A venerable Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965) 47.8%

One of the best things about a good Whisky Festival or very well stocked bar is an opportunity to try something that ordinarily you would never be able to buy on your own… That is exactly why at Berlin’s  Union Jack we shared a very clear brief – we wanted to end our evening with something truly exceptional and rare. Our preference was a discontinued distillery – something that we would otherwise never ever have a chance to experience….

My tasting companion mentioned interest in a Port Ellen however we were open to anything. Our whisky guide for the evening consulted the Union Jack owner and came up with a remarkable short-list: Rosebank 25 year, Glen Ord 1975, Brora 27 year (2015), Macallan-Glenlivet 1968/1983 (Berry Bros)… to which we also added the Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965), which my eye had spotted as soon as we walked in the door… A light sniff of each bottle made the choice very clear…

Obviously you can tell which one we selected!

We had earlier discussed the Glenglassaugh distillery and how challenging it is to have stock of remarkable old vintage whiskies produced before its closure vs a young upstart that was – frankly speaking – initially bottled before it was ready. I shared how malt maniac Krishna Nakula was so enthusiastic about the “old” and had once shared a sample of the “new” make spirit from the re-start.

For those not familiar, Glenglassaugh followed the path of many a Scottish distillery. Founded in 1875 until its closure in 1986. It was re-opened in 2008 and had a wee bit of a rocky re-start however understand it is getting its game together and was joined a few years ago by master blender Rachel Barrie.

However enough pre-amble… what matters most is what we discovered!

Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965) 47.8% (Murray McDavid Mission) Bottle 084/411

  • Nose – Simply superb, berries mashed and fresh, nuanced, like an Eaton mess – full of crunchy mirage, berries and cream, an antique quality opening up further to reveal a hint of coffee richness, a fruity compote, red liquorice, red candies
  • Palate – Exquisite, soft yet big, silky smooth, full flavoured yet elegant, more of that hint of coffee, so balanced with a curl of smoke sneaking up from behind, chocolate coffee cream
  • Finish – Gorgeous – such a long fruity fabulous finish

Having the great fortune of sampling a few venerable, I was poised for something a bit shy… instead this was an absolute delight. Classic and yet still full and flavourful, not a single off note instead it was pure indulgence.

There was such sophistication – from bursting berries to that hint of smoke… it was simply outstanding and well worth choosing as our grand finale.

What more do we know? The label shares it was matured in Sherry and Rivesaltes Casks. I’ll admit I had to look up “Rivesaltes” to find it is a sweet wine made from red or white grapes from the Languedoc region of France. Like sherry, it is a fortified wine of which there are several variations using Grenache, Muscat, Malvoisie with styles ranging from amber, garnet, tuilé or rosé. I will certainly keep my eye out for “Rivesaltes” in future as it clearly did great things for this particular whisky along with the Sherry cask.

The best quote of the evening came from our guide?

“I just cry that they don’t make whisky like this anymore.”

To put into perspective, the average value of this bottle in auctions is approx € 1755 though likely impossible to find now. As for us? It set us back a hefty EUR 80 for a glass however we both felt privileged to have had an opportunity to try.

Before this “penultimate” dram, we had  explored three sets of “pairings” which included:

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Dynamic Duo 3 – SMWS Glenlossie 21 year vs Glenfarclas 21 year

For our last “pairing”, our guide selected two from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – both 21 year and both cask strength. The idea this time was to play with different finishes – red wine vs PX sherry. Without further adieu – what did we think?

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 46.74 “Orchard perambulations” 21 year (18 September 1997) 54.4%

  • Nose – Mmm…. red currents and strawberries, a nice jammy mash, sour citrus cherries, wood, cinnamon, light liquorice, fresh cut bamboo, coconut and sweet hay
  • Palate – Intense flavours, tart enough to prompt puckering up, spice and berry burst, peat, very dry… as the aromas opened up the palate did too… revealing milky chocolate, creamy caramel… simply beautiful rolling around in your mouth
  • Finish – Long, subtle and really quite fabulous

Quite interesting, particularly as it opened up. One that is well worth trying with none of the tannins one sometimes finds with slightly ‘off notes’ in red wine cask matured whiskies. Instead just sit back, relax and enjoy the rather marvellous malty experience.

As for the folks at SMWS, what do they have to say?

Sweet warm fruits and creamy textures give way to darker fruit compotes, spices, nectars and wood resins. Previously in a bourbon hogshead.

What more do we know? As the label shares, it was matured in a 1st fill barrique / ex red wine with 245 bottles. Unlike some red wine matured whiskies… this one worked!

As for the distillery, it is an open secret that 46 = Glenlossie, in east Speyside. You won’t find official bottlings aside from a Diageo “Flora and Fauna” offering. In truth, it is actually two distilleries – Glenlossie and Mannochmore – a distillery we’ve increasingly started to appreciate more and more.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 1.208 “Long Conversations by the crackling log fire” 21 year (5 March 1997) 54.3%

  • Nose – Mmmm… a lovely classic dry Sherry, robust, sweet, intense, a dash of spice with a nice nuttiness… fabulous
  • Palate – Just no comparison. Again – quite a marvel, sweet, tart, spice with a full burst of rich Sherry flavours – a proper sherry bomb! Well-rounded, rich, delicious, joined by orange marmalade with sweet spices of cloves, cinnamon
  • Finish – A peppery finish – specifically red cayenne or fresh paprika

The label shares that this whisky was matured in 1st fill hogshead / ex PX with 234 bottles.

What do the SMWS have to say?

Salted plums and cherry chilli liquorice, whilst diluted: tobacco and spiced oven dried orange cloves. previously in an ex-bourbon hogshead.

As for the distillery? Again it is relatively well known that the 1st SMWS distillery offering is none other than the family owned Glenfarclas.

This was the last of our “pairings” from our evening at The Union Jack before a complete indulgence!

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Dynamic Duo 2 – Bunnahabhain 25 year vs Tobermory 20 year

For our next dynamic duo, we went to independent bottlers – both new to me! From what little I could find, both seem to be German based… and were chosen by our whisky guide to contrast and compare drams in their 20s from Islay and Island.

Now I must admit, I’ve had a mixed relationship with Bunnahabhain – particularly their older whiskies which haven’t always lived up to expectations. However I’m always game to be be pleasantly surprised!

Bunnahabhain 25 years Single Cask (2016) 47.7% (Wiebers Brothers)

  • Nose – Citrus, hay, honey and yoghurt, very light toffee, milky and a bit shy, mineral, musty
  • Palate – Surprisingly light and effervescent, then took a slight odd turn – was that sweet pickles?? Followed by some cayenne pepper, tangy, more of that mineral quality, a tough vegetal
  • Finish – Verbena and cayenne

This definitely fit into the category of “ya gotta work it”… what was interesting is how the empty glass held more aromas than when it held liquid.

I still haven’t been able to find any details on Wiebers Brothers with this having a mere 120 bottles. We aren’t sure when the bottle was originally opened however it is possible it was for some time or not… one never knows the impact of oxidation on a whisky’s character.

Tobermory 20 years (1996/2016) 58.8% (The Alambic Classique Collection)

  • Nose – Lemon balm, beeswax, fresh, sweet grass, honey, fresh raw cashew nut… it began evolving becoming fruitier
  • Palate – Quite a contrast to the aromas! Sweet spices, pink and white peppercorns, lots of character without heat, beautiful and well rounded, light cinnamon
  • Finish – Wonderful! The flavours just carry on and on and on….

Once upon a time, we discovered “mouth breathing” whisky – where you take a good waft of aromas then swig and then breath, seeing what the whisky has to say. In this case, it was like having a lovely aromatic hookah.

Some whiskies are all the nose with the palate a pale shadow, others are the reverse. That would be the case here – an absolute stunner on the palate – really outstanding. This is also one of those drams where just a little goes a very long way – particularly with that remarkable finish. A true class act.

Alambic Classique has been an importer and wholesaler of specialty spirits since 1981, and is also an independent bottler for rare and exclusive single malt whiskeys from Scotland. Our bottle was from their Special Vintage Selection – cask strength, uncolored and not chill-filtered.

What more do we know about this one? It a bourbon barrel from a single cask with 247 bottles.

If you haven’t already gathered so far  – the Tobermory was for us the clear winner!

What else did we explore that evening at The Union Jack in Berlin?

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Dynamic Duo 1 – Benromach vs Cragganmore

It has been nearly three years since I first traveled to Berlin – one of those “live wire” global cities that has a palpable pulse of its own. A fellow whisky explorer let me know he was coming from London for the weekend so it made a perfect excuse to pop over for the weekend.

We went to the very well stocked Union Jack whisky bar! Turns out we were lucky to go on a Saturday – one of the two days in a week they are now open.

We were very well taken care of with carefully thought through choices. Our mandate was clear… we wanted to explore – two at a time til the grand finale of something utterly indulgent and extremely rare.

We wanted to start with an “appetizer” duolll something to ease into the evening. Our guide recommended

The thinking was to match to interesting yet ‘lighter’ options to whet our appetites. Particularly with the Cragganmore, we were assured this Distillers Edition is like none other and well worth trying. As for Benromach, we’ve enjoyed many a solid dram from this distillery.

So what did we think?

Cragganmore Distillers Edition (2008/2020) D6572 40%

  • Nose – Dried fruit, light spice with a woody musty malty aroma, mixed with the sweetness was a salty sour caramel. As it opened up further, it revealed orange marmalade with a citrus twist… and with even more time honeysuckle and a touch of hay
  • Palate – A nice spice, more whisky marmalade, woodiness…even resin, sweet spices of clove and black pepper, oily
  • Finish – More of that light spice, dry in a way that prompts you to ‘pucker up’ chased by oak and a touch of sweetness

It had a nice understated quality…. as for the marmalade? It was a distinctly “whisky” marmalade… which worked rather well. There was also much more body than the aromas would have suggested.

Overall it was an enjoyable start and much more interesting that we expected – particularly at a mere 40%.

Benromach 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Citrus oranges and calvados then a bit “woodsy” and beeswax polish, a dash of ginger and then…. after the 1st sip – wow peat?! Like having sweet roasted marshmallows crisped on a campfire, then sour cherries and a hint of sherry
  • Palate – Silky smooth with a lovely peat, elegant and balanced with toffee sweetness and fruity, hint of chocolate
  • Finish – A lovely long finish, truly lovely

Carrying on from the Cragganmore to the Benromach was a good choice! It was like shifting into an antique – it was like opening a lovely 1930 Art Deco cupboard to discover a special treat.

What else do we know? It was matured in 1st fill bourbon and sherry casks. An official bottling that is currently still available.

What do the folks at Benromach have to say?

  • Colour – dark amber
  • Aroma – Aromas of sweet toffee leading to notes of cracked black pepper and peat smoke. Rich forest fruits develop with dark chocolate and dried banana.
  • Palate – Creamy and sweet with ripe apples and an undertone of charred oak. Dark chocolate develops and leads to toasted malt and orange peel with a subtle hint of smoke.
  • Finish – Medium creamy finish with soft smoke and dried fruit

No doubt for us – the Benromach was the winner! What a treat!

If you were curious to try, they are both still available with the Cragganmore currently retailing for approx EUR 53 and the Benromach 15 for approx EUR 70.

As for what next? We had a few more to come…

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An evening of indulgence at Union Jack

Once upon a time I lived in Mumbai and had monthly merry malt gatherings with friends. I would also from time to time join a fellow explorer for an evening of minis. Fast forward and we are all found scattered in different parts of the globe with rare opportunities to reconnect.

Last weekend in Berlin was one such chance. My friend came from London and I joined from Nurnberg for the express purpose of catching up and exploring a few drams together. And I knew just the place – the fabulous Union Jack whisky bar – which is now only open Thursdays and Saturdays. Thankfully for us, it was a Saturday!

We put ourselves in the very capable hands of our whisky guide, who ably helped us and all the other tables go on a journey.

We explored three sets of “pairings” followed by a complete indulgence!

What did we think? Just read on over the next few posts…

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Der Weinladen im Schwarzwaelder Store, Munich

Once upon a time I had planned a series of places to find interesting whiskies on your travels. From 2008 to 2019 I was criss crossing around the globe – from Canada to Europe to many parts in Asia. With my travels, I enjoyed exploring curious and quaint places to purchase an interesting dram or two. So it seemed logical to share such discoveries with friends and family in case their path crossed such locations.

Here is one from Munich – Der Weinladen im Schwarzwälder (Black forest wine shop) conveniently located on Hartmannstrasse 8, not far from Marienplatz. Truth be told I was looking for Tara Whisky, but then stumbled across this place and found it utterly charming with very helpful staff. It was during one of my first (of many!) trips to Munich back in November 2017.

Seeing these images today with all the restrictions that life with COVID has brought, I look back on my adventures with a twinge of envy. And at the same time, am quietly amused that was once “novel” is now “normal” as I find myself (mostly) calling Bavaria / Franconia home – with its remarkable forests and easy access to long enjoyable hikes. Even the offerings that seemed at the time “exotic” are now familiar so it was fun to come across the photos I took with great enthusiasm (and little focus) some four years ago.

What whiskies have I picked up there?

  • DeCavo NAS Batch 10, Cask 92 46% – Such an interesting whisky… yet every effort to track down another has been impossible!
  • Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43% – An easy going enjoyable dram
  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing with guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels…
  • I also picked up a Finch whisky that I never did get a chance to try… instead it made its way into another Mumbai home to be consumed during the most extreme lockdown when all booze shops were also closed

And beyond whiskies? A few gins and more!

I noted the beautiful bottles of Schnapps – a proud floor to ceiling display of Ziegler specialities. Who could imagine just a few years later I would have the pleasure of going to the distillery and be blown away by their remarkable attention to their craft – be it their schnapps or whisky!

Just in case you happen to be in the area, do check it out:

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Arran 25 year 46%

Late 2020 I had the pleasure of experiencing a wee sample of the Arran 25 year old at Lochranza Distillery. I didn’t take any tasting notes however remember it being an absolute stunner! It was a remarkable treat, so whilst I have nothing of my own to add, wanted to say congratulations for producing something truly special.

What follows is purely reproducing the distillery information – not my usual approach, but there you have it!

Arran’s 25 Year Old Single Malt

In this, our 25th year of production, we are delighted to present our official 25 year old which now joins our core range for the first time, and will be released in very limited quantities each year.

This 25 year old is truly the jewel in our crown. The whisky has been matured in ex-Sherry and Bourbon Casks and is bottled at 46% Vol without chill filtration or the addition of any colouring. Here’s a breakdown of the life span of the 1995 casks we selected for this very first batch:

Original 1995 Stock
35% ex-Sherry
65% ex-Bourbon

Re-casking
All stock re-casked into 1st Fill and Refill Sherry Hogsheads for 12 months prior to bottling

As one of the first of the new wave of distilleries to reach maturity, this is a proud moment for us to be able to share this landmark Single Malt with you all at the end of what has been a tremendously challenging year for everyone and a very exciting journey that started a quarter of a century ago.  We hope that you will join us in sharing a dram of this special Single Malt over these winter months to toast the continued success of our island story.

Arran 25yo Tasting Notes

  • Nose – Rich oak with a gentle nutmeg note. Sweeter aromas of baked ripe figs, sultanas and black cherries.
  • Palate – Fruit cake with toasted almonds and cinnamon. The juicy zestiness of oranges and mandarins mellows perfectly with manuka honey, muscovado sugar, baked apricots and an interesting white pepper note that provides even more complexity.
  • Finish – Creamy and spicy with dark chocolate, walnuts and dark fruits compote.

It was released on November 16, 2020 for £295 with 3,000 bottles and quickly sold out – with good reason!

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Whisky Lady – September 2021

What a month! September started in India and ended back in Germany. As for whisky writing, it brought a nice mix of recalling past whisky experiences, notes from very small in-person gatherings from August and a virtual session in September.

Keeping two aside for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, the Glentauchers and Balblair were joined by the Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%…. a quality dram? To be sure… however it is remarkable as much for its marketing and price tag as liquid!

I then held a couple very small “malty memory mini-lane” wanderings… revisiting favourites like Lochside, Linkwood, Mosstowie, Laphroaig, Pine Barrens and more…

My India trip closed with a wee mini reunion led to being introduced to this unexpected trio:

  • Kamet 42.8% – A new, rather promising entrant into Indian single malts
  • James Eadie 2017 56.6% – An affordable quality blend from Scotland
  • Compass Box Enlightenment 46% – After a long time, we were “enlightened” by a Compass Box limited edition

I also caught up with tasting notes from Bavaria’s Ziegler Distillery… with their Aureum range of single malts covered over two postings:

What was most impressive was the clear commitment to ‘craft’ – and was the first of what I hope will be more German distillery visits.

It really felt like a “well-rounded” month of musings and more as we continue to explore the wonderful world of whiskies – from new to old, rare to revisits, from India to Germany, blends to single casks, affordable to crazy expensive!

Curious to know more? Check out a few more monthly summaries:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Birthday Dram – Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%

The Macallan is one of those venerable distilleries that has reached legendary status.

I was very kindly gifted this bottle for my 50th birthday – wow! It was carefully kept aside for nearly two years, waiting for the right occasion.

Finally back in Mumbai over the summer, I thought our Whisky Ladies 6th anniversary the perfect moment! I’m so proud this tasting group hasn’t fully fallen apart in the wake of COVID restrictions, limited travel and vastly changed circumstances for many.

We split the tasting into two parts:

  • One live in person with restricted numbers in an attempt to have a modicum of social distancing in our modest home
  • Another fully virtual with our Euro ladies in Paris and two in Mumbai on the waitlist plus myself back in Nuremberg

This meant I needed to open the bottle just prior to the session and to my horror – the cork crumbled!

To be honest, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more with older bottles. In this case, with surgical care and precision, I eased out the biggest chunk, then went on a delicate fishing expedition for as much of the remaining bits as I could. Tip for others facing a similar challenge – a lobster fork is a great tool for such a scenario!

I was a bit trepidatious the whisky may have suffered… thankfully it seems to have survived what could have been a disaster!

The Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – A complete sherry bomb! Very rich and intense… amusingly we found cherry cola! Followed by prunes, wood, a hint smokey
  • Palate – Spice with attitude, rich dark woods, tannins, the kind of whisky that prompts you to ‘pucker up’, like a dry deep robust shiraz, black currents, followed by rich sweet spiced marmalade
  • Finish – Spicy raisins, cloves and ginger – delicious!

As we sipped, one of our lovely ladies recalled her time at the distillery – before COVID. She described its remarkable facilities and the whole curated “experience” – very professional and on a completely different scale. They know they are leading the pack of the “big leagues” and this exceptional bottle was no accident.

And what about our second session a month later? Each of us sipped from small samples that had been bottled up in August.

  • Nose – We found none of the earlier intensity, though clearly it had a strong sherry influence. Instead we found it slightly medicinal, sour cherry and salted banana commingling with prunes
  • Palate – Mild… one comment was “like it is trying to be elegant but isn’t quite there”, a bit herbal, metallic, opening up more to soft dark fruits, becoming a bit chocolaty
  • Finish – Initially it was a bit shy, then revealed coffee beans – like an espresso candy

There was a bit of division on this one – some liked, others were indifferent, more for the style than the whisky itself. It wasn’t one of those strident “pay attention” to me kind of whiskies. Instead there was an understated element… we also wondered if perhaps we erred having it follow the robust Glenrothes.

After our session, I had a break from our whiskies (German class!)… 1.5 hours later what did I find? Remember that “trying to be elegant” comment? It had indeed become elegant, perfectly poised and balanced. Leading me to conclude this is one best had where there is no distraction, simply a single focus on just this whisky.

Here’s what the folks over at Macallan have to say:

  • Colour – Dark Amber
  • Nose – Soft fruits, ginger, vanilla, fudge and citrus
  • Palate – Rich and fruity with intense oak wood and spiced orange
  • Finish – Long with sweet citrus and oak wood

If you also want to enjoy this remarkable dram, I found it is still available – at least on TWE for GBP 399. I was very blessed to have been gifted it in November 2019 and we opened it in August 2021.

What else did we enjoy in our Birthday / Anniversary celebrations?

Unbelievably, both evenings were anchored with GBP 400 whiskies?! For the Whisky Ladies, this gem and for the Gents, the TWE Speyside Blended 45 year.

Now, I’m very much the kind of whisky explorer who enjoys tracking down worthy yet affordable drams. Typically I won’t go above EUR 100 if I can help it! However it is such a treat to experience exceptional whiskies well beyond our normal budgets – so huge thank you to kind benefactor and combined purchasing power respectively!

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Ziegler Distillery’s Aureum Whisky – Part 2

Wow! What a start with Ziegler’s 7 year, Aureum Classic 8 year, Chestnut 5 year and Cask Strength 8 year! It was such an indulgent treat to explore the range of offerings from Ziegler distillery.

We carried on with a truly special whisky “The First” celebrating 10 years of producing Aureum whisky. Of all the whiskies we tried, this was the one I thought would best commemorate our wonderful weekend together. So I bought a bottle which is patiently waiting for the right opportunity to open and share!

Aureum 1865 The First (2010) 10 year 55.5%

  • Nose – Wonderfully robust, sherry berry burst, raisins, caramel and spice, ripe fruits
  • Palate – Lovely nice spice, more of the rich raisins, tannins, malty
  • Finish – What a delightful contrast – bubble gum and marshmallows – then shifting from sweet to nutty

I set it aside for some time and returned after tasting the next few… it had marvellous “staying power”… retaining its character.

What more do they have to say about this whisky?

The first twelve months this whiskey matures in barrels from the local Spessart oak and German chestnut. He spends another nine years in used bourbon barrels with the traditional “alligator charring”. The climate around our barrel storage facility, right on the banks of the Main, gives it its distinctive maturity. The strong alcohol content impresses with its natural sweetness and, in addition to strong malt notes, ensures dominant biscuit and vanilla tones.

  • Sensory: malt sweets, honey, caramel. 
  • Powerful and muscular finish, sweet vanilla with oily chestnuts.


The Grave Digger range is known for being a bit ‘rock n roll’ with peat.

Aureum Grave Digger “The Bruce” Peat 8 year 43%

I have to admit that by this point, my tasting notes failed me completely! What we tried before and after were there but this one? Just remember it being quite interesting and certainly full of character!

So instead, will share what the folks at Ziegler have to say:

The lightly peated malt for THE Bruce comes from Inverness. After a 5-year aging period in ex-Bourbon barrels, the whiskey develops an inviting, malty note with peat smoke on the nose. The taste unfolds in a slightly sweet liquorice with chocolate and a smoky body. At the end you experience peat-smoky tannins, sweet and clear.


 

Aureum Port 8 year 68.5%

  • Nose – Oh my! Dark berries, black cherries, raisins and treacle, incredibly intense with that distinctive chestnut quality too
  • Palate – So so intense, incredibly dry – makes you “pucker up!” Chestnut wood and port collide in a sucker punch of flavours!
  • Finish – Follows through

Given the intensity, I thought to add some water… just a few drops, then a few more… then I DROWNED it! Yes – a VERY generous dollop and wow! This whisky can certainly take it. The chestnut wood remains the base but with water it opens up – bringing the port more to the fore, balancing the palate without losing the wonderful aromas.


Aureum PX Puncheon 8 year 67.5%

  • Nose – A sherry bomb, tannins, burnt caramel, hazelnuts
  • Palate – Very dry – another one that makes you “pucker up” however a bit less than the Port, dark wood, spice, honey, berry, sweet strong, very full
  • Finish – Long and strong
  • Water – After the experience with the Port, I was generous from the start with this one! Really helps – enables it fuller, fruitier, gorgeous, rich without being over powering

What a remarkable set of whiskies to sample… Whilst I caught on bits and pieces (thanks to very kind translations). It was a huge highlight of the year.

What did we try in Ziegler Distillery Part 1:

  • Ziegler 7 year Single Malt 40%
  • Aureum Classic 8 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Chestnut Cask 5 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Cask Strength 8 year 53.2%

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