Thursday, 5 February 2009


.......... a delightful feminine speyside Malt of good manners !
this creature is rather hard to obtain as most disappears into Dewar's Blends.
Fortunately, a recent official bottling has appeared which presents this whisky nicely, despite being half 'branded'.
The flavour is soft, complex/rich vanilla malt with an enticing smokey-floral overtone.
Singular and elegant, this has great charm, although I would like to see a little more smoke as this is a rare thing. (when unaccompanied by peat !)
Craigellachie 14 y.o. 90/100


.......... a delightful speysider, and providing a rich, sweet/dry/fruity/spicy combo, and as complex a finish as one could ever ask from a whisky.
Official bottlings are usually part of the Diageo 'Classic Malts' range therefore are a 'Brand' presentation which inhibits the quality of the whisky but, the Indi's have this in 'craft' bottlings and they are generally well worth the effort.
This whisky is well respected by Blenders, and appears in the Johnnie Walker Range helping to round off the Talisker/Caol Ila double-act.
Cragganmore 12 y.o. 90/100


......... CLOSED 1985
............ this speyside distillery is only occasionally found bottled by a few small Indi's.
It is a good example of a tasty whisky which, on sampling, makes one wonder why something so good gets the boot !!!
The flavour is intense, sweet yet oddly, fruity-confectionary-complex, ............ definitely worth the review if you decide to open the bottle in your collectors collection.
Convalmore Rare Malts Selection 24 y.o. 89/100


............... CLOSED 1985
......... a speyside distillery closed down for being generally poor whisky.
The taste is mentioned as sweet rubber-infused brine mustiness and a taste that collapses! shortly after being sipped.
.... well enough said, .... one for collectors
not drinkers.


.... a northern Highland distillery with a history intertwined (literally) with the magnificent Brora.
This is a colourful, engaging, and gregarious dram with, fizz, and character, and you don't really get a bad version of this one, even amongst the Indi's. Excellent, ... and a lot nicer than the autocrat who founded the distillery in 1819
who was responsible for a significant, enforced depopulation of his lands which contributed to the Highland Clearances.
Clynelish 14 y.o. 90/100

CARDHU 83/100

................... a speysider of sweet, woody, spicy, charm and quality, this whisky is not seen in many versions !!!
A component of the Johnnie Walker Blends, .....also the unfortunate victim of a nasty incident in which senior managers within the whisky industry tried to re-brand this single Malt as a blended Malt in an underhand fashion, disrespecting the customer and disrespecting the whisky Industry.
The crux of the deception was the complete similarity of packaging between the 'Single' (one distillery malt) and the 'Pure' (any scotch distillery malt).
It was bound to confuse, and fortunately didn't succeed, ......... but the damage is done, and memories are long, so when this type of shenanigans (I will stop short of calling it fraud!) happens again,
..........Blogs will Buzz !!
.......... sales will suffer !!!


........ a speysider with a spirity and vinous nature used almost exclusively for padding out the Chivas Regal Blends. It's not a whisky you will come across readily but if you really want to, Chivas are now doing wee (50cl) 'Artisan' bottles which have the benefit of a decent 'craft' presentation, although pricey !

CAOL ILA 89/100

...... charismatic peated Malt from Islay, with a vegetal, bonfire nature which grows and grows the more you taste it. This is becoming a lot more available than it used to be which is good, and one rarely gets a bad version from the Indi's.
Frequently overlooked due to it's more famous peat-monster neighbours including Laphroaig and Lagavulin, this whisky is full of character and, interestingly, blends very well with Talisker, the only Malt from Skye, and the Johnnie Walker range would be nowhere without these two great Malts to hold it up.
Caol Ila 12 y.o. 88/100

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


..... the gentlest of the Islay malts, but also a most rewarding Malt with it's nature understated, and needing time to know, like a wee man in the pub who says little but can offer the best conversation.
This malt was my first true experience of whisky and I could not have asked for better acquaintance.
The old 12 y.o. was great, the new one fresher and more adolescent 89/100, and if the people at this distillery can be allowed to get on with some 'craft' presentation, and the jobs-worth's kept away from imposing silly prices on this Malt, it's reputation can only grow.
......... apparently there are considerable, older stocks of Malt in the warehouses, .....................and great treasures there-in lay.
Bunnahabhain 'auld acquaintance' 92/100


...... say hello to the bad boys of Malt !!!
... the biggest 'Indi' on Islay, and causing a right stooshie!
nobody bangs the drum for craft tradition like these folk, or blows the trumpet for terroire like these folk, even if at times it all gets a bit O.T.T. with more bottle varieties than Willie Wonka's Bottle Emporium can dream up (bring on the Oompa-loompas!) and a cask inheritance from the previous owners which occasionally needs 'first-aid', we salute this distillery and the fact that they annoy the people in the Industry who do the whisky customer the biggest dis-service, hooray for Bruichladdich, and for the excellent Malts that will be available when it's their own make in the bottles, ......and when given enough time to mature properly. This distillery has recently launched two new versions with more peat content in the 'cult' PORT CHARLOTTE, and mega-peat in the 'cult' OCTOMORE, ....... look out Laphroaig!!!
Bruichladdich 17 y.o. 90/100
Bruichladdich 12 y.o. 86/100
Octomore, ...... take an aspirin first !

Feb:'10 - still waiting patiently for a consistently available standard bottling from the new generation of distillers, ... hopefully not long now. 2001 'ressurection' 7yo 87/100

BRORA 95/100

...... CLOSED 1983
.... greater than Port Ellen, and half as legendary as Maltmill
Brora is arguably the finest hour in Malt history.
I am truly grateful to have built up a wee stash of this precious whisky, and I wont be sharing, except with the best of friends. Even flawed offerings from the Indi's
have true greatness woven through their lesser beings.
I salute the Legend,
and pity those fools who closed this distillery down, for they are fools indeed.
Brora cask 30 y.o. 95/100

Feb:'10 - the Legend continues to grow with an excellent short History of Brora to be found at
Serge's Brora History D.Taylor.cask 1427, 27yo 89/100

BRAEVAL (Braes of Glenlivit) 92/100

.... this speysider is 350 meters above sea level, which makes it the highest distillery in Scotland, and perhaps this proximity to heaven goes some way to explaining why this is such bloody-magnificent stuff !
rarely is a whisky so light, so intense,
rarely is a whisky so gentle, so powerful,
rarely is a whisky so simply, complex !
...... not for novices, the sophistication needs to be explored with a map! and an old re-fill Heaven Hill bourbon cask was made for this signature whisky.
Mainly available as a 'Deerstalker' 10 y.o.
but sparkles as a Signatory cask 30 y.o. 97/100

"Occasionally great whisky comes along, and one knows it when, over time, the Malt leaves your senses behind on it's cascading journey"

BOWMORE 78/100

.......... Islay tourist magnet !
........ old bottlings show that Bowmore can be an excellent Malt, but the whisky is so branded, and the result such an imbalance of style over substance that this has to be the most disappointing whisky to be found on Islay.

Nice Distillery 'experience'
shame about the E150 perma-glow.
Try for the 'Limited Editions', they're a bit less trashed.

Bowmore Legend 72/100
Bowmore Darkest 70/100

Feb:'10 - Recent Bar tasted Bowmore sherry cask 16yo 90/100


....... highland Malt with a nice visitor centre, where you can hear all about 'angel's share' ..... again!
Mainly blend filler, it's easy missed on whisky shop shelves, relying on the occasional Indi bottling to show that it can be quite a good dram, if your lucky enough to get a decent version ..... cross your fingers !!!


..... a lowland jewel !!!
.... this distillery is one of the most 'hidden' malts of Scotland, and is currently in the middle of a Renaissance of genuine, traditional craft excellence.
Where else does one see hand bottling ?
Where else such knowledgeable staff ?
Where else such an involved community ?
Production of whisky is severely restricted due to the totally unreasonable limitations imposed on the current owner by Diageo, a 'decision' which clearly shows that control of the whisky industry should be by Government and for National interest, not a Corporate Multi-Nationals' which 'spits the dummy'.
Bladnoch cask 15 y.o. 92/100
Bladnoch cask 18 y.o. 93/100

Feb:'10 - dammit! I like everything about this place, it 'fits the bill' of the New-Generation Craft Distilleries that Scotland needs to survive in the Global Whisky shake-down.
New Generation 8yo @ 46% 90/100

BEN WYVIS 55/100

.... CLOSED 1977
... an unimpressive highland malt that secured it reputation for all eternity by being the 'collectible' that anorak collectors would cum in their pants to possess!!!
Few of the worthies get to taste this, and the few worthies that do probably wish they hadn't !!
'nuff said.

.... if you really, really, really need a bottle take a fist full of cash to McTear's in Glasgow and join the queue!

Beware of fakes on e-bay.


..... an Independent speysider, owned by Indi bottlers Gordon & MacPhail. This is decent old-fashioned Malt of good calibre, and is the smallest distillery in Speyside, worth visiting to see 'hands-on' production. You don't generally find a bad one from this stable !
All the whiskies are well crafted but need FULL craft presentation to be excellent.
Benromach Organic 86/100
Benromach 21 y.o. 88/100

Feb:'10 - The new 10yo 43% is a revelation in superior craft skill 85/100


....... a beefy speysider of considerable character, this whisky gets hidden away bolstering up Diageo blends, and official bottlings are mediocre. The Indi Signatory do some splendid cask versions which remind one of the no-prisoners-taken whiskies that Granda used to drink.
Signatory 15 y.o. cask 92/100


..... an Independent speyside Distillery (hooray, I like the Independents!)
With an Independent Operation, those who make the whisky, sell the whisky, ...... and listen to those who buy their whisky, ... and that makes a difference.
A bold 'toffee' whisky with some variable peated versions, but well worth the effort so long a 'craft' presentation remains a priority.
The Benriach 16 y.o. 89/100

BEN NEVIS 83/100

.... I'm sure I can detect this whisky in Yoichi !!!
This handsome highland distillery sits under it's 'name-sake' mountain and for it's size does not have a lot of whisky to show for itself. You will most likely find the 10 y.o. 88/100 but little else. Why?
....because I reckon most of what's produced here goes straight over to Japan to fill-out their anemic Malts which suffer from being over-manufactured.
Nikka whiskies own this Distillery, and thats fine by me, but can we have some older, reasonably priced Ben Nevis available in Scotland? The Distillery shop is the most inadequate of any Distillery I've ever visited, and don't buy 'Hector's Nectar' Blended whisky, it's rotten! 71/100

BANFF 80/100

... CLOSED 1983
...... an obscure and hard to find speyside Malt consigned to the annals of history.
An anodyne Malt by nature with no strong still signature, any bottles now are Indi and of variable quality so be warned! ... Folklore has it that during the war in 1941, a German bomber dropped a shell on the warehouse and in the resulting explosion, hundreds of barrels washed into the distillery burn causing all the fish, sheep, cows and desperate humans to end up totally pissed. .... yipee!
The Rare Malt Selection version at 21 y.o. seems to be the best example of this whisky.

Monday, 2 February 2009


...... now, Balvenie is one of the more interesting speysiders because it has a good provenance! ... namely, that it is a small 'crafting' distillery where much of the process is done on site from coopering to malting to manually operated stills, ........ an encouraging sign of quality!
This distillery is essentially the training ground for staff operating the far larger distillery next door, ... Glenfiddich.
Old style bottles are now collectors items and the newer cream labeled bottles are generally of a high quality although a few blemished offerings have appeared recently along with odd wood styles like 'toasted oak', ... yeh! whatever ! and 'new wood' .. 'sappy'.
The 15 y.o. cask strength Balvenie is regularly, dependably good. 90/100

Feb:'10 - Doublewood 12yo 83/100, Signature 85/100


......... obscure speysider and part of the Inverhouse Group, only available in Indi bottles, the most available being the Deerstalker label.
I don't know this one very well, but my Maltmates tell me it is rather a spicy, zippy! whisky of variable quality.
I'm sure I will get to try it some day.


......... A good Highland Malt of feminine elegance and some substance, older bottlings were rather too soft, however since 'crafting' the presentation of the Balblair range recently, Inverhouse Distillers have improved the 'elan' of this whisky with older aged bottles being superb. Indi versions of this whisky also seem to be regularly of high standard.
Balblair 1989 89/100.


....... a hard to find Malt, this Speysider is one or the components of the Dewar's range of Blended whiskies.
Characterful and well regarded, it can be an excellent and intriguing whisky but also unfortunately, bottle standards vary a lot!
My own exposure to this one was a recommended bottle from those experienced people at Loch Fyne Whiskies in Inverary, and it was Andy at the shop who advised on a 15 y.o. Dun Bheagan bottling of cask 3640.
It was a satisfying 'whispering' Malt of great softness/richness and complexity with
a delicate fino nose, buttery arrival and sustained elegance. 89/100
The bottle in this picture was originally produced for staff members but some might be found at specialist shops.


........ not much of this around, a citrus, salty, toffee, speyside Malt principally created for filling Diageo's range of Blended whiskies.
The Indi's have some versions of this but standards vary, so be warned.


............... A lowland malt, situated in Dalnotter just north of Clydebank and below the Crematorium! this is one of only two Distilleries in Scotland to triple distill through three separate stills (as shown in the picture).
Springbank is the other Distillery to do like-wise..
This malt is considered amongst the lightest and gentle of whiskies and is a good introduction along with Glenfiddich for whisky grommits! Although too light for many maltsters, it is worth noting that certain Malts really come into their own with age, and after sixteen years of good wood and dunnage, Auchentoshan can sparkle and shine with flavour.
If ever a Malt needed craft presentation, this is it. At the moment it's too heavily branded.
Auchentoshan 'three wood' - 70/100

Feb:'10 - Auchy 12 yo 83/100 and would be more if they would lose the E150a

ARDMORE 88/100

............ I first came across my first taste of Ardmore when I bought a bottle of Teacher's Blended Whisky. The Teacher's at that point was an excellent blend boasting 40% Malt in it's composition (rather than the usual 20-30%) and even then I detected a rare complexity and challenge in this whisky.
I have noticed that Teacher's Blend is now looking a bit 'Perma-glow', so beware, it looks like E150 abuse!
Ardmore is a demanding but immensely rewarding whisky, without doubt the most successfully peated of the Speyside area, savoury, long lasting and singular, this whisky is amazing!
But be warned, the official bottling pictured here, although fine, shows too much immaturity despite it's craft presentation,82/100 older Indi bottles are the ones to go for, Signatory especially.90/100
It is sometimes noticed that Ardmore can have a very convincing resemblance to the late Port Ellen, particularly when fresh bourbon matured.

Feb:'10 - Ardmore (Signatory 15yo 46%) 92/100

Sunday, 1 February 2009

ARDBEG 91/100

.......... the dark green distinctive bottle, the knot-work label, the living legend that is ........... Peat, iodine, brine, bitumen, savoury, complex, fab! ...... Ardbeg.
Ardbeg distillery on Islay produces one of the 'peatiest' whiskies, and after the indignity of being moth-balled throughout the 1990's was resurrected as an iconic Malt in the new age of the Malt Whisky Aficionados!
Most of it's range are good if you are a peat-head, but this whisky is not for the faint-of-heart. My notes include good review of the 10 y.o.88/100, Uigeadail 92/100 and 1977 93/100, however, the recent plundering of this malts reputation with lesser standard novelty bottlings purely to pander to it's 'collectible' status has become relentless.
'Blasda', 'Supernova', .... what next, 'Greenpeatgoblinmeister' ?
I do recommend a mix of 1/4 uigeadail to 3/4 10 y.o. for an excellent dram.
I also find that Ardbeg mixes well with some Irish whiskies including Bushmills ........ loads of Irish, ........ wee drop of Islay, perfect ! (Uigeadail and Black Bush if you feel extravagant). Buy this while you can, I get the feeling that the current owners don't fully understand that whisky is all about content, ...... not concept. I expect quality to slide.
Prices at auction are now expensive for most Ardbegs.

Feb:'10 ... why don't I review the ultra-peaty Corryvrecken ? ... £80 for a 7 yo Malt is too much, though I will agree that it is an excellent Malt.
I suspect that such is the demand for this icon, prices/availability will bring frowns to our faces.
Obtain 10yo 90/100 now before it's too late.

ANCNOC (formerly KNOCKDHU) 89/100

......... one of speyside's 'fizzy' characters this whisky rarely disappoints.
Part of the competent and professional Inverhouse Distillery Group (apparently owned by the King of Tailand !!!) Ancnoc was called until recently Knockdhu, but changed it's name to Ancnoc so as to avoid confusion with an inferior malt called Knockando.
I have a fascinating bottle of Knockdhu 23 y.o. from 2003 which I am saving for a rainy day, .......although most days are rainy days in Scotland. I expect it will be as good if not better than the range of excellent whiskies which come from this well crafted stable of malt competence, .... my tasting notes mention sherbet, chili and gingery-salt a lot, ............. hooray ! 90/100

Feb:'10 - this one continues to climb up the ratings for me. Complex and consistent at all times I notice the 30yo 91/100 is superb value at less than £100. ... real Whisky !


...... a hard-to-find malt, 'Alta-bane' as it is frequently pronounced, is a modern distillery producing bulk malt for the Chivas Regal range of blends.
I haven't tasted it but it has been described to me as "light and scented-sweet"
Some of the Indie bottlers do this malt and it is also found in the 'Deerstalker' label as a 12 y.o. at 40%.


...... I recall one of my work colleagues telling me a few years ago, whilst he was working a a cooper, that he noticed that the cleanest, neatest lorries arriving with the barrels from distilleries were Aberlour lorries.
And this seems to show in the whisky which is also neat, tidy and clearly well looked-after.
I can honestly say that I have never tasted a bad Aberlour, all in fact have been very good to exceptional, and the 10 y.o. is an excellent introduction to speyside malts being well priced and readily available in the U.K. 89/100.
The highlight of the range is a'bunadh which is a spectacular, available, and as good a priced cask strength whisky as one will ever find anywhere, massively flavoursome and described fittingly by some as "cough mixture from heaven" ........ I agree with that !
Also worthy of note is that the a'bunadh is given Batch numbers, currently standing at Batch 25 and the standard has never yet disappointed from 1 - 25. More distillers should do this, it permits 'difference'.
In fact this malt is a contemporary classic ! 92/100

Feb:'10 - well impressed that the A'bunadh now into Batch 29 appears to be maintaining a momentum of excellent quality for the price, ... and the bottle is a cracker !
Standard 10yo 87/100 still readily available at supermarkets.


.......... a highland malt of good character, not much is available as most goes into the Dewar's Blend.
I have had a bottle of the 12 y.o. in 2007 and it was a good rounded whisky which I rated 88/100.
Aberfeldy's are rare in the Indi Bottlers, but Gordon & MacPhail do some decent versions occasionally.

My notes show a steady malt arrival of soft sherry suffused barley sugar,
spicy-honey and hints of smoke and oak. A good substantial dram but
compromised a little by 'Branding' of chill-fill: and E150.
15% water addition spices up the nose lots !
Nice bottle, shame about the label.

Feb: '10 - tasted some 21yo recently bought by a friend in a Glasgow Bar.
What a generous friend too ... found it complex, honey rich and quite classy despite the 'branded' presentation. I just can't believe they put E150a (caramel) into this and water down to 40% , ...shocking. 87/100

WHISKY MARKS ( the idea)

..................... To create a frequently updated alphabetical list of the A to Z of Scotch Single Malt Whisky, for the purposes of general advice and review.
This site should be of help to whisky drinkers who already have a little knowledge and wish to learn more, ...........but not too much at once !!!