Swansong – Cambus 29 year, Glenburgie 21 year, Tuillabardine 29 year

Most would be familiar with the term “Swansong” which is the final performance of what was hopefully an illustrious career! This was the theme of a very special whisky-tasting evening early January 2023 in Mumbai – all liquid that marked the “end” of a distillery or that particular “avatar” of the distillery. To make it even more interesting, all were also from “indie” bottlers – from well-established, large-scale to newer, very small-scale.

What did I pick for this carefully curated evening?

Cambus 29 year (1990 / 2020) ex Bourbon Cask No. 93596 52% (Elixir, The Whisky Trail Retro) Lowland

The most obvious example is Cambus distillery. This grain distillery had a mixed history of highs and lows, closing in 1993 with the distillery completely demolished to eventually make way for Diageo’s cooperage.

From Elixir (aka Sukhinder Singh’s continued ventures), the bottle I picked is from their “Whisky Trail Retro” series with fun “Mario gameboy” style labels. Already sold out in the UK, I managed to snag this bottle in Europe for a mere EUR 140 (+tax/shipping). Here I must admit I was inspired by the remarkable That Boutique-y Whisky Company Cambus 29 year tasted at Paris Whisky Live.

Glenburgie 21 year 43% (Gordon & Macphail Distillery Labels) Speyside

Glenburgie is still producing whisky, however, this particular bottle came from before production stopped in 2000, with the distillery being completely rebuilt in 2003/04. Making this spirit from a previous “avatar” of the distillery. My experience with Glenburgies from this period is very positive – summery drams with warm peaches, elegant and classy.

Here I selected a bottle from Gordon & Macphail who do more than “bottle”, they also have a hand in the casks used to mature the whisky. In this case, they also have the “right” to use the distillery label. I purchased this bottle in early 2021 for Eur 110 (+tax/shipping) and have been impatiently waiting for the right opportunity to open! 

Tuillabardine 29 year 47.5% (Chorlton) Highland

Last, but certainly not least! I chose to close with a whisky from Tuillabardine distillery. Again you could argue “But hey, they are still producing whisky!” And you would be (partly) correct… however the distillery was completely “mothballed” back in 1995 and wasn’t re-opened for production until 2003. 

My choice for bottler was clear – the very creative Chorlton indie bottler with his eye-catching medieval labels and consistently quality drams. This bottle was acquired in Europe for EUR 200 (+tax/shipping), certainly steeper than my usual choice but simply couldn’t resist!

Detailed tasting notes will be coming soon, just be a bit patient!

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Darkness Sherry – Mortlach, Blair Athol, Cambus

At Paris Whisky Live 2022, the VIP section had an area dedicated to Atom Brands – best known for That Boutique-y Whisky Company which was celebrating its 10th anniversary! However, they also featured their Darkness range of intensely sherried whiskies.

Is it OK if I confess to being a bit confused about their new “Darkness” range? After all, That Boutique-y already has their well-known Whiskies, Gin, and now also rum… so why not build a twist on this? Nope! True to form, they don’t do the predictable.. instead created a completely new brand for intensely sherry whiskies – both limited edition vintage and then another line which are matured for only 8 years.

As they explain, their approach for their Limited Editions is:

Finished in Octave Casks that may have held any type of sherry wine, our Head of Whisky explores specific finishes (Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel or Manzanilla) chosen for their ability to enhance individual distillery characteristics.

These are unrepeatable releases that have each undertaken Darkness’ signature liquid transformation in tiny octave sherry casks.

As always, what matters most is what is in the glass! On offer in Paris was:

  • Mortlach 20 year 49% (Darkness) EUR 171 for 500ml
  • Blair Athol 18 year 49.4% (Darkness) EUR 105 for 500ml
  • Cambus 29 year 45.7% (Darkness) EUR 145 for 500ml

As it was just a sniff and swish, please forgive the light impressions… however enough to hope there will be future opportunities to explore further!

So… where did I begin? With the Mortlach naturally!

Mortlach 20 year 49%

  • Nose – A burst of flavours! Loads of sweet dry fruits, chocolate
  • Palate – Amazingly rich. Gorgeous and delicious – nothing shy about this Mortlach!
  • Finish – Resinous and rewarding, mocha

If this Mortlach was any indication, calling this an “intense” range was spot on! Stunning and well worth exploring. A mighty and most enjoyable Mortlach malt.

I then moved on to the Blair Athol….

Blair Athol 18 year 49.4%

  • Nose – Oh my! Also quite the sherry bomb! Strong sherry elements – dark fruits, nutty
  • Palate – Yum! Superb. Figs and nuts, like an indulgent chocolate bar
  • Finish – Fruity, caramel

A clear stamp of Olorosso sherry! And frankly, simply delicious.

And last but certainly not least, an aged grain from the closed Cambus distillery.

Cambus 29 year 45.7%

  • Nose – Initially quite shy, then opened up to a lovely fruit basket
  • Palate – Complex, creamy, subtly sweet
  • Finish – Soft finish

After the incredibly robust Mortlach and Blair Athol, it was quite a shift to this Cambus. However, once my senses adjusted to something softer and gentler, could appreciate the lovely nuanced character.

What an interesting trio! Whilst I miss the fun That Boutique-y Whisky Company labels can appreciate the quality of the liquid in the Darkness bottles!

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London Whisky Show – Colourful Watt Whiskies

Back in June, I caught in Cape Town, South Africa a rather unpleasant version of COVID. It not only knocked me flat for weeks, it also robbed me of my olfactory senses – a complete disaster for a whisky aficionado!

I’ve often described the experience as akin to seeing only in shades of grey instead of a burst of brilliant rainbow colours. Gradually over the months, some sense of smell has returned but it remains muted compared to the previous clarity – where I could usually easily discern distinct elements, today it can be trickier and I often know there is something more a layer deeper that I just can’t quite penetrate or surface enough to describe. Frustrating indeed… but I’m at least grateful some sense has returned!

This brings me back to colours – in a recent impromptu tasting in Germany, I shared that when first exploring different types of whiskies, one idea is to consider what colour one would associate with that particular whisky profile? This is a great technique to start processing more creative impressions – Does it remind you of a hot and fiery red? A verdant cool green? Or more seaside in style, bringing hints of blue to the fore? What about sunshine yellow?

I’ve seen some “colour coding” before – most recently Gordon & Macphail’s discovery series uses green for ex-bourbon casks, purple for ex-sherry, and grey for peaty drams. However what if the colour wasn’t according to such strict logic?

Enter Watt Whisky – a new independent bottler started by a husband / wife duo Mark and Kate Watt in Campbeltown. As Kate shared, they both came from the industry and decided to set-up their own range with a view to bringing interesting affordable whiskies to the world. The colour approach comes from her husband’s synaesthesia, where he literally smells colours!

We were tipped off that the Paul John was worth checking out, so this was the 1st we sampled.

Intrigued by Kate’s story of how they began their independent bottler journey in challenging times (2019 then….COVID!) with this being their 1st big whisky event, we continued on to the Dunbarton 21 year followed by the Belair Athol 13 year.

We were highly tempted to continue, however, this was getting into the later stage of our whisky wanderings where you know you need to become highly selected else every impression will simply blur together, losing its magic of discovery!

Well worth exploring more another time… enjoy our quick impressions from a small sniff, swish tasting at The Whisky Show London 2022!

Paul John 4 year (2016 / June 2021) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 1 of 279 bottles

  • Nose – So incredibly tropical – taking the normal PJ tropical fruits and ramping them up several degrees
  • Palate – Intense spice, a bit of a flavour bomb, tropical fruit bowl, chocolate
  • Finish – Ahh… there is that spice shifting into bitter
  • Water – Yes, please!

It was great trying Paul John‘s character as selected by Kate & Mark Watt. What do they have to say:

Fully matured in an underground warehouse in Goa. Tropical fruits, spices, cloves & plums.

We shifted from India back to Scotland with a discontinued Lowland distillery – Dumbarton is a Lowland grain distillery, which also housed Inverleven and Lomond malt distilleries. Previously used primarily in Ballentine’s blends, the distillery closed in 2002 and is now demolished.

Dumbarton 21 year (2000 / June 2022) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 222 bottles

    • Nose – It started off quietly, gently unfurling, caramel, light smoke
    • Palate – Clearly a grain, what was a light peat influence on the nose became a full-fledged smoke bomb…. frankly more like sipping an ashtray
    • Finish – Closed on more smoke

Wow! I don’t know what exactly I expected. One normally thinks of Lowland grains as being either gentle or harsh alcohol. I think this may be the 1st that I’ve tried which was finished in an ex-Caol Ila Hogshead,

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Finished for 9 months in an ex-Islay cask. Light, dry smoke, butterscotch, syrupy, ashy and medicinal.

We then moved on to the Highlands with the Blair Athol 13 year (2008 / Sep 2022) 56.7% (Watt Whisky) 301 bottles.

    • Nose – Nice! Extra berry, jammy
    • Palate – Well rounded
    • Finish – Dry and peppery

What a brilliant contrast to Dumbarton! Kate shared it was matured in a Hogshead and then finished in an ex-Red wine cask.

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Rested in a red wine barrique for 16 months. Strawberries, jelly sweets and cured meats.

This pair – Dumbarton and Blair Athol – had the same coloured labels and yet could not be more different in character! Fascinating.

What fun being introduced to another interesting independent bottler. Wishing Kate & Mark the very best with their venture!

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Lost love or true love? Rosebank 21 year 55.1%

At any whisky fair, there is usually one absolutely unforgettable whisky that stands out! At the 2022 London Whisky Show, this Rosebank was my personal “dream dram.”

From the moment it splashed into my glass, it was magic! And I kept only the Rosebank in my tasting glass from that point onwards, redirecting any additional tasting to my companion’s glass.

So what was it about this lost Lowland?

Rosebank 21 year “True Love” 55.1% (Elixir)

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Absolutely beautiful, floral, mandarin oranges, honey
  • Palate – Nuanced and complex, a lovely balance of light milky chocolate with a hint of spice, simply marvelous
  • Finish – Carried through

Exquisite! The nose was absolutely captivating! For the next hour or so as we wandered through other explorations… I kept coming back to the entrancing aromas of the Rosebank, leaving just a couple sips til the very end.

As the sun set… I drained the last drop by the Thames and considered it a proper close to a brilliant Whisky event.

What do the folks at The Whisky Exchange / Elixir have to say about this bottle?

This first release from the Rosebank Roses series is composed solely of bourbon-cask-matured whisky. It displays all the sublime fruity character for which Rosebank is famed.

The Rosebank Roses series has been created by Elixir Distillers, which previously operated under the name Speciality Drinks Ltd.

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose; Crisp and sweet apples mix with honeysuckle, barley sugar, cough candy and vanilla toffee.
  • Palate: Oaky spice and liquorice root lead to white grapes, vanilla cream and chilli-spiced white chocolate.
  • Finish; Peppery spice fades to leave orchard fruit more white chocolate and grassy notes.

Would I agree with the tasting notes? Certainly… Even more remarkable, two days later, the empty glass was exceptional – a joyful perfume….. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’m very grateful for!

Is it still possible to purchase it? Yes! If you happen to have a mere GBP 15,000 lying around. Yowza! I knew it would be pricey but was completely unaware of just how rarified it has become!

My thoughts turned to an earlier Rosebank 21-year, sampled from an open bottle in Winnipeg at The Cabinet meeting in 2016. At that time, I was astounded to learn the bottle was auctioning for US$650. Fast forward 6 years and you might be lucky to find a similar bottle for US$2,000! Oh my!

This just proves my point – dream drams are just that – beautiful near-mythical creatures you rarely encounter and so appreciate those magical malty moments for what they are – dreams.

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Lost Lowland – Inverleven 1985 (Gordon + Macphail Private Collection)

One of the best things about a really good Whisky Fair is the opportunity to try something rare and special that you would ordinarily never be able to access or afford – a dream dram. For that reason alone, it is always worth stopping by the Gordon & Macphail section. This year, their offerings at the London Whisky Show were truly exceptional!

After whetting our whistle with the GlenAllachie 14 year & Bunnahabhain 11-year (Discovery range), Ardmore 21-year (Distillery Labels), and progressing into the “extra good stuff” with Old Pulteney 23 year & Tormore 29-year (Connoisseurs Choice), we shifted into rarified realms with a pair from their Private Collection.

This line was created to feature: 

truly exceptional and unique range of greatly aged single malts from a mixture of celebrated, little-known and now closed distilleries across Scotland.

As Stephen Ranking, Director of Prestige puts it:

“When a whisky from our Private Collection leaves it’s spiritual home in Elgin, it’s like saying farewell to a family friend.”

So what about this lost Lowland?

Inverleven 33 year (1985/2018) Refill Bourbon Cask 562 57.4% (G&MP Private Collection) 130 bottles

  • Colour – Burnished gold
  • Nose – Dusty, a touch of solvent, then it slowly started to open with cream, fruity like warmed pineapple
  • Palate – Pure magic! Fruity, then nutty, changing in the most delicious way, like having an indulgent dessert smothered with vanilla custard
  • Finish – Initially thought it was light, then realized it was such a delight with a subtle nuanced sweetness that lingered

Don’t let the 1st whiff put you off! This is an absolutely lovely Lowland and such a treat to try! In a word – wow!

What do the folks at Gordon & MacPhail have to say?

The unique distillation process at this now-silent site produced an aromatic and fruity Lowland dram typified in our Gordon & MacPhail 1985 from Inverleven Distillery. This rare single malt provides a delectable medley of white pepper notes and subtle spicy undertones on the palate, with a long and lingering charred oak finish.

  • Nose – Intense tropical fruit aromas to begin – cooked pineapple, honeydew melon, coconut cream, and little burst of sharp yet sweet lime. A sweet creaminess continues with notes of vanilla ice-cream, sugared red apples, apricot jam, and white chocolate. Hints of overripe cherry and almond marzipan develop into flowering gorse.
  • Palate – Creamy and mouth-coating; warming white pepper notes transform into sweet flambéed banana, madagascan vanilla pod, and salted toffee. subtle spicy undertones remain as toasted malt comes to the fore; a drying cocoa and charred oak edge develops.
  • Finish – A long and lingering charred oak finish with a subtle floral edge.

What more do they share?

A relatively young distillery, Inverleven Distillery was built in 1938, very close to the Lowland and Highland boundary line on the banks of the River Leven in the town of Dumbarton. Established by Hiram Walker and Sons, Inverleven was originally built as a sister site to the Dumbarton grain distillery. Featuring two copper pot stills, Inverleven was thought to be the first distillery to steam-heat both its wash and low wine stills, as opposed to the regular method of the time – direct fire. In 1956, an unusual Lomond Still, which has three perforated plates that can be cooled independently allowing for different styles of whisky to be produced, was added. The stills at Inverleven unfortunately fell silent in 1991 when the distillery closed before the site was demolished in 2002 but under Gordon & MacPhail’s watchful and nurturing eye, the distillery’s legacy lives on.

As for what this would set you back? Well… I knew it was well beyond my budget so didn’t check at the Whisky Show, however, when I later looked online, discovered it seems to now only be available via an auction for around GBP 1,000.

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Going Grainy – Girvan 30 year and Cameronbridge 36 year

Grains are rarely found solo as their main purpose is to round out the more dynamic malts in a blend. However, there has been increasing attention on some grains – including Cameronbridge with its new “Haig” brand.

So we decided to turn our attention to grains and select a pair from our Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar:

  • Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular)
  • Cameronbridge 36 year (1982) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9%

Both are from the Lowlands region in Scotland and we began our exploration with the Girvan…

Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular) 230 bottles

  • Nose – Yikes! Is that glue? The kind of old-style molding glue from childhood, a bio-chemistry lab… a bit of citrus polish, some tannins? Then a curious thing began to happen… after our 1st sip, it opened up, unfurling like a flower from which a joyful honeyed perfume emerged, joined by milk chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, over-ripe fruits – particularly bananas, then more floral and herbal
  • Palate – Wow! Pure honey delight! Then deepens into chocolate, full, rounded with a lovely balance, fruity with resins, ‘sacher torte’, heavy oils, phenomenally creamy, showing its maturity
  • Finish – Lovely finish with more chocolate, sweetly lingers

There was such a surprise with this one – the initial aroma was not at all inspiring but then on the palate? Just fabulous! And when we went back to the nose, it just became more and more interesting and inviting. Even hours later the empty glass was a delight. This was an exceptional grain and we were lucky to have an opportunity to try it. Whilst now sold out, it was once available at Master of malt for Eur 166.

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

Distilled in July 1988 at Girvan, this single grain Scotch whisky was aged in a single refill hogshead which yielded 230 bottles. After 30 years this special liquid was bottled at 58.1% ABV in March 2019, for Douglas Laing’s Xtra Old Particular series. Very extra and very old indeed.

Tasting Note by The Producer

  • Nose: The nose brings a vanilla fudge character with milky cereal and rhubarb.
  • Palate: The creamy palate bursts with toffee apples, pineapple chunks in syrup and cinnamon.
  • Finish: The finish is long and warming with polished oak, BBQ’d bananas and runny honey.

We then moved on to our next grain… this time 36 years!

Cameronbridge 36 year (Feb 1982/Nov 2018) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9% 192 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, light and very sweet, a hint of fruit, friendly or sympathetic but then… nothing much more
  • Palate – Very sweet, a bit of roasted barley or biscuits, pleasant but unidimensional, some sweet grapes, apples, or even a grappa-like quality
  • Finish – A bitter edge, a touch of caraway

While it had a promising start, it quickly fell short. After the Girvan, we were expecting, well, more. It is a quite pleasant grain, but misses having something distinguishing or remarkable. We concluded that it simply isn’t a ‘solo act’, singing a single simple melody that is nice and uncomplicated but would probably be more interesting when in harmony with others.

What more do we know? Well, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say when it was for sale for EUR 75 – now sold out:

As part of the His Excellency series, Bartels Whisky have bottled a rather delightful 36 Year Old single grain from Cameronbridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe. It was taken from a single cask, filled in February 1982 and then bottled November 2018. A limited outturn of only 192 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Cereal notes, creamy milk chocolate and fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger spices.
  • Palate: Stewed apples, another helping of spices and digestive biscuits.
  • Finish: Think scones with clotted cream and zingy jam.

Curious about other experiences with these grains? Here are a few previous brushes:

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Port Dundas 10 year 47.9%

Port Dundas distillery closed in 2011, demolished by its owners Diageo two hundred years after its operations began. The folks at Whisky Warehouse No 8 selected this discontinued grain as the Lowland whisky for its regions set. And what a chance to taste something that will not be repeated!

So… what did we think?

Port Dundas 10 year (26 Oct 2009 – 31 Oct 2019) Refill Sherry Hogshead 47.9% (288 bottles)

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Moss, seaweed, wet leaves, petrol… then began to shift into Port, prunes, cherry syrup, herbal with a medicinal edge…. then after the 1st sip delightful vanilla cream, rum raisins
  • Palate – Oh my! What a contrast! It reminded us of a dark single rum such as Criterion or Hampden…. super smooth, heavy and rich, molasses and wood elements… all of this in the 1st sip! As we went in for the 2nd sip, we
  • Finish – Consistent with the palate… rummy and long
  • Water – We didn’t add but instead took a nice swig of cold water between sips… brought out more of the dark fruits and berries, tempering the rum quality slightly

Wow! This was quite an interesting one! It was hard to believe it was a ‘mere’ grain, however, we’ve learned to not underestimate the liquid magic that makes a blend.

We found it had such a distinctive character with a huge difference between nose and palate. And whilst we knew it was a refill sherry cask, the intense rum flavours from just 10 years in a refill sherry hogshead was remarkable.

What more did we have in ourWW8 Regions set?

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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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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Auchentoshan 18 year 48.3%

We began our journey through The Whisky Warehouse No 8 sample pack more or less in the order suggested – Auchentoshan, Linkwood, Duilaine and then we diverged – me to the Benrinnes and my tasting companions to their Tomatin.

What all four had in common is that they are single casks, bottled at cask strength and all ex-bourbon rather than sherry casks. They also were all without peat.

Our lone entrant from the Lowlands, Auchentoshan, can sometimes be overlooked…

Auchtentoshan 18 year 48.3% (1 Dec 1998 – 2 Feb 2017) Bourbon Barrel Cask No W8 23553, 168 Bottles

We initially sampled it neat:

  • Nose – Initially some hay and cereals, oats, maybe even a bit of hops, a bit oily, malty, woody… no pronounced floral elements but had some dried fruits in the background
  • Palate – Quite direct with no subtlety, more of the cereals, malt, wood, a bit imbalanced to be honest…
  • Finish – There… but limited to a light spice

While the nose had promise, we weren’t all that impressed. There wasn’t anything ‘off’ but it was just wasn’t exceptional.

So we decided to add a bit of water and see if there was any impact… we didn’t have high expectations given it was already 48.3%…. and wow! In short – you MUST add water!

  • Nose – Now here we found more fruits! Herbal, cardamom… then shifting into a lemony citrus… over time a delightful orange marmalade
  • Palate – Delicious! Opens everything up – making it spicier, fruitier, sweeter, tastier and just balanced out everything that was earlier not quite in synch. From ‘meh’ to sponge cake!
  • Finish – Lovely… now the inviting aromas, equally following through on the palate can be found lingering on the finish too

We set it aside to sample our other drams and returned after an hour.

  • Nose – Could it have taken on a bit of smokey paprika? There was a nice tobacco leaf aroma mixed with cured sweet meats
  • Palate – A balanced spice and fruit

Overall we concluded this was a nice ‘aperitif’ style whisky – a nice ‘starter’. Reflecting back, it is entirely possible we would have caught more without water had we given it more time to open up. Either way, still think adding a few drops of water is the way to go with this one.

Here is what the Whisky Warehouse No 8 bottlers have to say:

It is not a really typical Auchentoshan single malt, it is not fruity and not slim enough. But if you accept that this Lowlander tastes more like a Highlander, the flavors fit together again and you will be rewarded with a muscular, strong, but also very clean whiskey, which a few drops of water to dilute it do very well.

  • Smell: Cactus blossom and fresh Italian herbs like oregano and thyme, a bit floral like hay and slightly buttery, subtle green wood note, a bit spicy like cardamom and lemon balm.
  • Taste: Initially quite spicy, mainly cardamom and pepper, roasted aromas like dark cocoa powder, again culinary herbs. With a little dilution, biscuits and ripe fruit aromas can also be seen.
  • Finish: At first a pepper note dominates, which lingers on the palate for a long time and warms up spicy later, it is mainly the roasted aromas that only fade very slowly.

So… cactus blossom? I must admit I’m unfamiliar with that aroma. Same with my tasting companions – one of whom looked it up. Apparently it is a ‘thing’ – so much so that she also found cactus flower scented candles. Who knew?

We would completely agree about the dilution. And overall we could understand their tasting notes except the buttery one – we didn’t catch that – and of course our lack of familiarity with cactus blossom!

What more do we know? It is from a single cask – Bourbon Barrel – which produced 168 bottles, priced at €100 for a 700 ml.

If we hadn’t known the age, I’m not sure we would have guessed 18 years. As for value for money? I’m glad we had a chance to try it in a sample pack. While enjoyable, it didn’t have that extra appeal of the Glencadam – which initially got me ‘hooked’ on these bottlers and was truly superb. However it was an entirely respectable offering from the distillery.

What else did we try from The Whisky Warehouse No 8 in our tasting set?

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Lagg Distillery – new kid on Isle of Arran

We didn’t actually plan to go to Lagg Distillery… our primary intent for a day in Isle of Arran was to spend time at the Lochranza Distillery and then explore a castle or two, maybe do some hiking.  However as we drove around the Island… we found ourselves passing Machir Moor, lunch at the golf club just up from Blackwaterfoot…. and there we were in Lagg… how could we simply drive past?

And yet in these strange COVID times, a visit to a distillery is a cautious and limited activity. Care is taken to reduce entry and minimize contact. Yet even with these restrictions, it was clear it would be worth stopping and spending a few moments getting a glimpse of might be possible when fully open.

What about a distillery tour? Alas not possible. A tasting? Not a proper sit down affair. However you can go to the rather lovely visitor centre’s shop. Here you can peruse books and art celebrating whisky and the island. Meander through a lovely assortment of whiskies and related paraphernalia.

And around the corner from this section was a generous range of Arran whiskies… including an opportunity to purchase some of the new Lagg distillery’s new make spirit, miniatures….

Alternatively… there is a whole wall of full bottles… just waiting to be taken home… with friendly staff happy to help share insights into the different expressions.

Or, best of all, a chance to pour your own 200ml bottle from a cask. I couldn’t resist… just haven’t decided if it will go home to hubby to Mumbai or join me back in Nurnberg.

It is a beautiful site and I can just picture enjoying a light bite in the bright central cafe area overlooking Alisa Craig, also known as Paddy’s milestone.

What about Arran samples? Though there were a few wee drops available at the shop to help decide what to buy, I skipped. However here are a  few notes from previous tasting experiences:

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