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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile


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Friday April 22nd 2011

Two Weddings and a Whisky

or "A right Regal affair"


Prince William was born on 21st June 1982 and Catherine (Kate) Middleton on 9th January 1982. They met at St. Andrews in 2001 whilst studying History of Art together.

Keith was born in July 1959 in Yorkshire and Sabine in February 1958 in Munich. In 1982, when Price William was born, Keith had just been promoted to an IT shift-leader for one of the UK's largest supermarket chains and, after some early failed attempts at golf which you see opposite, gave up any hope of getting anywhere near St. Andrews, although Sabine's father is one of Germany's most prominent Art critics and a university lecturer on the subject.



On 1st September 1998 when Prince William was just over 16 years old, Keith walked into an office in Germany to start his new job and uttered those those immortal words "Hello, I'm new here" to Sabine, the departmental manager's assistant and, unbelievably to either of them at that time, his future wife.

During a private holiday in Kenya in November 2010 where Prince WIlliam flew Kate to the shores of a lake high on Mt. Kenya, he proposed marriage to her and the engagement was announced a month later in mid-November.

Keith never actually proposed to Sabine, but on 28th February of each leap year that they knew each other, Keith always made a point of reminding her about the traditional (English) custom that the 29th February was the one day every four years when a woman may propose to a man. 2008 was no different and once again he told her of this custom which she had forgotten and claimed she'd never been told about.

To his absolute surprise, on the morning of 29th February 2008 Sabine looked Keith in the eye and uttered those immortal words "Will you marry me?" Keith's affirmative reply was forthcoming and the announcement was made during a private party for family and friends a couple of weeks later.



On a cool but sunny 30th December 2008, the small Bavarian town of Erding was host to some rather unusual events; firstly a group of family and close friends could be found starting the morning with champagne before heading away to the local Registrar's office in the town hall. The soon to be married couple were chauffeur driven in a Daimler Conquest Limousine of 1956 vintage before being greeted at the town hall by a piper in full-flow who proceeded to pipe the couple and their guests into the wedding room.

Once officially joined in matrimony, Keith and Sabine were piped out of the room and back to their limousine which whisked them away to the celebratory dinner whilst the piper led their guests in procession through the town, bringing it to a suitable stand-still.


On 29th April 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton will be married in a cermony at Westminster Abbey which will almost certainly include a marching band, maybe even a piper or two and various limousines, although I doubt any 1956 Daimler Conquests will be included.

In order to mark this event, The Macallan have decided to issue a commemmorative bottle of whisky called The Royal Marriage which itself is a 'marriage' of two casks; both filled on 29th April, one in 1996 and the other in 1999 and only available in the UK.



The Macallan Royal Marriage, 46.8%, So, here it is glowing rich amber with a hint of coppery bronze in my Classic Malt glass. The nose has rich aged oak, a little furniture polish, figs, plums, dark cherries and oil of orange with just the slightest hint of cloves. It's also quite floral in a rich sherry kind of way. The palate is initially rich and creamy with slightly dry, but quite heavy sherry. Then comes the wood and fruit followed by that oily orange and hints of dark chocolate. What I can only describe as floral cloves take the lead into the finish which is long, again with some development of orange and a leaning towards finest cognac right at the end. It is a decent strength at 46.8% and as such, I have no inclination to add any water to this one. Let's leave it as it is. My overall impression is one of a very good whisky, obviously sherry cask(s) but with a floral lightness and complexity only associated with very good casks.


This whisky is a marriage of two casks; one from 1996, the other 1999 and, as we all know; any age statement, if used, has to declare the youngest whisky in the vatting. This means that this whisky would officially be 11 years old and at a price of 150 GBP which I think is a little high. Yes, it is a very good whisky, but in reality we're talking about the collectible market here. One in which Macallan has, historically, excelled. I have no doubt that this special commemmorative edition of only 1000 bottles (available only in the UK and now sold out, damn) will prove over time to be a great investment. Should you be lucky enough to get hold of one and wish to open it, then you'll also find it to be a very good whisky.

Meanwhile, I can't help thinking about those dark and secretive corners of the Macallan warehouses at Easter Elchies which possibly contain two even more exclusive and superlative casks; one from February 1958, the other from July 1959 which if given the appropriate time to marry, would create a whisky of extreme superlatives. In fact I would consider it to be a marriage made in heaven and endorsed by the angels!

I guess Macallan just chose the wrong wedding, although I, sorry we,  wish Prince William and Catherine a long, happy and healthy lifetime together.

Slàinte Mhath, Keith & Sabine.



Tuesday April 19th 2011

The Shackleton Legacy

or "Conquering the ice with whisky"


Throughout the history of mankind intrepid explorers and adventurers have strived to push back the boundaries of knowledge and exploration with unbelievable feats of personal endurance and hardship in attempts to conquer uncharted territories.

At no time was this greater than the early part of the 20th Century when attention was focused on the southern extremities of our planet by names like Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton.

In 1902 Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton used sledges and dog teams in an attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. They managed to reach 82° 16.5`S before illness (scurvy & frostbite) forced them to abandon the expedition and return.

In 1907 Shackleton returned to the region in a further attempt to reach the South Pole with the aid of ponies to trek along the Great Beardmore Glacier. He set a new record at that time by reaching 88° 23´S but again had to abandon the expedition and turn back. In doing this he earned the admiration and respect of many generations of explorers as he chose the safety of his fellow explorers over the ultimate goal of his journey, just 97 miles from that goal!

In 1911 Roald Amundsen set out ostensibly for the North Pole but shocked the world and also Scott when he announced that he was heading for the South, not North, Pole. The race was on!

Scott was already part way into his own attempt to reach the South Pole at that time and he finally reached it on January 17th 1912 only to be disappointed by the discovery that a very efficient attempt by Amundsen had beaten him by a month. Scott's team sadly died on the return leg of that expedition.

Not to be outdone by being beaten to the Pole by Amundsen and Scott, Shackleton decided to attempt the first transcontinental crossing of Antarctica in 1914. Two ships were used; The Endurance and Aurora, with Aurora sailing to The Ross Sea to lay depots of supplies en route to the Pole. Endurance sailed to the opposite side to The Weddell Sea to drop a team with dogs who would aim for The Pole. Sadly, The Endurance became frozen in pack ice and eventually sank, stranding the men who then endured an epic struggle for survival, but all were indeed rescued.

This transcontinental expedition was finally achieved in 1957-8 by Sir Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary who succeeded with the use of motorised vehicles.

Shackleton discovered an affinity for public speaking and joined the lecture circuit but eventually tired of this lifestyle and desired one more expedition. He formulated plans for a trip involving the Beaufort Sea and Arctic but these plans fell through and he once again decided to aim South on what he described as an "Oceanographic and Sub-Antarctic Expedition", although the precise goals of this expedition were always vague and unclear. Shackleton, during the previous years, had suffered from ill health and various suspected heart attacks, including one in Rio de Janeiro en route to The Antarctic, but he refused medical help and continued south, arriving at South Georgia on January 4th 1922. On the next day Shackleton visited his Physician complaining of back pains and discomfort and at 2.50 am on 5th January 1922 he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Shackleton's legacy now lives on or is rediscovered in the form of a case of whisky which was discovered buried in the ice at his camp hut used for his Antarctic expediton(s) and, after a period of almost four years, some of this whisky returned to Scotland to be analysed and reproduced. That whisky bore the name of "Mackinlay" a company taken over long ago by Whyte & MacKay so it's no surpirse that they assigned their top 'Nose' and Master Blender Richard Paterson the task of this reproduction.

I now present to you that replica; Shackleton's Whisky:




Mackinlay's rare Old Highland Malt Whisky (The Shackleton Replica) 47.3% abv The nose is surprisingly fresh and light with some initial citrus (faint lime and pineapple) and ever so slightly farmy elements including aromatic hay and grasses. After 2-3 minutes more fruit develops in a very warming way which includes pear, melon and apple, but all wrapped in hay and grasses. The palate is creamy smooth with a delayed light pepperiness which is soon followed by slightly bitter star-fruit then hay, apricot and creme brulée. This has an extremely creamy mouth-feel. The finish is very long and fruity with some peppercorn. A very unusual, but quite delightful whisky.


So, four years after the initial discovery and some hundred or so years after being taken to Antarctica, Shackleton's stash of Mackinlay's Highland Whisky finally returns to Scotland for expert analysis and, as it turns out, a pretty good reproduction. Fellow Malt Maniac Dave Broom is the only other person apart from Richard Paterson to have tasted the original and he is quoted as saying the replica is a very good reproduction of it.

Personally, I can't speak for the original, but I can say that this reproduction is in its own right a very good whisky. It is one of the most unusual I have tasted; that creamy smoothness is sublime along with the creme brulée effect, but at the same time it exhibits light, fresh and fruity characteristics which are quite unique.

Well done and thank you to Richard and Whyte & MacKay for recreating this gem.



Sunday April 17th 2011

Golden Oldies

or "They don't make them like that any more"


"They don't make them like they used to" is a much-proffered phrase in many walks of life, but it is very often used in the world of whisky.

Today I have the pleasure of trying five drams from the 70's & 80's but not as you may think. Two of them were distilled in the 1980's and released in recent times as 28y offerings, but the other three were distilled during those periods and also released decades ago.

What am I talking about? Well, there's an Aultmore 28y & Tomatin 28y but then two 'old' Aberlour releases, or rather younger Aberlour releases of 8y & 12y in those funny square bottles from the 70's - 80's and then the long-discontinued but hardly forgotten Edradour Ceramic bottling, or was it called a decantering or even a juggering?

Ahh yes, the 70's; I remember them well as a teenager learning to drive and also, somewhere in the darkest recesses of my mind are memories of Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich tasting nothing like they do today as my own personal whisky journey was in its infancy.



Aberlour, 8y, old square bottle, Gradi 50; I often see these old Aberlour square bottles available from specialist collectors' sites but this is my first chance to actually try one. The nose is a combination of aged oak and light floral or even perfumed notes, along with something just very slightly farmy. The palate is filled with delightful dark fruits (currants, figs, plums) but it also has some great hints of mocca and orange leading into the finish which is long and also slightly spicy.

Sadly, they really don't make them like this any more!


Aberlour, 12y, old square bottle, Pure Malt, 40%; This 12 variant is even more aromatic and perfumed with a nose which again includes aged oak, but that perfume ... delightful! Will someone bottle it? Ahh, they did. Eventually a suggestion of butterscotch and candy floss develops. The palate is smooth and sweet with wood, candy floss, toffee and just a hint of water melon. The finish is long with wood and melon.

Delightful Golden Oldie, they really don't make them like this any more.


Edradour, 10y, ceramic jug; Lots of character in this one with freshly-polished aged oak alongside malty butterscotch and creamy toffee. After some minutes an aroma of sweet wood develops and then turns into something almost medicinal. The palate is smooth and round with everything the nose promised plus a hint of black pepper leading into the finish which is long and fruity too.

Extremely civilised, they just don't make them like this any more.


Aultmore 28y, Bladnoch Forum, 53.5%; A cocktail of aromatic and lightly perfumed herbs, sweet liquorice root, almonds and a touch of coconut greet the nose, whilst the palate is smooth and slightly peppery at the same time and after a couple of minutes that coconut from the nose makes an appearance. The finish is long and sweet, again with a hint of coconut.

Wow, they do make them, or at least bottle them like this these days!



Tomatin 28y, Scotch Single Malt Circle, 55.3%; A rich nose with dark fruits (mainly plums, figs & dark cherries) is extremely aromatic, sweet and ever so slightly perfumed. The palate is also rich with a creamy mouth-feel and offers wood, slight pepper, dark cherries and hints of amaretto. The finish is extremely long with that amaretto and the dark cherries.

A very 'big' whisky which, thankfully, they do still bottle these days!


Once again I have to say a big thank-you to the organisors and exhibitors at the recent Munich whisky festival for bringing these whiskies along and giving me the chance to pick up these five excellent drams. It really isn't every day that one gets a chance to try 8y, 10y and 12y whiskies from something like 30 years ago and revel in 'how whisky used to taste'. No, they really don't make them like that any more!

As for the two more recent offerings; The Aultmore and Tomatin are truly superb whiskies and, thankfully, prove that the art of making whisky is indeed not lost in a time capsule of a few decades ago. Although I do wonder what the whisky writers of 30 years time will say of the spirit being filled into casks today. Perhaps something along the lines of "they really don't make them like that any more"?

Slàinte Mhath




Sunday April 3rd 2011

Dee, Spey, Tweed, Tay & Nidd?

or "Cry me a River"


About three to four weeks ago I received a set of the four Dalmore river samples; Dee, Spey, Tweed & Tay as Dalmore have decided to support the foundations caring for these four great Scottish Salmon-fishing rivers.

I applaud Dalmore's further commitment to Scotland, its heritage and its environment, but at the same time I am quite saddened by the impossibility of my situation here in Germany.

When one thinks of salmon fishing, one automatically conjures up images of rural tranquility and the art, yes it is an art, of fly fishing and trying to tempt those large specimens to enter into a fight with artist, rod and line.

Personally, I never mastered the art of fly fishing, but I did master the skills required for coarse fishing in the rivers around my native Yorkshire, thanks to the great teacher that my father was. But not only my father, as I shall recall here.

Without any doubt my favourite river was the river Nidd, specifically around the small village, as it was thirty five years ago, of Kirk Hammerton. There were two adjoining stretches of the river; one called The Mill, the other The Railway and as you may guess they were named after the buildings or facilities at the approach to each.

I'll not bore you by elaborating further on the full geographical details, but I will describe why I loved these stretches so much; the coarse fish to be found here were primarily roach, dace, perch, pike and if you found the right spots, some magnificent chub and barbel. The mill stretch had some superb spots, or 'pegs' in match-fishing terminology, some of which were around what we called "The Horseshoe Bend" which was lined with willow trees on the opposite bank. Get the line just right, feed to perfection and you were guaranteed plenty of fun with some magnificent chub and barbel. But that's nothing compared to one particular 'peg' on the Railway length, known as "The Stumps". At this point the river Nidd narrowed and flowed a little faster with a normal (unflooded) depth of around 4ft.  About a third of the way into the river from the opposite bank was a row of wooden stumps or old fence posts sticking out of the surface, but just upstream from these was a large bush growing out of the river. Most people would fish this peg not with float, but with a heavy weight on the line to hold the bait on the bottom under the bush.

But I soon learned this is not the real way to do it.

I'll never forget one particular Sunday when my father and I entered an 'open' match here. I was drawn at a peg about 10 minutes walk upstream from "The Stumps" at a spot renowned for not being very exciting, so during the day I walked down to "The Stumps" to see what was happening and found a rather famous fisherman (who was part of team England, if not the captain) of that time had drawn that spot. As a shy sixteen year old I asked if I may just sit behind him on the bank and watch. Oh boy, was I delighted he said "Yes".

What I witnessed was a masterclass in the art of coarse fishing where he managed to avoid the snags, stumps and other hidden obstacles in the river whilst running his line right alongside the stumps. When his line reached another willow tree at the bottom of this run he invariably had a bite, about a third of which he managed to land and which were all chub or barbel in a weight range of 4-10 lbs.

I never forgot, nor will I ever forget that day when I witnessed a true professional demolish the rest of the field (or river) and walk away with a substantial cash prize.

Now let's fast forward a few months, maybe as much as a year to the day that our own fishing club held a match at that stretch of water. Again I had the misfortune to draw a not too exciting peg and although I was catching a few fish, I knew that I had no hope of winning any of the day's prizes, so I walked down to "The Stumps" to see what was happening. A good family friend had drawn this peg but he was a pensioner and was fishing the easier way with heavy weight holding behing the bush. He did well and at the end weighed in around 8lbs of fish.

When the match ended it took about 30-45 minutes for the weigh-in to reach The Stumps and during this time I had a go at fishing the spot myself, of course with permission of the match officials who agreed to weigh anything I caught, but obviously without it counting in the match.

To cut a long story short the chub abd barbel were there, they were hungry and after losing a few floats and hooks on those infamous obstacles I found the right line to them. In less than 45 minutes I caught more fish than the match winner had all day and at the same time, had more fun and felt more pride and accomplishment than any time before or since, regarding fishing. In fact so absorbed was I that it wasn't until I had finished that I realised I now had an audience sitting behind me in awe of what they were witnessing from this shy teenager.

Yes I revisited that spot many times and had similar successes. No, this isn't another story of the one that got away, it's a story of someone doing what they love and doing it well, with the ones that didn't get away!

But why do I say I am so sad?

Fishing exists in Germany, but not so much as a sport like in England. It is also governed with that typical German efficiency that says in order to get a licence one has to attend fishing night school, at a total probable cost of around €2000. When school has been completed and all exams passed, the 'lucky' fisherman is then assigned a spot or small area where he (or she) may fish. This is more about fishing for food than for sport where the fish live to fight another day and there is nothing along the lines of Kirk Hammerton and the river Nidd, with its Horseshoe bend and Stumps in sight here in Bayern, so sadly all my fishing tackle sits in its protective covers in my celler as I long for just another chance with those chub and barbel in my beloved river Nidd.

So, thanks Dalmore, you've managed to re-awaken one of my long-lost loves and one of the very few things I miss by being here in Germany, but at least I have you to thank for four whisky samples which I hope will live up to my fishing expectations, let's see shall we?


The Dalmore Dee Dram, Season 2011

Served in my classic malt glass this has a glowing light amber colour with a hint of copper. The nose offers some lovely hints of oil of orange over various dark fruits including plums, figs and possibly currants, whilst the background seems to comprise a slightly sweet maltiness.

The palate is rich and smooth with those dark fruits and oil of orange coming to the fore, although that maltiness is also in evidence, albeit slightly more bitter than it was on the nose. I then detect something akin to cherries (possibly dark ones) leading into the quite long and smooth finish.

Overall Impression; This Dee Dram has a certain after-dinner elegance which would certainly befit a Regency Gentlemens' Club lounge after a hard days fishing.


The Dalmore Spey Dram, Season 2011

Once again my classic malt glass offers home to another Dalmore and this time it has a lovely rich amber colour. The nose has cloves, spicy wood and even a suggestion of freshly-rising wholemeal bread dough with a lime twist right at the end.

The palate doesn't quite deliver the spiciness of the nose as it is very smooth and lingering with dark fruits that clearly suggest red cherries and a hint of something tropical; possibly papaya. Also in there is a suggestion of marzipan or even walnut, in fact it has a creaminess which could even be Tiramisu as hints of cocoa develop into the quite long finish.

Overall Impression; The Spey is also an after-dinner experience, but this time it's more creamy dessert than Regency lounge and tales of the one that got away.


The Dalmore Tweed Dram, Season 2011

A rich, dark gold presence graces my classic malt glass but surprisingly the nose is rather subdued, faint even! After giving this some minutes to develop I find a light rubberiness develops over fresh herbs and a suggestion of aromatic wood. The rubberiness fades to leave a rather pleasantly fresh & sweet nose.

The palate is smooth whilst at the same time slightly dry and spicy. It certainly has cloves, albeit very light and plenty of herbal influences alongside blood orange. The finish is very long, slightly dry and quite repetitive with that orange influence.

Overall Impression; A quite different Dalmore which is more 'hip flask on the river bank'.


The Dalmore Tay Dram, Season 2011

This possibly has my favourite colour of the four with a bright dark gold bordering on sunny amber. The nose is again quite light but also quite different with notes of toffee which soon turn into those toasted coconut macaroons and then again into aromatic wood and lemon groves on the banks of a large sea or lake.

The palate is initially quite leafy but this soon develops into fruit with some of the citrus of those lemon groves, but retaining the freshness of the lakeside. There's also a toasted nuttiness which leads into the long finish.

Overall Impression; Another very different but also good dram here. Where the others were relaxing after dinner or hip flask on the river bank, this one is a main course of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, so to speak.

My eternal thanks go out once more to Dalmore, not for making me sad about not being able to enjoy one of my lifelong hobbies, but for reminding me of the great times I previously enjoyed with that hobby and for four rather decent drams too. Can I choose one above the rest? In this case not really, all are good whiskies. I love the nose of the Tweed and the palate of the Tay, but then the Tiramisu effect of the Spey was most surprising, as was the elegance of the Dee.

Now come on Richard, what can you do for me with the Nidd?

Scotch Cyclist wrote:

Just a quick message to say just how much I loved reading your latest post. If I weren't already chronically short of funds and up to my eyeballs in neglected hobbies as it was you may just have made a fisherman out of me!
It is one of the many things that makes you a superb whisky writer: you go beyond the whisky! What could have been a straightforward taste comparison was instead book-ended by your personal experience which in turn enriched the tasting notes. It was what made it a whisky review on Whisky Emporium, and not another outfit. Well done for continuing to establish a blogging identity and for finding another angle from which to approach these four drams. Oh, and you're a lucky so-and-so for having them sent your way! The Dalmore is one of those distilleries whose new releases are guaranteed to get me in a lather.
Keep up the good work, and best wishes.




Sunday April 3rd 2011

The Whisky Knights adjourn to maison Gal this month as we visit WhiskyIsrael to discuss single casks.




Previous major features
March 2011 Masters of Photography, Memory and the Middle Cut, Sampling again, Dave Stirk 5, Choosing choice Choices
Feb. 2011 Festival time again, Spam Galore!, Drams & Trams

Jan. 2011

Lookback at 2010, New Job? Three Thirties, ToC, Overdosing on sherry casks

Dec. 2010

December's Advent-urous drams, Nant Distillery, The road to Certification

Nov. 2010

Journey to end of Scotverse, Wick, Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Homecoming, Tweetup, Chilling with Cooley

October 2010

The John Walker, Sampling with Master of Malts, Changing jobs, Whisky Round Table

Sept. 2010

Playing Chinese whispers, Oktoberfest, SMWS Spirit Cellar, 500,000

August 2010

Elementary my dear Islay, Handbags at dawn, Dram-arkable 500, Cheapo Challenge, Ah Dooagh, 1 from 3 left

July 2010

Age matters. A series of whisky reviews concentrating upon 'Age'

June 2010

Jules Rimet, pickles & crisps. Mon coeur, mon amour oh mon sherry. A taste of the great outdoors.

May 2010

The highly-acclaimed and record-breaking "Desert Island Drams"

April 2010

My peat's bigger than your peat, A foursome with a famous Scottish bird

March 2010

Sample Mania tasting notes, The Good, the Bad & The Loch Dh-Ugly, A return to sanity, The Choice of Managers

Jan-Feb 2010

Keep taking the medicine, It's Festival time, Maker's Mark, Sleeveless in Munich

Dec. 2009

All power to the bean-counters, protecting Scotch, seasonal drams, Definitive Xmas Drams, 2009 Whisky Awards

Nov. 2009

How it all started, Bonfire night, Autumnal musings, EU Tax & Duty, What's in a (whisky) name?




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