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.

Slainte

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.

Slainte

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.

Slainte

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.

I’ll take Aldi Whisky you have… 


Just a quick wee post to recommend another superb Glen Marnoch single malt. This time the 12 year old speyside.

Lovely dark golden syrup colour contrasts with pleasant labelling in this expression (the bottle matters).

Warm, spicy, vanilla and dark stewed fruits on the nose with a hint of rum Christmas cake on the nose. 

On the palate a real richness of flavour, notes of currants, vanilla pods, woody esters and spices.

The finish is long and smooth with those fruity spice notes lingering on the tongue. 

My money would put this as being from the Mortlach distillery, but again just a guess. A wonderful single malt scotch that is punching well above its weight. For less than £20 from Aldi I would highly recommend it.
P.S. Christmas has brought some lovely new additions to the cabinet which I shall be reviewing soon. Keep a look out and have a great New Year! Bliadne mhath ur! 

Down to Deanston

Deanston distillery in the southern region of the Highland range of whisky production is quite a unique distillery. It prides itself on its hand crafted spirit and locally sourced ingredients that go into producing a delicate, honeyed and fruity malt.

The Deanston virgin oak whisky is the main player in Deanston’s malt range that provides a gorgeous array of fruity aromas and flavours. This edition has a light golden straw colour that errs towards the shade of a quality apple juice.

Apple orchards, apricots and vanilla make a gorgeous aroma on the nose. Filling this out there is a malty oaky aroma that spreads out the initial acidic green apple smell.

The apple flavours on the palate are encompassed with a spicy warmness as though the apple has been stewed with cinnamon and enveloped in a vanilla crumble. Those lovely oak aromas linger on the palate and a sweet maltiness draws through to the finish. 

On the finish those apple flavours linger and then contrast into a more citrus style flavour. A hint of ginger and delicate spices smooth out the finish which is long and warming; the colour doesn’t match the richness of this whisky, I’d expect a slightly darker malt.

A natural colour, un-chill filtered whisky that has a lot of complex flavours going on and makes sparkling taste notes on the tongue. Hugely enjoyable, a malt that sits towards the citrusy, light, honeyed area of the whisky spectrum.

This whisky sits around the middle of our £100 budget at around £45. Lots of flavours for not a huge sum, this whisky is a lovely and unique addition to a collection.

Slainte 

Whisky Aldi Long

Glen Marnoch is Aldi’s limited release editions of single malt scotch whisky. Whilst this is not the name of a distillery,  or even a Glen for that matter, it does brand a new line of affordable single malt scotch whiskies from across different whisky making areas in Scotland. 

This year the Speyside single malt Glen Marnoch was awarded gold in international whisky awards and sparked somewhat of a revolution in the scotch whisky production industry. Quality single malt didn’t have to cost the earth, in fact, it cost about the same as a cheap blend. For the steal price of <£18 you can purchase a bottle of Highland, Speyside or Islay single malt whisky in the Glen Marnoch range.

Here we will have a taste of the Glen Marnoch Islay Limited Release. 

Whilst the origin distillery of the whisky is secret, this Islay is very typical of a classic Islay; peated, sweet, salty, smokey gold.

The colour of this Islay is quite light, with an orange liqueur vibe through it. Think old style incandescent light bulb and that glow is what you get from this whisky. 

On the nose there is a smooth whiff of the peat that doesn’t overpower but makes its presence known by letting off a smokey sweetness. Quite a gentle spirit on the nose and doesn’t feel like it’s prickling.

The palate is smooth and smokey. Quite a charred fruity sweetness like grilled caramelised pears. Layers of spice, brandy snaps, candied peel and a wisp of peat ash. A delicate but forthright malt that has laps of flavour.

The finish is a little sharp to begin with but mellows out and leaves a light smokey citrus flavour; think christingle that’s caught on fire and that would perfectly describe the finish (maybe not a pretty picture but the flavour is spot on). 

Well, this whisky certainly does more than what it says on the tin (bottle). A malt that has a lot of flavour and very character specific flavours to a typical Islay (my hunch is that this is from Caol Ila distillery but you’d just have to taste it find out, your guess is as good as mine). For the price this is definitely a dram worth every penny. Rich, smokey peat flavours with a sweet citrus finish, this is a whisky that deserves going in anyone’s collection. 

Fair to say supermarket malts can stand up to some of the most prolific distillery releases, if bottled right; Aldi’s Glen Marnoch have hit the nail on the head with this one. 

Whisky Winner 

Grabbing the lovely Bowmore No. 1 in time for Christmas is @whiskeynut from westmeathwhiskeyworld.wordpress.com

Here is the winning comment that beautifully presents your favourite single malt whiskey (its not scotch, but superbly well said and a whiskey that surely has made its mark):

“Trying to pick out a favourite bottle from the myriad of marvelous malts that have been released this year is no easy task.I’ve gone for one that breaks the barriers.. This expression breaks the barriers of accessibility. Specialist spirit shops nor niche internet sites are shunned in favour of the High Street and shopping centres. This expression broke the barrier of affordability. Such aged bottles normally attract a triple digit price tag. Not so this cheeky little number. This expression broke the barriers of boundaries. From Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Belfast to Ballincollig, eager fans lit up the internet with their tales of trials and tribulations in obtaining a bottle. From distillery owners to everyday shoppers this bottle quickly became a must have item. It was from a country many had not yet sampled as it had been absent from that particular marketplace before. And then the reviews came in; ‘Fabulous fruit, dry oaky tannins,deep spices, complex and long lasting’ The whiskey sensation of the year for me has to be……. Aldi 26yo Irish Reserve. Quality malt for the masses. Or at least those that were lucky enough to bag one!”

Well done sir. I will be in touch shortly with details to get your prize!

A huge thank you to all of you who entered, I’ve heard some very good recommendations and it was tough deciding upon a winner! Thank you! 

Slainte