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Friday December 16th 2011

His last Bow(more)

or "Elementary my dear Sukhinder"


The unravelling of the mysterious codes is the conundrum for today as four perfectly formed glass sample bottles sit innocently atop my desk awaiting examination. The conundrum comprises three unusually marked examples in the form of a Br2, a Bn1 and a quite unusual Kh1. Lastly, I am supplied with a possible clue in the form of one 'Masterpiece' labelled only as Bowmore.

Is it possible to unravel this mystery once and for all?




Br2 is labelled as Full Proof and as such, offers 48.3% abv with a colour of very pale yellow supplying no evidence of blushes. The nose is initially of slightly leafy malt, then it expands with a quite floral presence, but always light and fresh. The leafiness soon returns and very aromatically so with a definite sweetness. The palate is the nose personnified with a very aromatic leafiness combined with light freshness leading into a deceptively long finish.


Bn1 is also labelled as Full Proof with 55.7% as evidence of this. It's pale yellow in colour and the nose brings alive the idea of a beach bonfire set in a car tyre as smoke, peat & glowing embers combine with a light rubberiness and even a hint of raspberry. But it doesn't end there as after some minutes there's a distinct hint of smoked bacon being grilled on that beach BBQ. The palate begins smooth and light, then offers a light rubberiness, Atlantic sea-air and light smokiness with a generous helping of fruitiness. The finish is long, light and smokily fruity.




The third character in this mystery also comes with "full proof" and in this case 59.7% as supporting evidence. A very pale yellow gives away no secrets and the nose initially offers a light and fresh smokiness which expands almost medicinally and antiseptically. There's also a hint of redcurrants in the background. Fresh countryside with lots of fresh air and peaty fruit now prevails. The palate has an exceptional balance between peat and fruit, even alternating between the two on the palate. A very long finish completes the experience, again with generous peat and fruit.


Finally and by way of a possible clue to this mystery I discover a 'Masterpiece' called Bowmore who is obviously the strongman here with 61.6% abv. The nose begins with light honey and a fresh coastal breeziness which expands with a soft leafiness, followed again by fruity smokiness, lightly floral malt and even a suggestion of summer herb garden. The palate has a very smooth and creamy mouth-feel and is considerably richer than the nose as it offers gently smoked honey, summer herbs and lots of open countryside with heather and bracken. The finish is pleasantly long.



So, as the sun sets on this magnificent land I am drawn to some rather poignant comparisons; firstly I live close to Munich, a city with about 1.3 million inhabitants. An area of about 310 Sq. km. and at an average of 519m above sea level. Munich has six large breweries located within the town and celebrates with an annual 'fest' knwon as The Wies'n which attracts around 6 million visitors over a two week period at the end of September, beginning of October.


Off the west coast of Scotland lies an island with an area slightly larger than that of Greater Munich as it has some 500 Sq. km. but a considerably lower population with a mere 3400 residents. In fact the sheep population outnumbers humans by a factor of 9 with some 30,000 of them, but these are further outnumbered at times of the year as upwards of 60,000 geese make it their home. The highest mountain here is Beinn Bheigair at 491m although most of the island is much closer to sea level. In fact the world's first commercial wave-powered electricity generator began operation in 2000 at Portnahaven and was made by Siemens (of Munich). Once each year there's a world-famous 'fest' celebrating the island's eight working distilleries.

I think I am now in a position to solve the mystery of the codes as I look to that magical island known as Islay and suggest Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Kilchoman as the players in this scene, supported by a Bowmore "Masterpiece" of '93 vintage.

"How was this conclusion reached?" you are entitled to ask and my answer is as always;

Elementary my dear Sukhinder!

As for my overall impressions;

Br2 is light, aromatic and floral with a slightly leafy freshness. Very nice and worthy of 83 points.

Bn1 offers an excellent mixture of peat and fruit along with that unique Atlantic freshness. Certainly worthy of a magnificent 87 points.

Kh1 was something of a revellation with an exceptional balance between fruitiness and peat performing a ballet on the palate. I initially awarded this 87 points, but on a second tasting it is slightly better than the Bn1 and has now been awarded 88 points. Truly magnificent from this distillery.

The Bowmore "Masterpiece", 1993 , 18y is smooth, sophisticated and very civilised, as one may expect from a Bowmore of such years. Well worthy of 86 points from me.



My thanks to The Whisky Exchange for these official samples





Wednesday December 14th 2011

The Class of  '64 - '65


In 1957 Deuchers brewery in the Scottish town of Montrose was taken over by MacNab distilleries Ltd and converted into a distillery named Lochside. Four pot stills (2 spirit, 2 wash) and one coffey still enabled the distillery to produce both malt and grain whiskies. The distillery was taken over by a subsidiary of Domecq in 1972 and the coffey still was removed in 1973.

When the company became part of Allied Distillers in 1993 Lochside was immediately closed.



Compared to many other Scottish distilleries Lochside wasn't around very long and the hopes of it ever being reopened were somewhat dashed in 2004 when, after years of refusals for redevelopment planning permission, the distillery buildings sadly and mysteriously burned to the ground. An event which coincidentally cleared the path (so to speak) for redevelopment to go ahead.

So, production was limited to the 36 years from 1957 to 1993, a time span which would often render whiskies impossible to find and ridiculously expensive, but those 36 years were relatively recent ones and there are still some very affordable examples quite readily available, especially some pretty decent 1981 vintages.

As for Lochside grain whisky, the production was more limited and these are a little harder to come by.


Personally I have fond memories of the early 'Lochside years' as I shall call them, not of the distillery itself as I was a child of '59 vintage and perhaps a little young to appreciate their wares or even know about them, but of our family holidays in Great Yarmouth, the Palm Court hotel and all the wonderful attractions like sand castles, fairgrounds, a pedal car racetrack and other such marvels so important to me during those Lochside years!



Just imagine, during the years I was emulating Jim Clark in his Lotus Climax on the pedal car track of Great Yarmouth, something which was to prove quite magical some 46 full years later was happening a few hundred miles further north on the East coast of Scotland.

As part of The malt Maniac Awards 2011 I had the privilege of sampling the truly great Lochside 1965, 46y single blend. Not only that, but imagine my surprise when I was in full flow with MMA 2011 and a parcel of samples arrived from The Whisky Exchange, including a 1964, 46y Lochside single blend!



In modern-day whisky terminology a single blend is a blend of single malt and single grain whiskies from the same distillery and, as not so many distilleries produce both grain and malt whiskies, these tend to be pretty rare. Not only that, but these two particular examples are even more unusual in that a blended whisky usually comprises individually matured components, whereas these two were blended at birth, so to speak. As it turns out, some true visionary decided to blend spirit direct from both pot stills and coffey still back in those early Lochside years and hide the casks away in some dark corner of the warehouse.

Thankfully, those casks, or at least two of them have now seen the light of day and have been bottled as two single cask examples of Lochside single blend whisky.

These two whiskies really couldn't be much more different; yes they are both Lochside children of the 60's, being created just one year apart and both bottled at the magnificent age of 46 years, but that's where the similarities end.

The Whisky Exchange version (pictured above left) was distilled in 1964 and is from cask No. 8970, one of only 139 bottles, bottled also in 2011 but at 42.1% abv.

This has the colour of light oak in my classic malt glass. The nose is extremely aromatic and starts with butterscotch, lots of it. This develops to include creamy vanilla and then further as hints of apricot appear. As I mentioned; the nose is wonderfully aromatic, light, fruity, yet with plenty of butterscotch and very light toffee. I could just nose this all day long. The palate is equally fruity with apricot and peach alongside that butterscotch, but one over-riding quality here is an extremely floral graininess which expands with a suggestion of juniper. The finish is very long, very floral and filled with butterscotch.

The Adelphi version (picured above right) was distilled in 1965 and is from a sherry cask No. 6778, one of 499 bottles and bottled in 2011 at 52.3% abv.

As you see from the picture the colour is extremely dark. The nose is lightly toasted and offers traditional wax furniture polish, wood, nuts and something very fruity by the way of rich berries. After some minutes I detect a slight saltiness and even a suggestion of smokiness from very aged wood. The palate can only be described as huge, it's big and energetic, toasted and very lightly perfumed. The finish is extremely long and lightly toasted.

My overall impression here is of two great whiskies. They are both stunningly good and yet, as I mentioned, couldn't be much more different in styles. The Adelphi 1965 version has all the attributes of a great sherry cask whisky and I just couldn't resist the opportunity to revisit this one as I still had some of my original MMA 2011 sample left over. Yes I know, any excuse! The Whisky Exchange version is much lighter and exhibits many of the typical characteristics of a great single grain whisky with that floral butterscotch, but yet is has so much more in reserve.

In the Malt Maniacs Awards I scored the Adelphi Lochside a magnificent 91 points and after my second sampling here I can only endorse that score. It is well deserving of a 91 from me and thus my own label of "Great", in fact it's almost a 92, but just not quite.

As for The Whisky Exchange 1964 example; I have to say it is also a true "Great", in fact slightly better than the Adelphi with a stunning 92 points and is certainly one of the top few drams I have enjoyed during 2011, a true highlight indeed! But with two such great whiskies is it fair to award just one winner? They are both magnificent and highly recommendable drams.

Slàinte Mhath and thanks to MMA 2011 for the opportunity to sample the Adelphi Lochside and to TWE for their official sample. (My thanks also to Colin Smith for the photo of Lochside distillery, via Wikimedia Creative Commons License)





Saturday December 10th 2011

Something rather Special

or "Debussy plays Pitaud"


In the recent Malt Maniacs Awards it wasn't sufficient that the same bottle was entered twice, but also one non-whisky was sneaked into the competition just to keep the judges on their toes. In this case the non-whisky was a rather marvellous cognac in the form of "Pitaud Extra Cognac". The judges seemed to be split between scoring it quite low as it didn't seem to be a whisky, or they realised it was a cognac and scored it as such, often quite highly.

Anyway, post-MMA I wanted to revisit this cognac in the manner it deserves as I originally sampled it using my classic malt whisky glass amidst a flight of single malts and, although it nosed and tasted well, it now deserves a review in its own right as a fine cognac.

When it comes to enjoying whisky I'm most certainly of the belief that the glass used has a great influence on the overall experience, in fact some time ago I reviewed various possibilities of whisky glassware and wrote a complete article on my findings, you can find it here ---> Which Glass?

So, I now settle down in my favourite comfy chair, turn the lights down low, play some soothing Debussy and pour the last of my Pitaud sample into a lead crystal brandy goblet ....

As Debussy glides through the air my cognac glows like pale liquid amber in my glass as I begin the gentle process of hand warming, something which I very rarely do with a single malt. The aromas develop firmly but gradually as my nose is caressed initially with some very light and floral notes which are always unmistakable as a cognac. As time progresses, the cognac slowly warms and some richer aromatic wood notes join the lighter, almost perfumed floral ones. After some ten or fifteen minutes I detect a very slight but fresh antiseptic quality in the depths of the background and then even a faintest hint of smokiness. A delightful nose indeed.

As Dubussy continues to caress the ears it's time to tease the taste buds and again, Pitaud doesn't disappoint. This cognac offers an initial dryness with various hints of fruit, but with gentle orange, perhaps oil of orange as the predominant, although those wonderful lightly perfumed floral notes from the nose also dance around the fruitiness of the palate.

A long, nay very long finish signals a crescendo to the cognac as Debussy performs admirably in tandem and my sample of MMA 2011 No.166 is now gloriously lost in annals of time and my liquid memory as I recall awarding this a very worthy 89 points during MMA. I have to agree with that score once again, although it really is bordering on a 90 and my personal award of 'Greatness'.

As a final comment; The Festive Season is once again upon us and one of my personal traditions is to treat myself to a fine cognac each year. This Pitaud 'Extra' is an extremely fine one but sadly at an equally extremely fine price, so if your purse allows then I highly recommend this as something rather special this year, but unfortunately I'll have to make do with that liquid memory as I doubt I'll find the €300 necessary to acquire a full bottle.






Sunday December 4th 2011

Highland Park Vintages

or "The 70's Orcadians"



Highland Park have released two new vintages or "Orcadians", one from 1976 and the other 1971 and I was lucky enough to receive samples of them recently, thanks Gerry.

But are they any good? Let's see shall we ........


1971 Vintage, distilled 1971, bottled 2011, 46.9% abv, one of 657 bottles

Glass; My trusty Classic Malt, Colour; rich amber, Nose; wood and currants make a ninitial appearance, then a rather fruity but light smokiness, perhaps blueberry and bramble? These are followed by creamy milk chocolate and an almost cappucino suggestion. There's also a light perfume reminiscent of sandalwood. Palate; wood, bramble, heather and a creamy white pepperiness. Slightly dry and really quite fruity towards finish. Finish; Very long, fruity and lively.


1976 Vintage, distilled 1976, bottled 2011, 49.1% abv, one of 893 bottles

Glass; My trusty Classic Malt, Colour; lightly golden, Nose; very floral wood with some initial maltiness, then expanding with a gentle smokiness and traditional wax furniture polish. Palate; very creamy mouth-feel, floral vanilla and a good dose of fresh air and countryside, including light grassiness. Finish; Long with polished wood and lightly smoked vanilla.



My overall impressions; These both have many of the typical attributes of Highland Park with that outdoors, fresh-air, rolling Scottish hills style and yes, they do this rather well.

The 1976 has a little more smokiness and a suggestion of what I can only describe as "inner power", whereas the 1971 has more fruitiness and a little more outward "power" or richness. The '71 also exhibits a surprisingly good liveliness within the finish which is a little uncharacteristic of older whiskies.

Two truly excellent bottlings although for me, the 1971 is very slightly the better thanks to it's greater range of characteristics and is awarded 88 points against 87 points for the '76.





Sunday December 4th 2011

Malt Maniacs Awards 2011

... the discussion

Keith & Krishna 'live' on WhiskyCast



Fellow Malt Maniac Mark Gillespie runs the world-renowned whiskycast podcast and asked if Krishna and I would be willing to speak about our experiences with MMA 2011, especially as Krishna flew to Germany from India for three days just to help fill the sample bottles and take his set back hone with him.

Of course we both agreed and the result can be heard on the link above.




Thursday December 1st 2011

Malt Maniacs Awards 2011

... and the verdict is


Well, it has been pretty quiet around here for the last couple of months, but as you know I was heavily involved in the 2011 edition of The Malt Maniacs Awards. Starting with logistics which basically comprised refilling 171 entries into 2500 sample bottles, then sending 14 parcels to our judges across three continents and, if I remember correctly, nine countries.

Anyway, it's 1st December and the traditional MMA announcement day. In fact things progressed well this year and the announcements were made late yesterday evening across the various social media platforms used by The Maniacs.

I'll not bother you with a report from myself, as Johannes has not only provided our usual Scorecard, but also a full Jury Report on the process and outcome, so without further ado here they are for you:


MMA 2011 Scorecard


MMA 2011 Full Jury Report


You may be interested to hear what I thought to the Gold Medallists and Award Winners?

All 'winners' are now available here on Whisky Emporium as my own tasting notes, written during the MMA process of tasting the whiskies totally blind and often two or three times each with different flight partners for accurate comparison and scoring. You can see my onw scores on the MM Scorecard, so I won't rewrite those here, but click on the pictures below to view my personal opinions on the cream of the MMA 2011 crop.

    Gold Medal Winners  





Ultra-Premium Awards (Whiskies in the €150+ price range)


Non-Plus Ultra Award

Best Natural Cask

Best Sherry Cask


Best Cask Innovation

Best Peated Malt

Thumbs Up (special mention)


Premium Awards (Whiskies in the €50 to €150 price range)


Non-Plus Ultra Award

Best Natural Cask

Best Sherry Cask


Best Cask Innovation

Best Peated Malt

Thumbs Up (special mention)


Daily Dram Awards (Whiskies costing no more than €50)


Non-Plus Ultra Award

Best Natural Cask

Best Sherry Cask


Best Cask Innovation

Best Peated Malt

Thumbs Up (special mention)


Finally, one "Special Category" Award for 2011 is the "Pressure Cooker" Award and is awarded to an astounding 10y whisky, bottled specially for Whisky Live Taipei 2011.

MacDuff 10y, Cask No.5800, From Exclusive Malts




Thursday December 1st 2011

Families, Christmas and whisky

Matt & Karen of Whisky4Everyone ask which whisky you'd recommend to that Great Aunt, Mother-in-Law or other non whisky-drinking family member! Read it here...





Recent major features (A full list of all Dram-atics articles may be found in my ToC)  
June-Aug 2011 Bits Bytes & Drams, Glen Garioch 1994, Angela D'Orazio - Mackmyra, Trinity of Two Earls, Drams at Dawn
May 2011 Don't bug me with ads, A dram fine evening
April 2011 Cry me a River, Golden Oldies, The Shackleton Legacy, Two Weddings and a Whisky
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




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