Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak

The 14 year old expression named “Rich Oak” from the Glenfiddich distillery is today’s tasty tipple to review. The Glenfiddich distillery really needs no introduction, a classic and exceedingly famous Speyside single malt whisky producer that is capable of producing expressions that most whisky drinkers would find pleasant and intriguing. They are also a distillery that are no strangers to experimentation.

The 14 year old whisky is matured in both American and Spanish Oak casks to produce a well rounded, complex woody spirit.

The colouration of the spirit is subtle and only slightly amber, more of a toasted straw colour. The spirit is light and not very oily, it’s bottled at a standard 40% abv.

On the nose there are lots of layers of woody tannin aromas with mingling scents of fruit and spices. Nice biscuits and nutmeg float around the smell profile.

The palate is lavished with woody flavours in the sipping with caramel wafers, sour cherries, vanilla and a dash of grapefruit. Not the most oaky whisky out there but it certainly lives up to its name!

The finish is medium length with lasting flavours conjuring up ideas of port stained cheeseboard and trail mix, it’s not a hugely smooth whisky but has a pleasant prickliness on the way down.

Weighing in at a price of around the £38 mark it is a fairly priced whisky though probably only really appreciated if you like especially woody malts with a fruity profile on the side.


Jura Journey – A Different Direction

I am quite certain that some distilleries can do no wrong. Whatever they release seems to be quality, delicious spirit that is utterly enjoyable whatever they did with it in the process of making it into the end product. One such distillery that seems to breed distilling perfection is the Jura Distillery. Out of the numerous single malts that I have tried from their range I can not fault any of them; all are complex, some lively, some smooth, some with the right amounts of smoke, some with fruit etc. Jura were on to a winning formula!

However, this year marks the launch of a complete overhaul and new series of releases from the Jura Distillery. Many of the favourite expressions are being discontinued to make way for a new age of whisky from the distillery. My first question is can these new single malts compare to the old, tried and tested whiskies? Will Jura still live up to its reputation?

I think to answer this question we will have to work through the range and see if Jura can repeat their success.

The Jura Journey expression is the entry level whisky in the new series. Surely if this one is good they can only get better as you work up into the rest of the bottlings!? It is an ageless bottling that promises fruity notes with a background smokiness and a delicate aroma.

The colour of the whisky is pleasant, a kind of amber hue with a slight nectarine pigment. Fairly oily in the glass with long legs. Similar perhaps to the diurachs own in behaviour?

On the nose there are deep fruity whiffs with a smokiness in the background. There is a subtle floral aroma that lingers after a while but it is by no means the biggest hitter. Think slightly overdone fruit cobbler.

There are really apparent flavours of vanilla on the palate, these are accompanied with a mixture of shortcake, lemon sorbet, hazelnuts and burnt currants from a fruit pudding.

Smokiness lingers in the finish and there are woody citrus notes spattering on the way down.

This is a lively expression, not similar to any one of the original Jura expressions but offers something new to the taste buds. There are characteristics reminiscent of the Jura predecessors but this new kid on the block is merely a salute to its history.

I would recommend this whisky, it is easy to appreciate, has pleasant aromas and is smooth. You can find it in supermarkets around the £30 mark so it won’t break the bank. You can also find it in half bottles if you don’t want to commit to the full bottle.

Cheers and Slainte!

Malt Master’s Singleton of Dufftown

In a previous review of the 12 year Singleton of Dufftown I said that it was a whisky that ticked all the boxes in terms of smoothness and complexity and yet it is hugely underrated in my opinion. A new release to the Singleton of Dufftown range is this Malt Master’s Selection edition from the Dufftown distillery.

With a promising distillery write up stating that it is a smooth and complex yet delicate malt, this is building up to be a lovely dram.

Running into it at a local supermarket was quite a surprise and for the price of £36, similar to that of the 12 year, it was worth a try – surely?

Poured into a tasting glass there is a straightforward aroma of honeyed maltiness. The colour is a very light amber, a kind of jaffa hue to it.

On the nose there are the bold aromas of honey, candied peel, pear drops and vanilla. A subtle scent of chocolate digestives in the background and a speckling of vanilla extract.

Citrus but with an enveloping of chocolate and honey caramel settle on the palate. Notes of vanilla, oak and some red berries linger with a spiciness somewhat peppery.

The finish is warming and neither short nor long, the spirit has good legs but it is not overly oily and leaves a slight flavour of burnt chocolate raisin on the palate.

The three casks used in this malt really give it tremendous character. The addition of the sherry cask and the ex bourbon cask on top of the refill barrel produce fruity and vanilla flavours consecutively and there is a lovely complexity of flavour from the woods. Of course you are dealing with a quality spirit to begin with and that really shines through.

There is no age statement with this bottling but there are characteristics of a mature spirit being used but the majority probably sits at around the 10 year mark I would have thought.

Definitely a rewarding dram and I would recommend it if you already like the Singleton 12 year.


Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat

The Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown produces possibly the most famous scotch whisky. Ask anyone anywhere that knows something of scotch and I guarantee they will know of Glenfiddich. A family business since the start, Glenfiddich is quite unique in the way that it is independent and has been for so long. They have also been a distillery to experiment and try new things which always makes for a surprising lineup of single malts.

The distillery also produces a lot of spirit for blended malts and have their own blends such as Grants. Whilst originally a blender they do produce some amicable single malts.

The whisky of interest here is the Glenfiddich 15 year old single malt that has been finished in a Solera Vat. This is a process where aged whiskies from the distillery are married together in an oak vat that would have once held sherry or port and then the product is left to further mature in a bourbon barrel. The process is special because the vat is never fully emptied so there will be whisky reminiscent of the original vat first used in 1998.

The 15 year old here has lovely colour, it is a soft apple juice colour with a red rosiness to it. Little to no oiliness the consistency is very thin but suggests a possibility of being a sweet and fruity dram.

An unmistakable scent of rhubarb and custard boiled sweets on the nose with a subtle whiff of pear drops, and then there’s a bit of a marzipan aroma in the background.

Earl Grey tea sweetened with honey and rich merlot flavours flood onto the palate with a sliver of butterscotch rounding up the taste. Not hugely complex but there are some distinguishable flavours there and certainly nothing unpleasant.

The finish is longer than expected, very smooth and leaves a warming flavour in the mouth. Dots of sherried fruitcake and those pear drop flavours linger.

This is a pleasant dram and one that is a good step up from the signature 12 year Glenfiddich. Little to no smokiness just those rich fruity flavours, a lovely wee speyside.

If you’ve tried any other Glenfiddich single malts let me know what you think of them in the comments below!


Arran 10

Hailing from Arran’s only distillery comes this beautiful island single malt. Bottled after 10 years and at a punchy 46% alcohol volume this non chill filtered and natural colour, sweet malty spirit is a real treat and an island whisky classic.

The Isle of Arran distillery is the only distillery on the island; an island measuring an area of 19 miles by 10 miles and having a population of around 5000 residents. Located in Lochranza on the Isle, the distillery is one of Arran’s most popular tourist attractions.

The distillery opened in 1995 and has been a successfully independent distillery since its launch.

This expression from the Arran range is a lovely entry level whisky. A vibrant and complex body with a lovely colour and nose.

Toasted straw with a warm citrusy hue, the colour is lovely and inviting. The natural colour is pure and doesn’t suggest over use of caramel neither a bland colourless spirit either; a straight talking, interesting malt to look at.

Citrus notes and spots of vanilla and toffee are prevalent on the nose. Warming whiffs of salted caramel and soft orchard fruits linger.

On the palate this whisky is exciting and lively, citrus flavours are the initial party starter which then move into spicier, treacle flavours. Brown sugar, vanilla custard and a hint of pepper stream into the palate.

The finish is smooth and the higher than average alcohol percentage is not overpowering; the spirit is not the character of the malt but the flavours are easily distinguishable. Treacle shortbread flavours last in the mouth for a lovely long finish.

This malt is a lovely, interesting island malt. Some hinting towards being similar to a Benromach? Can I say that!? It’s deliciously flavourful and complex and is a very drinkable dram. At the foot of the Arran range this malt is an exciting entre into the island’s malts. At around £35 a bottle from most whisky retailers this is a must try, especially if you like the lighter, fruitier whiskies with a hint of dark spice.

The Benromach 10

It’s quite difficult to determine what is a true Speyside whisky. This subregion of the Highland whisky production area is a great source of good quality and complex, vibrant whisky. In fact, most of Scotland’s whisky distilleries fall into the Speyside region. One whisky which really captures the spirit of the region is the Benromach; it can be considered a true Speyside.

The Benromach distillery in Forres, Morayshire delves deep into the roots of a traditional speyside whisky. With the addition of peat smoke into the barley and a variety of cask finishes in their whiskies, this distillery means business to create a reimagined classic speyside whisky.

The Benromach 10 year old is a great edition from the Speyside distillery’s range. It’s competitively priced and it tastes much older than it is; probably down to the complexity, smoothness and balance of flavours within. Benromach state that their spirit is perfect for long maturation but I think that it is a perfectly good young whisky, 10 years old being a lovely age to bottle but could easily be enjoyed as a much younger malt.

The nose of this whisky is lovely and malty, sweet honey aromas with a hint of that smoke coming through. Delicate whiffs of forest fruit gateau are also noticeable with a distinct creamy scent.

The flavours on the palate are utterly gorgeous, with fruit cake and a suggestion of battenburg; a whisper of that peat smoke in the background. If flavours could be seen it would look like an afternoon tea party with fruit cake, battenburg and sherry in a hay meadow (the hay may be slightly on fire(smokiness)).

The finish of this malt is delightfully smooth and long, hints of pepper scatter on the tongue with a lasting subtle taste of citrus and honey.

If you’re looking for a classic speyside flavour in your whisky then I can highly recommend the Benromach. It’s fruity, rich, full of flavour and brilliantly smooth. Oh and it’s all handcrafted and made with Scottish barley; bonus.


Auch, No Bad

The Auchentoshan American Oak is just one of those drams that seems to taste a lot better than should be possible for a whisky below £50. What makes Auchentoshan so special is perhaps the fact that they adopt a slightly differing view to distilling their spirit; a triple distilled scotch.

Whilst common amongst Irish and American whiskeys, the triple distillation of scotch is almost unheard of up until recent days. The Auchentoshan make triple distillation their benchmark however, and due to this third round of spirit honing they are able to produce a charmingly smooth dram that doesn’t take as long to mature to get those aged results.

The American Oak is the entry level single malt that the distillery produces and can often be found in supermarkets at around £20-£25. Due to the smoothness and delicate, yet complex, flavours, this whisky is ideal for a regular dram and will more than suffice for the seasoned whisky drinker and the novice alike.

The nose of this whisky is quite buttery and smells a wee bit like sticky toffee pudding. The spirit catches your nose if inhaled deeply, a tell tale sign of perhaps a younger malt; plenty there though, with hints of citrus getting a say in the scents.

The flavour is rich and spicy with clear hints of citrus and a slight peppery edge. Slightly bitter coffee notes are suggested with a hint of dark chilli chocolate. Vanilla cupcake with a fruity glaze seems to protrude through the flavours. There is a lot going on in this whisky, with every sip you get another layer of flavour. The last thing you pick up is a butterscotch flavour or perhaps a spiced banana loaf.

The finish is quite short it has to be said but it is smooth and there is a residual oiliness left in the mouth that is not unpleasant.

Just go buy this whisky, you won’t be disappointed.


The Singleton of Dufftown

Seldom does a whisky tick all the boxes for me, but one that certainly does that is the Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old. A whisky of excellent temperament that is every bit as versatile as it is enjoyable to drink.

Hailing from a classic and world renowned area for whisky production, the Singleton of Dufftown is one in a series of Singleton expressions; the Singleton label being a benchmark for balanced character and smooth richness. The statement on the bottle fair sums it up: “Perfectly balanced. Naturally rich and smooth.”

This is also a whisky that I believe is greatly underrated and probably little known. It is priced incredibly reasonably and can be found around the £35 mark at many online whisky shops. Don’t confuse the 12 year old Singleton of Dufftown for the other expressions though; the more common “tailfire” and “spey cascade”, though pleasant, are not a spot on the 12 year old.

The colour says rich and bold with depth of flavour. Not so dark as to suggest excessive caramel but not light as to allude to sharper, possibly younger malt. Its a deep, bronzed straw colour with shades similar to a dry cider.

On the nose this whisky is not at all sharp, the spirit isn’t overwhelming and allows a better aroma to be leisurely found in the glass. It’s delicately peachy and light crisp fruits with specks of spice dotted around, a hint of oak is suggested after a wee while and smooth aroma of spices and caramelised apples caress the nose and allow a whiff of vanilla to come through in the background.

The tasting is where this whisky really shines, and rightly so. A smooth flavour of spices, toasted almonds and caramelised apples lap over the tongue and allow a suggestion of nutmeg and vanilla to bounce onto the palate. Notes of molasses, burnt sugar, stewed pears and a hint of apple wood smoke dot the finish which is long and smooth.

A slightly chocolatey finish but oh so smooth and warming. If likened to a chocolate bar this whisky could be described as a fruit and nut bar.

Utterly gorgeous and full of well rounded flavour I couldn’t recommend this whisky enough. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve tried it.

Winter’s Cold, Winter’s Gold

Following on from our Dalwhinnie interview post earlier this week it seemed only proper to have a wee dram of a Dalwhinnie to follow; the Winter’s Gold Dalwhinnie is a lovely floral honeyed dram that has classic Dalwhinnie character with a little experimental flair.

Unlike most whisky this dram is best suited to be drunk in the cold, recommended to be put in the freezer before sipping the goldy nectar (at least that’s what I’ve heard). I must admit the idea of drinking ice cold whisky didn’t seem like my cup of tea (or whisky) and I would love to tell you I am reviewing this whisky ice cold from the freezer; but I’m not. The whisky is a cool room temperature and being tasted exactly the same way I do with all scotch; neat, allowed to breathe and in a nice tasting glass.

It has to be said this malt has a lovely colour. A darkened straw colour with a subtle strawberry blonde (ginger) tinge. Slightly darker and more caramelised in colour than the standard 15 year old.

The aromas from the spirit are lovely and fresh. Apple and pear with floral background notes adorn a honey nose. There is also a slight spiciness which you don’t get so much with 15 year, the delicate nature has been given a little bit more muscle with the Winter’s Gold.

On the palate those floral fruity notes are apparent straight away, a hint of vanilla comes through and there’s definitely some heather honey following on the palate. There is a slight hint of peaty smokiness that adds a little sweetness to the flavour and gives a cinder toffee apple vibe.

The finish is smooth, oaky esters come through on the finish and the combination of cask choices play a nice part in leaving a spiciness on the tongue. There is also a wee suggestion of good quality cigar tobacco in the finish, surprising but a lovely little unexpected gift.

This is one of my favourite Dalwhinnie malts. The price makes it a must buy, most supermarkets will stick this at around the £25 mark. A lovely moderately complex dram that will suit most whisky drinkers from the newbie to the refined connoisseur.


Inside Dalwhinnie

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the Brand Home Manager, Ewan Mackintosh, from Dalwhinnie Distillery. Here he shares his thoughts upon whisky production, his favourite whiskies and offers some insight into what it’s like working at Scotland’s coldest distillery.
Ewan, tell us a little about your role here?
So, I’m the Brand Home Manager here at the Dalwhinnie distillery and I’ve been here for 8 years now. I look after all the visitors that come to the distillery, so around 50,000 people a year. Visitors will come for tours of the distillery and for tastings and I make sure all that goes smoothly.
I’m also the on-call duty manager every 1 week in 5 for the whole site here at Dalwhinnie and our sister distillery at Blair Athol.
What’s the most enjoyable part of working at the Dalwhinnie distillery?
Loads of reasons, great people. There’re loads of great folk to work with. The first day at work Maureen Stronach, who is now retired, was showing me round and she is the third generation to work at the distillery. She was born in what is now the Diageo office and she still lives in one of the distillery cottages. Amazing because her grandparents, parents, brother and her son, Stephen, all worked or work at the distillery. Again, that same first day she was showing me around the distillery and one of the still men shouts down the stairs “It’s bad luck to cross on the stairs, my mother said it’s bad luck to cross on the stairs, come away up before.” So, we went up the stairs into the control room and Maureen says, “That was my brother, Hamish.” You know there is just a nice family feel to the distillery, lots of heritage and family connections which makes it a lovely place to work.
How did you get into the whisky industry?
Well I worked in Islay for a year and then Oban. I did a stint at Lagavulin and Caol ila and then an opportunity opened here, so I took it. Interestingly, people always say that it must have been very remote on Islay but in many ways, it is more remote at Dalwhinnie. You know on Islay it’s only a 20-minute flight from Glasgow so you’re quite close to civilisation but at Dalwhinnie if the weather is bad, heavy snow fall or anything, you’re cut off and it can feel pretty isolated.
My first job was in France and I was approached by a company called Maison du Whisky and they were looking for a sales rep to go round the Scottish, Irish and English bars in Paris to sell whisky to them. I remember being on the outskirts of Paris in a borough called Malakoff and going to a warehouse where we selected 12 bottles of whisky to use as sample bottlings. These bottles were then tied over the bars of my bicycle and I cycled round the bars selling them whisky. A great job for a 21 year old I’d recommend it.
What would you say is the most special thing about Dalwhinnie as a distillery?
Definitely the location. It’s the coldest and highest distillery in Scotland and it’s also the coldest village in Britain. This means that the water from the hills is always icy cold which is what makes our distillation process so unique. What we’re looking for is what we call a “short copper conversation” where the spirit is condensed.
What is your favourite single malt whisky just now?
Favourite just now is the exclusive distillery edition that you can only get on site. It’s a triple cask matured Dalwhinnie which is just lovely. First, you’re tasting the 15 year and then there’s so many layers of sherry and American oak.
What characteristics do you look for in a whisky?
Interesting one, it’ll depend on a number of things. As a rule of thumb, I prefer lighter whiskies during the day, delicate flavours just after work and then a heavily peated or sherried malt after dinner in the evening. That being said, I am quite partial to a JB and ice. Tall glass, on the beach sipping a long whisky, nice one. I guess for me the characteristics depend very much on the occasion.
Who is your most favourite, famous whisky drinker?
I was fortunate enough to meet Dave Broom and he was on a whisky course that I was on for a week. It was great getting to hear him speak about whisky.
Are there any competitors’ whiskies that can be compared to a Dalwhinnie single malt? Any that you feel are in the same vein and have similar body?
No, absolutely not. Nothing even comes close.
What’s your ideal setting for drinking a dram?
Lots of different settings make whisky drinking more enjoyable whether it be halfway up a Munro with the wind blowing and knee deep in snow, a warm dram then is great, or just being by a fireside. I think the key is that you’re amongst friends; that’s essential.
If you could create a whisky, where would you start it and what would the finished product be like?
So I’d start with malted barley from the Black Isle and then use the Tininich mash tun with Lagavulin washbacks. Definitely the still house in Caol Ila, there’s a really wonderful view and I would have to mature it in Dalwhinnie because you lose less to the angels. Oh and water from Dalwhinnie as well.
Sometimes I like the layering and complexity that different casks add to the spirit, but I think I’d really like to let the distillery characteristic shine through, I’m not sure what it would be, but I’d love to try it, so I’d just put the spirit in a refill American oak cask.
One whisky that is on your bucket list to try?
Royal Lochnagar have recently launched a distillery exclusive bottling and Claire Fraser the distillery manager there recommends it. Haven’t tried it yet as it was only released a few weeks ago but it will hopefully be very rewarding.
Do you have any highly recommended single malts that are under the £100 mark?
At the moment we’ve got Distillers Edition Dalwhinnie here which is a great buy at around the £60 figure so that would be my go to recommended malt.
Finally, what is your favourite food accompaniment to whisky?
Chocolate, definitely chocolate. I do like whisky and cheese too, but the best pairing is chocolate.