Tastings

The Dramble reviews Dallas Dhu 10 year old Gordon & MacPhail
Posted 20 July 2018 / In Dallas Dhu
The Dramble reviews Dallas Dhu 10 year old Gordon & MacPhail

Whisky from closed distilleries has always been desirable to enthusiasts – it’s a rare, sometimes hard to find and finite resource that captures a liquid moment in time. This is even more so the case today – lost distillery bottlings which cost several hundred pounds five years ago now trade for several thousand. Little has changed over that period of time except the increasing appeal of Scotch whisky and the cultish mind-set of collections (and growth of unscrupulous investors). But, whilst all distilleries, including closed ones have their own sense of uniqueness, and some of the lost distilleries have gained something of legendary status (Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank etc) there are good reasons why many sites closed over the years – and in some cases its simply because the whisky they were producing was not very good.


The Dramble reviews Glengyle Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Wood
Posted 19 July 2018 / In Glengyle
The Dramble reviews Glengyle Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Wood

It’s almost a year since we last took a look at Glengyle and its Kilkerran single malt – there’s a simple reason for this – there has not been any new official bottlings (outside of festival editions) since the release of the 8 year old Cask Strength edition in 2017. Following on from yesterday’s Kilchoman Sanaig review, we thought we’d stick to the theme of mineralistic whiskies and dig into our liquid archive for a look at an older (relatively) Kilkerran bottling. What we found in the Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Wood is a whisky so crystalline that it almost feels like it was excavated from a mine.


The Dramble reviews Kilchoman Sanaig
Posted 18 July 2018 / In Kilchoman
The Dramble reviews Kilchoman Sanaig

Kilchoman Sanaig was originally released in 2015 in France as an alternative to the Machir Bay expression – which was deemed not sweet enough for the tastes of the French Market. In 2016 it was given a general release, and is now part of the distillery’s current core range line-up. I suspect Kilchoman is only just getting to the point where it has enough mature sherry casks to sustain both core range releases and a large number of annual limited single cask editions. The name is derived from a picturesque water inlet situated to the north of the small farmhouse distillery.


Posted 17 July 2018 / In Group

In many ways, whisky enthusiasts have never had it so good - in 2017 alone, around 6,000 new expressions were released (and only some of these came from Highland Park). Choice is enormous. On the other hand, diversity is not quite as broad – there’s an awful lot of generic spirit, that follows an almost set mould for style and taste – often based around regional perceptions. Bucking the trend for indistinguishable liquid is Loch Lomond – with three different styles of still, three different peating levels and utilising three distinctive strains of yeast, the distillery is capable of making 13 different styles of whisky. Versatility lies at the heart of this Highland distillery.


The Dramble's review of Benrinnes 1995 20 year old The Single Malts of Scotland
Posted 16 July 2018 / In Benrinnes
The Dramble's review of Benrinnes 1995 20 year old The Single Malts of Scotland

The tasting of whisky is about much more than just a collection of aromas on the nose and flavours on the palate (all of which will vary greatly from person to person). The texture of a whisky also has an important role to play. When we sample whisky (or anything else for that matter) we often think in terms of the five basic tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami – some of us, might even consider these in a particular order. However, it is likely that the first assessment that our brains will make before judging specific tastes will actually be mouthfeel.


The Dramble reviews Glenfiddich 12 year old
Posted 13 July 2018 / In Glenfiddich
The Dramble reviews Glenfiddich 12 year old

Glenfiddich 12 year old is a whisky that everyone recognises - you’ll see it in supermarkets and liquor stores throughout the world, and your dad probably has a bottle in his booze cabinet right now regardless of whether he drinks whisky or not – it’s just always good to be prepared right? It’s a bottle that many experienced enthusiasts tend to write off all too easily - ‘too basic’ and ‘not flavourful enough’. But, this is not a whisky designed for the enthusiast – it’s perhaps the most iconic single malt brand for the casual drinking market – and it’s influence and significance should not be underplayed.


The Dramble's review of Highland Park 2004 13 year old Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice
Posted 12 July 2018 / In Highland Park
The Dramble's review of Highland Park 2004 13 year old Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

I’ve seen a few discussion articles/threads on the merits of single cask whisky over the past week. On the one hand, enthusiasts are accused of ‘fetishising’, and holding SCs in much higher esteem than the true art of whisky: the blending, marrying and balancing of single casks into expressions that are greater than the sum of their parts . On the other – the suggestion that SCs are whisky’s purest (and therefore greatest) form – the individual cask idiosyncrasies offering the maximum experience, true distillery/spirit character to the drinker. To my mind both these approaches are wrong.


The Dramble reviews The GlenAllachie 18 year old
Posted 11 July 2018 / In Glenallachie
The Dramble reviews The GlenAllachie 18 year old

When you construct a distillery from scratch, you have total rein over the spirit style and cask selection right from the get go – you might have to wait years to bear the fruits of those decisions, but there’s almost total freedom. Conversely, when you purchase a distillery (and likely inherit some stock), the style and profile, volume and breath of stocks you have to play with are all set. At least for the short term. Rest assured, a big part of the decision-making process for the purchase of Glenallachie in 2017 would have been the size, character and quality of its existing cask stock. Master Distiller Billy Walker seems happy enough with it – only a year later and the now ‘The GlenAllachie’ has just released its first core range of whiskies.


The Dramble reviews Deanston Decennary
Posted 10 July 2018 / In Deanston
The Dramble reviews Deanston Decennary

My liver doesn’t thank me for it, but running both a whisky club and being an enthusiast writer means that I get to drink rather lot of whisky nowadays. Always a pleasure, sometimes a bit of a grind – but there’s one experience I never seem to tire from and that’s visiting distilleries. I’m recently returned from the annual Dramboree gathering up at Loch Lomond, and my fondness for wandering round what are essentially industrial plants is still unwavering – and I have Deanston distillery and owners Distell to thank for this.


Posted 06 July 2018 / In Group

The Society’s July outturn ‘Distinguished Characters’ have all been selected by whisky legend and Chairman of the Society Tasting Panel Charles MacLean. The outturn features 19 new single cask whiskies handpicked by MacLean as part of the Society’s 35th anniversary celebrations. He’s also written all of this month’s tasting notes – though that doesn’t make them any less esoteric. A member since the early 1980’s and Panel Chair for the last 26 years, MacLean is holding a range of tasting events at SMWS venues over the next two-days. If you’re not able to get along to one of these you can read more about his history with SMWS and the 35th Anniversary collection being released this month: http://campaign.smws.com/charlie-maclean/


The Dramble's review of Tullibardine 25 year old Stillman's Dram
Posted 05 July 2018 / In Tullibardine
The Dramble's review of Tullibardine 25 year old Stillman's Dram

I find the sharing of a dram with friends one of life’s simplest but most satisfying experiences. It’s all very well sitting down each evening and taking a systematic approach to tasting and reviewing whisky for this site – but sometimes there’s much more pleasure to had just kicking back and enjoying whisky for what it is. There are few better places to do that than with the lovely folks attending Dramboree this weekend.


The Dramble's review of Nikka From The Barrel
Posted 04 July 2018 / In Nikka (Blended)
The Dramble's review of Nikka From The Barrel

Whilst new Japanese distilleries such as Akkeshi, Nagahama, Kanosuke and Sakurao are potentially heralding the dawning of a golden age for Japanese whisky, current stock levels (and unwavering demand) have reduced much of the category down to a near bare bones offering – especially outside of Japan. Age-statement whisky from Japan is largely the purview of the rich and auction houses, and unscrupulous producers (and a lack of sensible legislation) have allowed the proliferation of a wealth of new Japanese whisky, that isn’t actually Japanese at all. Nevertheless, there are still some gems out there – they might not possess age-statements, or serious cache – but they’re still well worth seeking out. Nikka’s From the Barrel is one such whisky.


The Dramble's review of Wayne Gretzky Ninety Nine Proof
Posted 03 July 2018 / In Gretzky Estate
The Dramble's review of Wayne Gretzky Ninety Nine Proof

Celebrities and alcohol are a common mix – after show parties, award ceremonies, or just plain hard living. Never one to miss a marketing trick, the booze industry is increasingly pumping out expressions faced by a wide variety of known (and lesser known) personalities – AC/DC and Justin Timberlake fronted tequilas, Hanson beer (the superbly named – MMMHops), Ryan Reynolds gin – I could sit here all day listing them off before even getting close to David Beckham. But, at the other end of celebrity alcohol tie-ins comes those who have actually bought/invested/developed their own facilities and products rather than simply endorsing them. One such example comes to us from Canada in the form of the legendary ex-ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky.


The Dramble reviews Mortlach 1991 24 year old Signatory Cask Strength Collection
Posted 02 July 2018 / In Mortlach
The Dramble reviews Mortlach 1991 24 year old Signatory Cask Strength Collection

In 2014 Diageo charted a new course for one of its lesser known distilleries. A rebranding, repositioning and remarketing that would earn widespread disdain from the enthusiast community and end up being termed ‘Mortlachisation’. Now in 2018, it seems we are soon to witness the next iteration from this distillery. A trio of new Mortlach expressions (12 year old ‘The Wee Witchie’, 16 year old ‘Distiller’s Dram’ and 20 year old ‘Cowie’s Blue Steel’) have been spotted on the TTB database.


The Dramble's review of Cadenhead's Glenfarclas 1962 21 year old
Posted 29 June 2018 / In Glenfarclas
The Dramble's review of Cadenhead's Glenfarclas 1962 21 year old

It sometimes seem strange that despite spirit resting undisturbed for decades in cool warehouses, that once in the glass yet more patience is often required. But, then again, what’s a few minutes compared to years of oak maturation? The resting of whisky is a commonly practiced, but little discussed concept (especially when compared to wine where there’s a wealth of information) - some malts, especially older ones simply require a little time to open up and unwind before revealing all of their secrets.


The Dramble's review of Ledaig 10 year old
Posted 28 June 2018 / In Tobermory
The Dramble's review of Ledaig 10 year old

Tobermory have never really subscribed to the NAS movement, preferring a combination of age statements and/or vintages for their whiskies. Their heavily peated whisky - Ledaig - reintroduced by the then owners Burn Stewart carried its most recent NAS badge way back in 2005. But, since then the brand has certainly gained traction, momentum and a steadily building number of fans. It’s not a whisky that everyone gets along with – indeed, it’s highly idiosyncratic – mixing up the aromas and flavours of BBQ meats, burnt rubber and sweet fruits. This doesn’t sound like it should work – but more often than not it does. Whilst whisky enthusiasts are currently spoilt for choice, there’s an abundance of very similar profiles out there - if you’re looking for something unique, look no further than Ledaig.


The Dramble's review of Glengoyne 15 year old
Posted 26 June 2018 / In Glengoyne
The Dramble's review of Glengoyne 15 year old

Every distillery has a certain sense of uniqueness about it – from equipment (which is sometimes adapted and retrofitted in-situ), custom distillation processes, differing maturation regimes, and of course the biggest variable of all – people. Highland distillery Glengoyne has several noteworthy distinctions. Its geographic location under Dumgoyne (a 1,401 ft peak formed from a volcanic plug) puts the distillery itself in the Highlands region, whilst the over the road warehousing are technically in the Lowlands. It is one of very few distilleries to use entirely air-dried barley (the low yield, high quality Golden Promise – also utilised at Macallan), and similarly is amongst a group of sites to have ridden out the various downtowns over the past two centuries and therefore has operated continuously since its inception in 1833.


The Dramble's review of Glen Scotia 15 year old
Posted 25 June 2018 / In Glen Scotia
The Dramble's review of Glen Scotia 15 year old

It sometimes amazes me what a well thought out brand restructuring and refresh can achieve. Memories can be incredibly short and forgiving when things are done right - quite recently I was talking to a group of enthusiasts who had never heard of Glen Scotia’s previous brand incarnation – the infamous neon highland bulls. Now consigned to the dustbin, the distillery’s range has probably garnered more fans over the last couple of years than over the entire past decade – such is the strength of combining high quality liquid with an understandable and appealing brand proposition. Luminous bovines always felt more Chernobyl than Campbeltown.


The Dramble's review of Chichibu IPA Cask Finish 2017
Posted 22 June 2018 / In Chichibu
The Dramble's review of Chichibu IPA Cask Finish 2017

Over the years, the global whisky industry has developed and innovated though interdependence – the sharing or knowledge, the sharing of expertise and the sharing of casks to name but a few. A well-known, but always prime example being the symbiotic relationship between the US bourbon industry and the Scottish malt whisky industry – the former using fresh barrels once, the latter requiring a constant source of pre-seasoned wood for a number of fills and refills. Over the past decade, this interdependence has broadened into other categories such as rum and increasingly wine. In Japan, Chichibu distillery has continued with this spirit of innovation and interdependence, but, in 2017 managed to take it one stage further with the creation of the Chichibu IPA Cask Finish – an instance of perfect cask symbiosis.


The Dramble's review of Chichibu Chibidaru 2010
Posted 21 June 2018 / In Chichibu
The Dramble's review of Chichibu Chibidaru 2010

Whilst a hogshead is a hogshead and a butt is usually a butt, not all quarter casks are made to identical dimensions and therefore capacities. See, it depends exactly what you’re taking a quarter of as your baseline  – if you’re looking at an American Standard Barrel (ASB) which has a capacity of around 190 -200 litres, then relative to this a quarter cask is going to be around 50 litres. But, if you’re looking at a hogshead with a capacity of 250 litres then your quarter point is closer to 62.5 litres. To further add more cloudiness, I’ve seen quite a number of distilleries that list the capacity of their QCs as 80 litres – which would be around a quarter of a puncheon (320 litres). Honestly, it’s all a bit confusing. More of a guideline than an actual code.


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