Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

Grappa Riserva, 40%

Popping into a Lidl in Lucca, Italy was a bit of an eye opener.

Apart from being familiar with many of the brands there were also differences.

Smaller bread & cereal displays contrasted with larger cheese & meats. The central isles were still in situ but the costs of the spirits?

Splendido!

The old familiar Queen Margot Scotch – €5.99.

She’s €22.09 in Ireland.

I was also pleased to find at least 4 varieties of Grappa for sale at similar prices.

Too good to resist!

Grappa Riserva made my basket.

Invecchiata Oltre 18 Mesi it says on the label – which translates as aged in wood. Hence the golden hue.

Quite a soft sweet fruity nose with overtones of caramelly wood.

Very easy palate with decent depth.

Entertaining nuttiness & soft tannic spice on the rear with a welcoming warmth.

Even with Grappa Lidl can produce a very attractively priced spirit that’s easy, approachable & enjoyable to consume.

Pity it’s not available in Ireland!

Saluti!

Trentin Grappa shares a business address with Bertagnolli Distilleria here.

My Queen Margot blog here.

Clanlands, Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

I knew nothing about either of these characters before picking up this book other than one of them – Sam – was an actor in a successful series & had recently released a whisky.

Image courtesy Master Of Malt

The whisky in question – Sassenach – has already won awards & appears to be popular – but has attracted a degree of criticism from those in whisky circles.

Image courtesy Twitter

I just don’t get it.

Any celebrity putting their name to a whisky – or in this instance actively taking part in the blending & marketing – helps to open up & expand the whisky market to a new layer of customers & consumers.

Given that the whisky community is predominately male Sassenach appears – at least to Sam Heughan’s Twitter page – to have attracted a large female audience. This is to be welcomed.

Rather than being open & expansive many in the establishment sitting in clubs, societies & bloggers often come across as exclusive & closed to new methods & means of enlarging the whisky community.

There are double standards at play too as many of these self-styled ‘defenders of the dram’ often promote themselves as celebrities within their fiercely territorial domains.

Celebrity spirit or not – the actual taste of the whisky is my primary concern. I do recognise celebrity status does bring enhanced brand recognition with perhaps easier routes to market usually leading to increased sales – depending on the celebrity involved.

I’ve not managed to taste Sassenach – it doesn’t appear to be available in Ireland – but I do find the name attractive & the packaging certainly makes it stand out too!

This book however was in my local library – so I gave it a read.

The pair of actors engage in a laddish romp round Scotland dishing out historical titbits, name dropping, thespian tales, hearty food & plenty of whisky!

Like the whisky it opens up Scotland to a new audience – perhaps for the first time – attracted possibly by the dynamic duo on the book’s cover.

Blending popular culture, celebrity status & whisky together is a sure-fire way to broaden the appeal of the golden liquid & ensures it reaches new fans.

I don’t have a problem with celebrity spirits.

Sláinte

Sassenach is available from Master Of Malt here.

Sassenach Spirits website here.

Header image courtesy Sassenach Twitter here.

Sam Heughan’s Twitter here.

2 Controversial Whiskey Blends, John L Sullivan, 40% & Celtic Nations, 46%

Both these whiskeys attracted a degree of controversy when originally released.

Most of it centred around the interpretation of ‘rules’ – but I was curious to taste the results.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop

John L Sullivan Irish Whiskey, 40%

Named after a famous Irish/American boxer of the late 1800’s – which attracted initial upset – an original bottling of John L Sullivan displayed the legend ‘Irish Bourbon’.

Image courtesy Whiskey Jug

Attempting to celebrate the Irish/American heritage with a blend of Irish & Bourbon whiskeys fell foul of labelling laws & the bottle was withdrawn.

Before me is a sample from a bottle labelled John L Sullivan Irish Whiskey – aged in bourbon casks.

Pale straw in colour, shy nose, not giving much away, smooth easy palate, gentle growing warmth with a hug of sweet vanilla & caramel, flourish of mild spice on the rear.

An easy going entry level offering.

Image courtesy Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder

Celtic Nations, 46%

A collaboration between the Irish Teeling Whiskey Co & Scotch Bruichladdich Distillery to create a harmonious blend of single malts to celebrate the 2 nations spirits.

Didn’t meet the approval of the SWA & was banned.

Pale straw colour, gorgeous expressive nose of gentle peat coming through, the palate displays more soft Irish notes before the embers of a peat fire warms up the finish.

An entertaining soft peater.

Thoughts

Both of these whiskeys had great potential.

The pugilist inspired John L Sullivan pre-dated the global success of Proper Twelve & there’s been subsequent Irish/American Whiskey/Bourbon collaborations on the market since.

Cross nation blends have been a staple earning for both Scotch & Irish distilleries over the years – mainly for the lower end of the market. Perhaps this high profile open & transparent offering was just too much for the SWA?

Whatever the reasons – controversy is not a tasting note I encountered in either of these blends.

Sláinte

Is The Blog You’re Reading Scotch Centric?

It’s a question I often ask myself after coming across various examples of this particular malaise.

But what is Scotch Centrism?

Tartan specs courtesy zazzle.com

Viewing the whisky world via the optics of tartan spectacles leading to undue bias – intentional or not – towards Scotch, positioning it on a pedestal beyond reproach, usually coupled with scant regard – veering to disdain – for whisky producing countries that aren’t Scotland.

My first encounter with this affliction was a few years ago.

A Scottish internet publication invited non Scottish cities citizens to give a flavour of whisky spots within their environs.

One resident had proclaimed there were no whisky distilleries in this particular location – despite myself having visited one!

The sufferer had such a bad dose of Scotch Centrism they were blinded & unable to see the distilleries operating in their own backyard!

The Scottish publication in turn failed to do any checks & subsequently released this false information.

A more severe example pertains to rules.

Sufferers believe any whisky produced outside of Scotland that doesn’t comply with SWA – Scotch Whisky Association – rules is basically ‘not doing it right’.

Effectively this shows a complete lack of respect for the different ways each country make their own whisky – and verges into cultural imperialism.

Such a position belittles the ‘other’, limits diversity & stifles innovation in the global whisky category.

A final – often milder – example is where the Scotch Centric drinker eventually does get round to sampling a non Scotch whisky & invariably expresses surprise at how enjoyable & well presented it is – often with a hint of patronisation thrown in.

Luckily Scotch Centrism isn’t a permanent condition.

Sufferers merely need to ditch the tartan glasses & open themselves up to a whole new world of enjoyable tastes & flavours.

Treating countries with different rules to those of Scotland with the same respect & having an open mind – and palate – to exploring their produce helps too.

Perhaps then we can learn a bit of ‘kinship, belonging & inclusiveness’ – to borrow an Irish Distillers marketing missive – & ‘Widen The Circle’ along the way when we’re at it.

Sláinte

Tartan glasses courtesy zazzle.com All other images authors own.

The Jacobite, Blended Scotch Whisky, 40%

A random bar in Bournemouth.

A random whisky which resonated.

My home town of Athlone has streets & areas named after participants of The Siege Of Athlone in 1691 where Williamite forces overcame the Jacobites defending the town.

So how did this affordable blend with a rich history taste?

An initial caramel nose develops into an engaging soft smokiness with hints of some depth.

A smooth palate of vanilla, caramel & richer butterscotch.

More of that faint smoke comes through on the finish with a warm hug which raised the bar of this blend enough for me to order another dram.

So who is behind this blend?

Apart from the back story, the bottle label doesn’t give much away – apart from an NN8 1LT postcode which happens to be the HQ for the Bookers Cash & Carry chain.

Wherever Bookers sourced The Jacobite from, it’s an easy accessible blend with an attractive finish – & a long reaching historical name – which connected with me on a number of levels.

Just the kind of whisky I enjoy encountering – randomly.

Sláinte

All photographs authors own.

The random bar was Drop The Anchor Tap House, Tuckton.

The Opening Up Of Whiskey Shows In A Post-Pandemic Setting – Fife Whisky Festival 2022

There was a bit of rounding the circle to my attendance at the Fife Whisky Festival 2022.

The show was my last event back in 2020 before lockdown ensued – & marks my first in a post-pandemic situation.

An eager & good natured queue formed outside Cupar’s Corn Exchange building in anticipation of the spirits within & it wasn’t too long before I arrived at my first stall.

Nc’nean are part of the new wave of Scottish Distilleries springing up around the country.

Their debut Organic Single Malt proved a lovely ex-bourbon & wine cask style of whisky with elegantly clear flavours.

I liked the clean, bold no nonsense Ardnumurchan bottle – along with the whisky too! A lovely combination of ex-bourbon, sherry & smidgen of peat.

Badachro‘s whisky isn’t matured – but they offer a gently peated Highland Single Malt from an unnamed source as a taster of things to come from this boutique distillery.

Established distillery Glen Moray provided the first of a few peated drams with their easy & accessible Peated Single Malt.

Springbank showcased their single malt range – but what took my eye was Campbeltown Loch Blended Malt.

Andy Stewart no longer needs to wish Campbeltown Loch was whisky – it is now!

Made up of Springbank, Hazelburn, Longrow, Kilkerran & Glen Scotia malts it proved to be a lovely well balanced soft peater.

I couldn’t come to the Fife Whisky Festival without sampling some of the local produce.

Lindores Abbey’s core release is a very pleasant – if somewhat understated – well balanced single malt. Still think Irish Whiskey needs an MCDV release myself.

Kingsbarns Distillery Reserve at 61.8% provided a bigger hit for my palate both in terms of flavour – and spirity punch!

There were a few non-Scotch entrants at the show.

Mackmyra impressed me with their AI:02 Intelligens. The algorithms must be in tune with my tastebuds as I preferred this one over the Stjarnrok single malt from their seasonal release range.

New Zealand’s Cardrona were back with their Growing Wings 5yo single malt. It offered a fuller flavour than the younger Newly Hatched I enjoyed back in 2020. Both packed a high ABV punch at 65.6%!

Spotting Black Tot Rum on the Elixir stall I couldn’t resist.

A delightful blend of Jamaican, Guyanaian & Barbadian rums modelled on the Royal Navy rum tot proved to be a highly entertaining tipple!

My last few samples were from a selection of independent bottlers who mainly do non chill filtered, natural colour & often single cask, cask strength bottles in limited – not to be repeated – releases from a variety of distilleries.

At Carn Mor I enjoyed a 7yo peated bottling distilled at Highland Park named Whitlaw.

For Scotch Malt Whisky Society -SMWS – I shunned their limited edition single malts & opted for the attractively designed label of Peat Faerie blended malt for yet another sweet peater with a kick.

The Single Cask Staoisha 6yo distilled at Bunnahabhain offered a combination of soft peat & sweet wine cask influence.

Fable Whisky‘s artwork had me hooked.

Sadly they had no peated bottles on show – so I chose by artwork. Chapter 11 happened to be a Glen Spey & whilst very nice – didn’t wow as much as the art did!

And with that – it was all over!

A generous feed of chips ‘n’ cheese, a packed train of fellow whisky fans back to Kirkcaldy & a short walk to the hotel ended yet another wonderful foray exploring the fine whisky on show at the highly enjoyable Fife Whisky Festival 2022.

Sláinte

Lidl, Minimum Unit Pricing Of Alcohol & Queen Margot 3 Year Old Scotch, 40%

I’ve been taking an interest into how the lower price range of spirits have reacted to the Minimum Unit Pricing Of Alcohol – MUP.

Previously having featured blogs of both whiskey & rum for sub €20 – and really enjoying a few of them too – MUP wiped all that out to a standard €22.09 for 700ml at 40%.

Now there’s been stories of beer being brewed to a lower ABV to keep to a certain price point. This isn’t an option for spirits with legally enforced alcohol strengths.

Which leaves bottle sizes.

Lidl were ahead of the pack offering their tasty Liberté Rum, Captain Cook Spiced Rum & Rachmaninoff Vodka in 500ml versions to keep prices low.

Buying & consuming less alcohol is one of the stated aims of MUP. Lidl appear to be facilitating this.

Personally I’m all in favour of smaller bottles.

As a blogger I enjoy tasting far & wide. Smaller pack sizes allows a bigger variety for a smaller outlay.

Environmentally it’s a bit of a no no.

Smaller containers means more of them, more packaging, increased costs & ultimately – more waste.

Having said that – when Queen Margot 3yo Scotch appeared in 350ml for just over €11 – I thought I’d give it another spin!

I admire the no nonsense, utilitarian approach & unpretentiousness of this whisky.

There’s a caramel rich nose with a spirity sensation.

Smooth palate, quite rich with hints of warm woodiness.

Suggestions of tannic prickly spice on the rear slowly fading away.

Queen Margot is a perfectly presentable easy drinking dram of a whisky. No rough edges, the usual whisky flavours with an alcoholic warmth too.

If only more brands offered 350ml alternatives I’d probably be inclined to purchase them.

Would you agree?

Sláinte

All photos authors own.

Bell’s Blended Scotch Whisky, 40%, On Burn’s Night

I was gifted this 37.5cl Bell’s Decanter on my travels.

A lot were sold over the years.

Wade pottery made my decanter with production in both Stoke & Portadown to keep up with demand.

The design here was in use from 1966 to 1988 – but as my decanter sports a barcode plus 40% ABV notation it suggests a 1980’s offering.

To celebrate Burn’s Night fellow whisky fans were invited round for a grand opening & drinking of the Bell’s.

The plastic seal on the cap was intact on removal.

Trying to prise open the cork it split in half!

Undeterred a corkscrew was utilised.

Sadly it only proceeded to open up a hole as the cork disintegrated into small pieces & a tea strainer had to be used to filter the whisky!

Nonetheless pleasant sweet & fruity aromas rose from the glass.

Decent depth & a rich body on the palate suggested sherry cask influence.

A flourish of spice on the rear left us all agreeing the 35yrs or so in the decanter hadn’t harmed this lovely little drinker.

My only disappointment was not detecting any peat influence – which I was expecting – but hey – it’s not every day you crack open a slice of Scottish Blended Whisky history!

A lovely dram to toast Rabbie Burns!

Sláinte

All images authors own.

For info on Bell’s Decanters read here.

For info on barcodes read here.

For info of Proof to ABV changes read here.

Raising a dram to the hospitality of a Scottish holiday rental.

I recently spent an enjoyable week at a Scottish holiday house in West Wemyss.

To my delight a selection of drinks were left in the kitchen – including a decanter of what looked like whisky.

Drink c/othewhiskeynut

A cursory sniff confirmed this – so a couple of glasses were duly poured.

Soft sweet nose with just a hint of burnt notes peaking through.

Easy palate.

Those burnt notes developed into a gentle honeyed smokiness with that attractive dry tingling I like.

What better to be welcomed into my holidays?

Sláinte

I did pose the question ‘drink or decline?’ on twitter which raised a rather disparate discussion.

Follow the discussion here.

What are your thoughts?