Saturday, 30 September 2017

Paul John Single Cask (#686 Peated)

Paul John is an Indian distillery established in 1992, it's whiskies have won many awards and are available all over the world. This is the second of their's I've tried, the first being Brilliance.

As well as their core range they also offer a number of single cask bottles, which due to the high temperatures in Goa and the greedy angels, are often low in number! This particular dram if from one of only 156 bottles and I'm grateful to @Andrews_Share for the sample.

Whisky : Single Cask #686 (Peated to 35 ppm)

Characteristics : 700ml, 59% ABV.

Distillery's info : "Produced using Himalayan barley and Islay peat and was bottled from ex-bourbon cask number 686"

Price : £100 Discontinued

Colour : Dark Gold

Nose : The smoke hits you immediately after pouring, as does the alcohol. Left to rest in the glass for 10-15 minutes allows the dram to calm down a bit! I get hot porridge with some orange marmalade.

Palate : The strength get you - started a coughing session! It's not oily like some peaty Islay malts, more syrupy, quite sweet - more orange marmalade and quite a bit of spice on the tongue.

Finish : Very warming, some malt, spice and quite a bit of smoke.

Overall : I really enjoyed this dram, much better than the Brilliance I bought from M&S which I still can't quite make my mind up about! The smoke is there, the orange marmalade is always present and there are nice hints of spice!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Newer Distilleries 5 : Cotswolds

This is the fifth in an occasional series about newer distilleries, this entry is about the Cotswolds Distillery


The Cotswolds Distillery is located in Stourton.


The Cotswolds Distillery was build during 2014 by Daniel Szor, a former hedge fund manager born in New York who left a 30-year career in finance to follow his dream, he renovated an old barn to produce a pretty little distillery in the heart of the Cotswolds.

Photo: Cotswolds Distillery

The Pot Stills came from Forsyths in Moray, production began on the 5th September 2014, and the first cask of single malt whisky filled on the 22nd September.

Production Process

The distillery uses Cotswolds-grown, floor-malted barley from Warminster, Britain’s oldest working maltings. It's bagged in pre-weighed batches negating the need for any malt storage bins. Like Bruichladdich they intent to display source farm (local) and barley variety on each bottle.

They have half tonne mash tun where the grist is mixed with water. Fermentation of the 2,500 litres of wort is in one of  eight steel wash backs for around 90 hours, considerably longer than most distilleries.

Distillation takes place in Mary their 2, 500 litre copper pot wash still, then Janis their 1,600 litre spirit still gets to work!

Photo: Cotswolds Distillery

The new make spirit is diluted from 75% to 63.5% and casked to be matured offsite, due to being in an area of outstanding natural beauty, at a warehouse in Liverpool. They are using a variety of different oak casks including ex-bourbon, sherry butts and STR barrels, as well as some more fancy rum, apple brandy and Moscatel casks!

Photo: Cotswolds Distillery


Their first whiskies will mature on 7th October 2017, they plan to bottle Non Chillfiltered and Naturally Coloured at 46%. Advertised tasting notes are : "On the nose, honey and butterscotch, layered with light fruits (peaches, apricots) and a hint of marzipan. The palate is rich with malt, oils and dark sugar. Spice and caramelised bitter orange lead into a long, resinous finish with dark red fruits and a hint of treacle."

Link to the distillery website

Promo video

Opening Hours and Tour Times:
Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 11am to 4pm
Tours run every day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm  - always a good idea to book in advance!

email :
phone : +44 1608 238 533

Monday, 18 September 2017

Benromach New Releases @TweetTastings

Tonight I was lucky enough to be picked by Steve to take part in his latest @TweetTastings, this time is was to try two new @Benromach drams - and they were quite different!

As usual the Post Office were under performing and my samples arrived just in time, some of the other tasters didn't get their's...... Note to distilleries : send them out with plenty of time to take into account our overworked Post Office!

Tonight's drams were two whiskies which are to be released later this month - the Triple Distilled and the red wine cask finished Chateau Cissac. Now I'm a big fan of Benromach so I added my Sassicaia into the mix as an extra comparison!

So first up was the Triple Distilled, the first of it's kind by Benromach and limited to just under 16,000 bottles.

Whisky : Triple Distilled
Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV. Not Coloured, NCF
Distillery's info : "Light straw coloured malt, matured in First Fill Bourbon casks, tripe distilled the first of it's kind for Benromach"
Price : £45
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Pears and marzipan with a little smoke initially then developed with a little lemon and some ginger spice.
Palate : Smooth, slightly oily vanilla butter. A hint of smoke and a little kick from the alcohol but not as much as you'd expect.
Finish : Quite long, drying and spicy with a little smoke.
Overall : A really lovely dram, easily the best of the two Benromach send tonight! It had just the right balance of smoke and vanilla from the first fill casks.

Some thoughts from some of the other TweetTasters:

Next up was the 2009 vintage of the popular Chateau Cissac wine finish whisky limited to 4,200 bottles.

Whisky : Chateau Cissac
Characteristics : 700ml, 45% ABV. Not Coloured, NCF
Distillery's info : "Matured in First Fill Bourbon casks and finished for 25 months in hand-selected casks from the illustrious Chateau Cissac within the Appellation Haut-Medoc Controlee in South-Western France."
Price : £40
Colour : Gold
Nose : Winey, smoke - smoked cheese (Applewood or Bavarian)
Palate : Smooth and  oily again but with the alcohol kick missing from the Triple. Red fruit in a bowl of porridge (but it needed some sugar - there was no real sweetness). A little more smoke than the Triple.
Finish : Again drying and lip tingling - showing the strength mor ethan the Triple did.
Overall : This one was OK, I tried it side by side with my bottle of Sassicaia - another of Benromach's Red Wine Finished drams - but from Italy this time; there was no comparison - the Sassicaia was in a different league - more fruity and balancing the smoke a lot better.

Some thoughts from some of the other TweetTasters:

Many thanks to Benromach for the drams and Steve for organising, his 110th Tweet Tasting, and to everyone who joined in a really enjoyable evening!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Whiskies Galore

I've reviewed one of Ian Buxton's books before 101 Whiskies to try before you Die and am slowly ticking them off as I continue my whisky journey - hopefully I'll get them all tried? I also enjoyed the commentary he added to the 2016 republishing of the book Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald from 1930. I was really pleased to see that Ian has written another book, this time called Whiskies Galore.

Just a minute - hasn't that been written already, by Compton Mackenzie in 1947?

It was about a ship running aground off a Scottish island and the locals helping themselves to the whisky it was carrying. Wasn't it made into a film in 1949?

And haven't they just remade it in 2017?

So has Ian wrote a book about the film, about the film about the book?

Well actually no, if you look closely you'll see the book is actually called Whiskies (plural) Galore. OK so it's about more than one ship running aground with whisky from more than one distillery? Well actually no, you'll also notice from the cover that it's missing the exclamation mark. So does that mean it's not funny?

Well some parts are but some parts aren't, confused? Shall I tell you what the book is actually about?

If you have read any of Bill Bryson's books you'll understand exactly where Ian is coming from with this one - it's a personal travel log of Ian's (and his long suffering? wife's) visits over the last 50 years to all the Scottish islands which have distilleries. Ian tells us a little of his visits as a small boy holidaying with his family, his more recent ones in a working capacity and the most recent with his wife. Included are stories about the islands themselves, the people that live on them and their distilleries (including Whisky, Gin and Rum!)

The journey starts in Arran and makes it away around the Scottish coast to Jura, Mull, Islay, Harris and Lewis, Raasay, Skye and Orkney - taking in a small industrial unit, just off the M62, on the way!

Whilst there is no "detailed information on equipment, still sizes, barley varieties, output, capacities and so on" or "exhaustively documented lists of 1001 different whiskies with lengthy and baroque tasting notes" for the dedicated whisky nerd, there are lots of interesting stories including the time Ian nearly bought a distillery; the time he tried to find a blue pipe in a field in the pouring rain; the time he went fishing with his father and a grenade; how he can tell us which cave the Ardbeg Distillery manager lives in and how Ronnie Lee keeps most of the distilleries in Scotland (and possibly the world) running!

There is a lot of history in the book - life in and around the distilleries; when and how the distilleries were built; the 'Clearances' during the 18th and 19th centuries; explaining how tourist visits to distilleries first started in the early 1900's but really took off with Glenfiddich in 1969; a couple of amusing stories from when Bruichladdich was re-opened in 2000 including Mark Reynier's 'personnel changes' and where their Yellow Submarine came from!

One of the 'strange' things about the book is Ian's own experiences of being a collector, not of whisky, but of pens and inks! He wrote this book by hand and tells us during each chapter which particular pen and shade of ink he used! For example the Jura chapter was written with Iroshizuku Momiji Red ink from Pilot in Japan! I can't remember Bill Bryson doing that!

Throughout the book Ian gives us a number of recommendations, as well as the pens and inks there are wayside cafe's to visit, log burning stoves to buy and of course which distilleries to visit!

I really enjoyed this book, I love travel and whisky so it ticked all the boxes! I was actually on holiday in Rhodes whilst I read it - getting the travel but unfortunately not a lot of whisky!

The book is in places very funny and in others very sad but is full of interest for whisky lovers and non-lovers alike - apart from the funny stories its full of obscure nerdy information from an expert in the field.

Ian doesn't hold and punches and I'm sure there are a few distilleries he talks about who probably wouldn't welcome him back with open arms! Two of the key takeaways for me from the book were Ian's thoughts on whisky scores and prices:

  • A tasting note is only one person's opinion and an unreliable guide to the probability of your pleasure. Above all, avoid the absurdly spurious accuracy of a tasting score of 94.5 points or similar nonsense. trust your own judgement; enjoy what you enjoy and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
  • Some people collect whiskies but never drink them. Some people - may they get help soon - even promote whisky as an 'investment', a trend upon which certain distillers have happily capitalised, leading to ever more elaborately packaged special bottles of increasing cost and vulgarity and a general drift upwards in the price of whisky. All this is to be deplored by the genuine and righteous student of whisk who understands instinctively that whisky is made to be drunk and has no meaning until the moment of its consumption.

You can buy Whiskies Galore (without the exclamation mark) from Amazon!

Many thanks to Ian and the publisher Birlinn for the copy of the book.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Any Port in a storm?

One of the great things about the internet is the opportunity to 'meet' people you wouldn't ordinarily have met or even come across! Twitter, in particular, is great for this and I have met and 'spoken to' loads of people on Twitter especially about whisky! Friendships have developed including drinking whisky 'together' and swapping samples. Over the last few months I've amassed quite a collection of samples and decided the time has come to try and get some tasted!

The sample box
I wanted to try and be a little creative so have grouped some of them together, as the title suggests all these samples have been finished in Port casks.

First up colour - they all look beautiful in the glass!

L-R Tomatin, Talisker, Glenmorangie, Edradour

I also tried to find out how long each had actually spent in a port cask but Talisker wouldn't tell me.

So on to the tasting notes!

Distillery : Tomatin
Whisky : 14 year old Port Cask
Sample from@WhiskyWings
Characteristics : 700ml, 46% ABV. Not coloured, NCF.
Distillery's info : "Soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years. Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad"
Price : £54
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Raspberries and Apricots with sweet red berries developing over time, the port was there but only just.
Palate : Oily, salted butter, more of the red berries
Finish : Chewy vanilla
Overall : This one had spent the shortest in a Port Pipe and it showed, not much of a Port influence.
Link : 14yo

Distillery : Talisker
Whisky : Port Ruighe NAS
Sample from : @The_Cask_Blog
Characteristics : 700ml, 45.8% ABV. Coloured, Chill-filtered.
Distillery's info : "Double matured in port casks, this malt is a toast to the Scottish traders who braved the high seas and were instrumental in the foundation of the port wine trade. Port Ruighe, pronounced ‘Portree’ is the Gaelic spelling of the once-bustling trading port on Skye. The port finish combines Talisker’ s powerful maritime character with succulent sweet notes of rich berry fruits for a superb taste experience."
Price : £50
Colour : Pale Gold (Coloured)
Nose : Sea salt, a little smoke, and some winey aromas, completely different from the Tomatin.
Palate : Continuing from the nose - sea salt but a bit of yin and yang with a sweetness - slightly confusing! there is some oakiness and some honey there too but over quite quickly.
Finish : Smokey with a spicy pepper finish.
Overall : I just didn't like this one, the nose was very strange and on the palate I just couldn't make my mind up about the salt and sweet thing.
Link Port Ruighe

Distillery : Glenmorangie
Whisky : Quinta Ruban 12yo
Sample from : @SpikeyDog120
Characteristics : 700ml, 45.8% ABV. Coloured, NCF.
Distillery's info : "The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal. Extra maturation in these port pipes develops Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban into a voluptuous spirit with a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours and an intriguing contrast of smooth and crisp, cooling textures. Non chill-filtered for additional aroma and mouthfeel."
Price : £50
Colour : Pale Gold (Coloured)
Nose : Sweet honey developing into dark chocolate with a hint of orange - yummy! The Port was there as a foundation.
Palate : Some sweetness, more of the honey and chocolate but with some underlying vanilla.
Finish : Warming and spicy with lots of maple syrup.
Overall : This was a lovely dram, the nose was delightful and the finish was superb.
Link : Quinta Ruban

Distillery : Edradour
Whisky : 2001 SV Port (13yo)
Sample from@The_Cask_Blog
Characteristics : 500ml, 56.3% ABV. Not coloured, NCF.
Distillery's info : "Nose: Red berries, oak and fruity port richness. Palate: Velvet texture. Smooth but lively on the palate with heather and oak, maple syrup, orange and spice. Finish: Warm spices with lingering red fruits."
Price : Discontinued
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : WOW - this is liquid walnuts! As soon as I poured it out of the bottle it filled the room, nosing just intensified the aroma. It did fade over time and revealed a hint of butterscotch and the port.
Palate : Really nutty! More of the walnuts and a little almond - much like a Dundee cake but this cake was full of chilli too!
Finish : Drying, due to the higher strength, again more of the nuts and that lingering spicy chilli!
Overall : I really enjoyed this one, but nearly lost it - when I mentioned Edradour to my wife and let her smell the dram she disappeared with the glass! This is the dram which had spent the longest in a Port Pipe and it showed - on the nose and palate.

Summary : It was a close thing between the Glenmorangie and the Edradour for first place! I think the Glenmorangie just took it on the finish. The Tomatin was third but the Talisker was a distant fourth. I normally love smoke in a whisky but the combination with the port just didn't tick my boxes.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Scapa 16yo The Orcadian

Scapa is the little brother to Highland Park on Orkney in the far north of Scotland, unfortunately they have discontinued this whisky, but thanks to a cheeky twitter comment @MaltMentalist offered to send me a sample - how could I refuse!

Pernod Ricard, Scapa's owners, are the company that discontinued the Glenlivet 12 in favour of the NAS Founder’s Reserve, unfortunately they've done the same think here replacing the 16yo with the NAS Skiren. They do have a funky sideways scrolling website but the 16yo doesn't appear on it anymore.

Whisky : 16 year old
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV. Coloured.
Distillery's info : "From the sanctuary of the Scapa Flow a smooth yet full-bodied malt aged in Orkney for 16 years this golden malt delivers a sweet and silky smooth heather honey taste perfectly balanced with delicate spice"
Price : Discontinued
Colour : Pale Gold (Coloured)
Nose : Heather and honey with a little sea salt - quite powerful.
Palate : Very creamy - vanilla and soft soft fruit - peach?
Finish : Quite long creamy vanilla.
Overall : A lovely creamy dram, quite different from the Highland park whiskies from Orkney, you still get the familiar Orkney heather on the nose but as Scapa don't use peated barley there's no smoke to be found. Some have said there is a faint trace from the water but I couldn't detect any! A very impressive dram which is worth looking out for on the back of a shelf in an old whisky shop somewhere!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Black Tartan

A surprise sample from @GentlemanGrimm with the comments "give this a try, it's new" - intriguing! Here's a link to his review.

Distilleries : 4 unknown Highlands
Bottler : Black Tartan
Whisky : Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Distillery's Info : "Black Tartan is a blended malt created from four premium Highland malts.  Marrying a fresh, spicy nose Black Tartan has a vanilla and butterscotch palate and a cardamom and nutmeg finish to create a whisky of singular quality.
A versatile, easy drinking whisky, it can enjoyed neat and over ice, but it's also robust enough to work with anything you feel like adding.
There's something else different about Black Tartan. It's actually Scottish. It was named, designed, distilled, blended, bottled and boxed by Scots in Scotland. It is a wholly independently owned brand."
Source : Sample from Grimm
Price : £29
Characteristics : 700ml, 40% ABV, Coloured, Chill-filtered
Colour : Gold (Coloured)
Nose : Little bit of smoke, a lot of spice, some acetone. after the first sip the nose changes slightly and some fruit comes through.
Palate: A little buttery with vanilla and toffee, some spice on the edges of the tongue and some fruit.
Finish : Smooth and buttery with a little spice.
Overall : Although it's called black it's obviously a lot paler! It's not really meant as a straight dram more as a mixer with cola. It's not a bad dram but when priced against some similar single malts from the likes of Glen Moray or Highland Park it seems a little on the pricey side.
Link : Black Tartan

They have a funny advertising campaign going based on "Improper Scotch"