Benromach 35 YO

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Thirty-five years ago I would have been a shy wee second year, sitting in a classroom a short twenty-minute walk away from where this dram was born. In the time it has taken this Benromach to mature I’ve had a career, changed that career and become a husband, father and grandfather. A lot has happened in the world as this whisky has sat quietly changing and improving. Thirty-five years is a long time any way you look at it.

The sample has sat in my study for quite a while and I was wondering why it had taken me so long to taste it. I was busy I said, lots of other stuff to do and taste. I think however I was worried that I would not like it.

IMG_4847 - Version 2I needn’t have had any worries, as this is a gorgeous whisky. I have tasted some expressions in the past that were too old, having the distillery character completely overpowered by the wood. This is not the case with Benromach 35.

It did have an earthy and woody aroma, but it also had fruit, coffee and liquorice. The nose was rich and complex, if I could have waited five or ten minutes I am sure it would have developed even more! Funnily though, it had a kind of stout or Guinness smell as well.

 

And the flavour did not let me down. Coffee again shone through but there was also fruit, treacle, dark chocolate and fruitcake. Very rich and very smooth with a real orangey finish, it was a real joy.

Pity I only had a wee 50 ml sample, but at over £400 a bottle it is a bit much to pay for a full bottle.

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Tomatin 1997 Connoisseurs Choice

In a recent visit to Gordon & MacPhail I was fortunate to receive a number of samples highlighting their “The Wood Makes The Whisky” campaign. I plan to review these over the next few weeks. There are some great single malts in this range, well worth exploring. So let’s start with the Tomatin 1997 Connoisseurs Choice.

IMG_4683Colour – this is a very light whisky, pale to the extreme it is almost clear in fact, but do not let this put you off.

Nose – it is fresh and light, with fruit galore. Pineapple and banana blends into pear, with green apples in the background. It has bubblegum in there, as well as toffee apple sweetness.

Palate – the taste is just wonderful! It is fresh, clean and fruity. A weak menthol is there, also a lemony citrus. All of course with the pineapple and pear sensed with the nose.

Finish – smooth and delightfully sweet, the fruit lingers for a long time.

Overall – the product information says this was matured in refill bourbon barrels, and the colour indeed does show this. However the strength of aromas and flavours feels more like first fill bourbon barrels.

 

This is a delightful whisky, one to be savoured and enjoyed!

 

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What an Honour…..

I’ve been invited again to take part as one of the initial judges in the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards tomorrow afternoon. This is a real honour and I am delighted to be taking part.

I hope to post more about this after the event, so watch this space……

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My Whiskies of the Year

Here are my top 10 whiskies of this year, in no particular order. What have you enjoyed during 2015?

Tormore G&M Cask Strength 1999

Tasted as part of the UHI whisky course (of which I am the esteemed lecturer!), and fell in love with it straight away.

Glenlivet Nadurra Batch 1214E

60.2% of loveliness! Matured in a first-fill American oak cask it is a delight.

Balvenie 12 yo Doublewood

Reminded at a friends party recently just how good this dram is, need to get one in the collection very soon.

Glenrothes Alba Reserve

Discovered this gem during the initial round of judging for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival whisky awards, and loved it until the bottle was gone.

Benromach Organic

Always a favourite, the vanilla and fruit of the 2008 edition were just beautiful; really looking forward to trying the new edition.

Bunnahabhain G&M 8 yo

Cannot remember why I bought this one, but it is great; this is our family tipple this Christmas.

Highland Park G&M 8 yo

Better than the “usual” 12 yo Highland Park this is lighter and fruitier, a great example of what you can do with really good casks.

The Glenlivet 15 yo French Oak Reserve

Oh this is good, enough said.

Talisker 25 yo

An old favourite, well since last year when my wonderful friends bought me this as a leaving present; sentimental value as well as a damn fine whisky. This is the finest whisky I have in my current collection.

Cardhu Gold Reserve

Goes to prove that NAS can be decent whisky, this expression is more than decent.

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Cragganmore……..

Here’s my most recent article from the Northern Scot…..

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Cragganmore is a distillery close to my heart, having spent many a day sampling or working there in my previous job. While sitting an interview in the mid 90’s I was asked what my ambition was. I replied, “I want to be the manager of Cragganmore”. I got the job but never became the boss there, I did however go on to undertake many operational and support roles within the company.

I aspired to be the manager of Craggamore after falling in love with the place during a period of night shifts taking new make spirit samples in about 1993. Amazingly the operator who ably assisted me in that sampling exercise way back then was on shift the day I visited Cragganmore. The whisky industry on Speyside is still one of the few industries where people work for extended periods at the same place. Davie reminded me that during my week there 22 years ago he had to wake me up one night with an air-horn; well, I didn’t remember that!

Cragganmore is off the beaten track but well worth a visit. Nestling down by the Spey and off the A95 the visitor centre is small but welcoming, and worth a visit. Why not have a wander along the Speyside Way while you are there?

Snip20151215_2The visit is worth it just to see the spirit stills. They have flat tops just above the exit to the lye pipe, something I have not seen anywhere else. This still design helps in forming the new make spirit character of the distillery, so it begs the question; was it designed this way? Some would say yes, while others may say that it was too tall for the still house so had to have the top cut off. Whatever the answer is the still shape, and the use of traditional worm tubs for condensation, is fundamental in the aroma and flavour of the spirit, making it multifaceted and desirable. The reduced copper contact in the system results in a complex new make sprit that matures out to give the Cragganmore character so sought after.

The whiskies tasted were varied and interesting. The Friends of the Classic Malts Bottling, available only at the site, was strong in vanilla but with wood notes and very sweet. Even sweeter was the 1991 Distillers Edition, a whisky finished off in port pipes to soften the product. This one actually really surprised me with a quick “hit” of peat smoke that quickly faded into sugary sweetness. The “entry level” Cragganmore is the 12 year old single malt. Mainly matured in bourbon casks (so one I’m sure I was going to like), it is exceptionally smooth yet complex, with a wide range of aromas and flavours. From toffee to chocolate, zesty orange to earth and wood, this is a whisky of endless variety; it would give you something new every time you tasted it.

The best however was the 25 year old. It was simply stunning, but at £300 a bottle it should be! The nose of vanilla and citrus gave way to similar flavours but also chocolate, caramel and toffee. It was wonderfully sweet with a long and satisfying finish. Rich and smooth is how I would describe this, and that’s just what I wish I were so that I could buy a bottle for myself.

Recommendation of the Month

Snip20151215_3Although simply divine, the 25 year old is well out of mine, and most people’s price range. So my recommendation this month is the wonderfully complex 12 year old single malt. At £36 from the visitor centre this is a wonderful Speyside dram.

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Latest Northern Scot Article – The Glenlivet

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I took a trip up to The Glenlivet Distillery in a rather special week; it was the week that various media outlets proclaimed that The Glenlivet had overtaken another well know brand to become the number one selling single malt brand in the world. This is a fact that everyone on site is rightly proud of.

The Glenlivet Distillery is a mix of the old and new, traditional and modern. It is a large distillery by any measure and in the process of getting even larger. There is a major expansion project about to be undertaken doubling their already impressive capacity of ten and a half million litres of pure alcohol per year. For this they currently have seven sets of stills, sixteen washbacks and a big, big mashtun.

The site is a popular tourist destination with around fifty thousand people crossing the threshold very year, and it may increase in popularity with it now being one of the very few sites giving a free tour. For me it is worth a visit just to see the model made of bottles that looks like the DNA double helix!

The highlight for me was seeing the legal document (the indenture) that enshrined this site’s right to call itself The Glenlivet. If you go to The Glenlivet you’ll see a copy, I was fortunate enough to go down to Strathisla Distillery to see the original. Many other sites could tag on Glenlivet to their site name, but after 1824 there was only one that could say it was The Glenlivet. This is a legal right that the guys here are still very proud of.

Their site is also something that they should be proud of. It was immaculately presented the day I was there and the view out of the still house across the Ladder Hills and towards the Lecht, containing many old whisky smuggler routes, was stunning.

IMG_4181Their hospitality and the whiskies they arranged for me to try were also stunning. From their “entry level” whisky, The Founders Reserve, through some cask strength expressions to their twenty five year old, showed me great variety, great differences and great taste.

I have to be honest and say that The Founders Reserve has taken some stick in some blogs and whisky articles for being a non-aged flavour led expression, however to be fair it has also got some press. As for me, well, I really liked it. It is light and fresh, retaining the delicate and complex nature from the new make spirit. A floral and heathery nose develops with time into a really nice menthol toffee note. It is a smooth and easy drinking whisky, and at some of the prices I’ve seen lately in supermarkets a really good value single malt.

A particular favourite of mine was the Hand Filled 18 year old, matured in first fill bourbon casks. The banana and floral nose developed into a peachy and woody note when a wee drop of water was added. The sweet, buttery, vanilla, creamy finish was just wonderfulIMG_4184. I am now planning a trip back up to buy one of these for my private collection!

The other expressions were varied, I preferred the Valiant cask edition more then the sherry Nadurra; my wife however has more expensive taste really enjoying the XXV bottle (at £200 a bottle). The 18 year old was very pleasant and overall I really enjoyed the variety and differences achieved through their innovative use of age and cask.

The Glenlivet impressed me in more ways than one; their mix of heritage and history with big production was great to see, the beautiful site in a stunning location is worth a visit and their product is definitely worth a try.

Recommendation of the Month

The Hand Filled 18 year old is amazing, but at £70 maybe a bit over budget for many. My recommendation of the month, going on value for money given some of the reduced prices that I’ve seen lately is the Founders Reserve, a lovely easy whisky at a great price.

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Glenlivet 15 YO French Oak Reserve

Another new whisky for me at a recent nosing and tasting experience was the Glenlivet 15 yo French Oak Reserve.

IMG_4436It had a lovely golden yellow colour and a delightful nose. I detected green apple straight away, very strong, with hints of fresh pear, vanilla and white chocolate.

The taste was nice but not as good as the nose. It was sweet with vanilla and creamy buttery notes. Pleasant but not as exciting as the nose indicated.

Saying that I would not refuse a dram of this; the finish was lovely, smooth and sweet.

This whisky was very popular in the tasting session, and is a great buy, selling at reasonable prices in my local supermarket. So keep your eye out for this one, and buy if it if you get the chance.

Overall a nice sweet whisky, gentle and smooth, and quite enjoyable, with a very nice and lingering sweet finsih.

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