Chorlton – Blair Athol 12 years 56.6%

Next up in our Chorolton evening was another from the Diageo stable – Blair Athol. Over the years, there haven’t been as many Blair Athol experiences as one would expect… Just the Flora & Fauna official bottling 12 year 43%, and two from independent bottlers – Hunter Laing’s “Old Malt” collection 16 year (1997) 50% and Signatory’s 27 year (1988) 55.7%.

So what did we think of this one from Chorlton?

Blair Athol 12 years 56.6% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Chocolate, prunes, toffee, nutty, ginger bread, marmalade, marmite, pink peppercorn, berries, even a hint of apricot?
  • Palate – Delicious! Ginger snap, spice, toasted almonds, a nice oily fullness, fruity and well rounded, with that marmalade quality on the nose eventually coming through on the palate as well
  • Finish – Carries through the depth, character and sweetness

Amusingly we had quite a divergent opinion on this Blair Athol.

While two of us nattered on about its complexity, character and how with each sip, we enjoyed more and more. Our third lady got none of what we found – none.

A couple hours later? She came back with an exuberant – “I finally got it!!!”

What could account for the difference? Likely several factors – not the least of which is glassware. Usually when we taste together it is with glencairn glasses. In the past, I would bring to our tasting sessions in Mumbai. After my move to Germany, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai invested in a couple sets which get passed from host to host so that consistency remains. We also were tuning in from our homes – from Scandinavia to Bretagne to Bavaria. Each likely having some lingering aromas of our every day indoor life.

What ever the reason – it was most amusing that, in the end, the Blair Athol came through!

What does David have to say?

A complex, earthy and waxy whisky this, in a very old-fashioned Highlands style. The nose has orange peel, malt extract, herbal pastilles and dark berry fruits. The palate has a long development that starts on honey and ginger beer, becomes more nutty, and ends with orange syrup, Blackjack sweets and a touch of salt. Blair Athol isn’t a big name, but this is a delicious and characterful whisky that rewards your attention.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £62.50 plus shipping.

Here are the Chorlton‘s sampled with the Blair Athol:

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North Star Series 8 – Glenturret 8 year 58.3%

The last North Star we sampled was from the Highlands – Glenturret to be precise.

I will admit when I selected this bottle, I was hugely influenced by how spectucular the LMdW Artist Glenturret 30 year was! This impression was further re-inforced by a positive experience with a port matured Glenturret 14 year mini.

When I first opened it went – woah!? This was no lucious peach confection. It was peat.  I paused… and then it clicked! I also had this style of Glenturret – better known as Ruadh Mhor – courtesy of a fabulous evening of Chorlton’s whiskies.

In the past, most Glenturret would go into Famous Grouse. You might come across the occasional independent bottles, however in 2018 it was sold to Glenturret Holding – a joint venture between Lalique Group and Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, from 2020 a new range of official bottling are now available.

I went back to filling up our sample bottles to send to Whisky ladies in Europe.

What about the Glenturret Distillery

Glenturret 8 year (Dec 2010 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 58.3% (North Star 008), 1 of 330 bottles. Price Price with shipping/tax £65.49

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Well hello peat! Barbecue pringles, salted cashew nuts, cured meats, burnt bacon drizzled in maple syrup, a bit of charcoal wood chips.
  • Palate – Mmmmm maple bacon… baked apples, chocolate… a nice ‘grown up’ complex sweet peat, oily, think caramelized onions and apple sauce with a nice light spice
  • Finish – Long… a subtle smoked bacon tail with a lingering sweetness
  • Water – Initially it seemed to dampen it too much, losing the lovely balance between spice, sweet and peat… however it did add another citrusy element – grapefruit.

While the aromas swirled about with cured smoked meats, the peat was more nuanced on the palate… a kind of civilized rounded peat. Just the kind of maple bacon that is hard to resist!

Talk turned to peat. One of our whisky ladies has a clear peat preference. Whereas I have to admit,  I have veered away from peat of the last few years. Until now. And I realized it is clearly linked to environment. Living in India in perpetual summer is entirely different than a chilly Germany in November! Whereas this kind of sweet smokey dram is perfection on a cold miserable rainy day.

And what does Ian have to say?

  • Nose – Sweet & salted monkey nuts
  • Palate – Fine virginia tobacco
  • Finish – Medicinal, lemon and burnt orange

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

As for other Glenturret experiences? By far the most outstanding was the LMdW, however the Chorlton was also a worthy whisky!

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Glengoyne 16 year Malt Master “Carissa” Original Cask Strength

One highlight from our Scotland trip was having a go at crafting my own dram! Spoiler alert – what I’m about to describe can’t be replicated however I would COMPLETELY recommend the “Malt Master” experience at Glengoyne distillery and see what you come up with!

So how did we go about it? I sat in a lovely room filed with a wall of cask samples… in front of me were 5 different casks. Each was numbered from left to right with the distillery tasting notes. The suggested process was to start first by pouring a portion into the small Glencairn glasses from the test tube to try each. Then begin to play around with crafting my own malt… So what did I discover?

Glengoyne Malt Master

#1 – Refill Hogshead Cask 24 (14 Jan 2004 / 2020) 57.8%

  • Nose – Initially very pronounced pineapples, as it continued to open the tropical fruits shifted more into orchard fruits of crisp apple, pears, citrus, banana, light raisins, some candle wax, ever so slightly floral
  • Taste – A bit of spice, grapefruit, pink peppercorns, a bit zesty, thin
  • Finish – Hardly at all discernible

On its own, it was a pleasant way to begin, particularly on the aroma side, but incomplete.


#2 – 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel Cask 3553 (1 Dec 2004 / 2020) 56.2%

  • Nose – Delightfully fruity with banana, pear, tropical fruits, citrus…. coconut oil, candy
  • Taste – Sweet vanilla custard, banana cream pie, oak
  • Finish – Lighty bitter

Initially I found it a bit too wood forward… however the aromas warmed up and became more and more enjoyable.


#3 – 1st Fill American Oak Sherrry Puncheon Cask 206 (8 Mar 2000 / 2020) 57.5%

  • Nose – Chocolate, hazelnut, caramelized creme brûlée, strawberries and raspberries, rose hip
  • Taste – Just a beautiful mouthfeel, rich, dark coffee, bitter chocolate, wonderfully balanced
  • Finish – Lovely

What a fabulous single cask! It could easily stand on its own… my initial thought was keep it just as is – no need to add anything else! It was like an old friend with subtle different dimensions… sitting beautifully on the tongue.


#4 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (light) Cask 934 (13 Jun 2001 / 2020) 56.8%

  • Nose – Molasses, bitter orange marmalade, treacle, nuts
  • Taste – Burnt sugar, oily, brazil nuts
  • Finish – Lots of staying power

Whereas the 1st Fill Sherry in an American Oak had lightly roasted hazelnuts, here the nuts were a mix of brazilian, pecan, walnut and more. Interestingly, when I went back to revisit it was a bit shy on the nose. However the oily element on the palate added a solid dimension… and the finish? That was what this cask really brought to the party.


#5 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (dark) Cask 1927 (2 Jul 1998 / 2020) 56.4%

  • Colour – I just have to say upfront the colour was as intense as the whisky – dark ruby almost to chocolate
  • Nose – RUM! Think rum raisin ice cream, crunchy red apples, dark fruits and berries
  • Taste – Raisins, stewed fruits, lots of tannins and soft oak, drying
  • Finish – Long and quietly sweet

This one could almost be too much of a good thing! Rich, dark and heavy… yet also a bit secretive. It had a wonderful warmth to the palate, yet such intensity I immediately knew this would be a case of “less is more”.


So… what did I decide to do? I began with #3 as a wonderful base (50ml)… however I wanted to bring a bit more fruit into the mix so added some #2 (20ml), a bit of #1 (20ml) to add a little zing, then #4 (20ml) for the oily palate…. swished is around, added more of #3 (20ml), up the fruit with #2 (10ml) before adding the intensity of #5 (20ml).

The aromas were classic, the palate had lovely balance and depth with a delicious long finish. And with that – I had my recipe!

I simply replicated the portions by half – just a bit lighter on the #1 and #2 – played around a wee bit more and there I had my (almost!) 200ml bottle!

I brought it with me to London where my host and I cracked it open one evening to see how it settled in…

Glengoyne 16 year “Carissa Original” Cask Strength

  • Nose – Plum liquor, baked pineapple, sticky toffee, caramelized cream pudding, rum raisins, Christmas pudding, sticky pastries dusted with icing sugar, chocolate, dry herbs, light tangy element – almost a hint of dry mango, back to baked goods
  • Palate – Really coats the palate, a nice oily element, rich plums, dense dates, a chewy combination of chocolate, raisins, nuts…  wrapped in a rewarding spice
  • Finish – Long, warming and dry – really lasts with a delicious dry sweet spice and slightly bitter wood
  • Water – Really brought out the dried fruits, raisins, orange marmalade, some vanilla, a quixotic mix of berries and citrus… quite fabulous with water

Overall I was quite pleased with my creation. Heavier than I tend to prefer these days, it was truly a delicious ode to sherry.

I had planned to leave this as a treat for my host however he insisted I bring it back to Germany. I opened it again today and was surprised by how ‘tangy’ it had become on the nose… still great on the palate with a great chewy quality and holy toledo! What a finish… 10 minutes later and it was till very much there. What a treat to enjoy on my birthday in Nurnberg.

Cask Recipe:

  • 12% #1 – Refill Hogshead Cask 24 (14 Jan 2004 / 2020) 57.8%
  • 16% #2 – 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel Cask 3553 (1 Dec 2004 / 2020) 56.2%
  • 44% #3 – 1st Fill American Oak Sherrry Puncheon Cask 206 (8 Mar 2000 / 2020) 57.5%
  • 14% #4 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (light) Cask 934 (13 Jun 2001 / 2020) 56.8%
  • 14% #5 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (dark) Cask 1927 (2 Jul 1998 / 2020) 56.4%

What about other Glengoyne tasting experiences?

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Dunkerton Drams – Fettercairn 12 years 40%

These days we don’t often try official bottles. By choice I tend to gravitate towards something just a little more specialized that comes with… say… a single cask from an independent bottlers. However when first learning about a distillery, when there are official bottlings available, such offerings can say a lot about what the distillery is trying to achieve.

Looking back on the Fettercairn’s I’ve tried til date…. One from North Star featuring a cask strength 12 year old from 2019 and another from That Boutique-y Whisky Company with a 21 Year from 2018) 48.6%, I can be forgiven for a little curiosity about what the distillery choses to put out as an “official bottling.”

This one came as part of the 2019 Drinks by the Drams Whisky Advent Calendar… and I’m reasonably sure it is the official Fettercairn 12 year 40%. So what did we find?

Fettercairn 12 years 40%

  • Nose – Lemon varnish, bananas, cereals, cappuccino, lemon mirange, floral and a bit woodsy
  • Palate – Soft on the tongue, a gentle curl of peat, bitter herbs, feels a bit peppery, not a lot of depth
  • Finish – Bitter tobacco and dry

My tasting companion and I had tried the 21 year old together and enjoyed the ‘oomph’ and character we found. This one? A bit of a disappointment.. nothing was wrong and it isn’t a bit dram, I had just hoped for a bit more ‘je ne sai quoi’!

What else do we know? Only that it was aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks…

And the official tasting notes?

  • COLOUR – Sunlight and amber honey
  • TASTE – Vanilla and pear, with soft spices
  • FINISH – Refreshing nectarine and tropical fruit, with subtle roasted coffee, clove, and ginger. A memorable finish of sultanas and black toffee

So there you have it.

What else did we try that evening in Dunkerton?

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Glengoyne 12 year 43%

For a week, Glasgow was my ‘base’ of operation – with a couple days off to explore. We took a day trip to Edinburgh and another to Isle of Arran plus I popped over to Glengoyne one day. It was completely worth the trip – though a cool, stormy, wet day – I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘light touch’ tour – all within the limitations of being responsible in these COVID times.

Naturally the highlight was sampling whisky – in my case it began with a wee nip of the Glengoyne 12 year in Warehouse No 1 before I continued to my “Malt Master” experience.

So I followed the same approach with my tasting companion back in London. It had been well over a year since we had sat down to enjoy a mini together and was a perfect way to ease back into whisky tasting.

 

Glengoyne 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Started with a bit of varnish then quickly shifted into vanilla, sweet honey, over ripe fruits, custard… as it opened more there was a dusty powder, then banana cream pie, lots of caramel, all having a light touch, teasing and inviting rather than over powering
  • Palate – Light spice, dry wood, more of the fruit and baked goods.
  • Finish – Again light, closing simply on “yum”
  • Water – Didn’t even try… no need

What is interesting is my impression in Scotland was leaning more to the sherry side whereas sitting in London, I found much more influence of the ex bourbon cask.

Overall we were quite happy with our sample – a nice sipping dram – easy to sit back and enjoy. For my companion it helped dispel a less complimentary experience we had with the Glengoyne 21 years ago.

What do the folks at Glengoyne have to say?

Lemon zest, toffee apples – and a scent of coconut. Our signature sherry wood brings intensity and richness, while first fill bourbon casks add fresh notes of citrus and vanilla. 

  • Appearance – Natural, rich gold.
  • Nose – Coconut oil, honey, lemon zest, dried oak.
  • Taste – Toffee apples, ginger, orange, shortbread.
  • Finish – A hint of sherry, soft oak and cinnamon spice. Very well balanced.

Cask Recipe

  • 20% 1st  fill European Oak Sherry
  • 20% 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon
  • 60% Oak Refill casks

What about other Glengoyne tasting experiences?

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TBWC – Glenburgie 8 year 55.2% (CNY Tasting Set)

The minis are back!! And even better – this is no solo session but instead reunited with my regular minis tasting companion – the only difference is that we met in London rather than Mumbai…

I must admit, seeing a Glenburgie in the list was part of why this tasting set made the cut! I’m quite open about being partial towards this distillery since my first encounter where I dubbed it the “Downtown Abbey” of drams. I’ve had many a lovely whisky from them – tending to find elegant, fruity summery sipping malts – sunshine in a bottle.

So what did we discover in this one?

Glenburgie 8 year 55.2%, Batch 5 with 1,891 bottles. GBP 33.95.

  • Nose – Peaches and cream, sunshine and summer breeze, peach pit, caramel, light pecan… after some time sweet cream, lemon curd or rasagola, a touch of floral
  • Palate – Peach cobler, flat white peach, toffee, peach eau de vivre, light spice
  • Finish – Light spice, almond slivers, hint of thyme, slightly bitter

Joyful summer dram… and yes various versions of peach featured quite prominently in our impression… we simply couldn’t help ourselves as it was the best way to explain various summery elements that we encountered.

My friend is often amused at my sometimes prosaic descriptions and so came up with this: “This whisky is like a girl in a field with flowers in her hair and a smile on her face.”

Fanciful? Yes… but enjoyable all the same!

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

A big hello to the fifth batch of Glenburgie single malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company! This one is 8 years old, and the label still features a forgetful giant searching for his giant’s helmet. Probably needs it to protect his noggin because he keeps bashing it on door frames. Because he is very tall. Because he is a giant.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Melon and strawberry, with a hint of vanilla-y grist underneath.
  • Palate: Slightly peppery as it opens, but soon enough you’re treated to notes of orange flesh, green apple, buttered bread and fresh flowers.
  • Finish: Lasting fruit sweetness and a hint of thyme.

TBWC – Teaninich 11 year 47.9% (CNY Tasting Set)

Teaninich isn’t a distillery you readily find single malts at your corner whisky shop or travel retail. While part of the Diageo stable, it finds its way mainly into Johnnie Walker with limited official bottling – just part of the Flora and Fauna series.

Like many distilleries, it had a checkered past – founded in 1817 – even having an India connection with its original owner. It was sold several times and mothballed a few too, getting a complete revamp in 2013 with 16 new stills beside the old distillery which was demolished in 1999. It also is distinctive for using a filter press rather than mash tun to extract sugars.

As with everything… proof is in the pudding… or tasting in this case! What did we discover?

Teaninich 11 year 47.9%, Batch 2 with 1,987 bottles. GBP 32.95.

  • Nose – Yeasty, lemon, grassy, soda bread, dough, a bit sour in the fermenting vein,
  • Palate – Stone or chalk, yoghurt, floral, a bit sour
  • Finish – Limited with a hint of citrus and oak

Not exactly my favourite style and not sure this is the best example of the distillery either… it was a tricky style that for me at least didn’t quite work.

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

It’s the second batch of indie Teaninich from That Boutique-y Whisky Compnay! This single malt was matured for 11 years, until it was independently bottled at 47.9% ABV. The label recounts the saga of Teaninich founder Captain Hugh Munro, who lost his eye and consequently wasn’t allowed to marry the woman who he was betrothed to. Sounds like something out of a movie, doesn’t it?

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: There’s a lovely ripe grain element here that moves into fresh soda bread. Supple lemon citrus notes then develop among dry grass and vanilla.
  • Palate: Candied fruit and baking spice initially, before sugared almond, green apple and golden syrup emerge.
  • Finish: Toffee and lingering citrus notes.

North Star – Fettercairn 12 year 57.4%

Back in 1829, Fettercairn Distillery was one of the 1st newly licensed distillery in the Highland thanks to Sir Alexander Ramsay. It was sold within the year to the Gladstone family who carried on making whisky along with getting into politics – including William Gladstone who became Prime Minister. Whyte & Mackay acquired the distillery in 1973 with several official bottling and, no surprise, it also became a core part of their blends.

My earlier experience with Fettercairn was a 21 year old bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It impressed us with its character and complexity so I was most curious to see what this much younger one bottled by North Star would bring!

Fettercairn 12 year (Oct 2006 / Feb 2019) Refill Barrel 57.4% (North Star 007)

  • Nose – Mash-melon, herbal tea, berries and cream, sweet spice, lemon cream, apples, light and fruity
  • Palate – Spice, betal leaf, citrus, more burn than expected from the nose, cinnamon spice and tobacco leaf, almost heavy and a little bit nutty
  • Finish – There with cinnamon spice

And with water?

  • Nose – Very nice! Apple crumble, cream, drizzle of honey, toffee ice cream, apple blossoms, the berries are back – a bit tart and sweet
  • Palate – Smooth out the burn but also loses a bit of its edge and substance
  • Finish – Back to cinnamon spice

Overall it was a character! I really enjoyed what water did to the aromas and once it settled in, was also an enjoyable way to sip and savour.

What do we know about this dram? It was matured in a refill barrel, un chill filtered, and was 1 of 180 bottles from North Star’s Series 007. I ordered it online directly from the wonderful folks at North Star which made its way from the UK to Nurnberg, Germany. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 74.

And what did Iain Croucher have to say about this Fettercairn? Here are his official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Black tea & gooseberries
  • Palate – Crushed bobal grapes & barley sugars
  • Finish – Hints of disco & funk

What can I say? Another hit from North Star!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star – Royal Brackla 11 year 55.2%

I first sampled this North Star bottling of Royal Brackla in Berlin over a year ago at The Union Jack Pub. It left a positive impression of a pleasant, cheerful summery dram and I was curious to give it another go…

Royal Brackla 11 year (Oct 2006 /Feb 2018) 55.2%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Candied lemon peel, maple sugar, sweet spices, some herbs – particularly basil, give it a bit more time and apples, apricots, loads of sweet fruits, waxy and lightly perfumed
  • Palate – A bright spice, then the fruitiness carries through on the palate with substance, it is a bit oily with a slightly bitter hint that lends a bit of substance to all the orchard fruits
  • Finish – Nicely there… not long and lingering but quite pleasant

And with water? Much more approachable with the cheerful apple quality even more pronounced.

What I remember from our tasting a year ago was this whisky was sunshine and happiness, apples and apricots which carried through on the palate.

What I found most in this revisit? And when I returned a few times to sip again? Frankly I stopped even thinking about dissecting and distinguishing every element and instead just enjoyed – certainly a sign of a rather good dram – particularly in the summer!

Bottled in Feb 2018, North Star’s Single Cask Series 004, refill hogshead, one of 272 bottles. I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 49.58 plus 19% tax. In my books, this makes it affordable for an affable quality cask strength whisky.

And here are the fabulous North Star tasting notes:

  • Nose – Cooked apricots, muscovado sugar and flaked almonds
  • Palate – Strong fruit jam, pain au chocolate with bitter chocolate
  • Finish – Patisseries character, with fruits and spice

Any other Royal Brackla encounters?

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North Star Regions – Highland 11 year 50%

Glasgow based independent bottler North Star has a Millennial Series featuring whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island.

So far I’ve only managed to acquire the Highland and Speyside, together with a Royal Brackla. Whilst I was impatient to try all three, I decided to start with trying the Highland. Though the distillery is not directly stated, the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Teaninich distillery in Alness (N 57° 41’30.35″ by W 4° 15’28.75′).

Now part of the Diageo stable, Teaninich was built in 1817 by blind Captain Hugh Munro on his estate of Teaninich Castle. After changing hands several times, by 1904 Robert Innes Cameron took charge, adding it to his interests in Benrinnes, Linkwood and Tamdhu. It was then sold to Scottish Malt Distillers and expanded in 1970 with both a new building and stills. By 1984, operations were halted then resumed in 1991 with Diageo renovating the distillery fully in 2013.

One unique feature of Teaninich distillery is use of a mash filter press rather than mash tun. Whilst more expensive, requiring more maintenance and space, this method is considered more efficient, able to process “challenging” grains like rye and results in a clear higher gravity wort which contributes to a spirit with limited cereal notes.

I will admit this was my first introduction to Teaninich – which is no surprise given it is used for blends with only a limited 10 year Flora and Fauna bottling and a 200th anniversary 17 year officially available. 

Highland 11 year 50% 

  • Colour – Light golden hay
  • Nose – Subtle, leafy, reminding me of an herbal tea, fresh apples, then shifts into a light vanilla sponge cake, a bit of milk chocolate
  • Palate – Spice, a nice earthy quality, sweet and sour – caramel and cookies side by side with a bit of tangy citrus. There is also a metallic quality – like sipping from a copper vessel
  • Finish – There but unremarkable
  • Water – Absolutely recommended, making it even more amiable and approachable – in a good way.

Overall it is an easy drinking dram – uncomplicated, fresh yet with substance – when sipped with a very generous dollop of water! I must confess I enjoy it most with almost 1/3 cold water.

What more do we know? Only that it was from a single refill sherry butt with 600 bottles produced.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

The first thing you need to know about the Highlands: they are vast. The Highland Line came about on whisky maps for tax reasons in 1784, when customs duties were set lower in the Highlands to encourage local farmers to register their stills. It didn’t work. But it has given us a range of incredible whiskies to drink. The Highland style is often heaver and slightly spicier than Speyside, but still sweet. Peat may feature, as some distilleries maintain older practices, but there is no one representative whisky for the Highlands. Like Scotland itself, embrace the diversity.

I miss the fabulous North Star tasting notes, however Master of Malt has this to say:

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Hay, greengages, a whiff of peat swiftly enveloped by coffee-dipped pastries.
  • Palate: Orange peel, caramel and almond. Still slightly grassy at points. A flinty touch or two here and there.
  • Finish: Grist, apricot and milk chocolate.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

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