Author Archives: MaltKlaus

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Brora distillery

Brora, Port Ellen and Rosebank revived? A new era begins!

Brora distillery

Brora distillery

This week something unprecedented happened in the whisky world. Three “lost”, disused, in some cases partly or even completely dismantled distilleries are in the process being resurrected. Not one, three!

On Monday, Diageo announced it would invest 35 million GBP to rebuild / revive the now legendary Port Ellen and Brora distilleries. The news took everybody by surprise and created a lot of buzz amongst whisky lovers around the world. Not to be outdone, Ian MacLeod distillers (Tamdhu, Glengoyne), announced, they would also be reviving the – also mothballed and partly dismantled – Rosebank distillery.

Distilleries have shut down, been mothballed, dismantled and sold – and sometimes restarted ever since the invention of distillation, but this is taking things to a new level. There is a Scotch whisky boom going on and companies are reaching for the stars. Distilleries are getting expanded left and right, new gigafactories for malt whisky production emerge from the ground like mushrooms – even more so the hard to keep track of group of new (and old) entrepreneurs starting new, smaller whisky distilling enterprises all over Scotland and beyond. The next, logical step in this industry-wide capacity-crave is the rebuilding/revival of legendary distilleries – and the start of a new era.

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Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006

Tasting: Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006Dram data:
Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: 2006
Bottled: 2012
Age: ca. 6 yo
Limitation: 7650
Casks: –
Alcohol: 50%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

By golly – it’s been over a week since my last post – I’m losing steam, and that’s not helped by the – yawn – constant PR onslaught of ever more expensive and ever more marketing-driven whiskies where one is less interesting than the previous one to the malt whisky veteran…
Right, that’s enough, Klaus, time to stop lamenting and do something. How about this nice bottle of Bruichladdich from the personal archives? Yes, that’ll do nicely!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 golden straw
At roughly 6 years of age, this is still a young dram, but the nose reveals a nice and fitting balance of spirit and cask (probably mostly fresh ex-bourbon casks). The two dominant flavours are vanilla and – bere! I was on Orkney earlier this year and brought back a pack of bere flour. I’ve been experimenting with it a bit, so it is easy to detect the very distinct, sweet, bready, malty flavour, which is 10x the intensity of “normal” malting barley. These two main aromas are supported by those of wet millstones, aged orange peel, toasted bannocks and just a pinch of kitchen spices. A rather simple, clean nose, but it’s the nuances and the malt influence that make it interesting – and make it work! Continue reading

Laphroaig 2006 - 2013 7 yo by Cooper's Choice

Tasting: Laphroaig 2006 – 2013 7 yo by Cooper’s Choice

Laphroaig 2006 - 2013 7 yo by Cooper's ChoiceDram data:
Distillery: Laphroaig
Bottler: Cooper’s Choice
Distilled: 2006
Bottled: 22.04.2013
Age: 7 yo
Limitation: 750
Casks: cask 1340
Alcohol: 46%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

We had something very old for the last review – how about something very young this time around? Young Laphroaigs can be very interesting, so let’s crack this sample open!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 pale white wine
Big, phenolic peat up front on the nose with a touch of freshly roasted coffee smoke on warm, sugared shortbread (baked with a pinch of vanilla). A nice amount of minerality (crushed shells) is to be found in the background. A no-frills, young, spirit-driven Laphroaig, just the way that style should be. Continue reading

Dufftown 1979-2010 "The Golden Cask"

Tasting: Dufftown 1979-2010 “The Golden Cask”

Dufftown 1979-2010 "The Golden Cask"Dram data:
Distillery: Dufftown
Bottler: The house of MacDuff
Distilled: 1979
Bottled: 2010
Age: ca. 31
Limitation: 395
Casks: Sherry Butt CM156
Alcohol: 51,5%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

People save special whiskies for special occasions, but sometimes it’s drinking a special whisky on an ordinary day that makes for a special occasion. It’s not every day you get to drink a 1979 Dufftown (or any indie Dufftowns, for that matter…), so let’s see if this malt does indeed make this mundane evening special!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 mahogany
Big, bold, dry Oloroso sherry on the nose. Boom. That was to be expected, looking at the colour of the whisky. Huge sherry, European oak and, hello? Where’s the spirit character? Doesn’t really knock me off my socks initially, to be honest, but let’s dive deeper and give it some time! We’ve got liquorice, wood polish, an oak wood tray filled with herbs (including wormwood) and propolis sprinkled on top, distilled plums and cherries, with cherry stone bitterness. The distillate and alcohol give a quite noticeable, fresh, zesty top note. This does nose more like a 10 to 15-year-old whisky filled into very active Sherry casks rather than something from 1979. With a few drops of water, the lighter alcoholic and citrus notes gain influence. Let’s check the palate! Continue reading

Amrut NAS BA24-2016 by Blackadder

Tasting: Amrut NAS BA24-2016 by Blackadder

Amrut NAS BA24-2016 by BlackadderDram data:
Distillery: Amrut
Bottler: Blackadder
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2016
Age: NAS
Limitation: 172
Casks: Ex-bourbon BA24-2016
Alcohol: 61,4%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Some bottlers bottle their whisky heavily filtered and heavily coloured, some don’t filter and don’t add colouring – and then there’s Blackadder. Their “raw cask” series even puts bits of charred oak (and, in this case, a string of hessian bung cloth(?) into the bottle. Let’s take a look at this example from the Indian Amrut distillery – if I can manage to pour a “not too crunchy” dram from the bottle, that is – I have misplaced my strainer…

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 dark copper red
The nose has quite a lot of alcohol up front – obviously. The nose needs a few seconds to adapt to that. Once we’ve cut through the alcohol layer, a spicy charred cask character awaits us. Burnt fudge, chocolate-covered vanilla caramel, allspice, turmeric and toasted cask. It feels “warm” and satisfying in a way. I have sniffed freshly delivered ex-bourbon barrels in Scotland, which didn’t nose too dissimilar. With water the alcoholic top note disappears into the background, revealing more of the aromas – let there be dried oranges and pickled ginger. On to the palate!

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Tasting: Eden Mill Burns Day 2017 2-yo spirit

Dram data:
Distillery: Eden Mill
Bottler: Original Bottling
Distilled: 2015
Bottled: 2017
Age: 2 yo
Limitation: 500 20 cl bottles
Casks: US Virgin Oak
Alcohol: 43%
uncoloured
Whiskybase link

It’s always fun to taste spirit which can not yet be named whisky because it’s too young. This sample at hand comes from the young Eden Mill distillery in St. Andrews, which I visited in June 2017. I took a sample with me to assess in my usual tasting environment.

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light gold
The nose is an obvious vanilla bomb, thanks to the quarter cask virgin oak casks being used. Custard cream and flambeed vanilla pudding meet fresh oak juice. Whoa, that’s intense at just 2 years of age. In the background you can still nose the fresh new make and only a slight metallic note, but the oak has really taken over already. Actually, I’m impressed how clean this noses at just 2 years. Also in the background is a caramel and malty note which I would at least in part attribute to the (for a Scotch) very unusual grain bill, including Crystal and Brown malt. There’s a herbal, spicy side to it as well – fresh juniper berries and allspice, I’d say. Actually, this reminds me of a vanilla-flavoured winter warmer tea with an added shot of alcohol. Quite a bit strange and unconventional, but they are in their experimentation phase right now!   Continue reading

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

2017 Whisky adventures part 6: Fife – Lindores Abbey, Eden Mill, Artisan and more!

Just a few years ago, when I first travelled to Scotland, Fife was pretty much non-existent on modern whisky maps, even the rogue farm distillery at Daftmill was only known to a handful of geeks. These days it could count as a whisky region of its own, with quite a few new distilleries starting up. Amongst them is the first stop of the day for Jo and myself – Lindores Abbey.
Sit back, pour yourself a dram and join us on the journey!

Lindores Abbey

Et per liberacionem factam fratri Johanni Cor per preceptum compotorum rotulatoris, ut asserit, de mandato domini regis ad faciendum aquavite infra hoc compotum, viii bolle brasii.

“To Friar John Cor, 8 bolls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae for the King.”

The date was 1st of June, 1494, and this phrase is to be found on a piece of parchment, an Exchequer Roll. It marks the first recorded history of distillation of “aqua vitae” in Scotland, the “water of life”, the unaged equivalent of what we call “new make” today before it goes into casks.
523 years later, to the day, Jo and I are given a very warm welcome by Drew McKenzie Smith, Managing Director and Gary, distillery manager, at the gates of the former Lindores Abbey on Lindores Farm, in the possession of Drew’s family for over 100 years. Distillation is about to be resumed at the time of writing (August 2017), at what they call the “spiritual home of Scotch Whisky”. Now, we’ve seen a lot of new distillery projects these past few years and everybody tries to find a unique story, a unique selling point, some so far-fetched it’s borderline comical, but the same can not be said about this place. Actually, the project has been (on and off) in the making for many years, way before the current distillery boom had started.

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

Lindores Abbey distillery, as seen from the abbey

The new distillery is being built across the road from the abbey’s remains, where formerly farm buildings – built from Abbey stone – stood. It might not be visible anymore today, but digs carried out when constructing the distillery, revealed the ground where the distillery now stands once was part of the abbey itself, which was founded in 1191 by Benedictine monks from the Order of Tiron. The monks were known for medicinal skills and horticulture and the abbey grounds once were home to an impressive orchard – about 3000 fruit trees can still be found in town, originating from the Abbey’s orchards. Now, why is this important? Every new distillery project needs an income stream before they can sell whisky after a minimum waiting time of three years and a day. Many sell products like gin, vodka or young whisky, or even new make. Drew’s vision for Lindores is slightly different and a clever integration of the site’s heritage: He plans to sell aqua vitae, which once was new make improved with all sorts of herbs (and honey). The visitor’s centre will feature an apothecary where visitors will be able to create their own version of it, with Lindores new make and selected (some even locally grown) herbs. They also plan on selling a commercial aqua vitae. Depending on how their own spirit matures and how well sales of the spirit product are, the first whisky release is planned to occur at about 5 years of age. The sale of aqua vitae is not the only homage to the distillery’s past, there will be a refactorium, used as a dining area, with huge, rustic oak banquet tables, for instance, and more details for visitors to explore during a visit. Continue reading

Stillhouse at Highland Park

2017 Whisky adventures part 5: The Orkneys and Highland Park

Orkneys day 3

Preparing breakfast in the Kirkwall youth hostel (a cooked full-Scottish one, of course), Jo and I could already see the first destination for our last full day on the Orkneys in the distance: Up on the hill on the other side of Kirkwall, smoke emerged from the pagodas of the Highland Park distillery. Having heard many good stories from delighted visitors, this distillery was high up on my “bucket list” for a long time. Now, as some of you know, I’ve voiced my criticism about Highland Park before, especially concerning a few of the rather expensive and marketing-driven, “collectable” releases of the past years. A distillery almost hidden behind a thick layer of branding, like a veil. Marketing aside, the distillery produces a great distillate and by visiting I was hoping I would get to lift the veil, to see the “real” Highland Park. So, I was excited and ready to have my preconceptions shattered!

My designated driver Jo - with Highland Park in the distance up on the hill

My designated driver Jo – with Highland Park in the distance up on the hill. Selfie courtesy of Jo.

Highland Park distillery

Obligatory picture by the distillery sign

Obligatory picture by the distillery sign

Upon striding through the iron gate bearing the distillery’s name, one can see the immaculate state the distillery is kept in. Impressive stone-wall buildings, flowers everywhere, the place is kept to impress, as is the stylish, dark, themed visitor’s centre. Thanks to an arrangement by Nicola (shout out!) we were set to go on a separate tour, led by Mark, joined by a visiting group of distributors. When you’re trying to get a feel for a place and get as much information as possible for an article, it’s always good to get the extra time for pictures, questions and sticking your nose into places and things. It also helps when the tour is held by a knowledgeable person, which Mark certainly turned out to be!

Our designated guide, Mark

Our designated guide, Mark

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Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Tasting: Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary

Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversaryDram data:
Distillery: Caperdonich
Bottler: Cadenhead
Distilled: 1977
Bottled: 2017
Age: 39 yo
Limitation: 462 bottles
Casks: Butt
Alcohol: 50,4%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

This is the last one in the trilogy of whiskies distilled in the 1970s at now “lost distilleries”, bottled for the 175th anniversary of the independent bottler Cadenhead’s. Unlike the Convalmore, I’ve got a slightly bigger sample, so let’s give it a thorough taste!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 mahogany
This is the most heavily sherried whisky of this release! The nose is immediately filled with deep, dark, bold aromas. Oak floorboard polished with wax (but not too oaky!), liquorice, cherry and plum syrup, herbal Swiss cough drops rubbed in allspice and forgotten for a few years in a rusty tin box. In fact, can I please call this a fruity cough syrup for grown ups? In a good way, of course! Not much sweetness going on, which is good, but the cask is definitely strong and not much distillery character remains – which is to be expected from a sherry monster of such a calibre. Still a very good balance between oak and fruit, this has not yet gone overboard! Let’s check the palate!  Continue reading

Ledaig 10 yo

Tasting: Ledaig 10 yo

Ledaig 10 yoDram data:
Distillery: Tobermory
Bottler: original bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2015
Age: 10 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 46,2%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

I’ve reviewed quite a lot of “special” whiskies lately – it’s time to look at the “daily dram” category again. This one fits the bill nicely, affordable, and presented the way we like it (no chill filtration, no fake colour). Oh, and it’s been called “the new Ardbeg” by some. Let’s verify that claim!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 green barley
The nose is just how I like a relatively young, heavily peated dram to be! Peat bonfire smoke (is that even a thing?) up front, like a South coast Islay, with phenols, dirty oil rags and a hint of iodine. Well, no wonder, since the malt is supplied from the Port Ellen maltings on Islay. It is, however, not only just smoke and a whole lot of nothing – there’s more going on! Fresh ginger, pepper and eucalyptus provide a welcome punch, after which sweeter notes start to appear. There are hints of fudge, vanilla, sugar-coated shortbread and a touch of flowering herbs. Vibrant, kicking, young, yet with a good balance, I can see why people compare it to Ardbeg 10. Continue reading