Aug 242011



Various incarnations of Port Ellen


In the snowy month of May, 2011 (remember, this is Canada), I was lucky enough to go back to Scotch Land with a small tour group.  I posed as a hard drinking tourist from Canada with a simple mission: drink as many free drams as offered (over 200), ascertain the total remaining casks of Port Ellen held in trust for me and return to Canada without breaking any bottles in my two suitcases.

Success comes in many forms, but always with consequence.  I was both baptized and enlightened in the lake of single malt that is Speyside, but succumbed to a bad case of liver quiver.  My suitcases proved to be liquid tight, but my Visa seemed to be somehow diminished from the constant friction of use.  The main purpose of uncovering the remaining stocks of Port Ellen was met with only modest success but came at a high cost of fallen friends.  Nothing quite prepares you for the sight of facing your comrades (No last names, Richard, Peter, Andrew and his son) in the morning following the prior day’s itinerary, starting with a morning of whisky sampling, followed by a whisky and lunch pairing, afternoon of whisky sampling, aperitif pre-dinner sharpener whisky, whisky and dinner pairing, after dinner dessert whisky and capped off by a long night of whisky bar scrambling.

Port Ellen Distillery, for the benefit of the great unwashed, was built in 1825, temporarily closed between 1929 and 1966, and then operated up to its demise in 1983.  Diageo, or UDV at the time, decided that Caol Ila was better than Port Ellen and Port Ellen was surplus to demand, so went about converting the distillery into a permanent malting facility, which it remains today.

With Gordon & MacPhail, Diageo and Douglas Laing unwilling to disclose their remaining stock of Port Ellen casks, one will just have to take a shot in the dark at their remaining cask inventory.  The following is a profession BBBG* of the remaining casks of Port Ellen held in Scotland:

1 – Cadenhead.  Asked on the Royal Mile and was told they have none left.

2 – Single Malt Whisky Association.  Edinburgh (yes both locations).  Was told that they have no casks .

3 – Signatory.  During the tour they were more than happy to tell us and even allowed us to take a pictures in their warehouse of their last 2 casks.

4 – All the others (which include Dewar Rattray , Adelphi , Coopers Choice , Duncan Taylor and so on) …………………… BBBG* 4 casks.

5– Gordon & MacPhail (Michael Urquhart).  Asked twice, once on a tour of Benromach, again at a tasting in Gordon & MacPhail offices.  Both times, politely denied.  There was a posting on the internet back in 1995 which suggested that after visiting Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouses, they were told the stocks held by Gordon & MacPhail were diminishing rapidly and Gordon & MacPhail were going to start rationing their remaining Port Ellen inventory.  Given Gordon & MacPhail’s ongoing hoarding ability in being able to put 70 year old casks of single malts on the markets, earns them the number three spot in available casks in the whisky world with an BBBG* 20 casks.

6 – Diageo (The largest drink company on the planet.  At least they can’t advertise the universe (Johnnie Rocket Whisky?)) Diageo has been very secretive and heavy handed about their stocks of Port Ellen.  Just remember, Diageo once had a street named after them, but they had to change the name because nobody crosses Diageo and lives.  There was a posting on the internet claiming to have seen the hidden treasure of remaining casks in a first person vision of 80 casks in May of 2005.  Even though the stated amounts of 80 casks in 2005 (80 casks x 250 bottles per cask is 20,000) have long been used up.  Between 2006 and 2010, 25,368 bottles have been released from their annual releases, another 220 bottles from their 2008 Feis Ile single cask along with an undisclosed amount included in their Johnnie Walker Blue Label special releases.

But here’s the rub…we all know the greatest trick that Diageo (Diablo) ever played was convincing the world that Port Ellen was in short supply.  Given that Diageo is usually short sited in most of what they do, Diageo having more casks than Douglas Laing would mean they would be smarter than Douglas Laing, which I would never concede.  So I would BBBG* their remaining inventory at 40 casks which would be approximately 9,000 to 10,000 bottles, of which I believe they will release in a declining amount over the next five years (2011 to 2015).  I would think their remaining casks to be from 1978 & 1979, which would be consistence with their other releases.

I believe they held onto 1978 & 1979 stocks as they were the oldest stock they had left that didn’t already go to blending, plus they had much invested in time and money in quality bourbon casks.  Diageo most likely sold the 1982 and 1983 stock cheaply to the independents, given the overabundance of whisky on the market at the time.  The 1980 & 1981, the missing stock years, which were just or arriving at the three year minimum legal limit for scotch whisky, were probably put into the Diageo peated blends, like JW Black & JW Blue, never to be seen again, and only appreciated if you happen to come across an older bottle from the mid to late eighties.

7 – Douglas Laing (The upstarts of independents, according to Gordon & MacPhail).  Seems to have more remaining stock of Port Ellen than Diageo and all the independents combined, and if managed carefully will last for generations (with deep pockets) to come.  This foresight of buying so many casks of Port Ellen, I believe, can be attributed to Fred Douglas Laing Senior and his love for Port Ellen, although at the time of purchase it was most likely to be a smoky component to one of their blends and not a single malt.

Port Ellen is a jewel in the crown of the Douglas Laing inventory, and Old Malt Cask at 50 % ABV in a Sherry cask is a personal favorite of mine.  On the third floor of Douglas House on Lynedoch Crescent we had the good fortune of trying numerous samples of Port Ellen (along with other single malts), in hopes of bringing yet another cask to Calgary.  Our host for the visit was Lorraine and when I popped the question (how many casks are in the Douglas Laing inventory?), the response was “ee…er…ee…er…ee…”, which I interpreted from Scottish to Canadian as, “if I told you, I’ve have to kill you, eh, you hoser”.

Douglas Laing and sister companies et al., have been releasing Port Ellen in most of their ranges, from Old & Rare Platinum (dump the burnt pine wood boxes with the bad glue jobs), Old Malt Cask (please no more low neck bottles), Provenance, Douglas of Drumlanrig, Premier Barrel ceramic decanter (please put better cork / caps in these bottles and pack them better), Old Malt Cask Advance samples and let’s not forget Big Peat, with a small shovelful of Port Ellen per bottle in a blend of scotch malts.  I would BBBG* their remaining stock to 81 casks, which is double Diageo plus one.  I would think most of their remaining stock to be from 1982 & 1983, but they would also have some older stock in reserve for their Platinum line.


In summary I BBBG* the total remaining inventory of casks (not current bottles on the shelf) and PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, to be 147 casks, or approximately 40,000 bottles, given some of the remaining casks from Douglas Laing are probably larger Sherry Butts.

To honor this forever lost distillery (more of an excuse to drink), I sat down with Curt, Jay and Pat of All Things Whisky and we enjoyed five different bottlings of Port Ellen.  Curt and I decided to post our tasting notes together on this venture.


Port Ellen Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1982


PORT ELLEN Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1982 – 2003

40% ABV 21 Years Old



NOSE:  Citrus bites first.  Peat and smoke, wood smoke (not quite as bold as a mesquite or hickory, but very pronounced nevertheless).  Herbal.  Grassy.  Soft vanilla.

PALATE:  Waxy.  Thin burnt notes.  Smoked fruit skins.  Smoke hangs on and dries out nicely.

THOUGHTS:  Palate doesn’t quite deliver what the nose hints at.  Thin in terms of flavor and mouth feel.  Still a great drink, but heartbreaking it saw so much water added.  Fourth favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Bud-lite smoke.  Farmy.  Lemons and a hint of orange.

TASTE:  Sweet and salty are battling it out on the taste buds.  Grapefruit rules.

FINISH:  Medium…maybe a bit more.

ASSESSMENT:  No need to add water to a drowning drink.  Port Ellen needs to be at a higher ABV to work well.  Fourth favorite of the night.


Port Ellen Diageo 6th Annual Release


PORT ELLEN Diageo 6th Annual Release 1978 – 2006

54.2% ABV 27 Years Old, Bottle # 3251 of 4560 Bottles



NOSE:  Creamy toffee/caramel.  Lemon Polish/Lemon Pledge.  Brine.  Salted Greens.  Fruit Cocktail (mélange of maraschino cherry, pear, orange, peach…all mild and dilute).  Smoke and peat.

PALATE:  Peppery Licorice.  Tar and iodine.  Peat.  Fades into Granny Smith Apple.  Long and smoky finish.

THOUGHTS:  Best nose of the night.  This is exactly what I think of when I think PE.  Love it.  Best PE of the night, hands down.



NOSE:  Floor polish.  Smoked kippers.  Lemon pepper.  Low tide and vanilla.

TASTE:  Musty.  Black liquorice.  Iodine.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Fades quickly.

ASSESSMENT:  Not just any Port in a storm of independents, what I would describe as typical and predictable Port Ellen style.  Second favorite of the night (sucker for balanced sherry).


Port Ellen OMC 26 Years Old Rum Finished


PORT ELLEN Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask December 1979 – November 2006

50% ABV 26 Years Old Rum Finished, Cask # 3081 of 342 Bottles



NOSE:  Rubber Bands.  Glue.  Oily and fishy (think canned sardines).  Aged rum.  Mild smoke and citric tanginess.

PALATE:  Rum almost disappears on the tongue.  Tarry and rubbery.  Cooked greens.  Lemon pepper.  Long finish that shows almost no sign of the rum influence.  Odd.

THOUGHTS:  WTF?!  Palate is much better than the nose.  Nose is almost off-putting.  Does get a little more relaxed with time to open.  Unrecognizable to me as a PE.  Hard to dissect with the rubbery notes from the rum running interference.  Least favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Wet cardboard and fishy chum delight.  This is where the rubber hits the road.  Floral.  Aarrrrrr!  This is sickly sweet.  Might improve mixing (drowning) with coke.

TASTE:  Much better than the nose.  Citrus, kiwi and burnt butter.

FINISH:  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  Pirate Jack & Parrot Pete can’t save the nose on this malt.  Will send the remnants of this bottle to Edmonton for recycling.  It’s said that they are a dirty people and will drink anything.


Port Ellen OMC 1983


PORT ELLEN Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask March 1983 – February 2006

50% ABV 22 Years Old Refill Sherry Butt, Cask # 2116 of 660 Bottles



NOSE:  Very subdued peat at first.  Malty.  Rye bread.  Smoke.  Dusty dried fruit.  Chocolate.  Citrus.  Seaside.

PALATE:  Dried fruits seem more vibrant here…almost like fresh fruit.  Smoky and long.  Pleasantly drying

THOUGHTS:  Third favorite of the night.  Great dram and quite PE-ish with a slight malty twist.



NOSE:  Farmy.  Smoked oysters.  Oranges & cherries.  Toffee.

TASTE:  Sweet at first getting bitter at the end.  Milk chocolate.  Bit minty and blackberry jam.

FINISH:  Strangely warm at the start, fading quickly.  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  Good example of a sherry butt PE from DL.  Third favorite of the night.


Port Ellen Signatory 1982


PORT ELLEN Signatory Vintage November 11 , 1982 – December 20 , 2007

57 % ABV 25 Years Old, Cask 2847 Bottle # 111 of 417 Bottles



NOSE:  Chewy and rich.  Burnt notes.  Zest (Citrus…not soap).  Tobacco leaf.  Wet rocks.  Dark fudge.  Smoke and peat.

PALATE:  Chocolate.  Cereal notes.  Muted anise.  Warm spicy arrival.  Mouth coating, thick and oily.

THOUGHTS:  Great balance.  Points for best arrival of the night.  Nice mix of peat and sherry.  Second favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Nice aged peat smoke.  Cherries.  Oranges.  Leather.  Caramel.

TASTE:  Lemon.  Pepper.  Liquorice.  Fruity.  Marzipan.

FINISH:  Long and lingering.

ASSESSMENT:  Smoke on the water, fire in the sky, this is my favorite of the night.  Perfect balance of Sherry and Islay malt.


Although I don’t generally cry when I drink single malts unless I’ve accidently spilled some, I always seem to tear up when I’m drinking Port Ellen, and pause to remember this poem from Lord Byron:

So we’ll go no more a-roving

So late into the night,

Though the heart still be as loving,

And the moon still be as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,

And the soul outwears the breast,

And the heart must pause to breathe,

And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,

And the day returns too soon,

Yet we’ll go no more a-roving

By the light of the moon.


– As always, tender, Maltmonster

– Photos:  Pat (

(BBBG* – Best Bloody Brilliant Guesstimation)

 Posted by at 7:15 pm
Aug 242011

Compass Box – The Building of an Empire


The Compass Box empire, like many others throughout history, has been built upon the bedrock of ideas bigger than those its competition.  And like any empire keen on expansion and growth, it has smashed boundaries and razed the old infrastructures to the ground.  This type of forward-thinking and innovation is the stuff most often met with extreme resistance at first, and often made lore in years to come.  Generally a movement such as this is led by an individual of character and charisma.  (I hasten to add, he/she is sadly often martyred!  Thankfully we live in slightly more…forgiving…times.)

As emperor of this young empire, John Glaser now finds himself lording over legions from the far-flung regions of Scotland.  He has taken these small holdings and merged and bent them to his benevolent will.  Fortunately, after a few bitter early battles, John’s vision has been met with not only acceptance, but accolade.

Upon the backs and genius of distillers from all corners of Scotland, Glaser has risen with a new force of daring and might.  This young empire shows no sign of slowing its forward march and progression through the ages.

In honor…ATW takes a brief survey of some of the breeds that make up the Compass Box empire:


Photo courtesy of Pat


Asyla – 40%

Nose:  Oak, and vanilla.  Lilac, heather and honey.  Orange.

Palate:  Silky delivery of vanilla and firm grains.  Light fresh fruit.

Finish:  It is the woods that linger.  …But not overly long

Assessment:  Mild and beautifully balanced.  Hints of a very mild and aged Laphroaig (?!?  I know!).  While exceptional and unique, still epitomizes Scotch whisky.  Great beginner’s malt.  Would make an excellent aperatif dram as well.


Photo courtesy of Pat


Oak Cross – 43%

Nose:  Touch of spice.  Mild and homey sweetness.  Toasted grain.  Strong vanilla bean and lavender.  Citrus rind.

Palate:  Depth of wood notes and oak-infused flavors.  A touch of dry tartness.

Finish:  Sweet, but still spicy.  Dries toward the back.

Assessment:  Any day…any time.  Nowhere near the best of the bunch, but that only speaks to the quality of the others…not any lack in this expression.


Photo courtesy of Pat


The Spice Tree – 46%

Nose:  Wham!  This is brilliant!  Clove.  Spiced cranberry.  Caramel.  Warm and worn-in leather.  Bold and creamy and nearly perfect.

Palate:  Hint of malted barley.  Fruit skins and toffee.  Cinnamon spiced apples.

Finish:  Apple skin and sucking on a cinnamon stick.

Assessment:  Best of the Compass Box line-up.  Primarily from Clynelish, they say.  This has more in common with Brora than contemporary expressions of Clynelish.  Sexy…sexy…sexy!


Photo courtesy of Pat


The Peat Monster – 46%

Nose:  Sharp tangy Islay bog.  Deep salty smoke and peat.  Iodine and seawater.  Malty.  Lime and kiwi freshness.  Young mashtun notes.  Touch of vanilla snaking through.  Like smoldering vegetation.

Palate:  Smoke, iodine and fruit skins.  Rich and oily.

Finish:  Lingering smoke, tartness and…yeah…smoke.

Assessment:  Seems feisty and young, though apparently all malts within are 10-16 years.  A little sharp.  Not quite my idea of perfect balance, but great nevertheless and very well-made.  An improvement on the Peat Monster of old.


Photo courtesy of Pat


Flaming Heart – 48.9%

Nose:  Pungent peat (but not Islay peat at the heart…most certainly from the Ardmore).  Tangy.  Floral and vegetal.  Slight peppery bite.  Hint of pear.  Coastal and tarry (Caol Ila, anyone?).  Slightly bread-like and yeasty.  Grains and malt.

Palate:  Malty.  Smoky.  Nutty.  Peaty.  Delivers briny oakiness.

Finish:  Vanilla and dry wood dominate the finish.  Yes…with fading smoke.

Assessment:  Good, but…I hoped for a wee bit more.  Thankfully…I still have a fresh bottle set aside for rainy days.


Hedonism Maximus – 46%

Nose:  Rich in sweet toffee grain.  Almost rye-like.  Sweet bourbon.  Fresh orange intensity.  Lightly buttered baking.  Creamy.  Mild nutmeg and cinnamon.  Strata of vanilla.

Palate:  Bourbon-like delivery.  Buttered caramel and oak.  Sweet and chewy like crunching down on freshly picked grain.

Finish:  Drying and fruity.  Subtly…manipulatively…charms its way into staying for a while.

Assessment:  Lovely.  Nose is exceptional.  Palate…quite good.  Would have loved to try this side-by-side with the other Hedonism.  This is aged grain as it is meant to be presented.  Brilliant.


Photo courtesy of Pat


– All notes:  Curt

 Posted by at 6:25 am
Aug 032011

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

The Kensington Wine Market is thrilled to announce it will be stocking bottles of the Gordon & MacPhail Generations Glenlivet 70 Year (tied for the world’s oldest whisky ever bottled) beginning in mid August. The release of this 1940 vintage 70 year old Glenlivet is exciting enough, but made even more so because Gordon & MacPhail is also releasing five vintage bottlings of Glenlivet, one each from the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. Collectively, this release represents six decades in the history of one of Scotland’s most well know distilleries. That it is Gordon & MacPhail who bottled these Glenlivets, and not the distillery, is a testament to the special relationship which has long existed between the two firms. That and the fact that no other company in the world has had the patience and vision to mature whisky to such advanced ages.

This exciting new 70 year old whisky will be exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada (save for Airport Duty Free shops). We are also the only retail liquor store in the country who will be receiving the five Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Decades and Five Decade Set. This is a very exciting opportunity for the Kensington Wine Market, and one that can’t go unmarked. To celebrate the occasion we are having a event to initiate the launch. We are very pleased to be hosting Michael Urquhart, Co-managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, for a very rare and exclusive tasting of the Glenlivet 70 Year as well as each of the Five Decades bottlings. On August 25, twenty lucky individuals will have the opportunity to sample this unique range in what is, without doubt, a once in a lifetime tasting opportunity. Initially I was projecting a cost upwards of $400 for this unique experience, but thanks to the generosity of Michael and Gordon & MacPhail, we can offer it for just $200/person. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity. There is much more below on the Glenlivets and the tasting.

In addition to the exciting news above, we also have a couple of whiskies in stock right now which I’ve been dying to write about for months: The Alberta Premium 30 Year and Highland Park St. Magnus have been on our radar for the last 3-4 months, and while I’ve wanted to make light of them in the Malt Messenger, the fact of the matter is, we’ve had far more demand than supply. Well, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes and I’ve been squeaking in the ear of my Beam Global Canada rep for the better part of the last 3 months. Products like these two are allocated, meaning only certain stores can buy them. We were given generous allocations, but ones too small to meet the demand of our extensive customer base. Other stores were given allocations too, and some of them didn’t appreciate what they’d been given, so the cases sat, and sat and sat. Over the last few months Beam has been reallocating a few cases of each here and there, as they emptied the allocations of those taking too long, putting some of them in ours. But it still wasn’t enough. Demand was outstripping supply, until now. For the first time since these two whiskies were released I finally have enough to put some on the floor and provide the Malt Messenger Diaspora with tasting notes. They are both excellent whiskies, and I’ve included more info on both below. Don’t hesitate. They may both be sold by the weekend!

I hope you enjoyed this Malt Messenger Bulletin! Stay tuned for the next full Malt Messenger with another big announcement, and the balance of my Closed Distilleries of Scotland feature, in about two weeks time.


Andrew Ferguson

PS-Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter for more timely updates at



To celebrate the launch of Gordon & MacPhail’s Generations Glenlivet 70 Year and the Private Collection Glenlivet Decades we will be hosting the most exclusive whisky tasting of 2011 on Thursday August 25th! We will be sampling six whiskies representing six decades in the life of the Glenlivet distillery, including a 1940 vintage 70 year old expression. Along with the Mortlach 70 year old Gordon & MacPhail released last year, this is the oldest whisky ever bottled! When I first started looking at this tasting I was forecasting a per person price tag of $500+, but thanks to the generosity of Gordon & MacPhail we’ll be able to do much better than that. Michael Urquhart, Joint Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, is making a special trip to Calgary for this amazing tasting event. Michael has generously agreed to bring with him bottles of the 70 year old Glenlivet, as well as the 1954 and 1963 Private Collection Glenlivet vintages. Thanks to his generosity we are pleased to be able to offer 20 people the chance to take part in this once in a lifetime tasting for just $200/person, a considerable amount of which will be going to charity! Our charity of choice for this event is the Children’s Hospital Aid Society or CHAS.

The tasting will take place here at the Kensington Wine Market at 7PM on Thursday August 25th. Participants will be lead through the tasting of the six whiskies by Michael Urquhart, and will all be given a special whisky glass to take home with them. Participants will also have a chance to bid on a special signed press pack containing a book and samples of each of the six whiskies. 100% of the proceeds from this item will be going to our chosen charity. Tickets for this event will go quickly, we’ve already sold 7 of the 20 spaces to people in the know. Tickets can be purchased in store, over the phone at 403-283-8000 and online at


GORDON & MACPHAIL GLENLIVET GENERATIONS 1940 70 YEAR OLD – $21,999.99(700m) $5,999.99(200ml)

Gordon & MacPhail is unique not just among independent bottlers, but among all whisky companies in Scotland, in that it has great vision for and patience with its whisky stocks. Save for Glenfarclas no other company in the whisky industry is even close to possessing Gordon & MacPhail’s depth of old maturing whisky stocks. When Macallan launched their Fine and Rare line of vintage single malts a decade ago, rumour has it most of the casks came from Gordon & MacPhail. In the case of Glenfarclas their stocks go back only to the 1950’s, but Gordon & MacPhail has casks from the 1940’s and even a few from the late 1930’s. That’s how it’s been able to release not one, but two different 70 year old whiskies within the last year.

Only 100 700ml decanters of this rare whisky and 175 of the 200ml variety are being released worldwide. The whisky, filled into cask in 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain, has been bottled at its natural cask strength of 45.9% after maturing 70 years in a single First Fill Sherry Butt. The hand blown crystal decanters are in the shape of a tear and have a British Hallmarked silver stopper. The decanter is cradled in a sterling silver base, in a bespoke Scottish Elm box handmade in Scotland.

I had a chance to sample the whisky in March at a whisky show in Las Vegas, and will reproduce my tasting note below along with those of Malt Advocate and Lawrence Graham of Whisky Intelligence.

Lawrence Graham, Whisky Intelligence: “The nose is refined, speaks of some age (although not of 70 years), hints of heather, sherry, plump raisins and some fruit in the form of apricots and lychee. There’s also some oak spice an hints of pepper however this is very subtle. Hints of bees wax, a waft of tobacco (like walking down wind of a curing shed). Some hand warming brings out some malt which nicely ties everything together. The aromas are really a delight and the more times spent in the glass the more that is revealed; all it takes is a little hand warming and the myriad of delicate aromas waft up. It really is quite sensational. The taste is honeyed but also has an immediate malt delivery quickly followed by some oak notes (oak spiciness, a little leather and tobacco) followed by the fruit. Some moments later it turns a little dry along with some banana (but more like they’ve flambéed). Once again quite sensational. Well done. The finish is quite long and very representative of the afore mentioned descriptors in the nose and the taste. It’s quite long and holds together very well, it doesn’t go off in some unhappy direction. Perhaps a hint of smoke at the tail end?” 91pts

“Gordon & MacPhail Generations: The Glenlivet 70 year old, 45.9%  You would expect any 70 year old whisky to be crepuscular, dense, and wooded. Not here. The nose is amazingly fresh — distillery character fully intact — with layers of rancio and heavy florals. In time, there’s candle wax, vanilla, milk chocolate, and a touch of leather, even the whiff of a soft mink stole. Concentrated and complex. The palate is like an ancient vin santo with oxidized nuttiness, quince and medlar, and subtle peat. Hugely expressive on the palate, with a sweet finish. Truly remarkable.” – Dave Broom 90pts

Gordon & MacPhail Generation Glenlivet 70 Year – 45.9% – 100 Numbered Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: peaches and cream, mulled fruits, hard candies and fruit leather with some deft Christmas Cake notes; it is like opening a fresh bag of assorted jujubes on a new leather sofa, and there is something vaguely smoky (it was after all the war years and coal was in high demand); Palate: soft and so, so delicate, surprisingly some soft smoky notes to start with more peaches and cream and the softest-warming-buttery fruit imaginable; it becomes richer as the palate develops with brown sugar and spices: cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger; leather and tobacco notes also develop but remain delicate and smooth; there are so many layers to this whisky: citrus, smoke, soft coating oils and much, much, more; nutty tones and vanilla; I can’t believe how gentle this whisky is, and how soft the oak; Finish: long and warming, sweet with subtle spice and nutty oak, my palate is moist, damp and coated with soft oils; Comments: much more than I ever expected a 70 year old whisky could be and more complex and far less oaky than expected!



As mentioned above, we are also receiving five vintages of Glenlivet representing five decades in the history of the distillery, six when combined with the seventy year old. Here are some details on those bottlings:

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 5 Decade Set – 50 Sets Available World Wide– Only 1 set to Alberta – 1 bottle each of the following vintages: 1954, 1963, 1974, 1980 and 1991. – $5664.99

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 1954 – 56 Year – 135 bottles – Only 6 bottles to Alberta – 50.6% – First Fill Sherry Hogshead – Tasting Notes to Come in a Future Malt Messenger – $2193.99

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 1963 – 47 Year – 169 bottles – Only 6 bottles to Alberta –  40.6% – First Fill American Oak Hogshead – Tasting Notes to Come in a Future Malt Messenger – $1325.99

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 1974 – 36 Year 189 bottles – Only 6 bottles to Alberta – 50.1% – First Fill Sherry Hogshead – Tasting Notes to Come in a Future Malt Messenger – $923.99

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 1980 – 30 Year – 61 bottles – Only 3 bottles to Alberta – 48.5% – Refill American Oak Hogshead – Tasting Notes to Come in a Future Malt Messenger – $496.99

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Glenlivet 1991 – 19 Year – 203 bottles – Only 6 bottles to Alberta – 54.4% – Refill Sherry Hogshead – Tasting Notes to Come in a Future Malt Messenger – $202.99


HIGHLAND PARK ST MAGNUS – $124.99                (Limit 2/Customer)

Highland Park has released a trilogy of whiskies over the last few years bottled at a higher strength than their traditional bottlings. The first was the Earl Magnus, a 15 year old bottled at 52.6%, named after the legendary leader of the island. This second bottling is also named after the same Earl Magnus, but called St. Magnus. The St. Magnus is a 12 year old cask strength bottled at 55% with a subtle sherry influence. Magnus was co-ruler of the Orkney’s until betrayed by his cousin the other Earl, Haakon. Magnus was sainted just 20 years after his death, and I’ll let you guess who the third bottling in the series is named after. We long ago sold out of our generous allocations of this whisky, and have since then been hounding the supplier for as many additional bottles as they can spare. Of the 84 bottles we’d previously received all but 3 of them were sold before we could put a single bottle on the floor. We are getting but 12 bottles in this week, of which 6 are already spoken for; the rest will be sold in very short order. The original limit of 2 bottles per customer stands. I’ve included my tasting note as well as that of John Hansel of Malt Advocate.

“Highland Park, “Saint Magnus,” 12 year old, 55%, £85 The second in a series of three high-strength, limited-edition Highland Park whiskeys, and a rather bold expression. Nicely sherried and noticeably smoky—more than a standard Highland Park. Quite spicy too—cinnamon, but also ginger and nutmeg. Throw in some toffee apple, Cointreau, and waxed fruit (towards the finish) for intrigue. Long, sherried, smoky finish. A very exciting Highland Park.” 92pts John Hansel, Malt Advocate Magazine

Highland Park St. Magnus – 55% – 12 Year – My Tasting Note: Nose: very appley, with green and candied apples, peaches, heather honey and musty earthen floors (like those in a dunnage warehouse); the nose is tight but within its constraints that are lots of bold aromas which you have to work for; later I get notes of treacle, wood smoke and dark chocolate; Palate: dark, fruity and earthy with rich sherry notes, thick but yielding peat and more heather honey; the palate is very viscous and oily with far more peat than you typically associate with Highland Park, and that is what really strikes me; Highland Park is famous for the soft chocolaty peat they harvest from Hobbister’s Hill(moor), and there’s much more of it here than in the standard 12 year; the white fruits and apples provide a sweet decadent edge to the whisky complimenting the heather honey and toning down the surging peat; there is youthful barley notes too, but they are late to the show; Finish: very sweet and softly drying with more chocolaty peat and apples; the finish is long and its mouth-coating oils linger long after the last sip retaining flavours of honey, chewy barley and soft peat smoke; Comments: this is no sherry-heavy Highland Park like the 18 year, but it has as much depth and character as the distillery’s flagship brand; this is an excellent whisky for a reasonable price that just happens to be beautifully packaged! – $124.99



ALBERTA PREMIUM 30YEAR – $54.99       (Limit 2/Customer)

Alberta Premium jumped onto the world screen a few years back when the whisky and its distillery was single out by Jim Murray of Whisky Bible fame as the number one whisky in Canada and one of the top whiskies in the world. The whisky has long been unique, being one of the few 100% Rye whiskies produced in Canada. Although “Rye” has long been a pseudonym for Canadian whisky, the fact of the matter is that most Canadian whisky has been made primarily from corn for a very long time, and there is nearly as much Rye whiskey made in the United States as Canada.

After the success of the regular Alberta Premium the distillery launched a special 25 year old expression in late 2007, which was named Canadian whisky of the year in the 2008 Whisky Bible. Curiously the whisky was released with little fanfare and with a shelf tag of less than $30 (the regular $5 year old version being around $23) and was little more than a curiosity. Initially few people took it seriously partly because it was Canadian and party because it was priced too low. It wasn’t until long after the whisky was sold out that its reputation started to grow and the broader public starting searching out bottles. It is for this reason that when rumours of a 30 year old Alberta Premium release started trickling out late in 2010 the buzz in the whisky community made sure it would be snapped up quickly.

The story of Alberta Premium 30 year goes back to 1946 when Max Bell and Frank McMahon two notable Calgary community builders decided it was time for Calgary to have its own distillery. The dry climate around Calgary was perfect for growing Rye and a natural aquifer under the city’s Ogden neighbourhood provided the perfect water for producing a fine Rye whisky. Within a few years Alberta distillers was producing more unmalted  rye spirit(must be two years in oak before it can be called whisky) than all other North American distilleries combined. 65 years later Alberta Distillers is still the largest producer of straight rye whisky in the world and the single largest consumer of Canadian rye grains. Today the vast majority of Alberta Distiller’s production is consumed within Canada. In 2007, the same year that the distillery bottled its first 25 year old expression, a parcel of casks filled in 1981 was re-married into a smaller number to preserve the whisky’s strength. These casks were bottled in 2011 yielding just 8400 bottles.

8400 bottles may sound like a lot, but in fact it is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. All 72 bottles of this whisky that Kensington Wine Market has previously acquired sold out before they hit the floor. Over the last few months I have been hounding Beam Global for every unclaimed case that other stores didn’t purchase, and all of these cases too have sold. Last week they informed me we had another 30 bottles coming our way. These bottles came in yesterday, Wednesday July 27th and they won’t last long. The original restrictions still hold, it is limited to 2 bottles per customer while supplies last.

Alberta Premium 30 Year – 40% – American Oak Matured – 100% Unmalted Rye – My Tasting Note: Nose: thick and syrupy on the nose with dark fruits and that distinct earthy/oily character possessed by most true Rye whiskies; thick with Panda brand black liquorice, liquorice all sorts, fruit leather and Teriyaki BBQ beef jerky; Palate: soft, sweet and layered with oils that are crossed by tendrils of spice, dark fruits and more Teriyaki BBQ beef jerky; I find the palate salty with more black liquorice, dried spices and some candied fruits; there are also notes of Ruby port and thick pancake syrup notes; truly though it is the spices which reign supreme with all kinds but ginger by far the most dominant; Finish: drying and sweet with more spices, Ruby port, and some tangy oak notes more reminiscent of very old Tequila than whisky; Comments: there is much more elegance to this whisky than the regular bottling, though it retains its full throttle character, and at $55/bottle, you’d be a fool not to buy one, just to try it! – $54.99



If you have any whisky questions or comments concerning The Malt Messenger please contact me by e-mail, phone, or drop by the store. Feel free to forward me any whisky news you feel should be included in a future issue of The Malt Messenger; it might just get included.

All of the products mentioned in THE MALT MESSENGER can be purchased in store, over the phone or from our website at All prices quoted in the Malt Messenger are subject to change!


Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!




Andrew Ferguson
KWM Scotchguy

1257 Kensington Rd. NW
Calgary, AB, Canada
T2N 3P8

 Posted by at 7:01 pm