Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Glen Moray 10yo Chardonnay Cask

A sample swap from Jack to fill in one of the blanks in both my Glen Moray and wine finished dram lists - this is a 10 year old whisky matured entirely in Chardonnay casks. By entirely I mean for the whole maturation process - this isn't a whisky which has been 'finished' in a wine cask - it's spent it's whole life in it.

Distillery : Glen Moray
Whisky : 10yo Chardonnay
Distillery's Info : "A tremendously rich Glen Moray fully matured in Chardonnay wine barrels, which has given the whisky an incredible depth of flavour with a perfect balance of caramelised fruit, butterscotch and lingering notes of toasted oak."
Source : Sample swap from Jack
Price : £29
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV, 10yo, Coloured, Chill-filtered
Colour : Pale Gold (Coloured)
Nose : Wine, buttery toffee.
Palate: Oily smooth with more of the buttery toffee from the nose, a little hint of spiced citrus fruit.
Finish : Smooth toffee with some spice, very drying.
Overall : It would have been interesting to see the colour of then non-coloured dram - I'm guessing a lot paler due to the the white wine casks - I don't understand the need for colour to be added - it's a white wine cask - it's going to be pale! The whisky is very easy to drink - very smooth with just a little hint of spice towards the end - lovely!


Monday, 28 August 2017

Dark Storm from Talisker

This is a travel retail bottle which my brother bought me when he visited from the USA at the beginning of the year, as you can see from the photo - it's nearly all gone now!

The box says it's "a deep, dark and rich Talisker, matured in selected heavily charred casks to give extra spice and smoke." and to be honest I've got to completely agree!

Whisky : Dark Storm (NAS)
Characteristics : 1ltr, 45.8% ABV. Chill filtered.
Price : £70
Colour : Dark Amber - but coloured.
Nose : Wood smoke, orchard fruit, some smokey bacon - very BBQ like!
Palate : Very spicy, a little salt and some smoke.
Finish : A sweet honey taste remains in the mouth after a spicy black pepper finish with a little smoke.
Overall : It's a funny kind of smoke - wood rather than peat but it's delicious! The spice is really nice, some have likened it to chilli but I don't think it's that harsh - maybe like biting into a black peppercorn?
Link : Dark Storm

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Fire and Brimstone

An dark dram with a secret smoking process - who can't fail to be intrigued?

American bourbon always mention a Mash Bill - this is the percentages of different cereals which go into the Mash for fermentation - in this case it's 100% Hopi blue corn from New Mexico.

When you open the bottle the nose is assaulted by BBQ smoke, but Balcones doesn’t disclose how the smoke flavour and aroma is infused into the whisky, all they say is that "After distillation the spirit is smoked with Texas scrub oak, a short, shrubby oak native to the more arid parts of North America." Searching the internet there is speculation that "they use a technique called smoke injecting, where pumps force smoke through the liquid after it is distilled. This technique is less labor-intensive than smoking grain before distillation, and can result in intense, campfire-like smokiness that’s perceived a bit differently by your taste buds than a spirit made from smoked grain." However they do it - it is very strong!

Distillery : Balcones, Texas, USA
Whisky : Brimstone
Distillery's Info : "This one-of-a-kind whisky is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using our own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh, youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness. Whether you like smokey whiskies, or just have a penchant for big, new flavors, Brimstone is sure to be memorable pour. Aromas of masa, Texas campfire and powdered sugar backed by stone fruit, peppery spice, and mint. Bold yet balanced, Brimstone is yet another Texas original from Balcones."
Source : Sample swap from Maltman Mike (who didn't like it!)
Price : £84
Characteristics : 750ml, 53% ABV, NAS, Uncoloured, Non Chill-filtered
Colour : Treacle
Nose : Barbecued Banoffee Pie - very lots of sweet smoke!
Palate: Sweet and oily with smoked nuts and a quite some spice - chilli? Hides it's strength well.
Finish : Very long and smokey - I could almost taste it the next day - the fumes from the empty glass were still quite strong!.
Overall : A very decisive dram, Maltman Mike distributed a few samples and opinions were very mixed - I think it was nice as a sipping dram, but it is very in your face - would have been great at a BBQ! I didn't add any water - you don't need to the strength was very well hidden.


Friday, 25 August 2017

What's Grain Whisky all about then?

I've recently tried quite a few Grain whiskies, and been impressed by some of them, so much so that I've crossed out the word malt in my blog description! So I thought I'd try and find out a bit more about Grain Whiskies and what makes them different from Malt Whiskies.

Let's start with the basics - the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 formally define five categories of Scotch Whisky. The relevant category description must appear clearly and prominently on every bottle of Scotch Whisky sold:
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky : A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and (ii) by batch distillation in pot stills. (From 23 November 2012, Single Malt Scotch Whisky must also be bottled in Scotland).
  • Single Grain Scotch Whisky : A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals, and (ii) which does not comply with the definition of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky : A blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.
  • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky : A blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
  • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky : A blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.

For me there are a number of key points:

  • Malt or Grain : a whisky is either 100% malted barley or not.
  • Single or blend : a whisky is either from one or more than one distillery.
  • A blend can either be of just malt whisky, just grain whisky or a combination.

Some examples of the five types are:

  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky : Lagavulin 16yo. Tomatin 10yo
  • Single Grain Scotch Whisky : Strathclyde 25yo. Haig Club.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky : Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker Black 12yo.
  • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky : Compass Box Spice Tree, Monkey Shoulder.
  • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky : Compass Box Hedonism, .

So how is malt whisky made?

There are loads of good diagrams (Wolfburn) and videos (Kilchoman) describing the process but basically barley malted by being steeped water, then allowed to germinate, when the maltster thinks it's ready the germination is halted by drying the malted barley in a kiln, sometime including the use of peat, the dried malted barley is then ground (grist) and mixed with hot water (mashing) a process which converts the starch in the barley into a sugary liquid known as wort, this is then fermented using yeast converting the sugary wort into crude alcohol called wash, distillation then separates the alcohol from the wash (malt whisky is distilled twice, once in a larger wash still, and secondly in a, usually, slightly smaller spirit still) during the second distillation the middle cut of the spirit flow is collected as clear new make spirit, which is then matured for a minimum of 3 years in oak casks.
This is a batch process.

So how is grain whisky made?

William Grant & Sons have a great video but basically in a similar way to malt whisky a mash of barley mixed with cheaper cereals like wheat or maize (corn) is made, this is then fermented and then distilled in a Patent or Coffey still. These stills look nothing like the beautiful copper stills we see in a malt distillery - they are usually made of steel and look more like a petrol refinery.

Photo :

Currently no grain distilleries have visitor centres! Each still is made up of an analyser and a rectifier.

Diagram and explanation :

The wash is pumped in at the top of the rectifier where, as it flows down a coil, it is warmed by the heat of vapours rising up the still. Once heated, the wash enters the top of the analyser. The how wash then descends the column through perforated plates. As it does so, low pressure steam rises up the analyser extracting alcohol vapours, taking them back to the bottom of the rectifier. These alcohol vapours then start to rise, and are gradually condensed by the cool wash coils, with the grain spirit extracted from the column.
This is a continuous process.

So why grain?

Grain whisky tends to be milder in flavour and aroma than malt whisky, cheaper cereals and the continuous process makes grain whisky cheaper and quicker to produce. usually it is matured for the minimum 3 years then blended with one or more malts. Currently 80% of whisky sold is a grain / malt blend.

There are currently six grain only distilleries working in Scotland:
  • Cameronbridge (Diageo  - built in 1824, the oldest & largest grain whisky distillery) 
  • Girvan (W. Grant & Sons - build in 1963) 
  • Invergordon (Whyte & Mackay - built in 1959) 
  • North British (Lothian Distillers Ltd (50:50 Diageo and the Edrington Group) - build in 1885, the second largest Scotch grain distillery) 
  • Starlaw (La Martiniquaise - build in 2010) 
  • Strathclyde (Pernod Ricard - built in 1927)
Loch Lomond produces both malt and grain whiskies at it's distillery.

If you are lucky you can still get grain whisky from some now closed distilleries : Caledonian (closed in 1987), Cambus (closed in 1993), Carsebridge (closed in 1983), Dumbarton (closed in 1988), Moffat (Garnheath) (closed in 1985), Port Dundas (closed in 2009) and Strathmore (closed in 1980).

You can buy bottles of single grain whisky from a number of retailers including Douglas Laing.

After my recent samplings I'd recommend you try some single grains it will surprise you how good they can be!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

#GBMM2017 Wolfburn Distillery

On Saturday 12th August Maltman Mike organised and ran a little whisky tasting shindig at the House Of Malt in Carlisle #GBMM2017! You can read the introduction here!

As I've already written a "Newer Distilleries" blog on Wolfburn this one will concentrate on their whiskies which we tasted on the night.

Unfortunate Wolfburn weren't able to be with us on the night, it's a long way from Thurso to Carlisle, but instead they sent us a bottle of each of their four malts to try!

Wolfburn's four whiskies

"Four?" you ask, yes "Four" I said! We were very lucky to be able to have the first bottle of their new whisky : Morven to try!

Maltman Mike introduced us to the distillery then the pair of us took it in turns to introduce the whiskies as samples were poured to try.

First up Mike talked about the Northland

Whisky : Northland (NAS)
Characteristics : 700ml, 46% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £45
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Citrus fruit with some saltiness rounded off with a little peat smoke - delicious!
Palate : Sweet honey and some nuttiness.
Finish : A little bitter with some spice and smoke.
Overall : The youthfulness of the whisky come through on the palate - it's a little rough around the edges but I think you'll struggle to find anything better at this age.

Then I described the Aurora and No.128

Whisky : Aurora (NAS)
Characteristics : 700ml, 46% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £43
Colour : Gold
Nose :  A little sherry in this one as expected making it quite different from the Northland. A little bread dough or porridge, again with some nuts.
Palate : Some pear and a little bitter orange, more of the porridge and a little sherry.
Finish : Shery with a little spice.
Overall : A different dram from the Northland, obviously due to the different casks used to mature the spirit. A think overall I preferred the slightly peaty Northland at this stage.

Whisky : No. 128 (NAS)
Characteristics : 700ml, 46% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £70
Colour : Gold
Nose : Vanilla and peat smoke dominate with a little chocolate orange developing.
Palate : Apples, honey and sultanas, like that baked pudding my mum used to make when I was young! The peat smoke is always there but not dominating and a little vanilla develops over time - yummy!
Finish : Slightly drying with a lovely smokey finish.
Overall : I loved this dram, much preferring it to the first two! I am a bit of an Islay fan boy and love peaty whisky - this wasn't anywhere near an Islay but the smoke was just enough to satisfy - one to try if you can't take a full-on Islay yet!

Finally Mike introduced, for the first time in the world!, the Morven! House Of Malt were really excited about this one and really pleased to have the exclusive - it's going to be one of Wolfburn's standard drams using peated barley - look out for it next month when it becomes available here!

Whisky : Morven (NAS)
Characteristics : 700ml, 46% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £45
Colour : Pale Gold - a little paler than the peated No. 128
Nose : Pear drops dominate with a little salt, over time vanilla and peat smoke develop with the pear drops changing to more pear and apple fruit.
Palate : Sweet and oily on the tongue with a little peat smoke with them orchard fruits coming through again with a little spice.
Finish : Drying with a long smokey finish.
Overall : This is a lovely dram, it's different from the No. 128 more orchard rather than citrus fruits. You wouldn't guess it was only 3 or 4 years old, showing that Wolfburn have some excellent spirit which through the use of some good wood is maturing into great whisky - get some!

All the bloggers at the back of the room busy scribbling notes, but I think this is the first published review of Wolfburn's Morven!

Overall a fantastic set of drams, all under 4 years old, it just shows what you can achieve when you have the passion and commitment to create some craft whisky!

Many thanks to Wolfburn for supplying the whiskies!

Back to the #GBMM2017 introduction!

#GBMM2017 The Lakes Distillery

On Saturday 12th August Maltman Mike organised and ran a little whisky tasting shindig at the House Of Malt in Carlisle #GBMM2017! You can read the introduction here!

This is also my fourth in an occasional series about newer distilleries, this entry is about the Lakes Distillery.

Chris Pateman from The Lakes Distillery came to tell us all about the their distillery and brought a few bottles and a surprise!


The Lakes Distillery is located near Bassenthwaite in Cumbria.


Building work at the distillery started in April 2013 renovating an old dairy farm which had stood empty for 20 years It was founded by Paul Currie who along with his father set up the Arran Distillery.

The farm before renovation began

The distillery opened in November 2014, with spirit flowing on the 16th December.

Beautiful gates at the distillery as it looks now

Production Process

The distillery takes water from the River Derwent on it's journey from Borrowdale to the Irish Sea. They try to use local barley from the Scottish Borders which is malted in Yorkshire.

The twin stills (5,000 litre wash and 3,500 litre spirit) came from Archibald McMillan just outside of Edinburgh and  their mashtun and washbacks from Musk in Burton upon Trent.

They plan to lay down around 700 casks per year.


The first malt whisky is due to reach 3 years of maturity in December 2017, in the mean time the distillery has been making Gin and Vodka as well as a range of blends using whiskies from around the UK which they are calling the One Blend.

Chris brought three for us to try whilst bringing us up to date on news from the distillery.

I didn't try any of these on the night, busy preparing for my Wolfburn presentation which was coming next, so have used the distilleries own tasting notes.

Whisky : The One (NAS)
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV.
Price : £30
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Fresh fruits, treacle, light spice and gentle peat-smoke.
Palate : Honey-roasted nuts, spice, and hints of dried fruits and wood smoke

Whisky : The One PX (NAS) limited edition 5,252 bottles
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV.
Price : £40
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Dried fruits with hints of fresh ginger, toffee, nutmeg and gentle smoke.
Palate : Smooth and creamy with notes of vanilla, sun-dried raisins, nutmeg and wood smoke.

Whisky : The One Tawny Port Finish (NAS) limited edition 3,740 bottles
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV.
Price : £40
Colour : Amber
Notes : Golden syrup, sweet, nutty, hints of spice, fruit compote, slightly smoky

As a surprise Chris also brought a bottle of freshly drawn bourbon cash matured 2½ year old spirit which still had bits of a cask charring in it - this one I did try!

When left for a few minutes, to allow the spirit to settle, small samples were poured to try.

The 61.2% spirit had huge vanilla notes on the nose with citrus and malt on the palate - promising!

I can't wait for Lakes to release their first whisky - probably towards the end of this year or early next year. That may be slightly too young, but if they can match what Wolfburn have done it will be good. Early signs are, as I've said, promising and as a well known Irish drinks company say "Good things come to those who wait!"

Back to the #GBMM2017 introduction!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

#GBMM2017 Douglas Laing Single Grains

On Saturday 12th August Maltman Mike organised and ran a little whisky tasting shindig at the House Of Malt in Carlisle #GBMM2017! You can read the introduction here!

Jan, the Global Malt Ambassador for Douglas Laing popped down from Glasgow to share some of their Single Grain collection.

Established in 1948, Douglas Laing is a proud family business in its third generation, purveyor of the finest Scotch Whisky with particular focus on artisan, Small Batch and Single Cask bottlings. They have 3 main ranges:

Remarkable Regional Malts - a series of regional blends, both NAS and aged.

Old Particular Malts - a series of regional aged malts and grains.

Xtra Old Particular Malts - a series of extra special regional aged malts and grains.

It was from the Grains Old Particular range which Jan had come to talk to us about.

Jan had obviously done this a few times before (!) and had plenty of marketing material and a swish presentation to show. 

He gave an overview of the history of the company and his career then explained how they purchase single casks and even new make spirit to mature. Their current stock ranges in age from 0 to 55 years old! First up was the Port Dundas 12yo

Distillery : Port Dundas (closed in 2010)
Whisky : 12yo Single Grain (one of 557 bottles, cask 11665)
Characteristics : 700ml, 48.4% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £35
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Nail varnish, acetone, and a little icing sugar.
Palate : Digestive biscuits - drying, some of the icing sugar.
Finish : Very short with a little spice.
Overall : Slightly rough, even though it was 12 yo! Probably 4th out of the 4 single grains we tried.

Pairing : A little surprise to all of us was when Jan came out with some food pairing for the drams - in this case it was Belgium Lotus Biscuits! Jan encouraged us to chew a little biscuit then take in a little whisky and chew together! I'm not normally one for food pairings but I do like these biscuits and the mix was interesting!

Next up was the Loch Lomond 19yo

Distillery : Loch Lomond
Whisky : 19yo Single Grain (one of 341 bottles, cask 11184)
Characteristics : 700ml, 51.5% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £55
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Nail varnish, acetone, very similar to the Port Dundas but with a little sweetness.
Palate : Bread dough and a little hazelnut with some spicy pepper..
Finish : Again quite short with a bit of a kick from the high ABV.
Overall : Not a bad dram, only a little stronger than the Port Dundas but tasted a lot stronger!

Pairing : This time it was Lemon Drizzle cake which Jan suggested he'd made at home but they looked rather like Mr Kipling's to me! Again an interesting combination - the Lemon and the nuttiness in the dram worked well together!

Third grain was the Strathclyde 25yo

Distillery : Strathclyde
Whisky : 25yo Single Grain (one of 116 bottles, cask 11335)
Characteristics : 700ml, 51.5% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £65
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Totally different from the previous two,Vanilla.on the nose with a honey sweetness.
Palate : Tongue coating, oily. Digestive biscuits again, this time with orange.
Finish : Slightly longer than the previous two with some spice and the vanilla coming through.
Overall : A delicious dram, no good I decided to buy a bottle at the end of the night! Unfortunately Vin jumped in front of me in the queue and nabbed the last bottle.....

Pairing : With this dram, Jan offered us Millionaire's Shortbread (this time looking remarkably similar to Salisbury's in-store variety) the sweetness of the cake (chocolate and toffee) matched the sweetness in the whisky - very pleasant!

Jan explain just how interesting Grain Distilleries are to visit (Not!)

Our final grain of the night was the Girvan 26yo

Distillery : Girvan
Whisky : 26yo Single Grain (one of 225 bottles, cask 11061)
Characteristics : 700ml, 51.5% ABV. NCF Non-coloured
Price : £75
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Very sweet brown sugar with a little vanilla.
Palate : Again tongue coating, oily. Toffee and vanilla with a little spice.
Finish : Some dried fruit and vanilla.
Overall : Not as good as the Strathcylde but better than the Port Dundas and Loch Lomond! Obviously by this time in the evening my nose and palate were starting to complain especially with the sweetness of this last one - a pause and a large drink of water were in order!

Pairing: Plain shortbread rounds this time - but it was just too much sugar and sweetness!

Overall a really interesting set of grain whiskies, all were much better than the grains I tried before and I even though I was going to buy one to take away! I know most grain whisky goes into blends, not I'd suggest the older single grains are definitely worth trying and Douglas Laing have a few that you can!

Some people had more cakes than others....

Back to the #GBMM2017 introduction!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

#GBMM2017 Cooper King Distillery & Tomatin Whisky

On Saturday 12th August Maltman Mike organised and ran a little whisky tasting shindig at the House Of Malt in Carlisle #GBMM2017! You can read the introduction here!

This is also my third in an occasional series about newer distilleries, this entry is about the Cooper King Distillery.

Abbie and Chris from Cooper King came over from Yorkshire to tell us all about the new distillery they are building! Obviously they didn't have anything for us to sample so Tomatin stood in with a bottle of their delicious Cask Strength!


Cooper King Distillery is located in Sutton-on-the-Forest near York in North Yorkshire.

The distillery is being self-build on the site of an old stable block. When complete the distillery will house a production area and cask maturation warehouse, together with a rustic tasting room and well-stocked shop.

Photo : CooperKing
Photo : CooperKing

In 2014, a desire to leave the rat race Abbie and Chris crossed the globe to Australia, in search of sun, sand and adventure.

While living and working in Tasmania, a nearby distillery won World’s Best Single Malt Whisky, a feat never accomplished outside of Scotland or Japan. They began researching for a whisky blog for friends back home and visited a number of operational whisky distilleries. They had an incredible three months leading a bizarre double life. One day apple picking, sleeping in the boot of an estate car, eating cup-a-soup for dinner and living the true back-packer lifestyle. The next, staying in nice hotels, learning about all things whisky and meeting up with distillery owners and head distillers.

Eventually they were inspired to come home and build their own distillery! They took advice from Bill Lark, the godfather of Tasmanian whisky, and others they met on their travels.

The distillery name Cooper King comes from Chris’ great-great-grandfather Charles Cooper King, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Marine Artillery. They thought his adventurous spirit fitted the business perfectly. But there was a problem – they had to seek permission from the Cabinet Office to use the word ‘King’ in their company name!

Production Process

Cooper King have sourced their the custom-made 900 litre copper pot still from Tasmania and plan to use 100% Yorkshire barley combined with pure Yorkshire water in a 5-6 day fermentation period to produce a "distinctive malt spirit unlike any other in the UK".

The whisky will be matured, on site, in small 100 litre casks from "England's last Master Cooper" Alastair Simms of White Rose Cooperage locally in North Yorkshire.

Photo: YorkMix

They plan to distil their first spirit around Christmas 2017 producing around 3,500 bottles per year. Interestingly as they aren't in Scotland they are not bound by Scottish Oak maturation rules - they'll be able experiment with other woods!

Cooper King Distillery is striving to be a green distillery running on 100% green energy, they will also plant a tree for every membership sold to offset carbon emissions. There are a four levels of membership through their Founder's Club offering a number of rewards to investors!

It was great to meet Abbie and Chris at the #GBMM2017 at The House of Malt and I'm really looking forward to visiting their distillery and trying their whisky when it has becomes available!

Link to the distillery website

Not open yet but planning to being the new year!

phone : +44 (0)1347 808232 

Now obviously they didn't have any whisky for us to try, so a slightly older distillery stepped in to help! Tomatin donated a bottle of their cask Strength for us to enjoy whilst we listened to Abbie and Chris' presentation.

Whisky : Tomatin Cask Strength (NAS)
Characteristics : 57.5% ABV, NCF, Non-coloured
Price : £50 widely available
Colour : Dark Gold
Nose : Honey and red fruit - strawberries and raspberries, the strength comes through in the nose and there is a background of sherry.
Palate : Mouth filling, oily, more honey and fruit. Quite spicy - a hint of ginger?
Finish : Drying and very spicy.
Overall : A wonderful sipping dram, would be great in front of a roaring fire but all I had was a gang of bloggers! I think we all enjoyed this one!
Link : Cask Strength

Back to the #GBMM2017 introduction!