – Banff road. They were in a perfect position for one of their main ingredients – Barley. The North East of Scotland produces massive amounts of barley, and according to our guide, 40% of Scottish barley used in whisky production comes from the Garioch valley, which is entirely possible, as during summer the fields are full of barley, and the soil is good quality with lower levels of nitrogen, which distillers like.

Glen Garioch passed through a few hands before becoming part of DCL in 1937. This continued until the late 1960’s. DCL (a forerunner of Diageo) in the mid to late 1960’s needed a distillery to produce heavily peated malt, as there was a problem with droughts on Islay and Caol Ila was getting refurbished. They had a choice between the original Clynelish distillery (now known as Brora) or Glen Garioch, but unfortunately the Oldmeldrum distillery had problems with its water supply and Brora was chosen to supply the heavily peated malts. DCL sold Glen Garioch to Stanley Morrison (who also owned Bowmore) in 1970, and his first task was to find another water supply. The manager at the time, Joe Hughes contracted Alec Grant (the father of the current manager) who found a spring on nearby Coutens Farm. It’s known as the silent spring, as it could not be seen or heard flowing, but enabled the distillery to increase its production tenfold.

The next crisis to hit Glen Garioch, along with many other distilleries in the 1970’s was the fuel crises in the 1970’s. The cost of operating the distillery was high, but Stanley Morrison installed heat recovery equipment, which allowed heat from the distilling process to be recycled, and was used to heat the kilns as well as feeding heat to an acre of green houses and a further acre of poly-tunnels for growing tomatoes and kiwi fruits. This came to an end in 1993. Sadly in 1994, the distillery also brought an end to malting its own barley, preferring to buy in ready malted barley.


The Porteous Mill is still going.

In 1994 the distillery was bought by Beam, and by 1995, Glen Garioch fell silent. 1995 was the last time the distillery regularly produced a peated malt. However, it isn’t all bad news, and by 1997 after some renovation, the distillery opened again, producing an unpeated malt.


The three stills. Spirit still No.1 out of service.

Glen Garioch is an old, small distillery. It only produces 500,000 litres annually from one wash still and two spirit stills, albeit the No.1 spirit still is currently out of service due to the copper now being too thin. Apparently the wash still has the longest Lyne arm in Scotland. You can still see the tradition coupled with the modern; the Porteous Mill, the old Kilns plus stainless steel washbacks and mash tun squeezed into old buildings. But does the tradition convert into making a decent whisky? Well, it’s time to find out


The sample

Region

Highland

Age

No Age Stated

Strength

48% ABV

Colour

Light Golden Honey.

Nose

Malty, biscuity, sweet. Very light smoke to it. Fruit, Apple, touch of floral – I get a whiff of Turkish Delight of it. Vanilla is in there too.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel. Sweet vanilla, creamy buttermilk and green apples. Hint of citrus sharpness with wood spices.

Finish

Short but quite a spirit glow on the way down. At 48% I’d advise adding water, which I had to do afterwards. Dry, but not astringent. Oak spices, a hint of smoke, probably from the Bourbon barrel. Citrus is in there as well, and only became apparent at the end as the spirit left my mouth fairly dry, but it was like lime and a hint of chocolate.


The dram

Conclusions

If there is one thing I can say about my tour at Glen Garioch, our guide Chris gave an excellent tour and one that was full of information and passion about the distillery. However, (and this was not his fault) the tour was to fall short with the whisky supplied for tasting. The basic entry Founders Reserve is actually not a bad whisky, but after having such a good tour and quite a pleasant nose and palate, the finish totally let it down for me. It’s a shame as I had been smelling it a good portion of the way home in the car due to a leaky sample bottle, and my mouth was watering. The unfortunate reality was that my mouth became like the Sahara Desert afterwards, and I needed to take the water I had set aside for adding to the dram. Because I was doing my typical Aberdonian thing and was too tight to spring for a 5CL sample, I made do this time with the 1.5CL sample given by the distillery.

Although the finish was a bit too dry for me, it wasn’t not in a lip and tongue puckering way. The warmth in the spirit I think just overpowered the nice aromas and palate, which to me was just a little bit disappointing. However, Glen Garioch Founders Reserve is not alone in this – many whiskies I seem to sniff turn out to have either a palate or finish that didn’t match the aroma. My favourite whisky of the past 12 months was exactly like that. Again, it may have been better had I hadn’t been tight and sprung for at least a 5cl miniature.


Casks sleeping

So, with that last point in mind, don’t pay too much attention to what I say on this review, as I just don’t have enough liquid to build a relationship with this whisky and understand all the various components. However, it did become more pleasant with a drop or two of water. I would say that the vintage expressions or those with age statements would be a lot better. It is my opinion that they have bottled this at 48% to hide the fact there is some young whisky in it, but it shows in a very slight rough edge. But that’s just my opinion. There is the good point that at 48% you know that it is not chill filtered, but unfortunately this has got colouring added..

I was tempted to buy a bottle of the 15 year old they had for sale there, as it was £85, and I thought that was just a bit too rich for me. It’s not unreasonable to charge that much for that age of whisky, but you know you can get it cheaper elsewhere. I’ve come to realise that unless it is a special limited release, you’ll always get whisky cheaper elsewhere compared to the distillery shop. Tourists don’t always have the same purchasing opportunities compared to the locals.

Do I recommend this whisky? No, I personally will not be buying a bottle of it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t. At 48%, this gives you an excellent opportunity to play about with water to see the effects drop by drop, but I’d say best maybe try doing this with the 12 year old. It is also bottled at 48% and costs around £45. The Founders Reserve costs around £35, which for a 48% whisky is indeed good value, and while I think this whisky will appeal to some, it didn’t appeal to me. With the aroma I can sense there is something good happening with this distillery, though not this expression. Perhaps I need to pop in past while next in the area to maybe buy a couple of miniatures to retry at the later date.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

This Is Not A Drive-By.

Taste Review #57 – Glentauchers 1991 (G&M)

Glentauchers is one of those distilleries that flies beneath the radar. I have to say that it doesn’t seem to be well known at all. And in all fairness, I fly past it on a regular basis as it is right beside the A95, halfway between the Morayshire town of Keith and the hamlet of Mulben. Flying past it is maybe stretching it a bit. There is a bend right beside the distillery houses where a bridge also narrows the carriageway slightly. Up until 5 years ago or so, there was also a strange camber on the road as you went over the bridge which used to force you out into the middle of the road as you went round the bend. I’ve lost count of how many times I have passed it and almost needed a change of underwear. Yet still have to sit and review one of its whiskies.


Glentauchers Distillery

The Glentauchers distillery was another of those distilleries built at the end of the 1890’s, and was established by James Buchanan & Co. to provide fillings for its Black And White blend. This was to become a role that the distillery was to play for its whole life so far, as one of those distilleries whose main purpose is to provide whiskies for blends. As was the case for so many distillery companies, James Buchanan eventually merged with DCL, which would eventually become part of Diageo, although this was not the fate for this distillery – it wasn’t to survive the whisky downturn in the 1980’s and was mothballed at the same time as Convalmore which was also formerly owned by Buchanan / DCL. However, fate was kinder to Glentauchers than it was to Convalmore, and it was bought by Allied Distillers in 1989, with full production resuming in 1992. By 2005, Allied Distillers became part of the Chivas empire, whose parent company are Pernod Ricard.

Today, Glentauchers still carries on, and has been used as a training distillery by Pernod Ricard. Apparently it is a distillery that has limited automation, ensuring that staff have to learn how to distill whisky manually. The malting floors are not part of this as their operation ceased in 1969.

The Glentauchers distillery despite sitting right beside a main road does not have the have the same visibility, yet finding bottles of Glentauchers is not hard. There are plenty of bottlings available from independent bottlers. I own a couple, one being from First Cask, and another being a bottle in the Dancing Stag range from Robert Graham. A quick look online sees that there are bottles available from many of the well known independents such as That Boutiquey Whisky Company, Signatory, Douglas Laing, Berry Bros, but most notably is Gordon & Macphail, probably the oldest continually operating independent bottler, based in the Morayshire town of Elgin, and it is from this bottler we have this week’s sample.

Finding original bottlings of Glentauchers are few and far between. As mentioned above, it is a spirit usually for providing for blends, notably Ballantines. There has been official bottlings – there was a 12 year old released in the 1980’s and in 2000 it was part of a set of 6 different whiskies released by Allied Distillers – all at 46% and 15 years old, meaning that in the case of Glentauchers they were using the DCL distillate. In 2017 an official bottling was released at 15 y.o under the Ballantines brand.


The Bottle

Region

Speyside

Age / Vintage

1991 / 16 years (Bottled 2007)

Strength

43%

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Peaches, Honey, biscuity cereals, vanilla, slight apple note. To start with I got a hint of solvent, but that disappeared after I left the glass to sit and breath.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel, yet still quite light. No real overpowering flavours. Spicy oak note with a little fizz on arrival. Sweet, apples, honey, toffee, hay. Hint of lemon peel. Spicy notes soften with the addition of water.

Finish

Short to medium. Oak, slightly bitter, lemon. After water added very slight vegetal taste on departure.

Conclusions

This was a long time coming and I am disappointed in myself that I waited so long to taste this whisky. I’ve always liked the appearance of the G&M distillery bottlings. They look bold and classic, even reminiscent of a bygone age. You see I am a bit of a romanticist about Scottish Malt Whisky, and I prefer to think of it as just a wee industry and not the global behemoth it has become. The diagonal distillery name sloping up to the right reminds me strongly of that other Buchanan owned distillery, Convalmore. If you look at the Diageo Special releases from 2006, 2013 or 2017 you’ll see why.

But we have to move away from the labels, as they do not make whisky taste any better. I didn’t know really what to expect from this whisky, as it is one I have not had before, and I have to say I was very impressed. I drank most of my sample neat, but as towards the end of typing this out, I noticed time was marching on and it was nearly bed time. So, rather than neck it, I decided to see how things would play out with water.

As it was 43%, I didn’t really think it needed water. I really enjoyed the dram neat. I am sure that if it was delivered at a higher ABV, I would definitely be adding water to maybe soften it to get a great easy drinker. My dram from the previous night was a Lagavulin 16, and at 43% that was also drunk without water, and was fully enjoyable, yet I didn’t get all the complexity that you can find in Lagavulin. However getting back to Glentauchers, I don’t feel that there is a complexity there to find in this bottle, but that’s ok. Not everything has to be a challenge and it is important that we remember that we drink whisky because we enjoy it. Constantly seeking for something that isn’t there is just going to lead to a disappointment and spoil what is actually a decent dram.

I paid £7.80 for my 5CL sample in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Inverness. It’s a very touristy shop, and I was only in there to conduct some business connected to my wife’s business. It was when walking past the till I noticed the miniatures for sale. Of course, in a shop like this, you know that you are probably paying over the odds, but this is a bottle I always wanted to try. I had the chance to buy the 1996 bottle, but I noticed this 1991 hiding behind a few others. Going by the flawed mantra of older is better, I dug this one out – if I remember rightly it was also cheaper, so it satisfied the needs of my inner Aberdonian. Result!

A little bit of research into the bottling codes on the label reveal that this was bottled in 2007, which makes it 16 years old. I had seen something about the 1991 vintage also being bottled in 2010, but this is unconfirmed. This means the distillery was definitely producing before coming out of mothballs in 1992, and this must be some of the first spirit created by Allied Distillers.


Glentauchers in Allied Distillers collection circa 2000

While this bottle is discontinued, a quick look on auction sites reveals that it is available under £50, and if you are lucky this will also include auction fees, though you might have to add a little more to also cover the P&P. I think that this represents good value, and I would be happy to pay that for this dram. Therefore you will not be surprised to find out that I do recommend this whisky and if I see this as a 70cl bottle, I would be happy to buy it for my drinking collection. It would be sad to miss it, just as I miss the hair raising adrenalin rush of going round the bend next to the distillery now the camber has been sorted. My undercrackers are more grateful though,

One last tip before I go – I forgot to mention that there is no such place as Glentauchers. The distillery was built on the site of Tauchers Farm, and Tauchers Wood is on the other side of the road. Thought I’d better mention it in case you want to have a pilgrimage up a non-existent Glen.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

Not all Superstition is bad.

Taste Review #71 – Jura Superstition

For those of you who don’t know, mariners can be superstitious. I know of fishermen in the North East of Scotland have plenty of little things in their mind they they consider to be unlucky – mentioning the word Rabbit or Salmon is meant to bring no good and neither are having a woman on your fishing boat. And don’t dare consider washing out your sugar bowl. Shooting an Albatross would be probably the final icing on the cake to guarantee a maritime disaster or perhaps an empty fish hold.

As a person who also has spent the majority of his working life at sea, I also have a few superstitions and practices. As an ROV pilot, me and many of my colleagues are a bit nervous about mentioning the word ‘reterm’ which is a shortening of the word ‘retermination’. A reterm is when you have to cut the yellow flying tether between the ROV and the deployment system, or the main lift umbilical between the launch system and the deployment system. Not technically complex, though a main lift umbilical is more intensive and takes around 12 hrs to complete. Usually mentioning the word reterm is seen as chancing fate and is frowned upon by many.


An ROV sitting on top of a subsea manifold being viewed by another ROV. The other ROV tether is visible to the right. Best not broken.

I have no whisky superstitions, but when a bottle of Jura Superstition turned up in a bulk buy of auction whisky miniatures, I did become a bit wary. I’m not a fan of Jura, especially the last NAS offering I tried, the insipid Jura Journey. Would this one be the same? I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t be, as Jura is owned by Whyte and Mackay who also own Dalmore distillery which do have a good range of decent malts and the lesser known Fettercairn distillery. Their master blender Richard Patterson is a well known personality in the industry and has overseen the creation of some great drams, yet sometimes appears to drop the ball when it has come to Jura Journey and Fettercairn’s Fior, though that’s just my opinion.

The distillery on Jura was established in 1810 by the Laird of Jura to create employment on the island, but had intermittent use, finally closing in 1901, possibly as a result of fallout from the Pattinson crash. The main issue with Jura was that an island distillery was always going to make it more expensive to produce from – everything has to arrive or depart via ferry from Islay via Port Askaig on Islay. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that work started in rebuilding the distillery. This included the installation of taller stills (over 7 metres tall!). First spirit started flowing in 1963 and by 1974 single malt whiskies were being released.

The single malt we will be sampling today was first released in 2002 and is very lightly peated. It was joined by the more heavily peated Prophecy in 2009. The range was revamped in 2018 and Superstition was discontinued. Let’s pay a visit to a whisky that has passed on.


Jura Superstition 5CL

Details

Region – Highland; Age -NAS; Strength – 43%; Colour – Deep Copper; Nose – Cereal notes, straw slight hint of smoke. Honey. A bit of brine in the background; Palate Slightly waxy mouthfeel- medium body. muesli, toffee, a hint of honey with more smoke. Now the light peat becomes apparent but not like an Islay. Finishmedium. The oak spices arrive now, with vanilla, smoke, slight dryness and a hint of brine at the end.


The dram

Conclusions

Well, surprise surprise. I actually liked this one. Maybe that’s an overstatement, but it had a lot more to offer than Jura Journey. I’m actually grateful that in my whisky journey that I’ve made the decision not to let one whisky I didn’t enjoy spoil my view of the distillery. I’ve sort of got a small bias against Whyte and Mackay brands, as I’ve not really enjoyed the few samples I’ve had from Fettercairn either, but that has also had a range upgrade recently as well.

I think the muesli notes perhaps come from the relatively short fermentation period of 54 hrs. There were also cereal notes that I detected in the nose. This spirit has been matured in Bourbon casks, has been chill filtered and also has added colour, thus scores 0/4 in the ABCD check list. However I ‘got’ this whisky. The brine influence along with a light peat gave a lovely smokey maritime feel.

If it was available, I’d give this a thumbs up and would recommend this as an easy introduction to peated whiskies, but alas it is no more. I’ve taken a look online and am struggling to see it available anywhere. It may be best to try auctions to try this whisky. It was RRP at £35-ish as a guide, so you should be able to pay less than this for a 70cl bottle.

I think my next Jura will have to be one of the age statement releases.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

Question Your Beliefs

Why you still need to challenge your whisky favourites to avoid taste blindness.

For those of you who read this weeks taste review of Monkey Shoulder this article will make more sense, but it isn’t really that necessary to have done so. This is going to be a short piece on how we should always look back on what we have drunk in the past and consistently re-evaluate our experiences.

For a couple of years, Monkey Shoulder was the blend I used to recommend and when travelling was what I often drunk when other options were limited. I never really thought to question it much as I enjoyed drinking it and others did to. Then my travel patterns changed and I wasn’t travelling the same routes, so my opportunity to drink Monkey Shoulder was limited which gave me a break from it for a little while.

It was the tail end of last year when I was asked to do a whisky tasting that I used Monkey Shoulder as a blended whisky. A fair enough assumption as it is a good enough value blended malt and given there were at least three decent malts in recipe, I wasn’t expecting much problems. Only I was wrong. A couple of people said they didn’t like it, pointed out its flaws and said they wouldn’t drink it again. I felt a little bit embarrassed as this was totally opposite to what I had been expecting, though we know that everybody has different taste buds and what is steak for one guy might be mince for the next. One thing was for certain – a review of the whisky and my thoughts about it had to be done.

Fortunately this tied in with the chance to also taste the Smokey Monkey and thus provide a decent comparison between the two. The results are in my article in which I found the smokey version definitely not to my taste and was also able to see the flaws in the original version. My excitement in it was slightly jaded almost to the point I could say that I felt let down by the beverage that I placed so much faith in. So what has happened?

Let’s make the bottler the scapegoat as that would absolve me of saying or doing anything wrong. Batches can vary in taste and recipes can be slightly tweaked depending on availability of casks for vatting. That’s the easy, lazy and possibly incorrect way of thinking which although possibly true, the case may not be the root of the problem. For that we have to look into ourselves and think about how we have changed as whisky drinkers, not just in our palates but also our expectations.

A drop in the ocean

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that one brand of whisky in the spirits world is like a drop in the ocean – so easily lost when compared to other brands. Many of us don’t have the chance to taste many different whiskies either through opportunity or lack of financial means. For people in this situation it means that they will tend to stick to the same brands for whatever reason. It goes without saying whatever your circumstances as a whisky lover that you will try to go for the best you can afford or obtain. However we may become blind to its faults. There is no shame in this as it is human nature to defend things we like or are special to us. For instance, my dog. Lovely, gentle Labrador but can be a bit of a poo eater, constantly casting hair, hungry and is definitely a shagger. I tend to ignore these flaws as I love my dog and his flaws are often written off as character.


How could you not love this? Maksimus puts on his most pathetic look.

Thinking back to the whisky world there may eventually be a special offer which gives the opportunity to try something else to which takes your fancy and it becomes your new favourite, though your former favourite still holds a place in your estimations. You may still recommend your whisky you used to love as It could be that it is good value, but you may be oblivious to the things that make it out not as good as you think. Eventually you get brought back down to earth with a bump and it hurts when it’s pointed out.

With so many bottles out there, many of us are trying different things, but are we really forming a relationship with that whisky so that we know all of its highs and lows, or are we completing a bottle and moving onto the next new thing? Within this blog, it is something that I struggle with, as I am constantly tasting different whisky and don’t often get the chance to really get to know some of the drams. In the past year I’ve reviewed 74 whiskies (that includes the backlog yet to publish) but there is no way on earth that somebody could drink 74 full bottles in that time.

The one thing that also works against us as whisky enthusiasts is those who are always trying the next new thing. There is nothing wrong with this as whisky will require to be innovative to move on, but part of me also feels that this creates a new problem. How can we say that a new whisky is entirely different from one that we have tasted in the past? With millions of permutations there has to be some similarities between bottlings surely? Even in my limited reviews I can tell you I’ve tasted two drams that had I known no better I would have said was Ardbeg because of the main characteristics of the spirit.

Don’t feel disappointed with this – I never said that I was an expert, I don’t pretend to be and I certainly don’t intend to be. This is about a journey to try different whiskies and there will be some I like and some I find that are not to my taste. I wrote about them to get your opinions too and to share my thoughts, not to get plaudits.

There is a defence for all of us. Currently there are about 130 distilleries in Scotland alone. If each distillery had 5 core expressions and released a new one every year, how long do you think it would take you to taste them all and do you think you’d be able to compare them to each other? Not to mention all the whisky that has been made in the past nor single cask releases…. see where I’m going with this? And I haven’t touched on Irish, Japanese, American or Indian whisky yet…..

If you want the proof, watch an online blind tasting and see how many people are able to identify random whiskies. You’d probably not be surprised at the failure rate. I feel it is only those with a super educated palate and a great memory would be capable of such a feat. These people do exist, but seem to be few and far between.

Back To The Monkey Shoulder.

Going back to my original point, with so many whiskies available, it probably isn’t easy to compare each one with every other, and after a while the taste scoring means little. I bet that I could return to Monkey Shoulder again in a couple of months and enjoy it again. Perhaps the bottle I used for the tasting had been open too long and was oxidised? Our palates evolve and what is good at one time may not be so good in the future or become even better.

There is another danger of constantly tasting new things that are popular and that is the law of diminishing returns. Once you taste something great, you will not be so impressed with the more mediocre drams. The availability of such great drams mean you may be in the trap that previously enjoyable whisky isn’t so good, and what is great is in limited supply. That’s a thought for another article though.

In conclusion, will I stop drinking Monkey Shoulder or recommending it? No. I still think the original Monkey Shoulder is an easy to drink, good value blended malt. I will perhaps change why I recommend it though. And of course, I’m going to challenge you to every now and again challenge the whiskies you like to see how they stack up against the new whiskies being released. Being loyal to a brand is great, but can blind you to its drawbacks.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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.

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Spank Your Monkey

Taste Review #56 – Monkey Shoulder / Smokey Monkey

This review turns it attention back towards blends, and today we are looking at the Monkey Shoulder Brand. I chose this title in my quest to get something quirky and eyecatching. Usually when my wife and I have a pleasurable but not so good for you treat, we say that it’s been naughty, and that it needs punished. Well, what better punishment for a whisky than a good spanking? Any connotations to any other practices is entirely in your own mind. I’m sure the schoolboy humour in some of you will still make you snigger though…… I did!


Monkey Shoulder – Caged Monkey

Monkey Shoulder was released initially in 2005, and was intended to be the sort of whisky that would appeal to younger whisky drinkers that weren’t really into the geeky side of whisky and the old man image. Primarily the focus has been on using the spirit in whisky cocktails. The funky name comes from an affliction suffered by distillery malt men who were employed to turn over the malting barley on the malting floor. Similar to tennis elbow, it caused the arm on the affected side to hang low like a monkey limb, and hence the nickname. Of course this is something that is of a bygone age thanks to modern health and safety laws, and the tiny amount of distilleries that still do their malting in the traditional way.

A part of the William Grant & Sons range, Monkey Shoulder initially was made from spirit that was produced in their three Dufftown distilleries, namely Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. However, despite attempts to get this confirmed, this was unsuccessful. However, since the Ailsa Bay distillery has opened, it is open to interpretation if spirit from this Lowland distillery has been used.


Smokey Monkey

In August 2017, Smokey Monkey was released, initially only to the licensed trade, but in 2019 it then became widely available to the general public. Is there much of a difference to these blends, and are they any good?

Smokey Monkey

Smokey Monkey notes in italics

Region

Speyside

Age

These blends have no age statement

Strength

Both whiskies are at 40%

Colour

Both whiskies are Honeyed Gold

Nose

Sweet, caramel, vanilla, malt, hot chocolate powder, cinnamon

Smokey – Sweet smoke with a hint of charred wood. Honey. The smoke isn’t that strong but it hides a lot of any other aromas. I also picked up a note of decay and leather

Palate

Creamy mouth feel, but no real spirit hit in the arrival. Butterscotch, buttery toast, malt, apricot.

SmokeyAgain a creamy arrival, with spices in attendance, oak, vanilla, honey. Slight peat with more heat than the original

Finish

Medium, spicy oak. Finish disappears to nothing if water is added.

Smokey – Same as the original, it is a medium finish with spicy oak augmented by the smokey wood notes and a very slight peat. After a while I got a petrol note too.


Standard Monkey Shoulder on right

Conclusions

The standard Monkey Shoulder used to be a blend that I would recommend. Indeed it is a very easy going blend to drink and if the three malts supposed to be in it are anything to go by, then it should be a relatively good product. This was a blend that I used from time to time in whisky tastings, and never heard many negative comments. However, after a tasting with some relative whisky novices and one person who knew a bit about it, a few of them didn’t like the Monkey Shoulder at all. Now I am wondering if the whisky had oxidised, or if it was just in comparison to the other single malts that I had provided them with before hand. However, I hadn’t given them anything premium to begin with, so I realised that perhaps I had to review my opinion of this whisky.

It also gave me a good chance to review the Smokey Monkey alongside it. I have had a bottle of Smokey Monkey long before it was available to the general public, and soon got a sample sized bottle as soon as Drinks By The Dram started producing them. I must say this has been a very interesting analysis, and not necessarily for good reasons.

I have to admit, that having sat down to taste my standard Monkey Shoulder, it was completely underwhelming. It wasn’t unpleasant, but well it wasn’t great either. Perhaps this has been constructed to be in a whisky cocktail, as when I added water, the finish disappeared completely. I wouldn’t have expected that, but then again being the traditionalist that I am, I don’t generally drink whisky cocktails, and at 40%, I’ve never felt the need to add water.

Moving onto the Smokey Monkey. Oh dear, I really don’t know what to write. I think it is better to say that this was not my cup of tea at all and that is being kind. It was almost the same as the standard Monkey Shoulder, with the addition of some smokey aroma, which to me reminded me of wood smoke more than peat reek. However while I did get a sense of peat, it was fairly muted. Disturbingly I thought I initially got a smell of something decomposing or vegetal on the initial nosings, which isn’t the greatest of starts to a pleasurable tasting. Again, probably better in a cocktail, but I am not likely to be finding out.

One thing I found out when I was doing a bit of research, that initially the recommended serve for this was 2 shots of standard Monkey Shoulder to one of Smokey Monkey, and the idea you added the smokey whisky to your taste. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? However it does help you sell a lot more whisky in a bar. However, as I found the Monkey Shoulder just to be drinkable and that’s all and the Smokey Monkey pretty unpalatable, I did mix both samples together, and that made something a lot more drinkable, but still not great.

Do I recommend these whiskies? Well, I guess that you should probably realise by now it will be a no, I do not recommend them. They aren’t expensive, being in the order of £29 for a 70cl bottle, but to me, these are just a gimmicky whisky which admittedly may taste better within a cocktail, but smack of more marketing than substance. Kind of disappointing when you think of the brands that go into making this whisky. It’s even more disappointing when you think you can get a litre of Famous Grouse for £20. I think I prefer the Grouse.

Right, because my whisky has disappointed me and I can’t bear to pour it down the sink, I’m away to give my monkey a damned good spanking. That will give the childish amongst you one last opportunity to snigger.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

Come On And Celebrate!

Whisky to mark an occasion

We all know that whisky is an excellent drink to use for a celebration and in Scotland it is very commonly used as such. Events such as the birth of a child have a social celebration known as a ‘Head Wetting’ which is where the birth is celebrated by the father going out with friends for a night out to commemorate the new born. I wonder how many heads are sore the next day when a crying baby may be the last thing that you’d appreciate with a hangover!

An alternative route to celebrate an occasion is to perhaps seek out a special whisky and open the bottle and have a more restrained night (in or out). This was the route I initially took when my daughter was born. 10 years prior I had paid a visit to Glenmorangie distillery and bought two of the Truffle Oak finishes for £150 each. The partner I had at the time and myself were considering the possibility of a child and I thought one of the bottles would be appropriate for a head wetting. However, it was not to be, and the bottles went into the back of my drinks cabinet waiting for that special occasion.

Fast forward 10 years, and my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful baby daughter and the subject of a head wetting came up. I thought about the Truffle Oak Glenmorangie bottles, and how I would love to try one. This was also about the time I had decided to start collecting bottles more seriously so I could perhaps have a little nest egg for the little one when she was older. A quick look on the internet for retail and auction prices for these bottles showed that I was not going to be opening the Glenmorangie, but instead picked a Bruichladdich Yellow Submarine instead. These were the days when you could pick up a retail one for under £200 and auction prices were even lower. It was my first time tasting this bottling, and I suppose the fact that I used it as my head wetting whisky makes it that little bit more special, and not just the fact that it has a tie in with my day job.

Now that we are thinking of picking a whisky to celebrate a pivotal moment in our lives such as a childbirth or a similar occasion, I have been looking for a decent bottle that marked my date or year of birth. I do have a couple from my year of birth, but the vintage bottlings for me just aren’t the same, so I am constantly on the look out for a whisky that was distilled or bottled on my actual day of birth, but this is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, I have to make do with bottles that were either distilled or bottled on one of my birthdays, and I have been a little more successful in this endeavour.

It was a visit to the GlenDronach distillery in early summer last year that achieved my first bottle – I was driving and couldn’t drink, so had to sit out the end of the tour tasting, but the guide then pointed out that their hand filled bottle was distilled on what I quickly worked out to be my 19th Birthday. This 26 year old bottle was quickly snapped up and I even got a wee sample to try. Driving away from the distillery I had calculated that I had shot my bolt a bit early. My birthday was in 4 days time, the date the whisky turned 27 years old. I managed to sneak away to get another bottle which was bottled and distilled on my birthday. I would imagine there are very few bottles like that available and it joins the Glenmorangie Truffle Oaks in my remote storage where I can’t be tempted to open it.


Guess which one was bottled at 27 years old to the day? The same day that I turned 21 again too!

It was a Facebook messenger conversation a couple of months ago that made me think of this once more. One of my former work colleagues had asked me about the possibility of getting a bottle of whisky that had the date of his son’s birthday on it. Now, I made him aware that the chances of me being able to find one were as likely as trying to find a drop of wine in the North Sea (not quite what I said, but a lot more acceptable for public consumption!) but I’d have a go. An initial search on the internet was unsuccessful, but I told him to leave it with me and I’d have a go. Challenge accepted!

I’m now going to be writing this article so you can see what I tried and how I was eventually successful. Just to warn you, it took a month and while I did achieve my aim, it was not without it’s frustrations.

A simple Google search will just throw up too many random results. You will easily find the vintage year, and you might even be lucky enough to get the correct month, but if this is going to be a momento of a birth, it isn’t close enough. The vast majority of vintage whisky just has a year on it, so to achieve the correct date we will have to look at three main types of bottlings to secure a victory – Hand Fills, Single Casks and Special Editions. Because most bottles are filled with whisky that is the result of a marriage of casks, you will never be able to achieve a date of distillation. I think that this is important, as the date of the birth will coincide with the date of the whisky creation, which for me gives a more powerful symbolism to the bottle.

To find hand fill bottles with a specific date, the easiest way to achieve this if you ever want to have a bottle of whisky bottled on the date of your offspring’s birth is to get a friend to visit a distillery and purchase a handfilled bottle on the day that your child is born. I would suggest it may not be polite for you to do this when your significant other is going through labour and may create considerable friction in your relationship. There is no way that I would try that, although I was close enough to a distillery on the date of my daughter’s birth!

With hand filled bottles, I would suggest that there is a slight drawback to know that somebody else bottled it, so loses it’s personal touch to the special event that you are trying to commemorate, but that all depends on how special you want this to be. By far the easiest bottles to find are those from single casks, where it is easier to find a larger availability of dates, and certainly easier to search for.

If you think a single cask bottle would be appropriate, then you have to ask yourself will it be drunk? Of course, it depends on whether or not you are giving it to somebody or keeping it for yourself. But to help you search I found it is easier to look at distilleries that are consistently producing good single cask produce. What you may find that if you can get a date that is within a couple of days of your requirements, it is a case of being patient. Sometimes distilleries go through a run of bottling single casks. I found this to be true of GlenAllachie as one of my early targets to source a bottle for my colleague, but could only get within 2 or three days and not the actual date – close but no cigar.


Distillery releases at visitor centres are good bets as they often list both distilling dates and bottling dates. They also include distilleries long lost or without visitor facilities

Since these bottles were unlikely to be found at retail, I decided to hit the auctions. The simplest way to search was to look for a particular vintage year. If there was too many results, I found I got mixed returns by using different date formats in the search boxes of the auctioneers. You have to be persistent in trying everything. You also need to be smart about filtering your search results – being Aberdonian I always search for the low prices first as why would you want to pay more than you had to?

To cut a long story short, eventually I got a hit on a bottle from the Arran Distillery. This took me about 3 weeks searching every now and again when I had a spare moment. Initially I found a bottling from the day before the required date, but when I realised the date I needed was a Friday, then I found other bottles of the same whisky from the following week so then I was certain there would likely be similar bottling on the date required. Some further persistence paid off and within a couple of hours found the bottle I needed.

Let’s just say I hadn’t found THE bottle, but only had identified the edition I needed to find in the auctions or rare whisky shops. But if you have been paying attention to what I write, you will know that if something has been in an auction once, then it will turn up eventually in the future. You hope that it is not an in-demand bottle or that you don’t get somebody else bidding against you which will possibly force the price up. And it is here you have to make a difficult decision – how much do you pay for the bottle you are searching for? How important is the significance of the date?

Well, I took the common sense approach – I looked closely at the bottle – it had condition warnings about the state of the outer packaging, and what wasn’t noted was slight damage to the front label. The next thing you have to consider is how many of them were produced?.l Because this was a wine cask finish in a single cask, just over three hundred were available on the date I required. Researching the prices of other auctions revealed a hammer price between £85 and £150, but I didn’t do a thorough search, as it was only to give me an idea. Using my usual auction strategies, I obtained the bottle for a hammer price of £65 which adding the usual fees and P&P came to £85.


Captured prey – the Arran bottle acquired.

Whilst this is not a whisky that was distilled on the date required, given that this was over 14 years ago and the amount of releases since then, it was going to be like searching the world for a specific grain of sand. We can choose to look at it from the sense that the bottled product was created on the same day, and hopefully that has enough significance for the recipient whether it gets opened or kept in a cupboard for a wee while longer.

Of course, when thinking of celebrating significant birthdays, if you are close enough to a distillery that does hand fill, I would suggest taking a trip there with the intended recipient to commemorate not only the day, but a proper day out making memories. In the case of my colleague, this is what I suggested happens for his child’s 18th and 21st birthdays. Will these bottles be worth anything financially? Only if somebody else wants the same date, Indeed my GlenDronach handfill is making about £60-£70 more than I paid for it at auction, but then factor in the fees, then no, it’s not making a lot more, but time will tell. There will be a demand for vintage whisky in the future, but whether or not sherried whiskies are popular in the future remains to be seen. Vintage GlenDronach frequently does well at auction so not too worried.

I haven’t mentioned much about the third type of bottle – special editions. These will be rarer and therefore harder to find, especially for a specific date. And we know what this is likely to do for prices but regardless we have to know what the prices are so we aren’t overpaying.

Lastly, sometimes it is just down to luck. You just need to keep your eyes open when looking around distilleries, especially for single cask releases. Independent bottlers are also often good for detailing dates such as Signatory vintage. It is just a case of looking around.

Of course, you could always have a cask filled on that very date, but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish, and I’d advise you to look at my articles on cask purchase before proceeding down a very expensive route if you hope to taste it.

I hope this has given you a few pointers. Funnily enough as I was writing this article, somebody contacted me about this very issue, although they were looking for vintage Macallan. Talk about good timing! Cone time I will be looking for a vintage whisky for my daughters birth date, but as she’s not even four yet, there may be some time to go yet before anything is released.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Getting Lost Isn’t So Bad

Taste Review #55 – The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 10

Welcome to this week’s whisky review, and we continue to work through my rather large stash of miniatures to bring you tastes throughout Scottish Whisky (and beyond – but not just yet!). This one is a superlative whisky, and I will almost have to call it a unicorn whisky though it is a lot more than that. For this review, the blend I will be reviewing is a blend of several unicorns!

When thinking of the lost distilleries, my mind cast back to one of the more famous, or infamous signs in Aberdeenshire, that of Lost. This road sign has been stolen countless times, to the point that the sign arm is now welded to the pole, and more substantial concrete put around the base. For you that do not know, Lost is actually a farm close to Strathdon, and you could be forgiven for feeling lost when you don’t find anything substantial. There are certainly no distilleries here, although the A944 through Strathdon takes you through the Cairngorms and joins onto the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul Road. Essentially the back door to Speyside going over the ski route to the Lecht resort. With a change of direction at Corgaff towards Braemar opens up the opportunity to visit some of the Perthshire Highland distilleries over another ski-route through Glenshee, officially the highest main road in the U.K.


One of Aberdeenshire’s more famous roadsigns

So, now it is time to refocus on whisky. Why did I pick this dram? As per usual, I was doing my usual troll through the auction sites to see if there was anything worth buying in the bargain basement, and two small samples of this came up, and I got them for an absolute steal given the normal price for the drams.

Let me just list the distilleries that are in this blend.

  • Port Ellen (Islay / to be reopened)
  • Brora (Highland / to be reopened)
  • Glen Mhor (Highland / demolished)
  • Rosebank (Lowland / to be reopened)
  • Caperdonich (Speyside / demolished)
  • Imperial (Speyside / demolished)
  • Mosstowie (Speyside – distilled in now decommissioned Lomond Stills at Miltonduff)
  • Glenisla (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reportedly made at Glen Keith Distillery)
  • Glenlochy (Highland – demolished)
  • Craigduff (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reported to be either Strathisla or Glen Keith)
  • Port Dundas (Lowland – Single Grain Whisky / demolished)

That is some roll call of whisky, so let’s get cracking on it!


The sample

Region

Blend

Age

NAS

Strength

51%

Colour

Golden Straw

Nose

Slightly solvent to begin with – wood polish moving quickly onto vanilla, chocolate, cafe latte, almonds. A hint of smoke

Palate

Oily mouth feel. No large kick considering its strength. Sweet to start with, with raisin and vanilla notes, Toffee building into some spicy oak notes. Light smoke

Finish

Quite long. The spicy oak continues, almost like curry spices. Warm and tempered with a creamy feel. A slightly bitter note at the end.


The Dram

Conclusion

This dram confuses me a bit. There is an impressive roll call of spirit in this dram that is never going to be seen again. Lets face it, even with some of the distilleries being rebuilt will not result in an identical spirit of the past. Given this fact, one has to wonder why they have done this, as the individual character of each malt has been lost. I have to say though, the oily mouth feel made me think of Clynelish, so I am wondering if this is a remnant of the Brora component in this mix.

The solvent and polished oak are clearly from the grain whisky, and given my experience previously with the Invergordon 42 year old excited me a bit, but most of it got lost until the end when a spicy oak built up.

There is an elephant in the room. A 70cl bottle of this dram costs around £350. I hate to say it, but this is not worth that at all. I do realise that you cannot get any of the component parts cheaply at the moment, and in any case, a 70cl bottle of any of them would probably cost as much as this blend. So I’m left feeling kind of lost. I think if I had a chance to buy a blend with lost distilleries in it, I’d more likely be buying a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Ghost.

But my friends, let us find an upbeat note. Master of Malt charge £26.65 for a 3cl nip of this. To me that is still not good value. However, I was lucky enough to pick up 2 of these samples at Whisky Auctioneer for £16.80. Now that is a bargain. Sadly, this blend wasn’t really to my taste, so I may be looking for a new home for the second sample.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider 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. Or join me on my other social media channels below. 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

Whisky Photographs author’s own.

Roadsign to Lost FarmStanley Howe / Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Technical Difficulties

Why normal service isn’t always possible.

In the United Kingdom, we are now into our third week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus. This has caused a mild difficulty for me writing Scotty’s Drams; some of it you may notice and some of it you may not. For those of you who follow my blog through WordPress and not the other social media channels I use will have noticed that sometimes I re-publish pages. There is a good reason for this – the majority of my blog has been written on my phone, but occasionally I choose to type it on a laptop. This is because I can publish an article a lot quicker. For some reason what was on my phone and on my laptop wasn’t matching up and was causing a bit of an issue. It has caused some of the previous blogs to disappear, and I’ve had to republish.

The other slight technical difficulty is trying to monitor the passage of time. Being on lockdown has very much been similar to working offshore where the only way you know the passage of time is either looking at the calendar or by the menu for the day. So this means I am writing my weekend article on a Friday again, as the week has blasted past without me realising I have to put some thoughts down.

Anyway, despite the boredom of lockdown, I have still found myself tied up with various things, and this has meant that I have not written a Saturday Article. I could, but I feel that this would be of lower than normal quality, which is a path that I do not want to go down. However, I have made my third video, which I will give a link below that teaches us how to drink whisky in a very rudimentary way, but covers all the basics – especially the last point! I will do a more serious video later. All I can say is that I am glad I was able to nail the video quickly, as it could have ended up a bit messy! For those on you who do not follow Scotty’s Drams on Facebook, the link to the video is here.

Moving away to something a bit more positive, I often quote from Winston Churchill. Of course, being Scottish I am not a big fan of Winston’s politics or his ideas of empire, but the man also knew how to speak with many famous quotes and orations. One of my favourites was the one he made about how a pessimist sees the difficulties in opportunities and how an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Using modern technology has been great to communicate our love of whisky along with being able to share it, with events on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Being a less than sociable person, I have shied away from these, as they are a bit too impersonal, and if I can’t meet or speak to people in person I’d often not bother joining in – I’d rather enjoy whisky in the immediate company of people. As is so many times the case in the whisky community it is each to their own preferences, and if you can get something out of this, I’d encourage you to take part.

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I hinted that perhaps Scotty’s drams could have a gathering. Of course current events totally blow the chance of that happening right out of the water this year, but I am thinking of perhaps in early spring next year? Let me know your thoughts so I can get an idea of numbers and to what you’d find more beneficial – a city meet up for a night, or a couple of nights in Speyside region, perhaps taking in a distillery tour? Mull it over and let me know so I can formulate a loose plan,

Sorry for the low content of whisky thought this week, but next week will be better. Maybe.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets 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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

What's The Story, Tobermory?

Taste Review #54 – Tobermory 10

The latest review crosses over to the island of Mull. It’s been a while since I’ve done a west coast island that isn’t Islay, and seeing as there is only one distillery on Mull, it is an easy one to cross off the list.

I have a small confession, and this is one that shouldn’t affect things too much. Actually it’s two confessions, but still that shouldn’t matter. Getting the first confession out of the way, Tobermory is a distillery that I have absolutely no experience of at all, but for me that is not a bad thing as my Scotty’s Drams project was all about getting into things I wouldn’t normally drink. I’ll come to the other confession in a wee while.


Tobermory pier and Main Street

What did excite me about this review more than anything else was this was one of the easiest titles to come up with. I do try to make it a little bit witty or to reference something else, or even be a bit risque, though for some reason I had the Oasis song ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory?’ in my head for this entry. However, those of us with young kids should remember the Children’s BBC programme ‘Balamory’ which was based around a fictional island community set in Tobermory. The catchphrase was “What’s the story in Balamory?”. I didn’t want people to think that was my favourite watching. I still prefer Danger Mouse, The Magic Roundabout and Rhubarb and Custard. Damn! I’m showing my age…..

So what is the story in Tobermory? Well, it’s one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been founded in 1798, a date proudly proclaimed on it’s bottle and on the side of the distillery. It was formerly known as Ledaig (pronounced as LetchAIG) and was formally licenced in 1823. It went through a couple of other owners before coming into the hands of Distillers Company Ltd, a fore-runner of Diageo, who closed the distillery in 1930 due to the fall out from prohibition in the USA. The distillery was silent for another 42 years until reopening under the Ledaig Distillery (Tobermory) name in 1972. However, production had to be halted by May 1975, as storage space had run out at the distillery due to delays in a bonded warehouse being built. This eventually caused the loss of 14 jobs, and the distillery went into receivership.

However, all was not lost, and the distillery did reopen in 1979 (which is the year one of my favourite ever songs was released – Are Friends Electric?) but this time under the name of Tobermory Distillers Ltd. This sadly did not last long, and after three years the distillery fell silent again. Some of the bonded warehouses were sold off for conversion into apartments and other storage uses, which made it look as though the days of Tobermory having a distillery where probably slipping away. The early to mid 1980’s were a dark time for Scottish distilleries, and many other more notable sites closed, especially if they were too small or limited in space to modernise, or had higher costs.

Of course, we all know this story has a happy ending, and the distillery opened in 1989, and by the 1993 it was taken over by current owner Burn Stewart, who themselves got taken over in 2013 by the South African company Distell, who also own the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay and the Deanston distillery in the Highland region.


The Distillery at Tobermory

This isn’t a big distillery, and in 2017 it closed for two years for upgrading, but the capacity of the distillery was not altered, and remains at 1,000,000 litres a year. That isn’t a lot, especially when you consider that the distillery also produces two runs – There is the unpeated whisky which is marketed as Tobermory, and the heavily peated whisky known as Ledaig, which is peated to around 30-40ppm. This leads me to my second confession – for a long time, I was under the impression that Ledaig was a separate distillery. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago I realised, even though I’d been collecting whisky on and off since 2006. Well, there you go. Drinking Famous Grouse isn’t my only shame!

It seems going by the distillery web page that there are only currently 4 core bottlings, and the 10 year old that I have to taste for you today seems to have been discontinued. however this has been replaced by a 12 year old. There is also a 42 year old bottling, and on for Ledaig there is a 10 year old and an 18 year old available.

Anyway, writing all this info before I have a sip has given me a mouth as dry as Mother Theresa’s sandals, so let’s move onto the process of getting some whisky down my neck. My wee dram has been airing while I typed this up, so should be fully ready for a tasting.


The bottle

Region

Highland

Age

10 Years Old

Strength

46.3%

Colour

Light gold

Nose

Quite a fruity hit at first with a very active green apple there, followed by malty notes and some creamy vanilla and caramel. Light oak.

Palate

Quite assertive but not overpowering in the arrival. Noted a slight astringency in the development, but all very polite and pleasurable. Fruity, in that there are apples and pears there, perhaps stewed as there is a bit of sweet leading to bitter in the development. The astringency fades and a nutty gingerbread appears, and the start of a maritime note. This is drying on the mouth which leads onto the finish

Finish

Medium to long finish. Very pleasant. I got quite a bit of salt in the start of the finish, with the continuing gingerbread spiciness. Perhaps a bit of star anise as well. Right at the end, a chocolate note develops.


The poured dram

Conclusion

This wouldn’t normally be a go to malt for me, which is a shame, as this was really pleasurable, and I liked the notes I got from this whisky. The main points in my round up would be the fruity aroma, the gingerbread spice which has quite a constant spicy feeling in the mouth, though in a really nice way. It is important to know that I sampled this dram neat, and with being 46.3%, it didn’t seem to be. It was just right and well balanced between spirit and cask. Best news is that I found another sample in my hoard.

I don’t know where this whisky matures, but the maritime notes are there, and although not that strong to begin with, build up quite nicely, but don’t become overpowering. The one thing that concerns me is after I made my notes up for the taste test, I had a look at other notes to see how mine compared. I was surprised to see that people were recording a peat and smoke there. I never got that at all, especially because this is supposed to be an unpeated whisky. However, I wonder if they are experiencing something left over from the production schedule of Ledaig?

I can’t tell you how much this sample cost me, as I bought it at Inverness airport, but I don’t think it was much above £6. However a full bottle will set you back around £50. This in my opinion is a bit much for a 10 year old whisky, but given the enjoyment I got, not unreasonable. However it is discontinued so price may rise. If price is not a concern, then it is a good malt, and scores 4/4 on our ABCD scale – Age statement, Bottling strength of 46.3%, No Chill Filtering, and although it doesn’t mention on the bottle or box that it is not coloured, a bit of research on sites selling it in Germany reveal it is not coloured. This must be a Burn Stewart thing, as the Deanston bottles are similar. Not being subjected to artificial colourings is something that should be shouted out.

If you want something a bit more available and cheaper, I would suggest the Old Pulteney 12, but this has a stronger maritime note.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

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Photo credits

Tobermory Main Street – Tom Parnell. Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

Tobermory Distillery – De Facto – Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

All Other Photos – Author’s Own