Sunday, December 26, 2010

Løitens Aquavit til Jul!

Loitens Single Cask Aquavit
barrel/fat #1627
Sept 2005-Oktober 2010
41.5% abv

Who says Dr. Whisky doesn't bring you exclusives any more? I imagine I am the only English language blogger posting about Loitens new single barrel aquavit, matured for five years in ex-sherry casks.

This is just one of 950 bottles and a total of 5 casks were released in 2010: numbers 1950, 5315, 6125, 8330, and this one, 1627.

Very whisky-esque labelling style and language, even looks like a Bruichladdich or even Mackmyra bottle, although probably also similar to many of the cognacs the Norwegians drink so much of. Nonetheless, a unique and new proposition for the aquavit story where once the spicebill differentiated aquavit from aquavit, this one celebrates the maturation.

Thank you, Espen!
To see all aquavit prescribed by yours truly, click HERE.


Rye and caraway seeds with the sweetness of corn or freshly baked bread in the background.

Oily and sweet, with a more mildly spiced mid palate than most aquavit and an increasing wave of butter, cloves, and caraway.


All the standard signs scream "hello I am aquavit" from the glass, all the quality cues on the label scream "respect me like scotch whisky" (it even says it is not chill-filtered!), and the liquid is rich and classy, deserving more than the typical SKOL and down. We all sipped slowly and shared ooos and aaaahs. Although that could have been a reaction to the heavenly ribbe (pork belly).

Best served at room temperature.

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

It's that time of year where everyone creates a list and checks it twice, even people we are too old to still believe in.

In past years I have posted on the best Christmas whiskies and whisky-related gifts (Dr. Whisky's Christmas Picks 2007, 2008, and 2009) and it seems my whisky brothers and sisters have provided plenty of such recommendations and "best-of" lists already this year (Danish Whisky Blog, Whisky Wire (12 drams), Whisky Israel, Whisky 2.0, Scotch Hobbyist,, Jason, and the advert-riddled Whisky Boys).

It is Christmas and New Years is around the corner but before I can really get ready for 2011, there are I few things I need to leave in 2010.

Back in September John Hansell announced that he would dedicate a week of posts to "Things That Piss Me Off". The list was unfortunately cut short by a tragedy in the family, but John picked up where he left off earlier this week by listing his disappointments in the whisky world over the past year. As usual on Wha
t Does John Know?, Hansell's well-intended encouragement brought on a barrage of more than 120 consutructive comments, par-for-the-course cynicism, and asinine accusations, with comments ranging from the valid to the needlessly vitriolic.

It is not as if there is any shortage of opinion on WDJK, but this time all the negativity really upset me. With more than 15,000 comments over 1,000+ posts, WDJK is the most vibrant home of whisky opinion online, but I see it increasingly becoming an archive of anger, animosity and accusation on the whiskyweb. I am not saying there are not things that need to be critiqued or that there are not things that piss me off in the world of whisky as well, but I just feel that in this leading community things are weighted on the negative far more than the positive. Not in a single post that I could trawl were comments free from mention of some perceived evil imputed against some element within the whisky industry: marketing, Jim Murray, pricing, Diageo, the SWA, travel retail/duty free, and many, MANY more. Is the world of whisky really that bad?

I love the way Serge Valentin and the brains behind Whisky Fun register many of the same sentiments we see pop up on WDJK with humour and a light-heartedness that keeps it all in perspective. Their recent hilarious stab at whisydom HERE made me laugh and addressed similar criticisms in a much more endearing way without attacking any brands, any individuals, or getting anyone fired. Funny. And FUN. I suppose that's why it's not called What Does Serge Know?

So when making a list this season, rather than creating one about the THINGS THAT PISS ME OFF, here are a few THINGS I LOVE ABOUT WHISKY that no marketer, critic, or consumer can spoil for me.

The Taste and the Taste experience
With well over a hundred different distilleries' liquid available to drink, Scotch whisky is the most complex and diverse spirit in the world. Who could get tired of that?

Think of an amazing tasting experience this year. My guess it will be hard for you to pick only one.

Probably a hundred examples for me in 2010 alone, but I will share one recent experience. I was out in London with a small group of whisky friends/geeks and after hours of evaluatory tasting and then many hours of recreational drinking we thought it would be wise to indulge in some competitive tasting. We hopped a cab and headed to a bar we could be certain could recreate our own version of the Feis Ile blind nosing. We put together an ad hoc flight of 10 whiskies (including Port Charlotte and Jura), blacked out the glasses so colour was imperceptible, and began trying to discern which was which.

Having sex and playing pond hockey aside, this is one the most fun activities I can think of. But I am a fucking geek. The liquid spoke to our senses, played with our minds, created physiological reactions around the table while we sniffed and hemmed and hawed. The experience was so exhilarating, the aromas so diverse, the physical effects of the aromas and tastes so different from one another. I was reminded how piney Jura is, how distinct Bowmore is, how splendid a core expression Lagavulin 16yo is, how amazing whisky is.

The Industry-
I have always figured that because whisky grew out of an agricultural tradition rather than a commercial industrial one, it operates differently than any other industry in the world. And it does. And I love that.

Thirty Four - My age, yes, but more importantly this is the number of companies that own the distilleries of Scotland. Beyond that there are dozens of independent bottlers and blended scotch whisky brand owners. Last weekend around a few beverages, Mark Watt, Stuart Robertson, Mike Lord and I counted 101 operating distilleries. Find me another spirit or any single commercial export produced in a single country with that much diversity of ownership.

With this kind of shared market, the challenge for distillers is to show their difference. And we love this diversity, tasting different makes, different casks, different ages. Why then are we so critical of innovation? Sure, in one instance we criticise the SWA for upholding regulations based on precendent and tradition and in another we criticise distillers for trying new cask sizes, new cask finishes, new barley strains, etc., and dismiss these innovations as gimmicks. Isn't it exhausting being cynical on both sides of every coin? Spend 5 minutes with Jim McEwan, David Stewart, Bill Lumsden or anyone else with a track record of innovation in Scotch whisky and tell me you still believe they are more concerned with gimmicks than genuinely trying to make great whisky. I am open to being convinced otherwise.

Tours - I remember being quite surprised that distilleries, alcohol factories, allowed or even welcomed tours. Today more than 30 distilleries make a point of welcoming visitors to come see the ins and outs of their production line. Can you imagine this transparency from other billion dollar industries? The food industry? the automotive industry? the pharamceutical industry? the shoe industry? Sure, there are exceptions and some of these examples do welcome visitors but think of the adjustments they had to make before being able to welcome visitors. When Glenfiddich opened its doors to tours 40 years ago they didn't line the outside of their washbacks with oregon pine (I guess because they are already pine, but you get my point), build a fake "mini" distillery to give a false impression, or try to become a museum/science center rather than just be a production site. Now, the cynical among us only see tour guides reciting their scripts of marketing bullocks, but I see a conscious effort to ground the romantic in the real from Glengoyne to Glenmorangie, and feel fortunate to see inside any of these distilleries.

The Whisky Family
Scotch whisky is one of the most commercially competitive industries in the world but the further you get from the shop shelves/the closer you get to the folks making the stuff, the more imperceptible is that competition.

As a William Grant employee, I have colleagues who have been working here since they were teenagers, started as few as 5 to as many as 50 years ago. It's funny how some up at Glenfiddich say "I love the DoubleWood" and some down at Balvenie say "I love the Solera". But it doesn't stop there. I mentioned to a few of them that I was over at Glenrothes last week. Their unanimous response? "Aye, good dram." I was over at Macallan a couple of weeks ago and in chatting to a few of the employees mentioned I worked with Balvenie. Their response? "Love the DoubleWood." In my experience, I have never heard a wine maker speak of any wine but their own, in fact, I have been told funny tales from one international wine competition organizer of the hostility between them.

Richard Paterson- The Nose (or Dicky P as we affectionately call him, behind his back of course) gets a lot of flack but I wish this industry had more of him. Yes, he is a showman but if that is a criticism for you, then you probably also dismiss John Lennon as a protest songwriter and Hitler as a great public speaker. Richard is an absolute gentleman, generous, kind, supportive, and amazingly non-partisan. Employed by Whyte & Mackay and blending Jura, Fettercairn and Dalmore, Richard talks without hesitation about Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie and others in presentations, includes them in his 40 whiskies celebrating 40 years, and in his book Goodness Nose spends chapters on distilleries he doesn't work for and includes a forward by Diageo's Paul Walsh. Richard is just one of several examples of this kind of character in the whisky world and he is my favourite uncle in this whisky family.

Sport - There is the Malt Distillers' Football Cup, there are friendly inter-distillery golf competitions, but taking place over the summer months there is a rowing league on Islay with races held in the distillery bays and in Port Ellen with over 20 teams from around the island taking part. The "dream team," as they call themselves, is made up of distillery managers Mickey Heads (Ardbeg), Duncan McGilvary (Bruichladdich), Peter Campbell (Lagavulin), Graham Logie (Port Ellen maltings) and John Campbell (Laphroaig). With those clowns in a boat together I'd be suprised anyone could pull a stroke what with all the laughter, but even if they never crossed a single finish line I just love that these things exist.

Rant over, I think. I have no point. I just felt the therapeutic need to remember what is great about whisky.

And I think I feel better. But please do not read this as an attack on WDJK or its readers, in the same week as the disappointments post was a post about what impressed most this year where readers sang praises of the greatest achievements in whiskydom over the past year. We all bitch about how things could be better. I guess I just needed to remind myself what is so amazing about the world of whisky before I can say goodbye to 2010, or more accurately, so that I can start 2011 on a positive note. And I suspect that whisky makers, brand ambassadors, marketers, and whisky makers criticized could probably use such a reminder as well.

There are more amazing things in and around whisky, but I think this is all I can be bothered to get down here. Do you have any to add?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Now to the aquavit!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #395

Bushmills 16 Three 3 wood
Bushmills 16yo
Irish Single Malt Whiskey
40% abv
$80 (USD)

Still in the snow-covered highlands. We had a short thaw, but otherwise my month in Dufftown has been a winter wonderland. Hope I get out of Aberdeen on Wednesday. Hope you get where you need to be for Christmas, too. Have a happy one, drambassadors.

The last of a string of Irish tasted here on the mission, this one comes from Ireland's oldest distillery. In this case, not only is it triple distilled but matured in three different casks: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-port. The crazy bit is that it is matured in each of these casks in succession.


Sweet and candied, raw corn on the cob, extrememly fruity, blackberry squash, blueberry buns, orange syrup.

If the nose was sweet the palate is beyond. Gummy bears, grape candy, blueberry jam. Juicy, soft, really easy to drink.


I might give this a go as my new conversion whisky, one for the folks who say "I hate whisk(e)y" or for the American whiskey drinker who has sworn off anything else. This is likely as close to flavoured whisky as is legal. In fact, blind, I would have been puzzled, for sure, probably thought it was Canadian (they can add 9.09% "other").

Worlds better than I remember the 10yo (Malt Mission #82) but I am not sure I would ever reach for this were it on my shelf. Sure, I like my sweet whiskies, but this is like kids grape juice boxes or something. If the craving struck, I would probably just enjoy a glass of grape juice and have a Talisker DE before bed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #394

whisky blog
Connemara Turf Mór
58.2% abv
$80 (USD)

Following up last week's Connemara Sherry Finish post, this is the second of their Small Batch Collection series. Launched in December, poured at The Whisky Show 2010, and featured on many-a-blog already, this Connemara is apparently the peatiest Cooley spirit ever bottled clocking in at 50ppm.

For more distillery info and to see all Connemara and Cooley had on the mission, click HERE.


Clay, lemon sponge cake and sawdust at first. Diesel, wellies, cut raw sweet potatoes, and more cake and vanilla.
Mineralic, certainly smoky, but sweet and salty with marzipan and soil. Appetising and tongue-tickling effect.


Not sure if this is noticeably smokier than standard Connemara as I have nothing on hand to compare it with, but it is definitely one for the mud-lovers. Like a civilized protester, this dram is angry about the University fees but not about to break a charity shop window, piss on Churchill, or burn a bus shelter.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #393

Connermara Sherry Finish
Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$80 (USD)

Thirty years ago, the world of Irish whiskey was essentially a monopoly with the only two distilleries, Jameson (Midleton) and Bushmills, in the hands of just one company. Today, those distilleries straddle two companies, PernodRicard and Diageo and the undeniable catalyst for this, along with the general revitalization of the category, was John Teeling, the businessman behind Irelands third distillery, Cooley.

In 1987 Teeling got in to the whiskey game, converting an old potato spirit distillery into two distilleries for pot still and colum still distillation. This inspired the big boys to get creative (for the first time in 50 years), and rode the wave of Irish whiskey's growing popularity to a success story all his own. With Locke's, Greenore, Tyrconnel, and Connemara, whisk(e)y drinkers who used to turn up their noses at Irish have firmly plopped their beaks deep in the glass (and tails between their legs).

This is the first of the Small Batch Collection from Connemara and all the bottles that they will ever make are out in the market. Once they're gone, they're gone. New release in the series launched last month and the sample just arrived (thank you, Rachel). To be tasted soon...


Baked fruits, burnt brown sugar, soft sweet impressions overall. Mossy, grassy and moist. Toffee and leather.

Toffeed, orange, spice and smoke, sherry toastiness, turning herbal or grassy again. Long, gentle finish of sherry and smoke and spirit in lovely balance.


An IWSC 2009 Gold Best in Class winner, this whiskey is an absolute treat. And drinkable in hearty sips. Dangerous.
Second opinions at
Whisky for Everyone

Malt Mission #391
Malt Mission #392
Malt Mission #394

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #392

Bushmill's Black Bush
Blended Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$35 (USD)

First thing I want to mention is THIS blog creating a whisky advent calendar, something I swore I would do "next year" every year since since 2006. It is in Swedish, and seeing as you already drink like a viking, it is about time you learned how to speak like one.

Now, back to Black Bush. No, not THIS Black Bush, the Northern Irish, award-winning blend from Ireland's oldest working distillery which has been owned by the two global spirit giants: Jameson owners Pernod Ricard (1987-2005) and Diageo 2005- present. Still practicing triple distillation of their malt whiskey, Black Bush is 20% matured grain whiskey blended with 80% malt matured in sherry-seasoned casks.

I was supposed to in Dublin today to meet with my global colleagues but the weather has scared those of us on this snow-covered island into staying put.

For all Bushmills had on the mission, click HERE.


Grass, grapes, apple cider, raisin and soft anise on the surface with brown sugar, nuts, and Christmas cake at deeper levels.

Nuts again, wood, honey, and more raisins. Simultaneously fresh, light, and rich.


Really nice balance in this whiskey, certainly quaffable but also sippable with enough going on to keep you entertained.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Canadian Whisky Awards

Back to back awards posts, both Malt Maniac related.

Today, the worlds best (only?) dedicated Canadian Whisky Website has announced the winners in The Canadian Whisky Awards 2010.

Canadian whisky is without doubt the least respected of the world's whiskies. Crown Royal is the 4th biggest selling spirit in the world but you rarely hear anyone bragging about their recent Canadian whisky purchase. To be fair, there hasn't been much variety over the years with the big boys establishing prohibitive laws back in their heyday so there aren't as many distilleries as there could be. But recent years have shown us that the likes of Gibsons, Forty Creek, and Caribou Crossing have been attracting a modest amount of critical acclaim.

And so Malt Maniac Davin de Kergommeaux has really tapped into something that has been long overdue, a conscious appreciation of Canadian whisky. When I moved to the US back in 2008 I was admittedly surprised by the availability and consumption of Canadian whisky. Most interesting was that those ordering it had no idea it was Canadian and, obviously affected by their beverage of choice, almost apologised for liking it. Weird.

Hopefully awards like these will bring due attention back to Canadian whisky and even help innovation and motivate development within the industry. The press release says, "Virtually every Canadian whisky introduced in Canada or the U.S. in 2010 was tasted. The best was chosen in one of three categories: the Canadian market, the
export market, and multiple markets. Awards of Excellence were also conferred for accomplishments in innovation, brand extension, and notable success in raising the profile of Canadian whisky in general."

The Connoisseur Whiskies:
Best Canadian Whisky – Domestic Market: Wiser’s Legacy

Best Canadian Whisky – Export Market: Caribou Crossing

Best Canadian Whisky – Multiple Markets: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

The Awards of Excellence:

Innovation of the Year: Highwood Distillery, White Owl Whisky

Award of Excellence - Brand Extension: Crown Royal Black

Award of Excellence - Canadian Whisky Profile: Canadian Club

For more info, head over to Canadian Whisky.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Malt Maniacs Awards 2010

Pioneers of whisky geekery, especially of the online community-building sort, the Malt Maniacs are a global disease with 33 "certified" members in 16 countries and once again they have earned their self-appointed titles after meticulously tasting, rating and filing data on 260+ malts for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010. And that was probably only a fraction of what they got their noses into over the year.

Goodness knows the Maniacs spent even more time tasting hundreds of other whiskies, adding inert gas or using a vacuum cylinder to suction the air out of their open bottles, attending fairs, festivals and dramming sessions with mates, and travelling to Scotland or around the world to see, smell, and taste the places that will be the centres of future manias.

So have a read, raise a glass, and geek on.
And we'll see you in the asylum.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #391

Irish Whiskey Danny Boy
Danny Boy
Blended Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$24.99 (USD)

My years in the US taught me many things, but in the world of whiskey it was a true eye-opener to see the sheer volume of Irish whiskey that America throws down its throat. From only four distilleries operating in Ireland (Bushmills, Cooley, Midleton/Jameson, and the recently re-opened Kilbeggan distillery), at least ten times as many labels are currently out there in the market.

This is just one of many brands one finds on the shelves and in this case, it comes from Cooley distillery, makers of Kilbeggan, Tyrconnel, Locke's, and Connemara whiskies.

This growing segment of the world of whisk(e)y has, to date, received only a small fraction of the ink spilled on its Scottish cousins even though as little as a century ago it outperformed Scotch globally. Back in 1994, Jim Murray wrote The Irish Whiskey Almanac, and a few years later Classic Irish Whiskey but since then the topic has generally been relegated to a chapter in books covering Scotch AND Irish whiskies or world whiskies, like Murray's own World Whiskey Guide (2002).

While the world wide intraweave has literally over one hundred English language Scotch whisky blogs, there are currently only a handful of dedicated Irish ones. The folks at Irish Whiskey Chaser provide a useful links page for the Irish whisky drinker/researcher.

The future seems bright for Irish whiskey. With annually increasing sales as a category, increasing variety of flavour (pot still grain, pot still malt, column still, peated, wine casks, etc.) and with apparent reinvestment from all corners of the industry, not least of all William Grant & Sons purchase of Tullamore Dew with an apparent clear intent on building a distillery in Ireland, Irish whiskey is on a path to regain a good chunk of what it lost back in the 1920s.

Goodness knows they could use it right now. So go grab a bottle of Irish. In fact, while you're at it grab some sherry; they say Spain could be next.

Tasting in "the valley hushed and white with snow"...


Pencil shavings and sweet, vanilla-accented spirit.

Toasty and nutty oak impressions, new make grain sweetness, and some sweet strawberry jam in there, too.


Really, very much as expected. Young, simple, innoffensive verging on bland but entirely enjoyable whiskey. The website tells us the whiskey is "just like the famous and much loved melody." Perhaps... if sung by your half passed-out uncle.

Malt Mission #390
Malt Mission #392
Malt Mission #393

Malt Mission #394

Malt Mission HOME

Monday, November 22, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #390

The John Walker
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv

Watched a great piece on Bloomberg late last night, as the wee'un refused to pass out before 1am, about the creation and rise of Google. The relevance of this relates directly to this post as my engagement with this whisky called attention to the complete superiority of Google as a search engine.

Using Google to search "The John Walker" the top results related to the whisky and also brought up relevant images and video. Bing apparently hates whisky and the first TEN results had only to do with the (amazing) Walker Brothers, some English jewleller, and a German Studies professor at Birkbeck. The videos and images were equally unrelated. Sure, sticking " " around the term, like we used to do back in 2002, got me the results I wanted, but c'mon.

If "don't be evil" really had any meaning they would spend more time (and money) creating ways to share information OTHER than personal information with advertisers and researchers and thinkers and hackers (like Wikipedia, which incidentally NEEDS your support) But Bing just confused me and got me downloading new music and online lectures.

Moving on, as I have nothing too clever to say as I lie here quietly typing between a sleeping wife and a sleeping baby...

In a conversation with friends and whisky lovers the other night, the idea emerged of whether companies could release their fancy-bottle whiskies alongside plain package versions with the appropriate price difference. The topic is relevant in the case of this beautiful £2000 bottle, which, in the press release, spends nearly every word in and around describing the luxury, workmanship and eleven layers of lacquer with only two lines relating to the liquid itself.

That being said, and perfume bottle comparisons aside, I think the pack is beautiful. Disctinctively Johnnie, bold, confident and stylish. Would I buy it? No. Would I drink it? Oh hell yes.

The John Walker was created out of a desire to have a "top shelf" Johnnie Walker along the lines of Louis XIII from Remy Martin, Ambassador Jonathan Driver informed us at the Coburg Bar in London. With such an aim, the liquid had to be gold and Jim Beveridge, Master Blender of Johnnie Walker, was given the enviable task to "go away and make a technically brilliant blend."

Pulling from grain distilleries like Cambus, malts like Cardhu, Glen Albyn, and Talisker, the whisky uses the full stable of whiskies available to a Diageo nose. It isn't made up of a bunch of old whiskies, or just rare closed ones, rather it is a wide spread of styles and ages to create something different and exquisite. Jonathan spoke of "breaking conventions by knowing traditions", and there is no doubt that the nose behind it all has the chops for the task. And really, that is what blending is all about.


Accumulative, growing and developing with each whiff, floral, fresh and outdoorsy with chamomile and sweet grass, coffee, brown sugar, complex and alluring. Citrus and smoke appear, with more aromatic sweetness. Something new with each nosing.

Licorice, honey, more chamomile and coffee, mocha, a distinctly resiny character balanced by a beautiful melon freshness. Elegant and layered with richness.


As cynical as a whisky geek can tend to be, this was really quite wonderful and I can only hope that the folks shelling out the dough for this stuff appreciate the provenance, the history, the quality casks and the blending skill that went into making it. To make up for those who don't, I seriously advise those who DO give a shit to find a drop of this and taste it. It is a remarkable blend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #389

Johnnie Walker Blue Label
King George V
Blended Scotch Whisky

43% abv
$480 (USD)

The last malt mission was posted at the height of another season altogether; tonight I have traded shorts and sandals for a thick wool jumper and cozy slippers to compose two posts from my wee cottage in the Scottish Highlands. Yes, I am back on the island to stay.

And I couldn't be happier. Arrived on the day of the incredible Whisky Show, reconnected with friends, spent days relishing each sip of the perfectly tempered cask ales I missed so much, and was fortunate enough to be invited to enjoy a few drops of (arguably) the world's finest blended scotch whiskies at the Coburg Bar at the Connaught in London.

In a quiet, candlelit corner of the bar, Ambassador Jonathan Driver shared the liquid histories of three different Johnnie Walkers: Blue, King George V, and The John Walker (Malt Mission #390). The intimate setting and warm environment was ideal for careful dramming and Jonathan's knowledge, sincerity and charm resonated with each small group lucky enough to join him.

He explained that this whisky was inspired by the desire to have a "late night" alternative to Johnnie Walker Blue, to create something flavourwise that was more luxurious than robust. The press release informs us that the whisky was created to celebrate the first Royal Warrant granted to John Walker and Sons Ltd to supply Scotch whisky to the British Royal Household in 1934 and also says some rubbish about luxury and how the whisky is geared for "power players."

Jonathan was not afraid to discuss the liquid in depth, not that we gave him any choice. It emerged that this whisky was created from rare stock from nine of the Scottish distilleries that operated during the days of Johnnie Walker himself, including the much loved, but lost distillery, Port Ellen. These same facts also mean, we were told, that KGV will only be able to maintain its recipe for 6-7 years.

For more on the House of Walker and for all Johnnie Walker had on the mission, click HERE.


Fruit-forward with grapes, candy orange, raisins and banana chips. Solid woody impressions, and then the expected, deep and tarry smoke delivered gently. Overall restrained, tight and bright, and politely asking for a drop of water.

Wood and oak-extractives on the palate, vanilla, tannins, all rather intense and hitting my palate with pins and needles. Again, water needed.


A very rich drop with woody whisky in the mix and a muddy road of peat through its core, I was given the impression that this whisky was, perhaps, blended to be enjoyed with ice. A shame, some may say, but in this case a mute will not hurt the instrument, it will just gently restrain the timbre while leaving the melody itself sufficiently expressive.

Malt Misson #386
Malt Mission #387
Malt Mission #388
Malt Mission #390

Malt Mission HOME

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Glaser Decade

Back in 2007, week three of this malt mission saw me taste 3 Compass Box whiskies in a row, followed by 12 more over the years as the mission has continued and I cannot think of one that was boring, tastless, uninteresting, or didn't have some substantial story to tell. For all Compass Box had on the mission, click HERE.

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend John's Tenth Anniversary "Tasting of the Decade" at the Astor Center in New York City. As expected it was great fun, inspiring, and delicious. Finspirlicious, even.

There were drams. Asyla, Hedonism v.2, Eleuthera, the original Monster, the original Spice Tree, Magic Cask, Canto 46, Optimism, Lady Luck, Flaming Heart, and Hedonism Maximus.

And there were stories. Highlight? Moments after bottling his first creation, Hedonism, pulling over in his car to open a bottle and weep with joy as he slugged back his work (a drinking technique I have witnessed back at
MM300... minus the tears). Classic
More from the tasting at Whisky Cast HERE.

John has created an expression of
Flaming Heart to commemorate the occassion and in Edinburgh last night, he held a similar event to the one I attended in New York.

John Glaser and the team at Compass Box have changed the direction of the whisky industry in ways that punch WAY above their weight.
-Ten years ago Sheep Dip was still in it's yellow and brown label and the industry showed no justification for a repack. Compass Box proved to Alex and Jane Nicol that well-made blended malts DID have a place on the palates of the marketplace... and to Jon, Mark and Robbo, and to Wemyss, and to Bruichladdich/Cooley (Celtic Nations), and to Glenmorangie/Ardbeg (Serendipity), and to William Grant (Monkey Shoulder), and to...
-While it may have been there already, all this "quality oak" talk John has been on about has pulled the importance of wood into every major brand's marketing, if not production, platform.
-Makers Mark "borrowed" John's (illegal?) technique of using inner staves in maturation for their Makers 46.
There are many more examples and it has truly been such an inspiring story to follow.

A glass is raised to you sir, from all corners of the whiskyverse.


For all Compass Box had on the mission, click

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dougie's Whisky Story

It has been asked before but I will ask again, how many new whisky websites are going to pop up with the EXACT SAME FORMAT? Another forum? Another log of tasting notes and distillery info? Another zzzzz...
Maybe I am bitter cuz I am often omitted from these new sites' blogrolls?
Maybe I just think we can be smarter than that.

Dougie proves me right with his new blog, Whisky Story.

While I obviously approve of the font choice, the wider concept is brilliant: a contemporary whisky journey inspired by the travels and reports of Alfred Barnard.

Barnard worked for Harpers Weekly Gazette in the 1880s and set upon a journey to every distillery in Scotland (129 at the time), Ireland (29) and England (4). His reports were serialized in Harpers and, in 1887, published in book form as The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom.

One of the most important books in British whisky history, it fell out of print but was brought back about 20 years ago in a rather beautiful 500+ page hardcover edition. It has been reprinted several times since.

Dougie, we follow you and hope that in 80 years when there are only 58 Scottish distilleries left between two large foreign owners, that your record of distilleries in 2010-2011 is deemed one of the most important blogs in whisky history. Safe travels, and perhaps I will see you on the trail?

Follow the Whisky Story HERE.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Going Global

best whisky balvenie

Hi. Long time no see.

While I have not been producing much on Dr. Whisky, I do promise I have been keeping busy spreading the gospel of whisky both at work and at play.

We held a tasting for Balvenie that had been a whisky geek dream of mine for some time now: to taste the full historical range of The Balvenie. While we didn't have everything, we had a pretty damn near complete archive, all open, all available for sampling for Warehouse 24 members. It really was amazing. (For facebookers, photos are HERE, video HERE)

But the geek dream continues. I was invited to become The Balvenie Global Ambassador and I couldn't be more honoured, excited, anxious, etc. Back in May 2008 I announced on this blog that Dr. Whisky had accepted a job in the whisky industry/gone corporate/sold his soul/got your dream job in the USA and today that dream continues on a Global level. I look forward to meeting more whisky lovers from all over the whiskyverse and am so grateful to everyone that has helped me along my malt mission. THANK YOU and see you soon.

But I am not writing this post to write about myself. I wanted to write a post about the outstanding work being done on other blogs that I read, namely Yossi's Balvenie week (obviously), Oliver's controversial, informative and provocative posts on, Jason (et al) and their innovative and interesting Whisky Roundtable (no, I do not have a seat), and the recent amazing guest posts on What Does John Know. The world wide web is soaked in whisky, it seems, and we are all the better for it.

More on these pages soon, I promise. I have a ton of samples to get through before moving back across the pond! It's a hard life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maniac launches Canadian Whisky Website

I got an email from friend, fellow Canuck, and Malt Maniac Davin de Kergommeaux to inform me of his new site Canadian Whisky dedicated to, you guessed it, Canadian Whisky.

With more and more hip US bars carrying Canadian ryes and other whiskies and, most significantly, with Dave Pickerell's Whistlepig demanding a second (or third?) look at Canadian whisky while asking a significant price tag, the world needs Davin to share musings on the spirit of the north.

This expat looks forward to following you from south of the 49th parallel... with a chocolate bar, back bacon, pop, a mickey and a two-four close to hand. Happy trails, eh?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #388

Glen Garioch 12yo
Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

48% abv
$60 (USD)

Earlier this year, Glen Garioch began appearing in press releases, on blogs and in whisky magazines with new and improved look and reformulated recipe.

Glen Garioch and its siblings in the lowlands and Islay, Auchentoshan and Bowmore respectively, are owned by Morrison-Bowmore(Suntory).

In the first edition (1989) of Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion, he called Glen Garioch "the assertive peat-smoky style of highland malt that has become all too rare." Even truer today, especially as the cited distillery would be hard pressed to call it self peaty in style.

It is hard to argue that the new Nevis-designed packaging isn't a significant upgrade from the Highland kitsch of its predecessor.

For more distillery info or to see all Glen Garioch had on the mission, click HERE.


Butter, brown sugar, ripe canteloupe, with integrated levels of spices, speaking softly.

Sweet and fruity, burnt sugar on a baked pear, balanced with oak. Water enhances a malty sweetness and elevates the oak above the fruitiness.


Clean, pleasant whisky that, without being tasted in context of its peers, doesn't really leave a distinct impression. Not that is needs to be a peaty prick or a sherried she-male to stand out. The non-chill filtration and higher abv certainly set it apart from its peers. And at whisky fairs and shows, I have seen folks raving about it. So, as I am becoming more and more convinced of every day, in tasting and evaluating any whisky it is about the context, the experience, at least as much as the content.

Malt Mission #386
Malt Mission #387
Malt Mission # 389
Malt Mission #390

Malt Mission HOME

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #387

Glen Grant 10yo
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
40% abv

While most of what flows off the stills at Glen Grant ends up around 5 years old and mixed with Coke in southern Europe, there is always a great indie bottling of rich, old Glen Grant to be enjoyed somewhere in the wide world of whisky. It is true that Spain, France and Italy make Glen Grant a top 5 whisky by volume globally, but it is the ability of this fine spirit to meld well with sherry and take great age in stride that afford it an enviable reputation among connoisseurs and collectors.

For more distillery info or to see all Glen Grant had on the Malt Mission, click


Seductive and sweet, berries, apricots, and riesling

Soft, at first, with lime peels and a hard spirity core that will excite some and repel others.


Just as summer slowly reveals inch after gorgeous inch of skin on far-too-young to be oogled ladies, this whisky arouses the senses guilt-ridden sniff after guilt-ridden sniff. But acting on your desires in such cases is always risky and in this case sipping the stuff belies the appeal of its nose, especially at strength. Water, bringing it down to 35% or so, helps the new make bite but neutralizes any character or complexity.

Malt Mission #386

Malt Mission #388
Malt Mission # 389
Malt Mission #390

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For Scotch Lovers Whisky Explorers Club

If you have created a whisky fantasy in your mind, have a whisky society or meetup where you live, or frequent online whisky fora, websites, and blogs you have no doubt thrown around the idea of sharing wee samples with other enthusiasts by mail.

Well, imagine the same concept mixed with my favourite pub and/or household game (blind tasting and guessing) and you are close to what Doug Stone, friend and founder of the For Scotch Lovers website, has created with his Whisky Explorers Club.

I read the press release, spoke with Doug, did some math and then happily joined as the price seemed totally worth it for the enjoyment of the activity. A group of friends also joined so we all look forward to each shipment of treats. This morning I received an email saying Flight #3 was already on its way. Time flies!

If you are not a member, let me paint a picture of the club.

My first venture into the website was admittedly clunky, but after a lot of webmazing, I got signed in. Like with any new endeavor online (MyFace, YouBook, Twatter) it took a while to figure out how to navigate, where to begin, what the words meant, etc., but once logged in and dramming, all was forgotten. After two flights, it's down to a science now... although I do still have a few suggestions (below)

So once our whisky is poured and we are logged into the IQ page, we answer a series of multiple choice questions: how does it look? feel? taste? smell? do you like it? Then we get to guess from a shortlist, what whisky we think we were having.

All of these answers popoulate your final "Whisky IQ", based on your correct answers, if and when such answers can be said to exist. So the next page gives your score and tells you the answers they were looking for. Satisfying. Fun. Geeky as hell.

But from this screen there is no link to start again with another whisky, just links to BUY the whisky, and, incidentally as I tried sample 0210WY23 while walking you through, a quote from and link to this site. While the whole experience was enjoyable, I was left asking, "so what?" Like, now what? There is no community context putting my Zen Master IQ into perspective, no way to view others' comments, no forum, no nothing. Just "here's your whisky, answer some questions for us, and bye bye."

Still, overall, the game is fun, easy, and I am totally happy with my membership and look forward to each package. It is amazing fun and is a great easy gift for a whisky geek in your life.

But the club is still in its infancy, so as members I know Doug is keen to hear our thoughts, so here are a few things that would make it more enjoyable, at least for me.

- make getting into the IQ game easier once logged in, ie via a logo or link in the MY or COMMUNITY windows on right.
- make starting another product OR joining a forum discussion OR viewing others' scores easier from the last page of the IQ results.
- why do I have to fill in every "Please tell us how often you drink..."? It's just annoying not to be able to leave some blank. In fact:
- don't make me answer the golden questions (male/female, how often do you drink, etc.) more than once, ie. the first time I log in.
- put a slash through zeros on the product numbers so they can be more easily differentiated from the letter O

Beyond that, go join. It's fun and the more members, the more enjoyable the whole thing will be for all of us.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #386

Glen Garioch Founders Reserve
Highland Single Malt Whisky
48% abv
$45 (USD)

One of the last operating distilleries from the 18th century (and the first time featured on the Malt Mission), Glen Garioch (pronounced "Glen Geery") underwent a much needed repack and as cynical as the whisky intelligentsia can be about s-s-scrary m-m-marketing, I think the verdict was unanimous: gorgeous work. But it is not just the look of the pack that changed, the liquid moved in the direction of nurturing anorak appeal:

a) the alcohol by volume was upped to 48% because

b) the liquid is not chill-filtered.

And the geeks rejoiced.


Buttery pie crust, sourdough, Granny Smith apples, vanilla and pine.

Savoury and bright sweetness of shortbread, lemon, and white grapes. Apricots and macadamie nut oiliness. Late spicy woodiness, pine again, freshly cut saplings.


Light, fresh and appetizing with a good balance of bitter and sweet, wood influence and youthful spirit character. There are many examples of how delicious Glen Garioch can be at great ages, it is nice to have a proprietary bottling that shows its youthful charm as well, even if said charms won't woo everyone.

Malt Mission #385
Malt Mission #387
Malt Mission #388

Malt Mission # 389
Malt Mission #390

Malt Mission HOME