Archive for August, 2009


I recently purchased miniature (50ml) bottles of Chivas Regal 12, The Glenlivet 12, and Glenfiddich 12 so that I could compare the three and see if any one of them stands out as an entry level value for a “light” whisky. When I call them “entry level” whiskies, I mean that in two ways. First is price. I can get Chivas for $20 and the ‘livet for $26. The ‘fiddich 12 has gone up recently in Phoenix, and now goes for $35, but it used to be closer to the Glenlivet. The other way you might consider these to be entry level whiskies is in the approachability of the flavor. All three are very light drinks, and are significantly less imposing on scotch newbies than, say, something from Islay. For this comparison, I was especially curious about the Chivas Regal 12 given the lower price (at least locally), and wondered if it could stand up to the single malts.

Three miniatures

Three miniatures

Tasting notes

On the nose, all three start out at with a common base of apples and pairs, with the Chivas perhaps offering up some peaches as well. All three are also sweet, but they diverge here, with Glenfiddich reminding me of brown sugar, Chivas Regal being more caramel/butterscotch, and the Glenlivet having a lighter honey sweetness. The Glenlivet also stands out as being more floral (and a bit more lively) than the other two. The Glenfiddich seems to have a maltiness, and perhaps a little bit of mixed nuts that I didn’t notice in the others.

The palate is pretty tame for all three. The Glens retained their fruit flavor, and the malty flavor from the Glenfiddich nose is evident in the mouth for both. The Chivas Regal seems to be more on the sweet side in the mouth, with the caramel/butterscotch continuing. I’m also getting what I perceive to be a walnut-like bitterness with both the Glenfiddich and the Chivas. Once again, I feel like The Glenlivet is just a touch more lively, with the Chivas being the weakest.

On the finish, there’s nothing to write home about for any of these. The finish just isn’t where it’s at for these whiskies. Once again, the Chivas is the weakest. It just goes away as soon as you swallow it. The malt flavor on the two Glens comes up through the nostrils a bit, as does the floral element on the Glenlivet.


As you might have guessed from my notes, I didn’t find any of these to be “remarkable.” However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I thought all three were very pleasant on the nose, and they were extremely easy to drink. All three have a very light profile that makes them suitable for any time of day. Being into whisky as a hobby, I’ve got a pretty good stock at home, and I don’t plan to rush out and buy any of these. However, if I find myself killing time in an airport lounge some afternoon, I won’t hesitate to order any of these three easy drinkers.

I don’t intend to fill out full “Quick Take” report cards for these three. Especially since I only have miniatures, so I can’t do extensive, multi-day analysis. However, these fit perfectly into the C+/B- range in my rating system. They’re enjoyable drinks, but somewhat forgettable. Based on palate/finish, the Chivas is the most quickly forgotten. For my tastes, the Glenlivet stood out slightly above the others just because it seemed a little more lively and interesting. I’ll go ahead and throw out some rating numbers and notes on value:

  • Chivas Regal 12 – 79/100 (Value: Seems like a good deal at $20, but I’d shell out the extra $7 for the Glenlivet)
  • Glenfiddich 12 – 80/100 (Value: Not sure what the deal is with the current local price. For $5 more, I’d definitely purchase the 15 year over this)
  • The Glenlivet 12 – 81/100 (Value: Hard to go wrong with this at $27)

Other opinions

Rather than posting a bunch of links for all three whiskies, I’ll just point you to a YouTube video review for each one. You won’t have any problem finding other opinions with a Google search.

  • The Glenlivet 12 [IslayScotchWhisky]
  • Glenfiddich 12 [ralfystuff] – Ralfy also reviewed The Glenlivet 12 here.
  • Chivas Regal 12 [peatluvr]

Read Full Post »

Here’s a new press release from Bruichladdich announcing the release of Organic 2003 “Culblair Farm” edition, with a UK Retail price of £39. It’s bottled at 46%, and there will be 15,000 bottles made available. It says “Anns An T-seann Doigh” on the label, which is Gaelic for “in the traditional way.” All of the barley used is Scottish grown, with 50% produced at 15 farms on Islay. I’m not completely sure what to make of this one, but it will be interesting to see the reviews.

Would the fact that it’s organic and uses Scottish-grown (and lots of Islay-grown) barley influence your buying decision?

Organic Developments for Islay Distiller

The first ever organic Islay single malt whisky has been released to coincide with the opening of a new island barley facility for farmers and Bruichladdich distillery.

Bruichladdich has released the world’s first organic Islay single malt whisky on the day the Hebridean island’s first grain facility opened  – in time for this year’s barley harvest.

This is the ultimate “single”, single malt (single farm, harvest, variety and vintage) distilled from Chalice barley grown by William Rose at Culblair in summer of 2003.

This first organic bottling represents the direction Bruichladdich has been going since it was reopened in 2001. Unparalleled Scottish provenance, quality, variety and traceability.

Duncan McGillivray, manager of the privately-owned distillery, said: “it’s the way is used to be – ultimate authenticity – real people, real places, real character. That’s what we’re about”

All Bruichladdich whisky is naturally bottled at the distillery in the island’s only bottling hall at 46% alc/vol with Islay spring water – chill-filtration and colouring-free.

The Octofad facility (weighbridge, unloading area, drying house and storage) means each of the 15 Islay farm’s harvests can be kept separate until ready for malting later in the year.

“Being able to dry our barley “off the field” makes harvesting logistics less frantic, less risky and more efficient. With the current poor weather it is not a moment too soon”

“Environmentally too, by trucking one load of ‘green’ barley to the maltings at Bairds, and returning with one load of ‘malted’ barley means less of a footprint.”

“We’re very proud; it’s the culmination of a great team effort. People thought we were mad, perhaps we are, but the taste makes it all worth while; the proof is in the pudding.”

Bruichladdich Organic 2003

Bruichladdich Organic 2003

Read Full Post »

Hot on the heals heels [Doh!] of the Port Charlotte PC8 release, Mark Reynier has sent out this press release for Infinity 3. This is another multi-vintage release, like the 3D3 that I recently reviewed. It’s bottled at 50%, and is said to have a slightly higher peating level than the Infinity 2 release, which I believe was in the 18-20 ppm range. So this is not going to be as peaty as the 3D3, and certainly not as peaty as PC8, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just different. I’m back to wanting a nice sampler of these latest Bruichladdich releases. 🙂

If you happen upon this page and have tried either of the first two Infinity releases, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

To Infinity and Beyond

Infinity was created to showcase the great length of palate associated with Bruichladdich. This bottling, the third in the series, makes the ideal digestif.

Jim McEwan, Bruichladdich’s head distiller, started his whisky career 45 years ago as a cooper rising to be master of that trade; he knows all there is to know about casks.

That knowledge, together with his renown distilling experience, has led to the creation of Infinity 3, from casks specifically chosen out of over 35,000 maturing in our warehouses.

Quercus Alba, better known as American oak, is the standard for Bourbon production then whisky aging.  But unusually, in this case, the association is not US but entirely with Spain.

Only Spanish grown Quercus Alba – refill Sherry and Ribero (tempranillo) casks – were used for this multi-vintage Bruichladdich, drawn from several ages, styles and peat levels.

The peatiness has been upped slightly over the two original bottlings, stocks of which are now exhausted. This is a general release, stocks are expected to last until 2011/12.

The brief for this decidedly personal cuvée was to produce a complex, multi-layered malt with a provocatively infinite finish: the ideal digestif dram – mellow, rich, spice and fruit.

Infinity 3 - Multi-vintage release

Infinity 3 - Multi-vintage release

Read Full Post »


I’ve been reading up on iPhone development, and finally got around to creating something this weekend instead of just reading about it. It’s a pretty simple application, which is good, as it will allow me to get experience with the end-to-end iPhone App Development process fairly quickly. The purpose of Easy ABVs (as in “Alcohol by Volume”) is to help me quickly calculate how much alcohol I’m taking in (and keep myself in check), and to determine how much water to add in order to bring a whisky down to a particular ABV. I got the basic application working this weekend. I still need to make it “pretty”, and hook up the settings tab.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a Part 2 with pictures and details of my cleaned-up application. I’ve handed it out to a few people, but haven’t gone through the effort of putting it on the App Store, as I’m not sure it would appeal to a whole lot of people. I do use it now and then…mainly to figure out final ABV when adding water to a cask-strength whisky, or to figure out how much water to add so that I’m comparing at the same ABV in a head-to-head tasting.

Functionality and design

Easy ABVs Preview

Easy ABVs Preview

I want to be able to enter in the ABV of a whisky and the size of a pour, and immediately see how much pure alcohol I’m going to be taking in. In addition to having text boxes for data entry, I wanted to provide sliders. This way I can do everything one-handed using my thumb to control the application. With the sliders, I can also play around with different values easily, and scan the results as they’re updated in real time. I mean really…how much am I going to use this thing if I have to set my drink down to use it, or if it takes me a while to enter the data? 🙂

I started out with the original ABV and volume at the top, as these are the starting data points for the calculations. It makes visual sense to go from top to bottom, right? The problem with this is that my hand ends up being over the bottom of the screen while I’m setting the values, and I have to move it to see the results. I decided it was much more useable with the data entry at the bottom and the output at the top. I also added a “swap” button next to the “Add Water” text box. This moves the Add Water value up into the calculations panel and the Final ABV down to the data entry area. Now I can select a specific ABV and have the application calculate how much water to add.

Next step

Next weekend, I’ll look into creating a background image for the calculations panel (I wish I had at least a LITTLE artistic talent). I also need to create the settings tab view. I want to allow customization of the min/max ranges of the sliders, and the default values. I thought I’d also add support for switching between US and UK modes, with the US mode showing proof and US drink units. I also want to go through the process of trying to add it into the App Store, just to see what that experience is like. I’ll post an update when I’ve completed the application.

Video Demo

Read Full Post »

Press release from Bruichladdich

This just came from Mark Reynier at Bruichladdich. I was impressed with Bruichladdich 3D3 (bottled in 2006) in my recent review, but thought it was a wee bit youthful. This just might be the peated Bruichladdich to win me over, and it’s available now from major online UK retailers. So tempting…

PC8 Wins By a Royal Mile

PC8 wins the ‘Spirit of Whisky Fringe’ award.

The annual Whisky Fringe tasting, organised by Royal Mile Whiskies, took place last weekend at the old church of Mansfield Traquair during the Edinburgh Festival.

Around 200 whiskies were available for tasting by members of the public and all visitors were given the chance to vote for their favourite spirit tasted over the weekend.

PC8, heavily peated Bruichladdich to the tune of 40 ppm’s worth, was voted by the general public as the Spirit of Whisky Fringe 2009, and awarded the trophy.

Bruichladdich has been well received by Edinburgh’s whisky fans. In the last three years it has won this trophy twice and came second once.

This achievement was all the more impressive as this 8 year old whisky was up against contenders that were considerably older, in some cases four times the age.

PC8 is the fourth and final release in the dramatic 6 tin image series. The picture tins, having featured the distiller, his team, Islay people, now showcase Islay’s heritage.

Ar Duthchas”, land of our fathers, portrays landmarks from Islay’s remote Rhinns peninsula, celebrating Mans’ long presence, the tangible heritage, of this special isle.

PC8, bottled on islay at 60.5%  should be compared to previous bottlings PC5, PC6 and PC7 that were rated at 95, 96 and 96.5 in the 2009 Whisky Bible by Jim Murray.

Port Charlote PC8 - Whisky Fringe award winner

Port Charlote PC8 - Whisky Fringe award winner

PC8 - Six tin designs

PC8 - Six tin designs

Read Full Post »

John Campbell, Laphroaig distillery manager, has sent out the following email to Friends of Laphroaig. They’ll be broadcasting live from the Maker’s Mark distillery in Kentucky on September 25, 2009. You can check out previous Laphroaig Live broadcasts here.

Dear Friend of Laphroaig®:

I have been talking to you for some time about our plans for the next live broadcast. Well I am extremely excited to announce that we have finally confirmed everything and this year’s broadcast will be live from the Maker’s Mark distillery in Kentucky.

For those of you who know a lot about Laphroaig you will know that we mature our whisky in Maker’s Mark barrels so it is a fitting collaboration I think – plus it’s a bit sunnier there than here on Islay so it should be a lovely setting!

We will be holding the event on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:00 p.m EST.  It promises to be an enlightening and entertaining good time for you and all your whisky-loving friends.

The broadcast will last around 40 minutes and will include a live question and answer session where you will be invited to put your questions to the panel. This will include Kevin Smith- master blender for Maker’s Mark, John Hansell – author of the famous Malt Advocate and of course myself. We will also have Simon Brooking, our US Ambassador on hand to answer any questions.

Those of you who have watched our last two broadcasts will know that we very much concentrated on tasting our range. This year as we are the guests of Maker’s Mark we wanted to do something a little different. We will of course be discussing what makes the Maker’s barrels so special for us at Laphroaig (and of course tasting some of the fine spirit) but we will also be trying a few food dishes that go well with Laphroaig and Maker’s Mark and also trying our hand at some cocktails! If any of you have any suggestions on dishes or cocktails please email them into me at info@laphroaig.com with the subject line: Distillery Live Recipes and any that we decide to make will win a special prize.

Pass this email onto your friends
As you know we always ask our ‘friends’ to help us spread the word about Laphroaig. This live tasting would be the perfect way to introduce all your friends to our unique single malt so please pass it on – unlike normal whisky tastings the web can accommodate everyone!

I’ll be writing to you again in the next couple of weeks with all the confirmed details including the website address but I just wanted to get the date and time firmly in your diaries.

I look forward to ‘seeing’ you on 25th!


John Campbell
Distillery Manager

Read Full Post »

Bruichladdich 3D3

Bruichladdich 3D3


In my attempt to remain a Stage 3 single malt fanatic, and not progress to Stage 4, I’m turning my focus more to whisky samples as a means of discovery. My local Bevmo recently stocked a 3-pack Bruichladdich sampler, containing 50 ml bottles of Rocks, Links and 3D3. I’ve tried Bruichladdich 15 year and thought it was “nice”, but I was really interested in trying these other expressions to see if they’re more interesting. Rocks and 3D3 are part of the “Multi Vintage” line of Bruichladdich malts, while the Links series is part of their “Special” line.

Bruichladdich [brook-laddie] 3D3 (third edition of 3D), released in 2006, is a single malt bottled at 46% and vatted from three different aged malts. The very first Octomore (peated at 80.5 ppm) is one of the three, making this the highest peated version of the 3D series at about 40 ppm. Port Charlotte is the other peated malt in this mix.

Note: 3D3 has been replaced by the “Peat” expression in the Bruichladdich lineup. Apparently they’ve toned down the peating level to 35 parts per million.

Tasting notes

On first nosing, I got a pretty strong “pure peat” presence, along with apples and vanilla. There’s also a cereal grain element that reminds me of some other young peated expressions I’ve tried. On second try, there’s more fruit than just apples, and it’s sweeter. It’s kind of like a mixed fruit cup.

The palate starts soft, then builds to big peat and pepper. I really like this! Take a good sized drink and it really coats the mouth nicely.

On the finish, lots of smoke and peat come up through the nostrils. Like you’re standing over a camp fire. The pepper fades fairly quickly, but the smoke lingers for a while, as long as you take a good mouthful (my first small sip disappeared quickly). I do get a little bit of an aftertaste (hay, maybe?) that I think is coming from the younger malt in this mix, and that kind of sours the great peat/smoke experience.


After my first dram, I described it as tasting like a young Ardbeg. After the second dram, with the additional sweetness and fruits coming out, it reminds me more of the BenRiach peated and finished 12 year releases. What’s special about 3D3 is the way it hits the palate fairly softly, then builds. It’s huge peat, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The guys at whisky-pages.com note that Jim McEwen, the Bruichladdich master distiller, calls the 3D3 “potent, but not aggressive.” I think that’s a great way of describing it.

At $50, I’d buy a full size bottle of this. At the $70 it’s going for locally, I think my bottle of BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus will satisfy the same craving, but without the minor “off” notes that I’m attributing to some of the youth in the 3D3. I’m putting Bruichladdich peated expressions on my watch list, though. I think they’re really on to something here with the way the peat hits the palate. I hope to buy a sample of Port Charlotte PC8 this year and compare that to my 3D3 experience. I’d say 83/100 points for this one, with the potential for other Bruichladdich peated expressions to go much higher.

Other opinions

  • WhiskyNotes.be – Great notes as always from Ruben. He also notes some youthful roughness, but gives it a good overall rating. He has a great description of the 3D3 “recipe” at the top of his post. Also read his Port Charlotte PC6 review for a comparison to 3D3.
  • whisky-pages – Good notes, good review, and that quote from Jim McEwen. A good read.
  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – A great rating of 88 points. He’s obviously not bothered by the youthful aspects of this dram.

Quick Take

Laddie 3D3 Quick Take

Read Full Post »


Are you a Single Malt Whisky Fanatic? Serge from WHISKYFUN.COM posted a link on Twitter to this smwhisky.com web page, detailing the five stages of single malt whisky fanaticism: Curiosity, Enthusiasm, Fanaticism, Obsession, and Terminal.

Please follow the link to the original description (which is pulled from a Yahoo newsgroup from 2002), then select your stage in the poll. I’d be interested in hearing more details in the comments, too (have you figured out how to stop the madness?). I’ll provide details on why I’m a mid-level Stage 3 Malt Fanatic after the poll:

Confessions of a Stage 3 malt fanatic

I felt like such a sheep after reading about these stages and seeing how closely I fall in line with the provided descriptions. Where’s my originality?

Stage 1:

Curiosity: The novice may have tried a couple of expressions of malt, and finds that he or she really enjoys the experience, or is perhaps curious about malt from what he or she has read or overheard from other enthusiasts.

Analysis: I became curious about scotch whisky shortly before a business trip to the UK about a year ago. A day trip to Edinburgh, and a visit to The Scotch Malt Whisky Experience, propelled me right into Stage 2…

Stage 2:

Enthusiasm: The malt enthusiast gets into the game.  Unquenchable thirst for knowledge (and malt) drives him to begin buying books about malt whisky, surfing the web (and how did you find this site?), maps and other Scotland paraphenalia, and of course, bottles of Scotch. Typically in this stage, a form of denial may emerge where the enthusiast will refuse to spend over a set amount (maybe $50 or $100) for any bottle of malt. Bad move. Law of supply and demand. Good whisky costs money. Crap whisky can cost big bucks too (ask around before you buy if you are unsure), but good cheap whisky only comes along rarely (like $50 bottles of 100 proof Springbank).

Analysis: Let’s see:

  • Buying books – Michael Jackson’s Whisky Definitive Guide; Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009; Offringa’s Whisky & Jazz. Check!
  • Surfing web – Check out my Resources page. Check!
  • Scotland paraphenalia – Not yet, but searched a little bit to see if I could buy a block of peat like they give you to smell during the Whisky Experience tour.
  • Bottles of Scotch – Uh…yeah. Check!
  • Price limit denial – Initially $100. For my 40th birthday, I bought myself a bottle of Laphroaig 30. Check!

Stage 2 sidebar (connoisseur vs collector):

Somewhere in stage 2, two distinct personality types emerge: The connoisseur and the collector. The connoisseur firmly believes that all malt, no matter how rare or expensive, is meant to be consumed, preferably by sharing among friends. The collector hoards malt, puts it on a shelf to worship and collect dust and invites other collectors over to drool over his collection. He probably offers them a taste of crap whisky to quench their thirst, as he won’t destroy the collector’s value of his malts by opening them. The collector may then put bottles up for auction when he can be assured of tripling or quadrupling his original outlay. Connoissuers hoard malt as well, but only to trade among fellow connoisseurs or for drinking sometime in the future. Connoisseurs detest collectors.


The last sentence makes it sound like the two are mutually exclusive, but I have it in me to be a bit of both. I’m headed down the connoisseur path now, trying everything I can get my hands on. However, if I had the means, I probably would have bought a second bottle of Laphroaig 30 year and stashed it away. I’d love to be able to buy one to drink and one to collect for rare malts.

Stage 3:

Stage 3 – Fanaticism: The malt fanatic’s collection is now burgeoning. He may drop $1000 or more in a single liquor store visit. Cases of whisky begin filling his closets; he may invest in industrial grade shelving to store his malts. The fanatic may also register his own whisky related website. By this stage, he has already visited Scotland at least once, or is planning it. If he has visited Scotland, his luggage upon return is loaded with bottles of booty. He travels cross country to attend malt extravaganzas (like Ardbeggeddon). Unhappy about the number of malts available in his hometown, he orders them online from stores in distant lands. He possibly has a separate credit card account that his wife doesn’t know about and has malt shipped to an unmarried friend’s home, or at least stores some bottles there.

Analysis: Now we get into the scary stuff. I can say NO to the first couple…no $1000 trips to the store, and while our kitchen is filling up with 30-some bottles and lots of miniatures, I’m not buying by the case yet.


  • Not only did I create a WordPress blog, I registered the ScotchHobbyist.com domain.
  • While my first trip to Scotland doesn’t count, as it wasn’t driven by malt fanaticism, I AM trying to set up a 2011 Feis Ile trip.
  • I’ve purchased from The Whisky Exchange and LFW in the UK. [totally worth it just for the 200ml Port Ellens!]
  • No separate credit card. However, it’s possible I used cash on a couple of bottles and accidentally failed to mention it to my wife.

Stage 4:

Stage 4 – Obsession: The obsessive probably has more whisky stored than he can drink in the remainder of his lifetime. He probably also owns casks (or shares of casks) that are maturing in warehouses. He knows distillery managers on a first name basis. Bank accounts are drained, maybe carrying a balance on credit cards or a second (or third) mortgage to finance his malt aquisitions. If previously married, probably divorced by now, or else has the perfect wife.   Count me as jealous!

Analysis: Danger! I’ve probably got 3-4 years worth of whisky, and I’d love to own a share of a cask (must resist). I’ve also spent roughly 2.5 times the scotch budget I set out at the beginning of the year, and there are still 5 months left in the year! Hmm…getting dangerously close on a couple of these.

I guess it’s time to really start watching myself. My wife has actually been very supportive, though, and has even humored me as I’ve talked about going to Feis Ile. Yes…you’re allowed to be jealous.

Stage 5:

There may also be a terminal stage 5; the terminal obsessive may wish to purchase his own distillery, thereby assuring himself of a perpetual supply of malt whisky. I have not personally witnessed this phenomenon, but I suspect at least a couple of my personal friends may be prone to this stage.

Analysis: I do kind of envy the Wild Scotsman.


Well, there you have it. I’ve confessed my malt fanaticism sins. How about you? Were you sucked in as easily as I was, or do you have more self control? Do you want to stop, or are you shooting for Stage 5?


Read Full Post »

Octomore 2 (140 ppm)

Octomore 2 (140 ppm)

I got an email from Mark Reynier at Bruichladdich this morning with the Octomore 2 press release that’s already been posted all over the blogosphere. Cool…am I “press” now? 🙂

Anyway, it was interesting timing, as I just tried Bruichladdich 3D3, the peated bottling from a couple of years ago that contains the first ever Octomore (vatted with Port Charlotte and some standard Laddie). I really like the 3D3, which reminds me quite a bit of Ardbeg. It’s got a lot of smoke and peat, but somehow delivers it in a way that doesn’t bowl you over. Check out this Singlemalt.tv video with Jim McEwan, where he talks about the process of making Octomore. It gives a little more background on how they achieve the “iron fist in a velvet glove” delivery described below in the press release.

I used to think Octomore was nothing but a marketing gimmick. It might very well be a marketing gimmick to a certain extent, but having tasted 3D3 and seen that Jim McEwan video, I’m now kind of intrigued by the release. Plus, I admit that I am a sucker for the cool looking bottle. However, what I’d really like to do is compare Bruichladdich Peat (replacement for 3D3), Port Charlotte PC7, and Octomore side-by-side to see how the PC and Octomore influence the Peat release. I’m just not so sure about paying $400 to do it. Wouldn’t it be great if Bruichladdich offered a reasonably priced sampler pack containing these three expressions? Maybe 100 ml samples like Glenmorangie does with their sample pack. Even better…include a sample of a “standard” Bruichladdich, and let us experiment with our own vatting!

The World’s Peatiest Whisky Just Got Peatier

Octomore  is now 7%  more peaty than the inaugural 2008 record-breaker.

The peatiness, at 140 ppm (parts per million) in the original malted barley, gives this whopper a huge peat smoke punch, almost 30% more than its nearest rival to the title.

It is referred to as ‘the iron fist in a velvet glove’ owing to the whisky’s surprisingly subtle charms, and is distilled at Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery by head distiller Jim McEwan:

“It’s a great equation: massive peat + Bruichladdich elegance = awesome spirit. We dialed up the peating level of this 2nd bottling of Octomore because it seemed churlish not to.”

“But Octomore is not for the feint-hearted. At this peating level it is for savouring; a little goes an awful long way. Taste with minimal water to appreciate and share in its evolution.”

“Dr Riffkin, Tatlock & Thompson’s analyst that certified the whisky, told me: “this is the highest peating level we have ever seen – by miles.”

Another slice of Octomore anyone?

Notes for Editors:

Distributed in the UK by Blavod, 202 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PJ – contact: rambler@blavodextreme.com or Phyllis Taylor 0207 3522096  Exports: Andrew Gray andrew@bruichladdich.com

Peat smoke was traditionally used to arrest by desiccation the germination of malting barley to provide fermentable sugars.

Octomore is an Islay single malt distilled at Bruichladdich distillery annually since 2003.

Octomore 2009 bottling was distilled from barley that measured 140 ppm parts per million of total phenols in the original malted barley by the industry standard method of HPLC.

The certificate of analysis of the Octomore 2009 bottled whisky by Tatlock & Thompson Scientific Services is available for inspection at Bruichladdich Distillery.

15,000 numbered bottles are available worldwide at cask strength.

Read Full Post »


A pour of Ben Nevis 13

A pour of Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13

Wild Scotsman single cask: 1992 Ben Nevis 13 year, 46%, Cask #693

I discovered Wild Scotsman whisky via Twitter, where the Wild Scotsman himself, Jeffrey Topping, is an active member. Following the Twitter profile link to his site, I discovered that this is an American who travelled to Scotland to learn about whisky making, somehow got in tight with Master Distiller John McDougall, and then started his own whisky company. How’s THAT for an exciting way to live the American dream? He offers a couple of his own vatted malt expressions, a number of single casks from different distilleries, and U.S. distribution of some John McDougall single cask selections.

Intrigued, I looked through the available Wild Scotsman bottlings online at Sam’s Wine and Spirits store, located in Chicago. I found this single bourbon cask Ben Nevis 13 year, a distillery from which I’ve been wanting to try an expression. There was no information about this bottling on the Wild Scotsman web site, so I dropped Mr. Topping a note asking for information on it, and he sent me the following:

The Ben Nevis was my first single Cask bottling after the release of my first signature Vatted malt. At the time I was in an apprenticeship with the only Master Distiller and Blender in the World, John McDougall of Scotland. On one of our tours we traveled up to the Ben Nevis Distillery to meet with his first apprentice, Collin Ross, who is the distillery manager at Ben Nevis even today. It was a bit surreal to have a behind the scenes tour of Ben Nevis with two men whose combined career in whisky spans over 70 years. They can forget more in a day than is written in most books about Scotch whisky.

After the tour we had a wonderful lunch in the reception. Lamb Broth Stew, sandwiches, and some good conversations about some of the history both of these men have lived and continue to live. We continued to the board room and we sampled some of the casks we owned. The samples were pre-arranged as there is an extensive amount of paperwork to withdraw samples and other matters which are all policies of both the government and Nikka which owns Ben Nevis. It was quite interesting to have cask samples of an Ex-Sherry, Ex-Port-Pipe, and Ex-Bourbon, which are all components of the single malt brand. One could almost pick out the role each component plays in making the brand. I was blown away about how subtle and sweet the Ex-bourbon cask of Ben Nevis I owned had matured and knew at 13 years this cask would be ready for bottling.

I reduced the proof down to 46%,with no added color, no chill filtration. It is a great dram for the heat.

Tasting notes

Straight out of the bottle, I notice a bit of a pungent smell, reminding me of furniture polish, and possibly something slightly sour. While it’s a bit sharp, I don’t find it particularly offensive. Others might have a different reaction. Of note, letting a glass of this Ben Nevis sit for 15-20 minutes (with a watch glass on it) seems to help this expression more than I’ve noticed with other whiskies I’ve tried. My notes are based on drinking it after it sat for 20 minutes in the glass.

On the nose, I get some alcohol, but not a lot. I don’t feel particularly inclined to water it down any further. The primary scents are lemon drops and yogurt, along with some hay or cut grass in the background. One of the three times I tried it, those traits combined to make me think of iced tea with lemons in it. Overall, it’s a “light” nose, even with that sharp initial attack.

On the palate, this Ben Nevis has a nice body to it. It’s reasonably think and oily. Most impressive, though, is the reaction on the tongue. I’ve got sweet and salty going, with a little sourness, and finally a slight dark chocolate bitterness. Lots of tingling going on all over the tongue! There’s a drying on the tongue that provides some additional tingling on the sides.

The finish doesn’t bring back much of the nose at all, which I found a little bit unexpected. However, there does seem to be a bit of a white pepper sensation, and a hint of malt. Perhaps a slightly stale malt. The pepper sticks around for a while, as does the drying sensation on the tongue.

Back Label

Back Label


The bottom line is that I find this Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis quite enjoyable. Nothing earth-shattering, but a nice light summer dram, with a little extra bite on the tongue compared to something like Bunnahabhain 12. In fact, I’d say my overall enjoyment is similar to the Bunna 12, so I would rate this the same at 83/100 points. One point down for having to wait a bit for the initial furniture polish attack to ease up, but a point added back for the extra zip in the mouth. As for deciding between the Ben Nevis and the Bunna, it will come down to whether I’m in the mood for lemon drops or apples and cinnamon.

Reading through the notes about Ben Nevis on Malt Madness (Johannes doesn’t seem to care much for the expressions distilled in the 1990s), I’m thinking Jeffrey Topping did a nice job with this Ben Nevis release. At $58, I think it’s a fair value for a non chill-filtered single cask. I’ll certainly be keeping Wild Scotsman on my radar, and will be trying more of their expressions. I’m curious about the vatted malts, but also quite intrigued by the John MacDougall Bladnoch single casks. In time, hopefully I’ll be able to report back on both.

Other Opinions

I was just about to write that I couldn’t find any other opinions on this rare single cask release. Then I found a review on Malt Advocate. I had looked in the review section under Wild Scotsman. It’s actually under Ben Nevis:

  • Malt Advocate – John Hansell was very impressed with this release, awarding it 87 points! I’m not ready to go that high yet, but maybe after I improve my ability to distinguish subtleties in a light bourbon-casked malt I’ll see things differently. John’s obviously got a lot more experience than I do.

Quick Take

Here’s my “quick take” graphic for Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13. For more info about this format, and my rating system, see this post.

Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13

Read Full Post »