Dec 312012

GlenDronach 18 ‘Allardice’

46% abv

Score:  88/100


Another far-more-than-decent dram from GlenDronach.  Once you get past the rather lackluster 12 y.o. gateway expression in the line-up the sky is the limit with this distillery.  It’s easy to overlook the odd soft ball from this distillery when the vast majority of their output is rather spectacular.

If opportunity (and income bracket) allows…do meander off the beaten path with this distillery.  Their single casks are often spectacular and much of their old stock is utterly magic.  But let’s stick with the standard range here, shall we?  As I mentioned above, the 12 year old is merely ok.  The 15 however, is a true diamond.  One of the best young whiskies out there.  The 18 then must be even better!

Errrr…not really.  Wait…what?  Gotta be honest.  This 18 is a sweet-spot dram for me (i.e. it is right in the wheelhouse of perfect ageing), but just can’t pip the 15 for vibrancy.

Allardice has a nose of heavy sherry, beautifully softened by age, rich in cherry and cocoa. Spicy notes of cinnamon and gingerbread meet thick ropes of vanilla and a slight yeastiness.  Very pleasant.  Backstopping all of this is a profile typical of sherried malts; pungent fruitcake, mild cigar leaf and deep plumminess.  A warm, comforting nose to be sure.

Touchdown on the palate is led by a slight bitterness, similar to tannic wine.  It develops into heavy raisin bread and mouthfuls of rummy fruitcake (a cop out tasting note, I concede, but an accurate reflection nevertheless).  Ginger too.  And cherry.  Quite drying.  Lovely…but (and not something you’ll hear from me often) maybe the barest hint of sulfur???


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:39 pm
Dec 312012

Clynelish 14 y.o.

46% abv

Score:  88/100


We all know Brora, right?  C’mon…the malt that, along with Port Ellen, rests comfortably atop the cult standings.  Well…Clynelish and Brora go together likes peas and carrots.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  The Clynelish distillery was established in 1819.  And 1967.


Okay…the current Clynelish distillery was built in 1967, right next to the old.  Later that year the original distillery was abruptly mothballed until 1969 when distillation resumed under the name Brora.  This legendary malt was produced alonside Clynelish until the the old distillery finally had her doors shuttered for good in 1983.  The younger sibling distillery has continued production to this day.

Clear as mud?  Alright, let’s move on.

This is a comfort whisky if ever there was one.  Beautiful downhome farmy nose, full of subtle notes that work exceptionally well together.  Light smoke dances with hints of lemon pepper, honeyed sweetness and mild oak.  Walnut and fresh cut hay meet chocolate ganache.  Caramel.  There is an eclair-like scent that comes and goes as well.  An odd note I keep getting that, in writing would seem to be at odds with the other notes yet somehow works is…the smell of a California Rolls (nori, avocado, etc).  Enchanting and entirely pleasing.

The delivery is firm but smooth.  The barley and oak, being prime contributors of course, sing a little louder here than in most malts we see nowadays.  They are balanced though.  We’re not talking over-oaking or bitter barley face.  Flavors are mostly dilutions of what you’ll find on the nose, sans the toffee/chocolate eclair deal.  Is that a hint of peach maybe?  And possibly a bit of a tea-like note?  Great integration.

All in all…absolutely worthwhile.  Everything a good whisky should be, and I have to admit a bit of a personal bias to this one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:21 pm
Dec 312012

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004 (Kentraw)

50% abv

Score:  81/100


Ahhh…provenance.  What’s it worth really?  No distillery places more worth in this concept than our friends at Bruichladdich.  We’re not talking about terroir here.  No, no.  We’re discussing the idea that the prime marketing tool for some of these ‘Laddies is the fact that they have ties so deep to the island (Islay) that they become almost the purest expression of an Islay malt.

Is this so?  Well…in some ways, yes.  In others…no.

There is an absolutely unbreakable metaphysical connection many malters draw between the briny, citric, smoky, iodine-rich peat reek of brands such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig and their beloved mecca of Islay.  These smells (from the moment the bottle is uncorked) are the truest sensory picture that can be drawn to help describe the island.

This, to some of us, is the ultimate in provenance.

On the other hand, how about a distillery that can claim roots back as far as 1881 and has boldly (and very VERY loudly) proclaimed its ties to the land?  This is a distillery that employees many, many locals…that sources barley locally…that plasters its packaging with the images of places and people of Islay…that works to a minimal environmental footprint…that retains even the act of bottling on the island…and on and on.  This is a distillery that has declared such a fierce pride in its home that it is simply not possible to not like ’em.

Now…one step further.  These Islay Barley releases are farm specific.  That means that not only is the barley Islay barley, but it is specific to one, and only one, of the island’s farmers.  This is what ‘Laddie are calling Uber-Provenance.  And I f*cking love it.

Pure.  Heartwarming.  Refreshing.  In this, the day and age of Roseisle…to see something so…anti-commercial (yet paradoxically commercial in and of itself) is a thing of joy.

So…do we like this one?  Quite.

Nose:  Young grains.  Buttery with vanilla, cranberry and faux white chocolate.  Fruit candies.  Lightly floral.  Lemon pledge.  Fresh orange.  Vanilla fudge.  A young clean oaky malt.

Palate:  Malty grains.  Peppery, grassy and zesty.  Wax and oak.  Kinda bitters along the sides of the tongue…almost tannic feeling and quite drying.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Dec 312012

Glenmorangie Signet

46% abv

Score:  88.5/100


Ever seen Terry’s Chocolate Oranges?  Those sweet little baseball-sized chunks of orange-infused chocolate you hammer on the table to break into slices?  Imagine that delectible little confection distilled and sensuously wrapped around threads of fine old scotch whisky.  Decant that all in a snazzy over-the-top and over-seized perfume bottle and…voila!  Glenmorangie Signet.

A mate of mine referred to this as the dram he would pour non-whisky drinkers.  I can see why.  Much like the vast majority of the Glenmorangie line, this is a whisky that seems to be serupticiously sneaking over the fence into dessert territory.  No shame in that really.  Sweet and refined suits the palate at times.

I’ll not dither away on the marketing hype here, but very quickly…this is said to be built on a bedrock of ‘chocolate’ barley malt and ‘designer casks’.  (Sigh…only LVMH would term soemthing ‘designer’ in regards to whisky production).

Nose:  Terry’s Chocolate Orange.  Coffee and biscuits with marmalade.  Smells bigger than the abv admits to.  Wine and some rather bold perfume-y notes.  More chocolate and ground nutmeg.  Soft fluffy white baking notes.  Sugary.  Millionaire’s shortbread.  Framed in oak.  Very smooth and sensual.

Palate:  Creamy milk chocolate meets otherworldy spice (clove, maybe?  Nutmeg?).  Think Wonka’s waterfall.  Wine-soaked fruits.  Vanilla cream and orange liqueur.  Coffee again.  VERY drinkable.  Rather pleasant through the gentle denouement towards finish.

Age?  20ish, if I had to guess.  (Though I’ve heard maybe older stuff in here too.  In it’s 30s, even)


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:08 pm
Dec 302012

Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or

46% abv

Score:  87.5/100


One of the titans of whisky Wonka-ry (think Bruichladdich, Edradour, Arran), Glenmorangie has managed to build nearly their entire core range around the concept of cask finishing.

Finshing can be looked at as simply another tool in the artist’s (read: whisky maker’s) repertoire or as a somewhat disingenuous way of glossing over blemishes in the product.

Let’s grant benefit of the doubt here.  We’ve tried enough of the unadulterated ‘Morangie’s to know that the whisky itself (prior to franken-engineering) is pretty darn good.

Nose:  Sweet caramel and toffee notes are cushioned in wine.  Strawberries and champagne.  This is all set with mascerated fruits, nut and chocolate.  Hints of salt water and a gorgeous tobacco smoke, almost like a mild cigar.

Palate:  Creamy, oily and coating.  Bit o’ lemon.  Bit o’ wood.  Sooooo wine-rich.  Much like an over-the-top French dessert.  It lingers with warmth and a tangy appleskin note on the palate.  The wine edge from the sauterne cask finish is deceptively enticing and alluring.  Sweet and sensual.

This really is a pretty little wine-finished whisky.  One of the best honestly.  Gotta be careful with sweet wines and good malts as a rule, but when they do click…nice…very nice.  I can imagine serving this with a bowl of strawberries and cream.  Being as sweet as it is though, it is one I have to be in the mood for.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:57 am
Dec 122012

The End Of Another Year…

Ok.  Let’s be clear straight up.  I’m no authority.  I don’t pretend to be.  I just keep a running online dialogue of tasting notes here.  Kinda like publishing a diary or something.  I never seem to get around to publishing notes for more than a handful of what I’ve actually tasted, but through the course of a year I do generally get to try a fairly extensive selection of whisky, and I do keep notes on much of it.  For these reasons it is fairly easy to do a quick survey of the year’s most memorable drams.  Only one rule…2012 had to be the first time tasting these.  There were other brilliant drams through the past 365, but if I had tried them at some point in the past…off the table for consideration.

So…a couple quick points:

First…this is not a ‘best of’ list.  This is a ‘most memorable’.  Some of these whiskies stick out due to personal associations I have, memories made with them or simply personal bias.

Second…this is not an ‘awards’.  I have a personal belief that none of us amateur hacks should pretend to enough authority to publish an awards piece.  The most important reason I say this is simply thus: without tasting an enormous range, rich in breadth and depth, how the hell am I ever supposed to claim that I have tasted enough to declare this one or that one the ‘whisky of the year’.  Jim Murray?  Sure.  The guy tastes thousands in his symester.  The maniacs?  Absolutely.  The mindboggling numbers of malts tasted speak for themselves.  Whisky Mag?  Betcher ass.  Can’t tell me these folk don’t put back a vast array of entry level through uber-elite malts through the course of the year.  And my personal vote…if anyone should be doing this?  Serge at Whiskyfun!

Anyway…if I were to write ‘The Story Of Whisky 2012’ (and I am, right here and now)…this is how it would go…


Ardbeg Lord Of The Isles – On june 2nd, we launched the Ardbeg Embassy in Calgary and celebrated the first Ardbeg Day.  After a lovely multi-course meal (paired with a suite of suitable Ardbeg drams and cocktails), we closed the night with this gorgeous old malt from years back, generously donated by Mr. Anonymity himself, Maltmonster.  Many thanks once again, kind sir.  Appreciate the opportunity to have tried, as did all in attendance I am certain.  This is an absolutely stunning old Ardbeg…just a few steps shy of the brilliant 1977 release.

Bowmore Laimrig 2011 Feis Ile Bottle 15 yo – A rather special dram.  This was bought for me by David, of Duffies in Bowmore.  Granted, ‘twas towards the back end of a night full of HEAVY lifting (glass all the way from table to lips and back down again…many, many reps), but even so…this was a stunner.  Beautiful rich lush tropical notes and sparklingly clean sherry.  I hunted the island, begged favors, pleaded and cajoled…no luck sourcing my own bottle.  It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, I suppose.

BenRiach 1972 – Took me a while to decide if this was one of the drams of the year or not.  Then I realized that the answer was right in front of me.  You don’t debate the merits that long if it wasn’t something entirely memorable.  Lovely drink, and this shared in good company; global visitors and old mates from home alike.  And THAT, my friends, is why we do this, isn’t it?

BenRiach 1971 – Not only one of the most memorable of the year, but one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Ever.  Like a top 5’er, to be honest.  A tropical fruit bomb of beautiful, usually elusive flavors and aromas.  This is a rare, rare treat.  Sadly missed my window on this one, and even though the price was high…I would gladly pay.  A once-in-a-lifetime treat.

Brora 21 y.o. Rare Malts – Does life get much better that sitting outside on a beautiful early autumn day with a dram of Brora, a good Cohiba and a great friend to chat whisky with?  Not bloody likely.  Cigars and malts…hmmm.  Yes, of course the cigar deadens your receptors for the whisky, but the overall experience is what this is all about.  This is not my favorite Brora, but a beauty nevertheless.

Signatory Glen Scotia 1977 – A steal of a deal.  Surprise from a relatively little known distillery (in the grand scheme of things).  Maltmonster poured this for me.  (How the hell does the guy source so many great whiskies?!)  After falling for it…I called KWM to ask about grabbing one and the ‘Monster had just scooped me on the last bottle.  (He still denies it was him, and that there was some left when he bought his umpteenth bottle.  Pfffft!)

Octomore 2008 Cask Sample (Cask #1201) – An over-charred cask of Octomore.  As of late September, 2012 this was still maturing in the warehouse at Bruichladdich.  A couple drams pulled straight from the cask, and a healthy sample brought home.  Burnt rubber meets char meets peat monster.  I’m not even certain this is all that good, but…awww, hell…what a dram to sip in an old dunnage warehouse!

Serendipity – Not that this is truly one of the greats, but it was a great experience tasting it.  An evening in a great whisky bar with great mates on the island of Islay.  This is a blend of older Ardbeg and 12 year old Glen Moray.  …And yes…it is a damn good drink (else it wouldn’t make this list).  A nose of sweet fruits and bubblegum.  We…uh…made certain to finish this bottle off before we finished our trip off.

Bowmore 1995 Oloroso Cask – How do you top sitting down in the darkened hallowed isles of Vault Number 1 at Bowmore Distillery (home of the legendary Black Bowmore), and pulling the bung from a cask of Bowmore slumbering away in an Oloroso bed?  If you’re 99% of the population…you don’t.  Not the best dram I’ve tasted.  Not even close.  Not even the best Bowmore I’ve tasted, but nevertheless…a great experience.  A very, very memorable dram.

Amrut Portonova – Another humdinger of a dram from Amrut.  Sweet jammy fruit notes meet a whirlwind of exotic spices.  First bottle this year?  Demolished.  Second bottle this year?  Ummm…yep.  Also demolished.  Also enjoyed in good company on many occasions and recently with Ashok Chokalingam at a private event.  I fell for this one.  I fell hard.

Yamazaki 18 –  This one was apparently pulled from our markets due to high levels of carcinogens, if rumour is to be believed.  Either way…a true stunner.  One that took me away to foreign and unfamiliar places.  Frightening in its brilliance.  I know where half a bottle or so slumbers and hope to taste again before expiring (me or the malt), as…alas…it is not in the cards to procure this vintage for myself.  Sometimes ya just gotta be grateful for experience.

Ardbeg Day – Single malt of the year?  Nope…not in these humble eyes anyway, but hey…what do I know, right?  I have to confess though…this is a great dram.  And not only so, but I (and the other four that joined me) made some great memories with this one on Islay in September.  We bought a bottle…separated into flasks…and proceded to nip away through the days and nights.  Along the Battery…along the pier…for breakfast…for bedtime.  Any time of day is Ardbeg time!


With eyes forward to 2013…I (and we at ATW) wish you a happy holiday season and brilliant new year.



– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:25 pm
Dec 042012

With The World Set To End…

I’m not one to relive past mistakes; although I seem to have made a few, probably more than a few, maybe likely more than my fair share…but not when it comes to the upcoming apocalypse.  Now, I’m not talking that Chicken Little “the sky is falling” overreaction thing again, and yes…I may have gotten it wrong in 1997 when I was trying to hitch a ride on Comet Hale-Bopp…and I may have reacted excessively in 2000 with the Y2K total collapse of society…and then again in 2011 with the near miss of Earth from Comet Elenin…but given the amount of media attention on this Mayan prediction, I truly believe this is the BIG ONE!  Thanks to some sage Mayan calendar writer we have been foretold exactly when the end of days is going to happen….. December 21, 2012.  This day is fast approaching and rather than dwell on how unfair the whole thing is, I say when life gives you llamas, make llamanade.  Now is the time to stock up and head for the hills.

One of the essentials for surviving in this bold new world would of course be Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  It doesn’t have an expiration date, tastes great, doesn’t freeze, it’s great for cuts and it’s real good for lifting your spirits after you have to shoot some of your close friends that neglected to heed the call of the oncoming catastrophe or worse, may have turned into some flesh eating, half dead rum drinker.

The real question, of course, is which single malts would be the preferred tipple of choice of the modern survivalist.  Well, to aid the decision making process, the following is a list of single malt whisky paired to the particular impending calamity;


POLAR SHIFT – This would signal the coming of the third Ice Age and bring on a real bitter cold…like living through an Edmonton winter.  Peat is what is needed to combat the frozen chill, peat and plenty of it.  The peat smoke lets you know you’re alive and the warm finish stays with you all the way down to your icy toes.  Recommendation would be:  Peated whisky or a really strong drink.


Curt:  Ardbeg Supernova SN2010 60.1% abv

NOSE:  Uh…have to get back to you when my singed nostrils regain sensitivity.  Kidding aside…a true face-melter.  Nearly impenetrable smoke and dense peat reek.  Freshly ground black peppercorn and BBQ.  Salt.  Tangy lemon.  Chocolate.  Tar and asphalt.

TASTE/PALATE:  Smoke and pepper.  Oily and salty.  Anise.  Brine.  Liquid Smoke.  Cola with a citrus twist.

FINISH:  Will linger till the end of days (as few as there may now be).

ASSESSMENT:  Not sure whether this will numb you deeper than the Arctic chill, or melt anything frozen within miles.  Either way?  P-p-p-p-p-please may I have s-s-s-s-ome more?


Don Tse:  Scotch Malt Whisky Society 53.151 / Chinese Hercules  10-years old, refill bourbon hogshead, 58.0% abv from Islay

NOSE:  Salt, alcohol, charcoal briquettes and a hint of bacon fat.  If you threw some freshly printed mimeograph pages onto a charcoal fire and used that fire to fry up some bacon, you’d have a aromas pretty similar to this complex dram.

TASTE/PALATE:  Bacon fat, charcoal smoke and salt-cured meats.

FINISH:  Medium.  The smoke fades, though some remains present throughout, allowing the flavours of oil and fatty meats to shine.  Mmm…pork chops…

ASSESSMENT: The vast majority of Caol Ila expressions can be spotted from a mile away and this one is no exception.  This expression is a meatier, less smoky Caol Ila.  But make no mistake, the smoke is still there to warm you on a cold Canadian, southern hemisphere night.


GIANT SOLAR FLARE – Think of the great tan you’d get followed by the dropping of a few body parts due to an excess of sunshine units.  When I think of too much radiation I think of inbred hillbillies…and what’s the best way to stave off the effects of those long sunny days?  Well, I would have to say it would be a light sweet vanilla refreshing minty drink that can only come from a first fill bourbon American Ozark mountain oak cask.   Recommendation would be:  Whisky from a bourbon hogshead barrel, a bourbon or a really sweet drink.


Roger Hanks:  Bruichladdich Redder Still 1984 50.5% abv

NOSE:  Fruity with a floral touch but the vanilla is there.

TASTE/PALATE:  Creamy smooth, sweet with fruit and vanilla, a nice balance.

FINISH:  The oak comes to the surface with a little smoke.  Mouth drying.

ASSESSMENT:  A nice easy drinking whiskey even at 50.5%.  The vanilla from the Bourbon barrels is there.  The wine finish gives it a different colour (radish orange) and would have contributed to the fruity floral notes.  Definitely a winner.


Maltmonster:  Glen Scotia 1977  33 Years Old  September 5, 1977 – June 17, 2011  Matured in a Hogshead Cask #2751 Bottle #115 of 159 52.0% abv Bottled by Signatory

NOSE:  Peaches, tropical fruit, honeycomb, marzipan and a little doughy.  Wonderful nose with lovely fruits that mostly comes from older casks of the seventies.  You might want to nose this before you apply your sunblock 1,020 for the day.

TASTE/PALATE:  Creamy vanilla, lots of fruit, melons, milk chocolate with a little bourbon mint and cinnamon.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Very pleasant and a balanced malt.  Just remember the meek shall inherit the earth – after the whisky drinkers are through with it.

ASSESSMENT:  Now if you did manage to survive the extreme radiation, then I think the first order of business (after a nice malt whisky, of course) would be to redo all the lyrics to those happy sunny day songs ……………………. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say It’s not all right.  Bad day sunshine, bad day sunshine, I need to run when the sun is out.  Sunshine on my shoulders makes me blister, sunshine in my eyes can make me blind.  I’m walking on sunshine, I’m walking on sunshine and it’s starting to make me feel sick.

FYI:  Unfortunately with all the intense radiation it could cause damage to any unprotected whisky.  So remember to put any bottles deep in the basement away from any windows and out of sight from any three eyed messed up DNA mutants hillbillies that might want to harm you or worse ……..steal your whisky.


Gord “g-man” Henke:  Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey 45% abv Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

NOSE:  Marshmallows, vanilla ice cream and caramel covered raisins.

TASTE/PALATE:  Caramel and vanilla, creamy, viscous, some citrus, a bit of the rye comes out in the corn.

FINISH:  Somewhat long with a little heat. Slightly less peppery than 100% rye would be.

ASSESSMENT:  This is the bourbon that Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen served throughout HBO’s Deadwood series. That alone would warrant a tasting. It was also a tribute to a family recipe lost over 150 years ago and has had great success throughout North America ever since. I enjoy this whiskey for its sweet nose and mellow taste. As bourbons go, it’s easy drinkin’, not overly bold, affordable, available and in my opinion quite enjoyable.


J Wheelock:  Isle Of Jura Boutique Barrels 1996 Bourbon Cask  56.5% abv

NOSE:  Vanilla (naturally), some citrus plays around the edges, hints of cinnamon and warm toffee notes

TASTE/PALATE:  Burst of warmth, slowly developing into a much more fruity dram than expected. Undercurrents of classic American oak vanillin playing in two-part harmony with the welcome heat.

FINISH:  Lengthy, gentle cinnamon spice and ever-so-slight bitterness on the back of the palate. Excellent for a post-feast comtemplative sipper.

ASSESSMENT:  Classic Jura can be a good “starter” whisky, in every respect of the term.  This offering is less “Angels peeing on my tongue” and more “Fire in the Sky”.  Finally – a focus on using Small Batch Bourbon casks sourced from Kentucky and a higher abv have made Jura burn brighter than ever.


ZOMBIES – What can I say?  It’s possible.  Hollywood seems to support the idea, and I have always trusted Hollywood.  Now, I’m old school and my understanding of the playing field has always been that Vampires don’t glitter in the sun and Zombies, although very persistent, still move slow but are attracted to sound and possibly smell.  So what to do?  Well, I wouldn’t go with a rum finished whisky for fear this odd flavor may actually attract them.  I would think triple distilled whisky would be the answer; the less the impurities, the less they would sense your presence.  Recommendation would be:  Triple distilled whisky, Irish whiskey or a drink with less impurities.

Maltmonster:  Auchentoshan Valinch  2011 57.5% abv Lowland Triple Distilled

NOSE:  Oranges, oranges and more oranges.  Ripe tangerines, lemon.  Creamy vanilla and a little floral.  So fresh and so vibrant and so very, very much alive.

TASTE/PALATE:  Honey sweet, oranges, cherries and strawberries.  Bourbon mint and caramel.  (As I bit into the dead ripe nectarine, it had a crisp juiciness about it that was very pleasurable ……………….until I realized it wasn’t a nectarine at all, but a human head).  Unless you want your head to become that sweet nectarine to a Zombie or become a manwich, you better stick with the triple distilled malts.

FINISH:  Medium.  Very drinkable…hard to belive this is a cask strength bottling.

ASSESSMENT:  I have never really fully embraced the younger versions of Auchentoshan malts until now.  Thanks to the DEAD-ication of Suntory/Morrison Bowmore Umbrella Corporation we finally get a great younger Auchentoshan, and at cask strength which is outstanding.  Remember…after the Zombie apocalypse…when you think you have someone eating out of your hand, you better count your fingers.

NOTICE:  If the Zombie apocalypse were to happen and if AF were to turn or was about to turn or I suspected he was going to turn (bit of a judgment call on my part) then I invoke the right of Primoris Rudimentum (Latin for first attempt) dealing with him with extreme prejudice, to help him achieve a more restful state.


Curt:  Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 001  57.8% abv

Never one to play by the rules, I had to put a different spin on the Maltmonster’s approach to handling the impending zombie apocalypse (oh yes, friends…it will happen).  Sorry, Maltmonster…sometimes a little out-of-the-box thinking is required to best these mindless bastards.

Fellow zombie nerds will know right where I’m heading with this one.  In order to order their escape from a horde of slathering cannibals in Episode 2 (infamously titled ‘Guts’) of Season 1 in AMC’s The Walking Dead, Rick and the gang resort to one of the most brutally disgusting bits of brilliance I’ve ever seen in zombie canon.  The hack apart a dead walker, lather themselves up in the reek of death and decay and stroll out amid the hordes of flesh eaters.  Seemingly smelling more of their own…the zombies leave ‘em alone.

So…in homage…my whisky selection will take the same approach.

The plan…disguise my inherent purity (yeah…right!) by pouring dram after dram of strong Islay malt, full of the pungent peat reek of decaying organic matter down my throat.  This, all in the attempt to walk among them undetected, possibly smelling even more strongly than the dead.  In honor…

Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 001

NOSE:  Smoke and brine.  Cocoa.  Iodine.  Tar.  Burnt and fishy.  Sweet and candy-ish (sour ju-jube?).  Capers.  Lime candy and…uh…cannabis?  Caramel apple.  Ash.  Dill, honey and white chocolate.

TASTE/PALATE:  Sweet and smoky as hell.  Like chewing farm-fresh barley.  Black licorice.  Hefty, hefty smoke notes.  Oily and viscous.  And some fish.

FINISH:  Poached apple, salted meat, oak, tobacco and tart fruit skin.  Long, long linger.

ASSESSMENT:  The smell of this one certainly deters the living…why the hell not the dead?!


Davin de Kergommeaux   Glenlugie* nas, “The Zombie Killer” abv unknown. 

NOSE:  Wafting whiffs of damned near everything. Damned, I tell you, damned! Sherry, cognac, rum, red wine, white wine, peat, no peat, malt, no malt, napkins, bottled who knows what, and unbottled tap water.

TASTE/PALATE:  Not so much integrated as congealed, and with a slippery mouthfeel, it goes down in a single gagging glug, glug, glug. There’s no stopping; it’s all one lump.

FINISH:  Not nearly soon enough.

ASSESSMENT:  Behind the tasting tent and ¾ through a second bottle of Satan, I heroically seize the challenge to taste the dump bucket. Age statements tell of the youngest whisky in the blend, so best to call this nas – age as uncertain as a Zombie invader’s. And this happenstance vatting of glory knows what could be anywhere from 15 to 65% abv. It’s a little of everything and little of anything. Disturbing? Yes! Disgraceful? Even more so! But will it bring a Zombie to a disgusted full stop? Dead in its tracks I tell you, as dead in its tracks as I now wish the Beelzebub had done to me. If only he can hold the bucket to his lips without a hand falling off, we live to dram again.

*not to be confused with Glenugie.  Or maybe exactly that…


LARGE METEOR IMPACT OR SUPER VOLCANO – Both come with a nuclear winter scenario, with permanent dark ash-filled skies and acid rain.  Very similar to living in Vancouver or Victoria, with their permanent dark cloud cover (although they don’t have acid rain, they do however have acid-crazed hippies from the seventies which can appear threatening).  The only way to fight back against the lack of sunshine would be to have a malt with added favor, like that imparted from a first fill sherry European oak cask, this would be enough to improve your mood to get you through another dark day. Recommendation would be:  Whisky from a sherry barrel or finished in a sherry barrel or intense wine finish whisky.


Phil Aldred:  Glengoyne Ewan’s Choice, one of a series of single cask bottlings from the Glengoyne Stillmans’ range. Wood type: Sherry Puncheon

Cask: #441 Bottle: 406/600 Strength: 51.5% Distilled: 13 April 1986 Bottled: May 2005 Gold Medal winner in the Malt Maniacs Awards, 2005

COLOUR:  Dark walnut with golden highlights. Flashes of brilliant burgundy when held to the light.

NOSE:  Christmas cake in a glass. Dried fruits, with mulled wine and cloves providing balance, and fleeting hints of leather and mocha.

TASTE/PALATE:  Not surprisingly, dried fruits dominate the flavor – raisins, sultanas and prunes. Some early drying which subsides as the rich luscious fruit layers return.

FINISH:  Exceptionally long and warming. This whisky is guaranteed to sustain through the longest nuclear winter.

ASSESSMENT:  Not an overly complex whisky, but very elegant and stylish. The palate is firm but deftly avoids the overwhelming sweetness found in some sherry heavyweights. Considering the limited quantities and the fact that it is jealously guarded by those few who are fortunate enough to have acquired a bottle, this is a little-known gem. What a pity so few bottles were made, and even fewer remain.


CHRISTOPHER COLLOM:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1% abv

NOSE:  Salt, smoked meats, pine needles, raw oysters and seaweed, even a hint of vanilla (believe it or not). Medicinal. Did I mention brine du mer?!

TASTE/PALATE :  Got this off the web, and actually agreed with it — though not verbatim (rare indeed. I will concur with Andrew Ferguson’s notes more often than not, but rumor has it that he gets those sent to him by Maltmonster! OK, now I’m just dropping names.):

“Chewy peppered steak soaked in pepper sauce with the tang of crispy seaweed; black tarry espresso coffee that coats the palate with rich dark fruits (blackcurrants, blueberries and cherries) and bitter almonds; as the taste soaks in deeper, star anise and hickory emerge.”

FINISH:  More hot pepper sauce, bing cherries, chocolate, coffee even.  Might remind one of SMWS 33.114 (Sweet versus Savoury), or 33.70 (Keith Richards Meets Socrates), if you are lucky enough to have hovered around those single barrel offerings from Edinburgh.

ASSESSMENT:  Maybe our visit to the Ardbeg distillery in 2009 is too much bias to overcome, … but the peat, Macleod!  The PEAT! I’ve even forgiven them for distributing Corryvreckan in Canada (despite claims of an Islay-exclusive status whilst in the good company of Mickey Heads).  Jim Murray hasn’t mumbled much about this Ardbeg, but then again he didn’t know about it at the time he was giving the 10 year old it’s third consecutive WWOTY crown. C’est la vie.  Or, as they say in Gaelic … ” Sin é an saol .” Malt Advocate thought otherwise in ’09 — t’was their whiskey of the year!

Naming this after a whirlpool ties nicely into local lore, but to see the tempest without traveling to the Inner Hebrides, just rent and watch “I Know Where I’m Going” (1945); among the greatest post-WWII black and white films EVER! Yes, the Corryvreckan is in there.

and the protagonist even has a dram, if I recall correctly. Too bad they didn’t have as refined a single malt as THIS back in the day, eh …  slainte!


Jeff Paterson: Glenfarclas 105 – 10 Years, 60.0% ABV, Speyside

NOSE:  Dense oak, round sherry and shellac, maple/caramelized sugar. There’s also a persistent floral note, reminiscent of Nadurra Triumph. Beautiful amber +3, with razor-thin legs and molasses tears.

TASTE/PALATE:  This is where the sherry shines, sweet and medium dry. Oak and tannins are somewhat neutral, but this improves with water, as does the mouthfeel. Not as complex as the nose, but holds the ABV better.

FINISH:  Long and dry with an even fall-off, coming to a conclusion rather than just… the bitter end.

ASSESSMENT:  As Guy Fawkes said, a desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy, but this one is a 90-class mixed blessing, coming with its own sensory ABV-EMP if you crowd it or try it neat. The cork on mine started to decay in the neck. On Oct. 2, 2012, the Grants launched a 20-year-old version for tactical use – the age of the smart sherry bomb has arrived.


Andrew Ferguson:  Glenfarclas 1997 KWM Family Cask  56.3% abv & Glenfarclas Chariman’s Reserve 175th Anniversary 43 y.o.

Your average visitor to Yellow Stone National Park, transfixed by the beauty of the landscape, the wildlife and the McGeysers is blissfully unaware of the smoldering lava-bomb ticking away beneath their feet. Every 70 to 100 thousand years the Yellow Stone caldera erupts ejecting 1000 times the ash and lava of Mount St. Helens. A blast wave destroys everything in a several hundred kilometer circumference, ash falls several meters thick over an area of tens of thousands of kilometers, skies darken cooling the planet for decades giving rise to a nuclear winter or mini ice age. Crops fail, forests burn and all of sudden everyone is pining back to the good old days when you could follow your favourite celebrity’s self-destruction on Twitter. Most concerning of all, we are due for another eruption.

With such a dire (short term) and bleak (longer term) future ahead, what whisky would be best to soften your harsh new reality? The answer is both one and twofold and always Glenfarclas. If Hollywood can be trusted, and I think Charlie Sheen has shown it can be, the super volcano apocalypse would begin with a short but violent burst lasting around a week.

This first week or party period would be a feast for both the eyes and ears, not unlike a series of YouTube rants by a Grand Warlock. Such an exciting and dramatic event would need a strong whisky to calm the nerves and flavours to contrast with the ashy-smoke clogging your lungs. Some might think a peaty malt would be in order to compliment the newly smoky air, but contrast is the way to go. I can think of no better whisky for this scenario than the Glenfarclas 1997 KWM Family cask. This Oloroso sherry cask matured whisky is very nutty and candied with leather and tobacco notes. Dried dark fruits make for a long pleasant finish, which is good, because clean potable water with which to rinse after brushing will henceforth be harder to find. Added bonus, the 56.3% abv will allow the whisky to double as a disinfectant in a post-apocalyptic world.

The second or scenic period will begin a week to a month after the start of this new geologic age. Those of us without Tiger Blood in the veins will quickly succumb to the post party depression and give up. Sure the sunsets will be magnificent for the next couple of decades, but that won’t make up for the dust storms, raging forest fires or lack of new “winning” moments. You need a whisky to balance things out, something with a sense of history and place to anchor you while you adjust to your new post Two and a Half Men Reality. For this you need the Glenfarclas Chairman’s Reserve 175th Anniversary. This 43 year old whisky has all the classic elements of a good older whisky and none of the more negative elements (too much oak, bitterness and excessive price) The Chairman’ Reserve is a marriage of four casks collectively 175 years of age. The palate is round and full with enormous depth and complexity. Dark Christmas cake notes, Cuban cigar tobacco, rich dark spices, layer upon layer of fruit and treacle sauce too.

A super volcano event like a new Charlie Sheen outburst is not just a possibility but a reality; it is just a matter of time. If the discovery channel can be trusted it could happen tomorrow.


…and finally…I had to save the piece de resistance for last.  Our mate with the soul of a poet, Jonathan Bray put together a brilliant little piece worthy of its own showcase…


Jonathan Bray:  Stranahan’s Snowflake Paladise Cask Finish Colorado Whiskey 47% abv

Giant Solar Flare


Snowflakes…. I used to curse the sight of them after endless months of frigid Winter. How I wish now to close my eyes with an upturned face and feel the soft caress of gently falling snow and the fresh invigorating aroma of blanketed pines.

Awaking with a start I roll out of the superheated beam of blazing light piercing through a jagged crack in the rock. Also scurrying away from the searing shard and looking decidedly worse for wear are my beleaguered companions Barry, Curt and Pat. Blessed with fortune and giving us pause to reflect on the random nature of survival, the four of us blissfully unaware of the impending End of Days Apocalyptic phenomenon about to descend, were on a Whisky hike through the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Not wanting to mix whisky and anything even remotely challenging we had sauntered through easy trails and soft pine needle laden paths reaching our first stop the Cave and Basin in Banff.

Wondering if a few drams of choice whisky would induce a miraculous sighting of the almost extinct Banff Springs snail we had slipped packs and proudly produced each of us a special bottle in the hopes of wowing and amazing our whisky crazed peers.

It started as a bright flash that lit up the open expanse of the cave mouth and instantly overloaded our retinas sending sharp pain lancing through even the insulating layers of just consumed whisky. Snatching up our packs we began scrambling back and away from the superheated sunlight as we retreated deeper into the recesses of the cave. After our panicked spelunking excursion Barry the Apocalyptic expert among us confidently gave voice to answer our bewildered looks of questioning horror. “Giant Solar Flare”.

Faced with the enormity of the realization that we were now in a post-Apocalyptic world we took stock of our situation and more importantly our resources for further survival.

Given the nature of the day trip and the overwhelming emphasis on whisky being the key ingredient of the experience, we began to take stock of the rations on hand. We all realized that a couple of meager cheese portions along with a sliced French Baguette and a single link of cabanossi, was not going to go far amongst the four of us.

How long then could we expect to survive in a cave devoid of any nutrition beyond what we had on hand? The tourist area beyond the cave entrance once complete with a café laden with delectable goodies was now nothing but a wasteland of debris and baked earth seared beyond recognition by the intensity of the biggest Solar Flare in Earth’s History. Given the rarity of a snail sighting in the warmth of the cave’s natural mineral spring we weren’t expecting escargot supplements to come into the survival equation.

With Oakley Thermonuclear Protection Pat was able to venture closer to the mouth with his ever present camera and take only a few hurriedly snapped photos before the heat and glare drove him back to our subterranean prison. The pictures as seen through the small LCD screen of Pat’s formidable SLR showed the utter devastation of the outside environment and squashed all hopes of venturing out.

Resigned to our fate we made ourselves as comfortable as possible on our packs with whisky glasses in hand we began what we expected would be our last whisky experience.

Bringing forth a cherished bottle each in turn poured healthy drams and waxed lyrical about what little we could see of the color in the gloom of the recessed interior along with what seemed to be a heightening of our other senses allowing for what we all agreed was an epiphany that seemed to define our search for the perfect dram.

Coming to my turn I pulled out my bottle of Stranahan’s Snowflake Paladise Cask Finish Colorado Whiskey.  This lovely Whiskey is distilled from 100% Rocky Mountain Barley with nothing else but yeast, Rocky Mountain Water and passion.

1 of only 156 bottles, bottled at 47% without chill filtration or any coloring. Beginning its life in new American white oak for 2 years and 2 months it was then transferred into white Hungarian oak previously used to mature Sonoma Red Wine to complete its maturation.

Deep amber color infused with a subtle red hue when held up against the backlight of our now defunct i-phones.

NOSE:  Bananas Foster with hints of caramelized orange. Warm and inviting, the nose just draws you in. With patience more subtle influences swirl into focus, Meyer lemon, a whiff of subtle clove and vanilla.

TASTE/PALATE:  Creamy mouth-feel with dark orange chocolate undertones. Caramel toffee and roasted almond appear with background sweetness – creamed honey?

FINISH:  Lingering and touching on soft dry tannins, reminiscent of some red wine influence. Definitely feels a lot older than it is with rolling fruitcake and bitter orange marmalade evolving over a lengthy finale that makes this one extremely yummy whiskey.

ASSESSMENT:  Like its namesake this Snowflake is a unique and beautiful creation that exemplifies why Stranahan’s rose from a backyard boutique distillery to be bought out by Proximo Spirits last year. I just hope Jess was able to have fun spending his money before roasting like a marshmallow on a campfire under the instantly radiating pulse of torching flame.

With our tasting done, bottles empty and meager rations consumed all were in agreement that walking out to face the world one last time would be preferable to being forced to draw straws for who was to become the next meal. Settling in for our final night in the cave I eventually drifted off into a contented sleep and dreamt about Snowflakes…..


Final Thoughts…

Now…come December 22, 2012, if the world as we know it has not changed, then no big deal, at least you will have some great single malts to enjoy for any occasion.  A peated malt for a cold winter’s day, refreshing bourbon vanilla malt for a warm summer’s day, a triple distilled malt for before dinner and a hardy sherry malt for after dinner.  Just remember, if this Armageddon doesn’t materialize then at the very least you will have the jump on being prepared for the next major event…

MEGA-FLOODING from the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in 2016!!! (For which we will start to take advanced bookings and deposits December 23, 2012 on the new and improved “ Titanic Ark 2”).


– Your humble drudge, Maltmonster

 Posted by at 11:09 pm