Feb 252015

Bruichladdich The Laddie Twenty TwoIMG_6349

46% abv

Score:  89/100


Here’s another older Laddie. This time a little more naked than many of Bruichladdich’s previously offered mature expressions.

In 2012 the distillery launched a revitalized age-stated range consisting of the Laddie Ten (composed entirely of stocks produced by the current team!), the Laddie Sixteen (from distillate produced under the former owners) and the Laddie Twenty Two (also made by the forebears). I remember reading that this was to be the distillery’s core offerings going forward. There were immediate questions, of course, primarily regarding how a core range could be built around finite mature stocks, when there was a substantial gap in production between the old owners and the new. But…we drank and were happy for a while.

Sadly, not long following, the news leaked that this trifecta was being pulled from the range due to supply issues. No surprise (well, the removal of the Laddie Ten was a surprise), but infinitely disappointing nevertheless. Was this all a matter of Bruichladdich’s having underestimated demand or was this trio merely the ‘next-man-up’ iteration of the Laddie DNA, and an affirmation that previous mutterings about this being the core range were nonsense? I dunno. Either way, if you didn’t stock up at the time, chances are good that you’re most likely out of luck now.

While this 22 year old raises all sorts of questions about the distillery’s mature stock, concepts of core range and plans for future mature releases, it shows what Bruichladdich can be (and should aspire to!) when just left alone to mellow in a clean oak barrel. Nice whisky, this, very nice.

The Laddie Twenty Two is what I dream Bruichladdich will be once again in a few years. Mature, soft, unpeated (or at least only mildly so) and as sweet and tasty as salt water taffy. Here’s hoping production grows to where it outstrips demand for a while and some of this malt is left to mellow for a couple decades.

If you can find a shop with any of the remaining bottles, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Highly recommended.

Nose:  Quite soft.  Lemon meringue and banana cream pie.  Herbal with some pepper and ginger.  Very soft fruits in the vein of faint peach and melon.  Vanilla ice cream.  Soft grains and sugar cookies.  Slightly briny.  Soft and impressive.

Palate:  Like toothpicks soaked in lemon juice.  Soft dessert notes.  Candied ginger.  A touch of orange and more herbal notes…almost Sauvignon Blanc-ish.  A little more fruit, but not sure what exactly.  A little wine-ish at the back end, but not overpowering.

Thoughts:  Great (and far too drinkable) example of older Bruichladdich.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:21 am
Feb 242015

Bruichladdich 18 y.o.028

46% abv



Here’s one from the ‘long gone and sorely missed’ category.  Not just because it’s obsolete (which it is) or because it’s really good (it is that too), but because it was from the era when Bruichladdich was operating with seeming impunity; untouchable in their blitzkrieg of never-ending new releases.  Old, young, finished, natural, peated, unpeated, multi-casked, you-name-it.  They did it all.  This slew of releases pissed some off (read: collectors and completists), but delighted others (like yours truly).  Nowadays Bruichladdich is still a bit of a maverick, but there’s no denying it…times have changed.

The whisky we’re looking at here was not born under the tenure of the current Laddie team, but was distilled in the very late 80s or early 90s, prior to the distillery’s closure and subsequent reopening in 2001.  From then on, its adoptive ‘parents’ had different ideas for raising this one to maturity than did its birth ‘parents’ and did an about face with regard to bringing it into its teen years.  Let me explain…

When the ownership/management team of Reynier/Coughlin/McEwan and the gang of 30 or so other new owners took over the distillery in 2000 there were apparently some concerns about cask quality of the existing stock.  Master Distiller Jim McEwan (hopefully no further introduction needed by this point) worked his way through the warehouses and came to the conclusion that some of the whisky was indeed maturing away in substandard barrels.  The story goes that much of the distillery’s existing stock was subsequently re-racked into higher quality barrels.  Many of these whiskies found their way into former wine vessels, courtesy of Reynier’s connections in the wine trade from his former life in said industry.  I mention this here as I can only assume that this was some of that re-racked spirit.

It’s this latter notion that plays a fairly large part in what constitutes the profile of this 18 year old Bruichladdich.  A quirky malt with a very multi-faceted personality.  The wine influence is substantial, but in all fairness somehow never seems to really get to the point of ‘in-your-face’ upfrontery.  Instead, it sweetens things up a bit and brings some of the darker notes to the fore in what was most likely a fairly mild whisky to begin with.  I’d be willing to bet this spirit was formerly mellowing in a rather inactive second or third fill bourbon barrel.  Much speculation on my part here, but it’s sort of rational deductive reasoning and based on some relative knowledge of what was happening at Bruichladdich through the past couple of decades.

I think I might have liked this one a tick more if the wine influence was dialed down a bit (i.e. a shorter finishing period).  As it stands, this is still a good – almost great – whisky, and I’m one of those who is just glad to have been around through the glory years of Islay’s renegade distillery prior to the Remy buyout.  We may never see that sort of freedom and ‘fuck you’ salvo in the industry again.

Nose:  Slightly floral.  Sugary.  Poached pear, a touch of stewed peach and then deeper plummy notes.  Honey and sweet wine.  A salty, flinty and savoury backbone.  Mince pie.  Just a touxh of salt licorice.

Palate:  A hefty chunk of wine influence here, I’d think.  Immediately tannic and redolent of yeast and grape.  Fairly deep threads of spice and tangy fruit notes.  Plenty of wood singing too.  Not the best of finishes, but the arrival is almost entirely high notes.

Thoughts:  This is an evening dram.  Rich and bold.  Not perfectly balanced, but its quirkiness more than makes up for it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:39 am
Feb 242015

BenRiach 1977 Dark Rum Finish (Cask #1892) 102

49.2% abv

Score:  91/100


A vanity project whisky in some senses, and one I concede a personal bias to right up front.  This cask was chosen by one of my best mates, J Wheelock, for our local market here in Alberta (and beyond maybe…?).  Having made my concessions, I’ll now admit that I don’t feel the least bit guilty for scoring this one highly or touting it as a great dram.  It comes down to knowing that J has a great nose and palate, and that the malt itself lives up to all I’m looking for in the glass.  Those that know J (most of Canada) will likely concede that first point right up front too.

Alright.  Having established that, let’s dig into what makes this 35 year old BenRiach single cask release so special.

It’s not often you find whisky that has slept away a good chunk of its life in a former rum barrel.  Those few I have found that have done so have been sort of Franken-whiskies in some senses.  Not necessarily monsters, but not a real approximation of a cohesive dram either.  I went into this one expecting something similar, but with slightly more trepidation, as this is a 35 year old whisky we’re talking about.  And one from a personal favorite distillery.  Older BenRiach is stunning with simple bourbon barrel maturation, but rum?  Lowered expectations.

Happy to report that all cynicism was for naught.  This is a bloody good dram, and incredibly well integrated for such disparate spirits.  I’m not much of a rum guy, but these two flavours dance together here like long time partners, in lock step and with true grace.  The rum influence is real and it’s actually rather exciting.  Not overpowering; just bringing dark sugared notes to a sweet old malt.  As hinted at above, whiskies like this generally scare me, but this is the stuff of sweet dreams, not nightmares.  I’ve been fortunate enough to bang away at two bottles of this gem, but desperately need another to shelve for future days.

This dark rum barrel-matured BenRiach cask yielded a mere 220 bottles, so chances to grab one are very limited at this point.

Nose:  Deep, dark and complex.  Gorgeous light fruits in heavy, heavy syrup.  Marzipan.  Brown sugar.  Dusty grain and pressed flowers.  Rather spicy with a fleeting savoury note.  Toasted coconut.  Baked apple with caramelized sugars and spice.  Plenty of those ‘old whisky nuances’.  I LOVE this nose.  More and more, in fact, the longer I spend with it.

Palate:  Toasted oak top note meets dark caramel and old spices.  Strong oily vanilla notes.  A mishmash of dark fruits and dried tropical fruits.  Tastes very mature, without being over the top.  A fine balancing act that dries a little towards the back end.

Thoughts:  Softens the longer its left in the glass, and makes for a very meditative dram.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt


 Posted by at 8:03 am
Feb 102015

Mortlach 1995 (Duncan Taylor “The Octave”)019

55.4% abv

Score:  87/100


Here’s another release from Duncan Taylor’s ‘The Octave’ series.  This range consists of whiskies given a short secondary maturation (aka finishing) in small ex-sherry casks known as Octaves.  The finish time is short due to the intensity of spirit / wood interaction in these small barrels.  Anything longer than the prescribed three months would most likely lead to over-oaking.

We recently checked out a surprisingly good Deanston from the Octaves line-up; now let’s see how this method of maturation works on a more robust spirit such as Mortlach.

This is an 18 year old whisky from 1995.  It’s heavy…it’s meaty…it’s dense…and it’s sherry-rich.  In short: it’s all things Mortlach has generally been renowned for throughout the ages.  The distillery’s fingerprint is crystal clear in this malt.  That, even if for no other reason, is enough to put me squarely behind this one.  It doesn’t hurt that the whisky is quite decent too.  Not stellar, but absolutely enjoyable and multi-layered enough to please those looking for more depth in their dram.

Confession time now.  I’m not gonna lie: I’m fighting a tendency to score this one higher simply due to my rebellion against the current direction official Mortlach bottlings have taken.  Indies are the way to go with this distillery.  Historically, they always have been.  It’s a no-brainer that in the age of slap-in-the-face premiumisation on the part of Diageo that we’ll continue to reach for independent Mortlach bottlings over the branded stuff.  Better value, to be sure, but also an inherent responsibility to dig our heels in and reject the philosophy of arbitrary price-fixing.  If you are in the dark as to Diageo’s modus operandi regarding handling of this distillery, let me help you out by sharing a fellow cynic’s POV here.

Nose:  Yes! This is Mortlach, as I’d expect it to be. Pie crust.  Orange marmalade, cinnamon and ginger.  Peppery meaty note. Fruit leather. Makes me think of the Ardbeg Auriverdes if you could somehow leech all the peat out of that beast (odd, right?). Almost a eucalyptus note playing off a BBQ savoury note.

Palate: Savoury and spicy arrival. Raspberry jam, candied ginger, licorice. Slightly salty playdough note and yes…still meaty here. Thick and gooey. Resonates with dark, dark fruity notes and a very heavy spice profile. And…a touch too much wood.

Thoughts: Nice to be in familiar Mortlach territory, even if this is not the most spectacular example. To be fair, though…it is a kickass dram and the price tag isn’t that bad (substantially under $200.)

* Sample provided by Kensington Wine Market’s Andrew Ferguson.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Feb 092015

Deanston 1994 (Duncan Taylor “The Octave”)011

54.7% abv

Score:  88/100


There really isn’t a lot of Deanston available out there. Now, that isn’t necessarily a reflection of the spirit’s quality, I should note. Sometimes the malt has simply been predestined for other purposes, such as production for use as blend fodder. I’m not 100% certain that this is the case with Deanston, but you’d have to think that would be a reasonable assumption given what a meager core line-up we get from this Highland distillery.

The Burn Stewart family boasts two blends in its portfolio. One is the famous (or more recently, infamous) Black Bottle, a whisky once composed entirely of malts produced on the isle of Islay. In recent years, however, I believe there has been some integration of mainland malts into the smoky blend (please do correct me if you know otherwise). This leads me to believe that it is quite possible some of Deanston’s approximately 3 million litre annual output finds its way into this iconic blend nowadays. A more likely destination for the bulk of Deanston’s distillate, however, would be Burn Stewart’s other major blend – Scottish Leader. But that is neither here nor there in relation to our purposes here. Just a bit of context. Instead, let’s have a chat about a Deanston single malt from independent bottler Duncan Taylor.

These Duncan Taylor ‘Octave’ series releases are built on the concept of already mature malts that get pulled from their barrels in order to spend their last few months napping in ex-sherry octaves. An octave being 1/8th of a sherry butt. This abbreviated finishing period in such a small cask means lots of wood contact and, presumably, plenty of quick barrel-leeching. What a brand is ultimately seeking when it engages in this finishing process is to ‘sex up’ the malt a bit just before bottling.

The Deanstons I’ve tried to date have been very innocuous spirit, so it stands to reason that these whiskies would take influence well from a flash fry in a wee sherry cask. Such is the case here. The clean, mellow, vanilla-ed oakiness of the naked Deanston meets the fruity sherried influence like rich vanilla ice cream with strawberries on top. Sweet and creamy. One of the better examples of finishing I’ve ever come across, to be honest. Not perfect, but the best I’ve yet encountered from this distillery.

Nose:  Slightly jammy. A touch of mincemeat. Heavy sherry and black pepper. Spicy, leathery and vegetal. Soft jam-filled thumbprint cookies. Little bit of orange. Green ju-jube candy, but light and fresh, not cloying. Very clean oak. Slightly yeasty.

Palate:  Arrives juicy and with quite an oily mouthcoating flair. A real fireworks show of spiced fruits. Dried mango and dates. Big woody notes, but they’re rich in vanillins and complementary to the fruits. Dries to pith and rind.

Thoughts:  Great nose here, and a palate that is highly complimentary. So much more than I expected from this distillery. Nice sherry cask this ended up in.

* Sample provided by Kensington Wine Market’s Andrew Ferguson.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:51 pm
Feb 052015

Awwwwright!  We’re back.

I’ve been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks that just didn’t want to let go.  I never got really sick, but I know my senses were a little too compromised to do any sort of reliable whisky reviews (though I’m happy to report that it didn’t stop me from drinking a glass or three along the way!).

In mulling over what to possibly post in the interim, I hunted through my backlog of partially written reviews and noticed that many of them were tasting notes for no age statement whiskies.  Obviously these are a no-no for ATW right now, so…what I was left with were some pretty slim pickings, most of which were still reliant on my re-tasting them first in order to fully flesh out tasting notes.  So what did that leave me to publish for whisky reviews?  Well…quite frankly, SFA.  Oh well.  Instead, the last couple weeks have been about meese (moose? mooses?) and mudslinging.  We stirred up the shit a little, but that’s all behind us now.


Hahaha.  Yeah, right.  There’s a lot more to say, good and bad, about the worldhood of the world of late (or at least the malty microcosm anyway).  We’ll get there, though.

In the meantime…let’s taste some malts!  Any distilleries you want to see reviews from in the coming days?


– Curt

 Posted by at 2:44 pm
Feb 032015

Whisky & Moose – The Untold Story, Tasting Panel Spotlight, Vignette #Deux, Le Bullwinkle J. Moose


May contain segments that metrosexual drinkers or Industry shills find offensive. Intended for a malt audience only.


In Spotlight ………….Bullwinkle J. Moose, AKA Moose Knuckles, was a sixties animal heartthrob who rose to stardom in “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show”. This juvenile moose star was grazing high when he had a run-in with his rum swigging, flying squirrel partner over an actress named Natasha. This falling out, combined with the discovery that his folks had hoofed him out of the majority of his trust fund, followed by the accidental release of a mating tape, aided in his addiction to eating cannabis by the bale. Ill-equipped to act with sufficient tact forced this once majestic moose into a downward rush.


Bullwinkle, however, did manage to play a few small parts in some low budget adult animation movies. He played the oldest child in the short lived TV sitcom “Family Pains” starring Gary Busey as a calm, stay at home dad, dealing with a blended two / four legged family.  He also appeared in one episode of the new reality show called “Wildlife Scared Dead”, hosted by the former, off his rocker, Teddy Nugent. For a while, Bullwinkle performed with the mechanical stuffed tribute band “Chuck E. Cheese and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”, that is, until the incident.

Living in a fish eye lens, caught in the camera’s eye, in May 2006 Bullwinkle married longtime girlfriend Kourtney Love.  Sadly, she filed for divorce a day later, citing animal cruelty. She arranged with wildlife officers to have him corralled, an order he violated twice and was impounded.

Rock bottom finally occurred when in 2008, Bullwinkle was sentenced to three years’ probation. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested at home for possession of pot, during which he threw a bong out the window of his 36th floor apartment resulting in additional charges of tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment to humans.


After a long stint in an animal shelter, Bullwinkle reached out to Bobby Barker the famous Animal Rights Activist and Abused Model Advocate, who directed him to the Wee Moose Sanctuary & Hunting Lodge, a subsidiary of DHARMA, which is located in the shadow of the Alberta Rockies

Now back on his hoofs, and producing more than 200 Louis Vuitton wallets a day, Bullwinkle has agreed to a Tweet-style interview with Maltmonster, in 280 words.  That’s 100 % more of an interview than The Bourbon Advocate Magazine.

Q- What’s the view from your office window?

–  Chicken Wire and Moose shit.

Q- Where are you from originally?

– Frostbite Falls, Minnesota

Q- Do you have any formal education / training?

– I have a Mooster’s Degree from Wossamotta U and studied method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute with the likes of Roberto De Niro.

Q- What would be your desert island dram?

–  I tell you it wouldn’t be grain whisky. I would have to go with a single malt from Glenfiddich. I just think that any distillery with a big rack on their label can’t be all bad, and oh ya, Fettercairn has that unicorn thing, that kind of turns me on to.

Q- Biggest Mistake?

–  Letting that no talent squirrel share the limelight with me.

Q- Hobbies?

–  Squirrel hunting.

Q- Biggest problem in whisky today?

– The Finish is starting to become tiresome, I mean really what next, a quadruple wood  finished Dalmore,  twelve months in a cedar hot tub , nine months in a used oak half cask flower pot, six months in a treated spruce shipping crate and finally three months in an pine framed waterbed owned by dirty hippies. I can hear Dalmore now……………. “Yes we charge more, but we only use the highest quality used oak half cask flower pots”.

– Trying to figure out who’s who in the zoo. Another disturbing trend is overnight self-proclaimed experts that blog & tweet, posing as consumers and are nothing more than shills for the Industry.

– Brand premiumisation, or posers herpes is infecting the industry. First Macallan, Dalmore and Glenmorangie now Mortlach, rumor has it Edradour is next.

Q – What do you like about whisky right now?

– I like the fact that consumers are challenging producers over the NAS, whether through boycotting, selective purchasing or posing questions to brand ambassadors.

Q – Favorite excerpt?

–  “And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start”

Q- Do you know the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?

–  Yes, yes I do, it’s …………………………

Sorry end of interview at 280 words.


Please stayed tuned for the next instalment of the Tasting Panel Spotlight, Vignette #Trois, A Moose named Hope, who was the former Edmonton Oilers team mascot. Hope talks about the winey glory years and dark years after being thrown under the team bus, leaving the team Hopeless.

The Wee Moose Sanctuary & Hunting Lodge, a subsidiary of DHARMA, again thank you for your support and ask if you could please be on the lookout for are missing Moose comrade, RT, last seen being man/women handled by two cultist, who call themselves the Founders. These Founders lead a cult whisky following called the Canadian sect of the SMWS and have been known to recruit new members through the use of strong alcohol and chanting.


Your humble drudge & shepherd,


 Posted by at 9:07 pm