At Glenfiddich


There was no way I was going to go to the Speyside and not stop in at either of the region’s two most historically significant names. The most significant distillery, of course, is Glenlivet. But Glenlivet was just a bit too far out of the way for our mostly non-whisky-obsessed group. Glenfiddich has the added attraction of being situated right by the ruins of Balvenie Castle. And so it was an easy choice to go to the distillery that pioneered the marketing of distillery-released single malt whisky in the early 1960s. Accordingly, we drove right there from Strathisla. The two make for quite a contrast, especially in quick juxtaposition. Continue reading

Redbreast 15


Here’s another review of a widely available official release. This time it’s an Irish whiskey. My track record with Irish whiskey has not been very good. I’ve not had very many and very few of the ones I have had have made me want to have more. I’m sure this is just an accident of random, limited selection. In recent years, a number of older Irish whiskies from independent bottlers have received high ratings from a number of sources. And what is more, they’ve been lauded for their fruity quality—a quality I like very much in Scotch whisky. Unfortunately, I’ve not had any of those whiskies—they don’t come cheap and I don’t really spend large amounts of money on individual bottles any more. Not to mention, these are all European releases and it’s harder and harder to get those sent to the US these days.

Anyway, the Redbreast 15 is certainly easily available here. Though it’s been a while since I’ve last tried it—and I haven’t reviewed it—I quite liked the Redbreast 12; I was less impressed by the cask strength version, which I’ve reviewed twice (here and here). Let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Glengoyne 12


Glengoyne is yet another distillery that I have reviewed very few malts from: only the OB 25 and 17 and a 14 yo from Malts of Scotland. Of these only the 25 yo really did it for me. Prior to starting the blog I had enjoyed the old Glengoyne 12 CS and the 21 yo. I’ve not had the 21 yo in a long time now but I do have a bottle of the 12 CS squared away. I’ll probably open it in a decade or two. Here in the meantime is the current, regular Glengoyne 12. I have no idea if it ever co-existed alongside the 12 CS. There is still a cask strength Glengoyne available but it is predictably now sold sans an age statement. And at some point the 17 yo seems to have turned into an 18 yo. I have to confess I haven’t really paid much attention to Glengoyne over the years, and in any case I am never very up on the ins and outs of distillery releases. Information you can get at other places. All I’m good for is dubious tasting notes of low utility.  Continue reading

Strathisla on a Sunday


Strathisla was supposed to be the first distillery we stopped at on this trip to Scotland. We left Edinburgh in the morning on a Friday and drove north and slightly east to Glamis Castle, thanking my many-armed gods along the way for the big highway we were on. We ate lunch at and toured Glamis Castle with our friends and then headed towards the Speyside. (By the way, if you’re into the Scottish castles thing, I heartily recommend Glamis Castle; they have very nice grounds—including play areas for kids—and while it’s pricey, the ticket includes a very good guided tour.) We chose to go via Aberdeen, in order to stay on large highways the whole way. This seemed like it had been an excellent decision until we got out of Aberdeen. Then a horrific accident on the A96 bottled up traffic for a good long while, and there was no way we were going to get to the distillery before they closed. Sitting on the highway we texted between cars and decided to head straight to dinner in Craigellachie instead (an enjoyable meal at the Highlander Inn, on which more later). As such, Glen Grant ended up being the first distillery we stopped at the next morning; Glen Moray followed that. We finally got to Strathisla bright and early on our second day in the Speyside, a Sunday morning.  Continue reading

Croftengea 9, 2008 (for the Whisky Exchange)


Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had.  Continue reading

Gordon & MacPhail (Elgin, Scotland)


Our time in Elgin began with a visit to the evocative ruins of Elgin Cathedral; but as far as I was concerned, the most important cathedral in Elgin was the legendary Gordon & MacPhail store—the place that many say is essentially the birthplace of single malt whisky as we know it. It is this store that began the consistent practice of bottling and selling whiskies from distilleries when their owners were not yet doing so. Their stocks are legendary and some of the oldest single malts ever released have either come directly from them or from casks bought back from them by the distilleries (G&M have their own bonded warehouse in Elgin and are highly unusual among independent bottlers for having filling contracts that let them mature their casks themselves). In the modern era, they have released a large number of excellent whiskies in a number of different lines, and until recently were one of the bottlers who could be most relied upon for providing value to middle-class drinkers. For all these reasons, as well as the possibility of finding some recent lauded releases still sitting on their shelves, I was very excited to visit. Indeed the visit was at the very top of the list of whisky things I was excited to do while in the Speyside. Alas, the experience turned out to be quite disappointing. Continue reading

Cadenhead’s Campbeltown Cask, June 2018


This Campbeltown cask at Cadenhead’s represents my greatest whisky regret from our recent trip to Scotland. This is not because it was a disappointment; quite the opposite. I purchased a 200 ml bottle at Cadenhead’s on my first day in Edinburgh (along with their Islay cask, a Glen Ord 13 and a Tullibardine 24). I opened it on the second or third night and loved it; considered getting a full bottle but didn’t want to lock myself out of potential distillery-only purchases on our upcoming sojourn in the Speyside and Highlands (given limited luggage space). If that didn’t pan out, I figured I’d get a bottle in between returning our car and heading to the airport on our way back.

This plan suffered a mighty blow first when Aberlour turned out to not have any distillery exclusives available on the day I visited, and then a fatal blow when I realized that our flight to London was an hour earlier than I’d thought it was. And so, no full bottle of the Cadenhead’s Cambeltown cask for me. But this wasn’t all to the bad: it left room for an unplanned purchase of the TWE Croftengea in London, of which more soon. Continue reading

TBS Mart International Foods (Richfield, MN)


Continuing with my series on markets that serve Minnesota’s more recent immigrant communities, here is a quick look at a store with a name both innocuous and misleading: TBS Mart International Foods, which is in fact an Indian grocery, and my go-to Indian grocery in the south metro at that. It is located right off the 494: going west from the 35 you get off at Portland, turn right, and it anchors the smaller strip mall on the right hand side of the road. Indeed, it is one of three Indian food-related businesses there: there are also two Indian restaurants—Kabob’s Indian Grill and India Cafe (as yet unexamined by me). But first, a bit of context.  Continue reading

Cadenhead’s Islay Cask, June 2018


This was one of five 200 ml bottles I purchased from my first visit to Cadenhead’s on my first afternoon in Edinburgh in early June. I’ve already reviewed the Glen Ord 13 and the Tullibardine 24 that were part of that haul—I’d not planned to get anything more (I’d also picked up a Worthy Park rum) but couldn’t resist their store casks. They had five casks on the go in the store: one Islay, one Highlands, one Lowlands, one Campbeltown and one rum cask. I purchased 200 ml of the Islay (obviously) and also of the Campbeltown cask (review coming soon). The prices are fixed for all the casks: £14 for 200 ml, £24.50 for 350 ml and £48 for 700 ml. My understanding is that these are all “living” cask vattings, topped up once they get low. This means that the composition can change from week to week—I have no idea how often they top these casks up. I think I was told that the Islay cask as constituted at the time I made my purchase had a fair bit of young Lagavulin in it—but I could be making that up. It is possible to get a taste before you make a decision but I was comfortable trusting that they’d probably be good. I’m happy to say that this trust was well rewarded. I took these notes in Edinburgh itself—my friend Mike and I polished this off at a pretty rapid rate after purchase.  Continue reading

Glen Scotia, Double Cask


I don’t have any experience with recently released Glen Scotias and so when I noticed this mini as I was leaving the Whisky Exchange’s London store towards the end of our trip last month, I couldn’t resist picking it up. I somehow missed Glen Scotia’s psychedelic cow period entirely and I figured I might as well check out what they’re up to now in more staid livery. Having spent a decent amount of money in the store purchasing full bottles of other things, I decided to give this NAS Double Cask a go (though as I say that I cannot recall if they even had minis of the age stated line available). Reading up, I learned that this is made from whisky matured in first fill bourbon barrels and then finished “for up to 12 months” in PX casks. Of course, when a distillery can’t even tell you exactly how many months their “finish” lasted you don’t get a good feeling about how many total years were likely involved in the maturation process; but I am, as you know, a very positive person and so I poured this with an open mind. Here’s how it went.  Continue reading

Old Blends: Old Rarity 12


A few summers ago I posted a number of recipes for home-made jams. These were not popular with my whisky readership. Do you know what is even less popular with said whisky readership, or whatever remains of it? You guessed it: my reviews of blended whiskies released many decades ago. And interest in them goes down with each one I post, rather than the other way around. Accordingly, I am pleased to present this review of a rather obscure blend. Well, obscure to me. I believe this bottle was from the US market—though I doubt Old Rarity was only released in the US. The source of the sample estimates that the bottle might date from the 1960s. That is the extent of my non-knowledge about Old Rarity. I’ll add only that the name of this whisky suggests that the practices of adding the word “old” to things that aren’t very old and of suggesting things are rare by calling them things like “rarity” are obviously not innovations of our time.  Continue reading

Glen Moray, On the Run (Summer 2018)


Glen Moray was our second distillery stop on our first full day in the Speyside. I’d originally planned for us to eat lunch at their cafe, with the possibility of a quick tour. But things didn’t pan out that way.

We started the day at Glen Grant and drove up to Elgin. After a visit to Elgin Cathedral, a large part of the group broke off to do a “Murder Mystery Treasure Trail” (highly recommended if you have small children with you) while a small splinter went off to check out Elgin’s other cathedral, the Gordon & MacPhail store—you’ll never guess which group I was part of. (Gordon & MacPhail was a hugely disappointing experience, as I will report later.) As the Treasure Trail had not been completed by lunch time we decided to eat in Elgin, finish the trail, and then go straight to our primary afternoon destination: Roseisle Beach in Burghead. On the way, we popped into Glen Moray while our friends went grocery shopping for dinner. While the kids used the facilities, I did a quick walk around the shop and distillery grounds, snapping crappy pictures, and then we were off. But there’s no reason why you should not look at those pictures now, is there?  Continue reading

Spirit of Speyside 10, Festival Bottling, 2018


I mentioned this whisky yesterday in my write-up of our visit to Glen Grant just shy of a month ago. It is the only thing we purchased at the distillery. Well, when I say “we”, I mean that my friend Daniel purchased this 200 ml bottle (we didn’t see any other size of bottle).  It was bottled for the 2018 iteration of the annual Spirit of Speyside festival—which took place in early May, I think. 200 ml bottles seem like a good idea for this kind of thing—not too expensive and more bottles for more people to try. As per the young man I asked about it at the distillery, it is a blend of a number of Speyside single malts, all aged at least 10 years. I’m not sure if a vatting of this kind is released every year for the festival or if they’re always 10 years old or both. I assume some of the distilleries release their own exclusives a la the Islay distilleries for Feis Ile. At any rate, it seemed like an appropriate whisky to drink at the end of our first full day in the Speyside. Did that prove to be the case?  Continue reading

At Glen Grant, Mostly in the Gardens (Summer 2018)


I may as well begin my long series of reports on our recent trip to Scotland with a look at the first distillery we visited: Glen Grant. It had not originally been on my list of places to stop at in the Speyside—where we rented a house with friends for a weekend after our time in Edinburgh. But Florin recommended it as a distillery where there’d be a lot for non-whisky-crazed members of the party to do, and so we stopped in. Florin was right. Though I didn’t do it the way I think he’d meant I should: me touring the distillery while the others wandered the grounds. As on our last trip to Scotland, I didn’t want to spend most of my time inside distilleries, doing repetitive tours. Especially when a distillery like Glen Grant has something truly unusual outside it: expansive and very attractive grounds. And so I joined everybody else in the gardens, where the kids ran and played and had a grand old time for almost an hour. It was a very good whisky-free introduction to whisky country.  Continue reading