Scapa distillery on approach via the coastal path

2017 Whisky adventures part 4: The Orkneys and Scapa

Orkneys – Day 1

The Orkneys have been on the very top of the list of places to visit in Scotland for many years, yet I had never managed to do so – until 2017. It’s way up in the North of Scotland and not exactly easy, or quickly, to get to. If you don’t want to depend on the small aircraft and don’t want to take the overnight ship from Aberdeen, there’s no other way than driving up the beautiful east coast of Scotland, to take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness. That’s the route Jo and myself took in her little sports car, after spending the night in Inverness. The only stop was to enjoy a cuppa tea and a healthy (read: Full Scottish) breakfast along the way at a little tea room in Dunbeath.

The ferry ride over to the “Mainland”, the name of the largest of the Orkney Isles, was rather unspectacular. The vessel took the longer, more sheltered route due to the rough sea. What started out as a rainy, cold day, actually turned into a quite pleasant and partly sunny day, when we disembarked the MV Hamnavoe in Stromness. Being the gringos we were, we decided to “head into town” first. Well, the streets in Stromness were seemingly built for horse-drawn carriages, not for cars. Very narrow streets, and people staring at us. Thank god Maizy is a very small sports car, so we did manage to find our way out of town and onto the main road.

 

Arriving at Stromness

Arriving at Stromness

With time to kill before checking in at the youth hostel in Kirkwall, a detour to the prehistoric village of Skara Brae was a welcome change. We had spent many hours in the car and on board the vessel. Definitely worth the visit, the place has a kind of magical feeling about it that’s hard to put into words. Starting the visit on the island(s) by getting a sense of the history of the place gets you grounded and excited for more! Enjoying a wee dram in the dunes isn’t a bad start to that leg of the journey as well. Continue reading

G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French Whisky

Tasting: G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French Whisky

G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS French WhiskyDram data:
Distillery: G.Rozelieures
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: –
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Ex-Sauternes
Alcohol: 40%
unknown chill filtration / colouring
Whiskybase link

France is the biggest importer of Scotch whisky in Europe – but as a whisky-producing country it’s relatively unknown, except to insiders. I certainly have never heard of the G Rozelieures products from the Lorraine region before, until blogging colleague Franck from lecavedecobalt.com asked me whether I wanted to try their wares. Oh yes, I don’t mind if I do! Peated French whisky, distilled from self-grown, local barley and double-distilled in traditional French “Cognac style” stills, that does sound interesting!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 orange gold
The nose is definitely smoky, no doubt about that! I would call it cold bonfire smoke, rather than your typical Scottish peat, but that might just be due to the type of peat being used – and the strong wine-cask influence trailing the peat! Smoky, sweet grapes, slightly bitter grape seeds and hulls, gooseberries, mirabelles, light, fresh kitchen herbs, a touch of cracked pepper, orange peel and a hint of soap. Interestingly enough, this reminds me strongly of the Lost Spirits Bohemian Bonfire – which was also matured in French casks. Quite interesting and fresh, definitely not your typical whisky by any stretch of the imagination! Very hard to score, but I do see it slightly above average compared to my average benchmark whiskies. Continue reading

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead's alternative tasting

2017 Whisky adventures part 3: Campbeltown malts festival Glengyle open day

After enjoying a very sunny, hot, relaxing Springbank open day, the third and last day of the Campbeltown whisky festival was on: Glengyle open day. Boy, what a day it was going to be, filled with events and tasting after tasting! Let’s just say this up front: There were those who had sample bottles (including yours truly) and there were those who didn’t… ahem.

First breakfast

With a whole day’s worth of dramming in front of the six of us, a fully cooked Scottish breakfast, enjoyed outside in the sunshine, was just what we all needed to get going. Okay, we never had anything else for breakfast, but, hey, any excuse, right?
Soon enough it was time to call a taxi (no walking this time!) for a ride into town – for the first event of the day:

Second breakfast – alternative tasting

The folks at Cadenhead’s are well-known for bottling fine whisky, but they’re also bottling Gin, Rum and Cognac, and that’s what the (m)alternative tasting with chief booze flogger (inofficial title I just made up!) Mark Watt was all about. After tasting the standard Old Raj gin (which went very well with the tonic water on the table – kidding, it’s a very good gin!), we were in for a treat: A cask-matured gin! They filled a firkin with very high ABV gin (someone ignored or forgot orders to dilute before casking…) which apparently led to a bizarre situation when Mark poured samples straight from the cask for a few visitors. Whilst Mark thought it had “a bit of a kick”, allegedly some of the guys were gasping for air… Sadly we did not get to taste this 92,3% ABV version, but a “slightly” watered down one – which was still very impressive – and didn’t agree with tonic water at all. A gin for sipping on its own!
Moving on, we got two samples of a 30yo and a 50yo Cognac from the Distillerie Charpentier in the Petit Champagne. Both were very excellent “Cognacs for whisky drinkers”. Personally, I liked the 30yo a tad more – it just had a bit more going on, but both were really, really good and have since been released (and probably sold out now).
At the end of the tasting we finally tapped into the Rum supply, with the first one being the “Classic Rum” (which I thought was okay, but it didn’t really connect with me), and the second one an 18yo Caroni. Such a gritty, dirty, oily, greasy (think tampered-with German diesel engines) dram – but in a really good way! Also probably sold out worldwide by now, sorry. This tasting highlighted the quality of “malternative” distillates out there – it definitely pays off to look at other (and, these days, more affordable) spirits as well. I mean, a 50yo Cognac for 135£… that’s a steal!

Sniffy and Islay enjoying the (m)alternative tasting

Sniffy and Islay enjoying the (m)alternative tasting

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead's alternative tasting

Mark Watt leading the Cadenhead’s alternative tasting

Continue reading

Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Tasting: Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Convalmore
Bottler: Cadenhead
Distilled: 1977
Bottled: 2017
Age: 40 yo
Limitation: 522 bottles
Casks: Butt
Alcohol: 56,8%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Another whisky in the stunning lineup to celebrate Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary! I only have a very small sample left, so I’ll make the best of it to get my first tasting notes for a Convalmore up!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is still surprisingly vibrant and alive for a 40 yo whisky! Definitely not an overoaked, dead dram (hey, I’ve seen it happen, they usually come in crystal decanters and expensive lacquered boxes!)! A massive waft of orange peel up front, mixed with gooseberries, apricots, mangos, sweet grapes, pickled ginger – let’s call it a seasonal (summery) fruit basket. But there’s more to it! A few mint leaves rubbed onto a lacquered oak box (ahem) held together by a leather belt, a cinnamon stick and a pinch of ground allspice. Noses more like a 25 yo whisky at first, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, does it? Give it time and time and time again, and it settles down, with the fruity notes getting darker / more condensed. Continue reading

Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDW

Tasting: Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDW

Westland single malt cask 397 for LMDWDram data:
Distillery: Westland
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: Summer 2016
Age: NAS
Limitation: 232 bottles
Casks: #397
Alcohol: 54,4%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

It’s the 4th of July – Independence day in the US. Why not taste something different then? Like a single cask American single malt? Sounds good? Let’s go!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light maple syrup
The nose is quite different from your usual American whiskey – no wonder, it’s all malted barley. Quite a whiff of alcohol (with menthol) at the beginning. When it does fade a bit (it never goes away completely), the nose is met with loads of oak cask goodness – caramel, liquorice and maple syrup. A sneaky chunk of toffee has also found its way into the glass. There’s more lurking in the background behind the bold, big flavours. A whiff of cask smoke, fresh ginger and herbal cough syrup. Very oak-forward and only the freshness and alcoholic kick remain from the distillate, but every bit as enjoyable (if not more) as a high-quality bourbon of a similar, young age. With water, an additional component emerges – fresh, sweet flower petals! Interesting!   Continue reading

Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead's

Tasting: Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead’s

Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Jura
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1986
Bottled: 2016
Age: 30 years
Limitation: 66 bottles
Casks: Bourbon Barrel
Alcohol: 42,5%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

That sample took a while to reach me! It went from Salzburg to Vienna, was forgotten and finally found its way into my hands at its bottling place, Campbeltown, this May, only for me to bring it back to Austria to finally taste it. Apparently, it’s a very good Jura (which you can’t say of all whiskies by this distillery), so I’m very much looking forward to giving it a go!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is rather promising. Rich and properly aged with quite a noticeable oak influence, but not too much. We’ve got an oak storage cupboard with a slight layer of waxy varnish and quite a few kinds of fruit – dried bananas, dried peaches, dried pineapple, tinned lychees, sweet red apples, rhubarb some pickled ginger. Add to that a hint of orange peel, honey and a box of tutti frutti. This is unlike most Juras I’ve tasted – the spirit has been taken over by the cask in a very advantageous way. Continue reading

That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

2017 Whisky adventures part 2: Campbeltown malts festival Springbank open day

Springbank Open Day

After an, err, somewhat late start to the day (see the previous post to find out the reason why) for some people in our cottage, it was time for us to head into town for the first time that day, to celebrate the act of… queuing for festival bottles! Hooray! Err… yeah, something like that. Why do all whisky festivals seem to revolve around queuing for bottles of whisky? And what a big queue it was for a “wee toon”. As it turned out, we did not arrive a minute too early, and enduring a bit of a drizzle in between was worth it. Everybody in our group got the bottles we wanted, after being admitted into the tent of devil’s juice by the head bouncer Mark! Glad we had Jo at hand to tease him into letting us in! Just as we grabbed our bottles and left the courtyard, the announcement of the first sold-out whisky (a triple-distilled Kilkerran) was made. Quite a few people missed out that day – and it’s a bloody shame to see festival bottles bought by fierce killers ruthless flippers being flogged at auction by the time I’m writing this post in late June. Sign of the times, malt mates!

Queues! Everybody loves queues!

Queues! Everybody loves queues!

That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

That bouncer seems to be a funny fella!

Continue reading

Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited release

Tasting: Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited release

Bladnoch Samsara NAS limited releaseDram data:
Distillery: Bladnoch
Bottler: Official bottling
Distilled: – (2009 or before)
Bottled: 25.04.2017
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Californian red wine and bourbon casks
Alcohol: 46,7%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

During the last 2 decades, the future of the lowlands Bladnoch distillery in Wigtown looked very grim – twice. Once before it was purchased by Irishman Raymond Armstrong and family (who initially wanted to turn it into housing) and for the second time when it went into receivership a few years back. It looked like it was gone for good – but then Australian yoghurt entrepreneur David Prior purchased the place – and is now essentially gutting the interiors, building a new distillery in the old buildings, to be restarted soon. To bide them over until they can sell their own spirit, they are tapping into the old stocks maturing at the distillery, made by either of the previous owners. This NAS “Samsara” expression is made up of stock distilled during the Armstrong era, making it at least 8 or 9 years old, as the distillery hasn’t produced anything since 2009. I quite liked expressions created during the Armstrong ownership, so I’m curious to find out what the new owners have created from the old stock!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red gold
The nose is Bladnoch-y with a twist. It starts off fresh, with citrus, bananas, red and green apples showing off the spirit style. But there’s more, the influence of the red wine casks is very apparent. Bitter grape peel, slightly acidic dry wine, wine gums, an old banana, green grass, sweat and spices – cinnamon and cloves. Hmmm. Hmmmm…. Wine maturation of whisky can go many ways, and while the wine casks don’t overpower the distillery character, I’ve always found Bladnoch to work best in plain ex-bourbon casks or sometimes the odd sherry butt (the ones with quite a bit of sherry oomph). This feels like a whisky of two hearts, with the different flavour profiles almost fighting each other. Not bad, and there might be a few people who see themselves drawn to that style, but it doesn’t really do it for me. Continue reading

Spot the odd one!

2017 Whisky adventures part 1: Campbeltown malts festival

This year’s whisky adventure turned out to be more of a whisky roadtrip. In the end it would lead me (as the designated drinker) and my malt mate Jo (designated driver) on a 1808 mile round trip from the south of England to the Orkneys and back.

To Scotland!

Having flown into Heathrow the day before, and staying the night at my friend’s house in Gloucestershire, our first day had a very early start. Getting up and having breakfast at 4:30 a.m. was the right thing to do, since it turned out the Mazda MX5 took quite a bit of packing finesse to accommodate all the stuff two adult people need for two weeks on the road! Finally leaving at 6 a.m. sharp and taking a few stops in between for lunch, tea, more tea and beer at Loch Fyne, we finally arrived in the middle of nowhere in Campbeltown at a few minutes past 6 p.m. Great driving, Jo!
Jo and I were, however, not alone for that part of our trip, we had booked a cottage on a working farm for 6 people (go ask me about the drama regarding accommodation booking when you meet me in person!). Since Jo and I were the last ones to arrive (having driven the longest distance of all!), our house mates and good friends Justine, Viva, Flo and Stefan were already waiting for us. The group, also called the #referendrams, were finally assembled and ready to rumble dram! Pizza, beer, drams and laughter were on the agenda for the rest of the day/evening. The next day, the Campbeltown malts festival would officially begin and we were as excited as little kids when the circus comes to town!

Fill the cart! We've got hungry people to feed!

Fill the cart! We’ve got hungry people to feed!

 

Continue reading

Banff 1976 40 yo - Cadenhead's 175th anniversary

Tasting: Banff 1976 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Banff 1976 40 yo - Cadenhead's 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Banff
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1976
Bottled: 2017
Age: 40
Limitation: 192 bottles
Casks: ex-bourbon hogshead
Alcohol: 51,2%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

This 40 yo Banff, distilled in 1976, was part of the 175th anniversary bottling by the independend bottler Cadenhead’s, and we got the chance to try it during the matching tasting with Mark Watt during the Campbeltown whisky festival 2017. I liked what I tasted (I had it at a tie with the Rosebank), so I brought most of the sample home for a proper tasting session. Let’s do this!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 coppery gold
The nose is anything but weak – still going strong after 40 years in a hoggie! What did they do differently in the 70s? Many drams from that era (even ones bottled at a relatively young age) have such a rich, fruity, waxy palate that has rarely been produced since. We’ve got orange peel, waxed red apples, tinned peaches and tangerines, brown banana, banana bread, strawberries in milk chocolate. In short: a complex, rich summer fruit salad served on sweet bread. (Please, hipsters, don’t make that a thing!). Oak, you ask? Well… just a smidgen of oak influence and a light generic herbal note holding everything together in the background, but this is mostly distillate and age talking here. With extended time in the glass, the herbal notes intensify a bit.

Continue reading