Big Peat - The Gold Edition - 25 years old

Big Peat - The Gold Edition - 25 yr old

Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing

Year of Distillation: 1992

Age: 25yr old

ABV 52.1% 

Bottle size: 70cl

Price: £165

Nose 21/25 - salty sea breeze, seaweed filled rock pools, freshly roasted hog.

Taste 22/25 - very sweet, almost toffee apple and then a sweaty saltiness.  A drying spice a bit like cracked black pepper.

Finish 22/25 - a deep mellow gingerbread, coupled with some all spice and woodiness.

Balance 23/25 - if you want a high quality well aged vatted malt from Islay then look no further.

Total 88/100

The regular releases of Big Peat and his Christmas variant are always very reliable and accessible.  This takes it to a different level and bodes well for the two releases still to come in this series.

Glengoyne 21 Year Old

Given the 100% sherry casks used by Glengoyne sherry is very much to the fore. If I were to criticise it then a slightly higher strength, say 46% could lift this dram to a higher plain.

ABV 43 %

Bottle size: 70cl

Price: £125

Nose 20/25 - sherry (obviously!) barley sugar, stewed apples

Taste 21/25 - honey on brown toast, sherry(!) and a hint of sulphur

Finish 21 /25 - longish although you might expect more from this age of spirit. Throughly enjoyable.

Balance 23 /25 - a top quality dram, ideal for a special occasion such a Christmas

Total 85/100



Rock Oyster Cask Strength

Rock Oyster Cask Strength

  • Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
  • Age: No age statement 
  • ABV 57.4%
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £ 50
  • Nose 21/25 - more BBQ pork and fire embers, hints of charcoal 
  • Taste 23/25 - sweet just like the original but much more spicy, lots of pepper and even touch of chilli and perhaps even salted caramel 
  • Finish 22/25 - raising the ABV by more than 10% has a real impact here moving it longer and deeper, not quite "Big Peat" but heading in that direction.
  • Balance 23 /25 - I liked the original but I like this even more, it's deeper darker and much more complex
  • Total 89/100

Rock Oyster Cask Strength; is the recently launched turbo charged version of last years Rock Oyster. It contains whisky distilled on Islay, Arran, Orkney and Jura, and it has all the coastal qualities from the original Rock Oyster but turned up to 11.

Rock Oyster

Rock Oyster

  • Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
  • Age: No age statement 
  • ABV 46.8%
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £40
  • Nose 20/25 - whispy mild smoke not a raging campfire
  • Taste 23/25 - sweet, salty brine with a citrus twang and a twist of pepper
  • Finish 20/25 - given what is a fairly generous ABV its a mid length finish, you'd want to drink it later in the evening.
  • Balance 22/25 - I lift my hat to Douglas Laing once again Fred, Cara and Jan know how to construct a great Vatted Malt
  • Total 85 /100

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster is a small batch bottling created using malts including those distilled on the Islands of Jura, Islay, Arran and Orkney.  It's bottled at 46.8% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration.

Burns Tasting 2016

It's been a quiet January  but we made up for lost time on Tuesday evening when Glasgow's Whisky Club held a combined AGM and Burns night in the Bon Accord and it was a busy evening!  We had traditional Burns fare with haggis, neeps, tatties etc. (all fantastic!). We then enjoyed eight (yes eight!) interesting and varied drams (photo's below) including a Clynelish 7 yr old, the 8 year old The Quiet Man, the Benromach 5 year old, a 23 year old Aberlour from Whiskybroker, a 22 year old Bruichladdich from Dream Drams, "Portsoy Boy" a private bottling of Glenglassaugh, the Kilkerran Sherry Wood (work in progress) and bringing up the rear the 2014 Kilchoman (Land Rover) Tour bottling.

Dram of the night? "Portsoy Boy" a private bottling of Glenglassaugh from a port cask which was donated by a club member.

Moral of the night?  If you love whisky and can pool resources to buy a cask go for it you could find yourself with a right cracker!

Bowmore Small Batch

  • Age: No age statement
  • ABV 40 % 
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £37
  • Nose 21 /25 - Initially engine oil then clifftop seaweed, rock pools and a hint of vanilla
  • Taste 20 /25 - Spicy cinnamon and a fair amount of peat, lots of warmth from cloves and black pepper followed by a fair bit of sherbet.
  • Finish 21 /25 -  bitter, salty with some chocolate lime.
  • Balance 22 /25 - very nicely constructed, short to medium but rather enjoyable.
  • Total 84 /100

Bowmore Small Batch is a very accessible Islay single malt, it’s matured in both first-fill and second-fill bourbon barrels. A great introduction to Bowmore's lovely smoky flavour profile - the Small Batch it’s light and well balanced with plenty of honey, coconut and vanilla notes.

Connemara Original

  • Age: No age statement 
  • ABV 40 % 
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £34
  • Nose 18/25 - apples, Edinburgh Rock and banana chips.
  • Taste 17/25 - not all that complex, there’s peat but not much sophistication, pretty dull really.
  • Finish 20 /25 - it hangs around in the mouth for a while but doesn’t really improve or become much more interesting,
  • Balance 16 /25 - frankly no it really isn’t balanced.  It’s quite confused and not really clear what it’s attempting to achieve.
  • Total 71 /100

A double distilled Irish whisky (not the normal triple distilled so common in Ireland) along with peat should be a curiosity, a challenge and interesting but I came away somewhat disappointed.

The Ardmore Legacy

  • Age: No age statement
  • ABV 40% 
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £30
  • Nose 20 /25 - Vanilla, honey and a hint of marshmallow.  Gentle toffee apple and very light smokey notes.
  • Taste 19 /25 - Pear and citrus and possibly a hint of custard cream
  • Finish 18 /25 - it’s lightly smokey and extremely short but and frankly it seems a little on the young side.
  • Balance 21 /25 - you’ll not scare anyone off peat with this dram but really I doubt you’d really convince anyone that it makes a big difference.
  • Total 78 /100

Emerging from the village of Kennethmont in Aberdeenshire the Ardmore Legacy is bottled at 40% and is chill filtered. It’s made up of with 80% peated and 20% unpeated malt.  It’s a pleasant dram, light and easy to drink. I’d say it’s fairly unremarkable but inoffensive.

Laphroaig Select

  • Age: No age statement 
  • ABV 40 % 
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £34
  • Nose 22 /25 - well peat that goes without saying but in a fairly gentle way, burnt toast a hint of marmalade, sea salt,  charcoal and salted beef.
  • Taste 21 /25 - cigar ash, grapefruit mint, green apple and damp hay.
  • Finish 22 /25 - of medium length, the peat rumbles away.
  • Balance 22 /25 - overall it’s nicely balanced.  it’s clearly aimed and Laphroaig newbies as it’s far more accessible than the mega TCP releases.  It won’t necessarily suit the Laphroaig Loons but I rather enjoyed it.
  • Total 87 /100

Select takes it name from the wide variety of casks selected a mix of European cask Oloroso sherry butts, straight American white oak (non-filled with bourbon), PX seasoned hogsheads, Quarter Casks and finally first fill Bourbon Casks

Oak Cross

  • Independent Bottler: Compass Box
  • ABV 43 %
  • Bottle size: 70 cl
  • Price: £ 38
  • Nose 20/25 - vanilla ice ream, honey and lemon. Quite light weight with a hint of green apple. Very distant mild gingerbread, you'd be excused for thinking this was a grain rather than a malt.
  • Taste 21 /25 - as light as the nose but spicer, still sweet but a sort of roibos tea tannin in the background as well as some fruity dried fig.
  • Finish 20 /25 - remains sweet, loads of oak, here at last you get the malt pushing through. Relatively short.
  • Balance 23 /25 - this is where John Glaser's expert blending shines, he has a deft touch.
  • Total 84 /100

Review - Benromach 10 year old

Yet another dead bottle!  This really is a spring clear out! Rally's whisky of the year 2014 it's matured for the first nine years in 4/5 bourbon and 1/5 sherry casks before a final year in sherry casks.

There not much I can say that hasn't been said by others, its been met with almost universal acclaim and its not hard to see why as it's a cracking dram, with a clear age statement and a very reasonable price.  It's become my favourite everyday dram and I'll certainly be buying it again.

  • ABV 43% vol
  • 70cl
  • Price £35
  • Nose 23/25 - lots of malt, a hint of sherry and clean oak coming through late on.
  • Taste 24/25 - again plenty of malt, ginger, some smoke in the background; so much more than you'd expect from a 10 year old.
  • Finish 22/25 - medium dry, with a continued spicy under note. it's not overly long but remember this is only 10 years old!
  • Balance 23/25 - great nose, mouth and finish it's almost impossible not to enjoy this.
  • Total 92/100

Review - Velvet Fig

Another one bites the dust. Another favourite lays its bottle on the line. This Weymess Malts limited release of 6,000 100% oloroso sherry cask matured whisky has served me exceedingly well.  Sherry cask whisky is the direction that I lean and this is an excellent example.  Could it have been better.? Well perhaps an age statement?  But that aside a very good quality dram.

  • ABV 46% vol
  • 70cl
  • Price £40
  • Nose 23/25 - sweet sherry all the way with lots of dried and candied fruits.
  • Taste 20/25 - spicy fruit cake or an exceptionally mild curry.
  • Finish 20/25 - if it was instrument then this is a big low bass, fuelled by a lump of ginger.
  • Balance 21/25 - slightly muddied, more SD than HD, could be slightly better defined.
  • Total 84/100

Review - Big Peat Christmas 2014 Edition

This review has been a long time coming. Why? Because I've been savouring every last drop and because I've simply been drinking it for enjoyment rather than for review purposes. Alas the bottle is now dead.... Roll on Christmas 2015!  It's a tradition because it's good!

Douglas Laing's ubiquitous blended malt always gets super charged for the festive season, it's full of Islay whiskies from the likes of Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and even the now closed Port Ellen distillery. A superb balance of smoke and sweetness.

  • ABV 55.7% vol
  • 70cl
  • Price £45
  • Nose 23/25 - smoke, BBQ pork, smoked haddock, toasted brown bread.
  • Taste 23/25 - salted pistachio nuts, lime sherbet sweets, chalk.
  • Finish 22/25 - smoke ( obviously!!) and dirty potatoes (in a nice way!)
  • Balance 22/25 - benefits from the increased ABV, easy drinking despite the ABV.
  • Total 90/100

Jolly Toper Tasting - Glasgow's Whisky Club

Last night Glasgow's Whisky Club had the pleasure of welcoming the

Jolly Toper

(Mark Davidson) to the Iron Horse in Glasgow for our regular monthly tasting. We really were spoiled with a fantastic selection of drams as Mark offered his interpretation of the "Classic Drams". My personal favourite was a Springbank which had a nose of: raisins, demerara sugar, rum and seaweed - sadly this wasn't a commercial bottling so I'll just need to remember it fondly.

  • Bladnoch (SMWS)
  • Age 24
  • 53.3%
  • £101
  • Nose:  fruity, green.
  • Palate: highland, apple, liquorice, ginger, bananas.
  • Clynelish - Cadenhead (small batch)
  • Age 21
  • 51.6%
  • £65
  • Nose: vanilla, jelly fruit, sweet.
  • Palate: Dry, salty, chilli.
  • Mortlach -Gordon & MacPhail
  • Age 15
  • 43%
  • £40
  • Comments: meaty and sweet.
  • Highland Park - Cadenhead's
  • Age 22
  • 59.6%
  • £85
  • Nose: honey, sweet, sherry.
  • Palate: complex, fruity, earthy.
  • Caol Ila - Cadenhead's
  • Age 30
  • 56.2%
  • £150
  • Nose: spicy, apples, green tea, road tar.
  • Palate: a lovely subtly, smooth Islay.

Review - Strathmill 23 Year Old 1990 (cask 4241) - Dimensions (Duncan Taylor)

This Strathmill spent 23 years maturing in a single cask, from August 1990 to February 2014. After all that time, the angels had left just 103 bottles worth of single malt Scotch whisky for Duncan Taylor to independently bottle for the Dimensions range.

  • ABV 49.2% vol
  • 70cl
  • Price £144
  • Nose 23/25 - a slight and beautiful gentle coconut, sweet vanilla and a hint of  peppermint, cinnamon.
  • Taste 21/25 - an amazing contrast to the nose, you get clobbered with alcohol initially, then there's black pepper, sweetness initially then followed by an extremely dryness. A lovely cleanliness.
  • Finish 21/25 - a really long complex finish, it gently fades away but really slowly this would be excellent as after dinner dram.
  • Balance 22/25 - this is a high quality dram, it's been well looked after for it's 23 years and is worth it's fairly high price. That said you could find other drams of a similar quality at a lower price point.
  • Total 87/100

Whisky Writing

There are plenty of whisky books out there so how do choose which to buy?  For me it's often down to either personal recommendation or from making an assessment from available interviews with the authors concerned. So I thought I'd highlight a couple of books I've read recently which may be of interest to you:

Proof ~ The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers 
The fact that the author is a writer and editor on "Wired" magazine should be the first clue that this isn't a collection of random tasting notes.  This is a serious (but still fun) book that focuses heavily on the complexity, history and future of alcohol production.  Whilst a little heavy (I never took chemistry at university!) it's an absorbing read.  Frankly I'd say it's essential reading for any serious whisky head.  For a taster listen to Mark Gillespie's interview with Adam Rogers in Whiskycast Episode 482.

Bourbon Strange by Charles K Cowdrey
As a Scot I have to admit my knowledge of bourbon is limited, it's less available here and not as heavily marketed. So how do you find out more without having the filter of marketing applied?  I'd suggest you start by reading this book.  Chuck Cowdrey seems to be a bit of a "character" and an independent thinker.  Here you get huge chunks of history, some science, a bit market commentary and good straight talking.
For a flavour of the book and the author you can listen to Mark Gillespie interviewing Charles Cowdrey in Whiskycast Episode 492.

Glengoyne Distillery Tour

Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a tour of

Glengoyne Distillery

organised by the fine people at

Billingtons of Lenzie

. We were one of the first (the first?) groups to take the distillery's new Malt Master Tour.  After a taste of their 12 year old we got an in-depth tour of the distillery  from our excellent guide Pauline. Then it was off to the Sample Room to taste five different 17 year old casks before constructing our individual, unique, cask strength, un-chill filtered 200ml bottling to take home. It was superb fun and extremely interesting.  If you're interested in whisky and want more than a standard distillery tour then this is highly recommended.  Before leaving we popped into the distillery shop and I expanded my sherry bomb collection by picking up a bottle of their 21 year old so you can expect some tasting notes in a future blog!   

Burns Tasting 2015

It's been a little while since my last post but that's not to say that whisky has been far from my life! After an introduction at the tale end of 2014 I'm now a "proper" member of

Glasgow's Whisky Club

and what fun it is!!  I'm still finding my way and getting to know fellow members but its clear that they're well informed, organised, friendly and welcoming. Their January "Barrel Night" was held in it's regular venue of the

Bon Accord

in North Street and in light of it's proximity to Burns Night it had a Burns theme with haggis, needs, tatties etc. (all excellent BTW).  We were served six interesting and varied drams (photo's below) including the first Dutch whisky that I've tasted.

The least popular of the evening?  Ardbeg Kildalton 

The most popular? Kilchoman Port Cask 

Lessons learnt? Expensive does not necessarily mean good and port cask whisky is extremely interesting!

Glasgow Whisky Festival 2014 - a recollection

No review today, in fact no reviews yet this month!!  Why? I have the mother of all colds :-( and have had for almost the entire month. The only whisky consumed has been for medicinal purposes and any attempt at nosing or tasting notes would be simply pointless.  So I thought I'd cast my mind back to the Glasgow Whisky Festival 2014 which was held last month in The Arches. I had a simply superb afternoon (as always) enjoying great drams with good friends in a relaxed, fun and lively atmosphere.  My personal highlights were the newly released Velvet Fig from Wemyss Malts which was just as good as I had hoped it would be (I bought a bottle so I think I liked it!) and watching Tincup whiskey (which I'd already tasted so knew was good) winning over just about everyone who tasted it!

Don't just take my word for the great time had by all head on over to The Whisky Moose and Tom's Whisky Reviews to read their thoughts on it.

Review - Timorous Beastie

So here we have Douglas Laing's follow up to last years remarkable Scallywag, this time taking its name from Robert Burns poem "To a mouse". I loved their little mutt last year and rushed to get hands on this when they released it.  Is it as good as Scallywag? No it's not. Is it a bad whisky? Hell no, it's a great dram it's just that its flavour profile doesn't appeal to me as much.  It's head and shoulders above so many dull, safe and mundain bottles you can buy. I recently gave a bottle to a friend as a gift and he totally loved the packaging and design before he'd even tasted the whisky. Their long standing brand Big Peat has a similar effect. In terms of marketing I believe Douglas Laing are now very much market leaders, just as they are in terms of independent bottlers.  I hear rumours of another new brand that should hit the market very shortly and I greatly look forward to its arrival.

  • ABV 46.8% vol
  • 70cl
  • Price £36
  • Nose 23/25 - a big nose, sweet heather honey, malt, a flower border in full bloom.
  • Taste 22/25 - oohmp! Caramel, walnut, brown sugar, perhaps even orange. Then acohol burn! 
  • Finish 22/25 - long,  perfect after dinner dram.
  • Balance 22/25 - a cracking hearty, beefy highland dram.
  • Total 89/100