Category Archives: Northern Highland

Third Time’s the Charm: Tasting the Cigar Malt

The Dalmore has produced a series of single-malt expressions (three, so far – to my knowledge):

  • Cigar Malt
  • Gran Reserva
  • Cigar Malt Reserve (the sequel)
None of these carry an age statement. The Dalmore is detailed here.

Cigar Malt

At 43% ABV, and with a price less than $50, this was a nice sherried dram that I always liked (sadly, it’s no longer available). The nose is very malty, with leather notes and citrus. It even seems to have a hint of sour cherries (must be the sherry aging…).

Despite the rumors, the whisky wasn’t ever aged in tobacco. 🙂

The finish is not very long, nor is the whisky especially sweet, which may be why it would pair nicely with a cigar. I can’t say, since I don’t smoke. There are tart berries (black currants?) in the finish, but the finish is only average.

If you find a bottle of the original Cigar Malt in a liquor store, it’s a great value. Buy it while it lasts!

Gran Reserva

People told me that they did not like this as much as the Cigar Malt due to the fact that it’s much sweeter than the Cigar Malt. I would concur. There are still cherries and the sweetness reminds me of honey, however it’s not thick…actually it’s got a very thin mouthfeel. This might be a result of the lower ABV (it’s only 40%). There is less leather in the nose and this is much more mellow than the Cigar Malt. There is a tanginess or astringency on the tongue in the finish.

Cigar Malt Reserve

This is the strongest of the three, at 44% ABV. There is more malt (and hay?) on the nose than either of the previous iterations. There is pronounced orange and vanilla in the nose, which I really like, and something nutty (either hazelnut or walnut). The flavors are much more powerful overall, probably due to the ABV. It’s like it was dialed up a notch. The finish has nice oaky or woody notes mixed with what might be anise. I think this is the best of the three. Sadly, it’s also the most expensive (and at $125, I think it’s not a particularly good value).

Full disclosure

I received small samples of the latter two expressions via The Baddish Group. SlĂ inte! I hadn’t had a chance to purchase a bottle of the Gran Reserva before it sold out, and it was nice to get a sample of the “new” Cigar Malt, because it’s a bit out of my price range.

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Posted by on 17-September-2011 in Northern Highland, Whyte and Mackay


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The Whisk(e)y Week That Was

Snow Phoenix

This past Monday (10-Jan-2011), I attended Glenfiddich’s launch of the Snow Phoenix single malt. If you were not aware, the genesis of this expression was somewhat newsworthy. The Winter of 2010 (last year) was particularly harsh in Scotland, so much so that the accumulation of snow and ice on the maturation warehouses became too much for some of the structures to handle, and some collapsed. Quoting William Grant & Sons, the company that produces Glenfiddich (and many other spirits):

In January 2010, after weeks of heavy snow and record low temperatures, four feet of densely compacted snow covered the Glenfiddich distillery roofs, which housed hundreds of casks of fine aged whisky, gently maturing in semi-darkness.

On the evening of 7th January, in the most remote part of the distillery estate, a number of warehouse roofs dramatically collapsed under the weight, leaving the maturing oak casks exposed to the night sky.  In wintery conditions and temperatures of -19˚C, distillery staff swung into action, working round the clock to clear the snow.

Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “Standing amongst the wreckage and exposed casks, we were working out our next steps and assessing the situation.  I was thinking about how the casks, some of which were very old, contained some beautiful whisky and it occurred to me that they would create a fantastic non-aged single malt. A limited edition bottling from the whiskies in the damaged warehouses would be an appropriate way of celebrating the pioneering spirit of the distillery team at this moment in Glenfiddich’s history.”

I have to say that in my opinion, the Snow Phoenix expression is as good — or better than — the Glenfiddich 15. It’s going to be appearing soon in the US at a very aggressive suggested retail price: $89.99. There is no age statement, and Snow Phoenix is being delivered in a beautiful commemorative presentation box. The price is designed such that you could purchase one to collect, and one to drink (most limited- or special-edition whiskies cost [well] over $200). I expect that the supplies of Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix will disappear rapidly: There are only 12,000 bottles coming to the US. Worldwide, I believe that there are less than 50,000 bottles, and I believe that some has already become available at travel retail (duty free) shops. Given the price, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Greedy Angels

Since I am semi-active (last week I read about Twitter addicts who wake up 2-3 times per night to check their @replies and DMs and who sleep with their smart phones under their pillows; those people use Twitter 1000x more heavily than I do!) in the Twitter whisk(e)y community, I was invited to a Twitter-based live Scotch whisky tasting next week. Four sample bottles were shipped to me in early December, but only three made it. I can only attribute this to exceptionally greedy angels, taking their share (and more).

I can’t imagine what my California mailman must have wondered as he was delivering the very wet Royal Mail envelope that reeked of whisky, and sounded of broken glass. You’ll have to wait until 20-Jan-11 at 19:30 GMT to see what we’re tasting. Even I don’t know. 🙂 The hashtag for the event is already active: #wk209. Here is the wreckage of my shipment:


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Ben Wyvis

Ben Wyvis particulars:

Location: Invergordon, Ross-shire, Scotland
Post code: IV18 0HP
Region: Northern Highland
Since: 1962 (closed and demolished in 1977)


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Scapa particulars:

Location: St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
Post code: KW15 1SE
Region: Northern Highland / Island (Orkney)
Since: 1885


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Invergordon particulars:

Location: Cottage Brae, Invergordon, Ross & Cromarty, Highland, Scotland
Post code: IV18 0HP
Region: Northern Highland (Single Grain)
Since: 1959


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Glen Albyn

Glen Albyn particulars:

Location: Telford Street, Inverness, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Post code: IV3 5LD
Region: Speyside (or Northern Highland, depending on whom you ask)
Since: 1844 (closed 1983; demolished 1986)


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Brora particulars:

Location: Brora, Sutherland, Scotland
Post code: KW9 6LR (not linked because it is closed)
Region: Northern Highland
Since: 1819 (closed 1983)

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Posted by on 4-December-2008 in Closed, Diageo, Highland, Northern Highland, Scotland


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