Tastings

The Dramble's tasting notes for Tormore 1998 15 year old Distillery Reserve Collection
Posted 17 May 2018 / In Tormore
The Dramble's tasting notes for Tormore 1998 15 year old Distillery Reserve Collection

Tormore is oft-times the first distillery you’ll drive past on the A95 as you head from Inverness down to Speyside on the Malt Whisky Trail. Time and time again I’ve watched the unmistakable, imposing distillery frontage zip past, and time and time again I’ve wished it was open for visiting. There’s more than a few Speyside distilleries on my must visit, but can’t visit list – Dailuane, Glentauchers, Craigellachie (which is sitting literally behind the house that I’m currently staying in) – but Tormore has an incredible allure and uniqueness that I find hard to shake.


The Dramble's tasting notes for GlenAllachie 2006 12 year old Spirit of Speyside 2018
Posted 15 May 2018 / In Glenallachie
The Dramble's tasting notes for GlenAllachie 2006 12 year old Spirit of Speyside 2018

Whilst the 2018 Spirit of Speyside Festival has been and gone, there’s still a few signs of its presence here – the roadside banners have yet to be removed, and many a bar person is looking like they need a short break to recover. There are also still a few of the Spirt of Speyside bottlings lurking at distillery shops and local retailers - the last drops of limited edition liquid awaiting those willing to take a punt on what is oft-times rather a stab in the dark at a single cask which may or may turn out to be notable.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Mortlach 1995 21 year old Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask
Posted 14 May 2018 / In Mortlach
The Dramble's tasting notes for Mortlach 1995 21 year old Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask

The Highlander Inn in Craiagellachie is run by whisky master Tatsuya Minagawa, who was born in Japan, but a resident in Speyside for many years. Tatsuya worked in the Highlander from 2005 – 2012, having previous been at the neighbouring Quaich Bar housed in the Craigellachie Hotel. But, it wasn’t long until the Highlander called him once again, and he returned in 2015, only this time as the owner. He bought the famous whisky ‘hotspot’ from Duncan Elphick who was previously the General Manager of the Craigellachie Hotel (the two venues seem tied by more than just their proximity), making it his own, but maintaining its ambience as a home away from home.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Ardbeg Alligator Untamed Release
Posted 11 May 2018 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble's tasting notes for Ardbeg Alligator Untamed Release

The limited release Ardbeg Alligator was launched towards the end of 2011, taking its name from the inside of heavily scorched barrels which begin to crack and peel into a rough, but shiny pattern that looks rather similar to alligator scales. Originally released for the Ardbeg Committee and in a general release ‘Untamed’ form (though both at 51.2% ABV), both versions are now long consigned to auction.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2009
Posted 10 May 2018 / In Kilchoman
The Dramble's tasting notes for Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2009

Kilchoman might be the youngest active distillery on Islay, but seeing as they’ve already announced plans to double their production capacity, they’ve obviously been ticking a lot of the right boxes over the past 13 years. As well as building a new still house, mash house and tun room (within the same design parameters of the existing equipment) this year, the distillery has just launched both the 2nd release of its Port Cask Matured whisky (which has flown off the shelves) and the latest edition of its ongoing oloroso sherry matured series - Loch Gorm.


Posted 09 May 2018 / In Group

Whilst ‘the grass is always greener’, and ‘things were always better then’, here at The Dramble, we like to put those suppositions to the test by comparing entry-level whiskies with previous iterations of those bottlings from decades gone by. The quest remains the same – to find a whisky where the modern incarnation is an improvement over the long discontinued edition. For today’s ‘Now and then’ comparison tasting we’re taking a look at the Dalmore 12 year old – our contemporary bottling is recognised the world over – our comparison is from the 1970s could not look more contradictory.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Bunnahabhain An Cladach
Posted 08 May 2018 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble's tasting notes for Bunnahabhain An Cladach

We’ve had to wait quite some time for An Cladach – its been 9 months since this new travel retail bottling was first announced – whether the distillery or parent company Distell have had production issues, or whether the PR agency hit ‘go’ on the press release all too soon, who’s to say – but, regardless, it’s far from the best method for introducing a new expression into the increasingly busy (and often times odd) space that is global travel retail. Nevertheless, An Cladach is now looking like it’s finally ready to dock following a month of exclusivity at Frankfurt airport.


Posted 03 May 2018 / In Group

The Society’s May outturn ‘Festival Fever’ has a particular focus on Speyside and Islay, with both regions having their respective annual festivals this month. Spirit of Speyside starts today, and runs through the weekend, covering a host of special visits, tastings, dinners and day trips. Feis Ile – the Islay Festival of Music and Malt takes place at the end of the month over an entire week, from Friday 25th May through to Saturday 2nd June. The format is similar (though with more of a musical slant, especially in the evenings), but the crowds are even denser and growing every year. The SMWS outturn features 21 new single cask bottlings – 14 from Speyside distilleries, 4 from Islay, 2 from the Highlands and 1 from the Lowlands. As billed, it’s primarily a Speyside vs. Islay ‘Region Rumble’.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Uncle Nearest 1856
Posted 03 May 2018 / In Uncle Nearest
The Dramble's tasting notes for Uncle Nearest 1856

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium whiskey was released in the summer of 2017. The bottling, which is made by an NDP (non-distiller producer) is named after Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green, a former slave who is historically credited with teaching Jack Daniels how to distil. Over the past few years, US Author and historian Fawn Weaver spent over 2,500 hours researching historic documents, letters and pictures, as well as interviewing hundreds of Greens’ decedents, unearthing the truth about how Jack Daniels first learned the distilling techniques which would help him found the world-famous Tennessee whisky distillery. The story featured heavily across the US media last year, resulted in the creation of the Nearest Green Foundation and the production of the Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Springbank 12 year old Burgundy
Posted 02 May 2018 / In Springbank
The Dramble's tasting notes for Springbank 12 year old Burgundy

Wine casks can be a tricky thing. Tricky to get right in terms of the balance between spirit, wood and particularly tannins, but also tricky for some whisky enthusiasts to fully appreciate – they can be rather divisive things. The use of wine casks has grown exponentially over the past 20 years – and this trend doesn’t seem to be abating anytime soon. But, for every great marriage of whisky and wine, there’s another which doesn’t quite hit the same high spots. Campbeltown’s Springbank regularly utilise wine casks from a fairly broad range of grape varietals. And more than most, they tend to make it work.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona
Posted 01 May 2018 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble's tasting notes for Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona

Gaelic for ‘peat stack’ Cruach Mhona continues a recent Bunnahabhain trend for completely unpronounceable whisky names. Whilst in 2018, peated Bunna (often termed ‘Moine’ by the distillery itself) is a fairly regularly sight, back in 2010 when Cruach Mhona was first released, it was all a touch more tentative when it came to peating. Over the past 8 years, the volume of peated whisky released by the distillery has steadily increased, and bottlings such as Toiteach and Ceobanach have paved the way for a dual future for Bunnahabhain – unpeated still at its core, but with a healthy pipeline of smokier expressions.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Royal Salute 21 year old
Posted 30 April 2018 / In Blend
The Dramble's tasting notes for Royal Salute 21 year old

Chivas’s Royal Salute 21 year old has been around for quite some time – 1953 to be precise. Introduced to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the name derives from a gun salute – a barrage of cannons or artillery fired as a military honour. The ‘basic’ salute is 21 rounds (which ties rather nicely to the age of this particular whisky) fired at 10 second intervals. Though in certain locations (Royal Parks, London’s Tower of London etc) extra rounds are fired, meaning that for something as significant as a royal coronation, both 41 and 62 gun salutes would take place. Earplugs at the ready.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 4
Posted 27 April 2018 / In Balvenie
The Dramble's tasting notes for Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 4

Balvenie’s now famous Tun series was launched in 2010 with the Tun 1401 (A tun being the name for a large marrying vat). Nine batches later, Balvenie Master Distiller David Stewart moved to an even bigger marrying vessel – the Tun 1509. The latest version, launched in the middle of 2017 was not without early controversy – somehow, a small batch (around 800 bottles) of whisky which had been stored in the Tun had mistakenly been bottled and distributed in several regions (The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and several travel retail outlets). Whilst it was single malt from the distillery and produced at the correct strength, it was not in fact meant to be bottled as ‘Tun’ whisky. Cue, slightly embarrassing recall notice.


Posted 26 April 2018 / In Group

The Dramble’s Balvenie week continues with a look at two rather different expressions. The first is the batch produced 15 year old Single Barrel Sherry Cask – a regular release from the distillery since 2014. The second is one of those whiskies which you just wish was still around today – the rather lovely 10 year old Founder’s Reserve – released in the 1980’s, but now long discontinued.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Balvenie 21 year old Portwood
Posted 24 April 2018 / In Balvenie
The Dramble's tasting notes for Balvenie 21 year old Portwood

Balvenie’s core range whisky the 21 year old Portwood was amongst the very first commercially promoted finished whiskies when it was released in the 1990s. The highly regarded bottling is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for over two decades and then finished in aged port pipes (they’re still barrels, not actually pipes) for a period of finishing. At one time a non-chillfiltered version was released (which implies that this ‘normal’ bottling is chillfiltered) for travel retail, which upped the ABV to 47.6%. Normal versions of the bottling are delivered at 40%.


Posted 23 April 2018 / In Group

This week, The Dramble is focussing on Speyside’s Balvenie. Over the next five days, we’ll be taking a look at six different expressions from across the distillery’s range, including core bottlings, new bottlings and older, discontinued bottlings. We’ll also be presenting our interview with the new Balvenie Global Ambassador Gemma Paterson. Lots of Balvenie goodness to look forward to.

Founded in 1892 and located in Dufftown, Balvenie is still owned by the same family who founded it – William Grant & Sons. William Grant also own whisky powerhouse Glenfiddich (located just down the road from Balvenie), Kininvie (located on the grounds of the Balvenie distillery since 1990) and the popular global blended whisky ‘Grants’. The distillery has 11 stills (5 wash, 6 spirit) and produces a particularly large range of single malt expressions (https://www.thebalvenie.com/our-whisky-range/). Today we’ll be looking at two of the distillery’s core range, the 14 year old Caribbean Cask and the 17 year old Doublewood. Those of you wanting to work your way through the whole aged-range might like to start with our previous review of the 12 year old Doublewood.


The Dramble's tasting notes for The Epicurean
Posted 20 April 2018 / In Blend
The Dramble's tasting notes for The Epicurean

Something strange has happened over the last couple of days. The sun, that much elusive celestial body (at least to the British) has decided to make an early appearance. Only a few weeks ago, parts of the country were under a thick layer of snowmageddon, and much of the rail infrastructure had gone in its oh so predictable ‘adverse conditions’ week-long coffee break.  Spring appears to be entirely missing in action – it’s positively summery - plants and animals are not doubt starting to look a touch confused – “…do we come out now, or are you just tricking us?” I sadly suspect the latter, but, regardless this early tease of warmth has made for ideal conditions for a summer sipper - queue Douglas Laing’s Epicurean.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Clynelish 14 year old
Posted 19 April 2018 / In Clynelish
The Dramble's tasting notes for Clynelish 14 year old

What exactly makes a classic whisky classic? Longevity? Consistency? Wide consumer appeal? Competitive pricing? It would be hard to create a definitive list of the classics – styles vary greatly, as do personal tastes. But, perhaps there are some talismans that most malt enthusiasts would agree are archetypal or even timeless?  Lagavulin 16 year old and Laphroaig 10 year old both spring immediately to my mind – well regarded bottlings that you’ll see just as commonly on the shelves of a local pub as you would in a specialist whisky bar. But, just taking expressions which have broad cross-over appeal would be a very narrow view of what might be a classic whisky.


The Dramble's tasting notes for Cambus 1991 21 year old produced by Whiskybroker
Posted 18 April 2018 / In Cambus
The Dramble's tasting notes for Cambus 1991 21 year old produced by Whiskybroker

In the 19th Century there was over 200 working distilleries in Scotland, but fast forward to 2017 and the SWA pegs that number at only 126. Whilst a new generation of sites are being built, many have been lost along the way – especially following the Second World War and during the 1980’s whisky downturn. Some distilleries have passed into near myth, others, like Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank have become even more famous since they closed (artists can only ever achieve true fame once they’re gone right?), but what of Scotland’s closed grain distilleries?


The Dramble's tasting notes for Kavalan Brandy Oak
Posted 17 April 2018 / In King Car
The Dramble's tasting notes for Kavalan Brandy Oak

When I was growing up, the Scottish whisky market was mainly available in two flavours - ex-bourbon cask or ex-sherry cask. But, over the last two decades, the industry as a whole has adopted a much wider palate of cask types to work from. Myriad predecessor liquids, levels of charring, customised barrel heads, and that’s before one has even considered the growing use of finishes. It’s all much more complicated than it used to be. Taiwan-based Kavalan have not had hundreds of years of history - they were only founded in 2005 – but they’re already trying to ride the wave of cask diversity with 19 different variants within their current range.


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