Category Archives: Scotland

It Literally Exploded

I don’t write whisky reviews very often, but here goes nothing! This will be a competitive tasting of two different yet “identical” whiskies.

Summary: Two whiskies with same name and same age couldn’t be more different!

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte

Official Bottling

The Official Bottling is intense, smoky and wild. It’s not a subtle dram. The intensity of the age 5 was incredible — it was out of control — while the age 6 was subdued by comparison. In the 7, the intensity is back, but it’s smoother than the 5. The 7 is malty and salty, with a complex nose that I have trouble parsing. It’s quite overwhelming! The saltiness makes your mouth water. The nose isn’t as smoky as you’d think, and there are spicy notes like cinnamon and you can even pick out heather (well, my wife says you can…I never could say what that smells like!). The peat smoke really comes in on the finish, which is long and quiet. It’s like a campfire, after it has been doused, which is still warm and humid and reeking of charcoal, with an occasional crackle. Yummy!

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America’s bottling of the “same” spirit at the “same” age is the same thing. Only it’s so not the same. 🙂 I can see the resemblance, but: The SMSWA version goes to 11.

How are the two different? Well, it’s easy to see that they are different: The SMWS bottling is several shades darker in color! You can see that it was aged in a Sherry cask, as advertised. Oh, and It’s seriously smokey. I’m drinking this (and writing this) rather late in the evening and I am sure I’ll be enjoying the peat all day tomorrow. I might be imagining it, but it seems to have a thicker mouth feel. Or my tongue might be getting numb. The finish is possibly infinite; I’ll let you know in the morning. Oh, btw, I had to add water to this. It’s 66.6% (the number of the beast??). The OB was “only” 61% ABV.

You can really see how a single cask can be very different than the “blend” of different casks that the distillery usually marries together to make the final product. That blending probably accounts for the uneven progression from the 5 to the 6 to the 7.


My good friend Christopher Jew (@whiskywall) was kind enough to share 50 ml or so of this precious spirit. You can find a very entertaining review (aren’t they all?) over at WhiskyFun.


The title of this blog post indicates that there was an explosion. Well, sort of. When I received the sample from Christopher, I was at work, and I couldn’t resist the temptation: I didn’t taste it, but I had to open it so I could smell it. That’s when it popped. The little white disk inside the cap came flying off, and there was an audible “pop,” much to my surprise!

I didn’t have to get close to the bottle to smell it…the room was instantly filled with the smell of a wet smokey peat fire. And now, I’m going to sit here and enjoy the long finish. If you can find this dram, and if you enjoy smokey whiskies, I do recommend it.


I really enjoyed sitting up for the last hour, until after midnight, drinking whisky and writing about it. 🙂


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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Speyside Distillery

Speyside Distillery particulars:

Also known as: Lagganmore (fictional; Monarch of the Glen)
Location: Tromie Mills, Kingussie, Inverness-Shire, Scotland
Post code: PH21 1NS
Region: Speyside
Since: 1895-1905 (demolished 1911); then rebuilt 1990
Expressions: CĂş Dhub, Drumguish, Glentromie, Speyside


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Tullibardine particulars:

Pronunciation: tully.BAR-dinn
Blackford, Yachter, Perthshire, Scotland
Post code: PH4 1QG
Region: Central Highland
Since: 1949


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Tomatin particulars:

Location: Tomatin, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Post code: IV13 7YT
Region: Speyside
Since: 1897

Note: Tomatin is a very large single-malt distillery. It was the largest in Scotland (as of October, 2009). It’s possible that the expansion at The Glenlivet, which came online in mid-2010, will have larger production capacity than Tomatin. Diageo’s Roseisle distillery, completed in 2009 (also in Speyside), also has 14 stills, and by all appearances those stills look enormous.


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Tamnavulin particulars:

Location: Ballindaloch, Banffshire, Scotland
Post code: AB37 9JA
Region: Speyside
Since: 1966 (mothballed 1996)


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Strathisla particulars:

Pronunciation: Struth-eye-la
Location: Keith, Banffshire, Scotland
Post code: AB55 3BS
Region: Speyside
Since: 1786

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Posted by on 11-December-2008 in Highland, Pernod Ricard, Scotland, Speyside


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