May 292014

Dallas Dhu 1979 (Gordon & MacPhail)078

43% abv

Score:  88.5/100


Another casualty of the unforgiving early ’80s. 1983, to be precise.  The same year we lost Port Ellen, Brora, St. Magdalene, Glen Albyn and others.  Some of these martyred distilleries have gone on to posthumous recognition far beyond what they ever earned while still in production, while others have, for the most part, slid under the radar.

Dallas Dhu is one of the latter.  There will always be collectors out there who hoard bottles from closed distilleries, of course, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a Dallas Dhu collection.  Scarcity, a perceived mediocrity and a lack of releases (tough to find independents, let alone non-existent distillery releases) are likely the primary factor here.  This Speysider was primarily blend fodder, unfortunately.  Now here’s where it gets hazy for me (and I’d love more info if anyone has at hand):  In the early part of the 20th century Dallas Dhu was unceremoniously dumped into a blend called Roderick Dhu, but in the years subsequent…?  I’m guessing, seeing as the distillery was a part of the DCL (read: Diageo) empire, that perhaps this whisky landed in Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bells, etc.

This release though, from Gordon & MacPhail, is a 33 y.o. malt from 1979, a few years before the distillery was silenced.  In what is a frustratingly consistent trend with G&M, we have another rather special old dram that has been grossly reduced in strength.  You will never convince me that this is in any way for the good of the whisky once the malt reaches an age such as this.  The argument that often gets put forth is that trial and error found this to be optimum bottling strength.  That’s absolute tripe.  The reduced abv is simply a way of stretching the whisky a little further and reaping more profit.  I should note…G&M are NOT the only guilty parties for this.

Yes, I know they have a business to run and all that, but seriously, industry people…work the math out until you reach a ‘wash’.  What I mean is…sell it at natural cask strength, but make the price point a tick or two higher so you still make your target profit margin on the barrel.  I’d rather pay a little more for the inherent quality, than see a reduced sticker value and have a less spectacular dram in return.  This holds especially true for these old and rare whiskies.  F*ck it up and it’s gone for good.

Nose:  Sugar cookies.  Soft florals and maybe some light tropical notes.  A touch of spiced poached pear.  Lemon meringue pie.  A touch of key lime too.  Vague smokiness (just from inner cask charring?).  Some wax and a faint latex note hints at age.  Allspice.  Some grassy notes (or maybe hay).

Palate:  A touch of smoke right off.  Some orange.  Rather more tart than the nose hints at, but pleasantly so, like the effects of eating pineapple.  Fruits in bread, maybe like hot cross buns.  A little oily.  Dry and oaky.  Dries up and leaves a finish of grain, apple and oddly enough…a very mild fishiness.  Reminds a little of a Rosebank or an anCnoc at the back end.  The arrival is almost faultless, but it careens downhill fast.  Easily salvagable through another sip, I suppose.  🙂

Thoughts:  Much more complexity on the nose than the palate.  We’re just inches short of a great malt with this one.  A little more cohesion on the palate and a slightly higher abv would have had this one rocketing into the lower mid 90s for a score.  Even so…decent dram and a treat to taste a piece of history like this.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:39 am
May 272014

Dalmore Age Of Exploration Vintage 1995030

45% abv

Score:  88/100


Why, hello!  What have we here?  Gotta admit I didn’t expect to like this one even half as much as I did.  I’m not the biggest Dalmore fan.  In fact…I actually despise much of what they stand for:  Premiumization for the sake of itself; generic, weak and adulterated malts; countless overpriced expressions, etc.  This is one of the companies very much responsible for the rising costs of whisky today. 

Having said all of that…there is a basic truth I adhere to above all others when it comes to whisky:  Basic Aristotelian thought.  A is A.  A good whisky is a good whisky.  If my nose and palate gravitates toward something, so be it.  Much like guilty pleasures in music, why not just embrace something that appeals instead of adhering to preconceptions of what it is ok to like?  I don’t suspend my moral judgements in cases like this, but I do concede quality where it is to be found.  Distill it down to its bare essence and the approach I take is that if I enjoy it, that’s all that matters.  Chill-filtration, artificial coloring, age-statement or no, cheap or expensive, blend or single malt.  All of these, though I may still take exception, become secondary factors if the whisky is good.  This Vintage ’95 is certainly that.

Unfortunately, for both the good folk at Dalmore who may want my money, and for myself, who simply can’t afford most of them, the only Dalmore releases I’ve ever really cottoned to were the very mature ones (read: pricey).  I think that’s probably why I find so much to like in this accessable and affordable 1995 Age Of Exploration.   

The specs on this one say it spent time in three different barrels: American white oak, Madeira and Oloroso.  And, while I’m having trouble finding an age or the actual release date for this one, I’ve read a few suggestions of 15 years, but can’t seem to find any basis for that number.  So let’s say this isn’t an age-stated, nor a non-age-stated malt.  It is a Vintage release.  Limited to a mere 1800 bottles too.

This, to me, is quintessential ‘Scotch’.  Like the prototypical, Platonic ‘form’ version of what a single malt is supposed to be.  So…now that I’ve been pretentious enough to name drop two of history’s most reknowned philosophers in one post, let’s move on to tasting notes…

Nose:  Chocolate ganache.  Cinnamon.  Cherry coulis.  Great jammy fruits and smoky toffee.  Orange and some grapefruit zest.  Great, clean lumberyard oak notes.  Eucalyptus.  A lot of spice, almost like a heavy rye or bourbon cask influence.  I’ve read a few opinions that mention sulphur, but with all due respect, them folks are off their rockers.  I’m fairly sensitive to the stuff (not JM sensitive, but still fairly attuned to picking it up), but am not finding even a whiff.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Oak.  Cinnamon sticks.  Very juicy arrival before the slight tannic notes take charge.  Again…a lot of spice, almost like there’s been a bit of bourbon poured in here.  Very dark dried fruits lead into an orchard fruit mix of mealy pear and crunchy apple.  Pepper and ginger.  More oak.  Not the best of finishes, but not bad either.

Thoughts:  This is a really incredible surprise.  Not every note is perfect but the odd bit of dissonance adds character to the overall tone.  A very likeable malt from a distillery that is easy to look down upon.  One final note…this was incredibly priced.  I think it was about $85 or so locally.  


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:12 am
May 232014

SMWS 127.26 “Student Party Aftermath”004

65.5% abv

Score:  91.5/100


Aka ‘Student Party Aftermath’.

Ok.  By now you know it as well as I do: I am an unrepentant peathead.  It should come as no surprise that a frighteningly huge young whisky from Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte line would score high in my books.

This bottle isn’t really a Port Charlotte or Bruichladdich release though, of course.  It is an SMWS ‘numbered-not-named’ bottling.  The SMWS, as you likely know, is an independent bottler/members-only whisky club.  They source casks, sex ’em up a bit, add a dash of flamboyant wit and turn out some of the most aesthetically pleasing (to my eyes, at least) bottles on the shelves.  For this, their 26th cask of Port Charlotte, they really managed to score a winner.

Port Charlotte has never really been a brand for the faint of heart, and this lumbering beast is arguably the most extreme representation I’ve seen yet, tipping the scales at a monolithic 65.5% abv.  This is an absolutely enormous whisky.  One of the biggest I’ve ever encountered, in fact.  It sorta leaves me wondering how the hell this abv is even possible.  I’m pretty sure Bruichladdich casks their new make at 63.5% (like most distilleries), and Scotland doesn’t exactly boast the sort of climate that leads to a higher water than alcohol evaporation rate from the barrel like some of the more temperate locales.  Hmmmm….curiouser and curiouser.

Independent Port Charlotte releases are relatively few and far between.  This is primarily due to two factors, I think.  One…that it’s still early days for this whisky (just about a year ago we finally saw a ten year old variant), and two…the ongoing whisky boom makes the idea of selling off barrels to independents much less appetizing to distilleries who could likely do better bottling and peddling their own juice.  This makes it a bit of a treat to find an expression like this 127.26.  Independent bottlings often help show us a sort of ‘celebrity-without-the-makeup’ view of the malts we love.  It allows a different appreciation.

Enough natter.  Suffice it to say, this is good whisky.  More than good, actually.

Nose:  To quote the great Billy Connolly: “Jesus suffering f*ck!”  Smoky, peaty and earthy.  Licorice and lapsang souchong tea.  Rubber and road tar.  Quite intrinsically sweet too.  There is some wax and citrus fruit.  Some hard candy sweetness as well.  Slightly farmy and some of that Port Charlotte buttery character.  Camphor-like medical notes and a deep thread of thick, dark vanilla.  Bundle it all together though, and what it really smells like is the most ferocious Mike Tyson uppercut distilled and bottled.

Palate:  Oh wow, what an attack.  Phenols from hell.  Feels bigger, smokier, peatier than any Octomore I’ve ever sparred with.  Under-ripe Granny Smith apples.  Lime Jolly Ranchers.  Ashtrays (I imagine, though I’ve never licked one).  Oaky, toothpick notes.  Slightly meaty…like a peppered salami maybe.  Salty and licorice-like again.  Sen-sen would be the closest parallel.  The finish lasts longer than a Viagra-induced….errrr…you know what I mean.

Thoughts:  I had an absolute blast doing this one.  Wish I had 6 or 8 bottles of this sitting on a shelf somewhere for future days.  Sadly, not so.  Not necessarily a balanced whisky, but who the f*ck cares?!  It is quite deep, though, with a myriad of swirling flavours though.  One of the best PCs I’ve ever tried.  (Feel free to slightly correct the score above to accommodate my personal bias, but believe me when I say I stand behind the mark.  It really is a strong outing for Team McEwan et al.)


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:48 am
May 222014

Talisker 20 y.o. (2003)004

58.8% abv

Score:  90.5/100


This may be a review not worth reading, in some senses.  Not because the whisky isn’t worth reading about, but because I can’t guarantee that the whisky I’m writing about was pristine at the time of sampling.  This Talisker 20 year old was tasted as part of a brilliant stratospheric range of Talisker limited releases.  I think it was the first malt of the night, and it definitely stood out from the rest in some rather conspicuous ways. 

This one had a slightly more aggressively peaty and farmy side to it than any of the other Taliskers we tried (or that I’ve tried before or since).  In and of itself?  No big deal.  Let’s face it, there are many malts out there that have a presto change-o kind of personality.  But here’s the rub…even as this bottle was opened, the fellow who owned it voiced immediate concern about the condition of the cork.  It looked dark, sodden throughout and…let’s just say ‘less than immaculate’.  If this was a ‘nowadays’ bottle, it likely could have been returned to the shop and spelled out for another.  As it stands though, this was a bottle from about a decade back, long gone and probably sourced intercontinentally to boot.  All you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best in these sorts of situations.

So…if this was indeed a compromised bottle there’s not a lot of value in sharing notes on it.  On that I’m quite sure we agree.  But the question lingers…was it a faulty cork or is this simply a very different Talisker release with a cork that only looked like it had been through the wringer?  Without a second bottle to compare to, there’s no way to be sure.  Here’s my opinion though:  The cork was certainly ugly, but the whisky was proably pure.  I say this because the malt was exceptionally bright and vibrant in terms of nose and taste (no ‘dead bottle’ dullness to it), and because it was a damn good drink, showing no signs of off-notes.  Unique in the portfolio, yes, but not ‘off’.  And all the more special for it. 

Think about how ‘Revolution 9’ stood out from the the rest of ‘The White Album’.  It may not be everyone’s favorite track, but it certainly struck a dissonant chord that resonated and lingered long beyond the final fade.  Here’s my reaching analogy for the day: This Talisker 20 = Revolution 9. 

Whether what I drank that night was the whisky that was originally bottled is now incidental in my mind.  What matters is that I enjoyed the hell out of it.  This indifference is the reason I suggested in the first line of this review that it may not be worth reading.  I leave that up to you.

Nose:  Whoa!  What have we here?  Brora?  Longrow?  Nope.  It is indeed Talisker, but wow, what a variant.  Peppery and farmy.  Some smoke and peat, to be sure.  Notes of eucalyptus and spruce.  Damp hay.  Crabapple tartness.  Salt black licorice.  Lots of spice.  Salted caramel.

Palate:  Earthy and peaty.  Pepper and licorice.  Very salty.  Notes of damp hay and sour apple.  Almost a wine-like note towards the back end as well.  Finishes with long and pleasant oak overtones.

Thoughts:  Very Brora-like.  Surprising as hell.  Yes, there was some concern about the quality of cork that came out of this one, but if this is a flawed bottle (and I’m not sayin’ it is), I’m more than ok with this kind of blemish.  Way better nose than palate, I should add.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:11 pm
May 212014

A.D. Rattray Benrinnes 13 y.o.010

56.8% abv

Score:  70/100


First Benrinnes review for the site.  It’s always fun to cover a new one, as there aren’t a lot of Scotland’s fine distilleries we haven’t shared a few words on at this point.  Benrinnes is a Diageo distillery in the heart of the Speyside region, responsible for the production of a couple million litres of spirit per annum, most of which makes its way into blends such as J&B and Johnnie Walker.

Y’never really know whether or not the decision to blend away most of a distillery’s production is due to the spirit having a decided lack of personality or simply because they have gross needs and some distillery or other needs to take the bullet.  Having now tried some special casks from most of Diageo’s lesser known holdings, I can say with some assurance that there are definitely some solid malts being relegated to obscurity on the vatting floor.  Sad, but true.  Until the wider world develops the palate and appreciate (and income bracket) for single malts, this will continue to be the case.

Unfortunately though…this particular Benrinnes is not one of those solid malts.  In fact, aside from the presentation aspect of this one (strong and naked), there isn’t much to like here.

This is a hard lesson learned in ‘try-before-you-buy’.  Independent bottlings are always a gamble.  The simple fact of the matter is you always have to be prepared that you may have a hefty outlay of cash in return for a mouthful of ‘not awesome’.  Unfortunately there isn’t always an open bottle available for sampling and informed decision making.  When curiosity gets the better of you, sometimes you simply have to take a flyer.

On a positive note…I find there are waaaaaaay more good ADR releases than bad.  I imagine the warehouses are fairly teeming with great barrels.  In the name of research I vow to keep trying ’em.

This, though…this is not a nice whisky.  Great bottle to try, not a great bottle to buy.

Nose:  Sulphur.  Toffee.  Prune.  Raisin.  Citrus zest and tart red berry.  Tomato.  Pepper and cinnamon.  Caramel apples.  Sweaty leathers.  Walnut.  Wine-heavy (not far off some of the more aggressive Jura releases.

Palate:  Cinnamon, oak and perfume.  Mint.  Ash and sulphur.  Tangy and rather rich in deep chewy dried fruits.  There’s a pleasant mid-note before it bitters out into tannins and tea leaves.  Some cereal hidden at the very back as well.  Finally…apple and plum skins on the finish (contributing to that tart, tannic feel)

Thoughts:  There’s honestly not a lot of ‘pleasant’ going on here.  Let’s find something nice to say.  Ummmmm…gorgeous colour and texture?  Yep.  That’s about it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:30 pm
May 212014

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 3)

55.6% abv

Score:  84.5/100


Having now shared a few words on the first edition of Tempest, let’s contrast a little against a more recent version.  This is Batch 3.  Currently, a rebranded Batch 4 is sitting on the shelves here in Alberta.  I’ve yet to try that most recent incarnation, but will hopefully get to it soon. 

Bowmore has been doing a lot of things right in recent years.  Some neat one-offs and some new editions to the range have been welcome additions.  While I can’t necessarily get behind some of the younger NAS releases, such as Surf and Legend, I can say that the distillery is winning me back one bottle at a time.  For a while there I was a little disillusioned. 

Seeing as I spilled most of the beans in the previous review (linked above), I imagine I can be a little less wordy here, and simply dive in.  Tempest Batch 3 is still a fierce dram, of course.  Big and flavourful, rich and full of character.  While it may not tick all the boxes the first batch did, I do still like it enough to buy and drink.  This time ’round though, I believe you need to be a little more of a died-in-the-wool peathead to immediately cotton to this one.  Batch 1 had a rounded sweetness that likely would have worked to broaden the appeal.  Here you have a slightly sharper and more prickly Islay malt at a hefty abv.  Highly possible that this one is not for the faint of heart.  The peat and smoke are loud and obnoxious.  That’s right up my alley, personally, but may make for a narrower target market.

While Batch 1 was an ‘old soul’ of a 10 year old, this a youthful 10.  So be it.   If you chance upon the different batches on the shelves anywhere though…I would highly recommend grabbing  the first edition over the later ones.  Just my two cents. 

Nose:  A lot of chocolate.  Some hay and herbal notes.  Dusty barn.  Smoke.  Lemon.  Fish and brine.  Some caramel pudding.  Salt and pepper.  Sea water.  Maybe just a touch floral.

Palate:  Big, sharp attack.  Fishy notes and burning barley.  Chocolate and licorice.  Very ‘naked’.  Ashy.  Does somewhat bitter out a bit unfortunately.  Lacks the balanced creaminess that made the first such a charmer.

Thoughts:  A fairly one-dimensional malt that doesn’t hold a candle to the first batch.  Having said that…it’s still a very fine dram.  Expect something along the lines of Caol Ila or very young Port Ellen in terms of mouth attack.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:57 pm
May 212014

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 1)

56.3% abv

Score:  89/100


I think this was released in 2009 or 2010 (forgive my lack of research).  Does that make me fashionably late?  Or maybe just the slacker who slept in, and now shows up all disheveled and interruptive?

While I concede that I’m not certain of the exact year this was released, I do recall my excitement upon hearing there was to a young, entry level cask strength Bowmore on the shelves.  Of course, like everything else, it would have hit Canadian shores much later than other markets, effectively rendering the release date moot anyway.  Either way…a few words on the first batch of Bowmore Tempest:

With all of the shitty, negative trending going on right now with NAS (No Age Statement) bottlings, there is one trend that I can absolutely get behind.  That of more and more distilleries releasing cask strength malts into their core ranges.  Over the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of Glenfiddich Distillery Edition, Glenlivet Nadurra, Auchentoshan Valinch, GlenDronach Cask Strength, nearly every Ardbeg, etc.  Of course, there are also the familiar faces such as Aberlour a’bunadh, Glenfarclas 105 (not CS, but BIG nevertheless), Laphroaig CS, Lagavulin 12, the Port Charlotte PC series, etc.  Good times for flavour junkies. 

At one time Bowmore used to have a cask strength release as well, but that’s a malt I haven’t seen in years, aside from a dram from an old bottle on Islay a couple years back.  Fortunately, however, they’ve now opted to give us the goods as we want ’em: big, bold and relatively unadulterated.  Namely, this 10 year old Tempest and the 15 year old Laimrig.  These whiskies…man…if I had my way these profiles would be the future of the distillery. 

Bowmore has worn many masks over the years.  It’s sort of like the Gary Oldman of Islay malts.  Highly malleable…infinitely chameleonic.  Usually interesting enough to win you over.  The true Bowmore profile is sorta hard to pin down, to be honest, but in the Tempest and Laimrig, Bowmore have really managed to knock it out of the park, and bring back a familiar style that has seemingly been supplanted by a more floral elegance in recent years.  Laimrig carries the sherried heft of smoked Bowmore with flair and a depth of jammy-ness that is a return to an older, more fruity style.  Tempest, on the other hand, brings a more naked (primarily bourbon cask matured, I would assume).  I’m a fan of both, but the Laimrig, in particular, is a showstopper.

As for the Tempest itself…

We’re looking at Batch 1 here.  It’s a deep whisky, balanced and hiding a surprising maturity (beyond 10 years, I’d say).  Subsequent batches are substantially different unfortunately.  Not bad, by any means, but not the same, and definitely not quite as good.  If only this particular dram were replicable and consistent in this incarnation (which it has obviously proven not to be), Tempest would be a rather perfect young whisky.   

Nose:  Smoke and peat, o’course.  Chocolate.  Coffee.  Cracked pepper.  Orange and Lemon.  Some notes that aren’t far off from an Ardbeg.  Caramel and pear.  Some unexpected creaminess.  Baked Alaska. 

Palate:  Sweet candy arrival, through smoke and into licorice.  A lot of fresh squeezed citrus and more cracked pepper.  Either very active bourbon casks leveeing these spicy notes, or a bit of sherry influence.  Either way…crackling with nifty ‘Pop Rock’ surprises.  There’s an earthiness here that hints at Garden Burgers, interestingly enough.

Thoughts:  Hmmm…much like many first editions of named releases, I have a sneaking suspician this was a ‘best foot forward malt’.  (Read: there are some older, better casks in here than we’ll see in future editions.)  Great balance.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
May 202014

The Dram Initiative #010 – Ardbeg with Ruaraidh MacIntyre

March 18th, 2014


I’m delinquent in posting these write-ups.  Apologies to all involved or any who may be interested.  No excuses, just keeping busy.  With that out of the way, let’s get on to sharing the word on a recent Dram Initiative whisky club tasting here in Calgarythat took place a few weeks.

You had to know it was coming.  It was only a matter of time before we were going to break out the big guns and unleash Ardbeg on the masses.  Said masses being the faithful folk of the club, now 56 members strong, that is. 

Long time readers of ATW (or even just those with a little bit of observational wherewithal after skimming a few posts) will undoubtedly know that I have an unhealthy appreciation for the phenolic phenom known as Ardbeg.  While I concede that part of me just likes corralling others into appreciating my vice, there was more than simple selfishness that lead to our club event.


Ardbeg is a malt that needs to be a part of any whisky enthusiast’s base of knowledge.  It’s a touchstone.  It’s an extreme.  Much like anything else in life, in order to truly understand whisky you need to experience it in all it’s guises.  With whisky, I believe you need to drink it young and old, good and bad, soft and harsh, sweet and smoky.  Ardbeg represents the biggest and boldest.  This is not a malt that has ever been meant to exemplify subtlety (though in some of its older incarnations, it does exactly that).  Once you’ve had Ardbeg, nearly all else will seem relatively tame by comparison.

So, educational value aside…there was a further reason Ardbeg was always going to crop up on the menu at some point.  And that reason is Ruaraidh MacIntyre. 

Ardbeg - Ruaraidh 3

A fair while back now, I met Ruaraidh at an event Andrew Ferguson put on.  This event was a once-in-a-lifetime whisky tasting affair which culminated in the paired drams of 1974 Double Barrel.  These two ’74 sister Ardbegs were, and are, an unequicable highlight of my tasting experiences to date.  Like…’top 5 ever’ kinda highlight.  No exaggeration.

That particular night was special for a multitude of reasons.  Good food, good drinks, good people, good ambiance.  But much of the credit has to be laid at the feet of a great host for the whole affair.  That host was, of course, Ruaraidh.

Ruaraidh is a native Ileach (the appellation by which the good folk from Islay are known by).  He spent that evening regaling us with tales of Islay…stories of the people…descriptions of the sights and smells…and kept a vibrant thread of personal experience woven throughout.  The authenticity of a native Ileach was a huge part of what made the night memorable.  That’s not to discount the fact that he’s simply a damn fine speaker and snappy dresser to boot.

When the opportunity arose for us to lock down Ruaraidh for our own Dram Initiative Ardbeg event we were tickled pink, and wasted no time in cementing all of the logistics.

Dram Initiative Ardbeg 098

Interest was high for this club event.  (Was that a result of my incessant flag-waving, or simple curiosity on the part of the members?).  We ended up with about 60 folks in attendance for a gathering that ran us a good solid three to three and a half hours.  Laughs were plenty…and the mood was jovial throughout the night.  We broke the tasting into three sections again, in order to allow a little bit of interaction and discussion amongst the members who made it out.  During these wee breaks, Ruaraidh circulated and answered questions and such for a few of the keeners in the audience. 

A great speaker and a roomful of the faithful does not necessarily make for a great tasting though.  Cue the green bottle.  We pulled a few long-gone gems off the shelves in order to make this all happen.  It became sort of a ‘who’s who’ from the past couple years of Ardbeg releases.  A few of these bottles are now sadly fetching ridiculous sums on the secondary market, but that’s neither here nor there.  It was a pleasure to be able to crack ’em open and enjoy in the company of a lot of good people.  That is what whisky is for, after all.  There are a few sounds that should forever be linked: The pop of a cork…the clinking of glasses…the laughter of friends. 

Ardbeg Bottles

 Here was the evening’s ‘menu’ as we tackled it:

Ardbeg Ten
Ardbeg Blasda
Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (2008 ed.)

Ardbeg Uigeadail
Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Ardbeg Galileo

Ardbeg Ardbog
Ardbeg Alligator
Ardbeg Supernova SN2010

…and a little something extra to finish it all off…


Here’s where I have to give tons of credit once more to our kind host, Ruaraidh.  We lobbed a few gentle barbs and bits of fun his way all throughout the night in an attempt to keep him on his toes.  Like the quintessential professional, he handled all with grace, self-deprecating humour and the occasional return volley.  This carried through right up until the final malt of the evening, which we poured blind and asked Ruaraidh to take a whack at.  Maybe it was a little underhanded and disingenuous on our part, but the final drink of the eve was a dram of Douglas Laing’s ‘Big Peat’, built on Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen. 

I won’t tell you whether or not he was close in his guess as to what it was. 

All in now, this was probably one of the club’s best events to date.  The bar was raised a little.  Makes it tough on we poor coordinators to try to line up an event to follow.  Such is.  Challenge accepted.

Dram Initiative Ardbeg 034

Sincere thanks again to Ruaraidh for spending a wonderful evening with us.  It was appreciated, and hopefully we can do it again soon.  Many thanks to Jordan Cameron, who once again came through on behalf of Charton Hobbs/LVMH to help us coordinate a knockout event.  And finally…thanks to Charton Hobbs themselves for their support for the second time in two months.  From us to you…we appreciate it.

Members…see ya next time!


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:45 am
May 202014

Black Bull 40 y.o. (Batch  3)063

41.6% abv

Score:  89/100


Time for another high end blend.  This time at a rather remarkable 40 years of age.

Black Bull 40 is a batch production whisky, and at the time of writing (May, 2014) I believe batch 4 is the most current expression to hit the markets.  I’ve tried this whisky a couple of times over the past few years, generally at festivals and such, but this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and jot some proper notes on it.  Further…I truly have no idea at this point which editions I may or may not have tried in the past.  (Odd how fuzzy some details are after a night at a whisky festival, huh?)

Sitting down with this striking old blend in a controlled environment is quite a treat.  To cop a redneck term of measure, there’s a shit ton of good on offer here, and you don’t have to dig deep to find it.  In fact…at first nosing, I’d be hard-pressed to guess this was a blend.  Primarily due, I imagine, to the incredibly lopsided ratio of malt whisky to grain whisky in this one.  There has been no attempt at striking any sort of middling balance between the two (usally a cost-saving effort) and that is a-ok with us.  The character of Black Bull 40 is built almost entirely on the malts.  If the stories are to be believed, this has anywhere from a mix of 85.6% malt to 14.4% grain ratio to a straight 90% malt to 10% grain.  Not sure which exactly is correct, but either way this is an unprecedentedly large variance, and one that benefits the consumer more than the producer.

The distilleries represented in the alchemy of BB40 apparently include Ben Nevis, Bunnahabhain, Caperdonich, Glen Grant, Highland Park and Invergordon.  Not that you’d recognize and of these distillery’s charactereistics, but nevertheless, awareness of bloodline is always appreciated. 

There’s one other thing that bears mentioning here.  This is an outrageously priced whisky.  And for once I mean that in a good way.  I think we in Alberta can buy this for around $250 locally.  $250?  For 40 years?  Who else is releasing whisky at that kind of price point?  Short answer:  No one. 

For those out there looking to mark a milestone birthday or such, this is undoubtedly the most affordable 40 year old on the market.  A helluva bang-for-your-buck bottle.  More importantly though…it’s just really, really good whisky.

So…let’s see what a 40 year old blend is like…

Nose:  Rather tropical.  White pepper and pineapple.  Some peach and orange.  Butterscotch pudding.  Some wax.  Maybe a bare whiff of smoke.  Eucalyptus.  Light, clean and lovely.

Palate:  The palate doesn’t scream ’40’ like the nose does.  More assertive oak now.  Touch of latex paint and wax.  Tart, fruit notes.  Maybe still some pineapple.  Some lemon and honey.

Thoughts:  A little thin on arrival, but beautifully struck.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:05 am
May 202014

Talisker 25 y.o. (2008)055

54.2% abv

Score:  90/100


Let’s get back to some of these wonderful older Talisker releases, shall we?  This is another of those limited Diageo runs, but from back in 2008 this time.  As I’ve already mentioned here a couple of times, whenever these do hit the shelves they’re few and far between and rather pricey.  Having now tried a bunch of ’em, I can swear that they’re definitely worth both the effort to track them down and the hefty outlay of cash.

Talisker has a profile that serves just like a barbed lure.  Once it’s passed the lips, you’re hooked.  The 10 year old is a gateway for so many, but the distillery doesn’t truly show it’s brilliance till you hit the 18 year expression.  That’s where the magic begins.  But it certainly doesn’t end there.  By the quarter century mark, as expected, all of those softer fruit notes begin marching forward to center stage and the smoky, peaty and peppery edges become less the stars and more just solid character actors in this incredible production.   Makes for one hell of a cohesive whole, I must say.

Nose:  Coastal and maritime meets peppered peat.  All downwind from a beachside campfire.  Briny seaside notes.  Smoked oysters in oil.  And a touch of smoke, in general.  Grassy and herbal.  Chocolate and honey…kinda like a Toblerone, I guess.  Honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  Citrus.  Graham cracker crust.  Paint/latex.

Palate:  Great arrival.  Peaty, peppery and perfectly Talisker.  Granny smith apple and lemon juice.  Some licorice.  Nice firm oak notes.  This one is a stayer.  Hangs around for eons.

Thoughts:  Another absolutely great Talisker, but I prefer the ’05 edition to this ’08.  Now just need to try any in between…


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:33 am