Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

The Ship Tavern, Anstruther, Scotland.

When over in Scotland earlier this year I popped into a few bars to see what whiskies were on offer.

The very attractive Ship Tavern – which appropriately sits only a stones throw from the picturesque harbour in the fishing village of Anstruther on the East Neuk of Fife – didn’t disappoint.

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Ship Tavern whiskey selections c/othewhiskeynut

A pleasing variety of Scottish blends & single malts adorned the shelves – as well as a sprinkling of Irish blends,

Being in Fife – which has a few new distilleries waiting for their own spirit to mature – I was keen to sample a sourced blend for the local Eden Mill distillery near St Andrews.

And being in Scotland – you have to have a bit of tartan!

The Art Of The Blend is a trio – a 4th bottle was released later – of very attractively presented blended Scottish whiskies from unnamed sources that Eden Mill are using to showcase & practice their maturing and blending skills on.

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Art Of The Blend c/othewhiskeynut

No 1 is a bourbon cask matured blend of malts & grain. It didn’t really do much for me. A fairly soft, sweet standard entry level offering with subtle tones. Approachable I suppose.

No 2 was far more entertaining. Mainly as smoke had been introduced with the use of ex-Ardbeg casks in it’s maturation. This raised the whole character of the blend with distinctive peaty notes I enjoy very much that balanced the sweeter tones.

No 3 offered an even more powerful peat influence and was the most attractive – at least on paper – expression I was keen to taste. Clearly this corresponded with many other whiskey drinkers  thoughts as the bartender informed me the bottle they did have sold out almost immediately!

Whilst chatting – I asked how the Irish whiskey was going down.

Now there were only 3 offerings on the shelf from the Emerald Isle – the ubiquitous Jameson Original – which effectively is the brand on which the entire rise of the modern Irish whiskey revival started with – The Pogues Irish Whiskey by up and coming West Cork Distillers in partnership with Halewood Wine & Spirits and West Cork’s Bourbon Cask.

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

‘Och The Pogues is a great wee dram, canny get enough o’ the stuff.’

If that’s not a testament to the resounding success of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies, blenders, bottlers & distilleries – I don’t know what is.

Sláinte.

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Hankey Bannister Original, 40%, Blended Scotch, NAS

After my previous experiences with entry level blends I was a bit apprehensive to approach this one.

But Hankey Bannister is widely available and having passed it by in my local Dunnes stores on numerous occasions my curiosity was eventually piqued – I also found a use for those 5 euro back vouchers!

I got a dose of the Whiskey Shivers before I tasted this one – which happens to be the name of this blogs featured band.

But this entry level blend wasn’t as bad as expected.

The nose is a bit corny. Which befits the high grain content used in the mix. Not my favourite flavour profile.

The taste is soft & smooth with a slight oiliness.

But the best bit is at the end where a decent hit of malt shines through on the palate with a lovely soft spiciness.

Just about makes this bargain purchase worthwhile.

Sláinte.

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Smokehead, Islay Single Malt, 43%

I always try to pick up some new whiskey – for me at least – when I’m out & about. I popped into the local Oddbins whilst in London recently & came out with this Smokehead miniature – well – it’s air travel friendly.

Contrary to a lot of what has been said regarding transparency in the Irish whiskey world – this bottle of Islay Single Malt doesn’t say which distillery made it. It does say who bottled it – Ian Macleod Distillers – who do own distilleries – but not on Islay.

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Smokin’ c/othewhiskeynut

Islay is renowned the world over for it’s peaty whisky and Smokehead is a brand which exudes that quality. It’s also proudly a mystery malt – along with others like Finlaggan & Aldi’s Glen Marnoch – in that the actual distillery isn’t disclosed – leading to much speculation & guessing – which is part of the fun.

I also crave a bit of peat influence in my whiskey. It adds a bit of punch & vitality to the glass. Much like these French rockers who also go by the name Smokehead.

The nose has that lovely rich peaty smoke which enwraps me with it’s charms. A hint of caramel jars with me however and I immediately get suspicious of added e150. This was later confirmed by an internet search here.

There’s quite a nice oily mouthfeel on the taste. It reminds me of a dark heavy Bunnahabhain – although most pundits reckon the malt is Ardbeg – with a lovely spiciness too.

The smoke lingers on the finish & just makes me want to dive in for more.

Overall it’s a decent smoky peat dram. The caramel gives it a dark & heavy feel rather than the crisp & clear taste of Peat Monster by Compass Box. It’s also way more balanced than Glen Marnoch where the smoke only  just rises above the morass of caramel in the mix.

Sláinte.

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Compass Box, Peat Monster, 46%, blended malt.

A 60th birthday party in London was the excuse to pop over the water for the weekend.

The balmy weather – which Storm Ophelia had pushed up from the South – allowed us to have our Sunday lunch alfresco. Our chosen venue was the recently refurbished Great Northern Railway Tavern in Hornsey.

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A fine facade! c/othewhiskeynut

A few of us recalled one of our last visits to this grand venue – a 30th birthday party – and wondered where all the years went.

Along with the expected Fullers offerings – the Great Northern is now a Fullers pub – there is a varied range of fine craft beers too. What tempted me however was the Compass Box Peat Monster whisky which was situated on the back row of the small yet varied spirits display.

The bottle label itself is a very attractive piece of work & the rich clear peaty aromas emanating from my glass certainly pointed to an equally attractive whisky inside.

Compass Box is the well respected blending & bottling whisky making company of John Glaser who sources the best malt & grain whiskies from around Scotland – ages them in barrels – also carefully selected – and expertly blends them together to produce a range of fine tasting whiskies highlighting the art of the blender.

The Peat Monster is certainly an angel of a whisky.

The familiar peat nose is crisp and clear – but not overpowering.

The taste is suitably smooth and silky. The peat pulls you in & opens up into some beautiful spice notes.

The long & gentle finish wafts all the perfectly balanced notes around in your palate before they fade away.

Bottled at 46% with no chill filtering & no added colour – Peat Monster certainly raises the bar for how good a blended malt can be.

Simply stunning.

Sláinte.

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Aberlour, A’Bunadh, Highland Single Malt, 61.2%

Cask strength whiskies have a certain appeal – that full blown mouthfeel & explosion of taste – but should come with a bit of a warning that perhaps plays the old Electric Six classic ‘Danger! High Voltage’ as you pop the cork!

At 61.2% this Oloroso matured monster of a single malt certainly packs a punch.

It’s one of those whiskies that hit the back of my throat & numbed my tongue with the high alcoholic strength before subduing to deliver some of it’s rich dry sherry notes.

With water I found it a rather muted sherry bomb of a dram which lacked the shine of the collective high praise this bottle attracts.

When I can enjoy other cask strength offerings neat which deliver their rich flavours without the burn –

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Cool Corsair Triple Smoke c/othewhiskeynut

like Corsair Triple Smoke at 62.7%

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The joy of peat! c/othewhiskeynut

and Octomore 10yo 2nd Edition at 57.3%

being two that spring to mind – then I’m afraid when I find one that needs water – I’ll mark it down.

Neat I found the A’Bunadh rather raw.

With water I found it a bit bland.

When it comes to whiskey reviews – Don’t Believe The Hype!

Find out what you like for yourself & stick to it.

I think I got sucked in by all the hype on this one & left feeling disappointed.

Sláinte.

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Pittenweem Arts Festival, Whiskey & Beer, Fife.

We’ve been coming to the Pittenweem Arts Festival for well over a decade. We being Mrs Whiskey & myself.

It holds a certain draw for the both of us ever since we stumbled upon the event whilst up visiting friends & family.

Nestled as it is in the picturesque & historic fishing village of Pittenweem in the East Neuk Of Fife about an hours drive from Edinburgh – which is visible on a good day across the Firth Of Forth from the harbour walls.

Strolling through the numerous venues my eye was drawn by all the whiskey & beer connections within the varied art on display. Scotland after all is the world’s top whisky producing nation as well as having some fine beers.

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Ovenstone109 c/othewhiskeynut

A new venue for the festival opened this year just a short drive up the road from the village in a place called Ovenstone. Formerly a tractor showroom, the space is now the home to Ovenstone 109 Brewery – the East Neuk’s newest craft brewery!

For the duration of the festival there was a rich diversity of art on display – paintings, jewelry, sculpture & for my delight – craft beer. Well isn’t brewing an art?

I got chatting to Nick – the man behind the brewery – and the video above – and sampled his dark IPA beer. Now I have to admit IPA isn’t my style – but it was crisp, fresh & hoppy & went down well. It was so fresh it hadn’t even been bottled or canned such was the rush to get it out for the festival. I certainly look forward to developments in the years to come.

Back in Pittenweem itself we made our way to the harbour area & the always amusing and entertainingly attractive ceramic designs of Craig Mitchell. One of his pieces caught my eye.

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Scooter still? c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve seen some micro distilleries in my time – but this one perched on the back of a scooter definitely takes it to a different level.

Just don’t drink & drive kids. It’s not big & it’s not clever – ceramic man might fall to pieces!

A little further along the shore Susan McGill had a stunning larger than life modern interpretation of the popular Oor Wullie cartoon character.

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Oor Wullie c/othewhiskeynut

I just had to go in for a closer look!

Some of the intricate design work seemed familiar – then it dawned on me – that lovely bottle of dark, malty & heavy Scotch Ale I had the other night from the St Andrews Brewing Co?

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Eighty Bob c/othewhiskeynut

Not only does Susan do the artwork for the brewery’s lovely range of beers – she has also collaborated with independent whisky bottlers D R Scotch Whisky to release Ae Fond Kiss. A whisky celebrating the writings of Scotland’s favourite national poet – Rabbie Burns.

And if you were in the market for some glasses to drink that whisky with – glass blower Elin Isaksson just happened to have a pair of hand blown chunky whisky glasses for the job. As well as her own whisky pairing to boot!

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Fill ’em up! c/othewhiskeynut

I didn’t indulge on this occasion – but all this art was making me thirsty. So we repaired to the nearby West End Bar for a display of the art of distillation!

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West End Bar whisky shelves c/othewhiskeynut

Bowmore 12 won out in this contest.

I was expecting a peatier punch from this Islay single malt. What I got was a smooth, lightly smoky, sweetly sherried approachable dram. More of a kiss from Bowmore!

If you haven’t been to the Pittenweem Arts Festival before – do visit.

You won’t be disappointed!

Sláinte.

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Cow at top by Kev Paxton!

 

 

 

Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve, Blend, 40%

From an own label,

To a branded product.

William Grant & Sons have a long history & tradition of whiskey making.

They also own Tullamore DEW.

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Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

The distinctive triangular bottle shape of their blended range is probably more appealing than the contents.

It’s soft, sweet from the sherry cask plus added caramel & lacks any clarity or distinctive flavour.

It’s a big seller.

Just not in my happy house.

Sláinte.

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Caribou, Wood Quay, Galway

Choose one of the following.

1 – Caribou, a four legged animal prone to herding during annual migrations across it’s North American range. Mainly eats lichens.

2 – Caribou, a recently opened bar in the Wood Quay area of Galway that stocks an amazing array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys.

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A wall of whiskey, beer & gin c/othewhiskeynut

Pick your poison.

a) Craft Beer as in Commotion Lotion.

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Commotion Lotion c/oL.Phelan

A delightfully fruity easy summer drinking lager from the Wexford based Yellow Belly Beer in collaboration with pop punksters King Kong Company.

b) Whisky as in Scapa Skiren.

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Scapa Skiren c/othewhiskeynut

A sweet, smooth honey laden single malt from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland.

Throw in a hard working yet friendly & informative bar crew.

Fill with an eclectic mix of;

i – Herds of bearded hipsters gathering – like the aforementioned Caribou – to graze on the amber nectar of craft beers along with their tattooed love birds.

ii – Whiskey geeks discussing the merits of non-chilled filtration & the de-merits of added caramel whilst sniffing, nosing & actually getting round to drinking the expressions before them!

iii – Music fans chilling out to the funky tunes played on the sound system contrasting the perfectly professional yet perfunctory performance of Radiohead at Glastonbury with the wild youthful exuberance of Otherkin at Slane.

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Bar & menu c/othewhiskeynut

Finish with a solid wooden bar filled with craft beer taps, comfortable tables, chairs & the odd sofa to relax in, board games to play with & a lovely floral display outside.

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Choose yer poison. c/othewhiskeynut

I choose Caribou – the bar.

I choose to sample both poisons – and more from an excellent range.

I choose to go back after my first visit on the ‘Hit The North‘ whiskey distillery tour.

I choose to be that whiskey geek accompanied by the music maestro enjoying the best Caribou has to offer.

I choose life.

I choose ceol agus craic.

What would you choose?

Sláinte

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Glen Marnoch, Islay Single Malt, 40%

I went looking for the much publicised Ben Bracken trio of single malts recently released by Lidl – but inadvertently walked into Aldi instead!

What confronted me were not only 3 single malts – Islay, Highland & Speyside – but also a 12 Year Old Speyside as well as 2 double casks –  one sherry finish & the other bourbon – all below £20.

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Aldi own brand whisky c/othewhiskynut

As I’m a fan of bolder flavours I went straight for the Islay Single Malt  to sample.

For the price – I wasn’t disappointed.

The nose was a pleasing mixture of Islay peat & muted caramelised vanilla notes.

For this category & price point, my assumed position is that caramel is added. You only need to look at some of the promotional photos of the different malts showing identical shades of golden brown for confirmation.

The taste was a bit of a non event. Soft, sweet, slightly watery & muted no doubt by that caramel – but after swirling it around in the mouth for a while, a rich peaty smoke surfaced into a pleasingly warming burn on swallowing which proceeded to develop a lovely long afterglow.

A very inoffensive easy sipping entry level malt whisky at an affordable price with just enough character to make it interesting.

I’m not sure which markets it will surface in the pan-european Aldi store area – but it will certainly fly off the shelves. It makes a decent everyday single malt for the drinks cabinet.

For good measure I compared it to another store brand offering. This time from the Co-operative Group.

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Co-op Pure Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The 8 Year Old Pure Malt is a blend of,

‘carefully selected choice malt whiskies from the Highlands Islands and Lowlands of Scotland.’

so says the label.

The same label doesn’t say caramel is added – but it has that same cloying mouthfeel which dulls any freshness or sharpness in the flavours on tasting. There was a little smoke – but not enough to rise above the morass of caramel & vanilla smoothness.

A rather muted dram in comparison to the smoky punch of Islay peat.

Sláinte.

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