Tag Archives: whisky

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

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

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

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

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